[Letter from Martin A. O'Brennan (57 Bolton Street) to Eugene O'Curry, enclosing and commenting on a pseudonymous malicious letter, signed 'William John O'Brennan'.]

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[Letter from Martin A. O'Brennan (57 Bolton Street) to Eugene O'Curry, enclosing and commenting on a pseudonymous malicious letter, signed 'William John O'Brennan'.]



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57 Bolton Street June 24th 54

Dear Mr Curry

Had I not felt that I am addressing a man of good sense and of a generous heart I would not send you the enclosed malicious letter of some fiendish person, who would feign represent himself as your friend. But I am satisfied that you will agree with me when you have read it, that the writer - whoever he is - is unworthy of the society of the literati. He would feign create a spark of unchristian jealousy between two men who have a common object - the revival of our Mother tongue - The letter has a name to it but that name is evidently a forgery.

I am anxious thus early to send to to you that you may know of the existence of such [disturbing] of goodwill. I have heard of your kind word of me, and I am convinced that, from what you know of my character, you look on me as incapable of [dis?]

The base writer may go to you and talk highly of me. It is possible you know the handwriting. I pray you return it to me as I am determined to detect the fiend.

Let me now congratulate you on your appointment in the Catholic University. Three months ago my friend Archdeacon Hamilton told me it would be so.

What evening could I have the pleasure of calling on you to consult with you on one or two matters.

Believe me

Yours very truly

Martin A. O'Brennan

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Collegiate Seminary, 57 Bolton-street, August 22 1853

MY LORD ARCHBISHOP, MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,—With profoundest reverence, I take leave to address you; I do so with the greatest humility, and influenced by the sternest necessity—a necessity which religion and reason warn me not dare to neglect—a necessity which God and Nature have imposed on me as a husband and a parent. The sheep, the mildest of brutes—and the hen, the tamest of fowls—will face the greatest danger to guard their young.

If it be your Grace's intention to have all the Catholic youth of Dublin placed under the immediate care of the Clergy for secular education, I would most respectfully and solemnly ask your Lordship, how are the present lay teachers and their families to be provided for? Surely, we are to look up to you with more confidence than officers of the English crown look up to Victoria for provision when their services are about to be dispensed with. Equity insists that they be not deprived of their means of support without compensation. Equity and religion, therefore, make us appeal to your Grace for protection.

Had I anticipated, or could I have anticipated, that, after nineteen years of successful training of Catholic youth— uring which period, as the enclosed* testifies, I have had the confidence and friendship of Prelates and Priests—my means of subsistence would be, without any fault, unexpectedly taken from me, my wife, and my large and tender family, I would not have wasted the days of vigour, from twenty-four to forty-three, in perfecting myself in a profession, which, with me, was one of selection, not of necessity.

It is a well-known fact, that governmental patronage would have been liberally dealt out to some of us, could we be induced to silently look on the wrongs that have been and are being inflicted on this island of tears and of sorrow. For my own part, I could not consent to have anything to do with a government, which, my conviction tells me, was and is in Ireland the offspring of blood, fraud, treachery, irreligion, matured by the sum total of hellish devices and human depravity.

The part I have taken in public matters has alientated from me the support of those who are opposed to progressive reform. But, little did I think that destruction would happen to me from a quarter whence I ought reasonably expect protection. I could never suppose that the severest blow would have fallen on me from a pupil of my own, who is concerned in two Schools. He is a Priest, and, therefore, my lips are sealed. He may be pious—useful for the altar— well read in Theology (as no doubt he is); but, decidedly, the shoolmaster's desk is not his place. And God has intended that each ought to fill the place for which he is fitted; and, certainly, a clergyman ought not to covet the means of support from the ordinary hands. Moreover, it is an ascertained fact, that laymen do most of the duties in Clerical Schools. So that the new system is, after all, merely transferring our business into the hands of other laymen—and men unknown to the public. Parents ought to be made acquainted with this important fact—that respectable scholars seldom become ushers; consequently, the character of the Principal, unless himself discharge the chief duties of teaching, can be no guarantee that a refined and sound education will be imparted. The discipline may be good (though it is not acknowledged to be so) in such schools, but the learning will be trifling, and not radical. Unless men teach con amore, not for paltry gain, they will never impart a high-toned literature.

The Queen's Colleges have a sounding name; yet those who know them best, will admit that all is discipline, ceremonious pageant, but little solid learning. And truly is this said. For the classical and mathematical teachers of old, who, because of the persecuting spirit of the age, were obliged to teach behind a hedge, had a more thorough knowledge of, a more intimate acquaintance with the sense and beauties of the authors, than the Professors—if I except a very few. This being the case, the public ought to make our case their own, and let these few clergymen understand that they ought rather attend to their legitimate office, than be engaging in temporal affairs—that they have no right to be injuring a useful body of men—that they have their clerical position to depend on, without getting over the walls of our garden. If they are not required in the ministry at home—if their ministrations be not needed to stem the tide of proselytism—if they will not go abroad to call from the abominations of Heathenism the

*The enclosed contained my certificate.

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[left page] Pagans who are groping their way in the dark to eternity; if, on the contrary, they will become schoolmasters, let them enter the field on principles of commercial integrity—that is, unaided by bequest funds, or clerical income—literary merit, intellectual worth, and moral conduct being the sole tests for public support. Let them enter the field, nudo corpore, as we have done, and if they win solely by superior efficiency, I am satisfied. As well might they sell books, hats, shoes, pay workmen, fit up shops, and advertise business, by the aid of bequests and clerical income, as to fit up their schools, pay their assistants, by the same means, whilst they walk about themselves. If they competed even on commercial principles, still there would be an uneven competition; for, thank God, such is the love of the Celtic Catholic heart for a Priest, that whenever he competes, he is certain to get the preference, and this though the public would not entirely approve his conduct.

The two Carmelite Friars in Jervis-street have ample scope for their labour in the vineyard of the Lord. Let them go into the houses of the poor, who want instructions and spiritual consolation. Let them minister to them the balm of religious comfort Let them seek out the remnants of humanity, and the victims of vice. Let them raise the drooping spirit, and bring joy to the heart in which before was sorrow. This is the mission to which they have made their vow—not to secular pursuits. In the provinces, agreeably to synodical statutes, clergymen are inhibited from engaging in temporal matters—such as farms, &c. I am convinced that mere Grammar Schools, if not specified, are implied in the prohibitory statutes. In fact, the requirements of Ireland demand the undivided services of every clergyman in spiritual matters.

Secular teaching is the province of secular men, except in Colleges intended for ecclesiastical students. In sustainment of my view, I shall not detain your Grace with arguments; for it is patent to the smallest conceptive power, that after the student, destined for the altar, the confessional, and the pulpit, has acquired as much secular learning as will constitute a solid basis for the study of Divinity, he turns his mind to that subject, and he has enough to do to compass such knowledge as will enable him to discharge the holy duties of the confessional and of the pulpit. I know the terrible responsibilities and solemn duties of a Priest. I feel he has ample scope for his labours within the vineyard, and not to walk into the domain of wordly pursuit. In fact, he is not adapted to worldly business, because he was differently educated.

A time was, before printing, when almost the whole deposit of sacred and profane learning was in the hands of the Clergy and the other Religious Orders, when the Green Isle was the "insula sactorum et doctorum." Gorgeous were their dazzling lights, and widely diffused was the effulgence of the Irish lamp; brilliant and enduring were the glorious results. Our torch, then burning resplendently, when all Europe walked in the darkness of infidelity and ignorance, transmitted its rays through ages of English misrule, and conducted the faithful Celtic Catholic through a fiery ordeal for which history has no parallel. In those days, when not more than perhaps a single leaf of the Scriptures could be circulated at a time in a parish, before and some time after the invention of printing, books were available but to the few. Wherefore it was obviously necessary that the Clergy should teach Grammar Schools— (and it was done gratuitously)— and do all that in them lay to preserve to posterity Literature, as they did the Faith. However, the depositories having been scarce, operated injuriously on society; for when the impious Danes sacrilegiously despoiled the Churches, and hunted down the Priests—when war against religion and learning raged—then was there manifest peril to the latter, the Clergy having had a death-struggle to guard and foster the former. Hence we have it recorded, that throughout districts of England at one period there could not be found a Clergyman competent to translate the easiest Latin. Hence we are also to infer that it is not safe to confine the secular training of youth to any order. What once happened, may again happen. What is necessary to-day, may not be so tomorrow—nay, it might be dangerous. The brazen serpent in the desert is an instance of this.

The days of darkness are gone, the days of enlightenment are come; the light of knowledge has been largely let in on the human mind. Not only is our venerated Priesthood the most enlightened body in the world, but the Laity are also walking along in the field of science, each aiming at perfection in that species of education necessary for his state; consequently each is best in his own path, and should keep to it. The division of labour is the diviner system. As the laity have ever venerated their priesthood, those who have charge of the priesthood should not allow any of its members, by the pursuit of sordid gain, to bring odium on the order.

I owe it to myself to inform your Grace, that when "The Board of Education" was being established, I was

[right page] amongst the first who, under the names of "Catholicus" and "Athanasius" wrote against that insidious system. I was then but a mere boy, and a student. I have continued its enemy to this day, having been convinced that a Protestant Government intended it as a concealed poison, to effect by deception what it could not by violence—the uprooting of our holy religion. "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes."

In conclusion, my Lord, I have to say, that if the supervision of the religious education of youth is the only thing sought, that could be easily effected, without disaster to a deserving class of men. I am satisfied that Catholic Teachers would be happy to have their beloved Clergy visit their Schools, and in them teach religion. From your Grace's exalted character, I am to expect that such a plan will be adopted; and that such Schools as will be found worthy of your paternal and pastoral care, will be encouraged—not scattered. You will not allow a deserving class of men to be victimised, to prop up those who have other means of support. Your Grace will not allow ourselves and our families, who have moved in respectable spheres, to be driven to poverty and emigration. In matters of a purely secular character we are as entitled to your Lordship's consideration as some two or three clergymen, who, not content with one office, resemble official Pluralists. As to take means to guard against heresy, or spiritual disease, belongs to a high order of grace, so to prevent poverty is of a high order of charity.

I have the privilege to subscribe myelf Your Grace's Most humble Servant MARTIN A. O'BRENNAN.

To his Grace the Most Rev. PAUL, - Lord Archbishop of DUBLIN.

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stampt.

Martin A O'Brennan Esq Collegiate Seminary 57 Bolton Street Dublin

Mr J. O'Br.

[stamp UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN LIBRARY]

[postmark JU23 185? A]

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[UCD L 25/2]

Dublin 22nd Jun 1889

Sir,

Being on my way from N. York to visit England, I made myself acquainted with the celebrities of Dublin, and was resolved to pay you a visit; but unfortunately I must delay here only a few hours.

I am told that they are going to appoint an Irish professor in the New Catholic University, and [that?] they have come to the rash resolution of appointing to that chair a Mr. E. Curry, who is ignorant even of English Grammar!! Why do you not apply

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