The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0360 Wednesday, 1 September 2010
From: Brian Nugent <
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
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."
"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
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.
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:
%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,
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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