William Alexander Vanity Fair 21 November 1895

Bishop Alexander as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair , November 1895. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

William Alexander (13 April 1824 - 12 September 1911) was an Irish poet and a cleric in the Church of Ireland.


Alexander was born in Derry, the 3rd child of Rev. Robert Alexander. He was educated at Tonbridge School and Brasenose College, Oxford.

After holding several livings in Ireland he was made bishop of Derry and Raphoe, to which see he was nominated on 27 July and consecrated on 6 October 1867. He was the last bishop of Ireland to sit in the Westminster House of Lords before the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1871 by the Irish Church Act 1869. On 25 February 1896 he translated to become Archbishop of Armagh]] and Primate of All Ireland.

He gave the Bampton Lectures in 1876. An eloquent preacher and the author of numerous theological works, including Primary Convictions, he is best known as a master of dignified and animated verse. His poems were collected in 1887 under the title of St Augustine's Holiday and other Poems.

His wife, Cecil Frances Alexander, wrote some tracts in connection with the Oxford Movement. She is known as the author of hymns such as Once in Royal David's City, All Things Bright and Beautiful and many other well known hymns. They both lived in Milltown House, Strabane. The house is now used as a school, Strabane Grammar School.


Alexander’s poetic work is comprised in the volume St. Augustine’s Holiday, and other poems, published in 1887. His verse is picturesque, and shows a love of nature as she reveals herself to spiritual insight. Even the more illusive aspects of natural phenomena, the changes that pass the ordinary eye without observation, are full of spiritual significance to the poet’s mind, and these subtleties of observation he seems able, by a corresponding delicacy of treatment, to recall and perpetuate. “A Sea Gleam” and “Very Far Away” will evidence this. A love of the legend and some power of narrative are shown in the title poem and others of the volume, but the delicacy of perception and touch already referred to forms perhaps the chief charm of the poet’s verse.[1]


In popular cultureEdit

Bishop Alexander is mentioned as part of the procession in James Joyce's cyclops episode of Ulysses.




See alsoEdit

List of Irish poets


  1. Alfred H. Miles, "Critical and Biographical Essay: William Alexander (1824–1911), Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century (edited by Miles). London: George Routledge & Sons; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1907;, Web, Mar. 5, 2018.
  2. Specimens, Poetical and critical (1867), Internet Archive. Web, June 26, 2013.
  3. St. Augustine's Holiday and other poems (1886), Internet Archive. Web, July 16, 2012.
  4. The Finding of the Book and other poems (1900), Internet Archive. Web, June 26, 2013.
  5. Search results = Verbum Crucis, Abe Books Inc. Web, June 26, 2013.
  6. The Leading Ideas of the Gospels (1892), Internet Archive. Web, June 26, 2013.
  7. The Great Fallacy: A speech by the right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Derry, D.D., delivered in the Albert Hall, London, on Saturday, 22nd April, 1892 (1892), Internet Archive. Web, June 26, 2013.
  8. Perils of Home Rule: A speech delivered at a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, on Tuesday, March 14th, 1893 (1893), Internet Archive. Web, June 26, 2013.
  9. The Epistle of St. John: Twenty-one discourses (1896), Internet Archive. Web, June 26, 2013.

External linksEdit

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