Gerald Griffin.

The collegians online

. (page 1 of 37)
Online LibraryGerald GriffinThe collegians → online text (page 1 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The Collegians


Every • Irishman's • Library

General Editors: Ai,fred Pkrcbvai, Graves, m.a.
W11.1.IAM Magennis, ma. D0UG1.AS Hyde, 1,1,. d.

The collegians






Printed by The
Bducationai, Company


AT The Tai^bot Press



Chap. Pag«

1 How Garryowen rose and How it fell ... 1

2 How Eily O'Connor puzzled all the inhabit-

ants of Garryowen ... ... ... 7

3 How Mr. Daly, The Middleman, sat down to

breakfast ... ... ... ... 17

4 How Mr. Daly, The Middleman, rose up from

breakfast ... ... ... ... 29

5 How Kyrle Daly rode out to woo, and how

lyowry Lorby told him some stories on the
way ... ... ... ... ... 41

6 How Kyrle Daly was more puzzled by a piece

of paper than the abolishers of the small-
note currency themselves ... ... 55

7 How Kyrle Daly discovers that all the sorrow

under the sun does not rest upon his
shoulders alone ... ... ... 60

8 How the reader, contrary to the declared inten-

tion of the Historian, obtains a description

of Castle Chute ... ... ... 69

9 How Myles Murphy is heard on behalf of

his ponies ... ... ... ... 79

10 How Kyrle Daly sped in his wooing ... 86



Chap. Page

11 How Kyrle Daly has the good luck to see a

staggeen race ... ... ... ... 98

12 How Fortune brings two old friends together 105

13 How the two families hold a longer conversa-

tion together than the reader may probably
approve ... ... ... ... 117

14 How Ivowry becomes philosophical ... 128

15 How Hardress spent his time while Kyrle

Daly was asleep ... ... ... 136

16 How the friends parted ... ... ... 146

17 How Hardress learned a little secret from a

dying huntsman ... ... ... 155

18 How the gentlemen spent the evening which

proved rather warmer that Hardress ex-
pected ... ... ... ... 163

19 How Hardress met an old friend and made a

new one ... ... ... ... 173

20 How Hardress had a strange dream of Kily ... 184

21 How Hardress met a strange trial ... ... 193

22 How the temptation of Hardress proceeded ... 206

23 How an unexpected visitor arrived in Eily's

cottage ... ... ... ... 217

24 How Eily undertakes a journey in the absence

of her husband ... ... ... 227

25 How Eily fared in her expedition ... ... 236

26 How Hardress consoled himself during his

separation from Eily ... ... ... 245

27 How Hardress answered the letter of Eily ... 256

28 How the lyittle lyord put his master's wishes

into action ... ... ... ... 267


Ch^p- Page

29 How Hardress lost an old acquaintance ... 276

30 How Hardress got his hair dressed in I^istowel,

and heard a little news ... ... ... 286

31 How Kyrle Daly hears of the handsome con-

duct of his friend, Hardress ... ... 298

32 How Kyrle Daly's warlike ardour was checked

by an untoward incident ... ... 306

33 How Hardress met a friend of Eily's at the

wake ... ... ... ... 315

34 How the wake concluded ... ... ... 325

35 How Hardress at length received some news

ofEily ... ... ... ... 331

36 How Hardress made a confident ... ... 342

37 Hardress finds that conscience is the sworn

foe of valour ... ... ... ... 353

38 How the situation of Hardress became more

critical ... ... ... ... 362

39 How the danger to the secret of Hardress was

averted by the ingenuity of Irish witnesses 372

40 How Hardress took a decisive step for his own

security ... ... ... ... 382

41 How the ill temper of Hardress again brought

back his perils ... ... ... 391

42 How Mr. Warner was fortunate enough to find

a man who could and would speak English 400

43 How the bride was startled by an unexpected

guest ... ... ... •• 408

44 How more guests appeared at the wedding

than had been invited ... ... ... ^^^

45 How the story ended ... ... ••• ^^

By Padraic Colum.


In " The Collegians " love and murder may be treated
conventionally, but the episodes depending upon these
themes are made vivid, racy, and entertaining. We move
through Munster and are shown Munster life and char-
acter in such variety that we feel for a while that the story
has the spaciousness of the old national novels of England
and Spain. Lowry Looby goes with his master " at a sling
trot," telling stories and singing snatches of songs,
and Myles-na-Coppaleen, in the drawing-room of the
castle, shows the mountaineer's quickness of mind ;
Mihil O'Connor rides wildly with his faction, and the
Munster gentlemen drink deep and come to the duel ;
the sinister Danny Mann is put beside the grotesque
Lowry Looby and his evil idiom mixes with the other's
mellow discourse ; manners that have lapsed are mingled
with manners that are familiar, and we hear of a lady
riding to a gentleman's door with a whip in one hand and
a brace oif duelling pistols in the other ; we listen to the
old fox-hunter hillooing on his death-bed and watch
the gentlemen exchanging shots in the dining-room ;
the peasantry live as they lived before the famine, poor,
rack-rented, but merry-hearted and delighting in music
and story, and the gentry gallop towards bankruptcy.
" The Collegians " is the best of the Irish romantic
novels. Gerald Griffin told his brother that it " wrote
itself." The first half was composed while he was living


happily at Pallaskenry after his return to the County
Limerick, and the other half was completed in London.
He was twenty-five when " The Collegians " appeared.
The part he had finished in Limerick was being set up
while the second part was being written :

" Every morning, just as we were done breakfast," his
brother writes, " a knock came to the door and a messenger
was shown in saying ' printers want more copy, sir.' The
manuscript of the previous day was handed forth, without
revision, correction, or further ceremony, and he went to work
again to produce another supply. The most singular part of
the business was that he very seldom broke in on his usual
rule of not writing after dinner, but every moment of next
morning, up to the breakfast hour, was occupied in preparing
as much matter as possible before the dreaded prmter's

The second part of " The Collegians " deals more
closely with Hardress Cregan's interests and it lacks the
variety that makes the first part such pleasant reading.
Gerald Griffin liked to talk about his popular novel. He
told his brother he wrote every passage as if it belonged
to an actual drama. Certainly it has scenes that are
vividly dramatic ; one remembers the hunchback con-
demning his master while the firelight reddens the walls
of the place where he is confined . Griffin insisted that the
novelist should have a good deal of the dramatist's capa-
city. " I have heard him," his brother writes, ** say he
thought the talent required for both kinds of writing
was very similar ; that is to say, that to be successful
as a novel-writer one should have a great deal of dramatic
talent. He used to point out the best novels as containing
a large proportion of dialogue, and requiring very little
aid from narrative, and the most impressive scenes in
them as highly dramatic in their character. He said
this more particularly, however, of Sir Walter Scott's
novels." Griffin's remarks as reported in this passage
are very sound — a novel has a more exciting interest of its
scenes are conceived as dramatic episodes. But he
possibly injured " The Collegians " by thinking of some


of its scenes as being rendered by an actual performer.
" What a deal I would give," he said, " to see Edmund
Kean in that scene of Har dress Cregan, at the party,
just before his arrest, while he is endeavouring to do
politeness to the ladies, while the horrid, warning voice
is in his ear." Now, as drama, this particular scene
is very second rate, and Griffin was affected by it because
the vision of Kean in the part made him think histrioni-
cally instead of dramatically. One cannot help imagining
that the situation that should have marked the arrest of
Har dress Cregan had already been passed. The young
man, to effect the release of his confederate before they
were both incriminated, had come into the stable where
Danny Mann was confined. The hunchback escapes
and Hardress Cregan stays behind to answer the sentry's
challenge. But his consciousness is so strained that
it lapses, and he becomes oblivious of the sentry, who
thereupon breaks open the door. Hardress Cregan is
now in the place of the man whose crime he had prompted,
and his resolute attempt to stave off discovery has brought
about his betrayal. His arrest then and there would have
dramatic fitness. But the author is thinking about the
wedding later on with " the horrid, warning voice " in
Hardress Cregan's ear ; his eye is fixed on the actor, and
to make the part suit Edmund Kean the course of the
narrative is strained. After Danny Mann's flight from the
stable all is mechanical. The hunchback who informs
on Hardress Cregan is not consistent with the retainer
of the earlier part of the story and the prisoner who sends
a warning to the bridegroom is not consistent with the
informer. One can see where the task of supplying
" copy '* to the printer has become irksome to the writer.
The dramatic possibilities of " The Collegians " were
recognized and the story has been put upon the stage in
a play and in an opera, in Boucicault's " Colleen Bawn,"
and Benedict's " Lily of Killarney."



Gerald Griffin was born in the city of Limerick in
1803. He was the youngest of the family, and when
he was seventeen his father and mother, with -some of the
children, went to settle in Pennsylvania, whilst Gerald
went to Adare to live with a brother, a doctor. There-
after he began to write. He attached himself to a local
paper, interested himself in Limerick theatricals, and
made the acquaintance of John Banim who was on a visit
to the town. Before he was twenty he had written
" Aguire," a play that impressed his brother so much
that he allowed him to London to try his fortune at the
theatres. He went over in 1823, just before he was
twenty. This unknown young Munster man had
actually the project of reforming the London theatre.
He had a good friend in John Banim, who was known as a
dramatist and who had influence in theatrical circles.
The elder writer gave Griffin his first introductions to the
managers. Nothing could be done with " Aguire," but
the play he was working on, " Gisippus," was treated
with respect. He sent the first two acts to a well-known
actress, Miss Kelly, who told him that if the remainder
of the piece was equal to what she had read she had little
doubt of being able to produce it. Afterwards he sent
her the third and fourth acts, but he never sent the fifth.
He made no speedy success in letters and he had to settle
down to the hard labour of the pen. He reported in the
courts, wrote reviews of books, got occasional articles
into the magazines, and engaged himself in any task that
the booksellers might set him. One of his letters will
show how hard he toiled at the uninteresting side of
letters : —

" During the last two months I have been more occupied
than you can conceive without my explaining. The situation
which was to have taken up six hours of my time per day,
goes much nearer to the twelve regularly. I never return
before evening to my lodging, and then, to half complete every
evening's work keeps me drudging imtil two or three — some-


times four and five o'clock every morning — miless when I
happen to doctor myself, and that is not often. I can't afford
to lose a certainty, and therefore must submit to this, but the
consequences to me are very grievous. I have not, since I
wrote last, been able to furnish articles for periodicals, although
I had made arrangements with some, and was actually obliged
to leave a series incomplete, consequently I received nothing.
The work of which I speak above is dry drudgery — making
indexes, cutting down dictionaries, etc., not one of which,
when I have completed what I have on hands, %vill I ever
undertake again. I was villainously deceived about them.
I am actually quite stupid and can hardly see to write with
pains in the eyes. I have made many efforts to get out of this
drudgery, but unsuccessfully, for want of time. I proposed
to a bookseller to translate or adapt Les Causes Gelebres of
the French courts, a good idea, and he caught at it, but he
could not engage in it so quickly as I wished ; and now I find
Knight and Lacy are doing it, so that spec's gone. . . .
You can't conceive the utter drudgery of beating your unfor-
tunate brains to write articles without receiving remuneration
regularly, and I have since tea this evening written and put
into the post a number of articles, for which perhaps I must
battle for my three farthings ; otherwise I could write . . .
I got a letter the other day from a company of booksellers
in the Row, to furnish them with some articles for a new
magazine, which I can't do ... . One thing that worries
me out of my life is, that I am losing too much time ever to be
able to retrieve it. It sometimes vexes me very much. I
am too ready to imdertake what I can't do ; and that insures
me a continual round of anxieties. With all that I have
spoken of above, I agreed to furnish a bookseller with matter
for a pamphlet of the Cathohc Meeting here, and did so ; I
wonder how. 'Twas about as much as would make one of the
conmion size of novel volmnes, and furnished in five days !
Without even interfering with my regular engagements.

At the time he was suffering from an illness which he
thought was incurable. His brother, Dr. William
Griffin, visited him and has left an account of this malady.
It appears that Gerald never thought about it except
when he suffered from uneasiness at the heart, or imme-
diately after a violent fit of palpitations. He was resolute
to overcome any depression of spirits that came to him
in consequence of his fears. " I have often seen him,*'
his medical brother wrote, " on awakening in the morning
from a short sleep, into which he had fallen at the close


of a severe attack, fling himself out of bed, and commence
singing some popular song from the fashionable opera
of the day." These fits of palpitation became less
distressing, but he was occasionally affected by a sudden
faintness, and he was often seized in the street with a
kind of swooning fit which made him catch at the nearest
railings for support. Once he was without food for
three days. But all these difficulties Gerald Griffin bore
with courage and independence and before he left London
he had accomplished work that gave him, as he said
" half a name." There was some demand at the time
for stories of a certain length — for tales that were really
minor novels. John Banim's " Tales of the O'Hara
Family " had made an opening for Irish stories, and
Gerald Griffin, when he had completed a collection
called " Hollantide," was able to secure a good publisher
for them. He left London after he had been there for
a little over three years, and as soon as he got home he
began a second series of Irish stories, " Tales of the
Munster Festivals," consisting of " Suil Dhuv the
Coiner," "The Half-Sir," "Card-Drawing." After-
wards, while living an unclouded life in Pallaskenry,
he began the novel which has preserved his name, " The
Collegians." Its success should have been very hearten-
ing, but Gerald Griffin did not try to follow up with
another work in the same vein ; instead, he wrote the
pseudo-historical novels " The Invasion," and " The
Duke of Monmouth." His other books are " The
Rivals or Tracy's Ambition," " The Christian Physio-
logist or Tales of the Five Senses," and " Tales of the
Juryroom." After the publication of " The Collegians "
his enthusiasm for literature abated ; he first had an idea
of becoming a barrister, and then as his religious con-
viction grew, he had thoughts of the priesthood. After-
wards he made up his mind to join the Christian Brothers.
In 1838 he entered the order, and he died in 1840.



The novel " The Collegians," and the poem " Eijeen
a Ruin " are the works that keep Gerald Griffin's name
remembered. Some of the books written after " The
Collegians "—" The Invasion," "The Duke of Mon-
mouth," and " The Christian Physiologist," are difficult
to read, and the other books, " HoUantide," " Tales
of the Munster Festivals," ''Tales of the Juryroom,*'
have not the continuous interest of " The Collegians."
Was he a one-novel author then and did his creative
powers exhaust themselves with the present story ?
Those who know the facts of his life will not admit this.
" HoUantide " was written when he was twenty- three,
and " Tales of the Munster Festivals " before he was
twenty-five. These two volumes would make a credit-
able introduction to a series of powerful novels — they are
on the level, for instance, with Thomas Hardy's early
books. With " The Collegians " the series seems to
have been begun. Why was it not continued ? Imme-
diately this story was published the writer's powers began
to be checked by a conflict in his mind. He writes in a
letter that he is being haunted by the thought that in
working at literature " it might possibly be that he was
mis-spending his time." Then a notion fatal to story-
telling begins to possess him — that what he writes should
convey a direct moral. He was dissatisfied with the
tendency of *' The Collegians." " Isn't it extraordinary
how impossible it seems to write a perfect novel," he
said to his brother, " one that should be read with deep
interest and yet be perfect as a moral work. One would
wish to draw a good moral from the tale and yet it seems
impossible to keep people's feelings in the way they ought
to go in. Look at these two characters of Kyrle Daly
and Har dress Cregan for example. Kyrle Daly, full of
high principle, prudent, amiable and affectionate ; not
wanting in spirit, nor free from passion ; but keeping
his passions under control; thoughtful, kindhearted


and charitable ; a character in every way deserving
of our esteem. Hardress Cregan, his mother's proud
pet, nursed in the very lap of passion, and ruined by
indulgence — not without good feelings, but for ever
abusing them, having a full sense of justice and honour,
but shrinking like a craven from their dictates ; follow-
ing pleasure headlong, and eventually led into crimes
of the blackest dye, by total absence of all self-control.
Take Kyrle Daly's character in what way you will,
it is infinitely preferable ; yet I will venture to say, nine
out of ten who read this book will prefer Hardress
Cregan ; just because he is a fellow of high mettle,
with a dash of talent about him." His scruples were felt
with particular force while he was writing " The Duke of
Monmouth." " He complained on one occasion," his
brother writes, " of his inability to manage some parti-
cular scene. I recommended him to pay no attention
to these scruples, but to follow the bent of his natural
feeling and fling himself into the subject. ' Oh, but,*
said he, ' that is the difficulty ; I don't think one is justi-
fied in putting himself into the condition that it requires.' "
He denied that it was right for an author to put himself
into the position of a particular character and endeavour
to feel his passion for a moment. He came to regard as
mischievous " such works of imagination as were founded
upon deep and absorbing passion." Holding such views
it is obvious that he could not tolerate, much less create,
literary work that was in any way interesting. The litera-
ture that has interested mankind always deals with " deep
and absorbing passions," even if it makes laughter out of
their effects. Such literature has been created by those who
have the will and the power to put themselves in the posi-
tion of a particular character. It is curious to note how
Gerald Griffin shrinks from any vicious element that may
be in the material he handles. We are told that he was
a long time at a loss how to handle the plot of " The
Duke of Monmouth." " The historical fact as regarded
the heroine, and the infamous cruelty of Colonel Kirk
is the most harrowing incident in it, being of too revolting


a nature to be made use of in a work of fiction ; the
difficulty being, that any aheration made to lessen the
horror of the transaction, would, besides being historically
incorrect, tend to diminish the infamy of that fiendish
character, and therefore weaken the interest of the whole
scene by placing the heroine in a more honourable posi-
tion. He, however, eventually contrived to manage
the mattevr without lessening the reader's sympathy for
the suflFerer, preserving her reputation by a marriage,
which to her persecutor was only one of convenience."
Even in " The Collegians " he shrinks from telling us
matters of importance — of the growth of Eily O'Connor's
passion for Har dress Cregan, for instance, and of Danny
Mann's actual crime. When he became convinced that
people's feelings should be kept " in the line they ought
to go in " he was finished as a story-teller. It is because
people's feelings cannot be bounded by the moralist
that dramas and stories are possible.

Gerald Griffin was always something of " a religious."
In his youth confidence and the desire for fame made
him strive for literary distinction. He was led to believe
that he was suffering from a disease of the heart which
would terminate in sudden death. This, as his medical
brother relates " lowered his spirits very much at times,
and, in a mind always deeply influenced by religious
feeling, perhaps first led to that habitual seriousness of
thought, and grave consideration, which ended in his
retirement from the world." A sister whom he dearly
loved died suddenly just when he returned to Ireland,
and although he was able to throw himself into " The
Collegians " her death must have given deeper gravity
to his mind. ' He had a nervous temperament that
interfered with his pursuits and occupations and the no-
tion that he was to die young kept recurring to his mind—
this impression, his brother notes, was associated with
dark and strange forebodings. All these things made " the
religious " dominant in his personality. He thought,
too, that there were people that could not be saved outside
the religious order and he decided that he was amongst


them. He wished to become a priest. Then after a
while he was glad to join the Christian Brothers. He
wrote very finely :

" I have entered this house at the gracious call of God,
to die to the world, and to Hve to Him : all is to be changed ;
all my own pursuits henceforward to be laid aside, and those
only embraced which He points out to me. Give me grace,
O my God, to close my mind against all that has been, or may
be, in which Thou hast no part : that it be not hke a roofless
building, where all kinds of birds, clean and unclean, fly in and
out, without hindrance ; but, like an enclosed tabernacle,
devoted solely to Thy use and to Thy love."

Conventual life suited his spirit now. He was able
to write from a monastery in Cork : —

" I have since been enlightening the craniums of wondering
Paddies in this quarter, who learn from me, with profound
amazement and profit, that o-x spells ox ; that the top of the
map is the north, and the bottom the south, with various
other ' branches,' as also that they ought to be good boys and
do as they are bid, and say their prayers every morning and
evening, etc., and yet it seems curious even to myself, that I
feel a great deal happier in the practice of this daily routine
that I did while I was moving about your great city, absorbed
in the modest project of rivalling Shakespeare and throwing
Scott into the shade."

He entered the Christian Brothers as a postulant in
1838, and he died in June, 1840, at the age of thirty-seven.
Before his end he had written to one of the publishers
requesting him to buy up all copies of his works. " It
is evident from this," his biographer writes, " that he
would have wished, if possible, to put a complete stop
to their dissemination." He had burnt the manuscripts
of his unpublished work.

Two years after his death " Gisippus," the play he
had written during his first stay in London was produced

Online LibraryGerald GriffinThe collegians → online text (page 1 of 37)