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Liberty, as it was termed, which arose in France, set in blood and tempest; but the government, alarmed at the ominous aspect of the times, relaxed (1793) the penal laws, and Catholics for the first time were eligible for admission to the Dublin University: eligible—that is, to partake of the instruction conferred at the national seat of learning, but not for its honours or rewards. These were still jealously reserved for the dominant caste. Young Moore was immediately entered of Trinity College; and although he succeeded by his assiduity and ability in extorting an acknowledgment from the authorities that he had earned a classical degree, he was, for religion's sake, as a matter of course denied it. Some English verses, however, which he presented at one of the quarterly examinations in lieu of the usual Latin metre, were extolled; and he received a well-bound copy of the “Travels of Anarchasis' as a reward. The young student's proficiency in the Greek and Latin languages was also acknowledged, though not officially.
For several previous years the thunder-cloud which burst so fatally in 1798 had been slowly gathering in Ireland. Moore sympathised with the object, if not with the mode, of operation contemplated by the opponents of English rule in that country; and he appears to have been only saved from serious if not fatal implication in the rebellion by the wise admonitions of his excellent mother, aided by his own instinctive aversion to the committal of any act which might compromise his present and future position, by placing him amongst extreme men in the front and forlorn-hope of the battle, instead of amidst the wiser respectabilities of liberalism, from whose ranks a man of wit and genius may, he knew, shoot his diamond-tipt arrows at the enemy not only without danger, but with almost certain fame and profit to himself. Moore was intimate with the two Emmets, and an active member of a debating-club, in which the eldest, the unfortunate Robert, endeavoured to mature his oratorical powers against the time when his dream of political regeneration should be realised. Towards the close of the year 1797, the at the time celebrated newspaper called “The Press’ was started by Arthur O'Connor, the Emmets, and other chiefs of the United Irishmen. It was published twice a week, and although, Mr Moore says, not distinguished at all for talent, had a large circulation amongst the excited masses. Moore first contributed a poetical effusionanonymously of course—and soon growing bolder with impunity, contributed a fiery letter, which had the questionable honour of being afterwards quoted in the House of Commons by the minister as one of his proofs that severe repressive measures were required to put down the dangerous spirit inanifested in Ireland. On the evening this letter appeared, young Moore read it after supper to the assembled family-his heart beating violently all the while lest the sentiments it contained, and the style in which they were expressed, should reveal the eloquent author. His fears were groundless : no one suspected him; and the only remark elicited by the violent letter was a quiet one from his sister that it was rather strong!' Next day his mother, through the indiscretion of a person connected with the newspaper, discovered his secret, and commanded him, as he valued her blessing, to disconnect himself at once from so dangerous a pursuit and companionship. The young man obeyed, and the storm of 1798 passed over harmlessly for him. Moore was once slightly questioned upon the
subject of the apprehended conspiracy by Lord Chancellor Clare, who insisted upon compelling a disclosure, upon oath, of any knowledge the students of the university might possess of the persons and plans of the plotters. Moore at first declined being sworn, alleging in excuse that he had never taken an oath, and although perfectly unconscious himself of offence against the government, that he might unwittingly compromise others. This odd excuse Lord Clare, after consulting with Duigenan, famous for his anti-papist polemics, declined to receive, and Moore was
Three or four questions were asked as to his knowledge of any conspiracy to overthrow the government by violence; and these briefly answered, the matter ended. This is Mr Moore's own version of a scene which has been rendered in various amusing and exaggerated forms.
The precocity of Moore's rhyming genius had been also exemplified by a sonnet, written when he was only fourteen years of age, and inserted in a Dublin magazine called “The Anthologia.' Two or three years later he composed a Masque, which was performed by himself, his elder sister, and some young friends, in the little drawing-room over the shop in Augier Street, a friend, afterwards a celebrated musician, enacting orchestra on the pianoforte. One of the songs of the masque was written to the air of Haydn's Spirit Song, and obtained great applause. Master Moore belonged, moreover, to a band of gay spirits who occasionally amused themselves by a visit to Dalkey, a small island in the Bay of Dublin, electing one Stephen Armitage, a respectable pawnbroker, and very agreeable singer, King of that Ilk. On one of these coronation days King Stephen conferred the honour of knighthood upon Incledon, with the title of Sir Charles Melody; and he created Miss Battier, a rhyming lady, Henrietta, Countess of Laurel, and His Majesty's Poetess-Laureate. The working laureate was, however, Master Moore, and in that capacity he first tried his hand at political squibbing, by launching some not very brilliant sarcasms against governments in general. Lord Clare, we are told, was half alarmed at this Dalkey court and its poets, and insisted upon an explanation from one of the mock officials. This is, however, we believe, a fable, though at the time a current one.
In 1799, being then only in his twentieth year, Thomas Moore arrived in London for the purpose of entering himself of the Middle Temple, and publishing his translation of the Odes of Anacreon. He had already obtained the friendship of Earl Moira, and that nobleman procured him permission to dedicate the work to the Prince of Wales. His poetical career may now be said to have fairly commenced. It was a long and brilliant one, most of his works having rapidly passed through numerous editions, and been perhaps more extensively read than those of any contemporary author, always excepting the romances of Scott. There can be no reasonable doubt that Moore owed much of this popularity and success to the accident of his position, and the favouring circumstances of the times in which he wrote. The enfant gaté of high and influential circles, as well as the melodious expositor and poet-champion of the wrongs of a nation to whose glorious music he has happily, for himself, married much of his sweetest verse, he dwelt in a peculiar and irradiating atmosphere, which greatly enhanced his real magnitude and brightness. Even now, when the deceptive medium has lost its influence, it is somewhat difficult, and may
seem ungracious, to assign his true place in the splendid galaxy of British poets to a writer who has contributed so largely to the delight of the reading and musical population of these kingdoms. His verse is so pleasantly - graceful and melodious, that one hardly likes to shew that it owes its chief attraction to the elaborate polish and musical flow of its brilliant fancies, rather than to its intrinsic light and truth and beauty. Critics desirous of assigning a high place to the poetry of Moore, and therefore, to avoid testing him by the standard of our great imaginative poets, have invented a new theory, or rather have revived an old fallacy, with regard to the qualities and direction of a poet's mind as exhibited in his works. They say Moore is the poet of fancy, not of imagination-of artificial life, not of nature ; and therefore not to be truly estimated by comparing him with poets of imagination and of nature. Imagination and fancy they assert to be two entirely distinct attributes, and that a poet may be deficient in the first and eminent in the second. This is a manifest though ingenious error. The difference is one of degree, not of nature. Fancy is imagination, but imagination of inferior power and range; and they bear precisely the same relation to each other as the graceful and the pretty do to the noble and the beautiful. An example will illustrate our meaning better than many words. Moore thus describes the coming on of
6'Twas one of those ambrosial eves
Shine as they fall with light from Heaven.'
Now came still Evening on, and Twilight grey,
And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw.'
easily disposed of. By artificial life is of course meant human social life : it does not imply or contemplate the difference between poetical descriptions of flowers and shrubs ranged in a conservatory, or the scenepaintings of a theatre, and poetical transcripts of the natural world, with its streams and woods and flowers. Well, then, all human life is artificial, from the highest to the lowest. Burns's simplest maiden is artificialhighly so: there is not one of us but is 'sophisticated.' Perhaps high, courtly, artificial life is meant. But Rosalind, Beatrice, Juliet, Ophelia, were court ladies ; Constance and Catherine were queens; and are they not exquisitely natural ? and was not he who drew them as much the poet of nature as when he stamped Aubrey, or a Carrier, or the Sailor in the Tempest,' or Shallow, on his glorious canvas? Choking grief, and burning indignation, and yearning tenderness, are felt and expressed in marble palaces as keenly as in the poor man's hut; and there, too, may be found exuberant mirth, and pleasant wit, and gentlest tears and smiles.
If indeed be meant by artificial life the masks and wrappings, the djuncts of highly-artificial life—that is, the court-dresses and plumes, the perfume and silk-hangings, the conventional speech before company—the phrase of the poet of artificial life’ is intelligible; but to apply it in that sense to Mr Moore is to lower and insult, not to defend and honour him. Let us, before subscribing to so depreciatory a judgment, stroll through the gay parterre of the poet's works, and I think we shall find, when we compare notes at the close, that although his writings are not radiant with the divine gems which high poetic genius scatters along its starry path, they at all events sparkle with beautiful fancies, and breathe a music which, if not of the spheres, is of the sweetest of earth's melodies.
The Odes of Anacreon obtained much present popularity at a time when the moralities of respectable literature were not so strictly enforced by public opinion as in the present day. Many of them are paraphrases rather than translations, containing, as Dr Laurence, Burke's friend, re. marked at the time, 'pretty turns not to be found in Anacreon.' Mr Moore in his preface battles stoutly for the qualified morality of the Bard of Teos. 'His morality,' he says, 'was relaxed, not abandoned, and Virtue with her zone loosened may be an emblem of the character of Anacreon.' This prettily-expressed nonsense is perhaps the best excuse that can be offered for the sensuous gaiety, the utterly material philosophy, displayed and inculcated in the Odes. More attention and respect are due to another of the prefatorial excuses : 'To infer,' says the translator, the moral disposition of a poet from the tone of sentiment which pervades his work, is sometimes a very fallacious analogy.' This may be so sometimes,' and indeed we are quite willing to admit its truth with regard to Mr Moore himself, who, in the relations of son, husband, and father, was a very estimable person, and as different from the compound of Blue-Beard and Lovelace that his earlier poems especially would imply as light from dark
But with respect to Anacreon the analogy is not, we apprehend, a fallacious one. He died at eighty-five, as he had lived, a debauchee,
choked with a grape-stone, as it is recorded—a figurative mode probably of expressing that he died under the influence of the wine whose praises he was per
petually singing. He was, too, it appears from his own confession, horribly afraid in his latter years of Pluto's dread abode-a terror that could scarcely have beset him for mere wine-bibbing under a mythology in which Bacchus was deified. Be this as it may, there can be no doubt that the light gaiety and sensuous joyousness of the Odes are more skilfully rendered by Moore than in any previous English translation of the Teian Muse. Some, however, of his favourite similes are greatly overdone. Mr Richard Swiveller himself was not fonder of the 'rosy' than the poet in these paraphrastic translations. Couleur de rose pervades the whole series in overpowering profusion-rosy lips, rosy cheeks, rosy hands, rosy breath, rosy smiles, we almost think rosy tears and rosy teeth, both of which we all know should be invariably pearly.' But enough of Anacreon, whose verses are rapidly passing away before the influence of a purer taste and a manlier, healthier tone of mind than prevailed when he could be either popular or dangerous. "Thomas Little's Poems, Songs,' &c. given to the world by Mr Moore in 1801, are a collection of puerile rhapsodies still more objectionable than the Anacreontic Odes; and the only excuse for them was the extreme youth of the writer. Byron thus alluded to the book in his once famous satire:
• Tis Little, young Catullus of his day,
As sweet but as immoral in his lay.' Many years afterwards his lordship, in a letter to Moore (1820), reverted, half in jest half in earnest, to the work in these words : 'I believe all the mischief I have ever done or sung has been owing to that confounded book of yours.' The most objectionable of these songs have been omitted from the recent editions of Moore's works, and we believe no one has more deplored their original publication than the author himself.
In 1803, thanks to his verses and Lord Moira’s patronage, Moore obtained a place under the government—that of Registrar to the Court of Admiralty at Bermuda. The unrespective favouritism which in those days governed nominations in the public service is pleasantly illustrated by this appointment. 'Il fallut un calculateur: ce fût un danseur qui l'obtint !' was Beaumarchais's sarcasm on Monsieur de Calonne's nomination. A similar principle was followed here. An accountant and man of business was wanted at Bermuda ; but as there was a young poet to reward, all vulgar common-sense considerations were thrust aside, and the youthful translator of Anacreon received the appointment. Moore sailed in the Phænix frigate, and took formal possession of his post; but he soon wearied of the social monotony of the still vexed Bermoothes,' hastily appointed a deputy to perform all the duties of his office for a share of the income, and betook himself to America. He was as much out of his proper element there as in Bermuda. The rugged republicanism of the States disgusted him, and after a brief glance at Canada he returned to England, having been absent about fifteen months.
Soon after his return he favoured the world with his impressions of Bermuda, the United States, and Canada. His sketches of Bermudan scenery have been pronounced by Captain Basil Hall and others to be extremely accurate and vivid. On the truthfulness of his American social and political pictures and prophecies, Time—a much higher authority—has