BARRINGTON, Sir Jonah. Personal Sketches of His Own Times. By Sir Jonah Barrington, Judge of the High Court of Admiralty in Ireland. Three volumes.


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London: Henry Colburn & Richard Bentley, 1827/1832. First edition. Large post octavo. pp. (1) xxvii, [1], 476, (2) xiii, 4, 474, (3) xxxvi, 436. First and second volumes have “In two volumes”. Near contemporary half brown morocco on marbled boards. Spine divided into six panels by five raised bands, title and volume number in gilt direct in the second and fourth, the remainder tooled in gilt to a centre- and-corner design; marbled endpapers; maroon and gold endbands. Occasional light foxing. All edges marbled. A very attractive set in a fine binding. Extremely rare.
COPAC locates only 2 sets of this edition. Sir Jonah Barrington (1760-1834) lawyer and chief anecdotal historian of Anglo-Irish society before the Act of Union, was born at Knapton, near Abbeyleix, County Laois, which was subsequently lost to his family. Educated in Dublin and at TCD before being called to the Bar in 1788, he took silk in 1790 and became an Admiralty Court Judge in 1798. Between 1798 and 1800 he was MP for Tuam and then Clogher. Though opposed to the legislative Union (reputedly refusing the solicitorship offered in return for his influence), he was also closely involved in the traffic of bribes required to pass the measure, it is very difficult to reconcile this. He failed to be elected to Westminster for Dublin in 1802-3 but was knighted in 1807. For some years Barrington occupied a house in Harcourt Street, adjacent to his great rival John Scott, Lord Clonmell. From 1815 he lived mostly in France to escape creditors. His ‘Personal Sketches of His Own Times’ written with panache and humour was first published in 1827 (volume 3 appeared in 1832), contain the vivid portraits of contemporary political and legal figures for which he is best remembered, besides a gallery of bibulous landlords and their stage Irish retainers, with an unruly army of actors, wits, gamblers, hacks, and impostors. A most interesting account of the social, political and cultural life in Ireland in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. He describes at length the 1798 Rebellion, Wolfe Tone, Hamilton Rowan, Fr. O’Leary, Curran and Grattan, Irish Inns, Wexford elections, etc. In the third volume he discusses medicine in Ireland, recruiting, the Mayo election at Castlebar, Donnybrook Fair, Weddings and customs, etc. “takes the reader on his various peregrinations. The Irish passages breathe the lifestyle of the country’s fire-eating half-mounted gentlemen; the French narratives tell of Dorothy Jordan, of Napoleon, and of life in Paris before and after Waterloo.” (Oxford DNB) In 1830 he was removed from office after a parliamentary commission found he had embezzled from the Admiralty Court several times between 1805 and 1810. He died in Paris. “The better-known and sociologically invaluable Personal Sketches of his Own Times (1827-32), written with panache and humour.


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