Please note that some of the correspondence is between individuals other than Charlemont.
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Charlemont writes about the major events of the day, his building schemes in Dublin, at Marino and at Charlemont House, and his domestic affairs and his financial affairs. The first three hundred letters were collated in three volumes by Rev. Edward Groves in The remaining thousand were arranged in ten further volumes by John P. Prendergast in — they had only come to light in There are two further volumes of letters, from Charlemont to his friend, the eminent physician, Dr Alexander Henry Haliday of Belfast, covering the period Haliday was the first Secretary of the Northern Whig Club and had become acquainted with Charlemont when he came to Belfast to conduct reviews of the Irish Volunteers.
A duplicate set of the Haliday correspondence is also held. Selected items from the two main series of letters were edited by John T. James Caulfeild is also remembered for the Account of his political life MS 12 R 7 addressed to his three sons, which includes an essay on the plague at Messina, anecdotes of David Hume with whom Charlemont had become friends at Turin, and observations on a storm at sea between Rhodes and Malta. The Account covers the period and treats extensively of affairs in Ireland, in particular the conditions which gave rise to the Volunteer movement in which Charlemont, as Commander-in-Chief, was to play a major role.
Two further manuscripts MSS 12 R 5,6 have been published, albeit in abridged form. Their importance as documentary records lies in the fact that few westerners had visited the Greek islands and Turkey and recorded their unbiased observations. This Charlemont did with refreshing open-mindedness and candour, recording not only the places he visited but leaving a memorable record of the local people, from government officials to village folk. His accounts of the escapades of himself and his companions, Francis Pierpoint Burton, later Baron Conyngham, and Alexander Scott, are humorous, while he treats the recording of sites of archaeological importance with due deference.
Charlemont was the first person in modern times to describe the temple of Aphrodite at Cnidos and the first to identify Bodrum as the site of Halicarnassus. The Essays portray the author as fun loving, yet scholarly, and an acute observer of human nature. He returned to them throughout the course of his life, annotating them and finally publishing some papers based on parts of his Greek essay and his classical research in Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy. The remaining four manuscripts are literary in content. The first, Translations and imitations from sonnets and epigrams, Italian, French, Latin and Greek, includes the original versions of some of the translations and explanations and commentaries on these.
The next three form a set, An essay towards the history of Italian poetry, attempted in translated specimens of the noted classical poets from Dante to Metastasio. Throughout the three volumes Charlemont comments on the texts, be they passages from the Inferno or seventeenth-century sonnets. His commentaries are scholarly yet redolent of his sensitivity to the human condition. Little did that worthy gentleman, and most undesigning statesman, imagine that any part of his correspondence should give rise to hosts of armed citizens, self-paid, self-commissioned, which not only protected, but, for some years, spread a glory round Ireland, astonished England, and, there is much reason to believe, obliged France to pause in the midst of some of her ambitious projects.
But if the presumption of man was not too untameable to be awed by any lesson whatever, an event like this might teach nations that, in in the hands of Providence, the slightest instruments are productive of the greatest changes; and that selfishness and injustice will eventually destroy their own objects. An embargo had, in conjunction with other causes, reduced the export, and more especially the provision trade of Ireland.
As the South languished under that embargo, so did the North under the pressure of the American war, which, as far as it could commercially operate here, desolated the linen trade, and, with the falling off of whatever meagre supports it had, fell also the revenue.
The reduction of the former produced a general discontent, and of the latter, an inability to pay for the necessary defence of the kingdom. In this state of things, the town of Belfast, which eighteen years before had been visited by invasion, applied to government for protection against the enemy who then menaced it with peculiar danger. Sir Richard Heron's answer was plain and candid--government could afford it none.
The Charlemont Manuscript Collection
To the many suggestions idle, as they only produced irritation , of the illegality of the Volunteer army, this letter might, perhaps, be opposed as a substantial answer. Government was, as to national defence, abdicated, and the people left to take care of themselves. But if thus abandoned, their spirit soon supplied the defects and imbecility of administration. Antrim, and the adjacent counties, poured forth their armed citizens. The town of Armagh raised a body of men, at the head of whom Lord Charlemont placed himself. Every day beheld the institution expand--a noble ardour was almost every where diffused, and where it was not felt, it was at least imitated.
Several, who had at first stood aloof, now became volunteers from necessity, from fashion. No landlord could meet his tenants, nor member of parliament his constituents, who was not willing to serve and act with his armed countrymen. The "spirit-stirring drum" was heard through every province, not "to fright the isle from its propriety," but to animate its inhabitants to the most sacred of all duties, the defence of their liberties and their country.
At this time commenced the most active part of Lord Charlemont's life. That man must be cold-blooded indeed who can look back to those days without a lively enthusiasm, and becoming elevation of mind. We allude more particularly to the years , and , when trade revived, the volunteer army became disciplined, and a general harmony prevailed throughout Ireland. They may be regarded as the brightest which this country ever beheld. Early in the year began the acquaintance of Lord Charlemont with Dr.
Halliday, an eminent physician of Belfast, which afterwards improved into the most ardent friendship on both sides, and only ceased with Lord Charlemont's life. We will pass over in silence the history of the conventions, and of the transactions of , an epoch in Irish history, which a modern writer, borrowing a fine illustration from the sacred volume, which we confess the dignity of the subject seems to us hardly to warrant, splendidly describes, as "that memorable period when the Irish Parliament, in the very grave of its corruption, heard the sacred voice of Liberty saying, 'Come forth;' and the same warning voice said to England, 'Loose him, and let him go.
Shortly afterwards the King, having determined to create a new order of Knighthood in Ireland, to be styled the Knights of St. Patrick, Lord Temple, the then Viceroy, wrote to Lord Charlemont, in the most complimentary terms, alluding to his public services, and requesting his permission to place his name on the list then being prepared, in pursuance of his Majesty's commands. Lord Charlemont, with many expressions of thanks, accepted the honour so kindly and justly proposed to him.
The Travels of Thomas Shaw, Charles Perry and Richard Pococke
In the beginning of the following year, the installation took place, and was conducted with great magnificence. Immense crowds attended the procession of the knights from the castle to the cathedral, and Lord Charlemont, as he passed along, was received with applause and acclamation by all ranks of people. Early in , Lord Charlemont was placed in a situation as new as it was agreeable to him. He was elected President of that learned body, the Royal Irish Academy, then incorporated under the auspices of his Majesty.
When this honour was conferred on Lord Charlemont, he did not regard it as a mere honorary distinction, to add another title to the solemn enumeration of his dignities at the Herald's office, and nothing to literature. Not one of the members attended the meetings of the Academy oftener than he did; few so constantly.
His contemporary Academicians were delighted with his urbanity, the graces of his conversation, and the variety of literary anecdote ancient and modern, with which he amused, and indeed instructed them, during the intervals of their agreeable labours at the academy. In such labours, he himself bore no inglorious part. The greater portion of Lord Charlemont's life was now spent either at the house he had built in Palace Row, or at his elegant villa near Dublin, which he had called Marino, from its proximity to the sea, in the enjoyment of the society of his friends, or engaged in literary occupations.
His house was uniformly open to all who had any claim on his attention, either from similarity of constitutional principles, or their cultivation of those pleasing and liberal studies, which in general employed his mind, and were his most agreeable, though too often only momentary refuge from severer labours. Every foreigner of taste congenial to his own, and every Englishman of rank and talent, who visited Dublin, made it a point to be introduced to him. As Edmund Burke once said of him, "he was indeed a man of such polished manners, of a mind so truly adorned, and disposed to the adoption of whatever was excellent and praiseworthy, that to see and converse with him should alone induce any one who relished such qualities, to pay a visit to Dublin.
About this time, an event occurred which afterwards proved to be fraught with consequences of the deepest concernment to Ireland; it in fact led to the removal of the legislature from this country to England. We allude to the malady with which the King became afflicted, and by which the personal exercise of the royal authority being interrupted, it was deemed necessary to provide for the exigency.
A motion having been brought forward by Mr. Pitt, in the British House of Commons, that a committee should be appointed to report precedents of proceedings in such cases, it was objected to by Mr. Fox, as only tending to create delay; who further urged, that the Heir-apparent to the Crown was clearly entitled, during the suspension of the exercise of the royal authority from incapacity, to the exercise of the kingly power during such incapacity, as much as if the Crown had naturally demised. This position Mr. Pitt utterly denied, and in a lofty tone declared, that "to advance such a claim or right in the Prince, or any one, without the concurrence of both houses of parliament, was a species of treason to the constitution.
In the proceedings in the Irish parliament, Lord Charlemont took a most conspicuous and honourable part. The meeting of the legislature was deferred as long as possible, and every effort was made to secure a majority for Government, but in vain. Most of the members who had always voted with opposition, and many, who, on this occasion, left the Viceroy, proposed to Lord Charlemont to call a general meeting of such as were adverse to the proceedings in the British parliament.
A large party therefore of the members of both houses met at Charlemont-house, on the 23d of February, In two days after, the session opened; when it was quickly found there was a preponderance against administration, as well in the Lords as in the Commons. In the House of Lords an address to the Prince of Wales was moved by Lord Charlemont, supported by the Duke of Leinster, Lord Granard, Lord Moira, Lord Donoughmore, and other Peers, requesting his Royal Highness to take upon himself the government of Ireland, with the style and title of Prince Regent, and in the name and behalf of his Majesty, to exercise all regal powers during his Majesty's indisposition, and no longer.
Both houses now waited on Lord Buckingham, with their address to the Prince, which his Excellency refused to transmit. The consequence of this refusal for which a vote of censure on the Lord Lieutenant passed both houses was, that the Commons appointed four of their members, and the Lords two of theirs, the Duke of Leinster, and Lord Charlemont, to proceed to England with the addresses.
These proceedings terminated more happily than had been anticipated, by the restoration of the Sovereign to perfect health. The deputation, nevertheless, was received most graciously by the Prince, who particularly distinguished our good and venerable Earl.
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On his return to Ireland, the health of Lord Charlemont began to fail considerably, he was now of rather advanced age, and his constitution had never at any time been very robust; he, nevertheless, continued to lead an active life, not only as a member of the legislature, but in forming the Whig club, which was established about this time, at whose meetings he often presided, and of which when his health permitted, he was the life and ornament. It consisted of the leading members of the opposition in both houses of parliament, with the addition of many gentlemen who were not in parliament, nor belonged to any party, but that of the constitution.
At the same time, he was no less assiduous in forming the literary than the political character of his country; he attended constantly the meetings of the Irish Academy. In the stormy debates of the House of Commons, in the session of , Lord Charlemont took a deep interest, and spent so much more of his time in the lower house than in the upper, that it was said he should have been admitted ad eundem in the former assembly. It is true he never omitted his attendance in the Lords, but appeals constituted, at this time, the principal business of their Lordships.
Soon after this, the Bath waters being recommended as beneficial to the health of some of his Lordship's family, he prepared, at the close of April, to go there. The journey was undertaken by him with cheerfulness. At Bath Lord Charlemont remained for nearly six months; and then returned to Ireland to resume his usual avocations.
We find him during the succeeding years at his post in Parliament, though his health continued to decline. We have no particular event to record about this time, except a melancholy one, the death of his second son, James Caulfield, a fine youth of seventeen years of age, who died in September, His loss was long severely felt by his father. In , the Government having determined to raise yeomanry corps throughout the kingdom for the internal protection of the country in case of emergency, infirm as Lord Charlemont was, he went down to his own county of Armagh, where he was of essential service in promoting this object.
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Upon the dissolution of Parliament in July , the venerable Earl had the pleasure of seeing his eldest son, Lord Caulfield, elected for the county of Armagh, with the entire approbation and applause of those concerned in the election. Such marks of the esteem and affection of the people for himself and his family were always dear to him. The debate in which Lord Caulfield spoke for the first time, was on a motion of Sir Laurence Parsons March 5th for an inquiry into the state of the nation, and to suggest such measures as were likely to conciliate the people.
Lord Caulfield was listened to with peculiar attention on both sides. He spoke with sound sense. Lord Charlemont happened to be present, and could not conceal his emotions. In writing to Dr. Halliday he thus mentions the occurrence; "You will see in the papers that Frank has broken the ice; an effort which gives me the more pleasure, as I feared that the sheepishness of the father might have been entailed on the son. For his first essay he was not deficient in matter, nor in manner; and he showed a bashfulness which indicates that sensibility without which no man ever yet succeeded as a speaker.
In the beginning of , the health of Lord Charlemont began rapidly to sink, he was now subject to continued indisposition, daily sinking under his disorder, but still anxiously employed for the welfare of that country which he so truly loved. His friends saw him constantly, but saw him on every visit with augmented and sometimes ill-concealed sorrow. His fondness for literature remained the same to the last.
But his valuable life now drew rapidly to a close. He had attended constantly in the House of Lords during the discussion of the question of Union, and the first temporary defeat of that measure had given him some transient spirits; but his health declined every hour, his appetite had almost ceased, his limbs swelled, and it was evident to his family and his friends, that he could not long survive. He was visited in his last illness by his numerous acquaintances, till his strength becoming more and more exhausted, rendered him incapable of seeing but very few.