Part 2 out of 13
The Castle--A father's inquiries--Scotch language--A determination-
-Bui hin Digri--Good Scotchman--Difference of races--Ne'er a
haggis--Pugnacious people--Wha are ye, man?--The Nor Loch--Gestures
wild--The bicker--New Town champion--Wild-looking figure--Headlong.
It was not long before we found ourselves at Edinburgh, or rather
in the Castle, into which the regiment marched with drums beating,
colours flying, and a long train of baggage-waggons behind. The
Castle was, as I suppose it is now, a garrison for soldiers. Two
other regiments were already there; the one an Irish, if I remember
right, the other a small Highland corps.
It is hardly necessary to say much about this Castle, which
everybody has seen; on which account, doubtless, nobody has ever
yet thought fit to describe it--at least that I am aware. Be this
as it may, I have no intention of describing it, and shall content
myself with observing that we took up our abode in that immense
building, or caserne, of modern erection, which occupies the entire
eastern side of the bold rock on which the Castle stands. A
gallant caserne it was--the best and roomiest that I had hitherto
seen--rather cold and windy, it is true, especially in the winter,
but commanding a noble prospect of a range of distant hills, which
I was told were 'the hieland hills,' and of a broad arm of the sea,
which I heard somebody say was the Firth of Forth.
My brother, who, for some years past, had been receiving his
education in a certain celebrated school in England, was now with
us; and it came to pass, that one day my father, as he sat at
table, looked steadfastly on my brother and myself, and then
addressed my mother: --'During my journey down hither, I have lost
no opportunity of making inquiries about these people, the Scotch,
amongst whom we now are, and since I have been here I have observed
them attentively. From what I have heard and seen, I should say
that upon the whole they are a very decent set of people; they seem
acute and intelligent, and I am told that their system of education
is so excellent that every person is learned--more or less
acquainted with Greek and Latin. There is one thing, however,
connected with them, which is a great drawback--the horrid jargon
which they speak. However learned they may be in Greek and Latin,
their English is execrable; and yet I'm told it is not so bad as it
was. I was in company, the other day, with an Englishman who has
resided here many years. We were talking about the country and the
people. "I should like both very well," said I, "were it not for
the language. I wish sincerely our Parliament, which is passing so
many foolish acts every year, would pass one to force these Scotch
to speak English." "I wish so, too," said he. "The language is a
disgrace to the British Government; but, if you had heard it twenty
years ago, captain!--if you had heard it as it was spoken when I
first came to Edinburgh!"'
'Only custom,' said my mother. 'I daresay the language is now what
it was then.'
'I don't know,' said my father; 'though I daresay you are right; it
could never have been worse than it is at present. But now to the
point. Were it not for the language, which, if the boys were to
pick it up, might ruin their prospects in life,--were it not for
that, I should very much like to send them to a school there is in
this place, which everybody talks about--the High School I think
they call it. 'Tis said to be the best school in the whole island;
but the idea of one's children speaking Scotch--broad Scotch! I
must think the matter over.'
And he did think the matter over; and the result of his
deliberation was a determination to send us to the school. Let me
call thee up before my mind's eye, High School, to which, every
morning, the two English brothers took their way from the proud old
Castle through the lofty streets of the Old Town. High School!--
called so, I scarcely know why; neither lofty in thyself nor by
position, being situated in a flat bottom; oblong structure of
tawny stone, with many windows fenced with iron netting--with thy
long hall below, and thy five chambers above, for the reception of
the five classes, into which the eight hundred urchins who styled
thee instructress were divided. Thy learned rector and his four
subordinate dominies; thy strange old porter of the tall form and
grizzled hair, hight Boee, and doubtless of Norse ancestry, as his
name declares; perhaps of the blood of Bui hin Digri, the hero of
northern song--the Jomsborg Viking who clove Thorsteinn Midlangr
asunder in the dread sea battle of Horunga Vog, and who, when the
fight was lost and his own two hands smitten off, seized two chests
of gold with his bloody stumps, and, springing with them into the
sea, cried to the scanty relics of his crew, 'Overboard now, all
Bui's lads!' Yes, I remember all about thee, and how at eight of
every morn we were all gathered together with one accord in the
long hall, from which, after the litanies had been read (for so I
will call them, being an Episcopalian), the five classes from the
five sets of benches trotted off in long files, one boy after the
other, up the five spiral staircases of stone, each class to its
destination; and well do I remember how we of the third sat hushed
and still, watched by the eye of the dux, until the door opened,
and in walked that model of a good Scotchman, the shrewd,
intelligent, but warm-hearted and kind dominie, the respectable
And in this school I began to construe the Latin language, which I
had never done before, notwithstanding my long and diligent study
of Lilly, which illustrious grammar was not used at Edinburgh, nor
indeed known. Greek was only taught in the fifth or highest class,
in which my brother was; as for myself, I never got beyond the
third during the two years that I remained at this seminary. I
certainly acquired here a considerable insight in the Latin tongue;
and, to the scandal of my father and horror of my mother, a
thorough proficiency in the Scotch, which, in less than two months,
usurped the place of the English, and so obstinately maintained its
ground, that I still can occasionally detect its lingering remains.
I did not spend my time unpleasantly at this school, though, first
of all, I had to pass through an ordeal.
'Scotland is a better country than England,' said an ugly, blear-
eyed lad, about a head and shoulders taller than myself, the leader
of a gang of varlets who surrounded me in the playground, on the
first day, as soon as the morning lesson was over. 'Scotland is a
far better country than England, in every respect.'
'Is it?' said I. 'Then you ought to be very thankful for not
having been born in England.'
'That's just what I am, ye loon; and every morning, when I say my
prayers, I thank God for not being an Englishman. The Scotch are a
much better and braver people than the English.'
'It may be so,' said I, 'for what I know--indeed, till I came here,
I never heard a word either about the Scotch or their country.'
'Are ye making fun of us, ye English puppy?' said the blear-eyed
lad; 'take that!' and I was presently beaten black and blue. And
thus did I first become aware of the difference of races and their
antipathy to each other.
'Bow to the storm, and it shall pass over you.' I held my peace,
and silently submitted to the superiority of the Scotch--IN
NUMBERS. This was enough; from an object of persecution I soon
became one of patronage, especially amongst the champions of the
class. 'The English,' said the blear-eyed lad, 'though a wee bit
behind the Scotch in strength and fortitude, are nae to be sneezed
at, being far ahead of the Irish, to say nothing of the French, a
pack of cowardly scoundrels. And with regard to the English
country, it is na Scotland, it is true, but it has its gude
properties; and, though there is ne'er a haggis in a' the land,
there's an unco deal o' gowd and siller. I respect England, for I
have an auntie married there.'
The Scotch are certainly a most pugnacious people; their whole
history proves it. Witness their incessant wars with the English
in the olden time, and their internal feuds, highland and lowland,
clan with clan, family with family, Saxon with Gael. In my time,
the schoolboys, for want, perhaps, of English urchins to contend
with, were continually fighting with each other; every noon there
was at least one pugilistic encounter, and sometimes three. In one
month I witnessed more of these encounters than I had ever
previously seen under similar circumstances in England. After all,
there was not much harm done. Harm! what harm could result from
short chopping blows, a hug, and a tumble? I was witness to many a
sounding whack, some blood shed, 'a blue ee' now and then, but
nothing more. In England, on the contrary, where the lads were
comparatively mild, gentle, and pacific, I had been present at more
than one death caused by blows in boyish combats, in which the
oldest of the victors had scarcely reached thirteen years; but
these blows were in the jugular, given with the full force of the
arm shot out horizontally from the shoulder.
But the Scotch--though by no means proficients in boxing (and how
should they box, seeing that they have never had a teacher?)--are,
I repeat, a most pugnacious people; at least they were in my time.
Anything served them, that is, the urchins, as a pretence for a
fray, or, Dorically speaking, a BICKER; every street and close was
at feud with its neighbour; the lads of the school were at feud
with the young men of the college, whom they pelted in winter with
snow, and in summer with stones; and then the feud between the old
and new town!
One day I was standing on the ramparts of the Castle on the south-
western side which overhangs the green brae, where it slopes down
into what was in those days the green swamp or morass, called by
the natives of Auld Reekie the Nor Loch; it was a dark gloomy day,
and a thin veil of mist was beginning to settle down upon the brae
and the morass. I could perceive, however, that there was a
skirmish taking place in the latter spot. I had an indistinct view
of two parties--apparently of urchins--and I heard whoops and
shrill cries: eager to know the cause of this disturbance, I left
the Castle, and descending the brae reached the borders of the
morass, where were a runnel of water and the remains of an old
wall, on the other side of which a narrow path led across the
swamp: upon this path at a little distance before me there was 'a
bicker.' I pushed forward, but had scarcely crossed the ruined
wall and runnel, when the party nearest to me gave way, and in
great confusion came running in my direction. As they drew nigh,
one of them shouted to me, 'Wha are ye, man? are ye o' the Auld
Toon?' I made no answer. 'Ha! ye are o' the New Toon; De'il tak
ye, we'll moorder ye'; and the next moment a huge stone sung past
my head. 'Let me be, ye fule bodies,' said I, 'I'm no of either of
ye, I live yonder aboon in the Castle.' 'Ah! ye live in the
Castle; then ye're an auld tooner; come gie us your help, man, and
dinna stand there staring like a dunnot, we want help sair eneugh.
Here are stanes.'
For my own part I wished for nothing better, and, rushing forward,
I placed myself at the head of my new associates, and commenced
flinging stones fast and desperately. The other party now gave way
in their turn, closely followed by ourselves; I was in the van, and
about to stretch out my hand to seize the hindermost boy of the
enemy, when, not being acquainted with the miry and difficult paths
of the Nor Loch, and in my eagerness taking no heed of my footing,
I plunged into a quagmire, into which I sank as far as my
shoulders. Our adversaries no sooner perceived this disaster,
than, setting up a shout, they wheeled round and attacked us most
vehemently. Had my comrades now deserted me, my life had not been
worth a straw's purchase, I should either have been smothered in
the quag, or, what is more probable, had my brains beaten out with
stones; but they behaved like true Scots, and fought stoutly around
their comrade, until I was extricated, whereupon both parties
retired, the night being near at hand.
'Ye are na a bad hand at flinging stanes,' said the lad who first
addressed me, as we now returned up the brae; 'your aim is right
dangerous, mon, I saw how ye skelpit them, ye maun help us agin
thae New Toon blackguards at our next bicker.'
So to the next bicker I went, and to many more, which speedily
followed as the summer advanced; the party to which I had given my
help on the first occasion consisted merely of outlyers, posted
about half-way up the hill, for the purpose of overlooking the
movements of the enemy.
Did the latter draw nigh in any considerable force, messengers were
forthwith despatched to the 'Auld Toon,' especially to the filthy
alleys and closes of the High Street, which forthwith would
disgorge swarms of bare-headed and bare-footed 'callants,' who,
with gestures wild and 'eldrich screech and hollo,' might
frequently be seen pouring down the sides of the hill. I have seen
upwards of a thousand engaged on either side in these frays, which
I have no doubt were full as desperate as the fights described in
the Iliad, and which were certainly much more bloody than the
combats of modern Greece in the war of independence: the callants
not only employed their hands in hurling stones, but not
unfrequently slings; at the use of which they were very expert, and
which occasionally dislodged teeth, shattered jaws, or knocked out
an eye. Our opponents certainly laboured under considerable
disadvantage, being compelled not only to wade across a deceitful
bog, but likewise to clamber up part of a steep hill, before they
could attack us; nevertheless, their determination was such, and
such their impetuosity, that we had sometimes difficulty enough to
maintain our own. I shall never forget one bicker, the last indeed
which occurred at that time, as the authorities of the town,
alarmed by the desperation of its character, stationed forthwith a
body of police on the hill-side, to prevent, in future, any such
breaches of the peace.
It was a beautiful Sunday evening, the rays of the descending sun
were reflected redly from the gray walls of the Castle, and from
the black rocks on which it was founded. The bicker had long since
commenced, stones from sling and hand were flying; but the callants
of the New Town were now carrying everything before them.
A full-grown baker's apprentice was at their head; he was foaming
with rage, and had taken the field, as I was told, in order to
avenge his brother, whose eye had been knocked out in one of the
late bickers. He was no slinger or flinger, but brandished in his
right hand the spoke of a cart-wheel, like my countryman Tom
Hickathrift of old in his encounter with the giant of the
Lincolnshire fen. Protected by a piece of wicker-work attached to
his left arm, he rushed on to the fray, disregarding the stones
which were showered against him, and was ably seconded by his
followers. Our own party was chased half-way up the hill, where I
was struck to the ground by the baker, after having been foiled in
an attempt which I had made to fling a handful of earth into his
eyes. All now appeared lost, the Auld Toon was in full retreat. I
myself lay at the baker's feet, who had just raised his spoke,
probably to give me the coup de grace,--it was an awful moment.
Just then I heard a shout and a rushing sound; a wild-looking
figure is descending the hill with terrible bounds; it is a lad of
some fifteen years; he is bare-headed, and his red uncombed hair
stands on end like hedgehogs' bristles: his frame is lithy, like
that of an antelope, but he has prodigious breadth of chest; he
wears a military undress, that of the regiment, even of a drummer,
for it is wild Davy, whom a month before I had seen enlisted on
Leith Links to serve King George with drum and drumstick as long as
his services might be required, and who, ere a week had elapsed,
had smitten with his fist Drum-Major Elzigood, who, incensed at his
inaptitude, had threatened him with his cane; he has been in
confinement for weeks, this is the first day of his liberation, and
he is now descending the hill with horrid bounds and shoutings; he
is now about five yards distant, and the baker, who apprehends that
something dangerous is at hand, prepares himself for the encounter;
but what avails the strength of a baker, even full grown?--what
avails the defence of a wicker shield?--what avails the wheel-
spoke, should there be an opportunity of using it, against the
impetus of an avalanche or a cannon-ball?--for to either of these
might that wild figure be compared, which, at the distance of five
yards, sprang at once with head, hands, feet and body, all
together, upon the champion of the New Town, tumbling him to the
earth amain. And now it was the turn of the Old Town to triumph.
Our late discomfited host, returning on its steps, overwhelmed the
fallen champion with blows of every kind, and then, led on by his
vanquisher, who had assumed his arms, namely, the wheel-spoke and
wicker shield, fairly cleared the brae of their adversaries, whom
they drove down headlong into the morass.
Expert climbers--The crags--Something red--The horrible edge--David
Haggart--Fine materials--The greatest victory--Extraordinary
robber--The ruling passion.
Meanwhile I had become a daring cragsman, a character to which an
English lad has seldom opportunities of aspiring; for in England
there are neither crags nor mountains. Of these, however, as is
well known, there is no lack in Scotland, and the habits of
individuals are invariably in harmony with the country in which
they dwell. The Scotch are expert climbers, and I was now a Scot
in most things, particularly in language. The Castle in which I
dwelt stood upon a rock, a bold and craggy one, which, at first
sight, would seem to bid defiance to any feet save those of goats
and chamois; but patience and perseverance generally enable mankind
to overcome things which, at first sight, appear impossible.
Indeed, what is there above man's exertions? Unwearied
determination will enable him to run with the horse, to swim with
the fish, and assuredly to compete with the chamois and the goat in
agility and sureness of foot. To scale the rock was merely child's
play for the Edinbro' callants. It was my own favourite diversion.
I soon found that the rock contained all manner of strange crypts,
crannies, and recesses, where owls nestled, and the weasel brought
forth her young; here and there were small natural platforms,
overgrown with long grass and various kinds of plants, where the
climber, if so disposed, could stretch himself, and either give his
eyes to sleep or his mind to thought; for capital places were these
same platforms either for repose or meditation. The boldest
features of the rock are descried on the northern side, where,
after shelving down gently from the wall for some distance, it
terminates abruptly in a precipice, black and horrible, of some
three hundred feet at least, as if the axe of nature had been here
employed cutting sheer down, and leaving behind neither excrescence
nor spur--a dizzy precipice it is, assimilating much to those so
frequent in the flinty hills of Northern Africa, and exhibiting
some distant resemblance to that of Gibraltar, towering in its
horridness above the Neutral Ground.
It was now holiday time, and having nothing particular wherewith to
occupy myself, I not unfrequently passed the greater part of the
day upon the rocks. Once, after scaling the western crags, and
creeping round a sharp angle of the wall, overhung by a kind of
watch-tower, I found myself on the northern side. Still keeping
close to the wall, I was proceeding onward, for I was bent upon a
long excursion which should embrace half the circuit of the Castle,
when suddenly my eye was attracted by the appearance of something
red, far below me; I stopped short, and, looking fixedly upon it,
perceived that it was a human being in a kind of red jacket, seated
on the extreme verge of the precipice which I have already made a
faint attempt to describe. Wondering who it could be, I shouted;
but it took not the slightest notice, remaining as immovable as the
rock on which it sat. 'I should never have thought of going near
that edge,' said I to myself; 'however, as you have done it, why
should not I? And I should like to know who you are.' So I
commenced the descent of the rock, but with great care, for I had
as yet never been in a situation so dangerous; a slight moisture
exuded from the palms of my hands, my nerves were tingling, and my
brain was somewhat dizzy--and now I had arrived within a few yards
of the figure, and had recognised it: it was the wild drummer who
had turned the tide of battle in the bicker on the Castle Brae. A
small stone which I dislodged now rolled down the rock, and tumbled
into the abyss close beside him. He turned his head, and after
looking at me for a moment somewhat vacantly, he resumed his former
attitude. I drew yet nearer to the horrible edge not close,
however, for fear was on me.
'What are you thinking of, David?' said I, as I sat behind him and
trembled, for I repeat that I was afraid.
David Haggart. I was thinking of Willie Wallace.
Myself. You had better be thinking of yourself, man. A strange
place this to come to and think of William Wallace.
David Haggart. Why so? Is not his tower just beneath our feet?
Myself. You mean the auld ruin by the side of the Nor Loch--the
ugly stane bulk, from the foot of which flows the spring into the
dyke where the watercresses grow?
David Haggart. Just sae, Geordie.
Myself. And why were ye thinking of him? The English hanged him
long since, as I have heard say.
David Haggart. I was thinking that I should wish to be like him.
Myself. Do ye mean that ye would wish to be hanged?
David Haggart. I wadna flinch from that, Geordie, if I might be a
great man first.
Myself. And wha kens, Davie, how great you may be, even without
hanging? Are ye not in the high road of preferment? Are ye not a
bauld drummer already? Wha kens how high ye may rise? perhaps to
be general, or drum-major.
David Haggart. I hae nae wish to be drum-major; it were nae great
things to be like the doited carle, Else-than-gude, as they call
him; and, troth, he has nae his name for naething. But I should
have nae objection to be a general, and to fight the French and
Americans, and win myself a name and a fame like Willie Wallace,
and do brave deeds, such as I have been reading about in his story
Myself. Ye are a fule, Davie; the story book is full of lies.
Wallace, indeed! the wuddie rebel! I have heard my father say that
the Duke of Cumberland was worth twenty of Willie Wallace.
David Haggart. Ye had better sae naething agin Willie Wallace,
Geordie, for, if ye do, De'il hae me, if I dinna tumble ye doon the
Fine materials in that lad for a hero, you will say. Yes, indeed,
for a hero, or for what he afterwards became. In other times, and
under other circumstances, he might have made what is generally
termed a great man, a patriot, or a conqueror. As it was, the very
qualities which might then have pushed him on to fortune and renown
were the cause of his ruin. The war over, he fell into evil
courses; for his wild heart and ambitious spirit could not brook
the sober and quiet pursuits of honest industry.
'Can an Arabian steed submit to be a vile drudge?' I cries the
fatalist. Nonsense! A man is not an irrational creature, but a
reasoning being, and has something within him beyond mere brutal
instinct. The greatest victory which a man can achieve is over
himself, by which is meant those unruly passions which are not
convenient to the time and place. David did not do this; he gave
the reins to his wild heart, instead of curbing it, and became a
robber, and, alas! alas! he shed blood--under peculiar
circumstances, it is true, and without malice prepense--and for
that blood he eventually died, and justly; for it was that of the
warden of a prison from which he was escaping, and whom he slew
with one blow of his stalwart arm.
Tamerlane and Haggart! Haggart and Tamerlane! Both these men were
robbers, and of low birth, yet one perished on an ignoble scaffold,
and the other died emperor of the world. Is this justice? The
ends of the two men were widely dissimilar--yet what is the
intrinsic difference between them? Very great indeed; the one
acted according to his lights and his country, not so the other.
Tamerlane was a heathen, and acted according to his lights; he was
a robber where all around were robbers, but he became the avenger
of God--God's scourge on unjust kings, on the cruel Bajazet, who
had plucked out his own brothers' eyes; he became to a certain
extent the purifier of the East, its regenerator; his equal never
was before, nor has it since been seen. Here the wild heart was
profitably employed, the wild strength, the teeming brain. Onward,
Lame one! Onward, Tamur--lank! Haggart . . . .
But peace to thee, poor David! why should a mortal worm be sitting
in judgment over thee? The Mighty and Just One has already judged
thee, and perhaps above thou hast received pardon for thy crimes,
which could not be pardoned here below; and now that thy feverish
existence has closed, and thy once active form become inanimate
dust, thy very memory all but forgotten, I will say a few words
about thee, a few words soon also to be forgotten. Thou wast the
most extraordinary robber that ever lived within the belt of
Britain; Scotland rang with thy exploits, and England, too, north
of the Humber; strange deeds also didst thou achieve when, fleeing
from justice, thou didst find thyself in the Sister Isle; busy wast
thou there in town and on curragh, at fair and race-course, and
also in the solitary place. Ireland thought thee her child, for
who spoke her brogue better than thyself?--she felt proud of thee,
and said, 'Sure, O'Hanlon is come again.' What might not have been
thy fate in the far west in America, whither thou hadst turned
thine eye, saying, 'I will go there, and become an honest man!'
But thou wast not to go there, David--the blood which thou hadst
shed in Scotland was to be required of thee; the avenger was at
hand, the avenger of blood. Seized, manacled, brought back to thy
native land, condemned to die, thou wast left in thy narrow cell,
and told to make the most of thy time, for it was short: and
there, in thy narrow cell, and thy time so short, thou didst put
the crowning stone to thy strange deeds, by that strange history of
thyself, penned by thy own hand in the robber tongue. Thou
mightest have been better employed, David!--but the ruling passion
was strong with thee, even in the jaws of death. Thou mightest
have been better employed!--but peace be with thee, I repeat, and
the Almighty's grace and pardon.
Napoleon--The storm--The cove--Up the country--The trembling hand--
Irish--Tough battle--Tipperary hills--Elegant lodgings--A speech--
Onward, onward! and after we had sojourned in Scotland nearly two
years, the long continental war had been brought to an end,
Napoleon was humbled for a time, and the Bourbons restored to a
land which could well have dispensed with them; we returned to
England, where the corps was disbanded, and my parents with their
family retired to private life. I shall pass over in silence the
events of a year, which offer little of interest as far as
connected with me and mine. Suddenly, however, the sound of war
was heard again, Napoleon had broken forth from Elba, and
everything was in confusion. Vast military preparations were again
made, our own corps was levied anew, and my brother became an
officer in it; but the danger was soon over, Napoleon was once more
quelled, and chained for ever, like Prometheus, to his rock. As
the corps, however, though so recently levied, had already become a
very fine one, thanks to my father's energetic drilling, the
Government very properly determined to turn it to some account,
and, as disturbances were apprehended in Ireland about this period,
it occurred to them that they could do no better than despatch it
to that country.
In the autumn of the year 1815 we set sail from a port in Essex; we
were some eight hundred strong, and were embarked in two ships,
very large, but old and crazy; a storm overtook us when off Beachy
Head, in which we had nearly foundered. I was awakened early in
the morning by the howling of the wind and the uproar on deck. I
kept myself close, however, as is still my constant practice on
similar occasions, and waited the result with that apathy and
indifference which violent sea-sickness is sure to produce. We
shipped several seas, and once the vessel missing stays--which, to
do it justice, it generally did at every third or fourth tack--we
escaped almost by a miracle from being dashed upon the foreland.
On the eighth day of our voyage we were in sight of Ireland. The
weather was now calm and serene, the sun shone brightly on the sea
and on certain green hills in the distance, on which I descried
what at first sight I believed to be two ladies gathering flowers,
which, however, on our nearer approach, proved to be two tall white
towers, doubtless built for some purpose or other, though I did not
learn for what.
We entered a kind of bay, or cove, by a narrow inlet; it was a
beautiful and romantic place this cove, very spacious, and, being
nearly land-locked, was sheltered from every wind. A small island,
every inch of which was covered with fortifications, appeared to
swim upon the waters, whose dark blue denoted their immense depth;
tall green hills, which ascended gradually from the shore, formed
the background to the west; they were carpeted to the top with turf
of the most vivid green, and studded here and there with woods,
seemingly of oak; there was a strange old castle half-way up the
ascent, a village on a crag--but the mists of morning were half
veiling the scene when I surveyed it, and the mists of time are now
hanging densely between it and my no longer youthful eye; I may not
describe it;--nor will I try.
Leaving the ship in the cove, we passed up a wide river in boats
till we came to a city, where we disembarked. It was a large city,
as large as Edinburgh to my eyes; there were plenty of fine houses,
but little neatness; the streets were full of impurities; handsome
equipages rolled along, but the greater part of the population were
in rags; beggars abounded; there was no lack of merriment, however;
boisterous shouts of laughter were heard on every side. It
appeared a city of contradictions. After a few days' rest we
marched from this place in two divisions. My father commanded the
second, I walked by his side.
Our route lay up the country; the country at first offered no very
remarkable feature, it was pretty, but tame. On the second day,
however, its appearance had altered, it had become more wild; a
range of distant mountains bounded the horizon. We passed through
several villages, as I suppose I may term them, of low huts, the
walls formed of rough stones without mortar, the roof of flags laid
over wattles and wicker-work; they seemed to be inhabited solely by
women and children; the latter were naked, the former, in general,
blear-eyed beldames, who sat beside the doors on low stools,
spinning. We saw, however, both men and women working at a
distance in the fields.
I was thirsty; and going up to an ancient crone, employed in the
manner which I have described, I asked her for water; she looked me
in the face, appeared to consider a moment, then tottering into her
hut, presently reappeared with a small pipkin of milk, which she
offered to me with a trembling hand. I drank the milk; it was
sour, but I found it highly refreshing. I then took out a penny
and offered it to her, whereupon she shook her head, smiled, and,
patting my face with her skinny hand, murmured some words in a
tongue which I had never heard before.
I walked on by my father's side, holding the stirrup-leather of his
horse; presently several low uncouth cars passed by, drawn by
starved cattle: the drivers were tall fellows, with dark features
and athletic frames--they wore long loose blue cloaks with sleeves,
which last, however, dangled unoccupied: these cloaks appeared in
tolerably good condition, not so their under garments. On their
heads were broad slouching hats: the generality of them were bare-
footed. As they passed, the soldiers jested with them in the
patois of East Anglia, whereupon the fellows laughed, and appeared
to jest with the soldiers; but what they said who knows, it being
in a rough guttural language, strange and wild. The soldiers
stared at each other, and were silent.
'A strange language that!' said a young officer to my father, 'I
don't understand a word of it; what can it be?'
'Irish!' said my father, with a loud voice, 'and a bad language it
is, I have known it of old, that is, I have often heard it spoken
when I was a guardsman in London. There's one part of London where
all the Irish live--at least all the worst of them--and there they
hatch their villainies and speak this tongue; it is that which
keeps them together and makes them dangerous: I was once sent
there to seize a couple of deserters--Irish--who had taken refuge
amongst their companions; we found them in what was in my time
called a ken, that is a house where only thieves and desperadoes
are to be found. Knowing on what kind of business I was bound, I
had taken with me a sergeant's party; it was well I did so. We
found the deserters in a large room, with at least thirty ruffians,
horrid-looking fellows, seated about a long table, drinking,
swearing, and talking Irish. Ah! we had a tough battle, I
remember; the two fellows did nothing, but sat still, thinking it
best to be quiet; but the rest, with an ubbubboo like the blowing
up of a powder-magazine, sprang up, brandishing their sticks; for
these fellows always carry sticks with them even to bed, and not
unfrequently spring up in their sleep, striking left and right.'
'And did you take the deserters?' said the officer.
'Yes,' said my father; 'for we formed at the end of the room, and
charged with fixed bayonets, which compelled the others to yield
notwithstanding their numbers; but the worst was when we got out
into the street; the whole district had become alarmed, and
hundreds came pouring down upon us--men, women, and children.
Women, did I say!--they looked fiends, half naked, with their hair
hanging down over their bosoms; they tore up the very pavement to
hurl at us, sticks rang about our ears, stones, and Irish--I liked
the Irish worst of all, it sounded so horrid, especially as I did
not understand it. It's a bad language.'
'A queer tongue,' said I; 'I wonder if I could learn it.'
'Learn it!' said my father; 'what should you learn it for?--
however, I am not afraid of that. It is not like Scotch, no person
can learn it, save those who are born to it, and even in Ireland
the respectable people do not speak it, only the wilder sort, like
those we have passed.'
Within a day or two we had reached a tall range of mountains
running north and south, which I was told were those of Tipperary;
along the skirts of these we proceeded till we came to a town, the
principal one of these regions. It was on the bank of a beautiful
river, which separated it from the mountains. It was rather an
ancient place, and might contain some ten thousand inhabitants--I
found that it was our destination; there were extensive barracks at
the farther end, in which the corps took up its quarters; with
respect to ourselves, we took lodgings in a house which stood in
the principal street.
'You never saw more elegant lodgings than these, captain,' said the
master of the house, a tall, handsome, and athletic man, who came
up whilst our little family were seated at dinner late in the
afternoon of the day of our arrival; 'they beat anything in this
town of Clonmel. I do not let them for the sake of interest, and
to none but gentlemen in the army, in order that myself and my
wife, who is from Londonderry, may have the advantage of pleasant
company, genteel company; ay, and Protestant company, captain. It
did my heart good when I saw your honour ride in at the head of all
those fine fellows, real Protestants, I'll engage, not a Papist
among them, they are too good-looking and honest-looking for that.
So I no sooner saw your honour at the head of your army, with that
handsome young gentleman holding by your stirrup, than I said to my
wife, Mistress Hyne, who is from Londonderry, "God bless me," said
I, "what a truly Protestant countenance, what a noble bearing, and
what a sweet young gentleman. By the silver hairs of his honour"--
and sure enough I never saw hairs more regally silver than those of
your honour--"by his honour's gray silver hairs, and by my own
soul, which is not worthy to be mentioned in the same day with one
of them--it would be no more than decent and civil to run out and
welcome such a father and son coming in at the head of such a
Protestant military." And then my wife, who is from Londonderry,
Mistress Hyne, looking me in the face like a fairy as she is, "You
may say that," says she. "It would be but decent and civil,
honey." And your honour knows how I ran out of my own door and
welcomed your honour riding in company with your son, who was
walking; how I welcomed ye both at the head of your royal regiment,
and how I shook your honour by the hand, saying, I am glad to see
your honour, and your honour's son, and your honour's royal
military Protestant regiment. And now I have you in the house, and
right proud I am to have ye one and all; one, two, three, four,
true Protestants every one, no Papists here; and I have made bold
to bring up a bottle of claret which is now waiting behind the
door; and, when your honour and your family have dined, I will make
bold too to bring up Mistress Hyne, from Londonderry, to introduce
to your honour's lady, and then we'll drink to the health of King
George, God bless him; to the "glorious and immortal"--to Boyne
water--to your honour's speedy promotion to be Lord Lieutenant, and
to the speedy downfall of the Pope and Saint Anthony of Padua.'
Such was the speech of the Irish Protestant addressed to my father
in the long lofty dining-room with three windows, looking upon the
high street of the good town of Clonmel, as he sat at meat with his
family, after saying grace like a true-hearted respectable soldier
as he was.
'A bigot and an Orangeman!' Oh yes! It is easier to apply
epithets of opprobrium to people than to make yourself acquainted
with their history and position. He was a specimen, and a fair
specimen, of a most remarkable body of men, who during two
centuries have fought a good fight in Ireland in the cause of
civilisation and religious truth; they were sent as colonists, few
in number, into a barbarous and unhappy country, where ever since,
though surrounded with difficulties of every kind, they have
maintained their ground; theirs has been no easy life, nor have
their lines fallen upon very pleasant places; amidst darkness they
have held up a lamp, and it would be well for Ireland were all her
children like these her adopted ones. 'But they are fierce and
sanguinary,' it is said. Ay, ay! they have not unfrequently
opposed the keen sword to the savage pike. 'But they are bigoted
and narrow-minded.' Ay, ay! they do not like idolatry, and will
not bow the knee before a stone! 'But their language is frequently
indecorous.' Go to, my dainty one, did ye ever listen to the voice
of Papist cursing?
The Irish Protestants have faults, numerous ones; but the greater
number of these may be traced to the peculiar circumstances of
their position: but they have virtues, numerous ones; and their
virtues are their own, their industry, their energy, and their
undaunted resolution are their own. They have been vilified and
traduced--but what would Ireland be without them? I repeat, that
it would be well for her were all her sons no worse than these
much-calumniated children of her adoption.
Protestant young gentlemen--The Greek letters--Open chimney--
Murtagh--Paris and Salamanca--Nothing to do--To whit, to whoo!--The
pack of cards--Before Christmas.
We continued at this place for some months, during which time the
soldiers performed their duties, whatever they were; and I, having
no duties to perform, was sent to school. I had been to English
schools, and to the celebrated one of Edinburgh; but my education,
at the present day, would not be what it is--perfect, had I never
had the honour of being alumnus in an Irish seminary.
'Captain,' said our kind host, 'you would, no doubt, wish that the
young gentleman should enjoy every advantage which the town may
afford towards helping him on in the path of genteel learning.
It's a great pity that he should waste his time in idleness--doing
nothing else than what he says he has been doing for the last
fortnight--fishing in the river for trouts which he never catches;
and wandering up the glen in the mountain, in search of the hips
that grow there. Now, we have a school here, where he can learn
the most elegant Latin, and get an insight into the Greek letters,
which is desirable; and where, moreover, he will have an
opportunity of making acquaintance with all the Protestant young
gentlemen of the place, the handsome well-dressed young persons
whom your honour sees in the church on the Sundays, when your
honour goes there in the morning, with the rest of the Protestant
military; for it is no Papist school, though there may be a Papist
or two there--a few poor farmers' sons from the country, with whom
there is no necessity for your honour's child to form any
acquaintance at all, at all!'
And to the school I went, where I read the Latin tongue and the
Greek letters, with a nice old clergyman, who sat behind a black
oaken desk, with a huge Elzevir Flaccus before him, in a long
gloomy kind of hall, with a broken stone floor, the roof festooned
with cobwebs, the walls considerably dilapidated, and covered over
with strange figures and hieroglyphics, evidently produced by the
application of burnt stick; and there I made acquaintance with the
Protestant young gentlemen of the place, who, with whatever eclat
they might appear at church on a Sunday, did assuredly not exhibit
to much advantage in the schoolroom on the week days, either with
respect to clothes or looks. And there I was in the habit of
sitting on a large stone, before the roaring fire in the huge open
chimney, and entertaining certain of the Protestant young gentlemen
of my own age, seated on similar stones, with extraordinary
accounts of my own adventures, and those of the corps, with an
occasional anecdote extracted from the story-books of Hickathrift
and Wight Wallace, pretending to be conning the lesson all the
And there I made acquaintance, notwithstanding the hint of the
landlord, with the Papist 'gossoons,' as they were called, the
farmers' sons from the country; and of these gossoons, of whom
there were three, two might be reckoned as nothing at all; in the
third, however, I soon discovered that there was something
He was about sixteen years old, and above six feet high, dressed in
a gray suit; the coat, from its size, appeared to have been made
for him some ten years before. He was remarkably narrow-chested
and round-shouldered, owing, perhaps as much to the tightness of
his garment as to the hand of nature. His face was long, and his
complexion swarthy, relieved, however, by certain freckles, with
which the skin was plentifully studded. He had strange wandering
eyes, gray, and somewhat unequal in size; they seldom rested on the
book, but were generally wandering about the room, from one object
to another. Sometimes he would fix them intently on the wall, and
then suddenly starting, as if from a reverie, he would commence
making certain mysterious movements with his thumbs and
forefingers, as if he were shuffling something from him.
One morning, as he sat by himself on a bench, engaged in this
manner, I went up to him, and said, 'Good-day, Murtagh; you do not
seem to have much to do?'
'Faith, you may say that, Shorsha dear!--it is seldom much to do
that I have.'
'And what are you doing with your hands?'
'Faith, then, if I must tell you, I was e'en dealing with the
'Do you play much at cards?'
'Sorra a game, Shorsha, have I played with the cards since my uncle
Phelim, the thief, stole away the ould pack, when he went to settle
in the county Waterford!'
'But you have other things to do?'
'Sorra anything else has Murtagh to do that he cares about and that
makes me dread so going home at nights.'
'I should like to know all about you; where do you live, joy?'
'Faith, then, ye shall know all about me, and where I live. It is
at a place called the Wilderness that I live, and they call it so,
because it is a fearful wild place, without any house near it but
my father's own; and that's where I live when at home.'
'And your father is a farmer, I suppose?'
'You may say that; and it is a farmer I should have been, like my
brother Denis, had not my uncle Phelim, the thief, tould my father
to send me to school, to learn Greek letters, that I might be made
a saggart of, and sent to Paris and Salamanca.'
'And you would rather be a farmer than a priest?'
'You may say that!--for, were I a farmer, like the rest, I should
have something to do, like the rest--something that I cared for--
and I should come home tired at night, and fall asleep, as the rest
do, before the fire; but when I comes home at night I am not tired,
for I have been doing nothing all day that I care for; and then I
sits down and stares about me, and at the fire, till I become
frighted; and then I shouts to my brother Denis, or to the
gossoons, "Get up, I say, and let's be doing something; tell us the
tale of Finn-ma-Coul, and how he lay down in the Shannon's bed, and
let the river flow down his jaws!" Arrah, Shorsha! I wish you
would come and stay with us, and tell us some o' your sweet stories
of your own self and the snake ye carried about wid ye. Faith,
Shorsha dear! that snake bates anything about Finn-ma-Coul or Brian
Boroo, the thieves two, bad luck to them!'
'And do they get up and tell you stories?'
'Sometimes they does, but oftenmost they curses me, and bids me be
quiet! But I can't be quiet, either before the fire or abed; so I
runs out of the house, and stares at the rocks, at the trees, and
sometimes at the clouds, as they run a race across the bright moon;
and, the more I stares, the more frighted I grows, till I screeches
and holloas. And last night I went into the barn, and hid my face
in the straw; and there, as I lay and shivered in the straw, I
heard a voice above my head singing out "To whit, to whoo!" and
then up I starts, and runs into the house, and falls over my
brother Denis, as he lies at the fire. "What's that for?" says he.
"Get up, you thief!" says I, "and be helping me. I have been out
into the barn, and an owl has crow'd at me!"'
'And what has this to do with playing cards?'
'Little enough, Shorsha dear!--If there were card-playing, I should
not be frighted.'
'And why do you not play at cards?'
'Did I not tell you that the thief, my uncle Phelim, stole away the
pack? If we had the pack, my brother Denis and the gossoons would
be ready enough to get up from their sleep before the fire, and
play cards with me for ha'pence, or eggs, or nothing at all; but
the pack is gone--bad luck to the thief who took it!'
'And why don't you buy another?'
'Is it of buying you are speaking? And where am I to get the
'Ah! that's another thing!'
'Faith it is, honey!--And now the Christmas holidays is coming,
when I shall be at home by day as well as night, and then what am I
to do? Since I have been a saggarting, I have been good for
nothing at all--neither for work nor Greek--only to play cards!
Faith, it's going mad I will be!'
'I say, Murtagh!'
'Yes, Shorsha dear!'
'I have a pack of cards.'
'You don't say so, Shorsha ma vourneen?--you don't say that you
have cards fifty-two?'
'I do, though; and they are quite new--never been once used.'
'And you'll be lending them to me, I warrant?'
'Don't think it!--But I'll sell them to you, joy, if you like.'
'Hanam mon Dioul! am I not after telling you that I have no money
'But you have as good as money, to me, at least; and I'll take it
'What's that, Shorsha dear?'
'Yes, you speak Irish; I heard you talking it the other day to the
cripple. You shall teach me Irish.'
'And is it a language-master you'd be making of me?'
'To be sure!--what better can you do?--it would help you to pass
your time at school. You can't learn Greek, so you must teach
Before Christmas, Murtagh was playing at cards with his brother
Denis, and I could speak a considerable quantity of broken Irish.
Templemore--Devil's Mountain--No companion--Force of circumstance--
Way of the world--Ruined castle--Grim and desolate--The donjon--Old
woman--My own house.
When Christmas was over, and the new year commenced, we broke up
our quarters, and marched away to Templemore. This was a large
military station, situated in a wild and thinly inhabited country.
Extensive bogs were in the neighbourhood, connected with the huge
bog of Allen, the Palus Maeotis of Ireland. Here and there was
seen a ruined castle looming through the mists of winter; whilst,
at the distance of seven miles, rose a singular mountain,
exhibiting in its brow a chasm, or vacuum, just, for all the world,
as if a piece had been bitten out; a feat which, according to the
tradition of the country, had actually been performed by his
Satanic majesty, who, after flying for some leagues with the morsel
in his mouth, becoming weary, dropped it in the vicinity of Cashel,
where it may now be seen in the shape of a bold bluff hill, crowned
with the ruins of a stately edifice, probably built by some ancient
We had been here only a few days, when my brother, who, as I have
before observed, had become one of his Majesty's officers, was sent
on detachment to a village at about ten miles' distance. He was
not sixteen, and, though three years older than myself, scarcely my
equal in stature, for I had become tall and large-limbed for my
age; but there was a spirit in him which would not have disgraced a
general; and, nothing daunted at the considerable responsibility
which he was about to incur, he marched sturdily out of the
barrack-yard at the head of his party, consisting of twenty light-
infantry men, and a tall grenadier sergeant, selected expressly by
my father, for the soldier-like qualities which he possessed, to
accompany his son on this his first expedition. So out of the
barrack-yard, with something of an air, marched my dear brother,
his single drum and fife playing the inspiring old melody,
Marlbrouk is gone to the wars,
He'll never return no more!
I soon missed my brother, for I was now alone, with no being, at
all assimilating in age, with whom I could exchange a word. Of
late years, from being almost constantly at school, I had cast
aside, in a great degree, my unsocial habits and natural reserve,
but in the desolate region in which we now were there was no
school; and I felt doubly the loss of my brother, whom, moreover, I
tenderly loved for his own sake. Books I had none, at least such
'as I cared about'; and with respect to the old volume, the wonders
of which had first beguiled me into common reading, I had so
frequently pored over its pages, that I had almost got its contents
by heart. I was therefore in danger of falling into the same
predicament as Murtagh, becoming 'frighted' from having nothing to
do! Nay, I had not even his resources; I cared not for cards, even
if I possessed them and could find people disposed to play with
them. However, I made the most of circumstances, and roamed about
the desolate fields and bogs in the neighbourhood, sometimes
entering the cabins of the peasantry, with a 'God's blessing upon
you, good people!' where I would take my seat on the 'stranger's
stone' at the corner of the hearth, and, looking them full in the
face, would listen to the carles and carlines talking Irish.
Ah, that Irish! How frequently do circumstances, at first sight
the most trivial and unimportant, exercise a mighty and permanent
influence on our habits and pursuits!--how frequently is a stream
turned aside from its natural course by some little rock or knoll,
causing it to make an abrupt turn! On a wild road in Ireland I had
heard Irish spoken for the first time; and I was seized with a
desire to learn Irish, the acquisition of which, in my case, became
the stepping-stone to other languages. I had previously learnt
Latin, or rather Lilly; but neither Latin nor Lilly made me a
philologist. I had frequently heard French and other languages,
but had felt little desire to become acquainted with them; and
what, it may be asked, was there connected with the Irish
calculated to recommend it to my attention?
First of all, and principally, I believe, the strangeness and
singularity of its tones; then there was something mysterious and
uncommon associated with its use. It was not a school language, to
acquire which was considered an imperative duty; no, no; nor was it
a drawing-room language, drawled out occasionally, in shreds and
patches, by the ladies of generals and other great dignitaries, to
the ineffable dismay of poor officers' wives. Nothing of the kind;
but a speech spoken in out-of-the-way desolate places, and in cut-
throat kens, where thirty ruffians, at the sight of the king's
minions, would spring up with brandished sticks and an 'ubbubboo
like the blowing up of a powder-magazine.' Such were the points
connected with the Irish, which first awakened in my mind the
desire of acquiring it; and by acquiring it I became, as I have
already said, enamoured of languages. Having learnt one by choice,
I speedily, as the reader will perceive, learnt others, some of
which were widely different from Irish.
Ah, that Irish! I am much indebted to it in more ways than one.
But I am afraid I have followed the way of the world, which is very
much wont to neglect original friends and benefactors. I
frequently find myself, at present, turning up my nose at Irish
when I hear it in the street; yet I have still a kind of regard for
it, the fine old language:
A labhair Padruic n'insefail nan riogh.
One of the most peculiar features of this part of Ireland is the
ruined castles, which are so thick and numerous that the face of
the country appears studded with them, it being difficult to choose
any situation from which one, at least, may not be descried. They
are of various ages and styles of architecture, some of great
antiquity, like the stately remains which crown the Crag of Cashel;
others built by the early English conquerors; others, and probably
the greater part, erections of the times of Elizabeth and Cromwell.
The whole speaking monuments of the troubled and insecure state of
the country, from the most remote periods to a comparatively modern
From the windows of the room where I slept I had a view of one of
these old places--an indistinct one, it is true, the distance being
too great to permit me to distinguish more than the general
outline. I had an anxious desire to explore it. It stood to the
south-east; in which direction, however, a black bog intervened,
which had more than once baffled all my attempts to cross it. One
morning, however, when the sun shone brightly upon the old
building, it appeared so near, that I felt ashamed at not being
able to accomplish a feat seemingly so easy; I determined,
therefore, upon another trial. I reached the bog, and was about to
venture upon its black surface, and to pick my way amongst its
innumerable holes, yawning horribly, and half filled with water
black as soot, when it suddenly occurred to me that there was a
road to the south, by following which I might find a more
convenient route to the object of my wishes. The event justified
my expectations, for, after following the road for some three
miles, seemingly in the direction of the Devil's Mountain, I
suddenly beheld the castle on my left.
I diverged from the road, and, crossing two or three fields, came
to a small grassy plain, in the midst of which stood the castle.
About a gun-shot to the south was a small village, which had,
probably, in ancient days, sprung up beneath its protection. A
kind of awe came over me as I approached the old building. The sun
no longer shone upon it, and it looked so grim, so desolate and
solitary; and here was I, in that wild country, alone with that
grim building before me. The village was within sight, it is true;
but it might be a village of the dead for what I knew; no sound
issued from it, no smoke was rising from its roofs, neither man nor
beast was visible, no life, no motion--it looked as desolate as the
castle itself. Yet I was bent on the adventure, and moved on
towards the castle across the green plain, occasionally casting a
startled glance around me; and now I was close to it.
It was surrounded by a quadrangular wall, about ten feet in height,
with a square tower at each corner. At first I could discover no
entrance; walking round, however, to the northern side, I found a
wide and lofty gateway with a tower above it, similar to those at
the angles of the wall; on this side the ground sloped gently down
towards the bog, which was here skirted by an abundant growth of
copse-wood and a few evergreen oaks. I passed through the gateway,
and found myself within a square inclosure of about two acres. On
one side rose a round and lofty keep, or donjon, with a conical
roof, part of which had fallen down, strewing the square with its
ruins. Close to the keep, on the other side, stood the remains of
an oblong house, built something in the modern style, with various
window-holes; nothing remained but the bare walls and a few
projecting stumps of beams, which seemed to have been half burnt.
The interior of the walls was blackened, as if by fire; fire also
appeared at one time to have raged out of the window-holes, for the
outside about them was black, portentously so. 'I wonder what has
been going on here?' I exclaimed.
There were echoes among the walls as I walked about the court. I
entered the keep by a low and frowning doorway: the lower floor
consisted of a large dungeon-like room, with a vaulted roof; on the
left hand was a winding staircase in the thickness of the wall; it
looked anything but inviting; yet I stole softly up, my heart
beating. On the top of the first flight of stairs was an arched
doorway, to the left was a dark passage, to the right, stairs
leading still higher. I stepped under the arch and found myself in
an apartment somewhat similar to the one below, but higher. There
was an object at the farther end.
An old woman, at least eighty, was seated on a stone, cowering over
a few sticks burning feebly on what had once been a right noble and
cheerful hearth; her side-glance was towards the doorway as I
entered, for she had heard my foot-steps. I stood suddenly still,
and her haggard glance rested on my face.
'Is this your house, mother?' I at length demanded, in the language
which I thought she would best understand.
'Yes, my house, my own house; the house of the broken-hearted.'
'Any other person's house?' I demanded.
'My own house, the beggar's house--the accursed house of Cromwell!'
A visit--Figure of a man--The dog of peace--The raw wound--The
guardroom--Boy soldier--Person in authority--Never solitary--
Clergyman and family--Still-hunting--Fairy man--Near sunset--Bagg--
Left-handed hitter--Irish and supernatural--At Swanton Morley.
One morning I set out, designing to pay a visit to my brother at
the place where he was detached; the distance was rather
considerable, yet I hoped to be back by evening fall, for I was now
a shrewd walker, thanks to constant practice. I set out early,
and, directing my course towards the north, I had in less than two
hours accomplished considerably more than half of the journey. The
weather had at first been propitious: a slight frost had rendered
the ground firm to the tread, and the skies were clear; but now a
change came over the scene, the skies darkened, and a heavy
snowstorm came on; the road then lay straight through a bog, and
was bounded by a deep trench on both sides; I was making the best
of my way, keeping as nearly as I could in the middle of the road,
lest, blinded by the snow which was frequently borne into my eyes
by the wind, I might fall into the dyke, when all at once I heard a
shout to windward, and turning my eyes I saw the figure of a man,
and what appeared to be an animal of some kind, coming across the
bog with great speed, in the direction of myself; the nature of the
ground seemed to offer but little impediment to these beings, both
clearing the holes and abysses which lay in their way with
surprising agility; the animal was, however, some slight way in
advance, and, bounding over the dyke, appeared on the road just
before me. It was a dog, of what species I cannot tell, never
having seen the like before or since; the head was large and round;
the ears so tiny as scarcely to be discernible; the eyes of a fiery
red: in size it was rather small than large; and the coat, which
was remarkably smooth, as white as the falling flakes. It placed
itself directly in my path, and showing its teeth, and bristling
its coat, appeared determined to prevent my progress. I had an
ashen stick in my hand, with which I threatened it; this, however,
only served to increase its fury; it rushed upon me, and I had the
utmost difficulty to preserve myself from its fangs.
'What are you doing with the dog, the fairy dog?' said a man, who
at this time likewise cleared the dyke at a bound.
He was a very tall man, rather well dressed as it should seem; his
garments, however, were, like my own, so covered with snow that I
could scarcely discern their quality.
'What are ye doing with the dog of peace?'
'I wish he would show himself one,' said I; 'I said nothing to him,
but he placed himself in my road, and would not let me pass.'
'Of course he would not be letting you till he knew where ye were
'He's not much of a fairy,' said I, 'or he would know that without
asking; tell him that I am going to see my brother.'
'And who is your brother, little Sas?'
'What my father is, a royal soldier.'
'Oh, ye are going then to the detachment at--; by my shoul, I have
a good mind to be spoiling your journey.'
'You are doing that already,' said I, 'keeping me here talking
about dogs and fairies; you had better go home and get some salve
to cure that place over your eye; it's catching cold you'll be, in
so much snow.'
On one side of the man's forehead there was a raw and staring
wound, as if from a recent and terrible blow.
'Faith, then I'll be going, but it's taking you wid me I will be.'
'And where will you take me?'
'Why, then, to Ryan's Castle, little Sas.'
'You do not speak the language very correctly,' said I; 'it is not
Sas you should call me--'tis Sassannach,' and forthwith I
accompanied the word with a speech full of flowers of Irish
The man looked upon me for a moment, fixedly, then, bending his
head towards his breast, he appeared to be undergoing a kind of
convulsion, which was accompanied by a sound something resembling
laughter; presently he looked at me, and there was a broad grin on
'By my shoul, it's a thing of peace I'm thinking ye.'
But now with a whisking sound came running down the road a hare; it
was nearly upon us before it perceived us; suddenly stopping short,
however, it sprang into the bog on the right-hand side; after it
amain bounded the dog of peace, followed by the man, but not until
he had nodded to me a farewell salutation. In a few moments I lost
sight of him amidst the snowflakes.
The weather was again clear and fine before I reached the place of
detachment. It was a little wooden barrack, surrounded by a wall
of the same material; a sentinel stood at the gate, I passed by
him, and, entering the building, found myself in a rude kind of
guardroom; several soldiers were lying asleep on a wooden couch at
one end, others lounged on benches by the side of a turf fire. The
tall sergeant stood before the fire, holding a cooking utensil in
his left hand; on seeing me, he made the military salutation.
'Is my brother here?' said I, rather timidly, dreading to hear that
he was out, perhaps for the day.
'The ensign is in his room, sir,' said Bagg, 'I am now preparing
his meal, which will presently be ready; you will find the ensign
above stairs,' and he pointed to a broken ladder which led to some
And there I found him--the boy soldier--in a kind of upper loft, so
low that I could touch with my hands the sooty rafters; the floor
was of rough boards, through the joints of which you could see the
gleam of the soldiers' fire, and occasionally discern their figures
as they moved about; in one corner was a camp bedstead, by the side
of which hung the child's sword, gorget, and sash; a deal table
stood in the proximity of the rusty grate, where smoked and
smouldered a pile of black turf from the bog,--a deal table without
a piece of baize to cover it, yet fraught with things not devoid of
interest: a Bible, given by a mother; the Odyssey, the Greek
Odyssey; a flute, with broad silver keys; crayons, moreover, and
water-colours; and a sketch of a wild prospect near, which, though
but half finished, afforded ample proof of the excellence and skill
of the boyish hand now occupied upon it.
Ah! he was a sweet being, that boy soldier, a plant of early
promise, bidding fair to become in after time all that is great,
good, and admirable. I have read of a remarkable Welshman, of whom
it was said, when the grave closed over him, that he could frame a
harp, and play it; build a ship, and sail it; compose an ode, and
set it to music. A brave fellow that son of Wales--but I had once
a brother who could do more and better than this, but the grave has
closed over him, as over the gallant Welshman of yore; there are
now but two that remember him--the one who bore him, and the being
who was nurtured at the same breast. He was taken, and I was
left!--Truly, the ways of Providence are inscrutable.
'You seem to be very comfortable, John,' said I, looking around the
room and at the various objects which I have described above: 'you
have a good roof over your head, and have all your things about
'Yes, I am very comfortable, George, in many respects; I am,
moreover, independent, and feel myself a man for the first time in
my life--independent did I say?--that's not the word, I am
something much higher than that; here am I, not sixteen yet, a
person in authority, like the centurion in the book there, with
twenty Englishmen under me, worth a whole legion of his men, and
that fine fellow Bagg to wait upon me, and take my orders. Oh!
these last six weeks have passed like hours of heaven.'
'But your time must frequently hang heavy on your hands; this is a
strange wild place, and you must be very solitary?'
'I am never solitary; I have, as you see, all my things about me,
and there is plenty of company below stairs. Not that I mix with
the soldiers; if I did, good-bye to my authority; but when I am
alone I can hear all their discourse through the planks, and I
often laugh to myself at the funny things they say.'
'And have you any acquaintance here?'
'The very best; much better than the Colonel and the rest, at their
grand Templemore; I had never so many in my whole life before. One
has just left me, a gentleman who lives at a distance across the
bog; he comes to talk with me about Greek, and the Odyssey, for he
is a very learned man, and understands the old Irish, and various
other strange languages. He has had a dispute with Bagg. On
hearing his name, he called him to him, and, after looking at him
for some time with great curiosity, said that he was sure he was a
Dane. Bagg, however, took the compliment in dudgeon, and said that
he was no more a Dane than himself, but a true-born Englishman, and
a sergeant of six years' standing.'
'And what other acquaintance have you?'
'All kinds; the whole neighbourhood can't make enough of me.
Amongst others there's the clergyman of the parish and his family;
such a venerable old man, such fine sons and daughters! I am
treated by them like a son and a brother--I might be always with
them if I pleased; there's one drawback, however, in going to see
them; there's a horrible creature in the house, a kind of tutor,
whom they keep more from charity than anything else; he is a Papist
and, they say, a priest; you should see him scowl sometimes at my
red coat, for he hates the king, and not unfrequently, when the
king's health is drunk, curses him between his teeth. I once got
up to strike him; but the youngest of the sisters, who is the
handsomest, caught my arm and pointed to her forehead.'
'And what does your duty consist of? Have you nothing else to do
than pay visits and receive them?'
'We do what is required of us, we guard this edifice, perform our
evolutions, and help the excise; I am frequently called up in the
dead of night to go to some wild place or other in quest of an
illicit still; this last part of our duty is poor mean work, I
don't like it, nor more does Bagg; though without it we should not
see much active service, for the neighbourhood is quiet; save the
poor creatures with their stills, not a soul is stirring. 'Tis
true there's Jerry Grant.'
'And who is Jerry Grant?'
'Did you never hear of him? that's strange, the whole country is
talking about him; he is a kind of outlaw, rebel, or robber, all
three I daresay; there's a hundred pounds offered for his head.'
'And where does he live?'
'His proper home, they say, is in the Queen's County, where he has
a band, but he is a strange fellow, fond of wandering about by
himself amidst the bogs and mountains, and living in the old
castles; occasionally he quarters himself in the peasants' houses,
who let him do just what he pleases; he is free of his money, and
often does them good turns, and can be good-humoured enough, so
they don't dislike him. Then he is what they call a fairy man, a
person in league with fairies and spirits, and able to work much
harm by supernatural means, on which account they hold him in great
awe; he is, moreover, a mighty strong and tall fellow. Bagg has
'Yes! and felt him; he too is a strange one. A few days ago he was
told that Grant had been seen hovering about an old castle some two
miles off in the bog; so one afternoon what does he do but, without
saying a word to me--for which, by the bye, I ought to put him
under arrest, though what I should do without Bagg I have no idea
whatever--what does he do but walk off to the castle, intending, as
I suppose, to pay a visit to Jerry. He had some difficulty in
getting there on account of the turf-holes in the bog, which he was
not accustomed to; however, thither at last he got and went in. It
was a strange lonesome place, he says, and he did not much like the
look of it; however, in he went, and searched about from the bottom
to the top and down again, but could find no one; he shouted and
hallooed, but nobody answered, save the rooks and choughs, which
started up in great numbers. "I have lost my trouble," said Bagg,
and left the castle. It was now late in the afternoon, near
sunset, when about half-way over the bog he met a man--'
'And that man was--'
'Jerry Grant! there's no doubt of it. Bagg says it was the most
sudden thing in the world. He was moving along, making the best of
his way, thinking of nothing at all save a public-house at Swanton
Morley, which he intends to take when he gets home, and the
regiment is disbanded--though I hope that will not be for some time
yet: he had just leaped a turf-hole, and was moving on, when, at
the distance of about six yards before him, he saw a fellow coming
straight towards him. Bagg says that he stopped short, as suddenly
as if he had heard the word halt, when marching at double quick
time. It was quite a surprise, he says, and he can't imagine how
the fellow was so close upon him before he was aware. He was an
immense tall fellow--Bagg thinks at least two inches taller than
himself--very well dressed in a blue coat and buff breeches, for
all the world like a squire when going out hunting. Bagg, however,
saw at once that he had a roguish air, and he was on his guard in a
moment. "Good-evening to ye, sodger," says the fellow, stepping
close up to Bagg, and staring him in the face. "Good-evening to
you, sir! I hope you are well," says Bagg. "You are looking after
some one?" says the fellow. "Just so, sir," says Bagg, and
forthwith seized him by the collar; the man laughed, Bagg says it
was such a strange awkward laugh. "Do you know whom you have got
hold of, sodger?" said he. "I believe I do, sir," said Bagg, "and
in that belief will hold you fast in the name of King George and
the quarter sessions"; the next moment he was sprawling with his
heels in the air. Bagg says there was nothing remarkable in that;
he was only flung by a kind of wrestling trick, which he could
easily have baffled had he been aware of it. "You will not do that
again, sir," said he, as he got up and put himself on his guard.
The fellow laughed again more strangely and awkwardly than before;
then, bending his body and moving his head from one side to the
other as a cat does before she springs, and crying out, "Here's for
ye, sodger!" he made a dart at Bagg, rushing in with his head
foremost. "That will do, sir," says Bagg, and, drawing himself
back, he put in a left-handed blow with all the force of his body
and arm, just over the fellow's right eye--Bagg is a left-handed
hitter, you must know--and it was a blow of that kind which won him
his famous battle at Edinburgh with the big Highland sergeant.
Bagg says that he was quite satisfied with the blow, more
especially when he saw the fellow reel, fling out his arms, and
fall to the ground. "And now, sir," said he, "I'll make bold to
hand you over to the quarter sessions, and, if there is a hundred
pounds for taking you, who has more right to it than myself?" So
he went forward, but ere he could lay hold of his man the other was
again on his legs, and was prepared to renew the combat. They
grappled each other--Bagg says he had not much fear of the result,
as he now felt himself the best man, the other seeming half-stunned
with the blow--but just then there came on a blast, a horrible
roaring wind bearing night upon its wings, snow, and sleet, and
hail. Bagg says he had the fellow by the throat quite fast, as he
thought, but suddenly he became bewildered, and knew not where he
was; and the man seemed to melt away from his grasp, and the wind
howled more and more, and the night poured down darker and darker;
the snow and the sleet thicker and more blinding. "Lord have mercy
upon us!" said Bagg.'
Myself. A strange adventure that; it is well that Bagg got home
John. He says that the fight was a fair fight, and that the fling
he got was a fair fling, the result of a common enough wrestling
trick. But with respect to the storm, which rose up just in time
to save the fellow, he is of opinion that it was not fair, but
something Irish and supernatural.
Myself. I daresay he's right. I have read of witchcraft in the
John. He wishes much to have one more encounter with the fellow;
he says that on fair ground, and in fine weather, he has no doubt
that he could master him, and hand him over to the quarter
sessions. He says that a hundred pounds would be no bad thing to
be disbanded upon; for he wishes to take an inn at Swanton Morley,
keep a cock-pit, and live respectably.
Myself. He is quite right; and now kiss me, my darling brother,
for I must go back through the bog to Templemore.
Groom and cob--Strength and symmetry--Where's the saddle?--The
first ride--No more fatigue--Love for horses--Pursuit of words--
Philologist and Pegasus--The smith--What more, agrah?--Sassannach
And it came to pass that, as I was standing by the door of the
barrack stable, one of the grooms came out to me, saying, 'I say,
young gentleman, I wish you would give the cob a breathing this
'Why do you wish me to mount him?' said I; 'you know he is
dangerous. I saw him fling you off his back only a few days ago.'
'Why, that's the very thing, master. I'd rather see anybody on his
back than myself; he does not like me; but, to them he does, he can
be as gentle as a lamb.'
'But suppose,' said I, 'that he should not like me?'
'We shall soon see that, master,' said the groom; 'and, if so be he
shows temper, I will be the first to tell you to get down. But
there's no fear of that; you have never angered or insulted him,
and to such as you, I say again, he'll be as gentle as a lamb.'
'And how came you to insult him,' said I, 'knowing his temper as
'Merely through forgetfulness, master: I was riding him about a
month ago, and having a stick in my hand, I struck him, thinking I
was on another horse, or rather thinking of nothing at all. He has
never forgiven me, though before that time he was the only friend I
had in the world; I should like to see you on him, master.'
'I should soon be off him; I can't ride.'
'Then you are all right, master; there's no fear. Trust him for
not hurting a young gentleman, an officer's son, who can't ride.
If you were a blackguard dragoon, indeed, with long spurs, 'twere
another thing; as it is, he'll treat you as if he were the elder
brother that loves you. Ride! He'll soon teach you to ride if you
leave the matter with him. He's the best riding-master in all
Ireland, and the gentlest.'
The cob was led forth; what a tremendous creature! I had
frequently seen him before, and wondered at him; he was barely
fifteen hands, but he had the girth of a metropolitan dray-horse;
his head was small in comparison with his immense neck, which
curved down nobly to his wide back: his chest was broad and fine,
and his shoulders models of symmetry and strength; he stood well
and powerfully upon his legs, which were somewhat short. In a
word, he was a gallant specimen of the genuine Irish cob, a species
at one time not uncommon, but at the present day nearly extinct.
'There!' said the groom, as he looked at him, half admiringly, half
sorrowfully, 'with sixteen stone on his back, he'll trot fourteen
miles in one hour, with your nine stone, some two and a half more
ay, and clear a six-foot wall at the end of it.'
'I'm half afraid,' said I; 'I had rather you would ride him.'
'I'd rather so, too, if he would let me; but he remembers the blow.
Now, don't be afraid, young master, he's longing to go out himself.
He's been trampling with his feet these three days, and I know what
that means; he'll let anybody ride him but myself, and thank them;
but to me he says, "No! you struck me."'
'But,' said I, 'where's the saddle?'
'Never mind the saddle; if you are ever to be a frank rider, you
must begin without a saddle; besides, if he felt a saddle, he would
think you don't trust him, and leave you to yourself. Now, before
you mount, make his acquaintance--see there, how he kisses you and
licks your face, and see how he lifts his foot, that's to shake
hands. You may trust him--now you are on his back at last; mind
how you hold the bridle--gently, gently! It's not four pair of
hands like yours can hold him if he wishes to be off. Mind what I
tell you--leave it all to him.'
Off went the cob at a slow and gentle trot, too fast and rough,
however, for so inexperienced a rider. I soon felt myself sliding
off, the animal perceived it too, and instantly stood stone still
till I had righted myself; and now the groom came up: 'When you
feel yourself going,' said he, 'don't lay hold of the mane, that's
no use; mane never yet saved man from falling, no more than straw
from drowning; it's his sides you must cling to with your calves
and feet, till you learn to balance yourself. That's it, now
abroad with you; I'll bet my comrade a pot of beer that you'll be a
regular rough-rider by the time you come back.'
And so it proved; I followed the directions of the groom, and the
cob gave me every assistance. How easy is riding, after the first
timidity is got over, to supple and youthful limbs; and there is no
second fear. The creature soon found that the nerves of his rider
were in proper tone. Turning his head half round, he made a kind
of whining noise, flung out a little foam, and set off.
In less than two hours I had made the circuit of the Devil's
Mountain, and was returning along the road, bathed with
perspiration, but screaming with delight; the cob laughing in his
equine way, scattering foam and pebbles to the left and right, and
trotting at the rate of sixteen miles an hour.
Oh, that ride! that first ride!--most truly it was an epoch in my
existence; and I still look back to it with feelings of longing and
regret. People may talk of first love--it is a very agreeable
event, I daresay--but give me the flush, and triumph, and glorious
sweat of a first ride, like mine on the mighty cob! My whole frame
was shaken, it is true; and during one long week I could hardly
move foot or hand; but what of that? By that one trial I had
become free, as I may say, of the whole equine species. No more
fatigue, no more stiffness of joints, after that first ride round
the Devil's Hill on the cob.
Oh, that cob! that Irish cob!--may the sod lie lightly over the
bones of the strongest, speediest, and most gallant of its kind!
Oh! the days when, issuing from the barrack-gate of Templemore, we
commenced our hurry-skurry just as inclination led--now across the
fields--direct over stone walls and running brooks--mere pastime
for the cob!--sometimes along the road to Thurles and Holy Cross,
even to distant Cahir!--what was distance to the cob?
It was thus that the passion for the equine race was first awakened
within me--a passion which, up to the present time, has been rather
on the increase than diminishing. It is no blind passion; the
horse being a noble and generous creature, intended by the All-Wise
to be the helper and friend of man, to whom he stands next in the
order of creation. On many occasions of my life I have been much
indebted to the horse, and have found in him a friend and
coadjutor, when human help and sympathy were not to be obtained.
It is therefore natural enough that I should love the horse; but
the love which I entertain for him has always been blended with
respect; for I soon perceived that, though disposed to be the
friend and helper of man, he is by no means inclined to be his
slave; in which respect he differs from the dog, who will crouch
when beaten; whereas the horse spurns, for he is aware of his own
worth and that he carries death within the horn of his heel. If,
therefore, I found it easy to love the horse, I found it equally
natural to respect him.
I much question whether philology, or the passion for languages,
requires so little of an apology as the love for horses. It has
been said, I believe, that the more languages a man speaks, the
more a man is he; which is very true, provided he acquires
languages as a medium for becoming acquainted with the thoughts and
feelings of the various sections into which the human race is
divided; but, in that case, he should rather be termed a
philosopher than a philologist--between which two the difference is
wide indeed! An individual may speak and read a dozen languages,
and yet be an exceedingly poor creature, scarcely half a man; and
the pursuit of tongues for their own sake, and the mere
satisfaction of acquiring them, surely argues an intellect of a
very low order; a mind disposed to be satisfied with mean and
grovelling things; taking more pleasure in the trumpery casket than
in the precious treasure which it contains; in the pursuit of
words, than in the acquisition of ideas.
I cannot help thinking that it was fortunate for myself, who am, to
a certain extent, a philologist, that with me the pursuit of
languages has been always modified by the love of horses; for
scarcely had I turned my mind to the former, when I also mounted
the wild cob, and hurried forth in the direction of the Devil's
Hill, scattering dust and flint-stones on every side; that ride,
amongst other things, taught me that a lad with thews and sinews
was intended by nature for something better than mere word-culling;
and if I have accomplished anything in after life worthy of
mentioning, I believe it may partly be attributed to the ideas
which that ride, by setting my blood in a glow, infused into my
brain. I might, otherwise, have become a mere philologist; one of
those beings who toil night and day in culling useless words for
some opus magnum which Murray will never publish, and nobody ever
read; beings without enthusiasm, who, having never mounted a
generous steed, cannot detect a good point in Pegasus himself; like
a certain philologist, who, though acquainted with the exact value
of every word in the Greek and Latin languages, could observe no
particular beauty in one of the most glorious of Homer's
rhapsodies. What knew he of Pegasus? he had never mounted a
generous steed; the merest jockey, had the strain been interpreted
to him, would have called it a brave song!--I return to the brave
On a certain day I had been out on an excursion. In a cross-road,
at some distance from the Satanic hill, the animal which I rode
cast a shoe. By good luck a small village was at hand, at the
entrance of which was a large shed, from which proceeded a most
furious noise of hammering. Leading the cob by the bridle, I
entered boldly. 'Shoe this horse, and do it quickly, a gough,'
said I to a wild grimy figure of a man, whom I found alone,
fashioning a piece of iron.
'Arrigod yuit?' said the fellow, desisting from his work, and
staring at me.
'Oh yes, I have money,' said I, 'and of the best'; and I pulled out
an English shilling.
'Tabhair chugam?' said the smith, stretching out his grimy hand.
'No, I shan't,' said I; 'some people are glad to get their money
when their work is done.'
The fellow hammered a little longer, and then proceeded to shoe the
cob, after having first surveyed it with attention. He performed
his job rather roughly, and more than once appeared to give the
animal unnecessary pain, frequently making use of loud and
boisterous words. By the time the work was done, the creature was
in a state of high excitement, and plunged and tore. The smith
stood at a short distance, seeming to enjoy the irritation of the
animal, and showing, in a remarkable manner, a huge fang, which
projected from the under jaw of a very wry mouth.
'You deserve better handling,' said I, as I went up to the cob and
fondled it; whereupon it whinnied, and attempted to touch my face
with its nose.
'Are ye not afraid of that beast?' said the smith, showing his
fang. 'Arrah, it's vicious that he looks!'
'It's at you, then!--I don't fear him'; and thereupon I passed
under the horse, between its hind legs.
'And is that all you can do, agrah?' said the smith.
'No,' said I, 'I can ride him.'
'Ye can ride him, and what else, agrah?'
'I can leap him over a six-foot wall,' said I.
'Over a wall, and what more, agrah?'
'Nothing more,' said I; 'what more would you have?'
'Can you do this, agrah?' said the smith; and he uttered a word
which I had never heard before, in a sharp pungent tone. The
effect upon myself was somewhat extraordinary, a strange thrill ran
through me; but with regard to the cob it was terrible; the animal
forthwith became like one mad, and reared and kicked with the
'Can you do that, agrah?' said the smith.
'What is it?' said I, retreating, 'I never saw the horse so
'Go between his legs, agrah,' said the smith, 'his hinder legs';
and he again showed his fang.
'I dare not,' said I, 'he would kill me.'
'He would kill ye! and how do ye know that, agrah?'
'I feel he would,' said I, 'something tells me so.'
'And it tells ye truth, agrah; but it's a fine beast, and it's a
pity to see him in such a state: Is agam an't leigeas'--and here
he uttered another word in a voice singularly modified, but sweet
and almost plaintive; the effect of it was as instantaneous as that
of the other, but how different!--the animal lost all its fury, and
became at once calm and gentle. The smith went up to it, coaxed
and patted it, making use of various sounds of equine endearment;
then turning to me, and holding out once more the grimy hand, he
said, 'And now ye will be giving me the Sassannach tenpence,
A fine old city--Norman master-work--Lollards' Hole--Good blood--
The Spaniard's sword--Old retired officer--Writing to a duke--God
help the child--Nothing like Jacob--Irish brigades--Old Sergeant
Meredith--I have been young--Idleness--Only course open--The
bookstall--A portrait--A banished priest.
From the wild scenes which I have attempted to describe in the
latter pages I must now transport the reader to others of a widely
different character. He must suppose himself no longer in Ireland,
but in the eastern corner of merry England. Bogs, ruins, and
mountains have disappeared amidst the vapours of the west: I have
nothing more to say of them; the region in which we are now is not
famous for objects of that kind: perhaps it flatters itself that
it can produce fairer and better things, of some of which let me
speak; there is a fine old city before us, and first of that let me
A fine old city, truly, is that, view it from whatever side you
will; but it shows best from the east, where the ground, bold and
elevated, overlooks the fair and fertile valley in which it stands.
Gazing from those heights, the eye beholds a scene which cannot
fail to awaken, even in the least sensitive bosom, feelings of
pleasure and admiration. At the foot of the heights flows a narrow
and deep river, with an antique bridge communicating with a long
and narrow suburb, flanked on either side by rich meadows of the
brightest green, beyond which spreads the city; the fine old city,
perhaps the most curious specimen at present extant of the genuine
old English town. Yes, there it spreads from north to south, with
its venerable houses, its numerous gardens, its thrice twelve
churches, its mighty mound, which, if tradition speaks true, was
raised by human hands to serve as the grave-heap of an old heathen
king, who sits deep within it, with his sword in his hand, and his
gold and silver treasures about him. There is a gray old castle
upon the top of that mighty mound; and yonder, rising three hundred
feet above the soil, from among those noble forest trees, behold
that old Norman master-work, that cloud-encircled cathedral spire,
around which a garrulous army of rooks and choughs continually
wheel their flight. Now, who can wonder that the children of that
fine old city are proud of her, and offer up prayers for her
prosperity? I, myself, who was not born within her walls, offer up
prayers for her prosperity, that want may never visit her cottages,
vice her palaces, and that the abomination of idolatry may never
pollute her temples. Ha, idolatry! the reign of idolatry has been
over there for many a long year, never more, let us hope, to
return; brave hearts in that old town have borne witness against
it, and sealed their testimony with their hearts' blood--most
precious to the Lord is the blood of His saints! we are not far
from hallowed ground. Observe ye not yon chalky precipice, to the
right of the Norman bridge? On this side of the stream, upon its
brow, is a piece of ruined wall, the last relic of what was of old
a stately pile, whilst at its foot is a place called the Lollards'
Hole; and with good reason, for many a saint of God has breathed
his last beneath that white precipice, bearing witness against
popish idolatry, midst flame and pitch; many a grisly procession
has advanced along that suburb, across the old bridge, towards the
Lollards' Hole: furious priests in front, a calm pale martyr in
the midst, a pitying multitude behind. It has had its martyrs, the
venerable old town!
Ah! there is good blood in that old city, and in the whole
circumjacent region of which it is the capital. The Angles
possessed the land at an early period, which, however, they were
eventually compelled to share with hordes of Danes and Northmen,
who flocked thither across the sea to found hearthsteads on its
fertile soil. The present race, a mixture of Angles and Danes,
still preserve much which speaks strongly of their northern
ancestry; amongst them ye will find the light-brown hair of the
north, the strong and burly forms of the north, many a wild
superstition, ay, and many a wild name connected with the ancient
history of the north and its sublime mythology; the warm heart and
the strong heart of the old Danes and Saxons still beats in those
regions, and there ye will find, if anywhere, old northern
hospitality and kindness of manner, united with energy,
perseverance, and dauntless intrepidity; better soldiers or
mariners never bled in their country's battles than those nurtured
in those regions, and within those old walls. It was yonder, to
the west, that the great naval hero of Britain first saw the light;
he who annihilated the sea pride of Spain, and dragged the humbled
banner of France in triumph at his stem. He was born yonder,
towards the west, and of him there is a glorious relic in that old
town; in its dark flint guildhouse, the roof of which you can just
descry rising above that maze of buildings, in the upper hall of
justice, is a species of glass shrine, in which the relic is to be
seen; a sword of curious workmanship, the blade is of keen Toledan
steel, the heft of ivory and mother-of-pearl. 'Tis the sword of
Cordova, won in bloodiest fray off Saint Vincent's promontory, and
presented by Nelson to the old capital of the much-loved land of
his birth. Yes, the proud Spaniard's sword is to be seen in yonder
guildhouse, in the glass case affixed to the wall: many other
relics has the good old town, but none prouder than the Spaniard's
Such was the place to which, when the war was over, my father
retired: it was here that the old tired soldier set himself down
with his little family. He had passed the greater part of his life
in meritorious exertion, in the service of his country, and his
chief wish now was to spend the remainder of his days in quiet and
respectability; his means, it is true, were not very ample;
fortunate it was that his desires corresponded with them; with a
small fortune of his own, and with his half-pay as a royal soldier,
he had no fears for himself or for his faithful partner and
helpmate; but then his children! how was he to provide for them?
how launch them upon the wide ocean of the world? This was,
perhaps, the only thought which gave him uneasiness, and I believe
that many an old retired officer at that time, and under similar
circumstances, experienced similar anxiety; had the war continued,
their children would have been, of course, provided for in the
army, but peace now reigned, and the military career was closed to
all save the scions of the aristocracy, or those who were in some
degree connected with that privileged order, an advantage which few
of these old officers could boast of; they had slight influence
with the great, who gave themselves very little trouble either
about them or their families.
'I have been writing to the Duke,' said my father one day to my
excellent mother, after we had been at home somewhat better than a
year. 'I have been writing to the Duke of York about a commission
for that eldest boy of ours. He, however, affords me no hopes; he
says that his list is crammed with names, and that the greater
number of the candidates have better claims than my son.'
'I do not see how that can be,' said my mother.
'Nor do I,' replied my father. 'I see the sons of bankers and
merchants gazetted every month, and I do not see what claims they
have to urge, unless they be golden ones. However, I have not
served my king fifty years to turn grumbler at this time of life.
I suppose that the people at the head of affairs know what is most
proper and convenient; perhaps when the lad sees how difficult,
nay, how impossible it is that he should enter the army, he will
turn his mind to some other profession; I wish he may!'
'I think he has already,' said my mother; 'you see how fond he is
of the arts, of drawing and painting, and, as far as I can judge,
what he has already done is very respectable; his mind seems quite
turned that way, and I heard him say the other day that he would
sooner be a Michael Angelo than a general officer. But you are
always talking of him; what do you think of doing with the other
'What, indeed!' said my father; 'that is a consideration which
gives me no little uneasiness. I am afraid it will be much more
difficult to settle him in life than his brother. What is he
fitted for, even were it in my power to provide for him? God help
the child! I bear him no ill will, on the contrary, all love and
affection; but I cannot shut my eyes; there is something so strange
about him! How he behaved in Ireland! I sent him to school to
learn Greek, and he picked up Irish!'
'And Greek as well,' said my mother. 'I heard him say the other
day that he could read St. John in the original tongue.'
'You will find excuses for him, I know,' said my father. 'You tell
me I am always talking of my first-born; I might retort by saying
you are always thinking of the other: but it is the way of women
always to side with the second-born. There's what's her name in
the Bible, by whose wiles the old blind man was induced to give to
his second son the blessing which was the birthright of the other.
I wish I had been in his place! I should not have been so easily
deceived! no disguise would ever have caused me to mistake an
impostor for my first-born. Though I must say for this boy that he
is nothing like Jacob; he is neither smooth nor sleek, and, though
my second-born, is already taller and larger than his brother.'
'Just so,' said my mother; 'his brother would make a far better
Jacob than he.'
'I will hear nothing against my first-born,' said my father, 'even
in the way of insinuation: he is my joy and pride; the very image
of myself in my youthful days, long before I fought Big Ben; though
perhaps not quite so tall or strong built. As for the other, God
bless the child! I love him, I'm sure; but I must be blind not to
see the difference between him and his brother. Why, he has
neither my hair nor my eyes; and then his countenance! why, 'tis
absolutely swarthy, God forgive me! I had almost said like that of
a gypsy, but I have nothing to say against that; the boy is not to
be blamed for the colour of his face, nor for his hair and eyes;
but, then, his ways and manners!--I confess I do not like them, and
that they give me no little uneasiness--I know that he kept very
strange company when he was in Ireland; people of evil report, of
whom terrible things were said--horse-witches and the like. I
questioned him once or twice upon the matter, and even threatened
him, but it was of no use; he put on a look as if he did not
understand me, a regular Irish look, just such a one as those
rascals assume when they wish to appear all innocence and
simplicity, and they full of malice and deceit all the time. I
don't like them; they are no friends to old England, or its old
king, God bless him! They are not good subjects, and never were;
always in league with foreign enemies. When I was in the
Coldstream, long before the Revolution, I used to hear enough about
the Irish brigades kept by the French kings, to be a thorn in the
side of the English whenever opportunity served. Old Sergeant
Meredith once told me that in the time of the Pretender there were
always, in London alone, a dozen of fellows connected with these
brigades, with the view of seducing the king's soldiers from their
allegiance, and persuading them to desert to France to join the
honest Irish, as they were called. One of these traitors once
accosted him and proposed the matter to him, offering handfuls of
gold if he could induce any of his comrades to go over. Meredith
appeared to consent, but secretly gave information to his colonel;
the fellow was seized, and certain traitorous papers found upon
him; he was hanged before Newgate, and died exulting in his
treason. His name was Michael Nowlan. That ever son of mine
should have been intimate with the Papist Irish, and have learnt
'But he thinks of other things now,' said my mother.
'Other languages, you mean,' said my father. 'It is strange that
he has conceived such a zest for the study of languages; no sooner
did he come home than he persuaded me to send him to that old
priest to learn French and Italian, and, if I remember right, you
abetted him; but, as I said before, it is in the nature of women
invariably to take the part of the second-born. Well, there is no
harm in learning French and Italian, perhaps much good in his case,
as they may drive the other tongue out of his head. Irish! why, he
might go to the university but for that; but how would he look
when, on being examined with respect to his attainments, it was
discovered that he understood Irish? How did you learn it? they
would ask him; how did you become acquainted with the language of
Papists and rebels? The boy would be sent away in disgrace.'
'Be under no apprehension, I have no doubt that he has long since
'I am glad to hear it,' said my father; 'for, between ourselves, I
love the poor child; ay, quite as well as my first-born. I trust
they will do well, and that God will be their shield and guide; I
have no doubt He will, for I have read something in the Bible to
that effect. What is that text about the young ravens being fed?'
'I know a better than that,' said my mother; 'one of David's own
words, "I have been young and now am grown old, yet never have I
seen the righteous man forsaken, or his seed begging their bread."'
I have heard talk of the pleasures of idleness, yet it is my own
firm belief that no one ever yet took pleasure in it. Mere
idleness is the most disagreeable state of existence, and both mind
and body are continually making efforts to escape from it. It has
been said that idleness is the parent of mischief, which is very
true; but mischief itself is merely an attempt to escape from the
dreary vacuum of idleness. There are many tasks and occupations
which a man is unwilling to perform, but let no one think that he
is therefore in love with idleness; he turns to something which is
more agreeable to his inclination, and doubtless more suited to his
nature; but he is not in love with idleness. A boy may play the
truant from school because he dislikes books and study; but, depend
upon it, he intends doing something the while--to go fishing, or
perhaps to take a walk; and who knows but that from such excursions
both his mind and body may derive more benefit than from books and
school? Many people go to sleep to escape from idleness; the
Spaniards do; and, according to the French account, John Bull, the
'squire, hangs himself in the month of November; but the French,
who are a very sensible people, attribute the action a une grande
envie de se desennuyer; he wishes to be doing something, say they,
and having nothing better to do, he has recourse to the cord.