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ambition, and which was awakened, and gathered new
strength again at a later period, when he perceived the
hollowness of such an aim. He looked back to them
with the same affection that he felt towards the scenes
of his childhood, and everything with which they were
associated was dear to him. The following lines from a
poem I have already spoken of, contain some allusion to
these remains, which will be read with interest :

A ruin now the castle shows,

The ivy clothes its mouldering towers.
The wild rose on the hearthstone blows,

And roofless stand its secret bowers ;
Close by its long abandoned hall,

The narrow tide is idly straying ;
While ruin saps its tottering wall,

Like those who held it, fast decaying.

Peaceful it stands, the mighty pile,

By many a heart's blood once defended,
Yet silent now as cloister'd aisle,

Where rung the sounds of banquet splendid.
Age holds his undivided state.

Where youth and beauty once were cherished
And leverets pass the wardless gate.

Where heroes once essayed and perished.

Oh, sweet Adare ! Oh, lovely vale !

Oh pleasant haunt of sylvan splendour.
Nor summer sun, nor morning gale,

E'er bailed a scene more sofLly tender.
How shall I toll the thousand charms.

Within tliy verdant bosom dwelling !
Where, nursed in Nature's fostering arms.

Soft peace abides, and joy excelling.



Ye morning airs, how sweet at dawn

The slumbering boughs your songs awaken.
Or linger o'er the silent lawn,

With odour of the hare-bell taken.
Thou rising sun, how richly gleams

Thy smile from far Knock Fierna's mountain.
O'er waving woods and bounding streams,

And many a grove and glancing fountain.

Ye clouds of noon, how freshly there,

When summer heats the open meadows,
O'er parched hill and valley fair

All coollj' lie your veiling shadows.
Ye rolling shades and vapours gray.

Slow creeping o'er the golden heaven.
How soft ye seal the eye of day.

And wreath the dusky brow of even.

There oft at eve the peasants say

Around the ruined convent haunting.
When dimly fades the lingering day.

Till even the twilight gleam is wanting ;
All sadly shrieks the sufl'ering ghost.

Above those bones now mouldering slowly,
And mourns eternal quiet lost.

For fleeting joys and thoughts unholy.

There, glides the Mague as silver clear.

Among the elms so sweetly flowing,
There friigrant in the early year,

Wild roses on the banks are blowing.
There wild duck sport on rapid wing

Beneath the Alder's leafy awning.
And sweetly there the smnll birds sing,

When daylight on the hill is dawning.

There mirror'd in the shallow tide.
Around his trunks so coolly laving.

High towers tiie grove in vernal pride.
His solemn boughs majestic waving.



And, there, beside the parting flood,

That uiunuured round a lowly island,
Within the sheltering woodland stood

The humble roof of poor Matt Iljland.

Beside the beauty of its scenery, Adare had other
advantages. Being within ten miles of Limerick, he
was enabled frequently to consult such works as his
taste inclined him to, and had opportunities of meeting
there occasionally, persons whose pursuits were similar
to his own. It was in Limerick he first met his friend
Mr. Banim, who afterwards, by many imjiortant services
in London, proved the warmth and deep sincerity of his
attachment. Mr. Banim was then in the commencement
of his literary labours, and was, I believe, scarce!}' yet
known to the world. There was a Thespian Society es-
tablished at the time in Limerick, which consisted of
several respectable young men of the city, assisted by
two or three professional persons. They used to per-
form two or three times a week, and the receipts were
applied to charitable purposes. During his occasional
visits to the city, Mr. Bauim was accustomed to write
critiques on their performances, uuder the signature of
" A Traveller," wliieh displayed considerable knowledge
of the stage, and from the superiority of their style at^
tracted very general attention. It was during the pro-
gress of these that he became acquainted with Gerald,
who had the highest admiration of his talent, and who,
young as he was, was excited by his literary tastes to
similar attempts. These, however, were carried on with
perfect secrecy. A young acquaintance of his, whose
tastes were also of the same character, afterwards told
me an anecdote of him, which occurred about this peri-
od. This gentleman had, under an assumed name, writ-
ten a letter to one of the Limerick papers, upon some
subject of a literary character, the nature of which I
quite forget. In the next post a letter appeared, with an
anonymous signature, containing some severe strictures



npon it ; he brought botli to Gerald to consult him as
to his reply ; they put their heads together, aud an
answer was agreed upon, to which another letter ap-
peared from the unknown enemy, so completely crushing
as to induce the gentleman to " hide his diminishec
head." " What was my astonishment," said he to me,
in telling the story, " to find, when the whole thing was
at an end, that both these epistles were written by no
other person than my friend Gerald himself, and only
just tlihik of the coolness with which he preserved his
incognito in such circumstances 1"

Up to this time, the passion for literature which had
been gradually growing upon him, had only shown itself
by the intense interest he took in the poets, especially
hi dramatic poetry, and in the production of occasiona.
short pieces, such as I have noticed, together with
others which were principally of a pastoral character,
but now it developed itself so strongly, that all idea of
the medical profession was entirely given up ; he became
very fond of theatricals, and soon began to occupy him-
self in writing tragedies. I am uncertain whether lie
completed any regular piece at this period, at least if he
did, none of them came under the observation of the
elders of the family. He used, however, with the as-
sistance of some of his cousins, to enact scenes from
those he wrote ; aud on one occasion, when it was neces-
sary to poison one of the characters, he made a niece Ot
his, who played the heroine, drink off a glass of infusion
of quassia, in order, probably, to deprive her of a'', pre-
text for hypocrisy in the contortions of visajr^^ .nat were
to usher in death. From his occasioriii visits to his
native city, his talent for writing began to be known
there, and his services were found useful in various
offices connected with the public press. These engage-
ments, though attended with very Jittle remuneration,
presented advantages that lie was unwilling to foreg'o.
They enabled him, as he says, " to write with quickness,


and without much study ;" though the following extract
from a letter to his motlier, about this period, will show
that they now and then involved compliances which
were grating to his natural feeling and early instilled
principles of truth :

" I was applied to a short time since by McDonnel, of the
Advtrtiser, to manage bis paper, and did so for aJ)0ut a mouth,
but could not get him to come to any reasonable settlement. I
saw, moreover, that it was a sinking concern. Though a fine,
large, well printed journal, having a dashing appearance, it is
only a painted sepulchre. Even if he had answered my expec
tations, I should still have considered the editing of such a pa-
per a most disagreeable office ; for, although it professed a little
liberality, it is in reality quite dependent upon the government.
His manner of considering my ideas would have amused me
nuich. if I was not so heartily sick of his trifling and timidiiy.
When I wrote, he always threw the proclamations into one scale
and the article dt qvoi il s-agitait into the other, and if all did
not tally, the latter was sure to be exploded. His maxim was
to 'please the Castle,' and I, insignificant as my opinions were,
wished to tell a little truth, which could not by any means be
always pleasiug to the Castle. A few days since, after I had
ceased goiug to McDonnel's, he called to me, aud with a very
long face told me that an article which I had inserted, had
' pulled the Castle about his ears,' and that he got, by that day's
mail, a severe 'rap on the knuckles' for it. This 'rap on the
knuckles' I afterward learned from himself was nothing less lliau
a peremptory order to withdraw the proclamations, and I felt
really uneasy at having been the means of such a ruinous injury
to his establishment ; although if I had foreseen any such con
sequence, I should have been very sorry, through so vain a
weakuess as an eagerness to display elevated feelings, to do so
against the interest of a poor man, who could only hope to
maintain his place with them by doing as they wished. To
make some amends, therefore, I filled two columns of an after
publication with a truly editorial sketch of the life and charac-
ter of our Lord Lieutenant, the Marquis Wellesley, most chari-
tably blind to all his foibles, and sharp-sighted as an eagle in
displaying his good qualities. It was my first step into that
commodious versatility of principle which is so very usfeul to
newspaper writers, but it Mill be my last also. Indeed. I could
hardly call it a compromise, for lie is in reality a worthy char-
acter. I have since found, with much gratification, that the
displeasure of the Castle was owing to a very diflerent cause.



Though I derived little pecuniary advantage from my connec-
tion with McDonnel, yet I was not sorry i'or the time I spent
with him, as I could not say it was lost. By constantly attend-
ing the courts, I acquired a considerable facility in reporting,
wliich is a very useful attainment in any situation almost, and
the short time which I had spared to prepare an original article
oljliged me to write with quickness and without much study.
During the few months I was idle, I applied myself more
closely to French, and can now read any hook I meet with in
that language almost as easily as English. It was not bad at
the end of three months to be able to write a pretty long
French verse for the newspaper correctly and without assist-
ance. You will say I am grown an egotist, but believe me I
only mention it because 1 know it will be some gratification to
you to see that I am not very idly disposed."

The letters to and from America, from one of which
the above extract is taken, were very closely written
on large sheets of paper, and frequently crossed, so that
the correspondence, having lasted several years, is very
voluminous. It contains many passages of much interest
to the memoir, some of which I may occasionally be
tempted to make use of. The following extract, which
I find on the same sheet with the above, is from the
sister whose feeble state of health obliged her to remain
in Ireland, and the delicacy of whose appetite made the
industry of his recreations more keen and gratifying in
his fishing days. It is addressed to his mother, and
shows, more than anything I have yet said, the nature
of those hopes and wishes which the writer knew were
uppermost in the mother's heart : " Gerald has a biscuit
from your sea store, which he says he will produce nt
the first meal we eat together in Susquehanna. lie
seems in principle, conduct, and sentiments, more every
thing you can wish tluxn any lad of his age that I am
acquainted with."

The following letter, of a subsequent date, contains
some passages of interest, and gives an account of the
success of his friend Banira in his first great Hterary
eifort :


To his Sister.

Limerick, May 7, 1822.
Mr DEAREST Mart Anne, — Notwitbstanding the apology I
made to you for not writing, to sliow you it was not indolence
induced me to do so, I will now double my claim on you for an
answer. The weather has been exceed inglj' oppressive here,
early as the season is. The end of April was as hot as any sum-
mer day I can recollect. I perceive sent you some ex-
tracts from his tragedy. If I had known he was doing so I
would have selected other passages than those he has done, for
I do not think they are the very best in the piece. The poem
on death I am sure you will like, though I am not fond of such
subjects. Kirke White and Mrs. Tighe always put me in the
horrors ; yet I read this a second time with a great deal of in-
terest. The destruction of the Indian in his canoe is I think
drawn with much spirit, as also the shipwreck. I don't know
whether you recollect some letters in the- Limerick Evening
Post, signed " A Traveller," which I remember you all ad-
mired at Fairy Lawn, containing critiques on the Thespian
Society. The writer of them, a Mr. Banim, whom I had the
pleasure of knowing very well during his occasional visits to
this city, has since written a tragedy on the ancient story of
Damon and Pythias, which met with the most brilliant success in
Covent Garden. The critics say it is the best historical tragedy
which the age has produced. He has also written a piece
called " The Celt's Paradise," from which I have seen several
beautiful extracts. I was sorry I could not procure more news-
papers for you. I could not obtain possession of many London
or Dublin ones. Perhaps, however, those which contain uu
account of the state of our county will be more interesting to
you than others, and perhaps, also, you may find some anmse-
ment in them if it was only in laughing at my editorial blun-
ders. At all events, whether you laugh at them, paper your hair
with them, or make up your home-made sugar in them, I shall
be content if you will believe that it was my affection, not my
vanity, sent them. Dearest Mary Aune, your fondly attached,

Gerald "GniFiaN.

The quantity of time left on his liancls from the un-
satisfactory nature of his engagements with the press,
made him devote himself with more assiduity to Htera-
ture, and I believe it was about this time tlie idea be-
came strongly fixed in his mind of looking forward to it



as a profession. Adare was the scene of his earliest
labours. The morning was usually occupied in writing.
In the day time, as 1 have already said, he refreshed
himself by a ramble with his sisters through the demesne
■ — wandering by the river side, or visiting the old ruins
and enjoying their ever welcome associations. The
evening, after Dr. Griffin's return from his professional
avocations, was spent in reading some of the most
popular literary works of the time, or in conversation, or
occasionally in trials of skill at our favourite game of
chess. Such was the usual routine of our little family
party. Dr. Griffin observed that for some time he had
been writing more constantly than usual, but had no idea
of what he was engaged in. At length, Gerald called
him into his room one morning, and gave him a tragedy
called "Aguire" to read, which was founded upon
some old Spanish story. On reading it, Dr. Griffin was
perfectly astonished at so extraordinary a production
from a person then scarcely above the age of boyhood
As the play has been since destroyed, we can only form
an opinion of it from the impressions then produced on
his mind by its perusal. He says there were many pas-
sages of exquisitely beautiful poetry throughout ; that
the scenes were well contrived ; the passions naturally
and forcibly portrayed ; and the interest intense and
well supported. We shall afterwards see that it was
also highly thought of, by one who was no inferior judge
of dramatic excellence, Mr. Banim. "When the reader
is informed tlrat this play was produced in his eighteenth
year — that Gisippus, received with such brilliant suc-
cess at Drury Lane, was written in his twentieth ; and
the Collegians, one of the most thrilling tales in our
language, before he had completed his twenty-fifth ; it
cannot be doubted that the destruction of this, and two
other dramas written at a later period, was a serious
loss to literature. These, as we shall find, he made
various efforts to get accepted at the theatres iu Loudou,


but without success ; and Gisippus, the last of them, ia
the only one of the four that has survived the wreck of
his hopes.

I shall have to speak of these efforts in detail after-
wards, and will now mention some circumstances that
may have influenced the result to which they led.
Young as he then was, and entirely removed from the
great tribunals before which all dramatic productions
must be tried, his interest in such subjects enabled him
to perceive that the public taste was vitiated, and that
the managers of the time, so far from taking any step to
improve it, lent themselves to the childish fancies of the
multitude, with all the zeal that a love of full houses
and of money could inspire. The theatres indeed had
become the scenes of many exhibitions of an araphi-
theatrical kind, tending merely to attract the admiration
of the senses, but of such a gorgeous and imposing
character, that many persons of good taste who longed
for a better state of things, were for a time dazzled by
their brilliancy ; while the literary portion of the pieces
represented had become quite subordinate, and was
wanting in every quality that could give it the least
claim to public attention. With a strong sense of this
prostrate condition of the drama, and with that sustain-
ing hope which ever lights the eye and stands firm in
the heart of the young aspirant for literary fame, Gerald
bent himself to tiie desperate task of, as he liimself says,
" revolutionising the dramatic taste of the time by
writing for the stage." Extravagant as the notion may
seem, of a young person totally unknown to anybody,
and without a particle of influence or experience, at-
tempting a task of the kind, it is quite certain that he
entertained it, and that these lost dramas were con-
structed upon such a design, though the idea created
as much amusement in his own mind afterwards as it
could possibly do in that of any other person. These
circumstances render it probable that the very character



which wonld tend to make us regret the loss of these
plays the more — that of their being much purer speci-
mens of tiie genuine drama than those which were
popular at the time — was one of the causes why he found
it inii)0ssible to obtain a trial for them at all. Another
in all likelihood was their highly poetical character, and
their containing several passages the tendency of which
was, rather to indulge the imagination than carry on the
purposes of the piece. This, the natural efTect of the
hixuriance of a young mind, however allowable and even
pleasing it may be in a mere dramatic poem intended
for the closet, requires exceeding great skill and modera-
tion in its use to make it tolerated to any extent upon
the stage. It is perhaps an unhappy circumstance for
the poetry of dramatic writings, that the portion of the
public that can properly appreciate its merits is but
small, and that however theatrical managers may respect
the opinions of this intellectual minority, it is very seldom
their interest to make its approbation a primary object.
However this be, it is, as I have before said, certain,
that the high and at that time extravagant aim of his
hopes, as well as the warmth of his fancy, had an influ-
ence upon the whole cast and course of these, his first
dramatic productions, and gave them a character of
novelty very little likely to be relished by those in
London, who, from experience, and from their want of
all sympathy with any attempt at reform, preferred con-
sulting the public taste, whatever it might be. When
lie showed this play to his brother, he explained to him
his desire to try his fortune in the literary world in
London. It was a serious consideration, committing
one so young to the dangers of a great city, and to the
fierce struggle for intellectual existence, in which so few
eventually attain any decided success. There were cir-
cumstances, too, which might well make Dr. Griflui
hesitate. Gerald was his youngest brother ; from the
similarity of their tastes he had taken more than a


brother's interest in hira from his childhood np ; hig
parents had left him under his protection, and, as he
took their place, this, with his strong natural feeling,
made him share fully their anxiety : besides, his young
protege had always shown a quickness of apprehension,
and a capacity which would render him fully fit for
whatever pursuit he might turn himself to, and he was
young enough for any. On the other hand, his high
opinion of Gerald's talent, the extreme beauty of the
writings now put into his hands and perhaps somewhat
of a brother's if not of a parent's pride in the success he
anticipated as certain, led him to attach less weight to
these considerations than they deserved. In fact, he
felt fully confident that it would require but a short
time to have such talent as Gerald's perceived and
properly appreciated, and he made but little difficulty iu
yielding to his wishes. The event proved, after a severe
and wasting trial, that the degree of success attained
was not worth what it cost, and in the end brought
even to the mind of him who was most sanguine of all,
the sad conviction, tliat a constitution sapped and shat-
tered by mental toil, and hopes so deeply blasted that
no earthly ones could ever take their place again, were
too high a price to pay for the " half of a name," which
lie considered himself to have won iu the struggle. Dr.
Griffin little dreamed then of the difficulties both mental
and bodily, in heart, in mind, and in frame, that beset
the progress of a young writer in London: the incessant
intellectual exertion, the continual rejection by the pub-
lishers, the separation from friends, the heart-breaking
depression of mind, from a sense of literary merit de-
spised and defeated, a feeling heightened by the obser-
vation of the worthless stuff every day palmed upon the
world as literature, while tlie reality pleads for its place
in vain. There was, besides, another circumstance of
great importance left out of the calculation altogether,
the full force of which was only perceived at a long and


late period afterwards, but which was then entirely nn-
thought of. It will scarcely be anticipating the narra-
tive just to allude to it. Gerald had, as I have already
hinted, always sliown a strong sense of independence.
When the unfortunate issue of his literary efforts in
London had, after considerable perseverance, led liim into
great distress, this feeling, so far from sinking under it,
became heightened, and at length attained for a time a
degree of morbid sensibility that could neither have been
anticipated nor provided for. Under its suggestion, he
concealed his circumstances from his friends, hid himself
from all his acquaintances, and went through a degree
of suffering extremely painful to think of, and the occur-
rence of which, indeed, is hardly credible, considering
how easily it might have been avoided. It was exceed-
ingly distressing to his relatives when it first came to
their ears, though this took place entirely through
another channel, and only when the contest was over
and their assistance was no longer needed. Could all
these things have l)een foreseen at the time, they would
have added in no light degree to the anxiety which his
brother felt in letting him pass from under his protec-
tion, and trusting him alone to the world. It was,
however, as I have said, settled that he should go,
though some circumstances delayed his departure for a
few months.

During this interval he wrote a play, the name of
which I have not been able to ascertain, and was far
advanced in a second, founded on the same story which
suggested Thompson's "Tancred and Sigismunda." In
his moments of leisure the passion for literary f{\me, al-
ready fully awakened, began to grow strong upon him,
and he indulged in all those fond visions of the future,
and those bright and enchanting creations which the
heart of the inexperienced will never be brought to look
upon as aerial. At this period of life hope reigns para-
mount ; casts her rich light on all things to come :


belies truth to her face, and, being much the boldest
speaker, receives, according to the usual rule of the
world, implicit credit. In this instance she had one to

Online LibraryGerald GriffinWorks / Gerald Griffin (Volume 10) → online text (page 5 of 36)