Celebrated Irishmen of the Eighteenth Century—BURKE—- His School and
College Life—Early Hatred of Oppression—Johnson's Estimate of
Burke—Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful—Commencement of his
Political Career—Opinions on the American Question-English Infatuation
and Injustice—Irishmen Prominent Actors in the American Revolution—Its
Causes and Effects—Burke on Religious Toleration—Catholic
Emancipation—His Indian Policy—MOORE—His Poetry and
CHARLEMONT—Irish Artists, Authors, and Actors—SHERIDAN—Scene in the
House of Lords during the Impeachment of Warren Hastings—GOLDSMITH.

[A.D. 1700-1800.]

ach century of Irish history would require a volume of its own, if the
lives of its eminent men were recorded as they should be; but the
eighteenth century may boast of a host of noble Irishmen, whose fame is
known even to those who are most indifferent to the history of that
country. It was in this century that Burke, coming forth from the Quaker
school of Ballitore, his mind strengthened by its calm discipline, his
intellect cultivated by its gifted master, preached political wisdom to
the Saxons, who were politically wise as far as they followed his
teaching, and politically unfortunate when they failed to do so. His
public career demands the most careful consideration from every
statesman who may have any higher object in view than the mere fact of
having a seat in the cabinet; nor should it be of less interest or value
to those whose intellectual capacities are such as to enable them to
grasp any higher subject than the plot of a sensational novel. It was in
this century also that Moore began to write his world-famed songs, to
amaze the learned by his descriptions of a country which he had never
seen, and to fling out those poetical hand grenades, those pasquinades
and squibs, whose rich humour and keenly-pointed satire had so much
influence on the politics of the day. It was in this century that
Sheridan, who was the first to introduce Moore to London society,
distinguished himself at once as dramatist, orator, and statesman, and
left in his life and death a terrible lesson to his nation of the
miseries and degradations consequent on indulgence in their besetting
sin. It was in this century that Steele, the bosom friend of Addison,
and his literary equal, contributed largely to the success and
popularity of the Spectator, the Guardian, and the Tatler, though,
as usual, English literature takes the credit to itself of what has been
accomplished for it by Irish writers.[559]

Burke is, however, unquestionably both the prominent man of his age and
of his nation in that age; and happily we have abundant material for
forming a correct estimate of his character and his works. Burke was
born in Dublin, on the 1st of January, 1730. His father was an attorney
in good business, and of course a Protestant, as at that period none,
except those who professed the religion of a small minority, were
permitted to govern the vast majority, or to avail themselves of any
kind of temporal advancement. The mother of the future statesman was a
Miss Nagle, of Mallow, a descendant of whose family became afterwards
very famous as the foundress of a religious order.[560] The family
estate was at Castletown-Roche, in the vicinity of Doneraile; this
property descended to Garrett, Edmund's elder brother. A famous school
had been founded by a member of the Society of Friends at Ballitore, and
thither young Burke and his brother were sent for their education The
boys arrived there on the 26th May, 1741. A warm friendship soon sprang
up between Edmund and Richard Shackleton, the son of his master, a
friendship which only terminated with death. We have happily the most
ample details of Burke's school-days in the Annals of Ballitore, a
work of more than ordinary interest written by Mrs. Leadbeater, the
daughter of Burke's special friend. His native talent was soon developed
under the care of his excellent master, and there can be little doubt
that the tolerant ideas of his after life were learned, or at least
cultivated, at the Quaker school.

One instance of the early development of his talent for humour, and
another of his keen sense of injustice, must find record here. The
entrance of the judges to the county town of Athy was a spectacle which
had naturally special attraction for the boys. All were permitted to go,
but on condition that each of the senior pupils should write a
description of what he had seen in Latin verse. Burke's task was soon
accomplished—not so that of another hapless youth, whose ideas and
Latinity were probably on a par. When he had implored the help of his
more gifted companion, Edmund determined at least that he should
contribute an idea for his theme, but for all reply as to what he had
noticed in particular on the festal occasion, he only answered, "A fat
piper in a brown coat." However Burke's ideas of "the sublime" may have
predominated, his idea of the ludicrous was at this time uppermost; and
in a few moments a poem was composed, the first line of which only has
been preserved—

"Piper erat fattus, qui brownum tegmen habebat."

"He loved humour," writes Mrs. Leadbeater,[561] "and my father was very
witty. The two friends sharpened their intellect and sported their wit
till peals of laughter in the schoolroom often caused the reverend and
grave master to implore them, with suppressed smiles, to desist, or he
should have to turn them out, as their example might be followed, where
folly and uproar would take the place of humour and wisdom."

His hatred of oppression and injustice was also manifested about this
time. A poor man was compelled to pull down his cabin, because the
surveyor of roads considered that it stood too near the highway. The boy
watched him performing his melancholy task, and declared that, if he
were in authority, such scenes should never be enacted. How well he kept
his word, and how true he was in manhood to the good and holy impulses
of his youth, his future career amply manifests.

Burke entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1744; Goldsmith entered
college the following year, and Flood was a fellow-commoner; but these
distinguished men knew little of each other in early life, and none of
them were in any way remarkable during their academic career. In 1753
Burke arrived in London, and occupied himself in legal studies and the
pursuit of literature. His colloquial gifts and his attractive manner
won all hearts, while his mental superiority commanded the respect of
the learned. Even Johnson, who was too proud to praise others, much as
he loved flattery himself, was fain to give his most earnest word of
commendation to the young Irishman, and even admitted that he envied
Burke for being "continually the same," though he could not refrain from
having a fling at him for not being a "good listener"—a deadly sin in
the estimation of one who seldom wished to hear any other voice but his
own. Burke, sir, he exclaimed to the obsequious Boswell—Burke is such a
man, that if you met him for the first time in the street, and conversed
with him for not five minutes, he'd talk to you in such a manner, that,
when you parted, you would say that is an extraordinary man.[562]

Some essays in imitation of Dr. Charles Lucas, and a translation of part
of the second Georgic of Virgil, which, in finish of style, is, at
least, not inferior to Dryden, were among the earliest efforts of his
gifted pen; and, no doubt, these and other literary occupations gave him
a faculty of expressing thought in cultivated language, which was still
further developed by constant intercourse with Johnson, ever ready for
argument, and his club, who were all equally desirous to listen when
either spoke. His Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, unfortunately
better known in the present day by its title than by its contents, at
once attracted immense attention, and brought considerable pecuniary
help to the author. But the constant pressure of intellectual labour
soon began to tell upon a constitution always delicate. His health gave
way entirely, and he appeared likely to sink into a state of physical
debility, entirely incompatible with any mental exertion. He applied for
advice to Dr. Nugent; the skilful physician saw at once that something
more was required than medicine or advice. It was one of those cases of
suffering to which the most refined and cultivated minds are especially
subjected—one of those instances which prove, perhaps, more than any
others, that poor humanity has fallen low indeed. The master-mind was
there, the brilliant gems of thought, the acute power of reasoning, that
exquisitely delicate sense of feeling, which has never yet been
accurately defined, and which probably never can be—which waits for
some unseen mystic sympathy to touch it, and decide whether the chord
shall be in minor or major key—which produces a tone of thought, now
sublime, and now brimming over with coruscations of wit from almost the
same incidents; and yet all those faculties of the soul, though not
destroyed, are held in abeyance, because the body casts the dull shadow
of its own inability and degradation over the spirit—because the spirit
is still allied to the flesh, and must suffer with it.

There was something more than perfect rest required in such a case. Rest
would, indeed, recruit the body, worn out by the mind's overaction, but
the mind also needed some healing process. Some gentle hand should
soothe the overstrained chords of thought, and touch them just
sufficiently to stimulate their action with gentlest suasion, while it
carefully avoided all that might irritate or weary. And such help and
healing was found for Burke, or, haply, from bodily debility, mental
weakness might have developed itself into mental malady; and the
irritability of weakness, to which cultivated minds are often most
subjected, might have ended, even for a time, if not wisely treated, in
the violence of lunacy. It was natural that the doctor's daughter should
assist in the doctor's work; and, perhaps, not less natural that the
patient should be fascinated by her. In a short time the cure was
perfected, and Burke obtained the greatest earthly blessing for which
any man can crave—a devoted wife, a loving companion, a wise adviser,
and, above all, a sympathizing friend, to whom all which interested her
husband, either in public or private, was her interest as much as, and,
if possible, even more than his. Burke's public career certainly opened
with happy auspices. He was introduced by the Earl of Charlemont to Mr.
Hamilton in 1759, and in 1761 he returned to Ireland in the capacity of
private secretary to that gentleman. Mr. Hamilton has acquired, as is
well known, the appellation of "single speech," and it is thought he
employed Burke to compose his oration; it is probable that he required
his assistance in more important ways. But the connexion was soon
dissolved, not without some angry words on both sides. Hamilton taunted
Burke with having taken him out of a garret, which was not true, for
Burke's social position was scarcely inferior to his own; Burke replied
with ready wit that he regretted having descended to know him.

In the year 1765, when Lord Grenville was driven from office by the
"American Question," the Marquis of Rockingham succeeded him, appointed
Burke his private secretary, and had him returned for the English
borough of Wendover. His political career commenced at this period.
Then, as now, Reform, Ireland, and America were the subjects of the day;
and when one considers and compares the politics of the eighteenth and
the nineteenth centuries, the progress of parliamentary intellectual
development is not very encouraging. The speeches of honorable members,
with some few very honorable exceptions, seem to run in the same groove,
with the same utter incapacity of realizing a new idea, or a broad and
cosmopolitan policy. There were men then, as there are men now, who
talked of toleration in one breath, and proclaimed their wooden
determination to enforce class ascendency of creed and of station in the
next. There were men who would tax fresh air, and give unfortunate
wretches poisonous drinks on the cheapest terms. There were men whose
foreign policy consisted in wringing all that could be wrung out of
dependencies, and then, when the danger was pointed out, when it was
shown that those dependencies were not only likely to resist, but were
in a position to resist—to a position in which neither shooting nor
flogging could silence, if it did not convince—they hid their heads,
with ostrich-like fatuity, in the blinding sands of their own ignorance,
and declared there could be no danger, for they could not discern it.

I have said that there were three great political questions which
occupied the attention of statesmen at that day. I shall briefly glance
at each, as they form a most important standpoint in our national
history, and are subjects of the first interest to Irishmen and to Irish
history; and as Burke's maiden speech in the House of Commons was made
in favour of conciliating America, I shall treat that question first.
The facts are brief and significant but by no means as thoroughly known
or as well considered as they should be, when we remember their
all-important results—results which as yet are by no means fully
developed.[563] The actual contest between the English nation and her
American colonies commenced soon after the accession of George III.;
but, as early as the middle of the eighteenth century, Thomas Pownal,
Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Massachusetts, South Carolina, and
New Jersey came to England, and published a work on the administration
of the colonies. He seems even then to have had a clear view of the
whole case. There is an old proverb about the last grain of rice
breaking the back of the camel, but we must remember that the load was
made up of many preceding grains. The Stamp Act and Tea Duty were
unquestionably the last links of an attempted chain of slavery with
which England ventured to fetter the noblest of her colonies, but there
were many preceding links. Pownal's work affords evidence of the
existence of many. The crown, he said, in theory considered the lands
and plantations of the colonists its own, and attempted a far greater
control over the personal liberty of the subject than it dared to claim
in England. The people, on the other hand, felt that they had by no
means forfeited the rights of Englishmen because they had left England;
and that, if they submitted to its laws, they should at least have some
share in making them. A series of petty collisions, which kept up a
state of constant irritation, prepared the way for the final
declaration, which, flung aside the bonds of allegiance, and freed the
people from the galling chains by which that allegiance was sought to be
maintained. A wise policy at home might have averted the fatal
disruption for a time, but it is doubtful that it could have been
averted for many years, even if the utter incapacity of an obstinate
sovereign, and the childish vindictiveness of a minister, had not
precipitated the conclusion.

The master intellect of Burke at once grasped the whole question, and
his innate sense of justice suggested the remedy. Unfortunately for
England, but happily for America, Burke was beyond his age in breadth of
policy and in height of honour. Englishmen of the nineteenth century
have very freely abused Englishmen of the eighteenth century for their
conduct on this occasion; and more than one writer has set down the
whole question as one in which "right" was on the side of England, but
he argues that there are circumstances under which right should be
sacrificed to policy. I cannot agree with this very able writer.[564] The question was not one of right, but of justice; and the English
nation, in the reign of George III., failed to see that to do justice
was both morally and politically the wisest course. The question of
right too often develops itself into the question of might. A man easily
persuades himself that he has a right to do what he has the power and
the inclination to do; and when his inclination and his opportunities
are on the same side, his moral consciousness becomes too frequently
blinded, and the question of justice is altogether overlooked.

It was in vain that Burke thundered forth denunciations of the childish
policy of the Treasury benches, and asked men to look to first
principles, who could hardly be made comprehend what first principles
were. He altogether abandoned the question of right, in which men had so
puzzled themselves as almost to lose sight of the question of policy.
The King would tax the colony, because his nature was obstinate, and
what he had determined to do he would do. To such natures reasoning is
much like hammering on iron—it only hardens the metal. The minister
would tax the colony because the King wished it; and he had neither the
strength of mind nor the conscientiousness to resist his sovereign. The
Lords stood on their dignity, and would impose the tax if only to show
their power. The people considered the whole affair one of pounds
shillings, and pence, and could not at all see why they should not wring
out the last farthing from a distant colony—could not be taught to
discern that the sacrifice of a few pounds at the present moment, might
result in the acquisition of a few millions at a future day.

Burke addressed himself directly to the point on all these questions. He
laid aside the much-abused question of right; he did not even attempt to
show that right and justice should not be separated, and that men who
had no share in the government of a country, could not be expected in
common justice to assist in the support of that country. He had to
address those who could only understand reasons which appealed to their
self-interest, and he lowered himself to his audience. The question he
said was, "not whether you have a right to render your people miserable,
but whether it is not your interest to make them happy. It is not what a
lawyer tells me I may do, but what humanity, reason, and justice, tell
me I ought to do."

The common idea about the separation of the States from England, is
simply that they resisted a stamp duty and a tax on tea; the fact is, as
I have before hinted, that this was simply the last drop in the cup.
Previous to this period, the American colonies were simply considered as
objects of English aggrandizement. They were treated as states who only
existed for the purpose of benefiting England. The case was in fact
parallel to the case of Ireland, and the results would probably have
been similar, had Ireland been a little nearer to America, or a little
further from England. For many years the trade of America had been kept
under the most vexatious restrictions. The iron found there must be sent
to England to be manufactured; the ships fitted out there must be at
least partly built in England; no saw-mills could be erected, no colony
could trade directly with another colony, nor with any nation except
England. This selfish, miserable policy met with a well-deserved fate.
Even Pitt exclaimed indignantly, in the House of Commons: "We are told
that America is obstinate—that America is almost in open rebellion. I
rejoice that she has resisted. Three millions of people, so dead to all
sentiments of liberty as voluntarily to become slaves, would have been
fit instruments to enslave their fellow-subjects."

In 1765 an agitation was commenced in Philadelphia, by Mr. Charles
Thompson, an Irishman, who, after ten years devoted to the cause of his
adopted country, was appointed the Secretary of Congress. It has been
well remarked, that the Irish, and especially the Irish Catholics, were,
of the three nationalities, the most devoted to forwarding the
Revolution; and we cannot wonder that it was so, since the Government
which had driven them from their native land, ceased not to persecute
them in the land of their exile.[565] The first naval engagement was
fought under the command of Jeremiah O'Brien, an Irishman.[566] John
Barry, also an Irishman, took the command of one of the first
American-built ships of war. The first Continental Regiment was composed
almost exclusively of Irish-born officers and men, and was the first
Rifle Regiment ever organized in the world. Thompson, its first, and
Hand, its second colonel, were natives of Ireland. At the siege of
Boston the regiment was particularly dreaded by the British.

In 1764 Franklin came to England[567] for the second time, and was examined before the House of Commons on the subject of the Stamp Act. He
was treated with a contemptuous indifference, which he never forgot; but
he kept his court suit, not without an object; and in 1783, when he
signed the treaty of peace, which compelled England to grant humbly what
she had refused haughtily, he wore the self-same attire. Well might the
immortal Washington say to Governor Trumbull: "There was a day, sir,
when this step from our then acknowledged parent state, would have been
accepted with gratitude; but that day is irrevocably past."

In 1774, Burke was called upon by the citizens of Bristol to represent
them in Parliament, and he presented a petition from them to the House
in favour of American independence; but, with the singular inconsistency
of their nation, they refused to re-elect him in 1780, because he
advocated Catholic Emancipation.

The same principle of justice which made Burke take the side of America
against England, or rather made him see that it would be the real
advantage of England to conciliate America, made him also take the side
of liberty on the Catholic question. The short-sighted and narrow-minded
politicians who resisted the reasonable demands of a colony until it was
too late to yield, were enabled, unfortunately, to resist more
effectually the just demands of several millions of their own people.

It is unquestionably one of the strangest of mental phenomena, that
persons who make liberty of conscience their boast and their watchword,
should be the first to violate their own principles, and should be
utterly unable to see the conclusion of their own favourite premises. If
liberty of conscience mean anything, it must surely mean perfect freedom
of religious belief for all; and such freedom is certainly incompatible
with the slightest restraint, with the most trifling penalty for
difference of opinion on such subjects. Again, Burke had recourse to the argumentum ad hominum, the only argument which those with whom he had
to deal seemed capable of comprehending.

"After the suppression of the great rebellion of Tyrconnel by William of
Orange," writes Mr. Morley,[568] "ascendency began in all its vileness
and completeness. The Revolution brought about in Ireland just the
reverse of what it effected in England. Here it delivered the body of
the nation from the attempted supremacy of a small sect; there it made a
small sect supreme over the body of the nation." This is in fact an
epitome of Irish history since the so-called Reformation in England, and
this was the state of affairs which Burke was called to combat. On all
grounds the more powerful party was entirely against him. The merchants
of Manchester and Bristol, for whose supposed benefit Irish trade had
been ruined, wished to keep up the ascendency, conceiving it to be the
surest way of replenishing their coffers. The majority of Irish
landlords, who looked always to their own immediate interest, and had
none of the far-sighted policy which would enable them to see that the
prosperity of the tenant would, in the end, most effectively secure the
prosperity of the landlord, were also in favour of ascendency, which
promised to satisfy their land hunger, and their miserable greed of
gain. The Protestant Church was in favour of ascendency: why should it
not be, since its ministers could only derive support from a people who
hated them alike for their creed and their oppressions, at the point of
the sword and by the "brotherly agency of the tithe-procter," who, if he
did not assist in spreading the Gospel, at least took care that its
so-called ministers should lack no luxury which could be wrung from a
starving and indignant people?[569]

There were but two acts of common justice required on the part of
England to make Ireland prosperous and free. It is glorious to say, that
Burke was the first to see this, and inaugurate the reign of concession;
it is pitiful, it is utterly contemptible, to be obliged to add, that
what was then inaugurated is not yet fully accomplished. Burke demanded
for Ireland political and religious freedom. Slowly some small
concessions of both have been made when England has feared to refuse
them. Had the grant been made once for all with manly generosity, some
painful chapters of Irish history might have been omitted from this
volume—some moments, let us hope, of honest shame might have been
spared to those true-hearted Englishmen who deplore the fatuity and the
folly of their countrymen. In 1782 the Irish Volunteers obtained from
the fears of England what had been vainly asked from her justice.
Burke's one idea of good government may be summed up in the words, "Be
just, and fear not." In his famous Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe,
written in 1792, upon the question of admitting the Catholics to the
elective franchise, he asks: "Is your government likely to be more
secure by continuing causes of grounded discontent to two-thirds of its
subjects? Will the constitution be made more solid by depriving this
large part of the people of all concern or share in the representation?"

His Indian policy was equally just. "Our dealings with India," says an
English writer, "originally and until Burke's time, so far from being
marked with virtue and wisdom, were stained with every vice which can
lower and deprave human character. How long will it take only to
extirpate these traditions from the recollections of the natives? The
more effectually their understandings are awakened by English efforts,
the more vividly will they recognize, and the more bitterly resent, the
iniquities of our first connexion with them." The Indian policy of
England and her Irish policy might be written with advantage in parallel
columns. It would, at least, have the advantage of showing Irishmen that
they had been by no means worse governed than other dependencies of that
professedly law and justice loving nation.

I have treated, briefly indeed, and by no means as I should wish, of two
of the questions of the day, and of Burke's policy thereon; of the third
question a few words only can be said. Burke's idea of Reform consisted
in amending the administration of the constitution, rather than in
amending the constitution itself. Unquestionably a bad constitution well
administered, may be incomparably more beneficial to the subject than a
good constitution administered corruptly. Burke's great leading
principle was: Be just—and can a man have a nobler end? To suppress an
insurrection cruelly, to tax a people unjustly, or to extort money from
a nation on false pretences, was to him deeply abhorrent. His first
object was to secure the incorruptibility of ministers and of members of
parliament. When the post of royal scullion could be confided to a
member of parliament, and a favourable vote secured by appointing a
representative of the people to the lucrative post of turnspit in the
king's kitchen, administration was hopelessly corrupt. There were
useless treasurers for useless offices. Burke gave the example of what
he taught; and having fixed the Paymaster's salary at four thousand
pounds a year, was himself the first person to accept the diminished

He has been accused of forsaking his liberal principles in his latter
days, simply and solely from his denunciations of the terrible excesses
of the French Revolution. Such reprobation was rather a proof that he
understood the difference between liberty and licentiousness, and that
his accusers had neither the intellect nor the true nobility to
discriminate between the frantic deeds of men, whose bad passions, long
indulged, had led them on to commit the crimes of demons, and those
noble but long-suffering patriots, who endured until endurance became a
fault, and only resisted for the benefit of mankind as well as for their

So much space has been given to Burke, that it only remains to add a few
brief words of the other brilliant stars, who fled across the Channel in
the vain pursuit of English patronage—in the vain hope of finding in a
free country the liberty to ascend higher than the rulers of that free
country permitted in their own.

Moore was born in the year 1780, in the city of Dublin. His father was
in trade, a fact which he had the manliness to acknowledge whenever such
acknowledgment was necessary. He was educated for the bar, which was
just then opened for the first time to the majority of the nation, so
long governed, or misgoverned, by laws which they were neither permitted
to make or to administer. His poetical talents were early manifested,
and his first attempts were in the service of those who are termed
patriots or rebels, as the speaker's opinion varies. That he loved
liberty and admired liberators can scarcely be doubted, since even later
in life he used to boast of his introduction to Thomas Jefferson, while
in America, exclaiming: "I had the honour of shaking hands with the man
who drew up the Declaration of American Independence." His countryman,
Sheridan introduced him to the Prince of Wales. His Royal Highness
inquired courteously if he was the son of a certain baronet of the same
name. "No, your Royal Highness," replied Moore; "I am the son of a
Dublin grocer." He commenced writing his immortal Melodies in 1807,
soon after his marriage. But he by no means confined himself to such
subjects. With that keen sense of humour almost inseparable from, and
generally proportionate to, the most exquisite sensibility of feeling,
he caught the salient points of controversy in his day, and no doubt
contributed not a little to the obtaining of Catholic Emancipation by
the telling satires which he poured forth on its opposers. His
reflections, addresed to the Quarterly Review, who recommended an
increase of the Church Establishment as the grand panacea of Irish ills,
might not be an inappropriate subject of consideration at the present
moment. It commences thus:

"I'm quite of your mind: though these Pats cry aloud,
That they've got too much Church, tis all nonsense and stuff;
For Church is like love, of which Figaro vowed,
That even too much of it's not quite enough."

Nor was his letter to the Duke of Newcastle, who was an obstinate
opposer of Catholic Emancipation, less witty, or less in point at the
present time, for the Lords would not emancipate, whatever the Commons
might do:

"While intellect, 'mongst high and low,
Is hastening on, they say,

Give me the dukes and lords, who go,
Like crabs, the other way."

Curran had been called to the bar a few years earlier. He was the son of
a poor farmer in the county of Cork, and won his way to fame solely by
the exercise of his extraordinary talent. Curran was a Protestant; but
he did not think it necessary, because he belonged to a religion which
professed liberty of conscience, to deny its exercise to every one but
those of his own sect. He first distinguished himself at a contested
election. Of his magnificent powers of oratory I shall say nothing,
partly because their fame is European, and partly because it would be
impossible to do justice to the subject in our limited space. His
terrible denunciations of the horrible crimes and cruelties of the
soldiers, who were sent to govern Ireland by force, for those who were
not wise enough or humane enough to govern it by justice—his scathing
denunciations of crown witnesses and informers, should be read at length
to be appreciated fully.[570]

Swift's career is also scarcely less known. He, too, was born in Dublin
of poor parents, in 1667. Although he became a minister of the
Protestant Church, and held considerable emoluments therein, he had the
honesty to see, and the courage to acknowledge, its many corruptions.
The great lesson which he preached to Irishmen was the lesson of
nationality; and, perhaps, they have yet to learn it in the sense in
which he intended to teach it. No doubt, Swift, in some way, prepared
the path of Burke; for, different as were their respective careers and
their respective talents, they had each the same end in view. The
"Drapier" was long the idol of his countrymen, and there can be little
doubt that the spirit of his writings did much to animate the patriots
who followed him—Lucas, Flood, and Grattan. Lucas was undoubtedly one
of the purest patriots of his time. His parents were poor farmers in the
county Clare, who settled in Dublin, where Lucas was born, in 1713; and
in truth patriotism seldom develops itself out of purple and fine linen.
Flood, however, may be taken in exception to this inference; his father
was a Chief Justice of the Irish King's Bench. When elected a member of
the Irish House, his first public effort was for the freedom of his
country from the atrocious imposition of Poyning's Law. Unfortunately,
he and Grattan quarrelled, and their country was deprived of the immense
benefits which might have accrued to it from the cordial political union
of two such men.

But a list of the great men of the eighteenth century, however brief,
would be certainly most imperfect if I omitted the name of the Earl of
Charlemont, who, had his courage been equal to his honesty of purpose,
might have been enrolled not merely as an ardent, but even as a
successful patriot. He was one of the Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores,—one
of those who came to plunder, and who learned to respect their victims,
and to repent their oppressions. It is probable that the nine years
which the young Earl spent in travelling on the Continent, contributed
not a little to his mental enlargement. On his return from countries
where freedom exists with boasting, to a country where boasting exists
without a corresponding amount of freedom, he was amazed and shocked at
the first exhibition of its detestable tyranny of class. A grand
procession of peers and peeresses was appointed to receive the
unfortunate Princess Caroline; but, before the Princess landed, the
Duchess of Bedford was commanded to inform the Irish peeresses that they
were not to walk, or to take any part in the ceremonial. The young Earl
could not restrain his indignation at this utterly uncalled-for insult.
He obtained a royal audience, and exerted himself with so much energy,
that the obnoxious order was rescinded. The Earl's rank, as well as his
patriotism, naturally placed him at the head of his party; and he
resolutely opposed those laws which Burke had designated as a "disgrace
to the statute-books of any nation, and so odious in their principles,
that one might think they were passed in hell, and that demons were the
legislators." In 1766, his Lordship brought a bill into the House of
Lords to enable a poor Catholic peasant to take a lease of a cabin and a
potato-garden; but, at the third reading, the Lords rushed in
tumultuously, voted Lord Charlemont out of the chair, and taunted him
with being little better than a Papist. The failure and the taunt
bewildered an intellect never very clear; and, perhaps, hopelessness
quenched the spirit of patriotism, which had once, at least, burned
brightly. In fear of being taunted as a Papist, like many a wiser man,
he rushed into the extreme of Protestant loyalty, and joined in the
contemptible outcry for Protestant ascendency.

The eighteenth century was also rife in Irishmen whose intellects were
devoted to literature. It claims its painters in Barrett, who was
actually the founder of the Royal Academy in England, and in Barry, the
most eminent historical painter of his age; its poets in Parnell,
Goldsmith, Wade, O'Keeffe, Moore, and many others; its musician in
Kelly, a full list of whose operatic music would fill several pages; its
authors in Steele, Swift, Young, O'Leary, Malone, Congreve, Sheridan,
and Goldsmith; and its actors in Macklin, Milliken, Barry, Willis, and

Sheridan was born in Dublin, in the year 1757. He commenced his career
as author by writing for the stage; but his acquaintance with Fox, who
soon discerned his amazing abilities, led him in another direction. In
1786 he was employed with Burke in the impeachment of Warren Hastings.
The galleries of the House of Lords were filled to overflowing; peers
and peeresses secured seats early in the day; actresses came to learn
declamation, authors to learn style. Mrs. Siddons, accustomed as she was
to the simulation of passion in herself and others, shrieked and swooned
while he denounced the atrocities of which Hastings had been guilty.
Fox, Pitt, and Byron, were unanimous in their praise. And on the very
same night, and at the very same time, when the gifted Celt was
thundering justice to India into the ears of Englishmen, his School for
, one of the best comedies on the British stage, was being acted
in one theatre, and his Duenna, one of its best operas, was being
performed in another.

Sheridan died in 1816, a victim to intemperance, for which he had not
even the excuse of misfortune. Had not his besetting sin degraded and
incapacitated him, it is probable he would have been prime-minister on
the death of Fox. At the early age of forty he was a confirmed drunkard.
The master mind which had led a senate, was clouded over by the fumes of
an accursed spirit; the brilliant eyes that had captivated a million
hearts, were dimmed and bloodshot; the once noble brain, which had used
its hundred gifts with equal success and ability, was deprived of all
power of acting; the tongue, whose potent spell had entranced thousands,
was scarcely able to articulate. Alas, and a thousand times alas! that
man can thus mar his Maker's work, and stamp ruin and wretchedness where
a wealth of mental power had been given to reign supreme.

Goldsmith's father was a Protestant clergyman. The poet was born at
Pallas, in the county Longford. After a series of adventures, not always
to his credit, and sundry wanderings on the Continent in the most
extreme poverty, he settled in London. Here he met with considerable
success as an author, and enjoyed the society of the first literary men
of the day. After the first and inevitable struggles of a poor author,
had he possessed even half as much talent for business as capacity for
intellectual effort, he might soon have obtained a competency by his
pen; but, unfortunately, though he was not seriously addicted to
intemperance, his convivial habits, and his attraction for the gaming
table, soon scattered his hard-won earnings. His "knack of hoping,"

however, helped him through life. He died on the 4th April, 1774. His
last words were sad indeed, in whatever sense they may be taken. He was
suffering from fever, but his devoted medical attendant, Doctor Norton,
perceiving his pulse to be unusually high even under such circumstances,
asked, "Is your mind at ease?" "No, it is not," was Goldsmith's sad
reply; and these were the last words he uttered.