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which his fellow-countrymen are devoted, and he likewise knew the inveteracy with which, more especially in the Irish metropolis, the love of depreciation and ridicule seeks its food, at the expense of those who have come of the people. “There is no toleration in Ireland for a man who has raised himself to eminence without being rich. Everything he does is damned ere it is done. If he gives away a place to a young man of family, he is accused of toadying the landlords; if he calls a friend whom he has known and trusted to his side, he is denounced as a jobber; if he ventures to be hospitable, he is sure to offend many whom he forgets to invite, and if he omits to entertain, he is held up as a miser. It would be hard enough for any Irishman to fill the office at such a time; but for a man like me,
without title, patrimony, or connexions, it would be a hopeless business.” And he would then proceed to give a caricature of himself riding into town from the Secretary's Lodge, with the comments of those whom he passed on his way along the quays.
At the general election of 1849, he announced his intention of again standing for Dungarvan. He was encountered by the opposition of Tories and Repealers. By the one he was held up to reproach as the advocate
of Free Trade; by the other, as the enemy of popular rights and liberties. With much humour he illustrated the anomalous position taken by his opponents. What interest, he asked, had the people of a seafaring town in high rents and dear food ? or what identity of ultimate purpose could there be between the followers of Lord Stanley and those of O'Connell ? As for the severance of the Legislative Union by peaceful means, after it had subsisted for forty years, and with the undivided weight of Protestant intelligence and property devoted to its maintenance, the thing was impossible. A revolution was the only method whereby it could ever be achieved; but resort to such an alternative was repudiated by the leaders of the movement as criminal. In 1834, when all the benefits of Catholic Emancipation were still withheld, and it seemed doubtful to some what part the Protestant middle classes might take, the case was different. But ten years had since elapsed, during the greater portion of which the question had been suffered to rest in abeyance, and in the course of which civil exclusion had been practically obliterated by the Government of which he was a member. The Church question had not indeed been settled in the sense that he desired; but it seemed to have ceased to occupy
the popular mind; while the municipal question had, after a protracted struggle, been at length brought to a successful issue. He could not be a party to practising any deception, or trifling with popular credulity. His claim to be returned as an Irish representative was founded on a long life of devotion to the Liberal
“It would be strange indeed if the Repeal should obliterate all remembrance of past services. If such did not constitute a claim, he owned that he had none; but he would not win votes by making irredeemable promises, or by pretending to look for the realization of Repeal, which he felt persuaded was but a splendid phantom.”
A phrase like this was sure to be caught up in a time of excitement, and to be made a watchword in every mouth. The mob were not long in rendering the idea literally, and according to their keen sense of the ridiculous turning it to account. An effigy arrayed in ghostly garb, with features to represent those of the orator, was paraded before his hotel with the inscription on its breast—"A splendid phantom."
His opponent was Mr. J. F. Maguire, the proprietor of the Cork Examiner, a local journal of much influence. The contest occasioned considerable excitement, the more so as the Rev. Dr. Halley, the parish
priest, took part with the Master of the Mint, while others of the Catholic clergy in the neighbourhood espoused the cause of his opponent. After a sharp struggle, a majority appeared in favour of the former.
The autumn of 1847 he passed chiefly at Hastings, of which he was particularly fond. In one of his letters, written from that place, he mentions the benefit in health which both he and Mrs. Sheil had derived from the restorative efficacy of the sea air. “I have myself,” he adds, “been greatly served by the breath of the ocean. As I look on hundreds of ships coming up and going down the Channel, I feel the Repeal to be a phantom, but not a very splendid
A friend who in Parliament had usually supported the Whigs, had acquired some distinction by the effective manner in which he had opposed certain measures of a repressive character, which he considered were too rigorous in their enactments, some annoyance was in consequence expressed by more than one of those who occupied subordinate positions in the Government. The gentleman in question having, in conversation, expressed his surprise that such a feeling should have
* To James Galway, Esq., 31st August, 1847.
been manifested, Mr. Sheil playfully apologised for what may be termed the unutterable anxieties of minor office. “As for you,” he said, “you have shown that you can if you will make yourself formidable ; but remember,” he added, with a laugh, “those who make themselves formidable must prepare for a long fast.”
“I never had the pleasure,” says Mr. Leigh Hunt, “of seeing Mr. Sheil but once, when he did me the honour of answering in person a question respecting the Mint. I then saw before me one of the little great men of whom one reads so often in history, and I thought how well, in spite of time and the gout, his conversation answered to the idea given of him by his speeches—I mean as to life and freshnessfor he did not affect anything rhetorical. I little thought so much vitality was about to be extinguished, and this too in the genial South."*
For the wit and eloquence of Mr. Disraeli he often expressed the highest admiration. It was the fashion at the time among his own party, especially amongst the mediocrities and conventionalists, of which the bulk of all parties are made up, to decry the talents of one who had seized on political position by a Parliamentary coup de main, and seemed determined to retain it, in
* Letter from Mr. Leigh Hunt, 10th December, 1853.