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strong party within the Society itself, devoted adherents to the policy of the government, and taking invariably part with the Provost and Fellows in all their restrictive and inquisitorial measures. The most distinguished and eloquent of these supporters of
power were a young man named Sargent, of whose fate in after days I know nothing, and Jebb, the late bishop of Limerick, who was then, as he continued to be through life, much respected for his private worth and learning.
Of the popular side, in the Society, the chief champion and ornament was Robert Emmet; and though every care was taken to exclude from the subjects of debate all questions verging towards the politics of the day, it was always easy enough, by a side-wind of digression or allusion, to bring Ireland and the prospects then opening upon her within the scope of the orator's view. So exciting and powerful, in this respect, were Emmet's speeches, and so little were even the most eloquent of the adverse party able to cope with his powers, that it was at length thought advisable, by the higher authorities, to send among us a man of more advanced standing, as well as belonging to a former race of renowned speakers, in that Society, in order that he might answer the speeches of Emmet, and endeavour to obviate the mischievous impression they were thought to produce. The name of this mature champion of the higher powers it is not necessary here to record; but the object of his mission among us was in some respect gained; as it was in replying to a long
oration of his, one night, that Emmet, much to the mortification of us who gloried in him as our leader, became suddenly embarrassed in the middle of his speech, and, to use the parliamentary phrase, broke down. Whether from a momentary confusion in the thread of his argument, or possibly from diffidence in encountering an adversary so much his senior, - for Emmet was as modest as he was high-minded and brave, — he began, in the full career of his eloquence, to hesitate and repeat his words, and then, after an effort or two to recover himself, sate down.
It fell to my own lot to be engaged, about the same time, in a brisk struggle with the dominant party in the Society, in consequence of a burlesque poem which I gave in, as candidate for the Literary Medal, entitled “An Ode upon Nothing, with Notes, by Trismegistus Rustifustius, D. D.” &c. &c. For this squib against the great Dons of learning, the medal was voted to me by a triumphant majority. But a motion was made in the following week to rescind this vote; and a fierce contest between the two parties ensued, which I at last put an end to by voluntarily withdrawing my composition from the Society's Book.
I have already adverted to the period when Mr. Bunting's valuable volume first became known to me. There elapsed no very long time before I was myself the happy proprietor of a copy of the work, and, though never regularly instructed in music, could play over the airs with tolerable facility on the pianoforte. Robert Emmet used sometimes to sit by me, when I was thus engaged; and I remember one day his starting up as from a reverie, when I had just finished playing that spirited tune called the Red Fox *, and exclaiming, “Oh that I were at the head of twenty thousand men, marching to that air !"
How little did I then think that in one of the most touching of the sweet airs I used to play to him, his own dying words would find an interpreter so worthy of their sad, but proud feeling t; or that another of those mournful strains † would long be associated, in the hearts of his countrymen, with the memory of her & who shared with Ireland his last blessing and prayer.
Though fully alive, of course, to the feelings which such music could not but inspire, I had not yet undertaken the task of adapting words to any of the airs; and it was, I am ashamed to say, in dull and turgid prose, that I made my first appearance in print as a champion of the popular cause. Towards the latter end of the year 1797, the celebrated newspaper called “ The Press” was set up by Arthur O'Connor, Thomas Addis Emmett, and other chiefs of the United Irish conspiracy, with the view of preparing and ripening the public mind for the great crisis then fast approaching. This memorable journal, according to the impression I at present retain of it, was far
“ Let Erin remember the days of old.” † “ Oh, breathe not his name.”
“ She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps," s Miss Curran.
more distinguished for earnestness of purpose and intrepidity, than for any great display of literary talent; - the bold letters written by Emmet (the elder), under the signature of “ Montanus,” being the only compositions I can now call to mind, as entitled to praise for their literary merit. It required, however, but a small sprinkling of talent to make bold writing, at that time, palatable; and, from the experience of my own home, I can answer for the avidity with which every line of this daring journal was devoured. It used to come out, I think, twice a week, and, on the evening of publication, I always read it aloud to our small circle after supper.
It may easily be conceived that, what with my ardour for the national cause, and a growing consciousness of some little turn for authorship, I naturally eager to become a contributor to those patriotic and popular columns. But the constant anxiety about me which I knew my own family felt,
a feeling more wakeful far than even their zeal in the public cause — withheld me from hazarding any step that might cause them alarm. I had ventured, indeed, one evening, to pop privately into the letterbox of The Press, a short Fragment in imitation of Ossian. But this, though inserted, passed off quietly; and nobody was, in any sense of the phrase, the wiser for it. I was soon tempted, however, to try a more daring flight. Without communicating my secret to any one but Edward Hudson, I addressed a long Letter, in prose, to the ***** of ****, in which a profusion of bad flowers of rhetoric was
enwreathed plentifully with that weed which Shakspeare calls “ the cockle of rebellion,” and, in the same manner as before, committed it tremblingly to the chances of the letter-box. I hardly expected my prose would be honoured with insertion, when, lo, on the next evening of publication, when, seated as usual in my little corner by the fire, I unfolded the paper for the purpose of reading it to my select auditory, there was my own Letter staring me full in the face, being honoured with so conspicuous a place as to be one of the first articles my audience would expect to hear. Assuming an outward appearance of ease, while every nerve within me was trembling, I contrived to accomplish the reading of the Letter without raising in either of my auditors a suspicion that it was my own. I enjoyed the pleasure too of hearing it a good deal praised by them; and might have been tempted by this to acknowledge myself the author, had I not found that the language and sentiments of the article were considered by both very
bold." I was not destined, however, to remain long undetected. On the following day, Edward Hudson †,
to be "
* So thought also higher authorities ; for among the extracts from The Press brought forward by the Secret Committee of the House of Commons, to show how formidable had been the designs of the United Irishmen, there are two or three paragraphs cited from this redoubtable Letter.
+ Of the depth and extent to which Hudson had involved himself in the conspiracy, none of our had harboured the least notion : till, on the seizure of the thirteen Leinster delegates, at Oliver Bond's,