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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
AUTO-BIOGRAPHY OF THEOBALD WOLFE TONE.
A Manuscript of considerable interest and curiosity has, through the kindness of an Irish friend, been put into our hands, with permission to make such selections from it as under all the circumstances of the times and persons to which it relates, may appear to us to be not unfit for publication. It is a fragment of the personal and political biography of Theobald Wolfe Tone, entitled " Memorandums relative to my Life and Opinions." Of its authenticity we have been completely satisfied. It was written in France towards the latter end of 1796, while the armament for Ireland, under Hoche, which he had prevailed upon the French Directory to fit out, and with which he subsequently embarked, was in the act of being organised at Brest. The opening paragraph adverts to his situation and intentions at the time.
"Paris, August 7, 179G. "As 1 shall embark in a business within a few days, the event of which is uncertain, 1 take the opportunity of a vacant hour to throw upon paper a few memorandums relative to myself and my family, which may amuse my boys, for whom I write them, in case they should hereafter fall into their hands."
The commencing pages are accordingly taken up with a minute account of the members and circumstances of his family; but, as he advances, the subject expands, and finally assumes the more comprehensive form of a memoir of the p3rt the writer had acted and was acting in the public history of his own time. The style throughout is natural and simple; some of the details are given with a degree of playfulness and ease that form a remarkable contrast with the solemn trains of thought which must have habitually pressed upon a man on the eve of plunging into the most doubtful and dangerous of human enterprises.
He was born in Dublin on the 20th of June, 1763. His father was a coach-maker, and having acquired by inheritance some freehold leases in the county of Kildare, became involved in a Chancery suit regarding them, which ended in his ruin. His mother, whose maiden name was Lamport, was the daughter of a Captain of a vessel in the West India trade. Both his parents were ordinary persons. All their children were remarkable for a romantic spirit of enterprise. After specifying the early voyages and adventures of his three brothers, William, Matthew, and Arthur, and his sister Mary, he proceeds—
"I come now to myself.—I was, I have said, the eldest child of my parents, and a very great favourite. 1 was sent at the age of eight and nine to an excellent English school, kept by Lisson Darling, a man to whose kindness and affection I was much indebted, and who took more than common pains with me. I respect him yet. I was very idle, and it was only the fear of shame
vOL. XI. NO. XLIII. B
which could induce me to exertion. Nevertheless, at the approach of our public examinations, which were held quarterly, at which all my parents and friends attended, I used to labour for some time, and generally with success, as 1 have obtained six or seven premiums in different branches at our examinations, as mathematics, arithmetic, reading, spelling, recitation, use of the globes, &c. In two branches 1 always failed—writing, and the catechism, to which last I never could bring myself to apply- Havmg continued with Mr. Darling about three years, and pretty nearly exhausted the circle of English education, he recommended strongly to my father to put me to a Latin school, and to prepare me for the University, assuring him that I was a tine boy of uncommon talents, particularly for the mathematicks; that it was a thousand pities to throw me away on business, when, by giving mc a liberal education, there was a moral certainty 1 should become a Fellow of Trinity College, which was a noble independence, besides the glory of the situation. In these arguments he was supported by the parson of the parish, Dr. Jameson, a worthy man, who used to examine me from time to time in the Elements of Euclid. My father, who, to do him justice, loved me passionately, and spared no expense on me that his circumstances could afford, was easily persuaded by these authorities. It was determined I should be a Fellow of Trinity College. I was taken from Mr. Darling, from whom I parted with regret, and placed about the age of twelve under the care of the Reverend William Craig, a man very different in all respects from my late preceptor. As the school was in the same street (Stafford-street) where we lived, and I was under my father's eye, I began Latin with great ardour, and continued for a year or two with great diligence, when I began Greek, which I found still more to my taste. But about this time, whether unluckily for me or not the future colour of my life must determine, my father, who had for some years entirely neglected his business, and led a very dissipated and irregular life, meeting with an accident of a fall down stairs, by which he was dreadfully wounded in the head, so that he narrowly escaped with his life, found on his recovery his affairs so deranged in all respects, that he determined on quitting business, and retiring to the country; a resolution which he executed accordingly, settling with all his creditors, and placing me with a friend near the school, whom he paid for my diet and lodging, besides allowing me a trifling sum for my pocket. In this manner I became, I may say, my own master oefore I was sixteen; and as at this hour I am not remarkable for my discretion, it may be well judged 1 was less so then. The superintendence of my father being removed, I began to calculate that, according to the slow rate chalked out for me by Craig, I could very well do the business of the week in three days, or even two if necessary, and consequently that the other three were lawful prize: I therefore resolved to appropriate three clays at least in the week to my amusements, and-the others to school, always keeping in the latter three the day of repetition, which included the business of the whole week ; by which arrangement I kept my rank with the other boys of my class. I found no difficulty in convincing half a dozen of my schoolfellows of the justice of this distribution of our time; and by this means we established a regular system of what is called milching, and we contrived, being some of the smartest boys at school, to get an ascendency over the spirit of the master, so that, when we entered the school in a body after one of our days of relaxation, he did not choose to burn his fingers with any of us, nor did tie once write to my father to inform him of my proceedings: for which he most certainly was highly culpable. I must do myself and my schoolfellows the justice to say. that, though we were abominably idle, we were not vicious. Our amusements consisted in walking to the country, in swimming-parties in the sea, and particularly in attending all parades, field-days, and reviews of the garrison of Dublm in the Phoenix Park. I mention this particularly, because, independently of confirming me in a rooted habit of idleness, which 1 lament most exceedingly, I trace to the splendid appearance of the troops, and the pomp and parade of military show, the untamable desire I have ever since had to become a toldicr, a desire which has never since quitted me, and which, after sixteen years of various adventures, I am at last at liberty to indulge. Being at this time approaching seventeen years of age, it will not be thought incredible that women began to appear lovely in my eyes; and I very wisely thought that a red coat and cockade, with a pair of gold epaulettes, would aid me considerably in my approaches to the objects of my adoration. This, combined with the reasons above mentioned, decided me. I began to look on classical learning as nonsense, on a fellowship of Dublin College as a pitiful establishment; and, in short, I thought an ensign in a marching regiment was the happiest creature living. The hour when I was to enter the University, wnich now approached, I looked forward to with horror and disgust. I absented myself more and more from school, to which I preferred minding the recruits on drill at the barracks, so that at length my schoolmaster, who apprehended I should be found insufficient at the exammation for entering the college, and that he in consequence would come in for his share of the disgrace, thought proper to do what he should have done at least three years before, and wrote my father a full account of my proceedings. This immediately produced a violent dispute between us. I declared my passion for the army, and my utter dislike to a learned profession ; but my father was as obstinate as I, and, as he utterly refused to give me any assistance to forward my scheme, I had no resource but to submit, or to follow my brother William's example*, which I was too proud to do. In consequence I sat down again with a very bad grace to pull up my lost time ; and at length, after labouring for some time sorely against the grain, I entered a pensioner of Trinity College, in February 1781, being then not quite eighteen years of age. My tutor was the Rev. Matthew Young, the most popular in the University, and one of the first mathematicians in Europe. At first 1 began to study logic courageously, but unluckily, at my first examination, I happened to fall into the hands of an egregious dunce, one Ledwiche, who, mstead of giving me the premium, which as best answerer I undoubtedly merited, awarded it to another, and to me very indifferent judgments. I did not stand in need of this piece of injustice to alienate me once more from my studies. 1 returned with eagerness to my military plan. I besought my father to equip me as a volunteer, and to suffer me to join the army in America, where the war still raged. He refused me, as before; and in revenge I would not go near the College, nor open a book that was not a military one. In this manner we continued about a twelvemonth on very bad terms, as may be well supposed, without either party relaxing an inch from their determination. At length, seeing the war in America drawing to a close, and being beset by some of my friends who surrounded me, particularly Dr. Jameson, whom I have already mentioned, and a Mr. G. J. Brown, who had been sub-master at Mr. Darling's academy, and was now become a lawyer, 1 submitted a second time and returned to my studies, after an interval of above a year. To punish me for my obstinacy, I was obliged to submit to drop a clast, as it is called, in the University ; that is, to recommence with the students who had entered a year after me. I continued my studies at college, as I had done at school; that is, I idled until the last moment of delay. I then laboured hard for about a fortnight before the public examinations; and I always secured good judgments, besides obtaining the premiums in the three last years of my course."
The two next years, 1783 and 1784, were chiefly dedicated to a hopeless passion. He formed an acquaintance with a married lady of rank, and, to his youthful fancy, of surpassing attractions: she had, he says, extraordinary talents for the stage, which she displayed on a private theatre, fitted up for the occasion in her own house. Young Tone,
* Who had run off to London at the age of sixteen, and enlisted as a volnntecr ia the East India Company's service.
"being somewhat of an actor," was invited to live in the house, and bear a part in the representations. The perilous familiarity of rehearsals, fainting scenes, &c. followed; and, "having an imagination easily warmed, without one grain of discretion to regulate it," he in due course fell desperately in love. We pass over the details, though there is nothing in them which would not bear to be published. He was miserable for two years, when an accidental dispute with the lady's husband separated him from her, and he never saw her more.
"But," he says, concluding this passage of his life, "if I suffered, as I did most severely by this unfortunate passion, I also reaped some benefit from it. The desire to render myself agreeable to a woman of elegant manners and a mind highly cultivated, induced me to attend to a thousand little things, and to endeavour to polish myself to a certain degree, so that, after the first transport of rage and grief at her loss had subsided, I considered myself on the whole as considerably improved ; and as no human passion is proof against time and absence, in a few months I recovered my tranquillity."
A more permanent attachment quickly succeeded. The following is his brief, but characteristic account of his courtship and marriage.
"At length, about the beginning of the year 1785, I became acquainted with my wife. She was the daughter of William Witherington, and lived at that time in Grafion-street, in the house of her grandfather, a rich old clergyman of the name of Fanning. I was then a scholar of the house in the University, and every day after commons I used to walk under the windows with one or two of my fellow-students. I soon became passionately fond of her, and she also was struck with me, though certainly my appearance neither then (nor now) was much in my favour. So it was, however, that before we had ever spoken to each other, a mutual affection had commenced between us. She was at this time not sixteen years of age, and as beautiful as an angel. She had a brother some years older than herself. As it was necessary for my admission to the family that I should be first acquainted with him, I soon contrived to be introduced to him ; and as he played well on the violin, and as I was myself a musical man, we soon grew mtimate, the more so, as it may be well supposed I neglected no fair means to recommend myself to him and the rest of the family with whom I soon grew a favourite. My affairs now advanced prosperously; my wife and I grew more passionately fond of each other, and in a short time 1 proposed to her to marry me, without asking consent of any one, knowing well it would be in vain to expect it. She accepted the proposal as frankly as it was made, and one beautiful morning in the month of July we ran off together and were married. I carried her out of town to Maynooth for a few days; and when the first eclat of passion had subsided, we were forgiven on all sides, and settled in lodgings near my wife's grandfather. I was now for a very short time as happy as possible, in the possession of a beautiful creature that I adored, and who every hour grew more and more upon my heart. The scheme of a fellowship, which I never relished, was now abandoned ; and it was determined that when I had taken my degree of bachelor of arts, 1 should go to the Temple to study the law, and be called to the Bar. I continued, m consequence, my studies in the University, and obtained my last premium two or three months after I was married. In February 1786 1 commenced Bachelor of Arts, and shortly after I resigned my scholarship, and quitted the University. I may observe here that I made some figure as a scholar, and should have been much more successful if I had not been so inveterately idle,—partly owing to my passion for a military life, and partly to the distraction to which my natural disposition and temperament but too much exposed me. As it was, however, I obtained a scholarship, three premiums and three silver medals from the Historical Society, a most admirable institution, of which 1 had the honour to be auditor, and also to close the session