Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors]

of Tweeddale, but was left again a widow in two months after her marriage. She died on 13th June, 1867.

If she had written nothing but 'The Irish Emigrant,' 'I'm sitting on the stile, Mary,' her fame as a poet had been established. This, and all her songs and ballads, were prompted not by the ambition for fame, but because of a kindly, hearty, and warm sympathy with the best qualities of the people to which she belonged, and amongst whom she dwelt. She has entered into the ways and thoughts of the Irish, and penetrated into their heart of hearts. The pathos of 'The Emigrant,' and the humour of Terence's Farewell' and 'Katie's Letter,' are alike entirely Irish. Most, if not all, of her songs were published anonymously, and no collection of them has yet appeared, an injustice to her memory and a loss to Irish literature. Lady Dufferin was also a composer; she wrote the music for her own song 'Sweet Kilkenny Town' and she was the author of a prose work, "The Honourable Impulsia Gushington,' a humorous and light satire on the ways and doings of nineteenth-century fashion. This was written to relieve the weariness and depression of a long sickness of 'a beloved friend.' But it is on her Irish songs her brightest fame rests, and it will remain undimmed as long as songs are sung.

6

MRS. NORTON.

MRS. NORTON was sister to Lady Dufferin, and had also a large share of the Sheridan heritage of intellectual power; but the life-history of the two is strangely diverse. Helen Selina Sheridan had a happy uneventful life. Caroline Sheridan's was indeed eventful, but calamitous and unhappy.

In 1827, on 30th July, she was married to the Hon. George C. Norton, a brother of the third Lord Grantley -a barrister, and afterwards Recorder of Guildford. She was vivacious, genial, intellectual, enthusiastic: he was a rake who ill-treated her-conceited, without brains-poor, without industry-a very ordinary personage altogether, but the very reverse of what Caroline Sheridan's husband should be. The husband-drone, shameful and shameless, compelled her to write to earn money for himcompelled her to solicit for him an appointment from Lord Melbourne. Her acquaintance with Lord Melbourne, thus originated, was the cause of one of the most unfortunate and the most notorious episodes in her varied life. He had an unsympathetic wife (as Lady Caroline Lamb she is best known), and Mrs. Norton had a contemptible husband; but both had high intellectual tastes and accomplishments, and their dispositions were alike genial and amiable, but vivacious and brilliant. Lord Melbourne granted her request, and appointed her husband a police-magistrate in London. But he was utterly unfit by manner and capacity for such a post; he was quarrelsome and ignorant, and neglected his duty. He was in pecuniary difficulties, and sought loans from Lord Melbourne; and, being refused, he revenged himself by instituting an action for divorce, making the minister co-respondent, and claiming from him £10,000 damages. The suit was scouted out of court; the jury found for the defendants without leaving the box, and Mrs. Norton separated finally from her paltry consort. He died in 1869, and in 1877 she married Sir W. Stirling Maxwell, Bart.—a platonic proceeding resembling her sister Lady Dufferin's marriage to Lord Gifford—and in a few months, in June, 1877, she died, aged seventy.

MRS. NORTON— M'GEE.

103

Mrs. Norton was very industrious with her pen throughout her life. Her earlier poems are her best productions, and her songs are sung in every drawing-room. She wrote novels and tales, a tragedy called 'The Martyr,' and filled up her literary life with numerous and ambitious poems.

Her later writings are didactic, and aimed at effecting some social reforms; some of them are full of references to her own unhappy life. She was one of the most brilliant ornaments of London society before she retired into seclusion. She everywhere commanded the pity and sympathy which should arise in her behalf wherever her husband was known. She occupied and deserved a conspicuous place in contemporary literature; and though there is a staginess about her style, and though she fails in that in which Lady Dufferin excels-the subtle power to be en rapport with the heart's best sympathies—yet she has in her poems, and in her songs, maintained with credit the Sheridan mental heritage which devolved upon her.

M'GEE.

THOMAS DARCY M'GEE was, with Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, the only one of all the young Irishmen implicated in the futile movement of 1848 whose aftercareer gave exercise for a display of the abilities which were, in their own country, unhappily misdirected into the channel of revolution in their youth. The tragic termination of M'Gee's life-his assassination while at the height of his fame and popularity in Canada-is still fresh in the public mind. His maturer years had taught him the folly of his youth. In the Government of Canada

he attained to ministerial office; he went over to loyalty; he denounced with eloquent vehemence the aims and ways of those who still adhered to the insurrectionary ideas which ruled his own early years; he poured powerful contempt and derision on the Fenian organisation, and he thus aroused the vengeance of that body against him, and on the night of the 7th April, 1868, he was murdered.

He was a native of the county Monaghan, and was born on the 13th April, 1825; the son of an official in the Irish Coastguard Service, by a Miss Morgan, daughter of a Dublin bookseller. In 1842 he emigrated to America, and having attracted some notice by a speech made by him there, on the occasion of the celebration of the Year of the American Independence, he was employed on the literary staff of the Boston Pilot-an influential journal-of which he became editor in 1844, before he had attained his twentieth year. His public speeches, marked by fire and eloquence, carried his name to Ireland; and O'Connell described one of them as an inspired utterance by an exiled Irish boy. He returned to Ireland, and joined the staff of the Freeman's Journal, and became editor of it. But his political opinions were, at that time, far in advance. of the then moderate and cautious Freeman, and he therefore went over to the Nation, the newspaper then under the editorship of Gavan Duffy. He entered heartily into the political spirit enunciated so ably by this journal, and he became its sub-editor, and so continued till its suppression in 1848. His ability and energy procured him the secretaryship of the 'Young Ireland Confederation.' He was employed as a public orator throughout Ireland, and despatched to Scotland to awaken public feeling in favour of the movement. He

105

was arrested because of a wild speech on its behalf made in Wicklow, but was released after a brief incarceration; and when the resort to arms took place in 1848, he was in Scotland, promoting the objects of the confederation. He was immediately nominated for arrest, and a reward of £300 offered for his apprehension. Yet he returned to Ireland to see his newly-married wife; and, under the protection of a high ecclesiastic, he contrived, in the disguise of a clergyman, to make good his escape to Philadelphia, where he landed on the 10th October. He established a journal, the Nation, in New York, and devoted its pages to blaming the Irish priesthood for the failure of the Young Ireland Movement. He soon abandoned the New York Nation, and started the American Celt in Boston. Up to this period the sentiments of the revolutionist still animated him; but now they toned down, and he seems to have regarded them as a blunder.

M'GEE.

In 1858, still a young man, he left the States and settled in Montreal; was elected to the Canadian Parliament, where his eloquence and administrative ability soon made him a conspicuous member of the Legislature. In 1862 he became President of the Executive Committee, and subsequently obtained the portfolio of the Minister of Agriculture. During his official career he wrote his "History of Ireland.' In 1865 he was in Ireland as representative from Canada at the Dublin Exhibition; and during his sojourn, while on a visit to his father, in the county Wexford, delivered a philippic against the then widespread Fenian organisation, and descanted upon the degraded lives led by the Irish in the United States. In 1867 he revisited Europe, this time as the Dominion representative at the Paris Exposition, and, on his return,

« PredošláPokračovať »