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Historic Dublin page 2

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In St. Stephen's Green, during the eighteenth century, there lived a number of those eccentric characters who make the Irish memoirs of this period such entertaining reading. No. 86, a stone-fronted mansion which now forms a part of the National University, was once the home of the famous Buck Whaley, of whom it is recorded that "One day, for a bet, he threw himself out of his drawing-room window into a barouche as it rattled past, and kissed its fair occupant." Another Stephen's Green character was Francis Higgins, the "Sham Squire," who lived at No. 72. This infamous individual was intimate with Whaley, John Claudius Beresford, Lord Clonmell and other leading figures of the "Ascendancy." He was born in a cellar and became first an errand boy, then a waiter in a porter house and afterwards an attorney and Justice of the Peace. The exploit from which he derived his nickname was to pose as a man of property in order to gain the hand of a wealthy heiress, Miss Archer. This unfortunate lady died of shame, so the story goes, when her husband's true character was revealed.

John Scott, Earl of Clonmell, the intimate of Whaley and the "Sham Squire," had a magnificent house in Harcourt Street, part of which is now used as the Dublin Municipal Gallery of Modern Art.

Even more imposing than Clonmell House is Powerscourt House in William Street, a great stone mansion, erected at a prodigious cost between the years 1771 and 1774. It is now used for commercial purposes. But perhaps what was formerly the most distinguished of all the town houses of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and the one which has the greatest historic interest at the present day is now the one which of them all presents the most lamentable appearance of decay and desolation. This is Moira House on Usher's Island, on the southern bank of the Liffey, near the Kingsbridge railway station. To-day the long, low, forlorn-looking building shows not a trace of its original splendour. Since 1826 it has been used as an "Institution for the Suppression of Mendicity." Before it was handed over for this purpose not only was the upper storey removed, but the magnificent interior decorations and its gardens were demolished to make way for offices and outhouses.

The house was built by the Rawdon family, who became Earls of Moira, and until the death of the first Earl in 1793 it was the scene of constant and magnificent entertainments. John Wesley visited Lady Moira at Moira House in 1775, and " was surprised to observe though not a more grand, yet a far more elegant room than any he had seen in England." Here in 1777 Charles James Fox was introduced for the first time to Henry Grattan. And it was at Moira House, more than twenty years later, that the unfortunate Pamela first heard of the arrest of her husband, Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Dublin has many more fine relics of the Georgian age.

The nineteenth century left no striking traces upon the Irish capital. Now a new "historic Dublin" has been created, which when time has selected its salient features will provide a fascinating theme for the writers of the future.

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