John Magee

Life
1750-1809; prop. and ed. of Magee’s Weekly Packet, 1777, and Dublin Evening Post, 1779; fined for libellous articles on Francis Higgins, prop. of The Freeman, from May 1788, associating him with malfeasance in the case of Mrs. Llewellen, sentenced for procuring the 14-yr old Mary Neil for his patron Lord Carhampton; imprisoned for libel by John Scott (later Viscount Clonmell) with an unattainable bail of £7,800; revenged himself with a Grand Olympic Pig Hunt on his grounds in Blackrock; Richard Daly of Crow St. Theatre was awarded £200 in damages against Magee, prop. the Dublin Evening Post, whom he accused of libel leading to riots at the Crow Street Theatre; W. J. Fitzpatrick calls him ‘the Irish Cobbett’ [PI]. ODNB PI DIB OCIL

 

Criticism
See Sir John Gilbert, ‘Crow Street’, in History of Dublin (1854-59; IUP rep. 1972) and Brian Inglis, Freedom of the Press in Ireland (1954) and West Briton (1962).

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Commentary
Marianne Elliott
, Wolfe Tone: Prophet of Irish Independence (London & New Haven: Yale UP 1989), calls him the editor of a racy and scurrilous pro-Whig newspaper, the Dublin Evening Post, who was sued for libel by the manager of the Theatre Royal and the editor of the rival Freeman’s Journal, Francis Higgins; ‘[...] Chief Justice Earlsfort (shortly to be elevated as Lord Clonmell) set such a ridiculously high bail that Magee languished in prison for the next six months, prompting Tone’s outburst against the biased judge [...] riotous scenes at the Four Courts [...] virulent personal abuse was exchanged [in] the House of Commons [80-1]; over half of Tone’s first pamphlet [A Review of the Conduct of Administration During the last Session of Parliament, published by Byrne in March 1790], surveys the case against Magee with a competence and fluency which belies Tone’s self-professed ignorance of the law and contrasts sharply with the amateurishness of the pamphlet’s political sections (Elliott, p.84; Magee’s fate operated as a caution on Dublin printers (ibid., p.94,).

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, notes that one William Magee was prosecuted by the attorney general, William Saurin, in 1813, for his analysis of the record of the Duke of Richmond as lord lieutenant. Daniel O’Connell defended him, and made of his speech an occasion to challenge the attack on the liberal press by Pitt, and to vindicate the Irish view of history (FDA1, 941-48). Note also reference to this incident in T. W. Moody, et al., eds., New History of Ireland. However, the FDA editors seem to have mistaken the name. Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography (1988) follows Dictionary of National Biography in citing John Magee the elder and John Magee younger (who was defended by Daniel O’Connell), while William Magee, is called as the archbishop of Dublin, ed. TCD (1766-1831) in the ODNB.

The Halliday Pamphlets, Vol. 592 (RIA Library) holds The Trial of John Magee for Printing and Publishing a Slanderous and Defamatory Libel against Richard Daly, Esq., Dublin, 1790 [cited in Peter Kavanagh, Irish Theatre, 1946].

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Notes
The Sham Squire: there is an account of Magee and the Sham Squire [Francis Higgins] in Brian Inglis, West Briton (1962), stemming from the fuller account in his Freedom of the Press in Ireland (1954). SEE also Gilbert, ‘Crow Street,’, chp. in History of Dublin for fine of £500 levied against attacks on Richard Daly].

Grand Olympic Pig Hunt: A hunt of this description was organised maliciously by Magee on the land of Lord Clonmell. Acc. to the account given by Lord Cloncurry, Magee inherited a sum of money after his dealings with Clonmell and having set aside £10,000 for his family, he planned to spend the remaining £4000 on the hunt ‘with the blessings of God, on Lord Clonmell’. See in M. J. Craig, Dublin 1660-1860 (Alan Figgis 1980), p.227f., which also quotes from the diary of Lord Clonmell (John Scott) on this point.

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