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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 169 to answer any criminal charge that could be instituted against him, nothing of the sort was attempted by the public prosecutor ; consequently Mr. Rowan’s bail-bond fell to the ground. The political history of ARCHIBALD HAMILTON ROWAN is pretty generally known. His own name was Hamilton-that of Rowan having been assumed on succeeding to a property of considerable extent, The family from which he was descended-if we are rightly informed-was of Scottish origin, and had attained to much wealth and respectability. He was born about the year 1750, and was early distinguished for a chivalrous enthusiasm of disposition-kind and benevolent even to excess, but somewhat pugnacious and jealous of his honour. Barrington, in his “Personal Sketches,” gives the following highly coloured, but amusing picture of his character and appearance, prior to the unhappy political transactions in which he subsequently became involved :- “ There were few persons whose history WBS connected with that of Ireland during my time who excited my interest in a greater degree than Mr. Hamilton Rowan. The dark points of this gentleman’s character have been assiduously exhibited by persons who knew little or nothing of his life ; and that too, long after he had ceased to be an obnoxious character. I will endeavour to show the obverse of the medal ; and I claim the meed of perfect disinterestedness, which will, I think, be awarded, when I state that I never had the least social intercourse with Mr. Rowan, whose line of politics was always decidedly opposed to my own. “ Archibald Hamilton Rowan (I believe he still lives) ”-Barrington wrote in 1826-“ is a gentleman of most respectable family, and of ample fortune : considered merely as a private character, I fancy there are few who will not give him full credit for every quality which does honour to that station in society. As a philanthropist, he certainly carried his ideas even beyond reason, and to a degree of escess which I really think laid in his mind the foundation of all his enthusiastic proceedings, both in common life and in politics. “The first interview I had with this gentleman did not occupy more than a few minutes, but it was of a most impressive nature ; and, though now eight-and-thirty years back, appears aa fresh to my eye as if it had taken place yesterday j in truth, I believe it must be equally present to every individual of the company who survives, and is not too old to remember anything. “In 1788 a very young girl of the name of Mary Neil had been ill-treated by a person unknown, aided by a woman. The late Lord Carhampton WBS supposed to be the transgressor, but without any proof whatsoever of his lordship’s culpability. The humour of Hamilton Rowan, which had a sort of Quixotic tendency to resist all oppression, and to redress every species of wrong, led him to take up the cause of Mary Neil with a zeal and enthusiastic perseverance which nobody but the Knight of La Mancha could have exceeded. Day and night the ill treatment of this girl was the subject of his thoughts, his actions, his dreams. He even went about preaching a kind of crusade in her favour, and succeeded in gaining a great many partisans among the citizens; and in short, he eventually obtained a conviction of the woman, as accessory to a crime, the perpetrator whereof remained undiscovered; and she accordingly received sentence of death. Still Mary Neil was not bettered by this conviction: she was utterly unprovided for, had suffered much, and seemed quite wretched. Yet there were not wanting persons who doubted her truth, decried her former character, and represented her story as that of an impostor. This not only hnrt the feelings and philanthropy, but the pride of Hamilton Rowan ; and he vowed personal vengeance against her calumniators, high and low. “At this time, about twenty yonng barristers, including myself, had formed a dinner club in Dublin. We had taken large apartments for the purpose ; and, as we were not yet troubled with too much bnsiness, were in the habit of faring lnxurionsly every day, and taking a bottle of the best claret that could be obtained. There never existed a more cheerful, nor half so cheap a VOL. 11. Z
Volume 9 Page 228
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