The Closing Scenes Of His Life

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


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


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.