« PreviousContinue »
ty-Even his mercy is dreadful, It is a poor privilege to be permitted to hold together for a century or so, until your coffin tumbles in about your eers and then to re-appear, half skeleton, half mummy, exposed to the gazes of a generation that can know nothing of your name and character beyond the prosing tradition of some moralizing sexton.-Among these remnants of humanity, for instance, there is the body of a pious gentlewoman, who, while she continued above ground, shunned the eyes of men in the recesses of a convent. But the veil of death has not been respected. She stands first on the sexton's list of posthumous rarities, and is one of the most valuable appendages of his office. She is his buried treasure. Her sapless cheeks yield him a larger cent than some acres of arable land, and what is still worse, she cannot now repel his imputations, he calls her to her face, the “ Old Nun.” In point of fact, I understood that her age was one hundred and eleven years, not including the forty years that have elapsed since her second burial in St. Michan's.
Death, it has been often observed, is a thorough radical, and levels all distinctions. It is so in this place. Beside the nun there sleeps—not a venerable abbess, nor timid novice, nor meek and holy friar, but an atheletic young felon of the seventeenth century, who had shed a brother's blood, and was sentenced for the offence to the close custody of St. Michan's vaults. This was about one hundred and thirty years ago. The offender belonged to a family of consideration, which accounts for his being found in such very respectable society.
The preservative quality of the vaults is various in its operation upon subjects of different ages and constitutions. With regard to the latter, however, it dose not appear that persons who had been temperate livers enjoy any peculiar advantages. The departed toper resists decay as sturdily as the ascetic; supplying Captain Morris with another “reason fair, to fill his glass again.” But it is ascertained that children are decomposed almost as rapidly here as elsewhere. Of this, a touching illustration occurs in the case of a female who died in child-birth, about a century ago, and was deposited in St. Michan's. Her infant was laid in her arms. The mother is still tolerably perfect; exemplifying by her attitude, the parental “passion strong in death ; " but the child has long since melted away from her embrace. I inquired her name, and was rather mortified to find that it had not been preserved.
But I was chiefly affected by the relics of two persons of whom the world has unfortunately heard too much ; the ill-fated brothers John and Henry Sheares. I had been told that they were here, and the moment the light of the taper fell upon the spot they occupied, I quickly recognized them, by one or two circumstances that forcibly recalled the close of their career-the headless trunks, and the remains of the coarse, unadorned, penal shells, to which it seemed necessary to public justice that they
should be consigned. Henry's head was lying by his brother's side-John's had not been completely detached by the blow of the executioner; one ligament of the neck still connected it with the body. I knew nothing of these victims of ill-timed enthusiasm except from historical reports; but the companion of my visit to their grave had been their contemporary and
friend, and he paid their memories the tribute of a few tears! he lingered long beside them, and seemed to find a sad gratification in relating several particulars connected with their fates. Many of the anecdotes he mentioned have been already published. Two or three which interested me I had not heard before. “ It was not to be expected,” he said, “ that such a man as John Sheares could have escaped the destiny that befel him-his doom was fixed several years before his death. His passion for liberty, as he conceived it, was incurable ; but it was not consecrated by its association with another passion to which every thing seemed justifiable. You have heard, I doubt not, of the once celebrated Mademoiselle Therouane. John Sheares was in Paris at the commencement of the revolution, and was introduced to her. She was an extraordinary creature ; wild, imperious, and, fantastic in her patriotic paroxysms ; but in her natural intervals, a beautiful and fascinating woman. He became deeply enamoured of her, and not the less so for the political enthusiasm that would have repelled another. I have heard that he assisted, in the uniform of the national guard, at the storming of the Bastile, and that he encountered the peril as a means of recommending himself to the object of his admiration. She returned that sentiment, but she would not listen to his suit. When he tendered a proposal of marriage, she produced a pistol, and threatened to lay him dead if he renewed the subject. This I had from himself. But her rigour did not extinguish his passion, He returned to Ireland full of her image, and I suspect, not without a hope that the success of the fatal enterprise in which he embarked might procure him, at a future day, a more favourable hearing ; but of this and all his other hopes, you see (pointing to his remains) the lamentable issue." I asked whether his mistress had heard of his fate, and how she bore it. My friend replied, “ when I was at Paris, during the short peace at Amiens, I asked the same question, but I met with no one who had personally known her. She was then living in a condition, however, to which death would have been preferable. She was in a miserable state of insanity, and confined in a public institution. John Shears,” he continued, “ flung himself into the revolutionary cause from principle and temperament; but Henry wanted the energy of a conspirator: of this he was forewarned by an accident that I know to have occurred. Shortly after he had taken the oath of an United Irishman (it was towards the close of the year 1797), he was present at the election for the city of Dublin : a riot took place at the hustings, the military' interfered, and the people fled in confusion. A tradesman who resided in the vicinity, hearing the shouts, hastily moved towards the spot to inquire the cause. The first person he met was Henry Sheares, pallid, trembling, and almost gasping for breath. He asked what had happened. Sheares with looks and tones importing extraordinary perturbation, implored him, if he valued his own life, to turn back. It was with some difficulty that the interrogator could obtain an intelligible account of the cause and extent of the danger. As soon as he had ascertained the fact, he fixed his eye on Sheares, and said, “Mr. Sheares, I know more of some matters than you may be aware of; take a friend's advice, and haye no more to do with politics ; you have not perve, Şir, for the business you have engaged in."
But the infatuation of the times, and the influence of his brother's character and example prevailed. When the catastrophe came, John Shear's felt, when too late, that he should have offered the same advice. This reflection embittered his last moments. It also called forth some generous traits that deserve to be remembered. His appeal to the Court in behalf of his brother, as given in the report of the trial.
AN INSCRIPTION FOR A CHIMNEY BOARD.
Here lies, entombed,
Who, in his youth,
Discovered some sparks
But was, in maturity,
And diffusive benevolence.
And easily stirred up,
For, though he might have been
He was the best and kindest
Even upon his foes ;
When earths, illlustrious examples,
Such resplendent virtues
Thus basely blown upon!
And somewhat given to smoaking,
Yet he was never seen in liquor,
Was far from spoiling his,
His days, which were short,
By his being seized with a cold,
In one of the warm days
By his friends,
Of his endearing virtues.
Among the scenes of terror of which Smyrna has becn, at different times, the theatre, since the commencement of the Greek insurrection, the following affecting circumstance occurred :
While the murderers were forcing in the doors of the houses with their carbines, a poor Catholic family, in the neighbourhood of these massacres, was in a desperate situation. False security had hitherto made them neglect the necessary precautions. The unhappy father did not perceive his error, till his house-door was pierced through and through, by a shower of musket balls. The only means that remained to save his wife and numerous family from inevitable destruction, was to escape over the roofs of the houses. The moments were precious ; the door was already giving way to the efforts of the assailants. Taking his youngest son in his arms, he climbed from his own to the next roof, followed by his trembling wife with an infant at her breast, and after her his four daughters. But this flight was soon interrupted by a cross street. They already heard, on the neigbouring terraces, the furious cries of their pursuers ; it was necessary to venture the dangerous passage over the street. The father, inspired with new strength, pulled a plank from the adjoining house. and laid it across the street, so that it rested on the two opposite roofs, and offered a narrow, insecure bridge to this unfortunate family. But the imminent danger of falling, was not the only one that threatened them ; the street they had to cross was that in which the shot (the cause of tumult) had been fired. It was full of furious Turks, whose continual firing alarmed them. But they had no time to consider. At last one of the daughters ventured on the narrow board ; but at her first step a hundred muskets were discharged at her. However, she reached the opposite roof without injury; and her sister, who followed, was equally fortunate. Meantime the rest of the family were discovered by the furious Turks on the neighbouring roofs, and a shower of balls from that side also assailed the unhappy fugitives. Urged by alarms from all quarters they all crowded at once on the frail bridge, which at first they hardly thought would bear one person. All the shots were now directed to the same point, and pierced, in many places, the board, which bent under their weight! But it seemed as if Providence covered with its Ægis this unhappy family—not one was wounded all reached the opposite roof, and thence the residence of an European family ; where the father, exhausted by exertion and mental agitation, as soon he found himself in safety, fainted away.