Francis Sylvester Mahony

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

« John Francis Maguire | Index | Maildulph »

Mahony, Francis Sylvester, Rev., a distinguished writer, was born in Cork about 1805. He was educated at a Jesuit college in France, and at the University of Rome, and returning home in orders, he for a short time performed the duties of a Catholic clergyman, and was a tutor in Clongowes Wood College. Eventually he gave up his cure, and devoted himself entirely to literature. His ripe scholarship, his pathos and wit, soon became known to the public in a series of papers, "The Reliques of Father Prout," which first appeared in Fraser's Magazine, and were published in a separate form in 1836.

For Fraser, also, he wrote "The Bells of Shandon" and other well-known pieces of poetry. His powers of versification in foreign languages was strikingly exhibited in a series of articles on "Moore's Plagiarisms," wherein the Latin and Greek "originals" of most of the Melodies were given. In the Greek versions he was assisted by Francis Stack Murphy. Mahony also wrote "The Groves of Blarney" in Italian, as "sung by a Garibaldian bivouac amid the woods over Lake Como, 25th May 1859," besides versions in French, Greek, and Latin. The writer of the preface to his works says he "belonged to a race of mortals now quite gone out of Irish existence, like the elk and wolf-dog." The "Prout Papers" as a whole brim over with humour, dash, and feeling. He spent some years in travelling through Hungary, Asia Minor, Greece, and Egypt; and in January 1846 accepted, under Dickens, the position of Roman correspondent of the Daily News. His articles were afterwards republished as Facts and Figures from Italy, by Don Jeremy Savonarola, Benedictine Monk.

He was Paris correspondent of the Globe the last eight years of his life, and until within a few weeks of his death, which took place at his residence in the Rue des Moulins, Paris, 18th May 1866. A reviewer thus speaks of his Reliques: "Do you wish for epigrams? There is a fairy shower of them. Have you a taste for ballads, varying from the lively to the tender, from the note of the trumpet to the note of the lute? Have you an ear for translations which give the semblance of another language's face? Are you given to satire?... Do you delight in the classic allusion, the quaint though yet profound learning of other days? All these and a great deal more are to be found in Father Prout's chest."[16] Father Mahony strenuously opposed O'Connell and the Repeal movement. Hardly anything more bitter in its way was ever written against the "Liberator" than "The Lay of Lazarus," which appeared in the Times in 1845. He was also opposed to the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland. His person is thus described: "He was a remarkable figure in London. A short, spare man, stooping as he went, with the right arm clasped in the left hand behind him; a sharp face, with piercing grey eyes that looked vacantly upwards, a mocking lip, a close-shaven face, and an ecclesiastical garb of slovenly appearance — such was the old Fraserian, who would laugh outright at times, quite unconscious of by-standers.

Mahony was a combination of Voltaire and Rabelais; but there was never the slightest doubt as to his orthodoxy."[230] He never allowed a day to pass without reading his Office from the well-worn volume which he always carried about with him. "He may have been, canonically speaking, an indifferent priest, an inefficient member of an uncongenial profession, which I have always understood he entered from family pique and impetuosity;.. but he was in heart and soul a thoroughly believing and, as everyone knew, a most sincerely tolerant Christian. He was on friendly and in some instances affectionate terms with many ministers of various Christian denominations; had the highest esteem for several Jewish rabbis, and their noble old faith; and even his academic pride and high cultivation did not hinder him from sympathizing with field and street preachers, whose mission, however rude their speech and manner might be, he always declared was generous and good."

Sources

230. Mahony, Rev. Francis—Last Reliques of Father Prout: Blanchard Jerrold. London, 1876.

16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

40. Biographical Division of English Cyclopaedia, with Supplement: Charles Knight, 7 vols. London, 1856-'72.

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

« John Francis Maguire | Index | Maildulph »