seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Sir Richard Levinge, 1st Baronet

Sir Richard Levinge, 1st Baronet, Irish politician and judge who plays a leading part in Irish public life for more than 30 years, is born at Leek, Staffordshire, England, on May 2, 1656.

Levinge is the second son of Richard Levinge of Parwich Hall, Derbyshire, Recorder of Chester, and Anne Parker, daughter of George Parker of Staffordshire and his wife Grace Bateman. The Levinges (sometimes spelled “Levin”) are a long-established Derbyshire family with a tradition of public service. Through his mother he is a first cousin of Thomas Parker, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.

Levinge is educated at Audlem School, Derbyshire, and St. John’s College, Cambridge. He enters the Inner Temple in 1671 and is called to the Bar in 1678. He is a Member of Parliament (MP) of the House of Commons of England for City of Chester from 1690 to 1695. He is also, like his father, Recorder of Chester in 1686-87, but is summarily removed from this office by King James II of England.

Levinge is one of the first to declare for William III of England at the Glorious Revolution, and is sent by the new Government to Ireland as Solicitor-General in 1689. In 1692 he is elected as a member of the Irish House of Commons for Belfast and for Blessington, but chooses to sit for Blessington, a seat he holds until 1695. During this time he serves as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. In politics he is a moderate Tory, noted throughout his career for his desire to conciliate. In an age of bitter political faction this earns him the uncharitable nickname “Tom Double.” Although he supports the Penal Laws, as no Irish officeholder then could do otherwise, he is very tolerant in religious matters and has several Roman Catholic friends, including his predecessor as Solicitor-General, Sir Theobald Butler.

Levinge later represents Longford Borough from 1698 to September 1713 and Kilkenny City from 1713 to November 1715 in the Irish Parliament. In 1713 he is also returned for Gowran but chooses to sit for Kilkenny. He is created a Baronet of High Park in the County of Westmeath, in the Baronetage of Ireland on October 26, 1704.

Levinge also serves as Solicitor-General for Ireland from 1689, from which office he is dismissed in 1695 following a quarrel with Henry Capell, 1st Baron Capell of Tewkesbury, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He returns to office as Solicitor-General in 1705 through the good offices of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, who has acted as his patron for some years past. History repeats itself when the Lord Lieutenant, Thomas Wharton, 1st Earl of Wharton, dismisses him from office in 1709 with what is regarded by many, including Jonathan Swift, as brutal suddenness. He once again becomes a member of the Parliament of Great Britain representing Derby from 1710 to 1711. He becomes Attorney-General for Ireland in 1711, after Ormonde replaces Wharton as Lord Lieutenant.

Levinge had expressed his interest in being appointed to the English Bench, but meets with no success in his efforts to achieve office in England. Under George I of Great Britain, despite being of the “wrong” political persuasion, and his growing age, his famous moderation, and his 30 years’ experience of Irish public life make him acceptable as an Irish judge to the Government, in which he has a powerful supporter in his cousin Lord Macclesfield. In 1721 he becomes Chief Justice of the Irish Common Pleas for Ireland and a member of the Privy Council of Ireland. He complains bitterly of the poor quality of his junior judges, and asks for suitable replacements, although he complains equally about some of those whose names are put forward as possible replacements. Despite being in great pain from gout in his last years, he remains on the Bench until his death on July 13, 1724.

Levinge divides his time between his ancestral home, Parwich Hall, which he purchases from his childless elder brother, and his newly acquired property Knockdrin Castle, County Westmeath. Most of his estates passes to his eldest son, who extensively rebuilds Parwich.

(Pictured: Knockdrin Castle, County Westmeath, the main Levinge residence in Ireland)


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Mary Lou McDonald Ratified as Leader of Sinn Féin

Mary Lou McDonald is ratified as the new president of Sinn Féin at a special party Ard Fheis on February 10, 2018. Approximately 2,000 party delegates gather for the meeting in Dublin. After almost 35 years, Gerry Adams officially steps down as party leader, a role he has held since November 1983.

McDonald takes the helm with a sweeping speech that touches on everything from abortion to Brexit and promises a united Ireland “in our time.”

McDonald, 48, is the first woman to lead the party, and the first Sinn Féin leader with no direct connection to Ireland’s period of violence known as the Troubles. “We must only agree that the past is never again repeated,” she says. “On other things, we can agree to disagree. The poet Maya Angelou put it well: ‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived. But if faced with courage, need not be lived again.’”

McDonald takes over for Adams, a divisive politician who was the face of the Irish republican movement as it shifted from violence to peace. The end of Adams’ tenure marks a new era for the party, which wants to unite the United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland to the south.

Adams, who announced in November 2017 he was stepping down after almost 35 years, was the key figure in the peace process that saw the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the formation of a power sharing government between Northern Ireland’s pro-British and republican factions. But many believe Sinn Féin’s popularity among voters has been hindered by the presence of leaders linked to the Troubles, which killed over 3,600 people.

McDonald immediately puts her own stamp on the future, trying to infuse new energy into the movement that has lawmakers on both sides of the Irish border. But she also focuses on Sinn Féin’s founding principle: a united Ireland. “We are the generation of republicans who will see the rising of the moon,” she says. “Sinn Féin in government, both North and South. Irish unity in our time.”

McDonald also lays out her positions on the key issues of the day.

On the United Kingdom’s upcoming departure from the European Union, or Brexit, she says Sinn Féin will not accept any deal that reinstates border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Brexit represents a threat to the prosperity of Ireland as a whole.

“Ireland will not be the collateral damage in the political games and antics of Tories in London,” she says, referring to the Conservative Party of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

McDonald also says the party will campaign for women’s right to an abortion in Ireland’s upcoming referendum on the issue and says she is committed to reaching an agreement that will restore Northern Ireland’s power sharing government on the basis of “respect and integrity for all.”

Northern Ireland’s last government collapsed more than a year earlier amid a corruption scandal.

(From: “Mary Lou McDonald takes over as Sinn Féin party leader” by Danica Kirka, AP News, apnews.com, February 10, 2018)


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Birth of Thomas Spring Rice, 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon

Thomas Spring Rice, 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon, PC, FRS, FGS, British Whig politician who serves as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1835 to 1839, is born on February 8, 1790, into a notable Anglo-Irish family which owns large estates in Munster.

Spring Rice is one of the three children of Stephen Edward Rice, of Mount Trenchard House, and Catherine Spring, daughter and heiress of Thomas Spring of Ballycrispin and Castlemaine, County Kerry, a descendant of the Suffolk Spring family. He is a great grandson of Sir Stephen Rice, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer and a leading Jacobite Sir Maurice FitzGerald, 14th Knight of Kerry. His grandfather, Edward, converted the family from Roman Catholicism to the Anglican Church of Ireland, to save his estate from passing in gavelkind.

Spring Rice is educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and later studies law at Lincoln’s Inn, but is not called to the Bar. His family is politically well-connected, both in Ireland and Great Britain, and he is encouraged to stand for Parliament by his father-in-law, Lord Limerick.

Spring Rice first stands for election in Limerick City in 1818 but is defeated by the Tory incumbent, John Vereker, by 300 votes. He wins the seat in 1820 and enters the House of Commons. He positions himself as a moderate unionist reformer who opposes the radical nationalist politics of Daniel O’Connell, and becomes known for his expertise on Irish and economic affairs. In 1824 he leads the committee which establishes the Ordnance Survey in Ireland.

Spring Rice’s fluent debating style in the Commons brings him to the attention of leading Whigs and he comes under the patronage of the Marquess of Lansdowne. As a result, he is made Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department under George Canning and Lord Goderich in 1827, with responsibility for Irish affairs. This requires him to accept deferral of Catholic emancipation, a policy which he strongly supports. He then serves as joint Secretary to the Treasury from 1830 to 1834 under Lord Grey. Following the Reform Act 1832, he is elected to represent Cambridge from 1832 to 1839. In June 1834, Grey appoints him Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, with a seat in the cabinet, a post he retains when Lord Melbourne becomes Prime Minister in July. A strong and vocal unionist throughout his life, he leads the Parliamentary opposition to Daniel O’Connell’s 1834 attempt to repeal the Acts of Union 1800. In a six-hour speech in the House of Commons on April 23, 1834, he suggests that Ireland should be renamed “West Britain.” In the Commons, he also champions causes such as the worldwide abolition of slavery and the introduction of state-supported education.

The Whig government falls in November 1834, after which Spring Rice attempts to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons in early 1835. When the Whigs return to power under Melbourne in April 1835, he is made Chancellor of the Exchequer. As Chancellor, he has to deal with crop failures, a depression and rebellion in North America, all of which create large deficits and put considerable strain on the government. His Church Rate Bill of 1837 is quickly abandoned and his attempt to revise the charter of the Bank of Ireland ends in humiliation. Unhappy as Chancellor, he again tries to be elected as Speaker, but fails. He is a dogmatic figure, described by Lord Melbourne as “too much given to details and possessed of no broad views.” Upon his departure from office in 1839, he has become a scapegoat for the government’s many problems. That same year he is raised to the peerage as Baron Monteagle of Brandon, in the County of Kerry, a title intended earlier for his ancestor Sir Stephen Rice. He is also Comptroller General of the Exchequer from 1835 to 1865, despite Lord Howick‘s initial opposition to the maintenance of the office. He differs from the government regarding the exchequer control over the treasury, and the abolition of the old exchequer is already determined upon when he dies.

From 1839 Spring Rice largely retires from public life, although he occasionally speaks in the House of Lords on matters generally relating to government finance and Ireland. He vehemently opposes John Russell, 1st Earl Russell‘s policy regarding the Irish famine, giving a speech in the Lords in which he says the government had “degraded our people, and you, English, now shrink from your responsibilities.”

In addition to his political career, Spring Rice is a commissioner of the state paper office, a trustee of the National Gallery and a member of the senate of the University of London and of the Queen’s University of Ireland. Between 1845 and 1847, he is President of the Royal Statistical Society. In addition, he is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of the Geological Society of London. In May 1832 he becomes a member of James Mill‘s Political Economy Club.

Spring Rice is well regarded in Limerick, where he is seen as a compassionate landlord and a good politician. An advocate of traditional Whiggism, he strongly believes in ensuring society is protected from conflict between the upper and lower classes. Although a pious Anglican, his support for Catholic emancipation wins him the favour of many Irishmen, most of whom are Roman Catholic. He leads the campaign for better county government in Ireland at a time when many Irish nationalists are indifferent to the cause. During the Great Famine of the 1840s, he responds to the plight of his tenants with benevolence. The ameliorative measures he implements on his estates almost bankrupts the family and only the dowry from his second marriage saves his financial situation. A monument in honour of him still stands in the People’s Park in Limerick.

Even so, Spring Rice’s reputation in Ireland is not entirely favourable. In a book regarding assisted emigration from Ireland, a process in which a landlord pays for their tenants’ passage to the United States or Australia, Moran suggests that Spring Rice was engaged in the practice. In 1838, he is recorded as having “helped” a boat load of his tenants depart for North America, thereby allowing himself the use of their land. However, he is also recorded as being in support of state-assisted emigration across the British Isles, suggesting that his motivation is not necessarily selfish.

Spring Rice dies at the age of 76 on February 17, 1866. Mount Monteagle in Antarctica and Monteagle County in New South Wales are named in his honour.

(Pictured: Thomas Spring Rice, 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon (1790-1866), contemporary portrait by George Richmond (1809-1896))


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Birth of Jonathan Swift, Essayist, Pamphleteer, Poet & Cleric

Jonathan Swift, satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who becomes Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, is born in Dublin on November 30, 1667.

Swift’s father, an attorney, also named Jonathan Swift, dies just two months before he is born. Without steady income, his mother struggles to provide for her newborn. Moreover, he is a sickly child. It is later discovered that he suffers from Ménière’s disease, a condition of the inner ear that leaves the afflicted nauseous and hard of hearing. In an effort to give her son the best upbringing possible, Swift’s mother gives him over to Godwin Swift, her late husband’s brother and a member of the respected professional attorney and judges group Gray’s Inn. Godwin Swift enrolls his nephew with one of his cousins in Kilkenny College, which is perhaps the best school in Ireland at the time. He arrives there at the age of six, where he is expected to have already learned the basic declensions in Latin. He has not, and thus begins his schooling in a lower form. He graduates in 1682, when he is 15. His transition from a life of poverty to a rigorous private school setting proves challenging. He does, however, make a fast friend in William Congreve, the future poet and playwright.

In 1682, Swift commences his undergraduate studies at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1686, he receives a Bachelor of Arts degree and goes on to pursue a master’s degree. Not long into his research, huge unrest breaks out in Ireland. The king of Ireland, England and Scotland is soon to be overthrown. What becomes known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688 spurs him to move to England and start anew. For 10 years, Swift works in Surrey‘s Moor Park and acts as an assistant to Sir William Temple, 1st Baronet.

During his Moor Park years, Swift meets the daughter of Temple’s housekeeper, an 8-year-old named Esther Johnson, known as “Stella.” They become lovers for the rest of their lives until Johnson’s death in 1728. It is rumored that they marry in 1716 and that Swift keeps of lock of Johnson’s hair in his possession at all times.

During his decade of work for Temple, Swift returns to Ireland twice. On a trip in 1695, he takes all necessary requirements to become an ordained priest in the Anglican tradition. Under Temple’s influence, he also begins to write, first short essays and then a manuscript for a later book. Temple dies in 1699. Swift completes the task of editing and publishing Temple’s memoirs. He then leans on his priestly qualifications and finds work ministering to a pea-sized congregation just 20 miles outside of Dublin. For the next ten years, he gardens, preaches and works on the house provided to him by the church. He also returns to writing. His first political pamphlet is titled A Discourse on the Contests and Dissentions in Athens and Rome.

In 1704, Swift anonymously releases A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books. Tub, although widely popular with the masses, is harshly disapproved of by the Church of England. Ostensibly, it criticizes religion, but Swift means it as a parody of pride. Nonetheless, his writings earn him a reputation in London and when the Tories come into power in 1710, they ask him to become editor of The Examiner, their official paper. After a time, he becomes fully immersed in the political landscape and begins writing some of the most cutting and well-known political pamphlets of the day, including The Conduct of the Allies, an attack on the Whigs. Privy to the inner circle of Tory government, he lays out his private thoughts and feelings in a stream of letters to his beloved Stella. They are later published as The Journal to Stella.

When he sees that the Tories will soon fall from power, Swift returns to Ireland. In 1713, he takes the post of Dean at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. While leading his congregation at St. Patrick’s, he begins to write what would become his best-known work. In 1726, at last finished with the manuscript, he travels to London and benefits from the help of several friends, who anonymously publish it as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, more simply known as Gulliver’s Travels. The book is an immediate success and has not been out of print since its first run.

Not long after the celebration of this work, Esther Johnson, falls ill. She dies in January 1728. Her death moves Swift to write The Death of Mrs. Johnson.

In 1742, Swift suffers a stroke and loses the ability to speak. He dies on October 19, 1745. He is laid to rest next to Esther Johnson inside Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


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Death of James Bronterre O’Brien, Chartist Leader, Reformer & Journalist

James Bronterre O’Brien, Irish Chartist leader, reformer and journalist, dies of complications from bronchitis on December 23, 1684.

O’Brien is born near Granard, County Longford, in 1804 or 1805. He goes to a local church school, where one of his teachers recognises his intellectual abilities and arranges for him to be educated at the progressive Lovell Edgeworth School. In 1822 he proceeds to Trinity College, Dublin, where he wins several academic prizes including the Science Gold Medal. After studying law at King’s Inns, he moves to England in 1829 with the intention of becoming a lawyer in London.

In London he joins the Radical Reform Association where he meets Henry Hunt, William Cobbett, Henry Hetherington and other leaders of the struggle for universal suffrage. In 1836 he joins the London Working Men’s Association.

O’Brien begins contributing articles to Henry Hetherington’s Poor Man’s Guardian. He signs these articles with the pseudonym ‘Bronterre’ and he eventually adopts it as his middle name. He works very closely with Hetherington and when he is imprisoned for publishing an unstamped newspaper, O’Brien takes over the editorship of Poor Man’s Guardian. He and Hetherington also collaborate on other unstamped newspapers such as The Destructive and the London Dispatch. In 1837 he begins publishing Bronterre’s National Reformer. In an attempt to avoid paying stamp duty, the journal includes essays rather than ‘news items.’ During this period, he and Hetherington lead the struggle against the stamp duty and are consistent in their arguments that working people need cheap newspapers that contain political information.

O’Brien is influenced by the socialist writer François-Noël Babeuf, who had been executed during the French Revolution. In 1836 he begins publishing translations of Babeuf’s work in the Poor Man’s Guardian. He also includes Filippo Buonarroti‘s account of Babeuf and the Conspiracy of Equals. He becomes fascinated with the history of radicalism and begins work on books on Maximilien Robespierre, the French Revolution and the English Commonwealth. However, the authorities raid his house in 1838 and seize his manuscripts and the projects are never completed.

In 1838 O’Brien adds his support for a more militant approach to winning the vote that is being advocated by Feargus O’Connor and George Julian Harney through the London Democratic Association. However, he, unlike O’Connor, refuses to support the use of violence to achieve universal suffrage. He argues that the Chartists should adopt a policy that is midway between the petitioning supported by William Lovett and the Moral Force Chartists, and the violence being threatened by O’Connor’s Physical Force group.

After Bronterre’s National Reformer ceases publication, O’Brien works for O’Connor’s Northern Star. His articles play an important role in increasing the circulation of what had become the most important of the radical newspapers. As well as writing for the Northern Star, he also finds time to publish his own newspaper, The Operative.

O’Brien continues to be active in the Chartist movement and in 1840 he is arrested and charged with making a seditious speech in Manchester. He is convicted of sedition and sentenced to eighteen months in Lancaster Prison. When he is released from prison he finds it difficult to continue working with Feargus O’Connor. The two men disagree over the issue of physical force. Another source of dispute concerns parliamentary elections. O’Brien favours the idea of putting up Chartist candidates whereas O’Connor prefers the tactic of putting pressure on the Whig government by threatening to vote for Tory candidates. He is involved in standing Chartist candidates against Government Ministers in key seats, particularly in standing against Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston in Tiverton.

O’Brien finally breaks with O’Connor when, along with Henry Vincent and Robert George Gammage, he joins the Complete Suffrage Union. He continues to publish newspapers. He joins with his old friend Henry Hetherington to revive the Poor Man’s Guardian in 1843 and this is followed by the National Reformer in 1844. These newspapers are not a financial success and by May 1847, both papers cease publication.

After the failure of these two newspapers, O’Brien concentrates on writing for other publications such as Reynold’s Weekly Newspaper and the Glasgow Sentinel. He also gives public lectures and in 1851 he opens the Eclectic Institute in Denmark Street, Soho, London, where adult education classes are offered in English, French, science and mathematics.

By the 1850s O’Brien’s poverty begins to damage his health. He suffers from bronchitis and his Chartist friends attempt to raise money in recognition of the great sacrifices that he had made in the struggle to win universal suffrage and the freedom of the press. However, the damage to his health is so bad that he spends his last years bed-ridden. He dies on December 23, 1864, and is buried in Abney Park Cemetery.


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Birth of John Wilson Croker, Statesman & Author

John Wilson Croker, Irish stateman and author noted for his critical severity as a reviewer and for his rigid Tory principles, is born in Galway, County Galway on December 20, 1780.

Croker is the only son of John Croker, the surveyor general of customs and excise in Ireland. He is educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduates in 1800. Immediately afterwards he enters Lincoln’s Inn and, in 1802, he is called to the Irish bar.

Croker enters the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1808 as member for Downpatrick, obtaining the seat on petition, though he had been unsuccessful at the poll. In 1810 he is appointed to the office of First Secretary to the Admiralty, which he holds without interruption under various administrations for more than twenty years. From the beginning he has the backing of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, and the friendship continues between them until Wellesley’s death in 1852.

Strongly opposed to the Representation of the People Act 1832, Croker resigns from Parliament when it is passed, though he continues thereafter his close contacts with Tory leaders. From about this period there begins a lifelong antagonism between Croker and Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay, a major champion of the Reform Bill and Whiggism.

From 1831 to 1854 Croker is one of the chief writers for the Quarterly Review, to which he contributes about 270 articles on a variety of subjects. His literary tastes are largely those of the 18th century, as may be seen from his severe criticism of John Keats’s Endymion, Alfred Tennyson’s Poems of 1832, and of course the first two volumes of Macaulay’s The History of England from the Accession of James the Second (1848). For some years before his death he accumulates material for an annotated edition of Alexander Pope’s works. This is passed to Whitwell Elwin, who begins the edition later completed by William John Courthope. Croker also edits the collected letters or memoirs of various 18th-century figures.

Croker dies at the age of 76 on August 10, 1857 at St. Albans Bank, Hampton.

(Pictured: Portrait of John Wilson Croker, by William Owen (died 1825), given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1872)


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Birth of Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, Journalist & Novelist

joseph-sheridan-le-fanuJoseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, journalist, novelist, and short story writer, often called the father of the modern ghost story, is born in Dublin on August 28, 1814. He is the leading ghost story writer of the nineteenth century and is central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. His best known works include Uncle Silas (1864), a suspense story, and The House by the Churchyard (1863), a murder mystery. His vampire story Carmilla, which influences Bram Stoker’s Dracula, has been filmed several times.

Le Fanu is born at 45 Lower Dominick Street in Dublin to Thomas Philip Le Fanu and Emma Lucretia Dobbin, a literary family of Huguenot, Irish, and English descent. Within a year of his birth the family moves to the Royal Hibernian Military School in Phoenix Park where his father, a Church of Ireland clergyman, is appointed to the chaplaincy of the establishment.

In 1826, the family moves to Abington, County Limerick, where Le Fanu’s father takes up his second rectorship. Le Fanu uses his father’s library to educate himself and by the age of fifteen he was writing poetry.

The disorders of the Tithe War (1831–1836) affect the region in 1832 and the following year the family temporarily moves back to Dublin, where Le Fanu works on a Government commission. Although Thomas Le Fanu tries to live as though he is well-off, the family is in constant financial difficulty. At his death, Thomas has almost nothing to leave to his sons and the family has to sell his library to pay off some of his debts.

Le Fanu studies law at Trinity College, Dublin, where he is elected Auditor of the College Historical Society. He is called to the bar in 1839, but never practices and soon abandons law for journalism. In 1838 he begins contributing stories to the Dublin University Magazine, including his first ghost story, The Ghost and the Bone-Setter (1838). He becomes owner of several newspapers from 1840, including the Dublin Evening Mail and the Warder.

In 1847, Le Fanu supports John Mitchel and Thomas Francis Meagher in their campaign against the indifference of the government to the Irish Famine. Others involved in the campaign include Samuel Ferguson and Isaac Butt. Butt writes a forty-page analysis of the national disaster for the Dublin University Magazine in 1847. Le Fanu’s support costs him the nomination as Tory Member of Parliament (MP) for County Carlow in 1852.

In 1856 the family moves from Warrington Place to the house of his wife Susanna’s parents at 18 Merrion Square. His personal life becomes difficult at this time, as his wife suffers from increasing neurotic symptoms. She suffers from anxiety after the deaths of several close relatives, including her father two years previous. In April 1858, Susanna suffers a “hysterical attack” and dies the following day. She is buried in the Bennett family vault in Mount Jerome Cemetery beside her father and brothers. He does not write any fiction from this point until the death of his mother in 1861.

He becomes the editor and proprietor of the Dublin University Magazine in 1861 and begins to take advantage of double publication, first serializing in the Dublin University Magazine, then revising for the English market. He publishes both The House by the Churchyard and Wylder’s Hand in this manner. After lukewarm reviews of The House by the Churchyard, which is set in the Phoenix Park area of Dublin, Le Fanu signs a contract with Richard Bentley, his London publisher, which specifies that future novels be stories “of an English subject and of modern times,” a step Bentley thinks necessary for Le Fanu to satisfy the English audience. Le Fanu succeeds in this aim in 1864, with the publication of Uncle Silas, which is set in Derbyshire. In his very last short stories, however, Le Fanu returns to Irish folklore as an inspiration and encourages his friend Patrick Kennedy to contribute folklore to the Dublin University Magazine.

Le Fanu dies in his native Dublin on February 7, 1873, at the age of 58. Today there is a road and a park in Ballyfermot, near his childhood home in south-west Dublin, named after him.

 


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Lord Randolph Churchill’s Speech at Ulster Hall

Generated by IIPImageConservative Party politician Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Winston Churchill, gives what many consider one of the single most destructive speeches in Irish history, inciting militant loyalists at Ulster Hall in Belfast on February 22, 1886.

The Conservative Party in Ulster launches an anti-Home Rule campaign in February 1886. It joins with the Orange Order to organise a huge political rally which is addressed by Lord Churchill.

Protestants in Ulster are very concerned about the prospect of Irish Home Rule. They fear that an Irish parliament will put rural agricultural interests before the needs of the industrial North-East. They believe a Dublin parliament will introduce tariffs which will damage industries in the north. They also fear that they will be discriminated against because of their religion, outnumbered in a Dublin parliament by Catholic representatives.

Churchill has shown disdain for Ulster Unionists up until this time, in private at least, telling Lord Salisbury, “these foul Ulster Tories have always ruined our party,” but as 1886 begins he sees an opportunity to exploit their fears for political gain. He decides that should Prime Minister William Gladstone “went for Home Rule (for Ireland), the Orange Card would be the one to play. Please God may it turn out the ace of trumps and not the two.” This quote leads one to believe he has few real convictions regarding the issue.

“Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right,” Lord Churchill proclaims to a crowd before he even arrives at Ulster Hall.

Lord Churchill, gives a rousing speech at the rally. During his speech, he plays on Protestant fears of Dublin “Catholic” rule and encourages Ulster Protestants to organize against Home Rule so it does not come upon them “as a thief in the night.” As a result, the Ulster Protestants begin to form paramilitary drilling units.

Churchill achieves a short term political gain by his playing of the Orange Card, but his most lasting legacy is the unfounded fear of Irish Catholics that he helps to implant in the minds of Ulster Protestants, a tragedy for both traditions on the island. Those fears remain evident over a century later.


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Death of Sir Richard Steele, Writer, Playwright & Politician

richard-steeleSir Richard Steele, writer, playwright, and politician, remembered as co-founder, with his friend Joseph Addison, of the magazine Tatler, dies in Carmarthen, Wales on September 1, 1729.

Steele is born in Dublin on March 12, 1672 to Richard Steele, an attorney, and Elinor Symes (née Sheyles). He is largely raised by his uncle and aunt, Henry Gascoigne and Lady Katherine Mildmay. A member of the Protestant gentry, he is educated at Charterhouse School, where he first meets Addison. After starting at Christ Church, Oxford, he goes on to Merton College, Oxford, then joins the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry in order to support King William‘s wars against France. He is commissioned in 1697, and rises to the rank of captain within two years. He leaves the army in 1705, perhaps due to the death of the 34th Foot’s commanding officer, Robert Lucas, 3rd Baron Lucas, which limits his opportunities of promotion.

Steele is a member of the Kit-Kat Club. Both Steele and Addison become closely associated with Child’s Coffee-house in St. Paul’s Churchyard.

Steele’s first published work, The Christian Hero (1701), attempts to point out the differences between perceived and actual masculinity. Written while he is serving in the army, it expresses his idea of a pamphlet of moral instruction.

Steele writes a comedy that same year titled The Funeral. This play meets with wide success and is performed at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, bringing him to the attention of the King and the Whig party. Next, he writes The Lying Lover, one of the first sentimental comedies, but a failure on stage. In 1705, he writes The Tender Husband with contributions from Addison, and later that year writes the prologue to The Mistake, by John Vanbrugh, also an important member of the Whig Kit-Kat Club with Addison and Steele.

In 1706 Steele is appointed to a position in the household of Prince George of Denmark, consort of Anne, Queen of Great Britain. He also gains the favour of Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer.

The Tatler, Steele’s first journal, first appears on April 12, 1709, and appears three times a week. He writes this periodical under the pseudonym Isaac Bickerstaff and gives Bickerstaff an entire, fully developed personality. The Tatler is closed down to avoid the complications of running a Whig publication that had come under Tory attack.

Steele becomes a Whig Member of Parliament in 1713, for Stockbridge. He is soon expelled for issuing a pamphlet in favor of the Hanoverian succession. When George I of Great Britain comes to the throne in the following year, Steele is knighted and given responsibility for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London. He returns to parliament in 1715, for Boroughbridge.

While at Drury Lane, Steele writes and directs the sentimental comedy The Conscious Lovers, which is an immediate hit. However, he falls out with Addison and with the administration over the Peerage Bill (1719), and in 1724 he retires to his second wife’s homeland of Wales. He remains in Carmarthen after his wife’s death, dying there on September 1, 1729. He is buried there at St. Peter’s Church. During restoration of the church in 2000, his skull is discovered in a lead casket, having previously been accidentally disinterred during the 1870s.

(Pictured: Portrait of Sir Richard Steele by Jonathan Richardson)


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Death of Queen Victoria

queen-victoriaQueen Victoria dies at Osborne House, Isle of Wight on January 22, 1901, ending an era in which most of her British subjects know no other monarch.

With a reign of 63 years, seven months and two days, she is the longest-reigning British monarch and the longest-reigning queen regnant in world history until her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II surpasses her on September 9, 2015. She restores dignity to the English monarchy and ensures its survival as a ceremonial political institution. Edward VII accedes to the throne upon her death.

Born on May 24, 1819 in Kensington Palace, London, Victoria comes to the throne after the death of her uncle, King William IV, in 1837. As a young woman ascending to the throne, her future husband describes her “as one whose extreme obstinacy was constantly at war with her good nature.” Her first prime minister, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, becomes her close friend and adviser, and she succeeds in blocking his replacement by Tory leader Sir Robert Peel in 1839. Two years later, however, an election results in a Tory majority in the House of Commons, and she is compelled to accept Peel as prime minister. Never again does she interfere so directly in the politics of democratic Britain.

In 1839, her first cousin Albert, a German prince, comes to visit the English court at Windsor, and Victoria proposes to him five days after his arrival. Prince Albert accepts and they are married in February 1840. He soon becomes the dominant influence in her life and serves as her private secretary. Among his greatest achievements as Prince Consort is his organization of The Great Exhibition of 1851, the first world’s fair, in the Crystal Palace in London. He also steers her support away from the Whigs to the conservative Tories. She later is a vocal supporter of Benjamin Disraeli, leader of the Conservative Party.

Victoria and Albert build royal residences at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and become increasingly detached from London. They have nine children, including Victoria, later the empress of Germany, and the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. In 1861, Albert dies and Victoria’s grief is such that she does not appear in public for three years. She never entirely gets over the loss and, until the end of her life, has her maids nightly lay out Albert’s clothes for the next day and in the morning replace the water in the basin in his room.

Disraeli coaxes Victoria out of seclusion, and she is impressed by his efforts to strengthen and expand the British Empire. In 1876, he has her made “empress of India,” a title which pleases her and makes her a symbol of imperial unity. During the last few decades of her life, her popularity, which had suffered during her long public absence, increases greatly. She never embraces the social and technological advances of the 19th century but accepts the changes and works hard to fulfill her ceremonial duties as head of state.

Following a custom she maintains throughout her widowhood, Victoria spends the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Rheumatism in her legs has rendered her lame and her eyesight is clouded by cataracts. Through early January, she feels weak and unwell, and by mid-January she is drowsy, dazed and confused. She dies in the early evening of Tuesday, January 22, 1901, at the age of 81. Her son and successor King Edward VII, and her eldest grandson, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, are at her deathbed. Her favourite pet Pomeranian, Turi, is laid upon her deathbed as a last request.

Victoria’s funeral is held on Saturday, February 2, in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and after two days of lying-in-state, she is interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. When she dies, she has 37 surviving great-grandchildren, and their marriages with other monarchies give her the name “grandmother of Europe.”