never was very industrious; however, there was no period of his life during which he could not do as much in one hour as most other men could do in three, so that the stores of his mind and the negligence of his habits are perfectly reconcilable. From the academy of Middleton he passed on to Trinity College, Dublin, which he entered as a sizar on the sixteenth of June, 1769, aged nineteen, under the tutelage of Dr. Dobbin. He obtained the second place at entrance. Curran's academical course was unmarked by any literary distinction save the obtaining a scholarship; and, indeed, both for the College and its professors, he through life entertained the most sovereign contempt. It is very little to be wondered at. Perhaps there is not to be found in the whole history of literature any institution, so ancient and so endowed, so totally destitute of literary fame as the Alma Mater of Ireland.* With the three exceptions of Dr. Magee, Dr. Millar, and Dr. Greaves, there is scarcely a single fellow of modern times who has produced a work which is not beneath contempt; and the English reader should be informed that a fellowship in Dublin College is an office of no inconsiderable emolument. Seven of the fellows are permanent stipendiaries on the institution, whose united salaries, &c., are little less than £10,000 a year. There is a whole host of junior fellows, whose incomes are very considerable, and a variety of livings from £1800 a year downward, upon which they are billeted as Death takes his revenge upon the extra incumbents for a too free enjoyment of the comforts of this world. Swift, more than a century ago, described the site of his Legion Club to be

"Scarce a bowshot from the college

Half the globe from sense or knowledge”—

and so prophetic, as well as poetic, were the lines, that it has ever since received, both at Cambridge and Oxford, the ignominious appellation of The Silent Sister. It is said, by way

* There are no doubt, at this moment, many men of genius among the junior fellows of the college, but they so totally attach themselves to tuition that literature is out of the question.

of extenuation, that the fellows are too much occupied in the tuition of the students to attend to their own literary reputation; and, indeed, that the present provost* of the college has evinced a regard for his charge almost bordering upon innocent simplicity, no one can doubt after a perusal of the following anecdote. There is attached to it, among other advantages, a most magnificent library, of which the regulations. were so rigid, and the public hours so few, that it had become, to the externs particularly, almost entirely useless. Strict as the ordinances respecting it were, the rigor of them was latterly so much increased, that a reverend member of the University thought proper formally to allude to it at a visitation. The provost was called on for his defense. He pleaded the sanction of the board, and declared that the utmost circumspection was now become necessary, as the graduates were actually (gentle reader, start not!)—actually taking to the study of the black art, and becoming horribly industrious about the books of MAGIC!!! Poor man! he absolutely fancied himself at the head of a college of conjurors! I may venture to predict, if ever such an institution should spring up in Ireland, its members will be only bottle conjurors. That Mr. Curran passed through this University without much distinction can hardly be considered as very derogatory to his character. He passed through it as Swift, and Burke, and Goldsmith did before him—

"The glory of the college, and its shame." But, though uncheered by any encouragement, and undistinguished by any favor, by the anonymous superintendents of the day, he was not altogether unvisited by their severity.

* This reverend personage has lately, no doubt from the most laudable motives, suppressed the Historical Society, an institution which, as a school of eloquence, was unrivaled, and has given to the bar and the senate some of their brightest ornaments. [The person here alluded to has since been made a bishop. I rejoice to say that a more enlightened successor has reopened the society, and that the University, in every respect, is much improved. 1850.]


He was called before their board on the slightest suspicion of irregularity, and generally proved himself more than an overmatch for them. At one time the charge was that he kept idle women in rooms! I never did, please your reverences," said the embryo advocate, with the expression of a modern saint upon his countenance, "I never did keep any woman idle in my room, and I am ready to prove it." Their reverences, I believe, did not require the corroboration. At another time he was called before them for wearing a dirty shirt. I pleaded," said he, "inability to wear a clean one; and I told them the story of poor Lord Avonmore, who was at that time the plain, untitled, struggling Barry Yelverton. 'I wish, mother,' said Barry, 'I had eleven shirts.' 'Eleven, Barry! why eleven?' 'Because, mother, I am of opinion that a gentleman, to be comfortable, ought to have the dozen.' Poor Barry had but one, and I made the precedent my justification.”


From college he proceeded to London, where he contrived, quocunque modo, to enter his name on the books of the Middle Temple. Of his resources in the metropolis I never heard him speak, and the subject was too delicate to introduce. I have it, however, on the authority of a friend who knew him well, that he had some small stipend from the school at Middleton; and that, in addition to this, he profited by his literary exertions. To the magazines and the newspapers of the day, no doubt, he was a contributor; and, were it possible, it would be not only entertaining, but instructive, to trace the infant glimmering of the intellect which was one day to shine in the "highest noon" of splendor. But the inquiry would be useless. The contemporaries of that day are almost all extinct, and the effusions of his unpracticed pen have long since perished with the subjects in which they originated. They have suffered, like himself, alas! the common lot of humanity—a lot which it is in vain for us to deplore, because impossible for us to prevent. Of his literary productions at that early period, I have only been able to collect the following poetic trifles:

LINES WRITTEN AT RICHMOND. On the same spot where weeping Thomson paid His last sad tribute to his Talbot's shade,

An humble muse, by fond remembrance led,
Bewails the absent where he mourned the dead;
Nor differs much the subject of the strain,
Whether of death or absence we complain,
Whether we're sundered by the final scene,
Or envious seas disjoining roll between.
Absence, the dire effect, is still the same,
And death and distance differ but in name;
Yet sure they're different, if the peaceful grave
From haunting thoughts its low-laid tenants save.
Alas! my friend, were Providence inclined,
In unrelenting wrath to human kind,

To take back every blessing that she gave,
From the wide ruin she would memory save;
For memory still, with more than Egypt's art,
Embalming every grief that wounds the heart,
Sits at the altar she had raised to woe,
And feeds the source when tears must ever flow.



Ir sadly thinking,

And spirits sinking,

Could more than drinking

Our griefs compose—

A cure for sorrow
From grief I'd borrow;
And hope to-morrow
Might end my woes.


But since in wailing
There's naught availing,
For Death, unfailing,

Will strike the blow;
Then, for that reason,
And for the season,
Let us be merry
Before we go!


A way worn ranger,
To joy a stranger,
Through every danger

My course I've run.
Now, death befriending,
His last aid lending,
My griefs are ending,
My woes are done.



No more a rover,
Or hapless lover,
Those cares are over--
My cup runs low;"
Then, for that reason,
And for the season,
Let us be merry
Before we go!

This song was set to music as a glee, and exquisitely sung by Vaughan, Bartleman, and Mrs. Billington. It was very popular.

From a small collection of letters published five-and-thirty years ago, I have selected two as applicable to this interesting period of his life. They are particularly curious, as the one describes his first journey to London, and the other his sensations after a short domicile in that metropolis. There appears here and there, even in that youthful day, a tinge of the melancholy which afterward so sadly overcast his latter years. The letters are addressed to the Rev. Henry Weston, who seems to have been an early college friend. The volume has been out of print for very many years, and my extracts have been taken from a copy which, fortunately, is to be found in the British Museum.


LONDON, 31 Chandos Street,
July 10, 1773.

"I would have taken a last farewell of my dear Harry from Dublin, if I had not written so shortly before I left it; and, in

« VorigeDoorgaan »