1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Thomas Fitzgerald

P. H., "William Thomas Fitzgerald" European Magazine 45 (March 1804) 163-64.



WILLIAM THOMAS FITZGERALD, Esq. the Gentleman whose portrait we have given in this Number of our Magazine, was born in England, but is descended from an illustrious family in Ireland, the Desmond branch of the Fitz Geralds. He received (if we are rightly informed) the first part of his education at the Greenwich academy, under the immediate predecessor of Dr. Charles Burney, the present erudite Master of that distinguished school; and we know that he was afterwards sent to the Royal College of Navarre, in the University of Paris. Upon his return home, he was entered as a Member of the Inner Temple, and became a pupil of Mr. Gibbs, as his maternal uncle, the late Mr. Samuel Martin, (formerly Secretary of the Treasury, and the well-known antagonist of Wilkes,) intended him for the Bar. However, Mr. Fitz Gerald, like many who went before him, seems to have soon forsaken the thorny road that leads to forensic success, for the more fascinating path of poetry and belles lettres. Among the poets of the present day he certainly stands deservedly high in public estimation; and those who have heard this Gentleman repeat his own compositions at the Anniversary of the Literary Fund, and have witnessed the powerful effect he invariably produces, will agree with us, that Mr. Fitz Gerald stands unrivalled as a reciter of English verse: his fame as an amateur actor is not less celebrated by those who have seen his performance in private theatricals. Of that noble institution, the Literary Fund, which was established

To succour those who waste the mid-night oil
In studious labours and in mental toil;
Who bitter wants in poverty endure,
Enriching nations while themselves are poor;

this Gentleman was one of the earliest promoters, and has ever been a most zealous friend; and we sincerely hope he may long continue to devote his elegant and nervous pen to the service of that excellent institution. On the score of private character, without which genius is worthless and learning vain! no man stands higher; and his convivial talents and amiable disposition make his society coveted by a large circle of friends.

We shall conclude this biographical sketch with a list of Mr. Fitz Gerald's publications. But before we do, we cannot refrain from making a few observations upon the marked tendency of his writings. Never was there a Muse more truly "English" than this Gentleman's. The early impression of a French education, which too often gives a bias to the mind that is seldom effaced, has never tainted with Gallic partiality his opinions. On the contrary, his pen has seized every opportunity of proving that his heart is as loyal as his principles are constitutional.

At the commencement of the present war, when a kind of stupor seemed to pervade the nation, he wrote a most animating poetical exhortation, beginning, "Britons to arms! of apathy beware," which, together with his Address to every loyal Briton on the threatened Invasion, was widely circulated through the country, and produced a most powerful effect. Indeed we cannot do better than adopt the words of the Antijacobin Review, when speaking of this Gentleman's Tears of Hibernia: "If ever Muse deserved the much abused, but highly honourable epithet, 'Patriotic,' Mr. F's Muse has an undoubted claim to it. She is ever vigilant, ever ready to celebrate, in strains equal to the subject, her country's honour, her country's glory, and her country's triumph!" Nor can we forbear citing a few lines from Mr. Fitz Gerald's last admirable Address to the Literary Fund; in which, after painting Buonaparte as the oppressor of Switzerland, and the deadly foe to all Liberty, particularly the Liberty of the Press,

Would all usurpers their worst fears express,
They'd own they spring from Freedom of the Press!

he thus describes our good and gracious Sovereign, in contrast to that Despot:

Not so the Prince who Britain's scepter sways,
The object of the free-born Muse's praise!
His subjects' rights are foster'd in his mind,
The lov'd and honour'd Titus of mankind!
O'er whom may Heav'n its awful Aegis throw,
To blast the Traitor and confound the Foe.

The Poems which Mr. Fitz Gerald has published are, The Sturdy Reformer, The Tribute of an humble Muse to an unfortunate Queen; Lines upon the Murder of the Queen of France; Nelson's Triumph; or, the Battle of the Nile; besides many Prologues, both for the stage, and for private theatricals. The above pieces, together with other Poems upon various occasions, collected in one volume, 8vo, dedicated to the Earl of Moira, were published by Wright in 1801. Since that period, Mr. F. has published The Tears of Hibernia dispelled by the Union, and the Loyal Addresses which we have noticed above.