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MOORE


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MOORE


fit words to the old national airs of Ireland — Moore fully realized. But the task of marrying words to these airs was no easy one. "The Poet", as Moore himself wrote, "who would follow the various senti- ments which they express, must feel and understand that rapid fluctuation of spirits, that unaccountable mixture of gloom and levity which composes the character of my countrymen and has deeply tinged their Music". Almost all contemporary writers, among them Shelley and Landor, spoke enthusiasti- cally of the melodies, saying that they were lyrics of the highest merit. His friend and biographer. Lord John Russell, wrote in 1853 that "of all lyrical poets, Moore is surely the greatest". Moore continued to write these at intervals for twenty-seven years, re- ceiving $500 for each, which gave him an annual in- come of $2500. Six of the ten numbers of his melodies were published, when he tried his hand with like success at "Sacred Songs" and "National Airs".

The lyrics, however, did not take up all his time. In 1808 he published poems on " Corruption" and on" In- tolerance" and in the following year "The Sceptic". These attempts at serious satire, in which he used the heroic couplet of Pope, did not meet with success. Quite different was his next venture, this time in a lighter strain and directed against the prince, his former patron, who on becoming regent through the insanity of his father had changed front and broken with the Whigs, with whom Moore had previously allied himself. These pieces, together with those he wrote against several members of the Ministry, were gathered together and published in 1813 with the title "Intercepted Letters or The Two-penny Post- bag". In this sort of light-hearted satire Moore had struck a rich vein which he worked for more than twenty years with his " Fudge Family in Paris", "The Fudges in England", and "Fable of the Holy Alli- ance". Moore's reputation in the literary world of his time was of the highest, as is shown from the busi- ness arrangements made for the copyright of "Lalla Rookh" (1817). Longmans, the publishers, agreed to give the highest price ever paid for a poem, $15,000, and that, too, without seeing a line of the work. And twenty years later they still called it the "cream of the copyrights". After considerable reading and some discouraging experiments, he hit upon the idea of founding a story on the long and fierce struggle be- tween the Persian fire-worshippers and their haughty Moslem masters — a theme that had much to recom- mend it to an Irishman familiar with the long struggle between his countrymen and their rulers. Men who had lived long in the East marvelled at his skill in reproducing so faithfully life in the Orient with its barbaric splendours.

Scarcely was this off his hands when the news ar- rived that he must make good the loss of $30,000 caused by his agent in Bermuda. Moore had not saved anything out of his large income. His friends would have come to his assistance; but he would not allow them. To escape arrest he took refuge in 1819 on the continent. More than three years he had of rather enjoyable exile, most of which was spent in Paris where his family joined him in 1820. He had in 1811 married a young actress. Miss Bessy Dyke. Towards the close of 1822, after settling the Bermuda claim, which had been reduced to $5,000, he took up his resi- dence again in England. Heretofore he had been almost exclusively a writer of verse; from this on he is primarily a writer of prose: — he becomes a biog- rapher, a controversialist, an historian. During the summer of 1823, he accompanied Lord Lansdowne on a visit to the south of Ireland. While there he learned much of the discontent among the peasants, of their secret organizations, and of their mysterious leader, Captain Rock. On his return he read history, and as a result of his reading and his sight-seeing, he wrote a


"History of Captain Rock and his Ancestors" in which he gives the history of agrarian crimes and de- nounces, not the Shanavests of "Foggy Boggy Tip- perary " whom eight years before he called murderous savages deserving the sword, but the bad laws of Eng- land that generated all sorts of crime. The book made its way everywhere. In England, perhaps for the first time, the cause of Ireland received a hearing. Natu- rally it became popular in Ireland where even Catho- lics, notwithstanding (in the words of Moore) "some infidelities to their religion whicli break out now and then in it", expressed in a formal manner their grati- tude for his defence of their country.

This favourable reception delighted Moore; only now he began to know Ireland and her people. He came back at times to his own and endeavoured to make amends for his former lack of sympathy, as may be seen in some of his later writings, as the "Life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald" (1831). This, which is probably his best prose work, was a labour of love; for in writing a sympathetic account of a young Irish patriot who suffered for his country in the uprising of 1798, Moore could hardly hope for encouragement from an English reading public. In the meantime he had published the "Life of Sheridan" (1825), a work which had engaged his attention during the preceding seven years. So successful was it financially that the publishers added $1500 to the original price of the copyright. Its chief value lay, as the critic Jeffrey said, in the historical view it gave of public transac- tions for the past fifty years. The next prose work, "The Epicurean" (1827), has some merit as a story, but not as a study of ancient manners or as a presenta- tion of the Epicurean philosophy. Moore was to be Byron's editor; he became, instead, his biographer. His "Life of Byron" (1830) is one of the most popular biographies ever written, though the picture given is not wholly true to life.

After finishing the life of Fitzgerald he wrote a theo- logical treatise which he dedicated " to the people of Ireland in defence of their Ancient National P^aith", and called it "The Travels of an Irish Gentleman in Search of a Religion" (1834). The Irish Gentleman wishes to become a Protestant, studies hard at home and abroad, but fails to find anything either in Script- ure or the Church Fathers to justify a change. This vindication of the Catholic Church is a curious book written as it was by one who had married a Protestant, and was glad to have his rhililren bruuglit up as Prot- estants. In his fifty-fifth j'car Moore dcHibtless took a different view of life, and saw the folly of mere worldly advantages when these involved a sacrifice of religious truth. Similar motives likely influenced him in his next and last work, "The History of Ireland" (1835- 46). During much of his life he had been more of an English Whig than an Iri.sh Nationalist. But the last of it he gave generously to his country by calling the attention of the English people to their misgovern- ment of Ireland. The task which he undertook was, however, too much for him; the one volume intended lengthened out into four, and then stopped at the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Moore was now broken down. Financial troubles had constantly harassed him, notwithstanding his large income. He had expected, and with good reason, great things from the Government when his friends the Whigs got in power. A recognition came in 1833 when he received a literary pension of $1500, to which was added, a few years before his death, another pen- sion of $500. He was not spared domestic troubles. Two daughters died in infancy; the third lived only to be a girl of sixteen. Of his two sons one died from consumption in 1841; the other, Thomas, wild and extravagant, died in Africa in 1845. At this time Moore wrote in his "Diary": "The last of our five children is now gone and we are left desolate and alone. Not a single relative have I now left in the world".