Letters of Thomas Davis - The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)

John Mitchel
Author’s Edition (undated)

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I find another short but very singular note, referring to my antipathy against the new colleges, which, indeed, I detested as much as the Archbishop of Tuam, but for a different reason,—not that they were "godless," but that they were British:—


"MY DEAR M.,—I think your title perfect in all ways. The prefatory remarks will do good.

"We are not likely to agree on Education or Religion. I have deep faith in mere Truth, and in informal humanity; and, moreover, I feel that an artificial education prevents that faith from being still deeper and more practical. This is a very abstract way of suggesting my religious position; but 'tis enough.

"Most truly yours,


One more letter, written on the very day that he was struck by his fatal sickness:—


"MY DEAR MITCHEL,—C. G. D. told me you had heard many particulars as to Wolfe Tone from the Rev. Mr Thackeray, of Dundalk. Would you spare an hour to put them down;—especially anything as to his manner and views of future events in Ireland. Mr Thackeray kindly answered my note, but seems to distrust his memory.

"Truly yours,


" N.B.—The sooner I hear the better."

Three years' incessant labour and excitement, operating on an ardent temperament and unresting brain, had done their work; and he died in his harness. Disappointment and despondency, too, had their share in wearing down his frame. He saw the powerful organization wherein he had trusted gradually weakening, lowering its tone, and eating its words, until its heart died within it: and through the gloom, even his eye of faith could hardly discern an outlook to a brighter future: the Green Flag of sovereign Irish nationhood, that had streamed so proudly through the day-dreams of his youth, was fading into distance like the glories of Hy Brasil.

I cannot expect the ordinary reader to fully appreciate the character I have been describing, or the labours of his life; because, to the eye of a distant observer, his life was a defeat, and his labour was utterly lost. I do not believe so. I would not have dwelt upon it thus, but for a strong faith that the seeds he planted in that kindly soil will bear ripe fruit yet.

He was thirty-one years of age when he died. His figure was not tall, but compact and active. He walked fast, and with his head held slightly forward, as is the wont of eager and ...continue reading »

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