The Contemplator's Short History of

Thomas Moore
The background music is She is Far From the Land
Sequenced by Lesley Nelson-Burns

Thomas Moore was the son of a shoemaker, born in Dublin May 28, 1779. He was a poet, satirist, composer and musican of note. His ten volume work Irish Melodies (1807-34) consisted of 130 poems set to music composed by Moore and Sir John Stevenson. Much of the music was based on older Irish airs. Irish Melodies was so popular that Moore earned 500 pounds annually for more than 25 years for it's publication. Although noted for his music, his poetry was as celebrated. He was paid 3,000 pounds - a record at that time - for his poem Lalla Rookh (1817). His reputation equalled that of Byron and Shelley.

In 1795 Moore, a Catholic, was able to enter Trinity College due to a suspension of one of the rules of the Penal Code. At Trinity he met members of the United Irish Society. Already with an "ardor for the national cause" (1) because of his religious background, his contacts at Trinity would enflame his devotion to the Irish cause. One of his best friends at Trinity was Robert Emmet, a member of the United Irishmen, who participated in the United Irishmen Uprising of 1798 and led another aborted uprising in 1803. Emmet was captured, tried and hung. Emmet and Moore were both members of the "Hist", the Historical Society at Trinity. The Hist was a debating society. In Historical Society debates Wolfe Tone developed the ideas that led to the leadership of the United Irishmen and Emmet spoke of the ideas that caused him to be expelled from Trinity. When College authorities began an investigation to discover which students were in the United Irishmen, Moore refused to inform on his friends despite the risk of expulsion.

It was also at Trinty College that Moore was introduced to Edward Bunting's collection of tradtiional Irish music. Bunting's General Collection of Ancient Irish Music (1796) was the beginning of a revival of Irish music. Most of Moore's first volume of Irish Melodies was based on Bunting's work.

After graduating from Trinity, Moore studied law in London. His first book, Odes of Anacreon was a success and he was able to spend a year traveling to Bermuda, the West Indes and the United States. He returned to London in 1804 and lived there the rest of his life.

Moore had tremendous charm and was a gifted performer. It was due to these facts, as well as his talent that he became a success. Despite his vocal Irish national politics he was popular and counted the Regent (later George IV) among his patrons.

His career was not without controversy and risk. He turned down the post of "Irish Poet Laureate" because he felt it required toning down his politics. He published a biography of Fitzgerald despite English fears it might lead to another rebellion. In the most controversial of his acts he burned the manuscript of Byron's autobiography which Bryon had left him. He did so because of the pleas of Byron's half sister and Lady Byron who felt it would damage Byron's reputation.

Although a Catholic, Moore married a Protestant and had his children raised Protestant. Late is his life he suffered the loss of his five children and his life was further shadowed as he was condemned by many of his countrymen as a false patriot. An essay written by Thomas Davis in 1844 criticized Moore for not being strong enough in his passion for Irish nationalism and attacked him as being elitist. Others criticized his work as "ersatz Irish music intended for an elite coterie."(2)

Moore died on February 25, 1852. His work endured. Irish Melodies was translated into every European language, including Hungarian, Polish and Russian. More than a million copies of The Last Rose of Summer were sold in the United State alone. (3) Thomas Moore's work popularized Irish music throughout the world.

Historical and musical links


Music by Thomas Moore at this site

(1) James Flannery, Dear Harp of My Country, 42
(2) Flannery, 115.
(3) Flannery, 117.

Information from:
(1)James W. Flannery, Dear Harp of My Country: The Irish Melodies of Thomas Moore, J. S. Sanders & Company, Nashville, TN, 1995 & 1997.

(2)The Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
Volume VII, p. 8
Chicago, Copyright 1977

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