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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Anglo-Irish soldier and statesman and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century, is born at 6 Merrion Street, Dublin, on May 1, 1769.

Wellesley is born to Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington and Anne Wellesley, Countess of Mornington. Fatherless at an early age and neglected by his mother, he is a reserved, withdrawn child. He fails to shine at Eton College and instead attends private classes in Brussels, followed by a military school in Angers, France. Ironically, he has no desire for a military career. Instead he wishes to pursue his love of music. Following his mother’s wishes, however, he joins a Highland regiment.

Wellesley fights at Flanders in Belgium in 1794, and directs the campaign in India in 1796, where his elder brother Richard is Governor-General. Knighted for his efforts, he returns to England in 1805.

In 1806 Wellesley is elected Member of Parliament for Rye, East Sussex, and within a year he is appointed Chief Secretary of Ireland under Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond. He continues with his military career despite his parliamentary duties, fighting campaigns in Portugal and France, and being made commander of the British Army in the Peninsular War. He is given the title Duke of Wellington in 1814, and goes on to command his most celebrated campaigns in the Napoleonic Wars, with final victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. When he returns to Britain he is treated as a hero, formally honoured, and presented with both an estate in Hampshire and a fortune of £400,000.

After the Battle of Waterloo, Wellesley becomes Commander in Chief of the army in occupied France until November 1818. He then returns to England and Parliament, and joins Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool’s government in 1819 as Master-General of the Ordnance. He undertakes a number of diplomatic visits overseas, including a trip to Russia.

In 1828, after twice being overlooked in favour of George Canning and F. J. Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich, Wellesley is finally invited by King George IV to form his own government and set about forming his Cabinet. As Prime Minister, he is very conservative; known for his measures to repress reform, his popularity sinks a little during his time in office. Yet one of his first achievements is overseeing Catholic emancipation in 1829, the granting of almost full civil rights to Catholics in the United Kingdom. Feelings run very high on the issue. George Finch-Hatton, 10th Earl of Winchilsea, an opponent of the bill, claims that by granting freedoms to Catholics Wellesley “treacherously plotted the destruction of the Protestant constitution.”

Wellesley has a much less enlightened position on parliamentary reform. He defends rule by the elite and refuses to expand the political franchise. His fear of mob rule is enhanced by the riots and sabotage that follow rising rural unemployment. His opposition to reform causes his popularity to plummet to such an extent that crowds gathered to throw missiles at his London home.

The government is defeated in the House of Commons and Wellesley resigns on November 16, 1830, to be replaced by Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. Wellesley, however, continues to fight reform in opposition, though he finally consents to the Great Reform Act in 1832.

Two years later Wellesley refuses a second invitation to form a government because he believes membership in the House of Commons has become essential. The king reluctantly approves Robert Peel, who is in Italy at the time. Hence, Wellesley acts as interim leader for three weeks in November and December 1834, taking the responsibilities of Prime Minister and most of the other ministries. In Peel’s first cabinet (1834–1835), he becomes Foreign Secretary, while in the second (1841–1846) he is a Minister without portfolio and Leader of the House of Lords. Upon Peel’s resignation in 1846, he retires from politics.

In 1848 Wellesley organises a military force to protect London against possible Chartist violence at the large meeting at Kennington Common.

Arthur Wellesley dies at Walmer Castle, Kent, England on September 14, 1852 after a series of seizures. After lying in state in London, he is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Wellington Arch in London’s Hyde Park is named in his honor.

(From: “Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington,” GOV.UK (wwww.gov.uk) | Pictured: “Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)” by Thomas Lawrence, oil on canvas)


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Birth of Edmond Malone, Shakespearean Scholar

Edmond Malone, Shakespearean scholar and editor of the works of William Shakespeare, is born on October 4, 1741 in Dublin.

Malone is born to Edmond Malone Sr. (1704–1774), MP of the Irish House of Commons and judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland, and Catherine Collier, the niece of Robert Knight, 1st Earl of Catherlough. He has two sisters, Henrietta and Catherine, and an older brother, Richard (later Lord Sunderlin). His father is a successful lawyer and politician in England, but his practice fails and he returns to Ireland. Little is known of his childhood and adolescence except that in 1747 he is sent to Dr. Ford’s preparatory school in Molesworth Street, Dublin. The next record of his education is ten years later, in 1757, when he enters Trinity College, Dublin. He receives his BA degree on February 23, 1762.

After practicing in Ireland as a lawyer and journalist, Malone settles in London in 1777. There he numbers among his literary friends Samuel Johnson, Horace Walpole, and the ballad collector Thomas Percy, the Bishop of Dromore. He also is an associate of the statesmen Edmund Burke and George Canning and of the dean of English painters, Sir Joshua Reynolds, who paints his portrait and whose literary works he collects and publishes (1797). The portrait now resides in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

In the following months Malone sends a steady stream of notes and corrections to George Steevens, who, by then the inheritor, from Samuel Johnson, of the editor’s mantle for the Jacob Tonson edition of Shakespeare’s collected works, is busy preparing a second edition. His main contribution appears in the first volume as “An Attempt to Ascertain the Order in Which the Plays Attributed to Shakspeare Were Written.”

Malone’s three supplemental volumes (1780–1783) to Steevens’ edition of Johnson’s Shakespeare, containing apocryphal plays, textual emendations, and the first critical edition of the sonnets, are landmarks in Shakespearean studies. His “Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the English Stage, and of the Economy and Usages of the Ancient Theatres in England” (1800) is the first treatise on English drama based on original sources. His own edition of Shakespeare in 11 volumes appears in 1790. A new octavo edition, unfinished at his death, is completed by James Boswell, the son of Samuel Johnson’s biographer, and published in 1821 in 21 volumes. This work, which includes a memoir of Malone, is the standard edition of Shakespeare’s writings for more than a century.

Malone dies at the age of 70 in London on May 25, 1812.

(Pictured: Portrait of Edmond Malone by Joshua Reynolds (1778), National Portrait Gallery)