Imágenes de páginas

dering advantage of him on the field of battle, is unaccountable: it certainly shows to what a daring pitch Fitzgerald could go ; and proves the dread (?) in which his name was universally held. But this sort of advantage was not new to our hero : on a previous occasion of the same sort, (the particulars of which the writer does not well recollect) Fitzgerald shot his antagonist through the head, without notice or warning, the instant the unfortunate man took his ground!

By this time, Fitzgerald's money and character being nearly gone, death withdrew his wife from a more protracted view of the extravagancies and mad quarrels which arose out of his constant attendance at the gaming table ; she left him a daughter, the only fruit of their union. His finances were now in that state of fluctuation and uncertainty which his skill in gambling, or the chance of the die, invariably gives rise to in the condition of all professed votaries of the black art; for his remittances from Ireland were very uncertain, and very small. He was literally a black-leg, and many quarrels grew out of his unblushing attempts at pillaging the unwary. When a pigeon was entrapped, his associates pounced upon him ; and if he resisted plucking to the last feather, Fitzgerald was at hand, as the champion of the gang, to frighten their victim into submission. This he did, generally, by his insolent air and overbearing manner, but more frequently by his very name.

Being engaged in an affair of this sort with a gentleman named Walker, a young cornet of the light dragoons, several angry pamphlets passed between them, among which was one entitled “An Appeal to the Jockey Club," by Fitzgerald, in which he made

the following boast of his dexterity in the art of duelling :-" I know," said he, “ from trials successively repeated, twenty times, one after another, that I can, at the distance of six paces, hit any part of the human body, to a line, which Mr. Walker may possibly know is only the twelfth part of an inch.” In another part of this pamphlet were the following words : “As to good qualities, some I have, perhaps, though few in number; this, however, I can say for myself,-no man can impeach my courage in the field, my honour on the turf, or my credit on the Royal Exchange!!!

In his paper warfare, Fitzgerald generally called in the assistance of a brother gamester, named Timothy Brecknock. This man had been well educated, but a faux pas in his youth had compelled him to go into voluntary exile. Returning from the Continent on his father's death, he commenced the life of a man of ton, and figured as such for several years, both in Bath and London. But his fortune being dilapidated by gambling, approaching poverty urged him to levy with interest upon other victims, those pecuniary mulcts which he himself had contributed during his own noviciate.

Brecknock, moreover, commenced the study of the law, in which he made some progress, and became a member of Lincoln's Inn. There are several remarkable stories told of his ingenuity at quibble and fraud, in the few cases which were committed to his care. Something of this kind coming to light, he was again compelled to quit the kingdom. On his return, after an absence of several years, his tricks were so well remembered, that he had little opportunity of practice

in the legal profession. He accordingly commenced author ;* in which capacity, as well as at the gamingtable, he was useful to Fitzgerald, until the machinations of the one, joined to the ferocity of the other, caused the ultimate ruin and untimely end of both.

Notwithstanding Brecknock's multitudinous avocations, he was rather out at elbows about the year 1775 ; and Fitzgerald being in a plight very little better, it

• Tim. Brecknock was by no means contemptible as a writer. He published several poems and political tracts; and, for several years, wrote in one of the London Journals, under the name of Attor: ney-General to the Gazetteer.” In 1764, he published a pamphlet entitled Droit de Roi,' which being denounced in the House of Lords, as favouring arbitrary principles, was ordered to be burnt by the common hangman! Tim. kept up the notoriety which this affair conferred on him, by turning common informer; which reputable calling he commenced some time in 1762, by laying information against the Judges of the land for wearing cambric! He was particularly well acquainted with almost all the ancient laws; and made much profit by dragging from their musty holes many an obsolete act, which remained unrepealed because overlooked, and because the necessity for enforcing them had long since ceased.

His boldness of manner and quick decision, joined to the abovementioned kind of knowledge, served greatly to ingratiate him with his clients, and with others who had business with him ; for those whom his demonstrations did not convince, he took care to bully into acquiescence. He was retained, for the Portuguese Charge des Affaires, in some transaction with Lord Shelburne, (Secretary of State,) about the year 1766, and tried the effect of intimidation in the following manner :-Being unable to persuade or argue the Earl into the wished-for measure, he gravely leaned on his hand, and looked him steadfastly in the face, saying, “ I shall never leave, nor lose sight of you, until I bring your head to the block !The Secretary, of course, ordered him to be turned out of his office; but, considering that the man who could have the audacity to make such a speech, had the talent of being useful, afterwards employed him in some secret services.

was agreed on between them, as Timothy was a man cunning in the law, to go to Ireland and to bring old Mr. Fitzgerald to account for the irregularity of his remittances to his affectionate and dutiful son. They considered, likewise, that as the characters of both were worn rather threadbare, it might be no bad speculation to try a reviver on them upon a new stage.

This pair of worthies accordingly set out, and on their arrival in Dublin commenced a Chancery suit against Fitzgerald's father; and whilst it was carrying on, they took care not to lose an atom of the reputation which they had so industriously earned in England. At length, in 1780, Fitzgerald obtained a decree for arrears of the annuity, and went to take possession of the whole of his father's estate to satisfy the demand. In doing this, however, great violence was committed by himself and his partisans, who had many conflicts with the tenantry, which compelled the father in his turn to sue for legal redress.

Fitzgerald, junr. was accordingly indicted for a riot, found guilty, and sentenced to imprisonment for three years.

His active mind, however, would not bear enthralment; for, although every precaution was taken, he forcibly effected his escape from the gaol, and went home to Rockfield, where he erected a battery of several pieces of ordnance :—these were placed on a mount overlooking the road. This, with other corresponding warlike preparations, alarmed the Government, who at length sent a regiment of horse, with a train of artillery, to dislodge the offenders. On their approach, Fitzgerald and his Guerillas took to flight, and concealed themselves in the mountains for some

In the mean time, sentence of outlawry having been passed on him, and a reward of 3001. offered for his apprehension, Fitzgerald could not well brook the restraint under which he lay in his concealment : accordingly, “with a chosen band,” and in the middle of the night, he marched to Turlough, where his father resided, (having been deprived of the seat of his ancestors,) and forcibly took him prisoner. The old man being placed in a post-chaise, a strong guard was placed around him ; and in this manner was he led in triumph all through the country, until their arrival in Dublin, where he soon died of a broken heart. Fitzgerald himself was soon afterwards captured, and safely lodged in the prison of Dublin, where he remained for some time; but he had art or interest enough, at length, to procure a pardon from Earl Temple, then Lord Lieutenant.

He now resided for some time in and near Dublin, where his ferocious manners kept all respectable persons at a respectful distance from him. Even in walking the streets, people were afraid to come in contact with him, fearful of giving offence to, or of incurring the resentful notice of, so untameable an animal, either by thought, word, or deed. Many, when they saw him approach them, used actually to cross to the opposite pavement, in order to avoid him : but this too, whenever be observed it, was construed into offence ; for he would follow the renegadoes and demand satisfaction! which, of course, he generally received in the shape of apology, for no denial of intentional affront was of the least avail. Unfortunately, the city of Dublin presented so many duelling exhibitions at

« AnteriorContinuar »