His Encounter With Biddy Moriarty

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,
owever, 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

your carcase.

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,

plate-lickin' bliggard!

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

duplicate ratio.

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.