A Compendium of Irish Biography/Wolfe, Charles

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Wolfe, Charles, Rev., author of "The Burial of Sir John Moore," was born in Dublin, 14th December 1791. He was educated at Winchester, and at the University of Dublin, took orders in 1817, and, after a few weeks' labour at Ballyclog, County of Tyrone, became curate of the parish of Donaghmore, where he distinguished himself by the zealous discharge of his functions. He was of a singularly spiritual and feeling nature, and wrote "If I had thought thou couldst have died," "My own friend, my own friend," and a few more beautiful ballads. Mr. Moir says: "In the lottery of literature, Charles Wolfe has been one of the few who have drawn the prize of probable immortality from a casual gleam of inspiration thrown over a single poem consisting of only a few stanzas. This poem was "The Burial of Sir John Moore," his last piece, penned in 1814 in his twenty-third year. His friend the Rev. Samuel O'Sullivan [see page 426] told how one day in college he read to Wolfe a passage from the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1808, which ran as follows: "Sir John Moore had often said that if he was killed in battle, he wished to be buried where he fell. The body was removed at midnight to the citadel of Corunna. A grave was dug for him on the rampart there by a party of the 9th regiment, the aides-decamps attending by turns. No coffin could be procured, and the officers of his staff wrapped the body, dressed as it was, in a military cloak and blankets. The interment was hastened; for about eight in the morning some firing was heard, and the officers feared that if a serious attack were made, they should be ordered away, and not suffered to pay him their last duty." Wolfe was careless of literary fame, and the poem, which by chance appeared in print, was attributed, among others, to Moore, Campbell, Wilson, Byron, and Barry Cornwall, and was claimed by more than one obscure writer. It was only after Wolfe's death that the chance discovery of a letter (now preserved in the Royal Irish Academy), in which the whole is given in his handwriting, put the matter beyond doubt. Unremitting attention to his clerical duties and carelessness of himself hastened a tendency to consumption: "He seldom thought of providing a regular meal. … A few straggling rush-bottomed chairs, piled up with his books, a small ricketty table before the fire-place, covered with parish memoranda, and two trunks containing all his papers—serving at the same time to cover the broken parts of the floor—constituted all the furniture of his sitting-room. The mouldy walls of the closet in which he slept were hanging with loose folds of damp paper." He was discovered by his friends in this miserable lodging, was tenderly cared by his sisters, visited England and France in the vain search of health, and died at Cove, now Queenstown, County of Cork, 21st February 1823, aged 31. His Remains, containing a memoir, with some sermons, letters, and his poems, were published by a friend in 1827. [1] [2] [3]

Authorities
  1. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1869-'71.
  2. Irish Quarterly Review. Dublin, 1851-'9.
  3. Wolfe, Remains of Rev. Charles: Rev. J. A. Russell, M.A. London, 1827.