Anster, John Martin (1793–1867), poet, translator of Goethe's Faust, and regius professor of civil law in Dublin University, was born 21 October 1793 in Charleville, Cork, son of John Anster, distiller, and Mary Ann Anster (née Hiffernan). The family was catholic, and had been Jacobites. He was educated in McGrath's school and entered TCD in 1810. While there he became a protestant, and was awarded a scholarship in 1814. He published poems in 1815, but later suppressed them. In 1816 he graduated BA, and in 1819 published Poems, with some translations from the German, which included his medal-winning ode on the death of Princess Charlotte. He was called to the Irish bar (1824) and took the degrees of LLB and LLD (1825). His legal practice was never extensive, and his post as registrar of the high court of admiralty (from 1837) was not very remunerative. In 1850 he was appointed regius professor of civil law in his old university, and held this post until his death.
Anster was closely involved with founding the Dublin University Magazine, to which he contributed (1837–56) much prose and verse; from 1847 he also wrote in the influential North British Review. His subjects were mostly literary, but he wrote occasionally on history and politics. He was best known for his translations from German. His widely admired version of Goethe's Faust was the first into English. Goethe himself commended the first part (published 1835), and it was completed in a volume, copiously annotated, which appeared in 1864. There have been many editions in Britain and in North America, and three in Germany; it was reissued in 1985. Anster was granted a literary pension of £150 in 1841, a recognition of his major pioneering contribution to Germanic studies as well as his considerable poetic skills, and he enjoyed widespread celebrity in Germany in his day. He died 9 June 1867 of ‘gout in the heart’ at 5 Lower Gloucester St., Dublin.
He married (1832) Elizabeth, daughter of W. Blacker Bennett of Castle Crea, Limerick; they had two sons and three daughters. His papers are in TCD.