صور الصفحة
PDF

:

SKETCHES OF PARIS.

“I would show it.” “To wear your dresses to your knees?” “I would wear them so. I would always be in the fashion.” The husband of this lady, who was by no means of her way of thinking, took it into his head one day to compose a little piece, and put it in the “Journal des Modes,” with a picture, representign a lady whose hair was dressed with a carrot. Underneath was written, “New style of dressing hair; drawn back a la Chinoise; natural carrot.” The lady examined it long and seriously. “Oh! what a singular head-dress—how new: ah! they will wear vegetables in the hair after this.” The husband shrugged his shoulders, exclaim1ng, “How ridiculous—it is not common sense, I hope you will not make yourself ridiculous in that manner.”

[ocr errors]

“Why not, my dear? it is not ugly,–not at all ugly. Besides, it is the fashion, and that is enough. I must have a carrot—I must have one immediately—a fine large carrot. We are going to the opera—I must have my hair dressed so.” The husband affected to oppose her—the lady persisted. She put the carrot in her hair, and went to the opera. The effect was extraordinary; but not what she expected. Everybody laughed, and sovery openly, that it was impossible for her to misunderstand it. The poor lady came home very melancholy, and quite disconcerted. “It is very singular. I was dressed in the last fashion, and yet people laughed at me.” “My dear,” replied the husband, “all fashions are not becoming to you—I have told you so a thousand times. You should adapt your dress to your looks; a carrot is not becoming to a blonde.” Since then, this lady has not followed the fashions so implicitly.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

AN eminent English writer asserts, that the most fortunate lot of an intellectual woman is to be the wife of a literary man, who understands and appreciates her talents, and in whose studies and pursuits she can be associated. William and Mary Howitt, and Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall are living and happy illustrations of the truth of this theory. The latter couple have lately completed a joint work, which is not only an honour to themselves, but also to the literature, arts, and taste of their country.

The large size of the work in question, “Ireland, its Scenery, Character, &c.,” and its numerous and expensive engravings will, probably, prevent its being republished in America, at least for some time to come. Indeed, though exceedingly useful, as well as entertaining to the British reader, yet to us most of the local descriptions, as well as the statistical records and antiquarian researches are comparatively of small importance. It is not so much what Ireland has been that will interest the Americans, as what she now is, and what she promises to be in the future. To show, therefore, the Irish at home, as depicted by Mr. and Mrs. Hall, during their tours, which were continued through three successive years, is our purpose. We prefer this course rather than giving an elaborate review, because we believe it will best show the spirit of the work, and it enables us also to introduce some of those exquisite stories, illustrative of Irish character, which bear the inpress of Mrs. Hall's pen. Her name is very popular in America, where her writingst are, without doubt, more generally read than in England or even Ireland; and, moreover, we consider her entitled to be united with her distinguished countrywomen, Miss Edgeworth and Lady Morgan, as the noble vindicators of their country. To quote from the work before us—

“It is to their high honour that women were the first to use their pens in the service of Ireland—we do not mean politically, but morally. When a buffoon, a knave, and an Irishman were considered synonymous in the novel and on the stage; when the oppressed peasant at home and abroad was held as a ‘base thrall"—and the insulting jibe and jeer were still directed against the ‘mere Irish,” —when this prejudice was at its height, two women, with opposite views and opposite feelings on many subjects, but actuated by the same ennobling patriotism, arose to the rescue of their country—Miss Owenson by the vivid romance, and Miss Edgeworth by the stern reality of portraiture, forcing justice from an unwilling jury, spreading abroad the knowledge of the Irish character, and por

* IRELAND: its Scrxerty, Ch Anacter, &c. By Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Hall Three volumes, royal octavo, with about 1500 engravings. London, 1813.

+ “Sketches of Irish Character”—“Marian: or, a Young Maid's Fortunes,” “Uncle Horace;” “The Buccaniers,” &c.

traying, as they never had been portrayed before, the beauty, generosity, and devotion of Irish nature. It was a glorious effort, worthy of them and of the cause—both planted the standard of Irish excellence on high grounds, and desended it boldly and bravely, with all loyalty, in accordance with their separate views.” We subscribe cordially to this tribute of admiration, only begging leave to include Mrs. Hall also in the picture. Though a younger, she is by no means a less gifted or true daughter of Erin, and the offerings she has brought to her country's shrine are rich as woman's love and holy as humanity's cause. We must not forget, however, that she would not accept of honour, if her husband were robbed of his portion. Whoever reads these volumes will feel that this couple are indeed one in spirit—harmonizing like the primary colours, in their minds, tastes, pursuits, till all becomes light: what happier, higher lot can successful authors desire? But to return to their great work, “Ireland, &c.”—we will leave the questions, “who built the round-towers?” and “what were their use?” as they now stand an enigma; pass by the fallen wrecks of man's pride and power, the “cairns” and “castles,” “the tumuli,” and “temples,” and all the “ould ruins” which spread over this bright beautiful “gem of the ocean” the aspect of desolation and death; and even turn away from what is to us far more interesting, the decriptions of natural scenery. We could not, without the accompanying engravings, give our readers an idea of the pleasure we have enjoyed in the pen and pencil picturings of the sublime, beautiful, and picturesque, which, in a greater degree perhaps than is to be found in any other European country, if we except Spain, is the natural inheritance of Ireland. We do not wonder at the enthusiasm which this lovely scenery kindles in their bards, nor that the Irish esteem their country as the

“First flower of the earth, and first gem of the sea.”

But the people! what should we say of the people? Alas! for them Ireland seems rather the region of the shadow of death than an Eden of pleasant places; unless, indeed, we can imagine an Eden where all the good fruits have been forbidden by a malignant demon. We hardly know where the deepest want and sorrow, among this multitudinous population, this stagnant ocean of life, is to be encountered; it appears to us as though the greatest possible amount of misery which the human being is capable of enduring in a civilized, christian community, is felt everywhere. The Halls think, however, that in the southern counties, and in and about Dublin, the distress is most appalling. We shall, by and by, give some

[merged small][ocr errors]

sketches of individual suffering; yet we feel how inadequate these will be to convey an idea of the “pinching poverty” which, like a dark cloud, shadows the lot of millions. One glance at the Poor-law system will suffice to show we do not exaggerate the picture. In their “workhouses,” (“so called because no work is done in them,” says Carly sle,) the daily allowance of food is two scant meals of potatoes, oatmeal, and buttermilk —meat is never allowed, “because,” add the Halls, “it is unnecessary to say that meat is a “luxury," rarely tasted by the Irish peasant out of the workhouse, nor does he usually eat more than two meals in a day!” In our land of luxurious plenty, where, even to individuals, temporary want is rarely known, and where gaunt hunger has never set his foot, where the paupers have “bread enough,” and milk and meat, and even the comforts of tea and coffee, how can we conceive of a population, nearly half as large as that of the United States, suffering every day of their lives from the want of sufficient and suitable food? It is one of the saddest pictures human nature ever exhibited. But, let us turn to a pleasant theme, the kind, cheery temperament, the warm, loving nature which these poor, oppressed people retain; their sorrows, like those of childhood, pass over without crushing the bright flower of hope, which the fresh heart ever nourishes. Erin is, as her own son has described her, “still young.” May his prophecy be as true as his poetry is beautiful. “Erin' oh Erin' though long in the shade, Thy star shall shine out, when the proudest shall fade!” The superstitions of the Irish peasantry are fast disappearing. Stories of the “Banshie,” the “Phora,” the “Clauricane,” are now very difficult to gather; those who reverence these old traditions appear sensible that they are not in unison with the present habits of life. Even the fairies are fast losing their repute—“education and Father Mathew having worked sad havoc among them.” The next generation will probably be “disenchanted entirely,” and we shall have no more eye-witnesses of the gambols of the “good people,” as the fairies are called, with more politeness than truth, if their character may be judged by their doings. We may regret this utilitarian process as we do the passing away of the utopian dreams of our childhood, when

“All Time's sands were made of gold;"

but we think the period has come when “ould Ireland” should begin to grow wise. And, as the Halls find consolation in believing that “as superstitions are wearing out, prejudices will soon follow,” we ought to rejoice; but, before the fairy race is completely driven out by the steam-fury, or the rational has quite displaced the imaginative, we will give one of the few stories Mrs. Hall was able to gather, which is entirely new to us, and moreover exceedingly graphic in its illustration of this, we may say, captivating superstition.

“There's not so many of them now as there used to be in ancient times,” said an old man, who had been introduced to us, because of his knowledge of the “good people.” He was a tall, thin, white-headed person, and would have been the beau-ideal of a patriarch, but for a merry twinkle in his clear blue eye. “My father used to see them now and again,” he continued, “just about midsummer, or it might be in harvest; but my grandfather, bless you' he was hand and glove with them all his life, and his own mother was away with them for five or six years, more or less, I can't be particular as to a month, and her sister had her eldest boy changed by them, through her own fault intirely; for it's a foolish thing to go against the likes of them, or to make game of them, or to dare them.

“Well, she, poor thing! wouldn't put up a horse-shoe on the door-post, or cross a plate of salt, or put a prayerbook under her pillow, or pull the seven rods of hazel, or cut a notch in a black cat's tail, or pour a sup of sweet milk out of the pail when she was milking, or break a new potato on the hearthstone, or bite her baby's nails for the first nine weeks instead of cutting them, or toss the first lock of hay in hay making in a cross, that is first north, then south, you see–criss-cross, as we call it—nor offer a cock to St. Martin—not shel But I tell you what she'd do—she’d go wandering of St. John's Eve, in the moonlight, and think no more of crossing a fairy ring between twelve and three, than of kissing her hand; she’d cross a stream without crossing herself, and carry a cat over it, without the least taste of dread coming over her. If she saw the very print of the ‘good people's' feet on the silver sands on the sea-shore, instead of saying “Wave, wave, wash out!' she'd kick the marks into nothing with her ten toes. She was a fearless, careless girl, and sure enough, instead of a purty, soft faced, rosy child, that was the moral of its own people, she had a poor, puny, wish-wash brat put in its place, that was neither fit to live nor die; every one said it wasn't a right child at all, at all. Some wanted her to put it out on a hot shovel;" others to make egg-broth before it, that is, to boil the egg shells, and offer it the water they were boiled in for its dinner, which would make it speak out at once; others to keep its head under water for twenty-five minutes, when, if it was a right child, it would be drowned; if it was not, why it would be alive in the face of the country. But the sorra a thing she'd do that had any sense in it, only would declare that the child was a right child enough when it would get strength and good advice; and, in spite of all they could say, she rolled the poor scrag of a craythur into her flannel petticoat, and strapping it on her back, put her cloak over all, and set off with it to Dublin to consult some fine doctor she heard tell of, that had a great name. When her mother-in-law got her out of the house, may be she didn't make an alteration in the place' She nailed horse-shoes to all the doors, and a fine one of great virtue intirely to head of the bedpost, and she sent for a fairy-man, and whatever he bade her do she did; and the upshot of it was, that every one said, if the poor unbelieving craythur ever brought her fairy boy back with her, she'd never be able to cross the threshold.

“Well, as sure as fate, after the woman was away as good as six months, home she comes, and the husband runs out to meet her. “Stop" she cries, “don’t set eyes on the baby until we're on our own floor, and let me show you what, through the grace of God, I’ve saved.” They all looked at each other, when she said this, and in two or three minutes she sets him down—as fine a poulter of a boy as ever came into the world-round and rosy, with eyes the moral of his grandmother, and a fist the image of his father's, that would grip a shillaleh with any man in the Barony. As to the granny, she had like to have lost

! It is not three years since, (in 1840,) a case was tried before the Criminal Court, in the county of Tipperara, wherein it appeared that a boy of seven years old, a delicate child, but uncommonly precocious, had been so threate ned with the ordeal to make him confess himself a fairy, that he died in a few hours after, no doubt from the frighther life with the joy, for she knew it was their own was in it.

THE IRISH AT HOME. 263

“‘And do you mean to tell me,’ she says to its mother, “that that's the child you took from this?’

“‘God bless it!' answered the poor blinded parent, ‘sure that it is, and no other. My own bouchaleen darlin', —the grace of God be about it!—my own, own darlin', that I carried when the cry of pain and the whimper was never from it night or day— my own! that after dying down like the flowers in winter, come out fresh; and that the great Dublin doctor wasn’t above curing. A fairy boy they called you, did they, a cushlanachree!’

“‘Whisht! whisht!" says the granny, very sensibly, “that's enough about it.” She knew her own know, that the child was returned, crossing the threshold, and didn't care to say any thing to vex the mother, who knew no better, only thought she was doing her best. God help her foolishness!’”

Mrs. Hall inquired if he had ever seen the “good people” himself. He said “No, he never had; they had grown shy and mistrustful, and the schools and man's wisdom, and things of that kind displeased them; they liked to be with nature.” For which life they seem much the best calculated.

Could the real miseries of Ireland become obsolete with their imaginative superstitions, the heart of humanity might well rejoice; but their poverty is more hopeless than their ignorance. As we before remarked, an American, who has never been in Europe, can have no realizing sense of the utter destitution of the poor in Ireland, of the want of all we consider “necessaries,” which are enjoyed by the poorest in our land. The most effectual manner of making this understood is by the pictures of actual life which are so vividly set forth in this work. Take this inventory of the plenishing of one of the best cottages, in which Mrs. Hall exults as being “provided with comforts” which “snug farmers” rarely enjoy. The cottage described had no “upper story,” but there was a room branching to the right of the “kitchen, parlour, and hall,” and another to the left, the sleeping rooms of the family, decently furnished; they had one chair, made of “rough elm,” the pieces being nailed together; a decent table, a wooden drinking-cup, a gridiron to broil red-herrings, made of a piece of twisted iron; a candlestick formed out of an iron tube inserted into a “slab of oak.” The dressers were well-garnished with plates; there were three or four three-legged stools and “bosses,” and at either side of the chimney was a stone seat; a pair of oddly shaped tongs to place the turf on the fire. a churn, a rafter to hang clothes upon, a salt box, a trough for the pig, who, though domiciled in his own house, was an occasional visitor after dinner; the iron pot, of course, and two wheels, one for wool, the other for flax. The inhabitants of this cottage, which the writer esteems “so comfortable,” were the father, mother, grandmother, and seven children, with a serving “wench;” a dog, cat, and a “dozen laying hens,” which were accommodated with nests in a “cupboard in the wall.” Comfortable, truly!

In order, however, that our readers may rightly understand the degrees of privation and misery

which those who are there esteemed poor actually endure—not for a few days or years, but their whole life long—take the following picture of the common cabins of the country. “An Irish cabin is a shed about eighteen feet by fourteen, perhaps less, built of sod or rough stone, thatched with sods, with a hole for a window, and a basket for a chimney. The majority consist of but one apartment, in which the whole family of grown up sons and daughters eat and sleep; a cabin will seldom be found in which there is not a grandfather or grandmother, who usually is provided with a bed—a miserable one to be sure; the other members of the household sleep on the bare Iloor, or on a little straw or heather. The pig, the cow, if they have one, and the hens occupy the cabin with the family. The furniture consists of an iron put to boil potatoes; a rude dresser; a couple of three-legged stools; a table, but not always, and a “kish,” a basket of wicker-work, into which the potatoes are thrown when taken from the pot.” In such places and with such means, which Mrs. Hall allows “is degrading to human nature, and shocking to humanity,” live and die the majority of the people of Ireland; while from the statistical and geographical reports and tables furnished by the work before us, we learn that, if the resources of the country were rightly developed, trade and manufactures justly encouraged, that is, so that the labourer might have a “fair day's wages for a fair day's work”—the island is capable of furnishing abundant means of support and improvement to a population of more than twice the present number. But now, from Cork to Donegal, from Dublin to Galway, throughout the length and breadth of this beautiful “Isle of the ocean,” the most cruel lot of poverty is felt—to drain the bitter cup extracted from the wormwood sown by the proud oppressor, who, himself rioting in luxury, derides and scorns the people whose country he has ravaged and holds in vassalage. We can hardly blame the fierce passion of the miserable outlaw who brought his dying daughter to a physician and laid before him gold, all the savings of his life, when told that his child could not live, “There's no justice for the poor!” he shouted— “no justice, no law, no cuRE but for the great; no cure for the poor man's child! If I had you on my mountain I'd make you cure her.” And yet, in general, how patiently, cheerfully, ay, nobly these suffering people deport themselves. How deep and warm must be those springs of generous affections, of the best and holiest feelings of our nature, which this frozen zone of want cannot chill! And often the most beautiful delicacy of sentiment, such as we would only expect to find in the gently nurtured daughter of comfort or opulence, lives and speaks in the actions of these humble, uninstructed children of sorrow and care. Seldom have we read a more touching incident than the following; Sterne’s “Maria” does not come near it in true pathos. “Our attention was one day called to a young girl in the town of Galway, who had “come in' for the purpose of selling two lambs. Her sweetheart had gone to sea, bequeathing his mother, a very infirm old woman, to her care. Soon after his departure, Mary left her father's more comfortable dwelling to reside in the woman's

[blocks in formation]

cabin; so that, as she said herself, “she might watch the craythur day and night, seeing she had no one to look after her.” Her parents were strongly impressed with the idea that she had thrown her affections away on a wild sailor, who would forget her; but her faith in him was unbounded. A sheep was part of her fortune, and this she took with her; it grazed among the crags, and in good time brought her twin lambs. These she hoped to have been able to keep towards the formation of a mountain flock; but the season was so “pinching,' that to support her old friend she brought the lambs into town for sale. The two creatures were coupled together like hounds; and, as she stood with her eyes cast down, yet looking from them, it was impossible not to note the sorrow stamped upon her gentle features. Several asked the price, and, after beating her down, turned away without purchasing. This continued for some time, until at last she sat down, and passing her arm round her fleecy charge, began to cry. “‘I’m loath to part them,” she said, weeping, “yet I must part them for what they'll bring. Every one is the saune; it's bitter poverty that would make me part any thing which has life in it.” “‘Then, why don't you go to your own home, Mary, and take your lammies with you?' “‘I am in my own home,” she answered. ‘Sure, it isn't because the woman is poor and friendless that you would have me leave her, is it?” “At last a rough-coated farmer, touched by her distress, offered her the fair value of her lambs. At first she eagerly accepted his proposal; but when she placed the tether in his hand, she raised her eyes imploringly to his face— “‘Sure it isn't going to kill them ye are!’ “‘No, my dear, no, it is not; I’d be sorry to hurt a curl of their wool; they'll go to my own flock.’ “‘God bless you!' she said, and departed with a smiling countenance.”

Another story of the heart we find related of these poor females of Galway, which is more humanly touching than the trials of poor Mary. No novelist ever described the devotion, the constancy of woman's love more vividly, than these were exhibited by a poor Irish girl.

“Two cousins, James and Nancy, had been engaged for many years, almost from childhood; just as means of paying the wedding fee had been obtained, and they had received the priest's permission to marry, James changed his mind, or rather transferred his love to another cousin, and left poor Nancy to her lonely lot. She said, and truly too, that it was better the ‘change should come over him before than after he married me—let him go"—but still she seemed, as the neighbours said, “sal in herself.” “About a year after her cousin had so cruelly deserted her, she was bringing home a very heavy load of turf strapped by a band across her forehead, so as to rest upon her shoulders; her mother was feeble, and she left the bog to get home early, but fatigued with the exertions of the past day, she rested her burden on some stones, and stooped to bathe her forehead in the running brook. “‘Nancy!' exclaimed an almost breathless voice,— “Nancy, for the love of God, come with me; I’ve been to three houses and can't see a living soul, men nor women; they're all on the bog, I suppose, clamping turf, and poor Mary seems in the pains of death.' “Nancy felt as is stricken with death herself—it was her cousin who addressed her. “‘This is no time to think what a vagabond I behaved to you, she is of your own blood as well as me; but if you choose to turn it into black blood,' said the impetuous young man, “you may.” “Nancy wiped her face, and turning to him answered, ‘I have no black blood towards either of you, and if it is with her as I suppose, I'll go now, only you had better run for wiser help than mine.” “‘God bless you, Nancy! God in heaven bless you! it's little I deserve a good turn at your hands, anyhow; you know the house, and have near a mile to get to it.”

“The young man ran off rapidly and almost as rapidly Nancy pursued the mountain path that led to the cabin; but when she arrived all was over; there was a very old woman weeping by the bedside of the dead mother of a living child.

“Nancy took the infant in her arms, and while her tears fell upon its little face, she despoiled herself of a portion of her own clothing to preserve its existence. In about an hour the widowed husband returned, accompanied by others, but Nancy was gone. The agony of the young man was intense, and a few days found him in a raging sever, which terminated his existence. No matter how wretchedly poor a district may be, there is always some one found in Ireland to take care of an infant orphan; the little creature had homes enough; there was not a woman within ten miles of that mountain-cottage, who would not have taken that miserable baby to her own bosom, and shared the food of her half-fed children with the “orphan.' But Nancy claimed the child she had been the first to feed and clothe: “God, who knows my heart,' she said in the undertone of deep feeling, ‘God, who knows my heart, knows that above all things on earth, far, far before my own life, I loved its father; it's no harm for me to own it now when both him and his young wife are in their graves; and when my mother and many of my people said how angry I ought to be, I only felt heart-sore that I did not deserve him, for sure if I had, I’d have had him! I'll never have a born child of my own, I know, but may-be when I am ould, and those who are young with me now will be ould with me, then maybe she'll keep the youth in my heart;-but there's enough said about it. I’ll take it for better for worse, and share what I have with her while I live.”

“And so she did, and does; we saw her bringing up a load of turf to the inn-door, one hand resting caressingly on the neck of the donkey who bore the creels upon his back, while the little black-eyed, wild-haired creature of her adoption stepped out freely by her side. Nothing can exceed her affection for the child whom she brings daily to school, and who seems equally attached to “mammy Nancy.’”—(Vol. 3, page 476–7.)

Dr. Aikin held that all moral virtue was to be resolved into the preference of the social principle over the selfish—disinterestedness appeared to him the first of human qualities. Tried by this standard, how amiable, how noble is the character of the poor Irish peasantry! When contrasting their actual suffering condition with the capabilities which it would seem their nature possesses for happiness and improvement, who can forbear exclaiming, Will the Highest never see their oppressions? Will he not raise up this down-trodden land? We do indeed believe that the time for the renovation of Ireland is at hand, that the great change is now rapidly working. We gather from these volumes not merely signs of hope but actual proofs of progress more wonderful than the most enthusiastic dreamer, five years ago, would have imagined possible.

First and foremost, in this work of amelioration, stands that remarkable man Father Mathew. We have heard much of the surprising change he has wrought; in less than three years converting a universal whisky-drinking people into one vast Temperance Society, and thus at a stroke severing the hydra head from the monster crime of that country. But all, and more than all, we have heard is proven by the records of the Halls, who have been eye-witnesses of this change, while travelling throughout Ireland.

When they began their researches, Father Ma

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »