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Learning to Feel
Lectures on the Second Coming of Christ, delivered at St.
CHRISTIAN LADY'S MAGAZINE.
THE TOUCHSTONE OF HISTORY.
If a corner of the world were to be pointed out, concerning which the least is known by our youthful readers of general history, and that little the most vague, the least consistent, of all national histories, would not the corner so selected be Ireland? Until within the present half century, Ireland possessed much of the independence of a separate nation; annexed, indeed, to the English crown, and to a great extent occupied by families of English birth or descent and still she exhibits in her history, in her character, and in the language and position of her own people, amounting to some millions, all the main peculiarities of that independence; while her scenic features everywhere bear testimony to an antiquity that may vie with some of the oldest king
doms of Europe; and laugh to scorn that of the mightiest, as being comparatively of yesterday.
Neither is the tale flat or uninteresting; events deemed most captivating through their stirring life, and exciting vicissitudes, there abound in an uncommon degree: no people rose higher in the scale of spiritual enlightenment, in the early ages of Christianity; no people more gallantly struggled for the preservation of national freedom; none ever clung more graspingly to the wrecks of what remained, when that great struggle was over; or more pertinaciously retained distinctive marks which it was manifestly their interest to lay aside. It is altogether marvellous how obstinately ignorant we have chosen to be, after the example of our fathers, in what we were most concerned to know, and to know rightly; and it is lamentable to trace the effects of this ignorance, in stains of human gore, freshened and renewed from generation to generation, on the face of what ought to be the most peaceful, as it is by nature the loveliest portion of the British Empire.
We hear of the Irish populace-perhaps we see specimens of them, exhibiting models of squalid poverty, filth, and demoralization in the bye-lanes of our great town; or wandering along the high-ways, and through the villages, half-clad, and to our English eyes less than half civilized, conversing in a tongue to us wholly unknown, and therefore accounted barbarous. We associate with their very name the idea of what is wild, intractable, ferocious, individually and collectively dangerous. We comfort ourselves that between bolts and bars, watch-dogs and policemen, we are tolerably safe from their outrageous assaults; but, as a matter of course, we look for a
"barbarous murder," or a partial if not a general insurrection, accompanied with massacre to the extent of their opportunity, in the columns of every Irish newspaper. We know, that the Welch are as fiery a people, the Highland Scotch as sturdily national, and both as fearless as any on the face of the earth that both also, have reluctantly succumbed under the superior might of England, while both retain their ancient language among the same classes in which, to the West, we look for the Irish-speaking Celt: yet no such terrors, real or imaginary, clothe our idea of a Cambrian or a Gael. It is singular that so very striking an anomaly should be known to exist at our own doors, and sometimes to our no small jeopardy, with so very little inclination manifested to solve the enigma, while we are ready to admit as a general rule that the knowledge of a disease is half its remedy.
Fifteen years since, we were baffled in a diligent search through public and private libraries-including one that belonged to a College-for a History of Ireland. No such book was to be found; and we were obliged to send to London and purchase Leland's work. The passing of the fatally-famous Bill of 1829, however, directed popular attention to the Western isle, of which so much use was made in the accomplishment of that Romish Coup-de-main ; and people began to write Histories of Ireland; some as a promising speculation; others as a help in the mischievous delusion then practised against the English people; but such was the prevailing ignorance on all relating to its early times, and such the incapacity or disinclination for real, deep, personal, unbiassed research, that they proved on one