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Title: Women of 'Ninety-Eight

Author: Mrs. Thomas Concannon

Release date: March 26, 2022 [eBook #67720]

Language: English

Original publication: Ireland: M. H. Gill & Son, 1919

Credits: MWS, Barry Abrahamsen, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)


The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.


The Wife of Lord Edward Fitzgerald


Author of “The Life of St. Columba,” “A Garden of Girls,” “The Sorrow of Lycadoon,” Etc.






In Memory
All the Dead Women
In Homage
All the Living Women
Their Dear Ones


Introduction ix
The Mothers of ’Ninety-Eight 3
The Mother of the Emmets 6
The Mother of Lord Edward Fitzgerald 28
The Mother of the Sheareses 53
The Mother of the Teelings 68
The Wives of ’Ninety-Eight:  
The Wife of Theobald Wolfe Tone 103
The Wife of Thomas Addis Emmet 146
The Wife of Samuel Neilson 165
The Wife of Lord Edward Fitzgerald 186
The Sister of Henry Joy McCracken 215
Some Other Sisters of ’Ninety-Eight:  
Mary Anne Emmet 243
Mary Tone 247
Lady Lucy Fitzgerald 249
Julia Sheares 253
Miss Byrne 257
Miss Teeling 259
Miss Hazlett 259
Sarah Curran and Anne Devlin 267
Some Other Romances of ’Ninety-Eight 297
Some Obscure Heroines of ’Ninety-Eight 311



Alas! how sad by Shannon’s flood,
The blush of morning sun appears!
To men who gave for us their blood,
Ah! what can women give but tears!
Drennan: Lament of the Women after the Battle.

“THEY tell a beautiful and poetical story about the croppies’ graves in Wexford. Many of them carried in their coat pockets wheat seed gathered in the fields to satisfy their hunger. When they were buried in their shallow graves the seed sprouted and pushed its way up to the light, and the peasants, seeing the patches of waving grain here and there by field or wayside, knew that there a poor croppy slumbered. Was not the waving grain an emblem that the blood they shed for Ireland would yet nurture the harvest of Freedom?”

Twenty years ago, when in the pages of the Shan Van Vocht, that moving and lovely tale was told to the faithful few whom the centenary of ’Ninety-Eight had rallied around the croppies’ graves, it needed a poet’s vision, a patriot’s heart, to see in

“The grain that was fed on the dust of the dead”

a promise of the mighty harvest of freedom. To-day, we look around us, and, lo!—even to the blindest and coldest of us—the fields are white.

Ere we go forth to the reaping, shall we not consider with ourselves what culture the buried seeds of freedom received to ensure a yield so rich? It is not alone the blood of the men who died for Ireland that has nurtured xthe harvest of her freedom. The seed has been abundantly watered by the tears of heartbroken women: mothers and wives, sweethearts and sisters, daughters and comrades. Some of these grieving women I have tried, in the following pages, to make better known to their country-women of to-day, whose joy has been purchased, in such large part, by their sorrow.

And not with their tears alone did our sisters of ’Ninety-Eight sprinkle the red furrows of that tragic seed-time. In many a forgotten grave, from Antrim to Wexford, lies the dust of the women who died victims of the brutality of the yeomanry and military, let loose on the country to goad its manhood into a rising. Beneath the unmarked site of many a vanished cabin lie the charred bones of countless women who were burnt to death when the drunken soldiery fired their homes. Among the outrages tabulated by Cloney as having been perpetrated by the military in the county of Wexford alone, we find record of seven young women violated and murdered near Ballaghkeene by the Homperg Dragoons, after the retreat from Vinegar Hill; of four women shot after the flight from Wexford; and of three women bayonetted in Enniscorthy; of nine women and six children slain by the yeomanry between Vinegar Hill and Gorey, on the high road; of three women shot by the yeomanry in the village of Aughrim; of four women murdered by “the supplementary yeomen” between Gorey and Arklow.

Anne Devlin was not the only woman of those times who bore to the day of her death on her tender skin the cicatrized marks of the wounds inflicted by the bayonets of the soldiers in the design of extorting from her information. Some of the atrocities suffered by women had not even the excuse of any purpose—save that of satisfying a monstrous lust of cruelty. A dreadful case is that of Mrs. O’Neill, whose son, a clerical student, had been taken up and confined in New Geneva barracks, preparatory xito being shipped off to work in the salt-mines of the King of Prussia. The poor woman had come all the way from Antrim, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles, to take a last farewell of him. When she reached her destination she was refused access to him, and only succeeded in seeing him after she had bribed his guards. Unfortunately, she yielded to the violence of her grief when the time to leave him came, and the anguished cries of the poor mother betrayed her forbidden presence in her boy’s cell. She was torn from his arms, hurried into the presence of the colonel, and by him delivered to the tender mercies of the soldiers, who dragged her into the courtyard, and proceeded to toss her in a blanket. When the savage pastime of the soldiers ceased, a few rags were thrown to the unfortunate woman; she crawled to a neighbouring cabin, and there she died.

Those who are best entitled to speak of the causes of the Rising of ’Ninety-Eight are singularly unanimous in their exposition of them. During Thomas Addis Emmet’s examination before the Secret Committee of the House of Lords (August 10th, 1798) he stated in reply to Lord Clare’s query as to what caused the late insurrection: “the free quarters, the house-burnings, the tortures, the military executions in the counties of Kildare, Carlow and Wicklow.” Mary McCracken used to quote her brother, Henry Joy’s opinion that “if it had not been for the free quarters and the flogging, there would have been no rebellion after all, for it is not easy to get the people to turn out of their comfortable homes, if they have any comfort in them.” It was the sight of his burning chapel and the blazing homesteads of his flock which turned Father John Murphy from a man of peace into the intrepid leader of fighting men. When his people fled to him in the woods from the flames of their farmhouses and the outrages of the yeomanry, he told them that “they had better die courageously in the field than be butchered in xiitheir houses; that, for his own part, if he had any brave men to join him, he was resolved to sell his life dearly and prove to these cruel monsters that they should not continue their murders and devastations with impunity.”

The same motives which urged the priest to become the soldier animated many of the women. Better, it seemed to them, to die fighting side by side with their men in the field than to be violated and butchered in their houses. And so we find among the Women of ’Ninety-Eight more than one Irish Joan of Arc. There was Molly Weston who fought at Tara, Betsy Grey at Ballynahinch, Mary Doyle at New Ross and many a brave woman who died fighting on Vinegar Hill.

Another rôle filled by the Women of ’Ninety-Eight was that of inspiring their men to patriotic action, aiding them by their counsels, putting their women’s wit at the service of the patriots as messengers and intelligence officers. Charles H. Teeling informs us that “the enthusiasm of the females exceeded the ardour of the men; in many of the higher circles, and in all the rustic festivities, that youth met a cold and forbidding reception from the partner of his choice, who, either from apathy or timidity, had not yet subscribed to the test of union.” “A green velvet stock, or a silk robe with a shamrock device, were the emblems of national feeling; and the former was not unfrequently presented to the youthful patriot by the fair daughter of Erin, as the pledge of a more tender regard.” We see Pamela and Lady Lucy Fitzgerald shedding the bright influence of their beauty over the circle of patriotic and romantic young Irishmen whom Lord Edward gathered around him in Kildare Lodge. Numerous women were so deep in the secrets of the United Irishmen that it was considered necessary for them to take the oath. Of these, the most notable, Miss Moore, will receive more extended notice in subsequent pages of this book. Among others we find mention of Mrs. Risk, whose husband xiiihaving fallen a victim to his patriotic principles in ’Ninety-Eight, devoted herself and all she had in the world to the Cause for which he died. It was to her house in Sandymount that Lord Edward was to have been removed the night of the day on which he was arrested. We subsequently find her visiting the prisoners at Fort George and carrying back messages from them to their friends in Ireland. Rose McGladdery, wife of William McCracken, was “a sworn United man,” and did good service to the cause for which her husband was imprisoned and for which her brother-in-law, Harry, died, as she passed out and in of Kilmainham jail to visit her captive husband. It is very probable that Mrs. Oliver Bond was also “a sworn United man.” Her name lives in their records for a clever device by which she enabled the State prisoners of 1796 to keep in touch with the outside world. The story is told by Charles Teeling, who was one of them:

“On that great festival, which is respected in every quarter of the Christian world, this excellent lady, having addressed a polite message to the first authority of the prison, requested through him to furnish a dish for the table of the prisoners of State.... This dish was accompanied by one of smaller dimensions, but of similar appearance, which was presented to the good lady, the governor’s spouse. Never did the governor or his gentle rib partake of a dish more agreeable to their palates. It was a pasty of exquisite flavour, and seasoned by no parsimonious hand. Dainties of this kind were novel to the captives, but still more novel the design; choice, indeed, were the materials of which our dish was composed, and most acceptable to those for whose entertainment it was prepared. With the full permission of the governor, the pie was placed on our table, the turnkey received his Christmas-box, smiled as he turned the money in his hand, and retired. Under cover of the encrustment, which was artfully, but with apparent simplicity, arranged, xivthe dish was filled with writing materials, foreign and domestic newspapers, communications with friends.” Writing his recollections thirty years later, Charles Teeling recalls, in all their vivid freshness, the sensations to which this discovery gave birth, and the happiness which the poor prisoners felt when they were thus made acquainted with the true sentiments of their fellow-countrymen in their regard.

One more pious duty the Women of ’Ninety-Eight took upon themselves, and that was to guard the memory of the fallen, and to keep bright their names. Again and again, Dr. Madden has found occasion to pay tribute to the faithful women to whom his researches owe so much. “With few exceptions,” he writes, “the materials collected for the memoirs of the United Irishmen would in all probability have perished, had they not fallen into the hands of women, who clung to the memories of their departed friends with feelings of attachment commensurate with the calamities which had overtaken the objects of their affection or regard. It would seem that in man’s adversity, when his fellow-men fall away from his sinking fortunes, or detach their thoughts from his maltreated memory, there is a steadfastness in the nature of woman’s love, a fidelity in her friendship, which gives to the misfortunes of her kindred a new claim to her solicitude for everything that concerns their interests or their fame.” Very touching instances are those of Mary McCracken, the daughters of Samuel Neilson, the daughter of Dr. MacNevin.

Finally, it is not to be forgotten that to a woman of ’Ninety-Eight we are indebted for the first and, when all is said, perhaps, the best—the most authentic, and vivid and enlightening—story of the Rising which takes its name from that year. Charles Hamilton Teeling’s “Personal xvNarrative,” published in 1828, three years before Moore’s “Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald,” was dedicated by the author in words, as touching as they are noble, to “My wife and my children at whose request solely, it has been undertaken.... Respected and beloved, they are entitled to this mark of my remembrance, the only inheritance which the enemies of my country have left me to bequeathe.” We are allowed to catch, in the final page of the “Narrative,” a fleeting whisper of the romance of Charles H. Teeling and Catherine Carolan. We know that when the Insurrection was suppressed, young Charles Teeling, for true love’s sake, preferred to take anew the outlaw’s track on the mountain rather than to seek safety beyond the seas. We would fain know a little more of the girl who won her place side by side with “the Little Black Rose” in that most knightly and constant heart. We sense in her story one of the most tender, and sweet, and pure of the romances of ’Ninety-Eight.

I cannot but feel proud of the fact that, in writing this book, I have received the constant help of two of the grandsons of Charles Teeling, and Catherine Carolan: Charles T. Waters, Esq., B.L., and Charles H. Teeling, Esq., K.C. I wish I could acknowledge adequately, the obligations under which I have been put by their kindness in lending me the precious Teeling letters in their possession, and allowing me to use them as I desired. I have been privileged also to consult Mr. Waters constantly in many doubts and difficulties, to draw on his knowledge of the period, to use his library, and to call on his help in a thousand ways which it would be impossible to enumerate.

I am also under an obligation to F. J. Bigger, Esq., Belfast, and Denis Carolan Rushe, Monaghan (another kinsman of Catherine Carolan) for their patient answering of my many questions concerning a period on which they are among the greatest of living authorities.

xviTo Mrs. Patrick Semple, LL.D., and her sister, Mrs. MacCarthy, I owe most warm thanks for their help in making extracts from books otherwise inaccessible to me, and to Professor Mrs. Macken for the trouble she took to procure certain books for me. I am also indebted to George Taaffe, Esq., of Smarmore Castle, Ardee, for information furnished me from the Taaffe family papers.


Lios na Mara,

Salthill, Galway,

September, 1918.




“Hush, O Mother, and be not sorrowful,
The women of My keening are yet unborn, little Mother.”
The Keening of Mary.

TRULY it was of the Mothers of Ireland that Mary’s Son was thinking, when from the Tree of His Passion He comforted His own Mother with prophecy of the “keeners” yet unborn who, through the centuries, were to bear her company in her anguish, and weep with her for her sorrow and His most bitter death.

That knowledge—with so much else—we owe to the teaching of Padraic Mac Piarais. He gave us the first part of the lesson when he gathered us with him into the cottage of Mary Clancy, in Iar Chonnacht,[1] and bade us listen to her “keening” with Mary for her dying, crucified Son, and shuddering at the instruments of His Passion, and shedding floods of tears at the thought of His gaping wounds. He made us realise what “a precious thing it is for the world that in the homes of Ireland there are still men and women who can shed tears for the sorrows of Mary and her Son.” But did the teacher, himself, know then at what a price had been won for the mothers of the Gael their “terrible and splendid trust”? Or was it only revealed to him in the blinding flash of the 4illumination which showed him that his own mother’s soul must be pierced by the same sword which transfixed Mary’s? Certain it is that we had to wait for the completion of the lesson, begun in Mary Clancy’s cottage, till that most holy and solemn night when, as he waited, like King Cellach in his prison cell, for “his love, the morning fair”—and the flame-like gift it was to bring him—he wrote for his mother the exquisite prayer, with which he would have her, on the morrow, lay his own broken body in Mary’s outstretched arms. Then was it made plain to us that the mothers of Ireland have won the right to stand thus close to Mary, beneath the Cross, and to claim as their hereditary office, the task to minister to her in her desolation, because they, above all the other women of the world, have so often “seen their first-born sons go forth,” even like Mary’s, “to die amid the scorn of men—For whom they died.”

1.  “Caoineadh Mhuire” (The Keening of Mary) was taken down by P. H. Pearse from the singing of Mary Clancy in Moycullen, and first published by him in the Claidheamh Soluis, October 24th, 1904.

Thus the Desolate Mother, even in a world which has so largely forgotten the sorrows of her and of her Son, has always found, and will find, in the homes of Ireland, her faithful company of keeners. And who shall say that their ministering is less grateful to her, because while they weep for her Son, they are weeping for their own, and the voice they raise in woe is that of Rachel, who will not be comforted?

These poor mothers of our Irish martyrs! These poor Rachels! There is something in their grief which makes it a thing apart. Wives, and sisters, and sweethearts, who have given their dear ones to Ireland have felt, even in their most anguished hour, something of that exaltation which makes “the hard service they take, who help the Poor Old Woman,” a yoke more sweet and precious than any liberty. Like the men, of whose sufferings it was their splendid privilege to partake, the women who have shared their husband’s prison cell, like Jane Emmet, or who have walked with their brothers, even to the foot 5of the scaffold, like Mary Anne McCracken, or who have found death by their lover’s side on the battlefield, like Betsy Gray, “think themselves well paid.” But not even Ireland could pay the mother of the Emmets, or the mother of the Shearses, or heal the hidden wound that bled until her death-night in the heart of Bartholomew Teeling’s mother, or comfort Lord Edward’s poor mother when the roses of each recurring June were redly tragic with the memory of his blood-stained prison deathbed, and its sunshine was darkened by the memory of her boy’s agony. For the greatness of their sorrow, then, shall we not place them first, these broken-hearted mothers, in our tale of the “Women of ’Ninety-Eight”?


The Mother of the Emmets

Elizabeth Mason Emmet—(1740-1803)[2]
“My life was he,
My death his taking.”
Lament of Mothers of Bethlehem.

2.  Authorities: Madden’s “United Irishmen,” Third Series, Second Ed. (London and Dublin, 1860); Dr. Thos. Addis Emmet’s “The Emmet Family” (New York, 1898); J. J. Reynolds’s “Footprints of Emmet” (Dublin, 1903); Smith’s “County and City of Cork,” edited by Day and Copinger (Cork, 1893).

“ON Tuesday, September 20th (1803), the day of the execution of Robert Emmet, he was visited at ten o’clock in the morning, by Mr. Leonard McNally, the barrister, who, on entering the room where Emmet had the indulgence of remaining all that morning in the company of the Rev. Dr. Gamble, the ordinary of Newgate, found him reading the litany of the service of the Church of England. Permission was given to him to retire with McNally into an adjoining room, and on entering it, his first enquiry was after his mother, whose health had been in a declining state, and had wholly broken down under the recent afflictions which had fallen on her. McNally, hesitating to answer the enquiry, Robert Emmet repeated the question, ‘How is my mother?’ McNally, without replying directly, said, ‘I know, Robert, you would like to see your mother.’ The answer was, ‘Oh! what would I not give to see her?’ McNally, pointing upwards, said, ‘Then, Robert, you will see her this day!’ and then gave him an account of his mother’s death, which had taken place some days previously. Emmet made no reply; he stood motionless and silent for some moments, and said, ‘It is better 7so.’ He was evidently struggling hard with his feelings, and endeavouring to suppress them. He made no further allusion to the subject but by expressing ‘a confident hope that he and his mother would meet in heaven.’”[3]

3.  Madden, op. cit. p. 461. Madden’s account of this touching incident was furnished him by John Patten, brother of Mrs. Thos. Addis Emmet, and the devoted friend of the whole Emmet family, who was a prisoner in Kilmainham at the time of Robert Emmet’s trial and execution.

I have known one woman who, having been able to read, with dry eyes, the melting tale of Sarah Curran’s “Broken Heart,” and to listen, without a sob, to the voice of Sarah’s young lover, so soon to be stilled for ever, pleading from the brink of “the cold and silent grave,” for the last charity of the world’s silence, broke into a passion of weeping as the tragedy, which was Robert Emmet’s life-story, swept through every stage of gathering pathos to the almost intolerable poignancy of its climax—the picture, conjured up by Madden, of the mother who lay dead, of a broken heart, in her widowed home in Donnybrook, while her last-born son, her Benjamin, stood in the dock in Green Street on trial for his life.

And yet is there not comfort to be found in the thought that the mother’s loving spirit was liberated in time from the prison of the suffering flesh, to be made free of all the places out of which her boy’s anguish called to her? If, as was Robert Emmet’s fond hope, “the dear shade of his venerated father” looked down upon him, where he stood in the dock, ready to die for the principles which that father had first taught him, surely the soul of the mother was not far away. Surely it bore him company during the long nerve-wrecking, exhausting hours of the trial,[4] giving him the refreshment which the brutality 8of his captors and judges denied; surely it was close at hand when his poor body, on which the fetters of death were so soon to be laid, had to submit for the last time to the more galling fetters of the abominable gaoler of Newgate. Could we bear to think of what Robert Emmet was made to suffer during his last night on earth, if the conviction that his mother’s spirit hovered near him, did not bring us comfort? Brought to Newgate from Green Street about eleven o’clock at night, he was heavily ironed by Gregg, the gaoler, and placed in one of the condemned cells. About an hour after midnight an order came from the Secretary at the Castle that the prisoner must be at once conveyed to Kilmainham. What a journey was that through the darkness of the autumn night! What a journey back from Kilmainham to Thomas Street the next day, when through the seething crowds, the carriage which bore the young martyr to the place of his execution moved in the midst of its strong guard of horse and foot! Even his enemies, looking upon him, were fain to confess that never had they seen a man go forth “to die like this”—with such “unostentatious fortitude,” such marvellous absence of all signs of fear, such a conviction of the glory of dying “for Ireland.” Did the dear Lord make it easy for him “to die like this,” by permitting his mother to leave her place in heaven for a time to be with her boy in the supreme hours?

4.  The trial of Robert Emmet lasted from 9.30 a.m. until 10.30 p.m. During “these thirteen hours of mortal anxiety, of exertion, of attention, constantly engaged, he had no interval of repose, no refreshment.”

Set side by side two pictures. One is that drawn, in such tragic intensity of black and white, by Madden, of a woman of sixty-three, who having drained to the dregs the cup of life’s sorrows, lay down in the home of her widowhood, from which all her children save one were absent, to die of the malady, for which science has found no cure: a broken heart. Nine months earlier her husband had been taken from her and now she, “like the mother of the Shearses, was hurried to her grave by the calamity 9which had fallen on her youngest son; who, it was vainly hoped, was to have occupied one of the vacant places in the house, and in the heart of his afflicted parents. Vainly had they looked up to Thomas Addis Emmet to supply that place which had been left a void by the death of their eldest and most gifted son, Christopher Temple Emmet. And when Thomas Addis was taken away from them and banished, to whom had they to look but to the younger son; and of that last life-hope of theirs they might have spoken with the feelings which animated the Lacedemonian mother, when one of her sons had fallen fighting for his country, and looking on the last of them then living she said ‘Ejus locum expleat frater.’ And that son was taken from them, incarcerated for four years, and doomed to civil death. Thomas Addis Emmet was then a proscribed man in exile. The father had sunk under the trial, although he was a man of courage and equanimity of mind; but the mother’s last hope in her youngest son sustained in some degree her broken strength and spirit; and that one hope was dashed down never to rise again, when her favourite child, the prop of her old age, was taken from her, and the terrible idea of his frightful fate became her one fixed thought—from the instant the dreadful tidings of his apprehension reached her till the approaching term of the crowning catastrophe, when, in mercy to her, she was taken away from her great misery.”

“Orangemen of Ireland ... these are your triumphs; the desolation of the home of an aged, virtuous couple—the ruin in which all belonging to them were involved, the ignominious death of their youngest and gifted child.”[5]

5.  Madden, op. cit. pp. 463-464.

The other picture is one we paint for ourselves of a fair young girl, very slim and graceful in her riding habit, with a charming face, usually a little too serious for its twenty summers, showing now a dainty flush of excitement 10under the piquant riding hood, and clear eyes, usually somewhat too grave for their youth, shining now with an unwonted light. For background a stately eighteenth-century country seat, set in a landscape of exquisite beauty—(What need to describe the entrancing loveliness of woodland, lake and mountain, when it is sufficiently summed up by the magic word, Killarney?) Over it all a sky aflush with the colours of the summer dawn! The haze of summer over the bird-filled, fragrant woods, that sway lightly to the breezes of the virginal new day!

So we picture for ourselves Elizabeth Mason on that summer morning of the year 1760 when she set forth, a charming and accomplished girl of twenty, from the home of her father, James Mason, Esq., of Ballydowney, Killarney, for the memorable visit to Cork, which was to prove an event of such transcendent importance in her life.

We guess something of the hopes and dreams, which lay in James and Catherine Mason’s mind when they yielded to the desires of their son, James (who was a successful business man in Cork), and allowed their only daughter, Elizabeth, to accompany him, on his return to Cork from one of his visits home, for “a season” in the gay, little Southern Capital. Among the country gentlemen of the neighbourhood there was small likelihood of finding a suitable parti for their beautiful girl. Arthur O’Neill’s description of Lord Kenmare’s “Milesian Assembly,” which took place in this identical year,[6] seems to point to a society around Killarney of hard-riding, hard-drinking, jolly squires with few of whom Elizabeth’s cultured and thoughtful mind would have enough in 11common for the prospects of a very happy marriage. Amid the young professional and business men in Cork, with their more intellectual interests, the wider knowledge of life which their close and frequent intercourse with the Continent fostered, their greater accessibility to new ideas, she was, as her prudent, loving parents probably realised, much more likely to find a husband calculated to make her happy. Extraordinarily gifted by nature, her education had been such as to foster her birthgifts. Her great-grandson, Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, of New York, who in his book, “The Emmet Family,” has done us the great service of making us acquainted with the choses intimes of his illustrious stock, has published many of her letters, and they bear out Dr. Madden’s verdict on her “as an amiable, exemplary, high-minded lady, whose understanding was as vigorous as her maternal feelings were strong and ardent.” In another place Madden speaks of her “noble disposition and vigorous understanding,” and in conversation with Dr. Thos. Addis Emmet in 1880 he stated that he considered that she, her husband, her three sons, Christopher Temple, Thomas Addis, Robert, and her daughter, Mary Anne (wife of Robert Holmes) “were the most talented family in every respect he had ever known of.” It was felt, indeed, and not alone by those who hold that “all distinguished men inherit their characteristics rather from the mother than from the father,” that the extraordinary brilliancy of the three sons of Dr. and Mrs. Emmet was largely an inheritance from their mother. And it is impossible to read her letters, with their exquisite precision and felicity of phrase, their ease, and candour and absence of all straining after effect, their expression of a philosophy of life, the noblest, and soundest (because founded on the truest Christian principles) without feeling that they have been penned by a woman rarely gifted in heart and mind.

6.  Mrs. Milligan Fox’s “Annals of the Irish Harpers,” p. 147. It was on this occasion that Arthur O’Neill, in reply to an apologetic remark of Lord Kenmare’s concerning the place that the blind harper had found near the foot of the table, made the famous assertion: “Where an O’Neill sits, there is the head of the table.”

12With these rare gifts of heart and mind, and in all the freshness, and charm, and beauty of her twenty summers, Miss Elizabeth Mason made something of a sensation when she appeared in Cork society. She had numerous relatives in the pleasant little city by the Lee, and each and every one of them was determined that their beautiful visitor should have “a good time.” So once or twice a week some kindly matron would call at James Mason’s house, and carry off his sister to the concerts and “assemblies” which were regular bi-weekly events in the Assembly House near Hamond’s Marsh. Or a party of young people would beg her to join them for a boating excursion on the river, or “a promenade” on the Mall where the beau monde loved to display its gay silk and satins, its feathers and furbelows; or on the Bowling Green, where it took the air under the quaintly cut trees, and listened to the band discoursing sweet music for its delectation; or in Mr. Edward Webber’s gardens near the Mardyke where it ate strawberries and cream, and all the other delectable fruits of the earth, each in its proper season. In the evenings there were theatre-parties, or “drums” at the Assembly House, or in the hospitable and elegant homes of some of Cork’s merchant princes, whose culture was not surpassed by their wealth. Here while the young folk danced their minuets and country-dances, their elders played cards; but both young and old were ready to leave dancing floor, and card table, to take part in the delightful concerts of “Italic airs,” which made one visitor to Cork imagine “the god of music had taken a large stride from the Continent, over England to this island,” and attribute “the humane and gentle disposition of the inhabitants, in some measure, to the refinement of this divine art.” At supper one heard supremely good conversation, for the men of Cork were, according to the same witness, “well versed in public affairs,” fond of news and politics, 13and diligent readers of the newest French and English books, and the periodicals of the day—and their pretty partners made a charmingly appreciative audience while the men talked over the foreign and domestic news they had found in the Dublin and London newspapers, which the two coffee-houses near the Exchange supplied for their customers.[7]

7.  Smith’s “County and City of Cork,” I., 388.

It began to be noticed by the observant matrons, who chaperoned these delightful gatherings, that one brilliant talker seemed particularly anxious to observe the effect his conversation made on clever Elizabeth Mason, and how persistently he sought her out as a partner in ball and supper rooms, or at pic-nic or promenade, whenever his professional occupations allowed him to take part in these functions. They noticed, with approval, that Elizabeth was not indifferent to the attentions of the rising young physician, Dr. Robert Emmet,[8] who having studied medicine and taken his degree with great éclat at one of the most famous medical schools in Europe, that of the University of Montpelier,[9] had taken up practice in Cork some years previously.

8.  Born in Tipperary in 1729, he was just thirty-one years old at the date of his marriage.

9.  His great-grandson, Dr. Thos. Addis Emmet of New York, himself a distinguished specialist, records the publication of a book by Dr. Robert Emmet, in 1753, on some of the diseases of women. It was originally published in Latin and was afterwards translated into French, with two editions printed in Paris (op. cit. p. 47).

In due course the good-natured gossips of Cork learned that Dr. Emmet had sent proposals, through James Mason, jun., to Mr. and Mrs. James Mason of Ballydowney, for the hand of their daughter, Elizabeth, and that the parents, having satisfied themselves, after due enquiry, that the connection was a suitable one, had given their consent to the marriage. Dr. Emmet was the son of a physician, Dr. Christopher Emmet, in Tipperary, and 14in addition to his professional earnings had inherited a considerable fortune from his father. Through his mother, Rebecca Temple, he was connected with one of the most aristocratic families in England. Satisfactory marriage settlements were speedily arranged, and preparations were pushed on for the wedding, which took place in Cork on November 16th, 1760.

Dr. Madden informs us, on the authority of Elizabeth Mason’s nephew, Mr. J. St. John Mason, that the doctor built a large house for his bride in George’s Street. It seems probable that the ménage included from the beginning the doctor’s widowed mother, Mrs. Rebecca Temple Emmet, and his widowed and childless sister-in-law, Mrs. Grace Russell Emmet, relict of his brother Thomas, who died in 1754. At all events these two ladies died under the doctor’s roof, after the family had moved to Dublin; the elder in 1774, the younger in 1788. A bequest of the latter to her “dear sister-in-law” of a gold watch, and ample legacies to the children seem to betoken that Elizabeth Emmet had the secret of gaining the hearts of her husband’s kin, and that as mistress of a large and wealthy household she knew how to make all who sat by her hearth, or gathered round her table, happy.

She was soon busy in her nursery. In 1761, her first-born son, Christopher Temple Emmet, made his entry into it. The boy was destined, like Cuchullin, to “a great name and a short life.” He was only twenty-eight when he died, but he had already impressed his contemporaries as one of the most brilliant men of his time. Grattan, who disliked the Emmets intensely (because they had the courage of their convictions, and he, in spite of his fiery rhetoric, was all for compromise and security), has left on record his opinion of Temple Emmet, and it is worth quoting at length:—

“Temple Emmet, before he came to the Bar, knew more law than any of the judges on the bench; and if 15he had been placed on one side, and the whole bench opposed to him, he could have been examined against them, and would have surpassed them all; he would have answered better both in law and divinity than any judge or any bishop in the land. He had a wonderful memory—he recollected everything—it stuck to him with singular tenacity. He showed this in his early youth, and on one occasion he gave a strong instance of it. There existed at that time in Dublin College, an institution called the Historical Society; there were subjects selected for discussion, and prior to the debate there was an examination in history. On one occasion the books happened to be mislaid, and it was thought no examination could have taken place; but Emmet, whose turn it was to be in the chair, and who had read the course, recollected the entire, and examined in every part of it, and with surprising ability.”[10]

10.  Grattan’s “Life and Times.” By Henry Grattan, the younger. IV. 356.

In reading the records of eighteenth-century families, we are equally astonished at the size of them, and the small proportion of their members to survive infancy. Dr. and Mrs. Emmet had seventeen children in seventeen years, and of these there only grew to manhood and womanhood three sons, Christopher Temple, Thomas Addis (born 1764), Robert (born 1778), and one daughter, Mary Anne (born 1773). Of the other thirteen, there remained only their names in Aunt Grace’s family bible, followed by the pitiable record, “died young.”

One circumstance moves us strangely: four little Robert Emmets (the first born in 1771, the others in 1774, 1776, 1777) came, and finding the burden of life too heavy, laid it quickly down, until he came, the fifth, the destined one, who was to take it up and carry it, until his hero-fate bade him lay it down—for Ireland.

16Perhaps the little graves that multiplied so fast in the Cork cemetery made that city a depressing place for Elizabeth Emmet; or perhaps her husband was attracted to Dublin, by the promises of professional advancement offered by the appointment to the Viceroyalty of his kinsman, the Marquis of Buckingham. At all events it is a matter of history that Dr. and Mrs. Emmet came to Dublin in 1771 and took up their residence in Molesworth Street.[11] Here a number of their children were born, including Mary Anne (1773) and Robert (1778).

11.  The identification of the house is of much interest, as it was that in which Robert Emmet was born. A writer in Georgian Society Record (IV. 94) states that it is now numbered 22, and forms portion of Kilworth House.

In this same year, 1771, Dr. Emmet was appointed State Physician, and owing to his character and capacity, was soon in possession also, of a large private practice. He was a charming, genial man, and a great favourite with his patients. His wife’s nephew, St. John Mason, described him to Dr. Madden as “a man of easy and gentlemanly manners, remarkable for vivacity and pleasantry, but free from coarseness or that exaggeration of expression in moments of hilarity called grimace. He possessed humour but not of a caustic nature. In discourse he was fluent and happy in the choice of words, and in the use of classical quotations. He was remarkably punctual and precise in business and professional affairs.” By his professional skill and business prudence Dr. Emmet amassed a considerable fortune, and lived in a manner commensurate with it, entertaining much good company, and taking a leading part in the brilliant society of the day.

After the birth of their youngest child, Robert, in 1778, the Emmets moved from their house in Molesworth Street, to a splendid new mansion in Stephen’s Green. Those were the days of the Volunteers, and Ireland, stirred 17to the depths by the example of America’s struggle for freedom, was gathering her forces to make the same demand, which America had already secured—and to back it by the same arguments. Less fortunate than America—or less wisely and nobly led—Ireland did not force the question to the decision of the field of battle, but accepted in full settlement of her claim a something which only Grattan and his friends, blinded by their own verbal fire-works, could have mistaken for liberty. Dr. Robert Emmet was one of those who saw, from the beginning, the inadequacy of the Settlement of 1782; and there is no doubt but that it was from him that his sons learned that political creed—the doctrine of “Absolute Independence”—for which one of them was to suffer the “white martyrdom” of exile, and the other the “red martyrdom” of blood. Grattan and Curran and others of their ilk who could never forgive those who had the pluck and honesty to draw their logical conclusion from the premises which they themselves had instituted, have tried to discredit Dr. Emmet by throwing ridicule on him. Grattan’s son quotes his father as saying that “Dr. Emmet had his pill and his plan, and he mixed so much politics with his prescription, that he would kill the patient who took the one, and ruin the country that listened to the other.” And Curran loved to raise a laugh among his friends—Sir Jonah Barrington and other high-minded gentlemen—by “taking off” the Doctor administering “their morning draught” to his sons. “Well, Temple, what would you do for your country? Addis, would you kill your brother for your country? Would you kill your sister for your country? Would you kill me?” We can listen with equanimity to the bitter epigrams of Grattan, or the monkey-like buffoonery of Curran when we remember what his own sons thought of Dr. Emmet: “Dear shade of my venerated father,” cried Robert as he stood in the dock facing his 18iniquitous judges and accusers, “look down on your suffering son, and see has he for one moment deviated from those moral and patriotic principles which you so early instilled into his youthful mind, and for which he has now to offer up his life.” And Thomas Addis Emmet, writing to his mother from Brussels, on the receipt of the news of his father’s death (December, 1802), has drawn for his own, and his mother’s consolation, a noble portrait of him whom they had lost: “The first comfort you can know must spring up from within yourself, from your reflection and religion, from your recalling to memory that my father’s active and vigorous mind was always occupied in doing good to others. That his seventy-five years were unostentatiously but inestimably filled with perpetual services to his fellow-creatures. That although he was tried, and that severely, with some of those calamities from which we cannot be exempt, yet he enjoyed an uncommon portion of tranquillity and happiness, for, by his firmness and understanding, he was enabled to bear like a man the visitations of external misfortunes, and from within no troubled conscience or compunction of self-reproach ever disturbed his peace.”

The years from 1778 to 1789 were, doubtless, the happiest years in Elizabeth Emmet’s life. The elder boys, Christopher Temple and Thomas Addis, were at the University, and a mother even less tender than she, could not but be filled with pride and happiness at the brilliant records they were making for themselves. In one of these years there arrived from America kinsfolk of her husband’s, Sir John and Robert Temple, and the latter’s family, and in the hospitable eighteenth-century manner which its big houses and generous style of living fostered, they became inmates of Dr. and Mrs. Emmet’s house. The tie which bound the Emmets to the Temples was strengthened, when in 1784 Christopher Temple Emmet married his cousin, Miss Anne Western Temple, 19daughter of Robert. He had been called to the Bar a short time previously and was in extensive practice. I have already quoted Grattan’s opinion of his gifts. Even more significant was the testimony—spoken of all places in the world—in the very Court wherein Christopher’s youngest brother was awaiting the death-sentence—and by the lips that were so soon to pronounce it, the cruel lips of “Hanging Judge” Norbury. “You had an eldest brother whom death snatched away, and who when living was one of the greatest ornaments of the Bar. The laws of his country were the study of his youth, and the study of his maturer years was to cultivate and support them.” With Christopher marked out, by the judgment of all the competent men of his time for high advancement; with a charming and amiable new daughter added to her household in the shape of Christopher’s wife; with her second son, Thomas Addis, winning all sorts of distinctions for himself in the University of Edinburgh, whither he had gone to study medicine; with Mary Anne, growing into lovely womanhood, and showing a strength of character and a breadth of intellect, which stamped her as a true Emmet; with young Robert, earning praise from his masters and regard from his comrades; with the spectacle of her husband’s delight in all this to double her own—Elizabeth Emmet might well count herself, for one golden moment at least, that rare thing: a perfectly happy woman.

Alas! Alas! how short the moment to which we may cry with Faust, “tarry awhile, thou art so fair.” Very speedily, Elizabeth Emmet’s “fair moment” passed. In February, 1789, her son, Christopher Temple, went “circuit” in Munster—and one day to those who waited his return in the pleasant home in Stephen’s Green there came the tragic news of his death from smallpox. The blow was too severe for Christopher’s young wife. She died a few months after her husband, leaving their little 20daughter, Kitty, to the care of her grandparents. Elizabeth Emmet had to live on—to face the sorrows that yet awaited her.

At the desire of Dr. Emmet, the second son, Thomas Addis, anxious “to fill” as far as in him lay, “the place of his brother,” turned aside from the profession of medicine, in which he had already graduated, and took up that of law. He was called to the Bar in 1790. In 1791, he married Miss Jane Patten, daughter of Rev. John Patten of Clonmel, his choice of a bride giving the greatest satisfaction to his father and mother.

At first the young couple lived with the old Doctor and his wife, as part of the one household; but as the little grandchildren began to fill the nursery, it was found desirable to provide separate establishments. The Doctor, with this end in view, divided his house in Stephen’s Green, West, into two portions. It stood (and still stands, divided as the Doctor left it into two residences) at the corner of Lamb’s Lane and Stephen’s Green, West,[12] and the Doctor kept the corner portion for himself and assigned the inner to his son’s family. Thomas Addis Emmet had, also, as we know from Tone’s “Autobiography,” “a charming villa” at Rathfarnham, and doubtless the whole family were made welcome in it, whenever the call of the countryside overbid the attractions of the town, in the years previous to Dr. Emmet’s purchase of Casino—the country residence where he spent his last years.

12.  Mr. Reynolds identifies them as 124 and 125 Stephen’s Green, West. In Dr. Emmet’s time the house was numbered 109.

The mention of Tone fitly introduces the years of Thomas Addis Emmet’s public life—his efforts for Catholic Emancipation, his connection with the United Irishmen. But, as we shall speak more fully of these years when we come to tell the story of Thomas Addis Emmet’s wife, 21we shall content ourselves here with a thought of the anxieties, which must have been the constant companions of a woman so clever and far-sighted as his mother. Where was all this leading to? Her son, himself with his clear grave eyes and resolute heart, knew perfectly well—like the majority of the leaders of the United Irishmen—that the course in which he was embarked was one which would, most probably, call for the sacrifice of all that men hold dear. Brilliant professional prospects; the elegance and comfort of a home adorned by a charming wife and a band of lovely children; property and position and the interest in a settled order of things which they bring with them; life itself—all these Thomas Addis Emmet saw himself called upon at any moment to renounce for the loyal service of Ireland. “It is a hard service they take,” indeed, “who serve the Poor Old Woman”! “But, for all that, they think themselves well paid.”

On March the 12th, 1798, when the Government, acting on the information of Thomas Reynolds, swooped down on the Leinster Directory of United Irishmen, assembled in Oliver Bond’s house, Emmet was arrested in his home in Stephen’s Green and committed to Newgate, from whence he was afterwards conveyed to Kilmainham. Of his wife’s heroic conduct on that occasion we shall have an inspiring tale to tell. While her daughter-in-law shared her husband’s imprisonment, Elizabeth Emmet found merciful occupation in the care of the five little grandchildren whom they had confided to her: Robert, Margaret, Elizabeth, John Patten, Thomas Addis.

In April, the authorities, alarmed by the spirit of patriotism which was manifesting itself among the students of Trinity College, ordered the “Visitation,” of which Moore gives an account in his “Memoirs.”

In anticipation of the verdict of Lord Chancellor Fitzgibbon, Robert Emmet, who was looked on as the leader 22of the patriot youths, requested the Board of Fellows to take his name off the books of the college. During the wild excitement of the next few months: the bloody weeks of “the Rising” in May and June; the executions and court-martials of July; the French landing in August; the new executions which followed it, in September; the capture of Tone in October; his court-martial and death in November, all through the tragic calendar of the year 1798, Dr. Emmet and his wife Elizabeth had, at least, the comfort of their younger son’s constant presence with them.

In this year Dr. Emmet set the houses in Stephen’s Green, and took up his residence with his family (which now included his grandchildren) in a country house he had recently purchased for himself, Casino, Milltown. This historic house still stands, and Mr. Reynolds’s indications make it easy to locate: “at the corner of Bird Avenue on the eastern side of the Dundrum Road, midway between Milltown and Windy Arbour.”

Two events of much importance mark the following year (1799) in Elizabeth Emmet’s maternal calendar. The first was the removal of Thomas Addis and the other State prisoners to Fort George in the North of Scotland; the second was the marriage of her daughter, Mary Anne, to the distinguished barrister, Robert Holmes.

Early in 1800, Robert Emmet visited his brother in Fort George, passing from thence to the Continent where he remained until after the signing of the Peace of Amiens in 1802.

Later in the year, Jane Emmet made good the design which her conjugal affection had long inspired, and which no governmental rebuff could weaken—that of joining her husband in Fort George. She went there in July, escorted by her brother, John Patten, and accompanied by her three elder children, Robert, Margaret, and Elizabeth. With the grandparents at Casino were left John 23Patten, Thomas Addis, and a sturdy little chap called Christopher Emmet, who had joined the goodly company since we last made the enumeration of them.

During the years Thomas Addis and his wife spent in Fort George there was a constant interchange of letters between Casino and the grim northern keep in which the Irish State prisoners were so long interned. Sometimes the Casino news is conveyed by Dr. Emmet—whose letters remind us of St. John Mason’s description of his conversation; sometimes it is Mary Anne Holmes who holds the pen; sometimes it is Kitty, the orphan daughter of Christopher Temple and Anne Western Temple. But most frequently it is the mother and in these letters we get our best picture of the sort of woman Elizabeth Emmet was.[13] There are pleasant glimpses, too, of the home-life in Casino. We see the father, seeking solace for his anxieties in his labours in beautifying the house he fondly hoped was to be the home of his children, and his children’s children. The thirteen acres around Casino serve the purpose of Penelope’s web, and the loving wife finds comfort in watching the amusement he gets from his tree-planting and landscape gardening, his industry in gravelling the walks and raking them when they have been gravelled. Convinced that “the promises of hope are better than the gifts of fortune,” he has built a fine nursery ’gainst the happy day when all his grandchildren (and their parents) shall be gathered together under his patriarchal roof; and a certain cherry tree in full blossom makes him and his wife long to see Jane and her charming children gathered under it. The Doctor’s craze for transplanting trees which, to the rest of the 24family, seem to be perfectly well placed where they are, has grown into a family joke; but his wife is too well pleased to see the good effect the interest and occupation have on his health to protest now, as she was wont to do, even “tho’ from the earliness of the season and the age of the trees she despairs of ever seeing a leaf upon any of them.” “As we have a great demand for pea-rods,” she remarks jestingly, “they will not be useless.” She gathers up all the news she can about their friends, knowing how welcome such items are to exiles. Dr. Drennan, who has attended Mary Anne at the birth of her first-born baby, is happily “married to a very amiable, pretty young woman”; “he has waited to some good purpose.” We have a pretty etching of the author of the “Wake of William Orr,” and the famous “Orellana Letters,” “leaning over the cradle of his little heir, so anxious about it lest it should die.” Other friends, like Lady Anne Fitzgerald, Ally Spring, the Temples—and, above all, the Pattens and the Colvilles—find frequent mention. She does not hesitate to inculcate certain “musty precepts” as to health, which her knowledge of her son’s and her daughter-in-law’s dispositions seems to her to call for. Jane must refrain from “the great efforts of which she is so fond,” for “system is better than swiftness,” and though “we may admire the speed and power of a racehorse, a steady draft horse will in general be found as useful and much more durable.” Both Thomas Addis and Jane are fond, she knows, of heated rooms and late hours, and their prudent mother reminds them of the necessity of fresh air in their bed-chamber and living room, and preaches the doctrine of “early to bed and early to rise.”

13.  They are published at length by Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet in his “Emmet Family” (pp. 71-101). They are models of grace and style, and one wishes they were in the hands of our women who have so largely lost the old-world accomplishment of letter-writing.

But what most people will think the most delightful thing in the letters are the pictures they give of the children. As has been already mentioned, the three elder were with their parents in Fort George, and almost 25all the State prisoners were lending a hand, each in his own speciality, to their education. The accounts of their progress interests their grandmother keenly, and she helps with comments on their dispositions as she had studied them. She is proud of Elizabeth’s beauty and goodness of disposition, of Margaret’s shrewdness of observation, and liberality and directness in dealing; but “the tenderness of Robert’s tones and the brightness of his countenance give him the advantage over all the other children whatever.” It is easy to see that Robert is his grandmother’s favourite, dear as all the children are to her. A letter from him gives her “great pleasure, for it is a true picture of his heart, overflowing with innocence, honesty, and good nature.” She begs for “minute accounts of the three children ...,” she and her husband “being glad to feed upon crumbs that fall from her son’s table.” In return she is almost as minute as her son and daughter-in-law could wish about the three from whom they are separated. She draws a funny little sketch of the “little fellow,” two-year-old Christopher Temple, “fighting hard in dumb show for his share in his grandfather’s claret,” and a little later on “engaging in his elder brother’s plays, and forcing himself into notice more than the others.” John is the other grandmother’s favourite, and Tom is pronounced by Ally Spring “the finest child you have,” but “the little fellow,” as Elizabeth always calls the baby namesake of her dead first-born, is of all the three confided to her care the nearest to her heart. We must, however, reserve further quotations from the letters, as far as they regard her grandchildren, until we come to discuss their education, at some length, in our memoir of their mother.

The letters paint the writer as a grave and somewhat reserved nature. She feels that she has not her husband’s “gracious manner,” which perhaps prevents her daughter-in-law judging of the strength of her love for her. She 26is inclined by nature to melancholy. “Solitude has through life stuck to me like an inner garment, and I find that it exceeds even those of the children of Israel; it is a habit that instead of wearing by time, grows stronger by constant use.” But she has the great anchors of Faith and Charity. She feels her blessings with a grateful heart, and wishes to discern and adore the healing hand which has been held out to her in the midst of trials and distresses, and without which her natural infirmities must have sunk under the scenes she has gone through. The most persistent note in this correspondence is that of deep and true religious feeling and, as we catch it, we seem to understand how it came about that in the midst of the corrupt society which was that of eighteenth century Dublin, this woman’s sons were kept chaste and undefiled—Moore’s tribute to the unspotted youth of Robert comes back to us, bringing with it unconscious tribute to the pure and exalting influence of Robert’s mother.

The letters end in 1802, when Thomas Addis Emmet was released from Fort George and awaited in Brussels certain developments which were to determine his future movements. Here the news of his father’s death reached him, and his own letter on that occasion to his mother, which I have already quoted, brought forth one from her which, apart from its intrinsic interest, must have ever borne in the eyes of her son a priceless value, for when he received it, the hand that had penned it was long mouldering into dust. It was addressed to the Poste Restante, New York, and only reached its addressee on his arrival in that city in November 11th, 1804.

In the interval the race of Emmet had been practically exterminated in the land for which they had given so much. The death of Elizabeth Emmet on September 9th, 1803, was followed by her youngest son’s execution a few weeks later. In 1804 Mary Anne Holmes died most 27tragically in the arms of her husband, newly liberated from prison. One guesses that the little children, John, and Tom, and Temple, were then taken care of by their Grandmother Patten, until an opportunity could be found of sending them across the Atlantic to their parents. They had gone with Grandmother Emmet, when she left Casino, after her husband’s death, to take up her residence in Blomfield, Donnybrook. And, no doubt, Mary Anne Holmes and poor cousin Kitty did what they could to care for them and comfort them. But if the pathos of the scene drawn by Madden of the death chamber of Elizabeth Emmet could have borne any heightening, doubtless he would have introduced in it the tiny figures of three little frightened, sable-clad boys, standing hand in hand for comfort, and weeping—though they knew it not—for the tragedy of the passing of their house from Irish soil.


The Mother of Lord Edward Fitzgerald

Emilia Mary, Duchess of Leinster (1731-1814)[14]
“And the flower I held brightest of all that grew in soil or shall ever grow
Is rotting in the ground, and will spring no more to lift up my heart.”
A Father’s Keen, by Patrick O’Hegarty.

14.  Authorities: Moore’s “Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald”; Campbell’s “Edward and Pamela Fitzgerald,” “Letters of Horace Walpole,” works of Mrs. Delaney, etc.

“GREATER love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”—(John xv. 13). Ever since that June dawn, when its first sweet rays, stealing through the bars of the prison window in Newgate, fell on the form that lay rigid and still on the prison bed, we know what was “the greatest love” in Lord Edward’s life. For on that sad bed, still disordered from the tossings of his fever-racked limbs, still stained with his life-blood, there lay one who had died for Ireland.

By the supreme test, therefore, vouched for by the Supreme Lover, we know that the love of Ireland was Lord Edward’s “greatest love,” and that all other loves of his had to yield to its supremacy. But we can only measure the magnitude of his love for Ireland, if we have the measure of his other loves to set beside it. And so it falls out, that we have a particular need, if we would estimate Lord Edward aright, and would understand what he had to offer to Ireland, to know something of his other loves, and of those who inspired them. Above 29all we must know something of his extraordinary love for his mother.

His letters are full of it: “I am never so happy as when with you, dearest mother, you seem to make every distress lighter, and I bear everything better, and enjoy everything more when with you.” And again: “You cannot think how I feel to want you here. I dined and slept at Frescati the other day, Ogilvie and I, tête-à-tête. We talked a great deal of you. Though the place makes me melancholy, yet it gives one pleasant feelings. To be sure, the going to bed without wishing you a good night; the coming down in a morning, and not seeing you; the sauntering about in the fine sunshine, looking at your flowers and shrubs without you to lean upon one, was all very bad indeed. In settling my journey that evening, I determined to see you in my way, supposing you were even a thousand miles out of it.”

There is one letter to the “dearest of mothers,” in which he places his love for her above all else: “I assure you I miss you very, very much. I am not half so merry as I should be if you were here. I get tired of everything, and want to have you to go and talk to. You are, after all, what I love best in the world. I love you more than I think I do; but I will not give way to such thoughts, for it always makes me grave. I really made myself miserable for two days since I left you, by this sort of reflections; and in thinking over with myself what misfortunes I could bear, I found there was one I could not; but God bless you.”

Was it Lord Edward’s surpassing love for his mother, that made her, on her side, single him out among all her children to lavish her tenderness on; or did she recognise in his great capacity for love a heritage from her own nature which drew this son closer to her than any other child she had ever borne? It is certain that of her numerous children—they counted twenty-one in 30all—Lord Edward was his mother’s favourite, and was accepted as such by the rest of the family. Mr. Gerald Campbell thinks her very frankness in avowing her preference for him prevented any jealousy among the others. Among the seventy or eighty letters of the Duchess to her daughters and others which Mr. Campbell examined before writing his charming book, “Edward and Pamela Fitzgerald,” there is hardly one, he tells us, “in which she does not express her exceeding love for him above all the rest.” He quotes: “Dear, dear Eddy! How constantly he is in my thoughts!” “In Edward nothing surprises me, dear angel; he has always loved me in an uncommon degree from childhood.” “I do not pretend to say that Dearest Angel Edward is not the first object: you have all been used to allow me that indulgence of partiality to him, and none of you, I believe, blame me for it, or see my excessive attachment to that Dear Angel with a jealous eye.” The truth is that Lord Edward had to an extraordinary degree, the gift, so often accorded as a birthright to persons with a great work to do in the world, of winning hearts. And probably his own brothers and sisters were as ready to succumb to his magnetism as the rest of the world.

It would not be surprising if Lord Edward inherited his power of winning hearts, as well as his capacity for love, from his fascinating mother, and she, in her turn, wielded it in virtue of her Stuart blood. For she was the great-granddaughter of Charles II and the beautiful Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth. Of the numerous daughters of her father and mother, the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, four grew to womanhood, and of these Lady Emilia Mary was the second. All four were famous for their great beauty and charm; and all four have played a notable part in history. Lady Caroline, who married Stephen Fox, afterwards Lord Holland, was the mother of the brilliant statesman, Charles James 31Fox. Lady Louisa married Mr. Connolly, of Castletown. Lady Sarah, some years after the unfortunate termination of her first marriage with Sir Charles Bunbury, married Colonel Napier and became the mother of many distinguished soldier sons, including Sir William Napier, the historian of the Peninsular Wars, and Sir Charles Napier, the conqueror of Scinde.

I do not know why the novelists who have found in the life romance of the four beautiful Lennox girls such a wealth of material should have passed over the love-story of their parents. It is, if possible, more romantic than any of them. The story is told by their grandson, Mr. Henry Napier, and published in the introduction to the “Life and Letters of Lady Sarah Lennox” (pp. 85-87), his mother:

“My grandfather, the second Duke of Richmond, was one of the Lords of the Bedchamber to King George the Second, who then resided at Kensington Palace. He had been, as was the custom in those days, married while yet a boy to Lady Sarah Cadogan.... This marriage was made to cancel a gambling debt, the young people’s consent having been the last thing thought of; the Earl of March[15] was sent for from school, and the young lady from her nursery, a clergyman was in attendance, and they were told they were immediately to become man and wife! The young lady is not reported to have uttered a word; the gentleman exclaimed, ‘They surely are not going to marry me to that dowdy!’ The ceremony, however, took place; a postchaise was ready at the door, and Lord March was instantly packed off with his tutor to make the ‘grand tour,’ while his young wife was returned to the care of her mother, a Dutch woman, daughter of William Munster, Counsellor of 32Holland. After some years spent abroad Lord March returned, a well-educated handsome young man, but with no very agreeable recollections of his wife. Wherefore, instead of at once seeking his own home, he went directly to the Opera or Theatre, where he amused himself between the acts in examining the company. He had not long been occupied in this manner when a very young and beautiful woman more especially struck his fancy, and turning to a gentleman beside him he asked who she was. ‘You must be a stranger in London,’ replied the gentleman, ‘not to know the toast of the town, the beautiful Lady March.’ Agreeably surprised at this intelligence, Lord March proceeded to the box, announced himself, and claimed his bride—the very dowdy whom he had so scornfully rejected some years before, but with whom he afterwards lived so happily that she died of a broken heart within the year of his decease, which took place in Godalming, in Surrey, in August, 1750, when my mother was only five years and a few months old.”

15.  The title borne by the hero of the story while his father, the first Duke of Richmond, was still alive.

The Mother of Lord Edward Fitzgerald

The conjugal affection which ever afterwards united the hero and heroine of this pretty romance receives emphatic testimony from Horace Walpole. In the gossip he gathers up for his correspondents their names figure frequently; and while he jests maliciously about the Duke’s “pride and Stuartism,” and the Duchess’s “grandeur,” he is an enthusiastic admirer of her Grace’s beauty, and his cynicism is not proof against the spectacle of her love for her husband, and her devotion to her children. Like her daughter, the Duchess of Leinster, she had an extraordinarily large family—twenty-six, as we learn from Horace Walpole[16]—but as was so often the case in these enormous eighteenth-century families—but a small proportion of them survived their infancy. We have a 33pretty picture of the Duchess and her husband (“who sat by his wife all night kissing her hand”) at the ball given by “long Sir Thomas Robinson” for “the Duke’s little girl,” Lady Caroline Lennox, in October, 1741. “The beauties,” he informs his Florentine correspondent, Sir Horace Mann, “were the Duke of Richmond’s two daughters,[17] and their mother, still handsomer than they.” At the Duchess of Norfolk’s great “masquerade” of February 17th, 1742, to which Royalty went, ablaze with diamonds, and where “quantities of pretty Vandykes, and all kinds of old pictures walked out of their frames,” the “two finest and most charming masks,” in Mr. Walpole’s opinion, “were their Graces of Richmond, like Henry the Eighth and Jane Seymour, excessively rich, and both so handsome!”[18]

16.  “Letters,” II., 221.

17.  “Letters,” I., 85. The editor of the Walpole “Letters,” identifies the second of these girls as Lady Emily, our heroine, but it seems very unlikely, as she was only ten years old at the date of this ball.

18.  Ibid., p. 146.

Owing to their father’s position at Court, the little Lennox girls were well known to the old king, George II, and prime favourites with him. He was Lady Emily’s godfather, and the christening cup he gave her is still preserved at Carton. He was delighted, beyond measure, when one day, taking his constitutional on the broad walk at Kensington, he saw a charming little maid rush from her French bonne and come bounding up to him with a saucy “Comment vous portez vous Monsieur le Roi, vous avez une grande et belle maison ici, n’est ce pas?” It was little Lady Sarah Lennox, and the king, having discovered her identity, invited her bonne to carry her often to see his “grande et belle maison.” The children learned to speak French before they spoke English, and Lady Emily, in particular, showed herself all through life an enthusiastic admirer of French literature, and very 34accessible to the new ideas of which that literature made itself the vehicle. Horace Walpole tells us of the delight he experienced, on one occasion when he had invited her and her sister, Lady Caroline, with their husbands, Lord Kildare and Mr. Fox, to Strawberry Hill, and the weather turned out too wet to show his company the wonders of his castle and grounds, to find that Lady Kildare was “a true Sévignist.” “You know,” he remarks to his correspondent, Richard Bentley, “what pleasure I have in any increase in our sect” (i.e. the cult of Madame de Sévigné). “I thought she looked handsomer than ever, as she talked of Notre Dame des Rochers.”[19] Later on, we hear from Mrs. Delany of her admiration for Rousseau, and his theories of education; and we know from one of her daughters that her great interest in education made her a diligent reader of Madame de Genlis. She seems to have spent much time in her girlhood with her mother’s relations in Holland, and this fact, together with the French influences which presided over her education, gave her a European point of view, which was in striking contrast with the insularity of the majority of English-women of her class and generation. Doubtless, this cosmopolitanism of his mother’s was, also, not without its effect on Lord Edward.

19.  A name given by Horace Walpole to Madame de Sévigné, of whose “Letters” he was a devoted enthusiast. He sometimes calls her “Notre Dame de Livry”—Les Rochers and Livry were the names of her country seats.

In 1744, her elder sister, Lady Caroline, eloped with Mr. Henry Fox, to the great displeasure of the Richmonds. “The town,” writes Horace Walpole to his namesake in Florence (May 27th, 1744) “has been in a great bustle about a private match; but which by the ingenuity of the ministry, has been made politics. Mr. Fox fell in love with Lady Caroline Lennox, asked her, was refused, 35and stole her. His father was a footman;[20] her great grandfather, a king: hinc illae lacrymae.”

20.  Sir Stephen Fox was said originally to have been a choir-boy in Salisbury Cathedral. He died, after a romantic career, and having held office under four sovereigns—Charles II, James II, King William, and Queen Anne—one of the wealthiest men in England.

It was only after some years, and when the birth of Lady Caroline’s eldest little boy made the struggle between tenderness and pride in her parents’ hearts incline overwhelmingly towards the former, that they consented to a reconciliation. The touching letter which the Duke addresses to his daughter on this occasion has been published by the Princess Liechtenstein in her book on “Holland House” (pp. 68-72), and will be read with interest by all who have learned to like Lord Edward’s maternal grandfather and grandmother, from Horace Walpole’s account of them.

One consequence of Lady Caroline’s runaway marriage was to make the Duke and Duchess of Richmond extra careful about the chaperonage of their second daughter, Lady Emily. Horace Walpole has an amusing story to tell in this connection of a little “set-to” between the Duchess of Richmond and the witty but eccentric Duchess of Queensberry. “There is a very good quarrel on foot between two duchesses: she of Queensberry sent to invite Lady Emily Lennox to a ball: her Grace of Richmond, who is wonderfully cautious since Lady Caroline’s elopement, sent word ‘she could not determine.’ The other sent again the same night: the same answer. The Queensberry then sent word, that she had made up her company, and desired to be excused from having Lady Emily’s; but at the bottom of the card wrote, ‘Too great a trust.’”[21]

21.  Letter to Sir Horace Mann, March 29, 1745.

Carefully guarded as Lady Emily might be, the town 36was soon busy with her name. When Prince Lobkowitz arrived in England in the beginning of 1745 and was observed to pay great attention to the Duke of Richmond’s charming daughter, it was immediately reported that they would make a match of it. The gossip even reached Mrs. Dewes, deep in the provinces, and in reply to a question she puts her sister, Mrs. Delany, about it, the latter gives the accepted version of the story:[22] “You were not quite misinformed about Lady Emily Lennox and Prince Lobkowitz; he was in love with her and made proposals of marriage, but the Emperor would not consent on some foolish reason of State. I never heard that Lady Emily was in any way engaged to him, and everything is agreed on between her and Lord Kildare, and my Lady Kildare is come over for the wedding. Prince Lob. was in England last year.”

22.  Letter to Mrs. Dewes, November 7, 1746.

Well informed as Mrs. Delany prided herself on being, it is not to be expected that she would know as much about the matter as Lady Emily herself; and fortunately we have in a letter of the latter’s addressed to her friend, Hon. Anne Hamilton,[23] her version of the incident. As the letter gives a vivid idea of our heroine as a lively girl, of fourteen or fifteen, and of the sort of society in which she moved, it is worth reproducing.

23.  Afterwards Countess of Roden. The letters of Lady Emily to Miss Hamilton are in the possession of the Earl of Roden and have been published by the Marquis of Kildare in his “Earls of Kildare,” Second Addenda, 1866, p. 76 et seq.

“Prince Lobkowitz, who I believe you remember a giddy, good-natured wild young man, as any in the world, was coming to Goodwood, and has had a fall off his horse, so that I fancy he won’t be here this good while; a propos to him I must make you laugh and tell you what the Town says, he is in love with me, I very much so with him, but his relatives don’t care he should marry a Protestant, 37though as he is his own master that would be no objection, but that Papa and Mamma, great as he is, won’t part with me, and besides have other views for me; is not this a pretty story. I assure you ’tis told for certain all over the Town, and several of my friends have told me of it. The truth of the matter is, he is vastly fashionable, and as I happen to speak French and to know most of his acquaintances in Holland, he takes it into his head to talk a good deal to me, and you know in London two people can never talk together a quarter of an hour but they must immediately either be in love or to be married. They say also that the Venetian ambassadrice is in love with him and with rather more truth, for she really behaves very ridiculously about him.[24] As you love these sort of things I must tell you a ridiculous thing enough. Prince Lobkowitz was one night at supper at the Venetian ambassadrice’s and the Prince of Wales sent for him, upon which he went and she was excessively angry with him for leaving her to go; in joking she said since he would go she would keep his hat. Accordingly the next morning she cut the hat into a million of little pieces and sent it to him with her compliments. About a week after he told her a pye which he had promised her had come from Germany, upon which she invited a vast deal of company to dinner, and when she came to open the pye, behold it was the bits of hat which she had sent him. I think it gives one a very good notion of them both.”

24.  Some of the pranks of this lady, which created a sensation, even in the irresponsible society of the period, are related with great verve by Horace Walpole.

Very soon after, “the Town” had given her a new suitor—and this time with more reason. As early as April 15th, 1746, Mr. Horace Walpole was able to report to Sir Horace Mann that the Duke of Richmond “has refused his beautiful Lady Emily to Lord Kildare, the richest and first peer of Ireland, on a ridiculous notion 38of the King’s evil being in the family.” The Earl persisted in his suit, and the Duke’s objections were finally overcome so that by the end of the year we find Lady Emily writing to her friend “Nancy” Hamilton to announce her betrothal. “In short, in order that the whole town of London should not tell a lye, Lord Kildare desires to make them speak truth, and as Papa and Mamma have no objection to it. I am willing to save them from this and heartily wish they would tell no more.” A little after the announcement of the engagement, Mrs. Delany met the beautiful bride-elect at the Prince of Wales’s “Birthday” in Leicester House, and waxes enthusiastic in a letter to her sister, Mrs. Dewes (January 21, 1747), over her loveliness. Even the hideous dress of the moment (“hoops of enormous size and most people wear vast winkers to their heads”), which make other women look like “blown bladders,” could not destroy Lady Emily’s exquisite beauty. “The reigning beauty I think among the young things is Miss Carpenter, Lord Carpenter’s daughter, and since Lady Dysart was fifteen I have never seen anything so handsome; but the prize of beauty is disputed with her by Lady Emily Lennox. She is indeed ‘like some tall stately tower’; the other is ‘some Virgin Queen’s delicious bower!’”

The marriage took place on February 7th, 1747, when the bride was a little over sixteen. Horace Walpole has the record of the event in the chronicle he sends his friend in Florence on February 23rd, 1747. “Lord Kildare is married to the charming Lady Emily Lennox, who went the very next day to see her sister, Lady Caroline Fox, to the great mortification of the haughty Duchess-mother. They have not given her a shilling, but the King endows her by making Lord Kildare a Viscount-Sterling[25] and 39they talk of giving him a pinchbeck dukedom, too, to keep him always first peer of Ireland.”

25.  That is an English viscount, in contrast to the “pinchbeck” of an Irish title.

It was quite true that Lady Kildare (who, in common with the rest of the family, had been forbidden all intercourse with Lady Caroline since the latter had married Mr. Fox in opposition to their parents’ wishes) made immediate use of the liberty conferred by her new position to visit her sister. Lord Kildare and she urged a reconciliation, with more zeal perhaps than discretion. In the letter of the Duke to Lady Caroline to which I have already referred, he complains very bitterly of the tone adopted by the Kildares, “who instead of makeing entreatys, were pleas’d to tell your mother that wee ought to forgive you, and were blamed by the world, and by themselves for not doing it, which is a language I would hear from nobody, and indeed when they saw how it was received, they did not think fit to repeat it. And I assure you my reconcilement to you has been defer’d upon this account, for I will have both them and yourselves know that it proceeds from the tenderness arising in our own breasts for you, and not from their misjudg’d aplication.”

The first few months after the marriage were spent by Lord and Lady Kildare in England and the young wife’s letters to her girl friend are full of bridal happiness. But her “dearest Nanny” is not to think that when she says she is happy, “it is from being her own mistress, doing just what she please, and all the fuss and racket.” “No, believe me, that my happiness, thank God, is upon a better foundation. It is from being marry’d to the person I love best in the world, and who is the best and kindest of husbands.”

James, twentieth Earl of Kildare, was just twenty-five at the time of his marriage, and had succeeded his father, Robert, nineteenth Earl, three years previously. His young Countess might well find him “the best and kindest of husbands,” for he was one of the best and kindest of 40men, much concerned for the welfare of his people and his country, and taking a serious view of the duties and responsibilities of his great position. He was the leader of the popular party in the Irish House of Lords, and when the corrupt administration under the Duke of Dorset and Primate Stone had become intolerable to the people he took the bold step of presenting a memorial against them to King George II. His brave fight with tyranny and corruption made him the idol of the populace, and on one occasion “he was an entire hour passing through the crowd from Parliament House to Kildare House, and a medal was struck to commemorate the memorial, representing the Earl, sword in hand, guarding a heap of money on a table from a hand which attempted to take it, with the motto, ‘Touch not, says Kildare.’”

By July, 1747, the young Earl and Countess were back in Ireland settled for the moment at Dollardstown. The Dowager Countess and Lady Margot, the Earl’s sister, came on a visit to them, and these with Miss Brudenell, the young Countess’s companion, and a couple of men friends of the Earl’s, make up a party very much to the bride’s taste. “We read, work, write and walk,” she informs her confidante Miss “Nanny.” They are presently to take up residence in Carton, which the Dowager Lady Kildare has given over to her son and his bride, having completed it after her husband’s death and furnished it for the young people from top to bottom—even to “the table linen.” It would be ungrateful of the new Countess—after this generosity on the part of her mother-in-law—to seem indifferent about Carton, but in truth she leaves the simplicity of Dollardstown for the grandeur of Carton with much regret.

A few weeks later we find our young people in residence at Carton, with the elder Lady Kildare and her daughter, Lady Margot, as their guests. The young wife, one gathers, stands a little in awe of her grave, reserved mother-in-law, 41whose manner “until ye are well acquainted with it, is not very taking.” But she is quite in love with Lady Margot, “whom she [i.e. the Dowager] is very strict with.” She is “really charming, and I find I shall grow vastly fond of her. She is vastly lively, very sensible and a very open heart, for she always speaks her mind, and has a very open heart.” In a later letter she makes merry over the compassion she received from those friends who thought it “a very dismal thing for her” to have to leave London—the new London house the Earl had bought for her in Whitehall—“to come with the person in the world I love best, who studies how to please me and make me happy more and more every day, to a very pretty country where I meet with nothing but civilities from everybody, to a whole family who are agreeable and cheerful and vastly fond of me, and to a country where I have a charming house building [Leinster House], a sweet place [Leinster Lodge] which you know I always delight in, and another pretty place [Carton]. Certainly I deserve great compassion for all this.”

While “her charming great house” was a-building, the Earl took a town house for his bride’s first winter in Dublin in Stephen’s Green, and she did the honours of her great position by giving some large parties in it. She enters with great zest into her Lord’s building and improvement schemes. Beautiful Leinster House, perhaps the most perfect creation of Richard Castle’s architectural genius, was nearing its completion, and although her health does not permit her to share her Lord’s weekly visit to Carton, she keeps au courant with all that is being done there. “Lord Kildare has cut down the avenue, which I am sure makes it charming, and has made a very fine lawn before the House, which I think is the greatest beauty a place can have.”

A few weeks after the date of this letter, her first child George, Lord Offaly, was born (January 15th, 1748) and 42the young mother’s cup of happiness seemed full to overflowing. She was one of those women who have the genius and the passion of maternity, and much of her sweetness was due to this characteristic. During the following years her letters to her friend are full of the pretty children who have followed George into her nursery at quick intervals. William, her second son, afterwards Duke of Leinster, was born in March, 1749, and the Countess’s first little girl arrived in August of the following year. Her friend receives an entertaining account of the small bundle of femininity: “in the first place her name is Caroline Elizabeth Mabel. Caroline after my sister, Elizabeth after the old Lady Kildare in London, and Mabel to please Mr. Fox, who had entertained himself while he was here in reading over old manuscripts and letters belonging to the Kildare family, in which he found there had been a great many Mabels, and therefore begged we would tack it on to the other two, which was done accordingly. And now ye have the history of her name. I will tell you she is in the first place fat and plump, has very fine dark long eyes which I think a great beauty, don’t you? and her nose and mouth like my mother’s, with a peaked chin like me. As for her complexion she is so full of red gum that there is no judging of it, but what is best of all is that she is in perfect health and has been so ever since she was born. But it’s not fair to her brothers to entertain you only about her without mentioning them.” And so we get a charming picture of the two little boys, and incidentally a glimpse of their pretty young nineteen year-old mother in the midst of them: “To begin with George. He is in the first place much improved as to his beauty, but the most entertaining, comical arch little rogue that ever was, chatters incessantly, is immensely fond of me, and coaxes me not a little, for he is cunning enough, very sweet tempered and easily governed by gentle means, in short 43if I was to sit down and wish for a child it would be just such a sort of boy as he is now. William is a sweet child, too, in a different way, he is not so lively or active as George is by a good deal, but is forward enough both as to his walking and talking, for he says several words and walks quite alone. As for his little person it is fat, round and white as he was when you saw him, and does not improve as to that; he is the best-natured creature that can be, and excessively passionate already, but puts up his mouth to kiss and be friends the very next moment. He is vastly fond of his nurse and does not care twopence for me, so you may imagine I cannot for my life be as fond of him (though in reality I love him as well) as of George, who is always coaxing and kissing me, and does not care for anybody else.”

The poor young mother was to have the great grief of seeing two of these pretty children die young. Lord Offaly died in 1765 at the age of seventeen, and was succeeded as heir, by William. Little Caroline died in 1754 at the age of four. The fatality which, as has been already observed, pursued the large eighteenth-century families, did not spare our beautiful Countess’s. Of the nineteen children (nine sons and ten daughters) she bore her lord during the twenty-six years of their married life there only survived the years of childhood six sons: William, Charles, Henry, Edward, Robert, Gerald; and four daughters: Emily (afterwards Countess of Bellamont), Charlotte (afterwards Baroness Rayleigh), Sophia, and Lucy.

In the meantime, knowing nothing of what the future has in store for her, the Countess is a very happy woman. The improvements at Carton, in which she is so interested, have been a great success, and no wonder she longs to go there and see how “her spotted cows” look on the new lawn from which the Earl has cleared some hedges since she was there last. Did she ever tell her friend of 44her passion for spotted cows? She believes not: “You have no notion what a delightful beautiful collection of them I have got in a very short time, which indeed is owing to my dear Lord Kildare, who ever since I took this fancy into my head has bought me every pretty cow he saw. It’s really charming to see them grazing on the lawn.”

So, with her children, the part she took in her husband’s plans for the improvement of his estate, and his tenantry, her social duties, her frequent visits to England, the years of the Countess’s married life passed swiftly and happily. Mrs. Delany meets her occasionally in Dublin society, but one gets the impression that Lady Kildare keeps the Dean of Down’s lady at some little distance, and that may account for the rather bitter tone in which the latter speaks of the Countess. The Dowager Countess was a great friend of Mrs. Delany’s, by whom she was frequently visited in London, and whom she visited at Delville. But it is significant enough that the mistress of Delville, having invited to breakfast Mrs. Vesey and Lady Kildare, “Lord Kildare would not let his lady venture so far.” On another occasion Mrs. Delany went with Mrs. Vesey and their friend Letitia Basle to visit Carton, and call on Lady Kildare and Lady Caroline Fox. But they found nobody but the Dowager “at home,” and were not even invited to dinner. These experiences are probably at the bottom of Mrs. Delany’s evident acrimony against the Countess. Writing to her sister, Mrs. Dewes about Rousseau, who, during a sojourn of his in England, was the guest of their brother, Bernard Grenville, Mrs. Delany warns her of the danger he may be “to young and unstable minds ... as under the guise of pomp and virtue he does advance very erroneous and unorthodox sentiments. It is not the bon ton who say this, but I am too near the day of trial to disturb my mind with fashionable whims. Lady Kildare said she would ‘offer Rousseau 45an elegant retreat, if he would educate her children.’ I own I differ widely with her ladyship, and would rather commit that charge to a downright honest person. I mean as far as religious principles; but perhaps that was a part that did not enter into her schemes at all.” When the Duchess, as she then was, startled her friends by her second marriage to Mr. Ogilvie, Mrs. Delany’s observations on the event were in the worst possible taste. After a little tilt at her as “one of the proudest and most expensive women in the world,” this typical Mrs. John Bull, with all the unctuous priggishness and fondness for innuendo of her class, quotes a horrid jest of Lady Brown’s, and proceeds to bestow her quite uncalled-for pity on the Duchess’s “poor children.” It is easy to suppose that our charming and clever Lady Kildare found herself bored to death with Mrs. Delany, and her hideous shell-work, and the other atrocities on which she lavished her time (with the profound conviction that she was setting an example for all womanhood), and that she committed the unforgivable offence of avoiding her as much as she could.

At the Coronation of King George III, in September, 1761, our Countess, then the mother of ten children, walked in the procession of the peeresses and, according to Horace Walpole’s account of the proceedings to Hon. H. S. Conway, was with her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Richmond, and Lady Pembroke, “the chief beauties.” To the Countess of Ailesbury he compares this trio to “the Graces.” To George Montagu he speaks of “Lady Kildare, still beauty itself, if not a little too large.” It is clear that her Ladyship’s beauty was not the transient thing which passed with the passing of youth. She was forty-eight when Sir Joshua Reynolds painted the portrait of her, which is still in Kilkee Castle. “What a beautiful head!” cried Edmund Burke in a rapture of admiration, when he saw the portrait in his friend’s studio. “Sir 46Joshua with much feeling replied: ‘It does not please me yet; there is a sweetness of expression in the original which I have not been able to give to the portrait, and therefore cannot think it finished.’”

In 1766 the Earl, who had been made to suffer as much as the administration dared for the bold stand he had taken in Irish politics, received at last the “pinchbeck dukedom” which had been promised him nearly twenty years ago. Government was as kind to him now, as it had been averse to him before; and lucrative offices were offered him in quick succession. But death took him from the midst of his splendour, and one November day in the year 1773 he was carried from the beautiful home he had built for himself in Leinster House to the family vault in Christ Church, where his ashes await the resurrection.

The Duchess, after a short widowhood, married, to the consternation of most of her friends, and the scandal of the Mrs. Delanys, her sons’ Scotch tutor, Mr. Ogilvie. The marriage, contrary to expectation, turned out extremely well. Under a rather dry and unattractive exterior Mr. Ogilvie had a kind heart, and was most devoted to his step-children, who, on their side (and this is true of Lord Edward in a special degree), were very fond of him. Lady Sarah Bunbury,[26] writing from her brother-in-law, Mr. Connolly’s place at Castletown, to her friend, Lady Susan O’Brien, shortly after the marriage took place, hints that the Duchess had been forced to the step she had taken, by “the impertinence” of her daughter, Lady Emily, who had recently married the dissipated Earl of Bellamont, to her mother’s intense displeasure. It further appears, she told her son (William, Duke of Leinster), her mother-in-law, and her sister (Lady Louise Connolly) that she thought it very possible 47she should marry Mr. Ogilvie. They all agreed in the same thing for answer, that they could not wish it, but if she was happy it was all they wished; and that she could not choose a person she had a better opinion of and had more regard for. With such a sanction, you would perhaps think there was nothing for her to do, but to inform her brother (the Duke of Richmond) of her marriage tout simplement, but I wish you had seen the affectionate, the reasonable manner in which she wrote to my brother, and indeed to all her friends. One of her expressions to him is, ‘I am content that you should call me a fool, and an old fool, that you should blame me, and say you did not think me capable of such a folly; talk me over, say what you please, but remember that all I ask of you is your affection and tenderness.’ My brother says there is no resisting her owning herself in the wrong, and begging so hard to be loved, so you see the good effect of meekness; I assure you my sister gains friends instead of losing any by her manner.

26.  Letter of July 29th, 1775, “Letters,” I., pp. 240-241.

After her second marriage the Duchess and her husband, Mr. Ogilvie, taking the younger children with them, went to live in France, where her grace’s brother, the Duke of Richmond, had put his house at Aubigny at their service. Here the two little Ogilvie girls were born, Cecilia and Emily, and were made heartily welcome to the family circle by their kind-hearted half-brothers and sisters, the Fitzgeralds. In the meantime these boys and girls were going on with their studies under Mr. Ogilvie’s direction, and the successful careers of Lord Charles and Lord Gerald in the navy, Lord Edward in the army, Lord Henry in politics, and Lord Robert in diplomacy were largely due to the skill and prudence with which Mr. Ogilvie directed their preparatory studies.

In 1780 the family returned to Ireland, and the Duchess saw her brood of boys scatter for their first flight. For the next six or seven years she, with her girls, divided 48her time between Ireland and England. But from 1785 to 1787 she was settled in Dublin with Lord Edward, back for a portion of the time, under her wing, and her girls going out a good deal under the chaperonage of the young Duchess of Leinster, and their aunt, Lady Louisa Connolly. In the summer of 1787 we learn from Lady Sarah Napier that the Duchess was in Barège for the sake of Lady Lucy’s health, and she was looking forward to the pleasure of being joined by three of her sons, when news of Lord Gerald’s death at sea reached her. From 1788 the Duchess took up her permanent abode in London, probably with the idea of getting her daughters suitably settled. As regards Lady Charlotte these expectations were fulfilled the following year when she married Mr. Strutt.

In 1788 and 1789 Lord Edward was in Canada and his letters to his mother describing his adventures, “deep in Canadian woods” and on the banks of Canadian lakes and rivers, were looked forward to with great eagerness by the Duchess, and passed from hand to hand among the family circle, even finding their way from London to Castletown, for Lady Louisa Connolly’s and Lady Sarah Napier’s delectation. “He writes,” the latter informs her friend, “the most natural and pretty account of his journey you ever read, comments on the spirit of the chase, the melancholy end of it, the inferior passions of hunger driving away pity, his low spirits when he thinks of all his friends, and ends: ‘My dear mother, I fear we are all beasts and love ourselves best.’” Lord Edward was a special favourite of his aunt, Lady Sarah, and nothing that befel “this dear spirited boy” left her cold. One of the most delightful spectacles in the world was to see how he brought his love-troubles to her and to “his dearest mother” with the full certainty of their sympathy and help, and understanding.

He had been for some time deeply in love with his 49cousin, Georgina, daughter of Lord George Lennox, but the young lady’s father would not consent to the match and married the girl to Henry Bathurst, Lord Apsley. By an unfortunate chance Lord Edward, arriving in England, unexpectedly from Canada, drove up to his mother’s house in Harley Street at the very moment she was giving a dinner-party in honour of the bridal pair.

Disappointed in love, Lord Edward threw himself eagerly into politics, and devoted his time to his duties in the Irish Parliament. On the outbreak of the French Revolution he hurried to Paris, and in the enthusiasm with which he adopted revolutionary principles, he took the extreme step of “renouncing” his title, and in consequence of this he was dismissed from the English army.

In December, 1792, Lord Edward married Pamela, who was generally believed to be the daughter of the Duke of Orleans and Madame de Genlis. The marriage cannot have been much to the liking of the Duchess. But, like the wise woman she was, she offered no opposition to her son’s choice, once she saw his heart was set on it, and when he came to her a few weeks later to present his bride to her, she opened wide her heart and arms to “the dear, little, pale, pretty wife.”

During the five years that followed, Lord Edward and Pamela kept in the closest possible touch with the Duchess through a constant correspondence and frequent visits. But it was only one portion of his existence which her son revealed to his loving mother. There is no hint of politics, of the stern business which was to be wound up in the bloody liquidation of “’Ninety-Eight,” in the letters which “Eddy” writes in the open bay window of the little book-room in Frescati, with the birds pouring out their song and the perfumed garden its fragrance all around him. It is of her flowers and shrubs he tells the Duchess, “I believe there never was a person who 50understood planting and making a place as you do. The more one sees of Carton and this place [Frescati] the more one admires them; the mixture of plants and the succession of them are so well arranged.” He gladdens her heart with a description of Frescati and the shrubs she had planted, in all their June loveliness. “All the shrubs are out, lilac, laburnum, syringa, spring roses, and lily of the valley”—in short the whole is heavenly. He seeks her approval for his own gardening plans and labours: he has had the little green full mowed and rolled, the little mound of earth that is round the bays and myrtle before the house planted with tufts of gentianellas and primroses, and lily of the valley, and they look beautiful, peeping out of the dark evergreen; close to the root of the great elm he has put a patch of lily of the valley. A fine February morning finds him “digging round roots of trees, raking ground and planting laurels,” and planning to have hyacinths, jonquils, pinks, cloves, narcissi in little beds before the house and in the rosery. If his mother will trust him to prune the trees, in the long round, he thinks he can do it prudently.

Later on he tries very hard to make his mother see the home he has made for his wife in Kildare—the little white house with bay windows, all covered with climbing roses and honeysuckle—the “dear wife” herself in her little American jacket planting sweet peas and mignonette—her work-box with the little one’s caps on the table in the open window.

The expected “little one,” “the little young plant that was coming,” filling its young father with proud joy, arrived in October, 1794, in the shape of another little Eddy, and the Duchess was very glad to accede to her big Eddy’s request, and to be its godmother. The little Eddy was subsequently left with his grandmother for good, after his parents’ visit to Hamburg in 1796, which was to have such momentous political consequences. 51Little did the poor Duchess know for what his father was preparing when “the precious Babe” was left with her! She is full of gratitude for the gift, and full of appreciation of the sacrifice the “dear Edwards” have made in parting with it—they “who adore it and delight in its pretty ways.” We get charming glimpses of the Duchess and the pretty boy in some letters to Lady Lucy. Now he is at play among the sheep on the green hill beneath her window; now at her elbow while she is writing, and full of messages for her to give to Papa and Mamma. “Eddy, dood boy, Eddy, happy boy. Papa ride horseback, Mama dance.” which shows, the Duchess remarks, “that he remembers them.” Again, the Duchess is showing him a lock of Papa’s hair which Lady Lucy has sent her mother, and Eddy is kissing it a thousand times: “Papa’s hair, Eddy’s own Papa’s hair!” She loves to gather up his comical remarks. “I told him something he was eating was enough and that more was too much. ‘But Eddy don’t like enough, Eddy like too much.’”

In October, 1797, Lord Edward saw his mother for the last time. After that, events moved with tragical swiftness to the catastrophe of May 19th, 1798.

It was ten days after Lord Edward had got his fatal wound in the altercation with Major Ryan that his mother was told of his condition. As soon as the news was broken to her, she declared that she must go to her boy at once. They kept her in London, persuading her that it was there she might serve his cause, seeing great people, using all the influence she could command to have his trial put off. Only poor Lucy, more closely in sympathy with Lord Edward than any of the others, feels how useless all this is. “All that human foresight could point out they are doing, but alas! Edward is dying and alone!”

It was only on June 6—when Lord Edward had been two days dead—that the Duchess, Mr. Ogilvie, Lady Sophia, Lady Lucy, and “Mimi” Ogilvie set out at length 52for Ireland. They were met on the road by the messenger bearing the fatal news.

Lord Edward’s daughter, Pamela, shall tell us the end of the story: “The Fourth of June, when the guns fired for the King’s birthday, was always a dark day in the house; poor Grandmamma appeared in deeper mourning, and somehow there was a sort of stillness; we spoke with bated breath, and went softly ... it was the anniversary of my father’s death. Grandmamma wore his coloured handkerchief next her heart, and it was put into the coffin with her.”


The Mother of the Sheareses

Jane Anne Sheares, née Bettesworth (-1803)[27]
“Come to me, O Christ,
Take swiftly my soul
Alike with my sons.”
Lament of Mothers of Bethlehem.

27.  Authorities: Madden’s “United Irishmen,” Fourth Series, Second Edition.

ON Saturday, May 19th, 1798, Lord Edward, desperately wounded in the gallant fight he had put up—one man against the multitude of his assailants—was taken prisoner and lodged in Newgate. Wounded and alone he lay in his gloomy cell, and on his hard prison bed through the long hours of the hot May Sunday that followed, and none of those who loved him was near at hand to bring healing to his fevered body, or comfort to his tortured heart.

On that same May Sabbath, when, from every open space that the retreating country had left behind her, in her flight before the city’s advance, there came the smell of the lilac and hawthorn, the honeyed fragrance of lime trees and chestnut blossoms—“all the sweetness of the May”—a different scene was taking place in another part of the city. In a handsome house at the corner of Baggot Street and Pembroke Street, a dinner-party was in progress. The cuisine was irreproachable, the wine excellent, the conversation of a high order. The master of the house, a tall finely-built man of about forty-five, with something of the soldier in his bearing, sat at one end of the table. His countenance, usually somewhat 54stern and forbidding, owing to the haughty glance of his dark eyes, and the curious blood-red birth-mark which stained the lower part of his face, was softened now into geniality as his eyes swept the little circle of relatives and guests gathered around his hospitable board. His brother, a man of about thirty-two, of a singularly open and pleasing countenance, blue-eyed, clear-complexioned, with well-formed features and a clever mobile mouth, that showed, as the frequent smile parted it, a row of perfect teeth—sat opposite. An old lady—their mother—very stately and handsome in her rich dark dress and priceless lace, sat near her eldest son. Beside her was that son’s beautiful wife. On the opposite side of the table was the host’s sister, and beside her his daughter by an earlier marriage. By the side of the younger brother sat a tall man in the uniform of a Captain in the King’s County Militia.

Presently, dinner being ended, the ladies left the men of the party to their wine, and retired to the drawing-room. A knock at the front door, followed by the frou-frou of silks and the murmur of feminine voices in the hall, announced the advent of after-dinner visitors. At the proposal of the younger brother of the host, the political discussion which the three men had inaugurated over their port was postponed, and a dish of tea with the ladies in the drawing-room was suggested. The dark eyes of the master of the house were full of merriment, while he explained to the guest what the magnet was that drew John from his politics. As the voices floated past them in the hall there had been clearly discernible the silvery tones of their beautiful neighbour, Miss Maria Steele. “You should hear some of the poetry he addresses to his Stella, Captain Armstrong!” said the host in laughing tones.

Captain Armstrong! Captain Warneford Armstrong! We know now, with that name ringing in our ears, that 55darker than the tragedy of Lord Edward, lying wounded to death in his prison cell at Newgate, is the tragedy that is being enacted before our eyes in this pleasant hospitable house. In this handsome dining-room, around the gleaming mahogany with its genial burden of fruit and wine, there sit—the informer, Captain John Warneford Armstrong, and his victims, Henry and John Sheares! And presently, if we have the courage to face it, and will follow the three men in their passage to the ladies in the drawing-room, we shall see an even more harrowing spectacle. For in that charming eighteenth-century room, all full of May sweetness from the tall open windows, all full of lovely ladies and beautiful children in their picturesque eighteenth-century costume, we shall presently see the traitor gather the two little children of Henry Sheares upon his knee, while their mother tunes her harp, and sings in her glorious voice, some exquisite, moving strain for his delectation.[28] It is the picture which the genius of Curran has made immortal: “I am disposed to believe, shocking as it is,” he cried, while he turned to the Jury, in the dim light of the ghastly midnight court where the Sheareses stood, two months later, on trial for their lives, “that this witness had the heart, when he was surrounded by the little progeny of my client—when he was sitting in the mansion in which he was hospitably entertained—when he saw the old mother, supported by the piety of her son, and the children basking in the parental fondness of the father—that he saw the scene, and smiled 56at it—contemplated the havoc he was to make, consigning them to the storms of a miserable world, without having an anchorage in the kindness of a father. Can such horror exist, and not waken the rooted vengeance of an eternal God?”

28.  The incident of Mrs. Henry Sheares singing to her harp for the entertainment of Armstrong was related to Madden by Miss Maria Steele, the friend of John Sheares. In Curran’s “Life,” written by his son, it is stated on the authority of a gentleman who had dined with the Sheareses, on the day in question that “he observed Armstrong, who was one of the guests, taking his entertainer’s little children upon his knee, and as it was then thought, affectionately caressing them.” Armstrong denied to Madden the truth of these statements, but his denials were not considered convincing.

The poor old lady, on whom the diabolical treachery of the guest of that Sunday dinner-party was to bring such suffering that the whole annals of “’Ninety-Eight” have nothing to surpass it, had already tasted in a fuller measure, than is the lot of common women, the joys and the sorrows of life. The near kinswoman of the distinguished lawyer, Sergeant Bettesworth, and a relation of the Earl of Shannon, she had been married, while still very young, to a wealthy Cork banker, Mr. Henry Sheares, son of Henry Sheares, Esq., M.P., of Goldenbush. At Goldenbush, by the pleasant Bandon river, the young couple resided for some time, and here a number of their children were born. But at a later date the family lived at Glasheen, about a mile and a half from Cork, and their abundant means allowed them to keep up another establishment in the city—a house which has been identified by Dr. Madden as situated at the corner of Moore Street and Nile Street.

The young wife was highly accomplished, and it is rare to find a couple so perfectly matched, as were she and her husband, in every noble quality of heart and mind. She entered into his philanthropic schemes with the greatest zeal. Out of the abundance with which God had blessed them it was their joy to help all those in need. One of the spectacles which moved their compassion most keenly was that of decent poor people who, having fallen into debt, were by the barbarous law of the time, liable to be hauled off to prison for it, and to be herded with criminals, by whom they were too frequently 57contaminated. To help these unfortunates, whose only crime was poverty, Mr. Sheares instituted “the Society for the Relief of Persons Confined for Small Debts,” and in about nine months the secretary, Rev. Dr. Pigott, was able to report that “more than seventy poor wretches have been relieved by this institution from the depths of misery, and all the horrors of loathsome confinement—by which, at the same time, above 240 children (besides wives and other poor dependent relations) have had those restored to them from whose labour they derive their bread, and the community has been enriched by the replacing of many useful and industrious members.”

We have already spoken of the culture which marked the merchant princes of Cork in the eighteenth century. Even in their cultured ranks Mr. Henry Sheares stood prominently forth. He was a clever writer, and his contributions over the pen-name “Agricola,” to the Cork periodicals of his day were keenly appreciated by their readers. It was held by some of them that “no moralist—not even Mr. Addison—excelled him in the composition” of the little moral essay, which was his favourite vehicle of instruction. Two of his essays, one “On Forgiveness,” the other “On Man in Society, and at His Final Separation from it,” are reproduced by Madden; and they show, beneath the somewhat stilted and formal style which was so much to the taste of their day—and so little to that of ours—a depth of religion, feeling, a noble philosophy of life which can never be out of date. He was the founder of a Club, somewhat in “the Spectator” style, “where popular and literary subjects were debated, and his speeches at this Club were long remembered by his friends as pleasing memorials of great historical knowledge, a fine taste and graceful elocution.” He sat as member of Parliament for the borough of Clonakilty—which was in the patronage of his wife’s kinsman, the Earl of Shannon—in the Irish House of Commons from 1761 to 1767; and the Parliamentary 58Debates for these years show that he took an active part in the proceedings of the House.

Mr. Sheares died in 1776, leaving his widow and family in very comfortable circumstances. Nine children are mentioned in his will: Henry, Robert Bettesworth, Richard, John, and Christopher Humphrey; Letitia, Mary, Jane Anne Bettesworth, and Julia. Of these it was their mother’s tragic fate to survive all but the youngest, Julia.

The greatest pains had been taken with their education, and for their settlement. Of the four daughters, all were married except Julia: one to Mr. Gubbins, of Limerick, another to Mr. Henry Westropp, another to Dr. Payne of Upton. “The sons,” writes one who knew the family, “had the best masters to attend them in their father’s house, under their father’s eye; he narrowly inspected what company they kept, and at a proper age they were sent to the University, where, being young men of good natural parts, they acquired a considerable degree of reputation.”

The high hopes that had been built on these boys were overturned, in the case of three of them, by very early deaths. One day Robert and John were out bathing together, when John got into difficulties, in saving him poor Robert was drowned. A little later, Christopher, who had chosen the army for his profession, went out to the West Indies, on John’s advice. A few months later there came to his loving mother in Ireland the news of his death by yellow fever. Richard, who had entered the navy, perished on the Thunderer, which went down, with all hands, off the West Indies, in the great hurricane of October, 1779.

The eldest son, Henry, who inherited his father’s real and personal property, estimated at about £1,200 a year, was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and first chose the army for his profession. In 1782, when he was scarcely 59twenty years of age, he eloped with Miss Swete, of Cork, whose father, Alderman Swete, was considered one of the wealthiest men in the City. Young Councillor Fitzgibbon (afterwards Lord Clare) had been among Miss Swete’s suitors, and it is said that he never forgave the man whom she preferred to him—and that thoughts of this early rivalry in love were at the bottom of the implacable hostility which drove Henry Sheares to his doom. Shortly after the marriage, Alderman Swete became bankrupt, and his daughter’s fortune having vanished with the rest of his assets, Henry Sheares was obliged to give up the army and take up the study of law. He was called to the Bar in 1790, his brother John, thirteen years younger than he (born 1766) having been called the preceding year. The brothers began practice together, taking up their residence in Dublin—at first in a house on Ormond Quay, and from 1796 in Baggot Street (now 128).

A little after the move to Dublin the young wife of Henry Sheares died (December 11th, 1791) leaving her husband four little children. Three of the children were taken by the grandparents, the Swetes, and educated by them in France. The youngest child, Jane, appears to have been put in charge of Grandmother Sheares and Aunt Julia.

In 1792 Henry Sheares, accompanied by his brother, John, went to France to visit his children. The stirring events which were taking place in Paris drew the brothers to the capital, and here they made the acquaintance of some of the most prominent men of the Revolution; notably Roland and Brissot. The influences under which they found themselves in this atmosphere were to give the most decisive direction to their political philosophy, and ultimately to seal their fate. The ardent spirit of John was irresistibly attracted to the new doctrines, and where John led, Henry, who loved him with a love surpassing the love of ordinary brothers, was fain to 60follow. Left to himself, poor Henry would have felt little call to republicanism; he liked dignified splendour; a fine house, a good table, a choice library. He loved society in which from his conversational powers, and his charming deferential way with women, he was a great favourite. He was a devoted family man—a loving son, and husband and father—and his happiest hours were spent in his own beautiful home in Baggot Street in the years which followed his second marriage with Miss Sarah Neville, a lady of good family in the County Kilkenny. In this home, with its rich furniture and fine library, he was soon joined by his mother and Julia and little Jane; and Sarah Sheares, who was a woman of character, as well as of accomplishments and charm, lived on the happiest footing with her people-in-law. John was also a permanent member of the household.

Shortly after their return from France the brothers became members of the newly instituted Society of United Irishmen, which at that time, had perfectly “constitutional” objects: Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform. But in the eyes of the Lord Clares and others of the Ascendancy the advocating of the most moderate measures of reform was “treason.” During all the brothers’ professional career, the enmity of Lord Clare, which was first that of an unsuccessful rival in love of Henry’s, pursued them, and as they, in their turn, put no restraint on the language they used with regard to the Lord Chancellor, every day that passed fanned the flame.

It was only after the arrest of the chief leaders of the United Irishmen on March 12th, 1798, that the Sheareses became prominent in the organisation. John Sheares was appointed to the Directory, and given special charge of operations in Cork. In April the brothers went circuit in the South-West, and were present at a memorable dinner-party in the house of Bagnal Harvey, Bargey Castle. Another guest was (unfortunately for the majority 61of those present) Sir Jonah Barrington. By some curious presentiment—which he took good care should be verified by immediately communicating with Mr. Secretary Cooke—he knew that a tragic fate was reserved for most of the guests. An excellent prophet was Sir Jonah—of the same “authentic class” as Major Sirr[29]—every member of that jovial dinner-party (with the exception of himself, a certain barrister and Mr. Hatton) was executed within three months!

29.  “There are two sorts of prophets—one that derives its source from real or fancied inspiration, yet are sometimes mistaken; the other class composed of persons who prophesy what they are determined to bring about themselves; of this second, and by far the most authentic class was Major Sirr.”—Curran’s “Speech in Hevey’s Trial.”

With Sir Jonah Barrington and other “honourable” gentlemen of his class drawing up “for their own amusement,” lists of those among their fellow guests at friendly dinner parties “whom they considered likely to fall victims” to the coming disaster, and these lists finding themselves wafted by some marvellous agency from Wexford Bridge to the office of Mr. Secretary Cooke in Dublin Castle—it is not to be supposed that Government was in ignorance of the movements and designs of the Sheareses. They were carefully watched and “set,” but they were left at large for some time, according to Madden, “to allow the premature explosion of the rebellion to take place, for the same reason that Lord Edward was left at large after the arrests at Bond’s for several weeks, during which time Messrs. Hughes and Reynolds (the informers) visited him in his places of concealment, at Cormick’s in Thomas Street, and at Dr. Kennedy’s in Aungier Street.”

At length the time was ripe for their destruction. Government had found the proper tool.

On Thursday, May 10th, Captain John Warneford Armstrong took a little jaunt to town from his camp at 62Lehaunstown and called—as he was in the habit of doing—at Byrne’s, the bookseller’s, in Grafton Street. Though Captain Armstrong wore the king’s uniform, he was, if his conversation was any indication, by no means a fanatical adherent of a militarist and royalist government. He talked republicanism; and was a diligent reader of republican and deistical books, like Paine’s “Age of Reason” and “Common Sense.”

During one of his many conversations with Byrne the names of the Sheareses cropped up, and Byrne, completely deceived by the Captain’s specious professions, proposed to make them known to each other. In the afternoon of May the 10th, Captain Armstrong was seated in Byrne’s shop when Henry Sheares came in, and Byrne immediately made the introduction. Henry, however, was unwilling to enter into any conversation with the Captain and shortly afterwards made an excuse to leave him.

Presently entered John, with his head full of plans for the Rising, which was fixed for the 23rd of the month. One of his greatest objects was to gain over the soldiers, and when Captain Armstrong was made known to him by the unsuspecting Byrne “as a true brother on whom he might depend,” it is not to be wondered at, if John looked on this meeting as the direct answer to his ardent prayers. The Captain professed to be as eager as John to secure the soldiers for the good cause, and after some preliminary discussion it was arranged to meet at the brother’s house in Baggot Street the following Sunday.

At eleven o’clock on Sunday, May 13th, Captain Armstrong saw the brothers as arranged; at this interview he got from them the names of some soldiers in his regiment who were known to be United Irishmen.

On Wednesday, May 16th, Captain Armstrong called once more at the house of his victims but found neither of them at home. A second call about six o’clock in the 63evening was more fruitful. He was shown in to John in the library, and learned from him that he was on the eve of his departure for Cork to organise the Rising there, and that his friend, Surgeon Lawless, would take his place in Dublin and consult and advise with Armstrong as to the matters they had in hand. It would appear that poor Henry Sheares was on his guard against Armstrong for at this interview he did not appear.

On the morning of the following day Armstrong was again in Baggot Street, and made the acquaintance of Surgeon Lawless, who according to the Captain, “informed him that he had lately attended a meeting of deputies from almost all the militia regiments in Ireland, at which meeting there were two of his (the Captain’s men).” At this interview Captain Armstrong found, what he had hitherto sought in vain, evidence to implicate Henry Sheares “in the knowledge of the military organisation” of the United men.

After each interview with his victims Armstrong, according to his own evidence, “returned to the camp and communicated the business that passed to Colonel L’Estrange and Captain Clibborn.” Sometimes he communicated it to Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Cooke. It was Lord Castlereagh who persuaded him to go to the house of the Sheareses. “He would not,” he told Dr. Madden himself, “have gone there if he had not been thus urged to do so. It was wrong, he believed—indeed, he felt it was wrong to have gone there and to have dined with them. It was the only part of the business he had any reason to regret.

Early in the morning of Monday, May 21st, the day following the pleasant dinner-party at which Armstrong had been so hospitably entertained, the inhabitants of Baggot and Pembroke Streets, and the neighbouring 64Squares, were startled by seeing a party of military take possession of the front and rear entries to the house of Mr. Henry Sheares. A loud rapping at the door roused the inmates, and procured for the police magistrate in charge of the party, Alderman Alexander, and the Chief Constable, Mr. Atkinson, the entrance they demanded “in the king’s name.” Alexander made his way to the library, where he was presently joined by Mr. Henry Sheares. The master of the house was immediately made cognisant of the object of this early visit, and informed that his papers must be searched. Henry Sheares, who was perfectly easy in mind as to this, in the consciousness of having no treasonable papers in his possession, acquiesced without protest. The search was nearly ended, without anything incriminating having been found, when Henry Sheares directed the Alderman’s attention to a small writing box, belonging to his brother, which lay unlocked on the study table.

In this box was found a scrawled production, all blots and erasures, which John Sheares, who had the dramatic temperament developed in the highest possible degree, had passed the time in writing, after the rest of the household had gone to bed the previous night. It was written in the character of one addressing the Irish people after a successful rising, and on its evidence, supported by the perjured “parole” of Armstrong, not only John Sheares who wrote it, but Henry, who was asleep when it was written, and as innocent of its contents as his little child, whom Armstrong had fondled the evening before, were launched into eternity.

“Can such things be, and not awaken the vengeance of an eternal God?”

What were the feelings of the poor ladies, old Mrs. Sheares and her daughters when all this was going on? Was their privacy respected while the house was being searched for John and more “incriminating” documents? 65Was Henry allowed to bid them farewell before he was marched off to the Castle, and to whisper to them that there was no need for anxiety? Did any dim foreboding warn them as they saw him leave the home he loved so well, and where they had all been so happy that never, never more should he enter it again?

Later in the same day John Sheares was arrested by Major Sirr at the home of Surgeon Lawless. Lawless, himself, having received timely warning from Surgeon General Stuart, had made his escape on the previous Saturday.

The two brothers, after examination at the Castle, were committed to Kilmainham and here they lay in close confinement until they came up for trial on July the 4th. A postponement was secured until July the 12th. Then the trial was hurried on with the most indecent haste.

The truth was that Lord Clare was in terror of his enemies escaping from his hands—for the most powerful influences were at work for their rescue, and the evidence against Henry Sheares was not sufficient, as the common phrase goes, “to hang a dog on.” Miss Maria Steele used her influence with her devoted admirer, Captain Horatio Cornwallis, nephew of the Lord Lieutenant, to secure the brothers’ pardon; and to his nephew’s pleading, supported by that of Julia Sheares, Lord Cornwallis, “anxious that his first act in Ireland should not be a sanguinary one,” was about to yield, when Lord Clare, who was present, intervened. All day long on July 13th, while the trial dragged its weary length through the hot and crowded court, Sarah Sheares, poor Henry’s wife, sat in a sedan-chair at Lord Clare’s hall door; when at length she saw him, she fell at his feet on the steps of his door, clasping his knees and begging her husband’s life from his hands. It was all in vain.

And what of the mother all these dreadful weeks? 66They had not dared to tell her that Henry was in any danger. They told her that he had been advised to keep away, and would return when all was safe again. For John’s fate she was in some measure prepared, but she hoped, with all her mother’s heart, that it might be averted. A heart-breaking incident was related to Dr. Madden by a relation of the Sheareses:

“The Earl of Shannon was a relation and intimate friend of old Mrs. Sheares, and the day of her sons’ execution, of which she was then ignorant, his lordship went to see her. A most melancholy scene, as may be supposed, occurred between them. She threw herself on her knees to implore his mediation for her younger son, at the time not knowing that her son Harry was implicated, or had been imprisoned, having been told that he had been advised to keep out of the way for some time, and was actually expecting him home that evening. The Earl left the house, not being able to tell her that they had been both executed that morning.”

When poor heart-broken Julia, poor widowed “Sally” could bear no longer to hear her ask, “When will Harry come back,” they burst into a storm of weeping and then the desolate mother knew that no son had been spared to her out of the calamity that had swept them all away. For a time they feared her reason would give way before the shock of that knowledge.

Her two daughters—for Sarah’s devotion was not less ardent than that of Julia—took the poor old mother far away from the scene of her sufferings, and made a new home for her in Clifton, England. Here she passed the short and sad remainder of her days—grieving ever for those she had lost, having no joy but in the thought of death which would give them back to her once more. Some time in 1803, the same year which witnessed the death of her fellow mourner, Elizabeth Emmet, she passed through “the strait and narrow gate”—and stood with 67her beloved amid the multitude “clothed with white robes, and (having) palms in their hands, before the throne and in the sight of the Lamb.” For she and the sons, who welcomed her, had indeed “come out of great tribulation, and had washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”


The Mother of the Teelings

Mary Teeling (née Taaffe—1753[?]-1830[?])[30]
“He will not be seen on a swift young horse
Clearing a road over fosse and fence,
His comeliness is forever changed,
On his majesty has fallen a mist.”
Lament for Oliver Grace.

30.  Authorities: “Memoir of Bartholomew Teeling,” by (his nephew) Bartholomew Teeling, Jun., B.L. in Madden’s “United Irishmen,” Third Series, Vol. I. (Dublin, 1846); Charles Hamilton Teeling’s “History of the Irish Rebellion of 1798,” “A Personal Narrative,” and Sequel to same; Unpublished Correspondence of the Teeling Family; “The Teelings,” by Albi Norman (article in Gentleman’s Magazine for October, 1905).

“I MUST now say a word or two of the excellent mother of Bartholomew Teeling—not so much because of the well-formed opinion that almost all distinguished men inherit their characteristics rather from the mother than from the father, as because I myself have the liveliest recollection of the amiable and endearing qualities of this venerated being; of her ardent piety; of her active benevolence; of her cheerful spirit; and her most graceful presence.

“Whilst she was still a child, she had been seen by him who was to be her husband, and who, struck with her girlish beauty, had resolved ‘to wait for her.’ She, consequently, at the very earliest age, united her fate to his; and at the end of fifty years, during which they journeyed together through all the vicissitudes of life—

“‘In all their wanderings round this world of care,
In all their griefs, and they had had their share.’

69The romance of this early attachment continued fresh and unabated. The contrast, perhaps, of her bright and buoyant spirit with the stern and unbending one of the haughty politician ... was more calculated to give endurance to their love than the most perfect similarity could have done; and to the last hour of her existence, she was the pride and idol of her family.

“It was matter of astonishment how she contrived, after the severe trials she had met with, to push the badge of grief away from her, in the society of those she loved, and to enter into the sports of her grandchildren, as mirthful as the youngest of them. She was proud of her high birth, and used to recount to her grandchildren the bright deeds of her ancestors—the loyal efforts of the noble commander of the Irish forces; of the unhappy Charles; and the heroic defence of her castle, by the Lady Cathleen, against the ruthless Cromwell and his adventurers.

“But she scarcely ever touched upon the untimely fate of her own sons, slaughtered or scattered over the world. Once only did I hear her mention her gallant son, or allude to his dark fate, and then came a gush of anguish, which showed, indeed, the sources of her grief were far from being dried up, and, under a bright exterior, how much of heart-rending suffering she had put up within her bosom; but, as I have already said, she turned from her own woes to alleviate those of others, and to spread joy around.

“By rich and poor, she was admired and she was loved. I have been told, by those whom I myself saw adorn the most brilliant circles of the metropolis of the empire, that in childhood they were taught to regard her as a model of grace and excellence; and I speak a fact, which will be testified by thousands, when I say, that in the hearts of all the poor of the neighbourhood, in which she resided, her memory remains enshrined, and that 70children born since her death have been taught to love it, and in their dear petitions to give her name a place.”[31]

31.  Extract from “Memoir of Bartholomew Teeling,” by his nephew, and namesake, in Madden’s “United Irishmen,” Third Series, Vol. I. (First Edition, 1846).

Is it true, as men say, that the woman by whose cradle the kind, gift-bearing fairies have laid that most rare and precious gift called “charm,” is immortally dowered? Mary Teeling was an old woman, and one who had drained to its dregs the cup of life’s bitterest sorrows—when (knowing it not) she sat for the portrait which her grandson has left us of her; and she had been many years in her grave, when it was finished and hung in its place in the gallery of portraits collected by Dr. Madden of the men and women who gave their all for Ireland in ’98. But from the canvas there comes forth, stealing into the heart of each of us, the same charm which, in her radiant girlhood, won the devotion of her stately young lover, and in her beautiful old age made captive his little grandson. Neither age had power to wither, nor death to destroy, the gift which was hers to draw all hearts under her sweet sway.

We would fain know something of the training and education which, fostering her innate charm, made the mother of Bartholomew and Charles Teeling such an exquisite type of the Irish Catholic gentlewoman. “A nation is what its women make its men”; and if we want boys in the Ireland of the future like the gallant boy, who on his noble grey charger galloped alone against the cannon of Park’s Hill, and saved the fortunes of the day at Carricknagat, or like that other gallant boy, his younger brother, who rode forth—a lad of seventeen—on a yet more perilous quest: to slay unaided the dragon of Orangeism, we must take care to provide “mothers of men” like her who bore these young heroes. And not 71alone for the men they will make, will Ireland need such women. She will want them for their own dear selves; and she will want them, whatever be her destiny—whether she is to enter at last on the reward of her long sorrows, or whether she must tread the roadway of thorns yet a little longer. If the future of our land is to be one of peace and prosperity she will need in her homes women to “look well to the paths of their house,” as Mary Teeling did in the days of her prosperity amid the elegance and comforts of the home in Lisburn which her husband’s wealth had enabled him to provide for his family, exercising the sweet and lovely rule of the mistress of a Catholic home, training her children to the noblest ideals of life and conduct, directing her servants with gentle authority, practising a gracious hospitality, “opening her hands to the needy, and stretching out her hands to the poor.” And if, on the other hand, the whole price is not paid yet, and the era of persecution is to open again—ah! then it is that Ireland will need her Mary Teelings to stand by their husbands’ side while “they suffer persecution for justice’ sake,” as she did by Luke Teeling’s during the long years of his martyrdom; keeping in the midst of all misfortunes, loss of home and children, of wealth and ease, the same exquisite sweetness of nature and charm of manner which made her in happier days the delight of her friends, “the pride and idol of her family.”

It has seemed worth while to go to some pains to discover, if possible, the details of an education which “in the dead vast and middle” of the Penal night, produced a type of womanhood, presenting nothing less than the “fine flower” of Catholic culture. “Who shall find a valiant woman?” Have we not found her—with every exquisite trait of her immortal prototype reproduced—in this dear Irish lady, whose radiant personality, and high-bred grace, no less than her sweetness, and saintliness, 72and charity, survive, through her grandson’s portrait of her, even the destruction of the tomb? “Far and from the uttermost coast would be the price of her,” whatever land produced her. If it were France during the age when the education of girls was considered a subject of sufficient importance for the grave debates of a King’s Council Chamber, or a brilliant treatise from a learned and saintly prelate’s pen;[32] or Italy, in the days when wealthy and powerful princes like those of Mantua co-operated with great teachers and scholars like Vittorino da Feltre in the foundation of the schools, where the Cecilia Gonzagas won their culture; or Germany in the years when illustrious humanists like Celtes and Reuchlin were proud of the share they had taken in forming the minds of women like Caritas Pirckheimer—if it were any of these lands or these ages that claimed the “price of her” it would be a matter of small wonder. But let us try to realise that it was Ireland in the middle of the eighteenth century, when education was, for Catholics, a thing banned and barred by statute. In other countries little Catholic boys and girls were enticed to their books by every loving and ingenious device. Great statesmen, great churchmen, great scholars gave their best thought to the subject of their education. In the Ireland into which little Mary Taaffe was born about 1753, “statesmen” also had given their thought to the subject of education for Catholic children—but the legislation which was the result amounted simply in Lecky’s famous phrase, to “universal, unqualified and unlimited proscription.”

32.  Witness the interest of Louis XIV in Madame de Maintenon’s foundation of St. Cyr, and Fénélon’s treatise on “L’Education des Filles.”

Nevertheless Catholic parents managed to get their children educated, and the nation which its lawgivers doomed to ignorance and degradation produced, by some miracle, scholars like Charles O’Connor of Belanagare and 73high-bred, charming women like her whose life-story we are now studying. How was it accomplished? What a stirring and splendid chapter the full answer to that question would add to the history of human endeavour! How one longs for the coming of the long-delayed historian of the Irish people who shall tell, in all its fullness, the story of how they educated their children during the Penal Days.

For the boys we know in part how it was done. They were smuggled off to the Continent with other forbidden “cargoes,” and at the great colleges in Spain, and France and the Low Countries found “bourses” provided by the pious generosity of their wealthier countrymen, or were supported by remittances from home which no threatened penalty could prevent their devoted parents from sending.[33] Or a tutor was provided for them in some hunted bishop, perhaps, or friar, who found safety in the lowly disguise of a gardener or farm-servant working on their father’s place,[34] or who came there for a time, as one of the Bishops of Clogher is recorded to have made the rounds of his diocese, in the character of a wandering harper. Or they would get a course of lessons from some of the numerous scribes, who perambulated the country, stopping for a season at the houses of the gentry of the old race, and copying out manuscripts for them—Keating’s 74History of Ireland,[35] tales of the Red Branch and the Fenians, pseudo-historical accounts of the old families—as Sean MaGauran did for Brian Maguire.[36]

33.  The statute dealing with their case runs thus: “In case any of his Majesty’s subjects of Ireland shall go or send any person to any public or private Popish school, in parts beyond the seas, in order to be educated in the Popish religion, and there be trained in the Popish religion, or shall send money or other thing towards the maintenance of such person gone or sent, and trained as aforesaid, or as a charity for relief of a religious house, every person so going, sending or sent, shall, on conviction, be disabled to sue, in law or in equity, or to be guardian, executor, or administrator, or take a legacy or deed of gift, or bear any office, and shall forfeit goods and chattels for ever, and lands for life.”—7th William III, ch. 4, s.), 1694.

34.  See “Religious Songs of Connacht,” passim.

35.  It is instructive to note the dates of the MSS. of Keating in the British Museum. The larger number were written during the Penal Days.

36.  See “Maguires of Fermanagh,” edited by Fr. Dinneen, p. 140.

The girls in some instances shared the lessons of their brothers. Dr. Costello of Tuam tells me that his great-grandmother was taught Latin by a man working on her father’s farm—a disguised friar. The scribes put aside their copying for a time to form the little maidens’ hands to the delicate Italian script which was the admiration of the time. The wandering harper, who honoured their father’s house with a visit, could sometimes be induced to give the daughters of the family a course of lessons on his sweet instrument. Arthur O’Neill tells us of teaching the harp to two young ladies in Longford, Miss Farrell and Miss Plunkett. “Miss Farrell played handsomely; Miss Plunkett middling.”[37] Most of the old Catholic families had members settled abroad, and intercourse with the Continent was therefore so close and intimate that the outlook of the Irish at home was far less insular than it is at present. Occasionally uncles and cousins, who had won fame as soldiers in foreign services, came home to visit their people, and as they liked to have their nephews and nieces able to converse with them in French, or Spanish, or German, as the case might be, the little ones were stimulated to learn as much as they could in expectation of their kinsmen’s coming. Little Mary Ann McCracken had to learn her French from an old weaver, but little Mary Taaffe and her sisters had all around them priests, who had studied abroad, and were only too anxious to keep up their practice of foreign languages by speaking them with their little parishioners. 75And so when the Taaffe uncle who had fought at Fontenoy, or his son, who witnessed the dispersal of the Brigade, came home to Ireland, their fastidious ears were not tortured by the halting French or vile accents of their young kinswomen. In many a country house, as in that of the O’Connors of Belanagare, were living ladies, like Madame O’Rorke, Charles O’Connor’s grandmother, widows of distinguished Irish officers in the French, or Spanish or Imperial service, who had spent their youth in the most brilliant circle in Europe, had been the friends and confidantes of Queens, and who now took delight in forming their little grandchildren and nieces to the exquisite manners and gracious bearing which, in their own case, had won the admiration of the most polished society on the Continent. In other houses were other ladies who under the secular garb which the necessities of the time imposed on them, carried out as well as they could, in their kinsmen’s homes, the religious rule of life to which they had bound themselves in their suppressed convents. When the convents were closed, and the nuns scattered, those who, instead of going abroad, found refuge with their relatives and friends, devoted themselves largely to the education of the little girls of the household. They trained them to their own exquisite skill in needlework, they taught them something of the art of healing, and above all they filled their minds with sweet and lovely images through their stories of the girl saints who had been their own unseen but constant companions in cell, and garden, and church; they turned them steadily to the imitation of the virtues by which the Elizabeths, the Cecilias, the Catherines, the Agneses had won their place as hand-maidens of the Heavenly Queen.

37.  “Annals of Irish Harpers,” p. 179.

There is no story more beautiful in our national annals than the story—yet untold in its completeness—of the Irish nuns during the ages of persecution. We see them avail themselves of the slightest lull in the storm to 76found their convents, and carry out the Magnum Opus to which they had vowed their life. The days of the Confederation of Kilkenny saw the foundation of the Dominican Convent at Galway,[38] the days of James II saw its restoration, and the establishment of the Benedictines in Dublin. To such institutions the Catholic gentry sent their daughters to be educated, and we have only to turn to the pages of O’Heyne[39] to learn what manner of women these were who had the training of their young compatriots.

38.  O’Heyne states that the convent was established at the end of the reign of James I. but it was only in 1644 that the church was built and a house arranged in conventural style. The foundation was confirmed by Rinuccini in 1647.

39.  Admirably edited by Rev. Ambrose Coleman, O.P., who has contributed an Appendix full of the most valuable historical information (Dundalk, 1902).

We see the heroic and saintly Prioress of the Dominican Nuns in Galway, Juliana Nolan, “a woman of heroic fortitude in bearing every kind of adversity, and very firm in observance and the gaining of virtues”; her successor, Mary Lynch, who taught school in Spain before her return to Galway, “a most religious woman and of great capacity for ruling and instructing”; and above all Mary O’Halloran, than whom, O’Heyne declares, he had never known a woman of stronger intellect. “She had a more accurate acquaintance with the Spanish tongue than the Spaniards themselves, and was well versed in sacred and profane history.”

It was not alone the young girls of the “Tribes” or the chieftainly families of the West who were sent to the Convent in Galway to be trained by the women we have described. Even right across the country from Drogheda pupils came to them. One of these, Catherine Plunkett, daughter of Thomas Plunkett, of Drogheda, and a relation of the martyred Archbishop, Oliver Plunkett, passed from the school room, at an early age, to the novitiate and 77received her religious training under Mary Lynch. “She shared in all the vicissitudes of that Community, who were several times compelled by religious persecution to quit their convent. Some sought shelter in the homes of their relations or friends, whilst not a few experienced the utmost vigours of poverty. Father Hugh O’Callaghan, who was Prior Provincial of the Dominicans from 1709 to 1718, having during the course of his Visitation, found the Sisters in this lamentable condition, and without any hope of their being permitted to return to their Convent, obtained for them from the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev. Dr. Edmund Byrne, permission to settle in his diocese; accordingly in March, 1717, eight of them (of whom Catherine Plunkett was one) arrived in the Metropolis and took up their abode first in Fisher’s Lane, from which they soon afterwards removed to the ancient Benedictine Convent, Chancel Row (now North Brunswick Street).”[40]

40.  Memoir of Mother M. Catherine Plunkett, compiled from the Archives of Sienna Convent, Drogheda, very kindly furnished me by Mother Prioress and Community.

After a little time, Catherine Plunkett obtained the permission of her Superiors to go to Belgium, where she was received into the Convent of the English Dominican Sisters, called the Spillikens, from its proximity to a pin factory. Here she remained about three years until at the urgent request of the Primate Hugh MacMahon, she was recalled in 1721, by the Provincial, Dr. Stephen MacEgan, to found a convent in her native town of Drogheda.

It reads like a chapter of the Fioretti—the record of the early days of Catherine Plunkett’s foundation in Drogheda. The first home of the nuns was a little mud cabin on the Meath side of the Boyne. Long before day broke over the shining sands and thin line of Eastern sea, the Dominican Father who ministered to their spiritual wants, used to row himself over in a little boat to say 78Mass and give them holy Communion. Dressed in secular garb, with their real character known only to a few discreet friends, the ladies from Brussels obtained, without much difficulty, leave from the Protestant Primate to open a school, and the Drogheda merchants were very glad to send their daughters to them. Later, they moved to a house in Dyer Street, and opened a boarding school, and an establishment for lady boarders. All the noblesse of the Pale, the Plunketts, the Bellews, the Balfes, the Dillons, the O’Reillys, the Drakes, the Fortescues, the Taaffes are represented among the first pupils—and it is not at all unlikely that our heroine, Mary Taaffe, received her education in this Dyer Street Convent, which welcomed so many of her kinswomen. The nuns of Sienna very kindly searched their old account books for her name, but unfortunately the books were missing for the years 1762 to 1765, which are the very years when we might expect to find her there—if we are right in assuming that she was born about 1753.[41]

41.  The date has only been arrived at by inference. She was married in 1771, and we know from her grandson’s narrative that she was considered to have married early, say about eighteen. Her mother died in 1753, which set a posterior limit to her conjectured birth year.

So while it is not improbable that Catherine Plunkett’s Convent in Drogheda had the credit of the education which produced so charming a result, we cannot attain any certainty in the matter. Nor do we know much about Mary Taaffe’s childhood. Her father, Mr. George Taaffe, representative of that branch of the Taaffes who held the Earldom of Carlingford under the Stuarts, lived in Ardee on the remnant of the ancestral estates which was all the family’s devotion to the “Lost Cause” of the Stuarts had left them, and within sight of the ancestral castle of Smarmore, which his son was to purchase back for the family. His young wife, Elizabeth Keappock, 79died in 1753 at the early age of thirty, leaving him with one son, John, and four daughters. Of these, one married Terence Kiernan; another, a member of the Scurly family, a third, Alice, James Lynch of Drogheda. John, the only son, was twice married, first to Anne Plunkett of Portmarnock, and after her death in 1786 to Catherine Taaffe.

The ease with which Mr. George Taaffe got his girls married (an ease which anxious parents of the present day might well envy) to young men who in respect of fortune and family were among the most eligible partis in the Pale, suggests that the Taaffe girls were very attractive. Doubtless their father’s house, when his four charming daughters still graced it, was an extremely pleasant place; and it is not to be wondered at that the girls’ clever young kinsman, Mr. Luke Teeling, found himself often taking in Ardee[42] on his journeys between his father’s place near Balbriggan and the establishment of the linen merchant in Lisburn with whom he was serving his apprenticeship.

42.  It would be quite in his way if we are justified in assuming that the route taken by Thomas Molyneux in 1707 was the ordinary one.

As is so often the case with serious-minded young men, there was a strong, if hidden, vein of romance in Luke Teeling’s nature, and he soon discovered that he had lost his heart irrevocably, to his pretty cousin, Mary. She was young, hardly more than a child at the time, and her father was loth to part with his little maid so soon; but he recognised the sterling qualities of her suitor and gave his consent to an engagement, which terminated in the marriage of the young couple at Ardee on April 6th, 1771.

There had been an old connection between the Taaffes and the Teelings, and we learn from Bartholomew Teeling’s 80Memoir of his uncle that Luke Teeling’s mother was of the house of Taaffe. After the record of the marriage of Luke and Mary (still kept at Smarmore Castle) the words are inserted, “obtenta dispensatione in consanguinitate.”

Like the Taaffes, the Teelings had suffered much during the long wars which devastated Ireland in the seventeenth century, and of the broad acres which their forefathers had held in Meath for over five hundred years there remained after the “Third Breaking” of Aughrim, in the pathetic phrase of one of the family’s present-day representatives, little more than “the semi-circular arched vault in the churchyard of Rathkenny.” But even before Father Teeling, who came back from his College on the Continent about the beginning of the eighteenth century, to endure the life of suffering, and labour, and peril of a missionary priest in Ireland under the Penal Régime, was gathered to his fathers in that vault, the fortunes of the family were already in the ascent. In truth there was something in the Teelings which forced them to the front in whatever walk of life they might choose for themselves, whether as soldiers, like the old knightly Teelings of the Middle Ages, whose names survive in many an ancient deed of gift to religious houses; or churchmen, like Father Ignatius Teeling, S. J., or scholars like Theobald Teeling, the correspondent of Justus Lipsius, and that other Teeling, who has been described by Archbishop Peter Talbot as “urbis et orbis miraculum.”[43] And this something—call it personality, force of character, or what you will—was peculiarly evident in Bartholomew Teeling whom we find settled in the neighbourhood of Balbriggan about the middle of the eighteenth century.

43.  These particulars concerning the Teeling family are taken from an excellent article in The Gentleman’s Magazine (October, 1905), by a writer signing himself “Albi Norman.”

It was in the days when Balbriggan, under the fostering 81care of its landlord, Baron Hamilton, of Hampton Hall,[44] was developing from a miserable little fishing hamlet into a prosperous trading town. With the assistance of a small grant from the Irish Parliament, the Baron built the pier, in the sixties of the eighteenth century, and thus fostered a lively carrying trade with Wales. Ships of two hundred tons could unload in the new harbour, and such craft crowded the quay, unloading cargoes of slates, coal and culm, as well as rock salt and bark, and carrying back corn and cattle. In 1780 the Baron established extensive cotton works here, for the promotion of which parliament granted the sum of £1,250, but this manufacture was subsequently almost abandoned for that of hosiery.[45] When Arthur Young visited Ireland in 1776, he spent a few days with the Baron, and we learn from him[46] much of the latter’s improvements; of the one hundred and fifty acres of mountain land he reclaimed; of the agricultural methods he adopted, and of their financial results; of the local fishing industry and how he worked it. It seems the Baron had boat-building works, and out of these came his fleet of “23 boats each carrying seven men, who were not paid wages, but divided the produce of the fishery. The vessel took one share, and the hands one each, which amounts on an average to 16s. a week. A boat costs from £130 to £200, fitted out ready for the fishery; they make their own nets.”

44.  He was M.P. for Belfast, Solicitor General and Baron of the Exchequer (D’Alton’s “History of County Dublin,” p. 477).

45.  D’Alton, op. cit., p. 468.

46.  “Tour in Ireland,” Vol. I.

With the agricultural experiments of the Baron, and his industrial and trading enterprises, Bartholomew Teeling was closely identified. He held the lands in Walshetown, Gardiner’s Hill, Kilbrickstown, etc., and some family documents, which I have been privileged to examine, have reference to business transactions with Baron 82Hamilton, which would seem to indicate that Bartholomew Teeling helped to finance the Baron’s schemes.

At all events Bartholomew prospered, and when he died the provisions he was able to make for his sons and the education he gave them, show that he had accumulated a comfortable fortune. He was married twice, it would appear, his first wife being of the Taaffe family, and his second a Miss Grace. By these he had a numerous family of sons. In addition to Luke, the eldest son, we find mention in the family papers of Christopher, a well-known doctor in Dublin; James, who seems to have remained in his father’s place near Balbriggan and combined manufacturing and farming; Joseph, and Robert, afterwards merchants in Dublin; and Bartholomew. There was also a Patrick, but if he was one of these brothers, he must have died soon, as his name early falls out of the family record.

Luke had been early apprenticed to the linen trade—and that fact in itself indicates that his father was a man of means. For in the endeavour to keep the trade “exclusive,” a high fee was charged, and a fairly long apprenticeship insisted on.

After the repeal of the Edict of Nantes many French Protestant refugees settled in Ireland. Some of these were highly skilled in the linen manufacture and a settlement of them under Louis Crommelin in Lisburn, a town on the Marquis of Hertford’s estate, made that place a thriving centre of the industry. After Luke Teeling had completed his apprenticeship, he stayed on in Lisburn, got a lease from the Marquis of Hertford, and started a bleachyard of his own; and he was so successful, that Mr. George Taaffe needed to have no misgiving about the future when he gave his beloved daughter to him.

The early years of the married life of Luke and Mary Teeling were years of unclouded happiness. A little Elizabeth, called perhaps after the mother Mary Teeling 83had never known, came to them the following year. She was followed by a goodly train of brothers and sisters: Bartholomew, George, Charles, Luke and John were the boys. The girls, in addition to Elizabeth, were Mary, Alice (called after Alice Taaffe who had married James Lynch, of Drogheda), and Millicent.

Fortunate families, like fortunate nations, “have no history,” and there is little to record of Mary Teeling during the years when her boys and girls were growing up. In 1782 her husband acquired the lease of some building ground on Church Hill and built a residence for his family in keeping with his wealth and position; and a decade and a half of happy years passed swiftly under its dignified roof. The large family party which gathered permanently round the Teelings’ board was seldom without a reinforcement of guests: business correspondents like Mr. Sam Wall, of Worcester, or merchants from Dublin and Belfast, were sure of a hearty welcome there. Old Mr. George Taaffe loved to come from Ardee, and spend a month or two with his beloved grandchildren. Aunt “Ally” Lynch from Drogheda, and kind Uncle James were frequent visitors. The elder boys, Bartle and George and Charles, who were attending Mr. Saumarez Dubourdieu’s famous classical school in the town, had frequent permission to bring home their schoolfellows to dinner or supper, and Mrs. Teeling’s “parties” were voted the most delightful in Lisburn. As the boys grew older other guests were much in evidence—young officers from the camp at Blaris-Moor with whom the Teeling lads fenced, or went fishing or shooting, or rode to hounds, liked to be asked when the day’s sport was over to accompany them to the hospitable mansion on Church Hill, where a pleasant supper and a dance would wind up many a delightful evening. The Teelings were noted horsemen—an hereditary trait. The writer in The Gentlemen’s Magazine, having quoted the younger Bartholomew 84Teeling’s description of his father and uncles as “the best horsemen and the most accomplished swordsmen in the province,” tells us that the Teelings “were proverbial for their love of small, perfectly shaped, high-bred horses,” and refers to stories, still current in the County of Meath, of the incredibly short time in which they used to ride from their home to Dublin, on their beautiful little horses.

“White with green facings their retainers did wear
And the young cavaliers were beloved of the fair.”[47]

47.  Luke Teeling was looked on as a remarkably good judge of a horse, and I find among the family papers not a few in which his friends seek his advice on that all important subject.

The young men were born soldiers, and more than one effort was made by officers and others of the highest rank to induce them to enter the English army. The Marquis of Hertford, dining one day with Mr. Teeling, promised his influence to get Charles into the Guards, and pledged his powerful support towards his advancement. Luke Teeling replied that, as far as he was concerned, his son was free to accept the flattering offer—but to the surprise of the Marquis, it was declined by Charles himself.

In truth, the boy, who though younger in years than Bartholomew or George, had ripened earlier than they, had turned his thoughts in a direction not very likely to end in a Commission in the English Army. While Bartle still dallied in the pleasant ways of youth, and George was away in Dublin,[48] Charles was thrown largely into his father’s company, and imbibed the political views which the circumstances of the time forced on a man of Mr. Teeling’s logical and just mind. Though it is not said 85in so many words, we gather that Bartle and his father did not quite understand each other. The younger Bartle tells us that his namesake “scarcely brooked the restraint which the stoical and somewhat severe principles of his father imposed upon him; but to his mother, whose idol he was, and to his sisters, he was warmly and tenderly attached. There was no youthful adventure too daring or even extravagant for him; but nothing which inflicted pain, or which trifled with human misery ever had his countenance.” He was fond of books, too, a diligent student of the Classics, and a devotee of Shakespeare and perhaps these tastes helped to keep him for a longer time than his brother a sojourner in those regions of the Ideal where the call of the Real resoundeth not. The day was to come, indeed, and speedily, too, when the cry of his suffering country was to ring as loudly in Bartle’s ear as it had long rung in that of Charles. And how he was to answer it all men know.

48.  They were both apprenticed in the linen trade. Bartle with his father, and George with the MacDonnells in Dublin.

In 1790 Mr. Teeling gave very active support to the parliamentary candidature of Hon. Robert Stewart—afterwards Lord Castlereagh—who stood in the Reform interest against the Downshire clique. Being a Catholic, Mr. Teeling had no vote himself, but he spared neither his money nor his personal exertions in favour of one who advocated so eloquently the causes dear to Mr. Teeling’s heart: Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform. The Teeling boys were enthusiastic admirers of the young candidate, who indeed had been the idol of every patriotic heart in the north since the day he rode—a lad of thirteen—at the head of a company of boy Volunteers in the Review in Belfast, and made men think of Cuchullin and the boy troop of Emain Macha, by the martial skill and daring of their exploits. We know from Charles’s own assurance that the tenderest ties bound him to his father: “He was to me,” he says, in one of the most moving passages of his narrative, 86“not only the affectionate parent, but also the companion and friend.” And doubtless, in the long rides which father and son delighted to take in each other’s company, Charles imbibed his father’s political opinions and learned to feel the wrongs which the Catholics of Ireland were suffering as intolerable.

The Catholic Convention of 1792, in which Mr. Teeling took a leading part, was a turning point in the history of the family. We know from Tone’s account of the proceedings that Luke Teeling was the man of the Convention. When the counsels of the more pusillanimous seemed likely to prevail, his commanding spirit and ability won the day for the bolder measures advocated by Tone, and it was due to him that there went forth from the great assembly a Petition to the King demanding (instead of the partial relief for Catholic disabilities to which the Sub-Committee that drew up the Petition had originally limited their request) Total Emancipation. “My instructions from my constituents,” said Mr. Luke Teeling in a speech which produced the most profound impression on his audience, “are to require nothing short of total emancipation; and it is not consistent with the dignity of this meeting and much less of the great body which it represents, to sanction by anything which could be construed into acquiescence on their part, one fragment of that unjust and abominable system, the penal code. It lies with the paternal wisdom of the Sovereign to ascertain what he thinks fit to be granted, but it is the duty of this meeting to put him fully and unequivocally in possession of the wants and wishes of his people.” The effect of Mr. Teeling’s attitude was to win to his views even the most cautious—not to say timid—members of the assembly, and his amendment was passed unanimously. We cannot help feeling, as we read Tone’s “Diary,” and follow the events subsequent to the return from London of the Delegate who 87had gone from the Convention with the Petition to the King, that if Mr. Teeling had been living in Dublin, instead of in distant Antrim, things would have taken a different course for the Catholic Cause, and the whole Cause of Ireland. His influence would have prevented the spirit of compromise which had such disastrous results.

The years that followed the Catholic Convention were marked by a great increase in bigotry—fomented with nefarious designs by the Irish Government of the day. The new activities of the new men at the head of the Catholic movement—wealthy and progressive merchants, like John Keogh and E. Byrne; young professional men, fresh from Continental Universities, like Dr. MacNevin—were countered by increased activities on the part of the bigots. The Grand Juries sent in to Parliament Petitions against the Catholic claims, and when these fell flat owing to the clever pamphleteers like Tone and Emmet, other methods were resorted to. The chief was the fostering of party spirit, which was first evidenced in the enormous increase in sectarian associations. Against the aggressions of the “Peep o’ Day Boys” (who got their name from their custom of repairing at that hour to the houses of their Catholic neighbours, dragging them from their bed and otherwise maltreating them, while they searched their houses for arms) the Catholics, who not only had no protection from the law or the armed forces of the crown, but saw, on the contrary, both these mights used against them, formed themselves into an association called “Defenders.” In those quarters where the contending parties were nearly balanced, the peace was kept by their wholesome fear of each other, but where the Catholics were in the minority they were obliged to adopt a system of nightly patrols, each townland or parish furnishing its proportion of armed men. But this system was intolerably burdensome, and at length some of the young men decided that there was nothing for it 88but to meet their opponents in the open field, and have done with the matter there and then.

News of this impending conflict came to the ears of young Charles Teeling, and although he was only a lad of seventeen at the time, he determined to try and prevent it. He was well aware, he tells us in his pamphlet on “The Battle of the Diamond,” that whether the Catholics won or lost in the fight the result would be equally disastrous for them; if they lost, they would be still more at the mercy of their savage opponents than before; if they won, Government, which was undisguisedly in favour of their enemies, would exact the severest penalties from them. He hoped that the influence which his family enjoyed both with the Catholics and the Protestants would make the opposing parties ready to listen to his proposals for peace between them. Without saying a word to anyone he set out therefore from Lisburn to the disturbed districts, but he had not gone far when he saw that the task was too serious and responsible for his seventeen years. He sent, therefore, to Belfast for Samuel Neilson, then editor of the Northern Star, who for many years had been the warm friend of his father in the causes of Reform and Catholic Emancipation.

Before Neilson could reach him, the Battle of the Diamond had been fought and won by the Protestants, and the Catholics were, as he anticipated, in a worse condition than before.

The “Peep o’ Day Boys,” on the very day of the Battle of the Diamond (September 21st, 1795) formed themselves into the famous association of “Orangemen,”[49] and these immediately set themselves to exterminate the Catholics. “They would no longer permit a Catholic to exist in the 89county.[50] They posted up on the cabins of these unfortunate victims this pithy notice, ‘To Hell or Connaught,’ and appointed a limited time in which the necessary removal of persons and property was to be made. If after the expiration of that period, the notice had not been complied with, the Orangemen assembled, destroyed the furniture, burned the habitations and forced the ruined families to fly elsewhere for shelter.... While these outrages were going on, the resident magistrates were not found to resist them, and in some instances were even more than inactive spectators.” Many fearful murders were committed on the unresisting Catholics, and it is estimated that seven thousand Catholics were either killed or driven from their homes by the Orangemen in the County Armagh alone. But the unhappy outcasts, even when they escaped with their lives, had no shelter to fly to. In most cases they could only wander on the mountains until either death relieved them, or they were arrested and imprisoned; while the younger men were sent without ceremony to one of the “tenders” then lying in various seaports, and thence transferred on board British men-of-war. During the years 1796 and ’97 the Orange magistrates, aided by troops, established a reign of terror over the greater part of Leinster and portions of Ulster and Munster. They arrested and imprisoned, without any charge, multitudes of innocent persons, and many of these were only removed from prison to be sent to serve in the navy.

49.  The first Orange lodge was formed on September 21, 1795, at the house of a man called Sloan, in the village of Loughgall, Co. Armagh.

50.  James Hope says that in reality what the Orangemen aimed at was to get the farms of the Catholics who had recently, by their industry in the linen trade, acquired the means of renting desirable farms.

Parliament—the famous Irish Parliament, Grattan’s Parliament, came to the rescue of the oppressed by passing the Insurrection Acts and the Indemnity Acts—the objects of which were to give the magistrates a free 90hand to commit the most illegal outrages against the people without fear of any unpleasant consequences for themselves. It is true that Grattan fought gallantly against these measures, and to his splendid speech in opposition to them we owe much of our information concerning the outrages perpetrated by the “banditti of persecution.”

It was felt by the most far-seeing and patriotic of the Irishmen who deplored this appalling state of affairs that the one hope of the country lay in the system of the United Irishmen, which aimed at a real union of Irishmen of all denominations in the bonds of love and loyalty to their common country. In the North, especially, the urgency of this union of hearts was keenly felt, and hence we find the younger men of the advanced party like Henry Joy MacCracken and Lowry, working strenuously with Charles H. Teeling and his brother-in-law, John Magennis, to get “the Defenders” into the ranks of the United Irishmen.

Government showed its appreciation of their labours by an unexpected coup. The most active protagonists of the policy were suddenly arrested on a charge of high treason and clapped into prison in Dublin.

On a delightful September morning of the year 1796, Mary Teeling stood on the doorstep of her beautiful home in Lisburn waving a farewell greeting to her husband and her son Charles ere they rode off together on one of those business expeditions—of which the extraordinary affection uniting this father and son always made a pleasure excursion. As she gazed on her stately husband, now in the pride of his years and his honourable prosperity, making a superbly gallant figure, as he always did on horseback, and saw how fine a pendant Charles’s dashing youth and fresh good looks, offered to his father’s, can we wonder if her heart swelled with wifely and maternal 91pride, and she turned to her home duties with a prayer of thankfulness to God for all the good things that were hers.

Alas! Alas! Sorrows and crosses beyond all telling were to follow that radiant moment, and ere the day was over, the fair structure of her life’s peace was to be laid in ruins.

Not very long afterwards she was startled by seeing the old groom who had ridden out with Luke and Charles return with Charles’s riderless horse. What dreadful thing had happened?

It was not the worst at all events. No fatal accident had taken her boy from her—but what really had happened it was difficult enough to make out from the servant’s narrative. She could hardly believe that Lord Castlereagh, an old friend of the Teeling family, who was under the most real obligations to Mr. Teeling for his help and support on many occasions, could really have her boy now under arrest in the house of his father-in-law, the Marquis of Hertford. Lord Castlereagh, according to the groom, had with his usual appearance of cordiality and friendship joined the master and Master Charles as they rode up the main street of the town, but when they came to the Marquis’s gates, Master Charles had been asked by his lordship to accompany him. As soon as he had entered the gates, these were closed and an armed guard had suddenly appeared. The master had demanded admission, and this, after a time, was granted. He was only allowed a few minutes with his son. Then he had come out, and leaving orders with the groom to lead home Master Charles’s horse, he had continued his journey alone.

She was not left long in doubt of the truth of the old servant’s extraordinary tale. Very shortly afterwards she saw Lord Castlereagh himself enter her house, accompanied by a military guard. Her youngest son, John, 92a boy of fourteen, daring to demand by what authority the house was thus forcibly entered, saw a pistol presented at his breast, and himself compelled to accompany Castlereagh and his minions in their search through the house for treasonable (?) papers. “My brother,” Charles tells us in his “Narrative,” “conducted himself on this occasion with a firmness and composure that could hardly have been expected from a lad of his years.” It is regrettable that he does not mention the name of the sister “who evinced the most heroic courage; she was my junior, and, with the gentlest, possessed the noblest soul; she has been the solace of her family in all subsequent afflictions, and seemed to have been given as a blessing by Heaven, to counterpoise the ills they were doomed to suffer.” One guesses, however, from the deep affection entertained for her by Charles all through the after years, that this heroic sister was her mother’s namesake, Mary.

As for the mother herself, she was “totally overpowered by the scene. She had just been informed of my arrest, and now saw our peaceful home in possession of a military force. Maternal affection created imaginary dangers, and in the most energetic language she prayed Lord Castlereagh to permit her to visit my prison, and to grant even a momentary interview with her son. This he had the good sense and firmness to decline, and in communicating the matter to me in the course of our evening’s conversation, I expressed my approval of his decision. But my mother felt otherwise; the afflicted state of her mind precluded that reflection which should have rendered her sensible of the propriety of Lord Castlereagh’s refusal. Agitated and disappointed, her gentle but lofty spirit was roused, and burying maternal grief in the indignant feeling of her soul, ‘I was wrong,’ she exclaimed, ‘to appeal to a heart that never felt the tie of parental affection—your Lordship is not a father.’ 93She pronounced these words with a tone and an emphasis so feeling and so powerful, that even the mind of Castlereagh was not insensible to its force, and he immediately retired with his guard.” That night, Charles and the other prisoners, arrested on the same day in Belfast, (including Neilson and Russell) were taken in coaches, under an armed escort, to Dublin, and thrown into prison, where he remained for about two years, without trial, until the breakdown of his health procured his release.

In the meantime all sorts of misfortunes had befallen the happy household on Church Hill. Some months after the arrest of Charles, the Orangemen, in broad daylight, had entered Mr. Teeling’s premises, wrecked his bleach-yard, looted his house, and in the course of a few hours’ deliberate devastation left the entire establishment “a desolate ruin.” And all this, as Charles points out in his narrative, “in the blush of open day, within the immediate vicinity of two garrisoned towns, an active magistrate, and an armed police.” It is quite clear that the Orangemen were the agents of vengeance of the Government, who thus designed to punish Mr. Teeling’s temerity in acting as Secretary of a meeting of the Freeholders of Co. Antrim, convened by public notice at Ballymena on May 8th, 1797, from which had gone forth a Petition to the King setting forth the intolerable grievances under which the Irish people were suffering, and praying his Majesty to dismiss the ministers responsible for them.

As their lives were no longer safe in Lisburn, Mr. Teeling moved his family to Union Lodge, near Dundalk, which had been previously used by Bartle as his headquarters, But even here they were not safe. He got private notice from a well-wisher that he was about to be arrested. He, therefore, found an asylum for Mrs. Teeling and the girls with her brother, Mr. John Taaffe, at Smarmore 94Castle, Ardee, while he looked around him to make fresh provision for them.

It is not very clear at what date Bartle began to identify himself with the United Irishmen; but it seems to have been about the same time as Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Arthur O’Connor joined them, that is to say early in 1796. He became the fast friend of Lord Edward, and before Charles’s arrest on September 16th, 1796, the two brothers were frequent guests at Kildare Lodge. It was here that Bartle met and loved the fair Lady Lucy Fitzgerald, Lord Edward’s favourite sister, and who shall say that he loved Ireland the less, because his vision of Kathleen Ni Houlihan borrowed the lovely ardent face, and the bright eyes, veiled with long dark drooping lashes of “Lucia.” While Lord Edward and O’Connor were on the Continent negotiating with the French Government, Bartle Teeling, under a plausible plea of a business journey, made a complete tour of Ireland on foot. His object, according to his nephew, was to make himself “perfectly acquainted with Ireland’s resources, with her capabilities of entering upon, and maintaining an internal war, with the intellectual and physical qualities, the habits and the manners of her people, with their wants and their endurance, their hopes and their resolves; as well as with the natural features of the country—her rivers, her coasts, and her harbours.” The fact shows that Bartle Teeling, for all his youth, was amongst the most far-sighted of the leaders.

After his return from this journey he took up his residence in Union Lodge, with his friend, John Byrne, of Worcester, who having served his apprenticeship to the linen trade in Lisburn had established extensive bleaching mills on the banks of the river at Dundalk.

It is from the evidence of the informers, John Hughes and Samuel Turner, that we gather our scanty information as to Bartle’s activities about this period. Hughes, 95a Belfast bookseller, arrested in October, 1797, turned king’s evidence in order to secure liberation. Being brought before the Lords’ Committee in 1798, he stated amongst other things, that in November, 1796, he had been sent by Bartle Teeling (then settled as a linen merchant in Dundalk) to Dublin to extend the United Irishmen societies there. Hughes seems to have been a sort of organiser for the Society, for again in June, 1797, he was sent for to come to Dublin. Before he left the north, John Magennis (Betty Teeling’s husband) administered an oath to him that he would not communicate the names of those to whom he should be introduced. In Dublin he was present at a breakfast given by Bartle Teeling, at his lodgings in Aungier Street, where the other guests were John Magennis, Anthony MacCann, of Dundalk; Samuel Turner; Messrs. John and Patrick Byrne, of Dundalk; Colonel James Plunkett; A. Lowry; Mr. Cumming, of Galway; and Dr. MacNevin. The object of the conference was to discuss the fitness of the country for an immediate rising. Teeling, Lowry and MacCann were in favour of an immediate effort; the others were afraid the people were not sufficiently prepared for it.

Shortly afterwards, before the month of June was up, Bartle Teeling, Turner, MacCann, Tennant, Lowry, etc., seeing the “Rising” postponed, fled to Hamburg; and some of the others, including John Magennis, found refuge in Scotland.

Bartle Teeling must have remained in Hamburg a very short time, for his brother states that he joined the French army under the name of Biron[51] and served a campaign under Hoche, whose death occurred on September 8th of that year. He may have returned to Hamburg after the death of Hoche, for in October of 961797 Turner reports to his friend, Lord Downshire, a letter Teeling was sending from that place to Arthur O’Connor. In November, Turner’s information shows Bartle in Paris. At a date of the same year which it is difficult to determine, he paid a stolen visit to Ireland, bearing messages from the Irish leaders on the Continent to those at home. It is said that on this occasion Lady Lucy gave him the ring which is still treasured in the Teeling family—and which he wore until the eve of his execution, when he sent it to his brother “as the dearest pledge he had to leave, of fraternal love.”

51.  In the Castlereagh papers the assumed name of B. Teeling is stated to have been Byrne.

All this time Mary Teeling was without news of him, and to the burden which she already had to bear was added that of intolerable anxiety for her eldest son, and great uneasiness about Charles, of whose health his father brought back discouraging reports from his visits to Kilmainham. The kindness of her brother John and his wife Catherine, and the hospitality they so gladly offered her and her girls, could not make her forget the wreck of her own beautiful home, and the irreparable damage done to her husband’s fortune. Moreover, his health was much affected by the condition of his affairs, and the fatigues he had undergone to re-establish them. A trip to a Donegal Spa, followed by a horseback journey to Connacht (where he hoped to establish a new bleach-green) had exhausted him, and in the spring of ’98, he had been sent by his doctor to Cushendall for sea-bathing. His frequent changes of abode were represented to Government as connected with treasonable activities, and accordingly on June 16th, 1798, he was arrested, and committed to prison in Belfast, no charge being made against him.

For four years Luke Teeling was kept in prison, and was only liberated in 1802. And during all that time no charge was brought against him, nor did his repeated requests to be brought to trial bring any result. From 97the provost prison in Belfast, he was moved to the Postlethwaite tender, lying in Belfast Lough, one of the prison ships which were among the horrors of the day; from that to Carrickfergus Castle, and finally back to the prison in Belfast. It has been my privilege to read many of the letters addressed by Luke Teeling from his various prisons to members of his family, and truly it was with a great stirring of the heart that one held them in one’s hands, and read the story they tell of sufferings heroically borne; of a devotion to honour and principle which counted no cost too great; of a Faith and Hope, and love of God and God’s Church intense enough to make the writer free of the ardent and heroic company of the saints. There is one letter written from the Postlethwaite, where the firm hand trembles, and the strong heart shows nigh to breaking—which it is impossible to read without tears. It is the letter in which the father writes to Bartle’s old friend, Sam Wall, the news of Bartle’s execution.

For in the days when Luke Teeling was enduring the horrors of the prison ship in the sweltering summer heat,[52] Bartle’s brief but glorious day had come to its heroic close on the “martyr’s mound” at Arbour Hill, Dublin. It is not here that may be fully told the gallant story of Bartle Teeling and the part he played in the Humbert 98Expedition. On his white charger he rides for ever amid the “fair chivalry” of the boy-heroes of Ireland amid the

“White horsemen with Christ their Captain—forever he.”

52.  “The Postlethwaite Tender, on which my father was confined, contained within the limits of one small apartment, thirty-four gentlemen, of respectable rank in life and independent circumstances. In this miserable prison-house, its inmates could never stand erect, and crowded together in a circumscribed space not fourteen feet square, they could only enjoy a partial and unrefreshing slumber in succession. Here, entombed on the ocean, during the sultry heat of a summer the most oppressive that has been remembered for thirty years, they inhaled the pestiferous atmosphere of a tender; in the depth of winter, when their numbers were reduced to a few, they were exposed with open port-holes to all the inclemency of the chilling blast. Nor were they permitted to receive a supply of wholesome food from their friends; nothing was allowed them beyond what the parsimonious bounty of Government afforded. At four o’clock in the evening the hatches were locked down, and the prisoners remained in darkness until nine on the following morning. Sometimes, forgetful of his situation, the prisoner would raise his form to stand erect ... when the hard repelling beam, in contact with his head, reminded him that the hand of man had prescribed his limits. My father, whose fine-formed head and silver locks are still present to my imagination, presented on his removal from this prison, a perfect encrustment of festered wounds from forehead to nape.”—C. H. Teeling’s “Narrative.”

And the day shall come, please God, when no Irish boy shall be ignorant of the lines he wrote in the Golden Annals of their knightly company.

Was it given to his mother to see her idolised son once more before he mounted the scaffold on Arbour Hill on September the 24th, 1798? To this question we can find no answer. We know, from her husband’s letter to Sam Wall, that for a time it was feared Mary Teeling would die, so completely did she break down under the agonising load of her conjugal and maternal sorrows. Bartle was not the only son whom Ireland claimed from her. Charles and John were now on their keeping. A few months after the consummation of Bartle’s sacrifice, John, her youngest son, her Benjamin, was taken from her—and of him, as truly as of Bartle, she might say, he gave his life for Ireland.

During her husband’s continued imprisonment, she tried to keep as close to him as she could, and for a time, it would appear she was permitted to share it in Carrickfergus Castle. Stifling her own sorrows she found strength to comfort him, and to lend him courage. His affairs had been reduced to ruin, by the vindictive action of 99Government, and to all his other woes was now added that which must have been of a peculiarly galling character to a man of his fastidious sense of honour: his inability to pay his creditors in full.

In 1802 Mr. Teeling was liberated, and after a time spent with Charles, now married to Catherine Carolan, and settled at the Naul, near Balbriggan, he made a home for his wife and girls in Belfast. Though an elderly man—older than his years, indeed, from the hardships of his imprisonment—he made a characteristically gallant effort to make a new start in life. His sons, George and Charles and Luke, helped as far as they could to re-establish the family fortunes, but the times were against them. George and Luke went finally to America and died there.

On a certain day in 1822 a letter arrived, re-directed from Belfast to Castlecomer, where Mr. and Mrs. Teeling and their unmarried daughters, Mary and Milly, had gone on a visit to Charles and his family. It was in an unknown hand-writing, and was signed by an unknown correspondent, William Cullen, from the City of Natchez, State of Mississippi. It contained the sad tidings of the death of George, and enclosed a ring which had been given to Bartle by Hoche, and to George by Bartle on the eve of his execution. It was Mary Teeling’s destiny to read the letter containing the news of her son’s death, by the coffin which contained the mortal remains of her husband. In the bitterness of her grief her wifely devotion could find comfort in the knowledge that this last earthly sorrow had been spared her beloved Luke—and that from the heavenly vantage ground whence he now looked, it was turned for him into a joy.

The few remaining years of Mary Teeling’s life were spent with Charles and his wife and little ones. And it is to the loving memories of these years, cherished by her grandson Bartholomew, that we owe the vivid portrait of her which I have borrowed to adorn my pages.



The Wife of Theobald Wolfe Tone

Matilda Tone née Witherington (1769-1849)[53]
“I thought, O my Love! you were so—
As the moon is, or sun on a fountain.
And I thought after that you were snow,
The cold snow on top of a mountain;
And I thought after that, you were more
Like God’s grace shining to find me,
Or the bright star of knowledge before,
And the star of knowledge behind me.”
—Hyde’s “Love Songs of Connacht.”

53.  Authorities: “Autobiography of Wolfe Tone,” edited by R. Barry O’Brien; Madden’s “United Irishmen,” Second Series, Second Edition, 1848.

IT was where a man should always find the Ladye of his Dreams that Theobald Wolfe Tone found his sky-woman—above the crowded ways of life, and yet not so far above them but that a man might, by raising his eyes, see her leaning towards him, bending upon his path the star-like radiance of her beauty, or that by climbing to her, a man might reach her side.

On a certain day, early in the year 1785, young Tone, then in his twenty-second year, and a scholar of the University of Dublin, went out, as his custom was after commons, with a fellow student for a stroll in Grafton Street. They were on the way to Byrne’s, the bookseller’s—a favourite rendezvous of intellectual and political Dublin—when, happening to glance up, they saw leaning from the window of a house near Byrne’s, as once “the Blessed Damozel leaned out from the gold bar of Heaven”—an exquisite young girl.

104It was a case of mutual love “at first sight.” The passionate adoration which the romantic young student of Trinity—with his head full of love poetry from his rehearsals for private theatricals, and dreams of military glory from his constant attendances at parades and field days in Phoenix Park—brought to the young loveliness of sixteen-year-old Matilda Witherington, was fully returned. Every day he passed her window and every day he found her there watching for his coming; and so it fell out that these two, who were to endure so much together, whose love-story was to be remembered, as long as Ireland keeps a place in her faithful heart for the constancy, and heroism and gallantry of her sons and daughters, had given their hearts irrevocably to each other before ever they knew the sound of each other’s voices.

He might be a dreamer, this slightly built, pock-marked young man with the keen eyes, and resolute, soldierly gait, who haunted Grafton Street so persistently through the spring and early summer of 1785. But he had an astonishingly practical turn for making his dreams come true. The time was to come when the dream of French aid for Ireland was to materialise through his instrumentality, in an expedition composed of fifteen thousand of the finest troops of the Republic, incomparably equipped, and commanded by one of the foremost generals in Europe. The secret of his success was that he always knew perfectly what he wanted, and having decided on the best road to reach his goal, walked it with that light but resolute soldier’s step of his, humming a gay tune, and allowing nothing to turn him aside. Having ascertained, now, that the house where his lady dwelt, and to which he desired an introduction, belonged to a rich old clergyman, called Fanning, and that the lady herself was the Rev. Mr. Fanning’s grandaughter, he contrived to make the acquaintance of her brother, and “as he played well on 105the violin, and I was myself a musical man, we grew intimate, the more so as it may well be supposed I neglected no fair means to recommend myself to him and the rest of the family with whom I soon grew a favourite. My affairs now advanced prosperously; my wife and I grew more passionately fond of each other; and in a short time I proposed to her to marry me without asking consent of any one, knowing well that it would be in vain to expect it; she accepted the proposal as frankly as I made it, and one beautiful morning in the month of July we ran off together and were married. I carried her out of town to Maynooth for a few days, and when the first éclat of passion had subsided, we were forgiven on all sides, and settled in lodgings near my wife’s grandfather.”

It non-plussed the Duke of Wellington at a later date, to think of Tone arriving in Paris “with a hundred guineas in his pocket, unknown and unrecommended,” and, by mere force of personality, obtaining from the French Government the wherewithal to overturn the British Government in Ireland. But I doubt if that achievement was any more remarkable in its own way than to find him, as we do now, winning the pearl of all women—and a happiness such as it is given to few mortals to taste—with nothing better to back up his suit than his flute—on which, we are given to understand, he was an indifferent, if enthusiastic performer!

For a time all went well with the young couple. The husband resumed for a short time his studies at the University, from which he graduated in February, 1786, and the girl-wife was happy not only in his love but in the restored favour of her relatives. “But,” as Tone himself says, “it was too good to last.” The Fannings and Witheringtons suddenly began to make themselves as disagreeable as possible, and to escape from them it was necessary for the young ménage to take refuge with 106old Mr. and Mrs. Tone, who were, for the moment, farming near Clane in Co. Kildare.

The Tones received their new daughter with open arms. Peter Tone, the father, idolised his clever eldest son, and if Matthew was the mother’s favourite, she, too, was proud of brilliant, fascinating Theobald. Mary Tone, the only girl of the family, lost her heart at once to her charming sister-in-law, and henceforth the bond that united them was only to grow closer with every danger and sorrow shared together through all the passing years. Unfortunately old Peter Tone’s finances were not in a very flourishing condition at this time—but, whatever was going, his son and his daughter-in-law were perfectly welcome to share.

It was in her father-in-law’s place at Clane that Matilda Tone’s first baby was born, a lovely little girl, whom they called Maria. Little Maria was but a few months old when her seventeen-year-old mother gave evidence of that marvellous courage and heroic devotion to her husband, which were so often to be displayed during her married life.

One October night a band of six robbers burst into the home of Peter Tone, armed with pistols and having their faces blackened. “Having tied the whole family, they proceeded to plunder and demolish every article they could find, even to the unprofitable villainy of breaking the china, looking-glasses, etc. At length, after two hours, a maid-servant whom they had tied negligently, having made her escape, they took the alarm, and fled with precipitation, leaving the house such a scene of horror and confusion as can hardly be imagined. With regard to myself, it is impossible to conceive what I suffered. As it was early in the night I happened to be in the courtyard, where I was seized and tied by the gang, who then proceeded to break into the house, leaving a ruffian sentinel over me, with a case of pistols cocked in his hand. 107In this situation I lay for two hours, and could hear distinctly the devastation which was going on within. I expected death every instant, and I can safely and with great truth declare that my apprehension for my wife had so totally absorbed the whole of my mind that my own existence was then the least of my concerns. When the villains, including my sentry, ran off, I scrambled to my feet with some difficulty, and made my way to a window where I called, but received no answer. My heart died within me. I proceeded to another and another, but still no answer. It was horrible. I set myself to gnaw the cords with which I was tied, in a transport of agony and rage, for I verily believed that my whole family lay murdered within, when I was relieved from my unspeakable terror and anguish by my wife’s voice, which I heard calling on my name at the end of the house. It seems that, as soon as the robbers fled, those within had untied each other with some difficulty, and made their escape through a back window; they had got a considerable distance from the house, before, in their fright, they recollected me, of whose fate they were utterly ignorant as I was of theirs. Under these circumstances, my wife had the courage to return alone, and, in the dark, to find me out, not knowing but she might again fall in to the hands of the enemy, from whom she had scarcely escaped, or that I might be lying a lifeless carcase at the threshold. I can imagine no greater act of courage; but of what is not a woman capable for him she truly loves? She cut the cords which bound me, and at length we joined the rest of the family at a little hamlet within half a mile of the house, where they had fled for shelter.”[54]

54.  “Autobiography of Wolfe Tone,” pp. 14, 15.

It will easily be believed that during the rest of that dreary winter none of Peter Tone’s household—except perhaps Baby Maria—slept sound o’ nights. “I slept,” 108says Theobald, “continually with a case of pistols at my pillow, and a mouse could not stir that I was not on my feet and through the house from top to bottom. If any one knocked at the door after nightfall we flew to our arms, and in this manner, we kept a most painful garrison through the winter.”

Fear of external enemies was not the only trouble the little garrison suffered. Within there was an ever-growing poverty, an ever increasing load of financial troubles. Theobald could bear no longer to be a useless “mouth” in the hunger-besieged citadel of his father’s home—and so he scraped together in some way a little money and went off to London to keep his terms as a law student of the Middle Temple.

During the period of his absence in London (January, 1787, to December, 1788) Matilda Tone and her little girl remained with her father-in-law in Clane. Her husband tells us that she and little Maria were treated by his father with great affection. But the situation was very painful. Old Peter Tone’s affairs grew every day more involved, and the letters she got from her husband in London brought little comfort. She knew how he hated Law, and how unwillingly he drudged at the study of it. If, as was his habit in later years, he made her at this period the confidante of all his schemes and dreams, it is certain that she must have had many an anxious moment at the prospects they presented to her. Now it was a project for establishing a colony on a military plan, in one of Captain Cook’s newly-discovered islands in the South Sea. Fascinating as Captain Cook’s description of these islands might be, it was not to be expected that a young mother of eighteen could picture herself and her little one exiled to one of them from the fair hills of Ireland without dismay. But at least if that project materialised she should have her husband with her. Not so with the second project—conceived in a fit of black despondency when everything 109else seemed hopeless. It was to “list” as a soldier in the East India Company’s service: “to quit Europe for ever, and to leave my wife and child to the mercy of her family who might, I hoped, be kinder to her when I was removed.”[55] Brave as Matilda Tone was, it is not surprising to learn that her health broke down under the strain of her anxieties.

55.  “Autobiography,” p. 19.

At length a friend, touched by the hapless condition of the young pair, made intercession for them with old Mr. Fanning. The grandfather was induced to give Matilda £500 of the dower he had promised her—and on the strength of this advance, Theobald returned to Ireland.

There was a joyful re-union in his father’s house at Blackhall on Christmas Day, 1788. Matilda’s wan countenance brightened into its old beauty when she had her husband by her side again, and the pride of the young father in his charming little daughter was a subject of great delight to her. Now the world was a delightful place once more.

They left Blackhall after New Year’s Day, 1789, and after a short stay with Mr. Fanning in Grafton Street, took up their residence in Clarendon Street. Theobald was soon after called to the Bar, and went circuit in Leinster. His success was surprising—especially to himself who considered that he knew exactly as much of law as he did of necromancy. “I was, modestly speaking,” he confesses in his pleasant way, “one of the most ignorant barristers in the Four Courts.” But it is plain that if he had cared to succeed he could have succeeded brilliantly.

As it was, he soon gave up law for politics—his first venture in which was a pamphlet in the interests of the Whig Club. This procured for him the favour of Grattan, Forbes and Ponsonby, and put a little profitable law 110business in his way. But the prospects which were held out to him of a seat in Parliament did not materialise; and very soon, Tone, whose opinions matured rapidly under an “intensive” method of political culture, found he had so far outgrown “Whig” principles that he could enter into no alliance with them. Briefly put, the points of difference were these: Tone held that “the influence of England was the radical vice of the Irish Government, and consequently that Ireland would never be either free, prosperous or happy until she was independent, and that independence was unobtainable whilst the connection with England existed.” Grattan and those who thought with him were attached to the connection with England, and considered that if certain grievances (which they could not see were inherent in the system) were removed, all would be for the best, in the best of all possible worlds. In the illumination of his discovery Tone “began to look on the little politics of the Whig Club with great contempt: their peddling about petty grievances instead of going to the root of the evil,” and he rejoiced that with his poverty he had kept his independence and could develop his political creed without being bound by the tenets of the Whigs.

One afternoon Theobald brought home to dinner a new acquaintance whom he had met the previous day in the gallery of the House of Commons. Mrs. Tone was as much taken as her husband by the fascinating address of this tall soldierly man with the dark eyes, coal black silky hair, and olive complexion, whom Theobald introduced to her as Thomas Russell. Long afterwards these three who dined together then for the first time, remembering the date of their first re-union, felt inclined to keep its anniversary as a festival. As Tone, on the eve of the most momentous crisis of his life, the departure of the Bantry Bay expedition, sat in a quiet corner of Paris reviewing his past, he counted the day he made Russell’s 111acquaintance as one of the most fortunate in his life. He joins the name of the passionately loved wife with that of the beloved friend. “I frame no system of happiness for my future life on which the enjoyment of his society does not constitute a most distinguishing feature, and if I am ever inclined to murmur at the difficulties wherewith I have so long struggled, I think on the inestimable treasure I possess in the affection of my wife, and the friendship of Russell, and I acknowledge that all my labours and sufferings are overpaid. I may truly say, that, even at this hour when I am separated from both of them, and uncertain whether I may ever be so happy as to see them again, there is no action of my life, which has not a remote reference to their opinion which I equally prize. When I think I have acted well, and that I am likely to succeed in the important business wherein I am engaged, I say often to myself: ‘My dearest love and my friend Russell will be glad of this.’”[56]

56.  “Autobiography,” p. 29.

A short time after they had made the acquaintance of Russell, the Tones went to spend the summer by the seaside at Irishtown, the doctor having prescribed sea-bathing as a cure for Mrs. Tone’s continued delicacy. Thither came Russell every day to visit them, and thither came also very frequently in his company Russell’s venerable father and his delightful brother, Captain John. Room was found, too, in “the little box of a house” for Mary Tone, and for William whenever he could spare a week from Matthew’s cotton factory at Prosperous. As Tone writes of these happy days he grows lyrical in his praise of them. “I recall with transport the happy days we spent during that period; the delicious dinners, in the preparation of which my wife, Russell and myself were all engaged; the afternoon walks, the discussions we had, as we lay stretched on the grass.... If I may 112judge we were none of us destitute of the humour indigenous in the soil of Ireland; ... add to this I was the only one who was not a poet, or at least a maker of verses, so that every day produced a ballad, or some poetical squib, which amused us after dinner; and as our conversation turned upon no ribaldry, or indecency, my wife and sister never left the table. These were delicious days. The rich and great, who sit down every day to the monotony of a splendid entertainment, can form no idea of the happiness of our frugal meal, nor of the infinite pleasure we found in taking each his part in the preparation and attendance. My wife was the centre and the soul of all. I scarcely knew which of us loved her best; her courteous manners, her never-failing cheerfulness, her affection for me and for our children, rendered her the object of our common admiration and delight. She loved Russell as well as I did. In short, a more interesting society of individuals, connected by purer motives, and animated by a more ardent attachment and friendship for each other, cannot be imagined.”[57]

57.  “Autobiography,” pp. 29, 30.

During these long days of summer leisure and talk, Tone’s old project of a military colony in the South Sea was revived, and a memorial on the subject was drawn up by him and Russell and sent to the Duke of Richmond. Both the Duke and Lord Grenville, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, showed an interest in the scheme, and it is possible that it might have led to something had not the threatened wars between England and Spain been averted by “a kind of peace called a convention.”

Shortly after this disappointment Russell was appointed to an Ensigncy on full pay in the 64th Regiment of foot and sent to Belfast where his regiment was then quartered. The last day he dined at Irishtown he arrived in a “very 113fine suit of laced regimentals,” and was set by his irreverent friends to cook the dinner in this attire.

The Tones did not remain long in their seaside cottage after Russell’s departure for Belfast. They returned to town for the winter, and here their eldest son William was born.

The winter found Theobald pursuing his political studies and founding a political club, consisting of literary friends of his who had already attained eminence; they included Dr. Drennan, the poet; Whitley Stokes and John Stack, Fellows of Trinity College; Joseph Pollock, Peter Burrowes and Thomas Addis Emmet. In spite of the distinguished talents each member brought to the re-union, the Club was anything but a success and it was soon dissolved.

At this time all Ireland was in a ferment owing to the influence of the French Revolution. The partisans of a settled order of things, including Grattan and his Whig friends, had followed Edmund Burke in their opposition to the new principles on which the French had set out to remodel the world. But those in Ireland who felt themselves “an oppressed, insulted and plundered nation” were heart and soul with the French people in their struggle for freedom. “In a little time the French Revolution became the test of every man’s political creed, and the nation was fairly divided into two great parties, the Aristocrats and the Democrats.”

Tone, of course, was an ardent Democrat, and these views of his, being speedily known, injured beyond any possibility of repair his prospects of success at the Bar—but brought him into close touch with two bodies of men who were each in their own way, struggling to be free—and nerved by the fight in France “to do or die” for liberty. These were the Catholics of Ireland, and the Dissenters of the North.

Russell’s stay in Belfast had brought him into close 114touch with the leaders of advanced thought in the northern city, whose programme of freedom embraced freedom not for themselves only but for the Catholics still enslaved by the Penal Laws. On the occasion of some Volunteer celebration in Belfast a resolution in favour of Catholic Emancipation was to be put forward, and Russell undertook to get Tone to draw it up. The commission was willingly accepted, and though the resolution was eventually not put to the meeting in the form Tone had given it, the circumstance had the result of setting him thinking more seriously than he had yet done on the state of Ireland. “I soon formed my theory, and on that theory I have invariably acted ever since!”

What was that theory which was to give a new impetus to Irish nationality, which was to be upheld at the cost of so much bloodshed and suffering, which was to be a dogma as living and peremptory in 1916 as in 1798—and in defence of which Patrick Pearse and his men were to face the guns of General Maxwell, as proudly as Wolfe Tone took command of the battery of the Hoche, in the glorious fight she put up, one little vessel against a whole fleet, on an October morning one hundred and eighteen years earlier. Here it is in Wolfe Tone’s own words: “To subvert the tyranny of our execrable Government, to break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils, and to assert the independence of my country—these were my objects. To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter—these were my means.”[58]

58.  “Autobiography,” pp. 50, 51. Pearse held “all Irish Nationalism to be explicit in these words. Davis was to make explicit certain things here implicit, Lalor certain other things; Mitchel was to thunder the whole in words of apocalyptic wrath and splendour. But the Credo is here: ‘I believe in One Irish Nation and that Free.’”—(“Ghosts,” p. 16.)

115Considering the Protestants hopeless, Tone first directed his efforts to an attempt to unite the Catholics and Dissenters. He accordingly sat down and wrote a pamphlet,[59] over the signature of a “Northern Whig,” in which he sought “to convince the Dissenters that they and the Catholics had but one common interest and one common enemy; that the depression and slavery of Ireland was produced and perpetuated by the divisions existing between them, and that, consequently, to assert the independence of their country, and their own individual liberties, it was necessary to forget all former feuds, to consolidate the entire strength of the whole nation, and to form for the future but one people.”[60]

59.  “Argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland.”

60.  “Autobiography,” p. 50.

The pamphlet had an immense success and its results a very decisive influence on the Tones’ fortunes. On the one hand, the Catholics, who under the capable leadership of John Keogh, were developing a new “forward” policy, sought out this champion of theirs and loaded him with attentions. Through John Keogh, Tone made the acquaintance of the principal Catholic leaders in Dublin, Richard MacCormick, John Sweetman, Edward Byrne, Thomas Braughall. During the winter of 1791 the Catholic leaders, who were for the most part men of great wealth, got into the fashion of giving splendid dinners to their political friends, and Tone was invariably a guest at these functions. Eventually he was offered, through the influence of Keogh, the position of assistant secretary to the Catholic Committee, with a salary of £200 a year. In those days one could live very comfortably on £200 a year, and poor Matilda Tone, who must have known many an anxious moment up to this, must have looked on it as affluence. Tone earned his salary well; and the astonishing success of the Catholic Convention 116was largely due to his energy and splendid power of organisation. In his efforts on behalf of the Catholics, and in his fidelity to their cause, Tone was greatly stimulated by his wife’s sympathy. He pays her, in this connection, one of the noblest compliments a wife ever received: “In these sentiments I was encouraged and confirmed by the incomparable spirit of my wife, to whose patient suffering under adversity, for we had often been reduced, and were now well accustomed to difficulties, I know not how to render justice. Women, in general, I am sorry to say, are mercenary, and, especially if they have children, they are ready to make all sacrifices to their establishment. But my dearest love had bolder and juster views. On every occasion of my life I consulted her; we had no secrets one from the other, and I unvaryingly found her think and act with energy and courage, combined with the greatest courage and discretion. If ever I succeed in life or arrive at anything like station or eminence I shall consider it as due to her counsels and her example.”[61]

61.  “Autobiography,” p. 66.

The pamphlet had made an equally favourable impression on the Dissenters of the North, and especially on the advanced thinkers of Belfast. Its author was elected an honorary member of the first “or green” company of the Belfast Volunteers (an honour never before accorded to any one except Henry Flood) and invited to spend a few days in Belfast to make the personal acquaintance of the republican leaders there. He set off for the North about the beginning of October, accompanied by his friend Russell, who had left the army and happened to be in Dublin on his private affairs.

Of this trip Tone kept for his wife’s amusement a diary, a practice which he continued, when he was absent from her, to the end of his life. He and she were diligent 117readers of Swift, and he invokes the memory of Swift and Stella when he writes to tell her of all the news he has “journalised” for her, and which he looks forward to reading over with her when he gets home. He has christened his friend, Russell, “P.P. or Clerk of this Parish”—another reminiscence of Swift,[62] and he promises his wife she will be much amused by said P.P.’s “exploits in my journal, which is a thousand times wittier than Swift’s, as in justice it ought, for it is written for the amusement of one a thousand times more amiable than Stella.”

62.  In the “Memoirs of the Clerk of the Parish,” Swift parodied Bishop Burton’s “History of His Own Times.”

Little, perhaps, did this dear lady, “a thousand times more amiable than Stella,” think, as her charming face dimpled over her husband’s ludicrous account of his own and his friend’s adventures, that she was reading one of the most important chapters in Irish history. For the business afoot in Belfast—the aim and object of Tone’s and Russell’s embassy was nothing less than the establishment of the United Irishmen—the union of Irish Catholics, Irish Protestants and Irish Dissenters under the common name of Irish men against the common enemy. But perhaps she did, for nobody can have known better than she what a serious aim, what strength of will and tenacity of purpose, what a steel-like grip of principles and logical fidelity to their consequences lay under the light surface of her husband’s wit and drollery. The best minds in Ireland were the quickest to grasp Tone’s greatness and genius: Thomas Addis Emmet, John Keogh, Plunkett—to take three, out of three very different types. The best minds in France showed, afterwards, a like readiness of appreciation: Carnot, the Organiser of Victory, and General Hoche.

One thing, however, it is certain, Matilda Tone never 118dreamed of: the way in which the Journal’s family jokes—bad, if you like, as family jokes always are, except to the “family” itself, to whom they seem irresistibly funny—were to be interpreted against the diarist and his friend. It was one of the favourite jests of the merry little party of holiday-makers at Irishtown to represent “Tom” Russell, who was dignity and solemnity itself, something like a Spanish Don, in his courtesy and punctilio,[63] as a desperate character, a regular Jonah Barrington type of “Irishman.” It tickled their sense of the ludicrous, something in the same way as when they found Tone setting his dignified friend to cook the dinner in his “fine suit of laced regimentals.” “If you do not know who P.P. was, the joke will be lost on you,” writes Tone à propos to the incidents in which solemn “P.P.” is made to figure as a regular “hell of a fellow.”

63.  We have, among a host of other witnesses on this point, Charles Hamilton Teeling, himself a man of the finest courtesy, most fastidious sense of honour and highest breeding. When Lord Castlereagh, on the day of his own arrest, informed him that Russell was also among those arrested, Charles exclaimed: “Russell! then the soul of honour is captive.” (“Personal Narrative,” p. 19). He tells further on how Russell, when the prisoners were brought to Judge Boyd’s house for their committment, was pained by Neilson’s levity. “No man regarded etiquette and the punctilios of politeness more. He looked solemn, stroked up his fine black hair, and with a sweetness of countenance peculiarly his own, and in a gently modulated but sufficiently audible tone of voice he begged of his friend Neilson to respect the dignity of the Bench.” Russell was a deeply religious character, with that combined humility, consciousness of his own weakness, and striving after perfection which is the foundation of saintliness. There is nothing nobler, more touching, or more edifying in our history than the story of how he went to his death.

Unfortunately, later readers of the Journal, not knowing “P.P.,” nor the incorrigible practical joker who was his friend, have missed the point of the jokes and have taken the Journal’s accusations of excessive drinking and other peccadilloes as literal transcripts of facts. I do not here merely speak of Froude, who treats the Journal with 119his usual absence of all honesty in handling documents, detaches all the references to hard drinking, omits, as a matter of course, all reference to the fact that this Journal was written by Tone for his wife’s amusement, and on the strength of the diarist’s jokes against himself and his friend, makes out Russell and Tone as a pair of “ne’er-do-wells,” who, on a drunken spree, set out “to measure swords against the British Empire.”[64] We expect nothing better from Froude; but it is disconcerting to find Lecky and Barry O’Brien equally misled by Tone’s flippancy.

64.  Froude, “English in Ireland,” III., 19.

We pass over a year or two, during which Tone was fully occupied by his work for the Catholic Committee, and the organisation of the first branches of the United Irishmen, and come to the year 1795, which was to be a turning point in his own life and in that of his dear ones—the beloved wife, their little nine-year-old daughter, and the two small sons, William, now aged four, and three-year-old Frank.

Tone was spending a pleasant musical evening with a friend of his in Merrion Square, when a servant was introduced bearing a letter which he had strict orders to deliver only into Mr. Tone’s hands. The latter read the letter and then said quietly to his friend, “Phil, we must finish this duet; I must go when it is done.” It transpired afterwards that the letter had come from Tone’s good friend of the old Temple days in London, Hon. George Knox, Lord Northland’s son, and its purport was to warn Tone that the Government had information of his connection with Jackson, the emissary of the French Government, and that it would be advisable for him to get out of the country as quickly as possible.

We know, now (what poor Tone went to his grave without suspecting) that the horrible treachery of Cockayne, 120the spy who had been set by Pitt to lead Jackson to destruction, was being outmatched by the treachery of Leonard MacNally, who had spared no trouble to implicate Tone and others with Jackson. Urged on by MacNally, though, as it appears, against his own instincts, Tone drew up a paper on the state of Ireland, “the inference from which was, that circumstances in Ireland were favourable to a French invasion.” Of this paper MacNally obtained possession, and there is no doubt at all that through him it fell into the hands of Government.

The friendship of two persons, with considerable influence in Government circles, saved Tone. These were George Knox—and of all persons in the world—Marcus Beresford! Through the powerful machinery which they were able to put in motion Tone escaped the consequences of his indiscretion, on the condition that he should leave the country.

He determined to go to America. But he had no intention of remaining there. Before he left Dublin, Russell and he walked out to see Thomas Addis Emmet in his charming villa at Rathfarnham. The master of the house showed his guests “a little study of an elliptical shape which he said he would consecrate to their meetings, if ever they lived to see their country emancipated.” Even in that solemn moment, Tone could not resist the temptation to rally poor Russell, who was doubtless looking more solemn than usual, in his grief at the near parting. But, though Emmet entered into the spirit of the jest, they all felt as much as Russell the seriousness of the moment, and it was a very thoughtful trio who walked back to town together, listening to Tone’s plans. Both Russell and Emmet agreed with the latter that his promise to Government was fulfilled by his going into exile. As to his future conduct after his landing in America he had given no guarantee. His intention was “immediately on his arrival in Philadelphia to wait on the French 121Minister, to detail to him fully, the situation of affairs in Ireland, to endeavour to obtain a recommendation to the French Government, and if he succeeded so far, to leave his family in America, and to set off instantly for Paris, and apply in the name of his country for the assistance of France in order to assert Ireland’s independence.”[65] The three friends were standing in a little triangular field while this conversation took place, and when they had shaken hands over the resolution that was implied in it, Emmet pointed out that “it was in one exactly like it in Switzerland, William Tell and his associates planned the downfall of the tyranny of Austria.”

65.  “Autobiography,” p. 212.

When public excitement was at its height in consequence of Jackson’s trial and his tragic death in the dock, Tone, unwilling to incriminate any of his friends, abstained from paying any visits. But his friends sought him out, and for the short time Mrs. Tone and he were in Dublin after that they were never an instant alone. John Keogh and Richard MacCormick were among the kindest and most assiduous. Tone told these men of his plans, and received from them the most emphatic assurances of their approval.

On May the 20th, 1795, the Tones left Dublin. Matilda Tone and her children were never to see that city again, and Theobald was to enter it again only in the irons of the arch-enemy.

Mary Tone, who was devotedly attached to her beautiful sister-in-law and her charming children, made up her mind to leave Ireland with Theobald’s family. Her departure left old Peter Tone and his wife very desolate, as all their other children, William, Matthew, and Arthur were far away. The grief of the old couple was the hardest thing the emigrants had to endure. With his little property of 600 books, and £700 in money, Theobald felt 122himself sufficiently equipped “to make good”—and Matilda was not the woman to weaken his courage with any undue display of her own feelings. “We kept our spirits admirably. The great attention manifested to us, the conviction that we were suffering in the best of causes, the hurry attending so great a change, and perhaps a little vanity in showing ourselves superior to fortune, supported us under what was certainly a trial of the severest kind.”

The attentions of the kind friends in Dublin, great as they were, were far surpassed by those they found awaiting them in Belfast. The MacCrackens, the Simmses, the Neilsons, Dr. MacDonnell, and a host of others vied with each other in getting up entertainments for them; parties and excursions were the order of the day. Tone tells us of some of these in his Journal. He remembers particularly two days passed on Cave Hill. On the first, Russell, Neilson, Simms, MacCracken, and he climbed to McArt’s fort and took a solemn obligation never to desist in their efforts until they had subverted the authority of England, over their country, and asserted their independence. Another day they had a pic-nic in the Deer Park, for which the Belfast ladies, Mary Anne and Margaret MacCracken, Mrs. Neilson, Miss Simms, etc., exerted all their culinary talents; another day, even more delicious yet, was spent in a pic-nic party to beautiful Ram’s Island in Lough Neagh. After their return to town there were suppers and dances and a little music in these friends’ houses. Many, many years after, Mary Anne MacCracken, then a very old woman, told Dr. Madden of what she felt when she heard little Maria Tone sing in her clear voice, to the air of “The Cruiskeen Lawn,” her father’s spirited words: “When Rome by dividing had conquered the world.”

The last evening of their stay came all too quickly. They were spending it at the MacCracken’s home, of which 123Bunting was an inmate. The talk turned, as it was bound to do among such ardent lovers of music, as these were, on Bunting’s collection of Irish Melodies which was well on its way to completion, and Bunting was asked to play some air from it.

He chose that called “The Parting of Friends,” and as the poignant grief of the old air sought out all their hearts, Matilda Tone’s fortitude, for the first time, gave way. She burst into tears and left the room.

The next morning they went aboard the Cincinnatus, accompanied by their kind friends who had come to take the last farewell of them. When Matilda Tone went down to see her quarters she found the little state-room her husband had taken for his family full of the good things these friends had provided for their comfort: sea-stores, wine, porter and spirits, fresh provisions, sweetmeats, and so on. The foresight of Dr. MacDonnell had also provided a small medicine chest with written directions. This was to be of the greatest service, not for the Tones alone, but for their unfortunate fellow-passengers during the trying weeks ahead of them.

A voyage across the Atlantic in those days, in a small sailing vessel of 230 tons, was a most horrible experience. There were three hundred passengers on board this boat and they were “crowded to a degree not to be conceived by those who had never been aboard a passenger ship.” “The slaves who are carried from Africa,” Tone writes, “have much more room allowed them than the miserable emigrants who pass from Ireland to America.” The captains were out to make as much money as possible and they loaded their vessels with as little care for the accommodation of their passengers as of any other lumber aboard. The Tones had a small state-room eight feet by six. In this Tone fitted up three berths. One was occupied by Matilda and little Frank; the second by the two Maries; the third by Tone himself and the elder 124boy William. Tone took on himself the “policing” of the ship, and tried to introduce some cleanliness. Moreover, with the aid of Dr. MacDonnell’s medicine chest and “written directions,” he doctored the passengers—his prescriptions drawing also on his own sea-stores, and the wines and spirits provided by his Belfast friends. He had the satisfaction of landing all his patients safe and sound; and his own family, wonderfully fortunate, had not known one hour’s sickness.

But strait quarters, overcrowding and all the other horrors we have described did not exhaust the sufferings endured by Irish emigrants in the eighteenth century. “About the 20th July ... we were stopped by three British frigates, the Thetis, Captain Lord Cochrane; the Hussar, Captain Rose, and the Esperance, Captain Wood, who boarded us, and after treating us with the greatest insolence, both officers and sailors, they pressed every one of our hands, save one, and near fifty of my unfortunate fellow-passengers, who were most of them flying to America to avoid the tyranny of a bad government at home, and who thus, most unexpectedly, fell under the severest tyranny, one of them at least which exists. As I was in a jacket and trousers, one of the lieutenants ordered me into the boat, as a fit man to serve the king, and it was only the screams of my wife and sister which induced him to desist. It would have been a pretty termination to my adventure if I had been pressed and sent on board a man-of-war. The insolence of these tyrants, as well to myself as to my poor fellow-passengers, in whose fate a fellowship in misfortune had interested me, I have not since forgotten, and I never will.”[66]

66.  “Autobiography,” p. 217.

With such gracious sway did great Britannia “rule the waves” in the good old days!

On August the 1st the Tones landed in Wilmington, 125their voyage having lasted from June the 13th. They found the principal tavern of the place kept by an Irishman, Captain O’Byrne O’Flynn, a veteran of the American War of Independence. Here they rested for a few days, and made a useful and agreeable acquaintance in the person of General Humpton, an old Englishman, of the best type (“a beautiful, hale, stout old man of near seventy, perfectly the soldier and the gentleman”) who had fought on the American side in the late war. He took a great liking to Tone, and his charming wife, and sister and pretty children, and showed himself very eager to serve them.

The Tones left Wilmington, as soon as the ladies and children had recruited from the fatigue of the sea-voyage and reached Philadelphia on August the 8th. Here Tone met two old friends—Hamilton Rowan and Dr. Reynolds, both of whom had, like himself, got into trouble with the Irish Government over the “affaire Jackson.” They had a great time telling each other their adventures since they had last met in Hamilton Rowan’s cell in Newgate fourteen months previously. Reynolds and Rowan were athirst for news from Ireland, and eagerly listened to all Tone had to tell them.

Tone lost no time in approaching the French Minister, Adet, in Philadelphia. Bearing a letter of introduction from Rowan, he waited the very day after his arrival on Adet, and signified in as clear a way as was possible under the circumstances (“he spoke English very imperfectly, and I French a great deal worse”) the desires of himself and his friends in Ireland for French aid to shake off the English yoke. Adet requested him to draw up a memorial, and promised to transmit this to his Government. He also promised to use his influence to procure the enlargement of Matthew Tone, who was a prisoner at Guise. But this was as far as he would go.

Poor Tone, much disheartened by the Minister’s attitude, 126found little ground for hope that the French Government would pay any attention to his memorial. It seemed to him that the only result of his exertions was the satisfaction of having discharged his conscience to his country. But as for anything being likely to come of them, he could see no prospects at all.

This being so, he bent his mind to making some provision for his family. Living in Philadelphia being enormously dear, he moved his family to Donningstown, near General Humpton’s place, and leaving them there under the General’s kind supervision, he roamed the country in search of a suitable farm. After some disappointments he found one about two miles from Princeton. He took a small house in that town, furnished it frugally and decently, moved his family into it, and having fitted up his study, determined to settle down, as contentedly as he could, to the life of an American farmer.

Then suddenly all was changed. One day Matilda came into the little study, where her husband dreamed his time away, waiting for the legal formalities attending the purchase of his plantation to be completed, and in her hand was a bundle of letters from Ireland. John Keogh had written; Tom Russell had written; the two Simmses had written—and each of them in the same strain, telling Tone that the public mind in Ireland was advancing towards republicanism faster than even he could believe, and pressing him in the strongest manner to fulfil the engagement he had made with them at his departure, and to move heaven and earth to force his way to the French Government in order to supplicate their assistance. Wm. Simms, at the end of a most friendly and affectionate letter, desired Tone to draw upon him for £200 sterling.

Tone immediately handed the letters to his wife and sister and desired their opinion which he foresaw would be that he should immediately, if possible, set out for France. “My wife, especially, whose courage and whose 127zeal for my honour and interests were not in the least abated by all her past sufferings, supplicated me to let no consideration of her or our children stand for a moment in the way of my engagements to our friends and my duty to my country, adding, that she would answer for our family during my absence, and that the same Providence which had so often, as it were, miraculously preserved us would, she was confident, not desert us now. My sister joined her in those entreaties, and it may well be supposed I required no great supplication to induce me to make one more attempt in a cause to which I had been so long devoted.”

It was Tone’s way never to lose time about any business he might have on hand; and accordingly, the very next morning he set off from Princeton for Philadelphia to see Minister Adet. He now found Adet as eager to forward his design, as he had formerly found him lukewarm. The Minister promised him letters for the French Government recommending him in the strongest manner, and offered him money for his expenses. Tone gratefully accepted the letters but declined the monetary assistance. He next sent a messenger to Ireland in the person of the young brother, Arthur, who had in the meantime turned up at Princeton, and charged him to tell only Neilson, Simms and Russell in Belfast, and Keogh and MacCormick in Dublin, that he was sailing for France as soon as he could get a vessel. Everybody else in Ireland—especially his father and mother—was to be left under the impression that he was farming in Princeton. Tone then settled up his financial affairs; allowed himself one day’s holiday in Philadelphia with his old friends Reynolds, Hamilton Rowan and Napper Tandy (who had recently arrived there). By December the 13th—that is to say exactly within a fortnight from his departure—he was back in Princeton with Hamilton Rowan to take leave of his family.

128He has given us a graphic account of the last night in the American home. “We supped together in high spirits, and Rowan retiring immediately after, my wife, sister and I sat together till very late, engaged in that kind of animated and enthusiastic conversation which our characters and the nature of the enterprise I was embarked in may be supposed to give rise to. The courage and firmness of the women supported me, and them, too, beyond my expectations; we had neither tears nor lamentations, but, on the contrary, the most ardent hope, and the most steady resolution. At length, at four the next morning, I embraced them for the last time, and we parted with a steadiness that astonished me.”

But Tone had not yet gauged the depths of his wife’s heroic devotion to him—and to Ireland. It was only when he had reached New York and was on the eve of embarkation—too late to have his determination weakened by any anxiety for her condition—that she told him of the little life that stirred beneath her heart.

We have but a scanty record of the life of Matilda and Mary Tone and the children during the months when Theobald (having landed at Havre de Grace on February 1st, 1796) was making his way by the mere force of his will and personality to the cabinets of the most powerful ministers in France. But our thoughts are turned to them constantly. We know how as Tone came home from interviews with De La Croix, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or the American Minister, Monroe, or Carnot, or Hoche, he was concerned above all for what his “dearest love” would think of how he had comported himself. “I mention these little circumstances because I know they will be interesting to her whom I prize above my life ten thousand times. There are about six persons in the world who will read these detached memorandums with pleasure; to every one else they would appear sad stuff. 129But they are only for the women of my family, for the boys if ever we meet again, and for my friend, P.P.” When he sees Lodoïska, wife of J. B. Loubet, and records her heroism when her husband was a fugitive from the vengeance of Robespierre, he wishes his dearest love could see her, too. “I think she would behave as well in similar circumstances. Her courage and her affection have been tried in some, very nearly as critical.” When in a fit of self-examination he seeks out his own motives, he finds it difficult to decide whether it is his country or his wife he must put first. “I hope (but I am not sure) my country is my first object, at least she is my second. If there be one before her, as I rather believe there is, it is my dearest life and love, the light of my eyes and spirit of my existence. I wish more than for anything on earth to place her in a splendid situation. There is none so elevated that she would not adorn, and that she does not deserve, and I believe that not I only, but every one who knows her, will agree as to that. Truth is truth! She is my first object. But would I sacrifice the interests of Ireland to her elevation? No, that I would not, and if I would, she would despise me, and if she were to despise me, I would go hang myself like Judas. Well there is no regulator for the human heart like the certainty of possessing the affections of an amiable woman, and, if so, what unspeakable good fortune is mine.”

He compares French women and English women in point of charm and attractiveness—and awards the palm to the French. But both of them must yield to Irish women. “Give me Ireland for women to make wives and mothers of.... The more I see of this wide world, the more I prize the inestimable blessing I possess in my wife’s affection, her virtues, her courage, her goodness of heart, her sweetness of temper, and besides she is very pretty, a circumstance which does not lessen her value in my eyes. What is she doing just now, and what would 130I give to be with her, and the little fanfans for half-an-hour.” But one would need a whole book for Tone’s charming love-making to his wife.

In May, 1796, Tone wrote to Matilda desiring her to come to France. She sold out their little property in America, turned the proceeds into louis d’or, and set off with Mary and the children. On the voyage they met two men who were to be intimately connected with their fate. One was a Scotchman, Mr. Wilson, of Dullatur; the other, a young Swiss merchant called Giacque. M. Giacque fell deeply in love with Mary Tone, and his love being returned, the first letter Theobald received from his wife, announcing their safe arrival in Hamburg, contained also a request for his consent to Mary’s marriage.

Tone received that letter after his return from the unfortunate expedition to Bantry Bay. The prospect of seeing his dear ones again consoled him for the terrible disappointment of the expedition. But alas! There was news in the letter which disturbed him deeply. Mrs. Tone’s health had suffered gravely from all she had undergone. For this reason her husband considered it unwise for her to undertake the journey from Hamburg in the depth of winter. He, therefore, instructed her to stay in Hamburg for the present, more especially as Mary and her husband were likely to set up house there, pending the arrangements he would be able to make for her.

To some of Matilda Tone’s letters written from Hamburg while her husband was serving under Hoche in the Army of Sambre et Meuse were attached postscripts from Maria. The first line he had ever seen of his little daughter’s writing moved Tone strangely, and there were tears in his eyes as he sat down to write her the following answer:

“Dearest Baby,—You are a darling little thing for writing to me, and I doat upon you, and when I read your pretty letter, it brought the tears into my eyes, I was so glad. I am delighted with the account you give 131me of your brothers; I think it is high time that William should begin to cultivate his understanding,[67] and therefore I beg you may teach him his letters, if he does not know them already, that he may be able to write to me by and by. I am not surprised that Frank is a bully, and I suppose he and I will have fifty battles when we meet. Has he got into a jacket and trousers yet? Tell your mamma from me, ‘we do defer it most shamefully, Mr. Shandy.’[68] I hope you will take great care of your poor mamma, who, I am afraid, is not well; but I need not say that, for I am sure you do, because you are a darling good child, and I love you more than all the world. Kiss your mamma and your two little brothers, for me, ten thousand times, and love me, as you promise, as long as you live.

“Your affectionate Fadoff,
J. Smith.”[69]

67.  William had then reached the mature age of six, and Frank was a year younger.

68.  One of the favourite games in the family circle was matching and identifying quotations. Tone’s Journal is full of them.

69.  This was the name under which Tone served in the French army.

It was not until May 7th, 1797, that Tone and his family were re-united. He got leave of absence from his regiment, and wrote to them to meet him at Gröningen. He arrived here on May the 2nd and for the next five days he haunted the canal—“tormented with the most terrible apprehensions on account of the absence of my dearest love, about whom I hear nothing; walked out every day to the canal, two or three times a day to meet the boats coming from Nieuschans when she will arrive. No love! No love! I never was so unhappy in my life.... At last, this day (May 7th), in the evening, as I was taking my usual walk along the canal, I had the unspeakable satisfaction to see my dearest love and our little babies, 132my sister and her husband, all arrive safe and well; it is impossible to describe the pleasure I felt.”

A fortnight was spent very delightfully travelling through Holland and Belgium. After that Tone went to Germany, and Matilda and her charge proceeded to Paris under the escort of M. Giacque.

In the new home in Paris, to which Theobald returned as often as his military duties permitted, Matilda Tone devoted herself to the education of her children while the fateful months from the end of May, 1797, to the beginning of September, 1798, sped by. During that “crowded hour” of her husband’s glorious life much history was a-making; and now, as always, his wife performed her woman’s part: to watch and wait, and suffer and sacrifice herself to her husband’s—a splendidly tragic destiny—with incomparable and heroic devotion.

She had need of all her woman’s resources to comfort him as one after another his dearest hopes were blighted. There was first the death of Hoche; then the defeat of the Dutch fleet at Camperdown, and the consequent abandonment of the Dutch expedition to Ireland. Then there was the rise to supreme military power in France of Bonaparte, whom Thomas Addis Emmet later pronounced to be “the greatest enemy the Irish people ever had.”

When Bonaparte, on the eve of the Irish Insurrection, sailed to Egypt with the army which had been ostensibly collected for an attack on England through Ireland, Tone gave up all hope. It was in this frame of mind he joined Hardy’s expedition which sailed (in the wake of Humbert’s failure, and the fiasco of Napper Tandy’s descent on Rutland Island) from the Bay of Cameret on September 20th, 1798. William Tone relates that “at the period of this expedition he was hopeless of its success, and in the deepest despondency at the prospect of Irish affairs. Such was the wretched indiscretion of the [French] 133Government, that before his departure he read himself, in the Bien Informé, a Paris newspaper, a detailed account of the whole armament, where his own name was mentioned in full letters with the circumstance of his being on board the Hoche. There was therefore no hope of secrecy. He had all along deprecated the idea of these attempts on a small scale. But he had also declared repeatedly that if the Government sent only a corporal’s guard, he felt it his duty to go along with them.... His resolution was, however, deliberately and inflexibly taken, in case he fell into the hands of the enemy, never to suffer the indignity of a public execution.” Of this resolution of her husband’s, Matilda Tone was fully informed. For he spoke of it quite plainly in her presence on the occasion of a dinner-party given at their house in Paris a few days before the departure of the expedition.

And so she let him go from her—knowing full well that she would never see him again. How truly had he judged of her—and of himself—when he wrote the words: “She is my first object. But would I sacrifice the interest of Ireland to her elevation? No that I would not, and if I would, she would despise me, and if she were to despise me I would go hang myself like Judas.”

His body was lying under the green sod in Bodenstown Churchyard when his last message to her was delivered. How did she ever bear to read the lines he penned in his prison cell, when even now at this distance of time, we who knew him not at all can hardly see them for our tears?

“Provost Prison—Dublin Barracks,
Le 20 Brumaire, an 7 (10 Nov.’98).

“Dearest Love,—The hour is at last come when we must part. As no words can express what I feel for you and our children, I shall not attempt it; complaint 134of any kind would be beneath your courage and mine; be assured I will die as I have lived, and that you will have no cause to blush for me.”

“I have written on your behalf to the French Government, to the Minister of Marine, to General Kilmaine and to Mr. Shee. With the latter I wish you especially to advise. In Ireland I have written to your brother Harry, and to those of my friends who are about to go into exile, and who, I am sure, will not abandon you.

“Adieu, dearest love: I find it impossible to finish this letter. Give my love to Mary; and above all things, remember that you are now the only parent of our dearest children, and that the best proof you can give of your affection for me will be to preserve yourself for their education. God Almighty bless you all.

“Yours ever,
T. W. Tone.”

“P.S.—I think you have found a friend in Wilson who will not desert you.”

Second Letter

“Dearest Love,—I write just one line to acquaint you that I have received assurance from your brother Edward of his determination to render every assistance and protection in his power; for which I have written to thank him most sincerely. Your sister has likewise sent me assurances of the same nature, and expressed a desire to see me, which I have refused, having determined to speak to no one of my friends, not even my father, from motives of humanity to them and myself. It is a very great consolation to me that your family are determined to support you; as to the manner of that assistance, I leave it to their affection for you, and your own excellent good sense, to settle what manner will be most respectable for all parties.

“Adieu, dearest love. Keep your courage as I have 135kept mine; my mind is as tranquil at this period as at any period of my life. Cherish my memory; and especially preserve your health and spirits for the sake of our dearest children.

“Yours ever affectionately.”

There still remained to Matilda Tone more than fifty years of painful pilgrimage on this earth, before she was re-united to the husband—who had never ceased to be the lover—of her youth. The story of twenty-eight of these years has been told by her son William, and we may fittingly leave the tale to his telling, only taking it up again when his voice, too, was silenced—and to use her own pathetic phrase, his mother was left widowed and childless for twenty years more,

Lonely and desolate to mourn her dead.

“At the close of this last expedition [i.e. Hardy’s], a strict embargo reigned on the coasts of England, and no news could reach to France but through the distant and indirect channel of Hamburg. It was not till the close of November that the report of the action of October 11th, of the capture, trial, defence and condemnation of Tone, and of the wound which he was reported to have inflicted upon himself, reached all at once to Paris. It was also stated at first that this wound which he was reported to have inflicted upon himself was slight, that the law courts had claimed him, that all proceedings were therefore stopped, and that there were strong hopes of his recovery. My mother, then in the most delicate and precarious state of health, a stranger in the land (of which she scarcely spoke the language) and without a friend and adviser (for she had ever lived in the most retired privacy) rallied, however, a courage and spirits worthy of the name she bore. Surmounting all timidity and weakness of body 136as well as of mind, she threw herself instantly into a carriage, and drove to the minister of foreign affairs (Tallyrand Perigord). She knew that he spoke English and had been acquainted with my father both in America and in France. He received her with the most lively interest. Cases of this kind did not belong to his department, but he promised all the support of his credit with the Government, and gave her an introduction to the Directory. She immediately called on La Reveilliere Lepaux, then president of the Directory, and met with a reception equally favourable and respectful. He gave the most solemn assurances that my father should be instantly claimed; and mentioned in the demand by the name of Tone, by that of Smith, and individually as a French officer, lest his assumed name should occasion any diplomatic delay; he added that the English officers then in the French prisons should be confined as hostages to answer for his safety; and that, if none were equal to him in rank, the difference should be made up in numbers. It was unfortunate that Sir Sidney Smith had then escaped from the Temple. As soon as these papers were drawn, La Reveilliere Lepaux addressed her with them to the minister of marine, Bruix, who assured her that preliminary steps had already been taken, and that these despatches should be forwarded in the course of the same day. From thence she called on Schimmelpennick, the Dutch ambassador, who gave her similar assurances that my father should be claimed in the name of the Batavian republic, in whose service he bore the same rank as in the French. She wrote for the same purpose to his friend, Admiral Dewinter, and to General Kilmaine, commander-in-chief of the army in which he served; they both gave the same promises in return.

“To the French ministers, my mother expressed, at the same time, her determination to join and nurse her husband in his prison, taking my young sister along with 137her, and leaving my brother and myself to the care of my aunt [i.e. Mary Tone, now Madame Giacque]. For she did not expect that even these efforts would obtain his release, but probably a commutation of his fate to a confinement which she wished to share. It may well be believed that these reclamations excited the most lively and universal interest. All the credentials and all the means which she could wish, were furnished to her, and she was already on her way to embark for Ireland, when the news of his death arrived and put a stop to all further proceedings. It would be needless to dilate upon, and impossible to express, her feelings on the occasion.

“In the first moments after the death of my father the interest excited by his fate, and by the state of his family was universal. The Directory instantly passed a decree by which an immediate aid of 1,200 francs, from the funds of the navy, and three month’s pay from the war department, were assigned to his widow, and she was requested to produce her titles to a regular pension. At the same time, Bruix and Tallyrand (to the latter of whom, whatever character be assigned him in history, we certainly owe gratitude for the lively and disinterested part he took in our fate, on the few but important occasions on which we addressed him) proposed, the first, to take charge of my brother, and the other of me. Kilmaine, who had no children, proposed to adopt us both. But, grateful as my mother felt for those offers, she declined them, determined never to part from her children; and to fulfil, to the last, the solemn engagement under which she considered herself bound, to superintend their education; she did not wish them to be bred as favourites and dependants in great families; and trusted rather to the gratitude of the nation to give them a public, simple and manly education, as an homage to their father’s services. These gentlemen entered into her views; and on their 138demand, the Directory decreed that the sons of Theobald Wolfe Tone, adopted by the French republic, should be educated at the national expense, in the Prytaneum.

“The pensions which the executive had, constitutionally, a power to grant to the widows and families of officers killed on the field of battle, were limited by law according to the rank of these officers, and to the length of time during which they had served. According to this law, the pension to which my mother was entitled, amounted only to 300 francs, or little more than £12 sterling a year. This she refused either to demand or accept. But in special cases the legislature had reserved to itself the right of granting pensions to any amount. Ours was a very special case; but it was necessary to address the council of four hundred on the subject. Official delays intervened; it was difficult to collect at once all the legal proofs required; the business was therefore dropped for the present; and indeed in the varying and shifting movement of that most unstable of governments, no single object, however interesting at first, could fix the public attention for a period of any duration. In a few months three of the directors were expelled by their colleagues, and replaced by others; the affairs of Ireland, Tone and his family, and the fatal indiscretion of Humbert, who now returned from captivity, were all forgotten in the disasters of Italy and Germany, and the victories of Suwarrow and Prince Charles of Austria.

“In the meantime, withdrawing from the interest she had excited, my mother retired almost in the precincts of the university, to be near her children, and superintend their education. This was the most quiet and distant quarter of Paris, and farthest from the bustle of the great and fashionable world. On the style in which we lived, I will only observe, that we saw no company, English nor French; and that my mother, attending exclusively to the education of her daughter, and to the superintendence 139of her two boys, who dwelt in the college beneath her eyes, was under the protection of that body as much as if she had been a member of it. Such was the esteem, confidence and, I would almost say, veneration with which she inspired its director and professors, that contrary to the severe regulations of French discipline, they trusted us entirely to her care. Indeed, we were all so young and so helpless, that we were general favourites, and the whole of our little family seemed adopted by the establishment.

“It was nearly a year from my father’s fate; our permanent provision was yet unsettled, and our slender means could not last many months longer; when my mother, reading some old papers in her solitude, fell on a beautiful speech pronounced some months before in the council of five hundred, by Lucien Buonaparte. He proposed to simplify the forms of paying the pensions of the widows and children of military and naval officers; he represented in the most noble and feeling terms the hardship of high-spirited females and mothers of families, whose claims were clear and undoubted, obliged, in the affliction and desolation of their hearts, to solicit and go through numberless delays in the public offices. He also proposed to augment these pensions, which were too small. The sons of warriors killed on the field of battle ceased to receive them when they reached their fourteenth year; he proposed to extend this period to the age when they might, in their turn, enter the service.

“Several months had been necessary, to collect the proofs, certificates and documents required by law, for making an application to the legislature; or, indeed, before my mother was able to attend to it. Nor did she know one member of the Council of five hundred, to present them to when they were ready. In reading this speech of Lucien, she felt that he was the person she ought to address. My father had been known to his brother, when he commanded 140the army of England; and he was one of the representatives. She immediately wrote a note to him, to know when she might have the honour of waiting upon him on particular business? He answered that his public duties left only the hours of ten in the morning or seven in the evening, unemployed; but that at either of these, he would be happy to receive her. In consequence, next morning, taking with her, her children, her papers and the report of his speech, she called upon him and presented to him that speech as her letter of introduction. He was highly touched and flattered. She gave him all her papers and showed him her children. He was much moved, and said he knew the story well, and had been deeply affected by it, which sentiment he only shared in common with every one who had heard of it; that it was the duty of the French legislature to provide for the family of Tone honourably; and thanked her for the distinction conferred upon him, by choosing him to report on the case. My mother mentioned the difficulties she lay under, an unconnected stranger, scarcely understanding the language. He stopped her by requesting her to take no more trouble; that he would charge himself with it entirely, and get the permission of the executive which would be necessary; and if he wanted any particulars from her, would write to her for them. Nothing could be more delicate or generous than his whole manner.

“Next morning, Madame Lucien Buonaparte called upon my mother, and introduced herself.... An acquaintance commenced which only terminated at her death a few months afterwards.

“The report of Lucien Buonaparte was still delayed for some time. He had some papers to collect to prove my father’s services. Carnot was in banishment; Hoche was dead; poor Kilmaine, who ever since my father’s death had expressed a warm interest in our fate, was 141dying. In the ravings of fever he would insist on putting horses to his carriage, and driving with us to the Directory and council of five hundred, to reproach them with their delays in providing for the widow and children of Tone. General Simon ... gave the necessary attestations. The permission of the Directory was obtained; but Lucien, in order to produce a greater effect, still delayed till the period of his own Presidency....

“On the 9th of Brumaire, only nine days before the revolution which put an end to the Directory and placed his brother at the head of affairs, Lucien, then president of the council of five hundred, pronounced at length a beautiful speech, which may be called the funeral oration of my father. At the close of which a committee was immediately appointed, to report on the subject of a pension and permanent provision for the widow and family of General Tone.”

We will interrupt William Tone’s narrative, for a moment, in order to reproduce, in part, Lucien Buonaparte’s oration, and to show the reverence the name of Tone inspired in France, and the enthusiasm the lofty spirit and heroism, the conjugal and maternal devotion of Matilda aroused in generous Gallic breasts.

“Representatives of the People,—I rise to call your attention to the widow and children of a man whose memory is dear and venerable to Ireland and to France—the Adjutant-General Theobald Wolfe Tone, founder of the United Irish Society, who, betrayed and taken in the expedition to Ireland, perished in Dublin, murdered by the illegal sentence of a court-martial.

“Wolfe Tone only breathed for the liberty of his country. After attempting every means to break the chains of British oppression at home, he was invited by our Government to France, where from the beginning of the fifth year of the Republic, he bore arms under our colours. His talent and his courage announced him as 142the future Washington of Ireland; his arm, whilst assisting in our battles, was preparing to fight for his own country....

“It is precisely one year ago to the very day of the month that a court-martial was assembled in Dublin to try a general officer in the service of our Republic. Let us examine the papers of that day.” [Here the orator read the account of the trial and defence of General Tone. He then resumed.]

“You have heard the last word of this illustrious martyr of liberty. What could I add to them? You see him, dressed in your own uniform, in the presence of this murderous tribunal, in the midst of this awe-struck and affected assembly. You hear him exclaim: ‘After such sacrifices in the cause of liberty it is no great effort, at this day, to add the sacrifice of my life. I have courted poverty; I have left a beloved wife unprotected, and children whom I adored, fatherless.’ Pardon him, if he forgot, in those last moments that you were to be the fathers and protectors of his Matilda and his children.

“Sentenced amidst the tears and groans of his country, Wolfe Tone would not leave to her tyrants the satisfaction of seeing him expire by a death which the prejudices of the world call ignominious.... The day will yet, doubtless, come, when, in that same city of Dublin, and on the spot where the satellites of Britain were rearing that scaffold where they expected to wreak their vengeance on Theobald the free people of Ireland will erect a trophy to his memory, and celebrate, yearly, on the anniversary of his trial, the festival of their union, around his funeral monument. For the first time this anniversary is now celebrated within these walls. Shade of a hero! I offer to thee, in our name, the homage of our deep, of our universal emotion.

“A few words more—on the widow of Theobald, on his children. Calamity would have overwhelmed a weaker 143soul. The death of her husband was not the only one she had to deplore. His brother was condemned to the same fate, and perished on the scaffold.

“If the services of Tone were not sufficient of themselves to rouse your feelings, I might mention the independent spirit and firmness of that noble woman, who, on the tomb of her husband and of his brother, mingles with her sighs aspirations for the deliverance of Ireland. I would attempt to give you an idea of that Irish spirit which is blended in her countenance with the expression of her grief. Such were those women of Sparta, who on the return of their countrymen from battle when, with anxious looks, they ran over the ranks, and missed amongst them their sons, their husbands, and their brothers, exclaimed: ‘He died for his country; he died for the republic.’”

Strangely enough, the revolution which placed Napoleon in power as First Consul, instead of helping the fortunes of Matilda Tone and her children, had an adverse effect on them. Lucien broke with his brother, as soon as he saw the true direction of the latter’s aims, and in consequence a cause to which he lent his support had little chance of finding favour with the First Consul. For the next five years Tone’s widow and orphans might have died of starvation had it not been for the generosity of Mr. Wilson, of Dullatur. “He was,” says William Tone, “to my mother a brother, an admirer and a friend; he managed her slender funds; and when sickness and death hovered over our little family, he was our sole support.” Lucien Buonaparte also did what he could out of his personal resources—and Theobald’s brother, William, who had cut a way for himself with his sword in India, sent his sister-in-law and nephews and niece a generous draft. He would have provided for them had not his death prevented the accomplishment of his plans.

144The arrival of some of the Fort George prisoners in France, including Tom Russell, Thomas Addis Emmet, and Dr. MacNevin—all Tone’s dear friends—reminded Napoleon of the existence of Tone’s wife and children. As if in answer to Emmet’s reproachful question: “how could they trust that government when they saw the widow of Tone unprovided for?” Napoleon (who was anxious to use the Irish in his new war with England and was organising his Irish Brigade) granted Matilda a pension of 1,200 livres, and 400 to each of her three children until their twentieth year. In this same year a subscription was got up for the family in Ireland—to which John Keogh and the Earl of Moira, among others of Tone’s old friends, ostentatiously refused to subscribe.

So starvation was kept off a little longer. But the privations of the preceding years had told heavily on poor Maria Tone, now a beautiful girl of sixteen. In 1804, her mother had the great grief of losing her through consumption.

In 1806 poor little Frank died—and now no one was left to console his mother but William.

Mother and son were all in all to each other. As he moved from the Lyceum to the Imperial Cavalry School of Saint Germains, she moved her lodgings at the same time to be near him. All his academic successes were valued by him only in so far as they gave pleasure to his mother. In the essay with which, in leaving the Lyceum, he competed for the “Prize of the Institute,” he pays a noble and touching tribute to all he owes to her, to all she has done for him. On her part, her thoughts were occupied entirely by his advancement and his interests. For his sake she surmounted her natural timidity, and sought out an interview with the Emperor, in order to recommend her son to his favour.

Young Tone served under the Imperial Colours during three campaigns. On the fall of Napoleon he resigned his 145commission, and in the following year, passed over to America.

Before he left Paris he induced his mother to accept the offer of marriage made her by their faithful friend and benefactor of so many years, Mr. Wilson, of Dullatur. On August the 19th, 1816, they were married in the chapel of the British Ambassador at Paris; and shortly after set sail, via Scotland, for America.

Mr. Wilson bought an estate at Georgetown, near Washington, and here there was always a home for William when the duties of his military career allowed it—for he had been appointed to a captaincy in the United States Army. In 1825 he married the daughter of William Sampson, and after retiring from the army, his wife and he took up their abode with his mother in Georgetown. Mr. Wilson had died a little before.

Alas! Sorrow had not yet done with Matilda Tone, on October the 10th, 1828, she lost her son.

We know little of her for the twenty-one years of life that still remained to her. We learn from Madden that every year her daughter-in-law and grand-daughter paid her a visit; and we know that up to extreme old age she retained that strength and energy of mind, that vigour of intellect, that passionate devotion to the husband of her youth which had characterised her in the long ago. A letter she wrote to the Truth-Teller, on the appearance of the first edition of Madden’s United Irishmen (1842) gives evidence of this.

She died in Georgetown on March 18th, 1849.

Shall the day ever come when Ireland a Nation, remembering this woman and all she suffered for her, shall claim her remains from America, and lay them to rest in the place where her husband lies lonely: in his green grave in Bodenstown Churchyard?


The Wife of Thomas Addis Emmet

Jane Emmet, née Patten (1771-1846)[70]
“And the track of my true love’s feet is the track that my heart
would follow.”—Old Irish Love Song.

70.  Authorities: Madden’s “United Irishmen” (Third Series, Second Edition); Dr. T. A. Emmet’s “Emmet Family.”

SO exquisitely has the story of “the Broken Heart” been told, to such haunting strains of melodious sorrow has it been sung, that the whole world has wept over the tragic loves of Robert Emmet and Sarah Curran, But even in Ireland, it is rare to find anyone familiar with the romance of Thomas Addis Emmet; and—to our shame be it told!—the heroic devotion and self-sacrifice of his wife, Jane Emmet, which ought to be a household tale, a constant inspiration to our womanhood, is less known than the tale of some alien queen—Philippa or another. What’s Philippa to us, or we to Philippa? Or why should the heroism of our own women be forgotten, while our voices swell the chorus that praises the heroism of the stranger?

We have already learned in our memoir of Elizabeth Emmet, that her son, Thomas Addis, shortly after having been called to the Bar, married, in 1791, Miss Jane Patten, the twenty-year-old daughter of Rev. John Patten, of Annerville (near Clonmel), and his wife Margaret Colville. After Rev. Mr. Patten’s death in 1787, his widow, with her children, Jane and John, came to live in Dublin where her brother, Mr. Colville was a wealthy merchant, 147and in this city Thomas Addis Emmet met Miss Patten. It is probable enough that the intimacy between the families—which was very affectionate—was of longer standing; for both the Colvilles and the Emmets were Tipperary folk.

In a letter to his daughter Elizabeth, written on the eve of the latter’s marriage to Mr. Le Roy, Thomas Addis Emmet recalls the happiness it gave him when, as a young husband, he witnessed the tenderness with which his father and mother took to their hearts, as a veritable new daughter, the bride he had brought home to them: “To this day,” he writes (and “this day” was forty years after the event to which his memory goes back) “I remember I never loved your Mother so much, or looked at her with so much delight, as when I saw from my father’s and mother’s actions that they cherished her as their own daughter.”

The tender little phrase throws a pleasing light on the relations that existed between the two ménages, which shared between them Dr. Emmet’s fine mansion on Stephen’s Green. Shortly after his son’s marriage the doctor divided his house (No. 109 Stephen’s Green, West) into two separate dwellings, keeping the corner house for himself, and assigning the other to the young couple. In this inner house Jane Emmet’s elder children, Robert (September 8th, 1792), Margaret (September 21st, 1793), Elizabeth (December 4th, 1794), John Patten (April 8th, 1796), Thomas Addis (May 29th, 1797) were born.

During the years when her nursery was thus rapidly filling, Jane Emmet’s husband was making his mark at the Bar. He was engaged as counsel (with Hon. Simon Butler and Leonard MacNally) in the celebrated case of Napper Tandy against the Lord Lieutenant, the Lord Chancellor and some members of the privy council, who had signed a proclamation offering a reward for the apprehension of Tandy. The object of the whole proceedings 148on the part of Tandy’s advisers was “to contest the validity of the Lord Lieutenant’s patent, as having been granted under the great seal of England, instead of that of the Chancellor of Ireland.” In the course of Emmet’s address he caused a sensation by boldly asserting that there had been “no legal viceroy in Ireland for the last ten years, and not only the counsel for Lord Westmoreland will not deny that fact, but they will not dare to let his patent come under a train of legal investigation.”

Other notable cases in which Emmet was engaged included the trial at Tralee in 1793 of Lieutenant Carr who had shot a Mr. O’Connell in a duel, and the trial of a Mr. O’Driscoll, at Cork assizes in the same year, on a charge of seditious libel. In this case Emmet was associated with the Sheareses and Leonard MacNally. So successful was he, according to his cousin, St. John Mason’s statement to Dr. Madden, that the first year of his practice he realised £700.

In 1795 he took the oath of the United Irishmen under very sensational circumstances, thus detailed by Madden: “A case occurred before Prime Serjeant Fitzgerald, in which a conviction was obtained on a charge of administering the United Irishmen’s oath, then a capital offence. Emmet appeared for the prisoners on a motion in arrest of judgment. He took up the pleadings in which the words of the oath were recited, and he read them in a very deliberate manner, and with all the gravity of a man who felt that he was binding his soul by the obligations of a solemn oath. ‘I, Thomas Addis Emmet, in the presence of God, do pledge myself to my country that I will use all my abilities and influence in the attainment of an impartial and adequate representation of the Irish nation in parliament; and as a means and absolute and immediate necessity in the establishment of this chief good of Ireland, I will endeavour, as much as lies in my ability, to forward a brotherhood of affection, an identity 149of interests, a communion of rights and an union of power, among Irishmen of all religious persuasions, without which, every reform in parliament must be partial, not national, inadequate to the wants, delusive to the wishes, and insufficient to the freedom and happiness of this country.’

“Having read the text, and defended its obligations with a power of reasoning and a display of legal knowledge, in reference to the subject of the distinction between legal and illegal oaths, which the counsel for the prosecution described as producing an extraordinary impression, he said:

“‘My lords, here in the presence of this legal court, this crowded auditory, in the presence of the Being that sees, and witnesses, and directs this judicial tribunal—here, my lords, I, myself, in the presence of God, declare I take the oath.’ He then took the book, kissed it, and sat down. No steps were taken by the court against the newly-sworn United Irishman; the amazement of its functionaries left them in no fit state of mind either for remonstrance or reproval. The prisoners received a very lenient sentence.”

Though Emmet took the oath thus publicly, he was not publicly identified with the United Irishmen until a period considerably later. He was rarely engaged as their counsel in the trials of 1797 and 1798—acting rather as chamber lawyer to their committees. He became a member of the directory in 1797 after the arrest of Arthur O’Connor.

But long before that date he had worked for the objects for which the United Irishmen were founded, Reform and Emancipation; and he had been associated, in the closest manner with their founder. He was a member of the political club which Tone formed in the winter of 1790, and Tone found him a man completely after his own heart: “of a great and comprehensive mind, of the warmest and 150sincerest affection for his friends, and of a steady adherence to his principles, to which he has sacrificed much, as I know, and would, I am sure, if necessary, sacrifice his life. His opinions and mine square exactly.”

In the autumn of 1792 when Tone was working strenuously for the Catholic cause, Emmet gave him invaluable help. His pen was ever ready to assist Tone’s in preparing replies on the Catholic side to the bigotry of the Grand Juries, or drawing up addresses in which the Catholic position was admirably stated. But he did all this work in the shade, so to speak, neither seeking nor desiring any reward for it.

We have already learned from Tone how fully Emmet entered into the scheme for enlisting French aid towards Irish independence, which Tone carried with him on his departure for America in the early summer of 1795. The “charming villa” which Emmet occupied then at Rathfarnham and “the little study of an elliptical form” which he was building at the bottom of his lawn, and the “little triangular field” on the way between Rathfarnham and Dublin became, from the meeting of the three friends, Emmet and Russell and Tone, and the solemn pledge wherewith they bound themselves to each other, among the “holy places” of Irish history.

On March 12th, 1798, Government which had already been long in complete possession of the plans of the United Irishmen, through the treachery of Thomas Reynolds and others, and had allowed them to develop as suited its own purposes, suddenly swooped down on the leaders. The arrest of the country deputies at the house of Oliver Bond was followed the same day by the apprehension of Emmet, Dr. MacNevin, Jackson (Bond’s father-in-law) and John Sweetman at their several abodes.

Jane Emmet had just tucked her little ones into their cots and given them their good-night kiss, when Alderman 151Carletown and his escort of soldiers invaded the quiet house in Stephen’s Green to carry off her children’s father. The loud knocking at the door, the peremptory demand for admission “in the king’s name” which heralded the entrance of those unbidden guests heralded also the closing of the peaceful happy years of Jane Emmet’s young wifehood and maternity. A new life was opening up before her, full of sorrows, and hardships and privations, and the gently nurtured lady was to discover in the reserves of her character the unsuspected materials of a heroine.

The call which roused the heroine in her was brutal enough. In the search which the soldiers immediately instituted all through the house in quest of documents the nursery was not spared. The children were roughly roused from their sleep, and we may judge of the impression produced in them by the fact that as long as they lived they never forgot it. Thomas Addis Emmet, jun., was only a year-old baby when his father was arrested; he was an old man when Dr. Madden knew him, but he remembered, as if it had been but yesterday, how, waking suddenly, he saw a number of soldiers standing at the window with fixed bayonets presented at him and the little brother who was his bed fellow. Nor was this the only occasion on which the nursery was invaded by the gallant yeomanry. John Patten Emmet told his son, the present Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, that after his father’s arrest, the house was frequently searched by the military for the seal of the United Irishmen. During one of these searches he and his little brothers were wakened by a bright light in the nursery, and became greatly frightened on seeing a soldier stand guard within the door. “As soon as the man saw the child was awake, with the instinct of a brute he pointed his musket at him as if about to shoot. The children naturally got under the bed-clothing as quickly as possible, and in their terror did not dare to move, being more dead than alive, until the 152soldiers had left the house and their grandmother could come to them.”[71]

71.  “The Emmet Family,” pp. 64-65. The seal, which was designed by Robert Emmet, and is still in the possession of the Emmet family, was carried by Mrs. T. A. Emmet on her person during the whole time Government was in search of it.

The poor grandmother had to take for the frightened children the place of both father and mother. The father after being brought to the Castle, was committed to Newgate where about twenty of the other leaders were confined. Here his wife managed to gain admission to him—“by stealth,” and “against the most positive orders,” as Lord Castlereagh told Lady Louisa Connolly when, a couple of months later, she sought permission for Pamela to see Lord Edward. “The cell in which Thomas Addis Emmet was confined,” we learn from Dr. Madden, was about twelve feet square. Jane Emmet managed to secrete herself in this wretched abode for some days, one of the turnkeys who had charge of Emmet’s cell being privy to her concealment. Her husband shared his scanty allowance with her; and there a lady, bred in the lap of luxury, accustomed to all the accommodations that are possessed by one in her sphere in life, used to all the comforts of a happy home, familiarised to the affectionate care and kind attentions of an amiable family, daily blessed with the smiling faces of her dear children—“one who had slept with full content about her bed, and never waked but to a joyful morning”—shared the dungeon of her husband: its gloom, its dreary walls, its narrow limits, its dismal aspect—things and subjects for contemplation which her imagination a few weeks before would have sickened at the thought of—were now endured as if they affected her not; her husband was there, and everything else in this world, except her fears for his safety and for separation from him, were forgotten; her acts said to him:

“Thou to me
Art all things under heaven, all places thou.”

153“The gaoler at length discovered that Mrs. Emmet was an inmate of her husband’s cell. She was immediately ordered to quit the place; but to the astonishment of the officers of the prison who were not accustomed to have their orders disobeyed, she told them ‘her mind was made up’ to remain with her husband, and she would not leave the prison. The gaoler, whom Emmet speaks of as a man of unfeeling and ruffianly deportment, stood awestricken before a feeble, helpless creature whom he had only to order one of his myrmidons to tear from the arms of her husband, and his bidding would have been obeyed. The power of a brave-spirited woman is seldom put forth that it does not triumph.... The gaoler retired; and Emmet was given to understand that the man had orders from his superiors not to employ force, but the first time that Mrs. Emmet left the prison she was not to be permitted to return. No such opportunity for her exclusion was afforded by that lady. She continued to share her husband’s captivity for many months. But once in that time she left the prison and then only to visit her sick child, when she appealed to the wife of the gaoler ‘as the mother of a family’ to take pity on her wretchedness, struggling as she was between her duty to her husband and the yearnings of nature towards her sick child.... It cheers one to find that this appeal was not made in vain. At midnight this woman conducted Mrs. Emmet through the apartments of the gaoler to the street. The following night, after remaining with her child at the house of Dr. Emmet during the day, she returned to the gaol, gained admittance by the same means, and “was on the point of entering her husband’s cell when one of the keepers discovered her; but too late to exclude her from prison. From that time she availed herself no more of the same facility for leaving or entering prison. During her absence her room had been visited by one of the keepers, a not infrequent occurrence; the curtains 154had been drawn round the bed, some bundles of clothing placed under the coverlid, and the keeper was requested to tread lightly, as Mrs. Emmet was suffering from headache. Shortly after this occurrence Emmet and MacNevin were removed to Kilmainham, and Mrs. Emmet found means to gain access to her husband, and the authorities connived at her sojourn in his dungeon.”[72]

72.  Madden’s “United Irishmen” (Second Edition), Third Series, pp. 51-53. Madden learned these particulars from Jane Emmet’s children in America, and her brother John Patten.

In October, 1798, Jane Emmet’s sixth child, Christopher, was born, and it seems probable that having returned to her home for the occasion, it was not considered prudent for her to go back to the hardships of Kilmainham. Moreover, ever since the State Prisoners had, in order to save effusion of blood, entered into terms with Government in July, 1798, it was expected that Emmet and his fellow-prisoners would soon be allowed to go to America. Rufus King, however, the resident minister of the United States in London, interfered to prevent the execution of these designs—and one more “scrap of paper” was torn into fragments. Instead of being set at liberty and allowed to emigrate to the United States, in accordance with Government’s formal pledge, the Irish State Prisoners were kept in gaol for no less than four years longer.

On March 18th, 1799, the prisoners were notified to prepare for embarkation to an unknown destination the following morning. When the news reached the Emmet household Mary Anne Emmet, acting with that spirit which showed her the true sister of Thomas Addis and Robert, hastened to the Castle and obtained an interview with Lord Cornwallis. The viceroy was touched by her pleading, and assured her that no harm should come to her brother, but he would give her no information as to “the place of security” whither Government’s apprehension 155of a foreign invasion impelled them to send the State Prisoners. With the scanty comfort conveyed in Cornwallis’s promise that her brother’s treatment, as well as that of his companions, should be all his friends and theirs could desire, Mary Anne Emmet returned to her parents. She was allowed to visit her brother for a short time in Kilmainham that evening to take the farewell of him which was destined to be her last.

In another place we shall learn something of the adventures of the twenty State prisoners who sailed from Dublin Bay on March the 19th and reached their destination, Fort George, in the extreme north of Scotland, on April 9th, 1799, and of their life in that fortress during the years of their confinement in it.

As may be expected, Jane Emmet made every effort to obtain permission to join her husband in Fort George, and her hopes of success were stimulated by the fact that others of the State prisoners, especially Roger O’Connor, were allowed to have their families with them. The Irish Government, however—in other words, Lord Castlereagh—put every obstacle in her way, and it was only when she made personal application to the Duke of Portland that she obtained the consent she sought. In August, 1800, escorted by her brother, John Patten, and accompanied by her three elder children, Robert, Margaret and Elizabeth, she arrived in Fort George. She left her three younger children, John Patten, Thomas Addis and baby Christopher, in the charge of their grandfather and grandmother, Dr. and Mrs. Emmet, at Casino, Milltown.

The son of one of the little boys thus left behind has culled for us from the family correspondence the letters written by old Mrs. Emmet to her son and daughter-in-law in Fort George, and though the regrettable loss of the letters of Thomas Addis to his parents and those of Jane Emmet to her mother, Mrs. Patten, leaves the 156correspondence incomplete, nevertheless sufficient remains to help us to make a connected story.

It was not her husband only whom the arrival at Fort George of Mrs. Emmet and her charming children made happy. All the prisoners were delightfully excited by the event, and every man of them became their devoted slave from the beginning. Each one was anxious to lend a hand in the education of the children. Dr. MacNevin, whose Continental education had rendered him an accomplished linguist, taught them French; Hudson and Cormick gave them music lessons. When little William Neilson joined the children some months later, Fort George became a regular academy. Thomas Addis Emmet, himself, was the head-master, and his mother jokingly refers to Jane as his usher—but all the prisoners were eager to secure a post in the school—Dr. Dixon, M. Dowdall, Tennant. There were charming theatrical entertainments, too, wherein the children acted, and concerts at which Robert Emmet and William Neilson displayed their skill on the flute. Samuel Neilson’s letters to his wife never omit a reference to Mrs. Emmet and her “delightful children.” It was probably Mrs. Emmet who suggested to him to send for his little son, and when the boy arrived she mothered him exactly like one of her own children. Once the lad fell ill, and Mrs. Emmet’s attentions to him won the fervent gratitude of the poor father: “her kindness went beyond what could possibly be expected. Fruits, sweetmeats, jellies—everything she could think of were sent, and her own personal attendance and advice were superadded.”

The Governor of the Fort, the chivalrous old Scottish nobleman and soldier, Colonel Stuart, was won over by the sweet womanliness, and the maternal and conjugal devotion of Mrs. Emmet. Very shortly after her arrival he signified to her husband that, for the sake of her health, to which proper exercise was necessary, he would take it 157upon himself to allow her husband to accompany her on walks outside the enclosure of the fortress. When Roger O’Connor and his wife and family left Fort George, the Governor turned over their suite of rooms to Mrs. Emmet. Once a fire broke out at night. The Governor was called up, and on ascertaining that no danger was to be apprehended, he instantly ran to Emmet’s apartment to remove his apprehension for himself and his family; and the next day the following note was addressed to Emmet:

“The lieutenant-governor’s compliments to Mr. Emmet. He hopes Mrs. Emmet suffered no inconvenience from the alarm of fire which was given last night. As the idea of being locked in may occasion a disagreeable sensation to a lady’s mind, in case of any sudden occurrence (though the lieutenant-governor flatters himself that none in future will arise), he will give directions that the passage door leading to Mr. Emmet’s apartments shall not in future be locked, being convinced Mr. Emmet would make no improper use of all the doors being left open.”

The letters which came from Casino were eagerly welcomed by Jane Emmet and her husband, telling, as they did, so much that they longed to know of the little ones left behind. John is Grandmother Patten’s favourite, and when he goes to visit her he comes back the proud possessor of “new clothes and a great number of Buttons.” “He felt very visibly the importance he had acquired by his visit to town, for as soon as he returned he desired John Delany should be brought in to play with him, as his grandmamma had always a boy on purpose to play with him.” John’s slowness, to which there are frequent allusions in the letters, seems to have caused a little anxiety to his father, so his grandmother is eager to do him justice. “He does not, I assure you, want either observation or intellect, he has great natural justice and a very open good-natured temper.” We learn from his grandfather that he is at “a crown and a quarter school, 158where he tells me he makes great proficiency, four or five lessons a day in his A, B, C, but as yet he does not couple them very accurately. John, however, is a very well-disposed, well-tempered child, and if he does not mount into the Empyrean galaxy, he will always keep the Milky Way of life, and never tread on thorns.” On another occasion John is at his grandmother’s elbow while she is writing to father and mother and he expressly desires her to tell them that “he is a very good boy; that he has gotten a new spelling book from his grandmamma Patten, and that he will take care and get his lessons well.” All this Grandmamma Emmet is sure “he has sincere intentions of performing, tho’ I must confess that in his old spelling-book he is not very brilliant. He, however, I am told, performs the part of an usher in the school, and acquits himself with great propriety.... John, I think, is much better at school, it helps to enliven him and in some measure open his ideas; he does not learn any bad habits, and he is very fond of it; at home he would be apt to grow sluggish.” As John had not completed his fifth year at the time these letters were written, we need not share too acutely his absent father’s anxiety about him—especially as we from our point of vantage, some six score years later, discern in John one of the most brilliant men of his time. When he died—in the prime of his manhood, at the age of forty-six, his colleagues of the University of Virginia, where he was Professor of Chemistry and Materia Medica, paid tribute to him as “the inventive and learned, the ingenuous and high-souled John Patten Emmet, one of the earliest supports and one of the brightest ornaments of this University.”

If it is curious to find the future distinguished scientist causing anxiety to his father for the slow opening of his intellect, it is still more curious to find his little brother Tom causing him anxiety because some incident related 159by his grandparents seemed to indicate in the tiny boy a selfish disposition. So concerned was the father at some trait of childish prudence related by the grandparents for his amusement that he had thoughts of taking little Tom to Fort George to educate him under his own eyes. Grandmother Emmet has to assure him that what Mary Anne and she said “imported nothing more than to convey to you an idea of the strength of his intellect, for surely you did not suppose that the disposition of a child, not four years old, would do more than to divert you instead of giving you sincere alarm. The share of understanding which he promises to have will be fully sufficient to overcome his little childish dispositions, and without severity he will do what is right by only pointing it out to him.” How groundless were his father’s fears—and how well justified his grandmother’s confidence, the life of Thomas Addis Emmet, junior, sufficiently proves. His nephew and namesake, recalling the happy days he and the other young people of his generation spent in Mr. Emmet’s lovely home, Mount Vernon, New York, tells us that it would not be possible to find a more genial, kindly and charitable couple than Mr. and Mrs. Emmet. “The term charitable could be applied to him in every sense, as it was difficult for him even to suspect a bad motive, and he frequently suffered for his faith in others. Later in life Mr. Emmet became embarrassed on account of the frequent assistance he had rendered supposed friends and from placing too much reliance on their promises.”

It is plain that of the three children confided to their care the favourite of Grandfather and Grandmother Emmet is the youngest, little Christopher Temple. In this delightful little boy whom everybody in kitchen and parlour idolises, is there given back to them the brilliant son they had lost by a premature death? The grandfather clearly thinks so: “Little Temple, should he live for the germs to open, blossom and ripen into fruit, will 160equal, I think, his namesake uncle.” His grandmother is afraid her partiality for him will be reckoned as due to his name: “I assure you he is as great a favourite with everyone in the family as with me.” “This little Brat is, to be sure, the chief favourite through the house; we, however, do not spoil him, and I assure you that I fondle him less than the others. Mary Anne caresses him more than I do, but at the same time treats him with steadiness; in the kitchen he would be commander-in-chief if we did not prevent it. He is quite a miniature of our dear little Robert, especially when he holds up his hands and says he won’t be bold any more.” Pictures like that of the dear little grandson occur in the grandmother’s letters again and again: now we see him at table, “fighting in dumb show for his share in his grandfather’s claret,” now sturdily claiming his place in his elder brother’s games, now climbing on chairs and prating enough for two, now riding on Mr. Holmes’s back, and asking to be taken on grandmother’s. “I told him that my back was old, but in a little time I offered to take him, he would not, he replied in a tone of great tenderness, ‘because you have a pain.’ The next night I again asked him if he would come on my back, and he at once said he would if I had not a pain.”

Poor little Temple! Like his namesake uncle he was destined to live but a short life. He died of yellow fever, at sea, at the age of twenty-four, being a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

It was at Fort George that Jane Emmet’s seventh child, a little girl called Jane Erin, was born. Some months after her birth the State prisoners were released,[73] and dispatched on the Government frigate the Ariadne, to Cuxhaven, the port for Hamburg. At Hamburg the 161prisoners separated, some to go to America, others to Paris, others to Holland, and Dr. MacNevin to Dresden. The Emmets first settled at Brussels where Thomas Addis devoted himself to the education of his children. At Brussels he heard of his father’s death, and was visited by his brother Robert.

73.  After peace was signed at Amiens in March, 1802. Their imprisonment was changed for banishment.

We know that it was not brotherly affection alone, deep and true as this was, that brought Robert Emmet to Brussels at this juncture. The fact was that all men saw that the peace between England and France was a very “sick” peace indeed, and liable to expire at any moment. The United Irishmen, whose organisation had survived the disasters of ’98, were waiting their chance of a rupture between the two countries to shake off the yoke of England, which the Union had made more intolerable. They had encouragement from some of the most influential men in Ireland. Though not enamoured of France, which they rightly considered had treated them most scandalously,[74] they were ready to bargain for French aid “on conditions.” France, on the other hand, was willing to make these terms, her only interest in Ireland being to get in a blow at England through her.

74.  Thomas Addis Emmet told Colonel Dalton who had been sent to open up negotiations with him on behalf of the French Government in May, 1803, that “France had lost the confidence of Ireland, and the treatment the Irish had received in France, ever since the peace ... had excited even an aversion.” It is well known that Emmet described Bonaparte “as the worst enemy Ireland ever had.” So much for French friendship for Ireland, about which certain people would have us so enthusiastic!

It is not the place to tell here how once more France failed Ireland; how Robert Emmet was suffered to go to his death without a finger being raised to save him; how the Irishmen, who had enlisted in an Irish legion in the service of France, on the distinct promise that Augereau was to command a great expedition to Ireland, were wantonly deceived.

162In the autumn of 1804, Thomas Addis Emmet, whose clear eyes even Bonaparte could not long deceive, shook the dust of France from his feet and set sail with his wife and the children who had shared their imprisonment and exile, for New York.

On November the 11th, 1804, Jane Emmet first set foot on American soil on which forty-two years of her life were yet to be spent, and in which she was to find a grave. Her health, which had suffered much during her sojourn in Fort George, and through the agitations and anxieties which attended her life in Brussels and Paris, improved. Her husband whose reputation and talents had secured for him the most distinguished reception at the hands of the noblest men in America, made his way rapidly at the American Bar. The little children from whom she had been separated so long: John, and Tom, and Temple, were restored to her. The little band of seven was subsequently reinforced by two new arrivals: Mary Anne, born in New York in March, 1805, and William Colville, born in the same city in April, 1807.

The family correspondence, published by her grandson, Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, gives us a delightful picture of the home-life of Jane Emmet during these years. She saw her husband honoured among the noblest of the land. She saw her children grow up about her, her girls beautiful and accomplished and altogether charming: her sons clever and successful, heirs to their father’s unstained integrity, as to his commanding abilities. The family had a summer residence on the old Middle Road, New York, and a winter abode in town—but the “Middle Road” was so attractive that the whole year was not infrequently passed there. All sorts of frolics enlivened their stay there, fancy dress balls and musical entertainments not to speak of practical jokes, in which the humour of the family took intense delight. As the sons and daughters got married, the new daughters, and 163sons thus added served but to widen the charming family circle, not to break it up.

In November, 1827, Jane Emmet had the supreme grief of losing her husband—a grief which was shared by all America—which “paid his love by reverencing his genius.”

Jane Emmet survived her husband nineteen years, dying at the house of her son-in-law on November 10th, 1846.

The noble words of Dr. Madden are the fittest tribute to her memory:

“The widow of Thomas Addis Emmet survived her husband nineteen years. She had shared in his sorrows and his sufferings—had been his companion in prisonment in Kilmainham gaol, and in captivity in Fort George—not for days, or weeks, or months, but for years. She had accompanied him in exile to the Continent and to the land of his adoption, and there she shared in his honours and the felicity of his later years.

“The woman who encountered so many privations and trials as she had done—who had been accustomed to all the enjoyments of a happy home, and

‘Had slept with full content about her bed,
And never waked but to a joyful morning.’

When deprived of all ordinary comforts, of the commonest appliances of these to the humblest state of life, during the imprisonment of her husband in Dublin; and was subjected necessarily to many restraints during the dreary imprisonments at Fort George—seemed ever to those who were the companions of her husband’s captivity as ‘one who, in suffering all things, suffered nothing.’ She fulfilled with heroic fortitude the duties of a devoted wife towards her husband in all his trials in his own country; was the joy and comfort of his life in a foreign land, where the exiled patriot, honoured and revered, in 164course of time rose to the first distinction in his profession; she died far away from her native land—but her memory should not be forgotten in Ireland.

“This excellent woman, full of years, rich in virtue, surrounded by affectionate children—prosperous, happily circumstanced, dutiful and loving children to her, worthy of their inheritance of a great name, and of the honour that descended to them from the revered memory of her truly noble husband—thus terminated in a foreign land a long career, chequered by many trials, over which a virtuous woman’s self-sacrificing devotion, the courage and constancy of a faithful wife, the force of a mother’s love eventually prevailed. The portrait of this lady is in the possession of Mr. John Patten.[75] The time may come when this intimation may be of some avail. Ireland has its Cornelias, its Portias—matrons worthy of association in our thoughts with Cato’s daughter, the mother of the children who were the jewels of her heart—with the wife of Russell, of Lavalette—but Ireland has no national gallery for the pictures and busts of her illustrious children—no literature for a record of the ‘noble deeds of women’ of her own land.”

75.  Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet informs us that “nothing is now known of this portrait.” The two portraits reproduced in his own book were by her daughter Elizabeth, Mrs. Le Roy.


The Wife of Samuel Neilson

Anne Neilson née Bryson (1763-1811)[76]
“I love you the more, Love, because of their hate.”
Ethna Carbery.

76.  Authorities: Madden’s “United Irishmen,” Fourth Series, Second Edition.

NO woman, of all those whose stories we are recalling to the memory of a people in danger of forgetting them, has suffered so much as Mrs. Neilson. Not alone had she to see her happy home broken up, the ease and comfort to which she had been accustomed both in her father’s and her husband’s house, taken from her, her children deprived of their father and herself of a helpmate, the turning away from her necessities of former friends—but worse than all this she had to endure the intolerable pain of knowing that the reward her husband had won even from his own countrymen, even from those for whose sake he had sacrificed his all—was to be branded as a traitor, and to have his name whispered from mouth to mouth as that of one who had betrayed Lord Edward, and sold the secrets of his associates to Government to purchase his own safety.

It is with hearts very full, then, that we turn to the appealing and lonely figure of this “dear dead woman,” and standing in spirit by her grave in Newtownbreda Cemetery we frame passionate prayers that she may know her sufferings have not been in vain.

Anne Bryson was born in Belfast in 1763. Her father, William Bryson, was a wealthy and highly esteemed merchant of that town, and his daughter had all the 166educational and social advantages which an assured position, a refined home and considerable means could give her. In 1785, when she had reached her twenty-second year, she married Samuel Neilson, the son of a dissenting minister, of Ballyroney in Co. Down. Neilson had been resident in Belfast for some time, having been at an early age apprenticed to his brother John, a woollen-draper—and doubtless the young people had often met at the social functions which enlivened Belfast at this period, and of which Mrs. McTier’s letters to her brother, Dr. Drennan, give us the most delightful glimpses.[77]

77.  Published in Young’s “Historical Notices of Old Belfast,” p. 169, et seq.

After their marriage the young couple set up in business for themselves, and Samuel Neilson’s great ability commanded an immediate success. His establishment, called “The Irish Woollen Warehouse,” became, we are informed, “the most extensive and respectable house in that line in Belfast.” Before he had been seven years in business he had amassed a considerable fortune, being reckoned in 1792 as worth about £8,000—which would be equivalent to nearly £20,000 in our days.

Not with worldly prosperity alone did a kind Providence bless Anne Neilson and her husband. Five fair children, four girls and a boy, came to grace their fireside. The girls were Anne, Sophia, Jane, and Mary. Very dear were they to their father, and very touching the letters he was to address to them from prison when the “hard service” of the Poor Old Woman was to sever him from them during sorrowful years. Anne and Sophia were old enough to bear their heroic part among the “Women of ’Ninety-Eight,” and many of the most thrilling and interesting incidents which Dr. Madden gathered into his precious books were actually witnessed, and related to him by them. They spent much time during the troubled period 167with the wife of Oliver Bond in Dublin, and were by that means right in the centre of things, so to speak. Dr. Madden was deeply touched by the passionate devotion they showed to their father’s memory, when about half a century after his death, he sought from them the materials for his memoir.

But dear as the girls were, the boy was the light of his life. William Bryson Neilson, the only son of Samuel and Anne Neilson, was born in 1794 and, by all accounts, was an extraordinarily gifted boy. We shall hear much of him in the following pages, and find no little interest in the story of the days he spent with his father in the stern old northern fortress of Fort George, which his presence made for poor Sam Neilson almost a place of delight.

The “good years,” as perhaps Anne Neilson was inclined to call them, from their contrast with the years which followed, came to an end—with so much else—at the outbreak of the French Revolution. Neilson had retained from his old “volunteer” days a strong attachment to Liberty, which he then interpreted in the terms of the English Revolution of 1689. The French Revolution gave the word a new meaning for him, and the other dissenters of Belfast who shared his views. The “Rights of Man” became the Koran of Belfast, as Tone pleasantly observes, and Sam Neilson set himself with that logical sequence, which, with him, made energetic action follow principle, to secure these “Rights” for his own oppressed countrymen.

From 1791, politics absorbed Neilson, and his business was much neglected, and finally had to be abandoned. Many anxious moments must have been poor Anne Neilson’s during those stirring days when her husband, with Tone and Russell and Henry Joy MacCracken, was making history. We Irish Catholics ought to cherish a special reverence for her memory, and pay her at least a posthumous gratitude, for it was at her expense that her 168husband worked for us. He was the first man in Belfast to put Catholic Emancipation in the forefront of the Republican party’s programme, and to make of it, with Parliamentary Reform, the principal plank in the platform of the United Irishmen—the honour of whose foundation he shares with Tone.

In 1792 there was established in Belfast to preach the doctrines of the new society a memorable paper, The Northern Star. Of this paper, to the finances of which he had liberally contributed, Neilson was appointed the editor. Eventually he became the sole proprietor—with disastrous results to his financial position. The paper was repeatedly the object of legal proceedings, and apparently to escape the consequences of these, the other shareholders got rid of their interest in it. Madden tells us that “the various prosecutions carried on against it had obliged Neilson to dispose of all his property, and to relinquish his business in order to meet the enormous expenses attendant on these proceedings, and the unexpected demands arising from them. The other proprietors, shortly after the prosecutions, disposed of their shares to Neilson, and thus encompassed with peril he became the sole proprietor of the paper. In 1792 the printer and proprietors had been prosecuted and acquitted. In January, 1793, six informations were filed in King’s Bench against them for seditious libels, and in November, 1794, they were prosecuted for publishing the address of the United Irishmen to the Volunteers.”

It was not alone through the medium of the Northern Star that Neilson served the cause of the Catholics. He was active in his efforts to compose the differences between the Catholics and the Presbyterians, and to lay the feuds of the Peep o’ Day Boys and the Defenders. We learn from Tone’s diary that both Neilson and his wife were of the party which accompanied John Keogh and the other Catholic delegates, on their return from Belfast in 169July, 1732, to Rathfriland in order to meet some gentlemen of the neighbourhood with a view to restoring peace between the rival religious parties. He took part, with Tone and Keogh, in a similar expedition a month later. He was intensely interested in the work of the Catholic Committee and the plans for the Catholic Convention.

It was probably in this connection that he became so intimate with Luke Teeling, of Lisburn, and his family, though their relations dated from a still earlier period when both men were working heart and soul to return to Parliament, as representative of the Co. Down, that ardent Reform candidate, the Hon. Robert Stewart—better known to history as Lord Castlereagh.

In 1795 the terrible condition of affairs in the County Armagh, where the Catholics had been subjected to a barbarous persecution at the hands of the Peep o’ Day Boys without the slightest attempt on the part of the authorities, either to protect them or to restrain their savage aggressors, was rapidly reaching a tragic climax. Young Charles Teeling, then a lad of seventeen, got information that the Catholics, convinced that they could not be worse off than they were, were preparing to take the field openly against their intolerant foes. Relying on the influence which his family, from its standing, enjoyed among the Catholics of Armagh, he set off from Lisburn, without informing any one, in the hope of inducing the Defenders to desist from their disastrous purpose.

He had not gone far, however, when he felt the need of some more mature and experienced head than that which sat on his own seventeen-year-old shoulders. His mind could suggest “none more desirable for the purpose than Samuel Neilson. He was the ardent patriot, the decided enemy to oppression in every shape and in every form; and the strenuous advocate, at all times and seasons, for the unqualified admission of his excluded 170fellow-countrymen, to their full participation in the blessings of civil and religious liberty. He was at the head of the, then, only liberal Press in Ulster; and his political influence however extended, was not more than commensurate with his labours in the public cause.”

Teeling wrote to Neilson begging him to meet him in Portadown and thence to accompany him to the scene of the disturbances. Neilson complied without delay, but before he reached Portadown he was met by Teeling with the news that the Battle of Diamond had been fought, and that their intervention was too late.

In September, 1796, both Teeling and Neilson with Russell and others were arrested, conveyed to Dublin and lodged in Newgate and Kilmainham. A few weeks afterwards the two McCrackens were added to the company of Northern prisoners.

After a few months Lord O’Neill obtained from Government permission for the prisoners to see their wives. Charles Teeling informs us of his surprise at finding that Neilson was not disposed to avail himself of this permission. “Neilson had a tender affection for his wife, and she merited all the respect and attachment he could feel; yet he positively prohibited her visiting his prison. ‘I cannot,’ said he, ‘suffer you to undertake a long and fatiguing journey at this season of the year to visit me in my cell. Here your nerves will be shocked by the brutality of a turnkey, and at the Castle your pride will be wounded by the insolence of a minion in office.’ His prohibition, however, did not avail. He addressed his letter through the usual channel, the office of the Secretary of State; but the faithful partner of his affections had already procured an order of admission to the prison.”[78]

78.  Teeling’s “Personal Narrative,” pp. 29, 30.

During the seventeen months for which her husband’s 171captivity lasted, Mrs. Neilson and her elder daughters spent much time in Dublin, where the hospitable homes of James Dixon, of Kilmainham, and Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Bond, were ever ready to receive them.

It is sad to relate that the nervous strain to which the prisoners in Kilmainham were subjected told on the temper of most of them, and in the irritation of their spirits they quarrelled with each other. A serious estrangement broke out, in particular, between Neilson and Henry Joy McCracken. But Margaret and Mary McCracken and Mrs. Neilson, using their gentle womanly influence, succeeded in effecting a reconciliation.

On February 22nd, 1798, Neilson was liberated on bail on condition “that he should not belong to any treasonable committee.”

The long confinement, the anxiety about his family, the grief and rage he felt at the news of the ruin of his property, and the suppression of his paper had told heavily on Neilson’s bodily and mental health. He came out of prison a wreck of his former self. His kind friend, Mr. John Sweetman, took him to his country house and lavished on him every care which might restore him. But the times were unpropitious for the “rest cure” which poor Neilson’s shattered nerves demanded.

Three weeks after his release, on March the 12th, 1798, the Government swooped down on the leaders of the United Irishmen and by midnight of that memorable day had all of them, practically, with the single exception of Lord Edward, safe under lock and key. John Sweetman was arrested at his brewery in Francis Street—and it became known to Neilson that his own re-arrest was merely a matter of time.

Neilson considered that the Government’s breach of faith towards him absolved him from his engagement to them—and from this time forth he threw himself, with a feverish energy his debilitated frame could ill support, 172into the service of the Union. According to his own statement, “he was very active in procuring that the vacancies caused by the arrest at Bond’s should be filled up, attended several committees belonging to the union, delivered some messages from Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and together with his Lordship, was stopped by a patrol near Palmerstown, and liberated after being a short time in custody, owing to the ignorance of the officer respecting our persons.” A Northern delegate reported at a provincial meeting in Belfast that Neilson “was riding almost night and day, organising the people; and scarcely any person knew where he slept.”

During the time between March the 12th and Lord Edward’s arrest on May the 19th, Neilson constantly visited his Lordship at his various places of concealment. Miss Moore long afterwards told Dr. Madden that “no matter how depressed Lord Edward was, the appearance of Neilson always brightened him up.”

On the day Lord Edward was arrested at Murphy’s, Neilson visited him and told him that he had seen a party of soldiers pass up the street. He dined with Lord Edward and, according to Murphy, as soon as the dinner was over hurried away, as if a sudden recollection had occurred to him, leaving the door open behind him. Through this door an hour later entered Major Sirr and his party. “Lord Edward’s arrest following so immediately Neilson’s exit, his restlessness during dinner, his ‘fidgety’ demeanour at the moment of leaving the house, and the strange circumstance of the door being found open by Major Sirr, were circumstances that caused Neilson’s conduct to be freely canvassed; and those who were in the secret of the treachery which really led to the capture of the prisoner took care to let suspicion light and rest on those whom it was thought desirable to bring into odium with their own party. Neilson and Murphy were made the scape-goats of the infamy of the memorable F. H. 173whose initials have finally been identified with the name of Francis Higgins, one of the worst men of the worst period of our history.”

It makes our heart bleed for poor Anne Neilson and her children when we think of this terrible imputation being cast on him whose only fault was that he loved his country before all else!

On the night of May the 23rd, that fixed for the general rising, Neilson was re-arrested outside Newgate, where he was reconnoitring, with a view to leading an attack on this Irish Bastille, and inaugurating the projected Irish Revolution after the French model, by the liberation of Lord Edward and the other chiefs imprisoned in it. Unfortunately Neilson was too well known to the prison authorities for his presence in the neighbourhood not to excite suspicion. He was taken prisoner by a file of soldiers after a desperate resistance and lodged in gaol in a pitiable condition of body, but his mind more determined to resist tyranny than ever. Grattan told his son that when Neilson was taken, his clothes were torn off him, his body wounded all over by the soldiers hacking at him, he was cut and scarred in upwards of fifty places, and was only saved by the number of his assailants.

On June the 26th, bills of indictment were sent up for high treason against Samuel Neilson, the two Sheareses, John McCann, William Michael Byrne, and Oliver Bond. Counsel were named by all the prisoners except Neilson, who refused to name any. We find in the Life of Grattan by his son a graphic description of the scene in court to which Neilson was brought heavily ironed. “When brought into court the noise of his entrance was like the march of men in irons. He was called on to plead, and asked if he had anything to say; he replied in a stentorian voice, ‘No! I have been robbed of everything—I could not fee counsel; my property—everything has been taken from me,’ and he turned away. But he came 174again to the front of the dock, and said, ‘For myself I have nothing to say; I scorn your power, and despise that authority that it shall ever be my pride to have opposed; but I may say—not that I value it—why am I kept with these weighty irons on me, so heavy that three ordinary men could scarcely carry them? Is it your law that I should be placed in irons, and in such irons?’”

The execution of the Sheareses took place on July 14th, that of McCann on the 19th. In order to save the lives of Byrne and Bond, Neilson with some others of the State prisoners consented to enter into terms with Government. Byrne, in spite of these negotiations, was executed on July 28th, and Oliver Bond died, under very suspicious circumstances, after having been respited.

The circumstances attending Bond’s death, and the chagrin caused by the Government’s perfidy with regard to the compact (which they not only broke in the most flagrant manner, but represented, in their account of it to the public, in a way most injurious to the prisoners’ honour) had a very bad effect on poor Neilson. He was literally at death’s door when the word came from the Castle on March the 18th, 1799, that the State prisoners were to be deported to an unknown destination on the following morning.

John Sweetman’s diary gives a most harrowing account of Neilson’s condition during the journey to Fort George. He got delirious on the very night the Ashton Smith, with the prisoners aboard, sailed from Dublin Bay. The prisoners had to take two hours’ watches by his bedside to restrain his violence. Dr. MacNevin, as a medical man, warned the Captain of the likely consequences if something were not done for the unfortunate patient, and a petition was sent for leave to have him landed at Belfast, where the boat put in to take more prisoners. But it was all in vain.

Fortunately Neilson’s condition improved after a day 175or two, and his unfortunate companions were spared at least acute anxiety on his account. They had plenty of discomforts to put up with, without that. A heavy gale came on as they approached Ailsa, and presently it increased to a rank storm. “The sea broke clear over us, and poured into the hold; several of the berths were drenched with water. Mine was completely flooded by the bilge-water, which came up between the timbers and through the ceiling. All the trunks were knocked about, and most of the crockery broken. The hold exhibited a most confused scene.” Later on they were nearly ship-wrecked.

From Greenock the prisoners were conveyed by coach to Fort George, which they reached on April 9th, having been eleven days on the sea-journey and ten days on the land journey.

Dr. Dickson’s narrative gives us a graphic description of the first impressions of Fort George. “Our entrance might be called solemn. The very aspect of the place made it so to me, who had never before seen a regular fortification. A numerous guard was drawn out, and a multitude assembled—which included a great part of the rank and fashion of the country. Through them and the guards our coaches drove to a stair, up which we were conducted to the rampart, and thence along a wooden bridge, thrown across the street on our account, to the third floor of the garrison, and shown into a spacious room where we found an uncommonly large grate filled with a blazing coal fire.

“We had not enjoyed this many minutes, when Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart (the lieutenant-governor), the fort-major, and some other officers made their appearance. Panting as we were with anxiety to know our fates, their minds did not seem to be much more at ease than ours. After a few polite inquiries concerning our journey, health, accommodations, etc., the lieutenant-governor, taking a 176paper from his pocket, said: ‘Gentlemen, it is necessary that I should read to you the orders I have received from Government; though I assure you to me a very painful task.’ That he felt it such was evident from the tremulous voice and interrupted breath with which he performed it. On perceiving the indignation which these orders excited, expressed by every countenance, and hearing it from one tongue: ‘Gentlemen,’ said he, ‘as a servant of government I cannot hear reflections on government. I own I cannot reconcile your appearance and these orders—yet I must obey them. However, it shall be your own fault if ever they are executed with severity.’ On this, he and the other gentlemen retired seemingly, and as I believe really, affected with our situation.

“Soon after, our table was handsomely laid out and a good dinner of five dishes served up. We had two servants to attend us. Our allowance of drink was one dozen of porter, one of ale, and ten bottles of port. And we were informed that we might have tea in the evening, or a cold supper with a bottle of porter or ale for each, as we should choose.

“After dinner, twenty rooms, between sixteen and eighteen feet square each, were allotted to us by ballot, sixteen of which were laid with brick over the boarden floor. On taking possession we found them clean, airy, dry, well plastered and ceiled, with windows sufficiently large, well glazed and secured on the outside with iron bars. In each room was a neat four-posted bed with good curtains, palliasse, mattress, sheets, one under and three upper blankets, a cotton coverlet, bolster, pillow, a rush-bottomed chair, and small oaken table; a bottle and basin, fire-irons, coal-box, candlestick, snuffers and extinguisher—all entirely new and good in their kind. To these were afterwards added a bell on the outside of each door, with two pulls on the inside, one at the fireplace and one at the bed, that in case of sickness, fire, or 177alarm, our keepers might be roused, and assistance procured. Four invalids were exempted from duty, for our service, and allowed double pay; two to make our beds, keep our rooms clean, and do other services; and the other two to keep our knives, forks, spoons, etc., as they ought to be, bring our provisions from the inn and attend at table. Each of us had a captain’s allowance of coal and candle, nor did we burn a dipped candle except for one fortnight during my residence in the fort. For our health equal provision was made.”

The prisoners were allowed to exercise on the ramparts, and from that point of vantage they were entertained “with a widely extended scenery, as variegated, wildly great and rudely picturesque, as water, moor, mountain cultivated fields, one large handsome town, several villages, a few gentlemen’s seats, some good farm-houses, thriving plantations of great extent, Culloden with all its recollections, a considerable succession of trading and other vessels, a constant paddling of ferry and fishing boats, and a long and lofty ridge of the Scottish Alps at a distance, exposing their bare heads and naked shoulders to the pitiless storms, could present to an eye accustomed to tame and temperate regions.”

The Governor, who was of royal Stuart blood, treated his prisoners with every consideration. On his own responsibility he allowed the relaxation, or removal of the several restrictions imposed on them by the Duke of Portland, at the instigation of Castlereagh, and obtained on his own initiative various privileges and comforts for them. Thus when the fine weather came in May they were allowed to bathe. Permission to subscribe to certain newspapers was accorded them, and they were also permitted to buy books. Gradually the restraints that were placed on their intercourse were removed, and they had the liberty of each other’s apartments, and permission to amuse themselves as they pleased, within the bounds 178prescribed, from eight in the morning till nearly nine in the evening.

But the most precious privilege accorded them was the permission to have some of their family with them. Roger O’Connor was the first to enjoy this privilege, and it was next availed of by Thomas Addis Emmet. It was probably kind Mrs. Emmet, who suggested to Samuel Neilson that he should apply for leave to have his little son with him, promising to “mother him like one of her own children.” An opportunity was found when the wife and niece of Mr. Cuthbert, one of the other prisoners, travelled to Fort George, and William Neilson arrived, in their charge, some time in July, 1801.

The letters addressed by Samuel Neilson to his wife and children from Fort George, and carefully preserved by the tender piety of his daughters, exhibit him, as a husband and father, in a very favourable light. He is deeply concerned about his children’s education, of which he would make religion the foundation, and a certain stoicism and the unflinching acceptance of life’s sternest realities, the backbone. Even when he was in Newgate, awaiting his fate, which seemed then likely to be that of the Sheareses, McCann and Bond, the direction of the children’s education is of supreme interest to him. “Oh, let me entreat you once more to rear them hardily, to do everything in the house in turn. To William, reading, writing, English well—no other language nor dancing; to the girls the same, with knitting and sewing, but no tambour nonsense. Let their dresses be plain and homely, befitting their state; and of all things labour to form their minds by curbing pride and inciting to virtue and industry, not by scolding and whipping or cajoling, but by emulation, which is by far the safest and surest incentive to exertion.” He warns his wife to guard them against foolish fears, whether of “ghost and fairies and hobgoblins,” or of fever. The remedy he proposes against either is the 179inculcation of a perfect trust in God. “Let then the children learn that God alone is present everywhere, and that darkness is subjected to his power.” And again: “impress upon them without ceasing this great truth—that Providence cares for all its creatures.” One loves to quote the educational maxims he lays down for his children for their soundness, and universal applicability:

“There is no part of education more essential than that which gives an early knowledge of the world; but above all it is necessary to keep the young mind employed, not to forced tasks or unreasonable attention, but to something (either of utility or amusement, and these can easily be united) so that the mind be not left to wander, and to become familiarised with the frivolity that is the fashion of the age; for that will certainly cause it to take a wrong direction. I hope you are also fully sensible that the only useful control is that over the feelings, not that which arises from personal dread.”

“With respect to the spiritual direction of our children, I hope you will bear in mind this important lesson, that you will yourself educate our children in the true principles of Christianity, which believe me are not to be acquired by a mere Sunday show. No! they are to be instilled in the life and conversation, and that only by precept and example.... Continue to teach them a love of truth and Christianity, with an utter abhorrence of falsehood and hypocrisy. There is a maxim of an ancient heathen author, which my father recommended to me when I was a boy; it had a great effect on my mind at the time, and is worth your teaching them; it is thus translated:

“Be this your wall of brass, no guilt to know
Nor let one crime sit blushing on your brow.”

His letters to his children are charming in their simplicity and tenderness. Here is one of them:

“My dear Children,—I am extremely delighted with 180your very great progress in writing, and am only anxious on that subject that you will not forget what you have been taught. But my great and increasing care is about your progress in the acquisition of industrious habits. It should be a first principle with people that they should actually earn whatever they enjoy. Writing is good and reading is good, but no learning should entitle a person to live by the fruit of another’s industry. Your mother will help you to apply this principle. State your objections to it, if you have any, in your next letter; and show me, if you can, why one part of the community should live by the labours of another.”

The longing for his children which had tried to satisfy itself with the sight of their framed likenesses above his mantelpiece, the record of their ages and heights on his wall, was stilled at last on the joyful day which brought him William. The boy’s presence was not procured without sacrifice on his father’s part. The prisoners were allowed a certain amount of wine every day at dinner. This, Neilson saved, and sold privately to some of the prisoners at 3s. 6d. per bottle which paid for William’s diet, “having agreed for it at £15 per annum.” “I don’t feel the slightest inconvenience from this privation,” he assures his wife, “and though it looks a little awkward to sit at table while others are taking their glass, yet my fellow-prisoners cannot but esteem me the more for the motive; indeed I feel a good deal pinched about the usual expenses of mending, washing, paper, quills, etc., not having at present a crown in the world. But then I do not owe a farthing to anyone, and I have learned to make a little go a long way.” From a letter addressed by Neilson to the Governor we learn that he covered the expense of washing, etc., by going without supper. When we remember that Neilson had become addicted, during the convivial days of his political life and the weary days of his imprisonment in Kilmainham and 181Newgate, to spirituous drink, we realise the extent of the sacrifice he made to secure the presence of his little son.

That little lad’s story of the days spent by him with his father in Fort George can be told by no one so well as himself. We must bear in mind that the writer of the following letters was only eight years old.

The first letter is to his mother and announces his safe arrival in Fort George:

“My dear Mother.—I like this place very well. My father is very well, as are the rest of the prisoners.

“I had the pleasure of seeing a little dog and a hare. Mr. Wilson had the hare, and Mr. Cormick the dog. We had a very pleasant voyage, only Monday, which was a little stormy. Mrs. Cuthbert and Miss Park took great care of me. Mrs. Emmet will be as kind to me as if I was her own child. My father had a pretty little bed and arm-chair ready for me.”

The next letter is dated a week later:

“My dear Mother—I am sorry to tell you that Mrs. Cuthbert has been very ill ever since the day I came here. My arm is almost stout, and Dr. MacNevin says it will be as well as ever. I bathe a little every morning, at first I was afraid to dive, but now I am growing bolder. I am counting with Mr. Dowling in the morning, reading and grammar with Doctor Dickson, in the middle of the day, and writing and reading with my father, who is also beginning to teach me geography, in the afternoon. I play in the evening with Robert Emmet and his sisters; sometimes I sup at their mother’s, and sometimes in our own room, on bread and milk. I go to bed at nine, and rise before eight o’clock. Father sits an hour later than me. My love to my sisters.”

A letter to his sister Anne who was with Sophia in Dublin (probably at Mrs. Bond’s), comes next in order of time, and we learn from it that he knew his father from 182his picture, and that he bathes every morning at eight o’clock. He conveys a message from John Sweetman to Sophia who was evidently an old favourite of the genial brewer.

By the middle of September William is quite settled down in his new quarters, and extremely happy in them. “Everything here is agreeable, and my father takes great care of me. The little Emmets are fine play-fellows, but I am ten hours at my education, and I think it not long. I sleep very sound all night, and in the morning my father awakes me to my lessons. He says I am in a fair way of being a good scholar.... I get my copies from Mr. Dowdall, who sends his best respects to you. Tell John we have got no bag-pipes yet, nor any errand-going dogs.”

We next hear of William’s performance on the flute at a concert given by the children in Mrs. Emmet’s room, with Mr. and Mrs. Emmet, Neilson, John Sweetman, Dr. MacNevin and the boy’s self-appointed music-master, Cormick, as the appreciative audience:—

“My dear Mother. We had a concert on Friday evening, when Robert Emmet and I played several tunes together, and we had the approbation of the whole company. I am reading Erasmus in Latin with Dr. Dickson, and I am in the rule of five of fractions and tare and tret with Mr. Dowling. My father assists me in everything.”

Poor William fell ill towards the New Year, but sickness had its alleviations in Fort George for a little boy whom everybody idolised. It meant all kinds of petting from Jane Park and Mrs. Cuthbert, and gifts of jellies and fruit and sweetmeats from Mrs. Emmet. Nor was that all, as witness the following letter from the convalescent to his sisters:—

“My dear Sisters.—I suppose you have heard that I was sick; but I am sure you will be happy to hear that I am perfectly recovered. When I was ill my little pigeon 183used to play about me like my little cat; it is very fond of me. Dr. Dickson who was so kind as to teach me Latin, has left us; but Mr. Dowling is good enough to supply his place, and to continue my arithmetic also. I can now play twenty-one tunes on the flute, and Mr. Cormick gives me those which will be most agreeable to my mother. I have just begun trigonometry with Mr. Russell. I read history and biography in English with Mr. Emmet. With my father geography, and a little of everything except writing, which he thinks will be best deferred for some time. Robert Emmet is my schoolfellow in all classes.”

Some of the State prisoners were liberated about this time, including as we learn from William’s letter above, Dr. Dickson. A subsequent letter to his mother indicates his regret, even in the midst of the fine sliding the long-continued frost afforded him, for Mr. Simms (another of those liberated) with whom he used to play “tig.” His father tries to supply the loss of Mr. Simms by playing “shinney” with his little son, and the latter makes himself useful to the prisoners by keeping a weekly account of the washing sent out, and checking it when it comes back. And so the days pass.

Anxious days they are for the father whose future is so uncertain. It is clear that with the coming of the long-expected peace the remainder of the prisoners will be sent away from Fort George. But whither? And what is best to be done with William?

Finally, on the last day of May, 1802, word comes that the prisoners are to be sent to Hamburg. Thence it is Neilson’s intention to depart for America. But will he bring William with him, or send him home to his mother? The boy himself cannot bear the idea of parting with his father: “he has been in tears this hour past because I won’t promise to take him with me.”

The final decision is to send back William to his mother, 184and the son of one of the prisoners, Mr. Chambers, returning, one of these days, to Belfast, poor William was torn from his father and sent back to his mother and sisters.

He was to see his father once more. Braving all dangers, Samuel Neilson stole back to Ireland, for one last glimpse of its dear shores, and accompanied by faithful Jamie Hope, rode from Dublin to Belfast, to see his beloved wife and children, ere he bade them farewell for ever.

Less than nine months after his arrival in America, poor Neilson died, his giant frame worn out by all he had endured during his long imprisonment, as truly a martyr for Ireland as if he had perished, with so many others of his comrades, on the scaffold of ’98 or ’03.

Mrs. Neilson, soon after the break up of the Star, embarked in a small line of business, and God prospered her little enterprise. “She was enabled,” says Madden, “by the fruit of her industry, to bring up her children respectably, to give them education, and to leave them—such as it would have been her husband’s pride to have found them, had he lived to have seen them in their ripe years—trained to virtue and matured in useful knowledge.

“Miss McCracken, speaking of her, says: ‘Mrs. Neilson was a very superior woman, a most exemplary wife and mother, for whom I had the highest esteem, and continued on terms of intimacy and friendship, from 1795, when I first became acquainted with her, until her death. I never saw a family so well regulated, such order and neatness, on such a limited income; and such well-trained children, most amiable and affectionate to each other, and so respectful to their mother, and all so happy together—it was quite a treat to spend an evening with them.’ This excellent woman, esteemed and respected by all who knew her, even by those to whom her husband’s political principles were most obnoxious, struggled for her family during her husband’s imprisonment and exile and subsequently to his death, and died in November, 1811, in her 185forty-eighth year. Her remains were interred at Newtownbreda. The inscription on her tomb truly describes her to have been, ‘A woman who was an ornament to her sex; who fulfilled in the most exemplary manner, the duties of a daughter, wife and mother.’”

There remains only to tell, as briefly as may be, the story of her children, for of this woman, in a special degree it is true to say, that she has no history but the history of her husband and family. Poor William, whom we have learned to love as dearly as any of his masters in Fort George, lived long enough to show the fruits of the remarkable education he had received there—but alas! not long enough to confer on his country the benefits which all those who knew him expected from him. After a brilliant course at the Academical Institution, Belfast, he embraced a commercial career, where his splendid talents ensured for him a speedy success. His employers described him as “a young man of the most splendid talents we have ever known; there was no subject in mercantile affairs that he could not make himself master of. In public affairs he soon became conspicuous, and had he lived he would have been an ornament to his country.”

Alas! his career was cut by his death from yellow fever in Jamaica on February 7th, 1817.

Of the four daughters of Samuel and Anne Neilson, Anne (who lived much with Mrs. Oliver Bond) married a Mr. Magennis, in New York, and died there at an advanced age. Sophia and Jane married gentlemen of the name of McAdam, and one lived in Belfast, the other in New York. Mary, the youngest, married William Hancock of Lurgan, and was the mother of the distinguished statistician, William Neilson Hancock, LL.D.


The Wife of Lord Edward Fitzgerald

Pamela (1776?-1831)[79]
“Would God thou wert among the Gael!
Thou wouldst not then from day to day
Weep thus alone.”—Mangan.

79.  Authorities: Madden’s “United Irishmen” (Second Series, Second Edition;) Moore’s “Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald”; Gerald Campbell’s “Edward and Pamela Fitzgerald”; Harmand’s “Madame de Genlis”; various works of Madame de Genlis, including “Mèmoires,” “Adèle et Théodore,” “Leçons d’une Gouvernante à ses Élèves,” etc.

IT is not Romney, ravishing as his portrait of her is, nor Giroust, who in his Leçon de Harpe has painted her for us in all the virginal charm, and sweet, and fresh, and innocent loveliness of her early girlhood, nor Mieris, whose miniature of her shows an exquisite Diana, with little white buskined feet, as light and swift as the wind on which they seem to be borne—it is none of these that has given us the picture of Pamela we Irish people love best. It is as Lord Edward, himself, pictured her in a letter to his mother that we think of her most willingly—with her baby in her arms, the little son, the first-born, of whom the young husband and father was so proud: “I wish I could show the baby to you all—dear mother, how you would love it! Nothing is so delightful as to see it in its dear mother’s arms, with her sweet, pale, delicate face, and the pretty looks she gives it.” For the sake of the five years of perfect happiness she gave Lord Edward we, the Irish nation, to whom he has given so much, have taken “the dear little, pale, pretty wife” into our hearts for all time.

187Poor Pamela! We have need to keep her place in our hearts very safe and warm; for the rest of the world has dealt pitilessly with her fame during life, and her memory after death—and fate has spared her no unkindness, no humiliation, from the shadows that surrounded her cradle to the sordid and macabres details of her incoffining.

As we read the sad story of Pamela, and contrast “what might have been” (“if the dear little, pale, pretty wife” had been suffered by destiny to ripen, in the sweet, and simple and wholesome atmosphere of Irish family life, to her gracious maturity, and lovely old age) with the sordid actuality, our love for Pamela becomes doubled with a great pity, and an infinite regret. We feel how right Madden was in ascribing what was unlovely in her to the education she received at the hands of Madame de Genlis, and the blame which some of her critics have lavished on her levity, her errors and her frailties we join with him in apportioning to those who failed in their duty towards her in the most critical and trying moment of her life.

Into the disputed question of the parentage of Pamela it is not our business to enter. Suffice it to say that in the common belief she was regarded as the daughter of the Duke of Orleans, the notorious Egalité, and Madame de Genlis, the Governess of the Orleans children. On the other hand, Madame de Genlis asserted that Pamela was the daughter of a poor English woman named Mary Simms, who had married a gentleman of good family called Seymour,[80] and fled with him, from the displeasure of his family, to Fogo in Newfoundland. Here their little 188daughter Nancy was born, and here shortly after the young husband died. His widow returned to England, and settled down in Christ Church, where the extraordinary beauty and fascination of her little girl attracted the attention of a Mr. Forth. Mr. Forth was accustomed to buy horses in England for his Grace of Orleans, but recently he had received another commission: to look out for a little English girl, to be educated with the Orleans children, and to speak English with them. Mary Simms was very poor, and her desire to keep her child with her was not strong enough to stand in the way of the brilliant provision thus promised her. Accordingly, Mr. Forth was soon able to announce to his royal patron that he was sending him “the handsomest mare and the prettiest little girl in all England.”

80.  It has been pointed out by Madden that in the civil marriage contract of Pamela and Lord Edward, the bride’s father is stated to have been a William Berkley, while in the religious contract of the same date (Tournai, December 17th, 1792) Pamela is entered as the daughter of William de Brixey.

All we know with certainty of Pamela’s[81] “origin” is that at a very early age she made her appearance in the Convent of Bellechasse, whither Madame de Genlis had retired to devote herself to the education of the children of the Duke and Duchess of Orleans, and that until her marriage with Lord Edward in December, 1792, she was the constant companion of the young princes and their sister, and shared that remarkable and original system of education, which Madame de Genlis—one of the most gifted educationists of France, the country of educationists—had devised for her pupils.

81.  The name Pamela was borrowed by Madame de Genlis, who was an enthusiastic admirer of the novels of Samuel Richardson, from the heroine of the most famous of them.

M. Emile Faguet has discovered in the pedagogy of Madame de Genlis the origin of all modern education—in its theories, its practices, its tendencies. “With some of its defects,” he admits, but “wanting most of these defects,” as he also claims: “an education, directed towards the true, as well as to the beautiful, paying much 189attention to history, modern languages, Realien, the study of the most important new discoveries, as well as the literary masterpieces of ancient and modern times.”

It seems to us, as we study this education in its results—that is to say in the character of the pupils who were formed by it—that some of the defects of our modern education were more inherent in Madame de Genlis’s system than M. Faguet is willing to admit. Lady Sarah Napier, with her shrewd woman’s wit, has perhaps formed a truer estimate of it. In a letter written to her friend, Lady Susan O’Brien, shortly after Lord Edward’s marriage to Pamela, she says: “Your account of M. Sillery (i.e. Madame de Genlis) and her élèves answers my idea of her, all pleasing to appearance, and nothing sound within her heart, whatever may be so in the young minds whom she can and does of course easily deceive. I hope we have got our lovely little niece time enough out of her care to have acquired all the perfections of her education, which are certainly great, as she has a very uncommon, clever, active mind and turns it to the most useful purposes, and I trust our pretty little Sylph (for she is not like other mortals) has not a tincture of all the double-dealing, cunning, false reasoning, and lies with which M. S. is forced to gloss over a very common ill-conduct, because she will set herself above others in virtue, and she happens to be no better than her neighbours.”

The great fault we seem to find in Madame de Genlis as an educationist is that she failed to make true religion the foundation of it. Though she insisted on devoting a large portion of her pupils’ time-table to the study of the Catechism, and reserved for herself, as the most important of her duties, their preparation for First Communion, and their religious instruction, she failed signally to make them realise that they were created and placed in this world for one end and aim only: “to know God, to love Him, and serve Him, and by that means to gain everlasting 190life.” The system of morality which she taught them was founded less on the knowledge and love and service of God than on that curious code of external ethics called Les Convenances. The strange thing about this was that she, herself, was an ardent, not to say a noisy, protagonist of religion, and enjoyed nothing more than a tilt with the Philosophes. But, somehow, one thinks of religion as an element a little fortuitous in the heterogeneous collection of ingredients which went to the making of her character—and when she failed to make it the foundation of her own conception of life, it is not to be wondered at that she failed equally in respect of her pupils. Louis Philippe and Madame Adélaïde were worse than indifferent in the matter of religion. And it is sufficient to say of Pamela that though she was reconciled to the Church before her death, and died, as one has reason to believe, truly penitent, she seems to have given up the practice of her religion immediately after her marriage with Lord Edward, without the slightest qualm of conscience.

Les Convenances,” external appearances, it was these Madame de Genlis kept steadily in view in educating her pupils. The consequence was that she made them think of life as an act played on a stage for the benefit of spectators, whose applause determined the success of the actor, rather than a solemn business between God and each lonely human soul. To have their bodies trained to the highest degree of strength, and grace, agility and efficiency; to have their minds adorned with all useful and agreeable knowledge, to be adepts and connoisseurs of the fine arts: painting, and music, poetry and literature—this was the educational ideal she set before herself. If the hearts of her pupils withered a little under the neglect which they necessarily suffered—if the lessons of “love, and pain and death” were missing from this positive and modernist education, who 191can wonder that the results in poor Pamela’s case at least were disastrous?

Nevertheless, there were in Madame de Genlis’s system, as Lady Sarah Napier admits, sufficient “perfections” to make it worth our while to study it in a certain detail, in the hope of finding something in it to suit our own educational needs. The books in which she expounds her system (Adèle et Théodore, Leçons d’une Gouvernante, etc.) exercised a tremendous influence on a generation of parents much more interested in the education of their children than their present-day successors. We learn from Lady Sophia Fitzgerald that her mother, the Duchess of Leinster, admired “all the writings of Madame de Genlis to the greatest degree,” and was often bantered by Lord Edward (who little suspected in what a relation he was one day to stand to the educationist) over her engouement. (He, for his part, pronounced her Plans d’Education all perfect nonsense). Lady Sophia, herself, began to re-read Adèle et Théodore (which she had first read about eight or nine years previously) after her brother, Lord Edward, brought home Pamela as his bride. She pays a pretty compliment to Pamela while she makes a record of this intention of hers in her diary: “Knowing what a charming, engaging little creature Lady Edward is, I think I shall be more interested than ever, and give more attention to all she [i.e. Madame de Genlis] says upon Education.”

In 1777 Madame de Genlis, who had been attached since 1770 to the Court of the Duchess of Chartres, at the Palais Royal, as Lady in Waiting, was appointed Governess of the little twin Princesses, who had recently been born to the Duke and Duchess. She insisted on taking charge of them practically from their birth—contrary to the usual custom which left the care of baby princesses to a Sous-Gouvernante, and in order that she might develop 192unhampered the system of education which she had devised for them she stipulated that they should be removed from the Palais Royal, and a special pavilion built for them in the garden of the Convent of Bellechasse, on plans drawn up by herself.

In designing these plans the Countess kept steadily in view the destination of the pavilion as a place of education. Her first care was to secure the possibility of exercising her surveillance over the little princesses by day, and by night. A glass door separated her room from their nursery, and it was so arranged that even from her bed she could see what was going on in their room. The decorations of the place had all an educational aim. The walls of the Princesses’ room were adorned with frescoes, representing the seven kings of Rome and the emperors and empresses up to the time of Constantine, each with the date and name beneath it. Above the doors were depicted scenes taken also from Roman history. “Two large screens bore representations of the Kings of France, the hand screens depicted incidents taken from mythology.” The staircase was hung with maps. A long gallery was devoted to Grecian history, and certain other rooms were frescoed with scenes taken from the history of France.

Into this peaceable retreat Madame de Genlis was accompanied by her mother and her two daughters, Caroline and Pulchérie de Genlis, the completion of whose education she thus found an opportunity of directing, before their early marriages to the Marquis de La Woestine and the Viscount de Valence respectively.

In 1782 one of the little twin princesses died of smallpox, and in the same year Madame de Genlis was appointed “Governor” to the young princes, their brothers—the first woman to hold such a post of honour and responsibility.

From this moment Bellechasse became a regular academy. In addition to the three princes, the Duke de 193Valois (afterwards Louis Philippe, King of the French), the Duke de Montpensier, the small Duke de Beaujolais, and their sister Mlle. d’Orléans (afterwards known to history as Madame Adélaïde), the Countess had also, under her care her nephew, César de Crest, her niece, Henrietta de Sercey, and the two mysterious little girls, Pamela and Hermione. Of Hermione’s parentage nothing is known; but she was thought by some people to be a sister of Pamela.

The education given by Madame de Genlis in this academy has been chronicled by her in considerable detail in her Mèmoires, and in her celebrated pedagogical novel, Adèle et Théodore, and its spirit very finely analysed by her latest biographer, Jean Harmand. M. Harmand traces the main body of her educational doctrines to the great educationists of the seventeenth century, Fénélon and Madame de Maintenon, but finds them profoundly modified by the influence of Rousseau.

In order to have a free hand to carry them out Madame de Genlis got rid of the Princes’ tutor, M. de Bonnard, and substituted M. Lebrun, a former secretary of her husband. Their second master, M. l’Abbé Guyot, was allowed to remain, though he and the Countess were anything but kindred spirits.

The princes lived at the Palais Royal and came to Bellechasse every day at eleven. In the earlier portion of the day they had their religious instruction, and their Latin Course from the Abbé, and M. Lebrun was asked to keep a record of each morning’s work for the “Governor’s” information. The rest of the day Madame herself took charge, the masters being merely expected to dine with their pupils at two, and after supper at nine, to escort them back to the Palais Royal.

The Countess, according to herself, had her work cut out for her to correct the defects of the little boys’ previous education. They knew nothing at all, and the eldest, in 194particular, was wanting in application to an unheard-of degree. Their new teacher began by reading history for them. “M. le duc de Valois paid no attention, yawned, stretched himself and finally lay back on the sofa with his heels on the table.” The Countess put him “in penance” immediately. But the good sense of the little boy, which even at that period of his development, was easily appealed to, made him take it in good part. He was very much addicted to slang, and had some very peculiar foibles: he was in terror of dogs, and could not endure the smell of vinegar. The Countess succeeded in ridding him of these peculiarities.

Modern languages, taught on the direct method, were a strong point in the Bellechasse system. There was a German Valet de Chambre to speak German to the children; an Italian to speak Italian; an Englishman to help them to a conversational knowledge of English. It was ostensibly to speak English with Mademoiselle that Pamela, as we have seen, was added to the establishment.

The children’s father, who spared no money to carry out the “Governor’s” ideas, bought for them a country place, Saint Leu, and there they passed the summer each year. In the beautiful park the Countess had assigned to each the ground for a little garden, which they dug and planted for themselves—with the help of a German gardener, who gave his gardening instruction in German. During their afternoon walks nothing was spoken but English, and this was the language of the dinner table. At supper Italian was spoken.

A clever chemist and a good botanist, M. Alyon, was also engaged for Bellechasse. He accompanied the children on their walks, and gave them practical lessons in botany while under his direction they gathered the wayside flowers and plants. He gave them a course of Chemistry every summer at which the Countess delighted to assist.

195For their training in the fine arts a Pole, named Merys, was employed, and under his presidency an “Academy” of industrious little artists met every evening in the Salon. At the request of the Countess, M. Merys painted a series of slides for an educational magic lantern. Each series furnished illustrations for a lecture on Scripture History, Ancient History, Roman History, and the History of China and Japan—and the youngsters took turns, once a week, in showing the magic lantern and giving a little lecture with the aid of it. Can anything be more modern and up-to-date?

In order to teach her pupils geography, Madame de Genlis invented for them a game in which they took the keenest delight. She made them dramatise, and act, all the celebrated voyages of discovery. Everybody in the establishment had a share in these representations. They used wooden horses for cavalcades, the river in the park stood for the sea and a fleet of pretty little boats took the place of ships. Their theatrical wardrobe was as complete as possible. The “voyages” they staged with the greatest success were those of Vasco da Gama, and Snelgrave. They had, moreover, a moveable theatre which was first housed in the large dining room, and on which they staged historical tableaux. M. Merys grouped the actors behind the curtains, and the spectators guessed what each tableau represented. A dozen tableaux were thus often staged in the course of one evening. The great painter, David, took the greatest delight in this amusement, and often grouped the little actors. After some time the Countess had a regular theatre built at Saint Leu and here all her own pieces were staged—as well as a series of tableaux vivants. One of these represented Psyche persecuted by Venus, and the rôles were taken by Caroline and Pulchérie de Genlis and Pamela—a ravishing little god of love. No wonder David in his enthusiasm pronounced the picture “le perfection du beau idéal.”

196There were many who thought that the theatre played too great a rôle in the system of Bellechasse, and that the education given to the children was too theatrical. The Marquise de Laroche-Jaquelin relates in her Memoirs how, being taken one day, as a little girl, by her grandmother, for a private view of the new pictures in the Louvre, she saw there Madame de Genlis with all her élèves. The Marquise’s grandmother and the Countess were old friends, and their delight at meeting each other was mutual—and the little girl who had read so many of the Countess’s books for children, and acted in so many of her pieces was enchanted to see the author of them in the flesh. She thought the little princes, who were all dressed in the English fashion, with their hair in ringlets and unpowdered, very odd looking. While the royal children were viewing the pictures Madame de Genlis presented to her old friend her daughter Pulchérie—but said nothing of an exquisite looking little girl of about seven years, who was on her other side, until her friend enquired who she was. “Ah!” replied Madame de Genlis in a low tone, “it is a very touching and interesting story—which I must reserve for another occasion.” Then turning to the little girl she said, “Pamela, act Héloise.” Immediately Pamela took out her comb; her fine hair, without powder, fell in disorder upon her shoulders. She threw herself to the ground on her knees, raised her eyes to Heaven, as also one of her arms, and her whole figure expressed an ecstasy of passion.”

For days afterwards the Marquise’s grandmother entertained her friends with a humorous account of Madame de Genlis, and the sort of education she was giving her pupils.

Nevertheless, it is doubtful if any of those who made a joke of the Countess’s system, had an idea of how eminently practical it was in certain respects. During the winter season, which was passed at Paris, she aimed at utilising 197for her pupils every moment of their time—above all, that devoted to recreation. She had got a lathe installed in one of the ante-chambers, and at recreation time all her pupils, as well as herself, learned to turn it. She had them taught all the handicrafts that did not require much bodily force: leather-work, basket-making, the manufacture of bootlaces, ribbons, gauze, cardboard boxes, raised maps, artificial flowers, wire-netting, marbled paper, gilding, all sorts of hair work that it is possible to imagine, even to the making of wigs. The boys in addition were taught carpentry—and they succeeded so well in this that the two elder, quite unassisted, made a large wardrobe and a table with drawers in it for a poor woman of St. Leu in whom they were interested, and these articles are said to have been as well made as if they had come from the workshop of a first-class joiner. All their play-things had an educational scope—and all their walks and excursions had a similar end in view. At Paris they only went out to see the picture galleries (it was in one of these expeditions the future Marquise de Laroche-Jaquelin encountered them) or museums. They visited workshops and saw the various manufactures of Paris in different stages of their production. Previous to these excursions they read together the article in the Encyclopedia dealing with the particular manufacture they were going to inspect.

For the “corpus sanum” in which she wished the “mens sana” of each pupil to develop, Madame de Genlis had invented a whole system of gymnastics, which demanded an elaborate installation of pulleys, horizontal bars, etc. In addition she made her pupils walk with weighted shoes; carry graduated loads on their backs, or heads, or in their arms, etc. In addition dancing was taught with the greatest care, and the famous danseur of the Opera, d’Auberval, gave lessons to Mademoiselle, Pamela and Henrietta—whose dancing was something exquisite. They were also taught riding and swimming, 198and Madame, herself, one of the finest performers of her time, taught them the harp.

At a certain hour every evening the children assembled for their reading lesson. Each pupil read aloud for a quarter of an hour, Madame correcting their pronunciation when necessary, and making suitable comments on the subject matter which was always of an improving nature. At the end of the lesson the Countess read aloud for a few minutes herself, just to give the correct model.

When the children were a little older their “Governor” hired a box at the theatre for them, and thither they went about once a week to see the masterpieces of the French stage played by the greatest actors of the age.

Every Saturday the Princes and their sister held a reception at Bellechasse, so as to form them early to habits of polite conversation.

At the end of her account of her “academy,” Madame de Genlis sketches a series of portraits of her élèves. We are only interested in that of Pamela: “Pamela was loveliness itself; candour and sensibility were the chief traits of her character. She never told a falsehood, or employed the slightest deceit. She was a fascinating talker. Her chief fault was want of application. She had a very bad memory, and was thoughtless and impulsive. In person she was very active and light of foot. She ran like a wood nymph.”

It was part of the system of Bellechasse to interest its pupils in the great currents of thought which agitated the day. As early as 1786 the Countess had shown the popular and democratic direction she gave to the education of the princes of Orleans when the young Duke of Chartres, acting under her influence, destroyed the famous iron cage of Saint Michel.

When the States General met in May, 1789, Madame de Genlis threw open the salon of Bellechasse to some of 199the more noted deputies. Among the names of its habitués figure Barère and Brissot, Pétion, Tallyrand, Alexandre Lameth, and even Volney, Barneve, Alguié, the painter David—and Camille Desmoulins.

The outbreak of the Revolution found the young princes and their father on the popular side, and their choice has been traced to the influence of Madame de Genlis.

We get brief but very vivid glimpses of Pamela amid the gossip, enshrined in contemporary memoirs, which the Countess’s political action inspired. When the Duke of Orleans settled an annuity on her, she is said to have chosen Barère, then present at one of the Bellechasse Sunday receptions, as her guardian. She was seen, a striking figure on horseback, in riding habit and large black hat laden with black plumes, followed by two grooms in the Orleans livery of blue and red riding up and down between two lines of shrieking populace who proclaimed: “there’s the queen we want.” And on the day of the fall of the Bastille she was said to have been seen moving among the people all dressed in red, destined to draw all eyes to her.

It seems much more probable that she assisted at this historic spectacle with the rest of Madame de Genlis’s pupils from the terrace of the new gardens of Beaumarchais which the latter had put at their disposition.

The indignation of the Duchess of Orleans at the direction given to her children’s political education by their “Governor” led to the latter’s dismissal in 1791. But the separation from her teacher had such a disastrous effect on the health of Mademoiselle d’Orléans that Madame de Genlis had to be recalled.

In October, 1791, the Countess escorted Mademoiselle to England, accompanied by Pamela, Henriette de Sercey, and her little grand-daughter, Eglantine de Lawoestine. During this visit the Countess made the acquaintance of 200Sheridan, who had recently lost his beautiful wife. The resemblance of Pamela to his lost love (which is said to have later attracted Lord Edward) gained the heart of Sheridan, and he begged for her hand. His offer, it is said was accepted, and when the Duke of Orleans recalled his daughter to France, in order to avoid the penalties designed for “émigrés,” Pamela left England as the affianced bride of the distinguished dramatist.

But there was waiting in Paris another lover than Sheridan—and it was he, though they had never seen each other up to this, with whom Pamela’s lot was to be bound up.

One night at the theatre in Paris Lord Edward Fitzgerald saw in a loge grillée an exquisite looking girl. He made inquiries, and having learned her identity, had himself presented to Madame de Genlis and her beautiful charge. The following day Madame de Genlis and Pamela, acting on the instructions of the Duke of Orleans, set out for Flanders, with Mademoiselle d’Orléans. They were followed by that ardent and impetuous wooer, Lord Edward Fitzgerald.

At Tournay Lord Edward made formal proposals for Pamela’s hand, and his suit was accepted, on the condition of him receiving his family’s consent to the marriage.

This consent the Duchess of Leinster, wise mother that she was, gave very readily, and within a fortnight, Lord Edward was back in London with his bride.

The “good family” gave the warmest of welcomes to its new member. The diary of Lady Sophia Fitzgerald records the impression made on them by “Eddy’s dear little wife.” “We all took a prodigious fancy to her, and I do hope and trust Dearest Edward has met with a woman that will fix him at last, and likely to make him happy the remainder of his life. Besides being very handsome she is uncommonly sensible and agreeable, very pretty, with the most engaging pleasing manner I 201ever saw, and very much accomplished. They spent a fortnight with us in London before they went to Ireland where they are now.” Lady Sarah Napier, who was to be Pamela’s true friend to the end, fell in love with her at first sight. “I never saw,” she wrote to Lady Susan O’Brien, “such a sweet little, engaging, bewitching creature as Ly. Edward is, and childish to a degree with the greatest sense. The upper part of her face is like poor Mrs. Sheridan, the lower part like my beloved child Louise; of course I am disposed to dote upon her. I am sure she is not vile Egalité’s child; it is impossible.”

That letter of Lady Sarah’s is dated from Celbridge, February, 1793, and showed that by that time Pamela and her husband had arrived in Ireland. Into the gay social round of the Irish capital, the beautiful French girl entered con brio. “Dublin has been very gay,” Lord Edward writes to his mother in April, 1793, “a great number of balls, of which the lady misses none. Dancing is a great passion with her; I wish you could see her dance, you would delight in it, she dances so with all her heart and soul. Everybody seems to like her, and behave civilly and kindly to her. There was a kind of something about visiting with Lady Leitrim, but it is all over now. We dined there on Sunday, and she was quite pleasant, and Pamela likes her very much.”

Unfortunately for Pamela’s happiness, her husband was wrong in thinking everybody seemed to like her. The ladies of the Ascendancy party hated her with all their hearts, and behaved with inconceivable rudeness to her. Her husband, ever since his return from Paris (whence the stories of his “revolutionary” doings had preceded him), had been a marked man for the “Old Gang,” and his bride’s supposed relationship to Egalité (who had recently been guilty of the infamy of voting for Louis XVI’s death) was not calculated to re-establish him with them. The vilest stories were set in circulation 202about poor Pamela. One lady is supposed to have seen her in the streets of Dublin “with a handkerchief on her neck spotted with Louis XVI’s blood; that some of her friends had sent from Paris.” When everybody else was in mourning for Louis, she is said to have worn red ribbons “which she said were couleur du sang des Aristocrats.”

On one occasion the whim took her to go to a ball, dressed all in black with nothing to relieve the sombre effect, except the pink upon her head. The Doblin Lidies, according to her sister-in-law, Lady Lucy, “stared her out of countenance” and sent her home in a rage to Eddy.

Her sisters-in-law, and specially Lady Sophia, were quick to see that it was jealousy of Pamela’s beauty and charm, her exquisite dancing, her French toilettes, her husband’s undisguised admiration—far more than their hatred of her and Lord Edward’s politics which made Dublin society so hostile to her. Other sections of Irish society worshipped her. We have a pretty picture of Lord Edward and her driving in a very high phaeton one day through College Green and Dame Street, amid the enthusiastic cheers of the multitude, who were raised to congenial heights of enthusiasm as much by her beauty as Lord Edward’s conspicuous green neck-cloth. Lord Edward’s boyish delight at the reception accorded them, and the impression produced by his bride’s beauty, was very delightful to witness.

Nor was it the populace alone whom Pamela won by her beauty. Lord Charlemont, whose authority in all matters of taste was regarded as second to none in Europe, was charmed by her. Jepham was with him one day in 1793 in Charlemont house, when Pamela and Lord Edward came to view its treasures, and he wrote to his uncle describing the visit. “She is elegant and engaging in the highest degree, and showed the most judicious 203taste in her remarks about the library and curiosities. The Dublin ladies wish to put her down. She promised Lord Charlemont with great good humour to assist him in keeping her husband in order.... She was dressed in a plain riding habit, and they came to the door in a curricle.”[82]

82.  Moore tells us that Lord Edward first introduced this style of vehicle into Ireland.

The attitude of the women of her class whom she met in society, probably spoiled her party-going for her, and doubtless she was eager enough, before long, to share with her husband the quiet country life, which he loved so well. After a few months in the Duchess of Leinster’s charming seaside residence, Frescati, Blackrock (where Pamela had plenty of opportunity, in conjunction with the enthusiastic gardener, who was her husband, to put into practice the gardening lore she had acquired at Saint Leu) the young couple settled in a lodge belonging to Mr. Connolly (husband of Lady Louisa Connolly, Lord Edward’s aunt), in Kildare. Lord Edward has left in a letter to his mother, dated June 23rd, 1794, a charming description of the place, which was to be the setting for their lives during the short years that were destined for them to spend together. In that little cottage a good deal of Irish history was to be made in the short space of four years. Let us then look in it as Lord Edward has painted it for us—for, alas! no trace of it now remains.

“After going up a little lane, and in at a close gate, you come on a little white house, with a small gravel court before it. You see but three small windows, the court surrounded by large old elms; one side of the house covered with shrubs, on the other side a tolerable large ash; upon the stairs going up to the house, two wicker cages, in which there are at this moment two thrushes, 204singing à gorge déployée. In coming into the house you find a small passage-hall very clean, the floor tiled; upon your left a small room; on the right, the staircase. In front you come into the parlour, a good room, with a bay window looking into the garden, which is a small green plot, surrounded by good trees, and in it three of the finest thorns I ever saw, and all the trees so placed that you may shade yourself from the sun all hours of the day; the bay window covered with honeysuckle, and up to the window some roses.

“Going upstairs you find another bay-room, the honeysuckle almost up to it, and a little room the same size as that below; this, with a kitchen or servants’ hall below, is the whole house. There is, on the left, in the courtyard another building which makes a kitchen; it is covered by trees, so as to look pretty; at the back of it there is a yard, which looks into a lane. On the side of the house opposite the grass-plot, there is ground enough for a flower-garden, communicating with the front garden by a little walk.

“The whole place is situated in a kind of rampart, of a circular form surrounded by a wall; which wall, towards the village, and lane is high, but covered with trees and shrubs—the trees old and large, giving a great deal of shade. Towards the country the wall is not higher than your knee, and this covered with bushes; from these open parts you have a view of a pretty cultivated country, till your eye is stopped by the Curragh. From our place there is a back way to these fields, so as to go out and walk without having to do with the town.

“This, dearest mother, is the spot as well as I can give it to you, but it don’t describe well; one must see it and feel it; it is all the little peeps and ideas that go with it that make the beauty of it to me. My dear wife dotes on it, and becomes it. She is busy in her little American jacket, planting sweet peas and mignonette. 205Her table and workbox, with the little one’s caps, are on the table. I wish my dearest mother was here, and the scene to me would be complete.”

The “little one,” portion of whose layette, with Pamela’s exquisite stitching, was then lying on the table, was born in Leinster House in October, 1794, and was christened Edward Fox Fitzgerald. While his wife and little son are gaining strength to travel, Lord Edward has been down at Kildare, two or three times, making all things “snug” for the delightful winter he promises himself there. He has laid in a generous provision of turf—two fine big clumps which look both “comfortable and pretty.” He has paled in his little flower garden before the hall door with a lath paling like the cottage, and filled it with roses and sweet briar, honeysuckle and Spanish broom. He has got his flower-beds all ready for their destined occupants. “The little fellow,” the proud father thinks, “will be a great addition to the party.” “I think,” he goes on, giving us a glimpse of his ideal of a happy life (and making us realise how hard a sacrifice his own fate demanded of him), “that when I am down there with Pam. and the child, of a blustery evening, with a good turf fire and a pleasant book, coming in, after seeing my poultry put up, my garden settled—flower-beds and plants covered for fear of frost—the place looking comfortable, and taken care of, I shall be as happy as possible; and sure I am I shall regret nothing but not being nearer my dearest mother, and her not being of our party.”

In 1796 Lord Edward became a “United Man,” and from that period the little cottage in Kildare was seldom without guests. Chief among these was Lord Edward’s parliamentary colleague, Arthur O’Connor, but Lady Lucy Fitzgerald who spent a considerable time with her brother and sister-in-law after their return from Hamburg in October, 1796, mentions many others: Jackson, 206Oliver Bond, MacNevin, Father Connolly—and the sinister figure of Hughes, who, unknown to them all, was a government spy.

The visit to Hamburg to which we have alluded, took place in May, 1796, and its supposed object was to give Pamela an opportunity of visiting Madame de Genlis, who was then living in Hamburg, as a guest of M. Matthiessen, who had married her niece, and Pamela’s schoolmate, Henrietta de Sercey. Lord Edward and Arthur O’Connor went really as agents of the United Irishmen to negotiate with the French Government for a French expedition to assist the Irish in freeing themselves from the yoke of England. The Matthiessens’ house in Hamburg became a centre of Irish political activities, and we learn from Froude and Fitzpatrick that the long unsuspected spy, Samuel Turner, got much of the information, for which he was pensioned by the English Government, by his frequentation of that house.

It was at Hamburg, Pamela’s second child, her little daughter, Pamela, was born. She had left her boy with his grandmother in London, and when Lord Edward’s business was done, and they were in the English capital again on their way home to Ireland, little Eddie was given to the Duchess “for her very own.”

Was his father clearing the decks for action? It would seem so. Two months after his return to Ireland the French were in Bantry Bay.

In February of 1797, Arthur O’Connor was arrested for his address to the Electors of Antrim, and was lodged in Newgate. From this time Lord Edward was indefatigable in his activities. He was one of those who believed—as did the greater number of the Northern leaders—that the time had come “to rise,” without waiting any longer for the French aid, which had been such a rotten crutch to them. But the Dublin leaders, influenced by the more cautious counsel of men like John Keogh and MacCormick, 207were dead against the attempt. The moment passed—and affairs hastened to their tragic end.

In February, 1798, Arthur O’Connor who had been liberated from his captivity in Birmingham Tower, Dublin Castle, after six months stay there, was again arrested with Father Quigley at Margate, on his way to France, on a political mission. Among O’Connor’s papers were found documents incriminating Lord Edward. But the Government were loth from his family and political connections to proceed against him. Even Lord Castlereagh entreated his aunt, Lady Louisa Connolly, to get him to leave the country, and much pressure was put on Pamela to influence him to seek safety in flight.

It was in vain. Lord Edward refused to desert his post; and whatever remained to be endured he would endure it even to the end.

We must leave him for a time, passing from hiding place to hiding place between the fatal March 12th when the other leaders were captured, until May the 19th, when he himself was run to earth at Murphy’s, while we turn to the poor little frightened wife, who with no kind friend near at hand to console her, lonely and desolate in a foreign land, with her little helpless child, must bear her woman’s burden, and go through her woman’s hour of mortal anguish all alone. After Lord Edward went “on his keeping” she found it desirable to leave Leinster House for a less conspicuous lodging in Denzille Street, whither she went with no other companion than her maid and Lord Edward’s black servant, the faithful Tony. Once or twice Lord Edward managed to see her. Once the maid, going into Lady Edward’s room, found him sitting in the firelight with her, and both of them weeping over little two-year-old Pamela who had been roused from her cot that her father might see her.

In April, Pamela’s third child, a little girl called Lucy, was born—prematurely, as Moore informs us, owing to 208a fright caused the poor mother by the risk run by her husband in order to see her again. It has been asserted, somewhere, that so high was the political feeling of the period that no doctor could be found to attend Lady Edward. For the honour of Ireland it is pleasing to be able to contradict this assertion, on the unassailable authority of Lady Sarah Napier. Lady Moira “mothered” the desolate creature, and saw that as far as nurse and doctor went, there was nothing to be desired.

When Pamela recovered, her kind friend took her to Moira House, and it was there the news of Lord Edward’s capture on May the 18th reached her.

Three days later, Government ordered Lady Edward to leave Ireland. The order, which it was not possible for her to disobey, caused her the most heartbreaking distress. But she was spared, then at least, the grief of knowing that Lord Edward’s wounds were fatal.

We know from Charles H. Teeling that she made her way into Newgate, in spite of Lord Castlereagh’s refusal—and we know that it was the same chivalrous, romantic boy who took on himself the perilous duty of escorting her. He had known Lady Edward in the happy days when the eager young band of patriots gathered in Kildare Lodge, and his brother, poor Bartle, saw in Lady Lucy (as so many have seen her in the loved form of some fair, living woman) the realisation of his dreams of Kathleen Ni Houlihan. The sense of chivalry and romance which was for so much in the heart of young Charles Teeling made the lad one of the most devoted knights whom Pamela’s fascination enlisted in her service. “Formed to charm every heart, and command every arm that had not been enlisted in the cause of Ireland”—it is thus, thirty years after, he remembers her. “Ireland was her constant theme, and Edward’s glory the darling object of her ambition. She entered into all his views; she had a noble and heroic soul, but the softer feelings of her 209sex would sometimes betray the anxiety with which she anticipated the approaching contest, and as hopes and fears alternately influenced her mind, she expressed them with all the sensibility characteristic of her country. In the most sweet and impressive tone of voice, rendered still more interesting by her foreign accent, and imperfect English, she would, with unaffected simplicity, implore us to protect her Edward. ‘You are all good Irish,’ she would say; ‘Irish are all good and brave, and Edward is Irish—your Edward and my Edward,’ while her dark brilliant eye, rivetted on the manly countenance of her lord, borrowed fresh lustre from the tear which she vainly endeavoured to conceal. These were to me some of the most interesting moments I have experienced, and memory still retraces them with a mingled feeling of pleasure and pain.”

It was the kind-hearted Duke of Richmond, the uncle of Lord Edward, who had the sad office of breaking to Pamela the news of her husband’s death in Newgate on June the 4th. “I went immediately to Harley Street,” he writes to Mr. Ogilvie, “and brought Lady Edward here (to Whitehall) trying to prepare her in the coach for the bad news, which I repeatedly said I dreaded by the next post. She, however, did not take my meaning. When she got here, we had Dr. Moseley present, and by degrees we broke to her the sad event. Her agonies of grief were very great, and violent hysterics soon came on. When the Duke of Leinster came in, she took him for Edward, and you may imagine how cruel a scene it was. But by degrees, though very slow ones, she grew more calm at times; and although she has had little sleep, and still less food, and has nervous spasms, yet I hope and trust her health is not materially affected.... She is as reasonable as possible, and shows great goodness of heart in the 210constant enquiries she is making about my sister, Lady Lucy, and Mrs. Lock.”[83]

83.  Née Cecilia Ogilvie, daughter of the Duchess of Leinster by her second marriage.

After some months under the Duke of Richmond’s hospitable roof at Goodwood, it was decided, after a family consultation, that Pamela should join the Matthiesens at Hamburg. Leaving her son with the Duchess of Leinster, and baby Lucy with Lady Sophia at Thames Ditton, she set off with her little daughter Pamela and reached Hamburg on August 13th, 1798. The action of Government, in passing the posthumous Act of Attainder against her husband had left her penniless, and a small sum, to which each member of the Fitzgerald family was to contribute his or her mite was promised her by her people-in-law for her own and little Pamela’s support. This sum was, it would appear, not very punctually paid (the Duchess explained that at the time they could barely keep themselves), and, perhaps, it was owing to her financial embarrassment that Pamela took the unfortunate resolution of marrying Mr. Pitcairn, the American Consul at Hamburg. The marriage turned out unhappily, and the parties soon separated.

After that Pamela, leaving Hamburg, spent a year in Vienna. Finally she settled in France, first at Montaubon and afterwards in Paris, where she died in great poverty, but amidst the most consoling manifestations of Our Dear Lord’s tenderness, for this poor little wandering lamb of His flock, who after her straying, had come back to its sheltering fold.

The niece of Madame de Genlis, Madame Ducrest, then a struggling music teacher in Paris, to whom Pamela out of her own slender resources had found means to be kind, came to nurse the poor sick woman. Her first care, when she saw the danger, was to send for a holy priest, M. 211L’Abbé de la Madeleine. “He came. His zeal, his persuasive eloquence, the simple unction of his exhortations did far more for her peace of soul than we had dared to hope. He inspired our dear invalid with a true joy at quitting this world, where she had suffered so much.”

The numbered moments of her life passed rapidly and now the hour had come. Sister Ursula, the Sister of Charity, who shared with Madame Ducrest the office of nurse, began to recite the prayers for the departing soul. “The sufferer even then replied aloud: insensibly her voice became broken and feeble, and at length the words became unintelligible, though her lips still moved in prayer. Very soon her eyes, which were raised to Heaven, grew dull, her hands grasped convulsively the crucifix which she held, and in a few moments she was no more.”



The Sister of Henry Joy McCracken

Mary Anne McCracken (1770-1866)[84]
“I have been coming all the night long
Like a little lamb in the midst of a great flock of sheep
And how should I find my little brother but he dead before me.”
The Keen for Fair-Haired Donough.

84.  Authorities: Madden’s “United Irishmen” (Vol. II., Second Series, First Edition, 1843); Robert M. Young, “Historical Notices of Old Belfast,” 1896.

“I THINK of all human loves that of a Sister is the most abiding and unselfish. In a mother’s love there is a kind of identification with her child, his triumphs, his defeats, which by the reflection on herself takes away the absolute disinterestedness. Conjugal love is more intense, but for that reason more intermittent. But there’s not a trace of self in that earnest wistful gaze which a beloved sister casts after the poor young fellow who has just gone out from the sanctity of home-life into the world’s arena; nor a thought of self in the way the silent heart broods over shattered hopes, and takes back to its sanctuary the broken relics of the idol, once worshipped, now, alas! only to be protected from the gaze of a scornful world.”[85]

85.  “Under the Cedars and the Stars,” p. 192.

Alas! Alas! That it should have been of two French women Canon Sheehan was thinking, and not of our own Mary Anne McCracken, when he paid tribute, thus nobly, to a sister’s love as “of all human loves, the most abiding and unselfish.” It might have been her story, and not 216that of some alien Laura Balzac or Madame Perrier, that was told in those moving words. It is her image, at all events, that comes before our eyes when Canon Sheehan pictures “the earnest wistful gaze” with which a loving sister follows the brother of her heart, as he passes from the holy shelter of the home to the “world’s arena.” How often did that gaze follow young Henry Joy McCracken as he rode forth from the door of the old house in Rosemary Street on his perilous journeys with Charles Teeling among “the Defenders”! What sister ever loved a brother like this heroic country-woman of ours? When the Cause was lost at Antrim and the broken remnants of the Spartan band were making a last stand on “the hallowed hills,” it was she who braved all dangers to steal forth to him and bring him succour of comfort and hope. It was she who walked with him to the scaffold; who received his poor mangled form into her arms; whose woman’s resourceful bravery held, as it were, the gates of death apart, while the surgeons tried to snatch back his soul from beyond them. It was she who accompanied his body to the grave, and heard the first shovelful of earth fall on his coffin—before she turned back to take up new duties and new sacrifices. Then in the dark days when men veritably “feared to speak of ’Ninety-Eight, and blushed at the name,” it was she who treasured the memory of the dead, and held fast to the hopes and ideals for which they had laid down their lives. And at last when, in the fullness of time, one came who made it his life-work to tell their story truly to the world, she was there with her rich store of memories to help in that great work. Again and again Dr. Madden quotes Mary Anne McCracken as his authority for some of the facts he states, or incidents he relates, and his tribute to her personality is that of one who was brought into most intimate relations with her. “The name of Mary McCracken,” he writes, “has become associated in the north with that of her beloved brother. The recollection 217of every act of his seems to have been stored up in her mind, as if she felt the charge of his reputation had been committed to her especial care.... In that attachment there are traits to be noticed indicative not only of singleness of heart, and benevolence of disposition; but of a noble spirit of heroism, strikingly displayed in the performance of perilous duties, of services rendered at the hazard of life, at great pecuniary sacrifices, not only to that dear brother, but at a later period to his faithful friend, the unfortunate Thomas Russell. Perhaps to those who move in the busy haunts of life, and become familiarised with the circumscribed views and actions of worldly-minded people, the rare occurrence of qualities of another kind, which seem to realise the day-dreams of one’s early years, an excellence of disposition devoid of all selfishness, devoted to all goodness, capable of all sacrifices, and constant in all trials—that shakes not in adversity, and becomes insensible to fear where the safety of friends and kindred is in question, in one who seems to be utterly unconscious of her own nobleness of mind, may appear worthy of admiration.”

The little maid, whose long life of ninety-six years was to witness such strange happenings, was born in High Street, Belfast, on July the 8th, 1770. Her father, John McCracken, was captain and part owner of a vessel trading between Belfast and the West Indies. He was of Scottish descent, his family having settled in Ireland when the Covenanters were fleeing from Claverhouse. They settled at Hill Hall near Lisburn, and here John McCracken was born. At an early age he formed a strong attachment to a charming young girl of Huguenot descent called Anne Joy, only daughter of Francis Joy, a conveyancer, and notary public, who, a pioneer in many things, is perhaps best remembered as the founder of the Belfast Newsletter in 1737. Captain McCracken is described by Madden as “a man of polished manners, whose sincerity 218of disposition and integrity of principles caused him to be generally respected and esteemed.” It was noted of him by his daughter, as a proof of his integrity, that in the days when smuggling was regarded as a very venial offence, Captain McCracken would not smuggle nor allow his sailors to do so, “as he considered a custom-house oath as binding on conscience as any other.” A still more striking instance of his integrity and his children’s reliance on it, was furnished on the occasion of Harry’s trial when he was offered his son’s life on condition that he induced the latter to disclose the name of the leader, whose place the prisoner had taken in the Rising. He told the tempter, Pollock, that “he would rather his son died than that he should do a dishonourable action.”

That steadfast character of John McCracken’s, which he transmitted to his children, was, it may be, a heritage from his mother—a stern old Covenanting lady, very strict in her religious beliefs, and most uncompromising in her principles. Her grandchildren, who had a keen sense of humour, used to relate with much zest, the damper put on their youthful enjoyment of Christmas by seeing their venerable grandmother seated ostentatiously at her spinning-wheel, her whole being one vehement protest against the Christmas observances and festivities. They were all in considerable awe of her, and when she uttered maledictions they felt certain they would come to pass. On one occasion, in 1763, Captain McCracken, having occasion to spend some time in Liverpool, to superintend the construction of a new vessel, brought his young wife with him, leaving their two children, Francis and Margaret, in the care of Grandmother McCracken. The venerable lady, who did not approve of “gadding about,” fervently prayed that her flighty daughter-in-law “might get a scare before coming back.” “And in truth I did, my dears,” the latter would say, as she told the story to her children afterwards, “my husband not wishing me to 219return on the new and untried vessel, sent me home before him. The ship was wrecked on the South Rock near Ballywalter, and we were only saved by getting into the boat; and I had to wade a long distance in shallow water, with a weight of two hundred guineas in my pocket.”

If the grandmother was stern and forbidding, and inspired more fear than love in the children of the household, their sweet mother was quite the reverse. She was “remarkable for a uniform cheerfulness of temper, and benevolence of mind that endeared her to young people as well as to the aged.” With this sweetness of disposition she passed on to her children as a further portion of their heritage from the Joys, an alert and enterprising habit of mind, keen to see, and seize new opportunities; and that steadfastness of the Joys, which, for all its Gallic urbanity, was at least the equal of the McCracken’s. Anne Joy’s father, in addition to his pioneer work in the newspaper world, was also a pioneer in the linen manufacture. In 1749 he established at Randalstown “a complete new mill for dressing flax ... which will dress 14. of flax in an hour, fit for the heckle.” He was keenly interested in politics, and, when an old man, confined to his couch by a disease in his leg, had himself conveyed to Antrim, on the occasion of an election, to vote for Rowley and O’Neill, the popular candidates. His son, Robert, meeting him there, said: “What brought you here, Sir?” “The good of my country,” was the reply. The side for which he voted was triumphant, but the day that the members were chaired he died.

His two sons, Robert and Henry, were remarkable men. It was they, who, with Captain John McCracken and Thomas MacCabe (“the Irish Slave”) introduced the cotton industry into Belfast—and with it laid the foundations of the present prosperity of that city. Young Henry Joy McCracken, who had an extraordinary gift for 220mechanics and was as clever with his hands as any prestidigitator, was sent to England and Scotland to ferret out the carefully guarded mechanical secrets of the British cotton manufacturers—and accomplished his mission in a manner which will furnish an exciting chapter in Irish industrial history—when it comes to be written. Belfast of to-day has little thought to spare for the “United Men”—but it should not forget what it owes to Henry Joy McCracken—to him who died for the cause which so many in Belfast to-day are sworn to destroy: “a brotherhood of affection, an identity of interests, a communion of rights, and a union of power among Irishmen of all religious persuasions.”

To Henry and Robert Joy, Belfast owed likewise the “Old Poorhouse,” the first shelter devised for Belfast’s poor. The little Joys and McCrackens were early interested in the poor old men and women, and especially in the children; and, as they grew up, they were active workers in their behalf—getting up dances, and concerts and collections for the institution. It was partly in the design of procuring funds for the Poor House (as well as to give employment to the linen weavers during periods of depression in their own trade) that the Joys first turned their attention to the cotton trade. The managers of the Poor House rejected the offer made by Robert Joy to instal the new machinery (which Harry McCracken’s cleverness had made it possible to erect in Ireland), and to carry on the manufacture of cotton as a regular part of their routine, and a means of making the institution self-supporting. They allowed, however, the children to go to work in the mill which the firm of Joy, MacCabe and McCracken presently established.

Come of such strains as has been indicated, both on the paternal and maternal side, is it any wonder that the children of John and Anne McCracken should have been endowed with uncommon gifts both of body and mind 221and soul? They were a numerous tribe—but, as was so usual with these large eighteenth-century families, only a certain proportion of them survived the ordeals of childhood. Of these, four were boys: Francis, William, Henry Joy, and John; and two were girls: Margaret and Mary Anne. The latter was the youngest but one, of the family, and was ten years the junior of her sister.

Mary Anne was considered delicate in her youth, and it was feared she was in consumption. On this account she was kept on a low diet—an astonishing treatment, to our modern notions. But the treatment seems to have been successful; for in her hale and hearty old age she could remark in her humorous way: “I have been a long time consuming away.” She was an active child, and she used to tell her grandnieces with much pride how she accomplished the feat of hopping on one leg right across High Street three times without stopping.

The school routine of a little Belfast maiden in the latter decades of the eighteenth century was not unlike that with which the entertaining journal of Anna Greene Winslow, a small Boston schoolgirl contemporary, makes us familiar. There was a separate school for English, another for writing; in addition girls had to attend a sewing and knitting school. In all these branches Mary became very proficient. Her needlework was exquisite. She was fond of reading, and read only the best authors. Her letters, some of which will be quoted in due course, are admirable. One wishes, as one reads them and those of Elizabeth and Jane Emmet and Matilda Tone, that the delightful art were revived by the teachers of the girls of to-day.

Captain John McCracken, being a travelled man and an admirer of the French nation, wished to have his children taught French. Belfast of that day supplied, it would appear, no better teacher than an old French weaver who had picked up his knowledge of English on 222the banks of the Lagan, and thought it the correct thing to translate his native tongue into the idiom of that classic region. Mary Anne used to relate afterwards, with great enjoyment that his translation of il faut always took the form, “it be to be.”

When Mary was in her teens the family left the house in High Street and went to a larger one in Rosemary Street. Two of the boys, William and John, married, but the family circle was not thus broken up for they brought their brides to live under the paternal roof in the patriarchal fashion of the period. So numerous were the inmates of the McCracken home, after a time, that their friends referred to it as “Noah’s Ark,” the appropriateness of the name being emphasised by the number of dogs, and cats, and other pet animals, who shared with the humans, the domicile.

One young man who was destined to leave an honoured name for his labours in the cause of Irish music was for many years a member of the McCracken household: Edward Bunting. He came to them in 1785 a young lad of eleven, sent by his brother, Anthony, from Drogheda to become apprentice to Mr. Ware, the organist of St. Anne’s Church, Belfast, and he remained with them for upwards of forty years. This frank hospitality gives us a pleasant insight into the spirit of the McCracken household. They were all intensely musical, and many a delightful evening was spent around “Atty’s” pianoforte when the McCrackens and Joys were reinforced by a numerous troop of Neilsons, Simmses, McTiers, and so on.

Much as Mary loved all her brothers and sisters, she loved Harry best of all. Was it to be wondered at? For the tall lad with his handsome, high-bred face, his graceful person, his charm of manner, exercised a remarkable fascination over all who came in contact with him. While yet a schoolboy his companions adored him for his courage and spirit of adventure, and admired his steadfastness 223and his unrivalled quickness of perception. As he grew up he became a great favourite in society, for which he possessed a very remarkable equipment of accomplishments. He was a clever mimic, but while delighting his friends with his skill in this direction, never allowed himself to wound the most sensitive feelings. The same considerations governed the exercise of his rich gift of humour.

The first break in “Noah’s Ark” took place when Harry left home to take up his quarters on the Falls Road near the cotton factory. About the same time the female members of the family, Mrs. McCracken, Margaret and Mary Anne, commenced, on a somewhat more extended scale, the business of muslin manufacturers, in which John McCracken had already been interested since 1779.[86] Her grandniece informs us that “Mary was the moving spirit of the business, and worked early and late. She has said that so closely confined was she at times that, when going to the post-office before breakfast, she felt inclined to leap and dance with delight in the fresh morning air. Her chief object in trying to make money was that she might have some of her own to give away as she wished. She was of a very sanguine temperament and did not spare herself, and to some extent she succeeded in her object; but, perhaps the times were against her. She had much struggling and anxiety, and the ultimate result was disappointing.”

86.  An affidavit preserved in the McCracken MSS. proves that “the first piece of muslin ever woven” in Belfast or its vicinage was woven by Thos. Burnside for John McCracken in January, 1779.

Those were stirring times in which Mary McCracken grew to womanhood; and even a duller mind, than that which was housed in the fragile form of this little Belfast girl, must have been stimulated in the atmosphere of great ideas, which was her daily breathing. She was 224five years old when the Battle of Lexington was fought, and eleven when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown; and the great battles for liberty that marked the years from 1775 to 1781 were distant in space only from the rising city on the Lagan, which followed their fortunes with an interest so passionate. It was the war of liberation of their own flesh and blood which the Belfast men knew was being waged across the dividing Atlantic. It was the doctrines of civil and political freedom which had been borne in the emigrant ships from Ireland that were vindicated at Bunker’s Hill, at Trenton, at Princeton, at Saratoga. Is it to be wondered at, that, young as she was, Mary McCracken followed the story of the American War with a sympathy and understanding beyond her years? She was nine years old when the “armed men” who had sprung forth on Ireland’s soil from the sowed “dragon’s teeth” of England’s laws, formed in their splendid ranks on the Falls Road—the first Volunteers of Ireland. Her brother Frank was one of those who wore their gallant uniform. She was twelve years old when the Volunteer Convention at Dungannon made certain the granting of Grattan’s demands for the liberty of the Irish Parliament. She was ripe enough to apprehend the lessons contained in the failure of that Parliament and to trace it to its true origin. She was nineteen when the great news came from Paris, and Liberty sprang forth full armed to claim the world, from the mighty ruins of the Bastille.

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive—
But to be young was very heaven!”

Mary McCracken, as the old Gipsy, and one of the Teeling girls are said to have sat for this picture by Crowley.

In 1790 there came to Belfast, as an officer in the 64th Regiment, a young man who was destined to exercise a memorable influence on the fate of Mary McCracken, and the brother who was so dear to her. She had just completed her teens when Thomas Russell made his 225appearance in her native city—and won for ever her faithful heart. Alas! that he never suspected the treasure that was his! He himself was eating out his own heart for the beautiful Bess Goddard; and when Miss Goddard married Mr. Kington, Russell fell in love with Miss Simms. When he came to Belfast in 1803 it was Miss Simms of whom he dreamt. Mary McCracken was for him as a sister infinitely dear, a comrade infinitely staunch and true in the great Cause. But she was nothing more; and with an unconscious cruelty which only the blindness caused by his absorption in his own hopeless passion for another can excuse, he made her the confidante of his love for Miss Simms.

It is through the eyes of Mary McCracken that we of to-day are permitted to see Thomas Russell. So living and breathing is the portrait, for which a woman’s love has mixed the colours, that though Russell has been lying for one hundred and fifteen years in the grave which she made for him in Downpatrick, it seems to us as if we might have passed him in the streets to-day.

“A model of manly beauty, he was one of those favoured individuals whom one cannot pass in the street without being guilty of the rudeness of staring in the face while passing, and turning round to look at the receding figure. Though more than six feet high, his majestic stature was scarcely observed owing to the exquisite symmetry of his form. Martial in gait and demeanour, his appearance was not altogether that of a soldier. His dark and steady eye, compressed lip, and somewhat haughty bearing were occasionally strongly indicative of the camp; but in general the classic contour of his finely formed head, the expression of almost infantile sweetness which characterised his smile, and the benevolence that beamed in his fine countenance seemed to mark him out as one who was destined to be the ornament, grace and blessing of private life. His voice was deep-toned and melodious and though 226his conversational powers were not of the first order, yet, when roused to enthusiasm, he was sometimes more than eloquent. His manners were those of the finished gentleman, combined with that native grace which nothing but superiority of intellect can give. There was a reserved and somewhat haughty stateliness in his mien, which to those who did not know him had at first the appearance of pride; but as it gave way before the warmth and benevolence of his disposition, it soon became evident that the defect, if it were one, was caused by the too sensitive delicacy of a noble soul; and those who knew him loved him the more for his reserve, and thought they saw something attractive in the very repellingness of his manner.”

We have already related in other Memoirs of this series[87] some of the memorable events which followed the arrival of Russell in Belfast: the visit of Tone, which led to the foundation of the United Irishmen (1791); the establishment of the Northern Star (1792); the military raids of 1793, etc.; the reception accorded to Tone and his family on their way to America in 1795. In all these events the McCrackens, and Mary in particular, were keenly interested. She was a diligent reader of the Star, and it is recorded that after her recovery from a fever her first exclamation was: “Oh! I have missed so many Stars!”

87.  Principally those of Matilda Tone and Anne Neilson.

In September, 1796, Government, which had already marked with intense displeasure the efforts made by young Protestant patriots like H. J. McCracken, Lowry and Tennant, on the one hand, and Young Catholic patriots like C. H. Teeling and his brother-in-law, John Magennis, on the other, to allay the religious feuds then devastating Ulster, swooped down on the most active agents of this policy of reconciliation. On the same day as C. H. Teeling 227was arrested in Lisburn, Russell and Neilson were arrested in Belfast. A month later Henry Joy McCracken was taken up; and in the spring of the following year, his brother, William.

As soon as the prisoners received (through the efforts of Lord O’Neill) permission to see their relatives, the McCracken girls, accompanied by William’s wife, paid a visit to Dublin, to be near the brothers. We find them again in Dublin the following year, when their influence, combined with that of Mrs. Neilson, brought about a reconciliation between Harry and Samuel Neilson, both whose tempers had suffered considerably from the wear and tear of prison régime and close confinement.

In the autumn of 1797 the McCrackens were released from Kilmainham. Harry’s health was so much shaken by what he had undergone during his imprisonment, that for some time his life was despaired of. But early in the fatal year ’98, we find him as active as ever in organising the Union. In February he went to Dublin on business connected with it, and he remained there until the eve of the Rising in May.

It is a matter of history now that Henry Joy McCracken became Commander-in-Chief of the Insurgent forces in the north only three or four days before the outbreak, and only in consequence of the arrest of Dickson, the original commander-in-chief, and the cowardice of the gentleman appointed to replace him. All that one man could do to make the most of a situation, even then desperate, was done by McCracken. But it was of no avail. On June the 7th the battle of Antrim was fought and lost; and Harry McCracken, and Jamie Hope and the faithful few who had refused to lower the Banner of Green were on the hills “on their keeping.”

And now it will be our privilege to hear Mary McCracken herself, tell the end of Henry’s story in her own most moving words:

228“Some days after the battle of Antrim, not having received any intelligence of my brother, I set out in pursuit of him, accompanied by Mrs. M.——, sister of John Shaw, of Belfast, who wished to get some information respecting her husband and also a brother of Mrs. Shaw. We went towards the White House and made some enquiries in the neighbourhood. In the evening we joined J. McG. at the country residence of Mr. John Brown, a banker, then in England, whose gardener, Cunningham, had given shelter occasionally to the wanderers. At nightfall this man took us to a house near the Cave Hill, belonging to John Brier, whom I knew a little, where we got a bed that night. In the morning I urged Mrs. M. to return home, which she generously refused, although she had gained the information she required. She insisted on accompanying me. Her husband had got safe into Belfast, disguised as a countryman with a basket of eggs, and was then safe in Mr. Shaw’s house; he had been at the battle of Antrim also. The next day we continued our search, and at last met with Gawin Watt and another person, who promised to take us in the evening to a place where we would get intelligence. The latter took us to a smith’s house, on the lime-stone road to Antrim....

“In the back room of this man’s house we found about eight of the fugitives in consultation as to what should be done. I recommended them strongly to separate and return to their homes, if they could with safety. They replied that there was something in view, but in the event of its not taking place, they would follow my advice. Three of the party undertook to escort us; we travelled up hill, across fields, drains and ditches, for two hours ... when we arrived at the Bowhill, where my dear brother and six others (James Hope, one of the number) were sitting on the brow of the hill, Henry seemed surprised and rejoiced at the meeting, and after sitting with the 229party for a long time, talking over their adventures and escapes, he conducted us to a house where we were received in darkness, the woman of the house not daring to light a candle, or make the fire blaze. I insisted on Mrs. M. occupying the only chair for the remainder of the night, while I took a low stool and rested my head on her lap. My brother was to be with us at seven in the morning; we thought that night very long, but when seven o’clock came, and no Harry appeared, we became very uneasy.... He came at last, having waited for the others till after two o’clock. We then set out on our way home, and he accompanied us a little way, wishing to see McG., whom we sent out to him.”

About ten days afterwards, Mary received a letter from Harry, and a little later she had another meeting with him at the house of a poor labourer, called David Bodle, near Cave Hill. Arrangements were made to get the fugitive off to America under an assumed name, but on his way to the coast he was captured.

“It was on Sunday afternoon, July 8th, my birthday, that we got intelligence of Harry’s capture.... My father and I set off immediately for Carrickfergus, and with difficulty obtained permission to visit him; the officer, who accompanied us politely standing at a distance, not to prevent our conversation. Having desired me not to use any solicitations on his account; and after expressing to me his wishes on many matters, he desired me to tell my brother John to come to him. My mother had sent him a favourite book of his, Young’s ‘Night Thoughts,’ and I observed a line from it written on the wall of his cell:

“‘A friend’s worth all the hazard we can run.’

“We remained all night in Carrickfergus, and tried the next morning to see him again; but were not admitted. We saw him, however, through the window of his cell, 230when he gave me a ring, with a green shamrock engraved on the outside, and the words, ‘Remember Orr,’ on the inside, which he desired me to give to his mother. Since her death it has remained with me. On the 16th, he was brought in a prisoner to Belfast, in the evening. My sister and I immediately set out to try if we could see him. He was then standing, with a strong escort of soldiers who were drawn up on the middle of Castle place. We could not speak to him there. He was then taken to the artillery barracks in Ann Street.”

After a brutal refusal from Colonel Durham, the sisters at length obtained, from the humanity of Colonel Barber, admission to their brother. At this interview Harry requested that his cousins, Mrs. Holmes and Miss Mary Toomb, should be called as witnesses on his behalf.

“I arose at six, and set out in a carriage for the place where Miss Toomb was then staying with a lady, near Lisburn. I endeavoured to keep up her spirits as well as I could, fearing from the state of grief and anxiety she was in, she would be unable to give evidence. She came with me, and on arriving in town, July the 17th, I proceeded to the Exchange, where the trial was just commenced. The moment I set my eyes on him I was struck with the extraordinary serenity and composure of his look. This was no time to think about such things, but yet I could not help gazing on him; it seemed to me that I had never seen him look so well, so full of healthful bloom, so free from the slightest trace of care or trouble, as at that moment, when he was perfectly aware of his approaching fate.

“I sat very near the table when the trial was going on. Colonel Montgomery was President. The first witness called was Minis. The other witness, James Beck, a poor miserable-looking creature, swore that he had seen him at Antrim, and knew him by a mark on his throat, which mark was not seen until his neckerchief was taken off.”

231James Hope learned afterwards from a soldier on guard that morning that neither of the witnesses had ever set eyes on McCracken until that day, when he was pointed out to them by an officer, who also told them of the mark on his throat.

“Immediately preceding the examination of the witnesses, my father, who was just recovering from a severe and tedious fit of sickness, and who appeared to be sinking beneath the weight of old age and affliction, was called aside by Pollock, who told him that he had such evidence against his son as would certainly hang him; that his life was in his hands, and that he would save it, if my father would persuade him to give such information as Pollock knew it was in his power to do, namely, who the person was who had been appointed to command the people at Antrim, in whose place he (McCracken) had acted. My father replied, that ‘he knew nothing, and could do nothing in the matter: he would rather his son died than do a dishonourable action.’ The tyrant, however, not content with the trial of his virtue, would torture him still farther by calling Harry to the conference, and repeated the same offer to himself, who, well knowing his father’s sentiments, answered that ‘he would do anything which his father knew it would be right for him to do.’ Pollock repeated the offer, in which my father said, ‘Harry, my dear, I know nothing of the business, but you know best what you ought to do.’ Harry then said, ‘Farewell, father,’ and returned to the table to abide the issue of the trial. After I left him, I was told that Major Fox went up to him and asked him for the last time if he would give information, at which he smiled, and said, ‘he wondered how Major Fox could suppose him to be such a villain.’...

“After the examination of the witnesses, I rose and went forward to the table; I stated what appeared to me to be unlike truth in the evidence that had been given 232by the witnesses for the prosecution, expressing a hope that they would not consider such evidence sufficient to take away life; the testimony of one witness impeaching the character and credit of the approver, on whose statements the charge was mainly dependent for support.

“Harry had taken notes of the trial, and before its termination said to me in a whisper, ‘You must be prepared for my conviction’; all his friends could then do for him was to endeavour to get his sentence commuted to banishment. Before the close of the proceedings I hastened home with this intelligence, and my mother went instantly to General Nugent’s house, and requested an interview, but he refused to be seen. I returned to the Exchange before my mother came back, but found that Harry had been removed. I little expected that any efforts to save him would be successful; but I felt I had a duty to perform—to prevent misrepresentation, and to put it out of the power of his enemies to injure his character while living, or his memory when dead. I followed him to the artillery barracks, where I saw Major Fox just going in, and asked his permission to see my brother; he desired me to wait a little, but I followed him, and when he came to the door of my brother’s cell, I remained behind him at a few paces distance; the door of the cell was opened, and I heard him say, ‘You are ordered for immediate execution.’ My poor brother seemed to be astonished at this announcement; indeed he well might be, at the shortness of time allotted to him; but seeing me falling to the ground, he sprang forward and caught me. I did not, however, lose consciousness for a single instant, but felt a strange sort of composure and self-possession; and in this frame of mind I continued during the whole day. I knew it was incumbent on me to avoid disturbing the last moments of my brother’s life, and I endeavoured to contribute to render them worthy of his whole career. 233We conversed as calmly as we had ever done. I asked him if there was anything in particular he desired to have done. He said, ‘I wish you to write to Russell, inform him of my death, and tell him that I have done my duty....’ He said he would like to see Mr. Kelburne, who was our clergyman. I told him I feared that Mr. Kelburne would be unable to come, but that if he wished to see a clergyman, Dr. Dickson was then under the same roof, and would come to him. He replied he would rather have Mr. Kelburne, as it would gratify his father and mother. He, of course, was sent for, but being confined to his bed by illness, it was a considerable time before he made his appearance. In the meantime Dr. Dickson was brought to him; they retired to the far end of the room, when I observed Dr. Dickson take out his pocket book and write something in it; he afterwards said that he never met with any person whose mind was better prepared to meet death. Mr. Kelburne soon after arrived, and when he did, he burst out crying, and said, ‘Oh! Harry, you did not know how much I loved you.’ Mr. Kelburne, after some time, endeavoured to assume composure.... Harry, perceiving the effort at appearing more concerned than he really was, looked at Dr. Dickson and smiled. Mr. Kelburne knelt down, as I believe did all present, and joined in prayer; he soon after retired, and wished me to accompany him, which I refused.

“During the early part of the day Harry and I had conversed with tranquillity on the subject of his death. We had been brought up in a firm conviction of an all-wise and overruling Providence, and of the duty of entire resignation to the Divine Will. I remarked that his death was as much a dispensation of Providence as if it had happened in the common course of nature, to which he assented. He told me there had been much perjury on his trial, but that the truth would have answered the same purpose. After the clergymen were gone, I asked 234for a pair of scissors, that I might take off some of his hair. A young officer who was on guard went out of the room and brought a pair of scissors but hesitated to trust them into my hand, when I asked him indignantly if he thought I meant to hurt my brother. He then gave them to me, and I cut off some of Harry’s hair which curled round his neck, and folded it up in paper, and put it into my bosom. Fox at that moment entered the room, and desired me to give it to him, ‘as too much use had already been made of such things.’ I refused, saying I would only part with it in death; when my dear brother said, ‘Oh! Mary, give it to him; of what value is it?’ I felt that its possession would be a mere gratification to me, and not wishing to discompose him by the contest, I gave it up.

“The time allowed him was now expired: he had hoped for a few days, that he might give his friends an account of all the later events in which he had taken a part. About five p.m. he was ordered to the place of execution, the old market-house, the ground of which had been given to the town by his great great grandfather. I took his arm, and we walked together to the place of execution, where I was told it was the general’s orders that I should leave him, which I peremptorily refused. Harry begged I would go. Clasping my hands around him (I did not weep till then) I said I could bear anything but leaving him. Three times he kissed me, and entreated I would go; and looking round to recognise some friend to put me in charge of, he beckoned to a Mr. Boyd, and said, ‘He will take charge of you.’ Mr. Boyd stepped forward; and fearing any further refusal would disturb the last moments of my dearest brother, I suffered myself to be led away.... A Mr. Armstrong, a friend of our family, came forward and took me from Mr. Boyd, and conducted me home. I immediately sent a message to Dr. McDonnell and Mr. McCluney, our apothecary, to come directly to 235our house. The latter came, and Dr. McDonnell sent his brother, Alexander, a skilful surgeon. The body was given up to his family unmutilated; so far our entreaties and those of our friends prevailed.

“From the moment I parted with Harry, the idea which occurred to me in the morning that it might be possible to restore animation, took full possession of my mind, and that hope buoyed up my strength, and supported me at the moment of parting with him. Every effort that art could devise was made, and at one time hopes of success were entertained, but the favourable symptoms disappeared, and the attempt was at length given up. I was present when the medical men entered the room where the body was laid, and then retired and joined the rest of the family, awaiting the result with indescribable anxiety. My heart sank within me when we were told all hope was over, and that a message had been brought from the General that the funeral must take place immediately, or that the body would be taken from us. Preparations were made for immediate burial. I learned that no relative of his was likely to attend his funeral. I could not bear to think that no member of his family should accompany his remains, so I set out to follow them to the grave.

“A kind-hearted man, an enthusiast in the cause for which poor Harry died, drew my arm within his, but my brother John soon followed, and took his place. I heard the sound of the first shovelful of earth that was thrown on the coffin, and I remember little else of what passed on that sad occasion. I was told afterwards that poor Harry stood when I left him at the place of execution, and watched me until I was out of sight; that he then attempted to speak to the people, but that the noise of the trampling of the horses was so great that it was impossible he should be heard; that he then resigned himself to his fate, and the multitude who were present at 236that moment uttered cries which seemed more like one loud and long-continued shriek than the expression of grief or terror on similar occasions. He was buried in the old churchyard where St. George’s church now stands, and close to the corner of the school-house, where the door is.”

A weaker nature than Mary McCracken’s would have surely broken down after the strain of those tragic hours. But she came forth from them, only with fresh ardour to serve God, and country and friends.

Early in the new century she received a pitiable account of the state of destitution to which poor Russell’s sister, Margaret, had been reduced. He himself after his arrest in September, 1796, had been kept until March, 1799, in Kilmainham, whence he was conveyed with the other State prisoners to Fort George. More than three years’ internment in Fort George was followed by deportation to the Continent in 1802. During these years Miss Russell had been deprived of his support, and she was in a pitiable condition. Mary Anne McCracken got up a subscription for her among Russell’s friends in Belfast, but there were a great many claims on their resources just at that time and the response to her appeal was not very gratifying. Her charity nearly cost her dear; for a person who saw the list of subscribers reported to Government that she was raising money for arms.

The autumn of 1803 marked the close of Mary McCracken’s pathetic romance. In October of that year Russell, who had come over from France, in the early summer to assist Robert Emmet, and who had undertaken, with the faithful Jamie Hope, to rouse the North to a new stand for freedom, was taken prisoner in Dublin, and carried back in chains to Downpatrick to be tried for his life. Once more Mary McCracken, stifling the pain of her wounded heart, made superhuman efforts to save her 237doomed friend. During the weeks when he was in hiding she and her sister had already visited him, and provided him with funds for his journey to Dublin. When he was taken, the two sisters pledged their credit to the last penny, to raise the necessary money for his defence. It was Mary’s earnest desire to go to Downpatrick to be present at the trial, and only the representations of her family prevented her. On the eve of the trial she received a letter from Russell. It was all the reward her faithful heart obtained for the years of silent love it had lavished on the writer—but perhaps those words of farewell from the condemned cell in Downpatrick seemed to her better worth treasuring than the love letters of happier women.

It is to Mary McCracken that we owe the record of Russell’s most noble and touching “Speech from the Dock.” For she and her sister sent Hughes, a clerk of their brother John’s, to take notes in court of his address. And when the scaffold had done its work, and the gallant form lay mangled in its shadow, it was she who gave it, in the sacred soil of Downpatrick, the tomb, where with the “Three Wonder Working Saints of Erin,” Patrick, Brigid and Columcille, it awaits the Resurrection:

“The grave of Russell.”

Among the witnesses at the Russell trial there figured prominently a certain Patrick Lynch, and the mention of his name will serve as an introduction to our account of some of the various interests with which Mary McCracken filled her life. There still remained the long span of sixty-three years, before she was summoned to join the dear ones, to whose love the years of her youth had been dedicated. These sixty-three years were full of service to the country for which they had given their lives.

We have already mentioned that Edward Bunting was, 238for some forty years, an inmate of the McCracken household. It was under their roof that his celebrated collections of “Ancient Irish Music” were made, and all the McCrackens, but especially Mary, took the very keenest interest in the work. In 1802, Patrick Lynch, a native Irish speaker (who had given lessons in the language to Russell during the latter’s sojourn in Belfast in the early ’Nineties), was sent by Bunting on a tour to Connacht to collect airs. Of his progress he writes (during Bunting’s absence in London) detailed reports to John McCracken and “Miss Mary”—and it is clear from these letters that they were as much interested in the mission as Bunting himself.[88]

88.  See “Annals of the Irish Harpers,” passim.

In 1803, John McCracken, Senior, died, and in 1814 Mrs. McCracken and her son, William, were both called to their reward. Shortly after their mother’s death the McCracken sisters gave up business and went to live with their brother Frank (who had remained a bachelor) in Donegal Street. The talent of Miss Margaret McCracken for housekeeping left Mary with a great many free hours on her hands—and these she devoted to active works of charity. The picture her grandniece has left us of her avocations is a true one for many years of her life. Her mornings were spent in out-of-door occupations—collecting for some charity, attending meetings, or visiting the poor in their homes, or the poor children in the Lancastrian School. Of the charitable institutions in which she took an active interest her grandniece mentions an industrial school for girls, established in the Famine year; the Belfast Ladies’ Clothing Society; the Destitute Sick Society; an anti-slavery society, and an association to prevent the employment of climbing-boys in chimney sweeping. In the afternoon she rested, and her evenings were largely devoted to letter-writing (for she had a large 239correspondence) or to that social intercourse in which, even to extreme old age, her genial spirit delighted.

Of her personality her grandniece gives some very attractive glimpses:

“In personal habits she was scrupulously clean, but indifferent about her dress, unwilling to spend money on it, and giving it little thought.

“She liked to read the newspapers, and always spent some time in doing so, but for other reading she had little leisure. When she did read a novel or hear one read, it was to others as great a treat as the book to hear her comments, how she entered into the story, and discussed the characters with such thorough enjoyment, such child-like feeling of reality. In her later years she used to relate anecdotes of family and local incidents, and reminiscences of her youthful days; these told in her lively and pleasant manner, were listened to with pleasure. Sometimes, but more rarely, and usually when she had only one hearer, she would speak of the graver and sadder events in which she had been concerned, but evidently with such sorrowful remembrance that a listener had not the heart to urge her to continue the theme, intensely interesting though it might be.

“She was accustomed to say that people ought not to pride themselves on their ancestors, and should not be valued for what their forefathers had been or done, but only for what they themselves are, and would quote the lines on the moon—

‘I with borrowed lustre shine,
What you see is none of mine.’

Nevertheless, she took most unmistakable pride and pleasure in some of the doings of her ancestors. The way in which she used to relate anything which gave evidence of a generous and unselfish description was not to be forgotten by those who heard her.

“She had naturally a quick and hasty temper, though 240evidence of this was rarely seen; but even when at an advanced age, if a helpless person were wronged, or an animal cruelly treated, it was startling to see how her eye would flash, and to hear her hot, indignant words.

“Her decay was very gradual. She was compelled by degrees to give up her accustomed occupations, till at last she was confined to the house. Walk for walking’s sake she would not. As she became unable for other work she took up the occupation of knitting. Her sight was wonderfully good; her hearing was so much impaired as to prevent her taking part in ordinary conversation; but she was always able to converse with one person comfortably for both. She delighted in seeing a large party round the table, and when a laugh went round, she with beaming face and happy smile would join in the mirth, and sometimes say—‘Well, I don’t know what you are laughing at, but I like to see you enjoying yourselves.’

“In the autumn of 1865 she had an attack of bronchitis from which she recovered, but mind and body had become weak. She faded peacefully and gently away, apparently contented and happy, without weariness or pain, until, after some hours of unconsciousness, she breathed her last on July the 26th (the feast of her own namesake, Saint Ann), 1866, having completed her ninety-sixth year on the 8th of the month.”

Within our own time pious and reverent hands have laid the remains of Henry Joy McCracken in the grave of his devoted sister. And what Mary McCracken did for Russell, has been done in turn for herself by a patriotic townsman.[89] Beneath the slab he has laid upon the grave in Old Clifton Cemetery brother and sister, once more re-united, await the Resurrection. “In death they are not divided.”

89.  F. J. Bigger, Esq.



Some Other Sisters of ’Ninety-Eight

“O fair-haired Donough, dear little brother,
Well do I know what has taken you from me.”
Lament for Fair-Haired Donough.

MARY MCCRACKEN is not the only sister whose name is coupled with her brother’s in “the glorious pride and sorrow” of ’Ninety-Eight. We have already, in the preceding memoirs, met other heroic sisters and we shall now give a somewhat further account of some of these.

Mary Anne Emmet

Mary Anne Emmet, sister of Thomas Addis and Robert, was worthy, both in character and brains, of her family. Born in 1773 she showed herself from her earliest years dowered with her full share of the remarkable Emmet intellect. She was carefully educated, mostly by her father, and acquired a knowledge of Classics of which many a University Don might well be vain. She was a vigorous writer; and her grand-nephew, Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, tells us that he has in his possession several political pamphlets from her pen. “These clearly show that she must have possessed a profound knowledge of political economy, a familiarity with history and the body politic, gained only after careful reading and to an extent few public men of her day possessed.” Her most celebrated pamphlet was “An Address to the People of Ireland, showing them why they ought to submit to an Union.” 244Its method of advocating an Union is, as Dr. Madden points out, sufficiently indicated by its title:

“Of comfort no man speak;
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs.”

Such scorn as is poured from it in the new-born “patriotism” of the Beresfords, the Fosters, the Whaleys, the Saurins, the Verekers, who had already alienated every right through which an Irishman could call himself a free man! “You are called on to oppose this Union, to preserve your rights. Now I ask the men who call on you what rights you have to support? I ask parliament what right they have not wrested from you? They adjure you to support the constitution. Alas! for that constitution, originally a shadow, now embodied a substance of corruption. You are called on to resist—what? Not oppression, it has been protected. Not injustice, it has been legalised. Not cruelty, it has been indemnified.... Is it for the Convention, the Insurrection, the Indemnity Acts, that you are to resist the annihilation of the parliament that passed them? While these Bills stand recorded on their Journals parliament ought to know that the country cannot dread their extinction. And if the minister of England wishes to use any argument but military force for the accomplishment of this measure, let him present that statute-book to the people, and ask them—‘Why should you wish the duration of this parliament? do you not feel that I am omnipotent in it? are not my mandates written here in blood?...’

“I shall not dwell more on the advantages than I have done on the justice of this measure. I do not believe that one advantage will result from it, or from any other convention between Ireland and Great Britain which the English minister proposes, and which the English mercantile interest approves of: no convention or community of interests ever will be equitably conducted 245where both parties are not equally able to assert their own rights, and to resist the innovations or injustice of the other.... I know that our part of the treaty will be signed and most strictly performed, and that the English part of it will be filled up how and when it suits the interests of the minister.

When the order came from the Castle to the State prisoners in Kilmainham on March 18th, 1799, instructing them to be ready for embarkation the following morning, Mary Anne Emmet, “at a late hour the same evening, on hearing of the order, proceeded immediately to the Castle, and demanded an interview with the viceroy for the purpose of ascertaining the fate that was destined for her brother. She presented herself to the viceroy with the spirit that seemed to be characteristic of her race. Lord Cornwallis was moved even to tears at the earnestness of her supplication, the anxiety exhibited in her looks, the strength of feeling, the energy of character displayed in the effort she had made. He treated her with kindness, and assured her that ‘no harm should occur to her brother.’... Miss Emmet returned to her family, and the intelligence she brought, little as it was, relieved the minds of her parents of much of their alarm.”[90]

90.  Madden’s “United Irishmen,” Third Series (Second Edition). p. 91.

Sometime in 1799 she married Robert Holmes, a rising barrister. The young couple took up their residence with old Dr. and Mrs. Emmet, first in Stephen’s Green, and later in Casino; and the correspondence of her mother with Thomas Addis in Fort George, makes frequent mention of Mary Anne. In a letter dated April 10th, Elizabeth Emmet informs her son of the comfort she and her husband found in “Mary Anne’s happiness in consequence of having married a very worthy man, of whom she is very fond, and he equally so of her. She has grown so stout that scarcely 246a day passes without her walking to town, about town, and out again. The pleasure of her husband’s company has, I believe, wrought this change, and her health is greatly benefitted by the exertion.” In July, 1800, her first baby, a little boy, was born, but the many and great anxieties its mother had undergone before its birth told on it, and it only lived one week. Poor Mary Anne was long in recovering, and perhaps her mother did not make sufficient allowance for the drain made on her delicate constitution by the intensity of her feelings. The indolence, the disinclination to make any exertion except on a great occasion of which her mother frequently complained, were due to physical weakness, and of this her mother did not seem to take account. “Mary Anne is very much better, but you know of old that she has one complaint of which I have no hope she will be cured: indolence has still, and always will have, domination over her, except when exertion becomes necessary; then, indeed, no person can exceed her in efforts. I wish, however, for her own sake that her exertions were brought more into the practice of every day, and not reserved for great occasions. She has a very strong mind, and I think it would operate more upon the body if more frequently called forth.”

Six days after the outbreak of Robert Emmet’s Insurrection, Robert Holmes, who had been in England on business, and knew nothing of his brother-in-law’s plans, was arrested in the streets of Dublin, on his way home. About the same time John Patten, Jane Emmet’s brother, was arrested, and the wildest rumours of Robert’s fate were brought to the ladies of the Emmet family, who were now in residence at Donnybrook. The anxiety proved too much for Elizabeth Emmet, and while her youngest son lay in prison awaiting his tragic destiny, she died in her daughter’s arms.

Think of what Mary Anne Holmes had to endure during 247those terrible weeks. One brother was in exile, another in the prison from which the only egress was up the steps to the scaffold; her husband a prisoner with an uncertain fate. Truly “the strong mind” had heavy drains on it when she followed her mother’s coffin to the churchyard of St. Peter’s in Aungier Street, whither Dr. Emmet’s had only a little time preceded it. Small wonder that the end of her sad story came with tragic swiftness, and in tragic circumstances.

Mr. Holmes was kept for a whole year a prisoner in Dublin Castle, and then suddenly released. He walked directly home. “In response to his ring his wife unfortunately opened the door, only to drop dead into his arms from the suddenness of the shock and the excess of her joy at seeing him. It is said that Mr. Holmes never recovered from the shock he thus received, and to the day of his death he was seldom seen to smile.”[91] He lived to be a very old man—to see the men of ’48 stand in the same dock as the men of ’98 and ’03—and for the same crime. In his eightieth year he acted as counsel for Duffy in the Nation prosecution of 1846; in his eighty-second year he defended John Mitchel. “We thought we heard the blood of Emmet crying aloud from the ground,” said Mitchel, of the great speech made by Holmes on the former occasion. But in the ears of the old man, himself, as he made his immortal indictment of England, there was ringing the voice of his dead love—the woman whom England’s cruelty had murdered in his very arms two-and-forty years before!

91.  “The Emmet Family,” p. 54. The circumstances of Mary Anne Holmes’s death were communicated to Dr. T. A. Emmet by Sir Bernard Burke.

Mary Tone

Of Mary Tone, the sister of Theobald Wolfe Tone, we have already spoken at some length in the Memoir of her 248sister-in-law. Her brother has described her for us in his Autobiography: “My sister, whose name is Mary, is a fine young woman; she has all the peculiarity of our disposition with all the delicacy of her own sex. If she were a man, she would be exactly like one of us [i.e. her brothers, whose ‘portraits’ he has just sketched], and, as it is, being brought up amongst boys, for we never had but one more sister, who died a child, she has contracted a masculine habit of thinking, without, however, in any degree, derogating from that feminine softness of manner which is suited to her sex and age.”

When Tone and his wife and family were obliged to leave Ireland for America, Mary Tone accompanied them, sharing the dangers and hardships of the journey, and the anxieties and deprivations of life in an unknown land. When the summons came for Theobald to leave them, and start off on his hazardous mission to France, Mary Tone joined her sister-in-law in urging him to answer the call. When the moment of parting came her firmness and courage were as great as Matilda’s: “We had neither tears nor lamentations, but on the contrary, the most ardent hope and the most steady resolution.”

On the voyage across the Atlantic which she made with Matilda Tone and her children towards the end of 1796, in order to rejoin Theobald, Mary Tone made the acquaintance of a young Swiss merchant named Giacque, who, though “just beginning the world with little or no property, thought proper to fall in love with her.” The first letter Tone received from his wife after their arrival in Hamburg, was accompanied, we learn from the Autobiography, by one from Giacque “informing me of his situation and circumstances, of his love for my sister, and hers for him, and praying my consent. There was an air of candour and honesty in his letter which gave me a good opinion of him, nor did I consider myself at liberty to stand in the way of her happiness, which my wife 249mentioned to me was deeply interested. I wrote therefore, giving my full consent to the marriage, and trust in God they may be as happy as I wish them. It is certainly a hazardous step in favour of a man whom I do not know; but, as she is passionately fond of him, and he of her, as he perfectly knows her situation, and has by no means endeavoured to disguise or exaggerate his own, I am in hopes they may do well.”

After their marriage, the Giacques appear to have continued to live with Mrs. Tone and her children, first at Hamburg, and afterwards at Paris. After the death of Theobald, Mary and her husband went to St. Domingo; and, according to her nephew, she met her death there, of yellow fever, contracted through nursing a sick friend, who had been abandoned by her family and servants. Another account, quoted by Madden, states that she and her husband were killed by the negroes in the insurrection of that island, about the year 1799. At all events she shared the tragic fate of her immediate family—Theobald, William, Matthew, and Arthur—none of whom reached thirty-six years of age.

Lady Lucy Fitzgerald

One of Lord Edward’s sisters, Lady Lucy Fitzgerald, was deep in the plans of the United Irishmen. Mr. Gerald Campbell describes her as “just Lord Edward dressed in woman’s clothes. She was to the full as patriotic as her brother, perhaps even more so—for she loved the cause because he loved it, whom she loved above all things: she was possessed like him of a strong sense of humour, so that she shared with him the family epithet ‘comical,’ she had a warm, loving susceptible Irish heart, and, in short, both in character and aims, was as like him as possible.”

She spent much time with Lord Edward and Pamela 250at Kildare Lodge, and her Journal, from which Mr. Campbell has published some extracts, gives us vivid glimpses of the habitués of that hospitable home. Among these, Arthur O’Connor figures prominently, and one cannot help feeling that Lady Lucy had a romantic interest in that most aristocratic of all “democrats.” The winter days were devoted to long walks on the Curragh, or if the weather prevented out-door excursions, to sticking pocket-books with emblems, or hearing Arthur O’Connor read “Julius Cæsar,” or Volney’s “Ruins”; the winter evenings were delightfully divided between dancing and singing patriotic songs. Once she records “a large patriotic dinner,” at which were present, “Dr. MacNevin, Connolly, Mr. Hughes (a Northern, and Edward says a very sensible man), a Mr. Jackson, an iron manufacturer, a Mr. Bond, a great merchant, one of the handsomest and most delightful men to all appearance that ever was, and a Presbyterian clergyman, called Barber, a venerable old man who had been forced by persecution to fly his Diocese where he had lived 30 years.”

Lady Lucy little suspected that the Northern Mr. Hughes, whom Edward considered so “sensible,” was a Government spy—any more than she suspected that all her own correspondence after her return to London was carefully watched by Government. The mysterious “friend” of her cousin, Lord Downshire (whom Fitzpatrick finally succeeded in identifying with Samuel Turner, of Lurgan), told his patron that the communications of the Irish in Hamburg (who were negotiating there for French aid), with their friends at home were established through the medium of Mme. Matthiesen (Pamela’s cousin, Henriette de Sercey), Lady Sarah and Pamela. The letters were sent by Madame Matthiesen from Hamburg, to Lady Lucy in London—and by Lady Lucy conveyed to Pamela. “All letters to or from Lady Lucy Fitzgerald,” wrote the spy to Lord Downshire, “ought 251to be inspected.” No doubt this advice was acted upon, and poor unsuspecting Lady Lucy’s correspondence received due attention.

One of the items of “Lucia’s” diary, quoted by Mr. Campbell, makes brief reference to “Two Northern gentlemen who dined with us.” One wonders if one of these could be Bartle Teeling. We know from his nephew’s memoir that in Lady Lucy that gallant and knightly heart had found its ideal. Once she gave him a ring with the words, “Erin go Bragh” inscribed on it, and this ring is still treasured in the Teeling family.

Some letters of Lady Lucy published by Mr. Campbell will give a more vivid idea of her ardent and impulsive nature than any elaborate description of her. The first is addressed to “The Irish Nation,” and the occasion seems to have been the threatening advent of the Union:

“Irishmen, Countrymen, it is Edward Fitzgerald’s sister who addresses you: it is a woman, but that woman is his sister: she would therefore die for you as he did. I don’t mean to remind you of what he did for you. ’Twas no more than his duty. Without ambition he resigned every blessing this world could afford, to be of use to you, his countrymen whom he loved better than himself, but in this he did no more than his duty; he was a Paddy and no more; he desired no other title than this. He never deserted you—will you desert yourselves? This was his only ambition, and will you ever forget yourselves? Will you forget this title, which it is still in your power to ennoble? Will you disgrace it? Will you make it the scoff of your triumphant Enemies, while ’tis in your power to raise it beyond all other glory to immortality? Yes, this is the moment, the precious moment which must either stamp with Infamy the name of Irishmen and denote you for ever wretched, enslaved to the power of England, or raise the Paddies to the consequence which they deserve and which England shall no longer 252withhold, to happiness, freedom, glory. These are but names as yet to you, my Countrymen. As yet you are strangers to the reality with the power in your hands to realise them. One noble struggle, and you will gain, you will enjoy them for ever.—Your devoted Country-woman—L. F.”

A second to Lady Bute, deals largely with Moore’s “Life of Lord Edward”:

“Did you read Mr. Moore’s Memoir of my loved Edward? If you did, you will have thought it strange perhaps to see it dedicated to Mrs. Beauclerck.[92] It was all her plan, arranged with Mr. Moore. They let me know of it when partly completed in case I had anything to communicate. Dear Lady Bute, you who know the depth of affection with which his memory is engraven on my heart! you can best judge how such a message must have struck me. I returned for answer I had nothing to say. A thousand motives made this intended publication by Mr. Moore appear to me utterly improper. I will own to you that the one which displeased me was the trifling ... with his memory, which so long has lain enshrined and sacred in the grateful breasts of the Irish people! to have it brought out from thence and his glorious name made the subject of English investigation—to serve Party purposes—for when were Englishmen ever just judges of Irish character?... Mr. Moore was in complete ignorance of my Brother’s views, and of his opinions, plans, and actions beyond what the newspapers of the day could furnish him with; and thus the delineation of his character as enlightened Statesman and Heroic Patriot is entirely missing in the publication....

92.  Mrs. Beauclerck was Lord Edward’s half-sister, “Mimi” (Emily Charlotte) Ogilvie, daughter of the Duchess of Leinster and Mr. Ogilvie.

“There are men in Ireland, men only Irish, to whom it belonged to tell his story if ever Ireland should be what 253my Brother meant it to be.... At the time when he was self-elected to free his country or die for Her, he met a soul, ‘twin to his own,’ because each breathed and loved alike and their object Ireland! Ireland, where each had first drawn breath—Ireland more great in her misfortunes, in her wrongs than the most favoured Country of the Earth,—Ireland, so true to God, to the early unchanged faith of the Gospel,—Ireland whom neither falsehood could entice nor interest bribe to apostacy, suffering through successive ages from the oppression of a Nation inferior to Herself in all but in one of the adventitious circumstances of fortune. It was the heart that felt all this as he himself did, and would have preferred death with the chance of redeeming these wrongs to a life of ease and security without that hope—it was that person who could have told how Edward once loved.”

Julia Sheares

Julia Sheares was another devoted “Sister of ’Ninety-Eight.” All that she was to her brothers is best told by the letter which John addressed to her from his prison cell on the eve of his trial:

“The troublesome scene of life, my ever dear Julia, is nearly closed, and the hand that now traces these lines will, in a day or two, be no longer capable of communicating, to a beloved and affectionate family, the sentiments of his heart. A painful task yet awaits me—I do not allude to my trial, nor to my execution. These, were it not for the consciousness I feel of the misery you will all suffer on my account, would be trivial in comparison with the pain I endure at addressing you for the last time. You have been kind to me, Julia, beyond example. Your solicitude for my welfare has been unremitting; nor did it leave you a moment’s happiness, as a wayward fate seems from the earliest moment of my life to have presided 254over my days. I will not now recapitulate the instances of a perverse destiny that seems to have marked me out as the instrument of destruction to all I loved.

“Robert and Christopher! I shall shortly join you, and learn for what wise purpose heaven thought fit to select me as your destroyer.[93] My mother, too! O God! my tender, my revered mother! I see her torn locks—her broken heart—her corpse! Heavenly Author of the universe, what have I done to deserve this misery?

93.  Mrs. Smith (Miss Maria Steele) told Dr. Madden that she had often heard John Sheares say with great emotion “that he had caused the death of two of his brothers—Robert, who was drowned in saving him when a boy, and Christopher, who, being reluctant to go to the West Indies, he persuaded to go there, “only to perish of yellow fever.”

“I must forbear these thoughts as much as possible or I must forbear to write. My time comes on the day after to-morrow, and the event is unequivocal. You must summon up all the resolution of your soul, my dear, dear Julia. If there be a chance of snatching my afflicted mother from the grave, that chance must arise from your exertions. My darling Sally,[94] too will aid you; she will for a while suspend her joy at the restoration of her husband to her arms—for of his escape I have no more doubt than I have of my own conviction and its consequences. All, all of you forget your individual griefs and joys, and unite to save that best of parents from the grave. Stand between her and despair. If she will speak of me, soothe her with every assurance calculated to carry conviction to her heart. Tell her that my death, though nominally ignominious, should not light up a blush in her face; that she knew me incapable of a dishonourable action or thought; that I died in full possession of the esteem of all those who knew me intimately; that justice will yet be done to my memory, and my fate be mentioned rather 255with pride than shame by my friends and relations. Yes, my dear sister, if I did not expect the arrival of this justice to my memory, I should be indeed afflicted at the nominal ignominy of my death, lest it may injure your welfare and wound the feelings of my family. But, above all things, tell her that at my own request I was attended in my latest moments by that excellent and pious man, Dr. Dobbin, and that my last prayer was offered up for her. While I feared for Harry’s life, hell itself could have no tortures for the guilty beyond what I endured.

94.  Sarah, the wife of Henry Sheares. When John wrote he had no suspicion that his brother’s fate was sealed as well as his own.

“I picture you all, a helpless, unprotected group of females, left to the miseries of your own feelings and to the insults of a callous, insensible world. Sally, too, stripped of a husband on whom she so tenderly doats, and his children of their father, and all by my cursed intervention, by my residence with them. Yet, he even is my witness how assiduously I sought to keep aloof in any of my political concerns from him, and would have entirely succeeded in doing so if it had not been for the art of that villain, Armstrong, and Harry’s own incaution. My efforts, however, have kept him clear of any of those matters that have involved me in destruction. When Sally has got him back in her arms, and that I, who caused his danger and her unhappiness, shall be no more, she will cease to think of me with reproach. This I trust she will do; she ought—for she herself could never have done more for his salvation than I endeavoured to do. But the scene is changed—I am no longer that frantic thing I was while his danger appeared imminent. A calm sorrow for the sufferings that await you on my account, and a heartfelt regret at being obliged to quit your loved society for ever, has succeeded. Yet, all this will soon have an end; and with comfort I already anticipate the moment when your subsiding grief gives you back to the enjoyment of each other. Still, my dearest Julia, even when I shall be no more, your plagues on my account are not 256likely to cease. You remember—I am sure you do—your kind promise of protection to my poor, unfortunate little Louisa?[95] I make no doubt but her mother will give her up to your care without reluctance; yet, how to impose this new anxiety on you I know not. But of this I will say nothing; I know your heart, and never could resist the goodness with which it insisted on easing mine by burdening itself. What to recommend relative to her I cannot resolve. Harry did once desire me to take her into his house, but I had a thousand objections to that plan then, some of which still remain; one material one is, that she would soon learn from servants and others how different her situation there was from that of the other children, and her young mind would very early feel that chilling inferiority and degradation, that lead to a debasement of principle, and ultimately to mean and unworthy actions. No; a great many reasons concur to decide me against that measure. She should be put to some school where more care is taken of her health than education, and where the attention to morals consists in good, honest example. Apropos, she was at a Mrs. Duggan’s, at Bray, to whom I yet owe ten guineas for her, and which I request of my dear mother to pay for me, when convenient; I likewise owe a note of hand for about thirteen pounds or guineas to a man in Capel Street whom the Flemings know. I cannot mention the name of these friends without emotions of gratitude and tenderness not to be expressed. Never cease to assure them that I preserve the recollection of their goodness, though the instances of it are so many, and I shall feel it to the last moment. This debt they will be obliged to pay if not discharged by my mother, as they passed their word for it—you will therefore mention it to my poor afflicted mother. Great God! how have I stripped her and you; 257but I have stripped you of happiness, and should not talk of money....

95.  His daughter.

“Good night, Julia; I am going to rest with a heart, thank God, free from the consciousness of intentional offence, and from any wish tainted with personal resentment. I seek my bed with pleasure, because in it I often fancy myself in the full possession of that domestic happiness which I always regarded as the first of human enjoyments. Pray heaven I dream of you all night....

“Adieu, Julia, my light is just out; the approach of darkness is like that of death, since both alike require I should say farewell for ever. Oh, my dear family, farewell for ever!”

Miss Byrne

Miles Byrne in his Memoirs makes frequent mention of a brave sister of his, and incidentally throws much light on the way the women of Wexford helped their men during these soul-testing times. When the atrocities of the Orange magistrates and the Ancient Britons had forced the men to the hills, the women undertook to act as intelligence officers and keep them informed of the progress of the preparations for the Rising. Miss Byrne was one of the most active of these fearless girls. On one occasion Miles returned to his mother’s house and found his sister alone in it, for their mother had gone to Gorey to try and get their step-brother Hugh, out of prison. “We arrived a little before daybreak. I approached the house with great precaution (lest there should be soldiers placed there), and I must add overwhelmed with anxiety, fearing to learn everything for the worst. However, finding all silent, I went at once and knocked. My poor sister came to the window, trembling and alarmed, until she saw it was I.... Before I had time to answer any questions my sister told me she hoped to have good news to tell me in the morning; that it was certain the people 258were rising in every direction, and had already defeated the troops. She could not then give me the details, but in an hour or two she was sure to be able to satisfy me in every particular.”

Miles and his companions concealed themselves in the fields until his sister could procure the tidings she expected. “When it was broad daylight we saw my sister running to look for us to give us the cheerful tidings with all the joyful enthusiasm so characteristic of a young Irish girl of eighteen. She told us that the troops had run away from Gorey, and that all the prisoners were at liberty to go where they pleased; but still the people, or the Insurgent army, as we must now call them, did not march that way, but were in great force in the neighbourhood of Camolin and Ferns. We instantly prepared to go and join them....

“It was only now I heard for the first time of all the barbarous murders that had been committed whilst I was away; the massacre of Carnew, the murder of poor Garrett Fennell, Darcy, and a list of others who had shared the same fate. My dear sister thought she could never tell me enough about all that had happened during my absence; how our horses were taken, and that three men mounted my mare and sprained her back, etc. But if I had not remarked a long scar on her neck she would not have mentioned anything about herself. A yeoman of the name of Wheatley, on the day that poor Hugh was arrested, threatened to cut her throat with his sabre if she did not instantly tell the place where I was hiding; the cowardly villain no doubt would have put his threat into execution had not some of his comrades interfered to prevent him.

“Being joined by a few of our former workmen and tenants’ sons, who heard I had returned, I prepared again to take leave of my sister, knowing that my dear mother would soon be home to keep her company. This time she 259saw me depart with joy and delight, for she had set her heart and soul on the success of our undertaking; her courage and spirit was surprising under such circumstances for a girl of her age, and she never despaired. I bid her farewell, and marched off with my faithful friends on the road to Camolin.”

Miss Teeling

Charles Teeling in his “Personal Narrative” pays tribute to “the heroic courage” of one of his own sisters. “She was my junior”—he was only in his eighteenth year himself—“and with the gentlest possessed the noblest soul; she has been the solace of her family in all subsequent afflictions, and seemed to have been given as a blessing by Heaven, to counterpoise the ills we were doomed to suffer.” When the first letters “from home” were delivered to the poor prisoners in Kilmainham he records the sensation he experienced on getting one from his father “which also bore the signature of the sister whom I loved.”

Miss Hazlett

Another sister commemorated by Teeling is Miss Hazlett, the sister of Henry Hazlett, of Belfast. She had come to Dublin, with Henry’s little son, to comfort their brother by their visits to his prison. “It was impossible to exclude her visits from the prison, for, from the surly turnkey to the cold and impenetrable man of office, her voice acted as a talisman on the most obdurate heart. Her presence dispelled every gloom, as the cheering messenger of Heaven.” The little boy caught a contagious disease, and his beautiful young aunt, nursing him, contracted it also, and one day to the sorrowing prisoners in Kilmainham, who had all learned to love her, there came the news of her death. Her funeral from Dublin to the 260North was made a national demonstration. “The daughters of Erin strewed garlands in the way—thousands of youthful patriots surrounded the bier—and in the mournful procession of an hundred miles, every town and hamlet paid homage to the virtues of the dead.”

The tender and beautiful Irish usage extends the use of the words dearbrathair (brother), and deirbhshiur (sister) to other bonds than those of blood. And many of the gentle and pitying women who ministered to the sufferers of those times are truly deserving of the lovely title. The girls from the hotel in Newry who pressed forward under the very hoofs of the cavalry horses to bring refreshments to the carriages of the prisoners of ’96, Charles Teeling, Russell, Neilson, etc., were surely worthy of it. The women who forced their way into the prisons “with bread, and comfort, and grace” were worthy of it. The women whom Holt so frequently shows us at their works of mercy were worthy of it. On one occasion he came to a farmhouse whose only occupants were an old woman and her pretty daughter. “They brought me hot water to bathe my feet, and clean stockings and linen, and took my own and washed them. They then gave me oatcakes and butter-milk, which after I had eaten, they shewed me a comfortable bed, where I slept for several hours....” Finding that the news of his death had been reported to them, and caused them overwhelming sorrow, he informed them of his identity. Their joy at his safety, and their pride at having him for their guest was beyond all telling. Presently “twenty-four poor unfortunates came into the house, who were all desired to sit down, and oaten cakes were placed before them, and the young woman was busily employed in baking more cakes on the griddle; she afterwards told me they had been so employed for some days past.”

And talking of “Sisters” reminds us of the striking 261fact that it was in the prisons of the United Irishmen, our Irish Sisters of Charity had, in a certain sense, their origin. In the letters of Mr. Luke Teeling to his wife, we find frequent mention of a Miss Alicia Walsh, who came with her aunt, Ally Lynch, of Drogheda (Mrs. Teeling’s sister) to visit him in his prison at Carrickfergus. “Ally Walsh is an uncommonly fine girl,” he notes of her approvingly. Many a tongue was to echo Mr. Teeling’s praise in the after-days when “Ally Walsh,” the first companion of Mary Aikenhead, had become the celebrated Mother Catherine of the Gardiner Street Convent. To learn more of her I must refer my readers to Mrs. Atkinson’s “Mary Aikenhead.” I shall content myself here with borrowing Mrs. Atkinson’s account of her experiences in ’Ninety-Eight.

“During the rebellion of 1798, she went from prison to prison at much personal risk, to carry messages from friends, or to console the inmates who were the objects of her deepest sympathy. Some of her nearest and dearest relatives[96] suffered greatly, not only from the confiscation and unjust oppression, but also from barbarous bodily tortures which at that period were commonly inflicted at the will of a licentious soldiery. One of her friends, a young man of exemplary life, was stripped to the waist, tied to a cart, and dragged through the streets of Drogheda, his inhuman executioners flogging him all the way, until at last he fainted under their hands, and was consigned to a prison cell. The first intimation his mother received of the occurrence that had taken place was a demand for old linen to dress her son’s back which was one hideous wound.

96.  The Teelings conspicuously. Her own father, Mr. Walsh, of the Naul, though like Mr. Teeling he had taken no part in the Rising, was ruined by the pillaging and burning tactics of the Orangemen and the Yeomanry.

“In the family of a near neighbour at Naul, a circumstance 262occurred equally characteristic of the time. A young lady was engaged to be married to a gentleman, who having been connected with the insurgents in ’98, was obliged to fly from his home. He took refuge in the house of his intended brother-in-law, who had been forced to join a corps of yeomanry. The fugitive’s track was discovered, the yeomanry were called out, and he, having again taken to flight, was overtaken at a village near Dublin, and hanged from a post in the street by the young man from whose house he had just escaped and who dared not shirk the duty. The poor rebel’s mother never learned the fate that had befallen her son. She was persuaded that he had gone abroad; and up to her death she continued making shirts and knitting stockings, which were sent, as she supposed, in parcels to the refugee in a distant land.”

Mary Aikenhead, herself, was, perhaps, too young—only eleven—to have any very active share in the charities the Cork ladies exercised towards the sufferers of ’98—but her father was an ardent sympathiser with “the Cause,” and Lord Edward Fitzgerald was concealed, on one occasion, at their house. Perhaps it was in memory of this—or perhaps it was because she felt what I have tried to express: that the Sisterhood Mary Aikenhead founded, proceeded so largely from ’Ninety-Eight and all it stood for—that Lady Lucy Fitzgerald (or as she then was, Lady Lucy Foley) left at her death, a generous legacy to the Sisters of Charity. One cannot help thinking that the list of the first companions of Mary Aikenhead must have sounded to Lady Lucy like a roll-call of names made immortal in the ranks of the United Irishmen. There were Teelings, Sweetmans, Clinches, O’Reillys, Bellews, and many others.

Mrs. Coleman (Mother Mary de Chantal) was born amid the troubles that preceded ’98. “Her father, a gentleman farmer in Meath or Louth, ... was suspected 263of disaffection. On the very night his little daughter was to come into the world, the house was surrounded by a troop of armed men, whose heavy footsteps, presently heard on the stairs, gave the alarm to the inmates, who hurried away ‘the poor mistress’ under cover of the darkness to an uninhabited hut sometimes used by the herd. She gave up all for lost, and resigned herself to die, knowing well that no human assistance awaited her in the hour of her utmost need. Her piety was sincere, her faith was strong, and she had an ardent devotion to the Blessed Virgin. As her husband forced open the door and led her into the dark hut, she heard a voice distinctly say: ‘Do not fear, Mary, I will protect you and your child’; while at the same time a bright light filled the place. Then and there under its influence the child was born.”

So, too, we may say, in the darkness of Ireland’s Agony in ’Ninety-Eight, illumined miraculously by the Faith and Hope and Charity of Ireland’s womanhood, there was born the great Congregation to which that little child was destined to belong.



Sarah Curran and Anne Devlin

“The rose left her cheek, the brave eyes grew dim,
She drained the bitter cup of sorrow to the brim—
When that sad September noon saw your young heart low,
And the dawn of Ireland shrouded in a bleak cloud of woe.
“I had died for you gladly, my courage never quailed,
When their swords pierced my bosom, their wild threats assailed;
Nor did their prison torture win from me a single tear—
That memory of grief and pain would die if you were here.”
—Ethna Carbery: Anne Devlin’s Lament for Emmet.

SHALL we not join together the two women, whom love for Robert Emmet has dowered with a common immortality, and whom a common agony of loss has bound, one to the other, in the eternal sisterhood of sorrow? So best shall our love and pity reach them both—the fragile girl who died of a broken heart for his sake, and the strong girl whose brave heart faced—for his sake likewise—tortures that were worse than death. And let it not weaken our sympathy with Sarah Curran to remember that the sentimental generation which wept for her (in the rose-tinted shades of its Whig drawing-rooms, the while Tommy Moore set her sorrows to the sweetest and saddest of music) allowed Anne Devlin to die of starvation.

Sarah Curran

In thinking of Sarah Curran we paraphrase unconsciously the pitiful lines of one of our Irish poets and say of her:

“There was a maid whom Sorrow named his friend,
And she of her high comrade Sorrow dreaming,
Went walking with slow steps.”

268From her earliest years sorrow had walked with her as friend with friend; and the sadness of her death was but in keeping with the sadness of her birth, of her disposition, of her home-life, of her love story.

We know from the confidences of John Philpot Curran’s most intimate friends that the brilliant gaiety of his convivial hours alternated with fits of the blackest depression. His friend, Charles Phillips, writes of him: “It was with him as it is with every person whose spirits are apt to be occasionally excited—the depression is at intervals in exact proportion.... He was naturally sensitive—domestic misfortunes rendered his home unhappy—he flew for a kind of refuge into public life; and the political ruin of his country, leaving him without an object of private enjoyment or of patriotic hope, flung him upon his own heart-devouring reflections.... It was a deplorable thing to see him, in the decline of life, when visited by this constitutional melancholy. I have not unfrequently accompanied him in his walks upon such occasions, almost at the hour of midnight. He had gardens attached to the Priory, of which he was particularly fond; and into these gardens, when so affected, no matter at what hour, he used to ramble. It was then almost impossible to divert his mind from themes of sadness. The gloom of his own thoughts discoloured everything, and from calamity to calamity he would wander on—seeing in the future nothing for hope, and in the past nothing but disappointment.”

The home of such a man cannot have been a very happy one for his children; and the sufferings imposed on his family by Curran’s attacks of melancholia must have been aggravated in the case of his youngest daughter Sarah, who inherited, with her father’s genius and her father’s artistic and musical sensibility, more than her share of her father’s disposition to sadness. In the large dark mournful eyes of her, which had also come to her 269from her father, was mirrored the hereditary sadness of her soul.

This hereditary sadness, fostered by an unhappy home-life, was further strengthened by two events which darkened her childhood. The one was the death of her favourite sister, Gertrude, who died at the age of twelve, when Sarah herself was a girl of eleven. Gertrude was a musical prodigy, and the whole family, and especially Sarah and her father, who were passionately fond of music, worshipped her. Curran insisted on the dead girl being buried in the Priory grounds, and she was laid to rest under a large tree on the lawn, directly opposite the window of the children’s nursery. “Under its shade they [i.e. Gertrude and Sarah] had often sat together, pulled the first primroses at its roots, and watched in its leaves the earliest verdure of the spring. Many an hour, for many a year, did the sorrowful survivor take her silent stand at the melancholy window, gazing on the well-known spot, which constituted all her little world of joys and sorrows. To this circumstance she attributed the tendency to melancholy which formed so marked a feature of her character through life.”[97]

97.  Quoted by Madden from article entitled “Some Passages in the History of Sarah Curran,” in “Literary Souvenir” of 1831. The writer is believed to have been a lady of the Crawford family, who were intimate friends of Sarah and her people.

Two years after Gertrude’s death, a grief even more intolerable befel our poor Sarah. She lost her mother, whose favourite daughter she was—and it was worse than death which caused the separation. Sarah was fourteen at the time—old enough to feel the shame, and to suffer the agony of it in every fibre of her pure and noble nature. So overwhelmed was she with grief that it was thought advisable for her to leave the Priory for some time. She therefore accepted the offer of hospitality made her by an early college friend of her father, Rev. Thomas Crawford, 270of Lismore, and remained with his family “until better thoughts at home led to her return to it.”

At what time she learned to know Robert Emmet we are not definitely informed. The Emmets and the Currans were old acquaintances—if not friends—and for a time at least Thomas Addis Emmet and John Philpot Curran were neighbours in Rathfarnham. They must have often met, likewise, in the law-courts. Richard Curran, Sarah’s eldest brother, was a fellow-student of Robert Emmet’s at Trinity, and it was ostensibly to see him, and to enjoy the witty conversation of his father that Robert Emmet, after his return from Paris in 1802, paid his frequent visits to the Priory. Curran loved to see youth around him, and made the young men heartily welcome.

And all the time it was Sarah that drew the young patriot to the house her presence glorified for him—Sarah with her pale and delicate loveliness, the soft cloud of her black hair, the haunting sadness of her great dark eyes, the exquisite voice of her that moved him to the very depths of his soul, singing some of the tender old Irish airs he loved so well! Sarah with her fatal dower of loveliness, and genius, and music, and passion—and sorrow.

It is quite certain that after the failure of the Insurrection of July 23rd, 1803, Emmet could have escaped to America, had not he risked his all for the sake of one last meeting with his love. He came back to an old lodging of his at the house of Mrs. Palmer at Harold’s Cross, and from this place he sent a letter through Anne Devlin to Sarah Curran.

A few days later, Government received information that Emmet was at Mrs. Palmer’s. On August 25, Major Sirr rode out there and captured him, bringing him back handcuffed, to Dublin Castle, whence he was committed to Kilmainham Gaol on the charge of High Treason.

271When he was arrested, two letters[98] in a lady’s hand-writing were found in his possession. As these letters clearly showed that their writer was fully acquainted with Emmet’s plans, the authorities were most anxious to discover from whom they came. They half suspected that they had been written by his sister, Mrs. Holmes, and that the language of a love affair was adopted as a means of averting suspicion. Emmet, in an agony of mind, lest the writer should be discovered, offered at his Examination before the Privy Council to accept any consequences for himself if the lady’s name should not appear.

98.  MacDonagh: “Viceroy’s Post-Bag,” p. 342 et seq.

Alas! it was his own mistaken trust in the turnkey of Kilmainham, George Dunn, which put Government in possession of the knowledge they had hitherto vainly sought. Dunn had been bribed by St. John Mason, Emmet’s cousin, to facilitate his escape, but while pretending to fall in with Mason’s plans he had in reality betrayed them to the Castle. Knowing nothing of this, Emmet entrusted to George Dunn, a letter openly addressed to “Miss Sarah Curran”—and this letter (which clearly indicated her as the writer of the others) was, within an hour, in the hands of the Chief Secretary.

Amid the other grim documents of the Home Office Secret Papers this love letter of Emmet’s keeps strange company. It has been published, for the first time, in “The Viceroy’s Post-Bag” (p. 358):—

“My dearest Love,

“I don’t know how to write to you. I never felt so oppressed in my life as at the cruel injury I have done to you. I was seized and searched with a pistol over me before I could destroy your letters. They have been compared with those found before. I was threatened with having them brought forward against me in Court. I offered to plead guilty if they would suppress them. 272This was refused. Information (without mentioning names) was required. I refused, but offered since if I would be permitted to consult others, and that they would consent to enter into any accommodation of that nature to save the lives of those condemned, that I would only require for my part of it to have those letters suppressed, and that I would stand my trial. It has been refused. My love, can you forgive me?

“I wanted to know whether anything had been done respecting the person who wrote the letters, for I feared you might have been arrested. They refused to tell me for a long time. At length, when I said that it was but fair if they expected I should enter into any accommodation that I should know for what I was to do it, they then asked me whether bringing you into the room to me would answer my purpose, upon which I got up and told them that it might answer theirs better. I was sure you were arrested, and I could not stand the idea of seeing you in that situation. When I found, however, that this was not the case, I began to think that they only meant to alarm me; but their refusal has only come this moment and my fears are renewed. Not that they can do anything to you even if they would be base enough to attempt it, for they can have no proof who wrote them, nor did I let your name escape me once, nor even acknowledge that they were written directly to myself. But I fear they may suspect from the stile, and from the hair, for they took the stock[99] from me, and I have not been able to get it back from them, and that they may think of bringing you forward.

99.  Is this the black velvet stock with the lock of hair, marked Miss C., attached to it which Madden says was sold at Russborough’s auction in “the thirties”?

“I have written to your father to come to me to-morrow. Had you not better speak to himself to-night. Destroy my letters that there may be nothing against yourself, 273and deny having any knowledge of me further than seeing me once or twice. For God’s sake, write to me by the bearer one line to tell me how you are in spirits. I have no anxiety, no care, about myself; but I am terribly oppressed about you. My dearest love, I would with joy lay down my life, but ought I to do more? Do not be alarmed; they may try to frighten you, but they cannot do more. God bless you, my dearest love.

“I must send this off at once; I have written it in the dark. My dearest Sarah, forgive me.”

The next morning Major Sirr and a party of yeomanry presented themselves at the Priory with warrants to search the house for papers, and arrest Sarah Curran. The events of that morning are graphically described by the Chief Secretary, Mr. Wickham, to the Home Secretary.

“Dublin Castle, Sept. 9, 1803.

“My dear Sir,

“The writer of the letter found in Mr. Emmet’s pocket is discovered. She proves to be Mr. Curran’s youngest daughter. This discovery has given rise to some very unpleasant and distressing scenes. It became indispensably necessary to search the apartment of the lady for papers. She resided at her father’s house in the country near Rathfarnham, within a short distance of Butterfield Lane. Major Sirr was sent there this morning with a letter addressed to Mr. Curran, of which I send a copy inclosed. Unfortunately, Mr. Curran was not at home, and still more unfortunately the young lady was not up, tho’ the rest of the family (two other daughters and a son) were assembled at breakfast, so that the Major entered the room where she was still in bed. This circumstance occasioned a scene of great confusion and distress, 274and was also productive of some inconvenience, for whilst the Major and the other daughter were giving assistance to Mr. Emmet’s correspondent—who was thrown into violent convulsions—the eldest Miss Curran continued to destroy some papers, the few scraps of which that were saved were in Mr. Emmet’s hand-writing.

“I have the satisfaction to add that Mr. Curran is satisfied that Government has acted throughout with great personal delicacy towards him, and that on his part he has acted fairly towards Government, and that he was unquestionably ignorant of the connection between his daughter and Mr. Emmet.

“The Lord Lieutenant particularly requests that Miss Curran’s name may not be mentioned. It is difficult that it should be long concealed, but it is desirable that it should not be first mentioned by any member of Government in either country.

“The Attorney-General, who has had the kindness to go himself to Mr. Curran’s house at Rathfarnham, gives the most melancholy and affecting account of the state in which he left the whole family.”

Curran had been engaged by Emmet as his Counsel, but he immediately threw up his brief. He had never liked the Emmets; but now when Robert’s action had brought danger to his own family, and obstacles to his own advancement, his feeling towards him—and towards his own daughter—became a hatred, with elements of madness in it. Of his treatment of the latter we shall speak later.

To the curt letter in which Curran announced to the prisoner his refusal to act as his Counsel, Robert replied as follows:—

“I did not expect you to be my counsel: I nominated you because not to have done so might have appeared 275remarkable. Had Mr. ——[100] been in town I did not even wish to have seen you, but as he was not I wrote to you to come to me at once. I know that I have done you very severe injury, much greater than I can atone for with my life. That atonement I did offer to make before the Privy Council, by pleading guilty if those documents were suppressed. I offered more. I offered if I was permitted to consult some persons, and if they would consent to an accommodation for saving the lives of others, that I would only require for my part of it the suppression of those documents, and that I would abide the event of my own trial. This was also rejected, and nothing but individual information (with the exception of names) would be taken. My intention was not to leave the suppression of these documents to possibility, but to render it unnecessary for anyone to plead for me, by pleading guilty to the charge myself.

100.  Madden believes that the name indicated by the blank was that of his brother-in-law, Robert Holmes. But it seems from other references more likely to have been Councillor Burton—Curran’s clerk.

“The circumstances that I am now going to mention I do not state in my own justification. When I first addressed your daughter I expected that in another week my own fate would be decided. I knew that in case of success many others might look on me differently from what they did at that moment, but I speak with sincerity when I say that I never was anxious for situation or distinction myself, and I did not wish to be united to one who was. I spoke to your daughter neither expecting, nor, in fact, under those circumstances, wishing, that there should be a return of attachment, but wishing to judge of her dispositions—to know how far they might not be unfavourable or disengaged, and to know what foundation I might afterwards have to count on. I received no encouragement whatever. She told me she had no attachment 276for any person, nor did she seem likely to have any that could make her wish to quit you.

“I staid away till the time had elapsed when I found that the event to which I have alluded was to be postponed indefinitely. I returned by a kind of infatuation, thinking that to myself only was I giving pleasure or pain. I perceived no progress of attachment on her part, nor anything in her conduct to distinguish me from a common acquaintance.

“Afterwards I had reason to suppose that discoveries were made, and that I should be obliged to quit the Kingdom immediately; and I came to make a renunciation of any approach to friendship that might have been formed. On that very day she herself spoke to me to discontinue my visits. I told her that it was my intention, and I mentioned the reason. I then for the first time found, when I was unfortunate, by the manner in which she was affected, that there was a return of affection, and that it was too late to retreat. My own apprehensions, also I found afterwards were without cause, and I remained.

“There has been much culpability on my part in all this; but there has also been a great deal of that misfortune which seems uniformly to have accompanied me.

“That I have written to your daughter since an unfortunate event has taken place was an additional breach of propriety, for which I have suffered well. But I will candidly confess that I not only do not feel it to have been of the same extent, but that I consider it to have been unavoidable after what has passed; for though I will not attempt to justify in the smallest degree my former conduct, yet, when an attachment was once formed between us—and a sincerer one never did exist—I feel that, peculiarly circumstanced as I then was, to have left her uncertain of my situation would neither have weaned 277her affections nor lessened her anxiety; and looking upon her as one, whom, if I had lived, I hoped to have had my partner for life, I did hold the removing of her anxiety above every other consideration. I would rather have had the affections of your daughter in the back settlements of America, than the first situation this country could afford without them.

“I know not whether this will be any extenuation of my offence. I know not whether it will be any extenuation of it to know that if I had that situation in my power at this moment I would relinquish it to devote my life to her happiness. I know not whether success would have blotted out the recollection of what I have done. But I know that a man with the coldness of death on him need not be made to feel any other coldness, and that he may be spared any addition to the misery he feels, not for himself, but for those to whom he has left nothing but sorrow.”

There were all the elements of the cad in John Philpot Curran’s character, and these came to the surface after his return to his house on September 9th, when he presented himself in the darkened chamber where his daughter lay in her agony. After one terrible interview, he refused to see her, or to speak to her, ever again.

He had perforce to shelter her for a little time longer under his roof—for brain fever, followed by a temporary loss of reason, brought her to death’s door. She was thus mercifully spared, as her friend said, “the misery of travelling step by step, through the wilderness of woe which Emmet’s trial and execution would have proved to her.”

On the night before his execution (while his love tossed in the delirium of fever, and the sister who watched by her bed had her heart torn by the way she called his name) Robert Emmet wrote two letters which are eloquent of 278the thoughts of her which filled his heart until it ceased to beat. One is addressed to her brother, Richard, who had found means to send his friend a message of kindness, which might almost atone for his father’s caddish cruelty:

“My dearest Richard,

“I find I have but a few hours to live; but if it was the last moment, and that the power of utterance was leaving me, I would thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generous expressions of affection and forgiveness to me. If there was anyone in the world in whose breast my death might be supposed not to stifle every spark of resentment, it might be you. I have deeply injured you—I have injured the happiness of a sister that you love, and who was formed to give happiness to everyone about her, instead of having her mind a prey to affliction. Oh! Richard, I have no excuse to offer, but that I meant the reverse. I intended as much happiness for Sarah as the most ardent love could have given her. I never did tell you how much I idolised her. It was not with a wild or unfounded passion, but it was an attachment increasing every hour, from an admiration of the purity of her mind and respect for her talents. I did dwell in secret upon the prospect of our union. I did hope that success, while it afforded the opportunity of our union, might be a means of confirming an attachment which misfortune had called forth. I did not look to honours for myself—praise I would have asked from the lips of no man; but I would have wished to read in the glow of Sarah’s countenance that her husband was respected.

“My love, Sarah! it was not thus that I thought to have requited your affection. I did hope to be a prop round which your affections might have clung, and which would never have been shaken; but a rude blast has snapped it, and they have fallen over a grave.

279“This is no time for affliction. I have had public motives to sustain my mind, and I have not suffered it to sink; but there have been moments in my imprisonment when my mind was so sunk by grief on her account that death would have been a refuge. God bless you, my dearest Richard. I am obliged to leave off immediately.”

The second was addressed to Thomas Addis Emmet and his wife. It was suppressed by the Lord Lieutenant’s orders, and found its final destination in the Home Office Secret Papers, whence Mr. MacDonagh first exhumed it:

“My dearest Tom and Jane,

“I am just going to do my last duty to my country. It can be done as well on the scaffold as on the field. Do not give way to any weak feeling on my account, but rather encourage proud ones that I have possessed fortitude and tranquillity of mind to the last.

“God bless you and the young hopes that are growing up about you. May they be more fortunate than their uncle; but may they preserve as pure and ardent an attachment to their country as he has done. Give the watch to little Robert. He will not prize it the less for having been in the possession of two Roberts before him. I have one dying request to make to you. I was attached to Sarah Curran, the youngest daughter of your friend. I did hope to have had her my companion for life. I did hope that she would not only have constituted my happiness, but that her heart and understanding would have made her one of Jane’s dearest friends. I know that Jane would have loved her on my account and I feel also that had they been acquainted she must have loved her on her own. No one knew of the attachment until now, nor is it now generally known, therefore do not speak of it to others. She is living with her father and brother, but if these protectors should fall off and that no other should 280replace them, treat her as my wife and love her as a sister. God Almighty bless you all. Give my love to all my friends.”

As soon as his daughter was able to travel, Curran drove her from his house. She first found shelter with her kind friends the Crawfords, of Lismore, and subsequently with a Quaker family called Penrose at Woodhill, Cork, whose kindness to the broken-hearted, homeless girl helped to restore her to some degree of strength. On one occasion, during her stay with them, they persuaded her to go to a masked ball in Cork. The “mask” selected for her was that of a wandering ballad-singer, and in this character she sang, in the exquisite voice, which had so often charmed her dead young lover, some of the beautiful, plaintive Irish airs of Owenson.

A romantic young officer, Captain Sturgeon, lost his heart to the singer—and when he heard her story his affections were but the more deeply engaged. Himself, the offspring of a most romantic marriage,[101] he found in the halo of poetry, with which Sarah’s sad love-story invested her, but an added attraction. He, therefore, proposed for her hand; and the Penroses who saw in this marriage, the one hope of their friend’s future settlement, urged his suit with much ardour. At this time consumption had declared itself in her fragile form, and the doctors stated that residence in a warm climate was necessary to save her life. Captain Sturgeon was ordered to Sicily in the winter of 1805, and this fact seemed to Miss Curran’s friends, the Penroses, an additional reason for urging her to accept his proposal.

101.  His mother, Lady Harriet Wentworth, sister to the Marquis of Rockingham, had married her footman.

At last she yielded to the united entreaties of her friends and gave her hand to Captain Sturgeon, with his full 281knowledge that her heart was buried in Emmet’s unknown grave.

In the spring of 1808 the English had to abandon Sicily, when Captain Sturgeon and his wife returned to England in a crowded transport, in very tempestuous weather. An unfinished letter of Sarah’s to one of her friends, will tell in all the pathos of its simplicity the end of her sorrowful story:

“Hythe, April 17, 1808.

“My dear M——, I suppose you do not know of my arrival from Sicily, or I should have heard from you. I must be very brief in the details of events which have been so fatal to me, and which followed our departure from that country. A most dreadful and perilous passage occasioned me many frights. I was, on our entrance into the channel, prematurely delivered of a boy, without any assistance, save that of one of the soldier’s wives, the only woman on board but myself. The storm being so high that no boat could stand out to sea, I was in imminent danger till twelve the next day, when, at the risk of his life, a physician came on board from one of the ships and relieved me. The storm continued, and I got brain fever, which, however, passed off. To be short, on landing at Portsmouth, the precious creature for whom I suffered so much, God took to Himself. The inexpressible anguish I felt at this event, preying on me, has occasioned the delay of my health. For the last month the contest between life and death has seemed doubtful; but this day having called in a very clever man, he seems not to think me in danger. My disorder is a total derangement of the nervous system, and its most dreadful effects I find in an attack on my mind and spirits. I suffer misery you cannot conceive. I am often seized with heavy perspirations, trembling and that indescribable horror which you must know if ever you had fever. Write instantly to me. Alas! I want everything to soothe my mind, 282O my friend, would to heaven you were with me! nothing so much as the presence of a dear female friend would tend to my recovery. But in England you know how I am situated—not one I know intimately. To make up for this my beloved husband is everything to me; his conduct throughout all my troubles surpasses all praise. Write to me, dear M., and tell me how to bear all these things. I have, truly speaking, cast all my care on the Lord; but oh! how our weak natures fail every day, every hour I may say. On board the ship, when all seemed adverse to hope, it is strange how an overstrained trust in certain words of our Saviour gave me such perfect faith in His help, that, though my baby was visibly pining away, I never doubted his life for a moment. ‘He who gathers the lambs in His arms,’ I thought, would look on mine if I had faith in Him. This has often troubled me since.

Extract from Gentleman’s Magazine for 1808: “May 5th, 1808, at Hythe, in Kent, of a rapid decline, aged 26, Sarah, wife of Captain Henry Sturgeon, youngest daughter of the Right Hon. J. P. Curran, Master of the Rolls in Ireland.”

Anne Devlin

In 1842 when Dr. Madden was engaged in his researches for his memoir of Robert Emmet, he was directed to a certain old washerwoman, called Campbell, then living in great poverty and obscurity in a stable-yard off John’s Lane. This old woman, he was told, was the only one then living, in all probability, who could give an authentic account of what happened on the night of July the 23rd, 1803, after the flight of the leaders and the rout of their followers.

How did she come to have this information? For the reason that she had helped Rosie Hope to cook and keep 283house for Robert Emmet and his companions in the establishment he had leased (in the name of Robert Ellis) in Butterfield Lane, Rathfarnham, during the months of active preparation for the Rising. Her father was a well-to-do dairyman, of the neighbourhood, and both he and his sons, as well as their kinsmen, Michael Dwyer, the Wicklow “outlaw,” and Arthur Devlin, were deep in Robert Emmet’s plans. His daughter’s housewifely skill had been devoted to the Cause in the same spirit as her male relatives’ soldier-service. Her maiden name, which Dr. Madden’s informant had previously omitted to mention, was—Anne Devlin.

Anne Devlin! Can anyone living to-day, with a drop of Irish blood in his or her veins, hear that name without a great stirring of the heart? It stands for a heroism, a fortitude, a devotion, a fidelity, a loyalty, which even to have conceived, honours all human nature—and which to have produced, ennobles Irish womanhood for all time. Anne Devlin! Amid the great names of our race which thrill each Irish heart as with a trumpet note, what name has power to move us as does that?

We owe it to Dr. Madden that the name means so much to us. Had he not sought her out, and drawn her story from her lips, and raised her body from its pauper burial place to lay it, in its rightful place amid the noblest in Glasnevin, that name might have meant as little to us as it did to the generation, which Dr. Madden’s appeal for her (in the first edition of his “United Irishmen”) left unmoved, and which, during his absence, from Ireland, left her to die of cold and hunger in a tenement house, and be buried in a pauper’s grave.

“In the summer of 1843,” writes Dr. Madden, “accompanied by Anne Devlin, I proceeded to Butterfield Lane, to ascertain the fact of the existence or non-existence of 284the house in which Robert Emmet had resided in 1803. For a length of time our search was fruitless. The recollection of a locality at the expiration of forty years is a very dim sort of reminiscence. There was no house in the lane the exterior of which reminded my conductress of her old scene of suffering. At length her eye caught an old range of buildings at some distance, like the offices of a farmhouse. This she at once recognised as part of the premises of her father, and she was soon able to point out the well-known fields around it, which had once been in her father’s possession. The house, alongside of which we were standing, on the right-hand side of the lane going from Rathfarnham road, she said must be the house of Mr. Emmet, though the entrance was entirely altered; however, the position of an adjoining house left little doubt in her mind. We knocked at the door, and I found the house was inhabited by a lady of my acquaintance, the daughter of a Protestant clergyman, who had been, strange to say, the college friend and most intimate acquaintance of Robert Emmet, the late Dr. Hayden, of Rathcoole.

“The lady of the house, in whom I discovered an acquaintance, left us in no doubt on the subject of the locality—we were in the house that had been tenanted by Robert Emmet. The scene that ensued is one more easily conceived than described. We were conducted over the house—my aged companion at first in silence, and then as if slowly awakening from a dream, rubbing her dim eyes, and here and there pausing for some moments when she came to some recognised spot. On the ground floor she pointed out a small room, on the left-hand of the entrance—‘That’s the room where Mr. Dowdall and Mr. Hamilton used to sleep.’ The entrance has been changed from about the centre to the right-hand end; the window of a small room there has been converted into the door-way, and the room itself into the hall. ‘This,’ 285said Anne Devlin, ‘was my room; I know it well—my mattress used to be in that corner.’ There was one place, every corner and cranny of which she seemed to have a familiar acquaintance with, and that was the kitchen. On the upper floor, the principal bed-room at the present time attracted her particular attention; she stood for some time gazing into the room from the door-way; I asked her whose room it had been. It was a good while before I got an answer in words, but her trembling hands, and the few tears which came from a deep source, and spoke of sorrow of an old date, left no necessity to repeat that question—it was the room of Robert Emmet.

“Another on the same floor was that of Russell. They slept on mattresses on the floor—there was scarcely any furniture in the house; they often went out after dark, seldom or never in the day-time. They were always in good spirits, and Mr. Hamilton used often to sing—he was a very good singer; Mr. Robert sometimes hummed a tune, but he was no great singer, but he was the best and kindest-hearted of all the persons she had ever known; he was too good for many of those who were about him. Of Russell she spoke in terms hardly less favourable than those in which she expressed her opinions of Emmet.... At the rear of the house, in the courtyard, she pointed out the spot where she had undergone the punishment of half-hanging, and while she did so there was no appearance of emotions, such at least as one might expect recalled terror might produce, but there were very evident manifestations of another kind, of as lively a remembrance of the wrongs and outrages that had been inflicted on her, as if they had been endured but the day before, and of as keen a sense of those indignities and cruelties, as if her cowardly assailants had been before her, and those withered hands of hers had power to grapple with them.”

And then, amidst the very scenes which had been hallowed by Robert Emmet’s presence and Anne Devlin’s 286sufferings Dr. Madden heard from her lips the high, heroic tale once more.

“On July the 23rd at about eleven o’clock at night,” Anne Devlin told Dr. Madden, “Robert Emmet, Nicholas Stafford, Michael Quigley, Thomas Wylde, John Mahon, John Hevey, and the two Perrotts from Naas came to the house at Butterfield Lane. She first saw them outside of the house, in the yard; she was at that moment sending off a man on horseback with ammunition in a sack, and bottles filled with powder. She called out, ‘Who’s there?’ Robert answered, ‘It’s me, Anne.’ She said, ‘Oh, bad welcome to you, is the world lost by you, you cowards that you are, to lead the people to destruction, and then to leave them.’ Robert Emmet said, ‘Don’t blame me, the fault is not mine.’ They then came in; Quigley was present, but they did not upbraid him. Emmet and the others told her afterwards that Quigley was the cause of the failure....

“They stopped at Butterfield lane that night and next day, and at night about ten o’clock, fled to the mountains, when they got information that the house was to be searched. Her father, who kept a dairy close by, got horses for three of them, and went with them.

“Rose Hope, the wife of James Hope, had been there keeping the house also. The reason of their stopping there that night was, that Emmet expected Dwyer and the mountaineers down in the morning by break of day, but Dwyer had not got Emmet’s previous letter, and had heard of Emmet’s defeat only the next day, and therefore did not come. Mr. Emmet and his companions first went to Doyle’s in the mountains, and thence to the widow Bagenell’s. Anne Devlin and Miss Wylde, the sister of Mrs. Mahon, two or three days after, went up to the mountains in a jingle with letters for them. They found 287Robert Emmet and his associates at the Widow Bagenell’s, sitting on the side of the hill; some of them were in their uniform, for they had no other clothes.

“Robert Emmet insisted on coming back with her and her companion, he parted with them before they came to Rathfarnham, but she knows not where he went that night, but in a day or two after he sent her to take a letter to Miss Curran; he was then staying at Mrs. Palmer’s, at Harold’s Cross.

“The day after ... a troop of yeomen came with a magistrate, and searched the house. Every place was ransacked from top to bottom. As for herself she was seized on when they first rushed in, as if they were going to tear down the house. She was kept below by three or four of the yeomen with their fixed bayonets pointed at her, and so close to her body that she could feel their points. When the others came down she was examined. She said she knew nothing in the world about the gentlemen, except that she was the servant maid; where they came from, where they went to, she knew nothing about; and so long as her wages were paid she cared to know nothing else about them.

“The magistrate pressed her to tell the truth—he threatened her with death if she did not tell; she persisted in asserting her total ignorance of Mr. Ellis’s acts and movements, and of those of the other gentlemen. At length the magistrate gave the word to hang her, and she was dragged into the courtyard to be executed. There was a common car there—they tilted up the shafts and fixed a rope from the backband that goes across the shafts, and while these preparations were making for her execution, the yeomen kept her standing against the wall of the house, prodding her with their bayonets in the arms and shoulders till she was all covered with blood, and saying to her at every thrust of the bayonet, ‘Will you confess now; will you tell now where is Mr. Ellis?’ Her 288constant answer was, ‘I have nothing to tell, I will tell nothing.’

“The rope was at length put about her neck; she was dragged to the place where the car was converted into a gallows; she was placed under it, and the end of the rope was passed over the backband. The question was put to her for the last time, ‘Will you confess where Mr. Ellis is?’ Her answer was, ‘You may murder me, you villains, but not one word about him will you ever get from me.’ She had just time to say, ‘The Lord Jesus have mercy on my soul,’ when a tremendous shout was raised by the yeomen; the rope was pulled by all of them except those who held down the back part of the car, and in an instant she was suspended by the neck. After she had been thus suspended for two or three minutes her feet touched the ground, and a savage yell of laughter recalled her to her senses. The rope round her neck was loosened, and her life was spared—she was let off with half-hanging. She was then sent to town, and brought before Major Sirr.

“No sooner was she brought before Major Sirr, than he, in the most civil and coaxing manner, endeavoured to prevail on her to give information respecting Robert Emmet’s place of concealment. The question continually put to her was, ‘Well, Anne, all we want to know is, where did he go to from Butterfield lane?’ He said he would undertake to obtain for her the sum (he did not call it reward) of £500, which he added, ‘was a fine fortune for a young woman,’ only to tell against persons who were not her relations; that all the others had confessed the truth—which was not true—and that they were sent home liberated, which was also a lie.”

Dr. Madden said to her with pretended seriousness, “You took the money, of course.” Her indignant answer, accompanied by a look to which Dr. Madden felt only a painter could do justice—was “Me take the money—the 289price of Mr. Robert’s blood! No; I spurned the rascal’s offer.”

“The major went on coaxing, trying to persuade her to confess. He said everything had been told him by one of her associates. Nay, what’s more, he repeated word for word, what she had said to Mr. Robert the night of the 23rd, when he came back to Butterfield lane—‘Bad welcome to you, etc.’ One of the persons present with him then must have undoubtedly been an informer. After she had been some time in Kilmainham, Mr. Emmet was arrested and sent to that prison. Dr. Trevor had frequently talked to her about him, but she never ‘let on’ that she had any acquaintance with him. At this time she was kept in solitary confinement for refusing to give information. One day the doctor came and spoke to her in a very good-natured way, and said she must have some indulgence, she must be permitted to take exercise in the yard. The turnkey was ordered to take her to the yard, and he accordingly did so; but when the yard-door was open, who should she see walking very fast up and down the yard, but Mr. Robert. She thought she would have dropped. She saw the faces of people watching her at a grated window that looked into the yard, and her only dread was that Mr. Robert on recognising her would speak to her; but she kept her face away, and walked up and down on the other side; and when they had crossed one another several times, at last they met at the end. She took care, when his eyes met hers, to have a frown on her face, and her finger raised to her lips. He passed on as if he had never seen her—but he knew her well; and the half smile that came over his face, and passed off in a moment, could hardly have been observed except by one who knew every turn of his countenance. The doctor’s plot failed, she was taken back to her cell, and there was no more taking of air or exercise then for her.

“She was in Kilmainham, a close prisoner, when Robert 290Emmet was executed. She was kept locked up in a solitary cell, and indeed always, with a few exceptions, was kept so during her confinement the first year. The day after his execution she was taken from gaol to the Castle, to be examined, through Thomas Street. The gaoler had given orders to stop the coach at the scaffold where Robert Emmet was executed. It was stopped there, and she was forced to look at his blood, which was still plain enough to be seen sprinkled over the deal boards.

“At the latter end of her confinement, some gentlemen belonging to the Castle had come to the gaol and seen her in her cell. She told them her sad story, and it was told by them to the lord lieutenant. From that time her treatment was altogether different; she was not only allowed the range of the woman’s ward, but was permitted to go outside the prison, and three or four times, accompanied by her sister and Mrs. Dwyer and one of the turnkeys, was taken to the Spa at Lucan for the benefit of her health; for she was then crippled in her limbs, more dead than alive, hardly able to move hand or foot.

“At length Mr. Pitt died; it was a joyful day for Ireland. The prisons were thrown open where many an honest person had lain since the month of July, 1803.”

Anne Devlin’s narrative to Dr. Madden did not exhaust the full tale of her sufferings. There is no mention in it of the fact that the whole of her family, except one sister and a brother who were mere children, had been thrown into prison, and their property ruined. As there was no place for the little brother to go he found refuge in his father’s cell in gaol. But the consolation of his boy’s company was not left long to old Brian Devlin. Some communication having been discovered between 291him and his daughter, the latter was removed from the new to the old gaol. Some time after, the boy, then sick of a fever, was taken in the night from his father’s cell and made to walk the mile which separated the new from the old gaol. Here he died in circumstances which were looked on as very suspicious.

So atrocious was the treatment meted out to Anne Devlin by Dr. Trevor that the other prisoners made special mention of it in a Memorial they presented to Lord Hardwicke: “His treatment,” they stated, “of all, but especially of one unfortunate State prisoner, a female, is shocking to humanity, and exceeds credibility. He drives, through exasperation, the mind to madness, of which instances have already occurred.”

Of what befel Anne Devlin when, broken in health and crippled in limb, she was at length liberated from Kilmainham we have no record. We must fill in for ourselves the main features of the forty years that elapsed before Dr. Madden discovered her in the old washerwoman, married to a poor labourer in “a stable yard” off John’s Lane. Poverty, sickness, grinding toil, hunger often, and want of every kind: these were her portion through those long years of misery.

She might have had a different portion. She might have said the one little word her captors wanted her to say. She might have stretched out her hands for their five hundred golden guineas, and walked forth that moment a free woman. She might have seen her father’s fields restored to him and his business flourishing; and she, herself, the well-dowered daughter of the prosperous dairyman, would surely have found a husband—not too squeamish about the origin of his wife’s fortune—to keep her in comfort all the days of her life. She might have had all that most men hold most dear—as the price of a single word.

She chose instead—what seemed certain death, and 292then torture of every description, both corporal and mental, until in the vile prison cell, the strong mind snapped, and the vigorous body broke. But the will, faithful to the end, never faltered.

The end of her story is told in a letter published by Dr. Madden in the Nation of September 27th, 1851:—

“Four years ago an appeal was made in the Nation on behalf of Anne Devlin, which was in some small degree responded to—very, very inadequately, however. Afterwards we lost sight of her entirely. So it seems did others of her friends until it was too late. But last week, a gentleman who always took the warmest interest in this noble creature, was informed that she was still living in a miserable garret of No. 2 Little Elbow Lane, a squalid alley running from the Coombe to Pimlico. On this day week he sought that wretched abode, but she had died two days previously, and had been buried in Glasnevin on the preceding day. A young woman with an ill-fed infant in her arms, apparently steeped in poverty, but kindly-looking and well-mannered, in whose room Anne Devlin had lodged, said: ‘The poor creature, God help her, it was well for her she was dead. There was a coffin got from the Society for her, and she was buried the day before.’ To the enquiry, what complaint she had died of, the answer was—‘She was old and weak indeed, but she died mostly of want. She had a son, but he was not able to do much for her, except now and then to pay her lodging, which was fivepence a week. He lived away from her, and so did her daughter, who was a poor widow, and was hard enough set to get a living for herself. About ten or twelve days ago a gentleman (she believed of the name of Meehan) called there, and gave the old woman something. Only for this she would not have lived as long as she did. She was very badly off, not only for food, 293but for bed-clothes. Nearly all the rags she had went at one time or another, to get her a morsel of bread.’”[102]

102.  Dr. Madden has with delicate reticence veiled his own charity to Anne Devlin. It was during one of his absences abroad that she was lost sight of immediately before her death. The gentleman “of the name of Meehan” referred to in poor Anne’s landlady’s statement was Rev. C. P. Meehan, the historian. Father Meehan, Edward Kennedy (Miles Byrne’s half-brother), and Dr. Madden—let us remember their three names with gratitude, because out of their own scanty means, they tried to save the Irish nation from the disgrace of allowing Anne Devlin to die of hunger.

“It is a hard service they take, who help the Poor Old Woman.... But for all that they think themselves well paid.”



Some Other Romances of ’Ninety-Eight

“A pity beyond all telling
Is hid in the heart of love.”—Yeats.

“LOVE and pain and death”—these, in the final analysis, are the substructure of life, and when some great force tears apart the concealing surface, the revelation which makes plain one of them, discovers the inevitable comradeship of the others. So when the mighty cataclysm of ’Ninety-Eight revealed the Pain and Death which are two of the foundations of life, there was revealed also, with a clearness which ordinary times know not, the third foundation, Love.

When we think of Betsy Grey, it is as the heroine of a very tender and sorrowful love-story. She was the daughter of a well-to-do farmer called Hans Grey, and was born near Granshaw, a few miles from Bangor, Co. Down. Her mother died when she was young, and her father, anxious to make up the loss as far as in him lay, sent his beautiful girl to one of the best boarding schools of the time. She returned, a lovely, high-spirited, clever, thoughtful girl, extremely well-educated and accomplished, and ardently interested in the burning questions of the day. Willie Boal, a young farmer of the district, speedily lost his heart to his charming neighbour, and when he found that his patriotic dreams for Ireland were shared by her, his love quickened and deepened. Willie Boal and Betsy’s brother, George Grey, were sworn United 298Men, and it is believed that Betsy, like so many other women of those times, had also taken the test.

When the men of Down took the field in June, ’98, Betsy sought a place in their embattled ranks. Father and brother and lover set themselves to oppose her, and, as the best means of escaping her importunities, George and Willie stole away to the muster at Ballynahinch, without letting her know of their departure. When she discovered it, she went out into the yard, yoked her mare to a cart, filled the latter, with bread, butter and cheese, and gallantly set off unaccompanied. She arrived at the hill of Ednavady on the night of June the 12th, and the next day took part in the battle. The popular memory has preserved a vision of her, a bright-faced, beautiful girl, dressed in green silk, mounted on her gallant mare, and brandishing her burnished sword above her head, while side by side with Munroe she led one victorious charge after another.

Unfortunately the success attained by the contingents on her side of the field was not general, and the close of the battle saw the patriots routed from the field.

Betsy, in company with her brother, and her sweetheart, gained a rough tract of country, all broken with rocks and furze. Here they were overtaken by a party of Annahilt yeomen, and all three ruthlessly butchered.

The bodies lay there all day, but at nightfall, the wife of the farmer on whose land the tragedy had occurred, stole out with her little son—and kind and reverent hands laid Betsy with her brother and lover in their grave “in the vale of Ballycreen,” which even to-day is a place of patriotic pilgrimage.

Both Dr. Madden and W. J. Fitzpatrick make frequent mention of Miss Moore (afterwards Mrs. MacCready), and often quote her authority for some of the most interesting 299episodes they relate. She was the daughter of James Moore, a wealthy merchant, with two large establishments in Thomas Street. She was educated in a convent at Tours, France, and before the outbreak of the French Revolution had made her return to Ireland necessary, had acquired an unusual mastery of the French language. In Dublin her beauty, set off by her French toilettes, and her cleverness, set off by her French education, made something of a sensation, and she had many suitors. The favoured one was Dr. MacNevin. Madden says that it was she who administered the United Irishmen’s oath to him, and in this connection he reveals her romance. “There can be now no impropriety in stating that the attachment which subsisted between MacNevin and Miss Moore was not solely a political one, and that there was a very ardent desire on the part of the former to make the fair Roland of her day, an Irishwoman legally united to him.” Miss Moore herself had taken the oath from John Cormick, of Thomas Street, and she informed Dr. Madden that, to her own knowledge, several women were sworn members of the Society.

She was often employed in bringing messages to the societies from Lord Edward, and not unfrequently passed through the streets in Dr. Adrien’s carriage, as a patient, with her arm bandaged and blood on her clothes. Lord Edward was a great friend of her father’s, and stayed at their house more than once, during the time he was in hiding, passing as her French tutor.

About May the 16th, Lord Edward being then under their roof (while the Government Proclamation offered £1,000 reward for his arrest), a carpenter called Tuite happened to be doing some repairs in Dublin Castle. He heard the Under-Secretary, Cooke, say that James Moore’s house was to be searched, and he made an excuse to leave the Castle and warn Mr. Moore. As the latter had not only Lord Edward—but a commissariat for about 300500 men on his premises—he thought the further he could get away from Dublin the better; so he fled to the banks of the Boyne, leaving his wife and daughter to provide for the Commander-in-Chief. Miss Moore, who, of course, had no reason to distrust Francis Magan, thought that there could be no safer place for the fugitive than in Magan’s house on Usher’s Island. She accordingly arranged with Magan for his reception there, and “for safety sake” it was suggested by Magan that, instead of coming in by his front door, the party accompanying Lord Edward were to seek admittance through his stables in Island Street. On the evening determined on, Mrs. and Miss Moore, accompanied by the latter’s “French tutor” (Lord Edward), and escorted by Mr. Moore’s confidential clerk, Gallagher, and his friend, Palmer (in reality Lord Edward’s bodyguard), set off for an evening stroll. They were met by Major Sirr and his men, who had (as, of course, we know now) got the word from Magan. A conflict ensued, in which Sirr fell to the ground and Gallagher was wounded, but Lord Edward and Miss Moore got off. She conveyed him to Murphy’s, the feather merchant’s, and returned home satisfied of his safety for the present.

The next day Magan called on her, ostensibly to enquire why his expected guest had not turned up, and professing the most genuine concern for him. Miss Moore told him the whole story of their encounter of the night before, and, still, of course, suspecting nothing, informed Magan that Lord Edward was at Murphy’s. Magan at once communicated the tidings to his employers—and that evening Lord Edward was taken up.

On one occasion during these troubled times, Dr. Gahan, the Augustinian, was visiting the Moores. Miss Moore had accompanied him to the hall, and was seeing him out when a great double knock came to the door. When it was opened, a body of soldiers marched in. Dr. Gahan 301stood politely aside to let them pass, but the brutes seized the poor old man and suspended him by the queue to a hook in the warehouse, while they proceeded to search the house. Miss Moore cut him down, and then made off as swiftly as she could to warn the Directory, who were holding a meeting in James’s Gate. They escaped by a window opening into a neighbouring tanyard. As she returned, a soldier saw her, called her a vile name, and made a lunge at her with his bayonet. She stooped and thus saved herself, but the bayonet cut her shoulder. At that moment a shot rang out, and her assailant fell dead. A bullet from the gun of one of the best snipers the United Irishmen had in their ranks, had laid him low. Subsequently her father was arrested, and lodged in Birmingham Tower in the Castle. Miss Moore gave £500 to the doctor attending the prisoners to certify that her father was insane. Major Sirr was rather sceptical as to James Moore’s insanity, but the latter acted his part so convincingly that he was released.

Owing perhaps to the circumstance that the particulars of the lives of Dr. MacNevin and Mrs. MacCready were furnished to Madden and Fitzpatrick respectively, by a daughter in the one case, and a son in the other, no mention of this romance of their early life occurs in either narrative. We are left to conjecture the reasons why it ended as it did. On March 12th, 1798, Dr. MacNevin was arrested with the other leaders, and for the next four years he was kept a prisoner, first in Dublin and afterwards in Fort George. Did old James Moore, who, for all his attachment to the Cause, had the bump of prudence and caution well developed, take the opportunity of the doctor’s long exile to marry his daughter to Mr. MacCready? That might well be. In 1810 Dr. MacNevin, then in successful practice in America, married Mrs. Jane Margaret Tom, widow of a New York merchant, and sister of his intimate friend, Mr. Richard Riker.

302Another heroine of a ’98 romance is Maria Steele, the “Stella” of John Sheares’s love verses. It was from her that Dr. Madden learned much of the information he has embodied in his memoir of the ill-fated brothers. The question of using or withholding her name in connection with the sad story was left by the lady to Dr. Madden’s own discretion. “Exercising,” as he states, “that judgment to the best of my ability, and with all the consideration that would be due to the feelings of that most estimable lady were she living, and that I owe to her memory now that she is no more, I give her name without reserve; because I feel in all sincerity that the name of Maria Steele will be associated with that of John Sheares, as that of Sarah Curran is with Robert Emmet’s; and that these names will be remembered with tenderness and pity.”

It was in 1794 that John Sheares first became acquainted with Maria Steele, the elder daughter of the deceased Sir R. Parker Steele. The widowed Lady Steele and her girls were then living in Merrion Square, not very far from the Baggot Street residence of the Sheareses. In the early part of 1798 John Sheares made formal proposals to Lady Steele for her daughter’s hand, but though Maria’s mother was very fond of the young man, and he was on the most affectionate and familiar footing with her, the impression she had gathered of his religious sentiments made her refuse to entrust her child’s future to him. This decision is held responsible for having thrown John more violently into politics, than had hitherto been the case.

As for Maria’s own feelings there is no doubt but that they were deeply engaged. Up to her latest hour she never mentioned his name “without tenderness and sorrow”; she treasured the piteous little relics which were associated with her brief romance. He had been lying for nearly forty years in the tragic vaults of St. 303Michan’s, when she sketched the portrait of him which adorns Madden’s pages. That picture is so lifelike because love guided the artist’s hand. Mary McCracken’s portrait of Thomas Russell, and Maria Steele’s of John Sheares, these two, are painted under the same inspiration. I find infinite pathos in the lines with which Maria, then an old woman, accompanied the copies of the papers in her possession which she had promised to Dr. Madden: “I should have sent the originals of these sad memorials to you had I suspected that I could still feel as I felt while copying them. I thought age and infirmity had made me a better philosopher. Three of these have never been opened except when you saw them, for more than thirty-four years.”

The romance of Surgeon Lawless, the friend of John Sheares, and Miss Evans does not, strictly speaking, belong to ’98. But it is connected with it by sufficiently close ties to justify its inclusion here.

William Lawless, a distinguished Dublin surgeon, and a relative of Lord Cloncurry’s, was a close friend of Lord Edward’s, and like the Sheareses, whose neighbour and intimate he was, became very active in the Cause after the arrest of the leaders at Bond’s on March 12th. On the Saturday on which Lord Edward was arrested (May 19) Surgeon Lawless received information at the College of Surgeons from his colleague, Surgeon Dease, that he was about to be taken up. He accordingly made arrangements to escape to France. He is said to have made his way on board a vessel in the disguise of a butcher’s man carrying a side of beef, and in this capacity met Major Sirr himself on the quays!

Arrived in France, he entered the Army and made a great career for himself in the Napoleonic campaigns. Miles Byrne makes frequent mention of him, and it is to Byrne we owe our knowledge of the pretty romance of his marriage.

304Among the Irish exiles then resident in Paris the family of Hampden Evans[103] was very prominent. As Mr. Evans had a large fortune, and was hospitality itself, he loved to gather his fellow-countrymen around him; and among those who visited his house frequently was William Lawless. With him Mary Evans fell in love; but so well did she keep her secret that neither he nor any of her family suspected it, and he marched away with his regiment without a word of affection on either side. Shortly after came the news of the siege of Flushing by the English, with the destruction of the Irish battalion defending it, and the death of its Commander, William Lawless. “Mary Evans fell ill, and for more than six weeks her life was despaired of.... Mrs. Tone being in the habit of going to Mr. Hampden Evans’s house, and being on the most intimate terms with his daughters, might have suspected something of Miss Evans’s secret, but this secret was only divulged when she heard the man she loved was no more. She then told her mother, saying life to her now was not worth preserving, and wondering how Mrs. Tone could have survived the death of her heroic husband....”

103.  Hampden Evans was an exile of ’98.

But Commandant Lawless was not dead; and one day the gallant tale of how he had saved, at Walcheren, the French colours and the Eagle entrusted by the Emperor to the Irish Brigade, reached Paris. He had wrapped the flag round his body, plunged into the waves, and swam to an open boat a considerable distance from the shore; “then proudly exhibiting the standard of France amid a shower of bullets from the beach he bore it off in triumph.” For this exploit Lawless was named by the Emperor, knight of the Legion of Honour, and Lieutenant-Colonel of the Irish regiment, and the year after, full Colonel of it.

On receipt of the news, “Mr. Evans begged his friend, John Sweetman, to come to the house to prepare his 305daughter by degrees to learn the joyful news, lest a sudden communication of it might be injurious to her.... That evening at tea, Mr. Sweetman, as usual, was asked the news of the day, Miss Evans lying on the sofa, and listening to the conversation. He said that it was reported in some of the newspapers that officers believed to have been killed at Flushing had escaped to Antwerp, their names not being given. On the following day he was more explicit, and then the conversation was turned to some other topic. The next evening Sweetman came to tell them that a Lieutenant O’Reilly, of the Irish regiment, was one of those who had arrived at Antwerp. ‘Then,’ said Miss Evans, ‘perhaps Mr. Lawless is not dead.’ The whole family expressed their opinion that as he and Lieutenant O’Reilly were great friends, they probably escaped together.”

The rest of the charming story is soon told. The following day Mr. Hampden Evans learned from John Sweetman that Commandant Lawless had arrived in Paris, but was confined to bed with an attack of Flushing fever. Mr. Evans lost no time in calling on him, and making him acquainted with his daughter’s sentiments. Matters were soon arranged for a speedy marriage, “and then Miss Evans was allowed to read all the newspapers containing the orders of the day of the army at Antwerp, giving an account of Commandant Lawless’s arrival there, with the colours and eagle of the Irish regiment; of his brilliant conduct during the siege of Flushing, his miraculous escape from thence, etc., etc.”

In those days among the Irish in France it was difficult to think of Lawless without thinking of his bosom friend, John Tennant. These two were true brothers-in-arms. “They were named captains the same day in 1803 at the organisation of the Irish Legion. In 1813, at Sonenberg, in Silesia, when Lawless was colonel, commanding the Irish regiment, Tennant was chef de bataillon. On August 306the 19th, 1813, Tennant was killed in our hollow square, literally cut in two by a cannon ball, and on August 21st, the second day after, Colonel Lawless, at the passage of the Bober, at the town of Sonenberg, and in the presence of Napoleon, had his leg shot off by a cannon ball. “It was my painful and melancholy duty,” writes Miles Byrne, “to get the grenadiers to dig a grave for poor Tennant, after we had retaken our position and beaten the enemy off the field of battle.... Whilst the men were preparing the grave, Colonel Lawless never ceased weeping, and indeed both the officers and men who were present were much affected, and shed tears of sorrow over poor Tennant’s grave.”

Poor Tennant’s romance had been of a less happy character than his friend’s. In the early days of the United Irishmen he had become devotedly attached to the beautiful Miss Hazlett, the story of whose early death has been already narrated in the chapter on the Sisters of ’Ninety-Eight. Writing of her thirty years after, Charles Teeling feels the tears starting to his eyes at the memory of the “youth, innocence, beauty” consigned thus untimely to the tomb.... Never shall I forget the impression which this mournful event [i.e. the death of Miss Hazlett] caused in the circle of our little commonwealth. The lovely subject of our distress had been endeared to us all, not less by the sweetness of her disposition than the fascinating powers of a cultivated mind. Her brother’s happiness was the object of her most anxious concern, but the benevolent feelings of her heart extended to every soul in distress.”

Charles Teeling, with a delicate reticence which is characteristic, has merely hinted at his own romance, and said nothing of his brother’s. The object of Charles’s devotion was Miss Catherine Carolan, daughter of Dr. James Carolan, of Carrickmacross. The glimpses we get of the Carolans are interesting, and make us long to know 307more of them. The celebrated harper, Arthur O’Neill, tells us of a visit he paid to Dr. Carolan’s hospitable house in Carrickmacross, when he was on his bardic rounds; and Mr. Denis Carolan Rushe, the doctor’s descendant, has in his possession a copy of a religious rule of life, drawn up for her own observance by another daughter of the Doctor’s, a sister of Catherine’s. These two facts indicate a household where all the best characteristics of true Irish Catholic gentlefolk—their hospitality, their love for, and generous patronage of art, their deep sense of religion—were carefully cultivated.

Of Bartle Teeling’s devotion to Lady Lucy Fitzgerald, and of the ring she gave him, we have already spoken elsewhere.

Mary Anne McCracken’s unreturned love for Thomas Russell is among the most pathetic romances of ’Ninety-Eight. He may have loved another better; but it is her name we join with his, when we stand in Downpatrick, beside the tomb she made for him; and perhaps it is because her love has written itself in them that the words she has chosen for the inscription move us so strangely, in their austere simplicity:

“The Grave of Russell.”



Some Obscure Heroines of ’Ninety-Eight

“All Ulster over, the weemen cried
For the stanin’ crops in the lan’.
Many a sweetheart an’ many a bride
Wud liefer ha’ gone till where he died,
An’ murned her lone by her man.”—Florence Wilson.

AFTER the defeat of the insurgent army at Antrim, the yeomen were let loose in the country, and the most terrible outrages committed. Cannon were trained on the houses situated in what is known as “the Scotch quarter,” in Antrim town, and a shot having struck one of them, the inmates of the neighbouring house, a man called Quin, and his lovely sixteen-year-old daughter, made their escape from their home, and crossing the garden, made towards Belmount. They were pursued by the yeomen, shot dead, and buried where they fell. So shallow was the grave made for them that for several days after, the long beautiful hair of the girl, which was only partially covered, was seen waving in the wind.

The gentleman who related this incident to Dr. Madden noted that it excited more sympathy among the poor people than many horrid barbarities of the time. I think we can understand why it should be so. Even, at this distance of time, one cannot think of the long golden hair of the murdered girl, tossing in the wind above her shallow grave, without being gripped by the sense of pity and tragedy in a most poignant way—and feeling that here we have found the very heart of the sorrow of ’Ninety-Eight.

312In the same way, it seems to me, that it is in the story of the more obscure heroines that sentiment is most inherent. The stories of the other women with which we have dealt have left us, after all, with an overwhelming feeling of “the glorious pride” of ’Ninety-Eight. But for the “sorrow” which also fills its name, we must go to the “short and simple annals of the poor.”

Very pitiful is the story, told by Cloney, of the fate of a woman called Fitzpatrick and her husband in Kilcomney. Like the other defenceless inhabitants of Kilcomney, a hundred and forty of whom were murdered that day by the yeomanry under Sir Charles Asgill, their sole “offence” was that the insurgent army had passed through their district on its retreat from Scollagh Gap. When the butchering “yeos” entered the cabin of Patrick Fitzpatrick, the poor wife, with her baby in her arms, ran to her husband’s side, and while she was endeavouring to protect him, a volley was poured into them, and they fell dead at the same moment. “The cabin was then set fire to as a matter of course over the heads of the children of this unfortunate couple—six in number; and five of them, ‘poor innocent creatures,’ ran into the house of a neighbour, who had escaped the massacre, one of them crying out, ‘My daddy is killed—my mammy is killed—and the pigs are drinking their blood.’ A poor woman of the name of Kealy, an aunt of theirs, took the children home, and when her scanty means were exhausted for their support, she became a beggar to get them bread; the neighbours helped her, they gave her assistance, and God, in His mercy to her, enabled her to bring them up.” “There may be no space,” writes Madden with that quick sentiment of his for heroic deeds which gives to his work an atmosphere so inspiring, “in the records of the noble deeds of women for the goodness of this poor creature; but her conduct will not be forgotten, at all events, on that day when virtue is destined to receive its 313own exceeding great reward—the awful recompense of all its sufferings and sacrifices here below, and when the man of blood will find no act of indemnity available for his sanguinary and inhuman deeds.”

On June the 3rd, 1798, occurred the massacre of Gibbet Rath—“the place of slaughter”—on the Curragh of Kildare. There the insurgents, who had entered into terms with General Dundas, assembled, according to stipulation, to lay down their arms and receive the “protections” which were to enable them to return to their homes without further molestation. Suddenly on their unarmed ranks fell Sir James Duff with his cavalry, and Lord Roden’s “Fox-Hunters,” and the slaughter began. “Three hundred and fifty men, admitted into the king’s peace, and promised his protection, were mowed down in cold blood.”

Let us turn our eyes for a moment from that bloody “Place of Slaughter,” where the gory corpses of their men lay all through that bright June day, to the cabins where the women vainly awaited them through its slowly passing hours. To help us to realise the scenes that must have taken place in many of them, we have the story, related by Fitzpatrick, of Mrs. Denis Downey, the grandmother of Canon O’Hanlon, the distinguished hagiologist.

She was a young wife, with two little children, when the “word” came which called her husband to the fight. As their home in Grey Abbey near Kildare was attacked by the soldiers, she and her babies took refuge at her parents’ house near the River Barrow. The day before that fixed for the surrender of the insurgents, it was said that Lord Roden’s “Fencibles” (or “Fox-Hunters”) paraded the streets of Kildare, mad with drink, and carrying articles of apparel on the end of their bayonets, shouted “we are the boys who will slaughter the croppies to-morrow at the Curragh.” On this account a great many of the insurgents wisely stayed away. Unfortunately 314Denis Downey was not one of them. Mounted on a fine horse he presented himself with his comrades. When the massacre began he leaped on his horse, and in all probability would have made good his escape, had he not stopped to take up a relative. A bullet found him, and he fell dead from the saddle. His riderless horse, which had been stabled at his father-in-law’s place, galloped thither, mad with terror.

That night his wife, who had felt all day the most harrowing presentiment of impending woe, had a dream of her husband lying weltering in his blood. Her wild cries roused the household, and her father, finding his efforts at comfort unavailing, finally determined to go out and seek for news. At the end of the lane leading from his house to the highway he met his son-in-law’s riderless horse, saddled and bridled and covered with foam—and the early June dawn discovered groups of country people passing along the highway with faces and gestures and voices, all eloquent of some dreadful tragedy. “What news from the Curragh?” he asked a group which passed. “Bad news, bad news,” came the answer like some tragic chorus, “our friends were all slaughtered on the Curragh, to-day.”

When her father came home with his tidings, Mrs. Downey insisted on getting out one of the carts, and proceeding to the place of the slaughter to search for her husband’s body—for she was quite convinced that her dream was true, and she would find him among the slain. She came at last to the bloody plain, and found it littered with corpses. She turned over two hundred dead bodies before she discovered her husband’s. She laid him in the cart, covered him with straw and a quilt, and proceeded to the house of a relative to wake him. But the word had gone round that wherever a rebel corpse should be found the house sheltering it would be burned by the “yeos.” Without waiting even for a coffin, the broken-hearted 315young widow had to wrap her man in a sheet, and so see him laid in the hastily made grave. When quieter days came and she was able to return to the home he had made for her, she found it a wreck. She sold her farm and went to live in Monasterevan.

Her story presents to our imagination the tragedy of the “Widows of the Massacres” in concrete form. But it is the story of only one woman. Think of it as multiplied by the number of all the women who were left desolate on that day—and estimate the sum of woman’s misery caused by that one day alone—if our hearts dare!

Think of the women left desolate by the wholesale massacre of Carnew, of Gorey, of New Ross, of Enniscorthy, of Carrigrew, of Killoughrim Woods—and estimate these contributions to the sum of woman’s misery—if our hearts dare!

To renew our courage, it is time to tell a tale with a happier ending, though it, too, has to do with one of the most horrible massacres which disgraced the period—the Massacre of Dunlavin.

One day, Captain Saunders of Saunders’ Grove, reviewing his yeomanry, suddenly announced that he knew those who were United Irishmen among them, and ordered them to fall out. About thirty-six of them did; but the others, imitating the example of one Pat Doyle (who had had word of what was forward from the Captain’s brother) stayed in their places. The thirty-six who had “given themselves away,” were locked up in the market-house of Dunlavin, and on the Fair Day of Dunlavin, they were marched out to a hollow near the Catholic Church, while a number of Ancient Britons were posted on a height at some little distance. The word was given; the Ancient Britons fired—and the men fell in their blood, amid the shrieks and groans of the bystanders, among whom were their widows and relatives.

316Among the victims was a man named Prendergast. In his case the ball made two orifices, but he had sufficient presence of mind before he lost consciousness, to detach his cravat and stop the blood of one orifice with it, while his clenched hand acted as a styptic for the other. A brave girl happened to see the motion, and she found an opportunity to staunch the wounds with her shawl, while she went off to Prendergast’s house, whence she presently returned with his brother, leading a horse and cart. They put the wounded man into the cart, covered him with bloody straw and carried him back to his widowed mother’s home. News reached Saunders that “some of the croppies were getting alive again,” so he sent back the Ancient Britons to finish their work, and hack and gash any of the bodies which might possibly harbour a spark of life. He then proceeded to Prendergast’s house, and genially addressed the widow. “Well, widow, I hear that that croppy scoundrel of a son of yours is living still.” “Yes, your honour,” said the poor woman, “the Lord has been pleased to grant the poor boy a longer day.” “Come on now,” said his Honour, forcing his way into the house, “I will put him out of pain; he can’t possibly recover, and your time can’t be taken up by attending on him.” The poor mother found strength to hold the great brute back, while the wounded man was conveyed out of the house by some of the neighbours. An angry crowd gathered round the Captain, and he thought it better to get away. At nightfall Michael Dwyer came down from the hills and carried off young Prendergast to his eyrie. And here during many months the wounded boy was nursed by Michael Dwyer and his “Mountain Mary”—and he lived to marry the brave girl who had saved his life.

And this, did space permit, would be the appropriate place to tell the story of one of the bravest women of ’Ninety-Eight—Mrs. Michael Dwyer (we have already 317met her name in connection with Anne Devlin, her husband’s niece). She was a beautiful Wicklow girl, the daughter of a “strong” farmer named Doyle; but she left all the comforts of her father’s well-stocked farm to share the outlaw’s “wild and uncertain life in hill and vale, in mountain cave and fastness.” The story of her romantic marriage is the subject of a well-known and very stirring ballad which tells how:—

As the torrent bounds down from the mountain
Of cloud-helméd stormy Kaigeen
And tosses, all tawny and foaming,
Through the still glen of lone Carragean;
So dashed a bold rider of Wicklow,
With forty stout men in his train,
From the heart of the hills, where the spirit
Of Freedom had dared to remain.
Thou leader of horsemen! Why hasten
So fleetly to Brusselstown hill?
What foemen, what yeomen await thee
To question in Wicklow thy will?

But though armed to the teeth, the grey-friezed horsemen were on no business of blood to-day:

Their leader he loves a young maiden
And he’s speeding to make her his bride.

They come to the home of the bride, and presently

Mary came out in her beauty
The loveliest maid in Imale;
The loveliest flower that blossomed
In all the wild haunts of the vale.
Arrayed in an emerald habit
And the green and the white in her hair.
     *     *     *     *     *
They led out a horse on the heather;
She patted his neck with her hand,
Then sprang on his back like a feather,
And stood in the midst of the band.

318Then to the priest’s house for the wedding—

Away dashed the cavalcade fleetly,
By beauty and chivalry led,
With their carbines aflash in the sunlight
And the saucy cockades on their head!

No braver tale could be told of any woman than the story of Mary Dwyer during the years that followed. She stood by her husband, ready to endure to the end in the struggles of ’98 and ’03; she shared the horrors of the prison ship that bore him into exile. She stood by his deathbed in 1805, and lived on, herself, to rear his children in a manner such that their father and their native land might be proud of them—though, alas! it was not Ireland that was to enjoy the finished work. When she died in 1861, the touching obituary notice of her in the Sydney Freeman’s Journal could say of her with truth: “All her wishes in life were accomplished before her eyes closed in death. When she lived to see her two grandchildren sheltered under the guardianship of Mother Church—one a holy young priest, the other a dweller in the peaceful shadow of the cloister, she sang her hymn of resignation, ‘Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord.’”

Another brave woman whose Nunc Dimittis was sung in a foreign land was Mrs. Gallagher. Her husband was a confidential clerk of James Moore’s, and he often acted as one of Lord Edward’s bodyguard when the Chief went abroad for any purpose during the weeks he was “on his keeping.” On the night on which Lord Edward was going to Magan’s and was met by Major Sirr, Gallagher was wounded in the encounter, which ensued with the Major’s men. He was afterwards identified through this wound, and ordered for execution. He managed, it is said, to save his life at the foot of the scaffold by his possession of the Masonic signal. He was then taken back to prison. During all this time the executions were 319proceeding in Thomas Street, and the blood from the block on which “the rebels” were beheaded and quartered flowed in such quantities that it clogged the sewers, and was licked up by the dogs. The Lady Lieutenant, passing one day, fainted at the horrible sight; and at her urgent entreaties the executions were stopped. Transportation to one of the Penal Colonies was substituted for the death-sentence. Gallagher was conveyed from his prison to one of the convict ships, heavily ironed. But by a special grace the irons were taken off him while he bade farewell to his wife, who had made her way on board to see him for the last time. She stayed on until nightfall, and before she took her departure she managed to convey to her husband one end of a coil of rope she had concealed under her cloak. The other end she carried ashore with her, as she rowed back. After her departure Gallagher was about to be ironed again, but he pleaded so eloquently for “one minute more” that it was granted him. That minute was sufficient for him to leap into the dark waters—and be towed ashore by his faithful wife. He subsequently made his escape to France in a lugger of smuggled salt—and died, in 1813, a wealthy ship-broker of Bordeaux.

Miles Byrne knew the Gallaghers very well. He tells us of meeting Mrs. Gallagher, who was then on a visit with Mrs. Thomas Addis Emmet, when he called to take leave of the latter before joining his regiment in 1803. Mrs. Gallagher he found “handsome and highly accomplished, and worthy of her patriotic husband. I had the pleasure of dining with them at Bordeaux, in 1812, when I was returning from Spain; and I was happy indeed to see them so prosperous; he was in the shipbroking trade, and he was carrying on a vast business with the Americans. Their children were growing up very handsome. Poor Gallagher’s health was then delicate. He died at Bordeaux the following year, much regretted by his countrymen and friends. To his last moment, he 320spoke of Lord Edward Fitzgerald with the greatest veneration.”

No story of the Women of ’Ninety-Eight would be complete without some mention, at least, of Rosie Hope, the heroic wife of James Hope. But in truth her life deserves a fuller account than the plan of this work now allows for her.

It was while he worked in her father’s house as a journeyman linen weaver that James Hope first met and loved Rosie Mullen. He himself has described her for us both in prose (“a young woman gifted with noble qualities, with every advantage of mind and person, she was everything in this world to me, and when I lost her, my happiness went to the grave with her. She died in 1831”); and in very tender and dainty verse, with a pretty play of words on her name:—

The Rose-Bud

In life’s sprightly morning, how pleasant the hours,
When roaming the fields, and surveying the flowers,
I picked up a rose-bud, select from the rest,
And divested of thorns, it remained in my breast.
Its fragrance refreshed me, inspiring with love,
Till that fragrance was drawn to the regions above.
And now every wish of my heart’s to repose,
In that region of love with my own little rose.

In the Shan Van Vocht of March, 1896, à propos of a letter of James Hope’s therein first published, we find an interesting editorial note: “James Hope brought his wife and younger children up from Belfast to Dublin as soon as he undertook the work of organising under Emmet, this not without a reason. Rose Hope was a valuable and courageous ally in her patriot husband’s work, and before the northern rising had helped to provide the United Men with arms and ammunition, carrying them backwards and forwards through the country as she went a marketing. The same good work she daringly undertook in Dublin, and had some narrow escapes as she 321threaded her way through the streets with the arms carefully hidden under her cloak along with her baby. This younger child was called Robert Emmet, after the patriot.” Another child was called after Henry Joy McCracken, and another Luke, after Mr. Luke Teeling. For Jamie Hope was much attached to the McCrackens and the Teelings, for both of which families he had worked.

Some of Rosie’s adventures are related by her husband. They occurred during Jamie’s absence in the North with Russell when they were trying to get Ulster to rise in support of Emmet:

“In 1803, a short time after Henry Howley’s arrest, and the death of Hanlon, who was shot by him, while the soldiers were bringing Hanlon’s body on a door, through a street in the Liberty, my wife was passing, with her youngest child in her arms, having under her cloak, a blunderbuss and a case of pistols, which she was taking to the house of Denis Lambert Redmond, who suffered afterwards. She stepped into a shop, and when the crowd had passed, she went on, and executed her orders. On another occasion, she was sent to a house in the Liberty, where a quantity of ball-cartridges had been lodged, to carry them away, to prevent ruin being brought on the house and its inhabitants. She went to the house, put them in a pillow-case, and emptied the contents into the canal, at that part of it which supplies the basin.”

“At the death of Pitt, the system underwent a change. The Castle spies were discharged, and the State prisoners set at liberty. My wife sent in a memorial to the Duke of Bedford, in her own name, acknowledging that I had fought on the side of the people, and had been driven like thousands, unwillingly to do so.” As a consequence, Hope and his family were allowed to return to the North.

Rosie Hope had been lying for more than fifteen years in her last bed in Mallusk graveyard when Dr. Madden first met Jamie Hope in the flesh. And yet he noted that 322when Hope spoke of his wife it seemed “as if he felt her spirit was hovering over him, and that it was not permitted to him to give expression to the praise which rises to his lips when her name is mentioned. There is something of refinement—rare as it is pleasing to contemplate, in the nature of his attachment—in the ties which bound him to that amiable, exemplary, and enthusiastic creature; for such she is represented to have been by those who knew her, amongst whom was Miss McCracken, of Belfast.”

The name of Rosie Hope reminds us of her friend, Miss Biddy Palmer, who with Rosie and Anne Devlin, were associated in what we of to-day should call Cumann na mBan work in the Rising of 1803. Madden says of her: “Miss Biddy Palmer, daughter of old John Palmer of Cutpurse Row, was a confidential agent both of Emmet and Russell. She was a sister of young Palmer who took a prominent part in the affairs of 1798. Biddy Palmer was a sort of Irish Madame Roland; she went about when it was dangerous for others to be seen abroad, conveying messages from Emmet, Long, Hevey, Russell, and Fitzgerald to different parties.”

One half suspects, from the way Miles Byrne speaks of Miss Palmer, that he was in love with her. Having mentioned Emmet’s “implicit confidence” in her, he adds, “and indeed no one was ever more worthy of such trust than this young lady, who had suffered severely in 1798 by her father’s imprisonment and the ruin of his affairs, her brother’s exile and death on the Continent. Still she bore up under all her misfortunes like a heroine of the olden times, and was a comfort and a consolation to her family and friends.” On the eve of Miles Byrne’s romantic escape to France he called to take farewell of Miss Palmer and her father, and she gave him a present of some French money for his viaticum.

Poor Biddy Palmer had a sad old age. Dr. Madden discovered her (she was then a Mrs. Horan) “in very 323reduced circumstances, far advanced in years, in the neighbourhood of Finsbury Square, London, earning a miserable livelihood by keeping a little school for the female children of the poor, in a neighbourhood where indigence and want abounds.”

For some reason (perhaps it was in part the long life and faithful heart of Mary McCracken and the influence she radiated around her) the North has kept a richer record of the sufferings and heroism of its obscurer women in ’98 and ’03, than other parts of the country. Some very precious reliques have been gathered up in the pages of the Shan Van Vocht, and make of them a most valuable repository of patriotic memories.

One of these tells of a sister, whose brother, with another lad, had undertaken the dangerous office of posting up Robert Emmet’s proclamation around Carnmoney, a few miles to the north of Belfast. For this they were subsequently hanged, drawn and quartered on the Gallow’s Green at Carrickfergus. At dead of night the sister, who had walked all the way from Carnmoney, was led by pitying friends to the spot where the poor mangled bodies lay. “She knelt down and with stifled sobs and much difficulty removed the clay that had been hastily piled above them. Her hand first came upon a head which by the feel of the features she thought was that of her brother. She wrapped it in her apron and carried it back to her home, so absorbed in her grief that she felt not the miles her speeding feet covered. When she arrived home, she discovered that the head she had borne on that sorrowful journey was not her brother’s, but that of the other poor lad. She retraced her steps, running between the hedgerows in her anxiety to reach the Gallow’s Green before the people should be afoot, stumbling on the uneven stones, and praying with all her tortured heart that her strength might last until her purpose should be accomplished.... She arrived at the grave, reverentially 324deposited the head back in its place, and taking up the one she had come to seek departed again for Carnmoney.”

It is to Mary McCracken that we owe our knowledge of the story of young Willie Neilson, of Ballycarry, and his poor mother. Willie, who was only fifteen years of age, had on the eve of the Antrim Rising formed one of a party which made a prisoner of a Carrickfergus pensioner called Cuthbert, and conveyed him to the Insurgent’s place of muster at Donegore Hill. For this he was arrested, court-martialled and sent to prison, where his two elder brothers were already lodged. But on account of his extreme youth neither he nor his friends anticipated any danger to his life.

At midnight he was taken from prison, and offered his freedom on condition that he should give information against the leaders at Antrim. He refused; and no amount of pressure could make him yield one inch. They told him he must die; his only request was that he might see his minister, and be allowed to say farewell to his brother, Sam. Sam Neilson expected to share Willie’s fate, but that fact did not prevent him from encouraging Willie to die rather than “inform.” Soon after daybreak the boy was taken to his native village of Ballycarry, there to die. On the way he met his poor mother, who had set out to visit the prison. When she saw him in the midst of the soldiery, she rushed towards him, and while the soldiers tried to separate them he caught her hand, and exclaimed “Oh! my mother!” But they dragged him from her arms. She threw herself at her landlord’s feet, as he rode past, in the midst of the cavalry, begging him to intercede for her boy. His only answer was, “Get out of my way, or I’ll ride over you.” They brought Willie to his mother’s door to execute him there. But, brutes as they were, they saw this would be too iniquitous, and they yielded to the boy’s prayer and took him away to the end of the village. Even then the undaunted boy had 325leisure of heart to think of his dear ones. He begged that the sacrifice of his life might expiate the offences of his brothers, and that his body should be given to his mother. The soldiers tried to make him use the bandage for his eyes. But he refused with the proud word “that he had done nothing to make him screen his face.” Then, looking as his mother always remembered him afterwards, “very handsome and fair and blooming, with his light hair tossing in the wind, and the open shirt-neck, emphasising the youth of him,” Willie Neilson went forth to his death—for Ireland.

Even in the most tragic moments of our history, a certain sense of humour has never deserted us Irish. It has helped, perhaps, to keep us sane in the midst of our woes; and it has certainly saved us from the deplorable sentimentality, which we find so trying in our Teutonic neighbours (including the Anglo-Saxon) and the emphatic bombast which tinges with insincerity our Latin cousins. We may be sure there was many a ludicrous incident in ’98, as in ’16—and the men and women of ’98 had the same faculty as their descendants of to-day of seeing the humour of the situation. Some of the jokes of ’98 are current to-day—and since laughter is as characteristic of life as weeping, I will end my book with one of them. It comes from the village of Ballyclare, and was first told in print in the Shan Van Vocht.

On the morning of the fight in Antrim the wife of Billy Morrison rose early and spread the table with the best in the house for her man’s breakfast. There were fine home-cured bacon, and eggs, and tea, and potato cake and oaten bread. When Billy had done justice to these good things, and had his wife’s assurance that his pockets were full of more of them, for the day’s provisions, he grasped his pike, and rose to go. Then did his guid wife, “in lieu 326of sentimental, or patriotic, or pious admonition,” thus address him in valediction:

“Ye hae got as guid a brekfust as ony mon in Ballyclare; sae kill naebody till they kill you, and then doe for yerself, Billy Morrison.”

One fancies that Billy Morrison gave a good account of himself that day in Antrim town, and did credit, with his strong pike arm, to his wife’s good feeding. And so it has not seemed unfitting to evoke, from the past, her homely sturdy form, and set her even by the side of the tragic figure of Willie Neilson’s widowed mother. For from the sturdiness of the one, no less than from the heroism of the other, proceeds the unconquerable spirit of Ireland.

Printed by M. H. Gill & Son, Ltd., Dublin.