William Archer Butler

(c. 1814—1848) philosopher

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William Archer Butler was born in Annerville, near Clonmel in County Tipperary and died in Raymoghy (or Raymochey) in County Donegal on 5 July 1848. He was educated at an endowed school in Clonmel and subsequently at Trinity College, Dublin, where he was appointed to a newly created Chair of Moral Philosophy in 1837. Ordained in the Church of Ireland, he was granted the prebend of Clondehorkey in County Donegal, and was later promoted to the rectory of Raymoghy in the diocese of Raphoe. Keenly interested in literary, religious and philosophical matters, he was a founder of the successful monthly periodical, The Dublin University Magazine, to which he contributed numerous reviews, articles and poems. During July 1844 he paid a visit to the Lake District in Cumberland, where he was introduced to William Wordsworth by Robert Percival Graves, curate at Windermere. Graves later recorded some of the incidents of that visit, including a walk on which Wordsworth was accompanied by Graves, Butler, William Rowan Hamilton (who was also visiting Graves at the time) and three others. Graves recalls that one of Wordsworth's poems, ‘So fair, so sweet, withal so sensitive’, was inspired by an observation that the walking party made during a noon respite. The incident is recorded in detail in a letter from Graves to Butler's editor, Thomas Woodward, who reproduces the letter in his biographical sketch of Butler prefixed to an edition of Archer's sermons (see Woodward, 1849). In the last years of his short life, Butler was heavily involved in the parish relief works organized in response to the famines that devastated Ireland during the late 1840s. His obituarist, J.T. Ball, records that he suspended all activities that did not contribute to charity and relief work. His involvement in relief work was exemplary in its humanitarianism, free from ulterior motive. In a letter to the Evening Mail, Butler remonstrated with those among his fellow clergymen who were proposing to use relief work as a pretext for making conversions to the established (Anglican) church.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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