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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: September ::
Shakespeare Allusion on Irish Monument
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0360  Wednesday, 1 September 2010

From:         Brian Nugent <
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Date:         August 28, 2010 1:54:25 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0342  Performing Shakespeare in Ireland, 1660-1922
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0342  Performing Shakespeare in Ireland, 1660-1922

I hope that conference goes well and I thought it might not be out of place to 
note here what I think is a Shakespeare allusion on a 17th century monument in 
Ireland.

Simply put, there happens to be a monument in St Peter's Church at Donadea in 
Co. Kildare to Sir Gerald Aylmer and his wife Julia which encompasses two 
plaques with these inscriptions:

"Stay, passenger! thy hasty foot;
This stone delivers thee
A message from a famous 'twin,'
That here entombed be."

The second inscription:

"Live, for virtue passeth wealth
As we do find it now,
Beauty, riches and worldly state
Must all to virtue bow."

The overall elaborate and large monument has been dated to 1626, which means it 
was created by Gerald before he died. However, as pointed out by the late Helen 
Roe (1), it encompasses different types of stone in a way that leads one to 
believe that the two plaques placed high in the monument are earlier than the 
rest of the piece and can presumably be dated to c.1617 when Julia died young, a 
tragic event that in all probability inspired the monument.

So therefore if that inscription is to be dated to 1617 it might be interesting 
to consider it alongside a certain better known two plaques in the church at 
Stratford-upon-Avon which are usually dated to 1616 and which read:

"Stay, passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
 Read, if thou canst, whom envious Death hath placed
 Within this monument: Shakespeare, with whom
 Quick nature died, whose name doth deck this tomb
 Far more than cost, sith all that he hath writ
 Leaves living art, but page, to serve his wit."

and:

"Good friend for Jesus sake forbear,
to dig the dust enclosed here,
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones."

Surely one would have to agree that there is a comparison to be made here and 
that the poem in the Donadea church is quite elegant and reminiscent of 
Shakespeare?

Sir Gerald Aylmer was born c.1548 (2), knighted in 1598, created a baronet in 
1621, and died in 1634. He married firstly c.1587/88 Mary Travers, the widow of 
Viscount Baltinglass (the well known Catholic rebel). She died in 1610. He then 
married Julia Nugent in 1612, the daughter of Christopher, the Baron of Delvin, 
and she died in 1617. She was 14 (3) at the time of her marriage and he was 64! 
As aforesaid, her tragically short life was in all probability the motivation 
for the creation of this monument.

Sir Gerald had many connections to the Nugents which might explain this 
otherwise eyebrow raising marriage:

a) In his will he particularly refers to his "best friend the Countess of 
Kildare" (4). She was Elizabeth Nugent, an elder sister of Julia, who had 
married Gerald Fitzgerald, the 14th Earl of Kildare, and died in 1645. She is 
quite a prominent figure in the Catholic scene in Ireland in the early 17th 
century famous for, among other things, leasing out her property - Kilkea Castle 
- to the Jesuits for 11 years. The most prominent Jesuits at that time anyway 
were the two brothers Frs Robert and Nicholas Nugent SJ, first cousins of her 
fathers. After her death Fr Robert reported back to Rome on the demise of "truly 
the mother of our Society [of Jesus, i.e. the Jesuits] in this kingdom." (5) 
Actually Fr Robert had earlier got a dispensation for her from Rome for having 
married the Earl of Kildare, who she later realised was technically within the 
forbidden degrees of consanguinity. (6) It may be thought therefore that she was 
an influence in the creation of the monument and particulary for the prominent 
cruxifixes that can be seen in the image of Julia. Of course she may have been 
also a bit of a matchmaker since she preceded her sister into these badlands of 
Kildare which is actually quite some distance from the Nugent territories to the 
North of Westmeath.

b) He swam in the same circles as the Nugents in the 1580s and early 90s. His 
'brother' [presumably brother in law] Edward Cusack was accused of involvement 
in William Nugent's rebellion alongside the judge Nicholas Nugent. He was jailed 
in London in those years, the same time as Christopher the Baron of Delvin (who 
would have been his future father-in-law but Christopher had died in 1602). He 
corresponded with Burghley, Walsingham, and Nicholas White the Master of Rolls 
in Ireland, all noted correspondents of the Nugents at that time. Another figure 
peripherally connected to the Nugents was Sir George Carew - the later Earl of 
Totness - who had dealings with Aylmer in 1591. At that time Carew describes him 
as his 'landlord' (7) but of where is unclear to this observer. It presumably 
refers to somewhere in Dublin but Carew's main properties were in Stratford-
upon-Avon where he is buried.

c) But more than anything else Aylmer was a proud Catholic lawyer and went 
through the same experiences of repeated imprisonments and persecutions exactly 
as the Nugents did in those years, and that itself would have provided quite a 
bond between the two families. It was said of Aylmer that:
"He was also [like Viscount Baltinglass, his first wife's late husband] a Roman 
Catholic, and, according to that extraordinary semi-literary-military adventurer 
and busy-body, Barnaby Rich, had never once said "Amen" when the queen was 
prayed for, although her Majesty had shown him and his wife great favour. In 
1591 notice was taken by the Government of his absence from the services of the 
Established Church, and he was ordered to hear a sermon from Loftus, the 
Archbishop of Dublin. This he avoided by escaping to England, but on arriving in 
London he was thrown into prison." (8)

In any case the bottom line is who wrote that inscription? My guess is that it 
was William Nugent (who died in 1625), Julia's uncle, who was a famous poet and 
therefore a fit candidate for penning those deliciously ambiguous lines?

In any case I think the Donadea inscription is surely worthy of some attention 
from Shakespearean scholars.

Footnotes:

For further details of the monument see: Richard Edward Mercier ed., Anthologia 
Hibernica (Dublin, August 1793) vol 2, p.81, available at:  
http://books.google.ie/books?id=4Pg1AAAAMAAJ , and John Bernard Burke, A 
Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain 
and Ireland (London, 1854), p.80-81. An image of the Monument can be seen at: 
http://books.google.ie/books?id=4Pg1AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA80-
IA2&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U0KWN7ugaxOwvvX5NCtO2rMMT2r2g&ci=193%2C150%2C781
%2C1235&edge=0 , and also modern pictures of the monument by 'Michael_Naas' on 
flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11129390@N02/1238025501/ and 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/11129390@N02/1238027343/ . I would also like to 
thank the librarians at the Kildare County Library for their help in tracking 
down some of these articles.

1. See the reference to Helen Roe at: 
http://thestewartsinireland.com/hortland%203.html . I haven't as of yet read the 
full Roe article however.

2. His date of birth was established by Sir Fenton Aylmer writing in the Journal 
of the County Kildare Archaeological Society, vol XI no.1 Jan 1930 p.367.

3. See Basil Iske [pseud. for Elizabeth Hickey], 'The Green Cockatrice' (Tara, 
1978), p.141.

4. JCKAS Vol XI op.cit. p.383.

5. George Oliver, 'Collections towards Illlustrating the Biography of the 
Scotch, English and Irish members, S.J.' (Exeter, 1638), p.236.

6. Her mother, Mary Fitzgerald, was the grand daughter of Garret ??g Fitzgerald 
the 9th Earl (through Gerald 'the wizard' or 11th Earl of Kildare), while her 
husband was a nephew of Garret ??g.

7. JCKAS Vol XI op.cit. p.375.

8. Francis Elrington Ball, Monkstown Castle and its History (Dublin, 1900) in 
JRSAI vol 30, or vol 10 5th series, p.114.

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