Sayfadaki görseller

* Major Sirr, the defendant, soon arrived, went into his office, and returned with an order which he had written, and by virtue of which Mr. Hevey was conveyed to the custody of his old friend and gaoler, Major Sandys. Here he was flung into a roon of about thirteen fect by twelve; it was called the hospital of the provost; it was occupied by six beds, in which were to lie fourteen or fifteen miserable wretches, some of them sinking under contagious disorders. Here he passed the first night without bed or food. The next morning his humane keeper, the Major, appeared. The plaintiff demanded why he was so imprisoned, complained of hunger, and asked for the gaol allowance ? Major Sandys replied with a torrent of abuse, which he concluded by saying, 'your crime is


insolence to Major Sirr; however, he disdains to trample on you; you may appease him by proper and contrite submission; but unless you do so you shall rot where you are. I tell you this, that if Government will not protect us, by God, we will not protect them. You will probably (for I know your insolent and ungrateful hardiness) attempt to get out by an habeas corpus, but in that you will find yourself mistaken, as such a rascal deserves. IIevey was insolent enough to issue a habeas corpus, and a return was made on it, “that Hevey was in custody under a warrant from General Craig, on a charge of treason. That this return was a gross falsehood, fabricated by Sirr, I am instructed to assert. The judge, before whom this return was brought, felt that he had no authority to liberate the unhappy prisoner; and thus, by a most inhuman and malicious lie, my client was again remanded to the horrid mansion of pestilence and famine. Upon this Mr. Hevey, finding that nothing else remained, signed a submission dictated by Sandys, was enlarged from confinement, and brought the present action.”

The foregoing is a very curtailed sketch of the particulars of this case; those who partake of the prevailing taste for strong emotions are referred to the entire report, where they will find in every line abundant sources of additional excitement. Of the style in which the advocate commented upon

these * Sir Ralph Abercromby (born in 1738, died in 1801) commanded the troops in Ireland during the early part of the Rebellion of 1798 ; but his disgust at the system of cruelty and tyranny sanctioned there by the Government, caused him to make indignant remonstrances, which were answered by his recall.-M.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

extraordinary facts, the following is among the most striking examples:

Adverting to the ignorance in which England was kept regarding the sufferings of Ireland, and to the benefit to be derived from sending her one authenticated example, Mr. Curran goes on—“I cannot also but observe to you, that the real state of one country is more forcibly impressed on the attention of another by a verdict on such a subject as this, than it could be by any general description. When


endeavour to convey an idea of a great number of barbarians practising a great variety of cruelties upon an incalculable number of sufferers, nothing defined or specific finds its way to the heart; nor is any sentiment excited, save that of a general, erratic, unappropiated commiseration. If, for instance, you wished to convey to the mind of an English matron the horrors of that direful period, when, in defiance of the remonstrance of the ever to be lamented Abercromby,* our poor people were surrendered to the licentious brutality of the soldiery, by the authority of the State--you would vainly endeavour to give her a general picture of lust, and rapine, and murder, and conflagration. By endeavouring to comprehend every thing, you would convey nothing. When the father of poetry wishes to pourtray the movements of contending armies and an embattled field, he exemplifies only, he does not describe-he does not venture to describe the perplexed and promiscuous conflicts of adverse hosts, but by the acts and fates of a few individuals he conveys a notion of the vicissitudes of the fight and the fortunes of the day. So should your story to her keep clear of generalities; instead of exhibiting the picture of an entire province, select a single object, and even in that single object do not release the imagination of your hearer from its task, by giving more than an outline. Take a cottage--place the affrighted mother of her orphan daughters at the door, the paleness of death in her face, and more than its agonies in her heart

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

her aching heart, her anxious ear struggling through the mist of closing day to catch the approaches of desolation and dishonour. The ruffian gang arrives—the feast of plunder begins—the cup of madness kindles in its circulation—the wandering glances of the ravisher become concentrated upon the shrinking and devoted victim : you need not dilate-you need not expatiate—the unpolluted mother, to whom you tell the story of horror, beseeches you not to proceed; she presses her child to her heart-she drowns it in her tears—her fancy catches more than an angel's tongue could describe ; at a single view she takes in the whole miserable succession of force, of profanation, of despair, of death. So it is in the question before us. If any man shall hear of this day's transaction, he cannot be so foolish as to suppose that we have been confined to a single character like those now brought before you. No, gentlemen, far from it—he will have too much common sense not to know, that outrages like these are never solitary; that where the public calamity generates imps like these, their number is as the sands of the sea, and their fury as insatiable as its waves."

The jury awarded Mr. Hevey £150 damages :* out of Ireland this verdict excited some surprise and indignation, feelings which sufficiently corroborate Mr. Curran’s assertion, that the internal condition of his country was but little known in the sister kingdom. A story of such complicated sufferings and indignities would have found a far different reception from an English jury—but the plaintiff in this action was a person to whom, in Ireland, it would have been deemed disloyal to have granted a just remuneration. Hevey was suspected of disaffection in 1798, and the men who were thus regardless of his appeal to their sympathy, were avenging the popular excesses of that year.

In the course of Mr. Curran's observations upon the persecution of his client in this case, he took an occasion of introducing a happs

* Plunket was counsel for Major Sirr. Despite the favourable verdict, Hevey was ruined. The long imprisonment made him bankrupt. Poverty and sorrow broke bis mind (said Davis), and he died a pauper lunatic shortly after.-M.


and well-merited compliment to a friend and a man of genius. “No country” (said he) "governed by any settled laws, or treated with common humanity, could furnish any occurrences of such unparalleled atrocity; and if the author of Caleb Williams, or of the Simple Story,* were to read the tale of this man's sufferings, it might, I think, humble the vanity of their talents (if they are not too proud to be vain) when they saw how much more fruitful a source of incident could be found in the infernal workings of the heart of a malignant slave, than in the richest copiousness of the most fertile and creative imagination.”

Among his English friends, the author of Caleb Williams was the one to whom Mr. Curran, during the last twenty years of his life, was the most attached, and in whose society he most delighted. However he may have dissented from some of Mr. Godwin's speculative opinions, he always considered him as a man of the most decidedly original genius of his time, and uniformly discountenanced the vulgar clamour with which it was the fashion to assail him. There are many who well remember his fervour and eloquence upon this topic, the tears which he so frequently excited by his glowing descriptions of the private excellencies of his friend, and of the manly, philosophic equanimity by which he triumphed over every accident of fortune. Mr. Curran's affection and respect were not unreturned-Mr. Godwin attended him in his last illness, watched over him till he expired, accompanied him to his grave, and has since his death omitted no occasion, in public or private, of honouring his memory.t

* Mrs. Inchbald.-M.

† His work, Mandeville, is dedicated to the memory of Mr. Curran, “the sincerest friend he ever had," a tribute of generous and disinterested regard, of which the motives are above all suspicion.-0. [Godwin, who was six years younger than Curran, survived him, not departing this life until 1836. At the time when Curran complimented Godwin, in his speech for Hevey, the novelist, who was on a visit at the Priory, was in Court. On returning, Curran, who expected at least a word or two of acknowledgment, and received none, asked Godwin what he thought of the trial ? " Oh," said Godwin, “I had forgotten. I am glad that I heard you, as I have now some idea of your manner." The very last note written by Curran was an invitation to Charles Phillips to meet Godwin at dinner.”—M.)

[merged small][ocr errors]

Mr. Curran visits Paris-Letter to his son-Insurrection of 1803–Defence of Kirwan

Death of Lord Kilwarden-Intimacy of Mr. Robert Emmett in Mr. Curran's family, and its consequences-Letter from Mr. Emmett to Mr. Curran-Letter from the saine to Mr. Richard Curran.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

This year (1802) Mr. Curran, taking advantage of the short peace, revisited France. His journey thither now was undertaken with views and anticipations very different from those which had formerly attracted his steps towards that country. He had this time little hope of any gratification; he went from an impulse of melancholy curiosity, to witness the extent of his own disappointments, and to ascertain in person whether anything worth saving, in morals and institutions, had escaped the general wreck; for he was among those whose general attachment to freedom had induced them to hail with joy the first prospects which the revolution seemed to open upon France. His own early admiration of the literary and social genius of her people had made him watch, with the liveliest interest, the progress of their struggles, until they assumed a character which no honourable mind could contemplate without anguish and horror.

To Mr. Curran, too, every painful reflection upon the destiny of France was embittered from its connexion with a subject so much nearer to his heart, the fate of Ireland: for to whatever cause the late rebellion might be attributed, whether to an untimely and intemperate spirit of innovatioa in the people, or to an equally violent spirit of coercion in the state, it was in the influence of the French revolution that the origin of both might be found.

It will be seen, from some passages in the following letter to

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« ÖncekiDevam »