Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Father Prout
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The name by which the Rev. Francis Sylvester Mahony (O'Mahony), author of "The Bells of Shandon", is generally known; b. at Cork, 31 Dec., 1804; d. in Paris, 18 May, 1866. Educated at Clongowes Wood College, and St.-Achuel, France (1815-21), he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Paris in 1821, and in 1823 was sent to Rome for his course in philosophy. In 1825 he returned to Clongowes as disciplinarian, and after a brief stay there, going subsequently to Freiburg and Florence, he left the Society of Jesus and entered the Irish College at Rome as a student for the priesthood. He did not complete his course there, but in 1832 was ordained at Lucca - a step against which practically all his religious supervisors had advised him. He returned to his native diocese and for a time served there as a priest, being conspicuous for his heroism and devotion as chaplain to the Cork Cholera Hospital during the terrible epidemic that visited the city at that time. Developing some differences with his superiors, he went to London in 1834, and almost immediately commenced his literary career, joining "Fraser's Magazine", then under the editorship of his fellow-townsman, Maginn. For three years, he wrote in "Fraser's" (1834-7), then in "Bentley's Magazine", edited by Charles Dickens, and in 1846 was sent by Dickens to Rome as correspondent for the "Daily News". For twelve years he filled that post, then went to Paris (1858) as correspondent of the "Globe" and spent the rest of his life there. After his death his remains were brought to Cork and, after a public funeral, were interred in the family vault in Shandon churchyard. Although for thirty years Mahony did not exercise his priestly duties, he never wavered in his deep loyalty to the church, recited his Office daily, and received the last sacraments at the hands of his old friend, Abbé Rogerson, who left abundant testimony of his excellent dispositions. Popularly best known as the author of the famous lyric, "The Bells of Shandon", Mahony's claim to literary fame rests more securely on the collection known as "The Reliques of Fr. Prout". Dowered with a retentive memory, irrepressible humor, large powers of expression, and a strongly satiric turn of mind, an omnivorous reader, well-trained in the Latin classics, thoroughly at home in the French and Italian languages, and a ready writer of rhythmic verse in English, Latin, and French, he produced such articles as "An Apology for Lent", "Literature and the Jesuits", and "The Rogueries of Tom Moore", an extraordinary mixture of erudition, fancy, and wit, such as is practically without precise parallel in contemporary literature. The best of his work appeared in "Fraser's Magazine" during the first three years of his literary life. He translated largely from Horace, and the poets of France and Italy, including a complete and free metrical rendering of Gresset's famous mocking poem "Vert-Vert" and Jerome Vida's "Silkworm". But his newspaper correspondence from Rome and Paris is notable chiefly for the vigours of his criticisms upon men and measures, expressed, as these were, in most caustic language. Seven years before his death he edited the first authorized edition of "Reliques", and in 1860 wrote the inaugural ode for "Cornhill Magazine", then starting under Thackeray's editorship. No complete biography of "Father Prout" has yet been written but fragmentary materials are now available.
O'NEIL, Journal of the Ivernian Society (Cork, Oct.-Dec., 1910); The Clogownian (Dublin, 1904); LEE in Dict. Nat. Biog., s. v. Mahony, Francis Sylvester (London, 1876); SHEEHAN, Bentley Ballads (London, 1869).
THOMAS F. WOODLOCK