Page images
PDF
EPUB

PREFACES

TO

THE COLLECTED EDITION OF TEN VOLUMES,

PUBLISHED IN 1841, 1842.

TO

PREFACE

by a note to the editor, requesting the insertion of the “ following attempts of a youthful

muse;" and the fear and trembling with which THE FIRST VOLUME.

I ventured upon this step were agreeably dis

pelled, not only by the appearance of the conFINDING it to be the wish of my Publishers tributions, but still more by my finding myself, that at least the earlier volumes of this col- a few months after, hailed as “Our esteemed lection should each be accompanied by some correspondent, T. M.” prefatory matter, illustrating, by a few bio

It was in the pages of this publication, graphical memoranda, the progress of my where the whole of the poem was extracted, humble literary career, I have consented, that I first met with the Pleasures of Memory; though not, I confess, without some scruple and to this day, when I open the volume of and hesitation, to comply with their request. the Anthologia which contains it, the very In no country is there so much curiosity felt form of the type and colour of the paper brings respecting the interior of the lives of public back vividly to my mind the delight with which men as in England; but, on the other hand, I first read that poem. in no country is he who ventures to tell his My schoolmaster, Mr. Whyte, though amusown story so little safe from the imputation of ingly vain, was a good and kind-hearted man ; vanity and self-display.

and, as a teacher of public reading and elocuThe whole of the poems contained in the tion, had long enjoyed considerable reputafirst, as well as in the greater part of the tion. Nearly thirty years before I became his second, volume of this collection were written pupil, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, then about between the sixteenth and the twenty-third eight or nine years of age, had been placed by year of the author's age. But I had begun Mrs. Sheridan under his care*; and, strange still earlier, not only to rhyme but to publish. to say, was, after about a year's trial, proA sonnet to my schoolmaster, Mr. Samuel nounced, both by tutor and parent, to be “an Whyte, written in my fourteenth year, ap- incorrigible dunce." Among those who took peared at the time in a Dublin magazine, lessons from him as private pupils were several called the Anthologia, — the first, and, I fear, young ladies of rank, belonging to some of almost only, creditable attempt in periodical those great Irish families who still continued to literature of which Ireland has to boast. I had lend to Ireland the enlivening influence of even at an earlier period (1793) sent to this their presence, and made their country-seats, magazine two short pieces of verse, prefaced through a great part of the year, the scenes of

• Some confused notion of this fact has led the writer of a tutor !-"Great attention was paid to his education by his Memoir prefixed to the “ Pocket Edition " of my Poems, tutor, Sheridan.” printed at Zwickau, to state that Brinsley Sheridan was my

refined as well as hospitable festivity. The the Poor Soldier and a Harlequin Pantomime Miss Montgomerys, to whose rare beauty the being the entertainments agreed upon, the parts pencil of Sir Joshua has given immortality, of Patrick and the Motley hero fell to my share. were among those whom my worthy preceptor I was also encouraged to write and recite an most boasted of as pupils ; and his description appropriate epilogue on the occasion ; and the of them, I remember, long haunted my boyish following lines, alluding to our speedy return imagination, as though they were not earthly to school, and remarkable only for their having women, but some spiritual “ creatures of the lived so long in my memory, formed part of element."

this juvenile effort:About thirty or forty years before the

Our Pantaloon, who did so aged look, period of which I am speaking, an eager taste Must now resume his youth, his task, his book : for private theatrical performances had sprung Our Harlequin, who skipp'd, laugh'd, danc'd and died,

Must now stand trembling by his master's side. up among the higher ranks of society in Ireland; and at Carton, the seat of the Duke of I have thus been led back, step by step, Leinster, at Castletown, Marley, and other from an early date to one still earlier, with the great houses, private plays were got up, of view of ascertaining, for those who take any which, in most instances, the superintendence interest in literary biography, at what period I was entrusted to Mr. Whyte, and in general first showed an aptitude for the now common the prologue, or the epilogue, contributed by craft of verse-making; and the result is-so his pen. At Marley, the seat of the Latouches, far back in childhood lies the epoch—that I where the masque of Comus was performed in am really unable to say at what age I first bethe year 1776, while my old master supplied gan to act, sing, and rhyme. the prologue, no less distinguished a hand than To these different talents, such as they were, that of our “ever-glorious Grattan*,” fur- the gay and social habits prevailing in Dublin nished the epilogue. This relic of his pen, afforded frequent opportunities of display; too, is the more memorable, as being, I believe, while, at home, a most amiable father, and a the only poetical composition he was ever mother such as in heart and head has rarely known to produce.

been equalled, furnished me with that purest At the time when I first began to attend his stimulus to exertion - the desire to please school, Mr. Whyte still continued, to the no those whom we, at once, most love and most small alarm of many parents, to encourage a respect. It was, I think, a year or two after taste for acting among his pupils. In this line my entrance into college, that a masque written I was long his favourite show-scholar; and by myself, and of which I had adapted one of among the play-bills introduced in his volume, the songs to the air of Hadyn's Spirit-Song, to illustrate the occasions of his own prologues was acted, under our own humble roof in and epilogues, there is one of a play got up in Aungier Street, by my elder sister, myself, the year 1790, at Lady Borrowes's private and one or two other young persons. The theatre in Dublin, where, among the items of little drawing-room over the shop was our the evening's entertainment, is “ An Epilogue, grand place of representation, and young A Squeeze to St. Paul's, Master Moore.” now an eminent professor of music in Dublin,

With acting, indeed, is associated the very enacted for us the part of orchestra at the first attempt at verse-making to which my me- piano-forte. mory enables me to plead guilty. It was at a It will be seen from all this, that, however period, I think, even earlier than the date last imprudent and premature was my first

appearmentioned, that, while passing the summer ance in the London world as an author, it is holidays, with a number of other young people, only lucky that I had not much earlier assumed at one of those bathing-places, in the neigh- that responsible character; in which case the bourhood of Dublin, which afford such fresh public would probably have treated my nursery and healthful retreats to its inhabitants, it was productions in much the same manner in which proposed among us that we should combine that sensible critic, my Uncle Toby, would together in some theatrical performance; and have disposed of the “work which the great • Byron.

Lipsius produced on the day he was born."

While thus the turn I had so early shown and suffering, the happy disposition of my for rhyme and song was, by the gay and so-countrymen had kept their cheerfulness still ciable circle in which I lived, called so en- unbroken and buoyant; and, at the period of couragingly into play, a far deeper feeling - which I am speaking, the hope of a brighter and, I should hope, power-was at the same day dawning upon Ireland had given to the time awakened in me by the mighty change society of the middle classes in Dublin a more then working in the political aspect of Europe, than usual flow of hilarity and life. Among and the stirring influence it had begun to ex- other gay results of this festive spirit, a club, ercise on the spirit and hopes of Ireland. Born or society, was instituted by some of our most of Catholic parents, I had come into the world convivial citizens, one of whose objects was to with the slave's yoke around my neck; and it burlesque, good-humouredly, the forms and was all in vain that the fond ambition of a pomps of royalty With this view they estamother looked forward to the Bar as opening blished a sort of mock kingdom, of which a career that might lead her son to honour and Dalkey, a small island near Dublin, was made affluence. Against the young Papist all such the seat, and an eminent pawnbroker, named avenues to distinction were closed; and even Stephen Armitage, much renowned for his the University, the professed source of public agreeable singing, was the chosen and popular education, was to him “a fountain sealed.” Can monarch. any one now wonder that a people thus wronged Before public affairs had become too serious and trampled upon should have hailed the first for such pastime, it was usual to celebrate, dazzling outbreak of the French Revolution yearly, at Dalkey, the day of this sovereign's as a signal to the slave, wherever suffering, accession; and, among the gay scenes that still that the day of his deliverance was near at live in my memory, there are few it recalls hand. I remember being taken by my father with more freshness than the celebration, on a

(1792) to one of the dinners given in honour fine Sunday in summer, of one of these anni! of that great event, and sitting upon the knee versaries of King Stephen's coronation. The of the chairman while the following toast was picturesque sea-views from that spot, the gay enthusiastically sent round:-“May the breezes crowds along the shores, the innumerable boats, from France fan our Irish Oak into verdure." full of life, floating about, and, above all, that

In a few months after was passed the me- true spirit of mirth which the Irish temperamorable Act of 1793, sweeping away some of ment never fails to lend to such meetings, the most monstrous of the remaining sanctions rendered the whole a scene not easily forgotten. of the penal code; and I was myself among The state ceremonies of the day were performed, the first of the young Helots of the land, who with all due gravity, within the ruins of an anhastened to avail themselves of the new privi- cient church that stands on the island, where lege of being educated in their country's uni- his mock majesty bestowed the order of knightversity, - though still excluded from all share hood upon certain favoured personages, and in those college honours and emoluments by among others, I recollect, upon Incledon, the which the ambition of the youths of the ascen- celebrated singer, who arose from under the dant class was stimulated and rewarded. As I touch of the royal sword with the appropriate well knew that, next to my attaining some of title of Sir Charles Melody. There was also these distinctions, my showing that I deserved selected, for the favours of the crown on that to attain them would most gratify my anxious day, a lady of no ordinary poetic talent, Mrs. mother, I entered as candidate for a scholar- Battier, who had gained much fame by some ship, and (as far as the result of the examina- spirited satires in the manner of Churchill, and tion went) successfully. But, of course, the whose kind encouragement of my early atmere barten credit of the effort was all I en- tempts in versification were to me a source of joyed for my pains.

much pride. This lady, as was officially anIt was in this year (1794), or about the be- nounced, in the course of the day, had been ginning of the next, that I remember having, appointed his majesty's poetess laureate, under for the first time, tried my hand at political the style and title of Henrietta, Countess of satire. In their very worst times of slavery Laurel.

« PreviousContinue »