RICHARD LALOR SHEIL, author of "Sketches of the Irish Bar," was born at Waterford, in Ireland, in the year 1793. He died at Florence, where he was British Minister, on April 25, 1851, aged fifty-eight.

His father, who had been a merchant at Cadiz, retired on a competence, which enabled him to purchase an estate in the county of Waterford. Returning to mercantile pursuits, he was unfortunate, and died, leaving his sons little more than the means of perfecting a liberal education. One of these sous was Colonel Justin Sheil, yet surviving, who, for several years, was British Ambassador to Persia.

Like O'Connell, who was nearly twenty years his senior, Sheil was originally intended for the Catholic Church. At an early age, he was sent to a Jesuit school at Kensington, near London. He was subsequently removed to Stonyhurst, in Lancashire, whence he went to Trinity College, Dublin, with a competent knowledge of the classics, some acquaintance with Italian and Spanish, and the power of speaking and writing French, as if it were his mother-tongue. His taste for literature and his facility for rhetorical composition were early developed. In the University he won several classical prizes, and was acknowledged to surpass most of his fellow-students in general acquirements. He was a constant and favorite speaker in the celebrated Historical Society (the cradle of Irish eloquence at the time), where the brilliancy and force of his rhetoric always commanded admiration and applause.

Then, as ever after, his oratory consisted of more thau flowing sentences, for he generalized and applied facts, with rare and remarkable felicity. He graduated before he was twenty years old, and his college comates prophesied that his career would be distinguished..

At this time, and for a few years preceding, he floated on the surface of Dublin society. Small in stature, slight in figure, and eminently vivacious in manner and deportment, he came into society, almost a boy-as Moore had done, some fifteen years earlier—and, like Moore, he gave rise to sanguine anticipations. It was a doubt whether he would subside into a poet or an orator, but every one saw and said that he was marked for distinction. There were great men in Dublin at that time: Plunket, with unequalled powers of eloquence and reasoning; Bushe, silvery-tongued as Belial, but full of captivating amiability; Goold, imbued with a charming amour propre, which made you like, while you smiled at the man; O'Connell, in the full strength of youth and power, storming his way to the head of his profession; North, the college rival and friend of Sheil, whose maturity did not fulfil the promise of his youth; Wolfe, afterward Chief-Baron, with the kindest and truest heart throbbing in a gnarly case; and others, more or less distinguished, then or since. At that time, too, Grattan and Curran were the ornaments of intellectual life in Dublin; full of reminiscences of the Volunteers in 1782, and the Reign of Terror in 1798.

It was natural that, amid such men, Sheil, young, ardent, and highly-gifted, should set up a high standard of excellence, to which to direct his own ambitious strivings; and that "Excelsior" should be to him, as to all who worthily aspire, at once a motto and a monitor.

He was barely twenty when, in 1813, he made his first plunge into public and political life. There were divisions among the Irish Catholics then. One section, aristocratic and moderate—who, rather than the clanking should offend the "ears polite" of their rulers, would willingly have wrapped their fetters in velvet-desired to give the British government a Veto on the appointment of the Catholic Bishops, provided


that Emancipation were conceded. The other, democratic and bold, denounced all compromise. Sheil attached himself to the first, while O'Connell headed the latter. Both Tribunes of the People were able and eloquent-but the man, O'Connell, prevailed over the boy, Sheil, and the latter quitted the field, for a time.

In 1814, at the age of twenty-one, Sheil was called to the Irish Bar. His youth was against him, of course. His predilections were in favor of literature, and, for several years, his contributions to the London magazines afforded him the chief means of subsistence. He wrote for the stage, alsoexcited by the brilliant genius of Miss O'Neil, the Irish tragedienne-and his play of "Evadne" still retains a place in the acted drama, by reason of its declamatory poetry and effective situations.

On the Leinster Circuit, Mr. Sheil had to contend (strange as it may appear), with his previous reputation as an orator-for a good point at law is considered better, on account of its weight with the judge, than a brilliant speech, intended to win the verdict of a jury. At the bar, it must be confessed, Mr. Sheil never attained the highest distinction. His legal knowledge was limited, as respects depth and extent. criminal cases, his eloquence often prevailed with juries, and, as he gradually reached seniority, he also obtained leading briefs at Nisi-Prius. In the Four-Courts, where the metropolitan practice takes place, Sheil eventually came to be considered a passable general lawyer.


In 1823 (as related by himself in the article on Catholic Leaders), he joined with O'Connell, in establishing the Catholic Association, which literally became a sort of imperium in imperio in Ireland. In this body, both leaders spoke earnestly and well. O'Connell's role was to insist on "Justice for Ireland," Sheil's to cast contempt and ridicule upon what was called Protestant Ascendency.

In 1825, both leaders (“ Magnâ comitante catervâ”), went to London, as part of a deputation, at the time when, the suppression of the Catholic Association becoming a government preliminary, Emancipation-clogged with "the wings," viz,

disfranchisement of the forty shilling freeholders, and statepayment of the Catholic clergy-would have been granted, but for a speech from the Duke of York, heir-presumptive to the throne, in which he made a solemn vow to Heaven, that he would never accede to the concession.

At the general election of 1826, when Lord George Beresford's almost hereditary claims to represent Waterford county in Parliament, were unexpectedly contested by Mr. Villiers Stuart, a retainer to act as counsel for Lord George, was accepted by Mr. Sheil. There was some dissatisfaction, at the time, among the Catholics, at one of their ablest and most trusted leaders acting for a candidate of opposite politics; but O'Connell frankly and publicly did him the justice of saying, that, as a lawyer, Mr. Sheil was, in a manner, bound to act for whoever employed him. As there never was a question of the ability with which he performed his duty on that occasion, so was there never a belief that, in such performance, Mr. Sheil compromised his own principles, or those of his party. The election-thanks to the very forty-shilling freeholders, to whose disfranchisement (as part of the price of Emancipation), O'Connell would have consented, in 1825-ended in the defeat of Mr. Sheil's noble and anti-Catholic client.

The death of the Duke of York, the sworn opponent of the Catholics, took place in 1827, and Mr. Sheil took occasion, during and after his illness, to make some speeches, by no means in good taste, upon the Royal sufferer. About that time, too, he was prosecuted for too much freedom of speech. on Wolfe Tone's autobiography, on the Catholic Association (which had risen, more powerful than ever, on the ruins of that which was suppressed in 1825), but never tried.

In the following year (1828), the Catholic Association, in possession of ample funds from "the Rent" which O'Connell had established, determined to resist the re-election of Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, member for the County of Clare, because, though he had always voted for Emancipation, he had taken office in the Duke of Wellington's Anti-Catholic Government. O'Connell was the opposing candidate, and, after a fierce and exciting contest, he was elected by an overpowering majority.

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