IHAS: Composer
Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
IHAS header
Return to Profiles Menu
Previous Next


Born in Dublin on May 28, 1779, into a family with revolutionary sympathies, Thomas Moore became one of the first Catholics to be admitted to Trinity College in 1794. His friendship with his heroic compatriot Robert Emmet produced some early inflammatory writings for the cause of Irish freedom, though at his parents' pleading he discontinued his radical activities. Moore did, nonetheless, stand by Emmet, who was arrested, tried, and hanged after he had led an ill-fated rebellion in 1803. The poet refused to cooperate in the inquiry, and after Emmet's death he composed a moving elegy, WHEN HE WHO ADORES THEE, based on the martyr's words at his trial.

The experience marked him for life; in it he had found his true poetic voice as the soul and heartbeat of an oppressed Ireland. Though he was often criticized for being an armchair revolutionary and for fraternizing with the English oppressors, Moore remained committed to the Irish cause, and he used his poems to carry the message into the drawing rooms and concert halls of England, Europe, and the Continent, where his musical settings and his own performance of his melodies moved listeners and won him the adulation of a celebrity.

Irish Melodies

His ODES OF ANACREON were published in 1799 and other early verse appeared under the pseudonym of Thomas Little in 1801, but it was not until 1807 when he fled to the Continent after a disastrous diplomatic caper in Bermuda that he began the work which was to make his name as the pre-eminent poet-composer of his day. Composing new verses for traditional tunes, which he annotated and gave to John Stevenson and later to Henry Bishop to arrange, Moore published ten volumes of his IRISH MELODIES. With the heyday of the piano and with the growing fascination with the Folk Movements throughout Europe and the New World, Moore's Melodies found their way into virtually every parlor and onto every concert platform of the 19th century, exerting a profound influence on American composers, among them Stephen Foster.

Lionized by contemporary composers and poets, he enjoyed an intimacy with Lord Byron, who entrusted his letters and diary to his Irish friend, plunging Moore into a messy legal battle with Lady Byron after her husband's death and resulting in the destruction of the memoires that could have shed definitive light on Byron. Despite his hand in this unfortunate event, Moore did publish Byron's Journals as well as a biography of his friend, which remains a classic. These -- together with his collection of SACRED AIRS; an opera, THE BLUESTOCKING; a book-length epic poem, LALLA ROOKH -- became significant additions to Moore's opus.

Return Home Top of the page
[ Home | Profiles | Timeline ]

[Thirteen Online]       [ PBS Online ]