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volume. Besides this, it has been quoted in public debates, and turned to account as bearing on some of the most important questions by which Ireland has been agitated for many years past, and alas! is agitated still to the most serious extent.
The outward mien and appearance of the volume may, in some degree, have arrested attention for its singular contents. On the outside binding is a representation, stamped in gold, of one among the very extraordinary interviews between the author and those with whom he had to do in the course of his life and profession as an agent for Irish estates. On one side of a small rough table stands a tall, powerful figure in shirtsleeves, with folded arms, and head thrown fiercely back; while on the other stands a gentleman, smaller in size, and bareheaded like the other figure, but with a pistol in each hand, and one of them directly pointed in the face of his opponent. And this design is only preparative for several other designs of an equally strange and exciting character, contributed by the author's son, of which more will be said in the course of these observations.
A few preliminary words on the family and antecedents of the writer may not be out of place.
He belongs to that very numerous and prosperons family which came over to Ireland on the persecution so fiercely carried on against the Protestants of France in the reign of Louis the Fourteenth; but, unlike the La Touches, the Le Fevres, the Des Vaux, and so many others, has dropped the French form and orthography of the name, and has adopted one of a more simple and vernacular kind. He is son of the late Dean of Kildare, and nephew of the late Lord Ashtown. His eldest brother, now dead, was married to a sister of the present Earl of Egmont. Many of the family have undertaken large Irish agencies—an occupation, or, it may rather be called, a profession, very ably and successfully commenced by the late William Trench, of Cangort Park, to whom the author, in the course of his book, expresses himself much indebted. It is impossible to overrate the importance and responsibility of this calling in Ireland, and to this the volume before us affords in itself a most ample testimony. The salaries of such agents are very considerable, and the power in their hands, accompanied no doubt at times with much danger and difficulty, is of the most extensive nature.
The first three chapters of the book contain a short memoir of the author's early life and preparation for those subsequent engagements and duties from which it has originated. They tell of his early Irish travels—of his school-days, including a most curious and pertinacious “barring out," with the punishment which the boys had to meet at its termination of party
rows in the streets of Dublin--and of Dublin generally, in his college days.
"Lord Anglesea,” he writes, “ was then Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and in the midst of a hundred scenes similar to that which I have just described, levees, drawing-rooms, Castle balls, and private entertainments, in all of which I freely joined, flowed on, and people never thought of these outrages but as passing trifles, whilst the pleasures and business of life proceeded as if all was going on in the natural course of things.
“In the country parts of Ireland, the same wild ways, though in a different and more dangerous form, prevailed. The predominant idea amongst the peasantry at that time was—and still to a certain extent is—that 'a big war' was coming, and in preparation for this the 'taking up arms' was one of the most frequent outrages. Many gentlemen living in remote districts lost their lives in defence of their arms, and in not a few cases the assailants were shot down in their attempts to take them. My father's residence was in the Queen's County, about three miles from Portarlington; and I well remember how, in disturbed times, when several murders had been committed in the neighbourhood, we habitually took our arms with us into the dining-room, and ate our meals with our loaded pistols on the table beside us, and our guns leaning against the chimneypiece. It is surprising, when one gets accustomed to it, how little this affects the appetite, or weighs upon the mind. It went on with us as a matter of course, and without the least feeling of uneasiness or apprehension affecting our spirits or our daily life.” (pp. 42, 43.)
“During all this time my earnest endeavours were turned towards the acquisition of knowledge, which, in addition to my classical and scientific course through College, would tend to fit me for the profession I had set my heart on to follow; and after some time I exerted myself much, without any emolument, in the improvement of the dwellings and farms of the tenants on my brother's estate. In course of time I found myself a married man, settled in the county of Tipperary, not far from Cangort Park, the residence of a much loved and valued uncle, from whose vast experience and knowledge of country life I derived many and lasting advantages.” (p. 45,)
Thus ends what may be called the introductory portion of the volume, and though perhaps the least important part of it, and one not absolutely necessary for its subsequent contents, still, as the author has deemed it right to give it, it is worthy of notice, and not without its value, as personally bearing on the strange and important calling or profession which, under such training and conditions, he has had to fulfil,
The fourth chapter is entitled “The Ribbon Code,” and is prefaced by an engraving in rich green colour of the Master Ribbonman's collar, scarf, and belt, with sundry devices in white, such as the Cross, the Heart, Irish Heart, &c. &c. And here the Land Question, as it is now termed, is at once faced, and decidedly, though briefly. Mr. Trench states that the "main object of the Ribbon Society was to prevent any landlord, under any circumstances whatever, from depriving a tenant of his land. *Fixity of tenure,' which has lately been so boldly demanded by the advocates of tenant-right, was then only secretly proclaimed in the lodges of the Ribbon Society; and 'fixity of tenure' it was determined to carry out to the death, which almost necessarily followed.” Tipperary, the King's County, Meath and Westmeath, Louth and Monaghan, are brought forward as the special scene of its “unhallowed operations” at the time specified, viz., about fifteen or twenty years ago. It may be observed once for all, that, in comparison with what some might have anticipated, little is said of the religious part of the questions affecting Ireland, either here or throughout the remainder of the volume.
The general statement thus made regarding the Ribbon Society and the tenure of land is speedily followed by certain narratives and vivid illustrations, of a personal kind, in connexion with the matter on hand.
While the author was living at Sopwell Hall, an old family residence near the small town of Cloghjordan, about the year 1840, a gentleman was murdered in the open day, and in the open field :
“It was a sessions day at Borrisokane, and several other gentlemen who were also going there joined as almost immediately afterwards. There were a few country-people standing by. I shall not easily forget my feelings on this occasion. There lay the body of a murdered gentleman, with whom I had been on terms of friendly intercourse-shot on his own estate, and in his own field, in the noonday, whilst on the faces of the peasantry could be plainly seen an expression of triumphant satisfaction; and there we stood, several mounted horsemen--many of us armed, burning to avenge his death and to arrest the murderer, and yet we looked like so many fools not knowing what to do, though it was scarcely more than ten minutes since the fatal shot had been fired.
“I turned to a gentleman of well-known courage, and a daring rider, and said,
“ Can we do nothing, Mr. Smith ? The murderer cannot have gone far; surely we might make a circuit round the place across the country, and though no one will tell us which way he ran, we may by this means come up with him or see him. We are both well mounted and armed let us try.'
“ Hush, my dear Sir,' replied he, the murderer never ran; that would at once betray him. He is surely in the field with us at this moment, and is probably one of those now looking at the body and expressing his wonder at who did it.'” (pp. 52, 53.)
The murderer was at last discovered and brought to justice, although after long delays and difficulties in effecting it. Mr. Trench gives a most graphic account of the extraordinary scene which took place in the Court, specially with regard to the testimony of the informer, through whom the crime was brought home to its perpetrator. A portrait of the prisoner is given as he stood at the bar, and represents him as a young man of well-cut and delicate features, with feelings intensified to the utmost, surveying with fixed gaze the whole scene, and, as it were, endeavouring to read from the look of the judge, the jury, and the audience around, what his doom was to be. But a far more extraordinary design, also given in connexion with this history, is the full representation of the Court itself, where the prominent figures are those of the informer and the examining counsel. The informer is sitting on the table in the middle of the hall, or rather, almost starting from his chair, in an attitude of the most violent and unrestrained excitement, which pervades his whole figure. He almost dashes his hand into the face of the examining counsel, who is standing up in close contact with him, and turns round (as the writer expresses it) “so suddenly within a few feet of his cross-examiner's head, that his usually undaunted nerve seems almost appalled by the ferocity of the savage.” Losing all self-command, his answers become of that terrific character, which perhaps may better be read in the original than transferred to these pages.
The fifth chapter is entitled “Farney," and in it the author first appears as an agent of landed estates, undertaking the business and supervision of a very large property belonging to Mr. Shirley, in Monaghan. This was in the year 1843. The circumstances of his first arrival at Carrickmacross were suffi. ciently startling, as initiating the new agent into his future prospects. For no sooner had he taken up his residence than he heard that, on the sudden death of the recent agent-not however by violence "fires had been lit on every hill of the estate, and over a district of 20,000 acres there was scarcely a mile without a bonfire blazing in manifestation of joy at his decease.” In the simple and undemonstrative style with which throughout the book Mr. Trench comments upon all his own personal dangers, he writes,-“ So remarkable an occurrence as this could not pass unobserved by one who was now about to succeed him.”
Mr. Shirley and the new agent found themselves next day, on leaving the office of the estate, in the “midst of a large body of men,” who had quietly gathered outside while they were talking within; and the moment they appeared the tenants “ demanded, in loud and threatening tones, a reduction of their rents and the removal of all their grievances.” Unhappily, a proposition was made to receive them on the ensuing Monday, and this led to a resolution on the part of the inhabitants of the barony, that a deputation of no less than ten thousand men should march into Carrickmacross, and receive Mr. Shirley's statement in answer to their demand, and act as circumstances might in their judgment require.
The history of the estate is then given in detail. Its rental amounted to a very large sum, but the population on it had arrived at such immense numbers that the property, even from that cause, had become quite unmanageable.
Vast crowds assembled on the appointed day, and the first attempt made to do business was that of an address by Mr. Trench, stating, on Mr. Shirley's part, that he saw no reason to reduce the rents, and that there were no grievances to give the tenants any just cause of complaint. In answer to this, the whole crowd dropped, by word of command and simultaneously, upon their knees. A picture is given of the scene. But this attitude of supplication, addressed to the agent for his interference with the landlord to lower the rents, was soon exchanged for measures of the utmost violence, fury, and intimidation. Mr. Trench was soon surrounded by an infuriated assemblage, “kicked and beaten, and pushed and bruised, and dragged into the main street of Carrickmacross.” He showed the utmost courage and fortitude during a scene in which his life was evidently in much danger, and having had to endure a large amount of physical suffering, in the end, by the blessing of God, he was allowed to address the vast assembled multitude, and succeeded in some degree in calming the fury which prevailed. As in almost all such demonstrations, there were some who afforded him their protection in the hour of his chief extremity. He escaped the peril of the day, so far as concerned his life, but at a cost to body and to nerve, which to many of less courage and less physical strength would, no doubt, have caused death. The fearful narrative will speak for itself, and prove that this is no exaggeration.
From want of space we must pass over the next chapter, headed, “ The Battle of Magheractoon,” and also the next, with very brief observations. It is entirely on a new subject—the “ Potato-rot" and the “ Famine Years” of Ireland, commencing in 1846. As usual--and this is what gives such an intense and graphic interest to the volume throughout-Mr. Trench gives his own experience in connexion with this dire calamity.
In the year 1846, he had himself planted, on his own account, no less than one hundred and sixty-two acres (English) of potatoes, and was so largely engaged in general agriculture and reclamation of waste land, that he had employed, for some years, “not less than two hundred labourers in draining, levelling, limeing, and the heavy work of sowing aud digging out again enormous quantities of potatoes.” In August the blight appeared. Let the author describe the result in his own language :
ain enormouand the heavundred laboumployed,"