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IMPRESSIONS OF IRELAND AND THE IRISH
This is a new work by Mr. Grant, author of “Random Recollections of the Lords and Commons,” « The Great Metropolis," &c. As it is not yet published, nor will be until the day on which this number of our Magazine appears, we will not, in the present article, enter into any criticism on the book. All we intend to do, is to give our readers such an idea of its contents as may enable them to form some conception of the way in which Mr. Grant has treated so interesting a subject as “ Ireland and the Irish.”
The author, soon after his arrival in Dublin, visited the State Prisoners, on two occasions. On the second occasion he spent eight hours with them. In this part of his work he gives some facts, before unknown, respecting Mr. O'Connell.
Mr. O'CONNELL'S HABITS AND Religious Views. "Mr. O'Connell is one of the most pleasant men I ever met with. No one can be many seconds in his company without feeling at the most perfect ease.
He converses, as may be inferred from what I have already stated, in the most free and familiar manner with all who are admitted to his society. There is nothing stiff or distant in his manner; nothing in look, or tone, or word, or action, which indicates any sense of superiority to those around him. There is a simplicity and artlessness about him which are perfectly child-like, and are exceedingly winning to strangers. You ask yourself, Can you be actually conversing in this easy and familiar manner with one who, for the last thirty years, has filled so large a space, not only in England and Ireland's eye, but in the eye of the world? You ask yourself, Can this be the man who has played so prominent a part on the stage of political life? who is at this moment, in some respects, the most important man of his agewho is, in short, in a moral sense, the monarch of Ireland ? Yet so it is. Such is Mr. O'Connell. No one, no matter how opposed to him he may be in politics, can be any time in his society without being fascinated by his pleasing manner, and delighted with his conversation. In private, Mr. O'Connell has no enemies. He never had any; it is impossible he could. Those who have never met with him often entertain, owing to antagonist views on political questions, very strong prejudices against him ; but the moment such persons enter into conversation with him, their prejudices vanish, and feelings of admiration and friendship take the place of dislike. Some very extraordinary instances of the transformation of violent prejudices against Mr. O'Connell into equally strong prepossessions in his favour, as the result of a short per
1 Impressions of Ireland and the Irish. By the Author of “Random Recollections of the Lords and Commons," "The Great Metropolis,” &c. In Two Volumes.
Nov. 1844,- VOL. XLI.-NO, CLXIII.
sonal interview, have, at different times, come under my own personal observation. In private, he rarely talks of politics. A stranger might be hours in his company before he discovered, from anything that spontaneously escaped his lips, that he is the greatest political agitator which the world has produced. He talks about every variety of topic without saying a word, unless led to it by others, respecting the part which he himself has so long played, and still continues to play, on the stage of political life. He is a man of superior conversational powers; his information is varied. I was surprised to find that a man who had devoted so much of his time, ever since he was called to the bar, to professional pursuits, and the emancipation of his country from what he considers an unjust and degrading bondage—I was surprised to find that such a man, in a company of about twenty persons, most of them belonging to the learned professions, should display a variety and accuracy of knowledge on general topics which none of their number could make any pretensions to.
His attainments as a theologian are also of a superior order.
If, as before remarked, a fonder father than Mr. O'Connell is not, perhaps, to be met with in her Majesty's dominions, it is but due to his family to say, that never did sons or daughters feel or manifest a more devoted attachment to a father than do Mr. O'Connell's family to him. On one of the occasions on which I was with him, he received a letter from one of his sons. He read it in my hearing. It was one of the most affectionate letters which a dutiful and attached son ever penned to an affectionate and indulgent parent.
Mr. O'Connell is a man of excellent business habits. This fact is not known in England. I am not sure that it is so even in Ireland, beyond the sphere of his personal acquaintances. He does everything by system ; all his movements are made in accordance with previous arrangements. Even when in the zenith of his professional reputation and success as a barrister, he was most assiduous and systematic in his attention to matters of miscellaneous business. What may appear still more extraordinary, he was never known to omit or neglect the most trivial matters, provided he had engaged to give his attention to them, during the five months of last year when the monster meetings were being held. I met with a gentleman in Dublin who has had a world of private business to transact with Mr. O'Connell ; and he assured me
in all his intercourse with public men, did he meet with one on whose punctuality to his appointments, or fulfilment of his promises, he could more confidently rely, than on those of Mr. O'Connell.
The reader will not, after this, be surprised to learn that Mr. O'Connell is an early riser. He is usually up between five and six in the morning, in winter as well as summer. He is also exceedingly temperate ; if left to his own taste, he would seldom, if at all, partake of even a single glass of wine. For the sake of others, he does take one or two glasses, but rarely more, at dinner. Whiskey punch, which is so great a favourite in Ireland, is not patronised by Mr. O'Connell. He retires to bed early. Except in some very peculiar case, he never remains in company after ten o'clock; no matter whose guest he may be, or who may be his guests, he leaves the table at ten o'clock, and very soon after retires to bed. His regular and abstemious habits have, doubt
less, much to do with the excellent health which he is known to enjoy. And here I may mention, by way of parenthesis, that, though I have been in the habit of seeing Mr. O'Connell for nearly twelve years, he looked quite as well, and as hale and hearty last autumn, as when I first saw him in the beginning of 1833.
There is another trait in Mr. O'Connell's character, which I mention last, in order that it may make the deeper impression. He is a religious man; eminently so, according to the views of the church to which he belongs. My own principles being Protestant, while those of Mr. O'Connell are Roman Catholic, I have the greater pleasure in bearing my testimony to the fervour of his devotional feelings, and to the exemplary attention which he pays to the injunctions of the Church of Rome. Through a long life--one, as all the world knows, of a most exciting, and distracting, and soul-absorbing kind-Mr. O'Connell has not, I am assured, permitted a single day, winter or summer-except, it may be, in a few cases of extreme urgency, arising from bodily illness or other causes—to pass over his head, without attending to his public as well as private devotions. Every morning, as the clock strikes seven, is Mr. O'Connell to be seen entering chapel to attend mass. I was told by one who is intimately acquainted with him, that he also takes the communion daily ; but on that point, I do not speak with the same confidence. The time he daily spends in his devotions at chapel is about an hour. A little after eight o'clock, he returns to his own house. Soon after this, he takes breakfast, and then prepares for the secular duties of the day. What a rebuke, to many Protestants who make great professions of religion, is administered by the regular, unostentatious, and exemplary conduct of Mr. O'Connell, in reference to his religious duties-exemplary, according to the light which Heaven has given him."
The next chapter is devoted to Conciliation Hall and the Repeal Association. The reader will peruse with interest the following particulars respecting them.
CONCILIATION HALL AND THE REPEAL Association. “It may be asked, and often is asked in England, what is done with the money received as the price of membership of the Repeal Association, and what with the weekly Repeal rent? Though the friends of Ireland in England never for a moment doubted that the money so contributed and raised, was applied to legitimate purposes in connection with the progress of the cause of Repeal, yet they have often been unable, from want of a knowledge of the details of the expenditure, to silence those who with an air of triumph say, that the money is not expended as it ought to be, but that it is appropriated to private purposes by the leading Repealers. This, it might be supposed, is so improbable a supposition that no one could believe it. And yet there are personsintelligent persons too — who either do believe it, or profess to believe it. I mentioned to Mr. Ray, the Secretary of the Repeal Association, that the question is everlastingly put by the enemies of Ireland to her friends in England, “What is done with the Repeal rent, and the money otherwise raised for Repeal purposes?" Mr. Ray expressed the greatest pleasure at having an opportunity of giving a full explanation of the way in which the Repeal money is expended. It will be remembered that until within the last three years the amount raised was but small, as compared with what it has recently been ; and, consequently, there was not, until lately, the shadow of a pretext for making the statement, that the money collected for Repeal objects was misapplied to private purposes. Some eighteen or twenty months ago, after meeting all demands upon them, the Repeal Association had a surplus of £6,000, which they invested in the funds. In the interim came the building of Conciliation Hall, which cost somewhere about £3,000. The expenses of the late trial were enormously great : they swallowed up a very large portion of the amount, large as it has been, which has been received during the last twelve months. Both of these were doubtless accidental sources of expense, which are not likely to occur again. But though the Association will not be again subjected to extraordinary outlays, from the causes in question, there will in the nature of things, be always new sources of expenditure opening up, to meet which the Association require to have some surplus funds in their hands. But supposing no such causes of extra expense were to occur, the stated, systematic, permanent expenses of carrying on the agitation are very great. Mr. Ray, as Secretary, receives £400 per annum; and, considering the nature and responsibility of the work which he has to do, and the singularly efficient manner in which he discharges his duties, he is certainly anything but overpaid. The assistant secretary is engaged at a salary of £300 per year. The cashier receives a salary of £150, and the bookkeeper £100. There are about fifty persons altogether permanently employed by the Association, as clerks and otherwise, with salaries varying from two pounds to fifteen shillings per week. For printing alone, £200 are paid on an average per month. Postages cost the Association the same sum per month, or £50 a week. The item of newspapers and advertisements, subjects it to an annual expense of from £2,000 to £3,000, or about £250 per month. Then, out of every sum remitted from the country, twenty per cent. has to be deducted for local expenses. At least, £150 per month may be put down for miscellaneous expenses.
It will thus be seen that the permanent and unavoidable expenses of working the Repeal Association, as detailed to me by Mr. Ray, the Secretary, are necessarily very great. To meet these expenses would, of itself, require a handsome weekly rent. When to the regular expenses, those arising from accidental causes are added, it will be easily understood what ways and means there are of swallowing up the rent.”
Next we have a chapter on Donnybrook Fair, but we must not pause to make any extracts from it. Mr. Grant, availing himself of the kind invitation of one of the leading professors of Maynooth College, visited that celebrated institution. He devotes a long chapter to it. We can only make room for the following
Facts CONNECTED WITH MAYNOOTH COLLEGE. “The number of students at Maynooth was, last year, 450. When I visited the institution in the latter end of August, the students were
returning after their summer vacation. Of course, the precise number for the present year could not then be ascertained; but it was supposed it would be much the same as during the year ending in July last. Of the students at Maynooth, two hundred and fifty are what is called "free,” that is, are received into the institution without paying anything. A certain number are chosen from each province by the Catholic bishops. All above two hundred and fifty pay for their instruction, the same as at other collegiate institutions, but on a more moderate scale.
The complete or full course of education at Maynooth College requires a period of ten years; but the number of students who remain in the institution that length of time, is comparatively small. Seven years is the usual period. Those students not on the free list usually enter at the early age of fourteen : the free students are received at the age of seventeen. If far advanced in their education before they enter Maynooth, the circumstance is taken into account in arranging as to the period they are to remain in the institution. No one is admitted into holy orders unless he has gone through a certain course of education, and made a certain amount of progress in the studies assigned him. The prescribed course of study is very comprehensive, and if the students were well grounded in the different branches of education to which they must apply themselves, they ought to come out of the establishment superior scholars. All the branches taught at other collegiate institutions are taught at Maynooth. Of course, the progress of the students must, in a great measure, depend on the competency of the professors. Perhaps the regulation which most materially militates against the college of Mayrooth, as regards the instruction of the students in the sciences and in general literature, is that of no one being eligible to the office of professor who is not a Roman Catholic priest. All the professors, consequently, belong to the priesthood. To me, this appears a very unwise arrangement, because the presumption is that the persons most distinguished for their literary, philosophic, and scientific attainments, will be found to be those who have chiefly, if not exclusively, applied their minds to those subjects coming within the range of their respective departments. The proficiency in theological matters, which their admission into holy orders presupposes, must needs have distracted their minds from the particular branches of education in which it is their province to instruct the students.
I ought here to mention, that the reason assigned for this arrangement is, that all the young men who enter Maynooth are presumed to do so with the view of preparing for the priesthood. In fact, if any young man made an admission to the contrary he would not be received into the institution. Consequently, all the students are obliged to go through the same routine of education, submit to the same discipline, and practise the same religious duties. 'It happens, however, that not much more than half the students do, after all, eventually enter the church. It is ascertained that, taking one year with another, out of every seventy-five students, only forty settle down in the capacity of priests. Of the remaining thirty-five, some die and the rest engage in secular occupations of various kinds. A goodly number connect themselves with the newspaper press, some as editors and others as reporters.”