Part 3 out of 11
consented, only stipulating that his guest should keep near the entrance
and not ramble too far, as some who had ventured in had never returned.
Next day early, Fortunatus received the Blessed Sacrament with his
trusty Leopold; the door of the Purgatory was unlocked, each was
provided with a taper, and then with the blessing of the abbot they were
left in total darkness, and the door bolted behind them. Both wandered
on in the cave, hearing faintly the chanting of the monks in the church,
till the sound died away. They traversed several passages, lost their
way, their candles burned out, and they sat down in despair on the
ground, a prey to hunger, thirst, and fear.
The monks waited in the church hour after hour; and the visitors of the
Purgatory had not returned. Day declined, vespers were sung, and still
there was no sign of the two who in the morning had passed from the
church into the cave. Then the servants of Fortunatus began to exhibit
anger, and to insist on their master being restored to them. The abbot
was frightened, and sent for an old man who had once penetrated far into
the cave with a ball of twine, the end attached to the door-handle. This
man volunteered to seek Fortunatus, and providentially his search was
successful. After this the abbot refused permission to any one to
visit the cave.
In the reign of Henry II. lived Henry of Saltrey, who wrote a history of
the visit of a Knight Owen to the Purgatory of St. Patrick, which gained
immense popularity, ... was soon translated into other languages, and
spread the fable through mediaeval Europe.... In English there are two
versions. In one of these, 'Owayne Miles,' the origin of the purgatory
is thus described:--
"Holy byschoppes some tyme ther were,
That tawgte me of Goddes lore.
In Irlonde preched Seyn Patryke;
In that londe was non hym lyke:
He prechede Goddes worde full wyde,
And tolde men what shullde betyde.
Fyrste he preched of Heven blysse,
Who ever go thyder may ryght nowgt mysse:
Sethen he preched of Hell pyne,
Howe we them ys that cometh therinne:
And then he preched of purgatory,
As he fonde in hisstory;
But yet the folke of the contre
Beleved not that hit mygth be;
And seyed, but gyf hit were so,
That eny non myth hymself go,
And se alle that, and come ageyn,
Then wolde they beleve fayn."
Vexed at the obstinacy of his hearers, St. Patrick besought the Almighty
to make the truth manifest to the unbelievers; whereupon
"God spakke to Saynt Patryke tho
By nam, and badde hym with Hym go:
He ladde hym ynte a wyldernesse,
Wher was no reste more no lesse,
And shewed that he might se
Inte the erthe a pryve entre:
Hit was yn a depe dyches ende.
'What mon,' He sayde, 'that wylle hereyn wende,
And dwelle theryn a day and a nyght,
And hold his byleve and ryght,
And come ageyn that he ne dwelle,
Mony a mervayle he may of telle.
And alle tho that doth thys pylgrymage,
I shalle hem graunt for her wage,
Whether he be sqwyer or knave,
Other purgatorye shalle he non have.'"
Thereupon St. Patrick, "he ne stynte ner day ne night," till he had
built there a "fayr abbey," and stocked it with pious canons. Then he
made a door to the cave, and locked the door, and gave the key to the
keeping of the prior. The Knight Owain, who had served under King
Stephen, had lived a life of violence and dissolution; but filled with
repentance, he sought by way of penance St. Patrick's Purgatory. Fifteen
days he spent in preliminary devotions and alms-deeds, and then he heard
mass, was washed with holy water, received the Holy Sacrament, and
followed the sacred relics in procession, whilst the priests sang for
him the Litany, "as lowde as they mygth crye." Then Sir Owain was locked
in the cave, and he groped his way onward in darkness, till he reached a
glimmering light; this brightened, and he came out into an underground
land, where was a great hall and cloister, in which were men with shaven
heads and white garments. These men informed the knight how he was to
protect himself against the assaults of evil spirits. After having
received this instruction, he heard "grete dynn," and
"Then come ther develes on every syde,
Wykked gostes, I wote, fro Helle,
So mony that no tonge mygte telle:
They fylled the hows yn two rowes;
Some grenned on hym and some mad mowes."
He then visits the different places of torment. In one, the souls are
nailed to the ground with glowing hot brazen nails; in another they are
fastened to the soil by their hair, and are bitten by fiery reptiles. In
another, again, they are hung over fires by those members which had
sinned, whilst others are roasted on spits. In one place were pits in
which were molten metals. In these pits were men and women, some up to
their chins, others to their breasts, others to their hams. The knight
was pushed by the devils into one of these pits and was dreadfully
scalded, but he cried to the Savior and escaped. Then he visited a lake
where souls were tormented with great cold; and a river of pitch, which
he crossed on a frail and narrow bridge. Beyond this bridge was a wall
of glass, in which opened a beautiful gate, which conducted into
Paradise. This place so delighted him that he would fain have remained
in it had he been suffered, but he was bidden return to earth and finish
there his penitence. He was put into a shorter and pleasanter way back
to the cave than that by which he had come; and the prior found the
knight next morning at the door, waiting to be let out, and full of his
adventures. He afterwards went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and
ended his life in piety....
Froissart tells us of a conversation he had with one Sir William Lisle,
who had been in the Purgatory. "I asked him of what sort was the cave
that is in Ireland, called St. Patrick's Purgatory, and if that were
true which was related of it. He replied that there certainly was such
a cave, for he and another English knight had been there whilst the king
was at Dublin, and said that they entered the cave, and were shut in as
the sun set, and that they remained there all night and left it next
morning at sunrise. And then I asked if he had seen the strange sights
and visions spoken of. Then he said that when he and his companion had
passed the gate of the Purgatory of St. Patrick, that they had descended
as though into a cellar, and that a hot vapor rose towards them and so
affected their heads that they were obliged to sit down on the stone
steps. And after sitting there awhile they felt heavy with sleep, and so
fell asleep, and slept all night. Then I asked if they knew where they
were in their sleep, and what sort of dreams they had had; he answered
that they had been oppressed with many fancies and wonderful dreams,
different from those they were accustomed to in their chambers; and in
the morning when they went out, in a short while they had clean
forgotten their dreams and visions; wherefore he concluded that the
whole matter was fancy."
The next to give us an account of his descent into St. Patrick's
Purgatory is William Staunton of Durham, who went down into the cave on
the Friday next after the feast of Holyrood, in the year 1409.
"I was put in by the Prior of St. Matthew, of the same Purgatory, with
procession and devout prayers of the prior, and the convent gave me an
orison to bless me with, and to write the first word in my forehead, the
which prayer is this, 'Jhesu Christe, Fili Dei vivi, miserere mihi
peccatori.' And the prior taught me to say this prayer when any spirit,
good or evil, appeared unto me, or when I heard any noise that I should
be afraid of." When left in the cave, William fell asleep, and dreamed
that he saw coming to him St. John of Bridlington and St. Ive, who
undertook to conduct him through the scenes of mystery. After they had
proceeded a while, William was found to be guilty of a trespass against
Holy Church, of which he had to be purged before he could proceed much
further. Of this trespass he was accused by his sister, who appeared in
the way. "I make my complaint unto you against my brother that here
standeth; for this man that standeth hereby loved me, and I loved him,
and either of us would have had the other according to God's law, as
Holy Church teaches, and I should have gotten of me three-souls to God,
but my brother hindered us from marrying." St. John of Bridlington then
turned to William, and asked him why he did not allow the two who loved
one another to be married. "I tell thee there is no man that hindereth
man or woman from being united in the bond of God, though the man be a
shepherd and all his ancestors and the woman be come of kings or of
emperors, or if the man be come of never so high kin and the woman of
never so low kin, if they love one another, but he sinneth in Holy
Church against God and his deed, and therefore he shall have much pain
and tribulations." Being assoiled of this crying sin, St. John takes
William to a fire "grete and styngkyng," in which he sees people burning
in their gay clothes. "I saw some with collars of gold about their
necks, and some of silver, and some men I saw with gay girdles of silver
and gold, and harnessed with horns about their necks, some with mo
jagges on their clothes than whole cloth, others full of jingles and
bells of silver all over set, and some with long pokes on their sleeves,
and women with gowns trailing behind them a long space, and some with
chaplets on their heads of gold and pearls and other precious stones.
And I looked on him that I saw first in pain, and saw the collars and
gay girdles and baldrics burning, and the fiends dragging him by two
fingermits. And I saw the jagges that men were clothed in turn all to
adders, to dragons, and to toads, and 'many other orrible bestes,'
sucking them, and biting them, and stinging them with all their might,
and through every jingle I saw fiends smite burning nails of fire into
their flesh. I also saw fiends drawing down the skin of their shoulders
like to pokes, and cutting them off, and drawing them to the heads of
those they cut them from, all burning as fire. And then I saw the women
that had side trails behind them, and the side trails cut off by the
fiends and burned on their head; and some took of the cutting all
burning and stopped therewith their mouths, their noses, and their ears.
I saw also their gay chaplets of gold and pearls and precious stones
turned into nails of iron, burning, and fiends with burning hammers
smiting them into their heads." These were proud and vain people. Then
he saw another fire, where the fiends were putting out people's eyes and
pouring molten brass and lead into the sockets, and tearing off their
arms and the nails of their feet and hands, and soldering them on again.
This was the doom of swearers. William saw other fires wherein the
devils were executing tortures varied and horrible on their unfortunate
victims. We need follow him no further.
At the end of the fifteenth century the Purgatory in Lough Derg was
destroyed by orders of the Pope, on hearing the report of a monk of
Eymstadt in Holland, who had visited it, and had satisfied himself that
there was nothing in it more remarkable than in any ordinary cavern. The
Purgatory was closed on St. Patrick's Day, 1497; but the belief in it
was not so speedily banished from popular superstition. Calderon made it
the subject of one of his dramas; and it became the subject of numerous
popular chap-books in France and Spain, where during last century it
occupied in the religious belief of the people precisely the same
position which is assumed by the marvelous visions of heaven and hell
sold by hawkers in England at the present day.
THE CORNISH WRECKERS
From 'The Vicar of Morwenstow'
When the Rev. R.S. Hawker came to Morwenstow in 1834, he found that he
had much to contend with, not only in the external condition of church
and vicarage, but also in that which is of greater importance....
"The farmers of the parish were simple-hearted and respectable; but the
denizens of the hamlet, after receiving the wages of the harvest time,
eked out a precarious existence in the winter, and watched eagerly and
expectantly for the shipwrecks that were certain to happen, and upon the
plunder of which they surely calculated for the scant provision of their
families. The wrecked goods supplied them with the necessaries of life,
and the rended planks of the dismembered vessel contributed to the
warmth of the hovel hearthstone.
"When Mr. Hawker came to Morwenstow, 'the cruel and covetous natives of
the strand, the wreckers of the seas and rocks for flotsam and jetsam,'
held as an axiom and an injunction to be strictly obeyed:--
"'Save a stranger from the sea,
And he'll turn your enemy!'
"The Morwenstow wreckers allowed a fainting brother to perish in the
sea before their eyes without extending a hand of safety,--nay, more,
for the egotistical canons of a shipwreck, superstitiously obeyed,
permitted and absolved the crime of murder by 'shoving the drowning man
into the sea,' to be swallowed by the waves. Cain! Cain! where is thy
brother? And the wrecker of Morwenstow answered and pleaded in excuse,
as in the case of undiluted brandy after meals, 'It is Cornish custom.'
The illicit spirit of Cornish custom was supplied by the smuggler, and
the gold of the wreck paid him for the cursed abomination of drink."
One of Mr. Hawker's parishioners, Peter Barrow, had been for full forty
years a wrecker, but of a much more harmless description: he had been a
watcher of the coast for such objects as the waves might turn up to
reward his patience. Another was Tristam Pentire, a hero of contraband
adventure, and agent for sale of smuggled cargoes in bygone times. With
a merry twinkle of the eye, and in a sharp and ringing tone, he loved to
tell such tales of wild adventure and of "derring do," as would make the
foot of the exciseman falter and his cheek turn pale.
During the latter years of last century there lived in Wellcombe, one of
Mr. Hawker's parishes, a man whose name is still remembered with
terror--Cruel Coppinger. There are people still alive who remember
Local recollections of the man have molded themselves into the rhyme--
Will you hear of Cruel Coppinger?
He came from a foreign land:
He was brought to us by the salt water,
He was carried away by the wind!"
His arrival on the north coast of Cornwall was signalized by a terrific
hurricane. The storm came up Channel from the south-west. A strange
vessel of foreign rig went on the reefs of Harty Race, and was broken to
pieces by the waves. The only man who came ashore was the skipper. A
crowd was gathered on the sand, on horseback and on foot, women as well
as men, drawn together by the tidings of a probable wreck. Into their
midst rushed the dripping stranger, and bounded suddenly upon the
crupper of a young damsel who had ridden to the beach to see the sight.
He grasped her bridle, and shouting in some foreign tongue, urged the
double-laden animal into full speed, and the horse naturally took his
homeward way. The damsel was Miss Dinah Hamlyn. The stranger descended
at her father's door, and lifted her off her saddle. He then announced
himself as a Dane, named Coppinger. He took his place at the family
board, and there remained until he had secured the affections and hand
of Dinah. The father died, and Coppinger at once succeeded to the
management and control of the house, which thenceforth became a den and
refuge of every lawless character along the coast. All kinds of wild
uproar and reckless revelry appalled the neighborhood day and night. It
was discovered that an organized band of smugglers, wreckers, and
poachers made this house their rendezvous, and that "Cruel Coppinger"
was their captain. In those days, and in that far-away region, the
peaceable inhabitants were unprotected. There was not a single resident
gentleman of property and weight in the entire district. No revenue
officer durst exercise vigilance west of the Tamar; and to put an end to
all such surveillance at once, the head of a gauger was chopped off by
one of Coppinger's gang on the gunwale of a boat.
Strange vessels began to appear at regular intervals on the coast, and
signals were flashed from the headlands to lead them into the safest
creek or cove. Amongst these vessels, one, a full-rigged schooner, soon
became ominously conspicuous. She was for long the chief terror of the
Cornish Channel. Her name was The Black Prince. Once, with Coppinger on
board, she led a revenue-cutter into an intricate channel near the Bull
Rock, where, from knowledge of the bearings, The Black Prince escaped
scathless, while the king's vessel perished with all on board. In those
times, if any landsman became obnoxious to Coppinger's men, he was
seized and carried on board The Black Prince, and obliged to save his
life by enrolling himself in the crew. In 1835, an old man of the age of
ninety-seven related to Mr. Hawker that he had been so abducted, and
after two years' service had been ransomed by his friends with a large
sum. "And all," said the old man very simply, "because I happened to see
one man kill another, and they thought I would mention it."
Amid such practices, ill-gotten gold began to flow and ebb in the hands
of Coppinger. At one time he had enough money to purchase a freehold
farm bordering on the sea. When the day of transfer came, he and one of
his followers appeared before the lawyer and paid the money in dollars,
ducats, doubloons, and pistoles. The man of law demurred, but Coppinger
with an oath bade him take this or none. The document bearing
Coppinger's name is still extant. His signature is traced in stern bold
characters, and under his autograph is the word "Thuro" (thorough) also
in his own handwriting.
Long impunity increased Coppinger's daring. There were certain bridle
roads along the fields over which he exercised exclusive control. He
issued orders that no man was to pass over them by night, and
accordingly from that hour none ever did. They were called "Coppinger's
Tracks." They all converged at a headland which had the name of Steeple
Brink. Here the cliff sheered off, and stood three hundred feet of
perpendicular height, a precipice of smooth rock towards the beach, with
an overhanging face one hundred feet down from the brow. Under this was
a cave, only reached by a cable ladder lowered from above, and made fast
below on a projecting crag. It received the name of "Coppinger's Cave."
Here sheep were tethered to the rock, and fed on stolen hay and corn
till slaughtered; kegs of brandy and hollands were piled around; chests
of tea; and iron-bound sea-chests contained the chattels and revenues of
the Coppinger royalty of the sea....
But the end arrived. Money became scarce, and more than one armed king's
cutter was seen day and night hovering off the land. So he "who came
with the water went with the wind." His disappearance, like his arrival,
was commemorated by a storm.
A wrecker who had gone to watch the shore, saw, as the sun went down, a
full-rigged vessel standing off and on. Coppinger came to the beach, put
off in a boat to the vessel, and jumped on board. She spread canvas,
stood off shore, and with Coppinger in her was seen no more. That night
was one of storm. Whether the vessel rode it out, or was lost,
* * * * *
In 1864 a large ship was seen in distress off the coast. The Rev. A.
Thynne, rector of Kilkhampton, at once drove to Morwenstow. The vessel
was riding at anchor a mile off shore, west of Hartland Race. He found
Mr. Hawker in the greatest excitement, pacing his room and shouting for
some things he wanted to put in his greatcoat-pockets, and intensely
impatient because his carriage was not round. With him was the Rev. W.
Valentine, rector of Whixley in Yorkshire, then resident at Chapel in
the parish of Morwenstow.
"What are you going to do?" asked the rector of Kilkhampton: "I shall
drive at once to Bude for the lifeboat."
"No good!" thundered the vicar, "no good comes out of the west. You must
go east. I shall go to Clovelly, and then, if that fails, to Appledore.
I shall not stop till I have got a lifeboat to take those poor fellows
off the wreck."
"Then," said the rector of Kilkhampton, "I shall go to Bude, and see to
the lifeboat there being brought out."
"Do as you like; but mark my words, no good comes of turning to the
west. Why," said he, "in the primitive church they turned to the west to
renounce the Devil."
His carriage came to the door, and he drove off with Mr. Valentine as
fast as his horses could spin him along the hilly, wretched roads.
Before he reached Clovelly, a boat had put off with the mate from the
ship, which was the Margaret Quail, laden with salt. The captain would
not leave the vessel; for, till deserted by him, no salvage could be
claimed. The mate was picked up on the way, and the three
Down the street proceeded the following procession--the street of
Clovelly being a flight of stairs:--
_First_, the vicar of Morwenstow in a claret-colored coat, with long
tails flying in the gale, blue knitted jersey, and pilot-boots, his long
silver locks fluttering about his head. He was appealing to the
fishermen and sailors of Clovelly to put out in their lifeboat to rescue
the crew of the Margaret Quail. The men stood sulky, lounging about with
folded arms, or hands in their pockets, and sou'-westers slouched over
their brows. The women were screaming at the tops of their voices that
they would not have their husbands and sons and sweethearts enticed away
to risk their lives to save wrecked men. Above the clamor of their
shrill tongues and the sough of the wind rose the roar of the vicar's
voice: he was convulsed with indignation, and poured forth the most
sacred appeals to their compassion for drowning sailors.
_Second_ in the procession moved the Rev. W. Valentine, with purse full
of gold in his hand, offering any amount of money to the Clovelly men,
if they would only go forth in the lifeboat to the wreck.
_Third_ came the mate of the Margaret Quail, restrained by no
consideration of cloth, swearing and damning right and left, in a
towering rage at the cowardice of the Clovelly men.
_Fourth_ came John, the servant of Mr. Hawker, with bottles of whisky
under his arm, another inducement to the men to relent and be merciful
to their imperiled brethren.
The first appeal was to their love of heaven and to their humanity; the
second was to their pockets, their love of gold; the third to their
terrors, their fear of Satan, to whom they were consigned; and the
fourth to their stomachs, their love of grog.
But all appeals were in vain. Then Mr. Hawker returned to his carriage,
and drove away farther east to Appledore, where he secured the lifeboat.
It was mounted on a wagon; ten horses were harnessed to it; and as fast
as possible it was conveyed to the scene of distress.
But in the mean while the captain of the Margaret Quail, despairing of
help and thinking that his vessel would break up under him, came off in
his boat with the rest of the crew, trusting rather to a rotten boat,
patched with canvas which they had tarred over, than to the tender
mercies of the covetous Clovellites, in whose veins ran the too recent
blood of wreckers. The only living being left on board was a poor dog.
No sooner was the captain seen to leave the ship than the Clovelly men
lost their repugnance to go to sea. They manned boats at once, gained
the Margaret Quail, and claimed three thousand pounds for salvage.
There was an action in court, as the owners refused to pay such a sum;
and it was lost by the Clovelly men, who however got an award of twelve
hundred pounds. The case turned somewhat on the presence of the dog on
the wreck; and it was argued that the vessel was not deserted, because a
dog had been left on board to keep guard for its masters. The owner of
the cargo failed; and the amount actually paid to the salvors was six
hundred pounds to two steam-tugs (three hundred pounds each), and three
hundred pounds to the Clovelly skiff and sixteen men.
Mr. Hawker went round the country indignantly denouncing the sailors of
Clovelly, and with justice. It roused all the righteous wrath in his
breast. And as may well be believed, no love was borne him by the
inhabitants of that little fishing village. They would probably have
made a wreck of him had he ventured among them.
The general reader has yet to learn the most private and sacred events
of Miss Jane Barlow's life, now known only to herself and friends. She
is the daughter of Dr. Barlow of Trinity College, and lives in the
seclusion of a collage at Raheny, a hamlet near Dublin. Her family has
been in Ireland for generations, and she comes of German and Norman
stock. As some one has said, the knowledge and skill displayed in
depicting Irish peasant life, which her books show, are hers not through
Celtic blood and affinities, but by a sympathetic genius and
[Illustration: Jane Barlow]
The publication of her writings in book form was preceded by the
appearance of some poems and stories in the magazines, the Dublin
University Review of 1885 containing 'Walled Out; or, Eschatology in a
Bog.' 'Irish Idyls' (1892), and 'Bogland Studies' (of the same year),
show the same pitiful, sombre pictures of Irish peasant life about the
sodden-roofed mud hut and "pitaties" boiling, which only a genial,
impulsive, generous, light-hearted, half-Greek and half-philosophic
people could make endurable to the reader or attractive to the writer.
The innate sweetness of the Irish character, which the author brings out
with fine touches, makes it worth portrayal. "It is safe to say," writes
a critic, "that the philanthropist or the political student interested
in the eternal Irish problem will learn more from Miss Barlow's twin
volumes than from a dozen Royal Commissions and a hundred Blue Books."
Her sympathy constantly crops out, as, for instance, in the mirthful
tale of 'Jerry Dunne's Basket,' where--
"Andy Joyce had an ill-advised predilection for seeing things
which he called 'dacint and proper' about him, and he built
some highly superior sheds on the lawn, to the bettering, no
doubt, of his cattle's condition. The abrupt raising of his
rent by fifty per cent, was a broad hint which most men would
have taken; and it did keep Andy ruefully quiet for a season
or two. Then, however, having again saved up a trifle, he
could not resist the temptation to drain the swampy corner of
the farthest river-field, which was as kind a bit of land as
you could wish, only for the water lying on it, and in which
he afterward raised himself a remarkably fine crop of white
oats. The sight of them 'done his heart good,' he said,
exultantly, nothing recking that it was the last touch of
farmer's pride he would ever feel. Yet on the next
quarter-day the Joyces received notice to quit, and their
landlord determined to keep the vacated holding in his own
hands; those new sheds were just the thing for his young
stock. Andy, in fact, had done his best to improve himself
off the face of the earth."
The long story which Miss Barlow has published, 'Kerrigan's Quality'
(1894), is told with her distinguishing charm, but the book has not the
close-knit force of the 'Idyls.' Miss Barlow herself prefers the
'Bogland Studies,' because, she says, they are "a sort of poetry." "I
had set my heart too long upon being a poet ever to give up the idea
quite contentedly; 'the old hope is hardest to be lost.' A real poet I
can never be, as I have, I fear, nothing of the lyrical faculty; and a
poet without that is worse than a bird without wings, so, like Mrs.
Browning's Nazianzen, I am doomed to look 'at the lyre hung out
Besides the three books named, Miss Barlow has published 'Mockus of the
Shallow Waters' (1893); 'The End of Elfintown' (1894); 'The Battle of
the Frogs and Mice in English' (1894); 'Maureen's Fairing and other
Stories' (1895); and 'Strangers at Lisconnel,' a second series of 'Irish
Idyls' (1895). In the last book we again have the sorrows and joys of
the small hamlet in the west of Ireland, where "the broad level spreads
away and away to the horizon before and behind and on either side of
you, very sombre-hued, yet less black-a-vised than more frequent bergs,"
where in the distance the mountains "loom up on its borders much less
substantial, apparently, in fabric than so many spirals of blue turf
smoke," and where the curlew's cry "can set a whole landscape to
melancholy in one chromatic phrase."
THE WIDOW JOYCE'S CLOAK
From 'Strangers at Lisconnel'
Still, although the Tinkers' name has become a byword among us through a
long series of petty offenses rather than any one flagrant crime, there
is a notable misdeed on record against them, which has never been
forgotten in the lapse of many years. It was perpetrated soon after the
death of Mrs. Kilfoyle's mother, the Widow Joyce, an event which is but
dimly recollected now at Lisconnel, as nearly half a century has gone
by. She did not very long survive her husband, and he had left his
roots behind in his little place at Clonmena, where, as we know, he had
farmed not wisely but too well, and had been put out of it for his pains
to expend his energy upon our oozy black sods and stark-white bowlders.
But instead he moped about, fretting for his fair green fields, and few
proudly cherished beasts,--especially the little old Kerry cow. And at
his funeral the neighbors said, "Ah, bedad, poor man, God help him, he
niver held up his head agin from that good day to this."
When Mrs. Joyce felt that it behooved her to settle her affairs, she
found that the most important possession she had to dispose of was her
large cloak. She had acquired it at the prosperous time of her marriage,
and it was a very superior specimen of its kind, in dark-blue cloth
being superfine, and its ample capes and capacious hood being
double-lined and quilted and stitched in a way which I cannot pretend to
describe, but which made it a most substantial and handsome garment. If
Mrs. Joyce had been left entirely to her own choice in the matter, I
think she would have bequeathed it to her younger daughter Theresa,
notwithstanding that custom clearly designated Bessy Kilfoyle, the
eldest of the family, as the heiress. For she said to herself that poor
Bessy had her husband and childer to consowl her, any way, but little
Theresa, the crathur, had ne'er such a thing at all, and wouldn't have,
not she, God love her. "And the back of me hand to some I could name."
It seemed to her that to leave the child the cloak would be almost like
keeping a warm wing spread over her in the cold wide world; and there
was no fear that Bessy would take it amiss.
But Theresa herself protested strongly against such a disposition,
urging for one thing that sure she'd be lost in it entirely if ever she
put it on; a not unfounded objection, as Theresa was several sizes
smaller than Bessy, and even she fell far short of her mother in stature
and portliness. Theresa also said confidently with a sinking heart, "But
sure, anyhow, mother jewel, what matter about it? 'Twill be all gone to
houles and flitters and thraneens, and so it will, plase goodness, afore
there's any talk of anybody else wearin' it except your own ould self."
And she expressed much the same conviction one day to her next-door
neighbor, old Biddy Ryan, to whom she had run in for the loan of a sup
of sour milk, which Mrs. Joyce fancied. To Biddy's sincere regret she
could offer Theresa barely a skimpy noggin of milk, and only a meagre
shred of encouragement; and by way of eking out the latter with its
sorry substitute, consolation, she said as she tilted the jug
perpendicularly to extract its last drop:--
"Well, sure, me dear, I do be sayin' me prayers for her every sun goes
over our heads that she might be left wid you this great while yet;
'deed, I do so. But ah, acushla, if we could be keepin' people
that-a-way, would there be e'er a funeral iver goin' black on the road
at all at all? I'm thinkin' there's scarce a one livin', and he as ould
and foolish and little-good-for as you plase, but some crathur'ill be
grudgin' him to his grave, that's himself may be all the while wishin'
he was in it. Or, morebetoken, how can we tell what quare ugly
misfortin' thim that's took is took out of the road of, that we should
be as good as biddin' thim stay till it comes to ruinate them? So it's
prayin' away I am, honey," said old Biddy, whom Theresa could not help
hating heart-sickly. "But like enough the Lord might know better than to
be mindin' a word I say."
And it seemed that He did; anyway, the day soon came when the heavy blue
cloak passed into Mrs. Kilfoyle's possession.
At that time it was clear, still autumn weather, with just a sprinkle of
frost white on the wayside grass, like the wraith of belated moonlight,
when the sun rose, and shimmering into rainbow stars by noon. But about
a month later the winter swooped suddenly on Lisconnel: with wild winds
and cold rain that made crystal-silver streaks down the purple of the
great mountainheads peering in over our bogland.
So one perishing Saturday Mrs. Kilfoyle made up her mind that she would
wear her warm legacy on the bleak walk to Mass next morning, and
reaching it down from where it was stored away among the rafters wrapped
in an old sack, she shook it respectfully out of its straight-creased
folds. As she did so she noticed that the binding of the hood had ripped
in one place, and that the lining was fraying out, a mishap which should
be promptly remedied before it spread any further. She was not a very
expert needlewoman, and she thought she had better run over the way to
consult Mrs. O'Driscoll, then a young matron, esteemed the handiest and
most helpful person in Lisconnel.
"It's the nathur of her to be settin' things straight wherever she
goes," Mrs. Kilfoyle said to herself as she stood in her doorway waiting
for the rain to clear off, and looking across the road to the sodden
roof which sheltered her neighbor's head. It had long been lying low,
vanquished by a trouble which even she could not set to rights, and some
of the older people say that things have gone a little crookeder in
Lisconnel ever since.
The shower was a vicious one, with the sting of sleet and hail in its
drops, pelted about by gusts that ruffled up the puddles into ripples,
all set on end, like the feathers of a frightened hen. The hens
themselves stood disconsolately sheltering under the bank, mostly on one
leg, as if they preferred to keep up the slightest possible connection
with such a very damp and disagreeable earth. You could not see far in
any direction for the fluttering sheets of mist, and a stranger who had
been coming along the road from Duffelane stepped out of them abruptly
quite close to Mrs. Kilfoyle's door, before she knew that there was
anybody near. He was a tall, elderly man, gaunt and grizzled, very
ragged, and so miserable-looking that Mrs. Kilfoyle could have felt
nothing but compassion for him had he not carried over his shoulder a
bunch of shiny cans, which was to her mind as satisfactory a passport as
a ticket of leave. For although these were yet rather early days at
Lisconnel, the Tinkers had already begun to establish their reputation.
So when he stopped in front of her and said, "Good-day, ma'am," she only
replied distantly, "It's a hardy mornin'," and hoped he would move on.
But he said, "It's cruel could, ma'am," and continued to stand looking
at her with wide and woful eyes, in which she conjectured--erroneously,
as it happened--hunger for warmth or food. Under these circumstances,
what could be done by a woman who was conscious of owning a redly
glowing hearth with a big black pot, fairly well filled, clucking and
bobbing upon it? To possess such wealth as this, and think seriously of
withholding a share from anybody who urges the incontestable claim of
wanting it, is a mood altogether foreign to Lisconnel, where the
responsibilities of poverty are no doubt very imperfectly understood.
Accordingly Mrs. Kilfoyle said to the tattered tramp, "Ah, thin, step
inside and have a couple of hot pitaties." And when he accepted the
invitation without much alacrity, as if he had something else on his
mind, she picked for him out of the steam two of the biggest potatoes,
whose earth-colored skins, cracking, showed a fair flouriness within;
and she shook a little heap of salt, the only relish she had, onto the
chipped white plate as she handed it to him, saying, "Sit you down be
the fire, there, and git a taste of the heat."
Then she lifted her old shawl over her head, and ran out to see where at
all Brian and Thady were gettin' their deaths on her under the pours of
rain; and as she passed the Keoghs' adjacent door--which was afterward
the Sheridans', whence their Larry departed so reluctantly--young Mrs.
Keogh called her to come in and look at "the child," who, being a new
and unique possession, was liable to develop alarmingly strange
symptoms, and had now "woke up wid his head that hot, you might as well
put your hand on the hob of the grate." Mrs. Kilfoyle stayed only long
enough to suggest, as a possible remedy, a drop of two-milk whey. "But
ah, sure, woman dear, where at all 'ud we come by that, wid the crathur
of a goat scarce wettin' the bottom of the pan?" and to draw reassuring
omens from the avidity with which the invalid grabbed at a sugared
crust. In fact, she was less than five minutes out of her house; but
when she returned to it, she found it empty. First, she noted with a
moderate thrill of surprise that her visitor had gone away leaving his
potatoes untouched; and next, with a rough shock of dismay, that her
cloak no longer lay on the window seat where she had left it. From that
moment she never felt any real doubts about what had befallen her,
though for some time she kept on trying to conjure them up, and searched
wildly round and round and round her little room, like a distracted bee
strayed into the hollow furze-bush, before she sped over to Mrs.
O'Driscoll with the news of her loss.
It spread rapidly through Lisconnel, and brought the neighbors together
exclaiming and condoling, though not in great force, as there was a fair
going on down beyant, which nearly all the men and some of the women had
attended. This was accounted cruel unlucky, as it left the place without
any one able-bodied and active enough to go in pursuit of the thief. A
prompt start might have overtaken him, especially as he was said to be a
"thrifle lame-futted"; though Mrs. M'Gurk, who had seen him come down
the hill, opined that "'twasn't the sort of lameness 'ud hinder the
miscreant of steppin' out, on'y a quare manner of flourish he had in a
one of his knees, as if he was gatherin' himself up to make an offer at
a grasshopper's lep, and then thinkin' better of it."
Little Thady Kilfoyle reported that he had met the strange man a bit
down the road, "leggin' it along at a great rate, wid a black rowl of
somethin' under his arm that he looked to be crumplin' up as small as he
could,"--the word "crumpling" went acutely to Mrs. Kilfoyle's
heart,--and some long-sighted people declared that they could still
catch glimpses of a receding figure through the hovering fog on the way
"I'd think he'd be beyant seein' afore now," said Mrs. Kilfoyle, who
stood in the rain, the disconsolate centre of the group about her door;
all women and children except old Johnny Keogh, who was so bothered and
deaf that he grasped new situations slowly and feebly, and had now an
impression of somebody's house being on fire. "He must ha' took off wid
himself the instiant me back was turned, for ne'er a crumb had he
touched of the pitaties."
"Maybe he'd that much shame in him," said Mrs. O'Driscoll.
"They'd a right to ha' choked him, troth and they had," said Ody
"Is it chokin'?" said young Mrs. M'Gurk, bitterly. "Sure the bigger
thief a body is, the more he'll thrive on whatever he gits; you might
think villiny was as good as butter to people's pitaties, you might so.
Sharne how are you? Liker he'd ate all he could swally in the last place
he got the chance of layin' his hands on anythin'."
"Och, woman alive, but it's the fool you were to let him out of your
sight," said Ody Rafferty's aunt. "If it had been me, I'd niver ha' took
me eyes off him, for the look of him on'y goin' by made me flesh creep
upon me bones."
"'Deed was I," said Mrs. Kilfoyle, sorrowfully, "a fine fool. And vexed
she'd be, rael vexed, if she guessed the way it was gone on us, for the
dear knows what dirty ould rapscallions 'ill get the wearin' of it now.
Rael vexed she'd be."
This speculation was more saddening than the actual loss of the cloak,
though that bereft her wardrobe of far and away its most valuable
property, which should have descended as an heirloom to her little
Katty, who, however, being at present but three months old, lay sleeping
happily unaware of the cloud that had come over her prospects.
"I wish to goodness a couple of the lads 'ud step home wid themselves
this minit of time," said Mrs. M'Gurk. "They'd come tip wid him yet, and
take it off of him ready enough. And smash his ugly head for him, if he
would be givin' them any impidence."
"Aye, and 'twould be a real charity--the mane baste;--or sling him in
one of the bog-houles," said the elder Mrs. Keogh, a mild-looking little
old woman. "I'd liefer than nine nine-pennies see thim comin' along. But
I'm afeard it's early for thim yet."
Everybody's eyes turned, as she spoke, toward the ridge of the Knockawn,
though with no particular expectation of seeing what they wished upon
it. But behold, just at that moment three figures, blurred among the
gray rain-mists, looming into view.
"Be the powers," said Mrs. M'Gurk, jubilantly, "it's Ody Rafferty
himself. To your sowls! Now you've a great good chance, ma'am, to be
gettin' it back. He's the boy 'ill leg it over all before him"--for in
those days Ody was lithe and limber--"and it's hard-set the thievin'
Turk 'ill be to get the better of him at a racin' match--Hi--Och." She
had begun to hail him with a call eager and shrill, which broke off in a
strangled croak, like a young cock's unsuccessful effort. "Och, murdher,
murdher, murdher," she said to the bystanders, in a disgusted undertone.
"I'll give you me misfort'nit word thim other two is the polis."
Now it might seem on the face of things that the arrival of those two
active and stalwart civil servants would have been welcomed as happening
just in the nick of time; yet it argues an alien ignorance to suppose
such a view of the matter by any means possible. The men in invisible
green tunics belonged completely to the category of pitaty-blights,
rint-warnin's, fevers, and the like devastators of life, that dog a man
more or less all through it, but close in on him, a pitiful quarry, when
the bad seasons come and the childer and the old crathurs are starvin'
wid the hunger, and his own heart is broke; therefore, to accept
assistance from them in their official capacity would have been a
proceeding most reprehensibly unnatural. To put a private quarrel or
injury into the hands of the peelers were a disloyal making of terms
with the public foe; a condoning of great permanent wrongs for the sake
of a trivial temporary convenience. Lisconnel has never been skilled in
the profitable and ignoble art of utilizing its enemies. Not that
anybody was more than vaguely conscious of these sentiments, much less
attempted to express them in set terms. When a policeman appeared there
in an inquiring mood, what people said among themselves was, "Musha
cock him up. I hope he'll get his health till I would be tellin' him,"
or words to that effect; while in reply to his questions, they made
statements superficially so clear and simple, and essentially so
bewilderingly involved, that the longest experience could do little more
for a constable than teach him the futility of wasting his time in
attempts to disentangle them.
Thus it was that when Mrs. Kilfoyle saw who Ody's companions were, she
bade a regretful adieu to her hopes of recovering her stolen property.
For how could she set him on the Tinker's felonious track without
apprising them likewise? You might as well try to huroosh one chicken
off a rafter and not scare the couple that were huddled beside it. The
impossibility became more obvious presently as the constables, striding
quickly down to where the group of women stood in the rain and wind with
fluttering shawls and flapping cap-borders, said briskly, "Good-day to
you all. Did any of yous happen to see e'er a one of them tinkerin'
people goin' by here this mornin'?"
It was a moment of strong temptation to everybody, but especially to
Mrs. Kilfoyle, who had in her mind that vivid picture of her precious
cloak receding from her along the wet road, recklessly wisped up in the
grasp of as thankless a thievin' black-hearted slieveen as ever stepped,
and not yet, perhaps, utterly out of reach, though every fleeting
instant carried it nearer to that hopeless point. However, she and her
neighbors stood the test unshaken. Mrs. Ryan rolled her eyes
deliberatively, and said to Mrs. M'Gurk, "The saints bless us, was it
yisterday or the day before, me dear, you said you seen a couple of them
below, near ould O'Beirne's?"
And Mrs. M'Gurk replied, "Ah, sure, not at all, ma'am, glory be to
goodness. I couldn't ha' tould you such a thing, for I wasn't next or
nigh the place. Would it ha' been Ody Rafferty's aunt? She was below
there fetchin' up a bag of male, and bedad she came home that dhreeped,
the crathur, you might ha' thought she'd been after fishin' it up out of
the botthom of one of thim bog-houles."
And Mrs. Kilfoyle heroically hustled her Thady into the house, as she
saw him on the brink of beginning loudly to relate his encounter with a
strange man, and desired him to whisht and stay where he was in a manner
so sternly repressive that he actually remained there as if he had been
a pebble dropped into a pool, and not, as usual, a cork to bob up again
Then Mrs. M'Gurk made a bold stroke, designed to shake off the
hampering presence of the professionals, and enable Ody's amateur
services to be utilized while there was yet time.
"I declare," she said, "now that I think of it, I seen a feller crossin'
the ridge along there a while ago, like as if he was comin' from
Sallinbeg ways; and according to the apparence of him, I wouldn't won'er
if he _was_ a one of thim tinker crathures--carryin' a big clump of cans
he was, at any rate--I noticed the shine of thim. And he couldn't ha'
got any great way yet to spake of, supposin' there was anybody lookin'
to folly after him."
But Constable Black crushed her hopes as he replied, "Ah, it's nobody
comin' _from_ Sallinbeg that we've anything to say to. There's after
bein' a robbery last night, down below at Jerry Dunne's--a shawl as good
as new took, that his wife's ragin' over frantic, along wid a sight of
fowl and other things. And the Tinkers that was settled this long while
in the boreen at the back of his haggard is quit out of it afore
daylight this mornin', every rogue of them. So we'd have more than a
notion where the property's went to if we could tell the road they've
took. We thought like enough some of them might ha' come this way."
Now, Mr. Jerry Dunne was not a popular person in Lisconnel, where he has
even become, as we have seen, proverbial for what we call "ould
naygurliness." So there was a general tendency to say, "The divil's cure
to him," and listen complacently to any details their visitors could
impart. For in his private capacity a policeman, provided that he be
otherwise "a dacint lad," which to do him justice is commonly the case,
may join, with a few unobtrusive restrictions, in our neighborly
gossips; the rule in fact being--Free admission except on business.
Only Mrs. Kilfoyle was so much cast down by her misfortune that she
could not raise herself to the level of an interest in the affairs of
her thrifty suitor, and the babble of voices relating and commenting
sounded as meaningless as the patter of the drops which jumped like
little fishes in the large puddle at their feet. It had spread
considerably before Constable Black said to his comrade:--
"Well, Daly, we'd better be steppin' home wid ourselves as
wise as we come, as the man said when he'd axed his road of
the ould black horse in the dark lane. There's no good goin'
further, for the whole gang of them's scattered over the
counthry agin now like a seedin' thistle in a high win'."
"Aye, bedad," said Constable Daly, "and be the same token,
this win' ud skin a tanned elephant. It's on'y bogged and
drenched we'd git. Look at what's comin' up over there. That
rain's snow on the hills, every could drop of it; I seen Ben
Bawn this mornin' as white as the top of a musharoon, and
it's thickenin' wid sleet here this minute, and so it is."
The landscape did, indeed, frown upon further explorations.
In quarters where the rain had abated it seemed as if the
mists had curdled on the breath of the bitter air, and they
lay floating in long white bars and reefs low on the track of
their own shadow, which threw down upon the sombre bogland
deeper stains of gloom. Here and there one caught on the
crest of some gray-bowldered knoll, and was teazed into
fleecy threads that trailed melting instead of tangling. But
toward the north the horizon was all blank, with one vast,
smooth slant of slate-color, like a pent-house roof, which
had a sliding motion onwards.
Ody Rafferty pointed to it and said, "Troth, it's teemin'
powerful this instiant up there in the mountains. 'Twill be
much if you land home afore it's atop of you; for 'twould be
the most I could do myself."
And as the constables departed hastily, most people forgot the stolen
cloak for a while to wonder whether their friends would escape being
entirely drowned on the way back from the fair.
Mrs. Kilfoyle, however, still stood in deep dejection at her door, and
said, "Och, but she was the great fool to go let the likes of him set
fut widin' her house."
To console her Mrs. O'Driscoll said, "Ah, sure, sorra a fool were you,
woman dear; how would you know the villiny of him? And if you'd turned
the man away widout givin' him e'er a bit, it's bad you'd be thinkin' of
it all the day after."
And to improve the occasion for her juniors, old Mrs. Keogh added, "Aye,
and morebetoken you'd ha' been committin' a sin."
But Mrs. Kilfoyle replied with much candor, "'Deed, then, I'd a dale
liefer be after committin' a sin, or a dozen sins, than to have me poor
mother's good cloak thieved away on me, and walkin' wild about
As it happened, the fate of Mrs. Kilfoyle's cloak was very different
from her forecast. But I do not think that a knowledge of it would have
teen consolatory to her by any means. If she had heard of it, she would
probably have said, "The cross of Christ upon us. God be good to the
misfort'nit crathur." For she was not at all of an implacable temper,
and would, under the circumstances, have condoned even the injury that
obliged her to appear at Mass with a flannel petticoat over her head
until the end of her days. Yet she did hold the Tinkers in a perhaps
somewhat too unqualified reprobation. For there are tinkers and tinkers.
Some of them, indeed, are stout and sturdy thieves,--veritable birds of
prey,--whose rapacity is continually questing for plunder. But some of
them have merely the magpies' and jackdaws' thievish propensity for
picking up what lies temptingly in their way. And some few are so honest
that they pass by as harmlessly as a wedge of high-flying wild duck. And
I have heard it said that to places like Lisconnel their pickings and
stealings have at worst never been so serious a matter as those of
another flock, finer of feather, but not less predacious in their
habits, who roosted, for the most part, a long way off, and made their
collections by deputy.
Copyrighted 1895, by Dodd, Mead and Company.
From 'Bogland Studies'
An' wanst we were restin' a bit in the sun on the smooth hillside,
Where the grass felt warm to your hand as the fleece of a sheep,
As ye'd look overhead an' around, 'twas all a-blaze and a-glow,
An' the blue was blinkin' up from the blackest bog-holes below;
An' the scent o' the bogmint was sthrong on the air, an' never a sound
But the plover's pipe that ye'll seldom miss by a lone bit o' ground.
An' he laned--Misther Pierce--on his elbow, an' stared at the sky
as he smoked,
Till just in an idle way he sthretched out his hand an' sthroked
The feathers o' wan of the snipe that was kilt an' lay close by on
An' there was the death in the crathur's eyes like a breath upon
An' sez he, "It's quare to think that a hole ye might bore wid a pin
'Ill be wide enough to let such a power o' darkness in
On such a power o' light; an' it's quarer to think," sez he,
"That wan o' these days the like is bound to happen to you an' me."
Thin Misther Barry, he sez: "Musha, how's wan to know but there's
On t'other side o' the dark, as the day comes afther the night?"
An' "Och," says Misther Pierce, "what more's our knowin'--save the
Than guessin' which way the chances run, an' thinks I they run to
Or else agin now some glint of a bame'd ha' come slithered an' slid;
Sure light's not aisy to hide, an' what for should it be hid?"
Up he stood with a sort o' laugh: "If on light," sez he, "ye're set,
Let's make the most o' this same, as it's all that we're like to get."
Thim were his words, as I minded well, for often afore an' sin,
The 'dintical thought 'ud bother me head that seemed to bother him
An' many's the time I'd be wond'rin' whatever it all might mane,
The sky, an' the lan', an' the bastes, an' the rest o' thim plain as
And all behind an' beyant thim a big black shadow let fall;
Ye'll sthrain the sight out of your eyes, but there it stands like a
"An' there," sez I to meself, "we're goin' wherever we go,
But where we'll be whin we git there it's never a know I know."
Thin whiles I thought I was maybe a sthookawn to throuble me mind
Wid sthrivin' to comprehind onnathural things o' the kind;
An' Quality, now, that have larnin', might know the rights o' the
But ignorant wans like me had betther lave it in pace.
Priest, tubbe sure, an' Parson, accordin' to what they say,
The whole matther's plain as a pikestaff an' clear as the day,
An' to hear thim talk of a world beyant, ye'd think at the laste
They'd been dead an' buried half their lives, an' had thramped it
from west to aist;
An' who's for above an' who's for below they've as pat as if they
The name of every saint in heaven an' every divil in hell.
But cock up the lives of thimselves to be settlin' it all to their
I sez, and the wife she sez I'm no more nor a haythin baste--
For mighty few o' thim's rael Quality, musha, they're mostly a pack
O' playbians, each wid a tag to his name an' a long black coat to
An' it's on'y romancin' they are belike; a man must stick be his
An' _they_ git their livin' by lettin' on they know how wan's
sowl is made.
And in chapel or church they're bound to know somethin' for sure,
good or bad,
Or where'd be the sinse o' their preachin' an' prayers an' hymns an'
howlin' like mad?
So who'd go mindin' o' thim? barrin' women, in coorse, an' wanes,
That believe 'most aught ye tell thim, if they don't understand what
Bedad, if it worn't the nathur o' women to want the wit,
Parson and Priest I'm a-thinkin' might shut up their shop an' quit.
But, och, it's lost an' disthracted the crathurs 'ud be without
Their bit of divarsion on Sundays whin all o' thim gits about,
Cluth'rin' an' pluth'rin' together like hins, an' a-roostin' in rows,
An' meetin' their frins an' their neighbors, and wearin' their dacint
An' sure it's quare that the clergy can't ever agree to keep
Be tellin' the same thrue story, sin' they know such a won'erful heap;
For many a thing Priest tells ye that Parson sez is a lie,
An' which has a right to be wrong, the divil a much know I,
For all the differ I see 'twixt the pair o' thim 'd fit in a nut:
Wan for the Union, an' wan for the League, an' both o' thim bitther
But Misther Pierce, that's a gintleman born, an' has college larnin'
There he was starin' no wiser than me where the shadow stands like
Authorized American Edition, Dodd, Mead and Company.
One morning late in the July of 1778, a select company gathered in the
little chapel of Yale College to listen to orations and other exercises
by a picked number of students of the Senior class, one of whom, named
Barlow, had been given the coveted honor of delivering what was termed
the 'Commencement Poem.' Those of the audience who came from a distance
carried back to their homes in elm-shaded Norwich, or Stratford, or
Litchfield, high on its hills, lively recollections of a handsome young
man and of his 'Prospect of Peace,' whose cheerful prophecies in heroic
verse so greatly "improved the occasion." They had heard that he was a
farmer's son from Redding, Connecticut, who had been to school at
Hanover, New Hampshire, and had entered Dartmouth College, but soon
removed to Yale on account of its superior advantages; that he had twice
seen active service in the Continental army, and that he was engaged to
marry a beautiful New Haven girl.
[Illustration: Joel Barlow]
The brilliant career predicted for Barlow did not begin immediately.
Distaste for war, hope of securing a tutorship in college, and--we may
well believe--Miss Ruth's entreaties, kept him in New Haven two years
longer, engaged in teaching and in various courses of study. 'The
Prospect of Peace' had been issued in pamphlet form, and the compliments
paid the author incited him to plan a poem of a philosophic character on
the subject of America at large, bearing the title 'The Vision of
Columbus.' The appointment as tutor never came, and instead of
cultivating the Muse in peaceful New Haven, he was forced to evoke her
aid in a tent on the banks of the Hudson, whither after a hurried course
in theology, he proceeded as an army chaplain in 1780. During his
connection with the army, which lasted until its disbandment in 1783, he
won repute by lyrics written to encourage the soldiers, and by "a
flaming political sermon," as he termed it, on the treason of Arnold.
Army life ended, Barlow removed to Hartford, where he studied law,
edited the American Mercury,--a weekly paper he had helped to found,---
and with John Trumbull, Lemuel Hopkins, and David Humphreys formed a
literary club which became widely known as the "Hartford Wits." Its
chief publication, a series of political lampoons styled 'The
Anarchiad,' satirized those factions whose disputes imperiled the young
republic, and did much to influence public opinion in Connecticut and
elsewhere in favor of the Federal Constitution. A revision and
enlargement of Dr. Watts's 'Book of Psalmody,' and the publication
(1787) of his own 'Vision of Columbus,' occupied part of Barlow's time
while in Hartford. The latter poem was extravagantly praised, ran
through several editions, and was republished in London and Paris; but
the poet, who now had a wife to support, could not live by his pen nor
by the law, and when in 1788 he was urged by the Scioto Land Company to
become its agent in Paris, he gladly accepted. The company was a private
association, formed to buy large tracts of government land situated in
Ohio and sell them in Europe to capitalists or actual settlers. This
failed disastrously, and Barlow was left stranded in Paris, where he
remained, supporting himself partly by writing, partly by business
ventures. Becoming intimate with the leaders of the Girondist party, the
man who had dedicated his 'Vision of Columbus' to Louis XVI., and had
also dined with the nobility, now began to figure as a zealous
Republican and as a Liberal in religion. From 1790 to 1793 he passed
most of his time in London, where he wrote a number of political
pamphlets for the Society for Constitutional Information, an
organization openly favoring French Republicanism and a revision of the
British Constitution. Here also, in 1791, he finished a work entitled
'Advice to the Privileged Orders,' which probably would have run through
many editions had it not been suppressed by the British government. The
book was an arraignment of tyranny in church and state, and was quickly
followed by 'The Conspiracy of Kings,' an attack in verse on those
European countries which had combined to kill Republicanism in France.
In 1792 Barlow was made a citizen of France as a mark of appreciation of
a 'Letter' addressed to the National Convention, giving that body
advice, and when the convention sent commissioners to organize the
province of Savoy into a department, Barlow was one of the number. As a
candidate for deputy from Savoy, he was defeated; but his visit was not
fruitless, for at Chambery the sight of a dish of maize-meal porridge
reminded him of his early home in Connecticut, and inspired him to write
in that ancient French town a typical Yankee poem, 'Hasty Pudding.' Its
preface, in prose, addressed to Mrs. Washington, assured her that
simplicity of diet was one of the virtues; and if cherished by her, as
it doubtless was, it would be more highly regarded by her countrywomen.
Between the years of 1795-97, Barlow held the important but unenviable
position of United States Consul at Algiers, and succeeded both in
liberating many of his countrymen who were held as prisoners, and in
perfecting treaties with the rulers of the Barbary States, which gave
United States vessels entrance to their ports and secured them from
piratical attacks. On his return to Paris he translated Volney's 'Ruins'
into English, made preparations for writing histories of the American
and French revolutions, and expanded his 'Vision of Columbus' into a
volume which as 'The Columbiad'--a beautiful specimen of typography--was
published in Philadelphia in 1807 and republished in London. The poem
was held to have increased Barlow's fame; but it is stilted and
monotonous, and 'Hasty Pudding' has done more to perpetuate his name.
In 1805 Barlow returned to the United States and bought an estate near
Washington, D.C., where he entertained distinguished visitors. In 1811
he returned to France authorized to negotiate a treaty of commerce.
After waiting nine months, he was invited by Napoleon, who was then in
Poland, to a conference at Wilna. On his arrival Barlow found the French
army on the retreat from Moscow, and endured such privations on the
march that on December 24th he died of exhaustion at the village of
Zarnowiec, near Cracow, and there was buried.
Barlow's part in developing American literature was important, and
therefore he has a rightful place in a work which traces that
development. He certainly was a man of varied ability and power, who
advanced more than one good cause and stimulated the movement toward
higher thought. The only complete 'Life and Letters of Joel Barlow,' by
Charles Burr Todd, published in 1888, gives him unstinted praise as
excelling in statesmanship, letters, and philosophy. With more assured
justice, which all can echo, it praises his nobility of spirit as a man.
No one can read the letter to his wife, written from Algiers when he
thought himself in danger of death, without a warm feeling for so
unselfish and affectionate a nature.
From 'Hasty Pudding'
There are various ways of preparing and eating Hasty Pudding, with
molasses, butter, sugar, cream, and fried. Why so excellent a thing
cannot be eaten alone? Nothing is perfect alone; even man, who boasts of
so much perfection, is nothing without his fellow-substance. In eating,
beware of the lurking heat that lies deep in the mass; dip your spoon
gently, take shallow dips and cool it by degrees. It is sometimes
necessary to blow. This is indicated by certain signs which every
experienced feeder knows. They should be taught to young beginners. I
have known a child's tongue blistered for want of this attention, and
then the school-dame would insist that the poor thing had told a lie. A
mistake: the falsehood was in the faithless pudding. A prudent mother
will cool it for her child with her own sweet breath. The husband,
seeing this, pretends his own wants blowing, too, from the same lips. A
sly deceit of love. She knows the cheat, but, feigning ignorance, lends
her pouting lips and gives a gentle blast, which warms the husband's
heart more than it cools his pudding.
The days grow short; but though the falling sun
To the glad swain proclaims his day's work done,
Night's pleasing shades his various tasks prolong,
And yield new subjects to my various song.
For now, the corn-house filled, the harvest home,
The invited neighbors to the husking come;
A frolic scene, where work and mirth and play
Unite their charms to chase the hours away.
Where the huge heap lies centred in the hall,
The lamp suspended from the cheerful wall,
Brown corn-fed nymphs, and strong hard-handed beaux,
Alternate ranged, extend in circling rows,
Assume their seats, the solid mass attack;
The dry husks rustle, and the corn-cobs crack;
The song, the laugh, alternate notes resound,
And the sweet cider trips in silence round.
The laws of husking every wight can tell;
And sure, no laws he ever keeps so well:
For each red ear a general kiss he gains,
With each smut ear he smuts the luckless swains;
But when to some sweet maid a prize is cast,
Red as her lips, and taper as her waist,
She walks the round, and culls one favored beau,
Who leaps, the luscious tribute to bestow.
Various the sport, as are the wits and brains
Of well-pleased lasses and contending swains;
Till the vast mound of corn is swept away,
And he that gets the last ear wins the day.
Meanwhile the housewife urges all her care,
The well-earned feast to hasten and prepare.
The sifted meal already waits her hand,
The milk is strained, the bowls in order stand,
The fire flames high; and as a pool (that takes
The headlong stream that o'er the mill-dam breaks)
Foams, roars, and rages with incessant toils,
So the vexed caldron rages, roars and boils.
First with clean salt she seasons well the food,
Then strews the flour, and thickens well the flood.
Long o'er the simmering fire she lets it stand;
To stir it well demands a stronger hand:
The husband takes his turn, and round and round
The ladle flies; at last the toil is crowned;
When to the board the thronging huskers pour,
And take their seats as at the corn before.
I leave them to their feast. There still belong
More useful matters to my faithful song.
For rules there are, though ne'er unfolded yet,
Nice rules and wise, how pudding should be ate.
Some with molasses grace the luscious treat,
And mix, like bards, the useful and the sweet;
A wholesome dish, and well deserving praise,
A great resource in those bleak wintry days,
When the chilled earth lies buried deep in snow,
And raging Boreas dries the shivering cow.
Blest cow! thy praise shall still my notes employ,
Great source of health, the only source of joy;
Mother of Egypt's god, but sure, for me,
Were I to leave my God, I'd worship thee.
How oft thy teats these pious hands have pressed!
How oft thy bounties prove my only feast!
How oft I've fed thee with my favorite grain!
And roared, like thee, to see thy children slain.
Ye swains who know her various worth to prize,
Ah! house her well from winter's angry skies.
Potatoes, pumpkins, should her sadness cheer,
Corn from your crib, and mashes from your beer;
When spring returns, she'll well acquit the loan,
And nurse at once your infants and her own.
Milk, then, with pudding I should always choose;
To this in future I confine my muse,
Till she in haste some further hints unfold,
Good for the young, nor useless to the old.
First in your bowl the milk abundant take,
Then drop with care along the silver lake
Your flakes of pudding: these at first will hide
Their little bulk beneath the swelling tide;
But when their growing mass no more can sink,
When the soft island looms above the brink,
Then check your hand; you've got the portion due,
So taught my sire, and what he taught is true.
There is a choice in spoons. Though small appear
The nice distinction, yet to me 'tis clear.
The deep-bowled Gallic spoon, contrived to scoop
In ample draughts the thin diluted soup,
Performs not well in those substantial things,
Whose mass adhesive to the metal clings;
Where the strong labial muscles must embrace
The gentle curve, and sweep the hollow space.
With ease to enter and discharge the freight,
A bowl less concave, but still more dilate,
Becomes the pudding best. The shape, the size,
A secret rests, unknown to vulgar eyes.
Experienced feeders can alone impart
A rule so much above the lore of art.
These tuneful lips that thousand spoons have tried,
With just precision could the point decide,
Though not in song--the muse but poorly shines
In cones, and cubes, and geometric lines;
Yet the true form, as near as she can tell,
Is that small section of a goose-egg shell,
Which in two equal portions shall divide
The distance from the centre to the side.
Fear not to slaver; 'tis no deadly sin;--
Like the free Frenchman, from your joyous chin
Suspend the ready napkin; or like me,
Poise with one hand your bowl upon your knee;
Just in the zenith your wise head project,
Your full spoon rising in a line direct,
Bold as a bucket, heed no drops that fall.
The wide-mouthed bowl will surely catch them all!
Had he chosen to write solely in familiar English, rather than in the
dialect of his native Dorsetshire, every modern anthology would be
graced by the verses of William Barnes, and to multitudes who now know
him not, his name would have become associated with many a country sight
and sound. Other poets have taken homely subjects for their themes,--the
hayfield, the chimney-nook, milking-time, the blossoming of
"high-boughed hedges"; but it is not every one who has sung out of the
fullness of his heart and with a naive delight in that of which he sung:
and so by reason of their faithfulness to every-day life and to nature,
and by their spontaneity and tenderness, his lyrics, fables, and
eclogues appeal to cultivated readers as well as to the rustics whose
quaint speech he made his own.
Short and simple are the annals of his life; for, a brief period
excepted, it was passed in his native county--though Dorset, for all his
purposes, was as wide as the world itself. His birthplace was Bagbere in
the vale of Blackmore, far up the valley of the Stour, where his
ancestors had been freeholders. The death of his parents while he was a
boy threw him on his own resources; and while he was at school at
Sturminster and Dorchester he supported himself by clerical work in
attorneys' offices. After he left school his education was mainly
self-gained; but it was so thorough that in 1827 he became master of a
school at Mere, Wilts, and in 1835 opened a boarding-school in
Dorchester, which he conducted for a number of years. A little later he
spent a few terms at Cambridge, and in 1847 received ordination. From
that time until his death in 1886, most of his days were spent in the
little parishes of Whitcombe and Winterbourne Came, near Dorchester,
where his duties as rector left him plenty of time to spend on his
favorite studies. To the last, Barnes wore the picturesque dress of the
eighteenth century, and to the tourist he became almost as much a
curiosity as the relics of Roman occupation described in a guide-book
When one is at the same time a linguist, a musician, an antiquary, a
profound student of philology, and skilled withal in the graphic arts,
it would seem inevitable that he should have more than a local
reputation; but when, in 1844, a thin volume entitled 'Poems of Rural
Life in the Dorset Dialect' appeared in London, few bookshop
frequenters had ever heard of the author. But he was already well known
throughout Dorset, and there he was content to be known; a welcome guest
in castle and hall, but never happier than when, gathering about him the
Jobs and Lettys with whom Thomas Hardy has made us familiar, he
delighted their ears by reciting his verses. The dialect of Dorset, he
boasted, was the least corrupted form of English; therefore to commend
it as a vehicle of expression and to help preserve his mother tongue
from corruption, and to purge it of words not of Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic
origin,--this was one of the dreams of his life,--he put his impressions
of rural scenery and his knowledge of human character into metrical
form. He is remembered by scholars here and there for a number of works
on philology, and one ('Outline of English Speech-Craft') in which, with
zeal, but with the battle against him, he aimed to teach the English
language by using words of Teutonic derivation only; but it is through
his four volumes of poems that he is better remembered. These include
'Hwomely Rhymes' (1859), 'Poems of Rural Life' (1862), and 'Poems of
Rural Life in Common English' (1863). The three collections of dialect
poems were brought out in one volume, with a glossary, in 1879.
"A poet fresh as the dew," "The first of English purely pastoral poets,"
"The best writer of eclogues since Theocritus,"--these are some of the
tardy tributes paid him. With a sympathy for his fellow-man and a humor
akin to that of Burns, with a feeling for nature as keen as
Wordsworth's, though less subjective, and with a power of depicting a
scene with a few well-chosen epithets which recalls Tennyson, Barnes has
fairly earned his title to remembrance.
'The Life of William Barnes, Poet and Philologist,' written by his
daughter, Mrs. Baxter, was published in 1887. There are numerous
articles relating to him in periodical literature, one of which, a
sketch by Thomas Hardy, in Vol. 86 of the 'Athenaeum,' is of
The primrwose in the sheaede do blow,
The cowslip in the zun,
The thyme upon the down do grow,
The clote where streams do run;
An' where do pretty maidens grow
An' blow, but where the tow'r
Do rise among the bricken tuns,
In Blackmwore by the Stour?
If you could zee their comely gait,
An' pretty feaeces' smiles,
A-trippen on so light o' waight,
An' steppen off the stiles;
A-gwain to church, as bells do swing
An' ring 'ithin the tow'r,
You'd own the pretty maidens' pleaece
Is Blackmwore by the Stour?
If you vrom Wimborne took your road,
To Stower or Paladore,
An' all the farmers' housen show'd
Their daughters at the door;
You'd cry to bachelors at hwome--
"Here, come: 'ithin an hour
You'll vind ten maidens to your mind,
In Blackmwore by the Stour."
An' if you look'd 'ithin their door,
To zee em in their pleaece,
A-doen housework up avore
Their smilen mother's feaece;
You'd cry,--"Why, if a man would wive
An' thrive, 'ithout a dow'r,
Then let en look en out a wife
In Blackmwore by the Stour."
As I upon my road did pass
A school-house back in May,
There out upon the beaeten grass
Wer maidens at their play;
An' as the pretty souls did tweil
An' smile, I cried, "The flow'r
O' beauty, then, is still in bud
In Blackmwore by the Stour."
Come out o' door, 'tis Spring! 'tis May!
The trees be green, the yields be gay;
The weather's warm, the winter blast,
Wi' all his train o' clouds, is past;
The zun do rise while vo'k do sleep,
To teaeke a higher daily zweep,
Wi' cloudless feaece a-flingen down
His sparklen light upon the groun'.
The air's a-streamen soft,--come drow
The winder open; let it blow
In drough the house, where vire, an' door
A-shut, kept out the cwold avore.
Come, let the vew dull embers die,
An' come below the open sky;
An' wear your best, vor fear the groun'
In colors gaey mid sheaeme your gown:
An' goo an' rig wi' me a mile
Or two up over geaete an' stile,
Drough zunny parrocks that do lead,
Wi' crooked hedges, to the meaed,
Where elems high, in steaetely ranks,
Do rise vrom yollow cowslip-banks,
An' birds do twitter vrom the spraey
O' bushes deck'd wi' snow-white maey;
An' gil' cups, wi' the deaeisy bed,
Be under ev'ry step you tread.
We'll wind up roun' the hill, an' look
All down the thickly timber'd nook,
Out where the squier's house do show
His gray-walled peaks up drough the row
O' sheaedy elems, where the rock
Do build her nest; an' where the brook
Do creep along the meaeds, an' lie
To catch the brightness o' the sky;
An' cows, in water to their knees,
Do stan' a-whisken off the vlees.
Mother o' blossoms, and ov all
That's feaeir a-vield vrom Spring till Fall,
The gookoo over white-weaev'd seas
Do come to zing in thy green trees,
An' buttervlees, in giddy flight,
Do gleaem the mwost by thy gaey light.
[Illustration: _MILKING TIME_.
Photogravure from a Painting by A. Roll.]
Oh! when, at last, my fleshly eyes Shall shut upon the vields an'
skies, Mid zummer's zunny days be gone, An' winter's clouds be comen on:
Nor mid I draw upon the e'th, O' thy sweet air my leaetest breath;
Alassen I mid want to staey Behine' for thee, O flow'ry May!
'Poems of Rural Life'
'Twer when the busy birds did vlee,
Wi' sheenen wings, vrom tree to tree,
To build upon the mossy lim'
Their hollow nestes' rounded rim;
The while the zun, a-zinken low,
Did roll along his evenen bow,
I come along where wide-horn'd cows,
'Ithin a nook, a-screen'd by boughs,
Did stan' an' flip the white-hooped pails
Wi' heaeiry tufts o' swingen tails;
An' there were Jenny Coom a-gone
Along the path a vew steps on,
A-beaeren on her head, upstraight,
Her pail, wi' slowly-riden waight,
An hoops a-sheenen, lily-white,
Ageaen the evenen's slanten light;
An' zo I took her pail, an' left
Her neck a-freed vrom all his heft;
An' she a-looken up an' down,
Wi' sheaeply head an' glossy crown,
Then took my zide, an' kept my peaece,
A-talken on wi' smilen feaece,
An' zetten things in sich a light,
I'd fain ha' heaer'd her talk all night;
An' when I brought her milk avore
The geaete, she took it in to door,
An' if her pail had but allow'd
Her head to vall, she would ha' bow'd;
An' still, as 'twer, I had the zight
Ov' her sweet smile, droughout the night.
Above the timber's benden sh'ouds,
The western wind did softly blow;
An' up avore the knap, the clouds
Did ride as white as driven snow.
Vrom west to east the clouds did zwim
Wi' wind that plied the elem's lim';
Vrom west to east the stream did glide,
A sheenen wide, wi' winden brim.
How feaeir, I thought, avore the sky
The slowly-zwimmen clouds do look;
How soft the win's a-streamen by;
How bright do roll the weaevy brook:
When there, a-passen on my right,
A-walken slow, an' treaden light,
Young Jessie Lee come by, an' there
Took all my ceaere, an' all my zight.
Vor lovely wer the looks her feaece
Held up avore the western sky:
An' comely wer the steps her peaece
Did meaeke a-walken slowly by:
But I went east, wi' beaten breast,
Wi' wind, an' cloud, an' brook, vor rest,
Wi' rest a-lost, vor Jessie gone
So lovely on, toward the west.
Blow on, O winds, athirt the hill;
Zwim on, O clouds; O waters vall,
Down maeshy rocks, vrom mill to mill:
I now can overlook ye all.
But roll, O zun, an' bring to me
My day, if such a day there be,
When zome dear path to my abode
Shall be the road o' Jessie Lee.
Ah! sad wer we as we did peaece
The wold church road, wi' downcast feaece,
The while the bells, that mwoan'd so deep
Above our child a-left asleep,
Wer now a-zingen all alive
Wi' tother bells to meaeke the vive.
But up at woone pleaece we come by,
'Twere hard to keep woone's two eyes dry;
On Steaen-cliff road, 'ithin the drong,
Up where, as vo'k do pass along,
The turnen stile, a-painted white,
Do sheen by day an' show by night.
Vor always there, as we did goo
To church, thik stile did let us drough,
Wi' spreaden eaerms that wheel'd to guide
Us each in turn to tother zide.
An' vu'st ov all the train he took
My wife, wi' winsome gait an' look;
An' then zent on my little maid,
A-skippen onward, overjaey'd
To reach ageaen the pleaece o' pride,
Her comely mother's left han' zide.
An' then, a-wheelen roun' he took
On me, 'ithin his third white nook.
An' in the fourth, a-sheaeken wild,
He zent us on our giddy child.
But eesterday he guided slow
My downcast Jenny, vull o' woe,
An' then my little maid in black,
A-walken softly on her track;
An' after he'd a-turn'd ageaen,
To let me goo along the leaene,
He had noo little bwoy to vill
His last white eaerms, an' they stood still.
TO THE WATER-CROWFOOT
O small-feaec'd flow'r that now dost bloom,
To stud wi' white the shallow Frome,
An' leaeve the clote to spread his flow'r
On darksome pools o' stwoneless Stour,
When sof'ly-rizen airs do cool
The water in the sheenen pool,
Thy beds o' snow white buds do gleam
So feaeir upon the sky-blue stream,
As whitest clouds, a-hangen high
Avore the blueness of the sky.
[Footnote 2: The yellow water-lily.]
ZUMMER AN' WINTER
When I led by zummer streams
The pride o' Lea, as naighbours thought her,
While the zun, wi' evenen beams,
Did cast our sheaedes athirt the water:
Tokens ov my jay zoo fleeten,
Heightened it, that happy meeten.
Then, when maid and man took pleaeces,
Gay in winter's Chris'mas dances,
Showen in their merry feaeces
Kindly smiles an' glisnen glances:
Brought anew the happy meeten,
That did meaeke the night too fleeten.
JAMES MATTHEW BARRIE
James Matthew Barrie was born May 9th, 1860, at Kirriemuir, Scotland
('Thrums'); son of a physician whom he has lovingly embodied as 'Dr.
McQueen,' and with a mother and sister who will live as 'Jess' and
'Leeby.' After an academy course at Dumfries he entered the University
of Edinburgh at eighteen, where he graduated M.A., and took honors in
the English Literature class. A few months later he took a place on a
newspaper in Nottingham, England, and in the spring of 1885 went to
London, where the papers had begun to accept his work.
[Illustration: "JAMES M. BARRIE"]
Above all, the St. James's Gazette had published the first of the 'Auld
Licht Idylls' November 17th, 1884; and the editor, Frederick Greenwood,
instantly perceiving a new and rich genius, advised him to work the vein
further, enforcing the advice by refusing to accept his contributions on
He had the usual painful struggle to become a successful journalist,
detailed in 'When a Man's Single'; but his real work was other and
greater. In 1887 'When a Man's Single' came out serially in the British
Weekly; it has little merit except in the Scottish prelude, which is of
high quality in style and pathos. It is curious how utterly his powers
desert him the moment he leaves his native heath: like Antaeus, he is a
giant on his mother earth and a pigmy off it. His first published book
was 'Better Dead' (1887); it works out a cynical idea which would be
amusing in five pages, but is diluted into tediousness by being spread
over fifty. But in 1889 came a second masterpiece, 'A Window in Thrums,'
a continuation of the Auld Licht series from an inside instead of an
outside standpoint,--not superior to the first, but their full equals in
a deliciousness of which one cannot say how much is matter and how much
style. 'My Lady Nicotine' appeared in 1890; it was very popular, and has
some amusing sketches, but no enduring quality. 'An Edinburgh Eleven'
(1890) is a set of sketches of his classmates and professors.
In 1891 the third of his Scotch works appeared,--'The Little
Minister,'--which raised him from the rank of an admirable sketch writer
to that of an admirable novelist, despite its fantastic plot and
detail. Since then he has written three plays,--'Walker, London,' 'Jane
Annie,' and 'The Professor's Love Story,' the latter very successful and
adding to his reputation; but no literature except his novel
'Sentimental Tommy,' just closed in Scribner's Magazine. This novel is
not only a great advance on 'The Little Minister' in symmetry of
construction, reality of matter, tragic power, and insight, but its tone
is very different. Though as rich in humor, the humor is largely of a
grim, bitter, and sardonic sort. The light, gay, buoyant fun of 'The
Little Minister,' which makes it a perpetual enjoyment, has mostly
vanished; in its stead we feel that the writer's sensitive nature is
wrung by the swarming catastrophes he cannot avert, the endless wrecks
on the ocean of life he cannot succor, and hardly less by those
spiritual tragedies and ironies so much worse, on a true scale of
valuation, than any material misfortune.
The full secret of Mr. Barrie's genius, as of all genius, eludes
analysis; but some of its characteristics are not hard to define. His
wonderful keenness of observation and tenacity of remembrance of the
pettinesses of daily existence, which in its amazing minuteness reminds
us of Dickens and Mark Twain, and his sensitiveness to the humorous
aspects of their little misfits and hypocrisies and lack of proportion,
might if untempered have made him a literary cynic like some others,
remembered chiefly for the salience he gave to the ugly meannesses of
life and the ironies of fate. But his good angel added to these a gift
of quick, sure, and spontaneous sympathy and wide spiritual
understanding. This fills all his higher work with a generous
appreciativeness, a justness of judgment, a tenderness of feeling, which
elevate as well as charm the reader. He makes us love the most grotesque
characters, whom in life we should dislike and avoid, by the sympathetic
fineness of his interpretation of their springs of life and their
warping by circumstance. The impression left on one by the studies of
the Thrums community is not primarily of intellectual and spiritual
narrowness, or niggardly thrift, or dour natures: all are there, but
with them are souls reaching after God and often flowering into beauty,
and we reverence the quenchless aspiration of maligned human nature for
an ideal far above its reach. He achieves the rare feat of portraying
every pettiness and prejudice, even the meannesses and dishonors of a
poor and hidebound country village, yet leaving us with both sincere
respect and warm liking for it; a thing possible only to one himself of
a fine nature as well as of a large mind. Nor is there any mawkishness
or cheap surface sentimentality in it all. His pathos never makes you
wince: you can always read his works aloud, the deadly and unfailing
test of anything flat or pinchbeck in literature. His gift of humor
saves him from this: true humor and true pathos are always found
together because they are not two but one, twin aspects of the very
same events. He who sees the ludicrous in misfits must see their sadness
too; he who can laugh at a tumble must grieve over it: both are
inevitable and both are coincident.
As a literary artist, he belongs in the foremost rank. He has that sense
of the typical in incident, of the universal in feeling, and of the
suggestive in language, which mark the chiefs of letters. No one can
express an idea with fewer strokes; he never expands a sufficient hint
into an essay. His management of the Scotch dialect is masterly: he uses
it sparingly, in the nearest form to English compatible with retaining
the flavor; he never makes it so hard as to interfere with enjoyment; in
few dialect writers do we feel so little alienness.
'Auld Licht Idylls' is a set of regular descriptions of the life of
"Thrums," with special reference to the ways and character of the "Old
Lights," the stubborn conservative Scotch Puritans; it contains also a
most amusing and characteristic love story of the sect (given below),
and a satiric political skit. 'A Window in Thrums' is mainly a series of
selected incidents in detail, partly from the point of view of a
crippled woman ("Jess"), sitting at her window and piecing out what she
sees with great shrewdness from her knowledge of the general current of
affairs, aided by her daughter "Leeby." 'The Little Minister' is
developed from the real story of a Scotch clergyman who brought home a
wife from afar, of so alien a sort to the general run that the parish
spent the rest of her short life in speculating on her previous history
and weaving legends about her. Barrie's imagined explanation is of
Arabian-Nights preposterousness of incident, and indeed is only a
careless fairy-tale in substance; but it is so rich in delicious
filling, so full of his best humor, sentiment, character-drawing, and
fine feeling, that one hardly cares whether it has any plot at all.
'Sentimental Tommy' is a study of a sensitive mobile boy, a born
_poseur_, who passes his life in cloud-castles where he always
dramatizes himself as the hero, who has no continuity of purpose, and no
capacity of self-sacrifice except in spasms of impulse, and in emotional
feeling which is real to itself; a spiritual Proteus who deceives even
himself, and only now and then recognizes his own moral illusiveness,
like Hawthorne's scarecrow-gentleman before the mirror: but with the
irresistible instincts also of the born literary creator and
constructor. The other characters are drawn with great power and truth.
The judgment of contemporaries is rarely conclusive; and we will not
attempt to anticipate that of posterity. It may be said, however, that
the best applicable touchstone of permanency is that of seeming
continuously fresh to cultivated tastes after many readings; and that
Mr. Barrie's four best books bear the test without failure.
THE COURTING OF T'NOWHEAD'S BELL
From 'Auld Licht Idylls'
For two years it had been notorious in the square that Sam'l Dickie was
thinking of courting T'nowhead's Bell, and that if little Sanders
Elshioner (which is the Thrums pronunciation of Alexander Alexander)
went in for her, he might prove a formidable rival. Sam'l was a weaver
in the Tenements, and Sanders a coal-carter whose trade-mark was a bell
on his horse's neck that told when coals were coming. Being something of
a public man, Sanders had not, perhaps, so high a social position as
Sam'l; but he had succeeded his father on the coal-cart, while the
weaver had already tried several trades. It had always been against
Sam'l, too, that once when the kirk was vacant he had advised the
selection of the third minister who preached for it, on the ground that
it came expensive to pay a large number of candidates. The scandal of
the thing was hushed up, out of respect for his father, who was a
God-fearing man, but Sam'l was known by it in Lang Tammas's circle. The
coal-carter was called Little Sanders, to distinguish him from his
father, who was not much more than half his size. He had grown up with
the name, and its inapplicability now came home to nobody. Sam'l's
mother had been more far-seeing than Sanders's. Her man had been called
Sammy all his life, because it was the name he got as a boy, so when
their eldest son was born she spoke of him as Sam'l while still in his
cradle. The neighbors imitated her, and thus the young man had a better
start in life than had been granted to Sammy, his father.
It was Saturday evening--the night in the week when Auld Licht young men
fell in love. Sam'l Dickie, wearing a blue Glengarry bonnet with a red
ball on the top, came to the door of a one-story house in the Tenements,
and stood there wriggling, for he was in a suit of tweeds for the first
time that week, and did not feel at one with them. When his feeling of
being a stranger to himself wore off, he looked up and down the road,
which straggles between houses and gardens, and then, picking his way
over the puddles, crossed to his father's hen-house and sat down on it.
He was now on his way to the square.
Eppie Fargus was sitting on an adjoining dike, knitting stockings, and
Sam'l looked at her for a time.
"Is't yersel, Eppie?" he said at last.
"It's a' that," said Eppie.
"Hoo's a' wi' ye?" asked Sam'l.
"We're juist aff an' on," replied Eppie, cautiously.
There was not much more to say, but as Sam'l sidled off the hen-house,
he murmured politely, "Ay, ay." In another minute he would have been
fairly started, but Eppie resumed the conversation.
"Sam'l," she said, with a twinkle in her eye, "ye can tell Lisbeth
Fargus I'll likely be drappin' in on her aboot Munday or Teisday."
Lisbeth was sister to Eppie, and wife of Thomas McQuhatty, better known
as T'nowhead, which was the name of his farm. She was thus
Sam'l leaned against the hen-house, as if all his desire to depart had
"Hoo d'ye kin I'll be at the T'nowhead the nicht?" he asked, grinning in
"Ou, I'se warrant ye'll be after Bell," said Eppie.
"Am no sae sure o' that," said Sam'l, trying to leer. He was enjoying
"Am no sure o' that," he repeated, for Eppie seemed lost in stitches.
"Ye'll be speirin' her sune noo, I dinna doot?"
This took Sam'l, who had only been courting Bell for a year or two, a
"Hoo d'ye mean, Eppie?" he asked.
"Maybe ye'll do't the nicht."
"Na, there's nae hurry," said Sam'l.
"Weel, we're a' coontin' on't, Sam'l."
"Gae wa wi' ye."
"What for no?"
"Gae wa wi' ye," said Sam'l again.
"Bell's gei an' fond o' ye, Sam'l."
"Ay," said Sam'l.
"But am dootin' ye're a fell billy wi' the lasses."
"Ay, oh, I d'na kin, moderate, moderate," said Sam'l, in high delight.
"I saw ye," said Eppie, speaking with a wire in her mouth, "gaen on
terr'ble wi' Mysy Haggart at the pump last Saturday."
"We was juist amoosin' oorsels," said Sam'l.
"It'll be nae amoosement to Mysy," said Eppie, "gin ye brak her heart."
"Losh, Eppie," said Sam'l, "I didna think o' that."
"Ye maun kin weel, Sam'l, at there's mony a lass wid jump at ye."
"Ou, weel," said Sam'l, implying that a man must take these things as
"For ye're a dainty chield to look at, Sam'l."
"Do ye think so, Eppie? Ay, ay; oh, I d'na kin am onything by the
"Ye mayna be," said Eppie, "but lasses doesna do to be ower partikler."
Sam'l resented this, and prepared to depart again.
"Ye'll no tell Bell that?" he asked, anxiously.
"Tell her what?"
"Aboot me an' Mysy."
"We'll see hoo ye behave yersel, Sam'l."
"No 'at I care, Eppie; ye can tell her gin ye like. I widna think twice
o' tellin' her mysel."
"The Lord forgie ye for leein', Sam'l," said Eppie, as he disappeared
down Tammy Tosh's close. Here he came upon Henders Webster.
"Ye're late, Sam'l," said Henders.
"Ou, I was thinkin' ye wid be gaen the length o' T'nowhead the nicht,
an' I saw Sanders Elshioner makkin's wy there an oor syne."
"Did ye?" cried Sam'l, adding craftily; "but its naething to me."
"Tod, lad," said Henders; "gin ye dinna buckle to, Sanders'll be
carryin' her off!"
Sam'l flung back his head and passed on.
"Sam'l!" cried Henders after him.
"Ay," said Sam'l, wheeling round.
"Gie Bell a kiss frae me."
The full force of this joke struck neither all at once. Sam'l began to
smile at it as he turned down the school-wynd, and it came upon Henders
while he was in his garden feeding his ferret. Then he slapped his legs
gleefully, and explained the conceit to Will'um Byars, who went into the
house and thought it over.
There were twelve or twenty little groups of men in the square, which
was lighted by a flare of oil suspended over a cadger's cart. Now and
again a staid young woman passed through the square with a basket on her
arm, and if she had lingered long enough to give them time, some of the
idlers would have addressed her, As it was, they gazed after her, and
then grinned to each other.
"Ay, Sam'l," said two or three young men, as Sam'l joined them beneath
the town clock.
"Ay, Davit," replied Sam'l.
This group was composed of some of the sharpest wits in Thrums, and it
was not to be expected that they would let this opportunity pass.
Perhaps when Sam'l joined them he knew what was in store for him.
"Was ye lookin' for T'nowhead's Bell, Sam'l?" asked one.
"Or mebbe ye was wantin' the minister?" suggested another, the same who
had walked out twice with Chirsty Duff and not married her after all.
Sam'l could not think of a good reply at the moment, so he laughed
"Ondoobtedly she's a snod bit crittur," said Davit, archly.
"An' michty clever wi' her fingers," added Jamie Deuchars.
"Man, I've thocht o' makkin' up to Bell myself," said Pete Ogle. "Wid
there be ony chance, think ye, Sam'l?"
"I'm thinkin' she widna hae ye for her first, Pete," replied Sam'l, in
one of those happy flashes that come to some men, "but there's nae
sayin' but what she micht tak ye to finish up wi'."
The unexpectedness of this sally startled every one. Though Sam'l did
not set up for a wit, however, like Davit, it was notorious that he
could say a cutting thing once in a way.
"Did ye ever see Bell reddin' up?" asked Pete, recovering from his
overthrow. He was a man who bore no malice.
"It's a sicht," said Sam'l, solemnly.
"Hoo will that be?" asked Jamie Deuchars.
"It's weel worth yer while," said Pete, "to ging atower to the T'nowhead
an' see. Ye'll mind the closed-in beds i' the kitchen? Ay, weel, they're
a fell spoilt crew, T'nowhead's litlins, an' no that aisy to manage. Th'
ither lasses Lisbeth's ha'en had a michty trouble wi' them. When they
war i' the middle o' their reddin up the bairns wid come tumlin' about
the floor, but, sal, I assure ye, Bell didna fash lang wi' them. Did
"She did not," said Sam'l, dropping into a fine mode of speech to add
emphasis to his remark.
"I'll tell ye what she did," said Pete to the others. "She juist lifted
up the litlins, twa at a time, an' flung them into the coffin-beds. Syne
she snibbit the doors on them, an' keepit them there till the floor
"Ay, man, did she so?" said Davit, admiringly.
"I've seen her do't myself," said Sam'l.
"There's no a lassie maks better bannocks this side o' Fetter Lums,"
"Her mither tocht her that," said Sam'l; "she was a gran' han' at the
bakin', Kitty Ogilvy."
"I've heard say," remarked Jamie, putting it this way so as not to tie
himself down to anything, "'at Bell's scones is equal to Mag Lunan's."
"So they are," said Sam'l, almost fiercely.
"I kin she's a neat han' at singein' a hen," said Pete.
"An' wi't a'," said Davit, "she's a snod, canty bit stocky in her