Imágenes de página

with a speech from the chair, the highest compliment which that Society is used to bestow. I look back upon, my college days with regret, and I preserve, and ever shall, a most sincere affection for the University of Dublin."

Soon after his marriage, disputes having arisen between him and his wife's relations, he removed to his father's, who resided in the county of Kildare. The midnight rulers of Ireland were then as active, though probably less ferocious than at present. The following account of one of their domiciliary visits, which happened nearly forty years ago, has such a modern air about it, that one almost fancies one has already read the details in some of the recent despatches from the Rock districts. We extract it, as affording from the comparison of dates an edifying specimen of the stability of crime and danger, with which particular plans of government, heroically persevered in, are ever sure to be rewarded.

"After an interval of a few months, my wife was brought to bed of a girl, a circumstance which, if possible, increased my love for her a thousand-fold ; but our tranquillity was again broken in upon by a most terrible event. On the night of the l6th of October 1786, the house was broken open by a gang of robbers, to the number of six, armed with pistols and having their faces blackened. Having tied the whole family, they proceeded to plunder and demolish every article they could find, even to the unprofitable villainy of breaking the china, looking-glasses, &c. At length, after two hours, a maid servant whom they had tied negligently having made her escape, they took the alarm, and fled with precipitation, leaving the house such a scene of horror and confusion, as can hardly be imagined. With regard to myself, it is impossible to conceive what I suffered. As it was early in the night, 1 happened to be in the court-yard, where I was seized and tied by the gang, who then proceeded to break into the house, leaving a ruffian sentinel over me with a case of pistols cocked in his hand. In this situation I lay for two hours, and could hear distinctly the devastation that was going on within. I expected death every instant, and can safely and with great truth declare, that my apprehension for my wife had so totally absorbed the whole of my mind, that my own existence was just then the least of my concern. When the villains, including my sentry, ran off, I scrambled on my feet with some difficulty, and made my way to a window, where I called, but received no answer. My heart died within me. I proceeded to another, and another, but still no answer. It was horrible. 1 set myself to gnaw the cords with which I was tied, in a transport of agony and rage; for I verily believed that my whole family lay murdered withm, when I was relieved from my unspeakable horror and anguish by my wife's voice, which I heard calling on my name at the end of the house. It seems, as soon as the robbers fled, those within had untied themselves with great difficulty, and made their escape through a back window. They had got a considerable distance from the house, before, in their fright, they recollected me, of whose fate they were utterly ignorant, as I was of theirs. Under these terrible circumstances my wife had the courage to return, alone and in the dark, to find me out, not knowing but she might again fall into the hands of the villains from whom she had scarcely escaped, or that 1 might be lying a lifeless corpse at the threshold. I can imagine no greater eflort of courage; but of what is not a woman capable, for him she truly loves? She cut the cords which bound me, and at length we joined the rest of the family at a little hamlet within half a mile of the house, whither they had fled for shelter. Of all the adventures wherein I have been hitherto engaged, this undoubtedly was the most horrible. It makes me shudder even now to think of it. It was some consolation that none of us sustained any personal injury, except my father, whom one of the villains scored on the side of the head with a knife. They respected the women, whose danger made my only fear; and one of them had even the humanity to carry our little daughter from her cradle, where she lay screaming, and to place her beside my wise on the bed, wherein she was tied with my mother and sister. This terrible scene, besides infinitely distressing us otherwise by the heavy loss we sustained, and which my father's circumstances could very ill bear, destroyed in a great degree our domestic enjoyments. I slept continually with a case of pistols at my pillow; and a mouse could not stir but I was on my feet and through the house from top to bottom. If any one knocked after night-fall, we flew to our arms; and in this manner we kept a most painful garrison through the winter.”

As soon as the family affairs had in some degree recovered from this disaster, his father supplied him with a small sum of money; and he set off for London, leaving his wife and child under the care of his father, who treated them, during his absence, with great affection. From this period the story increases in personal and general interest.

“I arrived in London in January 1787, and immediately entered my name as a student at law, on the books of the Middle Temple; but this, I may say, was all the progress I ever made in the profession. I had no affection for study in general; but that of the law. I particularly disliked, and to this hour I think it an illiberal profession, both in its principles and practice. ... I was likewise answerable to nobody for my conduct; and in consequence, after the first month l never opened a i. nor was 1 ever three times in Westminster Hall in my life. In addition to the reasons I have mentioned, the extreme uncertainty of my circumstances, which kept me in much uneasiness of mind, disabled me totally from that cool and systematic habit of study which is indispensable for attaining a knowledge of a science so abstruse and disficult as that of the English Code. However, one way or another I contrived to make it out. I had chambers in the Temple (No. 4, Hare-court) on the first floor; and whatever difficulties I had otherwise to struggle with, I contrived always to preserve the appearance of a gentleman, and to maintain my rank with my fellow-students, if I can call myself a student. One resource I derived from the exercise of my talents, such as they were: I wrote several articles for the European Magazine, mostly critical reviews of new publications. My reviews were but poor performances enough 3 however, they were in general as good as those of my brother critics, . in two years I received, fo. about fifty pounds for my writings: which was my main object, for as to literary fame, I |. then no great ambition to obtain it. I likewise, in conjunction with two of my friends, named Jebb and Radcliffe, wrote a burlesque novel, which we called Belmont Castle, and was intended to ridicule the execrable trash of the circulating libraries. It was tolerably well done, particularly Radcliffe's part, which was by far the best:—yet so it was, that we could not find a bookseller that would risk the printing of it, though we offered the copyright gratis to several. It was afterwards printed in Dublin, and had some success; but I believe, after all, it was most relished by the authors and their immediate connexions. “At the Temple I became intimate with several young men of situation and respectability, particularly with the Honourable George Knox, son of Lord Northland, with whom I formed a friendship, of which I am as proud as of any circumstance of my life. He is a man of inappreciable merit, and loved to a degree of enthusiasm, by all who have the happiness to know him. I scarcely know any person whose esteem and approbation I covet so much; and I had long after the commencement of our acquaintance, when I was in circumstances of peculiar and trying difficulty, and deserted by many of my former friends, the unspeakable consolation and support of finding George Knox still the same, and preserving his esteem unabated. His steady friendship on that occasion I shall mention in its place—it has made an indelible impression of gratitude and affection on my heart. ... I likewise renewed an old college acquaintance with John Hall, who by different accessions to his fortune was now at the head of about fourteen thousand a-year. He had ehanged his name twice for two estates; first to that of Stevenson, and then Wharton, which is his present name. He was then a member of the British Parliament, and to his friendship I was indebted for the sum of a hundred and fifty pounds at a time when I was under pecuniary difficulties. Another old college friend I recall with sentiments of sincere affection, Benjamin Phillips of Cork. He kept a kind of bachelor's house, with good wine and an excellent collection of books (not law books), all of which were as much at my command as at his. With some oddities, which to me only rendered him more amusing, he had a great fund of information, particularly of political detail; and in his !oi spent some of the pleasantest hours which I passed in London. At length, j I had been at the Temple something better than a year, my brother William, who was returned a few months before from his first expedition to St. Helena, joined me, and we lived together in the greatest amity and affection for about nine months, being the remainder of my stay in London. ... At this distance of time (now eight years) I feel my heart swell at the recollection of the happy hours we spent together. We were often without a guinea; but that never affected our spirits for a moment; and if ever I felt myself depressed by any untoward circumstance, I had a never-sailing resource and consolation in his .. his courage, and the invincible gaiety of his disposition, which nothing could ruffle. With the companionable qualities he possessed, it is no wonder he recommended himself to Ben Phillips, so that he was soon, I believe, a greater favourite with him than ever | was. They were inseparable. It fills my mind now with a kind of tender melancholy which is not unpleasing, to recall the many delightful days we three have spent together, and the walks we have taken, sometimes to a review, sometimes to see a ship of war launched, sometimes to visit the Indiamen at Deptford, a favourite expedition with Phillips. William, besides his natural gaiety, had an inexhaustible fund of pure Irish humour. I was pretty well myself, and Phillips, like the landlord of the “Hercules Pillars,” was “an excellent third man.” In short we made it out together admirably.”

There is simplicity, and to us a good deal of interest, in all this. What follows is more immediately characteristic of the man and his future destiny, exhibiting, in a very striking point of view, that inordinate zeal for action which was so soon to connect his life and death with the public history of his country,

“As I foresaw by this time that I should never be Lord Chancellor, and as my mind was naturally active, a scheme occurred to me, to the maturing of which I devoted some time and study. This was a proposal to the minister to establish a colony in one of Cook's newly-discovered islands in the South Sea on a military plan (for all my ideas ran in that track), in order to put a bridle on Spain in time of peace, and to annoy her grievously in that quarter in time of war. . In arranging this system, which I think even now was a good one for England, I read every book I could find relating to South America, as Ulloa, Anson, Dampier, Woodes, Rogers, Narborough, and especially the Buccaneers, who were my heroes, and whom I proposed to myself as the archetypes of the future . Many and many a delightful evening did my i. Phillips, and I spend in reading, writing, and talking of my project, in which, if it had been adopted, it was our firm resolution to have embarked. At length, when we had reduced it into a re# shape, I drew up a memorial on the subject, which I addressed to Mr.

itt, and delivered with my own hands to the porter in Downing-street. We waited, I will not say patiently, for about ten days, when I addressed a letter to the minister, mentioning my memorial, and praying an answer; but this application was as unsuccessful as the former. r. Pitt took not the smallest notice of either memorial or letter; and all the benefit we reaped from our scheme was the amusement it afforded us during three months, in which it was the subject of our constant speculation. I regret those delightful reveries which then occupied my mind. It was my first essay in what I may call politics, and my disappointment made such an impression on me as is not yet quite obliterated. In my anger I made something like a vow, that if ever I had an opportunity, I would make Mr. Pitt sorry, and perhaps fortune may yet enable, me to fulfill my resolution. It was about this time that I had a very narrow escape. My affairs were exceedingly embarrassed; and just at a moment when my mind was harassed and sore with my own vexations, I received a letter from my father, filled with complaints, aud a description of the ruin of his circumstances. In a transport of rage, I determined to enlist as a soldier in the India Company's service, to quit Europe for ever, and to leave my wife and child to the mercy of her family, who might, I hoped, be perhaps kinder to her when I was removed. My brother combjted this desperate resolution by every argument in his power; but at length, when he saw me determined, he declared that I should not go alone, and that he would share my fate to the last extremity. In this gloomy state of mind, deserted as we thought by Gods and men, we set out together for the India House in Leadenhall-street, to offer ourselves as volunteers; but on our arrival there we were informed that the season was past, that no more ships would be sent out that year, but that, if we returned about the month of March following, we might be received. The commit to whom we addressed ourselves seemed not a little surprised at two young fellows of our appearance presenting ourselves on such a business; for we were extremely well dressed, and Will, who was the spokesman for us both, had an admirable address. Thus were we stopped; and I believe we were the single instance, since the beginning of trie world, of two men absolutely bent on ruining themselves, who could not find the means. We returned to my chambers, and, desperate as were our fortunes, we could not help laughing at the circumstance that India, the great gulf of all undone beings, should he shut against us alone. Had it been the month of March instead of September, we should most infallibly have gone off; and in that case I should most probably at this hour be carrying a brown musket on the coast of Coromandel. Providence, however, decreed it otherwise, and reserved me, as I hope, for better things."

Having completed his terms at the Temple, he caused an application to be made to his wife's grandfather to learn his intentions as to her fortune. The old gentleman consented to give 500/. and expressed a wish for Tone's immediate return.

"In consequence I packed up directlv, and set off with my brother for Ireland. We landed in Dublin the 23(1 December, and on Christmas-day 1788 arrived at my father's house at Black hall, where 1 had the satisfaction to find all my family in health, except my wife, who was grown delicate principally from the anxiety of her mmd on the uncertainty of her situation. Our little girl was now between two and three years old, and was charming. After remaining a few days at Blackball, we came up to Dublin, and were received as at first, in Grafton-street, by my wife's family. Mr. Fanning paid me punctually the sum he had promised, and my wife and 1 flattered ourselves that all past animosities were forgotten. I now took lodgings in Clarendon-street, purchased about a hundred pounds worth of law-books, and determined in earnest to begin and study the profession to which I was doomed. In pursuance of this resolution, I commenced Bachelor of Laws in February 1789, and was called to the Bar in due form the Trinity Term following; shortly after which 1 went my first (the Lcinster) circuit, having been previously elected a member of the law club. On this circuit, notwithstandmg my ignorance, I pretty nearly cleared my expenses, and I cannot doubt, if I had continued to apply sedulously to the law, that I might have risen to some eminence ; but, whether it was my incorrigible habit of idleness, or the sincere dislike I had to the profession, which the little insight I was beginning to get into it did not tend to remove, or whether it was a controlling destiny I know not, but to it was, thai I soon got sick and weary of the law. I continued, however, for form's sake to go to the courts, and wear a foolish wig and gown for a considerable time; and I went the circuit, 1 believe, in all three times ; but as 1 was, modestly speaking, one of the most ignorant barristers in the Four Courts, and as 1 took little or rather no pains to conceal my contempt and dislike of the profession, and especially as I had neither the means nor the inclination to treat Messrs. the attorneys, and to make them drink (a sacrifice of their respectability which even the most liberal-minded of the profession are obliged to make) 1 made, as well it may be supposed, no great exhibition at the Irish Bar."

• •••••

"As the law grew every day more and more disgustful, to which my want of success contributed, though in that respect I never had the' injustice to accuse the world of insensibility to my merit, as I well knew the fault was my own, but being, as 1 said, more and more weary of a profession for which my temper and habits so utterly disqualified me, I turned my attention to politics; and as one or two of my friends had written pamphlets with success, I determined to try my hand on a pamphlet:—just at the period the Whig Club was instituted m Ireland, and tne press groaned with publications against them on the part of Government. Two or three ' Defences' had likewise appeared, but none of them extraordinary. Under these circumstances, though I was very far from entirely approving the system of the Whig Club, and much less their principles and motives, yet seeing them at the time the best-constituted political body which the country afforded, and agreeing with most of their positions, though my own private opinions went infinitely farther, 1 thought I could venture on their defence without violating my own consistency. I therefore sat down, and in a few days finished my first pamphlet, which I entitled ' A Review of the last Session of Parliament.' To speak candidly of this performance, it was barely above mediocrity,—if it rose so high ; nevertheless, as it was written evidently on honest prmciples, and did not censure or flatter one party or the other without assigning sufficient reason, it had a certain degree of success. 'The Northern Whig Club' reprinted and distributed a large impression at their own expense, with an introduction highly complimentary to the author, whom at that time they did not even know; and a very short time after, when it was known that the production was mine, they did me the honour to elect me a member of their body, which they notified to nic by a very handsome letter signed by their secretary, Henry Joy, Jun. of Belfast, and to which I returned a suitable answer. But this was not all. The leaders of the Whig Club, conceiving my talents, such as they were, might be of service to their cause, and not expecting much intractability from a young lawyer who had his fortune to make, sent a brother barrister to compliment me on mv performance, and to thank me for the zeal and ability 1 had shewn. 1 was m consequence introduced to George Ponsonby, a distinguished member of the body, and who might be considered as the leader of the Irish Opposition. With him, however, I never had any communication further than ordinary civilities. Shortly after the barrister above-mentioned spoke to me again. He told me the Ponsonbys were a most powerful family m Ireland, that they were much pleased with my exertion, and wished in consequence to attach me to them; that I

* The fatal issue of Wolfe Tone's career may be ultimately attributed to bis i;rnoraure of one of the most notorious maxims of the English law on the doctrine of allegiance. Previous to the action of Lough-Swilly, and while Admiral Warren was bearing down with a grent!y superior force upon the French fleet, a fast-sailing French brig Wove alongside the Hoche, and sent a boat aboard to carry off Tone and the other united Irishmen. All hut Tone escaped. He could not be persuaded to accompHny his friends. He had taken up the notion that his commission in the French army would operate as a lepal defence to a prosecution for high treason. He attempted to avail himself of the plea upon his trial, but of course ineffectually.

« AnteriorContinuar »