The Irish Sketch Book, by William Makepeace Thackeray

A Summer Day in Dublin, or there and thereabouts

THE coach that brings the passenger by wood and mountain, by brawling waterfall and gloomy plain, by the lonely lake of Festiniog and across the swinging world’s wonder of a Menai Bridge, through dismal Anglesea to dismal Holyhead — the Birmingham mail manages matters so cleverly, that after 10 hours’ ride the traveller is thrust incontinently on board the packet and the steward says there’s no use in providing dinner on board, because the passage is so short.

That is true: but why not give us half an hour on shore? Ten hours spent on a coach-box render the dinner question one of extreme importance; and as the packet reaches Kingstown at midnight, when all the world is asleep, the inn-larders locked up, and the cook in bed; and as the mail is not landed until five in the morning (at which hour the passengers are considerately awakened by great stamping and shouting overhead), might not “Lord Lowther” give us one little half hour? Even the steward agreed that it was a useless and atrocious tyranny; and, indeed, after a little demur, produced a half-dozen of fried eggs, a feeble makeshift for a dinner.

Our passage across from the Head was made in a rain so pouring and steady, that sea and coast were entirely hidden from us, and one could see very little beyond the glowing tip of the cigar which remained alight nobly in spite of the weather. Then the gallant exertions of that fiery spirit were over forever, and burning bravely to the end it had breathed its last in doing its master service, all became black and cheerless around; the passengers had dropped off one by one, preferring to be dry and ill below rather than wet and squeamish above; even the mate, with his gold-laced cap (who is so astonishingly like Mr. Charles Dickens that he might pass for that gentle man) — even the mate said he would go to his cabin and turn in. So there remained nothing for it but to do as all the world had done.

Hence it was impossible to institute the comparison between the Bay of Naples and that of Dublin (the Bee of Naples the former is sometimes called in this country), where I have heard the likeness asserted in a great number of societies and conversations. But how could one see the Bay of Dublin in the dark? and how, supposing one could see it, should a person behave who has never seen the Bay of Naples?    It is but to take the similarity for granted, and remain in bed till morning.

When everybody was awakened at five o’clock by the noise made upon the removal of the mail-bags, there was heard a cheerless dribbling and pattering overhead, which led one to wait still further until the rain should cease. At length the steward said the last boat was going ashore, and receiving half a crown for his own service (which was the regular tariff), intimated likewise that it was the custom for gentlemen to compliment the stewardess with a shilling, which ceremony was also complied with. No doubt she is an amiable woman, and deserves any sum of money. As for inquiring whether she merited it or not in this instance, that surely is quite unfair. A traveller who stops to inquire the deserts of every individual claimant of a shilling on his road, had best stay quiet at home. If we only got what we deserved — heaven save us — many of us might whistle for a dinner.

A long pier, with a steamer or two at hand, and a few small vessels lying on either side of the jetty; a town irregularly built, with many handsome terraces, some churches, and showy-looking hotels; a few people straggling on the beach; two or three cars at the railroad station, which runs along the shore as far as Dublin; the sea stretching interminably eastward; to the north of the Hill of Howth, lying grey behind the mist, and, directly under his feet, upon the wet, black, shining, slippery deck, an agreeable reflection of his own legs, disappearing seemingly in the direction of the cabin from which he issues: are the sights which a traveller may remark on coming on deck at Kingstown pier on a wet morning — let us say on an average morning; for according to the statement of well-informed natives, the Irish day is more often rainy than otherwise. A hideous obelisk, stuck upon four fat balls, and surmounted with a crown on a cushion (the latter were no bad emblems perhaps of the monarch in whose honour they were raised), commemorates the sacred spot at which George IV. quitted Ireland. You are landed here from the steamer; and a carman, who is dawdling in the neighbourhood, with a straw in his mouth, comes leisurely up to ask whether you will go to Dublin? Is it natural indolence, or the effect of despair because of the neighbouring railroad, which renders him so indifferent? He does not even take the straw out of his mouth as he proposes the question — he seems quite careless as to the answer.

He said he would take me to Dublin “in three quarthers,” as soon as we began a parley. As to the fare, he would not bear of it — he said he would leave it to my honour; he would take me for nothing. Was it possible to refuse such a genteel offer? The times are very much changed since those described by the facetious Jack Hinton, when the carmen tossed up for the passenger, and those who won him took him; for the remaining cars on the stand did not seem to take the least interest in the bargain, or to offer to overdrive or underbid their comrade in any way.

Before that day, so memorable for joy and sorrow, for rapture at receiving its monarch and tearful grief at losing him, when George IV. came and left the maritime resort of the citizens of Dublin, it bore a less genteel name than that which it owns at present, and was called Dunleary. After that glorious event Dunleary disdained to he Dunleary any longer, and became Kingstown henceforward and forever. Numerous terraces and pleasure-houses have been built in the place — they stretch row after row along the banks of the sea, and rise one above another on the hill. The rents of these houses are said to be very high; the Dublin citizens crowd into them in summer; and a great source of pleasure and comfort must it be to them to have the fresh sea-breezes and prospects so near to the metropolis.

The better sort of houses are handsome and spacious; but the fashionable quarter is yet in an unfinished state, for enterprising architects are always beginning new roads, rows and terraces: nor are those already built by any means complete. Beside the aristocratic part of the town is a commercial one, and nearer to Dublin stretch lines of low cottages which have not a Kingstown look at all, but are evidently of the Dunleary period. It is quite curious to see in the streets where the shops are, how often the painter of the signboards begins with big letters, and ends, for want of space, with small; and the Englishman accustomed to the thriving neatness and regularity which characterise towns great and small in his own country, can’t fail to notice the difference here. The houses have a battered, rakish look, and seem going to ruin before their time. As seamen of all nations come hither who have made no vow of temperance, there are plenty of liquor shops still, and shabby cigar shops, and shabby milliners’ and tailors’ with fly-blown prints of old fashions. The bakers and apothecaries make a great brag of their calling, and you see MEDICAL HALL, or PUBLIC BAKERY BALLYRAGGET FLOUR STORE (or whatever the name may be), pompously inscribed over very humble tenements. Some comfortable grocers’ and butchers’ shops, and numbers of shabby sauntering people, the younger part of whom are barelegged and bareheaded, make up the rest of the picture which the stranger sees as his car goes jingling through the street.

After the town come the suburbs of pleasure-houses; low, one-storied cottages for the most part: some neat and fresh, some that have passed away from the genteel state altogether, and exhibit downright poverty; some in a state of transition, with broken windows and pretty romantic names upon tumbledown gates. Who lives in them? One fancies that the chairs and tables inside are broken, that the teapot on the breakfast-table has no spout, and the table-cloth is ragged and sloppy; that the lady of the house is in dubious curl-papers, and the gentleman, with an imperial to his chin, wears a flaring dressing-gown all ragged at the elbows.

To be sure, a traveller who in 10 minutes can see not only the outsides of houses, but the interiors of the same, must have remarkably keen sight; and it is early yet to speculate. It is clear, however, that these are pleasure-houses for a certain class; and looking at the houses, one can’t but fancy the inhabitants resemble them somewhat. The car, on its road to Dublin, passes by numbers of these — by more shabbiness than a Londoner will see in the course of his home peregrinations for a year.

The capabilities of the country, however, are very great, and in many instances have been taken advantage of: for you see, besides the misery, numerous handsome houses and parks along the road, having fine lawns and woods; and the sea is in our view at a quarter of an hour’s ride from Dublin. It is the continual appearance of this sort of wealth which makes the poverty more striking: and thus between the two (for there is no vacant space of fields between Kingstown and Dublin) the car reaches the city. There is but little commerce on this road, which was also in extremely bad repair. It is neglected for the sake of its thriving neighbour the railroad; on which a dozen pretty little stations accommodate the inhabitants of the various villages through which we pass.

The entrance to the capital is very handsome. There is no bustle and throng of carriages, as in London; but you pass by numerous rows of neat houses, fronted with gardens and adorned with all sorts of gay-looking creepers. Pretty market-gardens, with trim beds of plants and shining glass-houses, give the suburbs a riante and cheerful look; and, passing under the arch of the railway, we are in the city itself. Hence you come upon several old-fashioned, well-built, airy, stately streets, and through Fitzwilliam Square, a noble place, the garden of which is full of flowers and foliage. The leaves are green, and not black as in similar places in London; the red brick houses tall and handsome. Presently the car stops before an extremely big red house, in that extremely large square, Stephen’s Green, where Mr. O’Connell says there is one day or other to be a Parliament. There is room enough for that, or for any other edifice which fancy or patriotism may have a mind to erect, for part of one of the sides of the square is not yet built, and you see the fields and the country beyond.

* * *

This then is the chief city of the aliens. — The hotel to which I had been directed is a respectable old edifice, much frequented by families from the country, and where the solitary traveller may likewise find society: for he may either use the “Shelburne” as an hotel or a boarding-house, in which latter case he is comfortably accommodated at the very moderate daily charge of six-and-eightpence. For this charge a copious breakfast is provided for him in the coffee-room, a perpetual luncheon is likewise there spread, a plentiful dinner is ready at six o’clock: after which there is a drawing-room and a rubber of whist, with tay and coffee and cakes in plenty to satisfy the largest appetite. The hotel is majestically conducted by clerks and other officers; the landlord himself does not appear, after the honest, comfortable English fashion, but lives in a private mansion hard by, where his name may be read inscribed on a brass-plate, like that of any other private gentleman.

A woman melodiously crying “Dublin Bay herrings “passed just as we came up to the door, and as that fish is famous throughout Europe, I seized the earliest opportunity and ordered a broiled one for breakfast. It merits all its reputation: and in this respect I should think the Bay of Dublin is far superior to its rival of Naples. Are there any herrings in Naples Bay? Dolphins there may be; and Mount Vesuvius, to be sure, is bigger than even the Hill of Howth; but a dolphin is better in a sonnet than at a breakfast, and what poet is there that, at certain periods of the day, would hesitate in his choice between the two?

With this famous broiled herring the morning papers are served up; and a great part of these, too, gives opportunity of reflection to the new-comer, and shows him how different this country is from his own. Some hundred years hence, when students want to inform themselves of the history of the present day, and refer to files of Times and Chronicle for the purpose, I think it is possible that they will consult, not so much those luminous and philosophical leading-articles which call our attention at present both by the majesty of their eloquence and the largeness of their type, but that they will turn to those parts of the journals into which information is squeezed in the smalleest possible print: to the advertisements, namely, the law and police reports, and to the instructive narratives supplied by that ill-used body of men who transcribe knowledge at the rate of a penny a line.

The papers before me (The Morning Register, Liberal and Roman Catholic, Saunders’s News-Letter, neutral and Conservative,) give a lively picture of the movement of city and country on this present fourth day of July, 1842, and the Englishman can scarcely fail, as he reads them, to note many small points of difference existing between his own country and this. How do the Irish amuse themselves in the capital? The love for theatrical exhibitions is evidently not very great. Theatre Royal — Miss Kemble and the Sonnambula, an Anglo-Italian importation. Theatre Royal, Abbey Street — The Temple of Magic and the Wizard, last week. Adelphi Theatre, Great Brunswick Street — The Original Seven Lancashire Bell-ringers: a delicious excitement indeed! Portobello Gardens — “THE LAST ERUPTION BUT SIX,” says the advertisement in capitals. And, finally, “Miss Hayes will give her first and farewell concert at the Rotunda, previous to leaving her native country.” Only one instance of Irish talent do we read of, and that, in a desponding tone, announces its intention of quitting its native country. All the rest of the pleasures of the evening are importations from cockney-land. The Sonnambula from Covent Garden, the Wizard from the Strand, the seven Lancashire Bell-ringers from Islington, or the City Road, no doubt; and so for “The last Eruption but Six,” it has erumped near the “Elephant and Castle” any time these two years, until the cockneys would wonder at it no longer.

The commercial advertisements are but few-a few horses and cars for sale; some flaming announcements of insurance companies; some “emporiums” of Scotch tweeds and English broadcloths; an auction for damaged sugar; and an estate or two for sale. They lie in the columns languidly, and at their ease as it were: how different from the throng, and squeeze and bustle of the commercial part of a London paper, where every man (except Mr. George Robins) states his case as briefly as possible, because thousands more are to be heard besides himself and as if he had no time for talking!

The most active advertisers are the schoolmasters. It is now the happy time of the Midsummer holidays and the pedagogues make wonderful attempts to encourage parents, and to attract fresh pupils for the ensuing half-year. Of all these announcements that of Madame SHANAHAN (a delightful name) is perhaps the most brilliant. “To Parents and Guardians. — Paris. — Such parents and guardians as may wish to entrust their children for education in its fullest extent to Madame SHANAHAN, can have the advantage of being conducted to Paris by her brother, the Rev. J. P. O’Reilly, of Church Street Chapel: “ which admirable arrangement carries the parents to Paris and leaves the children in Dublin. Ah, Madame, you may take a French title; but your heart is still in your country, and you are to the fullest extent an Irishwoman still!

Fond legends are to be found in Irish books regarding places where you may now see a round tower and a little old chapel, twelve feet square, where famous universities are once said to have stood, and which have accommodated myriads of students. Mrs. Hall mentions Glendalough, in Wicklow, as one of these places of learning; nor can the fact be questioned, as the universities existed hundreds of years since, and no sort of records are left regarding them. A century hence some antiquary may light upon a Dublin paper, and from marvellous calculations regarding the state of education in the country. For instance, at Bective House Seminary, conducted by Dr. J. L. Burke, ex-Scholar T.C.D., no less than two hundred and three young gentlemen took prizes at the Midsummer examination: nay, some of the most meritorious carried off a dozen premiums apiece. A Dr. Delamere, ex-Scholar T.C.D., distributed 320 rewards to his young friends: and if we allow that one lad in twenty is a prizeman, it is clear that there must be 6, 440 under the Doctor’s care.

Other schools are advertised in the same journals, each with its hundred of prize-bearers; and if other schools are advertised, how many more must there be in the country which are not advertised There must be hundreds of thousands of prizemen, millions of scholars; besides national-schools, hedge-schools, infant-schools, and the like. The English reader will see the accuracy of the calculation.

In the Morning Register, the Englishman will find something to the full as curious and startling to him: you read gravely in the English language how the Bishop of Aureliopolis has just been consecrated; and that the distinction has been conferred upon him by — the Holy Pontiff! — the Pope of Rome, by all that is holy! Such an announcement sounds quite strange in English, and in your own country, as it were: or isn’t it your own country? Suppose the Archbishop of Canterbury were to send over a clergyman to Rome, and consecrate him Bishop of the Palatine or the Suburra, I wonder how his Holiness would like that?

There is a report of Dr. Miley’s sermon upon the occasion of the new bishop’s consecration; and the Register happily lauds the discourse for its “refined and fervent eloquence.” The Doctor salutes the Lord Bishop of Aureliopolis on his admission among the “Princes of the Sanctuary,” gives a blow en passant at the Established Church, whereof the revenues, he elegantly says, “might excite the zeal of Dives or Epicurus to become a bishop,” and having vented his sly wrath upon the “courtly artifice and intrigue” of the Bench, proceeds to make the most outrageous comparisons with regard to my Lord of Aureliopolis; his virtues, his sincerity, and the severe privations and persecutions which acceptance of the episcopal office entails upon him.

“That very evening,” says the Register, “the new bishop entertained at dinner, in the chapel-house, a select number of friends; amongst whom were the officiating prelates and clergyrmen who assisted in the ceremonies of the day. The repast was provided by Mr. Jude, of Grafton Street, and was served up in a style of elegance and comfort that did great honour to that gentleman’s character as a restaurateur. The wines were of the richest and rarest quality. It may be truly said to have been an entertainment where the feast of reason and the flow of soul predominated. The company broke up at nine.”

And so my lord is scarcely out of chapel but his privations begin! Well. Let us hope that, in the course of his episcopacy, he may incur no greater hardships, and that Dr. Miley may come to be a bishop too in his time; when perhaps he will have a better opinion of the Bench.

The ceremony and feelings described are curious, I think; and more so perhaps to a person who was in England only yesterday, and quitted it just as their Graces, Lordships, and Reverences were sitting down to dinner. Among what new sights, ideas, customs, does the English traveller find himself after that brief six-hours’ journey from Holyhead!

There is but one part more in the papers to he looked at; and that is the most painful in all. In the law-reports of the Tipperary special commission sitting at Clonmel, you read that Patrick Byrne is brought up for sentence, for the murder of Robert Hall, Esq.: and Chief Justice Doherty says, “Patrick Byrne, I will not now recapitulate the circumstances of your enormous crime, but guilty as you are of the barbarity of having perpetrated with your hand the foul murder of an unoffending old man — barbarous, cowardly and cruel as that act was — there lives one more guilty man, and that is be whose diabolical mind hatched the foul conspiracy of which you were but the instrument and the perpetrator. Whoever that may be, I do not envy him his protracted existence. He has sent that aged gentleman, without one moment’s warning, to face his God; but he has done more: he has brought you, unhappy man, with more deliberation and more cruelty, to face your God, with the weight of that man’s blood upon you. I have now only to pronounce the sentence of the law:" — it is the usual sentence, with the usual prayer of the judge, that the Lord may have mercy upon the convict’s soul.

Timothy Woods, a young man of 20 years of age, is then tried for the murder of Michael Laffan. The Attorney-General states the case — On the 19th of May last, two assassins dragged Laffan from the house of Patrick Cummins, fired a pistol-shot at him, and left him dead as they thought. Laffan, though mortally wounded, crawled away after the fall; when the assassins, still seeing him give signs of life, rushed after him, fractured his scull by blows of a pistol, and left him on a dunghill dead. There Laffan’s body lay for several hours, and nobody dared to touch it. Laffan’s widow found the body there two hours after the murder, and an inquest was held on the body as it lay on the dunghill. Laffan was driver on the lands of Kilnertin, which were formerly held by Pat Cummins, the man who had the charge of the lands before Laffan was murdered; the latter was dragged out of Cummins’s house in the presence of a witness who refused to swear to the murderers, and was shot in sight of another witness, James Meara, who with other men was on the road: when asked whether he cried out, or whether he went to assist the deceased, Meara answers, ”Indeed I did not; we would not interfere — it was no business of ours!

Six more instances are given of attempts to murder; on which the judge, in passing sentence, comments in the following way:—

“The Lord Chief Justice addressed the several persons, and said — It was now his painful duty to pronounce upon them severally and respectively the punishment which the law and the court awarded against them for the crimes of which they had been convicted. Those crimes were one and all of them of no ordinary enormity — they were crimes which, in point of morals, involved the atrocious guilt of murder; and if it had pleased God to spare their souls from the pollution of that offence, the court could not still shut its eyes to the fact, that although death had not ensued in consequence of the crimes of which they had been found guilty, yet it was not owing to their forbearance that such a dreadful crime had not been perpetrated. The prisoner, Michael Hughes, had been convicted of firing a gun at a person of the name of John Ryan (Luke); his horse had been killed, and no one could say that the balls were not intended for the prosecutor himself. The prisoner had fired one shot himself and then called oh his companion in guilt to discharge another. One of these shots killed Ryan’s mare, and it was by the mercy of God that the life of the prisoner had not become forfeited by his own act. The next culprit was John Pound, who was equally guilty of the intended outrage perpetrated on the life of an unoffending individual — that individual a female, surrounded by her little children, five or six in number — with a complete carelessness to the probable consequences, while she and her family were going, or had gone, to bed. The contents of a gun were discharged through the door, which entered the panel in three different places. The deaths resulting from this act might been extensive, but it was not a matter of any moment how many were deprived of life. The woman had just risen from her prayers, preparing herself to sleep under the protection of that arm which would shield the child and protect the innocent, when she was wounded. As to Cornelius Flynn arid Patrick Dwyer, they likewise were the subjects of similar imputations and similar observations. There was a very slight difference between them, but not such as to amount to any real distinction. They had gone upon a common, illegal purpose, to the house of a respectable individual, for the purpose of interfering with the domestic arrangements he thought fit to make. They had no sort of right to interfere with the disposition of a man’s affairs; and what would be the consequences if the reverse were to be held? No imputation had ever been made upon the gentleman whose house was visited, but he was desired to dismiss another, under the pains and penalties of death, although that other was not a retained servant, but a friend who had come to Mr. Hogan on a visit. Because this visitor used sometimes to inspect the men at work, the lawless edict issued that he should be put away. Good God! to what extent did the prisoners and such misguided men intend to carry out their objects? Where was their dictation to cease? are they, and those in a similar rank, to take upon themselves to regulate how many and what men a farmer should take into his employment? Were they to be the judges whether a servant had discharged his duty to his principal? or was it because a visitor happened to come, that the host should turn him away, under the pains and penalties of death? His lordship, after adverting to the guilt of the prisoners in this case — the last two persons convicted, Thos. Stapleton and Thos. Gleeson — said their case was so recently before the public, that it was sufficient to say they were morally guilty of what might be considered wilful and deliberate murder. Murder was most awful, because it could only be suggested by deliberate malice, and the act of the prisoners was the result of that base, malicious, and diabolical disposition. What was the cause of resentment against the unfortunate man who had been shot at, and so desperately wounded? Why, he had dared to comply with the wishes of a just landlord; and because the landlord, for the benefit of his tenantry, proposed that the farms should be squared, those who acquiesced in his wishes were to be equally the victims of the assassin. What were the facts in this case? The two prisoners at the bar, Stapleton and Gleeson, sprung out at the man as he was leaving work, placed him on his knees, and without giving him a moment of preparation, commenced the work of blood, intending deliberately to despatch that unprepared and unoffending individual to eternity. What country was it that they lived in, in which such crimes could be perpetrated in the open light of day? It was not necessary that deeds of darkness should be shrouded in the clouds of night, for the darkness of the deeds themselves was considered a sufficient protection. He (the Chief Justice) was not aware of any solitary instance at the present commission, to show that the crimes committed were the consequences of poverty. Poverty should be no justification, however; it might be some little palliation, but on no trial at this commission did it appear that the crime could be attributed to distress. His lordship concluded a most impressive address, by sentencing the six prisoners called up to transportation for life.

“The clock was near midnight as the court was cleared, and the whole of the proceedings were solemn and impressive in the extreme. The commission is likely to prove extremely beneficial in its results on the future tranquillity of the country.”

I confess, for my part, to that common cant and sickly sentimentality, which, thank God! is felt by a great number of people nowadays, and which leads them to revolt against murder, whether performed by a ruffian’s knife or a hangman’s rope: whether accompanied with a curse from the thief as he blows his victim’s brains out, or a prayer from my lord on the bench in his wig and black cap. Nay, is all the cant and sickly sentimentality on our side, and might not some such charge be applied to the admirers of the good old fashion? Long ere this is printed, for instance, Byrne and Woods have been hanged: [The two men were executed pursuant to sentence, and both persisted solemnly in denying their guilt. There can be no doubt of it; but it appears to be a point of honour with these unhappy men to make no statement which may incriminate the witnesses who appeared on their behalf and on their part perjured themselves equally.] sent “to face their God,” as the Chief Justice says, “with the weight of their victim’s blood upon them," — a just observation and remember that it is we who send them. It is true that the judge hopes Heaven will have mercy upon their souls; but are such recommendations of particular weight because they come from the bench? Psha! If we go on killing people without giving them time to repent, let us at least give up the cant of praying for their souls’ salvation. We find a man drowning in a well, shut the lid upon him, and heartily pray that he may get out. Sin has hold of him, as the two ruffians of Laffan yonder, and we stand aloof, and hope that he may escape. Let us give up this ceremony of condolence, and be honest, like the witness, and say, “Let him save himself or not, it’s no business of ours.” * * * Here a waiter, with a very broad, though insinuating accent says, “Have you done with the Sandthers sir? there’s a gentleman waiting for’t these two hours.” And so he carries off that strange picture of pleasure and pain, trade, theatres, schools, courts, churches, life and death, in Ireland, which a man may buy for a fourpenny-piece.

*

The papers being read, it became my duty to discover the town; and a handsomer town, with fewer people in it, it is impossible to see on a summer’s day. In the whole wide square of Stephen’s Green, I think there were not more than two nursery-maids to keep company with the statue of George I., who rides on horseback in the middle of the garden, the horse having his foot up to trot, as if he wanted to go out of town too. Small troops of dirty children (too poor and dirty to have lodgings at Kingstown) were squatting here and there upon the sunshiny steps, the only clients at the thresholds of the professional gentlemen whose names figure on brass-plates on the doors. A stand of lazy carmen, a policeman or two with clinking boot-heels, a couple of moaning beggars leaning against the rails and calling upon the Lord, and a fellow with a toy and book stall, where the lives of St. Patrick, Robert Emmett, and Lord Edward Fitzgerald may be bought for double their value, were all the population of the Green.

At the door of the Kildare Street Club, I saw eight gentlemen looking at two boys playing at leapfrog: at the door of the University six lazy porters, in jockey-caps, were sunning themselves on a bench — a sort of blue-bottle race; and the Bank on the opposite side did not look as if sixpence-worth of change had been negotiated there during the day. There was a lad pretending to sell umbrellas under the colonnade, almost the only instance of trade going on; and I began to think of Juan Fernandez, or Cambridge in the long vacation. In the courts of the College, scarce the ghost of a gyp or the shadow of a bed-maker.

In spite of the solitude, the square of the College is a fine sight: a large ground, surrounded by buildings of various ages and styles, but comfortable, handsome, and in good repair; a modern row of rooms; a row that has been Elizabethan once; a hall and senate-house, facing each other, of the style of George I.; and a noble library, with a range of many windows, and a fine manly, simple facade of cut stone. The library was shut. The librarian, I suppose, is at the sea-side; and the only part of the establishment which I could see was the museum, to which one of the jockey-capped porters conducted me, up a wide, dismal staircase, (adorned with an old pair of jack-boots, a dusty canoe or two, a few helmets, and a South Sea Islander’s armor,) which passes through a hall hung round with cobwebs (with which the blue-bottles are too wise to meddle), into an old mouldy room, filled with dingy glass-cases, under which the articles of curiosity or science were partially visible. In the middle was a very seedy camelopard (the word has grown to be English by this time), the straw splitting through his tight old skin and the black cobbler’s -wax stuffing the dim orifices of his eyes.

Other beasts formed a pleasing group around him, not so tall, but equally mouldy and old. The porter took me round to the cases, and told me a great number of fibs concerning their contents: there was the harp of Brian Borou, and the sword of some on else, and other cheap old gimcracks with their corollary of lies. The place would have been a disgrace to Don Saltero. I was quite glad to walk out of it, and down the dirty staircase again: about the ornaments of which the jockey-capped gyp had more figments to tell: an atrocious one (I forget what) relative to the pair of boots; near which — a fine specimen of collegiate taste — were the shoes of Mr. O’Brien, the Irish giant. If the collection is worth preserving, — and indeed the mineralogical specimens look quite as awful as those in the British Museum, — one thing is clear, that the rooms are worth sweeping. A pail of water costs nothing, a scrubbing-brush not much, and a charwoman might be fired for a trifle, to keep the room in a decent state of cleanliness.

Among the curiosities is a mask of the Dean — not the scoffer and giber, not the fiery politician, nor the courtier of St. John and Harley, equally ready with servility and scorn; but the poor old man, who great intellect had deserted him, and who died old, wild, and sad. The tall forehead is fallen away in a ruin, the mouth has settled in a hideous, vacant smile. Well, it was a mercy for Stella that she died first; it was better that she should be killed by his unkindness than by the sight of his misery; which to such a genteel heart as that, would have been harder still to bear.

The Bank, and other public buildings of Dublin, are justly famous. In the former may still be seen the room which was the House of Lords, formerly, and where the Bank Directors now sit under a clean marble image of George III. The House of Commons has disappeared, for the accommodation of clerks and cashiers. The interior is light, splendid, airy, well-furnished, and the outside of the building not less so. The Exchange, hard by, is an equally magnificent structure; but the genius of commerce has deserted it, for all its architectural beauty. There was nobody inside when I entered but a pert statue of George III. in a Roman toga, simpering and turning out his toes; and two dirty children playing, whose hoopsticks caused great clattering echoes under the vacant sounding dome. The neighbourhood is not cheerful, and has a dingy, poverty-stricken look.

Walking towards the river, you have on either side of you, at Carlisle Bridge, a very brilliant and beautiful prospect: the Four Courts and their dome to the left, the Custom House and its dome to the right; and in this direction seaward, a considerable number of vessels are moored, and the quays are black and busy with the cargoes discharged from ships. Seamen cheering, herring-women bawling, coal-carts loading — the scene is animated and lively. Yonder is the famous Corn Exchange; but the Lord Mayor is attending to his duties in Parliament, and little of note is going on. I had just passed his lordship’s mansion in Dawson Street, — a queer old dirty brick-house, with dumpy urns at each extremity, and looking as if a storey of it had been cut off — a rassée-house. Close at hand, and peering over a paling, is a statue of our blessed sovereign George II. How absurd these pompous images look, of defunct majesties, for whom no breathing soul cares a halfpenny! It is not so with the effigy of William III., who has done something to merit a statue. At this minute the Lord Mayor has William’s effigy under a canvas, and is painting him of a bright green, picked out with yellow — his lordship’s own livery.

The view along the quays to the four Courts has no small resemblance to a view along the quays at Paris, though not so lively as are even those quiet walks. The vessels do not come above-bridge, and the marine population remains constant about them, and about numerous dirty liquor-shops, eating-houses, and marine-store establishments, which are kept for their accommodation along the quay. As far as you can see, the shining Liffey flows away eastward, hastening (like the rest of the inhabitants of Dublin) to the sea.

In front of Carlisle Bridge, and not in the least crowded, though in the midst of Sackville Street, stands Nelson upon a stone-pillar. The Post Office is on his right hand (only it is cut off); and on his left, “Gresham’s “ and the “Imperial Hotel.” Of the latter let me say (from subsequent experience) that it is ornamented by a cook who could dress a dinner by the side of M. Borel or M. Soyer. Would there were more such artists in this ill-fated country! The street is exceedingly broad and handsome; the shops at the commencement, rich and spacious; but in Upper Sackville Street, which closes with the pretty building and gardens of the Rotunda, the appearance of wealth begins to fade somewhat, and the houses look as if they had seen better days. Even in this, the great street of the town, there is scarcely any one, and it is as vacant and listless as Pall Mall in October. In one of the streets off Sackville Street, is the house and exhibition of the Irish Academy, which I went to see, as it was positively to close at the end of the week While I was there, two other people came in; and we had, besides, the money-taker and a porter, to whom the former was reading out of a newspaper, those Tipperary murders which were mentioned in a former page. The echo took up the theme, and hummed it gloomily through the vacant place.

The drawings and reputation of Mr. Burton are well known in England: his pieces were the most admired in the collection. The best draughtsman is an imitator of Maclise, Mr. Bridgeman, whose pictures are full of vigorous drawing, and remarkable too for their grace. I gave my catalogue to the two young ladies before mentioned, and have forgotten the names of other artists of merit, whose works decked the walls of the little gallery. Here, as in London, the Art Union is making a stir; and several of the pieces were marked as the property of members of that body. The possession of some of these one would not be inclined to covet; but it is pleasant to see that people begin to buy pictures at all, and there will be no lack of artists presently, in a country where nature is so beautiful, and genius so plenty. In speaking of the fine arts and views of Dublin, it may be said that Mr. Petries designs for Curry’s Guide — book of the City are exceedingly beautiful, and, above all, trustworthy: no common quality in a descriptive artist at present.

Having a couple of letters of introduction to leave, I had the pleasure to find the blinds down at one house, and the window in papers at another; and at each place the knock was answered in that leisurely way, by one of those dingy female lieutenants who have no need to tell you that families’ are out of town. So the solitude became very painful, and I thought I would go back and talk to the waiter at the “Shelburne,” the only man in the whole kingdom that I knew. I had been accommodated with a queer little room, and dressing-room on the ground floor, looking towards the Green: a black-faced, good-humoured chambermaid had promised to perform a deal of scouring which was evidently necessary, (a fact she might have observed for six months back, only she is no doubt of an absent-turn,) and when I came back from the walk, I saw the little room was evidently enjoying itself in the sunshine, for it had opened its window, and was taking a breath of fresh air, as it looked out upon the Green.

As I came up to it in the street, its appearance made me burst out laughing, very much to the surprise of a ragged cluster of idlers lolling upon the steps next door. You don’t see such windows commonly in respectable English inns — windows leaning gracefully upon hearth-brooms for support. Look out of that window without the hearth-broom and it would cut your head off: how the beggars would start that are always sitting on the steps next door! Is it prejudice that makes one prefer the English window, that relies on its own ropes and ballast (or lead if you like), and does not need to be propped by any foreign aid? or is this only a solitary instance of the kind, and are there no other specimens in Ireland of the careless, dangerous, extravagant hearth-broom system?

In the midst of these reflections (which might have been carried much farther, for a person with an allegorical turn might examine the entire country through this window), a most wonderful cab, with an immense prancing cab-horse, was seen to stop at the door of the hotel, and Pat the waiter tumbling into the room swiftly with a card in his hand, says, “Sir, the gentleman of this card is waiting for you at the door.” Mon dieu!” it was an invitation to dinner! and I almost leapt into the arms of the man in the cab — so delightful was it to find a friend in the place where, a moment before, I had been as lonely as Robinson Crusoe.

The only drawback, perhaps, to pure happiness, when riding in such a gorgeous equipage as this, was that we could not drive up Regent Street, and meet a few creditors, or acquaintances at least. However, Pat, I thought, was exceedingly awe-stricken by my disappearance in this vehicle; which had evidently, too, a considerable effect upon some other waiters at the “ Shelburne,” with whom I was not as yet so familiar.

The mouldy camelopard at the Trinity College “Musayum” was scarcely taller than the hay-horse in the cab; the groom behind was of a corresponding smallness. The cab was of a lovely olive-green, picked out with white, high on high springs and enormous wheels, which, big as they were, scarcely seemed to touch the earth. The little tiger swung gracefully up and down, holding on by the hood, which was of the material of which the most precious and polished hoots are made. As for the lining — but here we come too near the sanctity of private life; suffice that there was a kind friend inside, who (though by no means of the fairy sort) was as welcome as any fairy in the finest chariot. W— had seen me landing from the packet that morning, and was the very man who in London, a month previous, had recommended me to the “Shelburne.” These facts are not of much consequence to the public, to be sure, except that an explanation was necessary of the miraculous appearance of the cab and horse.

Our course, as may be imagined, was towards the sea-side for whither else should an Irishman at this season go? Not far from Kingstown is a house devoted to the purpose of festivity: it is called Salt Hill, stands upon a rising ground, commanding a fine view of the bay and the railroad, and is kept by persons hearing the celebrated name of Lovegrove. It is in fact a sea-Greenwich, and though there are no marine whitebait, other fishes are to be had in plenty, and especially the famous Bray trout, which does not ill deserve its reputation.

Here we met three young men, who may be called by the names of their several counties — Mr. Galway, Mr. Roscommon, and Mr. Clare; and it seemed that I was to complain of solitude no longer: for one straightway invited me to his county, where was the finest salmon-fishing in the world; another said be would drive me through the county Kerry in his four-in-hand drag; and the third had some propositions of sport equally hospitable. As for going down to some races, on the uCorragh of Kildare I think, which were to be held on the next and the three following days, there seemed to be no question about that. That a man should miss a race within 40 miles, seemed to be a point never contemplated by those jovial sporting fellows.

Strolling about in the neighbourhood before dinner, we went down to the sea-shore, and to some caves which had lately been discovered there; and two Irish ladies, who were standing at the entrance of one of them, permitted me to take their portraits.

They said they had not acquiesced in the general Temperance movement that had taken place throughout the country; and, indeed, if the truth must be known, it was only under promise of a glass of whiskey apiece that their modesty could be so far overcome as to permit them to sit for their portraits. By the time they were done, a crowd of both sexes had gathered round, and expressed themselves quite ready to sit upon the same terms. But though there was great variety in their countenances, there was not much beauty; and besides, dinner was by this time ready, which has at certain periods a charm even greater than art.

*

The bay, which had been veiled in mist and grey in the morning, was now shining under the most beautiful clear sky, which presently became rich with a thousand gorgeous hues of sunset. The view was as smiling and delightful a one as can be conceived, — just such a one as should be seen a travers a good dinner; with no fatiguing sublimity or awful beauty in it, but brisk, brilliant, sunny, enlivening. In fact, in placing his banqueting-house here, Mr. Lovegrove had, as usual, a brilliant idea. You must not have too much view, or a severe one, to give a relish to a good dinner; nor too much music, nor too quick, nor too slow, nor too loud. Any reader who has dined at a table-d’hote in Germany will know the annoyance of this: a set of musicians immediately at your back will sometimes play you a melancholy polonaise; and a man with a good ear must perforce eat in time, and your soup is quite cold before it is swallowed. Then, all of a sudden, crash goes a brisk gallop! and you are obliged to gulp your victuals at the rate of 10 miles an hour. And in respect of conversation during a good dinner, the same rules of propriety should be consulted. Deep and sublime talk is as improper as sublime prospects. Dante and champagne (I was going to say Milton and oysters, but that is a pun) are quite unfit themes of dinner-talk. Let it be light, brisk, not oppressive to the brain. Our conversation was, I recollect, just the thing. We talked about the last Derby the whole time, and the state of the odds for the St. Leger; nor was the Ascot Cup forgotten; and a bet or two was gayly booked.

Meanwhile the sky, which had been blue and then red, assumed, towards the horizon, as the red was sinking under it, a gentle, delicate cast of green. Howth Hill became of a darker purple, and the sails of the boats rather dim. The sea grew deeper and deeper in colour. The lamps at the railroad dotted the line with fire; and the light-houses of the bay began to flame. The trains to and from the city rushed flashing and hissing by. In a word, everybody said it was time to light a cigar; which was done, the conversation about the Derby still continuing.

“Put out that candle,” said Roscommon to Clare. This the latter instantly did by flinging the taper out of the window upon the lawn, which is a thoroughfare; and where a great laugh arose among half a score of beggar-boys, who had been under the window for some time past, repeatedly requesting the company to throw out sixpence between them.

Two other sporting young fellows had now joined the company; and as by this time claret began to have rather a mawkish taste, whiskey-and-water was ordered, which was drunk upon the perron before the house, whither the whole party adjourned, and where for many hours we delightfully tossed for sixpences — a noble and fascinating sport. Nor would these remarkable events have been narrated, had I not received express permission from the gentlemen of the party to record all that was said and done. Who knows but, a thousand years hence, some antiquary or historian may find a moral in this description of the amusement of the British youth at the present enlightened time.

Hot Lobster

P.S. — You take a lobster, about three feet long if possible, remove the shell, cut or break the flesh of the fish in pieces not too small. Some one else meanwhile makes a mixture of mustard, vinegar, catsup, and lots of cayenne pepper. You produce a machine called a despatcher, which has a spirit-lamp under it that is usually illuminated with whiskey. The lobster, the sauce, and near half a pound of butter are placed in the despatcher, which is immediately closed. When boiling, the mixture is stirred up, the lobster being sure to heave about in the pan in a convulsive manner, while it emits a remarkably rich and agreeable odour through the apartment. A glass and a half of sherry is now thrown into the pan, and the contents served out hot, and eaten by the company. Porter is commonly drunk, and whiskey-punch afterwards, and the dish is fit for an emperor.

N.B.-You are recommended not to hurry yourself in getting up the next morning, and may take soda-water with advantage. — Probatum est.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07