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Fidelia; as, however the symptoms of love may vary in real life, in novels they are seldom to be mistaken. A Mr. Peckham, who possesses a large mansion in the neighbourhood, is also introduced to her, and becomes a candidate for her affections; but finding his honourable addresses ineffectual, he treacherously intrigues with the Bryerlys to accomplish a marriage by force. We shall leave them in the midst of their cabals, and accompany Fi delia on an evening stroll.
"Delighted and enchanted, she proceeded, till again ascending, she entered upon an avenue of ancient trees, ending in a spacious court, where, stretched in long perspective, stood the time-struck arches of Glenbower Castle.-Slowly she advanced through them, often tempted, but still afraid, to venture through the low doors and dark passages that here and there met her view. At length emerging, she found herself on the brow of a steep bank, with a ruined church before her, that certain appendage to an old castle, since, go where you will in Ireland, you will be sure of always finding one close to the other; owing perhaps to the necessity there was in former times, for mutual protection. Innume rable records of mortality surrounded it, but all so completely buried in, and surrounded by briars and brambles, that Fidelia had not courage to attempt the examination of any of them."
Miss Roche is quite correct in this description. One unacquainted with the local beauties of Munster may conceive the sudden apparition of an old castle to be a fictitious incident; but, if he travel through that delightful province, he will discover in every direction these veteran piles brooding, like so many Scipios, over their fallen country. The Danish army, it is alleged, constructed most of them; and such are remarkable for their apparently impregnable situation upon some inland cliff or commanding insulated rock, their square form, simplicity, strength, and rudeness of finish, in short, for those qualities which may be supposed to answer the intention of temporary fortresses: whereas those of later date, the holds of the native chiefs, are distinguished by their superior magnificence and extent, their finer architecture, (of the Gothic order,) their being flanked by heavy walls and small round towers, so as to enclose a square courtyard, and by the accompanying church or burial ground. The church was built near the castle, not so much for mutual protection, as the author conceives, as for the security of itself against the hands of spoilers. We proceed.
Peckham, assisted by the treacherous Bryerlys, carries off Fidelia in a post chaise; she is rescued by Grandison and Conolly, (an Irish lad in the service of the Bryerlys,) and is carried by her deliverers to the house of an Irish Urganda, where she remains for some days. Grandison, from motives of delicacy, declines visiting Fidelia at the hut, but at length overcomes his scruples, and communicates his intention of going there to Conol
ly, whom he has taken into his service. The expostulation of Conolly deserves attention-it is truly in character.
"If I am seen at Judy's cabin, speaking wid her at this hour, no harm would be thought of it; but master dear, that would'nt be the case if you were; and when once bad thoughts are raised, or fools' tongues set a-going, God only knows where the slander may stop; and, ilegant as she is in shape and feature, and every inch of her a lady, yet she's like myself, depending perhaps on a good name to get through life; and since that's the case, sure it's not yourself, with your own noble heart, that's the friend of the unhappy and the unbefriended, that would be after doing any thing to injure her the crature ?"
As far as the English language can express it, this is a true specimen of the eloquence of the Irish peasantry. But were the same peasant, we may add, to escape into the regions of his na tive tongue, he would rise at once to a species of inspiration. Nor is this the effect of his fluency in speaking it, but of the sympathy which an observing and romantic mind must feel with à language remarkable at once for expressiveness and sublime simplicity. If an enlightened stranger were to see an Irish peasant standing in the midst of his attending family, and could understand the poetical and impassioned strain in which he relates the exploits of his heroes, Fean ma Koul and Bryan Borkoime, he would then be able to appreciate his real natural eloquence, for he would perceive the vigour of a rude poetic mind, in its own element, a rude poetic language *.
Fidelia, during her stay at Judy's cottage, receives intelligence of Mr. Beaumont and family, former friends of hers, having taken a residence in the neighbourhood. She sets out, accordingly, for the house, accompanied by Judy. The remark made during their journey is singular enough.
"Their way led through the mountainous ridge at the back of Judy's cabin, where every thing was so still, so sterile, and so wild, that but for the sight of a lonely hovel
We take this opportunity of expressing our regret that those who have of late written on Ireland, should have dwelt so little on its language, or alluded to it but abruptly, to pronounce it a remnant of barbarity nearly extinct. We think it worthy of inquiry how the language of a people, to whose remote history so much importance has been attached, could have been so degenerated and lost. Until the incursion, or perhaps conquest of Strongbow, the English language could not have been known, all the public transactions of Ireland, until that period and for many years after, being recorded in the Irish tongue in the annals of the kingdom, with an order and regularity perhaps altogether unequalled in the history of any contemporary times; so that, were the language of the Irish not in existence-were it not a living language spoken by millions at the present hour, the testimony of its name and character could not have been obliterated. Printing having been forbidden by law, there was no other way than manuscript of preserving the language. At a later period, however, the Hon. Robert Boyle published a beautiful folio edition of the Old and new Testament in Irish type: Bishop Bedel followed his example, in still more modern days, for the use of the reformed church in Ireland. The records of the Irish, the monuments of Ireland's literary fame, unfortunately, have been all destroyed, or conveyed away into foreign countries during the civil wars.
now and then, with the encounter of a car carrying turf from the neighbouring bog, Fidelia would almost have been tempted to imagine herself remote from any inhabited place; and here she could not help wondering, as she had often done before, when her eye, ranging over a vast extent of country, scarcely saw a vestige of habitation, where the immense population of the place was lodged, for immense she knew it to be, from the crowds that on a Sunday surrounded the chapel, or on a holiday were seen loitering along the roads. So that, from this circumstance, she was almost tempted to suppose, that, like the followers of Roderick Dhu, they lay concealed amidst the heath of the desert, ready to start up at the first sound of alarm, or intimation of festivity."
This effect may be accounted for by the manner in which the peasantry swarm together in their cabins. There seems to be no distinction of sex in a family; they associate together with truly primeval simplicity.
Fidelia receives a friendly welcome and protection from the Beaumonts. She goes with them to a ball in the neighbourhood, the characters and events of which are described with keenness and truth, so as to convey an accurate idea of the state of Irish society; and she afterwards meets her secret lover, Grandison, at the residence of a noble family, the Castle Dermots. Difficul ties and doubts arise between the lovers, and their attachment wavers. An attempt is made by the Countess of Castle Dermot, and a Mr. Dundonald, who is alleged to be Fidelia's father, to force her consent to a marriage with the Countess's son, the young Lord Castle Dermot, who is passionately attached to her. About this time our heroine is struck with the occasional appearance of a stranger lurking about the castle where she was then a visitor, and is thunderstruck on beholding, as she enters her apartment at night, the words, "You are not the daughter of Dundonald," pencilled on the wainscot. She reveals this to the Countess, who, seeing the perfidious plan of entrapping her into a marriage by the authority of a false father discovered, insists on her departure from Woodlands. She goes to Dublin, where Lord Castle Dermot attempts her honour; she saves herself by flight; then meets her friends, the Bryerlys; is again ill treated by them, and receives a demand from them for past support. In this extremity, she finds a friend in Conolly, whom she accidentally meets; he introduces her to a Mrs. Stovendale, who becomes her protector. Mr. Stovendale, who receives liberty from the Marquis of Clonard to inhabit for a time an old mansion in the country, embarks for it, with his family and Fidelia, in the canal boat at Porto Bello, near Dublin. In describing their journey, the author makes the following remark :
"In the features of the country through which they were passing, there was nothing particularly striking; but still, in whatever is new there is something interesting. Large buildings, in different directions, in ruins, built for different businesses and manufactories, gave a deplorable idea of the distress which had fallen on the country-a distress which it did not require one to be a profound politician to be able to account for, namely, by the arrangement which rendered indispensable the partial emigration
of the chief people of the kingdom, and of course, with them, the voluntary abandonment of it by those not only connected with them, but who liked to follow where fashion led the way."
Their passage led through the celebrated bog of Allen
"To the village of E, about thirty miles from Dublin. Nothing can be more chilling than the dreary aspect of this; as far as the eye could extend on either side, nothing else soon became visible but its bleak, broken, sterile surface-not a trace or sign of inhabitation, but now and then a faint smoke, that, but for the heap of mud-cemented stones it issued from, might have been mistaken for a vapour of the swamp."
They arrive at the village of E-: Mr. Stovendale inquires for accommodation, of the fat landlady of the Clonard Arms, and receives the following address in reply:
"To be sure 'tis not the very best the Clonard Arms can afford, that I can give you at present; for you must know I am keeping my daughter's wedding day, and so our only sitting room is taken up. Only for that, and that she may not have the luck of another, upon my conscience I'd turn them all out, man and boy, chick and child. But there's two snug rooms up stairs, and if you'll be after coming here next summer, 'tis then you'll find I'll never be at a nonplus, for I have taken Kit Donovan's house next door, and when I stop up the rat holes in the two upper rooms, and mend the joists of the ceiling, and plaster the walls, and new sash the windows, and put locks to the doors, and stop up the crevices in them, the d-l two snugger rooms there will be in all E
Mr. Stovendale at last caught an opportunity to check this timely apology; but the incorrigible hostess resumed,
Ah, then! where's that strap Biddy, to get a candle? Is'n't it a poor case, that, whenever I want her, she's off like a shot against a barn door," and, going to the back door, she opened it, and began calling.
"Ah, then! what need you be bellowing after me like a mad bull? Biddy speedily replied. A'nt I here letting the calf out of the pig-stye, where Mister Jack fastened him up? and is'n't my heart broke with the pig eating up all the potatoes I was washing for supper? and the sorrow take him! hasn't the gander been plucking the very hair of my head out by the roots, while I have been opening the stye!"
This is low, but not the less natural; and the reader may as well exclude from his cabinet the works of Ostade and Heemskirke, as quarrel with its introduction. The travellers, then, are obliged to content themselves as they may for the night; and next day they arrive at the castle. As Fidelia is sitting in one of its gothic windows, she perceives an interesting sight, which is prettily described:
"The silver light beamed far and wide, and as Fidelia continued to lean from the window, to observe its effect upon different objects, she fancied she beheld something moving in the plantations that filled up one of the dilapidated courts of the castle. Her attention becoming fixed, she soon found she was not mistaken. Slowly emerging from the ruins, a small procession gradually advanced, with downcast looks and folded What the nature of it could be, who the persons that composed it, or for what purpose, at such an hour, a thing of the kind could be formed, Fidelia could not possibly conceive. She saw them draw near the window where she was; slowly and silently, however, they passed on; and as they wound round the tower into the road, a soft low strain swelled upon the air, reminding her of the litanies chaunted abroad in religious processions."
This procession turns out to be one of the members of a confraternity-a religious association of Catholics, with whom the curious reader may desire to be better acquainted. These bodies claim the immediate patronage of some saint-St. Francis, St. Agnes, &c. and take certain vows to pray for their mutual prosperity, and for any of their members in trials, difficulties and dangers; they are also bound to pray for the souls of the deceased members. They formerly made it a practice of going in procession on the midnight before Christmas day, to hear the mass which is always celebrated on the occasion; but those nocturnal processions, and indeed public religious processions of all kinds, are very justly prohibited.
The old housekeeper, who has stolen upon Fidelia, in accounting for this appearance, gives her an amusing account of the Old Ladies of the Castle, and their midnight walks through the ruined halls and demesnes. The superstitions of the Irish, it may be noticed, are, like their ideas in other respects, singularly wild and original. What can be more poetical than the idea of the great of old walking in state through the ruins of their halls; as if to reproach their degenerate sons with the sight of what their ancestors had been! But among the many exalted conceptions to be found in the national superstitions of Ireland, we have remarked some of a low and unworthy nature; for instance, we know that there are many unhappy individuals in it at this mo ment, who, from a prevailing idea of ill-luck being attached to meeting them on a road, or elsewhere, are literally considered little better than fiends in human shape; and whose presence is so feared and avoided, as to make them suffer banishment in the heart of their country and connections. What is more strange, these unhappy victims to superstition are generally persons of acknowledged good conduct; but yet, when the idea of their being the harbingers of calamity is once set afloat by malice or accident, they are at once considered the bane of the country round. We have known instances of men of some consequence in the country having actually desisted from an undertaking, on their meeting one of those ill-sighted persons. To them cattle-blasting, and other effects of evil agency are attributed. Again, if the bees desert their hives; if the distant cry of a dog, or as it is called, the bean-shee be heard; or if a raven light on the thatch, some misfortune is certainly in the wind. Thus it is, the more luxuriant the soil, the more rank will be its weeds; and when a strong fervid mind runs to waste from ignorance and sloth, its fruit is the most pernicious.
In her retreat, Fidelia experiences a second attack from Peckham; but she is rescued by the timely appearance of the stranger whom she has once or twice seen. Some inquiries of course pass