Fitzgerald, William Thomas (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


FITZGERALD, WILLIAM THOMAS (1759?–1829), versifier, was born in England of an Irish father (see preface to his 'Tears of Hibernia dispelled by the Union'), and claimed connection with the Duke of Leinster's family. He was educated partly at a school in Greenwich and partly in Paris, and entered the navy pay office as a clerk in 1782. 'On all public occasions,' as the 'Annual Register' for 1829 remarks, his 'pen was ever ready.' His more notable productions are either prologues for plays or appeals to England's loyalty and valour. These latter he was in the habit of reciting, year after year, at the public dinners of the Literary Fund, of which he was one of the vice-presidents. It is to this that Byron refers in the first couplet of 'English Bards and Scotch Reviewers' :-

Still must I hear? shall hoarse Fitzgerald bawl
His creaking couplets in a tavern hall ?

The 'Annual Register' for 1803 speaks of the company at the dinner for that year as being 'roused almost to rapture' by Fitzgerald's 'Tyrtæan compositions,' and says that 'words cannot convey an idea of the force and animation' with which he recited, 'or of the enthusiasm with which he was encored.' A collection of Fitzgerald's poems appeared in 1801 as 'Miscellaneous Poems, dedicated to the Right Honourable the Earl of Moira, by William Thomas Fitzgerald, esq.,' and they are very bad. Perhaps the one which most nearly approaches the famous parody in the 'Rejected Addresses' is the 'Address to every Loyal Briton on the Threatened Invasion of his Country;' but the 'Britons to Arms!' of a later date is almost of equal merit. Fitzgerald's 'Nelson's Triumph' appeared in 1798, his 'Tears of Hibernia dispelled by the Union' in 1802, and his 'Nelson's Tomb' in 1806. In 1814 Fitzgerald issued a collected edition of his verses in denunciation of Napoleon Bonaparte. It is, however, unquestionably in the 'Loyal Effusion' of the 'Rejected Addresses,' and the opening couplet of 'English Bards and Scotch Reviewers' that Fitzgerald will live. It is only just to record that this 'small beer poet,' as Cobbett called him, bore no malice against James and Horace Smith for their parody. Meeting one of them, probably the latter, at a Literary Fund dinner, he came to him with great good humour, and said, 'I mean to recite. . . . You'll have some more of "Gods bless the regent and the Duke of York."' Fitzgerald died at Paddington on 9 July 1829. A portrait appears in the 'European Magazine' for 1804.

[Gent. Mag. 1829, ii. 471-3; Annual Register, 1829; notes to the later editions of Rejected Addresses.]

F. T. M.