Thomas Moore

(28/05/1779 - 25/02/1852)

Thomas Moore (1779–1852) was born on 28 May 1779 at 12 Aungier Street, Dublin, the eldest child of John Moore and Anastasia (née Codd). They married in 1778, having a total of nine children, though six died in infancy. Moore, a Roman Catholic, was baptized at St Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, Dublin, on 30 May 1779. Raised in a prosperous household, he recalled his parents’ frequent entertaining at home with music playing a prominent role.

Moore’s early musical education was under his mother’s influence, who arranged for singing, harpsichord, and pianoforte lessons. He attended private school in 1784 and joined the ‘English grammar school’ in Grafton Street in 1786, where Samuel Whyte introduced him to elocution, public speaking, and theatricals.

He made his first appearance in print in October 1793 with verses in Anthologia Hibernica, a Dublin magazine. Despite being a devout Catholic, Moore seems to have abandoned formal religious practice upon entering Trinity College, Dublin, in 1794. His years at Trinity were marked by revolutionary politics, although he didn’t join the United Irishmen. Moore published articles supporting rebellion and faced charges in 1798 for alleged involvement with the United Irishmen, though he was acquitted.

Moore graduated in 1799 and went to the Middle Temple in London for legal studies. However, he became more involved in social circles, publishing translations, composing songs, and collaborating on an opera. In 1803, he accepted the post of registrar of the naval prize court in Bermuda. The venture was not successful, and he returned to England in 1804. Moore faced financial difficulties in Ireland, prompting his return to London in 1807 with the help of Lord Moira.

In London, he collaborated with music publishers James and William Power to set Irish airs, emulating George Thomson’s collections. This led to the publication of the Irish Melodies, a series that continued until 1834. Although Moore faced controversy due to the content of his work, the melodies gained immediate success.

Moore’s return to England marked a new beginning, with successful plays and songs. He befriended Lord Byron, becoming a frequent guest at Holland House. Moore’s political satire, especially targeting the regent, led to the collection Intercepted Letters or The Two-Penny Post-Bag (1813). His Melodies continued, with the fifth number in 1813.

In 1814, Moore agreed to a substantial sum for his poem Lalla Rookh. Despite personal tragedies, including the death of his daughter in 1815, Moore continued to produce works such as Sacred Songs (1816) and Lalla Rookh (1817). The success of the latter elevated Moore’s status as a romantic writer.

Moore’s National Airs, The Fudge Family in Paris (1818), and The Love of the Angels (1823) followed. In 1824, he wrote the Memoirs of Captain Rock, a consideration of Ireland’s subjugation. He also started work on Lord Byron’s memoirs, though they were eventually burned.

Moore’s biography of Richard Brinsley Sheridan was published in 1825. Between 1826 and 1830, he gathered materials for a biography of Byron, published as Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, with Notices of His Life in 1830. Controversial and varied opinions surrounded this work.

In 1831, Moore published The Life and Death of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, returning to the theme of rebellion. His monumental History of Ireland appeared in four volumes between 1835 and 1846. In 1841, he prepared a ten-volume edition of his Poetical Works.

Moore’s last years were marked by illness, depression, and personal tragedy. All five of his children died before him. He died on 25 February 1852, having lapsed into senility in 1849.

Thomas Moore’s posthumous reputation emphasises his sentimentalism, overshadowing his achievements in music, literature, and political satire. His Irish Melodies significantly influenced the reception of music in Ireland, politicisising folk music. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, his works shaped public opinion on Ireland, the Catholic question, and slavery, making him one of the prominent writers of the romantic generation.

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Connection with area: Irish poet, writer and lyricist whom Thomas Moore Road is named after.