the odd habits of two Irishmen

Richard Whately (1787-1863) was the Archbishop of Dublin. He was also a spiritualist.

image found here

“The Archbishop had been long a believer in Mesmerism, and latterly in clairvoyance and Spiritualism. “He went from one extreme to another, until he avowed an implicit belief in clairvoyance, induced a lady who possessed it to become an inmate of his house, and some of the last acts of his life were excited attempts at table-turning, and enthusiastic elicitations of spirit-rapping.”

A favourite amusement of the Archbishop’s was to study the phrenological developments of his comrades; and on one occasion, referring to the peculiarly flat-topped head of a neighbour, he propounded what he called the “new phrenological test ” :- ” Take a handful of peas, drop them on the head of the patient; the amount of the man’s dishonesty will depend on the number which remain there. If a large number remain, tell the butler to lock up the silver and plate.”

He lived on Marlborough Street in Tyrone House, not so very far from Cavendish Row where the eminent chemist and geologist, Richard Kirwan (1733-1812) had lived.

On Wednesdays, at six o’clock, he received his friends. “At 7:00 the knocker was removed from the hall-door to prevent latecomers from being admitted. If his guests had not departed by 9:00 pm he put on his pajamas and escorted them to the door.

Kirwan was found on these occasions reclining on a couch rolled in a cloak, with another cloak covering his lower limbs, and wearing a hat, and with a blazing fire in the room at all seasons. Mr. Kirwan had a great abhorrence of flies, and he allowed his servants a small premium per dozen for each one they could kill and bring to him.

His servant, Mr Pope, slept in the same bedroom and was instructed to wake him every two hours to pour hot tea down his throat. Most likely by accident, Pope would often miss Kirwan’s mouth and dump the tea in his eyes, on his nose, and hair making a horrible mess in the bed. The purpose of all the tea drinking (camelliaphagia) was to sustain internal body heat throughout the night.

spiky teapot by Alex Metcalf found here

Published in: on March 17, 2010 at 9:00 am  Comments (35)  
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35 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. myra this is totally OT, and it’s not Friday yet,but…
    LK is working on a design for a steampunk corset. Check it out.

    • I want the corset! and I want to be able to do the splits like that girl in the video too….

  2. “… flat-topped head of a neighbour

    dream date? gotta rest that beer somewhere…

  3. I likes me that spacey teapot! Imagine if the butler had been using that particular teapot for the two hourly pourings … you’d get than tea in your eye, to be sure.

  4. I would never have guessed that that teapot was a teapot. It’s so cool!

  5. i’m usually at such a loss for words after reading your most interesting posts nursemyra, that’s why i was so happy to see what? a butterick dress pattern! that really brought back some memories of high school home economics class. i wonder if butterick is still in business after all these years?

    oh and the pea thing? it doesnt work. i tried it on rip last night and not a pea fell. i know for a fact that he can’t be trusted! 🙂

  6. Is that where the phrase “pea brain” comes from?? haha

  7. oops maybe i got that pea thing backwards. i knew he couldnt be trusted! Ggrrrr…

  8. they removed his knocker…


    • No you’re not 😉

  9. Spirit rapping? Is that what Tupac and Biggie are doing now?

  10. Happy St. Patricks Day Nursemyra!

    • And to you too Michael xx

  11. I had an Ouija board once.
    We used it a few times, but it tended to scare people. It would answer questions in the worst possible way.

    Being an Archbishop and a “spiritualist” seems like a contradiction, but maybe it’s not. I would have expected, though, that the church would have taken a dim view on this type of shit.

    • March 17, 965
      Pope Leo VIII dies of a stroke during sexual intercourse. Perhaps the best way for a man to die, but not a very appropriate choice for the Bishop of Rome.

      to no avail, they take dim views on lots of types of shit.

      • Well that’s good. At least they’re viewing it dimly. I wouldn’t want them to be hypocritical or anything.

  12. I tried that peas on the head thing, but one got stuck in my ear. Maybe that means I don’t retain enough body heat, or perhaps that I have too much time on my hands.

  13. “enthusiastic elicitations of spirit-rapping” Isn’t that what happens when Jay-Z gets drunk?

    I would have got along with this guy.

  14. When I was an impoverished art student we had our bed in the living room. There were many occasions when friends came round and stayed too long I took myself off to bed ……. I can sleep through anything …..

  15. I am now looking for peas to pour on my head.

  16. Put this guy in the “eccentric” category.

  17. WOnderful stuff. You really do post some dascinating stuff. More please!

    • This post was especially for you Jams

  18. I shall find a packet of frozen peas and repair to Horseferry Road Magistrates Court, therein to offer my services as judge and jury. I’ll go down a storm.

    • I’m sure you will Madame

  19. If I was going to be woken every two hours, there’d better be a naked woman involved.

  20. No wonder my ancestors fled in Black ’47 . . . and I always thought it was the famine.

  21. Hello, Nurse Myra. I have given you an award for the brilliant content of this blog. I apologize for my absence lately. It is always informative.

    • Thanks silverstar, nice to see you here again

  22. I like the term “inmate of the house.”

  23. I get up every two hours to drink tea. I’ve been told that that is why I’m such an irritable and discontented bastard.

    Maybe I should switch to coffee.

  24. I hate St. Patrick’s Day

  25. I can imagine how Mr Pope would have missed pouring the tea in Kirwan’s mouth. If I was woken up every two hours, I’d be protesting wildly!

  26. That’s two tins of mushy peas gone for a Burton and I’m still none the wiser as to the safety of teh cutlery.

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