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1839.] Some Account of Himself.
The learned Romans left evidences
In fact the learned old Irish had no
By the Irish Oyster-Eater.
learning at all-we ask for evidence,
How the religion of the learned old
The antiquarian, it is true, triumphantly refers the sceptic to monkish manuscripts which he has never read, but which may, he conceives, be valuable because they are voluminous. But the best proof of the utter worthlessness of these spoiled sheepskins is, that they have never been thought worthy any other notice from the public at large, than that ignorant curiosity which is expressed on seeing them by casual visitants to the libraries of antiquaries. There is, no doubt, a considerable number of these useless documents scattered about Ireland, but they are all, without exception, mere dry chronicles of long-forgotten family pedigrees, of no sort of value whatever, not even to the owners.
The earliest, and, indeed, the only
Some Account of Himself. early encouragement of education in Ireland, is contained in a statute of HENRY VIII., wherein it is expressly declared and provided, "That each and every incumbent shall contribute, at the least, forty shillings per annum towards erecting and maintaining a school in each and every vicarage, parish, or incumbency." only to contrast the terms of this One has enactment with that of the Scottish Estates, wherein it was enacted "that a good and sufficient school shall be erected and maintained in every parish," and wherein it was declared that a certain sufficient contribution for the teacher should be a fixed charge upon the heritor, or owner of the first estate of inheritance, to be convinced that some curse has hung over Ireland, in matters of legislation, as in every thing else. To these five little words, "a good and sufficient school," introduced into an Act of Parliament, not longer than my thumb, is Scotland indebted at this day for nearly every solid glory she possesses.
In these few words, the pride of her statute-book, must she confess the source of that proud pre-eminence which her sons are enabled to struggle for and to attain in every land under heaven, while the poor Irish are seen hewers of wood and drawers of water. While the very name of an Irishman raises prejudice and disgust, and is considered synonymous with drunkenness, riot and confusion,-the Scot, by the discipline of his good and sufficient school, is raised above the labour of the hands, receives the superior remuneration and respect due to the nobler labour of the head, and gloriously repays his careful country for the pains she bestowed upon his instruction, by carrying her credit and her honour to whatever station and whatever land his natural and national enterprise directs his steps. same spirit that inflicted upon Ireland In the the "forty shilling" enactment, drawn up, in all probability, by some unfledged owlet of a secretary of state, has every subsequent act relating to education in Ireland been concocted; with this difference, that whereas the "forty shilling" statute did incalculable harm in two or three words, later acts of Parliament have had their mischievous tendencies so enveloped in an ocean of verbiage, that it is difficult to say which was the greatest oppression to read or to obey.
By the Irish Oyster-Eater.
Of late, too, they are equally perni[Feb. cious and extravagant,-if the "forty shilling" statute did no good, it wasted no money,-whereas, in our own day, we have seen, and indeed may see every day, fifty thousand a-year of a blackguard faction, which it is voted away by the servile adherents the purpose of being melted by a herd the courtesy to call a Government, for of stipendiary sycophants and swindlers, and of setting the various sects by the ears, than ever. of Christians more bitterly together
for the establishment of schools in Of course nothing could be done consequence of that accursed" forty shilling" enactment, and nothing was done: the people beheld the spectacle of a richly endowed establishment for spiritual instruction, in which two pounds a-year was the fixed and unalterable stipend for the temporal inthis very circumstance began that struction of an entire parish, and in hostility to the Church Establishment tingly ever since. which has pursued her steps unremit
Educational Legislators of IrelandThe next brilliant adventure of the generally half-grown whelps, who go over there like medical students, for the purpose of getting a diploma, by virtue of which they may set up shop legislative mischief as possible elseon their own account and do as much where, was the conversion of the public money to the wholesale manufacture of Protestants, under circumstances that could not possibly have failed to render a manufactory of cherubim and seraphim equally odious and unsuccessful.
Protestant Foundling Hospitals and This was the establishment of the the Protestant Charter Schools, which together, have hopelessly and utterly consumed more money than would every parish in Ireland a good and have well and truly established in sufficient school for each of the byterian, and Roman Catholic, where rate denominations of Protestant, Pressepaadditional misfortune of demoralizing necessary. And this, too, with the the people they were intended to convert, and of making bastardy an inducement to the prosperity of Protestantism. But it would not do; that surely end by becoming contemptible; which begins by becoming odious, will and contributing to render Protestantism odious and contemptible, was all
that the charter schools and foundling hospitals were ever able to accomplish.
How, indeed, could it be otherwise? If one glimmer of common sense, that most uncommon quality in legislators, had ever visited the perpetrator of these abominable "brat-houses" and kidnapping schools, he must have been convinced that any attempt to force a trade in Protestantism by the encouragement of bastardy, by the tyranny of landlords, or by the kidnapping of children, must have fallen to the ground. Why?-For no other reason than because it ought to fall to the ground. I often wonder that zealous people, who can be very angry people, too, if you tell them they are as blind as moles, will not see, that by uniting Protestant Christian interests with Protestant legal interests and Protestant political interests, they have precluded every possible chance of advancing the reformed religion upon its own merits, and have rendered its ministrations not merely unprofitable, but positively detestable. There is, by a great deal, too much zeal, tempered with by much too little discretion and want of consideration for the feelings of the people whose eternal enlightenment is the end in view. Popular prejudices in religion are as much a point of honour as a matter of conscience-probably more of the former than the latter; nor can they with success be opposed abruptly, but rather retiringly, as the obstinate waves of ocean are repelled, not by a perpendicular wall, but by a receding resistance.
After the smash of the charter schools and the foundling hospitals, nothing was done for educating the poor of Ireland until the establishment of the Kildare Place Society, upon the amalgamating or hocus-pocus theory of education. The hocus-pocus philosophy of national education was conceived in the brain of some ignorant old woman, who took it in her wrinkled old noddle that it would be a benevolent thing if little Popish brats and little Protestant brats could misspell the same words out of the same Universal Spelling Book, in the same schoolcould have an opportunity of spitting in each others' dear little Protestant and Popish eyes, when the master's back was turned, and also of quarrelling and boxing about their respective
religions as they went to their respective homes. The most odious, disgusting, and idiotic cant was set a-going by this benighted old she-owl, whom some people will have it was no other than my Lord Fingal, while others contend hard for the claims of Doctor Troy-about the vast advantages, in a distracted country, of little pauper vagabonds, of different creeds, being permitted to spit reciprocally down each other's gullets, which they facetiously called the United System of Education. Well, the hocus-pocus promised public plunder, and that was enough. The vermin that creep in and out of that loathsome nest of human debasement, Dublin Castle, began to be on the qui vive-rival churchmen laid down their arms, and came to a temporary and hollow-hearted truce, for the purpose of testing the hocuspocus-and, it must honestly be confessed, with every secret disposition on both sides to a contraband proselytism. An army of officials, a model school most excellent of its kind, and a staff of inspectors were organized instanter-schools every where built-teachers of both sexes instructed at the Central Model School in Dublin, and dispatched to the provinces-an annual hocus-pocus report read and adopted-and, to all appearance, the Kildare Place Society was going on swimmingly; when, alas for the hocus-pocus theory of education! a bull got loose at Rome, cleared his way to the Kildare Place Society House, broke into the Model School, gored the masters and mistresses, put the little brats of all denominations to flight, and demolished the scenery, machinery, dresses, and decorations.
The next and last grand hocus-pocus, was the Board of National Hocuspocus, composed of a parcel of tractable adherents of the Whig faction, whose common interest in politics might counteract, it was hoped, the centrifugal tendency of their various creeds, and that party might join whom theology put asunder.
This hocus pocus did all that was or could be expected of its heterogeneous constitution-set the whole country in an uproar, and added one more bone of contention to the many already contended for in Ireland. Protestant and Presbyterian utterly repudiated all connexion with it, on the high and holy
ground of its impudent interference with the unrestricted use and integrity of Holy W rit. The Roman Catholics gave it a Jesuitical reception, as a thing to be used so far as taking the money, and violated so far as regarded the rules of united hocus-pocus laid down, but have never, either by manifesto of their bishops, or by their accredited theological organs, recognised the principle or given a hearty assent to its practical development. The Arians and Socinians, who took the money and conformed to the rules of the Kildare Place Society, now take the money and conform to the rules of the National hocus-pocus. It is not impossible that if the public money was distributed by Turks, they would do the government the favour still to accept the public money. Men who believe little, will ever find countenance and support from men who believe less.
As far as the immediate interests of Whiggery are involved, the National
hocus-pocus has succeeded to a miracle. The whole island has been converted into one vast arena for jobbing in school business. Every appointment connected with the department, and their name is Legion, is a subjectmatter of private canvassing, favouritism, and adoption. In short, a job.
Je suis jobber,
Il est jobber,
Nous sommes jobbers,
Tout le monde sont jobbers.
I think-to resume my personal narrative, which, like a true patriot, I have postponed to the preceding short dissertation concerning the origin and abuses of National Education in Ireland, because it cost me nothing I say, I think it was about the seventh year of my age that my aunt was compelled, by a majority of the House of Commons, that is, of the lodgers in our house, to send me, very much against her will, to learn my alphabet at Lady Harberton's school, in Summer Hill. Lady Harberton was an excellent lady, and maintained at her own costs and charges an excellent school-her object was, to educate, not to convert. She knew better than to try to cram her religion, whatever it was, down other people's children's throats, and the consequence was, other people sent their children to Lady Harberton's school with much gratitude, and "no questions asked." What with blackguarding about the streets, as customary with young gentlemen of my rank and station in Dublin, and sitting all day long upon
This is the only result of the National hocus-pocus-the multiplication of jobs, jobbers, hacks, sycophants, and subordinates. Let our inestimable government only drag on a precarious existence for a few years longer, and happy man be his dole who can skim his pot without a government mercenary eyeing him down the chimney!
the quay wall, with a crab tied to a string, bobbing for eels, I imbibed a natural and instinctive abhorrence of all sorts and sizes of book learning, which has continued to this very day. I mention this to propitiate critical readers, who may cavil at the looseness of my style, and want of rotundity of my periods. I hope for their indulgent consideration, when I assure them, upon my honour and conscience, that I never learned my English Grammar, that I am an untaught oyster-eater, and that my whole literary career has been the pursuit of oysters under difficulties.-To school I went, however, with great reluctance, and had got as far, I think, as round O in the Pictorial Spelling Book, when one unlucky day, coming home from Lady Harberton's, I stumbled and fell, cutting my juvenile proboscis upon the pavement. My aunt insisted that I had been whipped, in spite of all my asseverations to the contrary, and straightway went off to the police magistrates to get a warrant against Lady Harberton for
I did not care so materially about,
With tears in my eyes, I lamented
a news-vender is there unknown,subscribers to the various newspapers are furnished with their copies direct from the newspaper office, while casual readers depend upon peripatetic newsmongers who go about shouting the names of newspapers at the top of their lungs, from one end of the city to the other. These people are also accustomed to lend the various papers to those who require them for a short time, at the rate of one penny or twopence per paper, as may be agreed on, and in this way make a profit of from twopence to eighteenpence per diem. I was obliged to be up by peep
Some Account of Himself. By the Irish Oyster-Eater.
At these pursuits I might have continued long enough, had not a charitable neighbour of ours promised me threepence a week while I went regularly to the Model School of the Kildare Place Society. Here I actually learned to read, and to perform a series of eccentric evolutions with the tip of my fore-finger, in a platter of sand, which I was led to imagine nothing less than signing my own name. also came to understand that the world had two halves, and four quarters, and indeed, to this very day, I cannot well imagine how the world could, by any possibility, have more or less.
All this, and very little more, I was bribed to attain by the stimulus of threepence per week; for, although I hated learning as a National schoolmaster hates the gospel, I had sense enough to know that threepence a week was an income not to be sneezed at. Of course I kept the threepence a-week a profound secret from my aunt, but that did not save me from the mischievous exercise of the unhappy creature's folly and absurdity. Some goodnatured friend had told her that pauper children were received at the Kildare Place Model School, and educated in the same classes as her sister's son, a scion of the noble Snakes of Galway. My aunt's blood was up in a twinkling. She wondered who had dared to induce her sister's son to " demean himself in a school with ragamuffins," and informed me that if I put my foot over the threshold of a school where "beggars' brats" were permitted to enter I need never darken her door. There was nothing for it but to give up my aunt, or give up the threepence a-week The latter and the Model School.