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The Closing Scenes Of His Life

Irish Humour Home






The disturbances, says his biographer, by which Ireland was convulsed
in 1798 pained O'Leary's mind. The efforts made by the tools of a base
faction, to give the tinge of religious fanaticism to the political
distractions of that country, excited his indignation; and, as his name
had been wantonly and insultingly introduced by Sir Richard Musgrave, in
his libellous compilation on the Irish Rebellions, he entertained the
notion of publishing a refutation of the calumnies which had been so
industriously circulated against the Catholics, not only in that
scandalous work, but likewise in various other historical essays at that
time. For this purpose O'Leary had prepared some very valuable
manuscript collections: he looked back to the history of the earlier
periods of the English rule in Ireland; and from his friends in various
parts of that kingdom he procured authentic details of the
insurrectionary disturbances: impartiality was his object; and he left
no means untried to collect the most voluminous and exact account of
every circumstance connected with, or immediately arising out of, the
rebellion, the history of which he ultimately declared it his design to
publish.

The progress of disease, and the rapidly increasing infirmities of old
age, hindered the fulfilment of O'Leary's wishes: he was unable to
proceed into any part of the task of composition, but he was relieved
from anxiety by the fortunate circumstance of his intimacy with Francis
Plowden Esq., whose historical review of Ireland, and whose subsequent
publication in defence of that country, have raised him to a rank
amongst historians, honorably and deservedly conspicuous. When O'Leary
learned that his friend was engaged, at the desire of Mr. Pitt, in
writing the 'Historical Review,' he sent him his invaluable collections,
as affording the best and most authentic materials for the recent
history of Ireland; and the manner in which the documents, thus
furnished, were applied to the purposes of truth, must have given
gratification to O'Leary's mind, had he lived long enough to witness
this successful vindication of his country and religion. His descent to
the grave was too rapid to afford him that pleasure; and it was not
till it had closed over his remains, that the world was gratified with
the best and most authentic work ever published on the political history
of Ireland.

We approach now to the last scene of O'Leary's busy life; and it is one
which, like too many others, preaches to mankind the necessity of being
always prepared for the unrevealed hour that shall terminate mortal
existence.

Towards the end of the year 1801, ill health shed a gloom over his
mind, to which the consciousness of approaching dissolution gave
facilities and permanency. His contests with bad men had been frequent;
and the frailties and follies of the world, and the instability of
human friendship, which he had often experienced, haunted his mind at
this time to a degree that was painful for those who loved and revered
him, to witness. His medical friends tried the resources of their
professional skill for the alleviation of his disease in vain; and as a
last prescription, they recommended to him a short residence in the
south of France, as calculated, if any thing could, to revive his
spirits and restore his health. Agreeably to this advice, in company
with Mr. M'Grath, a medical friend, to whose kindness he was much
indebted, he proceeded to France; but his hopes of relief were
disappointed, and he shortly determined on returning to London. The
state in which he found society in France--so different from what it had
been, when he first visited 'the lovely, fertile south,' shocked him;
and he uttered his opinion of the change which he witnessed, by saying,
emphatically, 'that there was not now a gentleman in all France.'

His arrival in London was on the 7th of January, 1802. It was his
intention to have landed at Dover; but tempestuous weather compelled the
vessel in which he was to land at Ramsgate. The effects of this voyage
tended to hasten his death, which took place the morning after his
arrival in London, in the 73rd year of his age.





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