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


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Birth of Charles Maturin, Clergyman, Playwright & Novelist

Charles Robert Maturin, also known as C. R. Maturin, an Irish Protestant clergyman ordained in the Church of Ireland and a writer of Gothic plays and novels, is born in Dublin on September 25, 1780. His best known work is the novel Melmoth the Wanderer.

Maturin is descended from Huguenots who found shelter in Ireland, one of whom is Gabriel Jacques Maturin who becomes Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, after Jonathan Swift in 1745. He attends Trinity College Dublin. Shortly after being ordained as curate of Loughrea, County Galway, in 1803, he moves back to Dublin as curate of St. Peter’s Church. He lives in York Street with his father William, a Post Office official, and his mother, Fedelia Watson. He marries the acclaimed singer Henrietta Kingsbury on October 7, 1804.

Maturin’s first three works are Gothic novels published under the pseudonym Dennis Jasper Murphy, and are critical and commercial failures. They do, however, catch the attention of Sir Walter Scott, who recommends Maturin’s work to Lord Byron. With their help, his play Bertram is staged in 1816 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane for 22 nights, with Edmund Kean starring in the lead role as Bertram. Financial success, however, eludes Maturin, as the play’s run coincides with his father’s unemployment and another relative’s bankruptcy, both of them assisted by the fledgling writer. To make matters worse, Samuel Taylor Coleridge publicly denounces the play as dull and loathsome, and “melancholy proof of the depravation of the public mind,” going nearly so far as to decry it as atheistic.

The Church of Ireland takes note of these and earlier criticisms and, having discovered the identity of Bertram‘s author after Maturin had shed his nom de plume to collect the profits from the play, subsequently bar his further clerical advancement. Forced to support his wife and four children by writing on his curate salary of £80-90 per annum, compared to the £1000 he made for Bertram, he switches back from playwright to novelist after a string of his plays meet with failure. He produces several novels in addition to Melmoth the Wanderer, including some on Irish subjects and The Albigenses, a historical novel which features werewolves. Various poems have also been ascribed to Maturin on dubious grounds and appear to be the work of others. The prize-winning “Lines on the Battle of Waterloo” is published in 1816 under the name of the university graduate John Shee. “The Universe” appears with Maturin’s name on the title page in 1821, but is now thought to be almost completely the work of James Wills.

The exaggerated effectiveness of Maturin’s preaching can be gauged from the two series of sermons that he publishes. On the occasion of the death of Princess Charlotte, he declares, “Life is full of death; the steps of the living cannot press the earth without disturbing the ashes of the dead – we walk upon our ancestors – the globe itself is one vast churchyard.” A contemporary account records that there had seldom been seen such crowds at St Peter’s. “Despite the severe weather, people of all persuasions flocked to the church and listened spellbound to this prince of preachers. In his obituary it is said that, ‘did he leave no other monument whereon to rest his fame, these sermons alone would be sufficient.'”

Maturin dies in Dublin on October 30, 1824. A writer in the University Magazine later sums up his character as “eccentric almost to insanity and compounded of opposites – an insatiable reader of novels; an elegant preacher; an incessant dancer; a coxcomb in dress and manners.”

A sister of Maturin’s wife marries Charles Elgee, whose daughter, Jane Francesca, becomes the mother of Oscar Wilde. Thus Charles Maturin is Oscar Wilde’s great-uncle by marriage. Wilde discards his own name and adopts the name of Maturin’s novel, Melmoth, during his exile in France.

Maturin’s eldest son, William Basil Kingsbury Maturin, follows him into the ministry, as do several of his grandsons. One of these, Basil W. Maturin, dies in the sinking of RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915. The second son is Edward Maturin, who emigrates to the United States and becomes a novelist and poet there.


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Death of Lady Eleanor Charlotte Butler, Recluse of Llangollen

Lady Eleanor Charlotte Butler, daughter of the 16th Earl of Ormonde and recluse of Llangollen, dies on June 2, 1829.

Butler is born in Cambrai, France, the youngest daughter of Walter Butler, 16th Earl of Ormonde, of Garryricken, County Tipperary, and his wife, Ellen (née Morres), of Latargh, County Tipperary. Her family are members of the old Catholic gentry, and her father is the sole lineal representative of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde. In 1740 her family returns to the Garryricken estate, where she spends part of her childhood. She is educated by the English Benedictine nuns of the convent of Our Lady of Consolation in Cambrai, where her Jacobite grand-aunt is a pensioner. Reared in the liberal and anti-clerical environment at Cambrai, she is open about her opposition to Irish Catholicism. She is also well read in literature.

By the time Butler returns to Ireland, her brother John has claimed the family titles and is recognised as 17th Earl of Ormonde. Though he never uses the title, his sisters are recognised as the daughters of an earl. As the family is impoverished, and she is not disposed to marriage, a decade is passed in unhappiness. Then in 1768 the thirteen-year-old Sarah Ponsonby arrives in Kilkenny to attend a local school. Following her visit to the Butler home at Kilkenny Castle, and despite the difference in age, the two form an immediate friendship and correspond secretly, having discovered their mutual interest in the arts and Jean-Jacques Rousseau‘s ideal of pastoral retirement.

Ponsonby, on finishing school, is sent to live with relatives at the nearby Woodstock Estate, and there is subject to the uninvited attention of a middle-aged guardian. Butler is discontented with her life and the prospects of her family’s wish to send her back to Cambrai, so the two plan to leave their difficulties behind and settle in England. In their first attempt to flee in March 1778, they leave for Waterford disguised as men and wielding pistols, but their families manage to catch up with them. Butler is then sent to the home of her brother-in-law Thomas ‘Monarch’ Kavanagh of Borris, County Carlow, but makes a second, successful attempt and runs away to find Ponsonby at the Woodstock Estate. Her persistence wins out when both families finally capitulate and accept their plans to live together.

The two set out for Wales in May 1778 and, after an extensive tour of Wales and Shropshire, eventually settle in Llangollen Vale, where they rent a cottage which is renamed Plas Newydd. They are accompanied by Mary Carryl, a former servant of the Woodstock household, who remains in their service until her death in 1809. Having made a deliberate decision to retire from the world, they spend the greater part of their days corresponding with friends, reading, building up a large library and making alterations to Plas Newydd, which takes on a fashionable Gothic look. Their garden, landscaped under their direction, becomes a popular attraction for visitors. Butler meticulously records their daily routine in a series of journals, some of which are now lost.

Their seclusion, eccentricities, semi-masculine dress and short-cropped powdered hair gain them notoriety, and it becomes fashionable to call on them. Their numerous and illustrious visitors include Hester Lynch Piozzi, Charles and Erasmus Darwin, Sir Walter Scott, Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Gloucester and Josiah Wedgwood. In 1792 they entertain Pamela Sims, later that year to become the wife of Lord Edward FitzGerald, and her mother Madame de Genlis. Following the arrest of Edward FitzGerald in 1798, Pamela and her suite flee to London and on May 27 pass through Llangollen, where the events in Dublin are already known. On hearing that Pamela FitzGerald is staying in the local inn, Butler and Ponsonby invite her to call in. However, when Pamela wishes to stay for the day, their apprehension of Jacobinism leads them to persuade her “principally for her own sake and a little for [our] own to proceed as fast and as incognito as possible for London.”

Both Anna Seward and William Wordsworth, who stay at Plas Newydd, write poems celebrating their friendship, and Lord Byron sends them a copy of The corsair. Owing to her support of the Bourbons, Butler is sent the Croix St. Louis, which she wears about her neck. Their celebrity does have its drawbacks: an article in the General Evening Post of July 24, 1790, entitled ‘Extraordinary female affection’, suggests indirectly that their relationship is unnatural. Butler is particularly angered by this publicity and appeals to Edmund Burke for legal advice. Their retirement is also continually dogged by financial difficulties. They live mainly off their respective allowances and Butler’s royal pension, granted through the influence of Lady Frances Douglas, but spend beyond their means and are often in debt. To add to their problems, Butler receives no mention in her father’s will. However, the Gothic eccentricities of their cottage, which they succeed over time in purchasing, and garden attract even the interest of Queen Charlotte.

Though it is claimed that neither woman spent a night away from Plas Newydd, in January 1786 they stay with their friends the Barretts of Oswestry, and that September they visit Sir Henry Bridgeman of Weston Park, near Staffordshire. In June 1797 they take their only holiday, at the coastal resort of Barmouth. Despite their isolation they are well informed about international events and society gossip. The Irish serjeant-at-law Charles Kendal Bushe recalls how they gave him all the news of Dublin, London, Cheltenham, and Paris. In later years Butler’s eyesight deteriorates, preventing her from keeping her journal. She is secretly painted as an old woman with Ponsonby by Lady Mary Leighton and sketched by Lady Henrietta Delamere. A distinctive, anonymous silhouette shows the two generously proportioned women in traditional riding habits (National Portrait Gallery, London).

Butler dies on June 2, 1829, and is buried alongside Mary Carryl at St. Collen’s Church in Llangollen. Sarah Ponsonby is subsequently buried with them.

(From: “Butler, Lady (Charlotte) Eleanor” by Frances Clarke, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Birth of Thomas Moore, Poet, Satirist & Composer

thomas-moore

Thomas Moore, poet, satirist, composer, and political propagandist, is born in Dublin on May 28, 1779. He is best remembered for the lyrics of “The Minstrel Boy” and “The Last Rose of Summer.” He is a close friend of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. As Lord Byron’s named literary executor, along with John Murray, Moore is responsible for burning Lord Byron’s memoirs after his death. In his lifetime he is often referred to as Anacreon Moore.

The son of a Roman Catholic wine merchant, Moore graduates from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1799 and then studies law in London. His major poetic work, Irish Melodies (1807–34), earns him an income of £500 annually for a quarter of a century. It contains such titles as “The Last Rose of Summer” and “Oft in the Stilly Night.” The Melodies, a group of 130 poems set to the music of Moore and of Sir John Stevenson and performed for London’s aristocracy, arouses sympathy and support for the Irish nationalists, among whom Moore is a popular hero.

Lalla-Rookh (1817), a narrative poem set in an atmosphere of Oriental splendour, gives Moore a reputation among his contemporaries rivaling that of Byron and Sir Walter Scott. It is perhaps the most translated poem of its time, and it earns what was until then the highest price paid by an English publisher for a poem (£3,000). His many satirical works, such as The Fudge Family in Paris (1818), portray the politics and manners of the Regency era.

In 1824 Moore becomes a participant in one of the most celebrated episodes of the Romantic era. He is the recipient of Byron’s memoirs, but he and the publisher John Murray burn them, presumably to protect Byron. He later brings out the Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1830), in which he includes a life of the poet. His lifelong espousal of the Catholic cause leads him to produce such brilliant works as his parody of agrarian insurgency, The Memoirs of Captain Rock (1824), and his courageous biography of the revolutionary leader of the 1798 rebellion, The Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1831).

Moore’s personal life is dogged by tragedy including the deaths of all five of his children within his lifetime and a stroke in later life, which disables him from performances, the activity for which he is most renowned. Moore dies while being cared for by his wife, Elizabeth (nee Dyke), at Sloperton Cottage, Bromham, Wiltshire, England on February 26, 1852. His remains are in a vault at St. Nicholas churchyard, Bromham, within view of his cottage-home and beside his daughter Anastasia.

(Pictured: Thomas Moore, after a painting by Thomas Lawrence)


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Death of Novelist Maria Edgeworth

maria-edgeworthMaria Edgeworth, Anglo-Irish writer known for her children’s stories and for her novels of Irish life, dies on May 22, 1849 in Edgeworthstown, County Longford.

Edgeworth is born at Black Bourton, Oxfordshire, England on January 1, 1768. She is the second child of Richard Lovell Edgeworth and Anna Maria Edgeworth (née Elers). She spends her early years with her mother’s family in England, until her mother’s death when Maria is five. When her father marries his second wife Honora Sneyd in 1773, she goes with him to his estate, Edgeworthstown, in County Longford. There, she assists her father in managing his estate. In this way she acquires the knowledge of rural economy and of the Irish peasantry that is to become the backbone of her novels.

Domestic life at Edgeworthstown is busy and happy. Encouraged by her father, Edgeworth begins her writing in the common sitting room, where the 21 other children in the family provide material and audience for her stories. She publishes them in 1796 as The Parent’s Assistant. Even the intrusive moralizing, attributed to her father’s editing, does not wholly suppress their vitality, and the children who appear in them, especially the impetuous Rosamond, are the first real children in English literature since William Shakespeare.

Her first novel, Castle Rackrent (1800), written without her father’s interference, reveals her gift for social observation, character sketch, and authentic dialogue and is free from lengthy lecturing. It establishes the genre of the “regional novel,” and its influence is enormous. Sir Walter Scott acknowledges his debt to Edgeworth in writing Waverley. Her next work, Belinda (1801), a society novel unfortunately marred by her father’s insistence on a happy ending, is particularly admired by Jane Austen.

Edgeworth never marries. She has a wide acquaintance in literary and scientific circles. Between 1809 and 1812 she publishes her Tales of Fashionable Life in six volumes. They include one of her best novels, The Absentee, which focuses attention on a great contemporary abuse in Irish society: absentee English landowning.

Before her father’s death in 1817 she publishes three more novels, two of them, Patronage (1814) and Ormond (1817), of considerable power. After 1817 she writes less. She completes her father’s Memoirs (1820) and devotes herself to the estate. She enjoys a European reputation and exchanges cordial visits with Scott. Her last years are saddened by the Irish famine of 1846, during which she works for the relief of stricken peasants.

After a visit to see her relations in Trim, Maria, now in her eighties, begins to feel heart pains and dies suddenly of a heart attack in Edgeworthstown on May 22, 1849. She is laid to rest in a vault at Edgeworthstown Church.

The feminist movement of the 1960s leads to the reprinting of her Moral Tales for Young People, 5 vol. (1801) and Letters for Literary Ladies (1795) in the 1970s. Her novels continue to be regularly reprinted in the 21st century.

(Pictured: Maria Edgeworth by John Downman, 1807)


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Death of Thomas Moore, Poet, Singer & Songwriter

thomas-mooreThomas Moore, Irish poet, singer, songwriter, and entertainer, dies at Sloperton Cottage, Bromham, Wiltshire, England on February 25, 1852. He is best remembered for the lyrics of “The Minstrel Boy” and “The Last Rose of Summer.” He is a close friend of Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

The son of a Roman Catholic wine merchant, Moore is born at 12 Aungier Street in Dublin on May 28, 1779. From a relatively early age he shows an interest in music and other performing arts. He attends several Dublin schools including Samuel Whyte’s English Grammar School in Grafton Street where he learns the English accent with which he speaks for the rest of his life. In 1795 he graduates from Trinity College, Dublin in an effort to fulfill his mother’s dream of his becoming a lawyer.

Upon graduation from Trinity, Moore studies law in London. His major poetic work, Irish Melodies (1807–34), earns him an income of £500 annually for a quarter of a century. It contains such titles as “The Last Rose of Summer” and “Oft in the Stilly Night.” The Melodies, a group of 130 poems set to the music of Moore and Sir John Andrew Stevenson and performed for London’s aristocracy, arouses sympathy and support for the Irish nationalists, among whom Moore is a popular hero.

Lalla-Rookh (1817), a narrative poem set in an atmosphere of Oriental splendour, gives Moore a reputation among his contemporaries rivaling that of Byron and Sir Walter Scott. It is perhaps the most translated poem of its time, and it earns what is up until then the highest price paid by an English publisher for a poem (£3,000). His many satirical works, such as The Fudge Family in Paris (1818), portray the politics and manners of the Regency era.

In 1824 Moore becomes a participant in one of the most celebrated episodes of the Romantic era. He is the recipient of Byron’s memoirs, but he and the publisher John Murray burn them, presumably to protect Byron. He later brings out the Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: With Notices of his Life (1830), in which he includes a life of the poet. His lifelong espousal of the Catholic cause leads him to produce such brilliant works as his parody of agrarian insurgency, The Memoirs of Captain Rock (1824), and his courageous biography of the revolutionary leader of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, The Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1831).

Moore finally settles in Sloperton Cottage at Bromham, Wiltshire, England, and becomes a novelist and biographer as well as a successful poet. Around the time of the Reform Act he is invited to stand for parliament, and considers it, but nothing comes of it. In 1829 he is painted by Thomas Lawrence, one of the last works completed by the artist before his death.

Moore’s personal life is dogged by tragedy including the deaths of all five of his children within his lifetime and a stroke in later life, which disables him from performances – the activity for which he is most renowned. He dies being cared for by his wife at Sloperton on February 25, 1852. His remains are in a vault at St. Nicholas churchyard, Bromham, within view of his cottage-home, beside his daughter Anastasia.