Francis Dobbs

1750-1811; b. 27 April, Lisburn, Co. Antrim; s. of Rev. Richard Dobbs, and gs. of the man who greeted William III at Carrickfergus in 1688; ed. TCD; served in the army; wrote The Irish Chief, or The Patriot King, concerning the defeat of Sitric’s Vikings in Ireland by the heroism of Ceallachain, 9th-century Gaelic king of Cashel, and his Munster men; paly performed at Smock Alley in April 1773, and composed when he was twenty-one acc. “Advertisement”; the printed version of 1774 contains changes from the acted original incl. the invention of char. Cleones and the rescue of Stira, who died of poison in the original; play rejected by Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres late 1773 or early 1774; assisted Lord Charlemont in pamphlets for the Irish Volunteers, and took accepted seat in the Irish Parliament from him, 1799; wrote volunteer pamphlets and made an eccentric speech against the Union on 7 June 1800, professing that ‘the independence of Ireland was written in the immutable records of heaven’ and that ‘it was impossible that a kingdom which revelation showed to be under the special favour of Heaven, could be absorbed in one of the ten kingdoms typified in the image of Daniel’ (cited by Lecky); printed as A Genuine Report of his Speech in Parliament with his Memoirs (1800); also published A Summary of Universal History, 9 vols. (1800), setting out his interpretation of scriptural prophecy in full; poetical works incl. Modern Matrimony (1773), Poems (1788), and “Millennium” printed in Memoirs (1800), departing from a description of the ‘private guilt of the world’ and ending with a vision of political peace and harmony between the sexes; d. 11 April; his brother Arthur was Governor of North Carolina. RR ODNB PI DIW RAF OCIL

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Memoirs / of / Francis Dobbs, Esq., / also / Genuine Reports / of His / Speeches in Parliament, / on the Subject of an / Union, / And His Prediction / of the Second Coming / of the / Messiah; with extracts from his Poem / on the / Millennium. / Second Edition Corrected (Dublin: Printed by J. Jones, 91, Bride-street. 1800) [infra].

Reprints, Christopher Wheatley & Kevin Donovan, eds., Irish Drama of the Seventeeth and Eighteenth Centuries, 2 vols. (UK: Ganesha Publishing UK 2003) [incls. The Irish Chief, or Patriot King (1788)].

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See Caroline Robbs, 18thc. Commonwealthman (1961). There is a long account of Dobbs in Richard Ryan, Biographical Dictionary of the Worthies of Ireland, Vol. I (1819); Christopher Wheatley, Beneath Ierne’s Banners: Irish Protestant Drama of the Restoration and Eighteenth century (Notre Dame UP 1999) [q.pp.].

Note: Terence de Vere White, The Anglo-Irish ( 1972), marks Dobbs down as anti-Catholic.

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C. G. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937), pp.43-5, Francis Dobbs, The Irish Chief or Patriot King (1773). He does not realise that he had predecessors in this class of drama, the attempts of Charles Shadwell and William Phillips seem to have passed into oblivion. He is frankly a propagandist. [43]. Also quotes Prologue: ‘The bull, the brogue, are now so common grown/That one would almost swear they were - your own.’

Peter Kavanagh, Irish Theatre (Tralee 1946), Francis Dobbs, fl.1774; The Patriot King or Irish Chief (Smock Alley 26 April 1773) publ. 1774, rejected by Drury Lane and Covent Garden; love of Ceallacan for Sitra. According to Kavanagh, ‘there is nothing national about the play’; but this is a decontextualised judgement.

Maurice Craig, The Volunteer Earl (1947), calling him a ‘curious and lovable’ character, and a ‘keeper of the Protestant conscience’.

William Smith Clark, Irish Stage in County Towns 1720-1860 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1965), writes: ‘A serious rather than a humorous view of Irish personality and aspiration led Francis Dobbs to historical tragedy in The Patriot King; or, The Irish Chief (Dublin 1773, Lisburn 1775).

Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality [ ...] (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co. 1986), cites Francis Dobbs, The Patriot King, or, the Irish Chief (1774); significantly rejected by major London theatres; performed Smock Alley (p.8, Preface); and comments that the Gaelic cause is identified with the libertarian, Patriot one (p.9); Leerssen finds the source of Dobb’s amalgam of Gaelic history and Anglo-Irish pride in Charlotte Brooke’s translations (Leerssen, p.433; see quotes Dobbs as in Quotations, infra.)

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The Irish Chief, or the Patriot King (1774), Prologue: ‘Full oft hath honest Teague been here displayed, / And many a roar have Irish blunders made; / The bull, the broague are now so common grown / That one would almost swear they were - your own. / But, lo! tonight, what you ne’er saw before, / A tragic hero from Hibernia’s shore, / Who speaks as you do both of men and things; / And talks heroics just like other kings. [...] So many lines without an Irish howl, / Without by Jasus, or upon my shoul / ’Tis strange indeed, nor may I hope belief / When I declare myself the Irish Chief.’ Text: Ceallachain [refusing to collaborate with Sitric in prison]: ‘for my country’s welfare [I] long to die.’ [Later,] ‘Come, and behold me in the dungeon’s gloom / Superior to the ills that throng me round / and learn to value what thou canst not know / Then quickly lead me to the stroke of fate / With love of country throbbing in my heart / I’ll meet the destined blow and show thee Sitrick / My life was in thy power but not my honour.’ See also remarks on Microcard edn., in Notes, infra.)

The Irish Chief (1774) [2], Prologue: ‘So many lines with an Irish howl, / Without by Jasus, or upon my showl; / ’Tis strange indeed - nor can I hope belief, / When I declare myself, the IRISH CHIEF.’ (Quoted in Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael (1986, p.9.) Further, Ceallachain [ leading a small band faced with a Danish army]: ‘What are ten thousand slaves opposed to men/Who fight for freedom, and for glory burn!’ (Leerssen, op. cit., p.33.) Ceallachain: ‘Think’st thou ... I could resign / A loyal nation to tyrannic sway? / Had you e’er felt the flame of patriot fire, / Whose purifying blaze enobles man, / and banished each base, each selfish thought, / Far from the breast wherein deigns to dwell ...’ (Quoted in Leerssen, op. cit., p.41.)

Millennium” [so-called Miltonic poem], ‘I will sing man’s happy state - and thus / Unfold what true religion doth bestow.’

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Dictionary of National Biography refers to Patriot King was published London in 1774 but not acted. See also Richard Ryan, Biographia Hibernica: Irish Worthies (1821), Vol. II, p.101-03.

D. J. O’Donoghue, The Poets of Ireland: A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912); Modern Matrimony, a poem, with The Disappointment, an elegy by the author of The Patriot King (Dublin 1773) The Patriot King or the Irish Chief, trag. in verse (Lon 1774); Poems (Dublin 1788) b. Lisburn, 1750; soldier and MP in Irish Parliament; biography and portrait in Walker’s Hibernian Magazine (June 1900) [sic; ?err. for 1800).

Stephen Brown, ed., Guide to Books in Ireland (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1912) lists The Patriot King or the Irish Chief (Smock Alley, 1774).

Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980) lists Patriot King (1773-74), ‘a tragedy in verse’.

Brian Cleeve & Anne Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1985), cites prose title in full, Memoirs of F. Dobbs Esq - also genuine report of his Speech in Parliament on the subject of an union and prediction of the second coming of the Messiah, with extracts from his poem on the Millenium (Dublin 1800).

British Biographical Archive holds notices and facs. of Thespian Dictionary (2nd edn. 1803); Gilliland, Dram. Mirror (1808); Baker, Biog. Dram. (1812); Watkins and Shoberl, A Biog. Dictionary ... of authors (1816); R. Ryan, Biog. Dict. of Worthies of Ireland (1819); W. B. S. Taylor, History of the University of Dublin (1845); O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland (1912), and Webb’s Compendium (1878), which is the first to state the birth-date, repeated in O’Donoghue 27 April, 1750.

Act of Union Virtual Library (LISCNI) contains five pamphlets incl. Speeches with Millenium and several contemporary accounts of Dobbs in the pamphlet literature of the period: 1] Lecture upon such universal commotions as pervade the world; 2] Extracts from the Millennium A poem, in four books, By Francis Dobbs , Esq. In the First Book Mr. Dobbs describes the private Guilt of the World. When Vice is at its height Messiah comes, Thrusts in the sickle, and the vintage reaps; 3] Mr. Francis Dobbs , after devoting himself to literary pursuits for some years, felt a prepossession in behalf of a military life, and resolved upon gratifying the same, he purchased an Ensigncy in the 63d regiment, in the year 1768; 4] Mr. Dobbs was one of the earliest volunteers of Ireland, that brave army of self-appointed, self-paid heroes, whole numerous services are so recent in the memory of most living people. He was appointed Lieutenant to the second Belfast company; 5] Extract: ... the volunteers of Ireland. The late Earl of Charlemont brought Mr. Dobbs into Parliament, where his patriotic conduct is so well known. His thoughts seriously delivered there on the second coming of the Messiah, are not entirely new [... &c.; link - search terms: Dobbs.]

Linenhall Library holds Genuine Report and Millenium (1800).

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The Patriot King (1774) [Wells Microcard copy]. DRAM PERS: Ceallachan, King of Munster; Sitrick, Danish King of Dublin; Stira, betrothed to Ceallachan and sister of Stira; Duncan, Ceallachan’s tribesman; Beda, Stira’s wife, secretly in love with Ceallachan; Cleones, follower of Stira; Pharon, general of Sitrick, also in love with Stira. Plot, Ceallachan comes to Dublin to marry Stira, having fallen in love while she was his prisoner; Sitrick betrays and imprisons him; he refuses to concede the kingship of Munster; Stira commits suicide with poison; Duncan and Fingal attack Dublin and defeat Sitrick; Cleones, who owes Ceallachan his life, releases him; Stira is found to be alive, Beda having substituted an innocuous potion for the poison. [For Prologue and speech by Ceallachan, see Quotations, supra.] Sitrick seeks to win Cork, Waterford, Limerick from Ceallachan by treachery. (Note also ‘Cashel[l]’s lofty towers’.) Imprisoned, Ceallachain professes himself willing to die for his country. Stira, refusing to live without him and when forcibly betrothed to Pharon, says to her brother: ‘In death I’ll show thee what it is to love’ while the Munster men, reuniting with Ceallachan, and hearing his noble intentions of freeing innocent Danes, say: ‘For such a king / Who would not fight, who would not die?’ Sitrick is ultimately slain by Fingal, an Irish hero who embraces him and leaps over ‘the precipice’ - presumably the city wall. The play ends with Ceallachan’s words: ‘Success indeed our admiration draws / But ’tis Humanity deserves applause.’ An interesting feature is the fact that the word “dauntless” is used by both the Irish and Danes in respect of each other, thus Cleones warns Sitrick of ‘those valiant dauntless tribes whom Ceallachan commands’, while in the defeat of the Danes, Duncan tells Ceallachain that each Viking killed was replaced in the fight by another ‘dauntless breast’. See also the phrase ‘patriot king’ in O’Flanagan’s translation of Mac Daire’s Advice to a Prince from Acallamh.

Peter Linebaugh notes that Thomas Russell corresponded with Francis Dobbs, ‘who opposed the Act of Union as anti-scriptural because the army of the messiah is described in Revelations as “harping on harps” and “clothed in fine linen.”’ (See Linebaugh, Peter Linebaugh, ‘“Is This the Place?”: On the Bicentennial of the Hanging of Thomas Russell’, in Counterpunch, ed. Alexander Cockburn & Jeffrey St. Clair (21 Oct. 2003) [infra].

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