John Philpot Curran (1750-1817)

[J. P. Curran; Right Hon. John Philpot Curran]; b. Newmarket, Co. Cork, 24 July 1750; grandson of a Curran from the North, and son of James Curran, a farmer of some education who was patronised by the Aldworth family and became steward [or senechal] to the manorial court at Newmarket, with authority restricted to cases regarding 40 shilling freeholders, and Sarah [née Philpot]; ed. by Nicholas Boyce, and then at Middleton Free School by Carey, before entering TCD, as a sizar; studied divinity with Dr. Dobbin as is tutor; became familiar with classical rhetoric under Thomas Leland (ed. of Speeches of Demosthenes); read Sterne and Rousseau; punned and pranked; won TCD Schol., 1770; grad. 1721; mocked Patrick Duigenan, and heard Henry Flood in Irish House of Commons; entered Middle Temple, London; trained his unsuited voice to oratory, overcoming a childhood stutter; called to bar, 1774; m. Sarah Creagh, 1774, with whom five children incl. Amelia, 1775, Richard and Sarah; returned to Ireland and joined Irish bar, 1775; volunteered to appear for Catholic clergyman [Fr. Neale] who had been horse-whipped by Lord Doneraile, and exposed the latter’s witnesses; refused to fire on a discredited witness [var. Lord Doneraile] who called him to a duel; appt. King’s Counsel, 1782; suffered the death of his fourth dg., Gertrude, who fell from a window, 6 Oct. 1792 [aetat 12]; she was interred under an engraved diamond-shaped flag (latter broken up) within the Priory grounds;

accepted the seat for Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath, from Richard Longfield, 1783; supported Flood’s call for parliamentary reform, 29 Nov. 1783; he fought duel with Lord Clare, John Fitzgibbon, 1786; later suffered in his profession when Lord Clare was Lord Chancellor; attacked the government, and in particular Chief Secretary Thomas Orde; elected to the seat of Rathcormack, Co. Cork, at his own expense, 1790-97, and presented it Longfield in recompense for Longfield’s injury when the latter turned to the government side; purchased The Priory - which he so-named - in Rathfarnham, 1790; occupied townhouse at Ely Place; accused the Govt. of selling peerages, 1790 and 1791; engaged in duel with Chief Secretary Robert Hobart, arising from insults from John Gifford, the Government journalist; defended Archibald Hamilton Rowan, 29 Jan. 1794; defended the viceregalty of Lord Fitzwilliam after his recall, 1795; withdrew from parliament, 1797; member of the Volunteers; elected Prior of St. Patrick's Society - commonly called “The Monks of the Screw”, 1799 - meeting that the Priory;

he drove his wife from home when she became pregnant in an affair with Rev. Michael Sandys, and instigated legal proceedings against the latter; his own adulteries exposed in the ensuing trial; associated with Wolfe Tone and others, and shared their belief in the necessity of breaking away from English rule; defended William Jackson, 1795, and the Sheares brothers, 1798; denounced the Bill of Attainder against Lord Edward Fitzgerald on the grounds that no conviction had been secured in court against him; supported Catholic Emancipation and opposed Union; defended Emmet though repudiating his French politics and appalled by his own daughter’s engagement to Emmet; elected MP for Banagher, King’s County [Offaly] May 1800; enjoyed friendship with William Godwin and received him in Ireland; accepted brief to defend Robert Emmet but rejected it when his relationship to his dg. Sarah became known through discovered letters, severing relations with great bitterness; expelled Sarah from his house; suffered a fall in his profession following the Emmet affair; professed himself a supported of the Government in court, during the diral of Owen Kirwan, whom he defended against charges of High Treason, 1803; visited by Shelley, who noted atmosphere of ‘incessant comicality’ (Hogg’s Life, Vol. 2, p.123), 1804;

appt. Master of the Irish Rolls and Privy Counsellor under the Whigs’ ‘ministry of all the talents’, 1806; unsuccessfully contested Newry seat against Gen. Needham, 1812 - polling 144 to 146; retired from politics and law, with pension of £2,700, 1814; settled in London, passing his time in company of Thomas Moore, Sheridan, and others; became acquainted with Byron, who wrote of his wit and the poetry of his speech; d. 7 Amelia-place, Brompton, 14 Oct. 1817, of apoplexy; bur. at Paddington, London, and reinterred in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, 1837; a sarcophagus-shaped monument erected in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 1845; there is a bust by Christopher Moore in the RDS (Ballsbridge, Dublin), being a copy of that which surmoutns the memorial in St. Patrick’s Cathedral; Henry Fitzgerald Grattan (later Curran) was his illegitimate son; an edition of his Speeches was published by Stockdale in Dublin (1805), and another in New York (Isaac Riley 1811); Thomas Davis, writing anonymously as a ‘barrister-at-law’ produced the first ‘corrected’ edition Irish Library in 1843 for Duffy’s and this was reprinted with a Preface signed by Davis in 1845 and was several times reprinted (1861, 1872); a edition of Davis’s “Memoir” was published by Duffy in 1846, together with D. O. Madden’s “Life of Grattan” following the appearance of pirated edition of the former, extracted from Davis’s edition; in it he accredited Curran with originating the phrase ‘the Kingdom of Kerry’; acc. the DNB, he was ‘an ardent classical scholar, and never allowed his knowledge to fall into disuse in later life’. RR CAB ODNB PI JMC TAY DIB DIH MKA RAF OCIL FDA

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Speeches of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran on the following very interesting trials [Lord Mayor; A. H. Rowan; Patrick Finney; Peter Finnerty; Lady Pamela Fitzgerald and children; John Hevey against Major Sirr; Charles Massey against Marq. of Headfort; the King against Mr. Justice Johnson], embellished with a Striking Likenefs of Mr. CURRAN / to which is added Henry Grattan Esq.’s Celebrated Speech on the Catholic Question (Dublin: Stockdale, Printer, 62, Abbey-Street, near Carlisle-Bridge 1805), 400pp., i.e., 416pp. - Grattan’s address being appended with sep. pagination as 1-16pp.], ill. [front port. engrav. by Maguire]. (Available at Internet Archive - online; also at Google Books.)

Preface: The anonymous editor (1805) professes not to have had the assistance of Curran and to have issued the volume for the motive stated at the close of the Preface ([i]-xi): ‘This volume going down to future time even with all its manifold errors and imperfections, must be highly valuable. It will create a permanent interest in a name, which might only be known by tradition, and the eloquence of the Irish bar will be supported by better evidence than “Audivi Hiberniam olim floruisse eloquentia”, as nothing similar will then exist to induce a belief of the fact. / Ireland has still to experience any advantage of the union. If any such now exists, it is “a speck not yet visible; a small seminal principle rather than a formed body;” but the extinction of an assembly, which in the liberty, the honour and happiness of the country were the subjects of debate, must be the eternal mildew of the genius of the land. Such topics called forth every noble propensity of our nature, every generous affection of the heart, and stimulate every power of the mind. The splendid examples of parliamentary eloquence kindled the emulation of the bar. Flood preceded Burgh, and Curran followed Grattan [...; p.v.] For half a century before the union, we had been running a generous race of friendly rivalship in every thing great, and good. We had acquired commerce and constitution. In the production of public character, we were not inferior. If Britain boasted of Poulteney, Chatham, Townsend, Fox, Grey, Dunning and Erskine, Ireland could enumerate Boyle, Malone, Perry, Flood, Grattan, Daly, Ponsonby, Burgh and Curran. These men will have no successors - when but boys their minds were expanded, their honourable ambition was inflamed with the growing grandeur of their country; and they came in to the world fitted and prepared to discharge the duties imposed upont them by their station. Many of them are long since removed from the stage of life. Little did they imagine - that from the tree which they had planted withering almost ere it blossomed, no descendant of theirs should gather fruit. Little did they imagine - that Ireland was to rise only to fall [...; vi.]

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See Do., as Speeches [...] on the late [...] state trials [2nd Edn., with additions] (Dublin 1808), 8°.

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Speeches of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran, master of the rolls in Ireland: on the late very interesting state trials: embellished with a striking likeness of that gentleman [Irish pamphlets, No. 1115 [3rd edn., with additions] (Dublin: Printed by J. Stockdale, 1811), xii, ii, iv, 486pp., ill. [front. port.; 24cm.]

Contents: On the right of election of lord mayor of the city of Dublin, between aldermen Howison and James, before the lord lieutenant and privy council of Ireland [1]; On moving that it is exclusive privilege of the house of commons to originate money-bills [59]; On attachments [65]; On the commercial resolutions [75]; On the bill for regulating the commercial intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland [87]; On Mr. Forbes presenting a bill to limit the amount of pensions [95]; On pensions [101]; On Catholic emancipation [109]; In behalf of Archibald Hamilton Rowan, Esq. for a libel [131]; In behalf of Mr. Patrick Finney for high treason [218]; In behalf of Mr. Peter Finnerty for a libel [242]; In behalf of Oliver Bond, Esq. for high treason [294]; In behalf of lady Pamela FitzGerald and children, against the bill of attainder of lord Edward FitzGerald [322]; In the action for false imprisonment brought by Mr. John Hevey against major Sirr [340]; In the trial of Owen Kirwan for high treason [362]; In the action brought by the rev. Charles Massy against the marquis of Headfort, for criminal conversation with the plaintiff's wife [385]; In the cause of the king against the hon. Mr. Justice Johnson [411]; In the cause of Merry versus Rt. rev. doctor John Power, R. C. bishop of Waterford [477].

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The Speeches of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran, Late Master of Rolls of Ireland on the late very interesting trials with a memoir of his life / Fourth Edition, with additions (London: printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1815), 486pp. [i.e., (2), xii, ii, v, (1), ii, 486pp.; 23 cm.; printed by E. Blackader, Took’s Court, Chancery Lane, London] - available at Internet Archive [online] and Google Books [online]. Note: the additions are the speech in the case of Merry v. Rt. Rev. Dr. John Power, R.C. Bishop of Waterford, pp.476ff.]

Further editions of Stockdale’s Speeches incl. Do. [with additions] (London [s.n.] 1817); and Do. (1831), 549pp. [Available at Internet Archive - online.]

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The Speeches of John Philpot Curran, Esq., with a brief sketch of the History of Ireland; and a biographical account of Mr. Curran. In Two Volumes (New York: I[saac] Riley 1811) [available at Google Books online].

Contents: Brief Sketch of the History of Ireland [1]; Biographical Sketch of Mr. Curran [33]; Character of Mr. Curran, (from the Richmond Enquirer) [42]; Do., (from the Virginia Argus) [42]; Trial of A. H. Rowan, Esq., for the publication of Libel [49]; Trial of the Rev. William Jackson, for High Treason [126]; An action of adultery, brought by the Earl of Westmeath agains the Hon. H. C. Bradshaw [163]; A brief account of the Trial of William Orr [178]; Trial of Peter Finerty, for a Libel [204]; Mr. O’Connor’s Address to the Irish Nation [247]; Trial of Peter Finney, for High Treason [252]; Do. of Henry and John Sheares, for High Treason [278]; On the law of High Treason [338-40; end of Vol. I.]

American treason: The last-named section, added by an editor “for the information of the general reader”, concerns the number of witnesses required in a case of treason, citing crucially Justice Foster who has written: “it had been generally agreed ad I think upon just grounds, (though Lord Coke had advanced a contrary doctrine,) that at common law once witness was sufficient in the case of treason, as well as in every other capital case. (Foster, C.L., 233; here pp.338-39.) The editor recites various other judgements including, finally, that of Montesquieu, who holds that “those laws [...] which condemn a man to death on the deposition of a single witness, are fatal to liberty. In right reason there should be two, because a witness who affirms, and the accused who denies, make an equal balance, and a third must incline the scale. (B.12.c.13.) He goes on to cite Coke: Ratio est anima legis: Reason is the life of the law.” The section ends with an allusion to the corresponding ruling in the American Constitution and the hope that “an occasion for diving into its true meaning and intention had never occurred, or that it had occurred in times of less devotedness to British principles and precedents” - advising every American to peruse Judge Tucker’s Essay on the subject (4 Tuck. Black. Appendix, Note B.)

[Note: Curran raised the question of the number of witnesses before Lord Clonmel in the treason trial of William Jackson; see Speeches, ed. Thomas Davis ([1845] 1861 Edn.), where Curran argues, in response to Clonmel's query from the bench, not that he means the statutes of Edward VI and William III is in force in Ireland (requiring two witnesses) but that ‘the necessity of two witnesses in a case of treason is as strong here as in England.’ (p.214.) Thereupon Curran immediately refers to Coke and Foster as representing the two sides of the issue. (Idem.)]

Note: The digital edition at Google Books is taken from the NYPL copy [being Vol. 1 of 2], which includes a short Advertisement, as follows: ‘In the present volume there are comprehended, not only the whole of the London edition of the Speeches of Mr. Curran, but also many additional speeches, by the same author, including, as it is believed, the whole that have hitherto been published. / Of the claims to public attention to what has fallen from the lips of this distinguished speaker nothing, even in this country, is necessary to be said. / New York, November, 1811.’ (p.xv.)

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A New and Enlarged Collection of Speeches, by the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran, late Master of the Rolls in Ireland: containing several of importance in no former collections: with memoirs of Mr. Curran, and his portrait (London: Printed for William Hone 1819), 344pp., ill. [front. port; 1 lf. of pls.; 23cm; available at Internet Archive - online].

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Speeches of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran, late Master of the Rolls in Ireland: With a memoir / by a barrister [Thomas Osborne Davis; in Duffy’s Irish Library, 11] (Dublin: James Duffy [...] 1843), lxxiv, 482pp., ill. [front. port., pl.; 19.5cm.; Dublin: Thomas I. White; front. engrav. C. J. Wagstaff after Sir Thomas Lawrence; printed in London by Fisher, Son and Co., 1843].

The Speeches / of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran. / Complete and correct edition. Edited, / with memoir and historical notices, / by / Thomas Davis, Esq., M.R.I.A., / barrister-at-law, (Dublin: Duffy 1845), xliv, 603pp. [see details]; Do. (Dublin: James Duffy 1855), 12° [duodecimo] - available at Internet Archive online; Do., [enl. edn. 1845; here called 2nd edn.] (Dublin: James Duffy, 1861), 471pp., and Do., ed., with memoir and historical notices by Thomas Davis [3rd Edn.] (Dublin: James Duffy, Wellington Quay; & London: Paternoster Row 1868), 471pp. [printed by Pattison Jolly, Steam-Press Printer 22, Essex-st., West, Dublin]; Do. [another edn.], ed. Thomas Davis, Esq., MRIA, barrister-at-law (Dublin: James Duffy, Wellington Quay and Paternoster Row, London 1871).

The Speeches / of / The Right Honorable / John Philpot Curran./ Complete and Correct Edition. / Edited, with a memoir and historical notices, / by / Thomas Davis, Esq., M.R.I.A., / Barrister-at-Law. /Dublin: / Published by James Duffy, / 23, Anglesea-Street. / 1845. p.xliv [i.e., port. [iv]; t.p. [vi]; ded. [vii]; Preface [viii; given as [i]-ii; Contents [ix-xi] Memoir, pp.[xiii]-xliv], 603pp., ill. [port.; the works is ded. ‘To William Elliott Hudson, Esq., Barrister-at-Law, one of the best men and best Irishmen I know, and my faithful friend, I dedicate this edition of Curran’s speeches’ / Thomas Davis / 67, Baggott-street, 13 Sep. 1845"; CONTENTS: Memoir of John Philpot Curran [xiii]; Flood’s Reform Bill, Nov. 29, 1783 [I]; Privilege Of Commons On Money Bills, Dec. 16, 1783, [3]; Retrenchment, Feb. 14, 1785 [6]; Militia v. Volunteers, Feb. 14,1785 [7]; On Attachments, Feb. 14, 1785 [8]; Orde’s Commercial Propositions, June 30, 1785 [13]; The Same, July 23, 1785 [17]; The Same, Aug. 11, 1785, [22]; The Same, Aug. 12, 1785 [23]; The Same, aug. 15, 1785 [25]; The Portugal Trade, March 11, 1786 [27]; Pensions, March 13, 1786 [29]; Outrages in the South, Jan., 19, 1787 [33]; The Kingdom Of Kerry, Jan. 23, 1787 [41]; Right Boy Bill, Feb. 19, 1787 [42]; The Same, Feb, 20, 1787 [46]; Limitation of Pensions, March 12, 1787 [49]; Tithes, March 13, 1787 [53]; Navigation Act, March 20, 1787 [58]; Contraband Trade, Feb. 19, 1788 [61]; Madness oF George III., Feb. 6, 1789 [62]; Regency, Feb. 11, 1789 [67]; the Same, Feb, 20, 1789 [73]; Disenfanchisement of Excise Officers, April 21, 1789 [75]; Dublin Police, April 25, 1789 [78]; Stamp Officers Salaries, Feb. 4, 1790 [83]; Pensions, Feb. 11, 1790 [89]; Election of Lord Mayor of Dublin before the Privy Council, on Behalf of The Corporation, July 10, 1790 [91]; Government Corruption, Feb. 12, 1791 [131]; Catholic Emancipation, Feb. 18, 1792 [140]; Egan V. Kindillan (Seduction,) For Defendant [146]; War with France, Jan. 11, 1793 [153]; Parliamentary Reform, Feb. 9, 1793 [159]; For Archibald Hamilton Rowan (Libel), Jan. 29, 1794 [161]; The Same (To Set Aside Verdict), Feb. 4, 1794 [201]; For Drogheda Defenders (High Treason), April 23, 1794 [211]; For Northern Star (Libel), May 28, 1794 [233]; For Doctor Drennan (Libel), June 25, 1794 [220]; For Revs William Jackson (High Treason), April 23, 1795 [240]; Catholic Emancipation, May 4, 1795 [271] State of the Nation, May 15, 1790 [274]; For Dublin Defenders (High Treason), Dec. 22, 1795, [254]; Indemnity Bill, Feb. 3, 1796 [285]; Channel Trade, Feb. 15, 1796 [286]; Insurrection Bill, Feb. 25, 1796 [288]; French War, Oct. 13, 1796 [292]; Suspension of the Habeas Corpus, OCT. 14, 1796 [299]; catholic emancipation, Oct. 17, 1796 [302]; Hoche’s Expedition, Jan. 6, 1797 [310]; Internal Defence, Feb. 24, 1797 [314]; Disarming Of Ulster, March 20, 1797 [317]; Last Speech in the Irish Commons (On Parliamentary Reform), May 15, 1797 [322]; For Peter Finnerty (Libel), Dec. 22, 1797 [330]; For Patrick Finney (High Treason), Jan. 16, 1798 [363]; For Henry Sheares (High Treason), July 4, 1798 [385]; The Same, July 12, 1798, [401]; For Oliver Bond (High Treason), July 24,1798 [422]; For Lady Pamela Fitzgerald and Her Children at the Bar of the Irish House of Commons, Aug. 20, 1798 [440]; For Napper Tandy (Outlawry), May 19, 1800 [451]; Against Sir Henry Hayes (Abduction of Miss Pike), April 13, 1801 [462]; Hevey v. Major Sirr (Assault and False Imprisonment), for Plaintiff, May 17, 1802 [482]; For Owen Kirwan (High Treason), Sept. 1, 1803 [497]; Against Ensign John Costley (Conspiracy to Murder), Feb. 23, 1804 [513]; Massy v. Headfort (Criminal Conversation), For Plaintiff, July 27, 1804 [521]; For Judge Johnson (Habeas Corpus), Feb. 4, 1805 [538]; Merry v. Power (Decision when Master of The Rolls) [584]; Newry Elections, Oct.17, 1812 [590]. (Available at Internet Archive - online; see also extracts from Preface under Quotations [infra] and Memoir, under Commentary, infra.

The Speeches / of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran. / Complete and correct edition. Edited, / with memoir and historical notices, / by / Thomas Davis, M.R.I.A., / barrister-at-law, (London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden. MDCCCLVII [1847]), 603pp. [Dublin: William Holden, Printer, 10, Abbey Street]. (Copyright edn.)

Speeches of John Philpot Curran while at the bar. Edited by James A. L. Whittier, Counselor at Law (Chicago: Callaghan & Company 1872), 618pp. [Preface derived from that of Thomas Davis with a different arrangment of speeches, chiefly chronological; Pref. ends.]

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The Life and Beauties of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran; with numerous interesting anecdotes, &c. (Dublin: James M’Cormick, [1846?]), 144pp., 12°. [Plagiarised in part from Davis’s “Memoir” of Curran]

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The life of the Right Hon. J. P. Curran / by Thomas Davis, ... And a memoir of the life of the Rt. Hon. Henry Grattan, by D. O. Madden ... With addenda, and letter in reply to Lord Clare [Duffy’s Library of Ireland (Dublin: James Duffy, ...; London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co ..., 1846), 232pp. [14.5cm.; printed by T. Coldwell, 50, Capel Street, Dublin]. Note: “The Life of the Right Honorable Henry Grattan” commences at p.83; the ‘letter in reply’ is by Grattan in response to pamphlet, “The Speech of the Right Honourable John, Earl of Clare ... in the House of Lords of Ireland, on a motion made by him on Monday, February 10, 1800”]. Note: Available at Internet Archive [online] - but note that copy given and held at Toronto UL, lacks t.p. and final page(s), but actually ends at p.238 [sic] contrary to all COPAC records [online].)

Note: The above edition of 1846 was issued by James Duffy with a short preface, signed simply “Duffy” [pp.iv-v], in which the publisher writes: ‘A plagiarised and mangled imitation of the following “Life of Curran” having lately been printed, the Publisher of this series is compelled to republish Mr. Davis’s work in a cheaper form [...] in order to preserve his own rights, and the literary reputation of the Author.’ (Evidently, the plagiarised version was McCormack’s supra.) And further: ‘An anxiety to preserve Mr. Davis’s text intact has prevented the insertion of extracts from Curran’s speeches, and of other, perhaps useful, matter relative to the the time. The reader who may feel any anxiety to inquire further [iv] into the life, or to study the oratory of Curran, will find full field for his labor in the large edition of the Life and Speeches of that great orator, by Mr. Davis. To Mr. Davis’s work the Publisher has added the Memoir of Grattan, by Mr. D. O. Madden. This memoir is deficient. It wants all mention of Grattan’s career during the most interesting period of Irish history, - the Union. / That defect has been remedied in this volume, the Publisher trusts satisfactorily.’ (pp.[iv]-v.) Available at Internet Archive - online.]

See also:

Speeches of the Celebrated Irish Orators, Phillips, Curran and Grattan / selected by a member of the bar (Philadelphia: Key and Mieckle, 181 Market Street 1831) [stereotyped by L. Johnson; each with sep. t.p., e.g,: Speeches / of / Charles Phillips, Esq., / Delivered at the Bar / and on / various public occasions in Ireland and England / to which is added / A Letter to George IV / edited by himself - online.] - and Do., as:

Irish Eloquence: The Speeches of the Celebrated Irish Orators, Philips [sic], Curran and Grattan: to which is added the powerful appeal of Robert Emmett [sic] at the close of his trial for high treason / selected by a member of the bar [2 vols.] (Philadelphia: E. C. Biddle 1843; 2nd edn. 1845), 178, 370pp. [23 cm.; Printed: T. K. & P. G. Collins]; Do. (Boston: Patrick Donahoe 1857) [available at Internet Archive - online].

[Available at Internet Archive - online

[See further listing in British Library catalogue under References, infra.]

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  • John Bertridge Clarke, The Tears and Smiles of Ireland, a poem on the death of J. P. Curran (Dublin: R Milliken 1817), 46pp.;
  • William O’Regan, ed., Memoirs of the legal, literary, and political life of the late the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran, once master of the rolls in Ireland: comprising copious anecdotes of his wit and humour; and a selection of his poetry, interspersed with occasional biography of his distinguished contemporaries in the Senate and at the bar (London: James Harper, 46 Fleet-Street 1817; Dublin: Richard Milliken, Grafton-Street), 315pp. [t.p. epigram, Audivi Hiberniam olim in Eloquentia floriusse; printed in London by Davison; available at Internet Archive - online.]
  • W. H. Curran, The life of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran, Late Master of the Rolls, by his Son, William Henry Curran, Barrister at Law, in Two Volumes [2 vols.] (1819), and Do. [2nd edition] (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable; London: Hurst, Robinson 1822) [vol. 2; commencing with the trial of the Sheares Bros. and ending with a character of Curran by Rev. George Croly - available at Internet Archive - online]
  • Charles Phillips, Recollections of Curran and Some of His Contemporaries (London & Dublin 1818), and Do., rep. as Curran and His Contemporaries by Charles Phillips, Esq. A.B., One of his Majesty's Commissioners of the Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors [ded. "He was my friend"] (NY: Harper & Brothers, 82 Cliff Street 1851), 451pp.;
  • Charles O’Hanlon, ‘John Philpot Curran,’ in Gael (Feb. 1900), and Do., rep. in A Treasury of Irish Folklore, ed. Padraic Colum [2nd rev. edn.] (NY: Crown Pub. 1967), 613pp. [pp.52-54].
  • Martin Wallace, John Philpot Curran [100 Irish Lives Ser.] (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1990).
  • James M. Farrell, ‘Classical Rhetoric in the Legal Speeches of John Philpot Curran’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 2, 3 (Winter 1996), pp.388-98 [available at JSTOR - online.]

See also remarks on Curran in Charles Lever, Harry Lorrequer (London: Macmillan 1905), p.xix.

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Thomas Davis, ed. & pref., The Speeches of the Right Honorable John Philpot Curran, edited, with memoir and historical notices [1843, enl. edn. 1845 - Davis’s name appearing for the first time; here called 2nd edn.] [ 3rd edn.] (Dublin: James Duffy, 1861)

Preface to 1845 Edition (rep. in 3rd edn. of 1861, &c.):

In 1807 [recte 1805], a few of Curran's speeches were published. The edition, three thousand copies, was sold rapidly, and a second edition followed, in which some of his parliamentary speeches were added. In 1811, soon after his judgment in Merry v. Power, Stockdale published a third edition, containing that judgment; but otherwise unimproved from the second.
  In 1843, a collection was published with ten speeches, not in any former edition, and a short memoir written by the present editor [TD], but the writer of that memoir did not edit the speeches. They were printed, without correction, or notes, or arrangement, from Stockdale's volume and the pamphlet reports, and they were struck off without having been seen by the writer of the memoir.
 The present edition is arranged chronologically, with a single exception. It contains six of Curran's bar speeches, and thirty-three of his parliamentary speeches, not in any former edition, and no pains have been spared to get the best reports. [...]
  The illustrative material may be thought too ample.
  With most of the parliamentary speeches, some account is given of the state of politics connected with the question, and of the progress and result of the debate.
Prefixed to, or following, each of the legal speeches will be found, the facts and events of the case, and, in many instances, short biographies of Curran’s clients. [v]
It was hoped by this to communicate to the reader some of the minute interest felt by a cotemporary [sic], and to supply a better illustration of Curran’s march through life, than could be given in a short memoir.
  Great attention has been paid to fixing precise dates. Some documents, as the briefs in Sheares' case, dictated by John Sheares, being inaccessible to the public, have been largely quoted. To the historian of Curran’s time, whenever he arises, some of these things may be useful.
  There are, doubtless, many errors in the volume; but as this really is the first attempt to illustrate and correct Curran’s speeches, and it has been made amid the anxieties and occupations of political life, perhaps they will be corrected and not cavilled at. Any correction, however, no matter no offered, will be welcome.


Extracts from the “Memoir”:

[...] Besides the classical and the Bible, he was fondests of Sterne, and of Rousseau’s Eloisa. He liked metaphysical discussions, too, and they led him to a bargain with a friend, what whoever died first should visit the other on the death night. His friend died first, and broake his word. Curran was also a lover, a punster, and a ready hand in the rows which “The Gownsmen” used to have every [xvi] night with “The Townmen”. The students were generally older than they are now, and society more dissipated and ferocious. [...] In short, he was the wittiest and dreamiest, the most classical and ambitious, of all the scamps of Trinity College.
  He gave up all thoughts of the Church on coming of age; and having graduated, he went to London, and entered the Middle Temple, intending, like all law students, to be Lord Chancellor, and something more. His son’s book contains a merry narrative - a little spoiled by imitations of Sterne - of his journey to London, in a letter written from his lodgings, 31 Chandos-street [quotes letter; p.xvii.]

[… He was] known as ‘the little Jesuit from St. Omer’ from wearing a brown coat outside a black, and making pro-Catholic speeches [at The Devils debating society of Temple-bar, London] (xvii.)

‘Curran’s life has been made a long joke by the pleasant puerilities of his early biographers. Even his son’s excellent book has over-much of this vice. What avails us to know the capital puns he made in College, or the smart epigrams he said to Macklin; or, at least, they should take a small place in large biographies, instead of the chief place in sketches. These things are the empty shells of his deep-sea mind - idle things for triflers to classify. But men, who, though in the ranks of life, are anxious to order their minds by the stand of some commanding spirit - for governing minds, who want to commune with the spirit in brotherly sympathy and instruction - to such men, the puns are rubbish, the jokes chaff. [xix]


Davis narrates in dramatic form how Curran defended Father Neale, who had been horse-whipped by Lord Doneraile (Capt. St. Leger).

On “The Monks of the Screw”, the ‘Charter Song’ of the St. Patrick's Society written by Curran [as infra]: and offers this account the society:

From the vulgar title given them, “The Monks of the Screw,” people suppose that this was a mere drinking club. Perhaps the names are answer enough. It was an union of strong souls, brought together, like electric clouds, by affinity, and flashing as they joined. They met, and shone, and warmed. They had great passions, and generous accomplishments, and the, like all that was good in Ireland, were heaving for want of freedom. They were men of wit and pleasure, living in a luxurious state of society, and probably did wild and excessive things. This was reconcileable (in such a state of society) with every virtue of head and heart. [xxii; his italics.]

Davis notes that the society dwindled away towards the end of the year 1785, and calls the date 1795 in his son’s memoirs probably a printer’s error. [xxi]
Curran defended Kirwan, one of the insurgents, and in his speech spoke of the French alliance in most eloquent anger, and of the insurrection in the bitterest scorn. / We are not going to condemn Curran for what he did in 1803. He had gone to France in 1802 and was disgusted with its military government, and he meant, doubtless, to serve the people by warning them against trusting to strangers for redress. He was politically indignant at an explosion which wanted the dignity of even partial success, and yet had done vast injury to the country. Lord Kilwarden was his odld friend; and last of all, his own personal feelings had been severely tried by it. / Robert Emmet has won Sarah Curran's heart, and some of his letters were found in Curran's house. The rash chieftain had breathed out [58] his whole soul to his love. Curran had to undergo the enquiries of the Privy Council and accept the generosity of the Attorney General.
 What was still worse than any selfish suffering, he saw his daughter smitten, as with an edged-sword, by the fate of her betrothed.
 He refused to act for Robert, and he did well, but his refusal to see him was framed, we think, too harshly. /
 As Emmet himself said, “a man with the coldness of death on him need not be made to feel any other coldness.” (xxxv; 1846; also in Life of Curran [sic], Duffy 1846, pp.58-59.)

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William Henry Curran, The Life of John Philpott [sic] Curran, ed. R. Shelton Mackenzie (Chicago 1882), includes an anecdote: ‘I see, sir, how it is with you’ [said a judge to an arraigned Irishman]. ‘you are more ashamed of knowing your own language than of not knowing the other.’ (p.523; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland, 1995, p.115.)

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Rev. Alexander Leeper, DD, Canon of St Patrick’s, Historical Handbook of St Patrick’s Cathedral (1891), The first monument in the north aisle of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, is Curran’s, with a bust by C. Moore (1841); inscription describes him as Master of the Rolls, and among the most illustrious of Irish orators, and mentions that his remains are interred in Glasnevin; monument erected in 1842 by public subscription, S.M. Praehonorabilis Johannis PhilpotCurran; Roulorum Magistri; et inter Hiberniae oratores eximii; Cujis reliquiae sepultae sunt apud Glasnevin; Hoc monumentum erectum fuit a.d. 1842; ex dono publico et amore; Obiit 1817; Aet. 67; MP Rathcormac, 1790; MP Kilbeggan, 1794 [sic]; d. London, 17 Oct. 1817; remains deposited in vault of Paddington Church during 20 years; conveyed to Ireland and bur. Glasnevin; large monument in the cemetery, inscribed only with his name and date of death; the martial trophies above the monument in St. Patrick’s erected to memory of bros. Cpt. Dudley Ryder Madden and Lieut. Wm. Wolseley Madden of 8th King’s Regt., obiit 1874.

Curran/Banim: “In February, 1822, being then in his twenty-fourth year, Banim married a daughter of John Ruth, of Cappagh, an old friend of his father, and in less than one month after that event, the young couple set out for London, to seek their fortune. His first residence there was at No. 7, Amelia-place, Brompton, the house in which Philpot Curran died in 1817. He says that he “took the rooms at once, that he might dream of Ireland, with the glory and halo of Curran’s memory around him.”’

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Robert Farren, Course of Irish Verse (1948): ‘Curran spoke Irish as a native [and] the internal rhyming and unbroken roll of [“Drinking Song”] were Gaelic facets.’ (p.4.)

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W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (1984), Curran customarily read Homer every year, and often emphasised a major point with a telling Latin quotation. Stanford tells of a story of his appearing in defence of Robert Johnston before Barr Yelverton, Lord Avonmore; he purposely misquoted, giving Yelverton the opportunity to correct, and larded his speech with allusions such as they both enjoyed; Curran spoke warmly of an ‘old and learned friend’ instructed in liberty by the classics (Yelverton), and then recalled ‘those Attic nights and those those refections of the gods’ which he had shared with Yelverton, whereon the judge burst into tears, but finally gave judgement against Curran’s client. [213-14] See Hale, John Philpot Curran (London 195[?]), and [Charles] Phil[l]ips, Curran and his Contemporaries (London 1850). bibl. D O’Sullivan, The Irish Free State and its Senate (London 1940).

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John Larkin, ed. & intro., The Trial of William Drennan (1991): Larkin Curran’s defence of William Drennan in 1792, one of the most brilliant pieces of Irish forensic oratory, remarking: ‘on that occasion, Curran opened by asserting that no association with Drennan or his principles, but an insistence that a lawyer must not be subborned by fear of rumours against his honour, persuaded him to plead in his defence. He made a like assertion in the opening of his defence of the lesser defendents in the Robert Emmet Rising trials.’ (Cites H. B. Code’s Insurrection of 23rd July 1803).

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Richard Kearney, ‘Irish Heritage in the French Revolution: The Rights of the People and the Rights of Man’ (1992), quotes a Defender’s confession to John Philpot Curran in the Louth trials of 1774: ‘I expected I would get what livings the likes of you have, for myself [...] We planned to knock the protestants on the head and take their places.’ (Kearney, op. cit., in Ireland and France - A Bountiful Friendship: Essays in Honour of Patrick Rafroidi, ed. Barbara Hayley & Christopher Murray, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992, p.36.)

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Gillian O’Brien, ‘Camden and the move towards the Union 1795-1798’ (2001), writes: When parliament, as anticipated, rejected a motion opposing union, a large aggregate anti-union meeting of the leading citizens of Dublin, including a substantial deputation of catholics, was assembled and addressed by John Philpot Curran, the prominent whig lawyer best known for his courageous defence of the United Irish leaders. His words on the occasion are testimony to the desperate importance that was attached by the opposition to public expressions of support: “Our only road to safety [remains] the unanimity of the people. The captial [has] nobly set the example. If the country [follows] the example, Ireland [can] not be lost. The projected surrender of Ireland [ill] be defeated [...] Without our own ardent co-operation, what can we hope from our friends in parliament; with al their virtues and talents, what barrier can they form without our assistance; at the best an uncemented wall, destitute of that connection which nothing but support can give, it must soon be overwhelmed in the overbearing tide of corruption.’ (The Speech of Henry Grattan, Esq., on the subject of a legislative Union with Great Britain; the resolutions [...] at an aggregate meeting held on 16th of January last; the celebrated speech delivered on that occasion by John Philpot Curran, Esq. [...] (Dublin 1800, pp.27-28; O’Brien, op. cit., 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.133.)

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Liberty: ‘It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime, and the punishment of his guilt.’ (Speech on the Right of Election of Lord May of Dublin, 10 July 1790.)

Note: the second sentence is quoted in Oxford Book of Quotations, 1941, with edns. to 1970, p.167; the original may be found in Speeches, Dublin: Stockdale 1805, p.5 - online.) Note that this was employed by John F. Kennedy in his inaugural speech to the effect that ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.’

The Deserter’s Meditation”: ‘If sadly thinking, with spirits sinking, / Could more than drinking my cares compose, / A cure for sorrow from sighs I’d borrow, / And hope to-morrow would end my woes. / But as in wailing there’s nought availing, / And Death unfailing will strike the blow, / Then for that reason, and for a season, / Let us be merry before we go. // To joy a stranger, a way-wom ranger, / In every danger my course I’ve run; / Now hope all ending, and death befriending / His last aid lending, my cares are done. / No more a rover, or hapless lover, / My griefs are over - my glass runs low; / Then for that reason, and for a season, / Let us be merry before we go.’ (Rep. in Brendan Kennelly, ed., Penguin Book of Irish Verse, 1970.)

“The Monks of the Screw” - ‘Charter Song’ of the Monks of the Order of St. Patrick, by Curran

‘When Saint Patrick our order created
And called us The Monks of the Screw,
Good rules he revealed to our Abbot,
To guide us in what we should do.

But first he replenished his fountain
With liquor the best in the sky;
And he swore, by the words of his Saintship,
That fountain should never run dry!

My children, be chaste - ’till you’re tempted;
While sober, be wise and discreet;
And humble your bodies with fasting
Whene’er you have nothing to eat.

Then be not a glass in the Convent,
Except on a festival found;
And this rule to enforce, I ordain it
A festival all the year round!’


—Given in Speeches of J. P. Curran, ed. Thomas Davis (Dublin: Duffy 1845), p.xxi, n.; see also page image of the members list, infra.

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Curran’s ‘extraordinary’ profession of loyalty to the government at the treason trial of Owen Kirwan, 1 Sept. 1803:
Now, it is clear, there are but two modes of holding states, or the members of the same state together, namely, community of interest or predominance of force. The former is the natural bond of the British empire: Their interest, their hopes, their dangers, can be no other than one and the same, if they are not stupidly blind to their own situation; and stupidly blind indeed must they be, and justly must they incur the inevitable consequences of that blindness and stupidity, if they have not fortitude and magnanimity enough to lay aside those mean and narrow jealousies, which have hitherto prevented that community of interest and unity of effort by which alone we can stand, and without which we must fall together. But force only can hold the acquisitions of the French consul. What community of interest can he have with the different nations that he has subdued and plundered? Clearly none. Can he venture to establish any regular and protected system of religion among them? Wherever he erected an altar, he would set up a monument of condemnation and reproach upon those wild and phantastic speculations which he is pleased to dignify with the name of philosophy, but which other men, perhaps because they are endowed with a less aspiring intellect, conceive to be a desperate anarchical atheism, giving to every man a dispensing powere for the gratification of his passions, teaching him that he may be a rebel to his conscience with advantage, and to his God with impunity. Just as soon would the government of Britain veture to display the crescent in their churches, as an honorary member of all faiths show any reverence to the cross in his dominions. Apply the same reasoning to liberty. Can he venture to give any reasonable portion of it to his subjects at home, or his vassals abroad? The answer is obvious: sustained merely by military force, his unavoidable policy is to make the army every thin, and the people nothing. If he ventured to elevate his soldiers into citizens, and his wretched subjects into freemen, he would form a confederacy of natural interest between both, against which he could not exist a moment. If he relaxed in like manner with Holland, or Belgium, or Switzerland, or Italy, and withdrew his armies from them, he would excite and make them capable of instant revolt. There is one circumstance which just leaves it possible for him not to chain them down still more rigorously than he has done, and that is, the facility with which he can pour military reinforcements upon them in case of necessity. But destitute as he is of a marine, he could look to no such resource with respect to any insular acquisition; and of course he should guard against the possibility of danger by so complete and merciless a thraldom, as would make any effort of resistance physically impossible. Perhaps, my lords and gentlemen, I may be thought the apologist, instead of the reviler of the ruler of France: I affect not either character – I am searching for the motives of his conduct, and not for the topics of his justification. I do not affect to trace those motives to any depravity of heart or of mind, which accident may have occasioned for a season, and which reflection or compunction may extinguish or allay, and thereby make him a completely different man with respect to France and the world; I am acting more fairly and more usefully to my country, when I show, that his conduct must be so swayed by the permanent pressure of his situation, by the tyrannical control of an unchangeable and inexorable necessity, that he cannot dare to relax or relent, without becoming the certain victim of his own humanity or contrition.
 I may be asked, are these my own speculations or have others in Ireland adopted them? I answer freely, non meus hic sermo est. It is, to my own knowledge, the result of serious reflection, in numbers of our countrymen.
There is another topic on which a few words might be addressed to the deluded peasantry of this country: he might be asked – What could you hope from the momentary success of any effort to subvert the government by mere intestine convulsion? Could you look forward to the hope of Liberty or property; where are the characters, the capacities, and the motives of those that have embarked in those chimerical projects? – you see them a despicable gang of needy adventurers; desperate from guilt and poverty: uncountenanced by a single individual of probity or name; ready to use you as the instruments, and equally ready to abandon you by treachery or flight, as the victims of their crimes. For a short interval murder and rapine might have their away; but do not be such fools as to think, that though robbing might make a few persons poor, it could make many persons rich. Do not be so silly as to confound the destruction of property with the partition of wealth. Small must be your share of the spoil, and short your enjoyment of it. Soon trust me, very soon would such a state of things be terminated by the very atrocities of its authors. Soon would you find yourselves subdued, ruined and degraded. If you looked back, it would be to character destroyed, to hope extinguished. If you looked forward you could see only the dire necessity you had imposed upon your governors of acting towards you with no feelings but those of abhorrence, and of self-preservation – of ruling you by a system of coercion, of which alone you would be worthy – and of loading you with taxes, that is selling the food and raiment which your honest labour might learn for your family, to defray the expense of that force, by which only you could be restrained. [... &c.]
For full-text version, see under Kirwan, [q.v.] - as attached.

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Napper Tandy: ‘It is but eight years, my lords, since we have seen such a man amongst us, raising a degraded country from the condition of a province, to the rank and consequence of a people, worthy to be the ally of a mighty empire; forming the league that bound her to Great Britain, on the firm and honourable basis of equal liberty and a common fate, “standing and falling with the British nation”, and thus stipulating for that freedom which alone contains the principle of her political life, in the covenant of her foederal connection’, Speeches p.27ff; quoted in Norman Vance, ‘Irish Literary Traditions and the Act of Union’, in Cyril J. Byrne and Margaret Harry, eds., Talamh an Eisc: Canadian and Irish Essays [Irish Studies St. Mary’s Coll.] (Halifax, Can.: Nimbus Publ. Co.), pp.29-47, Note that Vance indicates that it is the same speech, in the defence of Napper Tandy in 1782, that Curran spoke the celebrated phrase, ‘The condition upon which God had given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.’ (Norman, p.32).

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Disturbances in Kerry: ‘[...]I admit that there may be local circumstances which would justify the withholding of a writ of election, but they should be notoreity, and well ascertained. I know of no whiteboys, at present, immpeding the freedom of election. Since disturbances have been spoken of, I declare that I sincerely wish the offenders may be punished, but that I most sincerely wish that the cause of these disturbances may be removed. For my8 part I have done everything as a magistrate, and as a man to restore order. The low and contemptible state of your magistracy is the cause of much evil, particularly in the Kingdom of Kerry. I say Kingdom, for it seems absolutely not a part of the same country. (Fragment of a speech of January 23rd, 1787; Speeches, 1861 edition, p.67.) Note that Davis accredits Curran with the first use of the phrase “Kingdom of Kerry” which he (Davis) uses as the title for the fragment, taken from Debates [of the House of Commons, Vol. VII, pp.41-42. In the remainder of the fragment he accuses an unnamed magistrate of allowing known offenders to going about the country, ‘not skulking or hiding, but in the face of day [...] laughing at the sleeping laws’. (Idem.)

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Newry Election (17 Oct. 1812): ‘Nothing but the noblest and most disinterested patriotism led the Protestants of Ireland to ally themselves, offensively and defensively, with their afflicted, oppressed Catholic countrymen. / Without the aid of its rank, its intellect, and its property, Ireland could no no more for herself now than she has done for centurues heretofore, when she lay a helpless hulk upon the water; but now, for the first time, we are indebted to a Protestant spirit, for the delicious spectacle of seeing her at length equipped with masts, and sails, and compass, and helm - at length she is sea-worthy. / Whether is is to escape the tempest or gain the port, is an event to be disposed of by the Great Ruler of the waters and the winds. If our voyage be prosperous, our success wil be doubled by our unanimity; but even if we are doomed to sink, we shall sink with honour. But, am I over sanguine in counting our Protestant allies? Your own country gives you a cheering instance of a noble marquis [Downshire], retiring rom the dissiparion of an English court, making his country his residence, and giving his first entrance into manhood to the cause of Ireland. It is nt from any association of place that my mind is turned to the name of Moira; to name him, is to recognise what your idolatry has given to him for so many years. [...]’ (Speeches, ed. Thomas Davis [1845] 1868 Edn., p.469 - available online; accessed 18.02.2012.)":

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Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1800-1875: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978), lists biogs. by William O’Regan (1817), Thomas Davis (1846), and William H. Curran (1855). Also Leslie Hale, John Philpot Curran, His Life and Times (London 1958) 287p.

Charles A. Read, The Cabinet of Irish Literature [1876-78]; quotes extensively from speeches-with Read’s usual partiality to the profession of lawyer-and mentions Charles Phillips’s Recollections of Curran (1818) as one of the most extraordinary pieces of biography ever written. Also Curran’s Speeches and Memoirs, ed. Thomas Davis.

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Justin McCarthy, ed., Irish Literature (Washington: University of America 1904); gives extracts from works incl. ‘On Catholic Emancipation,’ The Liberty of the Press,’ and witticisms; also quoted extensively in section dedicated to him, in John F. Taylor, ‘The Irish School of Oratory’, in McCarthy (op.cit.), Vol. II, pp.vii-xxviii. He is author of the phrase revived by J. F. Kennedy about ‘eternal vigilance’ being the price of freedom [Note that this is also cited as the sole entry in Oxford Book of Quotations, 1941, with eds. to 1970]. His poetry includes ‘The Plate-warmer’ and ‘The Deserter’s Meditations’ [‘If sadly thinking, with spirits sinking/Could, more than drinking, my cares compose/A cure for sorrow from sighs I’d borrow/And hope tomorrow would end my woes’]; ‘The Deserter’s Meditation’ also occurs in Geoffrey Taylor’s (1951), and Brendan Kennelly’s (1970), anthologies; Kennelly (Penguin Book of Irish Poetry) and O’Connor (Book of Ireland) prints the short lines of the original as pentameters.

Note: Frank O’Connor’s anthology The Book of Ireland (London: Collins 1959), styles ‘The Deserter’s Meditations’ by the name of ‘Let Us Be Merry Before we Go’ after the refrain. (Op. cit., p.318.)

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Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernia: Irish Worthies (1819, 1821) Vol. I. The chief biographical sketch in this compilation is of Curran [pp.299-363]; Curran is said to be descended from English Cromwellian settlers, associated with the name and place of Curwen; account concludes with an encomium by Rev George Croly [‘which] elicited our admiration so strongly’ [356-64], dated Oct 20 1817, Curran’s death having fallen on 13 Oct. in his lodgings at No.7 Amelia Place, Brompton.

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1: selects ‘The Deserter’s Meditation’, 485; ‘Speech in Favour of Archibald Hamilton Rowan, 930-33; , biog., cites L Hale, John Philpot Curran, His Life and Times (London 1958). FDA2, includes incidental references at 217 [Lecky], 870 [Lady Morgan], 932 [W. B. Yeats], 973 [Rolleston], 990 [Thomas MacDonagh].

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British Museum Library (1955 Cat.) - partially included in listings under Works [supra].

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Library of Herbert Bell, Belfast holds John Philpot Curran, Collection of Speakers [?] (London 1819); also Speeches of John Philpot Curran (Dublin 1805).

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Hyland Catalogue (Dec. 1996) lists Speeches of John Philpot Curran, on Interesting State Trials &c., with a memoir of His Life (new edn. 1817); W. H. Curran, ed. R. S. Mackenzie, The Life of John Philpot Curran [1st edn.] (NY: 1858), with port.; Leslie Hale, John Philpot Curran, His Life and Times (1st edn. 1958), ills.; also Speeches of the Rt. Hon. J. P. Curran, edited, master of the Rolls in Ireland, on the late very interesting State Trials [2nd edn., with adds.] (Dublin: Stockdale 1808), 475pp. [covering commercial relations between England and Ireland, Catholic Emancipation, Archibald Hamilton Rowan, Lady Pamela Fitzgerald, &c.]; Do., 4th edn. (London: Longman 1815), 486pp.

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Belfast Public Library holds Speeches (1811, 1865); Speeches ... on the late interesting State Trials (1815) Life of the Rt. Hon. J. P. Curran (1846) by T. Davis; also Speeches of ... (n.d.), by Thomas Davies. Also George Croly, ed., Irish Eloquence as Illustrated by the Speeches of J. P. Curran (1852); also, Life of the Rt. Hon. J. P. Curran, by W. H. Curran (1819) [See W. H. Curran, q.v.]

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Davis’s List of the Members of the “Monks of the Screw”

Thomas Davis, Speeches of J. P. Curran (Dublin: Duffy 1845)

Charles Lever (on the “Monks of the Screw”): The Monks forms the subject of one of the episodes in Charles Lever’s Jack Hinton, set in a house in Kevin St. among the ‘monks’ in a ‘type of grey serge’; with characters besides the hero and his guide Phil O’Grady including Yelverton, Chief Baron; Wellesley Poole, Sec. of State; Plunket, Parsons, Toler, ‘in a word, all those whose names were a guarantee for everything that was brilliant, witty and amusing, were there; while, conspicuous among the rest, the prior himself was no other than John Philpot Curran!’; also, ‘the epigrammatic terseness and nicety of Curran, the jovial good humour and mellow raciness of Lawrence Parsons, the happy facility of converting all before him into a pun or a repartee so eminently possessed by Toler, and perhaps more striking than all, the caustic irony and peiercing sarcasm of Yelverton’s wit, relieve and displayed each other [...] With what satifaction do I yet look back upon the brilliant scene, nearly all the actors in which have since risen to high rank and eminence in the country.’ (See extract copied in Justin McCarthy, Irish Literature, 1904, under “Lever”, Vol. 5; pp.1952-64).

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Lord Byron [1] : Byron reputedly remarked on Curran’s death, ‘I have heard that man speak more poetry than I have seen written’ (Quoted in Arthur Symons, The Romantic Movement in English Poetry, p.36; cited in Patrick Rafroidi, Romanticism in Ireland, 1980, Vol. 1, p.293.

Lord Byron [2]: Byron wrote, ‘I feel, as your poor Curran said, before his death, “a mountain of lead upon my heart, which I believe to be constitutional, and that nothing will remove it but the same remedy.” [Letter to Thomas Moore, 1 Oct. 1821]; and further, on the same subject: ’... too many of our acquaintance had taken the same path. Lady Melbourne, Grattan, Sheridan, Curran, &c., &c., - almost everybody of much name of the old school. [idem, 21 Oct. 1821.] (Both quoted in Rafroidi, op. cit., 1980; q.p.)

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Karl Marx recommended Engels to read the speeches of John Philpot Curran, edited by Thomas Davies, writing in December 1869: ’You must get Curran’s Speeches edited by Davies ... I consider Curran the only great advocate of the eighteenth century and the noblest nature.’ (Selected Correspondence, 1934, p.281 and n.250; quoted in account of papers of T. A. Jackson in Working Class Movement Library, “Irish Collection” [online]).

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James Hardiman’s Irish Minstrelsy or Bardic Remains of Ireland (London: Robins 1831) contains an epigraph taken from Curran: ‘I will give thee a book - it containeth the Songs of the bards of erin, of the bards of the days that are gone.’ [Vol. I, title-page.]

Arthur Symons: Symons commented on J. P. Curran’s “The Deserter’s Meditation”, ‘If anyone can read the refrain of this song without a stirring in the blood, there must be ice in him.’ (The Romantic Movement in English Poetry,, p.36; see Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850, Vol 1 1980, p.57.)

Irish Penny Journal: the Penny Journal contains an article on ‘the tomb of Curran’, noted by Barbara Hayley, in ‘Irish Periodicals’, Anglo-Irish Studies, II (1976), pp.83-108, p.103.

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Conor Farrington: Farrington’s verse play Aaron They Brother is a study of John Philpot Curran, featuring a chorus of Irish soldiers in the Congo (Peacock 1969; publ. Proscenium, Newark, Del., 1975).

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Political sympathies: Curran’s misplaced harangue against French sympathizers at trial of Owen Kirwan is cited in Code’s Insurrection - a work characterised as a travesty of the trial of Robert Emmet and his dock speech in Cheryl Herr, ed., For the Land They Loved (1991). Arguably, the point of Curran's self-professed "digression" was to offer the mitigation that such a ludicrous rebellion should be treated with more contempt than severity by the court. Yet, given that his intervention is commonly spoken of as a protestation of his own loyalty to the government, it is unclear why his legal speeches on behalf of the United Irishman are so s ften spoken of as a piece of patriotism when he expressly calls the duty odious.

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Church of Ireland?: A copy of La liturgie, c’est à dire, le formulaire des prières publiques, de l’administration des sacremens / selon l’usage de l’Eglise d’Irlande; avec le Psautier (Dublin: chez André Crook, imprimeur de la Reine 1704), which belonged to John Philpott Curran and was subsequently owned Edward Hudson [q.v.], is now held at Trinity College Library as part of the Purser Shortt Bequest.

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Portrait: Thomas Lawrence’s oil portrait of J. P. Curran was presented to the National Gallery of Ireland by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Lord Iveagh, 1901; see also an oil portrait on canvas by Hugh Douglas Hamilton Ann Cruikshank and the Knight of Glin, Irish Portraits 1600-1860 [Catalogue] (1969), p.52; bibl. Thomas Bodkin, The Burlington Magazine, LXIX, Dec 1936, p.251 [for discussion of Curran’s iconography.]

Death to Erin, anon, a cartoon printed by Williamson, Dublin, shows John Philpot Curran leading the pall-bearers with Grattan and Foster ad chief mourners, while their beloved constitution of 1782 is laid to rest, with Clare and Castlereagh as gravediggers in the distance. (See Nicholas Robinson, ‘Marriage against inclination: the union and caricature’, in Dáire Keogh & Kevin Whelan, eds., Acts of Union: The Causes, Contexts and Consequences of the Act of Union, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001, plate 22 [p.144ff.]).

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