Todhunter, John (writer)

Reference: MS 202Date: 1868-1939Extent: 3 boxes

John Todhunter (1839-1916) is best known as a poet and literary critic, but was also a doctor of medicine, painter and composer.

He was born in Dublin in 1839 to Quaker parents and was educated in Quaker schools. He worked in the offices of his father’s merchant firm before studying medicine at Trinity College. While studying, he showed a remarkable aptitude for writing and won the Vice-Chancellor’s prize for English Verse three times. He received his Bachelor of Medicine in 1867 and his Doctorate in 1871.

In 1870 he became Professor of English Literature at Alexandra College in Dublin (where, among other things, he gave lectures on William Blake) before giving up the post four years later and travelling to Egypt and around Europe. He married Dora L. Digby in 1879 and settled in London.

His London home in Bedford Park, Chiswick, was near the centre of a small colony of writers and artists, including W.B. Yeats.  He became associated with ‘The Brotherhood,’ an informal group of artists including John Trivett Nettleship, Sydney Hall, John Butler Yeats, and George Wilson. Todhunter maintained his connections with the Irish literary revival and much of his later work is concerned with re-interpreting Irish myths and legends, and with Irish history. He was involved in founding the Irish Literary Society in London.

The collection includes a large amount of personal and literary correspondence, including letters from John Butler Yeats, John Trivett Nettleship and William Michael Rossetti, typescripts and manuscripts of various literary works, and sundry printed material.

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Sources from our library collections

There are books containing John Todhunter’s work in our rare book collections: