Sydney Owenson, The Wild Irish Girl: A National Tale (1806)

Chapter Index

LETTER XIII

TO J.D. ESQ. M.P.

The conduct of this girl is inexplicable. Since the unfortunate picture scene three days back, she has excused herself twice from the drawing-desk; and to-day appeared at it with the priest by her side. Her playful familiarity is vanished, and a chill reserve, uncongenial to the native ardour of her manner, has succeeded. Surely she cannot be so vain, so weak, as to mistake my attentions to her as a young and lovely woman; my admiration of her talents, and my surprize at the originality of her character, for a serious passion. And supposing me to be a wanderer and an hireling, affect to reprove my temerity by haughtiness and disdain.

Would you credit it! By Heavens, I am sometimes weak enough to be on the very point of telling her who and what I am, when she plays off her little airs of Milesian pride and female superciliousness. You perceive, therefore, by the conduct of this little Irish recluse, that on the subject of love and vanity, woman is every where, and in all situations, the same. For what coquet reared in the purlieus of St James, could be more a portée to those effects which denote the passion, or more apt to suspect she had awakened it into existence, than this inexperienced, unsophisticated being? who I suppose never spoke to ten men in her life, save the superannuated inhabitants of her paternal ruins. Perhaps, however, she only means to check the growing familiarity of my manner, and to teach me the disparity of rank which exists between us; for, with all her native strength of mind, the influence of invariable example and frequent precept has been too strong for her, and she has unconsciously imbibed many of her father’s prejudices respecting antiquity of descent and nobility of birth. She will frequently say, ‘O! such a one is a true Milesian!’ — or, ‘he is a descendant of the English Irish;’ — or, ‘they are new people — we hear nothing of them till the wars of Cromwell,’ and so on. Yet at other times, when reason lords it over prejudice, she will laugh at that weakness in others, she sometimes betrays in herself.

The other day, as we stood chatting at a window together, pointing to an elderly man who passed by, she said, ‘there goes a poor Connaught gentleman, who would rather starve than work — he is a follower of the family, and has been just entertaining my father with an account of our ancient splendour. We have too many instances of this species of mania among us.

‘The celebrated Bishop of Cloyne relates an anecdote of a kitchenmaid, who refused to carry out cinders, because she was of Milesian descent. And Father John tells a story of a young gentleman in Limerick, who being received under the patronage of a nobleman going out as Governor-General of India, sacrificed his interest to his national pride ; for having accompanied his Lordship on board the vessel which was to convey them to the East, and finding himself placed at the foot of the dining-table, he instantly arose, and went on shore, declaring that “as a true Milesian,” he would not submit to any indignity, to purchase the riches of the East India Company. [1]

‘All this,’ continued Glorvina, ‘is ridiculous, nay it is worse, for it is highly dangerous and fatal to the community at large. It is the source of innumerable disorders, by promoting idleness, and consequently vice. It frequently checks the industry of the poor, and limits the exertions of the rich, and perhaps is not among the least of those sources whence our national miseries flow. At the same time I must own, I have a very high idea of the virtues which exalted birth does or ought to bring with it. Marmontel elegantly observes, “nobility of birth is a letter of credit given us on our country, upon the security of our ancestors, in the conviction that at a proper period of life we shall acquit ourselves with honour to those who stand engaged for us.”’

Observe, that this passage was quoted in the first person, and not, as in the original, in the second, and with an air of dignity that elevated her pretty little head some inches.

‘Since,’ she continued, ‘we are all the beings of education, and that its most material branch, example, lies vested in our parents, it is natural to suppose that those superior talents or virtues which in early stages of society are the purchase of worldly elevation, become hereditary, and that the noble principles of our ancestors should descend to us with their titles and estates.’

‘Ah,’ said I, smiling, ‘these are the ideas of an Irish Princess, reared in the palace of her ancestors on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.’

‘They may be,’ she returned, ‘the ideas of an inexperienced recluse, but I think they are not less the result of rational supposition, strengthened by the evidence of internal feeling; for though I possessed not that innate dignity of mind which instinctively spurned at the low suggestion of vicious dictates, yet the consciousness of the virtues of those from whom I am descended, would prevent me from sullying by an unworthy action of mine, the unpolluted name I had the honour to bear.’

She then repeated several anecdotes of the heroism, rectitude, and virtue of her ancestors of both sexes, adding ‘this was once the business of our Bards, Fileas, and Seanachies, but we are now obliged to have recourse to our own memories, in order to support our own dignity.

‘But do not suppose I am so weak as to be dazzled by a sound, or to consider mere title in any other light than as a golden toy judiciously worn to secure the respect of the vulgar, who are incapable of appreciating that “which passeth show,” [2] which, as my father says, is sometimes given to him who saves, and sometimes bestowed on him who betrays, his country. O! no; for I would rather possess one beam of that genius which elevates your mind above all worldly distinction, and those principles of integrity which breathe in your sentiments and ennoble your soul, than’ —

Thus hurried away by the usual impetuosity of her feelings, she abruptly stopped, fearful, perhaps, that she had gone too far. And then, after a moment added — ‘but who will dare to bring the souls of nobility in competition with the short-lived elevation which man bestows on man!’

This was the first direct compliment she ever paid me; and I received it with a silent bow, and throbbing heart, and a colouring cheek.

Is she not an extraordinary creature! I meant to have given you an unfavourable opinion of her prejudices; and in transcribing my documents of accusation, I have actually confirmed myself in a better opinion of her heart and understanding than I ever before indulged in. For to think well of her, is a positive indulgence to my philanthropy, after having through so ill of all her sex.

But all her virtues and her genius have nothing to do with the ice which crystallizes round her heart; and which renders her as coldly indifferent to the talents and virtues with which her fancy has invested me, as though they were in possession of an hermit of four score. Yet God knows, nothing less than cold does her character appear. That mutability of complexion which seems to flow perpetually to the influence of her evident feelings and vivid imagination, that ethereal warmth which animates her manners; the force and energy of her expressions, the enthusiasm of her disposition, the uncontroulable smile, the involuntary tear, the spontaneous sigh! — Are these indications of an icy heart? And yet, shut up as we are together, thus closely associated, the sympathy of our tastes, our pursuits! But the fact is, I begin to fear that I have imported into the shades of Inismore some of my London presumption; and that after all, I know as little of this charming sport of Nature, as when I first beheld her — possibly my perceptions have become as sophisticated as the objects to whom they have hitherto been directed; and want refinement and subtilty to enter into all the delicate minutiæ of her superior and original character, which is at once both natural and national.

Adieu!

 

LETTER XIV

TO J.D. ESQ. M.P.

To day I was presented at an interview granted by the Prince to two contending parties, who came to ask law of him, as they term it. This, I am told, the Irish peasantry are ready to do upon every slight difference; so that they are the most litigious, or have the nicest sense of right and justice, of any people in the world.

Although the language held by this little judicial meeting was Irish, it was by no means necessary it should be understood, to comprehend, in some degree, the subject of the discussion; for the gestures and countenances both of the judge and the clients, were expressive beyond all conception; and I plainly understood, that almost every other word on both sides was accompanied by a species of local oath, sworn on the first object that presented itself to their hands, and strongly marked the vehemence of the national character.

When I took notice of this to Father John, he replied,

‘It is certain, that the habit of confirming every assertion with an oath, is as prevalent among the Irish as it was among the ancient, and is among the modern, Greeks. And it is remarkable, that even at this day, in both countries, the nature and form of their adjurations and oaths are perfectly similar: a Greek will still swear by his parents, or his children; and Irishman frequently swears, “by my father, who is no more!” “by my mother in the grave!” Virgil makes his pious Æneas swear by his head. The Irish constantly swear, “by my hand,” — “by this hand,” — or, “by the hand of my gossip!” [3] There is one who has just sworn by the Cross ; another, by the blessed stick he holds in his hand. In short, no intercourse passes between them where confidence is required, in which oaths are not called in to confirm the transaction.’

* * * * *

I am this moment returned from my Vengolf, after having declared the necessity of my absence for some time, leaving the term, however, indefinite; so that in this instance, I can be governed by my inclination and convenience, without any violation of promise. The good old Prince looked as much amazed at my determination, as though he expected I were never to depart; and I really believe, in the old-fashioned hospitality of his Irish heart, he would be better satisfied I never should. He said many kind and cordial things in own curious way; and concluded by pressing my speedy return, and declaring that my presence had created a little jubilee among them.

The priest was absent; and Glorvina, who sat at her little wheel by her father’s side, snapped her thread, and drooped her head close to her work, until I casually observed, that I had already passed above three weeks at the castle — then she shook back the golden tresses from her brow, and raised her eyes to mine with a look that seemed to say, ‘can that be possible!’ Not even by a glance did I reply to the flattering questions; but I felt it not the less.

When we arose to retire to our respective apartments, I mentioned that I should be off at dawn, the Prince shook me cordially by the hand, and bid me farewell with an almost paternal kindness.

Glorvina, on whose arm he was leaning, did not follow his example — she simply wished me ‘a pleasant journey.’

‘But where,’ said the Prince, ‘do you sojourn to?’

‘To the town of Bally—, ’ said I, ‘which has been hitherto my head-quarters, and where I have left my clothes, books, and drawing utensils. I have also some friends in the neighbourhood, procured me by letters of introductions with which I was furnished in England.’

You know that a great part of this neighbourhood is now my father’s property, and once belonged to the ancestors of the Prince. He changed colour as I spoke, and hurried on in silence.

Adieu! the castle clock strikes twelve! What creatures we are! when the tinkling of a bit of metal can affect our spirits. Mine, however (though why, I know not), were prepared for the reception of somber images. This night may be, in all human probability; the last I shall sleep in the castle of Inismore; and what then — it were perhaps as well I had never entered it. A generous mind can never reconcile itself to the practices of deception; yet to prejudices so inveterate, I had nothing but deception to oppose. And yet, when in some happy moment of parental favour, when all my past sins are forgotten, and my present state of regeneration only remembered — I shall find courage to disclose my romantic adventure to my father, and through the medium of that strong partiality the son has awakened in the heart of the Prince, unite in bonds of friendship these two worthy men, but unknown enemies — then I shall triumph in my impositions, and, for the first time, adopt the maxim, that good consequences may be effected by means not strictly conformable to the rigid laws of truth.

I have just been at my window, and never beheld so gloomy a night — not a star twinkles through the massy clouds that are driven impetuously along by the sudden gusts of a rising storm — not a ray of light partially dissipates the profound obscurity, save what halls on a fragment of an opposite tower, and seems to issue from the window of a closet with joins the apartment of Glorvina. She has not yet then retired to rest, and yet ‘tis unusual for her to sit up so late. For I have often watched that little casement — its position exactly corresponds with the angle of the castle where I am lodged.

If I should have any share in the vigils of Glorvina!!!

I know not whether to be most gratified or hurt at the manner in which she took leave of me. Was it indifference, or resentment, that marked her manner? She certainly was surprized, and her surprize was not of the most pleasing nature — for where was the magic smile, the sensient blush, that ever ushers in and betray every emotion of her ardent soul? Sweet being! whatever may be the sentiments which the departure of the supposed unfortunate wanderer awakens in thy bosom, may that bosom still continue the hallowed asylum of the dove of peace! May the pure heart it enshrines still throb to the best impulses of the happiest nature, and beat with the soft palpitation of innocent pleasure and guileless transport, veiled from the rude intercourse of that world to which thy elevated and sublime nature is so eminently superior: long amidst the shade of the venerable ruins of they forefathers mayest thou bloom and flourish in undisturbed felicity! the ministering angel of thy poor compatriots, who look up to thee for example and support — thy country’s muse, and the bright model of the genuine character of her daughters, when unvitiated by erroneous education, and by those fatal prejudices which lead them to seek in foreign refinement for those talents, those graces, those virtues, which are no where to be found more flourishing, more attractive, than in their native land.

H.M.

LETTER XV

TO J.D. ESQ. M.P.

M— House

It certainly requires less nicety of perception to distinguish differences in kind than differences in degree; but though my present, like my past situation, is solitudinous in the extreme, it demands no very great discernment to discover, that my late life was a life of solitude — my present, of desolation.

In the castle of Inismore I was estranged from the world: here I am estranged from myself. Yet so much more sequestered did that sweet interesting spot appear to me, that I felt, on arriving at this vast and solitary place (after having passed by a few gentlemen’s seats, and caught a distant view of the little town of Bally-), as though I were returning to the world — but felt as if that world had no longer any attraction for me.

What a dream was the last three weeks of my life! But it was a dream from which I wished not to be awakened. It seemed to me as if I had lived in an age of primeval simplicity and primeval virtue. My senses at rest, my passions soothed to philosophic repose, my prejudices vanquished, all the powers of my mind gently breathed into motion, yet calm and unagitated — all the faculties of my taste called into exertion, yet unsated even by boundless gratification. My fancy restored to its pristine warmth, my heart to its native sensibility. The past given to oblivion, the future unanticipated, and the present enjoyed, with the full consciousness of its pleasurable existence. Wearied, exhausted, satiated by a boundless indulgence of hackneyed pleasures, hackneyed occupations, hackneyed pursuits, at a moment when I was sinking beneath the lethargic influence of apathy, or hovering on the brink of despair, a new light broke upon my clouded mind, and discovered to my inquiring heart, something yet worth living for. What that mystic something is, I can scarcely yet define myself; but a magic spell now irresistibly binds me to that life which but lately,

‘Like a foul and ugly witch, did limp
So tediously away.’

The reserved tints of grey dawn had not yet received the illuminating beams of the east, when I departed from the castle of Inismore. None of the family were risen, but the hind who prepared my rosinante, and the nurse, who made my breakfast.

I rode twice round that wing of the castle where Glorvina sleeps: the curtain of her bed-room casement was closely drawn; but as I passed by it the second time, I thought I perceived a shadowy form at the window of the adjoining casement. As I approached it seemed to retreat; the whole, however, might have only been the vision of my wishes — my wishes!!! But this girl piques me into something of interest for her.

About three miles from the castle, on the summit of a wild and desolate heath, I met the good Father Director of Inismore. He appeared quite amazed at the recontre. He expressed great regret at my absence from the castle, insisting that he should accompany me a mile or two of my journey, though he was only then returning after having passed the night in ministering temporal as well as spiritual comfort to an unfortunate family at some miles distance.

‘These poor people,’ said he, ‘were tenants on the skirts of Lord M.’s estate, who, though by all accounts a most excellent and benevolent man, employs a steward of a very opposite character. This unworthy delegate having considerably raised the rent on a little farm held by these unfortunate people, they soon became deeply in arrears, were ejected, and obliged to take shelter in an almost roofless hut, where the inclemency of the season, and the hardships they endured, brought on disorders by which the mother and two children are now nearly reduced to the point of death; [4] and yesterday, in their last extremity, they sent for me.’

While I commiserated the sufferings of these unfortunates (and cursed the villain Clendinning in my heart), I could not avoid adverting to the humanity of this benevolent priest.

‘These offices of true charity, which you so frequently perform,’ said I, ‘are purely the result of your benevolence, rather than a mere observance of your duty.’

‘It is true,’ he replied, ‘I have no parish; but the incumbent of that in which these poor people reside is so old and infirm, as to be totally incapacitated from performing such duties of his calling as require the least exertion. The duty of one who professes himself the minister of religion, whose essence is charity, should not be confined within the narrow limitation of prescribed rules; and I should consider myself as unworthy of the sacred habit I wear, should my exertions be confined to the suggestions of my interest and my duty only.’

‘The faith of the lower order of Catholics here in their priest,’ he continued, ‘is astonishing: even his presence they conceive an antidote to every evil. When he appears at the door of their huts, and blends his cordial salutation with a blessing, the spirit of consolation seems to hover at its threshold — pain is alleviated, sorrow soothed, and hope, rising from the bosom of strengthening faith, triumphs over the ruins of despair. To the wicked he prescribes penitence and confession, and the sinner is forgiven; to the wretched he asserts, that suffering here, is the purchase of felicity hereafter, and he is resigned; and to the sick he gives a consecrated charm, and by the force of faith and imagination he is made well. Guess then the influence which this order of men hold over the aggregate of the people; for while the Irish peasant, degraded, neglected, and despised, [5] vainly seeks one beam of conciliation in the eye of overbearing superiority; condescension, familiarity and kindness win his gratitude to him whose spiritual elevation is in his mind above all temporal rank.’

‘You shed,’ said I, ‘a patriarchal interest over the character of priesthood among you here; which gives that order to my view in a very different aspect from that in which I have hitherto considered it. To what an excellent purpose might this boundless influence be turned!’

‘If,’ interrupted he, ‘priests were not men — men too, generally speaking, without education (which is in fact character, principle, every thing), except such as tends rather to narrow than enlarge the mind — men in a certain degree shut out from society, except of the lower class; and men who, from their very mode of existence (which forces them to depend on the eleemosynary contributions of their flock), must eventually in many instances imbibe a degradation of spirit which is certainly not the parent of the liberal virtues.’

‘Good God!’ said I, surprized, ‘and this from one of their own order!’

‘These are sentiments I should never have hazarded,’ returned the priest, ‘could I not have opposed to those natural conclusions, drawn from well known facts, innumerable instances of benevolence, piety, and learning, among the order. While to the whole body let it be allowed as priests, whatever may be their failings as men, that the activity of their lives, [6] the punctilious discharge of their duty, and their ever ready attention to their flock, under every moral and even under every physical suffering, renders them deserving of that reverence and affection which, above the ministers of any other religion, they receive from those over whom they are placed.’

‘And which,’ said I, ‘if opposed to the languid performance of periodical duties, neglect of the moral functions of their calling, and the habitual indolence of the ministers of other sects, they may certainly be deemed zealots in the cause of the faith they profess, and the charity they inculcate!’

While I spoke, a young lad, almost in a state of nudity, approached us, yet in the crown of his leafless hat were stuck a few pens, and over his shoulder hung a leathern satchel full of books.

‘This is an apposite recontre,’ said the priest — ‘behold the first stage of one class of Catholic priesthood among us; a class however no longer very prevalent.’

The boy approached, and, to my amazement, addressed us in Latin, begging with all the vehement eloquence of an Irish mendicant, for some money to buy ink and paper. We gave him a trifle, and the priest desired him to go on to the castle, where he would get his breakfast, and that on his return he would give him some books into the bargain.

The boy, who had solicited in Latin, expressed his gratitude in Irish; and we trotted on.

‘Such,’ said Father John, ‘formerly was the frequent origin of our Roman Catholic priests. This is a character unknown to you in England, and is called here, “a poor scholar.” If a boy is too indolent to work, and his parents too poor to support him, or, which is more frequently the case, if he discovers some natural talents, or, as they call it takes to his learning, and that they have not the means to forward his improvement, he then becomes by profession a poor scholar, and continues to receive both his mental and bodily food at the expence of the community at large.

‘With a leathern satchel on his back, containing his portable library, he sometimes travels not only through his own province, but frequently over the greater part of the kingdom. [7] No door is shut against the poor scholar, who, it is supposed, at a future day may be invested with the apostolic key of Heaven. The priest or schoolmaster of every parish through which he passes, receives him for a few days into his bare-footed seminary, and teaches him bad Latin and worse English; while the most opulent of his school-fellows eagerly seize on the young peripatetic philosopher, and provides him with maintenance and lodging; and if he is a boy of talent or humour (a gift always prized by the naturally laughter-loving Milesians), they will struggle for the pleasure of his society.

‘Having thus had the seeds of dependence sown irradically in his mind, and finished his peripatetic studies, he returns to his native home, and with an empty satchel on his back, goes about raising contributions on the pious charity of his poor compatriots: each contributes some necessary article of dress, and assists to fill a little purse, until completely equipped; and for the first time in his life, covered from head to foot, the divine in embryo sets out for some sea-port, where he embarks for the colleges of Douay or St Omers; and having begged himself in forma pauperis, through all the necessary rules and discipline of the seminary, he returns to his own country, and becomes the minister of salvation to those whose generous contributions enabled him to assume the sacred profession. [8]

‘Such is the man by whom the minds, opinions, and even actions of the people are often influenced; and if man is but the creature of education and habit, I leave you to draw the inference. But this is but one class of priesthood, and its description rather applicable to twenty or thirty years back than to the present day. The other two may be divided into the sons of tradesmen and farmers, and the younger sons of Catholic gentry.

‘Of the latter order I am; and the interest of my friends on my return from the Continent procured me what was deemed the best parish in the diocese. But the good and the evil attendant on every situation in life, is rather to be estimated by the feelings and sensibility of the objects whom they affect, than by their own intrinsic nature. It was in vain, I endeavored to accommodate my mind to the mode of life into which I had been forced by my friends. It was in vain I endeavoured to assimilate my spirit to that species of exertion necessary to be made for my livelihood.

‘To owe my substinence to the precarious generosity of those wretches, whose every gift to me must be the result of a sensible deprivation to themselves; to be obliged to extort (even from the alter where I presided as the minister of the Most High) the trivial contributions for my support, in a language which, however appropriate to the understandings of my auditors, sunk me in my own esteem to the last degree of self-degradation; or to receive from the religious affection of my flock such voluntary benefactions as, under all the pressure of scarcity and want, their rigid economy to themselves enabled them to make the pastor whom they revered. [9] In a word, after three years miserable dependence on those for whose poverty and wretchedness my heart bled, I threw up my situation, and became chaplain to the Prince of Inismore, on a stipend sufficient for my little wants, and have lived with him for thirty years, on such terms as you have witnessed for these three weeks back.

‘While my heart-felt compassion, my tenderest sympathy, is given to those of my brethren who are by birth and education divested of that low scale of thought, and obtruseness of feeling, which distinguish those of the order, who, reared from the lowest origin upon principles the most servilising, are callous to the innumerable humiliations of their dependent state -’

Here an old man mounted on a mule, rode up to the priest, and with tears in his eyes informed him that he was just going to the castle to humbly entreat his Reverence would visit a poor child of his, who had been looked on with ‘an evil eye’ a few days back, [10] and who had ever since been pining away.

‘It was our misfortune,’ said he, ‘never to have tied a gospel about her neck, as we did round the other children’s, or this heavy sorrow would never have befallen us. But we know if your Reverence would only be pleased to say a prayer over her, all would go well enough!’

The priest gave me a significant look, and shaking me cordially by the hand, and pressing my speedy return to Inismore, rode off with the suppliant.

Thus, in his duty, ‘prompt at every call,’ after having passed the night in acts of religious benevolence, his humanity willingly obeyed the voice of superstitious prejudice which endowed him with the fancied power of alleviating fancied evils.

As I rode along reflecting on the wondrous influence of superstition, and the nature of its effects, I could not help dwelling on the strong analogy which in so many instances appears between the vulgar errors of this country and that of the ancient as well as modern Greeks.

St Crysostom [11] relating the bigotry of his own times, particularly mentions the superstitious horror which the Greeks entertained against ‘the evil eye.’ And an elegant modern traveller assures us, that even in the present day, they ‘combine cloves of garlic, talismans, and other charms, which they hang about the neck of their infants, with the same intention of keeping away the evil eye.

Adieu!

H.M.


Notes

1. Not long since, the Author met a person in the capacity of a writing master in a gentleman’s family, who assured her that he was a Prince by lineal descent, and that the name of his Principality was Sliabh-Ban. This Principality of Sliabh-Ban, however, is simply a small and rugged mountain, whose rigid soil bids defiance to culture.

2. ‘He feels no ennobling principles in his own heart, who wishes to level all the artificial institutes which have been adopted for giving body to opinion, and permanence to future esteem.’ — Burke.

3. The mention of this oath recalls to my mind an anecdote of the bard Carolan, as related by Mr Walker, in his inimitable Memoir of the Irish Bards. ‘He (Carolan) went once on a pilgrimage to St Patrick’s Purgatory, a cave in an island in Louh Dergh (county of Donegal), of which more wonders are told than even of the Cave of Triphonius. On his return to shore, he found several pilgrims waiting the arrival of the boat which had conveyed him to the object of his devotion. In assisting some of those devout travellers to get on board, he chanced to take a lady’s hand, and instantly exclaimed, “dar lamh mo Chairdais Croist (i.e. by the hand of my gossip) this is the hand of Bridget Cruise” His sense of feeling did not deceive him — it was the hand of her whom he once adored.’

4. The lower orders of Irish are very subject to dreadful fevers, which are generally the result of colds caught by the exposed state of their damp and roofless hovels.

5. The common people of Ireland have no rank in society — they may be treated with contempt, and consequently are with inhumanity.’ — ‘An Inquiry into the Causes,’ &c. &c.]

6. ‘A Roman Catholic clergyman is the minister of a very ritual religion; and by his profession, subject to many restraints; his life is full of strict observances, and his duties are of a laborious nature towards himself, and of the highest possible trust towards others.’ — Letter on the Penal Laws against the Irish Catholics, by the Right Honourable Edmund Burke.

7. It has been justly said, that ‘Nature is invariable in her operations; and that the principles of a polished people will influence even their latest posterity.’ And the ancient state of letters in Ireland, may be traced in the love of learning and talent even still existing among the inferior class of the Irish to this day. On this point it is observed by Mr Smith, in his History of Kerry, ‘that it is well known that classical reading extends itself even to a fault, among the lower and poorer kind of people in this country (Munster), many of whom have greater knowledge in this way than some of the better sort in other places.’ He elsewhere observes, that Greek is taught in the mountainous parts of the province. And Mr O’Halloran asserts, that classical reading has most adherents in those retired parts of the kingdom where strangers had least access, and that as good classical scholars were found in most parts of Connaught, as in any part of Europe.

8. The French Revolution, and the foundation of the Catholic college at Maynooth, in Leinster, has put a stop to these pious emigrations.

9. ‘Are these men supposed to have no sense of justice, that, in addition to the burthen of supporting their own establishment exclusively, they should be called on to pay ours; that, where they pay sixpence to their own priest, they should pay a pound to our clergyman; that, while they can scarce afford their own horse, they should place ours in his carriage; and that when they cannot build a mass-house to cover their multitudes, they should be forced to pray under a shed!’ — Inquiry into the Causes of Popular Discontents, &c. &c. page 27.

10. It is supposed among the lower order of Irish, as among the Greeks, that some people are born with an evil eye, which injures every object on which it falls, and they will frequently go many miles out of their direct road, rather than pass by the house of one who has an evil eye. To frustrate its effects, the priest hangs a consecrated charm around the necks of their children, called a gospel ; and the fears of the parents are quieted by their faith.

11. ‘Some write on the hand the names of several rivers; while other make use of ashes, tallow, and salt, for the like purpose — all this being to divert the evil eye.’]

 

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