RICE, Michael. Manuscript. The Poetical Writings of Michael Rice of Annaletting near Castleblayney, County Monaghan. Presented to his son, Felix Rice of Edinburgh in the author’s handwriting as a token of paternal regard and esteem for his dearly beloved child, July 1850.
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Manuscript, in a neat and legible forward-slanting hand, written in brown ink. Quarto. pp. [116 plus 3 additional pages of poems perhaps in the hand of Felix Rice]. Contemporary worn half calf over marbled boards. Portion of one leaf excised, with loss of approximately four lines from a satire, and of the title and a portion of the introductory matter of a poem begun on the verso. Twenty two unpublished poems from an Irish Farmer, generally epistolary verses, there are a number of satires and a lengthy piece descriptive of Castleblayney. Spine rubbed with some loss, front hinge cracked and loose. In good condition.
Rice drops a few biographical clues in the introductory poem to his son Felix, where he notes, “That all may know I never meant / A line of mine should be in print.” He emphasises the assertion that verse “was not my trade” with a review of his career as a farmer: “And then a tract came to my hands / of fertile good paternal lands / The costly gift I own I lov’d / I built - fenc’d, planted, and improv’d / This farm still, did since afford / Sufficient means to crown my board.” He mentions an affinity for horse racing and the hunt, but notes his especial affection for fly-fishing; he most enjoys, “By Fane’s great stream to roam about / And lure the sporting speckled trout.” Though mention is made of the influence of Moore and of the Irish national bent for verse, he returns to the sad truths of national character, noting that despite natural advantages, Ireland is “Stript of her commerce, trade, and treasures /
Affected by bad laws and measures / Her children daily her deserting ...” “ On this latter theme, he includes a brief poem from 1828 commemorating the emigration of a friend to the United States (“Hail! Thou fair Columbian nation / Native seat of Liberty”).
Rice seems most at home with invective; among other victims, he by turns attacks pretentious school-masters, the established church (“The church that makes the Millions here to moan”) and a local physician who had been suing a kinsman for practising medicine without a diploma. On a more positive note, his single song “I never wrote a song but once - I abominated the idea of such” was written in 1815 for one Mr. McMathis’s brewery, and is on “Thornford Ale.” Rice’s poems appear to date back to 1806. Towards the end there are three poems in pencil (one in orange pencil); two are dated 1853, and are probably in the hand of Felix Rice. Loosely inserted is a fine copy of Rice’s poem on Castleblayney on two sheets of foolscap, titled ‘Fragments of a Poem Descriptive of the Towns and Environs of Castleblayney now the Estate of Henry Thomas Hope, Esq.’
Also loosely inserted is a four page quarto letter dated 1862 from Felix Rice describing in entertaining detail a trip to London where: “The people are very civil, courteous and obliging.” On the second day he visited the Exhibition where he noted there were “foreigners here in great quantities from the stoic harsh accented Scotsman with any amount of aphorisms and significantly but always keeping in little cliques, to the barefooted Indian with rings in ears and toes, as well as two pages of a poem, ‘The Rebel Chief’, a poem on 1798, apparently incomplete and perhaps in Felix Rice’s hand.
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