- William Carleton
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He forgot that he had written passages which would have to be expunged before the works in which they occur would be welcome to Irish hearts and homes. But his worst errors in this respect were committed at a later date.
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In The Irish Penny Journal was started, and Carleton wrote some admirable sketches for it, including his " Buckramback," " Mickey McRory," and other pen-portraits of the rural types with which he had been familiar from childhood. In the journal ceased to live. Among its contributors were Petrie, Dr. O'Donovan, and other scholars and antiquaries of more than local fame.
It was an admirable periodical, but too much of its space was allotted to antiquarian lore for the popular taste. With Petrie, Carleton became very friendly — but he was the only antiquarian whom he could tolerate; for the average specimen of the fraternity he had nothing but ridicule. He knew but little of Irish 1 " Those who have seen Sir Walter Scott and William Carleton will agree with me, that in stature, make, features, and above all the peculiar loftiness of brow, there is a strong personal resem- blance.
Mackenzie's Nodes Ambrosiance, vol. In an unpublished sketch entitled " The Dream of an Antiquarian," he has hit off rather happily some of the foibles and fads of the devotees of the Past. The follow- ing sentences may be given as an example of his bantering style. He begins by describing the happy condition of Bonnemara before that place was visited by an antiquarian : — " It was said of Canaan that it was a land over- flowing with milk and honey ; we have it in our power, thanks to a genial climate, a prolific national vegetable, and a thirsty people, to state that Bonnemara Felix was a land overflowing with what was a thousand times more beneficial to its happy inhabitants — to wit, potatoes and poteen.
The habit of groping in the dark did fill my imagination with a delectable hallucination whereunto I did always cleave while in search of a new hypothesis, by which I mean an old hypothesis brought to light. Was I dug out of some ancient catacomb where I slept for ages in a long dream of antiquarian lore?
It might be, for I had forgotten everything but my Antiquities. And after this for a space I did lose all trace of my own identity and began to seek and inquire for myself A Skit. So great was the change in me that my friends could not recognize me, and assured me seriously that I was no longer the same man. I then advertised for myself in the papers of the day, but as I got the Advertisements printed in Black Letter the public could not read them, which was only the consequence of its being a modern body. I then as a last resource put myself into the "Hue and Cry" as a rare and valuable specimen of the Antique who had disappeared, no cne knew how, from his friends, and as an intimation of the value of the individual so lost I d id offer then one of my oldest and most illegible copper coins as a reward.
He is asked his name and profession, and he replies that he is a round tower and therefore pagan. He is dis- charged, the magistrate wondering aloud what he will become next, to which he promptly replies that, on account of his love of darkness, he will probably be a tumulus. This skit is noticed here chiefly as an indication of Carleton's views upon antiquarianism in general.
He had little reverence for what is ancient, and it is even doubtful whether he was interested in anything but the life surging around him. He was devotedly attached to his family, and for his children's sake he accepted a position which was, it must be acknow- ledged, unworthy of a man of genius.
He could not see those whom he so dearly loved in destitution, and he became a " hack " writer, as the current phrase described an author who wrote to order. This was undeniably degrading to a man of Carleton's powers, 46 Life of Willtam Carleton. The claims of kindred pressed upon his affectionate heart to an extent unusual among men, and he threw aside scruples in his efforts to satisfy the claims. Any "side" that would pay for the service of his pen might command it.
The demands upon him were not those of his own household only; he frequently sent money which could ill be spared to his kinsfolk in Tyrone, and letters are extant in which these remit- tances are acknowledged. Carleton never lost the love of his childhood's home so characteristic of the Irish of all classes. He sighed constantly for his native hills and vales, and the poems already quoted are not merely mechanical expressions of sorrow, but genuine outpourings of the heart.
A cousin named John Carleton, living at Kilnahus- hogue, was a regular correspondent of his, and would, in addition to telling him of the necessities of his family, retail all the most interesting news of the country side, and to this cousin it was Carleton's habit to send the money and other gifts intended for his brothers James and Michael.
John Carleton, who wrote an excellent old-fashioned hand, and was evidently a simple and honest fellow, frequently had to com- municate painful news of the family's poverty. Natur- ally, the people of Clogher and surrounding district were deeply concerned about their great countryman's doings. Such information in John Carleton's budget as that "we buried Johnny McGinn, of Lisnamaghery, on last week — he died in four days' sickness," was very interesting to Carleton, i not to readers of the present day ; but it is only rarely that he lets his famous Carleton's Cousin.
In a letter, dated 1S41, John Carleton says: "There are many things bears heavy on my mind with regard to you, which I am not willing to mention in my epistolary correspondence with you, but if I had a personal conversation with you I would not be delicate to explain myself, as I know you would not take offence at what I would say. There is one thing I cannot omit mentioning — what a pity it was that you were so much inclined to write so unfavourably of the Catholic Church, and I never could, nor can I, bring myself to think that it is from the sincerity of your heart that you have written as much as you did.
Do you mind when you and I were at school with Pat Frayne — them were the days that we had nothing to trouble us, and Poor Jack, too, he was a brave, clever iellow and a good learner; but the lightfooted boy as we used to call you could leather us all at the spelling lesson, and run away with the pins. Did you ever know or hear that your sister Mary was a poetess? She wrote a poem or lamentation on hearing of your forsaking the Catholic religion.
Carleton had always had a desire to write a play, 48 Life of William Carleton. Calcraft, 1 lessee of the Theatre Royal, Dublin, to write something for him.
Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade
The piece was so heartrending a repre- sentation of Dublin poverty, that some scenes were voted overdone, and the public resenting the harrow- ing details of the plot, it was speedily withdrawn. Carleton was to have had one hundred pounds if the play proved successful, but he got nothing. The piece was never printed, and is not now available. This was Carleton's first and last attempt at playwriting.
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The following is the prologue written for this solitary drama : — 'Twas not in vain the patriot call was made To snatch from ruin our expiring trade, Learning that art in happier nations known To raise ourselves by relishing our own, — 1 Calcraft's real name was John William Cole. He made several courageous attempts to make the Theatre Royal pay, but failed. He was a clever playwriter himself, and knew more of the history of the stage in Ireland than an body in his day. Some of this information is contained in a series of articles in the University Magazine for and Cole was a very popular personage in Dublin.
He unfortunately tried prematurely the favourite experiment of the present time — the combination of acting with " management. Theophilus Bolton, a clever, eccentric man, brother of Mr. Chichester Bolton who is still remembered as a prominent member of Dublin Society , was a friend of Cole's, but had no opinion of him as an actor. Bolton was an inveterate playgoer, and usually occupied a stage-box.
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One evening, when Cole was on the stage, and doing no better than usual, Bolton leaned forward and addressed him audibly with : " Speak up, speak up! Cole had the tact and the temper to join. Cole had a true flair for a promising actor, and " discovered " Robson, who played Trudge in Inkle and Yarico at his theatre in the forties. Even here, methinks these glossy curls of jet To the boxes Float glossier o'er that lustrous tab inet!
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Yon swan-like neck acquires a statelier grace, Rising from drapery of Limerick lace! But come in fabric of what loom you will, Or Kidderminster or Hibernian mill, Well satisfied are we to play our parts, If you but bring home-manufactured hearts!
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Alive to love and innocent delight — The only goods in which we deal to-night — They're of right Irish make, and dyed in grain, Fresh from the loom of Carleton's busy brain ; That wondrous workshop, where so oft was wove r l he magic web of Irish life and love : Fresh from the loom the homespun web appears, In changeful tissue, wrought with smiles and tears — Here broadly dashed with humour's golden gleam, There filied with merriment from seam to seam — Such as it is, the piece be now displayed — '1 hese boards our counter— and I'm not afraid To hail in you a favouring Board of Trade!
In 1 "Jane Sinclair, or The Fawn of Spring- vale," was reprinted from the Dublin University Magazine, and published with one or two other tales of sentiment. This story especially appealed to such readers as failed to appreciate fully Carleton's more rugged and homely works. With the demise of the Irish Penny Journal, in 1S41, came also the temporary suspension of Carleton's con- tributions to the University Magazine. Between and the only writings by him in it VOL.
E 50 Life of William Carleton. The latter portion of the story has only a slight connection with the earlier part. It comes to a lachrymose and lame conclusion. There are in it, nevertheless, scenes worthy of a master. One, in particular, in which Barney thrusts money upon Cassidy, and fights with him for refusing to accept his generous aid, is admirably con- ceived, and raises expectations which are not fulfilled by the rest of the tale. A friend of Carleton's, 1 one for whom he felt great regard, and with whom he corre- sponded for many years afterwards, wrote to him in an enthusiastic strain about this story : — " I thank you heartily for the keen enjoyment I have had to-night reading ' Barney Branagan.
His humour is as rich and mellow as a lump of his own yellow firsts.
He made me laugh, the simple knave, or 1 This lady was Mrs. Callan, the wife of the late Dr. John Callan, of Dublin. She was an elegant writer and a sound critic. In the high and palmy days of The Nation she was a constant contributor to its renowned literary columns. Callan was Mr. She died a few years ago at Melbourne, having left Ireland for Australia about the year i One of her daughters, who has inherited a large share of her gifted mother's talent, is the wife of the Hon.
Carleton's Portrait. Nobody in the whole world has ever painted a creature given up to his passions, tortured yet not redeemed by good impulses, with a touch so firm and yet delicately shaded as in this Cassidy of yours. My interest in him became so great that every allusion to his mother, and the agony of heart he brought on her, touched me to the quick, as it did him, and I found myself almost cursing Barney for thinking perpetually on the theme — that was like placing a finger on his brain.
Can you let me have the volume for another day or two? It is still the best portrait of Carleton at that age. It was drawn by Charles Grey, R. Richard Bentley as a writer, at the same time expressing a hope that Mr. Harrison Ainsworth was not editor, as he did not wish to have his writings submitted to that gentle- man, whose " Guy Fawkes " was then appearing in the 1 One or two of Grey's sons were, and are, also good artists.
Alfred Grey, R. E 2 52 Life of William Carleton. Bentley gladly consented to receive Carleton as a contributor, and informed him that the terms of payment were twelve guineas per sixteen printed pages. Bentley added that although such an arrange- ment was contrary to his general practice, he would allow Carleton half the profits of any subsequent re- publication in a separate form.
Bentley continued, "you will be glad to hear that Mr. Ainsworth is not editor of the Miscellany. The term of his arrangement with me has arrived, and I was but too glad to have done with him, for latterly his 'Guy Fawkes' was, in good faith, an incubus. In Charles Lever took up the editorship of the University Magazine, and nothing of Carleton's was published in it for several years.
There had been a difference between the two novelists, Carleton having hinted that Lever had been guilty of plagiarism, an im- putation angrily resented by Lever. Carleton did not forgive his exclusion from the magazine, as will be seen in the course of this narrative.