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At the age of fourteen, Moore sent contributions to a Dublin Magazine, entitled the Anthologia Hibernica, a publication which he afterwards described as the first, and the almost only creditable effort in periodical literature of which Ireland had to boast. The contributions were accepted, and the youthful writer duly installed as “our esteemed correspondent, T. M." The following address to his schoolmaster, published in the Anthologia in 1794, was amongst the earliest of Moore's contributions to the muse :
TO SAMUEL WHYTE, ESQ.
Hail ! heav'n-taught votary of the laureld Nine!
That in the groves of science strike their lyres;
Sage Reason guides, and wild-ey'd Fancy fires.
If e'er from Genius' torch one little spark
Glow'd in my soul, thy breath increased the flame; Thy smiles beam'd sunshine on my wand'ring bark,
That dared to try Castalia's dangerous stream.
Oh, then! for thee may many a joy-wing'd year,
With not a stain, but still new charms appear;
Moore states, with delicate and graceful feeling that he received his strongest stimulus to early exertion from the desire to please a “most amiable father, and a mother such as in head and heart has rarely been equalled.” While yet a young lad he composed a masque, and adapted one of the
to the air of Haydn's “Spirit Song." This masque was acted by himself, his sister, and a few friends, in the family abode in Aungier Street.
As one of (to use his own words) the Helots of the land, Moore—the child of Irish Catholic parents—was taught soon in life to feel that he had come into the world with "the slave's yoke round his neck.” The wishes of those parents pointed to the Bar, then the chief avenue to distinction. The Bar was, 'till '93, closed against Catholics. The University, too, was, as he terms it, a “ fountain sealed.” These galling and degrading marks of civil inferiority rankled deep in the mind of the Catholic population of Ireland, and therefore it was with no ordinary pleasure that the Irish Catholics welcomed the hope which the French Revolution at first kindled in the breast of the down-trodden of every clime and country. Moore relates that when only twelve years of age he was taken by his father to a public dinner, and that he sat on the knee of the chairman while the following toast was enthusiastically sent round :“ May the breezes from France fan our Irish oak into verdure." It should be observed that this was before France was stained with the crime of sacri, ficing her best and noblest citizens to revolutionary fury. In 1793 Trinity College was opened to Catholics, and Moore entered the University. He could not, however, obtain College distinctions, for they were reserved for those who professed the favoured creed. But he resolved to show that he deserved them; and more to gratify a kind and anxious mother than from any other reason, he entered as a candidate for a scholarship, and succeeded in
passing that most difficult examination with credit. He could not, however, as a Catholic, enjoy more than the honour of his barren victory.
In 1794 Moore first tried his hand at political satire. The subject which he chose for his sportive pen was an “ Ode to his Majesty, Stephen, King of Dalkey.” A club existed in Dublin at that time, of which one of the features was a burlesque on royalty. A mock court was held at the island of Dalkey, near Dublin, and the king, at the period of which we write, was a pawnbroker named Stephen Armitage. Moore has not handed down this “ Ode," but he states that in it he drew a contrast between the happy security in which King Stephen lived, and the continual dread in which the King of England seemed to be, as far as could be concluded from the “metal coach," and other personal precautions which were adopted for his preservation from the hand of the assassin.
At one of the quarterly examinations in the University, Moore departed from the usual routine, which consisted of writing a “ theme” in Latin prose, and ventured to produce one in English verse; the attempt succeeded, and the young poet was rewarded with a copy of the “ Travels of Anacharsis.” At a very early period he conceived the idea of attempting a poetical translation of some of the Odes of Anacreon. A specimen of his first effort in this field appears in the Anthologia of February, 1794, being a version of the fifth Ode. He never abandoned the design, though he met with some discouragement in the prosecution of a task, the successful performance of which first opened to him the gates of literary fame.
It was not to be expected that a young Irish Catholic, of ardent temperament, would be a cold spectator of the stirring scenes which the last few years of the eighteenth century presented. Accordingly, we find that Moore became, as if by sympathy, the intimate friend of those who were afterwards deeply implicated in the Insurrection of 1798. He became acquainted, in 1797, with Robert Emmet, for whose talents and virtues he entertained the greatest esteem and admiration. Emmet was Moore's senior in College, and when the latter entered the University he found Emmet (to use his own words) “ in full reputation, not only for his learning and eloquence, but also for the blamelessness of his life and the grave suavity of his manners.” In a Society, called “The Debating Society” (a branch of the famous "Historical Society"), Moore came into frequent communication with Emmet and other kindred spirits. They both joined the Historical Society late in 1797, and in this society Emmet took the lead on the popular side. With so much power did he advocate the principles which he espoused, that the College authorities were obliged to take steps to check the spread of his opinions. Moore states that Emmet's speeches were so exciting and powerful, and so little were even the most eloquent of the adverse party able to cope with him, that the Fellows sent a speaker into the society, who was of advanced years, and who belonged to a grave race of debaters, in order that he might answer Emmet, and weaken the impression produced by the eloquent appeals of that youthful and ardent patriot who afterwards sacrificed his life for the cause which he espoused.
Moore wrote about this time a burlesque poem, which he sent in as a candidate for the literary prize of the Historical Society. It bore the quaint title of “An Ode upon Nothing, with Notes, by Trismegistus Rustifustius, D.D." The production was a squib against some of the Fellows, and its wit won the prize for its author.
Offence was taken at this by some of the authorities in the University, and a motion was made to rescind the vote which had conferred the prize. A fierce contest arose, which Moore terminated by withdrawing the poem from the Society. Emmet and Moore were constant companions, and Moore relates that the former often sat beside him when he was playing on the piano the Irish airs from Edward Bunting's volume. He mentions that, on one occasion, when he was playing the “Red Fox” (“Let Erin remember the days of old”), Emmet started
and exclaimed, “Oh! that I were at the head of twenty thousand men marching to that air.”
Moore's first appearance as a political writer was in prose, and consisted of a contribution to the
Press," a newspaper of historic note, and for the columns of which the chiefs of the United Irish party wrote. Moore composed a long letter for this publication, but scarcely ventured to hope that it would appear. He was, however, agreeably surprised to find it published in the very next number. It was his custom to read out the « Press” to the family circle, and he states that it was with trembling nerves he accomplished the reading out of his own letter. His family had a great dread of his being involved in any of the dangerous associa