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Title: Irish Wit and Humor - Anecdote Biography of Swift, Curran, O'Leary and O'Connell
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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[Illustration: DEAN SWIFT.]








Entered according to the act of Congress, in the year 1871, by
James McGee in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at

Stereotyped at the New York Catholic Protectory, West Chester, N. Y.



His Birth--Singular Event 9

A Certificate of Marriage 10

Grace after Dinner 11

The Three Crosses 13

Chief Justice Whitshed 12

To Quilca 16

Mr. Pulteney 16

Resolutions when I come to be Old 17

Miss Bennet 19

The Feast of O'Rourke 20

Swift's Behavior at Table 24

Countess of Burlington 25

Swift's Political Principles 27

Swift's Charity 29

Public Absurdity in Ireland 30

Swift's Peculiarity of Humor 30

Dr. Bolton 32

The Scriblerus Club 33

The Upstart 36

Meditation upon a broomstick 37

Cossing a Dog 39

Trade of Ireland 40

A Beggar's Wedding 41

The Pies--Short Charity Sermon 43

A Courtier's Retort--Lying 44

Dr. Sacheverell 45

Taxing the Air--Wisdom 46

Epitaph on Judge Boat 47

On Stephen Duck, the Thresher and Favorite Poet 47

Dialogue between Swift and his Landlord 48

Roger Cox 50

Roger and the Poultry 52

Kelly the Blacksmith 52

Birth-day Presents 53

The Dean's Contributory Dinner 56

Swift and Bettesworth 58

Swift among the Lawyers 61

Preaching Patriotism 61

Swift and his Butler 63

His Saturnalia 65

The Dean and Faulkner 66

Swift, Arbuthnot, and Parnell 67

Dean Swift and the Preacher who stole his sermon 69

Swift's queer Testimonial to his Servant 71

Swift at Thomastown 73

Swift's Last Lines 77


His birth 79

Curran as Punch's Man 80

At a debating Society 80

The Bank--Duel with St. Leger 82

The Monks of the Screw 83

Lord Avonmore 84

His first Client 86

Curran and the Informer 89

Lord Clare 93

Curran's Eloquence 94

Scene between Fitzgibbon and Curran 96

Defence of Rowan 98

Encounter with a Fishwoman 114

Curran and Lord Erskine 114

Duel with Bully Egan 116

Massy versus Headfort 116

The Serenading Lover 121

Employment of Informers 128

Curran and the Farmer 130

Curran and the Judge 132

Curran's quarrel with Fitzgibbon 133

High Authority 136

Red Tape--Curran and the Mastiff 137


His birth 139

Controversy with an Infidel 140

Interview with Dr. Mann 144

Controversy with John Wesley 145

Meeting of O'Leary and Wesley 151

Dr. O'Leary and Father Callanan 152

O'Leary and the Quakers 154

His Reception by the Volunteers 155

O'Leary and John O'Keefe 157

O'Leary and the Irish Parliament 159

His Interview with Daniel Danser 162

A Fop 164

His Person--Captain Rock 166

Lots drawn to have him at dinner 168

Reply to charge of Recantation 171

O'Leary and the Rector 173

Lady Morgan 174

A Batch of Interesting Anecdotes 175

A Dog's Religion 179

Howard and Mr. Henry Shears 180

His Habits of study 181

Edmond Burke 182

His Charity 183

O'Leary versus Curran 184

His triumph over Dr. Johnson 186

A Nolle Prosequi 187

The Prince of Wales 188

The Closing Scenes of his Life 189


Darby Moran 193

A Dead Man with Life in Him 194

A Young Judge Done 196

O'Connell and a Snarling Attorney 197

His encounter with Biddy Moriarty 201

O'Connell and a Bilking Client 207

Sow-West and the Wigs 209

Election and Railway Dinners 211

Scene at Killiney 213

An Insolent Judge 214

A Witness Cajoled 216

His Duel with Captain D'Esterre 217

O'Connell and Secretary Goulburn 225

Entrapping a Witness 220

Gaining over a Jury 227

Paddy and the Parson 229

A Martial Judge 230

Retentive Memory 231

A Political Hurrah at a Funeral 233

Refusal of Office 233

A Mistaken Frenchman 234

Epistolary Bores 235

Sir R. Peel's Opinion of O'Connell 237

Anecdote of O'Connell's Uncle 237

A Slight Rebuke 238




Dr. Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick's, was born A.D. 1667,
in Hoey's Court, Dublin, the fourth house, right hand side, as you enter
from Werburgh-street. The houses in this court still bear evidence of
having been erected for the residence of respectable folks. The "Dean's
House," as it is usually designated, had marble chimney-pieces, was
wainscotted from hall to garret, and had panelled oak doors, one of
which is in possession of Doctor Willis, Rathmines--a gentleman who
takes a deep interest in all matters connected with the history of his
native city.


When Swift was a year old, an event happened to him that seems very
unusual; for his nurse, who was a woman of Whitehaven, being under the
absolute necessity of seeing one of her relations, who was then
extremely sick, and from whom she expected a legacy; and being extremely
fond of the infant, she stole him on shipboard unknown to his mother and
uncle, and carried him with her to Whitehaven, where he continued for
almost three years. For, when the matter was discovered, his mother sent
orders by all means not to hazard a second voyage till he could be
better able to bear it. The nurse was so careful of him that before he
returned he had learned to spell; and by the time that he was five years
old, he could read any chapter in the Bible.

After his return to Ireland he was sent at six years old to the school
of Kilkenny, from whence at fourteen he was admitted into the Dublin


Swift, in one of his pedestrian journeys from London towards Chester, is
reported to have taken shelter from a summer tempest under a large oak
on the road side, at no great distance from Litchfield. Presently, a
man, with a pregnant woman, wore driven by the like impulse to avail
themselves of the same covert. The Dean, entering into conversation,
found the parties were destined for Litchfield to be married. As the
situation of the woman indicated no time should be lost, a proposition
was made on his part to save them the rest of the journey, by performing
the ceremony on the spot. The offer was gladly accepted, and thanks
being duly returned, the bridal pair, as the sky brightened, was about
to return: but the bridegroom suddenly recollecting that a certificate
was requisite to authenticate the marriage, requested one, which the
Dean wrote in these words:

    Under an oak, in stormy weather,
    I joined this rogue and wench together,
    And none but he who rules the thunder,
    Can put this wench and rogue asunder.


Swift was once invited by a rich miser with a large party to dine; being
requested by the host to return thanks at the removal of the cloth,
uttered the following grace:--

    Thanks for this miracle!--this is no less
    Than to eat manna in the wilderness.
    Where raging hunger reign'd we've found relief,
    And seen that wondrous thing, a piece of beef.
    Here chimneys smoke, that never smok'd before,
    And we've all ate, where we shall eat no more!


Swift in his journeys on foot from Dublin to London, was accustomed to
stop for refreshments or rest at the neat little ale-houses at the
road's side. One of these, between Dunchurch and Daventry, was formerly
distinguished by the sign of the _Three Crosses_, in reference to the
three intersecting ways which fixed the site of the house. At this the
Dean called for his breakfast, but the landlady, being engaged with
accommodating her more constant customers, some wagoners, and staying to
settle an altercation which unexpectedly arose, keeping him waiting, and
inattentive to his repeated exclamations, he took from his pocket a
diamond, and wrote on every pane of glass in her best room:--


    There hang three crosses at thy door:
    Hang up thy wife, and she'll make four.


Swift, in a letter to Pope, thus mentions the conduct of this worthy
Chief Justice:--

"I have written in this kingdom a discourse to persuade the wretched
people to wear their own manufactures instead of those from England:
this treatise soon spread very fast, being agreeable to the sentiments
of a whole nation, except of those gentlemen who had employments, or
were expectants. Upon which a person in great office here immediately
took the alarm; he sent in haste to Lord Chief Justice Whitshed, and
informed him of a seditious, factious, and virulent pamphlet, lately
published, with a design of setting the two kingdoms at variance,
directing at the same time that the printer should be prosecuted with
the utmost rigor of the law. The Chief Justice had so quick an
understanding that he resolved, if possible, to outdo his orders. The
grand juries of the county and city were practised effectually with to
represent the said pamphlet with all aggravating epithets, for which
they had thanks sent them from England, and their presentments published
for several weeks in all the newspapers. The printer was seized, and
forced to give great bail: after this trial the jury brought him in _not
guilty_, although they had been culled with the greatest industry. The
Chief Justice sent them back nine times, and kept them eleven hours,
until, being tired out, they were forced to leave the matter to the
mercy of the judge, by what they call a special verdict. During the
trial, the Chief Justice, among other singularities, laid his hand on
his breast, and protested solemnly that the author's design was to bring
in the Pretender, although there was not a single syllable of party in
the whole treatise, and although it was known that the most eminent of
those who professed his own principles publicly disallowed his
proceedings. But the cause being so very odious and unpopular, the trial
of the verdict was deferred from one term to another, until, upon the
arrival of the Duke of Grafton, the Lord Lieutenant, his Grace, after
mature advice and permission from England, was pleased to grant a _nolle


    _Libertas et natale solum._
    Liberty and my native country.

    _Libertas et natale solum_;
    Fine words! I wonder where you stole 'em:
    Could nothing but thy chief reproach
    Serve for a motto on thy coach?
    But let me now the words translate:
    _Natale solum_:--my estate:
    My dear estate, how well I love it!
    My tenants, if you doubt, will prove it.
    They swear I am so kind and good,
    I hug them till I squeeze their blood.
    _Libertas_ bears a large import:
    First, how to swagger in a court;
    And, secondly, to show my fury
    Against an uncomplying Jury;
    And, thirdly, 'tis a new invention
    To favor Wood, and keep my pension:
    And fourthly, 'tis to play an odd trick,
    Get the Great Seal, and turn out _Brod'rick_.
    And, fifthly, you know whom I mean,
    To humble that vexatious Dean;
    And, sixthly, for my soul to barter it
    For fifty times its worth to Carteret.
    Now since your motto thus you construe,
    I must confess you've spoken once true.
    _Libertas et natale solum_,
    You had good reason when you stole 'em.


    In church your grandsire cut his throat:
      To do the job too long he tarried,
    He should have had my hearty vote,
      To cut his throat before he married.


This was a country house of Dr. Sheridan's, where Swift and some of his
friends spent a summer in the year 1725, and being in very bad repair,
Swift wrote the following lines on the occasion:--

    Let me thy properties explain;
    A rotten cabin dropping rain:
    Chimneys with scorn rejecting smoke:
    Stools, tables, chairs and bedsteads broke.
    Here elements have lost their uses,
    Air ripens not, nor earth produces:
    In vain we make poor Shelah toil,
    Fire will not roast, nor water boil.
    Through all the valleys, hills, and plains,
    The _goddess Want_ in triumph reigns;
    And her chief officers of state;
    Sloth, Dirt, and Theft, around her wait.


Swift says, in a letter to Mr. Pulteney: "I will do an unmannerly thing,
which is to bequeath you an epitaph for forty years hence, in two words,
_ultimus Britannorum_. You never forsook your party. You might often
have been as great as the court can make any man so; but you preserved
your spirit of liberty when your former colleagues had utterly
sacrificed theirs; and if it shall ever begin to breathe in these days,
it must entirely be owing to yourself and one or two friends; but it is
altogether impossible for any nation to preserve its liberty long under
a tenth part of the present luxury, infidelity, and a million of
corruptions. We see the Gothic system of limited monarchy is
extinguished in all the nations of Europe. It is utterly extirpated in
this wretched kingdom, and yours must be next. Such has ever been human
nature, that a single man, without any superior advantages either of
body or mind, but usually the direct contrary, is able to attach twenty
millions, and drag them voluntarily at his chariot wheels. But no more
of this: I am as sick of the world as I am of age and disease. I live in
a nation of slaves, who sell themselves for nothing."


These resolutions seem to be of that kind which are easily formed, and
the propriety of which we readily admit at the time we make them, but
secretly never design to put them in practice.

1. Not to marry a young woman.

2. Not to keep young company, unless they really desire it.

3. Not to be peevish, or morose, or suspicious.

4. Not to scorn present ways, or wits, or fashions, or men, or war, &c.

5. Not to be fond of children.

6. Not to tell the same story over and over to the same people.

7. Not to be covetous.

8. Not to neglect decency or cleanliness, for fear of falling into

9. Not to be over severe with young people, but to give allowance for
their youthful follies and weaknesses.

10. Not to be influenced by, or give ear to, knavish tattling servants,
or others.

11. Not to be too free of advice, nor trouble any but those who desire

12. To desire some good friends to inform me which of these resolutions
I break or neglect, and wherein; and reform accordingly.

13. Not to talk much, nor of myself.

14. Not to boast of my former beauty or favor with ladies, &c.

15. Not to hearken to flatteries, or believe I can be beloved by a young

16. Not to be positive or opiniative.

17. Not to set up for observing all these rules, for fear I should
observe none.


This lady was a celebrated beauty in her day, and often mentioned by
Swift. Dr. Arbuthnot thus speaks of her in one of his letters: "Amongst
other things, I had the honor to carry an Irish lady to court that was
admired beyond all the ladies in France for her beauty. She had great
honors done her. The hussar himself was ordered to bring her the King's
cat to kiss. Her name is Bennet."

This circumstance gave rise to the following lines by the Dean:--

    For when as Nelly came to France,
      (Invited by her cousins)
    Across the _Tuileries_ each glance
      Kill'd Frenchmen by whole dozens.

    The king, as he at dinner sat,
      Did beckon to his hussar,
    And bid him bring his tabby cat
      For charming Nell to buss her.

    The ladies were with rage provok'd,
      To see her so respected;
    The men look'd arch as Nelly strok'd,
      And puss her tail erected.

    But not a man did look employ,
      Except on pretty Nelly;
    Then said the Duke de Villeroi,
      Ah! _qu'elle est bien jolie_!

    The courtiers all with one accord,
      Broke out in Nelly's praises:
    Admir'd her rose, and _lis sans farde_,
      Which are your terms _Francaises_.


Swift had been heard to say more than once that he should like to pass a
few days in the county of Leitrim, as he was told that the native Irish
in that part were so obstinately attached to the rude manners of their
ancestors, that they could neither be induced by _promises_, nor forced
by _threats_, to exchange them for those of their neighbors. Swift, no
doubt, wished to know what they would get by the exchange. Mr. Core was
resolved that the Dean should be indulged to the fullest extent of his
wish; for this purpose he had a person posted in Cavan, who was to give
him immediate notice when the Dean arrived in that town, which he
usually did once a year, and where he remained a day or two or longer,
if the weather was not fair enough to travel. The instant Mr. Gore was
informed of the Dean's arrival, he called and invited him to pass a few
days at a noble mansion which he had just finished on a wing of his own
estate in that county. The Dean accepted the invitation; and, as the
season was fine, every thing as he advanced excited his attention; for,
like other men, he was at times subject to "the skyey influence," and
used to complain of the winds of March, and the gloom of November.

Mr. Gore had heard so much of Swift's peculiar manners that he was
determined he should have his way in every thing; but was resolved,
however, that he should be entertained in the old Irish style of
hospitality, which Mr. Gore always kept up to such a degree, that his
house might be called a public inn without sign. The best pipers and
harpers were collected from every quarter, as well as the first singers,
for music is an essential ingredient in every Irish feast. The Dean was
pleased with many of the Irish airs, but was peculiarly struck with the
Feast of O'Rourke, which was played by Jeremy Dignum, the Irish
Timotheus, who swept the lyre with flying fingers, when he was told that
in the judgment of the Dean, he carried off the _spolia opima_ from all
the rest of the musical circle. The words of the air were afterwards
sung by a young man with so much taste and execution, that the Dean
expressed a desire to have them translated into English. Dr. Gore told
him that the author, a Mr. Macgowran, lived at a little distance, and
that he would be proud to furnish a literal translation of his own
composition either in Latin or English, for he was well skilled in both
languages. Mr. Gore accordingly sent for the bard, the Laureate of the
Plains, as he called himself, who came immediately. "I am very well
pleased," said the Dean, "with your composition. The words seem to be
what my friend Pope calls 'an echo to the sense.'" "I am pleased and
proud," answered Macgowran, "that it has afforded you any amusement: and
when you, Sir," addressing himself to the Dean, "put all the strings of
the Irish harp in tune, it will yield your Reverence a double pleasure,
and perhaps put me out of my senses with joy." Macgowran, in a short
time, presented the Dean with a literal translation, for which he
rewarded him very liberally, and recommended him to the protection of
Mr. Gore, who behaved with great kindness to him as long as he lived.
To this incident we are indebted for the translation of a song or poem,
which may be called a true picture of an Irish feast, where every one
was welcome to eat what he pleased, to drink what he pleased, to say
what he pleased, to sing what he pleased, to fight when he pleased, to
sleep when he pleased, and to dream what he pleased; where all was
native--their dress the produce of their own shuttle--their cups and
tables the growth of their own woods--their whiskey _warm from the still
and faithful to its fires_! The Dean, however, did not translate the
whole of the poem; the remaining stanzas were translated some years
since by Mr. Wilson, as follow:--

    Who rais'd this alarm?
      Says one of the clergy,
    And threat'ning severely,
      Cease fighting, I charge ye.

    A good knotted staff,
      The full of his hand,
    Instead of the _Spiradis_,
      Back'd his command.

    So falling to thrash,
      Fast as he was able,
    A trip and a box
      Stretch'd him under the table.

    Then rose a big friar,
      To settle them straight,
    But the back of the fire
      Was quickly his fate.

    From whence he cried out,
      Do you thus treat your _pastors_!
    Ye that scarcely were bred
      To the _sewn wise masters_;

    That when with the Pope
      I was getting my lore,
    Ye were roasting potatoes
      At the foot of _Sheemor_.


Swift's manner of entertaining his guests, and his behavior at table,
were curious. A frequent visitor thus described them: He placed himself
at the head of the table, and opposite to a great pier glass, so that he
could see whatever his servants did at the marble side-board behind his
chair. He was served entirely in plate, and with great elegance. The
beef being once over-roasted, he called for the cook-maid to take it
down stairs and do it less. The girl very innocently replied that she
could not. "Why, what sort of a creature are you," exclaimed he, "to
commit a fault which cannot be mended?" Then, turning to one that sate
next to him, he said very gravely, that he hoped, as the cook was a
woman of genius, he should, by this manner of arguing, be able, in about
a year's time, to convince her she had better send up the meat too
little than too much done: at the same time he charged the men-servants,
that whenever they thought the meat was ready, to take it up, spit and
all, and bring it up by force, promising to assist them in case the cook
resisted. Another time the Dean turning his eye towards the
looking-glass, espied the butler opening a bottle of ale, and helping
himself. "Ha, friend," said the Dean, "sharp is the word with you, I
find: you have drunk my ale, for which I stop two shillings out of your
board wages this week, for I scorn to be outdone in any thing, even in


Swift was dining one day with the Earl of Burlington soon after his
lordship's marriage, when that nobleman, expecting some diversion from
Swift's oddities of behavior, purposely neglected to name him to his
lady, who was entirely ignorant of the Dean's person. The Dean
generally wore his gowns till they were quite rusty, which being the
case, she supposed him to be some clergyman of no great consequence.
After dinner, the Dean said to her, "Lady Burlington, I hear you can
sing; come, sing me a song." The Lady, disgusted with this unceremonious
way of asking such a favor, positively refused him. He said she could
sing, or he would make her. "What, madam, I suppose you take me for one
of your poor paltry English hedge-parsons; sing, when I bid you!" As the
Earl did nothing but laugh at his freedom, the lady was so vexed that
she burst into tears, and retired. His first compliment when he saw her
a little time afterwards was, "Pray, madam, are you as proud and
ill-natured now as when I saw you last?" To which she replied with the
greatest good humor, "No, Mr. Dean; I will sing for you now, if you
please." From this time he conceived the greatest esteem for her, and
always behaved with the utmost respect. Those who knew Swift, took no
offence at his bluntness of behavior. It seems Queen Caroline did not,
if we may credit his words in the verses on his own death.


In a letter to Pope, alluding to the days when he took part in politics,
he thus expresses himself:--

"I had likewise in those days a mortal antipathy to standing armies in
times of peace. Because I always took standing armies to be only
servants, hired by the master of the family to keep his own children in
slavery; and because I conceived that a prince who could not think
himself secure without mercenary troops, must needs have a separate
interest from that of his subjects.

"As to Parliaments, I adored the wisdom of that Gothic institution which
made them annual, and I was confident that our liberty could never be
placed upon a firm foundation until that ancient law were restored among
us. For who sees not, that while such assemblies are permitted to have a
longer duration, there grows up a commerce of corruption between the
ministry and the deputies, wherein they both find account, to the
manifest danger of liberty; which traffic would neither answer the
design nor expense, if parliaments met once a year.

"I ever abominated that scheme of politics (now about thirty years old)
of setting up a moneyed interest in opposition to that of the landed:
for I conceived there could not be a truer maxim in government than
this, that the possessors of the soil are the best judges of what is for
the advantage of the kingdom. If others had thought the same way, funds
of credit and South Sea projects would neither have been felt nor heard

"I could never see the necessity _of suspending any law_ upon which the
liberty of the most innocent persons depend: neither do I think this
practice has made the taste of arbitrary power so agreeable as that we
should desire to see it repeated. Every rebellion subdued, and plot
discovered, contributes to the firmer establishment of the Prince: in
the latter case, the knot of conspirators is entirely broken, and they
are to begin their work anew under a thousand disadvantages; so that
those diligent inquiries into remote and problematical guilt, with a new
power of enforcing them by chains and dungeons to every person whose
face a minister thinks fit to dislike, are not only opposite to that
maxim which declares it better that ten guilty men should escape than
one innocent suffer, but likewise leave a gate wide open to the whole
tribe of informers, the most accursed, and prostitute, and abandoned
race that God ever permitted to plague mankind."


One cold morning a poor ancient woman sat at the deanery steps a
considerable time, during which the dean saw her through a window, and,
no doubt, commiserated her desolate condition. His footman happened to
go to the door, and the poor creature besought him to give a paper to
his reverence. The servant read it, and told her his master had
something else to do than to mind her petition. "What is that you say,
fellow?" said the dean, putting his head out of the window; "come up
here directly." The man obeyed him, and was ordered to tell the woman to
come up to him. After bidding her to be seated, he directed some bread
and wine to be given to her; after which, turning round to the man, he
said, "At what time did I order you to open and read a paper directed to
me? or to refuse a letter from any one? Hark you, sirrah, you have been
admonished by me for drunkenness, idleness, and other faults; but since
I have discovered your inhuman disposition, I must dismiss you from my
service: so pull off your clothes, take your wages, and let me hear no
more of you."


Among the public absurdities in Ireland, Swift notices the insurance
office against fire; the profits of which to the amount of several
thousand pounds, were annually remitted to England. "For," observes he,
"as if we could well spare the money, the society-marks upon our houses
spread faster and further than the colony of frogs; and we are not only
indebted to England for the materials to light our own fires, but for
engines to put them out."


Trifles become of some consequence when connected with a great name, or
when they throw any light on a distinguished character. Spence thus
relates a story told by Pope: "Dr. Swift had an odd blunt way that is
mistaken by strangers for ill nature. It is so odd that there is no
describing it but by facts. I'll tell you one that first comes into my
head. One evening Gay and I went to see him: you know how intimately we
were all acquainted. On our coming in, "Hey-day, gentlemen (says the
Doctor), what's the meaning of this visit? How came you to leave all the
Lords that you are so fond of, to come here to see a poor Dean?"
"Because we would rather see you than any of them." "Ay, any one that
did not know you so well as I do, might believe you. But since you are
come, I must get some supper for you, I suppose." "No, Doctor, we have
supped already." "Supped already, that's impossible! why it is not eight
o'clock yet. That's very strange! But, if you had not supped, I must
have got something for you. Let me see what should I have had? A couple
of lobsters; ay, that would have done very well; two shillings: tarts, a
shilling. But you will drink a glass of wine with me, though you supped
so much before your usual time only to spare my pocket." "No, we had
rather talk with you than drink with you." "But if you had supped with
me, as in all reason you ought to have done, you must then have drank
with me. A bottle of wine, two shillings--two and two is four, and one
is five; just two and sixpence a piece. There, Pope, there's
half-a-crown for you; and there's another for you, Sir; for I won't save
any thing by you, I am determined." This was all said and done with his
usual seriousness on such occasions; and in spite of every thing we
could say to the contrary, he actually obliged us to take the money."


Dr. Theophilus Bolton was not only a learned divine, but a very fine
gentleman. His merit as a preacher was so eminent that it was early
rewarded with a mitre. Swift went to congratulate him on the occasion,
when he observed that as his lordship was a native of Ireland, and had
now a seat in the House of Peers, he hoped he would employ his eloquence
in the service of his distressed country. The prelate told him the
bishopric was but a very small one, and he could not hope for a better
if he disobliged the court. "Very well," said Swift; "then it is to be
hoped when you have a better you will become an honest man." "Ay, that
I will, Mr. Dean." "Till then, my lord, farewell," answered Swift. The
prelate was soon translated to a richer see, on which occasion Swift
called to remind him of his promise; but to no purpose: there was an
arch-bishopric in view, and till that was obtained nothing could be
done. Having in a few years attained this object likewise, he then
waited on the Dean, and told him, "I am now at the top of my preferment,
for I well know that no Irishman will ever be made primate; therefore,
as I can rise no higher in fortune or station, I will most zealously
promote the good of my country." From that he became a most active


Before Swift retired to Ireland, Mr. Pope, Dr. Arbuthnot, Mr. Gay, Mr.
Parnell, Mr. Jervas, and Swift formed themselves into a society called
the Scriblerus Club. They wrote a good many things in conjunction, and,
according to Goldsmith, Gay was usually the amanuensis. The connection
between these wits advanced the fame and interest of them all. They
submitted their several productions to the review of their friends, and
readily adopted alterations dictated by taste and judgment, unmixed with
envy, or any sinister motive.

When the members of the Scriblerus Club were in town, they were
generally together, and often made excursions into the country. They
generally preferred walking to riding, and all agreed once to walk down
to Lord Burlington's about twelve miles from town. It was Swift's custom
in whatever company he might visit to travel, to endeavor to procure the
best bed for himself. To secure that, on the present occasion, Swift,
who was an excellent walker, proposed, as they were leaving town, that
each should make the best of his way. Dr. Parnell, guessing the Dean's
intentions, pretended to agree; but as his friend was out of sight, he
took a horse, and arrived at his Lordship's by another way, before
Swift. Having acquainted his noble host with the other's design, he
begged of him to disappoint it. It was resolved that Swift should be
kept out of the house. Swift had never had the small-pox, and was, as
all his friends knew, very much afraid of catching that distemper. A
servant was despatched to meet him as he was approaching the gate, and
to tell him that the small-pox was raging in the house, that it would be
unsafe for him to enter the doors, but that there was a field-bed in the
summer house in the garden, at his service. Thither the Dean was under
the necessity of betaking himself. He was forced to be content with a
cold supper, whilst his friends, whom he had tried to outstrip, were
feasting in the house. At last after they thought they had sufficiently
punished his too eager desire for his own accommodation, they requested
his lordship to admit him into the company. The Dean was obliged to
promise he would not afterwards, when with his friends, attempt to
secure the best bed to himself. Swift was often the butt of their
waggery, which he bore with great good humor, knowing well, that though
they laughed at his singularities, they esteemed his virtues, admired
his wit, and venerated his wisdom.

Many were the frolics of the Scriblerus Club. They often evinced the
truth of an observation made by the poet, "_dulce est desipere in

The time for wits to play the fool, is when they are met together, to
relax from the severity of mental exertion. Their follies have a degree
of extravagance much beyond the phlegmatic merriment of sober dulness,
and can be relished by those only, who having wit themselves, can trace
the extravagance to the real source.

This society carefully abstained from their frolics before the stupid
and ignorant, knowing that on no occasion ought a wise man to guard his
words and actions more than when in the company of fools.

How long the Scriblerus Club lasted is not exactly ascertained, or
whether it existed during the intimacy between Swift and Addison,
previous to the Doctor's connection with the Tory ministry.


There was one character which, through life, always kindled Swift's
indignation, _the haughty, presuming, tyrannizing upstart_! A person of
this description chanced to reside in the parish of Laracor. Swift
omitted no opportunity of humbling his pride; but, as he was as ignorant
as insolent, he was obliged to accommodate the coarseness of the lash to
the callosity of the back. The following lines have been found written
by Swift upon this man:--

    The rascal! that's too mild a name;
    Does he forget from whence he came;
    Has he forgot from whence he sprung;
    A mushroom in a bed of dung;
    A maggot in a cake of fat,
    The offspring of a beggar's brat.
    As eels delight to creep in mud,
    To eels we may compare his blood;
    His blood in mud delights to run;
    Witness his lazy, lousy son!
    Puff'd up with pride and insolence,
    Without a grain of common sense,
    See with what consequence he stalks,
    With what pomposity he talks;
    See how the gaping crowd admire
    The stupid blockhead and the liar.
    How long shall vice triumphant reign?
    How long shall mortals bend to gain?
    How long shall virtue hide her face,
    And leave her votaries in disgrace?
    ----Let indignation fire my strains,
    Another villain yet remains--
    Let purse-proud C----n next approach,
    With what an air he mounts his coach!
    A cart would best become the knave,
    A dirty parasite and slave;
    His heart in poison deeply dipt,
    His tongue with oily accents tipt,
    A smile still ready at command,
    The pliant bow, the forehead bland----


This single stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in that
neglected corner, I once knew in a flourishing state in a forest; it
was full of sap, full of leaves, and full of boughs: but now in vain
does the busy art of man pretend to vie with nature, by tying that
withered bundle of twigs to its sapless trunk. It is now at best but the
reverse of what it was, a tree turned upside down, the branches on the
earth, and the root in the air. It is now handled by every dirty wench,
condemned to do her drudgery, and by a capricious kind of fate, destined
to make her things clean, and be nasty itself. At length, worn out to
the stumps in the service of the maids, it is either thrown out of
doors, or condemned to the last use, of kindling a fire. When I beheld
this, I sighed and said within myself, _Surely, mortal man is a
broomstick_! Nature sent him into the world strong and lusty, in a
thriving condition, wearing his own hair on his head, the proper
branches of this reasoning vegetable, until the axe of intemperance has
lopped off his green boughs, and left him a withered trunk: he then
flies to art, and puts on a periwig, valuing himself upon an unnatural
bundle of hairs, all covered with powder, that never grew upon his head;
but now, should this, _our broomstick_, pretend to enter the scene,
proud of those birchen spoils it never bore, and all covered with dust,
though the sweepings of the finest lady's chamber, we should be apt to
ridicule and despise its vanity. Partial judges that we are of our own
excellencies, and other men's defaults!

But a _broomstick_, perhaps you will say, is an emblem of a tree
standing on its head; and pray what is man but a topsy-turvy creature,
his animal faculties perpetually mounted on his rational, his head where
his heels should be, groveling on the earth! and yet, with all his
faults, he sets up to be a universal reformer and corrector of abuses, a
remover of grievances, * * sharing deeply all the while in the very same
pollutions he pretends to sweep away: his last days are spent in slavery
to women, and generally the least deserving; till worn to the stumps
like his brother besom, he is either kicked out of doors, or made use of
to kindle flames for others to warm themselves by.


In a humorous paper written in 1732, entitled, "An Examination of
certain Abuses, Corruptions, and Enormities in the city of Dublin,"
Swift mentions this diversion, which he ludicrously enough applies to
the violent persecutions of the political parties of the day. The
ceremony was this: A strange dog happens to pass through a flesh market;
whereupon an expert butcher immediately cries in a loud voice and proper
tone, _coss, coss_, several times. The same word is repeated by the
people. The dog, who perfectly understands the terms of art, and
consequently the danger he is in, immediately flies. The people, and
even his own brother animals, pursue: the pursuit and cry attend him
perhaps half a mile; he is well worried in his flight; and sometimes
hardly escapes. "This," adds Swift, "our ill-wishers of the Jacobite
kind are pleased to call a persecution; and affirm, that it always falls
upon dogs of the _Tory_ principles."


Swift being one day at a sheriffs feast, among other toasts the chairman
called out, "Mr. Dean, the Trade of Ireland." The Dean answered, "Sir,
_I drink no memories_." The idea of the answer was evidently taken from
Bishop Brown's book against "Drinking the Memories of the dead," which
had just then appeared, and made much noise.


As Swift was fond of scenes in low life, he missed no opportunity of
being present at them when they fell in his way. Once when he was in the
country, he received intelligence that there was to be a beggar's
wedding in the neighborhood. He was resolved not to miss the opportunity
of seeing so curious a ceremony; and that he might enjoy the whole
completely, proposed to Dr. Sheridan that he should go thither disguised
as a blind fiddler, with a bandage over his eyes, and he would attend
him as his man to lead him. Thus accoutred, they reached the scene of
action, where the blind fiddler was received with joyful shouts. They
had plenty of meat and drink, and plied the fiddler and his man with
more than was agreeable to them. Never was a more joyful wedding seen.
They sung, they danced, told their stories, cracked jokes, &c., in a
vein of humor more entertaining to the two guests than they probably
could have found in any other meeting on a like occasion. When they were
about to depart, they pulled out the leather pouches, and rewarded the
fiddler very handsomely.

The next day the Dean and the Doctor walked out in their usual dress,
and found their companions of the preceding evening scattered about in
different parts of the road and the neighboring village, all begging
their charity in doleful strains, and telling dismal stories of their
distress. Among these they found some upon crutches, who had danced very
nimbly at the wedding, others stone-blind, who were perfectly
clear-sighted at the feast. The Doctor distributed among them the money
which he had received as his pay; but the Dean, who mortally hated these
sturdy vagrants, rated them soundly; told them in what manner he had
been present at the wedding, and was let into their roguery; and assured
them, if they did not immediately apply to honest labor, he would have
them taken up and sent to gaol. Whereupon the lame once more recovered
their legs, and the blind their eyes, so as to make a very precipitate


Swift, in passing through the county of Cavan, called at a homely but
hospitable house, where he knew he should be well received. The Lady
Bountiful of the mansion, rejoiced to have so distinguished a guest,
runs up to him, and with great eagerness and flippancy asks him what he
will have for dinner. "Will you have an apple-pie, sir? Will you have a
gooseberry-pie, sir? Will you have a cherry-pie, sir? Will you have a
currant-pie, sir? Will you have a plum-pie, sir? Will you have a
pigeon-pie, sir?" "Any pie, madam, but a _magpie_."


The Dean once preached a charity sermon in St. Patrick's Cathedral,
Dublin, the length of which disgusted many of his auditors; which,
coming to his knowledge, and it falling to his lot soon after to preach
another sermon of the like kind in the same place, he took special care
to avoid falling into the former error. His text was, "He that hath pity
upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given will
he pay him again." The Dean, after repeating his text in a more than
commonly emphatical tone, added, "Now, my beloved brethren, you hear the
terms of this loan; if you like the security, down with your dust." The
quaintness and brevity of the sermon produced a very large contribution.


While the prosecution for the Draper's fourth letter was depending,
Swift one day waited at the Castle for an audience of Lord Carteret, the
Lord Lieutenant, till his patience was exhausted; upon which he wrote
the following couplet on a window, and went away:--

    "My very good Lord, 'tis a very hard task,
    For a man to wait here who has nothing to ask."

The Earl, upon this being shown to him, immediately wrote the following
answer underneath:--

    "My very good Dean, there are few who come here,
    But have something to ask, or something to fear."


Swift could not bear to have any lies told him, which his natural
shrewdness and knowledge of the world generally enabled him to detect;
and when the party attempted to palliate them, his usual reply
was--"Come, come, don't attempt to darn your cobwebs."


Some time after the expiration of Dr. Sacheverell's punishment, having
been silenced three years from preaching, and his sermon ordered to be
burned, the ministry treated him with great indifference, and he applied
in vain for the vacant rectory of St. Andrew's, Holborn. Having,
however, a slender acquaintance with Swift, he wrote to him for his
interest with government in his behalf, stating how much he had suffered
in the cause of the ministry. Swift immediately carried his letter to
Lord Bolingbroke, then Secretary of State, who railed much at
Sacheverell, calling him a busy intermeddling fellow; a prig and an
incendiary, who had set the kingdom in a flame which could not be
extinguished, and therefore deserved censure instead of reward. Although
Swift had not a much better opinion of the Doctor than Lord Bolingbroke,
he replied, "True, my Lord; but let me tell you a story. In a sea fight
in the reign of Charles the Second, there was a very bloody engagement
between the English and Dutch fleets, in the heat of which a Scotch
sea-man was very severely bit by a louse on his neck, which he caught;
and stooping down to crack it between his nails, many of the sailors
near him had their heads taken off by a chain-shot from the enemy, which
dashed their blood and brains about him; on which he had compassion upon
the poor louse, returned him to his place and bid him live there at
discretion, for as he had saved his life, he was bound in gratitude to
save his." This recital threw my Lord Bolingbroke into a violent fit of
laughing, who, when it was over, said, "The louse shall have the living
for your story." And soon after Sacheverell was presented to it.


Lady Carteret, wife of the Lord Lieutenant, said to Swift, "The air of
Ireland is very excellent and healthy." "For God's sake, madam," said
Swift, "don't say so in England; for if you do, they will certainly tax


Wisdom (said the Dean) is a _fox_, who, after long hunting, will at last
cost you the pains to dig out: it is a _cheese_, which, by how much the
richer, has the thicker, the homelier, and the coarser coat, and whereof
to a judicious palate the maggots are the best; it is a _sack-posset_,
wherein the deeper you go you will find it the sweeter. Wisdom is a
_hen_, whose cackling we must value and consider, because it is
attended with an egg; but then, lastly, it is a _nut_, which, unless you
choose with judgment, may cost you a tooth, and pay you with nothing but
a worm.


    Here lies Judge _Boat_ within a coffin,
    Pray, gentlefolks, forbear your scoffin';
    A _Boat_ a judge! yes, where's the blunder
    A _wooden_ Judge is no such wonder!
    And in his robes you must agree,
    No _Boat_ was better _dekt_ than he.
    'Tis needless to describe him fuller,
    In short he was an able _sculler_.


    The thresher Duck could o'er the Queen prevail,
    The proverb says, "_no fence against a flail_."
    From _threshing_ corn he turns to _thresh his brains_,
    For which her Majesty allows him gains.
    Though 'tis confest, that those who ever saw
    His poems, think them all not worth a straw!
    Thrice happy Duck, employed in threshing _stubble_,
    Thy toil is lessen'd and thy profits double.


The three towns of Navan, Kells, and Trim, which lay in Swift's route on
his first journey to Laracor, seem to have deeply arrested his
attention, for he has been frequently heard to speak of the beautiful
situation of the first, the antiquity of the second, and the time-shaken
towers of the third. There were three inns in Navan, each of which
claims to this day the honor of having entertained Dr. Swift. It is
probable that he dined at one of them, for it is certain that he slept
at Kells, in the house of Jonathan Belcher, a Leicestershire man, who
had built the inn in that town on the English model, which still exists,
and, in point of capaciousness and convenience, would not disgrace the
first road in England. The host, whether struck by the commanding
sternness of Swift's appearance, or from natural civility, showed him
into the best room, and waited himself at table. The attention of
Belcher seems to have won so far upon Swift as to have produced some
conversation. "You're an Englishman, Sir?" said Swift. "Yes, Sir." "What
is your name?" "Jonathan Belcher, Sir." "An Englishman and Jonathan too,
in the town of Kells--who would have thought it! What brought you to
this country?" "I came with Sir Thomas Taylor, Sir; and I believe I
could reckon fifty Jonathans in my family, Sir." "Then you are a man of
family?" "Yes, Sir; I have four sons and three daughters by one mother,
a good woman of true Irish mould." "Have you been long out of your
native country?" "Thirty years, Sir." "Do you ever expect to visit it
again?" "Never." "Can you say that without a sigh?" "I can, Sir; my
family is my country!" "Why, Sir, you are a better philosopher than
those who have written volumes on the subject. Then you are reconciled
to your fate?" "I ought to be so; I am very happy; I like the people,
and, though I was not born in Ireland, I'll die in it and that's the
same thing." Swift paused in deep thought for near a minute, and then
with much energy repeated the first line of the preamble of the noted
Irish statute--_Ipsis Hibernis Hiberniores!_--"(_The English) are more
Irish than the Irish themselves_."


What perhaps contributed more than any thing to Swift's enjoyment, was
the constant fund of amusement he found in the facetious humor and
oddity of the parish clerk, Roger Cox. Roger was originally a hatter in
the town of Cavan, trot, being of a lively jovial temper, and fonder of
setting the fire-side of a village alehouse in a roar, over a tankard of
ale or a bowl of whiskey, with his flashes of merriment and jibes of
humor, than pursuing the dull routine of business to which fate had
fixed him, wisely forsook it for the honorable function of a parish
clerk, which he considered as an office appertaining in some wise to
ecclesiastical dignity; since by wearing a band, no small part of the
ornament of the Protestant clergy, he thought he might not unworthily be
deemed, as it were, "_a shred of the linen vestment of Aaron_." Nor was
Roger one of those worthy parish clerks who could be accused of merely
humming the psalms through the nostrils as a sack-butt, but much oftener
instructed and amused his fellow-parishioners with the amorous ditties
of the _Waiting Maid's Lamentation_, or one of those national songs
which awake the remembrance of glorious deeds, and make each man burn
with the enthusiasm of the conquering hero. With this jocund companion
Swift relieved the tediousness of his lonesome retirement; nor did the
easy freedom which he indulged with Roger ever lead his humble friend
beyond the bounds of decorum and respect.

Roger's dress was not the least extraordinary feature of his appearance.
He constantly wore a full-trimmed scarlet waistcoat of most uncommon
dimensions, a light grey coat, which altogether gave him an air of
singularity and whim as remarkable as his character.

To repeat all the anecdotes and witticisms which are recorded of the
prolific genius of Roger in the simple annals of Laracor, would fill a
little volume. He died at the good old age of ninety.

Soon after Swift's arrival at Laracor, he gave public notice that he
would read prayers every Wednesday and Friday. On the first of those
days after he had summoned his congregation, he ascended the desk, and
after sitting some time with no other auditor than his clerk Roger, he
rose up and with a composure and gravity that, upon this occasion, were
irresistibly ridiculous, began--"Dearly beloved Roger, the Scripture
moveth you and me in sundry places," and so proceeded to the end of the
service. The story is not quite complete. But the fact is, that when he
went into the church he found Roger _alone_, and exclaimed with evident
surprise, "_What, Roger! none here but you_?" "_Yes, sir_," replied
Roger drily (turning over the book to find the lessons, for the day),
"_sure you are here too_."


There happened, while Swift was at Laracor, the sale of a farm and
stock, the farmer being dead. Swift chanced to walk past during the
auction just as a pen of poultry had been put up. Roger bid for them,
and was overbid by a farmer of the name of Hatch. "What, Roger, won't
you buy the poultry?" exclaimed Swift. "No, sir," said Roger, "I see
they are _just a'going to Hatch_."


Although Roger took the lead, he did not monopolize all the wit, of the
parish. It happened that Swift, having been dining at some little
distance from Laracor, was returning home on horseback in the evening,
which was pretty dark. Just before he reached Kellistown, a neighboring
village, his horse lost a shoe. Unwilling to run the risk of laming the
animal by continuing his ride in that condition, he stopped at one
Kelly's, the blacksmith of the village, where, having called the man, he
asked him if he could shoe a horse with a _candle_. "No," replied the
smutty son of Vulcan, "but I can with a _hammer_." Swift, struck with
the reply, determined to have a little more conversation with him.
Accordingly, he alighted and went into the cabin, which was literally
rotten, but supported, wherever it had given way at different times,
with pieces of timber. Swift, as was usual with him, began to rate poor
Kelly soundly for his indolence in not getting his house put into better
repair, in which the wife joined. "Hold, Doctor, for one moment!"
exclaimed Kelly, "and tell me, whether you ever saw a _rotten_ house
_better_ supported in all your life."


It was for many years a regular custom with Swift's most intimate
friends to make him some presents on his birth day. On that occasion,
30th November, 1732, Lord Orrery presented him with a paper book, finely
bound, and Dr Delany with a silver standish, accompanied with the
following verses;--


    To thee, Dear Swift, those spotless leaves I send;
    Small is the present, but sincere the friend.
    Think not so poor a book below thy care;
    Who knows the price that thou canst make it bear?
    Tho' tawdry now, and like Tyralla's face,
    The spacious front shines out with borrow'd grace;
    Tho' pasteboards, glitt'ring like a tinsell'd coat,
    A _rasa tabula_ within denote;
    Yet if a venal and corrupted age,
    And modern vices should provoke thy rage;
    If, warn'd once more by their impending fate,
    A sinking country and an injured state
    Thy great assistance should again demand,
    And call forth Reason to defend the land;
    Then shall we view these sheets with glad surprise
    Inspired with thought, and speaking to our eyes:
    Each vacant space shall then, enrich'd, dispense
    True force of eloquence and nervous sense;
    Inform the judgment, animate the heart,
    And sacred rules of policy impart.
    The spangled cov'ring, bright with splendid ore,
    Shall cheat the sight with empty show no more;
    But lead us inward to those golden mines,
    Where all thy soul in native lustre shines.
    So when the eye surveys some lovely fair,
    With bloom of beauty, graced with shape and air,
    How is the rapture heightened when we find
    The form excelled by her celestial mind!


    Hither from Mexico I came,
    To serve a proud Iernian dame;
    Was long submitted to her will,
    At length she lost me at Quadrille.
    Through various shapes I often passed,
    Still hoping to have rest at last;
    And still ambitious to obtain
    Admittance to the patriot Dean;
    And sometimes got within his door,
    But soon turn'd out to serve the poor;
    Not strolling idleness to aid,
    But honest industry decay'd.
    At length an artist purchased me,
    And wrought me to the shape you see.
      This done, to Hermes I applied:
    "O Hermes! gratify my pride!
    Be it my fate to serve a sage,
    The greatest genius of his age;
    That matchless pen let me supply,
    Whose living lines will never die!"
      "I grant your suit," the god replied,
    And here he left me to reside.


    A paper Book is sent by _Boyle,_
    Too neatly gilt for me to soil:
    Delany sends a Silver Standish,
    When I no more a pen can brandish.
    Let both around my tomb be placed,
    As trophies of a muse deceas'd:
    And let the friendly lines they writ,
    In praise of long departed wit,
    Be graved on either side in columns,
    More to my praise than all my volumes;
    To burst with envy, spite, and rage,
    The Vandals of the present age.


Dean Swift once invited to dinner several of the first noblemen and
gentlemen in Dublin. A servant announced the dinner, and the Dean led
the way to the dining-room. To each chair was a servant, a bottle of
wine, a roll, and an inverted plate. On taking his seat, the Dean
desired the guests to arrange themselves according to their own ideas of
precedence, and fall to. The company were astonished to find the table
without a dish or any provisions. The Lord Chancellor, who was present,
said, "Mr. Dean, we do not see the joke." "Then I will show it you,"
answered the Dean, turning up his plate, under which was half-a-crown
and a bill of fare from a neighboring tavern. "Here, sir," said he, to
his servant, "bring me a plate of goose." The company caught the idea,
and each man sent his plate and half-a-crown. Covers, with everything
that the appetites of the moment dictated, soon appeared. The novelty,
the peculiarity of the manner, and the unexpected circumstances,
altogether excited the plaudits of the noble guests, who declared
themselves particularly gratified by the Dean's entertainment. "Well,"
said the Dean, "gentlemen, if you have dined, I will order _dessert_." A
large roll of paper, presenting the particulars of a splendid dinner,
was produced, with an estimate of expense. The Dean requested the
accountant-general to deduct the half-crowns from the amount, observing,
"that as his noble guests were pleased to express their satisfaction
with the dinner, he begged their advice and assistance in disposing of
the _fragments_ and _crumbs_," as he termed the balance mentioned by the
accountant-general--which was two hundred and fifty pounds. The company
said, that no person was capable of instructing the Dean in things of
that nature. After the circulation of the finest wines, the most
judicious remarks on charity and its abuse were introduced, and it was
agreed that the proper objects of liberal relief were well-educated
families, who from affluence, or the expectation of it, were reduced
through misfortune to silent despair. The Dean then divided the sum by
the number of his guests, and addressed them according to their
respective private characters, with which no one was, perhaps, better
acquainted. "You, my Lords," said the Dean to several young noblemen, "I
wish to introduce to some new acquaintance, who will at least make their
acknowledgment for your favors with sincerity. You, my reverend Lords,"
addressing the bishops present, "adhere so closely to the spirit of the
Scriptures, that your left hands are literally ignorant of the
beneficence of your right. You, my Lord of Kildare, and the two noble
lords near you, I will not entrust with any part of this money, as you
have been long in the _usurious_ habits of lending your own on such
occasions; but your assistance, my Lord of Kerry, I must entreat, as
charity covereth a multitude of sins."


Dean Swift having taken a strong dislike to Sergeant Bettesworth,
revenged himself by the following lines in one of his poems:

    So at the bar the booby Bettesworth,
    Tho' half-a-crown outpays his sweat's worth,
    Who knows in law nor text nor margent,
    Calls Singleton his brother sergeant.

The poem was sent to Bettesworth, when he was in company with some of
his friends. He read it aloud, till he had finished the lines relating
to himself. He then flung it down with great violence, trembled and
turned pale. After some pause, his rage for a while depriving him of
utterance, he took out his penknife, and swore he would cut off the
Dean's ears with it. Soon after he went to seek the Dean at his house;
and not finding him at home, followed him to a friend's, where he had an
interview with him. Upon entering the room, Swift desired to know his
commands. "Sir," says he, "I am Sergeant Bet-tes-worth;" in his usual
pompous way of pronouncing his name in three distinct syllables. "Of
what regiment, pray?" says Swift. "O, Mr. Dean, we know your powers of
raillery; you know me well enough, that I am one of his majesty's
sergeants-at-law." "What then, sir?" "Why then, sir, I am come to demand
of you, whether you are the author of this poem (producing it), and the
villanous lines on me?" at the same time reading them aloud with great
vehemence of emphasis, and much gesticulation. "Sir," said Swift, "it
was a piece of advice given me in my early days by Lord Somers, never to
own or disown any writing laid to my charge; because, if I did this in
some cases, whatever I did not disown afterwards would infallibly be
imputed to me as mine. Now, sir, I take this to have been a very wise
maxim, and as such have followed it ever since; and I believe it will
hardly be in the power of all your rhetoric, as great a master as you
are of it, to make me swerve from that rule." Bettesworth replied,
"Well, since you will give me no satisfaction in this affair, let me
tell you, that your gown is alone your protection," and then left the

The sergeant continuing to utter violent threats against the Dean, there
was an association formed and signed by all the principal inhabitants of
the neighborhood, to stand by and support their generous benefactor
against any one who should attempt to offer the least injury to his
person or fortune. Besides, the public indignation became so strong
against the sergeant, that although he had made a considerable figure at
the bar, he now lost his business, and was seldom employed in any suit


Dean Swift having preached an assize sermon in Ireland, was invited to
dine with the Judges; and having in his sermon considered the use and
abuse of the law, he then pressed a little hard upon those counsellors,
who plead causes which they knew in their consciences to be wrong. When
dinner was over, and the glass began to go round, a young barrister
retorted upon the dean; and after several altercations, the counsellor
asked him, "If the devil was to die, whether a _parson_ might not be
found, who, for money, would preach his funeral?" "Yes," said Swift, "I
would gladly be the man, and I would then give the _devil_ his due, as I
have this day done his _children_."


Dean Swift is said to have jocularly remarked, that he never preached
but twice in his life, and then they were not sermons, but pamphlets.
Being asked, upon what subject? he replied, they were against Wood's
halfpence. One of these sermons has been preserved, and is from this
text, "As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men." Its
object was to show the great want of public spirit in Ireland, and to
enforce the necessity of practising that virtue. "I confess," said he,
"it was chiefly the consideration of the great danger we are in, which
engaged me to discourse to you on this subject, to exhort you to a love
of your country, and a public spirit, when all you have is at stake; to
prefer the interest of your prince and your fellow subjects before that
of one destructive impostor, and a few of his adherents."

"Perhaps it may be thought by some, that this way of discoursing is not
so proper from the pulpit; but surely when an open attempt is made, and
far carried on, to make a great kingdom one large poor-house; to deprive
us of all means to excite hospitality or charity; to turn our cities and
churches into ruins; to make this country a desert for wild beasts and
robbers; to destroy all arts and sciences, all trades and manufactures,
and the very tillage of the ground, only to enrich one obscure
ill-designing projector, and his followers; it is time for the pastor
to cry out that the wolf is getting into his flock, to warn them to
stand together, and all to consult the common safety. And God be praised
for his infinite goodness, in raising such a spirit of union among us at
least in this point, in the midst of all our former divisions; which
union, if it continues, will in all probability defeat the pernicious
design of this pestilent enemy to the nation."

It will scarcely be credited, that this dreadful description, when
stripped of its exaggerations, meant no more than that Ireland might
lose about six thousand a year during Wood's patent for coining


During the publication of the Drapers Letters, Swift was particularly
careful to conceal himself from being known as the author. The only
persons in the secret, were Robert Blakely, his butler, whom he employed
as an amanuensis, and Dr. Sheridan. It happened, that on the very
evening before the proclamation, offering a reward of £300 for
discovering the author of these letters, was issued, Robert Blakely
stopped out later than usual without his master's leave. The dean
ordered the door to be locked at the accustomed hour, and shut him out.
The next morning the poor fellow appeared before his master with marks
of great contrition. Swift would hear no excuses, but abusing him
severely, bade him strip off his livery, and quit the house instantly.
"What!" said he, "is it because I am in your power that you dare to take
these liberties with me? get out of my house, and receive the reward of
your treachery."

Mrs. Johnson (Stella), who was at the deanery, did not interfere, but
immediately dispatched a messenger to Dr. Sheridan, who on his arrival
found Robert walking up and down the hall in great agitation. The doctor
bade him not be uneasy, as he would try to pacify the dean, so that he
should continue in his place. "That is not what vexes me," replied
Robert, "though to be sure I should be sorry to lose so good a master;
but what grieves me to the soul, is, that my master should have so bad
an opinion of me, as to suppose me capable of betraying him for any
reward whatever." When this was related to the dean, he was so struck
with the honor and generosity of sentiment, which it exhibited in one
so humble in life, that he immediately restored him to his situation,
and was not long in rewarding his fidelity.

The place of verger to the cathedral becoming vacant, Swift called
Robert to him, and asked him if he had any clothes of his own that were
not a livery? Robert replying in the affirmative, he desired him to take
off his livery, and put them on. The poor fellow, quite astonished,
begged to know what crime he had committed, that he was to be
discharged. The dean bade him do as he was ordered; and when he returned
in his new dress, the dean called all the other servants into the room,
and told them that they were no longer to consider him as their
fellow-servant Robert, but as Mr. Blakely, verger of St. Patrick's
Cathedral; an office which he had bestowed on him for his faithful
services, and as a proof of that sure reward, which honesty and fidelity
would always obtain.


Dean Swift, among other eccentricities, determined upon having a feast
once a year, in imitation of the Saturnalia in ancient Rome. In this
project he engaged several persons of rank, and his plan was put in
execution at the deanery house. When all the servants were seated, and
every gentleman placed behind his own servant, the Dean's footman, who
presided, found fault with some meat that was not done to his taste; and
imitating his master on such occasions, threw it at him. But the Dean
was either so mortified by the reproof, or so provoked at the insult,
that he flew into a violent passion, beat the fellow, and dispersed the
whole assembly.--Thus abruptly terminated the Dean's Saturnalia.


George Faulkner, the Dublin printer, once called on Dean Swift on his
return from London, dressed in a rich coat of silk brocade and gold
lace, and seeming not a little proud of the adorning of his person: the
Dean determined to humble him. When he entered the room, and saluted the
Dean with all the respectful familiarity of an old acquaintance, the
Dean affected not to know him; in vain did he declare himself as George
Faulkner, the Dublin printer; the Dean declared him an impostor, and at
last abruptly bade him begone. Faulkner, perceiving the error he had
committed, instantly returned home, and resuming his usual dress, again
went to the Dean, when he was very cordially received. "Ah, George,"
said he, "I am so glad to see you, for here has been an impudent
coxcomb, bedizened in silks and gold lace, who wanted to pass himself
off for you; but I soon sent the fellow about his business; for I knew
you to be _always_ a plain dressed and honest man, just as you now
appear before me."


Swift, Arbuthnot, and Parnell, taking the advantage of a fine frosty
morning, set out together upon a walk to a little place which Lord
Bathurst had, about eleven miles from London. Swift, remarkable for
being an old traveller, and for getting possession of the best rooms and
warmest beds, pretended, when they were about half way, that he did not
like the slowness of their pace; adding, that he would walk on before
them, and acquaint his lordship with their journey. To this proposal
they readily agreed; but as soon as he was out of sight, sent off a
horseman by a private way (suspecting their friend's errand), to inform
his lordship of their apprehensions. The man arrived in time enough to
deliver his message before Swift made his appearance. His lordship then
recollecting that the dean never had the small-pox, thought of the
following stratagem. Seeing him coming up the avenue, he ran out to meet
him, and expressed his happiness at the sight of him. "But I am
mortified at one circumstance," continued his lordship, "as it must
deprive me of the pleasure of your company; there is a raging small-pox
in the house: I beg, however, that you will accept of such accommodation
as a small house at the bottom of the avenue can afford you." Swift was
forced to comply with this request: and in this solitary situation,
fearful of speaking to any person around him, he was served with dinner.
In the evening, the wits thought proper to release him, by going down to
him in a body, to inform him of the deception, and to tell him that the
first best room and bed in the house were at his service. Swift, though
he might be inwardly chagrined, deemed it prudent to join in the laugh
against himself; they adjourned to the mansion-house, and spent the
evening in a manner easily to be conceived by those who are in the
least acquainted with the brilliancy of their powers.


The eccentric Dean Swift, in the course of one of those journies to
Holyhead, which, it is well known, he several times performed _on foot_,
was travelling through Church Stretton, Shropshire, when he put up at
the sign of the Crown, and finding the host to be a communicative
good-humored man, inquired if there was any agreeable person in town,
with whom he might partake of a dinner (as he had desired him to provide
one), and that such a person should have nothing to pay. The landlord
immediately replied, that the curate, Mr. Jones, was a very agreeable,
companionable man, and would not, he supposed, have any objection to
spend a few hours with a gentleman of his appearance. The Dean directed
him to wait on Mr. Jones, with his compliments, and say that a traveller
would be glad to be favored with his company at the Crown, if it was
agreeable. When Mr. Jones and the Dean had dined, and the glass began
to circulate, the former made an apology for an occasional absence,
saying that at three o'clock he was to read prayers and preach at the
church. Upon this intimation, the Dean replied, that he also should
attend prayers. Service being ended, and the two gentlemen having
resumed their station at the Crown, the Dean began to compliment Mr.
Jones on his delivery of a very appropriate sermon; and remarked, that
it must have cost him (Mr. Jones) some time and attention to compose
such a one.

Mr. Jones observed, that his duty was rather _laborious_, as he served
another parish church at a distance; which, with the Sunday and weekly
service at Church Stretton, straitened him much with respect to the time
necessary for the composition of sermons; so that when the subjects
pressed, he could only devote a few days and nights to that purpose.

"Well," says the Dean, "it is well for you to have such a talent; for my
part, the very sermon you preached this afternoon, cost me some _months_
in the composing." On this observation, Mr. Jones began to look very
gloomy, and to recognize his companion. "However," rejoined the Dean,
"don't you be alarmed; you have so good a talent at delivery, that I
hereby declare, you have done more honor to my sermon this day, than I
_could_ do myself; and by way of compromising the matter, you must
accept of this half-guinea for the justice you have done in the delivery
of it."


Dean Swift, standing one morning at the window of his study, observed a
decent old woman offer a paper to one of his servants, which the fellow
at first refused in an insolent and surly manner. The woman however
pressed her suit with all the energy of distress, and in the end
prevailed. The dean, whose very soul was compassion, saw, felt, and was
determined to alleviate her misery. He waited most anxiously for the
servant to bring the paper; but to his surprise and indignation, an hour
elapsed, and the man did not present it. The dean again looked out. The
day was cold and wet, and the wretched petitioner still retained her
situation, with many an eloquent and anxious look at the house. The
benevolent divine lost all patience, and was going to ring the bell,
when he observed the servant cross the street, and return the paper with
the utmost _sang froid_ and indifference. The dean could bear no longer;
he threw up the sash, and loudly demanded what the paper contained. "It
is a petition, please your reverence," replied the woman. "Bring it up,
rascal!" cried the enraged dean. The servant, surprised and petrified,
obeyed. With Swift, to know distress was to pity it; to pity to relieve.
The poor woman was instantly made happy, and the servant almost as
instantly turned out of doors, with the following written testimonial of
his conduct. "The bearer lived two years in my service, in which time he
was frequently drunk and negligent of his duty; which, conceiving him to
be honest, I excused; but at last detecting him in a flagrant instance
of cruelty, I discharge him." Such were the consequences of this paper,
that for seven years the fellow was an itinerant beggar; after which the
dean forgave him; and in consequence of another paper equally singular,
he was hired by Mr. Pope, with whom he lived till death removed him.


Dean Swift had heard much of the hospitable festivities of Thomastown,
the seat of Mr. Matthew (See Anecdotes of Conviviality), from his friend
Dr. Sheridan, who had been often, a welcome guest, both on account of
his convivial qualities, and as being the preceptor of the nephew of Mr.
Matthew. He, at length, became desirous of ascertaining with his own
eyes, the truth of a report, which he could not forbear considering as
greatly exaggerated. On receiving an intimation of this from Sheridan,
Mr. Matthew wrote a polite letter to the Dean, requesting the honor of a
visit, in company with the doctor, at his next school vacation. They
accordingly set out on horseback, attended by a gentleman who was a near
relation to Mr. Matthew.

They had scarcely reached the inn where they intended to pass the first
night, and which, like most of the Irish inns at that time, afforded but
miserable entertainment, when they were surprised by the arrival of a
coach and six horses, sent to convey them the remainder of the journey
to Thomastown; and at the same time, bringing a supply of the choicest
viands, wines, and other liquors, for their refreshment. Swift was
highly pleased with this uncommon mark of attention paid him; and the
coach proved particularly acceptable, as he had been a good deal
fatigued with his day's journey.

When they came in sight of the house, the Dean, astonished at its
magnitude, cried out, "What, in the name of God, can be the use of such
a vast building?" "Why, Mr. Dean," replied the fellow traveller before
mentioned, "there are no less than forty apartments for guests in that
house, and all of them probably occupied at this time, except what are
reserved for us." Swift, in his usual manner, called out to the
coachman, to stop, and drive him back to Dublin, for he could not think
of mixing with such a crowd. "Well," said he, immediately afterwards,
"there is no remedy, I must submit, but I have lost a fortnight of my

Mr. Mathew received him at the door with uncommon marks of respect; and
then conducting him to his apartments, after some compliments, made his
usual speech, acquainting him with the customs of the house, and
retired, leaving him in possession of his castle. Soon after, the cook
appeared with his bill of fare, to receive his directions about supper;
and the butler at the same time, with a list of wines, and other
liquors. "And is all this really so?" said Swift, "and may I command
here, as in my own house?" His companion assured him he might, and that
nothing could be more agreeable to the owner of the mansion, than that
all under his roof should live comformably to their own inclinations,
without the least restraint. "Well then," said Swift, "I invite you and
Dr. Sheridan to be my guests, while I stay; for I think I shall scarcely
be tempted to mix with the mob below."

Three days were passed in riding over the demesne, and viewing the
various improvements, without ever seeing Mr. Mathew, or any of the
guests; nor were the company below much concerned at the dean's absence,
as his very name usually inspired those who did not know him, with awe;
and they were afraid that his presence would put an end to the ease and
cheerfulness which reigned among them. On the fourth day, Swift entered
the room where the company were assembled before dinner, and addressed
Mr. Mathew, in a strain of the highest compliment, expatiating on all
the beauties of his improvements, with all the skill of an artist, and
with the taste of a connoisseur. Such an address for a man of Swift's
character, could not fail of being pleasing to the owner, who was, at
the same time, the planner of these improvements; and so fine an
eulogium from one, who was supposed to deal more largely in satire, than
panegyric, was likely to remove the prejudice entertained against his
character, and prepossessed the rest of the company in his favor. He
concluded his speech by saying: "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am
come to live among you, and it shall be no fault of mine, if we do not
pass our time agreeably."

In a short time, all restraint on his account disappeared, he entered
readily into all the little schemes for promoting mirth; and every day,
with the assistance of his coadjutor, produced some new one, which
afforded a good deal of sport and merriment. In short, never were such
joyous scenes know at, Thomastown before. When the time came, which
obliged Sheridan to return to his school, the company were so delighted
with the dean, that they earnestly entreated him to remain there some
time longer; and Mr. Mathew himself for once broke through a rule which
he observed, of never soliciting the stay of any guest. Swift found
himself so happy, that he readily yielded to their solicitations; and
instead of a fortnight, passed four months there, much to his
satisfaction, and that of all those who visited the place during that


In one of those lucid intervals which varied the course of Swift's
unhappy lunacy, his guardians or physicians took him out to give him an
airing. When they came to the Phoenix park, Swift remarked a new building
which he had never seen, and asked what it was designed for? Dr.
Kingsbury answered, "That, Mr. Dean, is the magazine for arms and
powder, for the security of the city." "Oh! oh!" says the dean, pulling
out his pocket-book, "let me take an item of that. This is worth
remarking; my tablets, as Hamlet says, my tablets--memory, put down
that." He then produced the following lines, being the last he ever

    Behold! a proof of Irish sense!
      Here Irish wit is seen,
    When nothing's left for our defence,
      We build a magazine.

The Dean then put up his pocket-book, laughing heartily at the conceit,
and clenching it with, "After the steed's stolen, shut the stable



John Philpot Curran was born at Newmarket, a small village in
the county of Cork, on the 24th of July, 1750. His father, James Curran,
was seneschal of the manor, and possessed of a very moderate income. His
mother was a very extraordinary woman. Eloquent and witty, she was the
delight of her neighbors, and their chronicle and arbitress. Her stories
were of the olden time, and made their way to the hearts of the people,
who delighted in her wit and the truly national humor of her character.
Little Curran used to hang with ecstasy upon his mother's accents, used
to repeat her tales and her jests, and caught up her enthusiasm. After
her death, he erected a monument over her remains, upon which the
following memorial was inscribed:--

"Here lieth all that was mortal of Martha Curran--a woman of many
virtues, few foibles, great talents, and no vice. This tablet was
inscribed to her memory by a son who loved her, and whom she loved."


Curran's first effort in public commenced when a boy in the droll
character of Mr. Punch's man. It occurred in this way: One of the
puppet-shows known as "Punch and Judy," arrived at Newmarket, to the
great gratification of the neighborhood. Young Curran was an attentive
listener at every exhibition of the show. At length, Mr. Punch's man
fell ill, and immediately ruin threatened the establishment. Curran, who
had devoured all the man's eloquence, offered himself to the manager as
Mr. Punch's man. His services were gladly accepted, and his success so
complete, that crowds attended every performance, and Mr. Punch's new
man became the theme of universal panegyric.


Curran's account of his introduction and _debut_ at a debating society,
is the identical "first appearance" of hundreds. "Upon the first of our
assembling," he says, "I attended, my foolish heart throbbing with the
anticipated honor of being styled 'the learned member that opened the
debate,' or 'the very eloquent gentleman who has just sat down.' All day
the coming scene had been flitting before my fancy, and cajoling it. My
ear already caught the glorious melody of 'Hear him! hear him!' Already
I was practising how to steal a sidelong glance at the tears of generous
approbation bubbling in the eyes of my little auditory,--never
suspecting, alas! that a modern eye may have so little affinity with
moisture, that the finest gunpowder may be dried upon it. I stood up; my
mind was stored with about a folio volume of matter; but I wanted a
preface, and for want of a preface, the volume was never published. I
stood up, trembling through every fibre: but remembering that in this I
was but imitating Tully, I took courage, and had actually proceeded
almost as far as 'Mr. Chairman,' when, to my astonishment and terror, I
perceived that every eye was riveted upon me. There were only six or
seven present, and the little room could not have contained as many
more; yet was it, to my panic-stricken imagination, as if I were the
central object in nature, and assembled millions were gazing upon me in
breathless expectation. I became dismayed and dumb. My friends cried
'Hear him!' but there was nothing to hear. My lips, indeed, went through
the pantomime of articulation; but I was like the unfortunate fiddler at
the fair, who, coming to strike up the solo that was to ravish every
ear, discovered that an enemy had maliciously soaped his bow; or rather,
like poor Punch, as I once saw him, grimacing a soliloquy, of which his
prompter had most indiscreetly neglected to administer the words." Such
was the _debut_ of "Stuttering Jack Curran," or "Orator Mum," as he was
waggishly styled; but not many months elapsed ere the sun of his
eloquence burst forth in dazzling splendor.


A Limerick banker, remarkable for his sagacity, had an iron leg. "His
leg," said Curran "is the _softest_ part about him."


Curran was employed at Cork to prosecute a British officer of the name
of St. Leger, for an assault upon a Catholic clergyman. St. Leger was
suspected by Curran to be a creature of Lord Doneraile, and to have
acted under the influence of his lordship's religious prejudice. Curran
rated him soundly on this, and with such effect that St. Leger sent him
a challenge the next day. They met, but as Curran did not return his
fire, the affair ended. "It was not necessary," said Curran, "for me to
fire at him, for he died in three weeks after the duel, of the _report
of his own pistol_."


This was the name of a club that met on every Saturday during term in a
house in Kevin-street, and had for its members Curran, Grattan, Flood,
Father O'Leary, Lord Charlemont, Judge Day, Judge Metge, Judge
Chamberlaine, Lord Avonmore, Bowes Daly, George Ogle, and Mr. Keller.
Curran, being Grand Prior of the order, composed the charter song as

    When Saint Patrick our order created,
      And called us the Monks of the Screw,
    Good rules he revealed to our Abbot,
      To guide us in what we should do.

    But first he replenished his fountain
      With liquor the best in the sky:
    And he swore by the word of his saintship
      That fountain should never run dry.

    My children, be chaste till you're tempted--
      While sober, be wise and discreet--
    And humble your bodies with fasting,
      Whene'er you've got nothing to eat.

    Then be not a glass in the convent,
      Except on a festival, found--
    And this rule to enforce, I ordain it
      A festival--_all the year round_.


Curran was often annoyed when pleading before Lord Avonmore, owing to
his lordship's habit of being influenced by first impressions. He and
Curran were to dine together at the house of a friend, and the
opportunity was seized by Curran to cure his lordship's habit of

"Why, Mr. Curran, you have kept us a full hour waiting dinner for you,"
grumbled out Lord Avonmore. "Oh, my dear Lord, I regret it much; you
must know it seldom happens, but--I've just been witness to a most
melancholy occurrence." "My God! you seem terribly moved by it--take a
glass of wine. What was it?--what was it?"--"I will tell you, my Lord,
the moment I can collect myself. I had been detained at Court--in the
Court of Chancery--your Lordship knows the Chancellor sits late." "I do,
I do--but _go on_."--"Well, my Lord, I was hurrying here as fast as ever
I could--I did not even change my dress--I hope I shall be excused for
coming in my boots?" "Poh, poh--never mind your boots: the point--come
at once to the point of the story."--"Oh--I will, my good Lord, in a
moment. I walked here--I would not even wait to get the carriage
ready--it would have taken time, you know. Now there is a market exactly
in the road by which I had to pass--your Lordship may perhaps recollect
the market--do you?" "To be sure I do--_go on_, Curran--_go on_ with the
story."--"I am very glad your Lordship remembers the market, for I
totally forget the name of it--the name--the name--" "What the devil
signifies the name of it, sir?--it's the Castle Market."--"Your Lordship
is perfectly right--it is called the Castle Market. Well, I was passing
through that very identical Castle Market, when I observed a butcher
preparing to kill a calf. He had a huge knife in his hand--it was as
sharp as a razor. The calf was standing beside him--he drew the knife to
plunge it into the animal. Just as he was in the act of doing so, a
little boy about four years old--his only son--the loveliest little baby
I ever saw, ran suddenly across his path, and he killed--oh, my God! he
killed--" "The child! the child! the child!" vociferated Lord Avonmore.
"No, my Lord, _the calf_," continued Curran, very coolly; "he killed the
calf, but--_your Lordship is in the habit of anticipating_."


When Curran was called to the bar, he was without friends, without
connections, without fortune, conscious of talents far above the mob by
which he was elbowed, and cursed with sensibility, which rendered him
painfully alive to the mortifications he was fated to experience. Those
who have risen to professional eminence, and recollect the impediments
of such a commencement--the neglect abroad--the poverty, perhaps, at
home--the frowns of rivalry--the fears of friendship--the sneer at the
first essay--the prophecy that it will be the last--discouragement as
to the present--forebodings as to the future--some who are established
endeavoring to crush the chance of competition, and some who have failed
anxious for the wretched consolation of companionship--those who
recollect the comforts of such an apprenticeship may duly appreciate
poor Curran's situation. After toiling for a very inadequate recompense
at the Sessions of Cork, and wearing, as he said himself, his teeth
almost to their stumps, he proceeded to the metropolis, taking for his
wife and young children a miserable lodging on Hog-hill. Term after
term, without either profit or professional reputation, he paced the
hall of the Four Courts. Yet even thus he was not altogether
undistinguished. If his pocket was not heavy, his heart was light--he
was young and ardent, buoyed up not less by the consciousness of what he
felt within, than by the encouraging comparison with those who were
successful around him, and his station among the crowd of idlers, whom
he amused with his wit or amused by his eloquence. Many even who had
emerged from that crowd, did not disdain occasionally to glean from his
conversation the rich and varied treasures which he did not fail to
squander with the most unsparing prodigality; and some there were who
observed the brightness of the infant luminary struggling through the
obscurity that clouded its commencement. Among those who had the
discrimination to appreciate, and the heart to feel for him, luckily for
Curran, was Mr. Arthur Wolfe, afterwards the unfortunate, but respected
Lord Kilwarden. The first fee of any consequence that he received was
through his recommendation; and his recital of the incident cannot be
without its interest to the young professional aspirant whom a temporary
neglect may have sunk into dejection. "I then lived," said he, "upon
Hog-hill; my wife and children were the chief furniture of my
apartments; and as to my rent, it stood much the same chance of its
liquidation with the national debt. Mrs. Curran, however, was a
barrister's lady, and what was wanting in wealth, she was well
determined should be supplied by dignity. The landlady, on the other
hand, had no idea of any other gradation except that of pounds,
shillings, and pence. I walked out one morning in order to avoid the
perpetual altercations on the subject, with my mind, you may imagine, in
no very enviable temperament. I fell into gloom, to which from my
infancy I had been occasionally subject. I had a family for whom I had
no dinner, and a landlady for whom I had no rent. I had gone abroad in
despondence--I returned home almost in desperation. When I opened the
door of my study, where _Lavater_ alone could have found a library, the
first object that presented itself was an immense folio of a brief,
twenty golden guineas wrapped up beside it, and the name of _Old Bob
Lyons_ marked on the back of it. I paid my landlady--bought a good
dinner--gave Bob Lyons a share of it; and that dinner was the date of my


The following is an extract from Curran's speech delivered before a
committee of the house of Lords, against the Bill of attainder on Lord
Edward's property:--

"I have been asked," said he, "by the committee, whether I have any
defensive evidence? I am confounded by such a question. Where is there a
possibility of obtaining defensive evidence? Where am I to seek it? I
have often, of late, gone to the dungeon of the captive, but never have
I gone to the grave of the dead, to receive instructions for his
defence; nor, in truth, have I ever before been at the trial of a dead
man! I offer, therefore, no evidence upon this inquiry, against the
perilous example of which I do protest on behalf of the public, and
against the cruelty and inhumanity and injustice of which I do protest
in the name of the dead father, whose memory is sought to be dishonored,
and of his infant orphans, whose bread is sought to be taken away. Some
observations, and but a few, upon the evidence of the informer I will
make. I do believe all he has admitted respecting himself. I do verily
believe him in that instance, even though I heard him assert it upon his
oath--by his own confession an informer, and a bribed informer--a man
whom respectable witnesses had sworn in a court of justice, upon their
oaths, not to be credible on his oath--a man upon whose single testimony
no jury ever did, or ever ought to pronounce a verdict of guilty--a kind
of man to whom the law resorts with abhorrence, and from necessity, in
order to set the criminal against the crime, but who is made use of for
the same reason that the most obnoxious poisons are resorted to in
medicine. If such be the man, look for a moment at his story. He
confines himself to mere conversation only, with a dead man! He ventures
not to introduce any third person, living or even dead! he ventures to
state no act whatever done. He wishes, indeed, to asperse the conduct of
Lady Edward Fitzgerald; but he well knew that, even were she in this
country, she could not be called as a witness to contradict him. See
therefore, if there be any one assertion to which credit can be given,
except this--that he has sworn and forsworn--that he is a traitor--that
he has received five hundred guineas to be an informer, and that his
general reputation is, to be utterly unworthy of credit."

He concludes thus:--"Every act of this sort ought to have a practical
morality flowing from its principle. If loyalty and justice require that
those children should be deprived of bread, must it not be a violation
of that principle to give them food or shelter? Must not every loyal and
just man wish to see them, in the words of the famous Golden Bull,
'always poor and necessitous, and for ever accompanied by the infamy of
the father, languishing in continued indigence, and finding their
punishment in living, and their relief in dying?' If the widowed mother
should carry the orphan heir of her unfortunate husband to the gate of
any man who himself touched with the sad vicissitude of human affairs,
might feel a compassionate reverence for the noble blood that flowed in
his veins, nobler than the royalty that first ennobled it, that, like a
rich stream, rose till it ran and hid its fountain--if, remembering the
many noble qualities of his unfortunate father, his heart melted over
the calamities of the child--if his heart swelled, if his eyes
overflowed, if his too precipitate hand was stretched forth by his pity
or his gratitude to the excommunicated sufferers, how could he justify
the rebel tear or the traitorous humanity? One word more and I have
done. I once more earnestly and solemnly conjure you to reflect that the
fact--I mean the fact of guilt or innocence which must be the foundation
of this bill--is not now, after the death of the party, capable of being
tried, consistent with the liberty of a free people, or the unalterable
rules of eternal justice; and that as to the forfeiture and the ignominy
which it enacts, that only can be punishment which lights upon guilt,
and that can be only vengeance which breaks upon innocence."

       *       *       *       *       *

Curran was one day setting his watch at the Post Office, which was then
opposite the late Parliament House, when a noble member of the House of
Lords said to him, "Curran, what do they mean to do with that useless
building? For my part, I am sure I hate even the sight of it." "I do not
wonder at it, my lord," replied Curran contemptuously; "I never yet
heard of a _murderer_ who was not afraid of a _ghost_."


One day when it was known that Curran had to make an elaborate argument
in Chancery, Lord Clare brought a large Newfoundland dog upon the bench
with him, and during the progress of the argument he lent his ear much
more to the dog than to the barrister. This was observed at length by
the entire profession. In time the Chancellor lost all regard for
decency; he turned himself quite aside in the most material part of the
case, and began in full court to fondle the animal. Curran stopped at
once. "Go on, go on, Mr. Curran," said Lord Clare. "Oh! I beg a
thousand pardons, my Lord; I really took it for granted that your
Lordship was _employed in consultation_."


In a debate on attachments in the Irish House of Commons, in 1785, Mr.
Curran rose to speak against them; and perceiving Mr. Fitzgibbon, the
attorney-general (afterwards Lord Clare), had fallen asleep on his seat,
he thus commenced:--"I hope I may say a few words on this great subject,
without disturbing the sleep of any right honorable member; and yet,
perhaps, I ought rather to envy than blame the tranquility of the right
honorable gentleman. I do not feel myself so happily tempered, as to be
lulled to repose by the storms that shake the land. If they invited any
to rest, that rest ought not to be lavished on the guilty spirit."

Although Mr. Curran appears here to have commenced hostilities, it
should be mentioned, that he was apprised of Mr. Fitzgibbon's having
given out in the ministerial circles that he would take an opportunity
during the debate, in which he knew that Mr. Curran would take a part,
of _putting down the young patriot_. The Duchess of Rutland, and all the
ladies of the castle were present in the gallery, to witness what Mr.
Curran called, in the course of the debate, "this exhibition by

When Mr. Curran sat down, Mr. Fitzgibbon, provoked by the expressions he
had used, and by the general tenor of his observation, replied with much
personality, and among other things, denominated Mr. Curran a "_puny
babbler_." Mr. C. retorted by the following description of his opponent:
"I am not a man whose respect in person and character depends upon the
importance of his office; I am not a young man who thrusts himself into
the fore-ground of a picture, which ought to be occupied by a better
figure; I am not one who replies with invective, when sinking under the
weight of argument; I am not a man who denies the necessity of
parliamentary reform, at the time that he approves of its expediency, by
reviling his own constituents, the parish clerk, the sexton, and the
grave-digger; and if there be any man who can apply what I am not, to
himself, I leave him to think of it in the committee, and contemplate
upon it when he goes home."

The result of this night's debate was a duel between Mr. Curran and Mr.
Fitzgibbon; after exchanging shots, they separated, but confirmed in
their feeling of mutual aversion.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the assizes at Cork, Curran had once just entered upon his case, and
stated the facts to the jury. He then, with his usual impressiveness and
pathos, appealed to their feelings, and was concluding the whole with
this sentence: "Thus, gentlemen, I trust I have made the innocence of
that persecuted man as clear to you as"--At that instant the sun, which
had hitherto been overclouded, shot its rays into the court-house--"as
clear to you," continued he, "as yonder sun-beam, which now burst in
among us, and supplies me with its splendid illustration."


Mr. Fitzgibbon (afterwards Lord Clare) rose and said:--"The politically
insane gentleman has asserted much, but he only emitted some effusions
of the witticisms of fancy. His declamation, indeed, was better
calculated for the stage of Sadler's Wells than the floor of the House
of Commons. A mountebank, with but one-half of the honorable gentleman's
talent for rant, would undoubtedly make his fortune. However, I am
somewhat surprised he should entertain such a particular asperity
against me, as I never did him a favor. But, perhaps, the honorable
gentleman imagines he may talk himself into consequence; if so, I should
be sorry to obstruct his promotion; he is heartily welcome to attack me.
Of one thing only I will assure him, that I hold him in so small a
degree of estimation, either as a man or as a lawyer, that I shall never
hereafter deign to make him any answer."

Mr. Curran.--"The honorable gentleman says I have poured forth some
witticisms of fancy. That is a charge I shall never be able to retort
upon him. He says I am insane. For my part were I the man who, when all
debate had subsided--who, when the bill was given up, had risen to make
an inflammatory speech against my country, I should be obliged to any
friend who would excuse my conduct by attributing it to insanity. Were
I the man who could commit a murder on the reputation of my country, I
should thank the friend who would excuse my conduct by attributing it to
insanity. Were I a man possessed of so much arrogance as to set up my
own little head against the opinions of the nation, I should thank the
friend who would say, 'Heed him not, he is insane!' Nay, if I were such
a man, I would thank the friend who had sent me to Bedlam. If I knew one
man who was 'easily roused and easily appeased,' I would not give his
character as that of the whole nation. The right honorable gentleman
says he never came here with written speeches. I never suspected him of
it, and I believe there is not a gentleman in the house, who, having
heard what has fallen from him, would ever suspect him of writing
speeches. But I will not pursue him further. I will not enter into a
conflict in which victory can gain no honor."


The following extracts, commencing with a description of Mr. Rowan, will
be found interesting:

"Gentlemen, let me suggest another observation or two, if still you have
any doubt as to the guilt or the innocence of the defendant. Give me
leave to suggest to you what circumstances you ought to consider, in
order to found your verdict. You should consider the character of the
person accused; and in this your task is easy. I will venture to say,
there is not a man in this nation more known than the gentleman who is
the subject of this persecution, not only by the part he has taken in
public concerns, and which he has taken in common with many, but still
more so by that extraordinary sympathy for human affliction which, I am
sorry to think, he shares with so small a number. There is not a day
that you hear the cries of your starving manufacturers in your streets,
that you do not also see the advocate of their sufferings--that you do
not see his honest and manly figure, with uncovered head soliciting for
their relief: searching the frozen heart of charity for every string
that can be touched by compassion, and urging the force of every
argument and every motive, save that which his modesty suppresses--the
authority of his own generous example. Or if you see him not there, you
may trace his steps to the abode of disease, and famine, and despair;
the messenger of Heaven--bearing with him food, and medicine, and
consolation. Are these the materials of which we suppose anarchy and
public rapine to be formed? Is this the man on whom to fasten the
abominable charge of goading on a frantic populace to mutiny and
bloodshed? Is this the man likely to apostatize from every principle
that can bind him to the State--his birth, his property, his education,
his character, and his children? Let me tell you, gentlemen of the jury,
if you agree with his prosecutors in thinking there ought to be a
sacrifice of such a man, on such an occasion, and upon the credit of
such evidence you are to convict him, never did you, never can you, give
a sentence consigning any man to public punishment with less danger to
his person or to his fame; for where could the hireling be found to
fling contumely or ingratitude at his head whose private distress he had
not labored to alleviate, or whose public condition he had not labored
to improve?"

Speaking of the liberty of the press, he says--

"What, then, remains? The liberty of the press only; that sacred
Palladium, which no influence, no power, no government, which nothing
but the folly or the depravity, or the folly or the corruption, of a
jury ever can destroy. And what calamities are the people saved from by
having public communication kept open to them! I will tell you,
gentlemen, what they are saved from; I will tell you also to what both
are exposed by shutting up that communication. In one case, sedition
speaks aloud and walks abroad; the demagogue goes forth; the public eye
is upon him; he frets his busy hour upon the stage; but soon either
weariness, or bribe, or punishment, or disappointment, bears him down,
or drives him off, and he appears no more. In the other case, how does
the work of sedition go forward? Night after night the muffled rebel
steals forth in the dark, and casts another brand upon the pile, to
which, when the hour of fatal maturity shall arrive, he will apply the
flame. If you doubt of the horrid consequences of suppressing the
effusion of even individual discontent, look to those enslaved countries
where the protection of despotism is supposed to be secured by such
restraints. Even the person of the despot there is never in safety.
Neither the fears of the despot, nor the machinations of the slave, have
any slumber--the one anticipating the moment of peril, the other
watching the opportunity of aggression. The fatal crisis is equally a
surprise upon both; the decisive instant is precipitated without
warning, by folly on the one side, or by frenzy on the other; and there
is no notice of the treason till the traitor acts. In those unfortunate
countries--one cannot read it without horror--there are officers whose
province it is to have the water which is to be drank by their rulers,
sealed up in bottles, lest some wretched miscreant should throw poison
into the draught. But, gentlemen, if you wish for a nearer and a more
interesting example, you have it in the history of your own Revolution;
you have it at that memorable period, when the monarch found a servile
acquiescence in the ministers of his folly--when the liberty of the
press was trodden under foot--when venal sheriff's returned packed
juries to carry into effect those fatal conspiracies of the few against
the many--when the devoted benches of public justice were filled by some
of those foundlings of fortune, who, overwhelmed in the torrent of
corruption at an early period, lay at the bottom like drowned bodies
while sanity remained in them, but at length, becoming buoyant by
putrefaction, they rose as they rotted, and floated to the surface of
the polluted stream, where they were drifted along, the objects of
terror and contagion and abomination.

"In that awful moment of a nation's travail, of the last gasp of
tyranny, and the first breath of freedom, how pregnant is the example!
The press extinguished, the people enslaved, and the prince undone! As
the advocate of society therefore--of peace, of domestic liberty, and
the lasting union of the two countries, I conjure you to guard the
liberty of the press, that great sentinel of the State, that grand
detector of public imposture: guard it, because when it sinks, there
sink with it, in one common grave, the liberty of the subject and the
security of the Crown.

"Gentlemen, I am glad that this question has not been brought forward
earlier. I rejoice for the sake of the court, the jury, and of the
public repose, that this question has not been brought forward till now.
In. Great Britain, analogous circumstances have taken place. At the
commencement of that unfortunate war which has deluged Europe with
blood, the spirit of the English people was tremblingly alive to the
terror of French principles; at that moment of general paroxysm, to
accuse was to convict. The danger loomed larger to the public eye from
the misty region through which it was surveyed. We measure inaccessible
heights by the shadows they project, when the lowness and the distance
of the light form the length of the shade.

"There is a sort of aspiring and adventurous credulity, which disdains
assenting to obvious truths, and delights in catching at the
improbabilities of a case as its best ground of faith. To what other
cause, gentlemen, can you ascribe that, in the wise, the reflecting, and
the philosophic nation of Great Britain, a printer has been gravely
found guilty of a libel for publishing those resolutions to which the
present minister of that kingdom had already subscribed his name? To
what other cause can you ascribe, what in my mind is still more
astonishing, in such a country as Scotland--a nation, cast in the happy
medium between the spiritless acquiescence of submissive poverty, and
the sturdy credulity of pampered wealth--cool and ardent, adventurous
and persevering, winging her eagle flight against the blaze of every
science, with an eye that never winks, and a wing that never tires;
crowned, as she is, with the spoils of every art and decked with the
wreath of every muse, from the deep and scrutinizing researches of her
Hume, to the sweet and simple, but not less sublime and pathetic,
morality of her Burns--how, from the bosom of a country like that,
genius and character and talents [Muir, Margarot, &c.,] should be
banished to a distant and barbarous soil, condemned to pine under the
horrid communion of vulgar vice, and base-born profligacy, twice the
period that ordinary calculation gives to the continuance of human life!
But I will not further press any idea that is painful to me, and I am
sure must be painful to you; I will only say, you have now an example of
which neither England nor Scotland had the advantage; you have the
example of the panic, the infatuation, and the contrition of both. It is
now for you to decide whether you will profit by their experience of
idle panic and idle regret, or whether you meanly prefer to palliate a
servile imitation of their frailty by a paltry affectation of their
repentance. It is now for you to show that you are not carried away by
the same hectic delusions, to acts of which no tears can wash away the
fatal consequences or the indelible reproach."

He thus speaks of the Volunteers of Ireland:--

"Gentlemen, Mr. Attorney-General has thought proper to direct your
attention to the state and circumstances of public affairs at the time
of this transaction: let me also make a few retrospective observations
on a period at which he has but slightly glanced. You know, gentlemen,
that France had espoused the cause of America, and we became thereby
involved in a war with that nation.

    '_Heu, nescia mens hominum futuri_!'

"Little did that ill-fated monarch know that he was forming the first
cause of those disastrous events that were to end in the subversion of
his throne, in the slaughter of his family, and the deluging of his
country with the blood of his people. You cannot but remember that a
time when we had scarcely a regular soldier for our defence--when the
old and young were alarmed and terrified with apprehensions of a
descent upon our coasts--that Providence seemed to have worked a sort of
miracle in our favor. You saw a band of armed men at the great call of
nature, of honor, and their country; you saw men of the greatest wealth
and rank; you saw every class of the community give up its members, and
send them armed into the field to protect the public and private
tranquility of Ireland; it is impossible for any man to turn back to
that period, without reviving those sentiments of tenderness and
gratitude which then beat in the public bosom; to recollect amidst what
applause, what tears, what prayers, what benedictions, they walked forth
amongst spectators, agitated by the mingled sensations of terror and of
reliance, of danger and of protection, imploring the blessings of Heaven
upon their heads, and its conquest upon their swords. That illustrious,
and adored and abused body of men stood forward and assumed the title,
which I trust the ingratitude of their country will never blot from its
history--the Volunteers of Ireland."

He thus speaks of the national representation of the people;

"Gentlemen, the representation of our people is the vital principle of
their political existence; without it, they are dead, or they live only
to servitude; without it, there are two estates acting upon and against
the third, instead of acting in co-operation with it; without it, if the
people are oppressed by their judges, where is the tribunal to which the
offender shall be amenable?--without it, if they are trampled upon and
plundered by a minister, where is the tribunal to which the offender
shall be amenable?--without it, where is the ear to hear, or the heart
to feel, or the hand to redress their sufferings? Shall they be found,
let me ask you, in the accursed bands of imps and minions that bask in
their disgrace, and fatten upon their spoils, and flourish upon their
ruin? But let me not put this to you as a merely speculative question:
it is a plain question of fact. Rely on it, physical man is everywhere
the same: it is only the various operation of moral causes that gives
variety to the social or individual character or condition. How
otherwise happens it, that modern slavery looks quietly at the despot on
the very spot where Leonidas expired? The answer is, Sparta has not
changed her climate, but she has lost that government which her liberty
could not survive."

Speaking of universal emancipation, he says:--

"This paper, gentlemen, insists on the necessity of emancipating the
Catholics of Ireland; and that is charged as part of the libel. If they
had waited another year--if they had kept this prosecution pending for
another year, how much would remain for a jury to decide upon, I should
be at a loss to discover. It seems as if the progress of public
information was eating away the ground of prosecution. Since its
commencement, this part of the libel has unluckily received the sanction
of the Legislature. In that interval our Catholic brethren have
re-obtained that admission which, it seems, it was a libel to propose.
In what way to account for this I am really at a loss. Have any alarms
been occasioned by the emancipation of our Catholic brethren? Has the
bigoted malignity of any individual been crushed? Or has the stability
of the government or that of the country been weakened? Or is one
million of subjects stronger than four millions? Do you think that the
benefit they have received, should be poisoned by the sting of
vengeance. If you think so, you must say to them: You have demanded
emancipation, and you have got it; but we abhor your persons; we are
outraged at your success, and we will stigmatize by a criminal
prosecution the adviser of that relief which you have obtained from the
voice of your country. I ask you, do you think, as honest men anxious
for the public tranquility, conscious that there are wounds not yet
completely cicatrized, that you ought to speak this language at this
time to men who are very much disposed to think that, in this very
emancipation, they have been saved from their own Parliament by the
humanity of their own sovereign? Or do you wish to prepare them for the
revocation of these improvident concessions? Do you think it wise or
humane at this moment to insult them, by sticking up in a pillory the
man who dared to stand forth as their advocate? I put it to your oaths:
Do you think that a blessing of that kind--that a victory obtained by
justice over bigotry and oppression, should have a stigma cast upon it,
by an ignominious sentence upon men bold enough and honest enough to
propose that measure;--to propose the redeeming of religion from the
abuses of the church, the reclaiming of three millions of men from
bondage, and giving liberty to all who had a right to demand it; giving,
I say, in the so much censured words of this paper--giving 'universal

"I speak in the spirit of the British law, which makes liberty
commensurate with, and inseparable from, British soil--which proclaims
even to the stranger and sojourner, the moment he sets his foot upon
British earth, that the ground on which he treads is holy, and
consecrated by the genius of universal emancipation. No matter in what
language his doom may have been pronounced--no matter what complexion,
incompatible with freedom, an Indian or an African sun may have burnt on
him--no matter in what disastrous battle the helm of his liberty may
been cloven down--no matter with what solemnities he may have been
devoted upon the altar of slavery--the moment he touches the sacred soil
of Britain, the altar and the god sink together in the dust; his soul
walks abroad in its own majesty; his body swells beyond the measure of
his chains, which burst from around him, and he stands redeemed,
regenerated, and disenthralled by the irresistible genius of
universal emancipation."

(Mr. Curran was here interrupted with the loud and irresistible
acclamations of all within hearing. When, after a long interval, the
enthusiasm had in some degree subsided, he thus modestly alluded to the

"Gentlemen, I am not such a fool as to ascribe any effusion of this sort
to any merit of mine. It is the mighty theme, and not the inconsiderable
advocate, that can excite interest in the hearer: what you hear is but
the testimony which nature bears to her own character; it is the
effusion of her gratitude to that power which stamped that character
upon her."

He concludes with this brilliant peroration:--

"Upon this subject, therefore, credit me when I say I am still more
anxious for you than I can possibly be for him. Not the jury of his own
choice, which the law of England allows, but which ours refuses,
collected in that box by a person certainly no friend to Mr.
Rowan--certainly not very deeply interested in giving him a very
impartial jury. Feeling this, as I am persuaded you do, you cannot be
surprised, however you may be distressed, at the mournful presage with
which an anxious public is led to fear the worst from your possible
determination. But I will not, for the justice and honor of our common
country, suffer my mind to be borne away by such melancholy
anticipation. I will not relinquish the confidence that this day will be
the period of his sufferings; and, however mercilessly he has been
hitherto pursued, that your verdict will send him home to the arms of
his family and the wishes of his country. But if, which Heaven forbid!
it hath still been unfortunately determined, that because he has not
bent to power and authority, because he would not bow down before the
golden calf and worship it, he is to be bound and cast into the
furnace,--I do trust in God there is a redeeming spirit in the
constitution, which will be seen to walk with the sufferer through the
flames, and to preserve him unhurt by the conflagration."

After this brilliant speech, when Curran made his appearance outside the
court, he was surrounded by the populace, who had assembled to chair
him. He begged of them to desist, in a commanding tone; but a gigantic
chairman, eyeing Curran from top to toe, cried out to his
companion--"Arrah, blood and turf! Pat, don't mind the little darlin';
pitch him upon _my_ shoulder." He was, accordingly, carried to his
carriage, and drawn home by the people.


There was a fishwoman in Cork who was more than a match for the whole
fraternity of her order. She could only be matched by Mrs. Scutcheen, of
Patrick-street, Dublin--the lady who used to boast of her "bag of
farthin's," and regale herself before each encounter with a pennorth of
the "droppin's o' the cock." Curran was passing the quay at Cork where
this virago held forth, when, stopping to listen to her, he was
requested to "go on ou' that." Hesitating to retreat as quick as the
lady wished, she opened a broadside upon Curran, who returned fire with
such effect as to bring forth the applause of the surrounding
sisterhood. She was vanquished for the first time, though she had been
"thirty years on the stones o' the quay."


Dr. Crolly, in speaking of the two great forensic orators of the day,
draws a comparison between the circumstances under which both addressed
their audiences:--

"When Erskine pleaded, he stood in the midst of a secure nation, and
pleaded like a priest of the temple of justice, with his hand on the
altar of the constitution, and all England waiting to treasure every
deluding oracle that came from his lips. Curran pleaded--not in a time
when the public system was only so far disturbed as to give additional
interest to his eloquence--but in a time when the system was threatened
with instant dissolution; when society seemed to be falling in fragments
round him; when the soil was already throwing up flames. Rebellion was
in arms. He pleaded, not on the floor of a shrine, but on a scaffold;
with no companions but the wretched and culpable beings who were to be
flung from it, hour by hour; and no hearers but the crowd, who rushed in
desperate anxiety to that spot of hurried execution--and then rushed
away, eager to shake off all remembrance of scenes which had torn every
heart among them."


When Curran and Bully Egan met on the ground, the latter complained of
the advantage his antagonist had over him, and declared that he was as
easily hit as a turf stack, while, as to firing at Curran, he might as
well fire at a razor's edge. Whereupon, Curran waggishly proposed that
his size should be chalked out upon Egan's side, and that "every shot
which hits outside that mark should _go for nothing_!"


The following extract is from his celebrated speech against the Marquis
of Headfort:--

"Never so clearly as in the present instance, have I observed that
safeguard of justice which Providence has placed in the nature of man.
Such is the imperious dominion with which truth and reason wave their
sceptre over the human intellect, that no solicitation, however
artful--no talent, however commanding--can seduce it from its
allegiance. In proportion to the humility of our submission to its rule,
do we rise into some faint emulation of that ineffable and presiding
Divinity, whose characteristic attribute it is to be coerced and bound
by the inexorable laws of its own nature, so as to be _all-wise_ and
_all-just_ from necessity rather than election. You have seen it in the
learned advocate who has preceded me, most peculiarly and strikingly
illustrated. You have seen _even_ his great talents, perhaps the first
in any country, languishing under a cause too weak to _carry_ him, and
too heavy to be _carried_ by him. He was forced to dismiss his natural
candor and sincerity, and, having no merits in his case, to take refuge
in the dignity of his own manner, the resources of his own ingenuity,
from the overwhelming difficulties with which he was surrounded.
Wretched client! unhappy advocate! what a combination do you form! But
such is the condition of guilt--its commission mean and tremulous--its
defence artificial and insincere--its prosecution candid and simple--its
condemnation dignified and austere. Such has been the defendant's
guilt--such his defence--such shall be my address to you--and such, I
trust, your verdict. The learned counsel has told you that this
unfortunate woman is not to be estimated at forty thousand pounds. Fatal
and unquestionable is the truth of this assertion. Alas! gentlemen, she
is no longer worth anything; faded, fallen, degraded, and disgraced, she
is worth less than nothing! But it is for the honor, the hope, the
expectation, the tenderness, and the comforts that have been blasted by
the defendant, and have fled forever, that you are to remunerate the
plaintiff by the punishment of the defendant. It is not her present
value which you are to weigh; but it is her value at that time when she
sat basking in a husband's love, with the blessing of Heaven on her
head, and its purity in her heart; when she sat amongst her family, and
administered the morality of the parental board. Estimate that past
value--compare it with its present deplorable diminution--and it may
lead you to form some judgment of the severity of the injury, and the
extent of the compensation.

"The learned counsel has told you, you ought to be cautious, because
your verdict cannot be set aside for excess. The assertion is just; but
has he treated you fairly by its application? His cause would not allow
him to be fair; for why is the rule adopted in this single action?
Because, this being peculiarly an injury to the most susceptible of all
human feelings, it leaves the injury of the husband to be ascertained
by the sensibility of the jury, and does not presume to measure the
justice of their determination by the cold and chilly exercise of its
own discretion. In any other action it is easy to calculate. If a
tradesman's arm is cut off, you can measure the loss he has sustained;
but the wound of feeling, and the agony of the heart, cannot be judged
by any standard with which I am acquainted. And you are unfairly dealt
with when you are called on to appreciate the present sufferings of the
husband by the present guilt, delinquency, and degradation of his wife.
As well might you, if called on to give compensation to a man for the
murder of his dearest friend, find the measure of his injury by weighing
the ashes of the dead. But it is not, gentlemen of the jury, by weighing
the ashes of the dead that you would estimate the loss of the survivor.

"The learned counsel has referred you to other cases and other
countries, for instances of moderate verdicts. I can refer you to some
authentic instances of just ones. In the next county, £15,000 against a
subaltern officer. In Travers and Macarthy, £5,000 against a servant.
In Tighe against Jones, £1,000 against a man not worth a shilling.
What, then, ought to be the rule, where rank and power, and wealth and
station, have combined to render the example of his crime more
dangerous--to make his guilt more odious--to make the injury to the
plaintiff more grievous, because more conspicuous? I affect no levelling
familiarity, when I speak of persons in the higher ranks of
society--distinctions of orders are necessary, and I always feel
disposed to treat them with respect--but when it is my duty to speak of
the crimes by which they are degraded, I am not so fastidious as to
shrink from their contact, when to touch them is essential to their
dissection. However, therefore, I should feel on any other occasion, a
disposition to speak of the noble defendant with the respect due to his
station, and perhaps to his qualities, of which he may have many to
redeem him from the odium of this transaction, I cannot so indulge
myself here. I cannot betray my client, to avoid the pain of doing my
duty. I cannot forget that in this action the condition, the conduct,
and circumstances of the parties, are justly and peculiarly the objects
of your consideration. Who, then, are the parties? The plaintiff,
young, amiable, of family and education. Of the generous
disinterestedness of his heart you can form an opinion even from the
evidence of the defendant, that he declined an alliance which would have
added to his fortune and consideration, and which he rejected for an
unportioned union with his present wife--she too, at that time, young,
beautiful and accomplished; and feeling her affection for her husband
increase, in proportion as she remembered the ardor of his love, and the
sincerity of his sacrifice. Look now to the defendant! Can you behold
him without shame and indignation? With what feelings can you regard a
rank that he has so tarnished, and a patent that he has so worse than
cancelled? High in the army--high in the state--the hereditary
counsellor of the King--of wealth incalculable--and to this last I
advert with an indignant and contemptuous satisfaction, because, as the
only instrument of his guilt and shame, it will be the means of his
punishment, and the source of his compensation."


In the very zenith of Curran's professional career, he was consulted in
a case of extremely novel character, which arose out of the following

Not many doors from Eden Quay, in Upper Sackville-street, lived a young
lady of very fascinating manners, and whose beauty had attracted
considerable attention wherever she made her appearance. Amongst the
many gentlemen whose hearts she had touched, and whose heads she had
deranged, was one young Englishman, a graduate of Trinity College, and
about as fair a specimen of the reverse of beauty as ever took the chair
at a dinner of the Ugly Fellows' Club. Strange to say, he above all
others was the person on whom she looked with any favor. Men of rank and
fortune had sought her hand--lords and commoners had sought the honor of
an introduction; but no!--none for her but the ugly man! In vain did the
ladies of her acquaintance quiz her about her taste--in vain did her
family remonstrate upon the folly of her conduct, in refusing men of
station for such an individual--no go! none for her but the ugly man!
Her dear papa only seemed to take the affair in a quiet way; not that he
was indifferent about the matter, but he loved her too much to throw
any obstacle in the way of her happiness. Not so, however, with her
brother--a splendid young fellow, whose mortification was intense,
especially as the whole affair was the theme of ridicule among his
fellow-students in Old Trinity. He, though sharing in all the love and
tenderness of the father, could not understand his quiet resignation.
What is it to be thought of that one who was the butt of the
University--one on whom nature had played her fantastic tricks, should
be the person who held the key to his lovely sister's heart? No! the
father might resign himself to his quiet philosophy, but _he_, at least,
would have none of it. It should never be said within the college walls
that he looked tamely on while a farce of this kind was being played
out, especially as some of his most intimate fellow-students, and a
beloved one in particular, took more than a common interest in the

On a summer morning, in the middle of July, he was coming out of his
hall-door, when the postman handed him two letters, one of which was
directed to his sister. Suspecting the party from whom it came, and that
a knowledge of its contents might lead to some discovery useful to him
in frustrating the writer's designs, he opened it, and found that his
suspicion was correct, and that himself was the object of complaint for
his manner towards him in college; and further, that, as he was about to
leave for England on the following day, and would not return for some
weeks, he would do himself the honor of serenading her at twelve o'clock
that night. After reading the letter, his first thought was to look to
the condition of his horsewhip; but, after a little quiet reflection, he
resolved upon another plan of action.

Breakfast over, he proceeded to the kitchen, summoned all the servants
to his presence, to whom he related the whole story from beginning to
end, and proposed that they should drench him with water when he made
his appearance under the window. But there happened to be among them a
corpulent lady called Betty Devine, who entered a plea of objection to
that mode of proceeding on the ground of "waste of water;" that in
_Edinburgh_, where she had served for seven years, they wouldn't think
of such waste; and that, if the young master would only leave the matter
in _her_ hands, she would _drown_ the musician in a chorus, the like of
which was not to be heard outside the boundaries of bonnie Scotland. To
this proposition on the part of Betty the young gentleman gave a hearty
assent; adding, at the same time, a hope that her want of practice since
she left _Edinburgh_ would be no obstacle to her success. To which Miss
Devine replied, by asking him to name the window out of which she was to
present her _compliments_ to the English minstrel. "As to that, Betty,"
said he, "I leave you to select your own ground; but take care that you
don't miss fire"--an observation which took the stable-boy, Bill Mack,
by the greatest surprise, as, from Betty's powers of administration in
his regard, a _faded_ dark-brown coat the master gave him had been
restored to its original color.

For once in her life-time Betty found herself mistress of her situation,
and having made her arrangements, despatched Bill Mack with an
invitation to some of her sable friends of the Quay to witness the
forthcoming concert at twelve o'clock that night.

Scarcely had the hour arrived, however, when the serenader made his
appearance, dressed in the pink of fashion; and, placing himself under
his lady's window, proceeded to play the guitar in the best style. The
performance hadn't well commenced, when, throwing

    "his eye
    To her lattice high,"

he beheld a female figure at the two-pair window, which she opened
gently. Then commenced his best efforts in the "art divine." No doubt it
was the lady of his love that was there, about to reward him with

    "Nature's choice gifts from above,"

----not the wax artificials of these days, but the _real gems_, which he
hoped to preserve on his passage to England!

That he saw a female figure was but too true: it was Miss Betty Devine,
who had been arranging that portion of her toilet which might endanger
the free exercise of her right arm. This done, Miss Devine stood
forward, and, grasping a certain utensil of more than ordinary
proportions, with one bound, not only "returned its _lining_ on the
night," as Tom Moore says, but also on the head of the devoted
serenader, who was so stunned by Betty's favor, that it was some time
before he realized the nature of the gift. His nasal organ having
settled all doubt in that respect, he made his way from the crowd,
vowing law and vengeance. "What is the matter?" asked a popular
commoner, on his way from the parliament house, to one of the boys of
the Quay; "It's a consart, yer honor, given by Betty de Scotch girl; de
creature's fond o' harmony; and for my part, de tung is stickin' to de
roof of my mout from de fair dint of de corus! I didn't taste a drop
since mornin'. Ay boys, aint ye all dry?" This appeal having met with a
favorable response, the gentlemen of the Quay retired to drink "his
honor's health, and to wash down de music!"

Meanwhile, the next morning the serenading gentleman went in all haste
to his brother-in-law, one of the leading merchants of the city, to whom
he communicated the occurrence of the previous night. He had scarcely
finished, when the merchant took him off to his attorney who, without
further delay, went with them to the residence of Curran, to have his
opinion on the case. When they had finished, Curran at once gave his
opinion. "Gentlemen," said he, "in this country, when we go to see a
friend or acquaintance, all we ever expect is--pot luck!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Carew O'Dwyer was the first who had the honor of proposing that Curran's
remains should be brought over from England and laid in Glasnevin.

       *       *       *       *       *

Charles Phillips' first introduction to Curran took place at the Priory,
a country villa about four miles from Dublin. Curran would have no one
to introduce him, but went and took him by the hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lundy Foot, the tobacconist, was on the table, under examination, and,
hesitating to answer--"Lundy, Lundy," said Curran, "that's a poser--a
devil of a pinch."


"I speak not of the fate of those horrid wretches who have been so often
transferred from the table to the dock, and from the dock to the
pillory; I speak of what your own eyes have seen, day after day, during
the course of this commission, from the box where you are now sitting;
the number of horrid miscreants who avowed, upon their oaths, that they
had come from the seat of government--from the Castle--where they had
been worked upon by the fear of death and the hopes of compensation, to
give evidence against their fellows; that the mild and wholesome
councils of this government are holden over these catacombs of living
death, where the wretch that is buried a man lies till his heart has
time to fester and dissolve, and is then dug up a witness. Is this
fancy, or is it fact? Have you not seen him after his resurrection from
that tomb, after having been dug out of the region of death and
corruption, make his appearance upon the table, the living image of life
and of death, and the supreme arbiter of both? Have you not marked, when
he entered, how the stormy wave of the multitude retired at his
approach? Have you not marked how the human heart bowed to the supremacy
of his power, in the undissembled homage of deferential horror? How his
glance, like the lightning of heaven, seemed to rive the body of the
accused, and mark it for the grave, while his voice warned the devoted
wretch of life and death--a death which no innocence can escape, no art
elude, no force resist, no antidote preserve? There was an antidote--a
juror's oath; but even that adamantine chain, which bound the integrity
of man to the throne of eternal justice, is solved and molten in the
breath that issues from the informer's mouth; conscience swings from her
mooring, and the appalled and affrighted juror consults his own safety
in the surrender of his victim.--Informers are worshipped in the temple
of justice, even as the devil has been worshipped by pagans and
savages--even so, in this wicked country, is the informer an object of
judicial idolatry--even so is he soothed by the music of human
groans--even so is he placated and incensed by the fumes and by the
blood of human sacrifices."


A farmer attending a fair with a hundred pounds in his pocket, took the
precaution of depositing it in the hands of the landlord of the
public-house at which he stopped. Next day he applied for the money, but
the host affected to know nothing of the business. In this dilemma the
farmer consulted Curran. "Have patience, my friend," said the counsel;
"speak to the landlord civilly, and tell him you are convinced you must
have left your money with some other person. Take a friend with you, and
lodge with him another hundred, and then come to me." The dupe doubted
the advice; but, moved by the authority or rhetoric of the learned
counsel, he at length followed it. "And now, sir," said he to Cumin, "I
don't see as I am to be better off for this, if I get my second hundred
again; but how is that to be done?" "Go and ask him for it when he is
alone," said the counsel. "Ay, sir, but asking won't do, I'ze afraid,
without my witness, at any rate." "Never mind, take my advice," said
Curran; "do as I bid you, and return to me." The farmer did so, and came
back with his hundred, glad at any rate to find that safe again in his
possession. "Now, sir, I suppose I must be content; but I don't see as I
am much better off." "Well, then," said the counsel, "now take your
friend with you, and ask the landlord for the hundred pounds your friend
saw you leave with him." It need not be added, that the wily landlord
found that he had been taken off his guard, whilst the farmer returned
exultingly to thank his counsel, with both hundreds in his pocket.


Soon after Mr. Curran had been called to the bar, on some statement of
Judge Robinson's, the young counsel observed, that "he had never met the
law, as laid down by his Lordship, in any book in his library." "That
may be, sir," said the Judge; "but I suspect that your library is very
small." Mr. Curran replied, "I find it more instructive, my Lord, to
study good works than to compose bad ones.[1] My books may be few; but
the title-pages give me the writers' names, and my shelf is not
disgraced by any such rank absurdities, that their very authors are
ashamed to own them." "Sir," said the Judge, "you are forgetting the
respect which you owe to the dignity of the judicial character."
"Dignity!" exclaimed Mr. Curran; "My Lord, upon that point I shall cite
you a case from a book of some authority, with which you are, perhaps,
not unacquainted." He then briefly recited the story of Strap, in
_Roderick Random_, who having stripped off his coat to fight, entrusted
it to a bystander. When the battle was over, and he was well beaten, he
turned to resume it, but the man had carried it off. Mr. Curran thus
applied the tale:--"So, my Lord, when the person entrusted with the
dignity of the judgment-seat lays it aside for a moment to enter into a
disgraceful personal contest, it is in vain when he has been worsted in
the encounter that he seeks to resume it--it is in vain that he tries to
shelter himself behind an authority which he has abandoned." "If you say
another word, I'll commit you," replied the angry Judge; to which Mr. C.
retorted, "If your Lordship shall do so, we shall both of us have the
consolation of reflecting, that I am not the worst thing your Lordship
has committed."


Curran distinguished himself not more as a barrister than as a member of
parliament; and in the latter character it was his misfortune to
provoke the enmity of a man, whose thirst for revenge was only to be
satiated by the utter ruin of his adversary. In the discussion of a bill
of a penal nature, Curran inveighed in strong terms against the
Attorney-General, Fitzgibbon, for _sleeping on the bench_ when statutes
of the most cruel kind were being enacted; and ironically lamented that
the slumber of guilt should so nearly resemble the repose of innocence.
A challenge from Fitzgibbon was the consequence of this sally; and the
parties having met, were to fire when they chose. "I never," said
Curran, when relating the circumstances of the duel,--"I never saw any
one whose determination seemed more malignant than Fitzgibbon's. After I
had fired, he took aim at me for at least half a minute; and on its
proving ineffectual, I could not help exclaiming to him, 'It was not
your fault, Mr. Attorney; you were deliberate enough,'" The
Attorney-General declared his honor satisfied; and here, at least for
the time, the dispute appeared to terminate.

Not here, however, terminated Fitzgibbon's animosity. Soon afterwards,
he became Lord Chancellor, and a peer of Ireland, by the title of Lord
Clare; and in the former capacity he found an opportunity, by means of
his judicial authority, of ungenerously crashing the rising powers and
fortunes of his late antagonist. Curran, who was at this time a leader,
and one of the senior practitioners at the Chancery Bar, soon felt all
the force of his rival's vengeance. The Chancellor is said to have
yielded a reluctant attention to every motion he made; he frequently
stopped him in the middle of a speech, questioned his knowledge of law,
recommended to him more attention to facts, in short, succeeded not only
in crippling all his professional efforts, but actually in leaving him
without a client. Curran, indeed, appeared as usual in the three other
courts [of the "Four Courts" at Dublin]; but he had been already
stripped of his most profitable practice, and as his expenses nearly
kept pace with his gains, he was almost left a beggar, for all hopes of
the wealth and honors of the long-robe were now denied him. The memory
of this persecution embittered the last moments of Curran's existence;
and he could never even allude to it, without evincing a just and
excusable indignation. In a letter which he addressed to a friend,
twenty years after, he says, "I made no compromise with power; I had the
merit of provoking and despising the personal malice of every man in
Ireland who was the known enemy of the country. Without the walls of the
court of justice, my character was pursued with the most persevering
slander; and within those walls, though I was too strong to be beaten
down by any judicial malignity, it was not so with my clients, and my
consequent losses in professional income have never been estimated at
less, as you must have often heard, than £30,000."


Curran was once engaged in a legal argument; behind him stood his
colleague, a gentleman whose person was remarkably tall and slender, and
who had originally intended to take holy orders. The Judge observing
that the case under discussion involved a question of ecclesiastical
law,--"Then," said Curran, "I can refer your Lordship to a high
authority behind me, who was intended for the church, though in my
opinion he was fitter for the steeple."


Curran, when Master of the Rolls, said to Mr. Grattan, "You would be the
greatest man of your age, Grattan, if you would buy a few yards of red
tape, and tie up your bills and papers."


Curran used to relate with infinite humor an adventure between him and a
mastiff, when he was a boy. He had heard somebody say that any person
throwing the skirts of his coat over his head, stooping low, holding out
his arms, and creeping along backwards, might frighten the fiercest dog,
and put him to flight. He accordingly made the attempt on a miller's
animal in the neighborhood, who _would never let the boys rob the
orchard_; but found to his sorrow that he had a dog to deal with which
did not care what end of a boy went foremost, so that he could get a
good bite out of it. "I pursued the instructions," said Curran, "and as
I had no eyes save those in front, fancied the mastiff was in full
retreat; but I was confoundedly mistaken; for at the very moment I
thought myself victorious, the enemy attacked my rear, and having got a
reasonably good mouthful out of it, was fully prepared to take another
before I was rescued. Egad, I thought for a time the beast had devoured
my entire centre of gravity, and that I should never go on a steady
perpendicular again." "Upon my word," said Sir Jonah Barrington, to whom
Curran related this story, "the mastiff may have left you your centre,
but he could not have left much gravity behind him, among the


Arthur O'Leary was born in the year 1729, at Acres in the
parish of Fanlobbus, near Dunmanway, in the western part of the County
of Cork. His parents were undistinguished amongst the industrious and
oppressed peasantry, who at the time of his birth suffered under the
operation of the penal laws. The family from which he descended was
early distinguished in Irish history; but if his immediate ancestors
ever enjoyed a higher rank in the social scale than that which is
derived from successful industry, their circumstances had changed long
before his birth, as a name which excited the respect of his countrymen,
and a mind worthy the possessor of such a name, were the only
inheritance of which he could boast.

In the year 1747, after having acquired such share of classical
literature as the times he lived in would permit, O'Leary went to
France, with the intention of devoting himself to the service of the
Catholic Church.

A convent of Capuchin Friars at St. Malo in Brittany, was the school
where O'Leary imbibed the principles of the learning, virtue, and
philanthropy, which during a long life formed the prominent traits in
his character. After having received holy orders, he continued to live
in the monastery for some time.

In the year 1771 he returned to Ireland, and became resident in the city
of Cork. Shortly after his arrival there, he contributed to the erection
of a small chapel, in which he afterwards officiated, and which was
generally known in Cork as "Father O'Leary's Chapel." Here he preached
on the Sundays and principal festivals of the year to persons of
different religious persuasions who crowded it to excess when it was
known that he was to appear in the pulpit. His sermons were chiefly
remarkable for a happy train of strong moral reasoning, bold figure, and
scriptural allusion.


Some time in the year 1775, a book was published, the title of which
was--"Thoughts on Nature and Religion," which contained much gross
blasphemy. Its author, a Scottish physician of the name of Blair,
residing in Cork, undertook to be the champion of free-thinking in
religion; and, under the plausible pretext of vindicating the conduct of
Servetus in his controversy with Calvin, this writer boldly attacked
some of the most universally received articles of the Christian Creed.
The work attracted some share of public attention. A poetical effusion
in verse was addressed to Blair in reply by a minister of the Protestant
Church; and an Anabaptist minister also entered the lists with a
pamphlet nearly as sceptical as the one he professed to answer.

Father O'Leary's friends thought his style of controversy better suited
to silence the Doctor than that of either of the tried opponents, and
persuaded him to enter the lists. They were not disappointed. His reply
crushed Blair; while his wit and logic and grand toleration raised him
to the esteem and gratitude of his fellow-men. His first letter opens
with this beautiful introduction:

"Sir--Your long expected performance has at length made its appearance.
If the work tended to promote the happiness of society, to animate our
hopes, to subdue our passions, to instruct man in the happy science of
purifying the polluted recesses of a vitiated heart, to confirm him in
his exalted notion of the dignity of his nature, and thereby to inspire
him with sentiments averse to whatever may debase the excellence of his
origin, the public would be indebted to you; your name would be recorded
amongst the assertors of morality and religion; and I myself, though
brought up in a different persuasion from yours, would be the first to
offer my incense at the shrine of merit. But the tendency of your
performance is to deny the divinity of Christ and the immortality of the
soul. In denying the first, you sap the foundations of religion; you cut
off at one blow the merit of our faith, the comfort of our hope, and the
motives of our charity. In denying the immortality of the soul, you
degrade human nature, and confound man with the vile and perishable
insect. In denying both, you overturn the whole system of religion,
whether natural or revealed; and in denying religion, you deprive the
poor of the only comfort which supports them under their distresses and
afflictions; you wrest from the hands of the powerful and rich the only
bridle to their injustices and passions, and pluck from the hearts of
the guilty the greatest check to their crimes--I mean this remorse of
conscience which can never be the result of a handful of organized
matter; this interior monitor, which makes us blush in the morning at
the disorders of the foregoing night; which erects in the breast of the
tyrant a tribunal superior to his power; and whose importunate voice
upbraids a Cain in the wilderness with the murder of his brother, and a
Nero in his palace with that of his mother."

Deploring the folly of him who thinks "his soul is no more than a
subtile vapor, which in death is to be breathed out in the air," he
holds that such a person should "conceal his horrid belief with more
secrecy than the Druids concealed their mysteries. * * In doing
otherwise, the infidel only brings disgrace on himself; for the notion
of religion is so deeply impressed on our minds, that the bold champions
who would fain destroy it, are considered by the generality of mankind
as public pests, spreading disorder and mortality wherever they appear;
and in our feelings we discover the delusions of cheating philosophy,
which can never introduce a religion more pure than that of the
Christian, nor confer a more glorious privilege on man than that of an
immortal soul."


Before he entered into a controversy with Doctor Blair, he deemed it
prudent, owing to the state of sufferance in which Catholic priests then
lived in Ireland, to obtain the sanction of the Protestant bishop of the
diocese. To this end he waited on Doctor Mann at the episcopal palace.
The interview is said to have been humorous in the extreme. O'Leary's
figure, joined to an originality of manner, sterling wit, and an
imagination which gave a color to every object on which it played, made
him a visitor of no common kind; and as the bishop was not cast in the
mould of "handsome orthodoxy," the meeting was long remembered by both
parties. After some explanation, Doctor Mann gave his consent to the
undertaking; in consequence of which the public were soon gratified by
the appearance of his letters to Blair, whose discomfiture was so
complete that he never wrote a public letter afterwards.


Wesley published in January, 1786, what he called, "A Letter containing
the Civil Principles of Roman Catholics;" also, "a Defence of the
Protestant Association." In these letters he maintained that Papists
"ought not to be tolerated by any government--Protestant, Mohometan, or
Pagan." In support of this doctrine, he says--

"Again, those who acknowledge the spiritual power of the Pope, can give
no security of their allegiance to any government; but all Roman
Catholics acknowledge this: therefore they can give no security for
their allegiance."

In support of this line of argument, he treated his readers to this bit
of lively information:--

"But it might be objected, 'nothing dangerous to English liberty is to
be apprehended from them.' I am not so certain of that. Some time since
a Romish priest came to one I know, and after talking with her largely,
broke out, 'You are no heretic; you have the experience of a real
Christian.' 'And would you,' she asked, 'burn me alive?' He said, 'God
forbid! unless it were for the good of the Church.'"

In noticing which Father O'Leary humorously replies--

"A priest then said to a woman, whom Mr. Wesley _knows_, 'I see you are
no heretic; you have the experience of a real Christian.' 'And would you
burn me?' says she. 'God forbid!' replied the priest, 'except for the
good of the Church!' Now, this priest must be descended from some of
those who attempted to blow up a river with gunpowder, in order to drown
a city. Or he must have taken her for a witch, whereas, by his own
confession, she 'was no heretic.' A gentleman whom _I know_ declared to
me, upon his honor, that he heard Mr. Wesley repeat, in a sermon
preached by him in the city of Cork, the following words: 'A little bird
cried out in Hebrew, O Eternity! Eternity! who can tell the length of
Eternity?' I am, then, of opinion that a _little Hebrew bird_ gave Mr.
Wesley the important information about the priest and the woman. One
story is as interesting as the other, and both are equally alarming to
the Protestant interest."

Alluding to the statute of Henry VI, which bound every Englishman of
the Pale to shave his upper lip, or clip his whiskers, to distinguish
himself from an Irishman, he says: "It had tended more to their mutual
interest, and the glory of that monarch's reign, not to go to the nicety
of _splitting a hair_, but encourage the growth of their _fleeces_, and
inspire them with such mutual love for each other as to induce them to
kiss one another's beards, as brothers salute each other at
Constantinople, after a few days' absence. I am likewise of opinion that
Mr. Wesley, who prefaces his letter with 'the interest of the Protestant
religion,' would reflect more honor on his ministry in promoting the
happiness of the people, by preaching love and union, than in widening
the breach, and increasing their calamities by division. The English and
Irish were, at that time, of the same religion, but, divided in their
affections, were miserable. Though divided in speculative opinions, if
united in sentiment, we would be happy. The English settlers breathed
the vital air in England before they inhaled the soft breezes of our
temperate climate. The present generation can say, 'Our fathers and
grandfathers have been born, bred, and buried here. We are Irishmen, as
the descendants of the Normans who have been born in England are

"Thus, born in an island in which the ancients might have placed their
Hesperian gardens and golden apples, the temperature of the climate, and
the quality of the soil inimical to poisonous insects, have cleansed our
veins from the sour and acid blood of the Scythians and Saxons. We begin
to open our eyes, and to learn wisdom from the experience of ages. We
are tender-hearted; we are good-natured; we have feelings. We shed tears
on the urns of the dead; deplore the loss of hecatombs of victims
slaughtered on gloomy altars of religious bigotry; cry on seeing the
ruins of cities over which fanaticism has displayed the funeral torch;
and sincerely pity the blind zeal of our Scotch and English neighbors,
whose constant character is to pity none, for erecting the banners of
persecution at a time when the Inquisition is abolished in Spain and
Milan, and the Protestant gentry are caressed at Rome, and live
unmolested in the luxuriant plains of France and Italy.

"The statute of Henry VI is now grown obsolete. The razor of calamity
has shaved our lower and upper lips, and given us smooth faces. Our land
is uncultivated; our country a desert; our natives are forced into the
service of foreign kings, storming towns, and in the very heat of
slaughter tempering Irish courage with Irish mercy. All our misfortunes
flow from long-reigning intolerance and the storms which, gathering
first in the Scotch and English atmosphere, never failed to burst over
our heads.

"We are too wise to quarrel about religion. The Roman Catholics sing
their psalms in Latin, with a few inflections of the voice. Our
Protestant neighbors sing the same psalms in English, on a larger scale
of musical notes. We never quarrel with our honest and worthy neighbors,
the Quakers, for not singing at all; nor shall we ever quarrel with Mr.
Wesley for raising his voice to heaven, and warbling forth his canticles
on whatever tune he pleases, whether it be the tune of 'Guardian Angels'
or 'Langolee.' We love social harmony, and in civil music hate
discordance. Thus, when we go to the shambles, we never inquire into the
butcher's religion, but into the quality of his meat. We care not
whether the ox was fed in the Pope's territories, or on the mountains of
Scotland, provided the joint be good; for though there be many heresies
in old books, we discover neither heresy nor superstition in beef or
claret. We divide them cheerfully with one another; and though of
different religions, we sit over the bowl with as much cordiality as if
we were at a love-feast."

He concludes with the following remarkable paragraph, in which humor,
eloquence, and philanthropy, are happily blended--a paragraph worthy the
Honorary Chaplain of the Irish Brigade;--

"We have obtained of late the privilege of planting tobacco in Ireland,
and tobacconists want paper. Let Mr. Wesley then come with me, as the
curate and barber went to shave and bless the library of Don Quixote.
All the old books, old canons, sermons, and so forth, tending to kindle
feuds, or promote rancor, let us fling out at the windows. Society will
lose nothing: the tobacconists will benefit by the spoils of antiquity.
And if, upon mature deliberation we decree that Mr. Wesley's 'Journal,'
and his apology for the Association's 'Appeal,' should share the same
fate with the old buckrams, we will procure them a gentle fall. After
having rocked ourselves in the large and hospitable cradle of the _Free
Press_, where the peer and the commoner, the priest and the alderman,
the friar and the swaddler,[2] can stretch themselves at full length,
provided they be not too churlish, let us laugh at those who breed
useless quarrels, and set to the world the bright example of toleration
and benevolence. A peaceable life and happy death to all Adam's
children! May the ministers of religion of every denomination, whether
they pray at the head of their congregations in embroidered vestments or
black gowns, short coats, grey locks, powdered wigs, or black curls,
instead of inflaming the rabble, and inspiring their hearers with hatred
and animosity to their fellow-creatures, recommend love, peace, and


"In a short time after this controversy had concluded, the parties met
at the house of a mutual friend. Their different publications were
mentioned; but kindness and sincere good feeling towards each other
softened down the asperities of sectarian repulsiveness; and after an
evening spent in a manner highly entertaining and agreeable, they
parted, each expressing his esteem for the other, and both giving the
example, that public difference on a religious or political subject is
quite consistent with the exercise of the duties of personal kindness
and esteem. Wesley is said, in this instance, to have relaxed into a
most agreeable companion; and O'Leary, by his wit, archness, and
information, was an inexhaustible source of delight, entertainment, and


Dr. O'Leary, though with great talents for a controversialist, always
sedulously avoided the angry theme of religious disputation. Once,
however, notwithstanding his declared aversion to polemics, he was led
into a controversy. While he was at Cork, he received a letter through
the Post Office, the writer of which, in terms expressive of the utmost
anxiety, stated that he was a clergyman of the established church, on
whose mind impressions favorable to the Catholic Creed had been made by
some of O'Leary's sermons. The writer then professing his enmity to
angry controversy, wished to seek further information on some articles
of the Catholic creed. His name he forbore to reveal. O'Leary, anxious
to propagate the doctrine of his Church, replied in a manner perfectly
satisfactory to his anonymous correspondent. Other doubts were
expressed, and dissipated, until the correspondence had extended to
eight or ten long letters.

O'Leary, in joy at his supposed triumph, whispered the important secret
to a few ecclesiastical confidants; among whom was his bosom friend, the
Rev. Lawrence Callanan, a Francisan friar, of Cork. Their
congratulations and approbation were not wanting, to urge forward the
champion of orthodoxy. His arguments bore all before them; even the
obstacles arising from family and legal notions, were disregarded by the
enthusiastic convert, and he besought O'Leary to name a time and place,
at which he might lift the mysterious vizor by which he had hitherto
been concealed; and above all, have an opportunity of expressing his
gratitude to his friend and teacher.

The appointed hour arrived. O'Leary arranged his orthodox wig, put on
his Sunday suit of sable, and sallied forth with all collected gravity
of a man fully conscious of the novelty and responsibility of the
affair in which he was engaged. He arrived at the appointed place of
meeting some minutes after the fixed time, and was told that a
respectable clergyman awaited his arrival in an adjoining parlor.
O'Leary enters the room, where he finds, sitting at the table, with the
whole correspondence before him, his brother friar, Lawrence Callanan,
who, either from an eccentric freak, or from a wish to call O'Leary's
controversial powers into action, had thus drawn him into a lengthened
correspondence. The joke, in O'Leary's opinion, however, was carried too
far, and it required the sacrifice of the correspondence and the
interference of mutual friends; to effect a reconciliation.


In his "Plea for Liberty of Conscience," Father O'Leary pays the
following high tribute to that sect:--

"The Quakers," said he, "to their eternal credit, and to the honor of
humanity, are the only persons who have exhibited a meekness and
forbearance, worthy the imitation of those who have entered into a
covenant of mercy by their baptism. William Penn, the great Legislator
of that people, had the success of a conqueror in establishing and
defending his colony amongst savage tribes, without ever drawing the
sword; the goodness of the most benevolent rulers in treating his
subjects as his own children; and the tenderness of a universal father,
who opened his arms to all mankind without distinction of sect or party.
In his republic, it was not the religious creed but personal merit, that
entitled every member of society to the protection and emoluments of the
State. Rise from your grave, great man! and teach those sovereigns who
make their subjects miserable on account of their catechisms, the method
of making them happy. They! whose dominions resemble enormous prisons,
where one part of the creation are distressed captives, and the other
their unpitying keepers."


"It was impossible that the high and distinguished claims to respect and
esteem which O'Leary possessed, should escape unnoticed by the Volunteer
association. Never was a more glorious era in the history of Ireland,
than whilst the wealth, valor, and genius of her inhabitants became
combined for the welfare of their country--whilst every citizen was a
soldier, and every paltry political or sectarian difference and
distinction was lost in the full glow and fervor of the great
constitutional object, which roused the energies and fixed the attention
of the people. It was a spectacle worthy the proudest days of Greece or
Rome; but it passed away like the sudden gleam of a summer sun. O'Leary
was exceeded by none of his contemporaries as a patriot: but, though the
coarse and misshapen habit of a poor friar of the order of St. Francis
forebade his intrusion into the more busy scene of national politics,
his pen was not inactive in enlightening and directing his countrymen in
their constitutional pursuits. A highly respectable body of the
Volunteers, the _Irish Brigade_, conferred on him the honorary dignity
of Chaplain; and many of the measures discussed at the National
Convention held in Dublin, had been previously submitted to his
consideration and judgment. On the 11th of November, 1783, the same day
on which the message said to be from Lord Kenmare was read at the
National Convention, then, holding its meetings in the Rotundo, Father
O'Leary visited that celebrated assemblage. At his arrival at the outer
door, the entire guard of the Volunteers received him under a full
salute, and rested arms: he was ushered into the meeting amidst the
cheers of the assembled delegates; and in the course of the debate which
followed, his name was mentioned in the most flattering and
complimenting manner, by most of the speakers. On his journey from Cork
to the Capital on that occasion, his arrival had been anticipated in
Kilkenny, where he remained to dine; and in consequence, the street in
which the hotel at which he stopped was situate, was filled from an
early hour with persons of every class, who sought to pay a testimony of
respect to an individual, whose writings had so powerfully tended to
promote the welfare and happiness of his countrymen."


In the _Recollections of John O'Keefe_, the following anecdote is

"In 1775 I was in company with Father O'Leary, at the house of Flynn,
the printer in Cork. O'Leary had a fine smooth brogue; his learning was
extensive, and his wit brilliant. He was tall and thin, with, a long,
pale, and pleasant visage, smiling and expressive. His dress was an
entire suit of brown, of the old shape; a narrow stock, tight about his
neck; his wig amply powdered, with a high poking foretop. In the year,
1791, my son Tottenham and I met him in St. James's Park, (London,) at
the narrow entrance near Spring Gardens. A few minutes after, we were
joined accidentally by Jemmy Wilder, well known in Dublin--once the
famous Macheath, in Smock Alley--a worthy and respectable character, of
a fine, bold, athletic figure, but violent and extravagant in his mode
of acting. He had quitted the stage, and commenced picture-dealer; and
when we met him in the Park, was running after a man, who, he said, had
bought a picture of Rubens for three shillings and sixpence at a
broker's stall in Drury-lane, and which was to make his (Wilder's)
fortune. Our loud laughing at O'Leary's jokes, and his Irish brogue, and
our stopping up the pathway, which is here very narrow, brought a crowd
about us. O'Leary was very fond of the drama, and delighted in the
company of the 'Glorious Boys,' as he called the actors--particularly
that of Johnny Johnstone, for his fine singing in a room."


On the 26th February, 1782, the following interesting debate took place,
the subject under consideration being a clause in the Catholic Bill
directed against the friars:--

"Sir Lucius O'Brien said, he did not approve of the regulars, though his
candor must acknowledge that many men amongst them have displayed great
abilities. Ganganelli (Clement XIV) and the Reverend Doctor Arthur
O'Leary are distinguished among the Franciscans; and many great men have
been produced in the Benedictine order. He saw no temptation that
regulars had for coming here, if it was not to abandon certain
competence where they were, for certain poverty in this kingdom.

"Mr. Grattan said, he could not hear the name of Father O'Leary
mentioned without paying him that tribute of acknowledgment so justly
due to his merit. At the time that this very man lay under the censure
of a law which, in his own country, made him subject to transportation
or death, from religious distinctions; and at the time that a prince of
his own religion threatened this country with an invasion, this
respectable character took up his pen, and unsolicited, and without a
motive but that of real patriotism, to urge his own communion to a
disposition of peace, and to support the law which had sentenced him to
transportation. A man of learning--a philosopher--a Franciscan--did the
most eminent service to his country in the hour of its greatest danger.
He brought out a publication that would do honor to the most celebrated
name. The whole kingdom must bear witness to its effect, by the
reception they gave it. Poor in everything but genius and philosophy, he
had no property at stake, no family to fear for; but descending from the
contemplation of wisdom, and abandoning the ornaments of fancy, he
humanely undertook the task of conveying duty and instruction to the
lowest class of the people. If I did not know him (continued Mr.
Grattan) to be a Christian clergyman, I should suppose him by his works
to be a philosopher of the Augustine age. The regulars are a harmless
body of men, and should not be disturbed.

"Mr. St. George declared, notwithstanding his determined opposition to
the regulars, he would, for the sake of one exalted character of their
body, be tolerant to the rest. But he, at the same time, would uniformly
oppose the tolerating any more regular clergy than what were at present
in the kingdom.

"Mr. Yelverton said, that he was proud to call such a man as Dr. O'Leary
his particular friend. His works might be placed upon a footing with the
finest writers of the age. They originated from the urbanity of the
heart; because unattached to the world's affairs, he could have none but
the purest motives of rendering service to the cause of morality and his
country. Had he not imbibed every sentiment of toleration before he knew
Father O'Leary, he should be proud to adopt sentiments of toleration
from him. He should yield to the sense of the committee in respect to
the limitation of regulars; because, he believed, no invitation which
could be held out would bring over another O'Leary."

"In a more advanced stage of the Catholic Bill, on the 5th of March,
these eulogies gave rise to some words between 'the rival orators,' as
Messrs. Flood and Grattan were then designated in parliament. 'I am not,'
said Flood towards the end of a speech, 'the missionary of a religion I
do not profess; nor do I speak eulogies on characters I will not
imitate.' No challenge of this nature ever was given by either of these
great men in vain. Mr. Grattan spoke at some length to the subject under
debate, and concluded in these words: 'Now, one word respecting Dr.
O'Leary. Something has been said about eulogies pronounced, and
missionaries of religion. I am not ashamed of the part which I took in
that gentleman's panegyric; nor shall I ever think it a disgrace to pay
the tribute of praise to the philosopher and the virtuous man.'"


Father O'Leary, when in London, had a great desire to see Daniel Danser;
but finding access to the king of misers very difficult, invented a
singular plan to gain his object. He sent a message to the miser, to the
effect that he had been in the Indies, become acquainted with a man of
immense wealth named Danser, who had died intestate, and, without a
shadow of doubt, was a relative of his. It may be that a recent dream,
coupled with the troubled state of the palm of his right hand, had their
share in inducing Daniel to allow the witty friar into his apartment.
Once entered, O'Leary contrived to sit down without depriving Mr. Danser
of the least portion of his dust, which, seemed to please him much; for
Daniel held that cleaning furniture was an invention of the enemy; that
it only helped to wear it out; consequently, regarded his dust as the
protector of his household gods. Daniel's fond dreams of wealth from the
Indies being dispelled, O'Leary began to console him by an historical
review of the Danser family, whose genealogy he traced from David, who
_danced_ before the Israelites, down to the Welsh _jumpers_, then
contemporaries of _dancing_ notoriety. His wit triumphed: for a moment
the sallow brow of avarice became illumined by the indications of a
delighted mind, and _Danser_ had courage enough to invite his visitor to
partake of a glass of wine, which, he said, he would procure for his
refreshment. A cordial shake hands was the return made for O'Leary's
polite refusal of so expensive a compliment; and he came from the house
followed by its strange tenant, who, to the amusement of O'Leary, and
the astonishment of the only other person who witnessed the scene,
solicited the favor of another visit.


"The "two-edged sword of wit," as that faculty has been termed, was
wielded by O'Leary in the more serious circumstances of life, as well as
in its playful hours. An instance where the painful exercise of this was
happily spared, occurred at one of the meetings of the English
Catholics, during the celebrated _Blue Book_ Controversy. One of the
individuals who was expected to advocate the objectionable designation
of "protesting Catholic dissenters," an appellation equally ludicrous
and unnecessary, was remarkable for an affected mode of public speaking.
What in dress is termed _foppish_, would be appropriate as applied to
his oratory. He was no admirer of O'Leary, and the feeling of dislike
was as mutual as could well be conceived. Him, therefore, O'Leary
selected as the opponent with whom he meant to grapple. Those to whom
he communicated his intention, and who knew his powers, looked forward
with expectation "on tiptoe" for a scene of enjoyment that no
anticipation could exaggerate. Disappointment was, however, their lot.
The meeting passed over quietly, and neither the objectionable matter
nor speaker was brought forward. However much his friends regretted this
circumstance, O'Leary was himself sincerely pleased; for he never
desired to give unnecessary pain. The gentlemen in concert with whom he
acted, dined together after the meeting, and the conversation happening
to turn on the disappointment which they had experienced in the result
of the debate, one of them who knew O'Leary intimately, inquired what
line of argument he had intended to pursue, if the meeting had assumed
the objectionable aspect which was dreaded--this was applying the torch
to gunpowder: he commenced an exhibition of the ludicrous so like what
would have taken place, so true in manner and matter to what every one
who knew the parties could anticipate, that the assemblage was convulsed
with laughter to a degree that made it memorable in the recollections of
all who witnessed it."


Mr. Butler, in his Historical Memoirs, describes O'Leary's person and
mode of argument thus:--

"The appearance of Father O'Leary was simple. In his countenance there
was a mixture of goodness, solemnity, and drollery, which fixed every
eye that beheld it. No one was more generally loved or revered; no one
less assuming or more pleasing in his manner. Seeing his external
simplicity, persons with whom he was arguing were sometimes tempted to
treat him cavalierly; but then the solemnity with which he would mystify
his adversary, and ultimately lead him into the most distressing
absurdity was one of the most delightful scenes that conversation ever


In Tom Moore's "Memoirs of Captain Rock," the outlaw gives the following
humorous sketch:--

"The appearance of Father Arthur at our little chapel was quite
unexpected. We had heard, indeed, that he was proceeding through distant
parts of the country, but we had no idea that he would pay us a visit.
The mind of man is a strange compound of opposite passion. I had
everything to apprehend from the poor friar's preaching; yet, strange as
it may appear, I was almost willing to have all my bright scenes
overturned, provided I could have the pleasure to see and hear the
celebrated Father O'Leary. He opposed our designs, disapproved of our
motives, and censured our intentions; yet without having ever seen him,
we loved--almost adored him. Fame had wafted his name even to Rockglen;
and how could we but venerate a man who had exalted the character of
Irishmen, vindicated our oppressed country, and obtained from the ranks
of Protestantism, friends for our insulted creed.

"Besides, he was peculiarly adapted to our taste. He made the world
laugh at the foibles of our enemies, and put us in good humor with
ourselves. It was not, therefore, without some slight satisfaction that
we were informed from the altar that the good friar meant to address us
on our manifold transgressions. Never did men manifest such eagerness to
receive reproof. At the sound of his name, there was a general rush
towards the altar. The old women, for the first time in their lives,
ceased coughing, and the old men desisted from spitting. The short
people were elevated on their toes, and the tall people suffered their
hats (felt ones) to be crushed as flat as pancakes, sooner then
incommode their neighbors--a degree of politeness seldom practised in
more polished assemblies. All breathed short and thick; and much as we
venerated our good priest, we fancied he was particularly tedious in the
lecture he thought fit to read us on our neglecting to go to confession,
and on our dilatoriness in paying the last Easter dues. At length he
concluded by announcing Father O'Leary."


In 1779, O'Leary visited Dublin on business connected with a bill before
parliament, which aimed at the destruction of the friars. During his
visit to Dublin, at this period, the following circumstance, quite
characteristic of O'Leary, is said to have taken place. He accidentally
met, in the lobby of the House of Commons, the late Lord Avonmore, then
Mr. Yelverton, and two gentlemen, members of the legislature; who, on
his appearance, entered into a friendly altercation to determine with
which of them O'Leary should, on the next day, share the splendid
hospitality which reigned in the metropolis during the sessions of
parliament. It was at length decided that the prize of his unrivalled
wit and sociability should be determined by lot. O'Leary was an amused
and silent spectator of the contest. The fortunate winner was
congratulated on his success; and the rivals separated to meet on the

When the hour of dinner was come, O'Leary forgot which of his three
friends was to be his host.

It was too late to make formal inquiries; and, as he was the honored
guest, he dared not absent himself. In this difficulty, his ready
imagination suggested an expedient. His friends, he recollected, lived
in the same square, and he therefore, some short time after the usual
dinner hour, sent a servant to inquire at each of the houses--'if Father
O'Leary was there?' At the two first, where application was made, the
reply was in the negative; but at the last, the porter answered, that
'he was not there; but that dinner was ordered to be kept back, as he
was every moment expected.' Thus directed, 'Father Arthur's' apology for
delay was a humorous and detailed account of his expedient--the evening
flew quickly away on the wings of eloquence and wit, and the laughable
incident was long remembered and frequently repeated.

       *       *       *       *       *

Father O'Leary's great intimacy with the leading Protestants of London,
gave rise to a rumor that he, like Lord Dunboyne and Mr. Kirwin, had
read his recantation. He contradicts it in the following letter:--

"_London, June_ 5, 1790.

"Sir--A confusion of names gave rise, some months ago, to a
mistake copied from the _Dublin Evening Post_ into the _Bath Chronicle_,
and other papers in this kingdom, viz., that 'I had read my recantation
in St. Werburgh's church in Dublin.' Thus a mistake has changed me into
a conformist, though I never changed my creed.

"If in reality the tenets of my Church were such as prejudice and
ignorance proclaim them:--if they taught me that a papal dispensation
could sanctify guilt, sanction conspiracies, murders, the extirpation of
my fellow-creatures on account of difference of religious opinions,
perjury to promote the Catholic cause, by pious breaches of allegiance
to Protestant kings, or rebellion against their government;--if it were
an article of my belief that a priestly absolution without sorrow for my
sins, or a resolution of amendment, had the power of a charm to reclaim
me to the state of unoffending infancy, and enable me, like Milton's
devil, to leap from the gulf of sin into paradise without purifying my
heart or changing my affections;--if it were an article of my faith that
the grace of an indulgence could give me the extraordinary privilege of
sinning without guilt or offending without punishment;--if it inculcated
any maxim evasive of moral rectitude:--in a word, if the features of my
religion corresponded with the pictures drawn of it in flying pamphlets
and anniversary declamations, I would consider myself and the rest of my
fraternity as downright idiots, wickedly stupid, to remain one hour in a
state which deprives us of our rights as citizens, whereas such an
accommodating scheme would make them not only attainable, but certain.

"Your correspondent does me the honor to rank me with Lord Dunboyne,
formerly titular Bishop of Cork, and with Mr. Kirwan. If they have
changed their religion from a thorough conviction of its falsehood,
they have done well. It is the duty of every sincere admirer after truth
to comply with the immediate dictates of his conscience, in embracing
that religion which he believes most acceptable to God. Deplorable,
indeed, must be the state of the man who lives in wilful error. For,
however an all-wise God may hereafter dispose of those who err in their
honesty, and whose error, is involuntary and invincible, surely no road
can be right to the wretch who walks in it against conviction. A
thorough conviction, then, that I am in the right road to eternal life,
if my moral conduct corresponds with my speculative belief, keeps me
within the pale of my Church in direct opposition to my temporal
interest; and no Protestant nobleman or gentleman of my acquaintance
esteems me the less for adhering to my creed, knowing that a Catholic
and an honest man are not contradictory terms.

"I do not consider Lord Dunboyne as a model after whom I should copy.
With his silver locks, and at an age when persons who had devoted
themselves to the service of the altar in their early days, should, like
the Emperor Charles V, rather think of their coffins than the nuptial
couch, that prelate married a young woman. Whether the glowing love of
truth or Hymen's torch induced him to change the Roman Pontifical for
the Book of Common Prayer, and the psalms he and I often sang together
for a bridal hymn, his own conscience is the most competent to
determine: certain however, it is, that, if the charms of the fair sex
can captivate an old bishop to such a degree as to induce him to
renounce his Breviary, similar motives, and the prospect of
aggrandizement, may induce a young ecclesiastic to change his cassock.

"Having from my early days accustomed myself to get the mastery over
ambition and love--the two passions that in every age have enslaved the
greatest heroes--your correspondent may rest assured that I am not one
of the trio mentioned in this letter.--Arthur O'Leary."


A Protestant rector invited O'Leary to see his parish church, a building
remarkable for its architectural beauty. While the friar was viewing the
building, the rector thought he was contrasting its nakedness with the
interior beauty of the Roman Catholic churches, and observed: "You
perceive, Mr. O'Leary," said he, "that, different from you, we are very
sparing of ornaments in our churches; we have neither paintings nor
statuary to attract the worshipper's attention." "Ah!" replied O'Leary,
with an arch smile, "you are _young housekeepers_, you know."


Lady Morgan, in her "Wild Irish Girl," speaking of "Father John,"
chaplain of the Prince of Coolavin, says:--"Father John was modelled on
the character of the Dean of Sligo, Dr. Flynn, one of those learned,
liberal, and accomplished gentlemen of the Irish Catholic hierarchy of
that day, whom foreign travel and education, and consequent intercourse
with European society and opinions, sent back to Ireland for its
advantage and illustration, thus turning the penalties of its shallow
and jealous government into a national benefit. At the head of this
distinguished order stood the illustrious Father O'Leary, the Catholic
Dean Swift of his time, the champion of peace, and the eloquent preacher
of Christian charity. His noble works live to attest his fitness to
counsel his country for her good, while his brilliant wit kept up her
reputation for that splendid gift which penal statutes can neither give
nor take away."


In his "Personal Sketches," Sir Jonah Barrington gives us a portrait of
Father O'Leary:--

"I frequently had an opportunity of meeting at my father-in-law Mr.
Grogan's, where he often dined, a most worthy priest, Father O'Leary,
and have listened frequently, with great zest, to anecdotes which he
used to tell with a quaint yet spirited humor, quite unique. His manner,
his air, his countenance, all bespoke wit, talent, and a good heart. I
liked his company excessively, and have often regretted I did not
cultivate his acquaintance more, or recollect his witticisms better. It
was singular, but it was a fact, that even before Father O'Leary opened
his lips, a stranger would say, 'That is an Irishman,' and, at the same
time, guess him to be a priest.

"One anecdote in particular I remember. Coming from St. Omers, he told
us, he stopped a few days to visit a brother-priest in the town of
Boulogne-sur-Mer. Here he heard of a great curiosity, which all people
were running to see--curious bear that some fishermen had taken at sea
out of a wreck; it had sense, and attempted to utter a sort of _lingo_,
which they called _patois_, but which nobody understood.

"O'Leary gave his six sous to see the wonder which was shown at the port
by candle-light, and was a very odd kind of animal, no doubt. The bear
had been taught a hundred tricks, all to be performed at the keeper's
word of command. It was late in the evening when O'Leary saw him, and
the bear seemed sulky; the keeper, however, with a short spike fixed at
the end of a pole, made him move about briskly. He marked on sand what
o'clock it was, with his paw; and distinguished the men and women in a
very comical way: in fact, our priest was quite diverted. The beast at
length grew tired--the keeper hit him with the pole--he stirred a
little, but continued quite sullen; his master coaxed him--no! he would
not work! At length, the brute of a keeper gave him two or three sharp
pricks with the goad, when he roared out most tremendously, and rising
on his hind-legs, swore at his tormentors in very good native Irish.
O'Leary waited no longer, but went immediately to the mayor, whom he
informed that the blackguard fishermen had sewed up a poor Irishman in a
bear's-skin, and were showing him about for six sous! The civic
dignitary, who had himself seen the bear, would not believe our friend.
At last, O'Leary prevailed on him to accompany him to the room. On their
arrival, the bear was still on duty, and O'Leary stepped up to him,
says:--'_Cianos tha'n thu, a Phadhrig_?' (How d'ye do, Pat?) '_Slan, go
raimh math agut_!' (Pretty well, thank you,) says the bear. The people
were surprised to hear how plainly he spoke--but the mayor ordered him
directly to be ripped up; and after some opposition, and a good deal of
difficulty, Pat stepped forth stark naked out of the bear's-skin wherein
he had been fourteen or fifteen days most cleverly stitched. The women
made off--the men stood astonished--and the mayor ordered his keepers to
be put in goal unless they satisfied him; but that was presently done.
The bear afterwards told O'Leary that he was very well fed, and did not
care much about the clothing; only they worked him too hard: the
fishermen had found him at sea on a hencoop, which had saved him from
going to the bottom, with a ship wherein he had a little venture of
dried cod from Dungarvan, and which was bound from Waterford to Bilboa.
He could not speak a word of any language but Irish, and had never been
at sea before: the fishermen had brought him in, fed him well, and
endeavored to repay themselves by showing him as a curiosity.

"O'Leary's mode of telling this story was quite admirable. I never heard
any anecdote (and I believe this one to be true) related with such
genuine drollery, which was enhanced by his not changing a muscle
himself, while every one of his hearers was in a paroxysm of laughter.

"Another anecdote he used to tell with incomparable dramatic humor. By
the bye, all his stories were somehow national; and this gives me
occasion to remark, that I think Ireland is, at this moment, as little
known in many parts of the Continent as it seems to have been then. I
have myself heard it more than once spoken of as an _English town_. At
Nancy, where Father O'Leary was travelling, his native country happened
to be mentioned when one of the party, a quiet French farmer of
Burgundy, asked, in an unassuming tone, 'If Ireland stood _encore_?'
'Encore,' said an astonished John Bull, a courier coming from
Germany--'encore! to be sure she does; we have her yet, I assure you,
monsieur.' 'Though neither very safe, nor very sound,' interposed an
officer of the Irish Brigade, who happened to be present, looking very
significantly at O'Leary, and not very complacently at the courier. 'And
pray, monsieur,' rejoined John Bull to the Frenchman, 'why _encore_?'
'_Pardon, monsieur_,' replied the Frenchman, 'I heard it had been worn
out (_fatigue_) long ago, by the great number of people that were living
in it.' The fact is, the Frenchman had been told, and really understood,
that Ireland was a large house, where the English were wont to send
their idle vagabonds, and from whence they were drawn out again, as they
were wanted, to fill the ranks of the army."


One day, while walking in the suburbs of the city of Cork, he met the
Rev. Mr. Flack, a Protestant clergyman, and Mr. Solomons, a Jew--both
friends of his Mr. Flack's dog was running on before them. "Good
morrow, friends," said O'Leary. "Well, what interesting topic engages
your attention now?" "To be candid with you," replied the clergyman, "we
were just conjecturing what religion this dog of mine would be likely to
embrace, if it were possible for him to choose." "Strange subject,
indeed," said O'Leary; "but were I to offer an opinion, I would venture
to say he would become a Protestant!" "How," asked the Protestant
clergyman and the Jew. "Why," replied O'Leary, "he would not be a Jew,
for, you know, he would retain his passion for pork: he would not become
a Catholic, for I am quite certain he would eat meat on a Friday. What
religion, then, could he become, but a Protestant!"


"About this time it was," says his biographer, "that the philanthropist
Howard, led by his benevolent enthusiasm to fathom dungeons, vindicate
the wrongs, and alleviate the sufferings of the lonely and forgotten
victim of vice and crime, arrived at Cork. A society had for some years
existed in that city 'for the relief and discharge of persons confined
for small debts,' of which O'Leary was an active and conspicuous member.
This association had its origin in the humane mind of Henry Shears,
Esq., the father of two distinguished victims to the political
distractions of their country in 1798: and a literary production of that
gentleman, which in its style and matter emulated the elegance and
morality of Addison, strengthened and matured the benevolent
institution. During Mr. Howard's stay in Cork, he was introduced to
O'Leary by their common friend, Archdeacon Austen. Two such minds
required but an opportunity to admire and venerate each other; and
frequently, in after times, Howard boasted of sharing the friendship and
esteem of the friar."


"In the midst of the cares and distractions," says his biographer, "to
which the active duties of the ministry subjected O'Leary, he still
indulged his usual habits of study. No unexpected visitor ever found him
unoccupied: his reading was extensive, profound, and incessant; and his
hours of silence and retreat as many as he could abstract from the
necessary and inevitable claim of his flock, or could deny to the kind
importunity of his numerous and respectable acquaintance. Few men ever
possessed the power of enjoying an extensive influence over public
opinion more than O'Leary. Every thing he said or wrote was by every one
admired. The wise and learned were delighted with the original and
correct views which he took of every subject that employed his mind;
whilst the amiable simplicity of his manners, the endearing kindness of
his disposition, and the worth, purity, and uprightness of his life and
conduct, were claims to regard that could neither be denied nor
unattended to. It is, therefore, to be lamented that such transcendent
faculties should have remained suspended or inactive, or been, for a
moment, diverted in their application from their appropriate object or
natural sphere--the moral correction of the age."


On Father O'Leary's arrival in London he was anxiously sought after by
his countrymen residing in that capital, who all felt gratified by
every opportunity which offered itself, of paying respect to one who had
done so much honor to religion and their country. Mr. Edmond Burke was
very marked in the regard which he manifested to O'Leary.--It was, in
fact, impossible, after an evening spent in his society, not to seek at
every future opportunity a renewal of the delight which his wit,
pleasantly, and wisdom afforded.


Like Dean Swift, Father O'Leary relieved, every Monday morning, a number
of reduced roomkeepers and working men. The average of his weekly
charity amounted to two, sometimes three pounds--though he had no income
except that derived from the contributions of those who frequented the
poor Capuchin little chapel.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the publication of his "Essay on Toleration," Father O'Leary was
elected a member of the "Monks of St. Patrick," which took its rise
under the auspices of that great lawyer, Lord Avonmore, then Mr.
Yelverton. As a return for the honor thus conferred on him, he expressed
his gratitude in the dedication of his various productions, which he
collected together, and published in 1781.

       *       *       *       *       *

At one of the meetings of the English Catholic Board, whilst O'Leary was
addressing the chairman, the late Lord Petre, it was suggested by the
noble president that the speaker was entering on topics not calculated
to promote the unanimity of the assembly. O'Leary, however, persevered:
on which Lord Petre interrupted him, adding, "Mr. O'Leary, I regret much
to see that you are _out of order_." The reply was equally quick and
characteristic--"I thank you for your anxiety, my lord; but I assure you
_I never was in letter health in my life_." The archness of manner with
which these words were uttered was triumphant, and every unpleasant
feeling was lost in the mirth which was necessarily excited.


In the "Reminiscences" of the celebrated singer and composer, Michael
Kelly, the following interesting anecdotes are given: "I had the
pleasure to be introduced to my worthy countryman, the Rev. Father
O'Leary, the well-known Roman Catholic priest; he was a man of infinite
wit, of instructing and amusing conversation. I felt highly honored by
the notice of this pillar of the Roman Church; our tastes were
congenial, for his reverence was mighty fond of whisky-punch, and so was
I; and many a jug of Saint Patrick's eye-water, night after night, did
his Reverence and myself enjoy, chatting over the exhilarating and
national beverage. He sometimes favored me with his company at dinner;
when he did, I always had a corned shoulder of mutton for him, for he,
like some others of his countrymen who shall be nameless, was
marvellously fond of that dish.

"One day the facetious John Philpot Curran, who was very partial to the
said corned mutton, did me the honor to meet him. To enjoy the society
of such men was an intellectual treat. They were great friends, and
seemed to have a mutual respect for each other's talents and, as it may
be easily imagined, O'Leary versus Curran was no bad match.

"One day, after dinner, Curran said to him, 'Reverend father, I wish you
were Saint Peter.'

"'And why, Counsellor, would you wish that I were Saint Peter?' asked

"'Because, reverend father, in that case,' said Curran, 'you would have
the keys of heaven, and you could _let me in_.'

"'By my honor and conscience, Counsellor,' replied the divine, 'it would
be better for you if I had the keys of the other place, for then I could
_let you out_' Curran enjoyed the joke, which, he admitted, had a good
deal of justice in it."


"O'Leary told us of a whimsical triumph which he once enjoyed over the
celebrated Dr. Johnson. O'Leary was very anxious to be introduced to
that learned man, and Mr. Arthur Murphy took him one morning to the
doctor's lodgings. On his entering the room, the doctor viewed him from
top to toe, without taking any notice of him; and, at length, darting
one of his sourest looks at him, he spoke to him in the Hebrew language,
to which O'Leary made no reply. 'Why do you not answer me, sir?' 'Faith,
sir,' said O'Leary, 'because I don't understand the language in which
you are addressing me.' Upon this, the doctor, with a contemptuous
sneer, said to Murphy, 'Why, sir, this is a pretty fellow you have
brought hither. Sir, he does not comprehend the primitive language.'
O'Leary immediately bowed very low, and complimented the doctor in a
long speech in Irish, to which the doctor, not understanding a word,
made no reply, but looked at Murphy. O'Leary, seeing the doctor was
puzzled at hearing a language of which he was ignorant, said to Murphy,
pointing to the doctor, 'This is a pretty fellow to whom you have
brought me. Sir, he does not understand the language of the sister
kingdom.' The reverend _padre_ then made another low bow, and quitted
the room."


At the time that Barry Yelverton was Attorney-General, himself and
O'Leary, while enjoying the beauties of Killarney, had the rare fortune
to witness a staghunt. The hunted animal ran towards the spot where the
Attorney-General and O'Leary stood. "Ah!" said Father Arthur, with
genuine wit, "how naturally instinct leads him to come to you, that you
may deliver him by a _nolle prosequi_!"


George the Fourth, when Prince of Wales, frequently had as guests at his
table Sheridan, Grattan, Curran, Flood, and Father O'Leary. Croly, in
his "Life of George the Fourth," says--"An occasional guest, and a
sufficiently singular one, was an Irish Franciscan, Arthur O'Leary, a
man of strong faculties and considerable knowledge. His first celebrity
was as a pamphleteer, in a long battle with Woodward, the able Bishop of
Cloyne, in Ireland.--O'Leary abounded in Irish anecdote, and was a
master of pleasant humor.

"Sheridan said that he considered claret the true parliamentary wine for
the peerage, for it might make a man sleepy or sick, but it never warmed
his heart, or stirred up his brains. Port, generous port, was for the
Commons--it was for the business of life--it quickened the circulation
and fancy together. For his part, he never felt that he spoke as he
liked, until after a couple of bottles. O'Leary observed, that this was
like a _porter_; he never could go steady without a _load_ on his


"The disturbances," says his biographer, "by which Ireland was convulsed
in 1798 pained O'Leary's mind. The efforts made by the tools of a base
faction, to give the tinge of religious fanaticism to the political
distractions of that country, excited his indignation; and, as his name
had been wantonly and insultingly introduced by Sir Richard Musgrave, in
his libellous compilation on the Irish Rebellions, he entertained the
notion of publishing a refutation of the calumnies which had been so
industriously circulated against the Catholics, not only in that
scandalous work, but likewise in various other historical essays at that
time. For this purpose O'Leary had prepared some very valuable
manuscript collections: he looked back to the history of the earlier
periods of the English rule in Ireland; and from his friends in various
parts of that kingdom he procured authentic details of the
insurrectionary disturbances: impartiality was his object; and he left
no means untried to collect the most voluminous and exact account of
every circumstance connected with, or immediately arising out of, the
rebellion, the history of which he ultimately declared it his design to

"The progress of disease, and the rapidly increasing infirmities of old
age, hindered the fulfilment of O'Leary's wishes: he was unable to
proceed into any part of the task of composition, but he was relieved
from anxiety by the fortunate circumstance of his intimacy with Francis
Plowden Esq., whose historical review of Ireland, and whose subsequent
publication in defence of that country, have raised him to a rank
amongst historians, honorably and deservedly conspicuous. When O'Leary
learned that his friend was engaged, at the desire of Mr. Pitt, in
writing the 'Historical Review,' he sent him his invaluable collections,
as affording the best and most authentic materials for the recent
history of Ireland; and the manner in which the documents, thus
furnished, were applied to the purposes of truth, must have given
gratification to O'Leary's mind, had he lived long enough to witness
this successful vindication of his country and religion. His descent to
the grave was too rapid to afford him that pleasure; and it was not
till it had closed over his remains, that the world was gratified with
the best and most authentic work ever published on the political history
of Ireland.

"We approach now to the last scene of O'Leary's busy life; and it is one
which, like too many others, preaches to mankind the necessity of being
always prepared for the unrevealed hour that shall terminate mortal

"Towards the end of the year 1801, ill health shed a gloom over his
mind, to which the consciousness of approaching dissolution gave
facilities and permanency. His contests with bad men had been frequent;
and the frailties and follies of the world, and the instability of
human friendship, which he had often experienced, haunted his mind at
this time to a degree that was painful for those who loved and revered
him, to witness. His medical friends tried the resources of their
professional skill for the alleviation of his disease in vain; and as a
last prescription, they recommended to him a short residence in the
south of France, as calculated, if any thing could, to revive his
spirits and restore his health. Agreeably to this advice, in company
with Mr. M'Grath, a medical friend, to whose kindness he was much
indebted, he proceeded to France; but his hopes of relief were
disappointed, and he shortly determined on returning to London. The
state in which he found society in France--so different from what it had
been, when he first visited 'the lovely, fertile south,' shocked him;
and he uttered his opinion of the change which he witnessed, by saying,
emphatically, 'that there was not now a _gentleman_ in all France.'

"His arrival in London was on the 7th of January, 1802. It was his
intention to have landed at Dover; but tempestuous weather compelled the
vessel in which he was to land at Ramsgate. The effects of this voyage
tended to hasten his death, which took place the morning after his
arrival in London, in the 73rd year of his age."



O'Connell in his celebrated speech in defence of the Rev. T. Maguire,
relates the following story, in which the reader will not fail to
perceive the little chance which perjury had in escaping his

"Allow me," said he, addressing the Court, "to tell you a story, which
is not the worse for being perfectly true. I was assessor of the Sheriff
at an election in the county of Clare; a freeholder came to vote under
the name of Darby Moran, and as Darby Moran both his signature and mark
were attached to the certificate of Registry. He, of course, was
objected to. It was insisted that if he was illiterate, he could not
have written his name--if literate, he should not have added his mark;
in either view it was contended, with the vehemence suited to such
occasions, that his registry was bad. It is, wherever I have authority
to adjudicate, a rule with me to decide as few abstract propositions as
I possibly can. I therefore resolved first to ascertain the fact whether
Darby Moran could write or not. I accordingly gave him paper, and asked
him could he write his name. He flippantly answered that he could, and
in my presence instantly wrote down 'John O'Brien'--he totally forgot
that he was playing Darby Moran. Thus this trick was exposed and


It was difficult for O'Connell, even at an advanced period of his
professional career, to exhibit those powers as an advocate, which were
afterwards so finely developed; for the silk gown that encased inferior
merit gave a precedence to Protestant lawyers of even younger standing,
and he rarely had an opportunity of addressing a jury. This probably
induced him to cultivate with more ardor a talent for cross-examination,
which was unquestionably unrivalled, and which was displayed by him at a
very early period.

It exhibited itself very strongly in a trial on the Munster Circuit, in
which the question was, the validity of a will, by which property to
some amount was devised, and which the plaintiffs alleged was forged.
The subscribing witnesses swore that the deceased signed the will while
_life was in him_.

The evidence was going strong in favor of the will--at last O'Connell
undertook to cross-examine one of the witnesses. He shrewdly observed
that he was particular in swearing several times that "life was in the
testator when the will was signed," and that he saw his hand sign it.

"By virtue of your oath was he alive," said Mr. O'Connell.

"By virtue of my oath, _life was in him_;" and this the witness repeated
several times.

"Now," continued O'Connell, with great solemnity, and assuming an air of
inspiration--"I call on you, in presence of your Maker, before whom you
must one day be judged for the evidence you give here to-day, I solemnly
ask--and answer me at your peril--was it not a live fly that was in the
dead man's mouth when his hand was placed on the will?"

'The witness fell instantaneously on his knees, and acknowledged it was
so, and that the fly was placed in the mouth of deceased to enable the
witnesses to swear _that life was in him_.

The intuitive quickness with which O'Connell conjectured the cause of
the fellow's always swearing that "life was in him," obtained for him
the admiration of every one in Court, and very materially assisted in
securing his professional success.


In the course of his attendance at an Assizes in Cork, he was counsel in
a case in which his client was capitally charged, and was so little
likely to escape, and was actually so guilty of the crime, that his
attorney considered the case utterly desperate.

O'Connell entered the Court aware of the hopelessness of his client's
chances. He knew it was useless to attempt a defence in the ordinary
way. There was evidence sufficient to ensure a conviction. At that time
it happened that the present Chief Justice, then Sergeant, Lefroy
presided, in the absence of one of the judges who had fallen ill.
O'Connell understood the sort of man he had on the Bench. He opened the
defence by putting to the first witness a number of the most illegal
questions. He, of course, knew they were illegal, and that objections
would be raised.

Sergeant Goold was the crown prosecutor, and he started up, and
expressed his objections. The learned Chief Justice declared his
concurrence, and decided peremptorily that he could not allow Mr.
O'Connell to proceed with his line of examination.

"Well, then, my lord," said O'Connell, after a little expostulation, "as
you refuse permitting me to defend my client, I leave his fate in your
hands;" and he flung his brief from him, adding, as he turned away, "the
blood of that man, my lord, will be on your head, if he is condemned."
O'Connell then left the Court. In half-an-hour afterwards, as he was
walking on the flagway outside, the attorney for the defence ran out to
him without his hat. "Well," said O'Connell, "he is found guilty?" "No,
sir," answered the solicitor, "he has been acquitted." O'Connell is said
to have smiled meaningly on the occasion, as if he had anticipated the
effect of the _ruse_; for it was a _ruse_ he had recourse to, in order
to save the unfortunate culprit's life. He knew that flinging the onus
on a young and a raw judge could be the only chance for his client. The
judge did take up the case O'Connell had ostensibly, in a pet,
abandoned. The witnesses were successively cross-examined by the judge
himself. He conceived a prejudice in favor of the accused. He, perhaps,
had a natural timidity of incurring the responsibility thrown on him by
O'Connell. He charged the jury in the prisoner's favor, and the
consequence was, the unexpected acquittal of the prisoner. "_I knew_,"
said O'Connell afterwards, "the only chance was to throw the
responsibility on the judge."


O'Connell could be seen to greatest advantage in an Irish court of
justice. There he displayed every quality of the lawyer and the
advocate. He showed perfect mastery of his profession, and he exhibited
his own great and innate qualities. Who that ever beheld him on the
Munster circuit, when he was in the height of his fame, but must have
admired his prodigious versatility of formidable powers. His pathos was
often admirable--his humor flowed without effort or art. What jokes he
uttered!--what sarcasms! How well he worked his case, never throwing
away a chance, never relaxing his untiring energies. How he disposed of
a pugnacious attorney may be gathered from the following:--

"For a round volley of abusive epithets nobody could surpass him. One of
his droll comic sentences was often worth a speech of an hour in putting
down an opponent, or in gaining supporters to his side. At _Nisi Prius_,
he turned his mingled talent for abuse and drollery to great effect. He
covered a witness with ridicule, or made a cause so ludicrous, that the
real grounds of complaint became invested with absurdity.

"One of the best things he ever said was in an assize-town on the
Munster circuit. The attorney of the side opposite to that on which
O'Connell was retained, was a gentleman remarkable for his combative
qualities; delighted in being in a fight, and was foremost in many of
the political scenes of excitement in his native town. His person was
indicative of his disposition. His face was bold, menacing, and scornful
in its expression. He had stamped on him the defiance and resolution of
a pugilist. Upon either temple there stood erect a lock of hair, which
no brush could smooth down. These locks looked like horns, and added to
the combative expression of his countenance. He was fiery in his nature,
excessively spirited, and ejaculated, rather than spoke to an audience;
his speeches consisting of a series of short, hissing, spluttering
sentences, by no means devoid of talent of a certain kind. Add to all
this, that the gentleman was an Irish Attorney, and an Orangeman, and
the reader may easily suppose that he was 'a character!'

"Upon the occasion referred to, this gentleman gave repeated annoyance to
O'Connell--by interrupting him in the progress of the cause--by speaking
to the witnesses--and by interfering in a manner altogether improper,
and unwarranted by legal custom. But it was no easy matter to make the
combative attorney hold his peace--he, too, was an agitator in his own
fashion. In vain did the counsel engaged with O'Connell in the cause
sternly rebuke him; in vain did the judge admonish him to remain quiet;
up he would jump, interrupting the proceedings, hissing out his angry
remarks and vociferations with vehemence. While O'Connell was in the act
of pressing a most important question he jumped up again, undismayed,
solely for the purpose of interruption. O'Connell, losing all patience,
suddenly turned round, and, scowling at the disturber, shouted in a
voice of thunder--'Sit down, you audacious, snarling, pugnacious
ram-cat.' Scarcely had the words fallen from his lips, when roars of
laughter rang through the court. The judge himself laughed outright at
the happy and humorous description of the combative attorney, who, pale
with passion, gasped in inarticulate rage. The name of _ram-cat_ struck
to him through all his life."


One of the drollest scenes of vituperation that O'Connell ever figured
in took place in the early part of his life. Not long after he was
called to the bar, his character and peculiar talents received rapid
recognition from all who were even casually acquainted with him. His
talent for vituperative language was perceived, and by some he was, even
in those days, considered matchless as a scold.

There was, however, at that time in Dublin, a certain woman, Biddy
Moriarty, who had a huckster's stall on one of the quays nearly opposite
the Four Courts. She was a virago of the first order, very able with her
fist, and still more formidable with her tongue. From one end of Dublin
to the other she was notorious for her powers of abuse, and even in the
provinces Mrs. Moriarty's language had passed into currency. The
dictionary of Dublin slang had been considerably enlarged by her, and
her voluble impudence had almost become proverbial. Some of O'Connell's
friends, however, thought that he could beat her at the use of her own
weapons. Of this, however, he had some doubts himself, when he had
listened once or twice to some minor specimens of her Billingsgate. It
was mooted once, whether the young Kerry barrister could encounter her,
and some one of the company (in O'Connell's presence) rather too freely
ridiculed the idea of his being able to meet the famous Madam Moriarty.
O'Connell never liked the idea of being put down, and he professed his
readiness to encounter her, and even backed himself for the match. Bets
were offered and taken--it was decided that the match should come off at

The party adjourned to the huckster's stall, and there was the owner
herself, superintending the sale of her small wares--a few loungers and
ragged idlers were hanging round her stall--for Biddy was 'a character,'
and, in her way, was one of the sights of Dublin.

O'Connell was very confident of success. He had laid an ingenious plan
for overcoming her, and, with all the anxiety of an ardent
experimentalist, waited to put it into practice. He resolved to open the
attack. At this time O'Connell's own party, and the loungers about the
place, formed an audience quite sufficient to rouse Mrs. Moriarty, on
public provocation, to a due exhibition of her powers. O'Connell
commenced the attack:--

"What's the price of this walking-stick, Mrs. What's-your-Name?"

"Moriarty, sir, is my name, and a good one it is; and what have you to
say agen it? and one-and-sixpence's the price of the stick. Troth, it's
chape as dirt--so it is."

"One-and-sixpence for a walking-stick? whew! why, you are know no better
than an impostor, to ask eighteen pence for what cost you twopence."

"Twopence, your grandmother!" replied Mrs. Biddy: "do you mane to say
that it's chating the people I am?--impostor, indeed!"

"Aye, impostor; and it's that I call you to your teeth," rejoined

"Come cut your stick, you cantankerous jackanapes."

"Keep a civil tongue in your head, you old _diagonal_," cried O'Connell,

"Stop your jaw, you pug-nosed badger, or by this and that," cried Mrs.
Moriarty, "I'll make you go quicker nor you came."

"Don't be in a passion, my old _radius_--anger will only wrinkle your

"By the hokey, if you say another word of impudence I'll tan your dirty
hide, you bastely common scrub; and sorry I'd be to soil my fists upon
your carcase."

"Whew! boys, what a passion old Biddy is in; I protest, as I'm a

"Jintleman! jintleman! the likes of you a jintleman! Wisha, by gor, that
bangs Banagher. Why, you potato-faced pippin-sneezer, when did a
Madagascar monkey like you pick enough of common Christian dacency to
hide your Kerry brogue?"

"Easy, now--easy, now," cried O'Connell, with imperturbable good humor,
"don't choke yourself with fine language, you old whiskey-drinking

"What's that you call me, you murderin' villian?" roared Mrs. Moriarty,
stung to fury.

"I call you," answered O'Connell, "a parallelogram; and a Dublin judge
and jury will say that it's no libel to call you so!"

"Oh, tare-an-ouns! oh, holy Biddy! that on honest woman like me should
be called a parrybellygrum to her face. I'm none of your
parrybellygrums, you rascally gallowsbird; you cowardly, sneaking,
plate-lickin' bliggard!"

"Oh, not you, indeed!" retorted O'Connell; "why, I suppose you'll deny
that you keep a _hypothenuse_ in your house."

"It's a lie for you, you dirty robber, I never had such a thing in my
house, you swindling thief."

"Why, sure your neighbors all know very well that you keep not only a
hypothenuse, but that you have two _diameters_ locked up in your garret,
and that you go out to walk with them every Sunday, you heartless old

"Oh, hear that, ye saints in glory! Oh, there's bad language from a
fellow that wants to pass for a jintleman. May the divil fly away with
you, you micher from Munster, and make celery-sauce of your rotten
limbs, you mealy-mouthed tub of guts."

"Ah, you can't deny the charge, you miserable _submultiple_ of a
_duplicate ratio_."

"Go, rinse your mouth in the Liffey, you nasty tickle pitcher; after all
the bad words you speak, it ought to be filthier than your face, you
dirty chicken of Beelzebub."

"Rinse your own mouth, you wicked-minded old _polygon_--to the deuce I
pitch you, you blustering intersection of a stinking _superficies_!"

"You saucy tinker's apprentice, if you don't cease your jaw, I'll----"
But here she gasped for breath, unable to hawk up any more words, for
the last volley of O'Connell had nearly knocked the wind out of her.

"While I have a tongue I'll abuse you, you most inimitable _periphery_.
Look at her, boys! there she stands--a convicted _perpendicular_ in
petticoats. There's contamination in her _circumference_, and she
trembles with guilt down to the extremities of her _corollaries_. Ah!
you're found out, you _rectilineal antecedent_, and _equiangular_ old
hag! 'Tis with you the devil will fly away, you porter-swiping
_similitude_ of the _bisection of a vortex_!"

Overwhelmed with this torrent of language, Mrs. Moriarty was silenced.
Catching up a saucepan, she was aiming at O'Connell's head, when he very
prudently made a timely retreat.

"You have won the wager, O'Connell--here's your bet," cried the
gentleman who proposed the contest.

O'Connell knew well the use of sound in the vituperation, and having to
deal with an ignorant scold, determined to overcome her in volubility,
by using all the _sesquipedalia verba_ which occur in Euclid. With
these, and a few significant epithets, and a scoffing, impudent
demeanor, he had for once imposed silence on Biddy Moriarty.


He used to lodge, when at Cork, at a stationer's of the name of O'Hara,
in Patrick-street, one of the principal thoroughfares of the city.
There, during the Assizes, there was always a crowd before his door,
lounging under his windows, anxious to get a peep at the Counsellor.
Whenever he made his appearance there was always a hearty cheer. On one
occasion, an old friend of his, who had once belonged to the bar, Mr.
K----, a member of a most respectable family, called on O'Connell during
the Assizes, to pay him a friendly visit. He found O'Connell engaged
with a shrewd-looking farmer, who was consulting him on a knotty case.
Heartily glad to see his old friend, O'Connell sprang forward, saying,
"My dear K----, I'm delighted to see you." The farmer, seeing the
visitor come in, cunningly took the opportunity of sneaking away. He had
got what he wanted--the opinion; but O'Connell had not got what _he_
wanted--the fee. O'Connell at once followed the farmer, who had got the
start by a flight of stairs. The rustic quickened his pace when he found
that the counsellor was in chase. O'Connell saw that he could not catch
the runaway client, who was now on the flight leading into the hall. He
leant over the bannister, and made a grasp at the farmer's collar, but,
instead of the collar, he caught the rustic's wig, which came away in
his hand. O'Connell gave a shout of laughter, and, quick as thought,
jumped in high spirits back to his room. "Hurrah! see, K----, I've got
the rascal's wig." Up went the window--

"Three cheers for the counsellor!--Long life to your honor. Arrah! isn't
he the man of the people."

"Ah! boys," said O'Connell, with glee, "look here what I've got for you!
Here's the wig of a rascal that has just bilked me of a fee."

Shouts of laughter rent the air, as the wig was pitched out, to undergo
a rapid process of radical reform at the hands of the mob. As the
wigless farmer made his appearance, he was received with groans of
derision, and was glad enough to escape with unbroken bones.


The following humorous scene took place in the Court-house,
Green-street, Dublin:

The city of Dublin was often contested by Mr. John B. West--a
conservative barrister of no ordinary talents, whose early end caused
much regret. That gentleman was very heavy and clumsy in appearance, and
moved very awkwardly. Lord Plunket humorously called him _Sow_-West, a
name that adhered to him most tenaciously. O'Connell was opposed to West
on three or four different occasions. It is remarkable that the opening
scenes at the Dublin elections are conducted with far more decorum than
similar scenes in other parts of Ireland. All the masses are not
admitted indiscriminately to the Court where the hustings are
placed--the people are admitted by tickets, half of which are allotted
to each rival party. It is the interest of both parties to keep order,
and the candidates and their friends are therefore heard with tolerable
fairness. On the first day of a Dublin election, the most eloquent
members of either party come forward to uphold their favorite

On the occasion referred to, O'Connell, in addressing the people,
referred to the appearance of _Sow_-West, whom he humorously quizzed
upon the beauty of his appearance.

In reply Mr. West said, "Ah, my friends! it's all very well for Mr.
O'Connell to attack me upon my appearance; but I can tell you, if you
saw Mr. O'Connell without his wig, he does not present a face which is
much to boast of."

To the surprise of the spectators, no less than of Mr. West himself,
O'Connell walked across, pulled off his wig, stood close by West, and
cried out--"There, now, which of us is the better-looking--my wig is

This sally of practical humor was received with bursts of laughter and
cheering. O'Connell looked admirably, exhibiting a skull which, for
volume and development, was not to be surpassed.


O'Connell's enormous appetite often excited surprise. He ate a
prodigious quantity, even for a man of such large frame. At one of the
Irish elections, he was greatly annoyed at his candidate being unseated
for a few months, by the blundering decision of the assessor. On the day
when the election terminated, O'Connell was engaged to dine with a Roman
Catholic priest, who piqued himself not a little on the honor of
entertaining the Liberator. The company assembled at the appointed hour,
much dispirited at the adverse turn which the election had taken at the
last moment. O'Connell himself was particularly angry, and chafed with
ill-temper at the blunder of the assessor, who would not even listen to
his arguments.

Dinner came on, and a turkey-pout smoked before the hospitable
clergyman. "Mr. O'Connell, what part of the fowl shall I help you to?"
cried the reverend host, with an air of _empressement_.

His ears were electrified by O'Connell's rejoinder--"Oh! hang it, cut it
through the middle, and give me half the bird!"

For an orator of a style so copious and diffuse, it was singular how
admirably laconic he could become when he chose. During dinner, while
occupied with the viands, he would express himself with the terseness
and condensation of Tacitus.

A railway company once gave a complimentary dinner at Kingstown, and
O'Connell, who had supported the Bill in the House of Commons, was
invited. The sea breeze on the Kingstown pier sharpened his appetite. He
had already partaken heartily of the second course, when one of the
directors, seeing O'Connell's plate nearly empty, asked--"Pray, sir,
what will you be helped to _next_?"

Hastily glancing at the dishes still untasted, O'Connell, with a full
mouth, answered--"Mutton--well done--and much of it."


O'Connell was a capital actor, and his dramatic delivery of a common
remark was often highly impressive. Many years since, he went down to
Kingstown, near Dublin, with a party, to visit a queen's ship-of-war,
which was then riding in the bay.

After having seen it, O'Connell proposed a walk to the top of Killiney
Hill. Breaking from the rest of his party, he ascended to the highest
point of the hill, in company with a young and real Irish patriot, whose
character was brimful of national enthusiasm. The day was fine, and the
view from the summit of the hill burst gloriously upon the sight. The
beautiful bay of Dublin, like a vast sheet of crystal, was at their
feet. The old city of Dublin stretched away to the west, and to the
north was the old promontory of Howth, jutting forth into the sea. To
the south were the Dublin and Wicklow mountains, enclosing the lovely
vale of Shanganah, rising picturesquely against the horizon. The scene
was beautiful, with all the varieties of sunlight and shadow.

O'Connell enjoyed it with nearly as much rapture as his youthful and
ardent companion, who broke forth--"It is all Ireland--oh! how
beautiful! Thank God, we see nothing English here. Everything we see is

His rapture was interrupted by O'Connell, gently laying his hand on his
shoulder, and pointing to the ship-of-war at anchor, as he
exclaimed--"_A speck of the British power_!"

The thought was electric. That speck, significantly pointed out by
O'Connell, suggested the whole painful history of his fatherland to the
memory of the ardent young Irishman.


The judges themselves often came in for a share of his animadversions,
when he deemed their judicial or other conduct deserved public censure;
and when he pleaded as an advocate before them, their resentment
betrayed itself. Singular to say, his practice was never injuriously
affected by his boldness outside. Other men have suffered vitally from
the political or personal hostility of judges--Curran was one of them.
But O'Connell beat down the most formidable hatred, and compelled, by
the sheer force of legal and intellectual power, the bitterest and most
obstinate personal rancor to give way. He compelled pompous, despotic,
and hostile judges to yield. He could not be awed. If they were haughty,
he was proud. If they were malevolent, he was cuttingly sarcastic.

It happened that he was by at an argument in one of the courts of
Dublin, in the course of which a young Kerry attorney was called upon by
the opposing counsel, either to admit a statement as evidence, or to
hand in some documents he could legally detain. O'Connell was not
specially engaged. The discussion arose on a new trial motion--the issue
to go down to the Assizes. He did not interfere until the demand was
made on the attorney, but he then stood up and told him to make no

He was about to resume his seat, when the judge, Baron M'Cleland, said,
with a peculiar emphasis, "Mr. O'Connell, have you a _brief_ in this

"No, my lord, I have not; but I _will_ have one, when the case goes down
to the Assizes."

"When I," rejoined the judge, throwing himself back with an air of lofty
scorn, "was at the bar, it was not _my_ habit to anticipate briefs."

"When _you_ were at the bar," retorted O'Connell, "_I_ never chose _you_
for a model; and now that you are on the Bench, I shall not submit to
your dictation." Leaving his lordship to digest the retort, he took the
attorney by the arm, and walked him out of Court. In this way he dealt
with hostile judges.


O'Connell knew so intimately the habits and character of the humbler
class, that he was able, by cajolery or intimidation, to coerce them,
when on the table, into truth-telling. He was once examining a witness,
whose inebriety, at the time to which the evidence referred, it was
essential to his client's case to prove. He quickly discovered the man's
character. He was a fellow who may be described as "half foolish with

"Well, Darby," said the Counsellor, taking him on the cross-examination,
"you told the whole truth to that gentleman?" pointing to the counsel
who had just examined the witness.

"Yes, your honor, Counsellor O'Connell."

"How, do you know my name?"

"Ah, sure every one knows our own _pathriot_"

"Well, you are a good-humored, honest fellow Now, tell me, Darby, did you
take a drop of anything that day?"

"Why, your honor, I took my share of a pint of spirits."

"Your share of it; now by virtue of your oath, was not your share of it
_all but the pewter_?"

"Why, then, dear knows, that's true for you, sir."

The Court was convulsed at both question and answer. It soon came out
that the man was drunk, and was not, therefore, a competent witness.
Thus O'Connell won the case for his client.


When O'Connell found the Government determined to strain the Convention
Act to the utmost, and not permit the existence of any delegated
committee for the management of Catholic affairs, he issued circulars to
a number of gentlemen to meet him, as individuals, in Capel-street. From
that circular arose the Catholic Association.

It was at one of the early meetings of this body that he called the
municipal functionaries of Dublin, "a beggarly Corporation." He had
become exceedingly obnoxious to the Orange party. He was an object of
intense hatred within the precincts of the Castle. To get rid of such a
man would be an invaluable service. The _insult_ he had put on the
_immaculate_ and _wealthy_ Corporation, offered too inviting an
opportunity to be passed over. A champion of Ascendancy appeared in the
person of Captain D'Esterre.

On the 1st of February, 1815, nearly eleven days after the insult was
received, and eight days after explanation was demanded and refused,
this misled gentleman was advised to send a message. He addressed a
letter in the following words:--

"Sir--_Carrick's Paper_, of the 23rd instant, in its Report of the
Debates of a Meeting of the Catholic Gentlemen, on the subject of a
Petition, states that you applied the appellation of _Beggarly_, to the
Corporation of this City, _calling it a beggarly Corporation_; and,
therefore, as a member of that body, and feeling how painful such is, I
beg leave to inquire whether you really used or expressed yourself in
such language.

"I feel the more justified in calling on you on this occasion, as such
language was not warranted or provoked by any thing on the part of the
Corporation; neither was it consistent with the subject of your Debate,
or the deportment of the other Catholic gentlemen, who were present;
and, though I view it so inconsistent in every respect, I am in hopes
the Editor is under error, not you.

"I have further to request your reply in the course of the evening--and
remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

                  "J. N. D'ESTERRE,
        "11 Bachelor's-walk, 26th Jan. 1815.
    "To Counsellor O'Connell, Merrion-square."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Sir--In reply to your letter of yesterday, and without either admitting
or disclaiming the expression respecting the Corporation of Dublin, in
the print to which you allude, I deem it right to inform you, that, from
the calumnious manner in which the religion and character of the
Catholics of Ireland are treated in that body, no terms attributed to
me, however reproachful, can exceed the contemptuous feelings I
entertain for that body in its corporate capacity--although, doubtless,
it contains many valuable persons, whose conduct, as individuals (I
lament), must necessarily be confounded in the acts of the general body.

"I have only to add, _that this Letter must dose our Correspondence on
this subject_.--I am, &c., &c.,

           "DANIEL O'CONNELL.
      "Merrion-square, January 27, 1815.
    "To J. N. D'Esterre, Esq.,
         11 Bachelors-walk, Dublin."

Mr. D'Esterre was advised to persist in the correspondence, and
addressed another letter (but directed in a different hand-writing), to
Mr. O'Connell. It was returned to him by Mr. James O'Connell, inclosed
in a letter couched in the following terms:--

"Sir--From the tenor of your letter of yesterday, my brother did not
expect that your next communication would have been made in _writing_.
He directed me to open his letters in his absence; your last letter,
bearing a different address from the former one, was opened by me; but
upon perceiving the name subscribed, I have declined to read it; and by
his directions I return it to you inclosed, and _unread_.--I am, sir,
your obedient servant,

                   "James O'Connell.
               "Merrion-square, Friday Evening.
    "To J. N. D'Esterre, Esq.,
                 11 Bachelor's-walk."

After a number of insulting letters from D'Esterre, his long-expected
hostile message arrived.

Major M'Namara, of Doolen, having been commissioned by O'Connell,
proceeded to Sir Edward Stanley, who acted as the friend of D'Esterre,
to arrange the meeting. The hour appointed was three o'clock on
Wednesday; the place, Bishop's Court Demesne, Lord Ponsonby's seat, in
the county Kildare, thirteen miles distant from Dublin.

It was proposed by him that the mode of fighting should be after the
following fashion:--That both should be handed a brace of pistols;
reserve their shots until the signal, and then fire when they pleased;
advancing or retiring after each shot, as they thought proper. Major
M'Namara would not assent to this mode of fighting, without first
consulting O'Connell and his friends. O'Connell at once directed him to
accept the terms. Major M'Namara then returned to Sir Edward Stanley,
and finally arranged the meeting. The parties proceeded to take their
ground, and were handed a brace of pistols each. The signal was given.
Both reserved their fire for some moments. D'Esterre first changed his
position, moving a pace towards the left hand, and then stepped towards
O'Connell. His object was to induce him to fire, more or less, at
random. He lifted his pistol, as if about to fire. O'Connell instantly
presented, pulled the trigger, and the unfortunate man fell.

In close attendance on O'Connell, at the ground, were Major M'Namara,
Nicholas Purcell O'Gorman, and Richard Nugent Bennett, as seconds and
friends; for all may be said to have acted in the double capacity.

It was reported in Dublin that O'Connell was shot; and a party of
dragoons were despatched from Dublin, for the protection of D'Esterre.
On their way the officer by whom they were commanded met, on its return,
the carriage containing O'Connell and his brother. The officer called on
the postilion to stop; whereupon Mr. James O'Connell pulled down the
window. The officer, addressing him, asked if they had been present at
the duel, to which he replied in the affirmative. The officer then said,
"Is it true Mr. O'Connell has been shot?" Mr. James O'Connell replied,
"No; the reverse is the fact; Mr. D'Esterre has unfortunately fallen."
The announcement had a visible effect upon the military; they were not
prepared for the intelligence; and something like consternation was
exhibited. The carriage was allowed to proceed, the military party being
evidently not aware who were its occupants.

When D'Esterre fell the spectators present could not refrain from giving
expression to their excited feelings; they actually shouted; and a young
collegian who was present, and who became a Protestant clergyman, was so
carried away by the general feeling, as to fling up his hat in the air,
and shout, "Hurra for O'Connell!"

Very different was the conduct of the three occupants of O'Connell's
carriage. They displayed no exultation. The moment D'Esterre fell they
went off; and though the place of meeting was near Naas, they were close
to Dublin before a single word was exchanged between them. At last
O'Connell broke the silence, saying, "I fear he is dead, he fell so
suddenly. Where do you think he was hit?" "In the head, I think," said
his medical friend. "That cannot be--I aimed low; the ball must have
entered near the thigh." This will be considered a remarkable
observation when, as was subsequently found, the wound was inflicted in
the part mentioned by O'Connell. Being one of the surest shots that ever
fired a pistol, he could have hit his antagonist where he pleased. But
his object was merely, in self-defence, to wound him in no mortal part,
and he aimed low with that intention.

The excitement in Dublin, when the result was known, cannot be
described; and, indeed, is scarcely credited by those who were not then
in the metropolis. Over seven hundred gentlemen left their cards at
O'Connell's the day after the occurrence.

Great commiseration was felt for D'Esterre's family, but it was
considered that he himself lost his life foolishly. It may be added that
he was an officer in the navy, and an eccentric character. He at one
time played off rather a serious joke upon his friends, who resided
near Cork. He wrote to them from aboard that he was sentenced to be
hanged for mutiny, and implored of them to use every interest to save
him. Lord Shannon interested himself in the affair, and the greatest
trouble was taken to obtain a pardon. But it turned out to be a hoax
practised by D'Esterre, when under the influence of the Jolly God.
Knowing his character, many even of opposite politics, notwithstanding
the party spirit that then prevailed, regretted the issue the
unfortunate man provoked.


Mr. Goulburn, while Secretary for Ireland, visited Killarney, when
O'Connell (then on circuit) happened to be there. Both stopped at Finn's
Hotel, and chanced to get bedrooms opening off the same corridor. The
early habits of O'Connell made him be up at cock-crow. Finding the
hall-door locked, and so being hindered from walking outside, he
commenced walking up and down the corridor. To pass the time, he
repeated aloud some of Moore's poetry, and had just uttered the lines--

    "We tread the land that bore us,
    The green flag flutters o'er us,
    The friends we've tried are by our side--"

At this moment Goulburn popped his nightcapped head out, to see what was
the matter. O'Connell instantly pointed his finger at him, and finished
the verse--

    "And the foe we hate before us!"

In went Goulburn's head in the greatest hurry.


An illustration of his dexterity in compassing an unfortunate culprit's
acquittal may be here narrated.

He was employed in defending a prisoner who was tried for a murder
committed in the vicinity of Cork. The principal witness swore strongly
against the prisoner--one corroborative circumstance was, that the
prisoner's hat was found near the place where the murder took place. The
witness swore positively the hat produced was the one found, and that it
belonged to the prisoner, whose name was James.

"By virtue of your oath, are you positive that this is the same hat?"
"Yes." "Did you examine it carefully before you swore in your
informations that it was the prisoner's?" "Yes." "Now, let me see,"
said O'Connell, and he took up the hat, and began carefully to examine
the inside. He then spelled aloud the name James--slowly,
thus:--"J--a--m--e--s." "Now, do you mean those words were in the hat
when you found it?" "I do." "Did you see them there." "I did." "This is
the same hat?" "It is." "Now, my Lord," said O'Connell, holding up the
hat to the Bench, "there is an end to the case--there is no name
whatever inscribed in the hat." The result was instant acquittal.


At a Cork Assizes, many years ago, he was employed in an action of
damages, for diverting a stream from its regular channel, or diverting
so much of it as inflicted injury on some party who previously benefited
by its abundance. The injury was offered by a nobleman, and his
attorney, on whose advice the proceeding was adopted, was a man of
corpulent proportions, with a face bearing the ruddy glow of rude
health, but, flushed in a crowded court, assumed momentarily, a color
like that imparted by intemperance. He really was a most temperate man.

O'Connell dwelt on the damage his client had sustained by the unjust
usurpation. The stream should have been permitted to follow its old and
natural course. There was neither law nor justice in turning it aside
from his client's fields. He had a light to all its copiousness, and the
other party should have allowed him full enjoyment. In place of that,
the latter monopolized the water--he diminished it. It became every day
small by degrees and beautifully less. "There is not now," he said,
"gentlemen of the jury, a tenth of the ordinary quantity. The stream is
running dry--and so low is it, and so little of it is there, that,"
continued he, turning to the rubicund attorney, and naming him, "there
isn't enough in it to make grog for Fogatty."

A roar of laughter followed, and it was not stopped by the increased
rosiness and embarrassment of the gentleman who became the victim of the
learned advocate's humorous allusion. The tact in this sally was, in
endeavoring to create an impression on the jury that his poor client
was sacrificed by the harsh conduct of a grog-drinking attorney, and
thus create prejudice against the plaintiff's case. Thus did O'Connell
gain the hearts of Irish juries; and thus did he, indulging his own
natural humor, on the public platform, gain the affections of his


In June, 1832, O'Connell addressed a meeting of the Political Union of
the London working classes. In his address, he humorously and
graphically describes the system of passive resistance then adopted
against the payment of Tithes, in the following amusing dialogue between
Paddy and the parson:--

"And how does Paddy act? Does he disobey the laws? No. 'Paddy,' says the
parson, 'you owe me £l 17s. 6d.' 'And what may it be for, your
Riverence!' says Pat (laughter). 'Tithes! Paddy.' 'Arrah! thin I suppose
your Riverence gave some value fornint I was born; for divil a bit I
ever seen since (roars of laughter). But your Riverence, I suppose, has
law for it? Bless the law! your honor, and sure an I wouldn't be after
going to disobey it; but plase your Riverence, I have no money' (great
laughter). 'Ah, Pat, but you've a cow there. 'Yes, your Riverence,
that's the cow that gives food to Norry and the fourteen childer.'
'Well, Paddy, then I must distrain that cow.' 'If your honor has law for
it, to be sure you will.' Well, what does Paddy do? He stamps the word
'Tithes' upon her side, and the parson can't find a soul to take the
cow. So he gets a regiment and a half, by way of brokers (much
laughter)--fourteen or fifteen companies, with those amiable young
gentlemen, their officers, at their head, who march seventeen or
eighteen miles across the Bog of Allen to take his cow; they bring the
cow to Carlow; when they get there, they find a great crowd assembled;
the parson rubs his hands with glee. 'Plenty of customers for the cow,'
quoth he to himself. The cow is put up at £2--no bidder; £1--no bidder;
10s--5s.--6d.--1-1/2d. (cheers). Not a soul will bid, and back goes the
cow to Norry and the fourteen childer (continued cheers)."


In Court his usual mirth and ready wit never failed him; and he kept
the bar and listening by-standers in constant hilarity. He made an
excellent hit during the trial of Sir George Bingham, for assault,
during the tithe agitation. The General's Aide-de-Camp, Captain Berners,
of the Royal Artillery, was under examination. A junior counsel asked
the witness, "What is the meaning of the military phrase, 'ride him

"Do you think," interposed O'Connell, "we are here to get an explanation
of plain English from an English Aide-de-Camp, with his tongue in
holiday dress?" then turning to the witness, he said, "You belong to the
Artillery and understand horse language?"--"Yes." Mr. Justice Moore, who
tried the case, here observed--"I ought to understand it, Mr. O'Connell,
for I was a long while Captain of cavalry." "Yes you were, my lord,"
replied O'Connell, "and I recollect you a long time a _Sergeant_, too."
This ready sally caused a burst of laughter throughout the whole court.


At Darrynane, he was sitting one morning, surrounded by country people,
some asking his advice, some his assistance, others making their
grievances known. Amongst the rest was a farmer rather advanced in life,
a swaggering sort of fellow, who was desirous to carry his point by
impressing the Liberator with the idea of his peculiar honesty and
respectability. He was anxious that O'Connell should decide a matter in
dispute between him and a neighboring farmer who, he wished to
insinuate, was not as good as he ought to be. "For my part, I, at least,
can boast that neither I nor mine were ever brought before a judge or
sent to jail, however it was with others."

"Stop, stop, my fine fellow," cried the Liberator--"Let me see," pausing
a moment. "Let me see; it is now just twenty-five years ago, last
August, that I myself saved you from transportation, and had you
discharged from the dock."

The man was thunderstruck; he thought such a matter could not be
retained in the great man's mind. He shrunk away, murmuring that he
should get justice elsewhere, and never appeared before the Liberator


Ascending the mountain road between Dublin and Glencullen, in company
with an English friend, O'Connell was met by a funeral. The mourners
soon recognized him, and immediately broke into a vociferous hurrah for
their political favorite, much to the astonishment of the Sassenach;
who, accustomed to the solemn and lugubrious decorum of English
funerals, was not prepared for an outburst of Celtic enthusiasm upon
such an occasion. A remark being made on the oddity of a political
hurrah at a funeral, it was replied that the corpse would have doubtless
cheered lustily too, if he could.


In 1838, on the morning when O'Connell received from the Government the
offer to be appointed Lord Chief Baron, he walked over to the window,

"This is very kind--very kind, indeed!--but I haven't the least notion
of taking the offer. Ireland could not spare me now; not but that, _if
she could_, I don't at all deny that the office would have great
attractions for me. Let me see, now--there would not be more than about
eight days' duty in the year; I would take a country house near Dublin,
and walk into town; and during the intervals of judicial labor, I'd go
to Derrynane. I should be idle in the early part of April, just when the
jack-hares leave the most splendid trails upon the mountains. In fact, I
should enjoy the office exceedingly upon every account, if I could but
accept it consistently with the interests of Ireland--But I


When travelling in France, during the time of his sojourn at St. Omer's,
O'Connell encountered a very talkative Frenchman, who incessantly poured
forth the most bitter tirades against England. O'Connell listened in
silence; and the Frenchman, surprised at his indifference, at last

"Do you hear, do you understand what I am saying, sir?"

"Yes, I hear you, I comprehend you perfectly."

"Yet you do not seem angry?"

"Not in the least."

"How can you so tamely bear the censures I pronounce against your

"Sir, England is not my country. Censure her as much as you please, you
cannot offend me. I am an Irishman, and my countrymen have as little
reason to love England as yours have, perhaps less."


The number of letters received by O'Connell upon trivial subjects was
sufficient to try his patience, as the following will show:--

A letter once arrived from New York, which, on opening, he found to
contain a minute description of a Queen Anne's farthing recently found
by the writer, with a modest request that "Ireland's Liberator" might
negotiate the sale of the said farthing in London; where, as many
intelligent persons had assured him, he might make his fortune by it.

Another modest correspondent was one Peter Waldron, also of New York,
whose epistle ran thus:--"Sir, I have discovered an old paper, by which
I find that my grandfather, Peter Waldron, left Dublin about the year
1730. You will very much oblige me by instituting an immediate inquiry
who the said Peter Waldron was; whether he possessed any property in
Dublin or elsewhere, and to what amount; and in case that he did, you
will confer a particular favor on me by taking immediate steps to
recover it, and if successful, forwarding the amount to me at New York."

At another time a Protestant clergyman wrote to apprise him that he and
his family were all in prayer for his conversion to the Protestant
religion; and that the writer was anxious to engage in controversy with
so distinguished an antagonist.

The letters with which he was persecuted, soliciting patronage, were
innumerable. "Everybody writes to me about everything," said he, "and
the applicants for places, without a single exception, tell me that _one
word_ of mine will infallibly get them what they want. _One word_! Oh,
how sick I am of that '_One word_!'"

Some of his rural correspondents entertained odd ideas of his
attributes. He said that "from one of them he got a letter commencing
with 'Awful Sir!'"


Sir Robert Peel is said to have expressed his high appreciation of
O'Connell's parliamentary abilities. While the Reform Bill was under
discussion, the speeches of its friends and foes were one day canvassed
at Lady Beauchamp's. On O'Connell's name being mentioned, some critic
fastidiously said, "Oh, a broguing Irish fellow! who would listen to
_him?_ I always walk out of the House when he opens his lips," "Come,
Peel," said Lord Westmoreland, "let me hear your opinion." "My opinion
candidly is," replied Sir Robert, "that if I wanted an efficient and
eloquent advocate, I would readily give up all the other orators of whom
we have been talking, provided I had with me this same broguing Irish

       *       *       *       *       *

At the Bishop of Waterford's table, the following anecdote was related
by O'Connell:

"My grandmother had twenty-two children, and half of them lived beyond
the age of ninety. Old Mr. O'Connell of Derrynane, pitched upon an oak
tree to make his own coffin, and mentioned his purpose to a carpenter.
In the evening, the butler entered after dinner to say that the
carpenter wanted to speak with him. 'For what?' asked my uncle. 'To talk
about your honor's coffin,' said the carpenter, putting his head inside
the door over the butler's shoulder. I wanted to get the fellow out, but
my uncle said, 'Oh! let him in by all means.--Well, friend, what do you
want to say to me about my coffin?' 'Only, sir, that I'll saw up the oak
tree that your honor was speaking of into seven-foot plank.' 'That would
be wasteful,' answered my uncle; 'I never was more than six feet and an
inch in my vamps, the best day ever I saw.' 'But your honor will stretch
after death,' said the carpenter. 'Not eleven inches, I am sure, you
blockhead! But I'll stretch, no doubt--perhaps a couple of inches or so.
Well, make my coffin six feet six, and I'll warrant that will give me
room enough!'"

       *       *       *       *       *

"I remember," said O'Connell, "being counsel at a special commission in
Kerry against a Mr. S----, and having occasion to press him somewhat
hard in my speech, he jumped up in the court, and called me 'a
purse-proud blockhead.' I said to him, 'In the first place I have got
no purse to be proud of; and, secondly, if I be a blockhead, it is
better for you, as I am counsel against you. However, just to save you
the trouble of saying so again, I'll administer a slight
rebuke'--whereupon I whacked him soundly on the back with the
president's cane. Next day he sent me a challenge by William Ponsonby of
Crottoe; but very shortly after, he wrote to me to state, that since he
had challenged me, he had discovered that my life was inserted in a very
valuable lease of his. 'Under these circumstances,' he continued, 'I
cannot afford to shoot you, unless, as a precautionary measure, you
first insure your life for my benefit. If you do, then heigh for powder
and ball! I'm your man.' Now this seems so ludicrously absurd, that it
is almost incredible; yet it is literally true. S---- was a very timid
man; yet he fought six duels--in fact, he fought them all out of pure


[1] Judge Robinson was the author of many stupid, slavish, and
scurrilous political pamphlets; and, by his demerits, raised to the
eminence which he thus disgraced.--_Lord Brougham_.

[2] The name by which Methodists are known in Ireland.

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