Walter Cox

Life
1770-1837 [known as ‘Watty’; pseud. ‘Julius Pubicola’]; b. Westmeath; son of blacksmith who was later rounded up on suspicion of Defenderism by Lord Carhampton; apprenticed as a gunsmith; ed. by Bryan McGarry (“Philomath”); supplied small-arms to Ordnance in Dublin Castle; secretly edited the broadsheet Union Star, printed in Little Ship St., 1797, in whichhe attacked the Orange Order and also editors of other journals such as Higgins (Freeman) and Gifford (Warder); joined United Irishmen, and reputed body-guard of Lord Fitzgerald, but criticised them from more extreme position reflecting his working-class allegiances; contract with government terminated at act of Union, going to English manufactury suppliers instead; claimed govt. reward for identification of editor of Union Star on disclosing himself; accepted Government pension from Under-Secretary of State, Edward Cooke, on condition that he remained out of Ireland, 1816; travelled to America with 500 and set up in Baltimore as a tallow-chandler, Aug. 1801; returned to Ireland bankrupt, 1802; issued Advice to Emigrants (1812), praising Thomas Jefferson; among those arraigned under arms at Smithfield during abortive Robert Emmet Rebellion, July 1803; engaged in illegal distillery with others, and detected by officers of the Excise Commission; published and edited The Irish Magazine or Asylum of Neglected Biography (Nov. 1807-Dec 1815), a nationalist journal in the spirit of United Ireland in which he criticised the government at every turn, also carrying on a journalistic feud with John Brenan (ed. of Milesian Magazine), who denounced him as an informer; carried specimens of Irish writers such as Fearflatha O’Gnimh and Thomas Dermody, also an early article on Carolan and lives of Oliver Plunket, Sarsfield, Lord Edward, and Robert Emmet; along with a continual exposure of British political misconduct and governmental brutalities in the Rebellion; travelled in America and lived by several occupations for some further years; journal seized in Oct. 1809 for non-payment of stamp-duty; gave account of ‘Massacre of Carlow’ in 1798 (Dec. iss., 1809); open letter to Sir Jonah Barrington (July 1810); prosecuted for seditious libel on account of ‘The Painter Cut: A Vision’ (July 1810), authored by Thomas Finn (”Orellana”); defended by Daniel O’Connell [acc. Cox. Himself] and sentenced by Lord Newbury - later satirised as Judge Bladderchops - to the public stocks, 9 March 1811, followed by a year in Newgate, extended to three in view of continued appearance of the offending journal (The Irish Magazine) which he continued to edit from prison; depicted murdering his wife in John Brenan’s Milesian Magazine (April 1812); agreed to close the journal, 1815; received govt. pension of 100 and 400 on arrival in America in Sept. 1816; unsuccessfully launched The Exile in New York (2 vols.; Jan 1818-March 1819); moved to France and forfeited the pension by re-entering Ireland; sought position as Dublin librarian; later wrote plays, including an attack on Dan O’Connell, The Cuckoo Calendar (Dublin 1833); his farce The Widow Dempsey’s Funeral (1822) was revived in an abridged version by J. Crawford Neil for Theatre of Ireland, Dec. 1911; accused by Brenan of revealing whereabouts of Lord Edward to the Castle but exonerated by W. J. Fitzpatrick (Lord Edward Fitzgerald and his Betrayers, 1869); spent over three years in prison on libel and sedition charges at different times; twice married; a son, Walter, died during his imprisonment; d. 7 Jan. ODNB PI DIW DIH MKA RAF OCIL.

[ top ]

Works
[“Julius Pubicola”,] Advice to Emigrants (Dublin 1802); The Tears of Erin, A Poem Founded Upon Facts (Dublin: W. Cox 1810); The Widow Dempsey’s Funeral, a play in three acts (Dublin: the author 1822); The Cuckoo Calendar: Anecdotes of the Liberator, containing some Humorous Sketches of the Religion and Political Cleverness of the Great Mendicant (Dublin: J. Bryan 1833).

The Ghost of Watty Cox, A National Magazine, July-Oct 1866 - but see McKenna, Irish Literature (1974) p.41: ‘[it] contains the serial Legends of Tipperary’, and ‘orig. poetry’, viz., nNothing is said about its connection with W.C.

Walter Cox’s Union Star: A Reprint of his 1797 Paper [A Belfast Magazine, No. 31] (Belfast: Athol Books 2007).

[ top ]

Criticism
Thomas Furlong, ‘Sketch of Mr. Walter Cox’, in The New Irish Magazine and National Advocate (July 1822), p.38; review of Widow Dempsey’s Funeral, ibid. (Nov. 1822); R. R. Madden, The United Irishmen: Their Life and Times (London 1842), Vol. 2, pp.55-81; also pp.277-88 [Irish Magazine]; Séamus Ó Casaidhe, Watty Cox and His Publications [Bibliographical Soc. of Ireland Publications, 5] (Dublin: Three Candles Press 1935); Barbara Hayley, ‘A Reading and Thinking Nation: Periodicals as the Voice of Nineteenth-century Ireland’, in Hayley and Enda McKay, ed., Three Hundred Years of Irish Periodical (Assoc. of Irish Learned Journasl: Gigginstown, Mullingar 1987), pp.29-48, espec. p.29f.; Brendan Clifford, ed., The Origin of Irish Catholic-Nationalism: Selections from Walter Cox’s Irish Magazine (Belfast: Athol Books 1992). See also Irish Book Lover XXVII, No. 4 (1940)

[ top ]

Commentary
Thomas Furlong, ‘Sketch of Mr. Walter Cox’, New Irish Magazine and National Advocate (1822): ‘[H]e had few redeeming qualities, and these few, in the end, were perverted to the satisfaction of private pique. With a strong mind and boldness of expression he arrested the attention of the public, but never instructed, for his success arose from his intimate knowledge of the characters of his contemporaries which he drew with the fearlessness of Hogarth. Protracted essays or finished articles were beyond the abilities of Cox, for although a periodical writer for more than seven years he ever produced anything worth transcribing.’ [Quoted by Sean Mythen, 1997.]

R. R. Madden (United Irishmen), ‘Had he received a liberal education, and been early taught to feel the restraints of religion, in all probability he would have been a vigorous, fearless, and faithful advocate of justice, a useful and influential member of society, a person of strong intellectual powers, and one who might have loved his country with the tempered ardour of a Christian patriot. Trained as he was and uncompensated by religious impressions for the want of mental culture, few men of his time, and of his rank and station, rendered themselves more feared and less loved than Walter Cox.’ (Cited in Sean Mythen, ‘Thomas Furlong’ [thesis], Chap. 1; UUC, 1999]. Note, Madden reports that Cox was publically denounced by Brenan in his Milesian Magazine as the betrayer of Lord Edward though the real recipient of money was Francis Higgins [also suspected was Samuel Neilson]; does not mention Cox’s attacks on Daniel O’Connell.

Brian Inglis (Freedom of the Press in Ireland (1954), reports that Cox ‘urged upon [Edward] Cooke the desirability of publishing everything that was known about the [united Irishmen] movement, because, he said, the United Irishmen would be deterred from taking any rash step if they realised how comprehensively they had been betrayed.’ , p.91, quoting Cooke to Whithall, 13 March 1798 [P.R.O, H.O., 100/80]; cited by Sean Mythen; thesis on Thomas Furlong, UUC 1999.)

W. J. McCormack refers to Cox’s Magazine in a ftn. to his edn. of Maria Edgeworth’s The Absentee (OP 1988); the issue of Nov.1807 that interests him opens with a brief sketch of the life of Carolan, and a front. port. of John Colclough, ‘that much lamented United Irishman’; sketch refers explicitly to “Grace Nugent” and “Mrs Crofton” among Carolan’s songs; the sketch was reprinted in the issue of oct. 1809. (Intro., The Absentee, 1988, p.xxiii.)

Conor Cruise O’Brien, The Great Melody (1992), regarding the rumour that Rev. Thomas Hussey was called to the death-bed of Edmund Burke, Patrick J. Corish, consulted by O’Brien, remarks that the Irish Magazine (1808) contains a letter stated to be from ‘one of the Maynooth Professors’ and claiming that Hussey ‘attended Burke spiritually in his last illness’. Corish adds, there is a touch of Private Eye about the Magazine, but Private Eye has been known to get it right!

[ top ]

Quotations
Un-Irish behaviour: Cox aspersed the Catholic bishops’ stance on the Defenders and United Irishmen as sending ‘a man to the devil for loving his country’ (Irish Magazine, March 1815; quoted in Dáire Keogh, Catholic responses to the Act of Union’, in Dáire Keogh & Kevin Whelan, eds., Acts of Union: The Causes, Contexts and Consequences of the Act of Union, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001, p.160.)

[ top ]

References
Dictionary of National Biography: ed. two ‘violent newspapers’, The Union Star and The Irish Magazine; forfeited pension. DIH (Dictionary of Irish History, ed., Hickey & Doherty) relates that he ‘made a deal with Under-Sec. Edward Cooke to provide information on United Irishmen’; in other respects varies from OCIL, setting the date of his American journey before the founding of the Irish Magazine, but setting the date of his treaty and pension at 1816.

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); After his understanding to close the Irish Asylum [recte The Irish Magazine or Monthly Asylum for Neglected Biography] with the British govt., he wrote a bitter satire against the USA called The Snuff-Box. His strange career is traced and documented by Dr. Madden, Fitzpatrick and others, many thinking him a govt. spy. There are doubts as to his date of death, Glasnevin cemetery list giving his age as 84-20 yrs older than Madden and Webb, who agree in putting him at 66-67. See also Irish Book Lover, 5, 32.

Brian McKenna, Irish Literature (Gale Research 1978), notes that Cox’s journalism appeared in the Union Star (Dublin 1797), Irish Magazine and Monthly Asylum &c (Nov 1807-Dec 1815), the New-Gate Register (Dublin ca.1815), the Exile (NY 1817-18), and the Mail Reviewed (Dublin 1823). Bibl., ‘Sketch of the Life of Mr. Walter Cox,’ in New Irish Magazine, and Monthly National Advocate, 1 (1822), p.38 [vicious criticism]; R. R. Madden, The United Irishmen, their Lives and Times (1842), II, pp.55-81; Seámus Ó Casaidhe, ‘Watty Cox and His Publications’ [Bibl. Soc. Ireland, 5] (1935), pp.17-38.

[ top ]

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. I; [A] character in Walter Cox’s The Widow Dempsey’s Funeral, is led out of sociability to wish his friends’ deaths the more frequently to enjoy the pleasures of the wake. [31; no bibl. note.] ALSO, The Irish Magazine and Monthly Asylum reports unequal law, ‘On Thursday the 28th of May, two young and fashionable ladies of the name of Carroll, were tried before the Recorder and convicted of robbing several shops ... as was [sic] sentenced to one year’s imprisonment; at the same time a wretched, ragged female was convicted of stealing a shawl, value two shillings, and received sentence to be transported for seven years. We hope, with Lord Melville, that such salutary example will hearafter deter the poor from acts of dishonesty. (Vol II, p.272, Mar 1812). BIBL., Rafroidi (1980), works incl. Advice to Emigrants (1802); Remarks by One of the People (1804); A Short Sketch of the Present State of the Catholic Church in ... New York (1819); Bella, Horrida Bella (?1823); The Cuckoo Calendar, anecdotes of the Liberator ... the Great Mendicant (1833); also two plays, The Widow Dempsey’s Funeral (1822); The Coming of Aideen [also cited by Kavanagh]. Some poems in Irish Magazine; he may have been the ‘Publicola’ who issued The Tears of Erin (1810). D. 7 Jan., 1837.

[ top ]

British Library, Add. MS 35740 is an anonymous letter accusing Cox of revolutionary treason as body-guard to Lord Edward Fitzgerald.

Ulster Univ. Library holds Brendan Clifford, intro. and ed., The origin of Irish Catholic-Nationalism: selections from Walter Cox’s ‘Irish Magazine’, 1807-1 (Belfast: Athol Books 1992).

[ top ]

Notes
Fearflatha O’Gnimh’s famous poem ‘Mo Thruaigh Mar Táid Gaoidhil’ was first printed in The Irish Magazine & Monthly Asylum for Neglected Biography, III (Dublin 1810) [DIW].

Henry B Code , Burning of Moscow (Mar 1813), was noticed by Watty Cox in The Irish Magazine as a ‘heap of nausea, dullness, and plagiarism’ [PI].

BBC Educational folder on Ireland (1972) incl. illustrations from Cox’s Irish Monthly for 1801 [err?] showing brutal British behaviour in 1798, including ‘Captain Swayne pitchcapping people in Prosperous [Co. Kildare],’ and ‘The Plan of a Travelling Gallows used in 1798’, and details of Capt. Hempenstall and others. UUC LIB.

[ top ]