Wade, Joseph Augustine (c.1801–1845), composer, was born in Dublin but his early life is shrouded in confusion; there are no details of his parents, except for one report that his father was a dairyman. Wade always claimed to have attended TCD and the Royal College of Surgeons, but there is no record of his admittance at either institution. Educated at Chaigneau's Academy on Ussher St., he was a friend of Richard R. Madden (qv). It seems he became a clerk in the Irish record office, under William Rooke, but again the evidence is uncertain. He married a wealthy heiress, a Miss Kelly from Garnaville, near Athlone, Co. Westmeath, but quickly tired of the relationship and abandoned her. Moving to London in 1821 after having decided on a career as a poet and musician, he began conducting the opera at the King's Theatre. In 1823 his oratorio ‘Jerusalem’ was performed in London and on 24 March 1824 ‘The prophecy’, an oratorio written in collaboration with Sir John Stevenson (qv), received much praise. His career reached its zenith in 1826. ‘The two houses of Grenada’, a comic opera for which he had composed the music and written the libretto, was performed to considerable acclaim at Drury Lane on 31 October, while his popular song ‘Meet me by moonlight alone’ became an instant classic. Although largely self-taught, Wade had a good ear for music, a talent for poetry and melody, and an ability to recreate a folk music style in his songs. His aria, ‘I've wondered in dreams’, from ‘The two houses of Grenada’ became one of the most famous songs of the nineteenth century.
Instead of embarking on a successful career, Wade drifted into obscurity. Indolence combined with dissipation to disastrous effect, and his self-destructive tendencies sapped his creative energy. His friend the Rev. John Richardson recalled that he was a ‘wise man in theory and a fool in practice’, and regretted that he seemed to spend all his time drinking whatever was to hand (Richardson, i, 231). Debilitated by his alcohol and opium addictions, Wade proved incapable of having another success. His comic opera ‘The convent belles’ was performed in London at the Adelphi on 8 July 1833 but to muted response, and his musical play ‘The yeoman's daughter’ (1834) was ignored. His final stage work was the unsuccessful burletta ‘The pupil of da Vinci’ (1839). Wade also published seventy-three vocal songs separately, and a series of fantasias and waltzes. In 1840 he returned to Ireland, when he travelled with Liszt, Richardson, and the Lavenu touring party, some of his works being performed for his benefit. Penniless, he was reduced to writing miscellaneous journalistic articles and reviews. He also published The handbook of the pianoforte (1844), which he dedicated to Liszt, and began work on a history of music. After suffering a sharp mental decline, he died 15 July 1845, probably by his own hand. He left a common-law wife and two children.