Kuno Meyer

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Kuno Meyer
K meyer.jpg
Kuno Meyer
Born (1858-12-20)20 December 1858
Hamburg, Germany
Died 11 October 1919(1919-10-11) (aged 60)
Leipzig, Germany
Occupation Academic
Nationality German

Kuno Meyer (20 December 1858 – 11 October 1919) was a German scholar, distinguished in the field of Celtic philology and literature. His pro-German stance at the start of World War I while traveling in the United States was a source of controversy.


Born in Hamburg, Meyer studied there at the Gelehrtenschule of the Johanneum,[1] and then at the University of Leipzig, where he was taught by Ernst Windisch from 1879. He received his doctorate for his thesis Eine irische Version der Alexandersage (an Irish version of the Alexander Romance) in 1884. He then took up the post of lecturer in Teutonic languages at the new University College, Liverpool, the precursor of the University of Liverpool, established three years earlier.

He continued to publish on Old Irish and more general Celtic language topics, as well as producing textbooks for the German language. In 1896 he founded, and jointly edited with Ludwig Christian Stern, the prestigious Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie.

In 1903 Meyer founded the School of Irish Learning in Dublin, and the next year created its journal Ériu, of which he was the editor. Also in 1904 he became Todd Professor in the Celtic Languages at the Royal Irish Academy. In October 1911 he followed Heinrich Zimmer as Professor of Celtic Philology at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin; the following year a volume of Miscellany was presented to him by pupils and friends in honour of his election, and he was made a freeman of both Dublin and Cork. He also catalogued the various entries by different scribes in the Book of O'Donnell's Daughter, a 17th-century manuscript written in Leuven and preserved in the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels.[2]

At the outbreak of the First World War, Meyer left Europe for the United States of America, where he lectured at Columbia, Urbana University, and elsewhere. A pro-German speech he gave in December 1914 to Clan na Gael on Long Island caused outrage in Britain and Ireland, and as a result he was removed from the roll of freemen in Dublin and Cork and from his Honorary Professorship of Celtic at Liverpool, and he resigned as Director of the School of Irish Learning and editor of Ériu.

Meyer remained in the United States and went on a lecture tour around the country. In 1915, as a prospective exchange professor to Harvard University, he sent the university a letter of protest because of the publication in one of the college magazines of a satirical poem, “Gott mit Uns,” by an undergraduate. In a reply, President Lowell said, in explaining Harvard's policy, that freedom of speech was an important characteristic of American universities as distinguished from those in Germany.[3] Meyer declined Harvard's invitation to lecture there.[4]

He was injured in a railway collision in 1915 and met 27-year-old Florence Lewis while recovering in a California hospital.[5] They married shortly afterwards. Florence went to Germany in 1916, Meyer in 1917. In 1919 Florence and her daughter went to Switzerland; Meyer died on 11 October 1919, in Leipzig.

In 1920, he was regranted the Freedom of the City of Cork, as follows: "Re-elected 14th May, 1920, and order of Council of the 8th January, 1915, expunging his name from the roll rescinded." The expunging of Meyer's name from the Roll of Honorary Freemen of Dublin on 15 March 1915 by the Irish Parliamentary Party-controlled Council was rescinded on 19 April 1920, three months after Sinn Féin won control of the City Council.[6]


Amongst his publications are:

  • 1885: The Irish Odyssey
  • 1892: The Vision of MacConglinne, with A. Nutt
  • 1894: The Voyage of Bran
  • 1896: Early Relations of the Brython and Gael
  • 1901: King and Hermit
  • 1905: Cáin Adamnáin: An Old Irish Treatise on the Law of Adamnan
  • 1911: Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry
  • 1912: Sanas Cormaic, an Old Irish Glossary
  • 1913: Learning in Ireland in the Fifth Century
  • 1914: Über die älteste irische Dichtung
  • Miscellany presented to Kuno Meyer by some of his friends and pupils on the occasion of his appointment to the chair of Celtic philology in the University of Berlin; ed. by Osborn Bergin and Carl Marstrander. Halle: M. Niemeyer, 1912.


  1. Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Meyer, Kuno". Encyclopedia Americana.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Lebhar Inghine i Dhomhnaill (The Book of O'Donnell's Daughter), a medieval Gaelic manuscript finished in the early 1600s in the Irish Franciscan College in Louvain, and lodged today in the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels (MS. reference 6131-3)
  3.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Lowell, Abbott Lawrence". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> See also "The Meyer incident". The Harvard graduates' magazine. 24 (93): 235–6. September 1915. Retrieved March 31, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4.  Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Meyer, Kuno". Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. http://www.ucc.ie/celt/meyer.html
  6. Freedom of the City of Dublin

External links