Online Encyclopedia

EDWARD FITZGERALD (1809–1883)

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Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 443 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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EDWARD FITZGERALD (1809–1883), English writer, the poet of Omar Khayyam, was born as EDWARD PURCELL., at Bredfield House, in Suffolk, on the 31st of March 1809. His father, John Purcell, who had married a Miss FitzGerald, assumed in 1818 the name and arms of his wife's family. From 1816 to 1821 the FitzGeralds lived at St Germain and at Paris, but in the latter year Edward was sent to school at Bury St Edmunds. In 1826 he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, where, some two years later, he became acquainted with Thackeray and W. H. Thompson. With Tennyson, " a sort of Hyperion," his intimacy began about 1835. In 183o he went to live in Paris, but in 1831 was in a farm-house on the battlefield of Naseby. He adopted no profession, and lived a perfectly stationary and rustic life, presently moving into his native county of Suffolk, and never again leaving it for more than a week or two. Until 1835 the FitzGeralds lived at Wherstead; from that year until 1853 the poet resided at Boulge, near Woodbridge; until 186o at Farlingay Hall; until 1873 in the town of Woodbridge; and then until his death at his own house hard by, called Little Grange. During most of this time FitzGerald gave his thoughts almost without interruption to his flowers, to music and to literature. He allowed friends like Tennyson and Thackeray, however, to push on far before him, and long showed no disposition to emulate their activity. In 1851 he published his first book, Euphranor, a Platonic dialogue, born of memories of the old happy life at Cambridge. In 1852 appeared Polonius, a collection of " saws and modern instances," some of them his own, the rest borrowed from the less familiar English classics. FitzGerald began the study of Spanish poetry in 1850, when he was with Professor E. B. Cowell at Elmsett and that of Persian in Oxford in 1853. In the latter year he issued Six Dramas of Calderon, freely translated. He now turned to Oriental studies, and in 1856 he anonymously published a version of the.Salaman and Absdl of Jami in Miltonic verse. In March 1857 the name with which he has been so closely identified first occurs in FitzGerald's correspondence—" Hafiz and Omar Khayyam ring like true metal.", On the 15th of January 1859 a little anonymous pamphlet was published as The Rubdiydt of Omar Khayyam. In the world at large, and in the circle of FitzGerald's particular friends, the poem seems at first to have attracted no attention. The publisher allowed it to gravitate to the fourpenny or even
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