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


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Execution of John Atherton, Anglican Bishop of Waterford & Lismore

john-atherton-execution-pamphletJohn Atherton, Anglican Bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland, is executed on December 5, 1640, on a charge of immorality.

Atherton is born in 1598 in Somerset, England. He studies at Oxford University and joins the ranks of the Anglican clergy. In 1634 he becomes Bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland. In 1640 he is accused of buggery with a man, John Childe, his steward and tithe proctor. They are tried under a law that Atherton himself had helped to institute. They are both condemned to death, and Atherton is executed in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin. Reportedly, he confesses to the crime immediately before his execution, although he had proclaimed his innocence before that.

More recently, some historical evidence has been developed that shows Atherton might have been a victim of a conspiracy to discredit him and his patrons. This is attributable to Atherton’s status as an astute lawyer, who seeks to recover lost land for the relatively weak Protestant Church of Ireland during the 1630s. Unfortunately for Atherton, this alienates him from large landowners, who then allegedly use his sexuality to discredit him.

English Puritan, Congregationalist and Independent activists, as well as English and Scottish Presbyterian activists, contemporaneously campaign to abolish Episcopacy (bishops) within the embattled Church of England, Church of Scotland and Church of Ireland, notionally expediting the political interest in Atherton’s downfall.

Posthumous accusations of sexual wrongdoing also include allegations of “incest” with his sister-in-law, and infanticide of the resultant child, as well as zoophilia with cattle. However, these allegations begin to be circulated several months after his death in an anonymous pamphlet, and may have been intended to further discredit the bishop’s campaign to restore the finances of the Church of Ireland.

(Pictured: Anonymous pamphlet of the hangings of John Atherton and John Childe, 1641)

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Death of Poet Laureate Nahum Tate

nahum-tateNahum Tate, Irish poet, hymnist, and lyricist, who becomes Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 1692,  dies on July 30, 1715. Tate is best known for The History of King Lear, his 1681 adaptation of William Shakespeare‘s King Lear.

Tate is born in Dublin in 1652 and comes from a family of Puritan clergymen. He is the son of Faithful Teate, an Irish clergyman who was rector of Castleterra, Ballyhaise, until his house is burned and his family attacked after he passes on information to the government about plans for the Irish Rebellion of 1641. After living at the provost’s lodgings in Trinity College, Dublin, Faithful Teate moves to England. He becomes the incumbent at East Greenwich around 1650, and “preacher of the gospel” at Sudbury from 1654 to 1658 before returning to Dublin by 1660. He publishes a poem on the Trinity entitled Ter Tria, as well as some sermons, two of which he dedicates to Oliver and Henry Cromwell.

Nahum Teate follows his father to Trinity College, Dublin in 1668, and graduates BA in 1672. By 1676 he moves to London and is writing for a living. He publishes a volume of poems in London in 1677 and becomes a regular writer for the stage. He also adopts the spelling Tate, which remains until his death.

Tate then turns to make a series of adaptations from Elizabethan dramas. His version of William Shakespeare’s Richard II alters the names of the characters and changes the text so that every scene, to use his own words, is “full of respect to Majesty and the dignity of courts.” In spite of these precautions The Sicilian Usurper (1681), as his rewrite is called, is suppressed on the third performance on account of a possible political interpretation.

In 1682, Tate collaborates with John Dryden to complete the second half of his epic poem Absalom and Achitophel. Tate also writes the libretto for Henry Purcell‘s opera Dido and Aeneas, which is given its first known performance in 1689. Tate’s name is also connected with the famous New Version of the Psalms of David (1696), for which he collaborates with Nicholas Brady.

Nahum Tate dies in Southwark, London, England, on July 30, 1715 and is buried at St. George Southwark on August 1, 1715.