Robert Emmet to Sarah Curran

The Lovers
Robert Emmet
was born in Dublin, the youngest of four surviving children born to Dr. Robert Emmet, physician to the lord lieutenant, and his wife Elizabeth. Robert entered Trinity College, Dublin in 1793 where he joined the Society of United Irishmen. Their aim was to end Ireland's domination by England. In 1798, following an unsuccessful rebellion, he fled to France where he tried to canvass support for Irish independence. He met Napoleon Bonaparte but doubted if he could rely on his help, and returned to Dublin in 1892 to plan an uprising without the French. On July 23, 1803, Emmet led one hundred followers through the capital, intending to capture Dublin Castle, the seat of British government. The rebels were defeated, and Emmet went into hiding in the hills outside the city. He was eventually arrested, tried, and hanged on September 20, 1803. His grave has never been found.
Sarah Curran
was the youngest daughter of John Philpot Curran, an eminent Irish lawyer. She met Emmet through her brother Richard, who was a follow student at Trinity College. Her father considered Emmet unsuitable, and their courtship was conducted through letters and clandestine meetings. When John Philpot Curran discovered that Sarah was secretly engaged, he treated her so harshly that she had to take refuge with friends in Cork, where she met and married Captain Robert Sturgeon in November 1805. They had a child who did not survive infancy, and Sarah died of consumption on May 5, 1808.

September, 1803

My dearest Love,
    I don't know how to write to you. I never felt so oppressed in my life as at the cruel injury I have done you. I was seized and searched with a pistol over me before I could destroy your letters. They have been compared with those found before. I was threatened with having them brought forward against me in Court. I offered to plead guilty if they would suppress them. This was refused. My love, can you forgive me?
    I wanted to know whether anything had been done respecting the person who wrote the letter, for I feared you might have been arrested. They refused to tell me for a long time. When I found, however, that this was not the case, I began to think that they only meant to alarm me; but their refusal has only come this moment, and my fears are renewed. Not that they can do anything to you even if they would be base enough to attempt it, for they can have no proof who wrote them, nor did I let your name escape me once. But I fear they may suspect from the stile [style], and from the hair, for they took the stock [Emmet's cravat into which Sarah had sewn a lock of her hair] from me, and I have not been able to get it back from them, and that they may think of bringing you forward.
    I have written to your father to come to me tomorrow. Had you not better speak to himself tonight? Destroy my letters that there may be nothing against yourself, and deny having any knowledge of me further than seeing me once or twice. For God's sake, write to me by the bearer one line to tell me how you are in spirits. I have no anxiety, no care, about myself; but I am terribly oppressed about you. My dearest love, I would with joy lay down my life, but ought I to do more? Do not be alarmed; they may try to frighten you; but they cannot do more. God bless you, my dearest love.
    I must send this off at once; I have written it in the dark. My dearest Sarah, forgive me.

Their Story




Text from
Famous Love Letters
Messages of Intimacy and Passion
Edited by Ronald Tamplin