Grace After Dinner
A Dog's Religion
His Duel With Captain D'esterre
A Certificate Of Marriage
A Mistaken Frenchman
The Serenading Lover
A Courtier's Retort
His Defence Of Archibald Hamilton Rowan
His Reception At The Rotundo By The Volunteers
O'leary Versus Curran
His First Client
Curran At A Debating Society
His Interview With Daniel Danser
His Duel With Bully Egan
Random Irish Humour
A Mistaken Frenchman
The Monks Of The Screw
O'connell And A Snarling Attorney
His Interview With Dr Mann
Scene Between Fitzgibbon And Curran In The Irish Parliament
His Encounter With Biddy Moriarty
Irish Humour Home
One of the drollest scenes of vituperation that O'Connell ever figured
in took place in the early part of his life. Not long after he was
called to the bar, his character and peculiar talents received rapid
recognition from all who were even casually acquainted with him. His
talent for vituperative language was perceived, and by some he was, even
in those days, considered matchless as a scold.
There was, however, at that time in Dublin, a certain woman, Biddy
Moriarty, who had a huckster's stall on one of the quays nearly opposite
the Four Courts. She was a virago of the first order, very able with her
fist, and still more formidable with her tongue. From one end of Dublin
to the other she was notorious for her powers of abuse, and even in the
provinces Mrs. Moriarty's language had passed into currency. The
dictionary of Dublin slang had been considerably enlarged by her, and
her voluble impudence had almost become proverbial. Some of O'Connell's
friends, however, thought that he could beat her at the use of her own
weapons. Of this, however, he had some doubts himself, when he had
listened once or twice to some minor specimens of her Billingsgate. It
was mooted once, whether the young Kerry barrister could encounter her,
and some one of the company (in O'Connell's presence) rather too freely
ridiculed the idea of his being able to meet the famous Madam Moriarty.
O'Connell never liked the idea of being put down, and he professed his
readiness to encounter her, and even backed himself for the match. Bets
were offered and taken--it was decided that the match should come off at
The party adjourned to the huckster's stall, and there was the owner
herself, superintending the sale of her small wares--a few loungers and
ragged idlers were hanging round her stall--for Biddy was 'a character,'
and, in her way, was one of the sights of Dublin.
O'Connell was very confident of success. He had laid an ingenious plan
for overcoming her, and, with all the anxiety of an ardent
experimentalist, waited to put it into practice. He resolved to open the
attack. At this time O'Connell's own party, and the loungers about the
place, formed an audience quite sufficient to rouse Mrs. Moriarty, on
public provocation, to a due exhibition of her powers. O'Connell
commenced the attack:--
What's the price of this walking-stick, Mrs. What's-your-Name?
Moriarty, sir, is my name, and a good one it is; and what have you to
say agen it? and one-and-sixpence's the price of the stick. Troth, it's
chape as dirt--so it is.
One-and-sixpence for a walking-stick? whew! why, you are know no better
than an impostor, to ask eighteen pence for what cost you twopence.
Twopence, your grandmother! replied Mrs. Biddy: do you mane to say
that it's chating the people I am?--impostor, indeed!
Aye, impostor; and it's that I call you to your teeth, rejoined
Come cut your stick, you cantankerous jackanapes.
Keep a civil tongue in your head, you old diagonal, cried O'Connell,
Stop your jaw, you pug-nosed badger, or by this and that, cried Mrs.
Moriarty, I'll make you go quicker nor you came.
Don't be in a passion, my old radius--anger will only wrinkle your
By the hokey, if you say another word of impudence I'll tan your dirty
hide, you bastely common scrub; and sorry I'd be to soil my fists upon
Whew! boys, what a passion old Biddy is in; I protest, as I'm a
Jintleman! jintleman! the likes of you a jintleman! Wisha, by gor, that
bangs Banagher. Why, you potato-faced pippin-sneezer, when did a
Madagascar monkey like you pick enough of common Christian dacency to
hide your Kerry brogue?
Easy, now--easy, now, cried O'Connell, with imperturbable good humor,
don't choke yourself with fine language, you old whiskey-drinking
What's that you call me, you murderin' villian? roared Mrs. Moriarty,
stung to fury.
I call you, answered O'Connell, a parallelogram; and a Dublin judge
and jury will say that it's no libel to call you so!
Oh, tare-an-ouns! oh, holy Biddy! that on honest woman like me should
be called a parrybellygrum to her face. I'm none of your
parrybellygrums, you rascally gallowsbird; you cowardly, sneaking,
Oh, not you, indeed! retorted O'Connell; why, I suppose you'll deny
that you keep a hypothenuse in your house.
It's a lie for you, you dirty robber, I never had such a thing in my
house, you swindling thief.
Why, sure your neighbors all know very well that you keep not only a
hypothenuse, but that you have two diameters locked up in your garret,
and that you go out to walk with them every Sunday, you heartless old
Oh, hear that, ye saints in glory! Oh, there's bad language from a
fellow that wants to pass for a jintleman. May the divil fly away with
you, you micher from Munster, and make celery-sauce of your rotten
limbs, you mealy-mouthed tub of guts.
Ah, you can't deny the charge, you miserable submultiple of a
Go, rinse your mouth in the Liffey, you nasty tickle pitcher; after all
the bad words you speak, it ought to be filthier than your face, you
dirty chicken of Beelzebub.
Rinse your own mouth, you wicked-minded old polygon--to the deuce I
pitch you, you blustering intersection of a stinking superficies!
You saucy tinker's apprentice, if you don't cease your jaw, I'll----
But here she gasped for breath, unable to hawk up any more words, for
the last volley of O'Connell had nearly knocked the wind out of her.
While I have a tongue I'll abuse you, you most inimitable periphery.
Look at her, boys! there she stands--a convicted perpendicular in
petticoats. There's contamination in her circumference, and she
trembles with guilt down to the extremities of her corollaries. Ah!
you're found out, you rectilineal antecedent, and equiangular old
hag! 'Tis with you the devil will fly away, you porter-swiping
similitude of the bisection of a vortex!
Overwhelmed with this torrent of language, Mrs. Moriarty was silenced.
Catching up a saucepan, she was aiming at O'Connell's head, when he very
prudently made a timely retreat.
You have won the wager, O'Connell--here's your bet, cried the
gentleman who proposed the contest.
O'Connell knew well the use of sound in the vituperation, and having to
deal with an ignorant scold, determined to overcome her in volubility,
by using all the sesquipedalia verba which occur in Euclid. With
these, and a few significant epithets, and a scoffing, impudent
demeanor, he had for once imposed silence on Biddy Moriarty.
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