[Sir] Thomas Amory


Life
?1691-1788; b. London and taken to Dublin in infancy; ed. TCD; knew Swift, Berkeley, and Toland; grad. MD, but did not practise; held Unitarian beliefs, like his character John Buncle; lived on private income in country house nr. Hounslow, and was living as a recluse in Westminster, c.1757; issued Memoirs Containing the Lives of Several Ladies of Great Britain (1755), concerning a “Green Isle” in the Hebrides inhabited by a society of learned and accomplished ladies centred on a Mrs. Marinda Benlow;
 
issued The Life of John Buncle, Esq., 2 vols. (1756-66), being virtually a continuation of Memoirs, being a fanciful and discursive writing advancing theories of Christian deism and composed in the form of a travel narrative full of passionate discussions conducted in the company of learned ladies; contains accounts of Toland and Berkeley, Swift; the central character, an Anglo-Irishman in England, is eight-times married and exhibits numerous antiquarian interests; said to have known Irish, as appears incidentally; a manuscript work on The Antient and Present State of Great Britain was accidently burned; sometimes called eccentric writer of Irish descent; d. 25 Nov.;
 
William Hazlitt rediscovered John Buncle in 1817, styling the author-narrator “John Amory” on account of the seemingly artless confusion of the two in its preface; John Buncle was edited by Moyra Hasslett in 2011. DIB DIW ANJ CAH ODNB OCEL FDA OCIL

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Works
  • [J. H. Burn, ed.], The Life of John Buncle, Esq., Containing Various Observations and Reflections, Made in Several Parts of the World, and many extraordinary relations, 2 vols. (London: J. Noon 1756, 1766), 8o.; Do., 4 vols. (London: T. Becket & P. A. Dehondt; T. Cadell 1770), 12o.; Do., 3 vols. (London: Septimus Prowett 1825), 8o., xv, 458pp.; Do. (London: Routledge & Son 1904), 8o.
Separate editions,
  • Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain. Interspersed with Literary Reflections, and Accounts of Antiquities and Curious Things. In Several Letters with a postscript, and a postilla (London: J. Noon 1755), xxxi, 527pp. 8o.;
  • Memoirs: Containing the Lives of Several Ladies of Great Britain. A History of Antiquities ... Observations on the Christian Religion... Remarks on the Writings of the Greatest English Divines ... &c., 2 vols. (London: Johnson and Payne 1766);
  • Memoirs: Containing the Lives of Several Ladies of Great Britain. A History of Antiquities, Productions of Nature, and Monuments of Art. Observations on the Christian Religion, as Professed by the Established Church, and Dissenters of Every Denomination. Remarks on the Writings of the Greatest English Divines ... &c., 2 vols. (London: Johnson and Payne 1769);
  • An Antiquarian Doctor’s Sermon on an Antiquated Subject; lately Found among the Sweepings of His Study [ ... &c.] (London: J. Johnson 1768).
Reprint editions
  • [William Hazlitt, ed.,] The Spirit of Buncle; or, the Surprising Adventures of that Original and Extraordinary Character John Buncle, Esq. [abridgement] (London: Charles Stocking 1823), 342pp., 12°.;
  • Moyra Haslett, ed., The Life of John Buncle, Esq. by Thomas Amory (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2011), 400pp.
Translations
  • The Life of John Buncle as Leben, Bemerkungen und Meinungen Johan Bunkels, nebst den Leben verschiedener merkwürdiger Frauenzimmer; mit hinzugefügten Bemerkungen und Meinungen. Und XVI. Kupferstichen von D. Chodowiecki 4 vols. (Berlin: Friedrich Nicolai 1778), 8°.;
  • Andreas Stein, trans., Geschichte einiger Esel, oder Fortsetzung des Lebens und der Meynungen des Weltberühmten John Bunkels, 3 Bd. 4 pt. (Hamburg & Leipzig 1782), 83pp., 8o.

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Criticism
Ian Campbell Ross, ‘Thomas Amory, John Buncle and the Origins of Irish Fiction’, Éire-Ireland, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Fall 1983), pp.71-85; James M. Cahalan, Irish Novel (Boston: Twayne 1988), p.12 [infra]; Ian Campbell Ross, ‘Fiction to 1800’, in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen ed. Seamus Deane (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, pp.683-84 [infra].

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Commentary
James M. Cahalan, Irish Novel (Boston: Twayne UP 1988), remarks that ‘The Life of John Buncle (1756 and 1766) ... tells the tale of an Irish Unitarian who leaves Ireland, goes to England, is repeatedly married and widowed, meets many diverse Irish friends, and ends up immersed in Utopian fantasies ..’. (p.12; ftn. incl. bibl. ref. to Ian Campbell Ross.)

Ian Campbell Ross, ‘Fiction to 1800’ [editorial essay], in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, pp.683-84: remarks that John Buncle is an early example of an Irish novel, founded on the told tale [cf. Castle Rackrent] which arguably ‘lies at the centre of Irish fiction’.[p.683] Further: ‘A enthusiastic, even incorrigible, storyteller, John Buncle is a Unitarian who defies worldly success for his beliefs and takes in rapid succession eight remarkably beautiful and devout wives, who principally delights in abstruse learning, religious controversy and the sublime landscape of the English Lake and Peak district [...] the novel’s most persistent and fascinating concern is with Ireland and her inhabitants. Though the author’s knowledge of Irish language and Irish history is not above reproach there is a greater evidence of interest in these than is found in fiction before 1800 ... thirty years before the scholarly revival ... John Buncle offers a view of both Anglo-Irish and Gaelic Ireland which anticipates Edgeworth and Morgan while remaining happily free from moral earnestness [... /] its most characteristic narrative technique is theuse of the anecdote, a self-contained and frequently fantastic tale, avowedly based on the narrator’s personal experience. ... The form of the tale on which Armory repeatedly draws is the seanchas. [ ...&c.]’ [pp.683-83].

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Quotations
The Life of John Buncle, Esq. (1756-66), Preface: ‘As to some strange things you will find in the following journal; and a life, in various particulars, quite contrary to the common course of action, I can assure you, gentlemen, in respect of the strange things, that however wonderful they may appear to you, yet they are, exclusive of a few decorations and figure (necessary in all works), strictly true; and as to the difference of my life, from that of the generality of men, let it only be considered, that I was born in London, and carried an infant to Ireland, where I learned the Irish language, and became intimately acquainted with its original inhabitants: - that I was not only a lover of books from the time I could spell to this hour; but read with an extraordinary pleasure, before I was twenty, the works of several of the fathers, and all the old romances; which tinged my ideas with a certain piety and extravagance, that rendered my virtues as well as my imperfections particularly mine: - that by hard measure, I was compelled to be an adventurer, when very young, and had not a friend in the universe but what I could make by good fortune, and my own address: - that my wandering life, wrong conduct, and the iniquity of my kind, with a passion for extraordinary things and places, brought me into several great distresses; and that I had quicker and more wonderful deliverances from them than people in tribulation generally receive; -- that the dull, the formal, and the visionary, the hard-honest man, and the poor-liver, are a people I have had no connexion with; but have always kept company with the polite, the generous, the lively, the rational, and the brightest freethinkers of this age; - that beside all this, I was in the days of my youth, one of the most active men in the world, at every exercise; and to a dgree of rashness, often venturous, when there was no necessity for running hazards: in diebus illis, I have descended head-foremost from a high cliff into the ocean, to swim, when I could, and ought, to have gone off a rock not a yard from the surface of the deep. - I have swam hear a mile and ahalf out in the sea, to a ship that lay off, when on board, got clothes from the mate of the vessel, and proceeded with them to the next port; while my companion I left on the beach concluded me drowned, and related my sad fate to the town. - I have taken a cool thrusts over a bottle, without the least animosity on either side; but both of us depending on our skill in the small sword, for preservation from mischief. - Such things as these I now call wrong, and mention them only as samples of a rashness I was once subject to, as an opportunity happened to come in the way. Let all these things be taken into the account, and I imagine, gentlemen, that what may at first seem strange, and next to incredible, will, on considering these particulars, not long remain so, in your opinion; though you may even thing the relator an odd man. [...] I have only to add, that I wish you all happiness, that your heads may lack no ointment, and your garments be always white and odoriferous: but especially, you may press on, like true critics, towards perfection; and may bliss, glory, and honour, be your reward and your Portion.’ [signed] Barbican. Aug. 1, 1756. (Extract in The Field Day Anthology, Vol. 1, p.696.)

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1991), Vol. 1, pp.694-704: selects extracts from The Life of John Buncle (1755-66), ‘A Preface by Way of Dedication’, signed “Barbican”, Aug. 1. 1756 [sic], and sections including allusions to Dean Whaley [of Derry], Miss Melmoth, Gavan and Henley, Terelah O Crohanes, an old Irish gentleman, Cormac Mac Cuillenan [the quasi-mythical Irish king]; Downe Falvey, famous harpist; gentlemen encountered at Ringsend, inc. Mssrs Gollogher, Gallaspy, a libertine; Monaghan, O’Keefe called ‘as distinguished a character a I have ever known’ and cousin to the playwright; Mr Charles Hunt and his daughter ‘that Venus of her sex’; Miss Spence, and one ‘Bob R.’ or ‘R. R.’ (See also Ian Campbell Ross, under Commentary, supra.) Note that the preceeding and following extracts in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writingare from Chaigneau and Sterne resp.

A. N. Jeffares & Peter Van de Kamp, eds., Irish Literature: The Eighteenth Century - An Annotated Anthology (Dublin/Oregon: Irish Academic Press 2006), gives extract from The Life and Opinions of John Buncle, Esq., dealing with the narrator’s wanderings in Ireland and his coming across the house of his schoolfellow Charles Turner, and his visit to the home of Dr. Fitzgibbon, and his daughter Julia, with much about the ‘charmers’ he encounters on the way, and his eventual betrothal to Miss Fitzgibbon. [151].

British Library also holds The Case of John Cary, Esq; on his petition of complaint and appeal against the proceedings of ... Allen Viscount Broderick, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in a cause ... between Thomas Amory and others Plaintiffs, and the administrators of Roger Moore and the said J. Cary and others Defendants, and also against the proceedings of G. Warberton Esq. One of the Masters of the said Court; humbly offered to the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament (London: S. Collins 1719), 16pp., 8o.

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Notes
Namesake: There very many sermons and other religious titles in British Library and other collections written by a namesake, one Thomas Amory (1701-1774).

Irish characters in The Life of John Buncle, Esq. (1756-66) incl. Dr. Whaley, Bishop of Derry; Miss Melmoth; Pierce Gavan; Charles Henley; the Knignt of Glin; also Mssrs. Gollagher, Gallaspy, Dunley, Makins, Monaaghan, O’Keefe [a relative of ‘the great’ John O’Keefe [playwright] who is bur. in Westminster]. Buncle/Amory also relates the ruin of Miss Eliza Hunt, a beauty from Rafarlin [Rathfarlin] in Kildare, who is debauched by a gentleman and dies tragically after great hardship including the loss of her child and the removal of a breast from cancer, being finally rescued at the end her life and placed in lodgings by the narrator.

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