Thomas Moore was born to Roman Catholic parents in Dublin in 1779. From the time he was young, Moore “displayed gifts as an actor and mimic,” which were encouraged by his parents, who enrolled him at a local academy (Wallace 82). Moore went on to attend Trinity College in Dublin, where he “managed not to become embroiled with the United Irishmen, though he shared their ideals” (Wallace 82). During his time at Trinity College, a friend also fostered Moore’s newfound interest in traditional Irish music (Wallace 82).
“The Surgeon had clearly been in the middle of one of his interminable stories when Merridith had arrived…. Something about a pig who could talk. Or dance? Or stand on its hind legs and sing Tom Moore. It was an Irish peasant story anyway: all of the Surgeon’s were.”
-Star of the Sea, 7
After graduation in 1798, Moore moved to London, where his musical talent made him very popular with London society. Moore turned down an offer to become the first poet laureate of Ireland in 1803, instead briefly serving as admiralty registrar in Bermuda before returning to London. Between 1808 and 1834, Moore published 10 volumes of Irish Melodies, which included both love songs and “stirring patriotic ballads as acceptable to the English as to the Irish” (Wallace 82).
Moore published many other, largely less successful, works during this time, including a satire, "Corruption and Intolerance," which railed against English oppression of the Irish. In 1811, Moore married Bessy Dyke, an Irish actress with whom he had worked. Although a largely happy marriage, the couple faced financial struggles due to “Moore’s own pride and high principles” (Wallace 83).
In 1822, Moore found himself entrusted with the memoirs of Lord Byron, but he allowed Byron’s half-sister to burn the documents “for fear publication would cause a scandal” (Wallace 83). Moore wrote and published a biography of Byron in 1830, and also published biographies for several other historical figures. He spent his final years in the town of Sloperton, England, and died there on February 25, 1852 (Wallace 83).
The reference to Thomas Moore serves a couple of purposes in the novel. First of all, Surgeon Mangan’s shortening of “Thomas” to “Tom” is a sign of his disrespect for Moore as an artist; his comparison of the Irish to pigs is downright racist and displays Mangan’s failure to view the Irish as people worthy of respect. Second, this reference displays Moore’s prevalence in not only Ireland, but also England, as an artist; despite Mangan’s contempt for the Irish, even he is aware of Moore’s importance as an Irish songwriter.
O’Connor, Joseph. Star of the Sea. Orlando: Harcourt, 2002. Print.
Wallace, Martin. 100 Irish Lives. Totowa: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. Print.
Researcher/Writer: Audrey Gunn
Technical Designers: Lindsey Atchison and Sarah Liebig
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