George Gordon, Lord Byron was born on this day ~ January 22, 1788 ~ and he has been very much on my mind since early morning.
He was a poet who was much loved by my late mother who often quoted lines from his work. She had been introduced to him early in her life and it always gives me great pleasure to read an English composition which she wrote in 1934, when she was 13, comparing his life with that of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Here is a short extract:
Both were wonderful poets, both hated tyranny and wrote of freedom. But with such a difference! A comparison of portraits emphasises it more even that a comparison of poems. Shelley, mournful, longing for a better world, with a melancholy face and a grave outlook on life. Byron, handsome, extravagant, impulsive, thoughtless and dissipated. Of the two, I infinitely prefer Byron, both his poems and his portrait, even taking his faults into consideration.
I often wonder how many portraits of Byron Mother ever got to see and which ones.
I’ve no doubt that she had probably read all his poetry but these are the lines that she tended to quote the most:
There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar: (George Gordon, Lord Byron 1788-1824)
I just love when I come across a famous Irishman who is new to me and John Philpot Curran (1750-1817) is one of these. He was an Irish politician and judge and the most popular advocate of his day, admired for his erudite, yet passionate speeches. He was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin on this day in 1790 and he proclaimed: The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.
The statement made me think of a man I interviewed for my PhD thesis on ‘The Social Experiences of Physical Disability in Ireland.’ He had been injured in a car crash in his early twenties and was paralysed from the neck down. I often think of him saying to me that: The price of function is eternal vigilance. For him, this meant taking great care to prevent pressure sores and to keep kidney infections at bay. He said that for me it meant smiling more. I’ve tried not to forget that either!
I was reading today that Lord Byron has this to say about him in a letter to a friend:
Curran had fifty faces and twice as many when he mimics – I never met his equal … if I were a woman and a virgin, that is the man I would make my Scamander – he is quite fascinating.
On further investigation, I discover that John Philpot Curran was the father of Sarah Curran who was Robert Emmet’s sweetheart. He disapproved of the match but as father of Sarah has secured a place in Irish romantic history.
Maybe somebody somewhere can tell me much more about this intriguing character?