Obrazy na stronie



JANUARY, 1869.


Journals, Conversations, and Essays relating to Ireland. By NASSAU WILLIAM SENIOR. Second Edition. London, Longmans, Green,

and Co.

Realities of Irish Life. By W. STEUART TRENCH, Land Agent in Ireland. London: Longmans, Green, & Co.


HE startling discoveries of the late Mr. Nassau Senior, during his occasional expeditions to Ireland, are, we respectfully submit, obtaining an undue and even dangerous degree of acceptance in England at present. Within a few months, the book, which is not light reading, has gone to a second edition; and is already cited by the choir of newspapers as an authority with a sort of oracular sanction. The higher organs of opinion have been suspiciously emulous in exalting its value. They speak of it as a complete revelation of the great Celtic mystery. Before the book was a week old, the Quarterly Review, to our extreme astonishment, declared:"This work as a whole will enable England to understand Ireland as she has never done before, and will show us how much hitherto we have been alike legislating, sympathizing, and declaiming in the dark." As one half of the whole of Mr. Senior's Irish lucubrations consists of articles reprinted from the Edinburgh Review, the latest in date of which was published twenty years ago, we may, while admiring the generosity of the criticism, humbly wonder at the length of time which the rays of even so sublime an intelligence have taken to traverse the space that intervenes between the atmosphere of the one periodical and the other. Edinburgh Review naturally considers Mr. Senior's message as part of its own properties and trophies. Words are hardly adequate to assay its value. "These volumes," we are told, "are a lasting monument of Mr. Senior's sterling ability and wisdom. . . a mine of sound thought on Irish affairs; and a repository of attractive research and keen observation in the VOL. XII.-NO. XXIII. [New Series.]



same field." Is it presumption to suggest that these epithets are somewhat inept, if not extravagant? Ability and wisdom in public affairs generally find a more lasting monument even than books. The thoughts of a sound thinker on the policy of a great state, who has the opportunity to be heard (and Mr. Senior had great opportunities), gradually translate themselves into laws and institutions. Mr. Senior made many suggestions for the good government of Ireland, of which not one-not even the occasional Convocation of the Imperial Parliament in Dublin, not even the abolition of the Lord Lieutenancy, not even the pensioning of the priests-was attempted in his own time, or can be reckoned as other than superannuated and impracticable now. English travellers, ever since the time of Giraldus Cambrensis, have been remarkable, according to the opinion of their own countrymen, for the "attractive research" and "keen observation" which they have devoted to the study of that island and its inhabitants. The English nation, to do it justice, has always been anxious to listen to any one who could give it an argument capable of being comprehended with complacency, for its occupation of a country which it is unable to understand, and which revolts unceasingly against its rule. Giraldus wrote before the age of reviews, but we have evidence little less valuable of his success with his contemporaries, who wished to understand offhand all about Ireland once for all. Giraldus said it was a country in which there was a talking wolf, a bearded woman, and a bull with a human head; that in remote parts of it, baptism was very irregularly administered; that its people had musical tastes and homicidal propensities, its very saints in heaven were vindictive, and its priests addicted in the evening hours to the worship of Bacchus, vino variisque potionibus-all obviously good and sufficient grounds for the conquest of the country. Ireland was conquered accordingly, and has been repeatedly more or less completely conquered since. The views of the more enlightened English of the present day take the direction of depopulation. Senior's views differ in so far from those of Giraldus Cambrensis. He objects that the priests of the present day do not preach the Gospel according to Malthus; that the landlords as yet only imperfectly apprehend that their true mission on earth is to check the increase and multiplication of mankind, and to further the spread of civilization by cattle; and that the British Government and the British nation are bound to sustain the landlords in their efforts to "prevent the whole country from becoming a warren of yahoos." "Keen observation" and "attractive research" thus equally characterize


the British traveller in the nineteenth century as in the twelfth.

It was not reasonable to expect that Mr. Senior's book should be a profound book. The character of his mind and his sources of information equally forbade that; and tended to make it a book in many respects worse than worthlessin some respects, we do not hesitate to say, even wicked. He was a man with the heart of a mere economist, the "obdurate heart," in which "there is no flesh," and no feeling for man as man; and he was unable both from the narrow and pragmatical quality of his intellect, and the specialty of his studies, to form any broad and liberal conception of the condition of the Irish people, to enter into any sort of sympathy with them, therefore to understand or enable anybody else to understand them. So far do we differ from current criticism that we venture to say the English student of Mr. Senior will know rather less of that aspect of Ireland which really needs to be known by England, when he has come to the end of these volumes than he probably did at their commencement. The fair-minded Englishman's ordinary impression that Ireland is a country half conquered, half colonised, never conciliated, in which the law of the land has for a long time been opposed to the genius of the people, and in which a class tyranny has been implanted, such as is unknown in any other free country, will probably have been considerably confused. Mr. Senior believed that so base and abnormal were the instincts and habits of the race inhabiting the island, that only the energetic action of the English law, by the hands of the Irish landlords, could prevent it from sinking into a swarming barbarism, held together by a bond of murder. Prepossessed against the country by character and training, Mr. Senior was, besides, peculiarly unfortunate in the class of persons with whom he came in contact when he visited it. Any intelligent Irishman could tell beforehand what views of the state of Ireland a stranger was likely to form, who went from Archbishop Whately's house to Lord Rosse's, thence to Lord Monteagle's; and who always received his latest lights from Mr. Steuart Trench. It is like the case of an officer who is taken blindfold through a camp, having the bandage taken off only at the points where it is desired to produce a false impression. Mr. Senior naturally cites each and every one of these authorities as infallible, equally infallible, the wise men, and the only wise men of Gotham. He drew them out, they knew he was drawing them out, he wrote down what they said, and they revised it. Not every one knows his Boswell beforehand. Not every one has the privilege of assisting his

Boswell in the concoction of his memoirs. But Mr. Senior first noted the conversations at Redesdale, or Birr Castle, or Cardtown, and then asked the various interlocutors to revise their parts. Bishop Blougram neither knew nor cared what use Gigadibs was going to make of his confidences; but here Gigadibs gives his friends notice beforehand that he is about to embalm all their favourite hobbies, and that the higher they trot, the better he will be pleased. That paradox and affectation should characterize the conversation of a coterie of persons periodically assembled under such auspices, is not surprising. That a peer, with a mechanical turn of mind, should flounder when invited to dogmatize on affairs of administration -that even the dry archbishop should pose himself a little absurdly, conscious of being thus brought on the sly face to face with posterity, is no more than it was natural to expect. That a series of conversations, held together by this covenant of egotism, among a group of persons, who were all, for one reason or other, malignants and frondeurs against the public spirit of the country in which their lot was cast, should also produce upon the mind the effect of a conspiracy of scandal against the character of that country, is not so strange; but we confess to some surprise at their occasional scurrility. Lord Rosse, Dr. Whately, with Mr. Senior himself, have passed away, and are beyond reach of the melodious acclaim with which their mutual admiration is still saluted by the "chorus of indolent reviewers." But Mr. Steuart Trench is alive, and he has been encouraged by the far-spreading shade of Mr. Senior's fame and the indefatigable indolence of the British reviewer, to attempt his own apotheosis. Mr. Steuart Trench is the land agent of the Marquis of Bath, the Marquis of Lansdowne, and the Lord Digby. He was Mr. Senior's favourite authority in regard to the tendencies of the Irish race towards Yahoodom. Mr. Senior had designed to present him to posterity in the part of the Hero as land agent; but Mr. Trench has been able to survive Mr. Senior, and so to anticipate posterity; and suddenly finding himself famous, he will not shrink from "the peril of his own panegyric." Accordingly, in a volume with the romantic title "Realities of Irish Life," he has written a considerable proportion of his own autobiography. He describes himself as a person of heroic courage, overflowing humanity, benign wisdom, indomitable will, indefatigable energy, polite manners, and engaging affability. This enumeration does not, doubtless, comprehend the sum of his virtues. The rest may be learned on application to the tenantry of the Lansdowne, the Bath, or the Digby estates. The book has been illustrated by Mr. Trench's son. Appear

ing at the Christmas season, when goblins and giants task the efforts of our best artists, it at first occurred to us that it might be intended to pourtray the adventures of some Irish Munchausen. Opening its pages, as it happened, about the middle chapter, an extraordinary scene met our view. Under lofty cliffs, three male persons navigate a boat. The inscription says, "The guide wore a waistcoat"; and, as a matter of fact, among these adventurous gentlemen there is no superfluity of raiment apparent. They all wear their hats, however, on which are planted flaming torches; and the effect, sufficiently absurd, is made inconceivably ludicrous by the evident seriousness of the artist. Four more illustrations, one full-length, are devoted to the adventures of the three gentlemen; and we are informed, by the accompanying text, that this is the way in which seal-hunting is sometimes conducted in the county of Kerry. As to Mr. Trench himself, it would appear, that on all the great and heroic occasions of his life, he was either dressed as a Bond Street exquisite of the days of D'Orsay, or hardly dressed at all. The frontispiece represents him stripped to the waist, like some accomplished prize-fighter, who waits the ring to be formed, and his rival for the belt to advance. A little further on, Mr. Trench, still stripped to the waist, but evidently attired by Poole us to the rest of his person, addresses with beaming countenance and graceful gestures an apparently enthusiastic crowd of Irish peasants. On the cover of the book we see him, as he suddenly confronted in his own house one of Lord Bath's tenants, who was in arrears of rent, with a revolver in either hand, but obviously in a state of wild panic. The unfortunate tenant behaved remarkably well at the moment; but he died of the shock a fortnight afterwards, Then we have an illustration of a truly historical occasion, upon which Mr. Trench and another land-agent, named Morant, who dressed himself in a buffalo-hide for the occasion, and who, we are told, "looked down on the admiring peasantry with the most supreme indifference and contempt for his enemies expressed in every feature of his face" (Mr. Morant's enemies, it would appear, were his neighbours, and he did not love them as he loved himself) left the town of Carrickmacross one morning, bristling with pistols, amid, as Mr. Trench naïvely confesses, "the incessant nudges and winks" of the bystanders, under the impression that they might possibly be shot before their return. They were not shot, nor even shot at; but there is another illustration of their return late at night, with the Ribbonmen, who are supposed to have intended to have shot at them, but who did

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