Tyrrell, Robert Yelverton (1844–1914), classical scholar, was born 21 January 1844 at Ballingarry, Co. Tipperary, the youngest son of Rev. Henry Tyrrell, vicar of the parish of Ballingarry, and his wife, Elizabeth (née Shea). His first cousin was the modernist theologian George Tyrrell (qv). Tyrrell was educated at home by his elder brothers and briefly attended a private school in Hume Street, Dublin, before entering TCD in 1860. He was a brilliant student, winning entrance prizes in classical composition, and in 1861 he was the first freshman in college history to win a classical scholarship. He graduated BA with a double first in classics and logic (1864), later graduating MA (1867) and D.Litt (1891). His academic brilliance secured him a fellowship at Trinity in 1868, and he was successively appointed to a series of senior positions in the college: professor of Latin (1871), regius professor of Greek (1880–98), public orator (1899), professor of ancient history (1900), and senior fellow and registrar (1904). In 1901 he was selected to be one of the first fifty fellows of the British Academy.
Tyrrell's academic publications were varied and numerous. His chief work was the monumental The correspondence of Cicero (7 vols, 1879–1900), on which Louis Claude Purser (qv) collaborated. He produced well-received critical editions of Euripides, Terence, Plautus, Aristophanes, and Sophocles, and his Percy Turnbull lectures at Johns Hopkins University were published as Latin poetry (1893). He was a skilled and imaginative translator, and his deft renderings from (and into) Greek and Latin were particularly admired by contemporaries (Dublin translations into Greek and Latin verse, 1883, 2nd ed., 1890). An inspiring and unorthodox lecturer, he was popular and influential with students and fellows of the college. One of his students was Oscar Wilde (qv), who contributed to Tyrrell's college miscellany Kottabos (which he co-founded with Sir Edward Sullivan in 1869, and edited from 1870 to 1881). Tyrrell wrote for a range of journals, including the Quarterly, Fortnightly, Pilot, and Academy, as well as his own Hermathena, which he founded in 1874. Several of his articles which originally appeared in the Quarterly and Saturday Review were collected in Essays on Greek literature (1909).
An urbane, polished man, Tyrrell was a witty conversationalist who socialised in the semi-bohemian literary circles of Dublin. In his younger days he played hockey, but his main recreational activities throughout his life were light literature and the theatre, which he often reviewed. He received many honorary degrees, including LLD from Edinburgh University (1892); Litt.D. from Cambridge (1892); DCL from Oxford (1893); LLD from St Andrews (1906), and Litt.D. from Durham (1907). He married Ada, eldest daughter of Dr George Ferdinand Shaw (qv), senior fellow of TCD, in 1874; they had three sons and three daughters. He died 19 September 1914 at his home, Greystones, Co. Wicklow. A list of his articles can be found in Richard J. Hayes (ed.), Sources for the history of Irish civilization: articles in Irish periodicals, 9 vols (1970). A portrait (1907) by A. A. Wolmark is in TCD.