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Lots Drawn To Have Him At Dinner

Irish Humour Home

In 1779, O'Leary visited Dublin on business connected with a bill before
parliament, which aimed at the destruction of the friars. During his
visit to Dublin, at this period, the following circumstance, quite
characteristic of O'Leary, is said to have taken place. He accidentally
met, in the lobby of the House of Commons, the late Lord Avonmore, then
Mr. Yelverton, and two gentlemen, members of the legislature; who, on
his appearance, entered into a friendly altercation to determine with
which of them O'Leary should, on the next day, share the splendid
hospitality which reigned in the metropolis during the sessions of
parliament. It was at length decided that the prize of his unrivalled
wit and sociability should be determined by lot. O'Leary was an amused
and silent spectator of the contest. The fortunate winner was
congratulated on his success; and the rivals separated to meet on the

When the hour of dinner was come, O'Leary forgot which of his three
friends was to be his host.

It was too late to make formal inquiries; and, as he was the honored
guest, he dared not absent himself. In this difficulty, his ready
imagination suggested an expedient. His friends, he recollected, lived
in the same square, and he therefore, some short time after the usual
dinner hour, sent a servant to inquire at each of the houses--'if Father
O'Leary was there?' At the two first, where application was made, the
reply was in the negative; but at the last, the porter answered, that
'he was not there; but that dinner was ordered to be kept back, as he
was every moment expected.' Thus directed, 'Father Arthur's' apology for
delay was a humorous and detailed account of his expedient--the evening
flew quickly away on the wings of eloquence and wit, and the laughable
incident was long remembered and frequently repeated.

* * * * *

Father O'Leary's great intimacy with the leading Protestants of London,
gave rise to a rumor that he, like Lord Dunboyne and Mr. Kirwin, had
read his recantation. He contradicts it in the following letter:--

London, June 5, 1790.

Sir--A confusion of names gave rise, some months ago, to a
mistake copied from the Dublin Evening Post into the Bath Chronicle,
and other papers in this kingdom, viz., that 'I had read my recantation
in St. Werburgh's church in Dublin.' Thus a mistake has changed me into
a conformist, though I never changed my creed.

If in reality the tenets of my Church were such as prejudice and
ignorance proclaim them:--if they taught me that a papal dispensation
could sanctify guilt, sanction conspiracies, murders, the extirpation of
my fellow-creatures on account of difference of religious opinions,
perjury to promote the Catholic cause, by pious breaches of allegiance
to Protestant kings, or rebellion against their government;--if it were
an article of my belief that a priestly absolution without sorrow for my
sins, or a resolution of amendment, had the power of a charm to reclaim
me to the state of unoffending infancy, and enable me, like Milton's
devil, to leap from the gulf of sin into paradise without purifying my
heart or changing my affections;--if it were an article of my faith that
the grace of an indulgence could give me the extraordinary privilege of
sinning without guilt or offending without punishment;--if it inculcated
any maxim evasive of moral rectitude:--in a word, if the features of my
religion corresponded with the pictures drawn of it in flying pamphlets
and anniversary declamations, I would consider myself and the rest of my
fraternity as downright idiots, wickedly stupid, to remain one hour in a
state which deprives us of our rights as citizens, whereas such an
accommodating scheme would make them not only attainable, but certain.

Your correspondent does me the honor to rank me with Lord Dunboyne,
formerly titular Bishop of Cork, and with Mr. Kirwan. If they have
changed their religion from a thorough conviction of its falsehood,
they have done well. It is the duty of every sincere admirer after truth
to comply with the immediate dictates of his conscience, in embracing
that religion which he believes most acceptable to God. Deplorable,
indeed, must be the state of the man who lives in wilful error. For,
however an all-wise God may hereafter dispose of those who err in their
honesty, and whose error, is involuntary and invincible, surely no road
can be right to the wretch who walks in it against conviction. A
thorough conviction, then, that I am in the right road to eternal life,
if my moral conduct corresponds with my speculative belief, keeps me
within the pale of my Church in direct opposition to my temporal
interest; and no Protestant nobleman or gentleman of my acquaintance
esteems me the less for adhering to my creed, knowing that a Catholic
and an honest man are not contradictory terms.

I do not consider Lord Dunboyne as a model after whom I should copy.
With his silver locks, and at an age when persons who had devoted
themselves to the service of the altar in their early days, should, like
the Emperor Charles V, rather think of their coffins than the nuptial
couch, that prelate married a young woman. Whether the glowing love of
truth or Hymen's torch induced him to change the Roman Pontifical for
the Book of Common Prayer, and the psalms he and I often sang together
for a bridal hymn, his own conscience is the most competent to
determine: certain however, it is, that, if the charms of the fair sex
can captivate an old bishop to such a degree as to induce him to
renounce his Breviary, similar motives, and the prospect of
aggrandizement, may induce a young ecclesiastic to change his cassock.

Having from my early days accustomed myself to get the mastery over
ambition and love--the two passions that in every age have enslaved the
greatest heroes--your correspondent may rest assured that I am not one
of the trio mentioned in this letter.--Arthur O'Leary.

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