Изображения страниц

don their own trades, to seize upon the trades of the brewer, the banker, and the beggar, whose gluttonous thirst of gold would drink up all the land and the produce thereof the echo of whose mendicancy never dies!

Shade of Andrew Marvel-the poor, the unpurchasable-the patriot! Can your pure spirit behold the vulgar herd of mercenary profligates that polute, in our degenerate days, that sacred name! Behold them in the commencement of their career, provoking the senseless yells of poor misguided men, exciting them to an unequal contest with power, intelligence, and wealth, and leaving them to the not uncertain issue. See them winging their meridian flight between the Treasury bench and Downing Street, like a flock of wild-geese; and, finally, in the evening of their agitation, behold them settling down into contented hirelings, polluting, it may be, with their presence, the asylums of warriors out-worn in their country's battles; or, perched behind a west-end omnibus, agitating the peripatetic population with outstretched index, and a parrot-like repetition of "Charing Cross, Charing Cross," "Paddington," or "Bank!"

Tripoli, lies between Pimlico and the Poddle, being three distinct and separate denominations of streets within the Irish Pompeii aforesaid; and in Tripoli our reduced family had located themselves, after the death of my father, and the departure of my mother, who, finding that the hereditary glories of the Snakes of Galway were somewhat slightingly regarded in the Liberty of Dublin, had accepted the situation of housekeeper, being a bouncing young widow, and very well qualified for that kind of thing, to her sixteenth cousin, Mr Snake Bodkin, a gentleman horse-jockey of nearly two hundred a-year, and hereditary Prince of Ballinamuck-a title which had come down to the present Mr Bodkin through successive generations of Bodkins, in unbroken succession, from the venerable old King Cole, the last independent king of Connaught, and Lord of Connemara. Mr Snake Bodkin and the Snakes of Galway agreed marvellously-they were both old families-so very old, indeed, that it was considered altogether hopeless to attempt keeping them in repair-not one of them had ever been known to de

mean himself with any sort of exertion more profitable than that of running after a fox, or clearing stone walls at the risk of their precious necks, for a sweepstakes, or a rump and dozen. There are two undoubted tests of comparative excellence in use among great Connaught families, and, in particular, the great family of the Bodkins-the first is, how high can you jump? and the second, how deep can you drink?

If your hunter can clear a six foot stone-and-lime wall, you are a promising youth; if he tops six feet and a half, the whole country side unanimously determines that you'll do; but if, by miraculous elasticity of sinew, he scrambles over seven feet, your reputation extends as far as Ballinasloe, while in your own immediate vicinity you are booked as neither more nor less than "the Devil himself." In drinking, claret was formerly the standard liquor for the determination of the tippler's specific gravity, but, alas! you might as well expect poteen at the royal table as claret beyond the Shannon, now-adays, whiskey-punch being the medium universally substituted. The same rule, however, holds in drinking as in jumping, imperial being adopted instead of superficial measure, or, in other words, tumblers for feet-halfa-dozen being considered the regular thing, which, if you cannot put beneath your belt as a matter of course, you are fit for nothing but to go under a cow. Eight tumblers are expected of every gentleman who is ambitious of being pulled up to "halfcock," while he that can" do the dozen" is "a top sawyer"-a "real blood;" and if he get the loan of a qualification, or what is all the same thing, can manufacture one out of his own head, and sets up for the county, his potatory prowess puts him at the head of the poll, and you may behold him any day during the session in a sixpenny chop-house near Westminster, "a knight of the shire girt with sword."

Whatever might have been the exact amount of the remuneration allowed by Mr Snake Bodkin to his housekeeper, it was not understood, I presume, as being payable in the current coin of this realm, as no money was ever received by my aunt for our support, that is to say, the support of

my brother and myself-the female progeny having been taken out of Tripoli by another aunt, who resided in the county Tipperary, and upon whose shoulders devolved the pleasing and profitable duty of supporting this moiety of the family of her beggarly relations, in addition to her own, as usual and customary all over Ireland. In other countries poor and honest people are sometimes seen enriched in their old age by the successful exertion of their relatives who have struggled into independence, and, it may be, perished in the struggle, in some far distant and pestilential clime; in other countries, you see the wealth accumulated by daring adventurers, who left their native land without a rag to their backs, returning to enrich, in schools, hospitals, and colleges, the land that knows no other preference with them than it was the land of their birth. In other countries, you see the successful adventurer himself, whom God has blessed with life and the fortune of war crowned with wealth, coming home to diffuse happiness every where within his sphere-to look about him for young men to assist and send forth upon the sea of life-tó solace the aged and the unfortunate; or, it may be-tender and delightful hope-to renew the loves of his purer and happier days with the betrothed partner of his heart- to wander with her through scenes consecrated by their early loves-to lament together the bitter lot that separated them so long and joined them so late to press lip to lip and heart to heart, in the proud consciousness that they have held sacred their plighted faith, and enjoying the little that of life remains, look beyond this poor earthly habitation, in the anticipated enjoyment of a prospect that knows no horizon-a spring that tastes not of change.

In Scotland now-perhaps you have shot grouse on the Scottish moorsI don't accuse you, mark ye, of having really shot any, but only of firing with intent to kill but you have purchased a few brace from the village poachers, and sent them off like Jack in the box, which does quite as well. When you are at breakfast next morning you are sure to hear from the chambermaid, if you have had the brains to insinuate yourself into her good graces, the entire village gossip;

but first and chiefly that "there is a double letter in the post for Mistress Mackintosh frae her son the Major."

Mind I have presumed in this case that you are one of those acute grouseshooters who can look over the bridge of their own noses, otherwise you would never think of following with your eyes that venerable lady in widow's weeds who keeps the crown of the causeway, holding up her dress a very little with her left hand, while a reticule embarrasses her right, and from the fold of her bosom peers something white, like the corner of a despatch.

There she comes-Mrs Mackintosh herself, straight from the post-office -and there she goes, without stop or stay, straight into the little shop with three watch dials hanging by bits of string in the window. Heaven help you, Saunders MacIntyre, if the good lady's specs are not busked" and ready in the case! What a time she stays with Saunders to be sure. Here she comes at last, spectacles on nose, steering right for our hotel. Yesno-she is gone into the county bank, and there she is again coming out. She fumbles with her bosom-her spectacles are dim-she takes them off, wipes her eyes stealthily, and puts them on again. Off again! Ah! poor old lady, I see how it is. Here, Carlo, Carlo-Grouse — down, you old beast-whew! come in to heel!Poor body! her heart is at the other side of this world, and her little rem nant of worldly hope and pride is with the Major in Hindostan-he is grateful, and she is happy. You are friends with that Major, I'll lay you half-adozen of champagne, although you never heard of him before, and if you don't devote your second caulkerthe first is for a little blue-eyed minx

to the Major's health, and prosperity to him, all I can say is are not the sportsman I took you for!


In poor unfortunate Ireland, on the contrary, if you were to shoot snipe and cocks-there are no grouse worth looking at from this date until [the ensuing illustration is private property, and all poets, play-wrights, or penny-a-liners, found trespassing, will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law] I say, until you bluemould, your eyes would never be blessed with the sight of a double letter worth the postage; in fact, if you only

look about, you cannot fail to observe that in three out of the four provinces, every man who is getting his head in the least above water, is instantaneously submerged by a crew of drowning relations and "people in law" who will neither work nor want a herd of squandering, coshering, wandering blackguards, without industry, push, or behaviour-neither useful nor ornamental-a drug in the market of society.

And what astonishes me more than any thing else is this, that industrious and well-doing men, who have struggled to a competence, in the face of difficulties unknown in prosperous countries, seem not at all aware of the mortal sin against society they commit in giving aid, countenance, or protection to these traitors against the commonwealth. What is national wealth? The surplus of every man's accumulation after the satisfaction of his wants-and it is a crime not merely against a man's own family, but against the national credit of his country, to suffer himself to be drawn into beggary by an apparently humane toleration of mendicants by marriage or by blood. There is now no excuse on the ground of necessity. Pack them all off to the workhouse. And when they are gone, buy a fierce mastiff of the neighbouring butcher, and chain him over against your gate. You will then be enabled to get wealth, and to be of use to your country in spite of herself. Nor do I fear to assert that the man who accumulates wealth, be it little or much, by honest industry and saving in Ireland, is a truer patriot and a better man than all the demagogues that ever brayed a mob into riot and confusion. If the opportunity does not present itself at home, the world is young and wide, and you have hands. There is Australia for men with some money, Canada for men who have a little, and Texas for those who have none. I can tell you three little words that command success at home or abroadfirstly, push-secondly, push-thirdly, -you know the rest.

My excellent aunt, then, upon whose broad shoulders devolved the burden of the masculine moiety of our unfortunate family, contrived to keep soul and body as nearly as possible together by letting very respectable second-rate lodgings in a very respect

able third-rate street. Occupying to her own use the back parlour and back kitchen, the other rooms of her house formed the poor woman's entire stock in trade, being let to various grades of occupants, at weekly rents, in the inverse ratio-excuse me, Professor de Morgan, for a moment—I say, in the inverse ratio of their proportionate distances from the attic, and directly as the squares of their capacitiesAhem! The front parlour was usually occupied by the Chinese Jugglers, the Great Magician, or the Wandering Piper; and when these diverting vagabonds did not arrive in perpetual succession, one down and the other come on, which, indeed, was seldom the case, my aunt was accustomed to sit

there and receive company. In the first floor lived a gentleman who had half-pay from some regiment of militia, and whose present occupation was, as my aunt used to express herself, "dandering about the corners, and living upon his money," to which he added, in the afternoons, the more ingenious and equally lucrative employment of blowing the German flute.

The two-pair front was held by a couple of juvenile medical gentlemen from the north of Ireland, as tenants in common, who were in attendance upon the hospitals and classes in Dublin, and were nurtured in a primitive style of sustentation from a large barrel of pickled pork and a firkin of salt butter, which their humble parents had transmitted with them to townoatmeal they purchased fresh and fresh as they needed it, for breakfast and supper, while at Christmas, New Year's-day, and Easter, parcels of fat geese from the country diversified a little their somewhat unvaried fare. I never recollect my aunt to have had so much pleasure with any of her inmates as with these pursuers of "knowledge under difficulties," but she could hardly abide them, under an impression that they were heretics and scoffers at religion. Of their heretical tendencies she was convinced by the fact of hearing them pray somewhat tediously over the pickled pork and porridge; but the charge of scoffing at religion never had any more solid ground that I know of, than the incaution of one of the young gentlemen in rashly emptying my aunt's holy water bottle, for the pur

pose of supplying the place of that beatified liquor with a halfpennyworth of ink. Nor, when I think of it again, was the indignation of my aunt altogether without cause, for there are no two fluids in nature more thoroughly incompatible than your holy water and your ink ;-wherever the popularity of ink is established the holy water dynasty falls rapidly to decay;-the two grand antagonising powers in spiritual matters, whose conflict for the possessions of immortal souls began with Beelzebub and Saint Dunstan, and which has continued without intermission to this blessed day, appear to me to be no other than His Holiness the Pope, and His High Mightiness the (printer's) Devil!

The press groans, and well it may, under the temporal oppression of the one; and wherever throughout the world you find ignorance, beggary, desolation, and strife, you have an opportunity of doing homage to the spiritual tyranny of the other.

To which of these potentates the ultimate triumph must belong, is a speculation upon which posterity may employ itself with more advantage than our cotemporaries. In a world of cant, hypocrisy, and humbug, his Holiness the Pope must long play an important part wherever intelligence is flooded over the vast expanse of the popular mind, and man rejoices in the glorious fertilization that waits upon its overflow, the Printer's Devil must be regarded with the profoundest veneration. The ignorant, the imbecile, the aged, and the unfortunate, seek consolation from the one; the intelligent, the vigorous-minded, the young, and the hopeful, enlist their energies and their prayers in the success of the other. For myself, I take no part in the struggle on either side. Your Holiness must excuse me. To hold your triple gossamer merely?-with the greatest pleasure; fair play's a jewel, and civility costs nothing

make a ring, there, gentlemen, make a ring-now, stand clear-all ready -pull away, Pope; pull away, Devil! My aunt had demised, set, and to farm let her two-pair back to a morning or daily governess of a certain age, very popular in the families of several licensed victuallers, and a pawn-broker of long standing, whose young ladies she was employed to instruct in the lady-like accomplish

ments of vulgar-fractions, thorough bass, and the use of the globes, at the rate of one shilling sterling per head per week, finding her own India-rubber and slate-pencil.

Miss Cobbe, for that was the name of the governess, had a sad antipathy to washing her face, and no less a strong propensity to moisten her clay

perhaps the one was a set-off against the other, and before you get too virtuously indignant upon the subject, let me do Miss Cobbe the justice to say that she never drank in the morning, that she never was drunk in the evening, but merely "comfortable," and that nobody ever saw her drink, because she bought her own liquor, broke her own sugar, put on her own kettle, and then-turned the key in her two-pair back, and made herself "comfortable" at her leisure. Poor, desolate thing! friendless, homeless, husbandless, at the corner of life, turning into Old Street, who can be surprised if she came home from her hopeless task, to accomplish the female bumpkins of punch-sellers and pawnbrokers, and sought in her bottle for a few moments of ideal happiness, of which the cold and heartless world denied her the reality! Who can tell with what bright hopes and cheery prospects the poor thing may have set out in life-who knows by what successions of heart-blights those hopes and prospects have, one by one, like the tints of the rainbow, faded in a shower of tears-who has heard (for the poor girl is proud and will not complain) the story of her love and lost affections, or the tissue of undeserved misfortunes that have made her that she is? In regarding fallen man, or, saving your ladyship's virtuous indignation, fallen woman, let me implore your reverences of both sexes, over your claret and ratafia, to keep this little bit of dogmatic morality uppermost in your heads, so that it may have a chance to fall down by its own weight and mollify your heartswhere one individual walks voluntarily into vice, one thousand are deceived into it by unsuspected villany, or forced into it by the pressure of irresistible misfortune.

So much for the lodgers; now as to the landlady. My aunt was one of that tribe of helpless animated beings who get through life like a vegetable or a zoophyte, without forethought,

intelligence, hope, fear, or exertion. My aunt was as poor as a rat, and this circumstance, so far from quickening her apprehension or awakening her industry, was used by her as an instrument of sottish devotion, and as a thing not to remedy, if possible, but to squat down on her hams and thank God for. God loved the poor, she delighted to say, and nobody is poor but him that God hates; accordingly she held it equally as a point of honour and of conscience to do nothing whatever that would expose her to the danger of falling under the Divine displeasure by any profitable exertion of the faculties of mind or body. She was a voteen, and remarkable for her constant attendance to the duties of religionvery pious and very dirty.

She went to confession once every week, and washed herself occasionally once a fortnight-her house was never washed by any chance, and seldom or ever swept down, as my aunt nor none

of her family had ever been used to scrubbing, she was accustomed to observe. Her lodgers, if they made any complaints, were civilly told to try the next shop; and long experience had taught them, that in a nation of dirty people nothing was to be gained by change. Her house presented the same attractions as to externals as nine out of every ten houses in Dublinthe area was filthy, and the kitchen windows broken, or patched with brown paper-the pannels of the hall door stuck full of cobwebs and dustall the upper windows opaque with want of cleaning-all the blinds torn, dirty, and awry—a l'intereure general filthiness universally prevailed, a blind man might smell his way from cellar to attic and as to fleas, nothing but the want of resolute leaders, and a sufficient organization, precluded them from pulling my aunt's lodgers out of bed by the heels.


"Paddy Byrne was a man
Of a very great big knowledge,
And behind a quickset hedge
In a bog he kept his college;
He could tell the moon's age,
Cut corns, and could bleed, Sir,
And could teach a pig to whistle
Just as much as it could read, Sir."

Education becomes a topic of intense interest when in connection with the life of a man so justly eminent asahem as myself; the most trivial topics attending the school-boy days of a genius are devoured with the intensest curiosity; the old woman who taught him his A, B, C, from a pictured book, participates in the glories of her breechless pupil's immortality, and to this day it is a matter of fierce and learned disquisition among contemporary editors and biographers whether the earliest production the embryo genius got by rote, was "Little Jack Horner," or that equally sublime conception of the poet, "Hi diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon." The interest that will attach to the records of my education, however, is not of this limited and individual character-my education is identified with the national education of my country, such as it is; and such as it is, such am I. It is to the clevating and moralizing tendency of

Irish Minstrelsy.

the systems of education which have successively followed each other, one down and another come on, in my unfortunate country, that I owe my happy and respectable position in society-the great genius of a porter and punch house-the oracle of an oyster tavern, and the monarch of pot companions.

It is no less due to those excellent, wise, and beneficent institutions for the diffusion of useful knowledge than to myself, to take a short and cursory view of the rise and progress of public instruction in Ireland, to which we may safely and solely attribute the present high position of that country in the empire of thought and in the republic of letters.

It is the poor prerogative of an unfortunate people to be solaced by the glorious recollections of the past, and to find relief from the contemplation of their contemporary degradation in the exulting remembrances of remote antiquity. As there are few indivi

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »