Thomas Prior


Life
1682-1751; founder of RIA; b. Rathdowney, Queen’s Co. [Offaly]; ed. Kilkenny Grammar School, with Berkeley; matric. TCD, June 1969; Schol. 1701; grad. 1703; devoted to protestant industry in Ireland; A List of Irish Absentees (1729); Observations on Coin (1730);
 
founder of Dublin Society [later RDS], in 1731; with Dr. Samuel Madden; An Authentic Narrative of the Success of Tar-water in Curing a Great Number and Variety of Distempers (1746), dedicated to Lord Chesterfield; an essay encouraging linen industry, Dublin 1749;
 

he also wrote tracts on The Absentees of Ireland; d. 21 Oct. 1751; a monument in Christ Church Cathedral bears the inscription by Bishop Berkeley, societatis Dubliniensis auctor, institutor, curator; there is a plaque at Rathdowney Church, Co. Leix (Laois), DIB ODNB FDA

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Works
  • A List of the Absentees of Ireland and the yearly value of their estates and incomes spent abroad. With observations on the present state and condition of that kingdom (Dublin: R. Gunne 1729);
  • Observations on Coin in General, with some proposals for regulating the value of coin in Ireland (Dublin 1729);
  • View of the Present State of Affairs in the Kingdom of Ireland: in three discourses [...], 3 pts. (London: for Weaver Bickerton 1730), 96; 3-32; 24pp. [see details];
  • An Essay to Encourage an Extend the Linen-manufacture in Ireland, by praemiums and other means (Dublin 1749) [Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael, 1986, bibl., p.514].

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Bibliographical details
A View of the Present State of Affairs in the Kingdom of Ireland : in three discourses, viz. I: A list of the absentees of Ireland, and the yearly value of their estates and incomes spent abroad [By Thomas Prior]; II: The present state of Ireland Consider’d, Wherein the List of the Absentees [...] is occasionally answer’d; III: A modest proposal for preventing the children of poor people from being a burthen [...; &c.] 3rd edn. (London: for Weaver Bickerton 1730), [2], [6], 96; 3-32; 24pp.; 8°.

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Criticism
Desmond Clarke, ‘Thomas Prior, 1681-1751: Founder of the Royal Dublin Society’, in Studies 40 (1951), pp.334-44; and Clarke, Thomas Prior 1681-1751 (1951).

See also W. J. McCormack’s preface to The Absentee by M. Edgeworth regarding the List of Absentees.

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Commentary
Terence de Vere White, The Anglo-Irish (London: Gollancz 1972), writes that Berkeley in Rhodes had to pay £4 postage to receive and edition of this volume to which his name had been added [2nd ed.].

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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co. 1986) [1st edn.]: Thomas Prior, with Dobbs and Madden, founded the Dublin Society for the promotion of husbandry, manufacture, science and the useful arts, in 1731 (later the RDS). He vigorously promoted Berkeley’s universal panacea in Authentick narrative of the use of tar-water (1746). Thomas Prior in List of absentees of Ireland and an estimate of the yearly value of their estates and incomes spent abroad (1st ed. 1729, rep. during the century). A similar list appeared in Anthologia Hibernica, Vol. 1. 213-220. Taxation was frequently proposed. (Leerssen, op. cit, pp.351, 355.)

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References
Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, 956, BIOG, fnd. with Samuel Madden and 11 others Dublin Soc. for Promotion of Agric., Manufact., Arts and Sciences [RDS]. Bibl., Desmond Clarke, Thomas Prior (Dublin: Three Candles 1951). FDA selects A List of the Absentees of Ireland (1730 edn.) [898-99]: ‘... An Act of Gavelkind, whereby all Estates above 500l. [for ] per annum should descend, and be divided in equal Proportion, among all the sons, as Co-heirs (with certain Reservation, in favour of those, who have Titles of Honour, of all present family Settlements, and of eldest Sons, if it should be thought adviseable) would, in a great measure, prevent much living and spending abroad, and induce all the sons to sit down on their own respective Patrimonies, and improve them.’ [FDA1 898].

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Libraries & Booksellers
Belfast Linenhall Library holds A list of absentees with a subjoined essay on the state of Ireland [I/910 Prio.]

De Burca Books (Cat. 18) lists Sir Richard Cox, Letter to Thomas Prior [on] linen-manufacture (1749).

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