Charles Henry Wilson (?1756-1808)

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
[Charles Henry Wilson of the Inner Temple on sundry title-pages]; b. Bailieborough, Co. Cavan, son of Protestant minister; ed. TCD; Middle Temple, London; parliamentary reporter; issued also compilations, A Compleat Collection of the Resolutions of the Volunteers [...] (Dublin 1782), and later anonymously published Poems Translated from the Irish Language into the English (1782), which includes three songs by Donnchadh Macantsaoir in Scots Gaelic, set in Roman type, with one translation (“An teagas rioghdha” by Séamus MacCuarta) and “Pléaraca na Ruarcach”;
 
moved to London in pursuit of literary fame after 1782 but possibly as late as 1791; there issued a comedy, Poverty and Wealth (1799) and edited works Beauties of Edmund Burke, 2 vols. (London 1798), Swiftiana (1804), and and Brookiana (London [1804]), being papers of Henry Brooke; The Irish Valet (1811), published posthumously, deals with the ‘whimsical adventures’ of Paddy O’Haloran [sic] and contains a memoir of the author; he is the object of grateful mention in the Introduction to Charlotte Brooke’s Reliques d. 12 May. RAF FDA PI

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Works
  • A Compleat Collection of the Resolutions of the Volunteers, Grand Juries, &c. of Ireland, which followed the Celebrated Resolves of the First Dungannon Diet: To which is prefixed a Train of Historical Facts relative to the Kingdom, from the invasion of Henry II [ ...] with the History of Volunteering [... &c.], Vol. I. (Dublin: Joseph Hill 1782), [4], clxiv, 281, [3]pp., 1 pl., port., 8vo.;
  • Poems Translated from the Irish Language into the English (Dublin: Joseph Hill 1782), 48pp., 4o.;
  • Plays, Poverty and Wealth (1799);
  • The Beauties of the late Right Hon. Edmund Burke, selected from the writings, &c. of that Extraordinary Man [ ...] To which is prefixed a Sketch of the Life, with some original anecdotes of Mr. Burke, 2 vols. (London: Printed by W. J. Myers; sold by W. West 1798), 8o.;
  • [Anon.,] The Polyanthea; or, A Collection of Interesting Fragments, in prose and verse: consisting of original anecdotes, biographical sketches, dialogues, letters, characters, &c., 2 vols (London: [for] J. Budd 1804), 8vo., and Do. [rep. edns.], as Anecdotes of Eminent Persons (London:S. Gosnell 1804, 1813);
  • ed., Swiftiana, 2 vols. in 1 (London: R. Phillips 1804) [incls. life of Jonathan Swift and a letter by Theophilus Swift];
  • ed., Brookiana: a memoir of Henry Brooke with anecdotes, correspondence and a selection from his writings, 2 vols. (London: Lewis & Roden [for Richard Phillips] 1804), 8o.;
  • The Irish Valet: or, Whimsical adventures of Paddy O'Haloran: Who after being servant to several masters, became master of many servants [ ...] To which is prefixed the life of the author (London: M. Allen 1811), xxiv, [3]-192pp.
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Bibliographical details
Poems translated from the Irish language into the English. By C. H. Wilson. (Dublin: Printed by Joseph Hill 1782). [Price one shilling.] 50 pp. CONTENTS: Title page [1]. blank [2]. verse dedication “To the right honourable Lord Rawdon” [3]-6. “Tuireadh Phegidh Dein” [7]-10; “Translation of the foregoing” [11]-14. “The Fregur” [15]-39 [entirely in English, with the following footnote on the title:] “This Elagiac [sic] Tale is found in the Icelandic, as well as in the Irish; the latter is in the possession of the Right Hon. Lady Moira: such images and incidents as appear [handwritten addition ‘ed’] most striking in both, are attempted here.’ “Plearaca na Ruarach” [40]-44. [Translation of same:] “The Feast of O’Rourke” [45]-50. (See extracts under Quotations, infra.)

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Criticism

  • Seamus Ua Casaide [reference to Poems in Irish ... &c.], in ‘Some Missing Books’, The Irish Book Lover (Oct. 1909), p.34 [see extract]:
  • Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP [1943] 1959), pp.105-07;
See also ...
  • Robert Welch, A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988), pp.25-26;
    J. Theo. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (Rodopi 1986) [for frequent remarks on his relation to the Brooke family; as given here under Henry Brooke, q.v., and Charlotte Brooke q.v.];
  • Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), p.99.

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Commentary
W. H. Grattan Flood: Flood writes from Enniscorthy to inform ‘[his] friend Seamus ua Casaide’ that the correct year of publication for Charles Wilson’s Irish Poems with English Translations was 1782 - not 1792 as suggested by Ua Casaide in No. III of Irish Book Lover - adding that there as a reference confirming this in Joseph Cooper Walker’s Irish Bards (1786) and also that Sir Walter Scott knew Wilson’s verses, as he shows by quoting his version of [O’]Carolan’s song in praise of O’Rourke in his edition of Swift’s works. (See “Post Bag”, in The Irish Book Lover, Feb. 1910, p.90.)

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Seamus Ó Casaide, ‘Some Missing Books’, The Irish Book Lover (Oct. 1909), makes reference to Charles Wilson, Poems in Irish with English Translations, 4°., Dublin 1782 [or 1792], and remarks: ‘The author was a brilliant young Irishman who went to London to make his fortune by literary work and “went under”. His work is referred to by O’Daly, O’Reilly, Hardiman, and Drummond.’ (IBL, Oct. 1909, p.34.) [See seq.]

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Seamus Ó Casaide, ‘A Rare Book of Irish and Scottish Gaelic Verse,’ in The Bibl. Soc. of Irel. Publ. Vol. III, No. 6 (1928), pp.59-70: C. H. Wilson, b. Bailieborough, N. Ireland, publ. Poems translated from the Irish language into the English (1782), 48pp., quarto, ded. Lord Rawdon, and containing song “Tuireadh Phegigh Dein”, [with] another prose trans. of work by Carroll O’Daly, and ‘Plearaca na Ruarcach’. In The Wandering Islander, or the History of Mr Charles North, 1792; other works known to be by him appeared in 1798, 1799, 1802, 1804, 1808, 1809, and 1811; while Walker’s reference to Swift’s trans. in Memoirs mentions that ‘a faithful translation of Plearaca na Ruarcach has since been published by Charles Wilson, a neglected genius now struggling with adversity in London’; a further reference in Walker to his Irish Poems, 1782, places the date of his removal to London between 1782 and 1786, but Hardiman put it at 1791. Hardiman writes – or quotes – to the effect that in the year 1792 a translation was published by Wilson who afterwards ‘repaired to that great theatre of Irish talent and Irish disappointment, London, where, in essaying “– To climb /The steep where Fame’s proud temple shines afar”, He sunk, like most of his countrymen, unnoticed and unknown.’ There is also a footnote in William H. Drummond, Ancient Irish Minstrelsy (1852), attached to remarks on Charlotte Brooke, regarding Wilson, ‘an unfortunate[ly] neglected Irish genius’, who published a few songs in Irish. [For an alternative reading, see TCD Notes, infra.]

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Russell K. Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798 (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP [1943] 1959): In his edition of Swift (London 1814; 2nd edn., 19 vols., Boston 1883), Sir Walter Scott refers to Wilson’s Poems Translated from the Irish Language into the English (London 1782),writing of ‘Mr Charles Wilson, who published Irish poems in 1782, from whose scarce and forgotten, though very curious collection, I have transferred the original words [of O’Rourke’s Feast]’. Scott copied in his edition of the Swift four lines from Pléaraca na Ruarach that Swift did not translate, here translated by Charles Henry Wilson, ‘Here’s to you, dear mother./I thank you, dear Pat;/Pitch this down your throat./I’m the better for that.’ (Scott, ed., Swift, 2nd edn., XIV, p.133; . Alspach, 1959, p.105.) Alspach notes that no copy of Wilson’s book is available for examination (p.105; but see infra); also cites reference to Wilson’s translation in Irish Bards, ‘A faithful poetic translation of Pleraca na Ruarcach has since been published by Charles Wilson, a neglected genius, how struggling with adversity in London’ (Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards, London 1786, p.81; Alspach, 105-06); Alspach remarks ‘Ode to Drunkenness’, a further example of Wilson’s work in Hardiman’s Irish Minstrelsy, regarding the author of which Hardiman wrote: ‘In the year 1762, a translation was published by Charles Wilson, a youth of promising genius, who, afterwards repaired to [...] London; where [...] he sunk [...] unnoticed and unknown.’ (Irish Minstrelsy, I, p.179; Alspach, p.106); also notes remarks of Nicholas Kearney in Transactions of the Ossianic Society, Vol. 1 (1854), referring to ‘a small quarto volume of Ossianic poetry in 1780 ...’ (Transactions, 1854, p.10.)

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Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English: The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. I, remarks that Charlotte Brooke (of Reliques, 1789) was the first to have learned [the] value [of Irish literature]; probably had a predecessor in Charles-Henry Wilson, ed. of Brookiana in 1804, whose two undated anthologies are hypothetically placed by Seamus Ó Casaidhe, the one in 1782 (Poems translated from the Irish language) and the other in 1790 or 1792 (Select Irish Poems translated into English). Bibl., Ó Casaide [sic], ‘A Rare Book of Irish and Scottish Gaelic Verse’, Vol. III, no. 6 of The Bibliographical Society of Ireland Publications (1928), pp.59-70 [Rafroidi, p.168; see Ó Casaidhe [as Ó Casaide], op. cit., supra.]

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Quotations
(Very) Young Charms: At twelve years old I felt thy charms, / The very name my bosom warms; / Wed to thy sweets, I cannot rove, / And age thy beauties will improve.’ / Oh! with thee blest beneath the shade, / In vain dull cares my breast invade;/ [...] Deprived of thee, the rich are poor; / And who is poor of thee possest, / Thou dearest soother of the breast? / [...] What nymph with thee, say, can compare? / Thy stream, the ringlet of her hair; / Thy crystal ray, what eye so bright? / Transparent azure ting'd with light.’ (Hardiman, ed., Irish Minstrelsy, Vol. I, p.172; cited in Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry, 1959, p.106.)

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Poems translated from the Irish language into the English (1782): [from the opening of the translation of Tuireadh Phegidg Dein]: “SCENE near GALWAY. / Now slept the breezes of night on the moon shattered waves, while the kindling azure proclaimed the quick approach of rosy morn, which invited my steps to the margin of the sea, the softness of whose murmers soothed my ear; while a ship at a distance, stately as a swan on the rising surge, caught my eye, the swelling sail courted the passing breeze, and quickly reached the pebbled shore; her laiding [sic] precious held the attentive sight; the richest silks of Greece in folds loose floating rose, or sinking from each various die [sic] that woofs the fluid bow; with precious stones that thirsty seeming drank the light; but soon my wandering soul was fixed on one fair female issuing from the bark; milder than spring descending on the plain; behind her flowed a snowy train of virgins bright, in gentle movements and in air divine; but she the rest as far out-shone as Hesper does her twinkling train […].”

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Poems translated from the Irish language into the English (1782) - cont.: The opening of “The Feast of O’Rourke” [Plearaca]: ‘O’Rourke’s revel rout, / Let no person forget; / Who have been, who will be, / Or never was yet. / See seven score hogs / In the morning we slay, / With bullocks and sheep / For the feasting each day: / Hundred pails Usquebaugh, / Drank in madders like wort; / In the morning we rise, / And with us was the sport.’ [See also Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 1991, Vol. 1, p.306, for contents of pp.49-50.

Note: The foregoing description of the volume has been supplied from a microfilm copy held in Columbia Univ. Library. Donovan adds: ‘[…] the pattern of signatures is strange: every two leaves begin a new signature, with the tp unsigned, p.[3] signed A, p.[7] B, &c., the pattern continuing regularly except that E is missigned F (with F repeated on the expected page) and p.49 unsigned rather than being signed N.’ [Query Donovan = John O’Donovan?.]

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References
D. J. O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland (Dublin: Hodges Figgis 1912), lists Irish Poems (London 1782); Poverty and Wealth, com. in five acts, trans. from Danish (1799); The Irish Valet (London 1811) [anon.]; as well as collection of songs, The Myrtle and the Vine (4 vols. London 1802); also anonymous. compiler of Brookiana (2 vols. 11798); also Beauties of Edmund Burke (2 vols. London 1798); wrote ‘Resolutions of the Irish Volunteers’ and some tales [a couple]. Biog. as in Life, supra. O’Donoghue points out Hardiman’s error (‘evidently a mistake’) about some translations from Gaelic in 1792 [sic] (Vol. 1, pp.171-72) - but not necessarily so; also The Wandering Islander, presumably a romance, and ed. Polyanthea, collection of verse and prose; d. 12 May 1808, aetat. 50;. [See also Henry Brooke, supra, and Charlotte Brooke, supra.]

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Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, Collected Essays, ed. Gerard O’Brien (Dublin: Geography Publ. 1989), cites also A Complete Celebration [sic] of the Resolutions of the Volunteers, Grand Juries, &c. [ ...] which followed the First Dungannon Diet (Dublin 1782).

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, selects A Compleat Collection of the Resolutions &c., 917-18; BIOG 957.

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Library Catalogues
British Library holds The Beauties of the late Right Hon. Edmund Burke, selected from the writings, &c. of that extraordinary man ... To which is prefixed a sketch of the life, with some original anecdotes of Mr. Burke. [By Charles H. Wilson]; Brookiana: A collection of anecdotes illustrative of the life and opinions of Henry Brooke. With a portrait, and quotations from his writings 2 vol. (London: Richard Phillips 1804), 8o.

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TCD Library Cat., Notes on Translated from the Irish Language: see S. O Casaide, A rare book of Irish and Scottish Gaelic verse, in Bibliographical Society of Ireland, [papers], 3 (1928), pp.59-67; these include 3 songs in Scots Gaelic by Donnchadh Macantsaoir, with one translation, An teagas rioghdha, a poem by Séamus MacCuarta, and Pléaraca na Ruarcach, attributed to Hugh MacGauran (i.e. A. MacSamhradháin) by Walker, with translation Paper: watermarked. The Printer is identified as xxx by the broken upper case L also used in A compleat collection of the resolutions of the volunteers (Dublin: printed by Joseph Hill 1782); the Irish is set in Roman type.

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Columbia Univ. Library: Poems Translated from the Irish Language into the English (Dublin: Joseph Hill 1782), [50pp.], although unlisted in English Short Title Catalogue. (Information supplied by Kevin Donovan @ English Department, Middle Tennessee State University, P.O. Box 401, Murfreesboro, TN 37132; tel 01-615-898-5898 [07.06.02]; email.)

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Notes
J. C. Walker
(1) identifies the author of Poems from Irish (1902) as C. H. Wilson in a footnote of Historical memoirs of the Irish bards (Dublin 1786), p.81 [Appendix], viz., ‘See his Irish poems, published in the year 1782’. (Notes in TCD Online Cat.)

J. C. Walker (2) ascribed “Pléaraca na Ruarcach” to Hugh MacGauran [Aodh MacSamhradháin] while attributing the whole volume to Wilson himself. [Q. source.]

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Namesake: Charles Henry Wilson, a near-contemporary namesake, issued The wanderer in America; or, Truth at home: comprising a statement of observations and facts relative to the United States & Canada, North America; the result of an extensive personal tour, and from sources of information the most authentic; including soil, climate, manners & customs of its civilised inhabitants & Indians, anecdotes, &c. of distinguished characters (Thirsk: H. Masterman [for the Author] 1822), and another work with William Dyce (1806-1864), Letter to Lord Meadowbank, and the committee of the Honourable Board of Trustees for the encouragement of arts and manufactures: on the best means of ameliorating the arts and manufactures of Scotland in point of taste ((Edinburgh: T. Constable 1837).

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