Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/Charles Wolfe (Scott)

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Once a Week, Series 1, Volume XI (1864)
Charles Wolfe
by Thomas Hugh Marshall Scott
2685749Once a Week, Series 1, Volume XI — Charles Wolfe
1864Thomas Hugh Marshall Scott



Sir,—I have no doubt that the readers of your journal have been as much interested as I have been in perusing your recent notice[1] of the Rev. Charles Wolfe, and I have thought, therefore, that the following additional facts may not be unacceptable.

On the north-east coast of Ireland lies Newry, a sea-port of some importance, and my own native place. One of my father’s most intimate friends in that town was a Doctor Stuart, pretty generally known (in that quarter of Ireland at least) as the author of a “History of the City of Armagh,” and more widely, as the writer of “The Protestant Layman.” At the time of my father’s acquaintance with this gentleman, he (Doctor Stuart) was the editor of the Newry Commercial Telegraph, a newspaper then published three times a week, and still in existence. In this paper the beautiful “Ode on the Burial of Sir John Moore” was first published. I had this from my father’s lips; but afterwards, in looking through the Penny Cyclopædia under the name of “Charles Wolfe,” I found his words fully confirmed.

And now occurs a curious matter in connection with these celebrated verses. My father told me that once when in company with Doctor Stuart and some other gentlemen, shortly after the publication of Wolfe’s ode, the conversation naturally turned on the noble lines that had just appeared in the Telegraph. The doctor on that occasion stated that he found the verses in the street of the town. I have repeatedly heard my father say that he did not credit this statement, nor, I fancy, did any one who heard it made. It was generally felt that the doctor had some motive for concealing the source whence the lines came into his possession.

The ode appeared in the Telegraph anonymously, and was then claimed by a Scotchman. Stuart, in an article, sharply rebuked the pretender, who did not dare to reply. From this arises the presumption—perhaps not sufficiently just—that the editor knew the author’s name, or at least something of the real author; that the lines had been sent to Stuart by some friend of Wolfe after their rejection by “the periodical” to which Mr. Gibson has alluded, and that the story of the finding in the street was a way of avoiding further questioning about a writer who preferred remaining incognito.

About three or four years ago I happened to be in Dublin with some fellow-students, and among other places of interest we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral: there my eye fell on a plain marble tablet, inscribed with these words, which I copied at the time:—

Whose earthly course closed Feb. 21, 1823.
Rich in the treasures of Science and Literature,
Endowed with the noblest poetic powers,
Blessed with the love and admiration of all,
More blessed in the successful devotion of those high gifts
To the Service of
Him who gave them.
“For if we believe that Jesus died,
And rose again,
Even so them also who sleep in Jesus
Will God bring with him.”
1 Thess. iv. 14.

Captain Medwin, alluding to Lord Byron’s reading of the “Ode on the Burial of Sir John Moore,” says (as has already been noticed by Mr. Gibson), “The feeling with which he recited these admirable stanzas I shall never forget.” And it is the remembrance of the expressive beauty with which a loved parent—now no more—used to clothe these “admirable stanzas,” as he read them in the midst of us when we were children, that has given them a place in my heart of hearts, fondly endeared to me the name of Charles Wolfe, and chiefly induced me to trouble you with this letter.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
T. H. M. Scott, M.A.

Mount Pleasant, Wolverhampton,
Oct. 31, 1864.

  1. See p. 501.