John Curry (?1710-80)


Life
b. Dublin, ed. Paris and Rheims; eminent Dublin physician, medicine being open to Catholics under the penal laws; wrote pseudo-Protestant pamphlet on the Irish Rebellion of 1641 (1747), and was countered by Walter Harris, the Protestant historian and translator of Sir James Ware; fnd. the Catholic Committee with Thomas Wyse and Charles O’Conor, first meeting in Essex St., 1756; wrote Historical Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion in the Year 1641 (1758), in a ‘letter’ [viz., pamphlet] to Walter Harris, describing him as ‘mercenary and injudicious compiler of historical fragments’;
 
Curry wrote Observations on the Popery Laws (1771), with Thomas Wyse and O’Conor; signed the Test Act of 1774 in spite of misgivings over its wording; issued Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland (1775), which sought to counter the standard Protestant account of the ‘massacres’ of 1641 associated with Sir John Temple, particularly by showing that the Rebellion was incited by Ulster Presbyterians; his medical works incl. Essay on Ordinary Fevers (1743);
 
he also issued A Candid Enquiry into the Munster Disorders (1766), with reference to the White Boy disturbances of that period; Curry was O’Conor’s most constant correspondent and closest associate in literary and political matters; correspondent with Edmund Burke; d. Sumerhill, Dublin, 21 March; obit. in Dublin Journal, 21-23 March 1780. ODNB DIW OCIL

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Works
Historical & controversial
  • A Brief Account from the Most Authentic Protestant Writers of the Causes, Motives and Mischiefs of the Irish Rebellion on the 23rd October 1641 (Dublin 1752) [1747];
  • Third Appeal to His Grace, the Lord Primate [Archbishop George Stone] (Smock Alley, Dublin: Dillon Chamberlaine 1760);
  • Historical Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion in the Year 1641 Extracted from Parliamentary Journals, State Acts, and [...] the Most Eminent Protestant Historians [...] in a Letter to Walter Harris, Esq., Occasioned by His Answer to a Late Dialogue on the Causes, Motives, and Mischiefs of This Rebellion (London 1758), xiv, ix, 316pp., 8o.; Do., another edn. (London 1765), iv, 279pp., 12°.; Do. [unauthorised edn. London, 1763]; Do. [another edn.] (London: J. Williams; T. Lewis 1767), 12°; Do., with Corrections Throughout the Whole, and Large Additions by the Author [4th edn.] (Dublin: James Hoey: 1770), pp. 288pp., 12°.
  • An Essay Towards a New History of the Gunpowder Plot (Dublin [n. pub.] 1765);
  • A Candid Enquiry into ... the Late Riots in ... Munster ([Dublin] 1766);
  • Occasional Remarks on Certain Passages in Dr Leland’s History of Ireland Relative to the Irish Rebellion of 1641 (London 1773);
  • An Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland from the Reign of Queen Elizabeth to the Settlement under King William. Extracted from Parliamentary Records [ ...] and Other Authentic Materials. By J. C. M.D. (Dublin: J. Hoey & T. T. Faulkner 1775), xxi, 447pp., 4° [see details]; Do., [printed with] The State of Irish Catholics from That Settlement to the Relaxation of the Popery Laws in 1778 [and] an Account of the Author [by Charles O’Conor], 2 vols. (Dublin: Luke White 1786), xix, 660pp., 8°.; Do. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson; J. Murray 1786), 8°.; Do. [new and improved edn.] (Dublin: R. Connolly 1810) [note 1793 edn. cited by Leerssen, infra].
Medical
  • An Essay on Ordinary Fevers [ ... &c.] (London: J. Robinson 1743), 75pp., 8°.;
  • Some Thoughts on the Nature of Fevers; on the Causes of their Becoming so Frequently Mortal; and on the Means to Prevent It (London: J. Johnson 1774), ii, 94pp., 8°.

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Bibliographical details
An / Historical and Critical / REVIEW / of the / Civil Wars in Ireland / from the / Reign of Queen ELIZABETH, / to the / Settlement under King WILLIAM / extracted / from Parliamentary Records, State Acts, and other authentic Materials / By J. C.  M. D. / Author of Historical Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion in 1641. / Audi alteram Partem. / DUBLIN: Printed, and fold by J. Hoey, and T. T. Faulkner, Parliament-ftreet; G. Burnet, Abbey-ftreet; and J. Morris, Fifhamble-ftreet, No. 9. / MDCCLXXV. [Copy accessible in sundry formats at Internet Archive - online; see under Quotations for extract]

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Criticism
Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor Ghael (Amsterdam & Atlanta, GA: Rodopi Press 1986), pp. 386-90 [infra]; Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th Century ed. Gerard O’Brien (Dublin: Geography Books 1989), pp.120-30 [infra].

See article on Curry in Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. Charles, Herbermann (Robert Appleton Co. 1913) - online. There is also a Wikipedia article at online [accessed 21.09.2011].

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Commentary
Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor Ghael (Amsterdam & Atlanta, GA: Rodopi Press 1986), pp. 386-90: remarks extensively on Dr John Curry, indicating that he had at first had published an anonymous, pseudo-Protestant pamphlet expressing the need for tolerance towards victims of the penal laws [A brief account from the most authentic Protestant writers of the causes, motives, and mischiefs of the Irish Rebellion on the 23rd day of October 1641 (1752 [sic]); Walter Harris, a lawyer from Co. Laois, wrote a counter-blast called Fiction unmasked, or an answer to a dialogue lately published by a popish physician (1752), all but disclosing Curry’s identity. Curry rejoined in Historical Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion in the year 1641, in a letter to Walter Harris, Esq. (1758), with a prefatory Advertisement by Charles O’Conor calling Harris ‘a mercenary and injudicious compiler of historical fragments’ (p.ix) - but vide under O’Conor, q.v., the letter to Curry in which the former seems ignorant of the authorship of the work in question. [Cont.]

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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor Ghael (1986) - cont.: Other works by Curry were, Occasional remarks on certain passages in Dr Leland’s History of Ireland relative to the Irish rebellion of 1641 (London 1773), and An historical and critical review of the civil wars in Ireland, with The state of the Irish Catholics (rep. Dublin 1793); a copy of Curry’s Historical Memoir was supplied to Ferdinando Warner, the author of the Dublin Society-promoted History of Ireland, by Charles O’Conor, to offset Protestant histories; another copy was supplied in 1763 to David Hume, then in Paris, with a view to mellowing his interpretation of 1641 as it appeared in the early editions of his History of England [see David Berman, ‘David Hume and the 1641 Rebellion in Ireland’, Studies 65, 1976, pp.101-112] (Leerssen, p.373). [Cont.]

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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor Ghael (1986) - cont.: Curry’s defence of Catholic Ireland in Anglo-Irish historiography began with A brief account of the most authentic Protestant writers of the causes, motives and mischiefs of the Irish rebellion on the 23rd day of October 1641 (Dublin 1752 [recte. London 1747]). Though at first discouraged from answering Warner’s History of Ireland (1763) O’Conor, who hoped for a liberal view of 1641 from his protegée Thomas Leland, Curry rushed into print on the appearance of Leland’s disappointing History of Ireland (1773) with a pamphlet called Occasional remarks on certain passages in Dr Leland’s History of Ireland relative to the Irish rebellion of 1641 (London 1773) This was followed by his Historical and critical review of the civil wars in Ireland, with The State of the Irish Catholics (rep. Dublin 1793) (Leerssen, pp.386-90). Note also ftn.441, ibid.: Edmund Burke found a London publisher for Curry’s Historical memoirs, having drawn up an address for the Catholic Committee in 1764 - viz., Curry to Burke (8 June 1765.)

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Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th Century ed. Gerard O’Brien (Dublin: Geography Books 1989); makes a careful study of for the correspondence between Curry and O’Conor and the connections implied in it. Viz., already in 1745 and 1749 O’Conor had published pamphlets in reply to polemical writings of Henry Brooke and Sir Richard Cox. In 1747 Curry had published A brief account from the most authentic Protestant writers of the causes, motives and mischiefs of the Irish rebellion on the 23rd October 1641 ... Curry was to enlarge the scope of this research in two other works on the same theme - Historical memoirs of the Irish rebellion [...] (1758) and An historical and critical review of the civil wars in Ireland (1775). O’Conor and Curry [...] tried to give the impression that the authors of these early works were liberal Protestants [...] in the hope that they would be more widely read [and in the belief on O’Conor’s part] that Curry might suffer in his profession (see O’Conor to Curry, 17 Feb. 1759; HMC, rep. 8, App. I. 463). For some account of such pamphlets, see R. B. McDowell, Irish Public Opinion, pp.10-16 and pp.265-91. (Wall, pp.184-45, n.5] Further: little [has] come to light about [Curry’s] family background; O’Conor’s account of him, prefixed to the 1786 edn. of Historical and critical review of the civil wars in Ireland provides but meagre information which forms the basis however of the ODNB notice, adopted by all writers on the Catholic committee. A professional man in Dublin, educated in France, he formed a bridge between the Catholic nobility and landed gentry and the middle class. See Biog. note, 187, n.12. [Cont.]

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Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th Century (1989): See remarks to the effect that Curry devoted years to the study of the history of the rebellion of 1641, bringing out his first work on the subject in 1747; Historical memoirs of the Irish rebellion ... &c, in 1758 and An historical and critical review ... &c in 1775, but never succeeded in laying the ghosts of the many thousands of Protestants allegedly massacred in 1641. Further: In 1766 John Curry published A candid enquiry into ... the late riots in ... Munster, exonerating the Catholics. [Wall, 120]; on the arrival of the Earl of Harcourt as lord lieutenant (1772-76), some of the Catholics, led by Curry, presented him with an address of welcome, expressing eagerness to affirm their loyalty by a test [oath] which would engage their civil duty without interfering with their religious conscience. [Wall, 123]. A letter to the chief secretary professedly on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland, and signed by John Curry and others, tendered their duty, zeal and affection to the king and declared their abhorrence of the ‘unnatural rebellion’ among his American subjects, promising further to ‘exert themselves strenuously in defence of his majesty’s most sacred person and government though from their ‘particular circumstances and situation’ they were ‘restrained within passive and inactive bounds.’ (Wall, p.124.) A long petition of 1778, bearing the signature of Curry et al., published in full in Curry’s Review of the civil wars (3rd ed. 1810), involved help in composition from Edmund Burke some years before, as revealed by a letter, Curry to Burke, 18 Aug. 1778 (Burke, Correspondence, 1852, i. 376.) Note that Burke in communication with Curry urged the North adminstration to treat the 1778 Catholic Relief draft bill forward from the Irish house of Commons as a Government measure, and to return it unaltered to Ireland (Wall, c.p.130).

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R. E. Ward & C. Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor (1988): O’Conor sympathised with Curry regarding a London pirated edn. of 1763. Ward & Ward also note that the ‘Historical Introduction’ printed with the 1775 edn. of Historical and Critical Review was dropped in the 1786 edns. and was not included until the edn. of 1810, as An Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland from the Reign of Queen Elizabeth to the Settlement under King William. A New and Improved Edition, ed. Dr. Charles O’Conor (Dublin: P. Connolly 1810). iiin [sic]. For dates of issues and editions of Curry’s Memoirs [... &c.], see ‘Known works of Charles O’Conor’, in R. E. Ward and C. Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor (1988), p.230.

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Roy Foster, Modern Ireland (1988), Foster notes that the Historical and Critical Account of the Civil Wars in Ireland (1775) was written to counter the prevailing Protestant view of the supposed massacre of 1641. Foster ascribes Observations on the Popery Laws (1771) jointly to Curry and O’Connor [sic] but not Thomas Wyse. (p.244; biographical notice.) See further comments under Charles O’Conor, espec. as regarding O’Conor’s encomium of 21 July 1762.

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Quotations

An / Historical and Critical / REVIEW / of the / Civil Wars in Ireland / from the / Reign of Queen ELIZABETH, / to the / Settlement under King WILLIAM / extracted / from Parliamentary Records, State Acts, and other authentic Materials / By J. C.  M. D. / Author of Historical Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion in 1641. / Audi alteram Partem. / DUBLIN: Printed, and fold by J. Hoey, and T. T. Faulkner, Parliament-ftreet; G. Burnet, Abbey-ftreet; and J. Morris, Fifhamble-ftreet, No. 9. / MDCCLXXV. [Copy accessible in sundry formats at Internet Archive - online.]

[...]
It is, indeed, to be lamented, that Mr. Hume, one of the ablest writers of the present age, should as an historian suffer himself to be so far led astray by such contemporaries as we have hinted at, as to transfer all [xiii] or most of the mischiefs of the year 1641 in Ireland, from the original authors, to the unfortunate Irish alone. Parties less aggrieved in Scotland were up before them, and drew the sword not only with impunity but with advantage. The Irish in Ulster who wanted to regain the lands they lost, followed the example. We do not justify the act in either kingdom. We only advance in alleviation of the Irish crime, that the majority of the nation have, in the two reigns of James and Charles, suffered a cruel bondage of thirty eight years with little intermission, and had now the most alarming prospect of extirpation before them. They did not mean to withdraw their allegiance from the King; even the weak leaders of the Northern rabble had no such intention. The latter began, and actedly singly. Their outrages on their first setting out were kept within some bounds; most of the innocent Protestants in the neighbouring districts had time to escape into places of security, before many murders were committed. The Papists in the other provinces had no share in their guilt; they immediately published their detestations of it.

In general they were steady to their duty as christians, and to their loyalty as subject. They in their own defence took up arms, not against the King, but against the King’s enemies, who announced their excision in public resolutions, and parliamentary votes. This is the truth of the fact. Mr. Hume passes over it as of no importance to the subject of his history.

He appears to have sat down with an intention to cure us of our unhappy-party prejudices, by pointing out their terrible consequences, in the last age, on our conduct as legislators, and our feelings as men. In general his observation, and stand in the place of excellent instructions, enforced by striking examples. His mistakes at the same time are hurtful, and a wound from such a hand must be painful. But happily it cannot be mortal, and the case before us, as abundant material of true information are still preserved entire. The documents in the following [xiv] Review will show that Mr. Hume’s representation of Irish affairs in 1641, is not true history, but fine and pathetic writing. Pity it is, to find such a man adopting the untruths of Sir John Temple, and spreading them on a new canvas heightened with all the colourings of his art. The piece has certainly cost him some labour; for horror and pity are wrought up here in high tragical strains. But the Irish certainly have not sat for the picture; and Mr. Hume in this part of his history must admit the justnes of a charge, that he had given a wrong direction to the passions,he has taken so much pains to excite.

Mr. Hume is still alove to review and correct some mistakes in his history; and should he decline doing justice in the case before us (what must not be supposed) he, and not the truth, will be affected.

The changes of religion in these kingdoms produced a most memorable aera in our history; and however the reformation hath operated, in spreading the base of civil liberty, yet it divided us into parties, and for a time produce terrible struggles for power and property in both kingdoms; in Ireland especially these things had a period. When all power was set to one side, and that contention ceased, yet the hatred which commenced with the original disputes remained, and exerted itself with remarkable violence, in the framing of the penal laws, which doubtless should be but few in countries which exist by industry, unless the object of such laws, be too formidable not to require its removal at any expence to the public. In this light hath Popery been held, form the very commencement of Queen Elizabehts reign, and is seen in no other light today. No experience of Papists being known and acknowledged good subjects in other Protestant countries, no experience of their good conduct in our own, could hitherto remove the idea of their being enemies by principle to our Protestant establishment. [...] (pp.xiii-xv.)

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References
Brian Cleeve & Anne Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985), styles Curry a member of the O’Corra [Ó Corra] family, made landless by Irish Wars and one of the founders of the Catholic Committee.

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The British Library holds [1] An Essay on Ordinary Fevers, etc. London: J. Robinson 1743), 75pp., 8o. [2] An Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland, from the reign of Queen Elizabeth, to the Settlement under King William. Extracted from Parliamentary records [...] and other authentic materials. By J. C. M.D.; Do. [another edn.] With the state of the Irish Catholics from that settlement to the relaxation of the Popery laws in the year 1778, &c. 2 vol.; Do., A new and improved edition [edited by C. O’Conor] (Dublin: J. Hoey & T. T. Faulkner 1775), xxi. 447pp., 4o.; Do., another edn. (London: G. G. J. & J. Robinson, ; J. Murray 1786), 8o.; Do., another edn. (Dublin: Luke White 1786). xix, 660pp., 8o.; Do., another edn. (Dublin: R. Connolly 1810), 8o. [3] Some Thoughts on the Nature of Fevers; on the causes of their becoming so frequently mortal; and on the means to prevent it (London: J. Johnson 1774), ii, 94pp., 8o; [4] Observations on the Popery laws [of Ireland] [by J. Curry and C. O’Conor] (Dublin: T. Ewing 1771), 53pp., 8o.; Do., another edn. (London: J. Murray 1772), iii, 72pp., 8o. [5] Elements of Bleaching (Dublin: W. G. Jones 1779), 175pp., 8o. [6] Historical Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion, in the year 1641 [...] in a letter to Walter Harris, Esq.; with corrections throughout the whole, and large additions by the author [4th edn.]. Dublin: J. Hoey: 1770), pp. 288pp., 12o. [7] Historical Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion in the year 1641; extracted from Parliamentary Journals, State Acts, and [...] the most eminent Protestant historians [...]. In a letter to Walter Harris, Esq.; occasioned by his answer to a late Dialogue on the causes, motives, and mischiefs of this rebellion [by John Curry. A reply to W. Harris’s “Fiction unmasked: or, an Answer to a dialogue lately published, etc.” With a dedicatory preface signed M. R.] (London 1758), xiv. ix-316pp., 8o.; Do., another edn. (London 1765), iv, 279pp., 12o.; Do., another edn. (London: J. Williams; T. Lewis 1767), 12o.

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Notes
Thomas Addis Emmet: Emmet identified Observations as the book that converted himself and other United Irishmen to the cause of Catholic Emancipation. (See Marianne Elliot, Wolfe Tone: Prophet of Irish Independence, London & New Haven: Yale UP 1989).

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Daniel O’Connell: In his highly polemical history Memoir of Ireland (1844), O’Connell made extensive use of Curry’s Review in recounting the treatment of the Catholic clergy under the penal laws, commencing with the act of 1752 which enforced the 27th of Elizabeth in Ireland, making priests subject to execution by hanging, drawing and quartering, borrowing his historical information from that book, - viz., the edict was renewed in 1657 (Review, p.392). O’Connell quotes Curry: ‘the same price [£5] was set by these commissioners on the head of a Roman priest as that of a wolf; the number of the latter was then very considerable in Ireland; and although the profession or character of a Romish priest could not, one would think, be so clearly ascertained as the species of a wolf, by the merely inspection of their heads thus severed from their bodies, yet the bare asservation of the beheaders was, in both cases, equally credited and rewarded by these commissioners.’ (Review; pp.393-94; O’Connell, Memoir of Ireland, 1844, pp.325-26.)

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