Appendix 4: Thackeray's Poem About Catherine Hayes (1850?)

The most interesting result of the Pendennis controversy over the Irish Catherine Hayes (see Appendix 3) was the following two-part ballad which Thackeray presumably composed soon after the affair, but which was not published until it appeared in Volume 13 of the Biographical Edition in 1899 (107-110). The poem is printed here from a photocopy of the manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library (MA 1028). The first part recounts the story of the murderess, adopting an attitude closer to the condemnatory one of the eighteenth-century sources than to the more celebratory one of Thackeray's own novel, while the second part, in mock-Irish dialect, presents the case against Thackeray as one of his Irish critics might have spoken it: praising Catherine Hayes the singer, condemning Thackeray for attacking her, and dismissing his claim that he meant somebody else.

The Terrible Hays Tragedy.

In the reigns of King George & Queen Ann
In Swift's and in Marlborough's days;
There lived an unfortunate man
A man by the name of John Hayes.
A decent respectable life
And rather deserving of praise;
Lived John, but his curse was his wife
His horrible wife Mrs. Hayes.—
A heart more atrociously foul
Never beat under anyone's stays;
As eager for blood as a ghoul
Was Cath'rine the wife of John Hayes.
By marriage and John she was bored
(He'd many ridiculous traits)
And she hated her husband and lord
This infamous false Mrs. Hayes.
When madness and fury begin
The senses they utterly craze
She called two accomplices in,
And the three of 'em killed Mr. Hayes.
And when they'd completed the act
The Old Bailey Chronicle says
In several pieces they hacked
The body of poor Mr. Hayes.-
The body & limbs of the dead
They buried in various ways
And into the Thames flung his head
And there seemed an end of John Hayes.
The head was brought back by the tide
And what was a bargemans amaze
One day in the mud when he spied
The horrible head of John Hayes!
In the front of Saint Margaret's Church
(Where the Westminster scholars act plays;)
They stuck the pale head on a perch
None knew 'twas the head of John Hayes.
Long time at the object surprized
Did all the metropolis gaze
Till some one at last recognized
The face of the late Mr. Hayes.
And when the people knew it was he
They went to his widow straightways
For who could the murderess be
They said but the vile Mrs. Hayes?
As sooner or later tis plain
For wickedness every one pays
They hanged the accomplices twain
And burned the foul murderess Hays.
And a writer who scribbles in prose
And sometimes with poetry plays
The terrible tale did compose
Of Mr. & Mrs. John Hays.
Where Shannons broad wathers pour down,
And rush to the Imerald Seas
A lady in Limerick Town
Was bred and her name it was Hayes.-
Her voice was so sweet and so loud
So fawrumed her faytures to playse
No wonder that Oireland was proud
Of her beautiful singer Miss Hayes.
At Neeples and Doblin the Fair
(The towns, with whose beautiful Bays,
I'd loike to see England compare)
Bright laur'ls were awarded Miss Hayes.
When shed' d thrive in the Phaynix for air
They'd take out the horse from her chaise
For we honor the gentle and fair
And gentle and fair was Miss Hayes.
When she gracefully stepped on the Steege
Our thayater boomed with Huzzays:
For each man was glad to obleege
And longed for a look of Miss Hayes.
A Saxon who thinks that he dthraws
Our porthraits as loike as two pays
Insulted one day without cause
Our innocent singer Miss Hayes.
And though he meant somebody else
(At layst so the raycreant says,
Declaring that History tells
Of another a wicked Miss Hayes.)
Yet Ireland the free and the brave
Says whats that to du with the case,
How dar he, the cowardly slave,
To mention the name of a Hayes?
In vain let him say he forgot,
What beese hypocritical pleas!
The miscreant ought to be shot:
How dar he forget our Miss Hayes?
The Freeman in language refined
The Post whom no prayer can appayse
Lashed fiercely the wretch who maligned
The innocent name of a Hayes.
And Grattan upraises the moight
Of His terrible arrum and flays;
The sides of the shuddering wight
That ventured to speak of a Hayes.—
Accursed let his memory be
Who dares to say aught in dispraise
Of Ireland the land of the Free
And of beauty & genius & Hayes.

Published @ COVE

November 2022