Brennan, John, M.D., born at *Ballahide, in the County of
Carlow, about 1768. He was educated to the medical profession, and
obtained a wide reputation for his successful practice in puerperal
disorders. An excellent classical scholar, a man of talent and
humour, his sallies were long remembered. As editor of the Milesian
Magazine he unhappily prostituted his talents, by ridiculing for pay
the Catholic leaders of his day, and abusing the members of his own
profession. He died in Dublin, 29th July 1830, aged 61. In Notes and
Queries, 3rd Series, will be found reference to a copy of the
Milesian Magazine in the British Museum, containing a MS. key to
- 39. Biographical Dictionary, Imperial:
Edited by John F. Waller. 3 vols. London, N.D.
- 254. Notes and Queries. London, 1850-'78.
- O'Callaghan, John C., see No. 186.
- * There is no Ballahide
in County Carlow but there is a Ballyhide in County Laois
south west of Carlow town.
- Website source: www.LibraryIreland.com
Dr. John Brennan and the Milesian magazine
by Patrick Purcell
The Following is an extract taken from Vol. Ill,
"The United Irishmen, and Their Times," by Dr. Richard R. Madden,
(page 121, Vol. Ill), "Dr. John Brennan and the Milesian Magazine."
Having referred to Dr. Brennan and his accusations
against Cox, with regard to Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Thomas
Russell, it would be an act of justice to Cox's memory, whose
fidelity he impugns, to conceal the circumstances which render his
own statements rather doubtful. Brennan had been an early
contributor to Cox's magazine. He quarrelled with him, and set up a
rival periodical. Brennan, like his competitor, was nominally a
Catholic; he struck out a new line in satire, and censoriousness — a
warfare of ridicule on the Roman Catholic leaders of the day, and of
ludicrous scurrility against the members of his own profession. It
was the interest and manifestly the object of Brennan to bring Cox
into disrepute, and to establish his own claims on the gratitude of
the administration, without incurring the suspicion of his own
It would be folly, indeed, to refer to such matters
if circumstances of far higher public interest were not connected
with them. Literature of merit in other countries derives rewards
and honours from government. Some doggerel verses, smartly written,
turning the most prominent of the Catholic leaders into ridicule,
beginning with the words "Barney, Barney, buck or doe," recommends
the writer, Dr. Brennan, to the especial favour of the Duke of
Richmond's government. This poor man, of whom it is not only
charitable but true to say his wits were partially disordered, on
his death-bed, in his wanderings often repeated incoherent rhymes
(for ruling passion strong in death, prevailed with him), and one
couplet, not unfrequently, was repeated which there is good reason
to believe denoted a foregone conclusion:
- Barney, Barney, buck or doe,
- Has kept me out of Channel Row.
Many pensions, no better earned, have kept men of
little worth out of Channel Row poor-house. Dr. Brennan's "Milesian
Magazine," or Irish Monthly Gleaner, is the most perfect specimen
that exists, in eccentric ephemeral literature, of a periodical
professing to be a monthly one, setting at defiance all obligations
in respect of punctuality as well as propriety and decorum.
Intervals of six, twelve, and eighteen months—nay, even
years—occasionally occurred between the appearances of consecutive
numbers of this meteoric magazine. The first number appeared in
1812, the last — No. 16 — in July 1825. There can be no doubt the
mission of "The Milesian Magazine" was a governmental one. The
objects to be affected were to bring Cox and his "Irish Magazine"
into disrepute, and the Catholic leaders and the Committee into
The first article in the first number is an attack
on Cox and his assassination journal, "The Union Star," the second
is illustrated by an emblematic engraving, representing Cox in the
act of killing his wife.
The poetry in the first number consists of an
elaborate lampoon, above referred to, on the principal Catholic
leaders, Lords Fingal, Gormanstown, Southwell, French, Killeen,
Kenmare, Netterville, Major Bryan, John Keogh, William Murphy,
Sylvester Costigan, John Lawless, Owen O'Connor, William Finn, Dr.
Drumgoole, and Barney Coile, with the absurd refrain:
- Barney, Barney, buck or doe,
- Who will with the petition go?
The labours of Dr. Brennan were duly requited by the
representative of the British Government in Ireland. More fortunate
than a modern lampooner similarly employed, Brennan was awarded a
pension of £200 a year—the evidence of which fact, in the
handwriting of Dr. Brennan, is in my possession.
Brennan died in July 1830, in Britain Street,
Dublin, aged about sixty-two years. He left two children, a son and
a daughter, the latter a lady of a very amiable character,
respectably married in Kilkenny. He was born at Ballahide, Carlow;
his father was a gentleman of ancient family, and once of
considerable fortune. He died intestate, leaving six small children,
the eldest of whom was John, the subject of this notice. After his
father's death he went to law with his family, and carried on a
protracted suit against his mother, which brought ruin on the
property. His son however contrived from the wreck of it the sum of
between five and six thousand pounds, which he carried with him to
England, and having squandered away whatever he possessed,
eventually died there.
Dr. Brennan was a man of classical attainments, of a
high order, and very considerable talents, which were sadly misused
by him; he devoted his fine talents to sarcasm and scurrility, the
little use he made of his abilities in his profession was still
sufficient to make his name known to medical men, not only in
England, but over the continent, as the person who first brought
into practice the use of turpentine in peurperal disorders.
The property of Dr. Brennan's father in Carlow alone
and its immediate vicinity, called the CASTLE HILL, at the time of
his decease, was worth £200 a year. This and other landed property,
Dr. Brennan states, he and his family were swindled out of
professionally by his attorneys. The injury he suffered at the hands
of these legal gentlemen may account for the incessant warfare he
waged on their profession. Brennan's free translations of remarkable
passages in classical works, of celebrity, are deserving of notice:
- "Neme repente fuit turpissimus," - it takes seven years
and some hard swearing to make an attorney.
- "De mortuis nihil nisi benum," — when scoundrels die,
all knaves bemoan them.
- "Irrivitum qui servat idom facit accidente," — cure a
man against his will; the cure will vex him worse than
Source: Carloviana Vol. 2 No. 21
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