Letter from JAMES BARRY to HIS PARENTS, written 8 November 1769, at Rome

Source: Fryer,Works of Barry, i.152-54.

Barry responds to the news of the death of his youngest brother contained in a letter from his friend in Cork Dr. Sleigh, which Burke had forwarded to him on 8 October 1769.

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My Dear Father and Mother,1

Can I believe that my poor brother Jack should die amongst you, and no one of you think of making me acquainted with it. The satisfaction and hopes you have had from his sober careful conduct and application, which I so often joyed to find in your letters, interested me ten thousand times more about him than his being my brother. Poor Jack! he was the last of the family that I parted from,2 and amongst the last of those I would part with, and his death has blasted almost all the hopes I had of being useful to the family, as the business he was bred up to, and his sober conduct, gave me great expectations of his being able to put in practice some matters of architecture which my residence in Italy gave me opportunities of taking notice of; but this is all over, and it seems you have another son remaining with you who is of a very different cast; can this be Patrick, and is it possible that his own future prospect in life, the death of his poor brother, and the situation of his parents in their decline, can work no other effects upon him?3 But this is not all, my father thinks of making his will; what can occasion this? For God's sake let such of you as are living, my father, mother, my two brothers, (since I have only two) my sister and my uncle John,4 write their names at least, to a letter directed for me at the English coffee house in Rome, by the return of the post.5 I leave Rome in the latter end of January, and shall make but a very short stay at Venice of a fortnight or three weeks, so that if my father writes to me on the receipt of this, I shall either receive it at Rome, or a friend of mine who is here will send it after me to Venice. My mind has some little ease in seeing that excellent man Dr. Sleigh, interest himself about my father and family. Good God ! in how many singular and unthought of ways, has the goodness of that gentleman exerted itself towards me. He first put me upon Mr. Burke, who has been under God all in all to me; next he had desires of strengthening my connexion with Mr. Stewart6 which is the only construction I could make of the friendly letter which I received from him in London,7 and afterwards he is for administering comfort to my poor parents. I shall with the blessing of God be in England about May next; and I hope there is no need for me to mention to one, of my father's experience in the world,8 how necessary it is to be armed with patience, and resignation against those unavoidable strokes of mortality, to which all the world is subject. As we advance in life, we must quit our hold of one thing after another, and since we cannot help it, and that it is a necessary condition of our existence, that ourselves and every thing connected with us, shall be swallowed up in the mass of changes and renovations, which we see every day in the world, let us endeavour not to embitter the little of life that is before us, with a too frequent calling to mind of past troubles and misfortunes; and if ever God Almighty is pleased to crown my very severe and intense application to my studies, with any degree of success in the world, I am sure the greatest pleasure that will arise to me from it, will be the consolation it will give my dear father, mother, and friends.

Your affectionate son.

J.B. James Barry

Mr. Burke was so kind as to send me Dr. Sleigh's letter, containing the account of the death of my brother. I had three brothers, and he does not say which it was, but by the good character he has given of him, it must be poor John.