Monthly Archives: July 2016

Thomas Moore: A European in the New World

On Leaving Halifax, PW Routledge 1864After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, Moore was a promising young man in need of employment. His amiability secured him the interest of Lord Moira, and it was through this connection that he was offered an administrative post in Bermuda. And so the young poet set sail from Portsmouth  to Norfolk, Virginia in September 1803, writing home whenever he could  about his adventures. Unsurprisingly, he responded to the brave new world of America as a well-educated, cultured, European. After a “boisterous crossing”, the young Irishman was touched by the “homely … and genuine civility” of Colonel Hamilton, the British consul. Moore was genuinely reassured by the presence of a harpsichord at the Hamiltons’, taking this to be a sign of “civilisation”. He relished opportunities for music-making and dancing, describing his role once he reached Bermuda as acting as the “whole orchestra” for music parties and attending balls once or twice a week. His sensibility as a cultured young man led him to pity the young women of St George’s, for although they were generally good dancers, they were so evidently untutored, being “thrown together in this secluded nook of the world, where they learn all the corruptions of human nature, without any one of its consolations or ornaments.” And Moore so valued the rare literary culture of Philadelphia that he was actively disappointed to have to leave there.

The young writer had a very profound response to the natural beauty he encountered, describing the Passaick Falls as “sweetly romantic”, the Coho Falls as “impressive”, and Niagara Falls as a “mighty flow of waters descending with calm magnificence”. This last experience was a spiritual one, as Moore “felt as if approaching the very residence of the Deity”. He was also moved by the Mohawk river, whose “immense banks” possessed a “holy magnificence”. Moore conveyed a profound respect for nature in his poetry of the time, including his “Lines Written on a Storm at Sea”:

Oh! There’s a holy calm profound

In awe like this, that ne’er was given

To pleasure’s thrill;

‘Tis as a solmen voice from heaven,

And the soul, listening to the sounds,

Lies mute on still.

While describing himself as “amused … by the novelty of [the] appearance” of the Oneida Indians, Moore was genuinely impressed with their chief, Seenando, describing him as “courteous … gentle and intelligent”. Moore’s Whig sensibilities are evident in his indignant response to the plight of the Oneida with regards to their land, which the American government had been “continually deceiving them” into surrendering. Moore’s deep appreciation of human fellowship is seen in his first success as a lyricist, the “Canadian Boat Song”– stimulated by his first experience of riding a canoe:

Faintly as tolls the evening chime,Canadian Boat Song, PW Routledge 1864

Our voices keep tune, and our oars keep time;

Soon as the woods on shore look dim,

We’ll sing at St. Ann’s our parting hymn.

Row, brother, row, the stream runs fast,

The rapids are near, and the daylight’s past.

Who is your favorite “nature poet”? Do you have a verse you would like to share on the blog?

Images courtesy of Special Collections, the McClay library, Queen’s University Belfast

Thomas Moore in Paris

This month of national natal days suggests a couple of blog posts about Moore’s reactions — both as a person and as an artist– to other nations in which he lived. He had a strong connection with France,  having lived there for the best part of four years (January 1819-November 1822), during which time Moore recorded his  impressions in his Journal. Upon arriving in Paris he secured “a little fairy suite of apartments” on the fashionable Rue Chanterine, venturing to the boulevard theatres the very next day, where he was “much amused”. Common Sense and Genius. StothardOf Spontini’s Olympie at the Paris Opera Moore declared “Nothing can be more poetically imagined than the scenery and ballet of this opera.” After hearing Rossini’s music at a ball,  Moore described it as “delicious”, the socialite in him appreciating “the ease with which all  Rossini’s lively songs and choruses may be turned into quadrilles and waltzes”. He quickly made the acquaintance of the fashionable novelist Madame de Souza-Bothello, discussing her current romance (novel) whilst it was in progress. With the arrival of wife Bessy and his brood of children, the family moved to a cottage with a garden on the Champs Elysees. Moore swiftly became part of Madame de Flahault’s social circle, singing at intimate gatherings attended by other ex-pats. By May 1820 Moore had a wide social circle that he entertained at home, al fresco with champagne under the trees when the weather permitted.  In the summer of 1820 he joined with the rest of Paris in watching various adventurers travel by hot-air balloon, including the ill-fated Mademoislle Garnerin (who was eventually lost on one such voyage).  Moore reported a new-found appreciation for “the charms of inanimate nature” on a walk from St. Cloud to Ville d’Avray (this appreciation of natural scenery certainly comes across in some of the Irish Melodies). Although he  was underwhelmed by a ball given by the Gardes du Corps at the Chateau of the Tuileries (“not so fine as a I expected”), Moore expressed complete delight with his family’s summer residence in La Butte, declaring “as far as tranquility, fine scenery, and sweet sunshine go, I could not wish to pass a more delightful summer.” He met Princesse Tallyrand at a dinner in May 1821, taking pleasure in her evident engagement with a French prose translation of his Lalla Rookh, as well as her kindness in praising the beauty of his wife; Moore’s uxoriousness was legendary, and he cheerfully reported in his Journal that an acquaintance declared “every one speaks of your conjual attention, and I assure you all Paris is disgusted with it.” The Journal records Moore’s personal impressions rather than his political views, but he tells with sympathy an  anecdote he learned of a French Royalist he met, whose young lady was arrested (and subsequently imprisoned for six months) merely for wearing a tricolore ribbon to a masked ball. Initially admiring of Napoleon (“this thunder-storm of a fellow”), Moore described his exile to St Helena as “unsportsmanlike”.  Moore was inspired by his Parisian period to write the epistolary satire, The Fudge Family in Paris, which, as Ronan Kelly notes in his Bard of Erin, has “an autobiographical ring” to certain of its details. Moore also featured no fewer than ten French Melodies in his six-volume series of National Airs (1818-1827).  Moore’s presence (through publications of his work) in Paris will be charted further through other outcomes of this project.

Common Sense and Genius.PowerAre you aware of the past-times and impressions of other visitors to Paris during the 1810s and ’20s? If so, tell us about it on the blog!

Images reproduced courtesy of Special Collections, the McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast.