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Thomas Moore (1779-1852)


Irish poet, friend of Lord Byron and P.B. Shelley. Moore's writings range from lyric to satire, from prose romance to history and biography. His popular Irish Melodies was published in ten parts between 1808 and 1834. Moore was a good musician and skillful writer of songs, which he set to Irish tunes, mainly of the 18th century.

'Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone.

(from 'The Last Rose of Summer')

Thomas Moore was born in Dublin, the son of John Moore, a grocer and wine merchant, and Anastasia Codd Moore, both were Roman Catholics. Moore never varnished his background and in the poem 'Epitaph on a Tuft-Hunter' he mocked snobbery: "Heaven grant him now some noble nook / For, rest his soul! he'd rather be / Genteelly damn'd beside a Duke, / Than sav'd in vulgar company." Moore studied at Trinity College, where he was registered as a Protestant, receiving his B.A. degree in 1799. During this period he became frinds with Robert Emmet, who was later hanged for activities with the United Irishmen. Moore's first poems were published in 1793 in the Dublin periodical Anthologia Hibernica. Moore's first book, Poetical Works of the Late Thomas Little, Esq., came out in 1801.

In 1799 Moore moved to London, where he studied law at the Middle Temple. In 1803 Moore was appointed a civil officer to Bermuda, where he stayed for a year, and then returned to England after travels in the U.S. and Canada. In Epistles, Odes and Other Poems (1806), born from his journeys, Moore satirized Americans and condemned the treatment of the Native peoples and the African Americans. "To think that man, thou just and gentle God! / Should stand before thee with a tyrant's rod / O'er creatures like himself, with souls from thee, / Yet dare to boast of perfect liberty". After Francic Jeffrey, the editor of The Edinburgh Review, criticized the work for its moral tone, Moore challenged him for a duel. While waiting the pistols to be loaded they become friends. In 1813 Moore issued The Two-Penny Post-Bag, a collection of satires directed against the prince regent. He also mocked his countrymen living in Paris and the Holy Alliance of 1815, a political agreement created after the fall of the Napoleonic empire.

In 1811 Moore married the actress Elizabeth "Bessy" Dyke, whom he had met at the Kilkenny theater festival in 1808; she was fourteen at that time and eighteen months later she would be his wife. Moore acted in the farce The Lady Godiva; Or, Peeping Tom of Coventry, Elizabeth was his Lady Codiva. With his wife, who was a Protestant, he settled first in Kegworth, then Derbyshire. For a few months, Moore kept the marriage a secret from his parents. Nevertheless, their union was a happy one. Lord John Russel wrote in his introduction to Moore's memoirs that "whatever amusement he might find in society, whatever sights he might behold, whatever literary resources he might seek elsewhere, he always returned to his home with a fresh feeling of delight. The time he had been absent had always been a time of exertion and exile; his return restored him to tranquillity and peace."

Moore's songs, based on folk tunes, became very popular and gained sympathy for the Irish nationalists. Best known of them are perhaps 'The Last Rose of Summer,' written around 1805, and 'Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms,' which Moore wrote to Elizabeth after she contracted a skin disease and began to fear that he would no longer love her.

Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdant still.

(from 'Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms')

Like many other poets of the Romantic era, Moore wanted to create in his works a link between poetry and music. With Irish Melodies (1807-1834), Sacred Songs (1816-1824), and National Airs (1818-1827) Moore established his fame as a songwriter and performer. The accompaniments to the songs were arranged chiefly by Sir John Stevenson (1761–1833). In Britain Moore was considered as important writer as Byron and Sir Walter Scott.

For his widely translated Lalla-Rookh: An Oriental Romance (1817), a major landmark in Romantic orientalism, Moore was paid huge sum of £3000. It concists of four poems, with a connecting tale in prose. The central character is princess Lalla Rookh. During her journey from Delhi to Cashmere to be married to the King of Bucharia a young poet, Feramorz, tells stories. In 'The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan' the beautiful and mourning Zelica is killed by his lover Azim, whom Zelica believed to have died in a battle. In 'The Paradise and the Peri' a spirit, a peri in Persian mythology, tries to gain admission through the heaven's gates. 'The Fire-Worshippers' is also based on Persian mythology. It tells the tragic love story of young Hafed and Hinda. In 'The Light of the Harem' Nourmahal wins back the love of her husband Selim. Lalla Rookh's journey ends happily: she falls in love with the poet who turns out to be the King of Bucharia, her prospective husband. "Paradise itself were dim / And joyless, if not shared with him!"

In 1819 Moore was condemned to imprisonment because of debts – his deputy in Bermuda misappropriated £6000, and the responsibility fell on Moore himself. He left England with Lord John Russell for a visit to Italy and stayed away until the debt to the Admiralty had been paid, returning in 1822. In the next year his Loves of the Angels became notorious for its eroticism but was financially successful.

In 1824 Moore received Byron's memoirs, but according to some sources, he burned them with the publisher John Murray, presumably to protect his friend. On the other hand, Leslie Marchand claims in his biography on Byron, that it was Moore who tried to prevent Murray from burning the manuscript, and he actually tried to retrieve the pages from the fire. Later Moore used some material from the work and brought out the Letters & Journals of Lord Byron (1830-31). 

Politically, Moore was a committed liberal, who advocated the separation of Church and state, writing in A Letter to the Roman Catholics of Dublin (1810): "It would be happy, indeed, for mankind, if this line between the spiritual and the temporal had always been definitively and inviolably drawn, for the experience both of past and present proves, that the mixture of religion with this world's politics is dangerous as electrical experiments upon lightning – though the flame comes from Heaven, it can do much mischief upon earth." The Fudge Family in England (1835) was a light satire on an Irish priest turned Protestant evangelist and on the literary absurdities of the day.

Moore remained a popular writer for the rest of his life, but he was never financially secure. He nearly bankrupted himself by living with his family in old country house called Sloperton Cottage, in Wiltshire. (Parts of the great house was demolished in the mid-1950s.) Moore was awarded in 1835 a literary pension and in 1850 was awarded a Civil List pension in 1850. Moore died on February 25, 1852 in Wiltshire. The family included five children, who all died within his lifetime. His last child, Tom, died in Africa in 1845.

Moore was internationally perhaps the most successful writers of the Romantic period. In Germany his poems were praised by the critic Friedrich von Schlegel (1772-1829) and later Edgar Allan Poe said that Moore was "the most popular poet now living". By 1878, editions of Lalla Rookh had been published in French, German, Polish, Danish, Spanish and Italian. In Poland, the poet, playwright, and political activist Adam Mickiewicz translated Moore's writings. Moore is still Ireland's national poet. His statue for some reasons was raised above Dublin's largest public urinal. Yeats dismissed the Melodies as "excellent drawing-room songs, pretty with a prettiness which is the contraband of Parnassus."

For further reading: The Minstrel Boy by A.G. Strong (1937); The Life of Thomas Moore, Ireland's National Poet by Herbert O. Mackey (1951); The Harp That Once--; A Chronicle of the Life of Thomas Moore by Howard Mumford Jones (1970); Tom Moore: The Irish Poet by T. de Vere White (1977); The Last Rose of Summer: The Love Story of Tom Moore and Bessy Dyke by Margery Brady (1993); The Life and Poems of Thomas Moore by Brendan Clifford (1993); The Literary Relationship of Lord Byron and Thomas Moore by Jeffrey W Vail (2001); Ireland's Minstrel: A Life of Tom Moore: Poet, Patriot and Byron's Friend by Linda Kelly (2006); Bard of Erin: The Life of Thomas Moore by Ronan Kelly (2008)

Selected works:

  • Odes of Anacreon, Translated into English Verse, with Notes By Thomas Moore, 1800
  • Poetical Works of the Late Thomas Little, Esq., 1801
  • Songs and Glees, The Music and Words by T. Moore, 1804  
  • Epistles, Odes and Other Poems, 1806
  • A Selection of Irish Melodies, 1808-1824 (9 vols., includes ''Tis The Last Rose of Summer,' 1805)
    - 'Kesän viime kukka' (suom. Antti Törneroos, 1871); ' Kesän viimeinen ruusu' (suom. Matti Järvinen)
  • Corruption and Intolerance: Two Poems; with Notes Addressed to an Englishman by an Irishman, 1808
  • The Sceptic: A Philosophical Satire by the Author of Corruption and Intolerance, 1809
  • A Letter to the Roman Catholics of Dublin [on the subject of Catholoc Emancipation], 1810
  • M.P.; or, The Blue-Stocking: A Comic Opera, 1811
  • Intercepted Letters, or the Two-Penny Post-Bag, 1813 (under the pseudonym Thomas Brown the Younger)
  • A Series of Sacred Songs, Duetts and Triots, 1816-1824
  • Lalla-Rookh: An Oriental Romance, 1817
  • The Fudge Family in Paris, Edited by Thomas Brown, the Younger, 1818 (under the pseudonym Thomas Brown the Younger)
  • A Selection of Popular National Airs, 1820-28
  • Irish Melodies, and a Melologue upon National Music, 1820
  • Fables for the Holy Alliance, Rhymes on the Road, &c. &c., 1823  
  • The Loves of the Angels: A Poem, 1823
  • Memoirs of Captain Rock, 1824
  • Memoirs of the Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Collected by Thomas Moore, etc., 1825
  • Evenings in Greece, 1825
  • The Epicurean: A Tale, 1827
  • Odes upon Cash, Corn, Catholics, and Other Matters. Selected from the Columns of the Times Journal, 1828  
  • Letters & Journals of Lord Byron, 1830-31
  • The life and death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, 1831
  • Travels of an Irish Gentleman in Search of a Religion, 1833 (2 vols.)
  • Irish Melodies, 1834 (the twelfth edition)
  • The Fudges in England; Being a Sequel to the “Fudge Family in Paris”, 1835
  • The History of Ireland, 1835-40
  • The Poetical Works of Thomas Moore, 1840-41 (10 vols.)  
  • Memoirs, Journals, and Correspondence, 1853-56 (8 vols., edited by Lord John Russell)
  • Lyrics and Satires from Tom Moore, 1929
  • Tom Moore's Diary: A Selection, 1933 (edited, with an introduction, by J. B. Priestley) 
  • Tom Moore’s Bermuda Poems and Notes, 1956 (with comment by William Zuill)
  • Journal, 1818-1841, 1964 (rev. ed., edited by Peter Quennell)
  • The Letters of Thomas Moore, 1964 (2 vols., edited by Wilfred S. Dowden)
  • The Journal of Thomas Moore, 1818-1841, 1964 (ed. by Peter Quennell)
  • The Poetical Works of Thomas Moore, 1979 (edited by A. D. Godley)
  • The Journal of Thomas Moore, 1983-91 (6 vols., edited by Wilfred S. Dowden, associate editors, Barbara Bartholomew, Joy L. Linsley)
  • Moore’s Irish Melodies: The Illustrated 1846 Edition, 2000 (illustrated by Daniel Maclise)

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