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One man seem'd fortunate ; he found a pool
A woman totter'd on, and strore to bear
I thought that if my heart's best blood could help
Thanks, mighty Father— thy wrath, tho' just, Js terrible! but even in the midst Of Judgmeat, thou dost still remember Mercy!"
How meek beneath yon shady thom,
Thus from the troubled scenes of life,
A LETTER FROM TIMOTHY TICKLER.
TO THE EDITOR OF BOLSTER'S QUARTERLY MAGAZINE
Ballydehob, October 1, 1826.
Though the fame of your publication, and your character as an encourager of Irish genius, have already penetrated into many places more remote than this, yet did I not so soon expect to see my humble neighbourhood affording scope for such talent, and becoming the scene of such animated description as we find in your Third Number, under the article Tiarna ua clanna Mac Diarmuidh. It is indeed written in a masterly style, and I will venture to say, for the honour of old Ireland, that there is nothing like it in all Sir Walter Scott's famous novels. What a pity it was not written before Ivanhoe came out? because your critics and envious people will say that the attack and defence of the castle of Kilco, and the prisoner ladies looking on, out of the blind window, are circumstances borrowed from that favourite novel. But every scholar kuows that it is usual for one great genius to borrow from another. Does not Virgil borrow from Homer? and Milton from both, and is it not likely that Homer borrowed too, only that the author he was indebted to has not reached our times? All that is required from the borrower, is to improve and enlarge upon his novel, and surely this is a praise no person will deny to the ingenious author of Tiarna na clanna Mac Diarmuidh. The embellishments he has added are not only new, but wonderful, just as they ought to be in an Irish tale of horrors. In Ivanhoe, the castle of Torquilstone is stormed in the day time, and the beautiful Jewess, who relates the progress of the battle to the wounded Knight, had not only a convenient window to look from, but the benefit of the sun's light to behold what was going on. Whereas, Alice and Amy (Amy is become a very favourite name for writers of Cork romances,) saw every thing clearly in the pitchy darkness of a November night, which shews that they had not only much better, but much brighter eyes than Rebecca. Then sir, the beautiful Jewess is praised for her fortitude in resisting the profligate Templar, and preferring death before dishonour. But, Lord help us, what is this fortitude, which I suppose would find its parallel in many a chaste Hibernian maiden; what, I say, is this simple act of heroism, compared with the valour of Alice and Amy, who, on a black November night, marched sola cum sola to take possession of a hostile anę guarded fortress, with no other aid than what nature furnishes to all females, tongues and nails? What their plan was, we are not told; a circumstance much to be regretted, as it would have been so creditable to female courage and invention, for certainly the like of this adventure is not to be found in the annals of chivalry; the history of the Crusades; or the magical stories of the Arabian nights. It does not appear that they had the receipt of fernseed, and could make themselves invisible, and yet, without it, it is
not easy to conceive how they meant to accomplish their purpose. In the • ardour of pursuit many things are overlooked—these heroines forgot not that the castle was guarded that they knew,—but they forgot that none but those who were able to enter by force, could avoid being made prisoners. Prisoners they were accordingly made, and, as assailants of such dangerous description must have expected, locked up in a small square dungeon, where it was supposed neither their arts nor their arms could be of any avail. Now sir, this is not exactly the kind of treatment two beautiful young women coming to an Irish chieftain's castle at dead of night, would be likely to meet in any times that ever I heard of, whether they came as friends or foes. The O’Driscolls and O'Mahonys ruled the coast here in days of yore, and they are much belied if they did not behave to their female visitors or captives, especially the handsome ones, in a very different manner. But we are to keep in mind that this is a romance, and that romances are always out of nature, a relation of fine things that neither did nor could happen. Truth belongs to history, and from the histotorian we look to accuracy of statement, and reality of occurrence. Fiction is allowed as wide a range as the imagination of the writer can take, and the more it deals in the marvellous, the greater is our pleasure and astonishment. Critics tell us that a creative imagination stands in the foremost rank of genius, and this praise belongs in an eminent degree to the author of Tiarna na clanna Mac Diarmuidh. He has not only given us rare incidents, and unimaginable adventures, but he has created mountains where no mountains existed, put ocean into places where no ocean is to be found, and covered with dry land no inconsiderable space, which nature filled with water.-In short, he has changed, and, as I may say, reversed the entire geography of the district in which I live. Alice and Amy are first presented to us “winding round the broken pathway of one of those dreary mountains which jut out into the Atlantic, along the rocky shore of Cape Clear, in the west of Ireland.” I do not know, Mr. Editor, whether you are acquainted with the circumstance, being a stranger to these parts, but you may take
my word for it, that Cape Clear is an island, separated from the main land by a channel of very considerable breadth, not very safe to navigate on a blowing night of November, by the most experienced mariner. I do indeed admit that its shore is rocky, a little too much so to be safely travelled night or day by ladies or gentlemen either. It is also proper to inform you that the castle of Kilco, which these ladies so luckily hit upon after they had lost their guide, is not less than pine miles distant from the aforesaid island of Cape Clear, so that had neither rock, sea, or mountain intervened, it was rather more, being Irish miles also, than they could well have accomplished in an hour or two, In the days of witchcraft, it is true, a couple of brooms might have transported them there, but as the author has omitted the mention of any such conveyance, we are not at liberty to suppose it made use of. As to mountains, you may also take my word for it as matter of fact, that though we have rocky bills in plenty, we boast of only one mountain, Knock cushtha, otherwise Mount Gabriel, which, lying far to the N. West, is in the present case out of the question.
Errors of this kind are however trifling blemishes, if indeed they can be called blemishes at all, in such a composition. An author who places his scenes of action in a country which he does not know, is at liberty to dispose of rocks, mountains, seas, and distances at his pleasure. All the reader wants, is something new, preternatural and surprising, and in Tiarna na clanna Mac Diarmuidh, (I love, as the Vicar of Wakefield says, to give the whole name) he will find full gratification.
I was reading this fine specimen of native talent to a neighbour of mine, who is a plain sort of matter of fact man, unwilling to make allowances for the flights of genius, and pinning down every writer of stories or novels, to what he calls versimilitude. We will allow them (said he) to range at will among the varieties of human action, but not to overstep the bounds of possibility. They may tell as much as they please of things which did not really happen, but not of things which could not happen, when they launch into extravagances of this kind, though they may make the simple stare, they will make the sensible despise. Your Tiarna na clanna Mac Diarmuidh has both moral and physical impossibilities. It was a physical impossibility that two young English ladies could have arrived at Kilco Castle from the shores of Cape Clear, they being utter strangers to the country, within the time prescribed; it was a moral impossibility that they should have been such fools as to undertake it. It was physically impossible that they should have succeeded in the project undertaken; it was morally impossible that their friends would have permitted them to try it. Supposing those fair warriors capable of exhibiting a light on the top of the castle, (which is to suppose another impossibility) what purpose was it to answer? The assailants did not want to be told that the castle was there, for they had previously formed a plan to storm it; and even if they had wanted the direction of a fire, how could that want be supplied by the momentary blaze of a lady's handkerchief? Well and what was this ignis fatuss to tell them, admitting that they might have seen it? Why truly if it was capable of telling facts, it would have told them, that their forlorn hope, consisting of two delicate females, was in a dungeon, and that the castle instead of being on fire or likely to be so, was stoutly defended. Far different was the case in the castle of Torquilstone of which this is so miserable an imitation. There Ulrica, before she gave the blazing signal for assault from without, had set fire to the inflammables within, and secured the conflagration of the castle—then the style is too pompous for me, I like common sense and plain English. Stop, stop, neighbour, said I, if you go on criticizing at this tremendous rate, you will damp the rising genius of our Isle, quench the fire of invention, and blast all our literary projects by your preposterous attempt to reduce our young aspiring writers to the dull level of common sense, and plain English. If you confine composition within these bounds, how the deuce will the magazines and all our weekly, monthly and quarterly periodicals be supported ? common sense, and plain English indeed! Why man you will deprive nine tenths of the printers of this imperial realm of bread, and thousands of compositors, type casters, journeymen, runners, and printers' devils of employment; common sense and plain English forsooth! It would be the ruin of our paper manufacturies; there would be no demand for old rags, which by the chemical art of rozin weavers, are now so happily converted into beautiful quartos, octavos, and duodecimos, soon to return to their pristine state, and become old rags again! Consider, my honest friend, that their is not a more profitable crop of annual production than that of novels, newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, &c. and that the very cause which makes it so is the rapidity of their consumptions. Common sense and plain English I say again—I really have not patience to bear with you.—Why man, I read this very tale of Tiarna na clanna Mac Diarmuidh yesterday after school time to my boys, and their delight was inexpressible. Do you think that your common sense and plain English would have produced such an affect--no--no-they have enough of them in their own humdrum books of historical, religious and moral edification, the taste of the times requires something new, something picquant, as the French say. Now, how is it possible we can have this if we adhere like the writers of the old school, to common sense and plain English?
In short, Mr. Editor, my friend and I had a long and warm discussion on the subject, which ended, as all such discussions do, in confirming both parties in their respective opinions. This, it appeared to me, might furnish some entertainment to your readers, among whom I dare say will be found advocates for each cause; so I took the opportunity of a holiday, to lay the whole of our conference before you. I have only to add that I keep school at the village of Ballydekob, or as now generally called Swanton's Town, where I teach ready writing and all the branches of arithmetic, and shall be happy to receive any commands with which you or your friends think fit to hopour