Gorges Edmund Howard

Life
1715-1786 [var. George Edmund Howard]; b. Coleraine; acted as solicitor to Catholic Committee and was regarded as a Protestant champion of Catholic Emancipation; trained. under Thomas Sheridan; his plays include Almeyda, or the Rival Kings (Dublin 1769), based on Hawkworth’s Almoran and Hamlet; The Siege of Tamor (Smock Alley, April 1774), a tragedy based Viking invasion of Ireland, prob. assisted by Henry Brooke; The Female Gamester (1778), not performed; Miscellaneous Works in Prose and Verse (1782); strongly in favour of Emancipation, and received a testmonial from Catholics, though a Protestant; satirised by Robert Jephson [or perhaps helped by Jephson in satire on Faulkner]; also wrote A Candid Appeal to the Public (Dublin 1771), and Postscript; given freedom of Dublin, 1766; Howard was sympathetically involved with Charles O’Conor in the ‘discovery suit’ made against him by his renegade br. Hugh. and received subvention from the Catholic committee for an unnamed play, possibly in return. ODNB PI DIW OCIL

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Works
Christopher Wheatley & Kevin Donovan, eds., Irish Drama of the Seventeeth and Eighteenth Centuries, 2 vols. (UK: Ganesha Publishing UK 2003) [incls. The Siege of Tamor].

See also Wheatley, Beneath Ierne’s Banners: Irish Protestant Drama of the Restoration and Eighteenth century (Notre Dame UP 1999) [q.pp.].

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Commentary
G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937), p.45ff., discusses Howard’s Siege of Tamor (1773); with a prologue by Peter Seguin complaining of the absence of patriotic drama in Ireland ‘although her heroes were as bold in fight/Her swains as faithful and her nymphs as bright. ... For here alas we boast no Homer born,/No Shakespeare rose, an intellectual morn,/To lift our fame perennial and sublime/Above the dart of death and tooth of time ... But lo, a bard, a native bard, at last/Treads back the travels of the ages past.’ Theme is the Danish [Viking] invasion, the heroine Ernestha, dg. of Malsechlin (M’Laughlin), king of Leinster and Ireland; besieged in Tara by Turgesius; the traitors are Reli, Prince of Breffney, and Moran, Archb. of Dublin, the latter enraged because the primacy has been given to Siona. Turgesius demands Eernestha as a hostage-mistress, and twelve youths disguise as twelve virgins to fulfil the terms. Turgesius is slain by the hero Niall, who has previously rescued Eernestha in Dublin. The young hero is at first rumoured to be killed; and the play ends with betrothals of the lovers, ‘How they are favoured/Who dare for freedom and their country bleed.’The speeches quoted express a sense of tragic loss in the Gaelic camp, and ring with the patriotic rhetoric of Grattan’s Parliament. Duggan remarks on the greater amount of studied Celtic antiquarianism in the play and commends the writer as ‘beyond question the best writer who attempted the Irish historical drama, and its obvious reflection of the political feelings of the educated Irishman of his day makes the entire play intensely interesting.’ (ibid., p.50). The influence of Macpherson is evident. ... Do we hear the reveille note of Grattan’s eloquence in the Parliament in College Green? ‘Never, never may Ierne yield/Ne’r be a vassal to a foreign yoke: /Behold the stag that loves to haunt the desert/Freed and delighted roams he there nor hears/The hunter’s wiles ..’; the citizens cry, ‘Freedom or death. Ierne shall be free.’ [Compare plot with Hibernia Freed by William Philips, q.v.]

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Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co.: 1986), The Ossianic and gothic ‘graveyard’ influence is clearly noticeably in The Siege of Tamor (1773) by Gorge Howard. Ftn. The Author had at one time corresponded with O’Conor and worked as an attorney for the Catholic Committee (vide O’Conor to Curry, 22 Jan. 1763, in Letters, Vol. 1, p.152; O’Conor to Howard, 4 July 1763, Letters Vol. 1, pp.160-61; and also Gilbert’s History of Dublin, 1854, Vol. 2, pp.44-48. Leerssen quotes from the play (pp.38; pp.13-14 [‘Fighting for freedom, they have nobly perish’d/And liberty sheds tears upon their graves; 20; and 12), and characterises its verse-encomia of ancient Irish kings in the spirit of the modern Bolingbrokean tradition of the Patriot king as ‘Patriot, rather than loyalist, claptrap’ - e.g., O! may th’almighty arm at once o’erwhelm/This spacious isle beneath the circling main,/Its name and its memorial quite efface,/And sink it from the annals of the world,/Ere the last remnant of her free-born sons/Stretch forth their willing necks to vile subjection!’ (p.12). [429] Leerssen quotes in full Peter Seguin’s Prologue, noticed also in Kavanagh and others. The sentiments are essentially those of a Patriot antiquarian, ‘O shame! not now to feel, not now to melt/At woes, that whilom your fam’d country felt; let your swol’n breast, with kindred ardours glow!/Let your swol’n eyes, with kindred passions flow!/So shall the treasure, that alone endures,/and all the world of ancient times - be your!’ (from Prologue, Siege of Timor, Dublin 1773, pp.iii-iv) [See Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael, 1986, p.428-430.]

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References
Dictionary of National Biography remarks that he was ridiculed for worthless tragedies and occasional verse but published valuable legal works. PI calls him an architect [Chk].

Peter Kavanagh, The Irish Theatre (1946), lists Ameyda or the Rival Kings (1769), unacted, based on Hawkworth’s Almoran and Hamlet; The Siege of Tamor (Smock Alley, Apr 1774) 1773, based on 9th c. Danish wars in Ireland, with ‘sentimental regard’ for Irish chiefs (Kavanagh); poss. with help from Henry Brooke; The Female Gamester, unacted.

W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (IAP 1976; 1984), lists includes S. W. Howard, Regulus (1744) under Irish Classical Plays [110].

British Library holds Wagstaffe, Jeoffry [Robert Jephson], The Bachelor, or Speculations of J. W. by author[s?] of epistle to Gorges Edmund Howard, Esq, 2 vols. (Dublin 1769, London 1773) [listed under Miscellaneous]. Belfast Central Library holds Miscellaneous Works in Verse and Prose (1782).

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Notes
Catholic Committee: There is a letter to Howard by Charles O’Conor, regarding the latter’s circumstances in the ‘discovery suit’ - i.e., claim to the property made by a Protestant relative - brought by his younger brother Hugh; see Ward and Ward, eds., Letters (1988), with note on Howard, explaining that the publication of one of his plays (unnamed) was subsidised by the Catholic Commitee (p.423; n.1).

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