John Philpot Curran

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In Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1832, Letitia Elizabeth Landon includes an illustrative poem to the engraved portrait therein, this being by Sir Thomas Lawrence. She describes Curran as being 'Gifted with all the mighty strength of words'. [36]

Karl Marx, recommending to Friedrich Engels the speeches of Curran [37] in a letter of 10 December 1869 ("You will find quoted there all the sources for the United Irishmen"), accounted Curran "the only great lawyer (people's advocate) of the eighteenth century and the noblest personality". Henry Grattan, by comparison, was a mere “parliamentary rogue". [38] [39]

Quotations and legacy

A restated version of John Curran's quote is engraved into a statue in Washington D.C. Eternal Vigilence Statue.JPG
A restated version of John Curran's quote is engraved into a statue in Washington D.C.
Curran: Nothing but the head, my lord!
Could more than drinking my cares compose,
A cure for sorrow my sighs would borrow
And hope tomorrow would end my woes.
But as in wailing there's naught availing
And Death unfailing will strike the blow
And for that reason, and for a season,
Let us be merry before we go.
To joy a stranger, a wayworn ranger,
In every danger my course I've run
Now hope all ending, and death befriending,
His last aid lending, my cares are done.
No more a rover, or hapless lover,
My griefs are over – my glass runs low;
Then for that reason, and for a season,
Let us be merry before we go." – ("The Deserter's Meditation")
An emerald set in the ring of the sea,
Each blade of thy meadows my faithful heart prizes,
Thou queen of the west, the world's cushla ma chree."

His witticisms

One night, Curran was dining with Justice Toler, a notorious "hanging judge".

Toler: Curran, is that hung-beef?
Curran: Do try it, my lord, then it is sure to be!

A wealthy tobacconist, Lundy Foot, asked Curran to suggest a Latin motto for his coach. "I have just hit on it!', exclaimed Curran. "It is only two words, and it will explain your profession, your elevation, and your contempt for the people's ridicule; it has the advantage of being in two languages, Latin and English, just as the reader chooses. Put up "Quid Rides" upon your carriage!" (A quid was a lump of tobacco to be chewed, and also slang for a sovereign (£stg.1); "rides" is Irish slang for "has sexual intercourse"; in Latin "Quid rides" means: "why do you laugh").

Curran hated the Act of Union, which abolished the Parliament of Ireland and amalgamated it with that of Great Britain. The parliament had been housed in a splendid building in College Green, Dublin, which faced an uncertain future. "Curran, what do they mean to do with this useless building? For my part, I hate the very sight of it!" said one lord, who was for the Act of Union. "I do not wonder at it, my lord", said Curran contemptuously. "I have never yet heard of a murderer who is not afraid of a ghost."

Curran arrived at court late one morning. The judge, Viscount Avonmore, demanded an explanation. "On my way to court, I passed through the market—" "Yes, I know, the Castle Market," interrupted Lord Avonmore. "Exactly, the Castle Market, and passing near one of the stalls, I beheld a brawny butcher brandishing a sharp gleaming knife. A calf he was about to slay was standing, awaiting the deathstroke, when at that moment—that critical moment—a lovely little girl came bounding along in all her sportive mirth from her father's stall. Before a moment had passed the butcher had plunged his knife into the breast of—" "Good God! His child!" sobbed the judge, deeply affected. Curran carried on: "No, the calf, but your Lordship often anticipates."

A prosecutor, infuriated by Curran's insults, threatened to put him in his pocket. "If you do that," replied Curran, "you will have more law in your pocket than you ever had in your head."

In debate with John Fitzgibbon, 1st Earl of Clare, Fitzgibbon rebutted one of Curran's arguments by saying "If that be the law, Mr. Curran, I shall burn all my law books." To which he replied "You had better read them first, my lord."

On another occasion, Fitzgibbon objected that Curran was splitting hairs- surely the words "also" and "likewise" have exactly the same meaning? "Hardly, my Lord". Curran replied. "I remember when the great Lord Lifford presided over this Court. You also preside here, but you certainly do not preside likewise".


  1. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, vol. 13, ed. Leslie Stephen, p. 332
  2. The Life of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran, Late Master of the Rolls in Ireland, by his son William Henry Curran, with additions and notes by R. Shelton MacKenzie, D.L.C., Chicago, Belford, Clarke & Co., 1881
  3. A New and Enlarged Collection of Speeches, by the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran, Late Master of the Rolls in Ireland, William Hone, Ludgate Hill, 1819, p. v
  4. "Rev. Charles Bunworth". Cork Historical and Archaeological Society. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  5. Alumni Dublinenses: a register of the students, graduates, professors and provosts of Trinity College in the University of Dublin (1593-1860), Burtchaell,G.D/Sadlier,T.U p202: Dublin, Alex Thom and Co, 1935
  6. 1 2 3 Webb, Alfred (1878). "John Philpot Curran - Irish Biography". Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  7. Hourigan, Tim. "John Philpott Curran | Ath Trasna" . Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  8. Luby, Thomas Clarke (1870). The life and times of Daniel O'Connell. Dalcassian Publishing Company. pp. 66–67.
  9. Kennedy, Denis (1992). "The Irish Opposition, Parliamentary Reform and Public Opinion, 1793-1794". Eighteenth-Century Ireland / Iris an dá chultúr. 7: (95–114) 96–97. doi:10.3828/eci.1992.7. ISSN   0790-7915. JSTOR   30070925. S2CID   256154966.
  10. "Curran, John Philpot | Dictionary of Irish Biography". Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  11. Curran (1792) "in the debate on Catholic Emancipation" cited by Karl Marx in notes on Irish History (1869). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Ireland and the Irish Question, New York, International Publishers, 1972, p. 171.
  12. Theobald Wolfe Tone (1791). An Argument on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland. Belfast: H. Joy & Co.
  13. Curran, Irish House of Commons, 18 February, 1792. Catholic Emancipation cited by Karl Marx in notes on Irish History (1869). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Ireland and the Irish Question, New York, International Publishers, 1972, p. 208
  14. "Biography of John Philpot Curran". Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  15. Curran, Irish House of Commons, 5 February 1796, the Insurrection Bill, cited by Karl Marx in notes on Irish History (1869). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Ireland and the Irish Question, New York, International Publishers, 1972, p. 216
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1888). "Curran, John Philpot"  . Dictionary of National Biography . Vol. 13. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  17. Kennedy, Denis (1992). "The Irish Opposition, Parliamentary Reform and Public Opinion, 1793-1794". Eighteenth-Century Ireland / Iris an dá chultúr. 7: (95–114) 111. doi:10.3828/eci.1992.7. ISSN   0790-7915. JSTOR   30070925. S2CID   256154966.
  18. 1 2 Thuente, Mary Helen (2009). "Sampson, William | Dictionary of Irish Biography". Retrieved 10 January 2023.
  19. Wood, C. J. (2009). "Cleland, John". Dictionary of Irish Biography.
  20. Stewart (1995), pp. 181-182
  21. Cooper, Thompson (1889). "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Finnerty, Peter - Wikisource, the free online library". Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  22. "Trial by nisi prius in the Court of King's Bench, Ireland, in the case wherein Mr. John Hevey was plaintiff and Charles Henry Sirr, Esq., was defendant, on an action for an assault and false imprisonment: this trial was had before the Right Honourable Arthur Lord Viscount Kilwarden, Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and a special jury". Dublin: John Stockdale. 8 August 1802.
  23. Niles' weekly register, page 61, Volume 20 By Hezekiah Niles, William Ogden Niles. Accessed 6 November 2010.
  24. From a speech by Curran on 17 October 1812, during parliamentary elections in Newry (Curran, The Speeches ..., pp. 465-69) and quoted by Marx ("United Irishmen and Pitt"): Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Ireland and the Irish Question, New York, International Publishers, 1972, pp 231-232.
  25. "Robert Emmet". Library Ireland. 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  26. From grandeur to ruin, the story of Sarah Curran's home in Rathfarnham dated 27 December 2012 at
  27. Phillips, Charles (1851). Curran and his Contemporaries (4th ed.). Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons. p. 376.
  28. Geoghegan, Patrick (2009). "Kirwan, Owen | Dictionary of Irish Biography". Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  29. Bew, Paul; Maune, Patrick (July 2020). "The Great Advocate". Dublin Review of Books. No. 124. Archived from the original on 4 August 2020. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  30. Geoghegan, Patrick (2008). King Dan: the Rise of Daniel O'Connell, 1775-1829. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. ISBN   978-0717143931.
  31. 1 2 Webb, Alfred (1878). "John Philpot Curran - Irish Biography". Retrieved 9 February 2023.
  32. "Christopher Moore, Sculptor - Irish Artists".
  33. Ricorso: Digital materials for the study and appreciation of Anglo-Irish Literature. "[Sir] Jonah Barrington: Life, Works, Criticism, Commentary". Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  34. Barrington, Jonah (1918). Recollections of Jonah Barrington (General ed.). Dublin: Educational Company of Ireland, Talbot Press. pp. 231–232.
  35. Symons, Arthur (1909). The Romantic Movement in English Poetry. A. Constable & Company. p. 36.
  36. Landon, Letitia Elizabeth (1831). "picture". Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1832. Fisher, Son & Co.Landon, Letitia Elizabeth (1831). "poetical illustration". Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1832. Fisher, Son & Co.
  37. Curran, John Philpot (1815). Speeches of the Right Honourable John Philpot Curran ... on the Late Very Interesting State Trials. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown.
  38. Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels (10 December 1869) reprinted in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Ireland and the Irish Question, New York, International Publishers, 1972, p. 398.
  39. Walsh, Walter J. (2014). "Rights, Revolutions, Republics, 1750-1850: The Work and Works of William Sampson (1764—1836): A Chronology". American Journal of Irish Studies. 11: (41–88), 46. ISSN   2165-3224. JSTOR   43234379.

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John Philpot Curran
John Philpot Curran from NPG.jpg
Member of Parliament for Banagher
In office
Servingwith Arthur Dawson
Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Kilbeggan
With: Henry Flood
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Rathcormack
With: Henry Duquerry
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Banagher
1800 – 1801
With: Arthur Dawson
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Legal offices
Preceded by Master of the Rolls in Ireland
Succeeded by