Furlong, Thomas (1794–1827), poet, was born in Scarawalsh, near Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, the son of a small farmer. He received little formal education and at the age of fourteen was apprenticed to a Dublin grocer. One of his earliest literary efforts, an elegy entitled ‘The burial’, written on the death of his employer, attracted the attention of John Jameson (qv), who both encouraged him to write and gave him work in the counting house of his distillery. Other literary work appeared in Cox's Magazine and the Ulster Register, and in 1819, while working in London as a hack journalist, Furlong published The misanthrope, a long didactic poem. By 1821 he was once again living in Dublin, where he published a revised version of The misanthrope along with other poems. He subsequently established a reputation as a regular contributor of poetry and parodies to a variety of journals, including the New Irish Magazine (which he co-founded in 1822), the Morning Register, the New Monthly Magazine, and the Literary Gazette. He often wrote for the Dublin and London Magazine, edited by his friend Michael James Whitty (qv); among his contributions was an anonymous series of articles entitled ‘The hermit in Ireland’. His work was praised by Thomas Moore (qv), Sydney Owenson (qv), and Charles Maturin (qv).
Furlong was a committed advocate of catholic emancipation (his portrait appears in Association Cartoons alongside other emancipation activists), a view that underpins his successful work The plagues of Ireland (1824). This biting political satire of government placemen (targeting Lord Wellesley (qv), among others) secured him the friendship of Daniel O'Connell (qv). Furlong's political outlook remained undogmatic, however, and his stinging critique of O'Connell later appeared in the Dublin and London Magazine, reportedly justified on the grounds that ‘O'Connell is of too much value to let him spoil himself, he must sometimes feel the rod’ (Hardiman, lxxv).
Furlong was one of the poets invited by James Hardiman (qv) to collaborate on the collection of reworked Gaelic songs and verse that appeared as Irish Minstrelsy (1831). According to Hardiman, Furlong was initially sceptical about the value of Gaelic poetry, but, working on Hardiman's cribs, he ‘confessed that he discovered beauties of which, till then, he had been wholly unconscious’ and worked on the project ‘with an ardour and perseverance which continued to the hour of his death’ (Hardiman, lxxviii). He was simultaneously engaged on a long poem in blank verse entitled The doom of Derenzie, a gothic narrative set in Wexford which was posthumously published in 1829. Furlong died in Dublin, on 25 July 1827, and was buried in Drumcondra churchyard, where Hardiman erected a monument to his memory. An archive of his papers is held in the NLI and a lithograph is in the NGI.