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Thomas Moore   By: (1864-1950)

Book cover

First Page:

THOMAS MOORE

By

STEPHEN GWYNN

ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS

LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., Ltd.

1905

CONTENTS

CHAPTER I Boyhood and Early Poems

CHAPTER II Early Manhood and Marriage

CHAPTER III "Lalla Rookh"

CHAPTER IV Period of Residence Abroad

CHAPTER V Work as Biographer and Controversialist

CHAPTER VI The Decline of Life

CHAPTER VII General Appreciation

APPENDIX

INDEX

THOMAS MOORE

CHAPTER I

BOYHOOD AND EARLY POEMS

Sudden fame, acquired with little difficulty, suffers generally a period of obscuration after the compelling power which attaches to a man's living personality has been removed; and from this darkness it does not always emerge. Of such splendour and subsequent eclipse, Moore's fate might be cited as the capital example.

The son of a petty Dublin tradesman, he found himself, almost from his first entry on the world, courted by a brilliant society; each year added to his friendships among the men who stood highest in literature and statesmanship; and his reputation on the Continent was surpassed only by that of Scott and Byron. He did not live to see a reaction. Lord John Russell could write boldly in 1853, a year after his friend's death, that "of English lyrical poets, Moore is surely the greatest." There is perhaps no need to criticise either this attitude of excessive admiration, or that which in many cases has replaced it, of tolerant contempt. But it is as well to emphasise at the outset the fact that even to day, more than a century after he began to publish, Moore is still one of the poets most popular and widely known throughout the English speaking world. His effect on his own race at least has been durable; and if it be a fair test of a poet's vitality to ask how much of his work could be recovered from oral tradition, there are not many who would stand it better than the singer of the Irish Melodies. At least the older generation of Irishmen and Irishwomen now living have his poetry by heart.

The purpose of this book is to give, if possible, a just estimate of the man's character and of his work as a poet. The problem, so far as the biographical part is concerned, is not to discover new material but to select from masses already in print. The Memoirs of his Life, edited by Lord John Russell, fill eight volumes, though the life with which they deal was neither long nor specially eventful. In addition we have allusions to Moore, as a widely known social personage, in almost every memoir of that time; and newspaper references by thousands have been collected. These extraneous sources, however, add very little to the impression which is gained by a careful reading of the correspondence and of the long diaries in which Moore's nature, singularly unsecretive, displays itself with perfect frankness. Whether one's aim be to justify Moore or to condemn him, the most effective means are provided by his own words; and for nearly everything that I have to allege in the narrative part of this work, Moore, himself is the authority. Nor is the critical estimate which has to be put forward, though remote from that of Moore's official biographer, at all unlike that which the poet himself seems to have formed of his work.

Thomas Moore was born in Dublin on the 28th of May 1779, at No. 12 Aungier Street, where his father, a native of Kerry, kept a grocer's shop. His mother, Anastasia Clodd, was the daughter of a small provision merchant in Wexford. Moore was their eldest child, and of the brothers and sisters whom he mentions, only two girls, his sisters Katherine and Ellen, appear to have grown up or to have played any part in his life. His parents were evidently prosperous people, devoted to their clever boy and ambitious to secure him social promotion by giving scope to the talents which he showed from his early schooldays. The memoir of his youth, which Moore wrote in middle life, notes the special pleasure which his mother took in the friendship of a certain Miss Dodd, an elderly maiden lady moving in "a class of society somewhat of a higher level than ours"; and it is easy enough to understand why the precocious imp of a boy found favour with this distinguished person and her guests... Continue reading book >>




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