Clancy, Michael (c.1704–1776), writer, was born in Co. Clare, son of Daniel Clancy, a soldier (or possibly a doctor) and a man of letters. His life, as recounted in his Memoirs (an incomplete and somewhat fanciful account), is dedicated to the earl of Kildare. He was educated in Paris (1712–16), probably at the College of Navarre, and was taught Greek by Dr Michael Moore (qv). He played truant from school to see his hero, the 2nd duke of Ormond (qv), who was visiting Paris; fearful of returning home after his escapade – he never saw his parents again – he travelled to Ireland, aged 12, to seek his relations.
In Kilkenny he was befriended by an associate of his father and educated at Kilkenny College for three years. He then found his relations in Co. Clare, who enabled him to attend TCD (1721–4), where he studied anatomy. He describes the college and its personalities, including Richard Helsham (qv), whom he had known in Kilkenny, as ‘the only person to whom I owed any obligations, while I was at the university’ (Clancy, i, 46); he subsequently wrote a poem to commemorate Helsham's death (1738), which he sent to Jonathan Swift (qv), who appreciated his expression of unfeigned sorrow. Expelled from Trinity ‘for being drunk & striking a batchelour and his sister in the streets’ (TCD/MUN/V/ 5.2, p. 529) – an incident not mentioned in his Memoirs – he returned to France (1724); his experiences there apparently included six months spent as the guest of Montesquieu (1689–1755).
On the title pages of his books he describes himself as MD; he may have studied medicine at Bordeaux, and probably practised medicine in Dublin, though the exact date of his return to Ireland is unknown. Blinded after neglecting a cold (1737) and unable to follow his profession, he turned to drama. ‘The sharper’ was performed in Smock Alley, Dublin (1738), and published with his Memoirs (1750). In a letter written to Clancy on Christmas day 1737, Jonathan Swift claimed he had read the play ‘with much pleasure, on account both of the characters, and the moral’ (Memoirs, ii, 56), and enclosed £5 in small coins in pity for his blindness. The playbill, for a benefit performance for Clancy (January 1737/8), is believed to be the earliest known Dublin playbill. ‘Tamar, prince of Nubia’ (1740), which was never published, ‘The fair penitent’ (1745), of which a benefit performance was organised by Thomas Sheridan (qv) in 1746, and a tragedy, ‘Hermon, prince of Choræa: or, the extravagant zealot’ (1746), were all performed in Dublin. His plays do not seem to have been successful; their production may have owed more to sympathy for his blindness than to his merit as a playwright, as he himself intimated when in the dedication to ‘Hermon, prince of Choræa’ he mentioned that some of his critics ‘are peevish enough to assert that my blindness was my only merit’ (Kirkpatrick, 659).
In a benefit performance in 1744 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, he played Tiresias, the blind prophet in the joint composition by John Dryden and Nathaniel Lee, ‘Oedipus, king of Thebes’, and was possibly the first blind actor to have played a blind character on the English stage. He published poems in various newspapers including the Gentleman's Magazine and Finn's Leinster Journal, and two are included in Brookiana (1804) collected by C. H. Wilson (qv); he composed a Latin poem, Templum veneris, sive amorum rhapsodiae (1745, 1774), which was printed with a congratulatory letter from the bishop of Cerati, chancellor and provost of the Academy of Pisa, and translated from the French Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon's The wanderings of the heart and mind: or memoirs of Mr de Meilcour (1751). His published works are listed in Kirkpatrick.
On the recommendation of the lord lieutenant, Lord Chesterfield (qv), he was granted (1745) a government pension of £40 a year. He opened a grammar school in Church St., Dublin (1752), and taught Greek, Latin, French, and the English classics privately at his home in Bolton St. He subsequently became master of the Diocesan School, Kilkenny (1758–76). John O'Keeffe (qv) visited Clancy in 1767 and described him as living comfortably, entirely alone, ‘polite and communicative; yet melancholy; a large, well-looking man, with a great wig’ (O'Keeffe, 212). He died 7 April 1776 in Kilkenny.