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The author of Lalla Rookh, like most of the race of genius, was one whom his own genius ennobled. The man who has not to thank his ancestors for what he enjoys of wealth, station, or reputation, has all the more to thank himself for. The heralds, says Savage Landor, will give you a grandfather if you want one, but a genuine poet has no need of a grandfather ; he is his own grandfather, his own shield-bearer, and stands forth to the world in the proud attitude of debtor to none but God and himself, the shieldbearer and the grandfather of others. Thomas Moore was born in an humble house in Dublin, the son of humble but respectable parents. He made his own way in the world, and gave to those parents the honour of having produced a distinguished son. That is as it should be. People should honour their parents ; it is rarely that parents can honour their children. They cannot bequeath their genius to them ; it is not always that they can succeed in engrafting on them their virtues : and if parents be glorious in reputation and in goodness, if the children do not walk worthy of that glory, tho glory itself is only a blaze that exposes them to the world ; lights up and aggravates every blemish to the general eye. How truly is honour, true honour, in nine cases out of ten, a self-acquisition. Wealth you may entail
, station you may entail; but well-won honour is a thing which, like salvation, every man must achieve for himself. Poets in general know no ancestry. In their poetic character they are as truly and newly created as Adam himself. Who cares a button for the ancestors of Byron, of Milton, of Shakspeare, of Goethe, or of Schiller ? These men start out to our eyes in the blaze of their own genius, which darkens all around them. They are creations of God, and not of man. They are sent forth into the world, and not born into it. Their ancestors are not the ancestors of their genius. They are the progenitors of the earthy caterpillar—the butterfly, the Psyche of genius, is born of itself. With the splendid spirit which breaks forth sometimes from an old line, that line commonly has nothing more to do than the earth on which we tread, the common mother of us all, has to do with our soul and its celestial powers. These come out of the hand of God, gifts to us and the world; lurinaries burning in a divine isolation; priests after the order of Melchisedec, whose ancestry and whose posterity are not known. God has vindicated to himself the origination of Genius and Christianity. They both came into the world independent of governments and princes : they spring out of the habitations of the poor, and walk amongst the poor; they disdain to confer on worldly pride the honour of their alliance, but they do their mission in the strength of their sender, and mount to heaven.
These are great truths that every man of genius should sev, acknowledge, and act upon. His birth is higher than that of any prince, even be it more lowly than that of the Son of God, in a stable and a manger, with a stalled ox instead of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and an ass instead of a Prime Minister, attending as witnesses. Nobles can confer no nobility on him: he bears his patent of honour in his own bosom; the escutcheon of genius is his in the broad and exalted brow. He should remember this; and the world will not then forget it. He should think of himself as sent forth by God, doing God's work in the earth, and having to render up to God the account of his embassy. With this idea within him and before him, his work will be done the more nobly; and the public which is made what it is by him,-effeminate through his effeminacy, corrupt through his corruption, wise through his wisdom,will soon place him in his true rank, above all heaps of metal and spadefuls of earth, and honour him as the only true noble, the only man who has no need of heraldic lies and fictitious grandfathers. These are great truths that the children of men of genius too shoule. bear in mind. They should feel that they cannot inherit genius, but they may possess it in some new shape, an equal gift of heaven. This will keep alive in them the spirit of honourable action ; and they may come to live, not in the moonshine of their ancestral lights, but in a genuine warm sunshine of their own. The honour of a distinguished parent is not our honour but our foil, if we do not seek to establish an alliance witb it by our own exertion, and above all by goodness.
For want of poets and poets' children entertaining these rational ideas, what miseries have from age to age awaited then! In the course of my peregrinations to the birthplaces and the tombs of poets, how often have these reflections been forced upon me. Humble, indeed, are frequently their birthplaces; but what is far worse, how wretched are often the places of their deaths! How many of them have died in the squalid haunts of destitution, and even by their own hand. How many of them have left their families to utter poverty; how many of those caressed in their lives, lie without a stone or a word of remembrance in their graves! But still more melancholy is the contemplation of the beginning and the end of Robert Tannahill, the popular song-writer of Paisley Tanns hill was no doubt stimulated by the fame of Burns. True, he haul not the genius of Burns, but genius he had, and that is conspicuous in many of those songs which during his lifetime were sug with enthusiasm by his countrymen. Tannahill was a poor weaver of Paisley. The cottage where he lived is still to be seen, a very ordinary weaver's cottage in an ordinary street; and the place where he drowned himself may be seen too at the outside of the towu. This is one of the most dismal places in which a poet ever terminated his career. Tannahill, like Burns, was fond of a jovial bour amid his comrales in a public-house. But weaving of verse and weaving of calico did not agree. The world applauded, but did not patronize ; disappointment in fame and in the affections, acting on å nervous temperament, disordered his mind ; and Tannahill, in the frenzy of despair, resolved to terminate his existence. Outside of Paisley there is a place where a small stream passes under a canal, To facilitate this passage a deep pit is sunk, and a channel for the waters is made under the bottom of the canal. This pit is, I believe, eighteen feet deep. It is built round with stone, which is rounded off at its mouth, so that any one falling in cannot by any possibility get out, for there is nothing to lay hold of. Any one once in thero might grasp and grasp in vain for an edge to seize upon. He would sink back and back till he was exhausted and sank for ever. No doubt Tannahill in moments of gloomy observation had noted this. And at midnight he came, stripped off his coat, laid down his hat, and took the fatal plunge. No cry could reach human ear from that bor. rible abyss; no effort of the strongest swimmer could avail to sustain him : soon worn out he must go down, and amid the black boiling torrent be borne through the subterranean channel onward with the stream. Thus died Robert Tannahill, and a more fearful termination was never put to a poetical career. The place is called Tannahill's hole, and cats and dogs drowned in it, from its peculiar fitness for inevitable drowning, float about on the surface, and add to the revolting shudder which the sight of it creates.
Such are some of the dominant tendencies of poetic fate which made Wordsworth exclaim,
“We poets in our youth begin in gladness,
But thereof come in the end despondency and madness;" and such must there be till geuius respect itself, and cause the public to respect it; till it reflect that it is a heavenly endowment, and not & trade stock.
Amongst the most fortunate men of genius,-amongst those who by strength of pinion, and by various resources of prose, poetry, and music, have soared above the poet's ordinary path beset with ropes, poison, throat-cutting razors, pistols, and drowning holes,- is the gay and genial Thomas Moore. Moore was born, as I have said, in Dublin. His father kept a shop in Aungier-street, and was a respectable grocer and spirit dealer. The shop continues exactly as it was to the present day, is employed for the same trade, and over it is the little drawing-room in which Mr. Moore himself tells us that he used to compose his songs, and with his sister and some young friends acted a masque of his own composing.
Moore was not ashamed of his humble birthplace. “Be sure," he said to me, “when you go to Dublin, to visit the old shop in Aungier-street.” I did visit it, and the landlord insisted that I should drink a glass of whisky in honour of Tom Moore's being born there.
Moore declared that he knew very little of his ancestry. On his father's side, his uncle, Garret Moore, was the only one whom he knew. He was a Rerry man. His mother was an Anastatia Codd, the daughter of “my gouty old grandfather, Tom Codd,” as Moore faro iliarly names him, “who lived in the corn market, Wexford,” and who was in the provision trade, and, as Moore believed, from his recollection of machinery, had been a weaver. Moore was born on the 28th of May, 1779. He was first sent to school, at a very early age, to a man of the name of Malone, in the same street; "a wild, odd fellow,” he says, "of whose cocked hat I have still a clear remembrance, and who used to pass the greater part of his nights in drinking at public-houses, and was hardly ever able to make his appearance in the school before noon. He would then generally whip the boys all round for disturbing his slumbers." He was then sent to the grammar school of the well-known Samuel Whyte, to whom in his fourteenth year he addressed a sonnet, which was published in a Dublin Magazine, called the Anthologia. In this periodical he also printed his first amatory effiusions, addressed by him under the cognomen of Romeo to a Miss Hannah Byrne, who bore the name of Zelia. This Mr. Whyte was fond of poetry and dramatic representation, and is mentioned by Moore as having superintended private theatricals at different gentlemen's and noblemen's houses, as at the Duke of Leinster's, at Marly, the seat of the Latouches, &c., where he supplied prologues. Sheridan had been a pupil of Whyte's, and it is further stated by Mr. Moore, that many parents were alarmed at the danger of his instilling a love for these things into his scholars. Can there be a kloubt that he did so with Sheridan and Moore ?
Moore was sent to the university in Dublin, in 1795, where the unfortunate Robert Emmet was at the time. Moore soon formed an acquaintance with himn, and became a member of a debating society, at which Emmet and other young patriots assembled to prepare themselves for public life. On the approach of the frigthful ex
plosion of 1798, the university was visited by Lord Fitzgibbon, its vice-chancellor, with a rigorous examination, Government having become aware of the students being deeply engaged in the organizztion of the Irish union. Amongst those found to be thus implicated were Emmet, John Brown, and others. They became marked men. Moore himself underwent examination, but came clear off. From these connexions and early impressions, however, we may date his steady adherence to liberal and patriotic sentiments.
At the university his poetic genius early displayed itself. There he commenced the translation of the Odes of Anacreon. He took his degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1798 or 1799, and left the unirersity. He soon found his way over to England, where his wit, his songs, and his conversational brilliancy, introduced him to the first circles of fashionable life, and to Government patronage. He entered himself of the Middle Temple in 1799 ; but, instead of legal studies poetical ones wholly engrossed him, so that in 1800, before he bal completed his twentieth year, he had published his Anacreon. At this time he had lodgings at 44, Gower-street, Portman-square, at six shillings a-week. This place was a great haunt of poor French emigrants; where he described himself as greatly disturbed by the snoring of an old cure, and much amused by the scheme of a French bishop, who, having too many hungry callers, used to bang npa board on the staircase, chalked in large characters,—“ The Bishops
He soon made the acquaintance of several Irishmen; amongst them of Martin Archer Shee; had a sight of Peter Pindar and other lions ;
but by far the most important introduction was to the Earl Moira. He visited him at his seat, Donuington Park, Leicestershire, a place which afterwards became quite a home to him. By Lord Moira he was introduced to the Prince Regent, and while Moira and that party continued in favour was a frequent guest at Carlton House.
In 1801 he published a volume of poems, under the title of The Poetical Works of the late Thomas Little, Esq. To be al le to cancel many of these effusions the author would have given in after years a great portion of his fame ; and, indeed, in the complete edition of his poems in one volume, he took care to exclude the most exceptionable.
Through the influence of Lord Moira he was, in 1803, appointed to the office of Registrar to the Admiralty Court at the Bermudas. He described in his letters the scenery of the island as beautiful, but his occupations,—those of swearing skippers, mates, and stamen as witnesses in the causes of captured vessels, -as not very poetical. In going and returning ho saw something of the l'nited States and Canada. His whole absence from England was not fourteen months. He published on his return a collection of odes, epistles, and fugitive poems, illustrative of the scenery and life of Bermuda, and of most caustic and scarifying epistles from the United States. From the hour that he settled down again in Englandnotwithstanding the time that he devoted to society, into which his peculiar powers of pleasing continually threw him-he displayed an