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TROLLOPE AND IRELAND 1
BY STEPHEN GWYNN
It would be amusing to form a graph Irish employ sparingly. He had been showing the curve of Trollope's literary tied up with red tape for seven years in reputation. About twenty-five years the English postal service, and the job ago I wrote an article discussing him of a surveyor's clerk in Ireland brought seriously as one of the most important emancipation. From London he was novelists, and superior persons cried launched, of all places in the world, to out upon me for a dealer in paradox. Banagher, in the middle of the vast To-day, similar if not the same superior central bogland. persons seem disposed to set this good Very few Irish people, except its own craftsman among the great artists. inhabitants, have ever seen Banagher. Without discussing that, one may at all I, for instance, who have traveled a events be sure that no critic can rate great deal in my own country, got there Trollope's value too highly as a docu- only once, and then, as Trollope probment. He gives, as no one else did, the ably did, by canal. It is on the Shannormal England of his time. But he non, at a crossing-place, and most of ranks also as a capital document for the his work — tours of inspection or visits social history of Ireland.
to investigate complaints — took him He was an Englishman, English as into Connaught; but a considerable John Bull; and an Englishman's ob- district in his charge lay eastward also, servations about Ireland must be taken through the bogland. Anyhow, Banawith such allowance as should be made gher was as Irish as Irish could be. Yet for those of a German on Poland. But it was not a wilderness. There was there are Englishmen unsympathetic society. The little town was probably by temperament to the Irish character; more important then than it is now. and no Irishman will ever admit that There is a hotel or large inn there, bearThackeray's views on the land that ing the stamp of the coaching days, a produced Thackeray's mother-in-law place of some charm, with mullioned have the kind of balance that is neces- stone windows, rare in Ireland; and I sary for good testimony or even for am very sure that Trollope had many a good work. On the other hand, there is chop and many a glass of punch there. a type of Englishman who takes to But the essential thing was that TrolIreland, like a relapsed teetotaler to lope found himself clerk to a surveyor alcohol. Trollope was this kind. From who kept a pack of hounds; and he the first he evidently reveled in Ireland. instantly conformed to the custom of Red tape was his detestation through the country and bought a horse. and life, and it is a commodity that the hunted. About one in ten of the Eng
lishmen that take root in Ireland is From the Contemporary Review (London chiefly concerned with shooting or fishLiberal monthly), January
Publication rights in America controlled by ing; the other nine become part of Irethe Leonard Scott Publication Company
land's freemasonry of horseflesh. Trol
lope loved a horse and a hunt and a much more certainly get twelve pennyrace well enough to have a passport to worth from each shilling.' (There spoke the friendliness of a people who, as a the grateful heart that knew very well rule, ask no better than to be friendly that a surveyor's clerk could not have with a stranger - if he does not want hunted in England on four hundred a to do them good. Hunting men and year.) 'But they are perverse, irrahunting women are comparatively free tional, and but little bound by the love from the English propensity to philan- of truth.' thropic demonstrations. A man SO To that passage from his autobiogEnglish as Trollope would have been raphy should be added these opening insufferable in Ireland but for the happy observations from the first page of chance that brought him into associa- Castle Richmond, written in 1859, when tion with the Irish in a field where he was on the point of leaving IreIrishmen admittedly had considerable land: competence. There, associating with "That there is a strong feeling against them through a common enjoyment on things Irish it is impossible to deny. terms of equal comradeship, he learned Irish servants need not apply; Irish to judge them frankly; and he had the acquaintances are treated with limited happy instinct to make his work grow confidence; Irish cousins are regarded into and out of his play. Wherever he as being decidedly dangerous; and Irish went, he went on horseback; and he stories are not popular with the booksoon convinced himself that inspection sellers. For myself I may say, that if I was much more satisfactorily con- ought to know anything about any ducted if the inspector dropped out of place, I ought to know something about the clouds, in hunting-kit, on his way to Ireland; and I do strongly protest a meet or back from a run. I have seen against the injustice of the above cona good deal of Irish official business clusions. Irish cousins I have none. done, and well done, in the same sort of Irish acquaintances I have by dozens; way, which had great merits among a and Irish friends, also, by twos and shy and suspicious people who did not threes, whom I can love and cherish and could not regard the Government almost as well, perhaps, as though they machinery as part of their own being, had been born in Middlesex. Irish and who, if time were given them to servants I have had in my house for prepare it, always got up a story. years, and never had one that was faith
In short, Trollope had the first less, dishonest, or intemperate. I have requisite for understanding Ireland: he traveled all over Ireland closely as few liked the Irish people, and was more other men can have done, and have aware of their resemblance to what he never had my portmanteau robbed or approved in human beings than of their my pocket picked. At hotels I have difference from that standard. So he seldom locked up my belongings, and judged them without exaggeration, and my carelessness has never been punfound them, as he wrote in 1876: ished. I doubt whether as much can be 'Good-humored, clever, — the work
, the work- said for English inns.' ing classes much more intelligent than He was certainly entitled to claim the those of England, - economical and right to speak with knowledge. For hospitable. Extravagance is not in the eighteen years his home and his work nature of an Irishman. He will count had been in Ireland. He had married in the shillings in the pound more accur- Ireland, but not an Irishwoman; and ately than an Englishman, and will the fact, he says, was somewhat re
sented in Banagher, so that he was was like at a period of its history of glad when a transfer took him to Clon- which little is known. They are not to mel. Later he lived in Mallow; later be called photographic, for they are the still, for eighteen months, in Belfast, record of a temperament. They tell us and then his headquarters were in Dub- what a very honest and able stranger lin. He had traveled every corner of the saw in a country that grew in a sense country, had hunted with perhaps a intimately familiar to him, yet in a score of packs. He had made good his truer sense was only superficially apofficial position, so that he was detailed prehended. He depicted what he saw, from Ireland for other duties, in Egypt, at times with great power; he told us in the West Indies, and in England. very plainly what he thought about Also he had done some of his very best what he saw; and both his pictures and work in Ireland: The Warden, Barches- his judgments have a real interest and
a ter Towers, and Doctor Thorne were all importance. . published before he left that country. This interest and importance are But he began on what lay nearest to his immensely enhanced by the fact that observation: his first two novels dealt Trollope was present at the great and with life in Connaught. Three years tragic change that altered Ireland out after they appeared, a scheme for ex- of knowledge. He knew the country tending postal services in country parts before the famine; he knew it ten years caused this rapid surveyor, who had later when the population was reduced finished his Irish task, to be detailed to by nearly two millions in eight. The England; and so he came to Salisbury first two of his novels were written beand the germ of The Warden was fore the potato crop failed; in the third, conceived.
scenes of great hunger make a backThere is no question at all that Trol- ground against which the main characlope writing of England is incompara- ters pass. That is not all. His last bly superior to Trollope writing of Ire- novel, like his first, had an Irish scene: land. The two first novels, whose scene The Land Leaguers is unfinished, yet is laid west of the Shannon, suffer from quite enough of it remains to illustrate the clumsiness of a beginner; but Castle the first phase of the long-drawn-out Richmond was written after Doctor revolution that ended only the other Thorne and Barchester Towers, and day. Of the revolution itself there is actually at the same time as Framley not the least comprehension; but he Parsonage. I cannot better express the gives us an admirable picture of the difference than by saying that when society that the revolution broke up. Trollope wrote of England he knew Forty years, roughly speaking, lay what to take for granted; when Ireland between the writing of the first of these was his subject, he was always laboring books and the last, and we have Trolto be understood, and to understand. lope's observation given before the English life comes to him easily, care- famine, after the famine, again in 1876 lessly, and spontaneously; he creates it when the country was at its quietest, instinctively. Of Irish scenes he is only and lastly in the fierce beginnings of the the well-informed, attentive, fair, but land war. detached observer.
The first of the four novels, despite The novels that I purpose to examine its 'prentice handling, is in some rehave no permanent value as works of spects the least unsatisfactory, just art. But they do tell us, with certain because it is least hampered by that well-defined limitations, what Ireland dualism in Irish life that perhaps ex
plains why Irish literature has produced in the landlord class — yet not quite of
so few good novels. All the personages it; for, as he says in The Land Leaguers, in The Macdermots of Ballycloran are by the judgment of the old-fashioned in natural relation to each other be- gentry, 'it was the business of a Protescause they all belong to the same Ire- tant to take rent, and the business of a land. Ussher, indeed, in a sense the Catholic to pay rent.' villain of the piece, is a Protestant, but Larry Macdermot was really of the he is a policeman - the true connecting spurious class 'to be found in shoals link between the two Irelands of last through the country speaking of their century. All the rest are Catholics; and properties and boasting of their places, Trollope, because he was an English- but who owned no properties, and had man, had less of the prepossession no places, when the matter came to be against Catholics than was common sifted.' He and his his decent son among Protestants of his class at that with no education, set to screw rents time in Ireland. He notes in his auto- out of starving tenants instead of workbiography that shortly after he came to ing with his own head or hands, and his Banagher he dined with a Roman good-looking daughter whom a convent
а Catholic, and was told shortly after by school had taught to play the piano and
, another acquaintance that he must read novels were all on their
way to ‘choose his party'; he 'could not sit at disappear, or sink into the peasant both Protestant and Catholic tables.' class. Thady, the son, is shown as hav'Such a caution,' he adds 'would now ing the makings of a good peasant (in 1876) be impossible in any part of farmer, or a stout soldier, but tragedy Ireland.' It is very evident that even in comes across his life
he kills the man 1843 Trollope disregarded it; and who had misled his sister, and hangs for though he had no sympathy whatever it. Incidentally he is drawn into a with the Catholic outlook on life, he Ribbon Society, and Trollope's picture saw Catholic Ireland with the
eyes of this peasant conspiracy is well confair and friendly Englishman.
structed and in accordance with the Ballycloran House is a sort of coun- facts of Irish life. terpart to Castle Rackrent. Miss Edge- Many of the facts were unpleasing to worth pictures the gradual decline this denizened alien, who did not take of one of the improvident Anglo- everything for granted. Trollope did Irish gentry, heirs of the great confisca- not approve of the type of police force, tions. Macdermot of Ballycloran was nor of its methods — especially disliksomething much rarer than Sir Condying its use of informers. On all such Rackrent - being, as Trollope puts it, matters he never hesitates to interrupt 'a true Milesian, pious Catholic, and his story and give his plain opinion, descendant of King Somebody, who which has interest but not necessarily had managed through all the troubles authority. Authority, however, does
, of his poor country to keep a comforta- attach to the descriptions set down by ble little portion of his ancestral royal- such an observer, and many of them ties.' That is Trollope's way of de- are like nightmares. The Ireland with scribing what he had undoubtedly met, eight and a quarter million people, a — for his invention is everywhere based good quarter of them paupers, was a on observation, - one of the old ghastly country. ,
This Englishman, princely families that had retained whose Irish friends were chiefly of the some landed property, by the conniv- landlord class, was shocked to find ance of Protestant friends, and was now honorable men taking rent from such
people and from such habitations as he money had never been circulated in the pictured in this first book — written country in any one month since money had two years before the famine. Yet even been known there; and yet it may also be then hunger was the main fact of Irish
said that so frightful a mortality had never life. When Thady is out ‘on his keep- occurred there from the want of what money ing' food is brought to him - bacon
brings. It was well understood by all men
now that the customary food of the country and some potatoes.
had disappeared. There was no longer any Thady ate a portion of what was given difference of opinion between rich and poor, him, and as he did so he saw the old man's
between Protestant and Roman Catholic; greedy eyes glare on him, as he still sat in as to that, no man dared now to say that his accustomed seat; it was quite horrible to the poor, if left to themselves, could feed see how greedy and ravenous he appeared.
themselves, or to allege that the sufferings Thady, however, left far more than he con
of the country arose from the machinations sumed, and the girl, carefully putting the
of money-making speculators. The famine bit of bread away for his breakfast in the
was an established fact, and all men knew morning, divided the remnant of the bacon
th: it was God's doings — all men knew with her father. Then the man's apathy this, though few could recognize as yet and tranquillity vanished, and the voracity
with how much mercy God's hand was with which he devoured the unaccustomed
stretched out over the country. dainty showed that though he might have
Trollope never departed from the no demon thoughts to rack his brain, the vulture in his stomach tortured him as
opinion that he expressed publicly at violently.
the time, that the English Government
had taken the wisest measures to That has on it the stamp, not of in
cope with the situation. He did not vention, but of dreadful reminiscence.
blame the Irish; he took it all as part of Trollope had evidently seen that rav- 'God's mercy.' And he was convinced enous glare somewhere in his comings that Ireland was morally and materially and goings. Such people in the ordinary the better for this visitation. The course of their lives had nothing to eat
peasant had survived and was better but 'lumpers' – that is, the poorest off, but ‘it is with thorough rejoicing, and most watery kind of potato. almost with triumph, that I declare Potatoes always ran short in summer, that the idle genteel class has been between the two crops. But in 1846
driven forth out of its holding into the and after Trollope saw a time when
wide world and punished with the lumpers and every kind of potato failed penalty of extermination. These are
. altogether. Castle Richmond is the locus
hard words. But he was all for the classicus in literature for description of
prosperous, respectable, steady-going the Irish famine; for it renders, not landlord, and he thought that agents only the facts of destitution, but the
did their work as a rule, honestly.' It state of mind among those who were never entered his mind that the peasant not destitute, reproduced with a sim
class should oust the landlords from plicity that makes one rub one's eyes. their position of authority. In The Surely the Manchester school begot the Kellys and the O'Kellys he draws a picstrangest of all philosophies that allied
ture of well-to-do Irish Catholic folk, itself amazingly with a smug religion. and the widow Kelly, with her shop and Here is a leading passage describing her daughters, and her son, Martin, April 1847:
with his big farm, are decent Irish It was a busy month in Ireland. It may people, seen with a friendly eye, but probably be said that so large a sum of seen across a barrier. Trollope approves VOL. 588-NO, 4881