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MacNEVIN, William James. M.D. A Ramble through Swisserland in the Summer and Autumn of 1802. With map of Switzerland.
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Dublin: Printed by J. Stockdale, 62 Abbey-Street, 1803. pp. [iv], 280. Modern half red morocco on marbled boards, title in gilt direct along spine. Several contemporary manuscript notes to margins. A near fine copy. Exceedingly rare.
COPAC locates the BL copy only of this edition. Only eBook on WorldCat.
William James MacNevin, M.D., a distinguished United Irishman, was born in 1763, at Ballynahowna, County of Galway, where his father possessed a small estate inherited from an ancestor who in the Cromwellian settlement was transplanted to Connaught. His uncle, Baron MacNevin, lived at Prague, where he was physician to the Empress Maria Theresa. YoungMacNevin, precluded by the Penal Laws from obtaining an education at home, was sent to Prague when about eleven years old, and there he resided ten years, received a classical education, and passed through the medical college, finishing his professional studies at Vienna, where he graduated in 1783. Next year MacNevin commenced as a physician in Dublin, and soon worked an extensive practice. He became an active member of the Catholic Committee, was returned from
Navan in 1792 as representative to the Catholic Convention held in Back-lane, and took a firm stand with Tone in opposition to the pusillanimous policy of Lord Kenmare. He joined the society of the United Irishmen at the solicitation of Lord Edward FitzGerald - taking the oath from Miss Moore of Thomas Street, the friend of Lord Edward, and an enthusiast in the national cause. He never shrank from danger, and with Bond and McCormack arranged with Colonel McSheehy, Tone’s aide-de-camp, relative to the proposed descent by the French on the Irish coast, and also conferred personally with Tone in Paris. In after life he often referred to the delightful evenings he spent with other leaders of the party at Frascati, Blackrock, in the company of Lord Edward, his wife, and his sister, Lady Emily FitzGerald. On 12th March 1798 he was seized, with the principal leaders of the party, and imprisoned at Kilmainham. He joined the other state prisoners in their agreement with Government, and was removed to Fort George, Scotland. He lightened his subsequent imprisonment by study, translating many of the Ossianic legends into English, and noting traditions from the mouths of the Scotch soldiers of the fort. For the use of his friend Emmet’s children he compiled a grammar. After his release (30 June 1802), forbidden to return to Ireland, MacNeven visited old friends in Bohemia, made a pedestrian tour of Switzerland. His book is richer in detail, more multifaceted, and more sympathetic towards its subject than the two best-known English-language alpine tours of the period, William Coxe’s ‘Travels in Switzerland’ (first edn. 1779) and Helen Maria Williams’s ‘A Tour in Switzerland’ (1798). It mixes military tourism with anthropological, of which he wrote this account. In 1803 MacNevin went to Paris where he entered the French Army as a surgeon-captain in the Irish Brigade. Deceived and disappointed at the failure of all hopes of an invasion of Ireland, and concerned at the fatal issue of a duel in which he acted as second, he sailed from Bordeaux for the United States in 1805, and landed in New York on the 4th of July. With favourable introductions, and among old friends, he soon felt himself at home, and his rise in the honours and the emoluments of the medical profession was rapid. He occupied several important medical positions in New York, and married in 1810. MacNevin was an accomplished scholar, and spoke German, French, Italian, and Irish. During his long career in America he continued to take a warm interest in Catholic Emancipation and the different movements which agitated his native country. He died at the residence of his son-in-law, Thomas Addis Emmet, Jun., near New York, 12th July 1841, aged seventy eight. The most striking features of his character were imperturbable coolness and self- possession, combined with remarkable simplicity of mind, and singleness of purpose.
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