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Moore, Joseph Sheridan (1828–1891)

by Frances Devlin Glass

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Joseph Sheridan Moore (1828-1891), teacher, publicist and man of letters, was born in Grafton Street, Dublin, son of Luke Moore, solicitor, and his wife Bride Marion, née Sheridan. Educated by the Jesuits at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, he migrated to Sydney in 1847, became a Benedictine monk and headmaster of Lyndhurst College, Glebe. Always a transplanted Irishman, he had many disagreements and dissatisfactions with Archbishop Polding and Abbot Gregory. He left Lyndhurst on 1 April 1856 and on 3 October 1857 married Flora Macdonald Harris (b.1832) at the Ashfield district registry. Although he did not rejoin the Church until 1872 he had been editor of the Catholic Freeman's Journal in 1856-57.

Moore was well known in literary circles, specially in the coterie centred around N. D. Stenhouse and included J. L. Michael, Professor Woolley, D. Deniehy, W. B. Dalley and Henry Kendall. Moore was esteemed by some but condemned as a charlatan by the native-born members who distrusted him and F. E. T. Fowler because of their snobbish emigré valuation of literature propounded in the Month. Moore criticized the poetry of Henry Parkes and Charles Harpur not only for its inferior literary quality but also for its self-conscious nationalism.

Moore's literary output supplemented his teaching and coaching of aspirants for university honours in his own City College and in Randwick College and University Hall. He specialized in classics but also taught a liberal-progressive syllabus ranging from modern languages to geography and science. His writings were prolific: his Spring Life Lyrics (1864) was an anthology of light Romantic verse on conventional themes, and his essays in The Ethics of the Irish Under the Pentarchy (1872) aimed to recreate Irish prehistory and customs for Irish-Australians; his strange combination of the Romantic excesses of contemporary German and Irish writers sometimes shows a delicate touch and feeling that is more than mere sentiment. In the 1870s and 1880s he wrote many pamphlets and articles for such different publications as Archbishop Vaughan's Express and the Bulletin. In 1873 he had been declared bankrupt with debts of over £1000; his estate was not released until May 1874.

Claiming to be an orator, Moore lectured at Mechanics' Schools of Arts and other institutions with a high moral sense of his listeners' need for intellectual, literary and social improvement. On 12 July 1865 in one of his most constructive lectures, published as University Reform, Its Urgency & Reasonableness, he argued against exclusiveness in the local university and advocated introduction of evening and 'extern' students, liberalizing of courses to include a modern language and creating medical, civil engineering and architecture schools. In demand as a speaker, his bumptious posings often irritated his audiences, although his handbook on Elocution (1855), prepared for his students at Lyndhurst College, showed that his theories on oratory were clear, moderate and restrained.

Moore died at his home in Elizabeth Street, Redfern, on 17 October 1891 and was buried in the Catholic section of Waverley cemetery. His wife, who survived him with two sons and two daughters, was a prominent concert and oratorio singer in 1852-82; on her death in 1910 she was vice-president of the Sydney Philharmonic Society.

Select Bibliography

  • J. R. Tyrrell, Postscript (Syd, 1957)
  • T. L. Suttor, Hierarchy and Democracy in Australia, 1788-1870 (Melb, 1965)
  • M. Shanahan, Out of Time, Out of Place (Canberra, 1970)
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 14, 21, 28 Nov 1868, 10 Feb, 29 July 1871, 24 Nov 1891
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 17 Nov 1891
  • Bulletin, 24 Nov 1891
  • Town and Country Journal, 24 Nov 1891
  • A. M. Williams, Nicol Drysdale Stenhouse: A Study of a Literary Patron in a Colonial Milieu (M.A. thesis, University of Sydney, 1963)
  • Moore, Kendall and Stenhouse letters (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Frances Devlin Glass, 'Moore, Joseph Sheridan (1828–1891)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/moore-joseph-sheridan-4234/text6831, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 26 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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