The Irish Penny Journal, Vol. 1 No. 9, August 29, 1840 online

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the hours of labour, was an uninhabited cabin, the roof of which, at a
particular spot, was supported by a post that stood upright from the
floor. It was built upon an elevated situation, and commanded a fine view
of the whole country for miles about it. A pleasant sight it was to see
the modest and pretty girls, dressed in their best frocks and ribbons,
radiating in little groups from all directions, accompanied by their
partners or lovers, making way through the fragrant summer fields of a
calm cloudless evening, to this happy scene of innocent amusement.

And yet what an epitome of general life, with its passions, jealousies,
plots, calumnies, and contentions, did this little segment of society
present! There was the shrew, the slattern, the coquette, and the prude,
as sharply marked within this their humble sphere, as if they appeared
on the world’s wider stage, with half its wealth and all its temptations
to draw forth their prevailing foibles. There, too, was the bully, the
rake, the liar, the coxcomb, and the coward, each as perfect and distinct
in his kind as if he had run through a lengthened course of fashionable
dissipation, or spent a fortune in acquiring his particular character.
The elements of the human heart, however, and the passion that make up
the general business of life, are the same in high and low, and exist
with impulses as strong in the cabin as they have in the palace. The only
difference is, that they have not equal room to play.

Buckram-Back’s system, in originality of design, in comic conception of
decorum, and in the easy practical assurance with which he wrought it
out, was never equalled, much less surpassed. Had the impudent little
rascal confined himself to dancing as usually taught, there would have
been nothing so ludicrous or uncommon in it; but no: he was such a
stickler for example in every thing, that no other mode of instruction
would satisfy him. Dancing! Why, it was the least part of what he taught
or professed to teach.

In the first place, he undertook to teach every one of us - for I had
the honour of being his pupil - how to enter a drawing-room “in the most
fashionable manner alive,” as he said himself.

Secondly. He was the only man, he said, who could in the most agreeable
and polite style taich a gintleman how to salute, or, as he termed it,
how to shiloote, a leedy. This he taught, he said, wid great success.

Thirdly. He could taich every leedy and gintleman how to make the most
beautiful bow or curchy on airth, by only imitating himself - one that,
would cause a thousand people, if they were all present, to think that it
was particularly intended only for aich o’ themselves!

Fourthly. He taught the whole art o’ courtship wid all peliteness and
success, accordin’ as it was practised in Paris durin’ the last saison.

Fifthly. He could taich thim how to write love-letthers and valentines,
accordin’ to the Great Macademy of compliments, which was supposed to be
invinted by Bonaparte when he was writing love-letthers to both his wives.

Sixthly. He was the only person who could taich the famous dance called
Sir Roger de Coverley, or the Helter-Skelter Drag, which comprehinded
widin itself all the advantages and beauties of his whole system - in
which every gintleman was at liberty to pull every leedy where he
plaised, and every leedy was at liberty to go wherever he pulled her.

With such advantages in prospect, and a method of instruction so
agreeable, it is not to be wondered at that his establishment was always
in a most flourishing condition. The truth is, he had it so contrived
that every gentleman should salute his lady as often as possible, and for
this purpose actually invented dances, in which not only should every
gentleman salute every lady, but every lady, by way of returning the
compliment, should render a similar kindness to every gentleman. Nor had
his male pupils all this prodigality of salutation to themselves, for the
amorous little rascal always commenced first and ended last, in order,
he said, that they might _cotch_ the manner from himself. “I do this,
leedies and gintlemen, as your moral (model), and because it’s part o’
_my_ system - ahem!”

And then he would perk up his little hard face, that was too barren to
produce more than an abortive smile, and twirl like a wagtail over the
floor, in a manner that he thought irresistible.

Whether Buckram-Back was the only man who tried to reduce kissing to a
system of education in this country, I do not know. It is certainly true
that many others of his stamp made a knowledge of the arts and modes of
courtship, like him, a part of the course. The forms of love-letters,
valentines, &c. were taught their pupils of both sexes, with many other
polite particulars, which it is to be hoped have disappeared for ever.

One thing, however, to the honour of our countrywomen we are bound to
observe, which is, that we do not remember a single result incompatible
with virtue to follow from the little fellow’s system, which by the way
was in _this_ respect peculiar only to himself, and not the general
custom of the country. Several weddings, unquestionably, we had more than
might otherwise have taken place, but in not one instance have we known
any case in which a female was brought to unhappiness or shame.

We shall now give a brief sketch of Buckram-Back’s manner of tuition,
begging our readers at the same time to rest assured that any sketch we
could give would fall far short of the original.

“Paddy Corcoran, walk out an’ inther your drawin’-room; an’ let Miss Judy
Hanratty go out along wid you, an’ come in as Mrs Corcoran.”

“Faith, I’m afeard, masther, I’ll make a bad hand of it; but, sure, it’s
something to have Judy here to keep me in countenance.”

“Is that by way of compliment, Paddy? Mr Corcoran, you should ever an’
always spaik to a leedy in an alyblasther tone; for that’s the cut.”

[_Paddy and Judy retire._

“Mickey Scanlan, come up here, now that we’re braithin’ a little; an’
you, Miss Grauna Mulholland, come up along wid him. Miss Mulholland,
you are masther of your five positions and your fifteen attitudes, I
believe?” “Yes, sir.” “Very well, Miss. Mickey Scanlan - ahem! - _Misther_
Scanlan, can _you_ perfome the positions also, Mickey?”

“Yes, sir; but you remimber I stuck at the eleventh altitude.”

“Attitude, sir - no matther. Well, Misther Scanlan, do you know how to
shiloote a leedy, Mickey?”

“Faix, it’s hard to say, sir, till we thry; but I’m very willin’ to larn
it. I’ll do my best, an’ the best can do no more.”

“Very well - ahem! Now merk me, Misther Scanlan; you approach your leedy
in this style, bowin’ politely, as I do. Miss Mulholland, will you
allow me the honour of a heavenly shiloote? Don’t bow, ma’am; you are
to curchy, you know; a little lower _eef_ you plaise. Now you say, ‘Wid
the greatest pleasure in life, sir, an’ many thanks for the feevour.’
(_Smack._) There, now, you are to make another curchy politely, an’ say,
‘Thank you, kind sir, I owe you one.’ Now, Misther Scanlan, proceed.”

“I’m to imitate you, masther, as well as I can, sir, I believe?”

“Yes, sir, you are to imiteet _me_. But hould, sir; did you see me lick
my lips or pull up my breeches? Be gorra, that’s shockin’ unswintemintal.
First make a curchy, a bow I mane, to Miss Grauna. Stop agin, sir; are
you goin’ to sthrangle the leedy? Why, one would think that it’s about
to teek laive of her for ever you are. Gently, Misther Scanlan; gently,
Mickey. There: - well, that’s an improvement. Practice, Misther Scanlan,
practice will do all, Mickey; but don’t smack so loud, though. Hilloo,
gintlemen! where’s our drawin’-room folk? Go out, one of you, for Misther
an’ Mrs Paddy Corcoran.”

Corcoran’s face now appears peeping in at the door, lit up with a comic
expression of genuine fun, from whatever cause it may have proceeded.

“Aisy, Misther Corcoran; an’ where’s Mrs Corcoran, sir?”

“Are we both to come in together, masther?”

“Certainly. Turn out both your toeses - turn them out, I say.”

“Faix, sir, it’s aisier said than done wid some of us.”

“I know that, Misther Corcoran; but practice is every thing. The bow
legs are strongly against you, I grant. Hut tut, Misther Corcoran - why,
if your toes wor where your heels is, you’d be exactly in the first
position, Paddy. Well, both of you turn out your toeses; look street
forward; clap your caubeen - hem! - your castor undher your ome (arm), an’
walk into the middle of the flure, wid your head up. Stop, take care o’
the post. Now, take your caubeen, castor I mane, in your right hand; give
it a flourish. Aisy, Mrs Hanratty - Corcoran I mane - it’s not _you_ that’s
to flourish. Well, flourish your castor, Paddy, and thin make a graceful
bow to the company. Leedies and gintlemen” -

“Leedies and gintlemen” -

“I’m your most obadient sarvint” -

“I’m your most obadient sarwint.”

“Tuts, man alive! that’s not a bow. Look at this: _there’s_ a bow for
you. Why, instead of meeking a bow, you appear as if you wor goin’ to
sit down wid an embargo (lumbago) in your back. Well, practice is every
thing; an’ there’s luck in leisure.

“Dick Doorish, will you come up, and thry if you can meek any thing
of that threblin’ step. You’re a purty lad, Dick; you’re a purty lad,
Misther Doorish, wid a pair o’ left legs an you, to expect to larn to
dance; but don’t despeer, man alive. I’m not afeard but I’ll meek a
graceful slip o’ you yet. Can you meek a curchy?”

“Not right, sir. I doubt.”

“Well, sir, I know that; but, Misther Doorish, you ought to know bow to
meek both a bow and a curchy. Whin you marry a wife, Misther Doorish,
it mightn’t come wrong for you to know how to taich her a curchy. Have
you the _gad_ and _suggaun_ wid you?” “Yes, sir.” “Very well, on wid
them; the suggaun on the right foot, or what ought to be the right foot,
an’ the gad upon what ought to be the left. Are you ready?” “Yes, sir.”
“Come, thin, do as I bid you - Rise upon suggaun an’ sink upon gad; rise
upon suggaun an’ sink upon gad; rise upon - - Hould, sir; you’re sinkin’
upon suggaun an’ risin’ upon gad, the very thing you ought _not_ to do.
But, God help you! sure you’re left-legged! Ah, Misther Doorish, it ’ud
be long time before you’d be able to dance Jig Polthogue or the College
Hornpipe upon a drum-head, as I often did. However, don’t despeer,
Misther Doorish - if I could only get you to know your right leg - but,
God help you! sure you hav’nt sich a thing - from your left, I’d make
something of you yet, Dick.”

The Irish dancing-masters were eternally at daggers-drawn among
themselves; but as they seldom met, they were forced to abuse each
other at a distance, which they did with a virulence and scurrility
proportioned to the space between them. Buckram-Back had a rival of
this description, who was a sore thorn in his side. His name was Paddy
Fitzpatrick, and from having been a horse-jockey, he gave up the turf,
and took to the calling of a dancing-master. Buckram-Back sent a message
to him to the effect that “if he could not dance Jig Polthogue on the
drum-head, he had better hould his tongue for ever.” To this Paddy
replied, by asking if he was the man to dance the Connaught Jockey upon
the saddle of a blood-horse, and the animal at a three-quarter gallop.

At length the friends on each side, from a natural love of fun, prevailed
upon them to decide their claims as follows: - Each master, with twelve
of his pupils, was to dance against his rival with twelve of his; the
match to come off on the top of Mallybeny Hill, which commanded a view of
the whole parish. I have already mentioned that in Buckram-Back’s school
there stood near the middle of the floor a post, which according to some
new manœuvre of his own was very convenient as a guide to the dancers
when going through the figure. Now, at the spot where this post stood
it was necessary to make a curve, in order to form part of the figure
of eight, which they were to follow; but as many of them were rather
impenetrable to a due conception of the line of beauty, he forced them to
turn round the post rather than make an acute angle of it, which several
of them did. Having premised thus much, we proceed with our narrative.

At length they met, and it would have been a matter of much difficulty to
determine their relative merits, each was such an admirable match for the
other. When Buckram-Back’s pupils, however, came to perform, they found
that the absence of the post was their ruin. To the post they had been
trained - accustomed; - with _it_ they could dance; but wanting that, they
were like so many ships at sea without rudders or compasses. Of course a
scene of ludicrous confusion ensued, which turned the laugh against poor
Buckram-Back, who stood likely to explode with shame and venom. In fact
he was in an agony.

“Gintlemen, turn the post!” he shouted, stamping upon the ground, and
clenching his little hands with fury; “leedies, remimber the post! Oh,
for the honour of Kilnahushogue don’t be bate. The post! gintlemen;
leedies, the post if you love me! Murdher alive, the post!”

“Be gorra, masther, the jockey will distance us,” replied Bob Magawly;
“it’s likely to be the _winnin’-post_ to him anyhow.”

“Any money,” shouted the little fellow, “any money for long Sam
Sallaghan; he’d do the post to the life. Mind it, boys dear, mind it
or we’re lost. Divil a bit they heed me; it’s a flock o’ bees or sheep
they’re like. Sam Sallaghan, where are you? The post, you blackguards!”

“Oh, masther dear, if we had even a fishin’-rod, or a crow-bar, or a
poker, we might do yet. But, anyhow, we had better give in, for it’s only
worse we’re gettin’.”

At this stage of the proceedings Paddy came over to him, and making a low
bow, asked him, “Arra, how do you feel, Misther Dogherty?” for such was
Buckram-Back’s name.

“Sir,” replied Buckram-Back, bowing low, however, in return, “I’ll take
the shine out o’ you yet. Can you shiloote a leedy wid me? - that’s
the chat! Come, gintlemen, show them what’s betther than fifty
posts - shiloote your partners like Irishmen. Kilnahushogue for ever!”

The scene that ensued baffles all description. The fact is, the little
fellow had them trained as it were to kiss in platoons, and the
spectators were literally convulsed with laughter at this most novel
and ludicrous character which Buckram-Back gave to his defeat, and
the ceremony which he introduced. The truth is, he turned the laugh
completely against his rival, and swaggered off the ground in high
spirits, exclaiming, “He know how to shiloote a leedy! Why, the poor
spalpeen never kissed any woman but his mother, an’ her only when she was
dyin’. Hurra for Kilnahushogue!”

Such, reader, is a slight and very imperfect sketch of an Irish
dancing-master, which if it possesses any merit at all, is to be ascribed
to the circumstance that it is drawn from life, and combines, however
faintly, most of the points essential to our conception of the character.

Printed and Published every Saturday by GUNN and CAMERON at
the Office of the General Advertiser, No. 6, Church Lane,
College Green, Dublin. - Agents: - R. GROOMBRIDGE, Panyer Alley,
Paternoster Row, London; SIMMS and DINHAM, Exchange Street,
Manchester; C. DAVIES, North John Street, Liverpool; J.
DRAKE. Birmingham; M. BINGHAM, Broad Street, Bristol; FRASER
and CRAWFORD, George Street, Edinburgh; and DAVID ROBERTSON,
Trongate, Glasgow.

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Online LibraryVariousThe Irish Penny Journal, Vol. 1 No. 9, August 29, 1840 → online text (page 3 of 3)