William Carleton: Quotations


‘[T]here never was any man of letters who had an opportunity of knowing and describing the manners of the Irish people so thoroughly as I had.’ (Autobiography, ed., D. J. O’Donoghue [Chap. XI], quoted in John Eglinton, ‘Irish Books’, in Anglo-Irish Essays, 1917, p.82 [1996 edn., p.128].)

In an application for a government pension in 1847, Carleton wrote: “I have risen up from a humble cottage and described a whole people.” (Quoted in Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 [...]’, Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary, Cambridge UP 2006, Vol. I, p.455 - as infra.)

When told that his pictures of the Irish were ‘really more reliable than those of Mrs S. C. Hall’ [q.v.], Carleton replied: ‘Why, of course, they are! Did she ever live with the people as I did? Did she ever dance and fight with them as I did? Did she ever get drunk with them as I did?’ (Quoted in Rolf & Magda Loeber, A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900, Dublin: Four Courts 2006, Introduction, p.lxiv; citing Patrick Rafroidi, ‘The Irish Short Story in English: The Birth of a New Tradition’, in The Irish Short Story, ed. Rafroidi & Terence Brown, Lille [Univ. de Paris III: 1979], p. 34.

Stories & Collections [Extracts]
Traits & Stories (1830) - Intro. Traits & Stories (1843) - Intro.
“The Hedge School”
“Lough Derg Pilgrim”
“Phelim O’Toole’s Courship”
“The Battle of the Factions”
“Wildgoose Lodge”
Tales of Ireland (1834)
The Black Prophet (1847)
Willy Reilly & his Dear Coleen Bawn [1855] (1857)
Life of William Carleton [Autobiography] (1896) Carleton his father & mother (Autobiography)

Sundry remarks
Classical authors
Pathos and humour
British mercy
Irish-style marriage
Literary famine
Ultimus romanorum

Carleton on the Hedge Schools of Ireland

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See also full-texts in RICORSO Library ...

—from Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1830, & edns.)*
Introduction (1843 Edn.)
“Ned M’Keown
“The Three Tasks”
“Shan Fadh’s Wedding”
“The Battle of the Factions”
“The Hedgeschool”
“Wildgoose Lodge”
*chiefly taken from Colliers 1881 Edn. (NY 1881) - via Gutenberg.
Various collections
“The Death of a Devotee”
“Condy Cullen and the Gauger”
“The Fate of Frank M’Kenna”

See longer extracts from The Life of William Carleton, Being His Autobiography [... &c.; ed.] D. J. O’Donoghue (1896) - as attached.

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Traits and Stories (1830) - Preface to the First Series: ‘The description of that most penal performance [Lough Derg pilgrimage] ... not only constituted my debut in literature but was also the means of preventing me from being a pleasant, strong-bodied parish priest at this day; indeed, it was the cause of changing the whole destiny of my subsequent life.’ (p.xvi).

Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry [1830] - Preface to the 1st Edition [1st Series], rep. in Do. (Dublin: Wakeman 1834).

In presenting the following Traits and Stories to the Public, the Author can with confidence assure them, that what he offers is, both in manu- facture and material, genuine Irish; yes, genuine Irish as to character — drawn by one born amidst the scenes he describes — reared as one of the peo-ple whose characters and situations he sketches — and who can cut and dress a shillaly [shillelagh] as well as any man in his Majesty’s dominions; ay, and use it too: so let the critics take care of themselves. Conversant with the pastimes, festivals, feasts, and feuds he details— he may well say of what he has described — “quorum pars magna fui.” Moreover, the Author assumes, that in the ground he has taken, he stands in a great measure without a competitor; particularly as to certain sketches, peculiar [vi], in the habits and manners delineated in them, to the Northern Irish. These last — the Ulster Creachts — as they were formerly called — are as characteristically distinct from the Southern or Western Milesians, as the people of Yorkshire are from the natives of Somerset; yet they are still as Irish, and as strongly imbued with the character of their country. The English reader, perhaps, may be sceptical as to the deep hatred which prevails among Roman Catholics in the north of Ireland, against those who differ from them in party and religious principles; but when he reflects that they were driven before the face of the Scotch invader, and divested by the Settlement of Ulster of their pleasant vales, forced to quench their fires on their fathers’ hearths, and retire to the moun-tain ranges of Tyrone, Donegal, and Derry, perhaps he will grant, after all, that the feeling is natural to a people treated as they have been. Upon this race, surrounded by Scotch and English settlers, and hid amongst the mists of their highland retreats, education, until recently, had made little progress; — superstition, and prejudice, and ancient animosity, held their strongest sway; and the Priests, the poor pastors of a poorer people, were devoid of the wealth, the self-respect, and the learning, which prevailed amongst their better endowed brethren of the South. [vii]
 The Author, in the different scenes and characters he describes, has endeavoured to give his portraits as true to nature as possible; and requests his readers to give him credit when he asserts that without party, object, or engagement, he disclaims subserviency to any political purpose whatsoever. His desire is neither to distort his coun- trymen into demons, nor to enshrine them as suffering innocents and saints — but to exhibit them as they really are — warm-hearted, hot-headed, affectionate creatures — the very fittest materials in the world for the poet or romance writer — capable of great culpability, and of great and energetic goodness — sudden in their passions as the red and rapid gush of their mountain-streams — variable in their temper as the climate that sends them the mutability of sun and shower — at times, rugged and gloomy as the moorland sides of their moun- tains — oftener sweet, soft, and gay, as the sun-lit meadows of their pleasant vales.
 The Author — though sometimes forced to touch upon their vices, expose their errors, and laugh at their superstitions, — loves also (and it has formed, as he may say, the pleasure of his pen) to call up their happier qualities, and exhibit them as candid, affectionate, and faithful. Nor has he ever foregone the hope — his heart’s desire and his anxious wish — that his own dear, native mountain [viii] people may, through the influence of education, by the leadings of purer knowledge, and by the festerings of a paternal government, become the pride, the strength, and support of the British empire, instead of, as now, forming its weakness and its reproach.
 The reader may finally believe that these vo-lumes contain probably a greater number of facts than any other book ever published on Irish life. The Author’s acquaintance with the people was so intimate and extensive, and the state of Ireland so unsettled, that he had only to take incidents which occurred under his eye, and by fictitious names and localities, exhibit through their medium, the very prejudices and manners which produced the incidents themselves.
 In the language and expressions of the northern peasantry he has studiously avoided local idiom, and that intolerable Scoto-Hibernic jargon which pierces the ear so unmercifully; but he has preserved every thing Irish, and generalized the phraseology, so that the book, wherever it may go, will exhibit a truly Hibernian spirit.
 In the beginning of the first volume there will be remarked a greater portion of the Doric than perhaps will be relished; the Author, however, by the advice of a judicious friend, has changed this ere more than a few pages were printed, and made [ix] his characters — without being less idiomatic — speak less broadly.
 It depends on the patronage which the Public may bestow on these volumes, whether other attempts, made under circumstances less discouraging, and for which there are ample materials, calcu- lated to exhibit Irish life in a manner, perhaps, more practically useful, shall be proceeded with.

Dublin 1st March, 1830.

Available online; accessed 15.11.2017.

Traits and Stories (1830) - Preface to the First Series: ‘[The author] disclaims subserviency to any political purpose whatsoever. His desire is neither to distort his countrymen into demons, nor to enshrine them as suffering innocents and saints, but to exhibit them as they really are - warm-hearted, hot-headed, affectionate creatures - the very fittest materials in the world for either the poet or the agitator - capable of great culpability, and of great and energetic goodness - sudden in their passions ... variable in their temper ... at times rugged and gloomy ... often sweet, soft, and gay.’ (Quoted in Mary Helen Thuente, Foreword to Representative Irish Tales, ed. W. B. Yeats [1891; rep. edn.] Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979, p.9.)

Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, 2nd Series, in Three Volumes, Vol. 1 [2nd edition] (Dublin: William Frederick Wakeman; London: Simpkin & Marshall 1834)

It is to be wished that Prefaces were abolished ; there is something pecuHarly Irish in them. An Author writes a book, and proceeds from story to story, or from incident to incident, as the case may be, and imagines, when he has concluded, that the work is finished. He never was more mistaken in his Ufe : for, at the moment he fan- cies the labour over, comes the bookseller to remind him of the Preface. He is accordingly compelled to resume his pen, and end his book at the beginning.
 With respect to the contents of this Second Series, the Author has only to observe, that the volumes constituting the First Series had an excellent sale, considering that they were of Irish manufacture. They are now in a third edition, and much of their success may probably be ascribed to the fact of their never having been puffed; for no man excites more notice than he who runs counter to the fashion.
 It was, therefore, the brisk sale of the First Series, joined to a vacancy in the Author’s purse, which he felt rather anxious to have filled up, that induced him to bring out the present work. [viii]
 He hopes it may succeed as well as the other ; but that it may succeed better, is a wish due to the worthy and liberal Publisher who brings it out. The Author was pressed by many of his friends to dedicate this book to some Great Man ; but as he had only a month’s notice to look about him, he found himself rather at a loss for time to discover any one worthy of that character — except Bartahmeo, the Castle Porter, who stands six feet six inches, German measure. The Public is the only Great Man at present, whose patronage is worth any thing to a writer.
 To the Reviewers, Periodicals, and the press in general, the Author begs to return his warmest and most grateful acknowledgments for their favourable notices of his first effort. It was impossible to bestow greater praise on any book of the kind than it received at their hands, yet he hopes they will praise this still more highly.
 God be with the present times! They are not like those in which an Author was almost compelled to dedicate his book to some Lord, whose name accompanied it as a kind of safe conduct to oblivion. The world, however, is a huge paradox. One would think, for instance, that works of fiction should have flourished in the dedicating age; yet such was not the fact. Fiction was wasted on the patron to such excess in the beginning of the book, that the Author had httle left for the work itself. It is the avoiding [ix] of this error that has raised imaginative writing to such perfection in the present day.
 This Preface, like every other human work, except the improvement of Ireland, must come to a close. It was written on compulsion : it was to have been serious — it was to have given a touching dissertation upon Irish character — it was to have been elaborate, philosophical, and what not — all within the compass of four pages !
 In vain has the Author tried condensation — in vain also has he attempted epigrammatic pathos, in order to save space. The epigrams were sor- rowful enough, he admits ; but as the pity they were calculated to excite was more likely to be bestowed on himself than on his country, he thought it more patriotic to decline being felt for in that light, so long as his country was a greater object of compassion than himself.
 The reader will be pleased to observe, that the notes which ought to have appeared in the first volume, are, in consequence of its bulk, to be found in the last.* Let him not smile at this. It is an Irish work, and so far like its country, where scarcely any thing is to be found in its proper place. The Author’s advice was, to have had them printed in a separate pamphlet, in which shape they might have accompanied the book like a poor Curate after a fat Vicar, always ready to clear up what the dulness of his superior leaves in obscurity. [ix]
 The Author ought perhaps to mention here, that when this work was nearly ready for publication, a calamitous fire reduced the printer’s establishment to ashes. The Traits and Stories unhappily shared the same fate: the first edition went off brilliantly in the course of one night. Had the book appeared as it was then printed, it would have rivalled anything coming from the first houses of London. It was again put through the press in a hurry, and under circumstances highly disadvantageous; and yet its typographical execution is certainly creditable to the country.
 In adverting to this subject it may be prudent to state, that the last scene between Denis O’Shaughnessy and Susan is not now such as it was originally. The first contained pathos enough to deluge a whole boarding-school ; but, alas ! the first pathos was burned in the confla- gration, and unhappily the Author is not in the habit of being twice pathetic on the same subject
 Reader, farewell for a while. A long preface is like a long grace : if the dinner be good, it is doubly tedious ; and if it be bad, it adds to our disappointment, by sharpening the appetite for what is not to be had. Now fall to, and may you relish what is before you. Kead millia failthah!

[*This has been altered in the present edition.]


There is little more to be expressed in this preface than the simple fact that the Author has nothing to say. To say this in a few words is a task exceedingly difficult, as any man acquainted with the frequent attempts to do it may testify. Let not my readers suppose, however, that be- cause this preface is short, it therefore contains but little. This would be a mistake. It con- tains my deeply felt gratitude to the public, and to the periodical literature of the day, including the daily and weekly press ; and the man who says that this is little, had better carry his infor- mation to any other person rather than myself. I have only to add, that this edition is improved and corrected, and that it is, moreover, enriched by the exquisite and unrivalled illustrations of my friend, Mr. Brooke, who, in the delineation [v] of Irish life stands unapproachable and unapproached. I have no hesitation in declaring that Cruikshank is not greater in English drollery than Brooke is in that of the Green Isle. His incomparable humour and felicity of expression, joined to his admirable conception of character, have far surpassed my own creations, although I considered myself not inferior to any man in knowledge of Irish life and manners. This certainly is due to the man to whose genius I owe so much. Having thus discharged my obligations to the press, the public, and my talented fellow-labourer in the Irish field, I beg, with my most sincere and lively sense of their kindness, to bid them farewell until we meet again. [vi]

Available at Internet Archive - online; accessed 15.11.2017.

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Traits and Stories (1843 Edn.), “General Introduction”: ‘[The author] rejoices in the demand for the present edition puts it in his power to aid in removing many absurd prejudices which have existed from time immemorial against his countrymen ... congeries of brogue and blunder.’ (p.i.)

[ For full text of 1843 Edn., see RICORSO > “Irish Classics”, via index, or as attached.]

‘That the Irish either were or are a people remarkable for making bulls or blunders, is an imputation utterly unfounded, and in every sense untrue. The source of this error on the part of our neighbours is, however, readily traced. The language of our people has been for centuries, and is up to the present day, in a transition stage. The English tongue is gradually superseding the Irish. In my own native place, for instance, there is not by any means so much Irish spoken now, as there was about twenty or five-and-twenty years ago. This fact, then, will easily account for the ridicule which is, and I fear ever will be, unjustly heaped upon those who are found to use a language which they do not properly understand. [... &c.]’ (Traits and Stories, 1843 Edn.; rep. Colin Smythe Ltd. 1990, p.i.)

Further: ‘It is well known that the character of an Irishman has been hitherto uniformly associated with the idea of something unusually ridiculous, and scarcely anything in the shape of language was supposed to proceed from hs lips but an absurd congeries of brogue and blunder. The habit of looking upon him in a ludicrous light has been so strongly impressed upon the English mind, that no opportunity has ever been omitted of throwing him into an attitude of gross and overcharged caricature, from which you might as correctly estimate his intellectual strength and moral proportions, as you would the size of a man from his evening shadow, From the immortal bard of Avon down to the writers of the present day, neither play nor farce has ever been presented to Englishmen, in which, when an Irishman is introduced, he is not drawn as a broad grotesque blunderer, every sentence he speaks involving a bull and every act the result of headlong folly, or cool but unstudied effrontery. [...] As for the Captain O’Cutters, O’Blunders, and Denis Bulgruderies of the English stage, they never had an existence except in the imagination of those who were as ignorant of the Irish people as they were of their language and feelings.’ (Quoted in Tessa Maginess, ‘How does Carleton begin a story?’, QUB Education Dept., Extension Course Lecture [2013], citing Carleton, 1844, p.i-ii.)

‘Even Sheridan himself was forced to pander to this erroneous estimate and distorted opinion of our character; for after all, Sir Lucius O’Trigger was his Irishman, but not Ireland’s Irishman.’ (Maginess, idem; Carleton, 1844, p.ii).

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Traits and Stories, Vol. I ([1843] “General Introduction” - cont.: ‘[...] At that time England and Englishmen knew very little of Ireland, and, consequently, the principal opportunities afforded them of appreciating our character were found on the stage. Of course, it was very natural that the erroneous estimate of us which they formed there should influence them everywhere else. We cannot sympathise with, and laugh at, the same object, at the same time; and if the Irishman found himself undeservedly the object of coarse and unjust ridicule, it was not very unnatural that he should requite it with a prejudice against the principles and feelings of Englishmen, quite as strong as that which was entertained against himself. Had this ridicule been confined to the stage, or directed at us in the presence of those who had other and better opportunities of knowing us, it would have been comparatively harmless. But this was not the case. It passed from the stage into the recesses of private life, wrought itself into the feelings until it became a prejudice, and the Irishman was consequently looked upon, and treated, as a being made up of absurdity and cunning, - a compound of knave and fool, fit only to be punished for his knavery or laughed at for his folly. So far, therefore, that portion of English literature which attempted to describe the language and habits of Irishmen, was unconsciously creating an unfriendly feeling between the two countries, – a feeling which, I am happy to say, is fast disappearing, and which only requires that we should have a full and fair acquaintance with each other in order to be removed for ever.’ [1990 Edn. pp.ii-iii.] [Cont.]

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Traits and Stories ([1843] “General Introduction”), cont.: ‘In truth until within the last ten or twelve years an Irish author never thought of publishing in his own country, and the consequence was that our literary men followed the example of our great landlords; they became absentees, and drained the country of its intellectual wealth precisely as the others exhausted it of its rents. / Thus did Ireland stand in the singular anomaly of adding some of her most distinguished names to the literature of Great Britain, whilst she herself remained incapable of presenting anything to the world beyond a school-book or a pamphlet; and even of the latter it is well known that if the subject of it were considered important, and its author a man of any talent or station in society, it was certain to be published in London.’ (p.v.) [Cont.]

Traits and Stories ([1843] “General Introduction”), cont.: ‘[...] In conclusion, I have endeavoured, with what success has been already determined by the voice of my own country, to give a panorama of Irish life among the people ... and in doing this, I can say with solemn truth that I painted them honestly and without reference to the existence of any particular creed or party.’ (End; Dublin Aug. 1842) [For full text of 1843 Edn., see “Irish Classics”, infra.]

"The Irish", in Traits and Stories [rev. edn.] (Dublin: Curry 1843) [(extract from the Introduction]..


The period, therefore, for putting the character of our country fairly upon its trial has not yet arrived; although we are willing to take the Irishman as we find him; nor would we shrink even at the present moment from comparing him with any of his neighbours. His political sins and their consequences were left him as an heir-loom, and result from a state of things which he himself did not occasion. Setting these aside, where is the man to be found in any country who has carried with him through all his privations and penalties so many of the best virtues of our nature? In other countries the man who commits a great crime is always a great criminal, and the whole heart is hardened and debased, but it is not so in Ireland. The agrarian and political outrage is often perpetrated by men who possess the best virtues of humanity, and whose hearts as individuals actually abhor the crime. The moral standard here is no doubt dreadfully erroneous, and until a correct and christian one, emanating from a better system of education, shall be substituted for it, it will, with a people who so think and feel, be impossible utterly to prevent the occurrence of these great evils. We must wait for thirty or forty years, that is, until the rising or perhaps the subsequent generation shall be educated out of these wild and destructive prejudices, before we can fully estimate the degree of excellence to which our national character may arrive. In my own youth, and I am now only forty-four years, I do not remember a single school under the immediate superintendence of either priest or parson, and that in a parish the extent of which is, I dare say, ten miles by eight. The instruction of the children was altogether a matter in which no clergy of any creed took an interest. This was left altogether to hedge schoolmasters, a class of men who, with few exceptions, bestowed such an education upon the people as is sufficient almost, in the absence of all other causes, to account for much of the agrarian violence and erroneous principles which regulate their movements and feelings on that and similar subjects. For further information on this matter the reader is referred to the ‘Hedge School.’
 With respect to these darker shades of the Irish character, I feel that, consistently with that love of truth and impartiality which has guided, and I trust ever shall guide, my pen, I could not pass them over without further notice. I know that it is a very questionable defence to say that some, if not principally all, of their crimes originate in agrarian or political vengeance. Indeed, I believe that, so far from this circumstance being looked upon as a defence, it ought to be considered as an aggravation of the guilt; inasmuch as it is, beyond all doubt, at least a far more manly thing to inflict an injury upon an enemy face to face, and under the influence of immediate resentment, than to crouch like a cowardly assassin behind a hedge and coolly murder him without one moment’s preparation, or any means whatsoever of defence. This is a description of crime which no man with one generous drop of blood in his veins can think of without shame and indignation. Unhappily, however, for the security of human life, every crime of the kind results more from the dark tyranny of these secret confederacies, by which the lower classes are organised, than from any natural appetite for shedding blood. Individually, the Irish loathe murder as much as any people in the world; but in the circumstances before us, it often happens that the Irishman is not a free agent, - very far from it: on the contrary, he is frequently made the instrument of a system, to which he must become either an obedient slave or a victim.
 Even here, however, although nothing can or ought to be said, to palliate the cowardly and unmanly crime of assassination, yet something can certainly be advanced to account for the state of feeling by which, from time to time, and by frequent occurrence, it came to be so habitual among the people, that by familiarity it became stripped of its criminality and horror.
 It is idle, and it would be dishonest, to deny the fact, that the lower Irish, until a comparatively recent period, were treated with apathy and gross neglect by the only class to whom they could or ought to look up for sympathy or protection. The conferring of the elective franchise upon the forty shilling freeholders, or in other words upon paupers, added to the absence of proper education, or the means of acquiring it, by the fraudulent sub-division of small holdings, by bribery, perjury, and corruption, a state of moral feeling among the poorer classes which could not but be productive of much crime. And yet, notwithstanding this shameful prostitution of their morals and comfort, for the purposes of political ambition or personal aggrandizement, they were in general a peaceable and enduring people; and it was only when some act of unjustifiable severity, or oppression in the person of a middleman, agent, or hardhearted landlord, drove them houseless upon the world, that they fell back upon the darker crimes of which I am speaking. But what, I ask, could be expected from such a state of things? And who generated it? It is not, indeed, to be wondered at that a set of men, who so completely neglected their duties as the old landlords of Ireland did, should have the very weapons turned against themselves which their own moral profligacy first put into the bands of those whom they corrupted. Up to this day the peasantry are charged with indifference to the obligation of an oath, and in those who still have anything to do in elections, I fear with too much truth. But then let us inquire who first trained and familiarised them to it? Why, the old landlords of Ireland; and now their descendants, and such of themselves as survive, may behold, in the crimes which disgrace the country, the disastrous effects of a bad system created by their forefathers or themselves.
 In the mean time, I have no doubt that by the removal of the causes which produced this deplorable state of things, their disastrous effects will also soon disappear. That the present landlords of Ireland are, with the ordinary number of exceptions, a very different class of men from those who have gone before them, is a fact which will ultimately tell for the peace and prosperity of the country. Let the ignorance of the people, or rather the positive bad knowledge with which, as to a sense of civil duties, their minds are filled, be removed, and replaced with principles of a higher and more Christian tendency. Let the Irish landlords consider the interests of their tenantry as their own, and there is little doubt that with the aids of science, agricultural improvement, and the advantages of superior machinery, the Irish will become a prosperous, contented, and great people.
 It is not just to the general character of our people, however, to speak of these crimes as national, for, in fact, they are not so. If Tipperary and some of the adjoining parts of Munster were blotted out of the moral map of the country, we would stand as a nation in a far higher position than that which we occupy in the opinion of our neighbours. This is a distinction which in justice to us ought to be made, for it is surely unfair to charge the whole kingdom with the crimes which disgrace only a single county of it, together with a few adjacent districts - allowing, of course, for some melancholy exceptions in other parts.
 Having now discussed, with I think sufficient candour and impartiality that portion of our national character which appears worst and weakest in the eyes of our neighbours, and attempted to show that preexisting circumstances originating from an unwise policy had much to do in calling into existence and shaping its evil impulses, I come now to a more agreeable task-the consideration of our social and domestic virtues. And here it is where the Irishman immeasurably outstrips all competitors. His hospitality is not only a habit but a principle; and indeed of such a quick and generous temperament is he, that in ninety cases out of a hundred the feeling precedes the reflection, which in others prompts the virtue. To be a stranger and friendless, or suffering hunger and thirst, is at any time a sufficient passport to his heart and purse; but it is not merely the thing or virtue, but also his manner of doing it, that constitutes the charm which runs through his conduct. There is a natural politeness and sincerity in his manner which no man can mistake; and it is a fact, the truth of which I have felt a thousand times, that he will make you feel the acceptance of the favour or kindness he bestows to be a compliment to himself rather than to you. The delicate ingenuity with which he diminishes the nature or amount of his own kindness, proves that he is no common man either in heart or intellect; and when all fails he will lie like Lucifer himself, and absolutely seduce you into an acceptance of his hospitality or assistance. I speak now exclusively of the peasantry. Certainly in domestic life there is no man so exquisitely affectionate and humanized as the Irishman. The national imagination is active and the national heart warm, and it follows very naturally that he should be, and is, tender and strong in all his domestic relations. Unlike the people of other nations, his grief is loud but lasting, vehement but deep; and whilst its shadow has been chequered by the laughter and mirth of a cheerful disposition, still in the moments of seclusion, at his bedside prayer, or over the grave of those he loved, it will put itself forth after half a life with a vivid power of recollection which is sometimes almost beyond belief.
 The Irish, however, are naturally a refined people; but by this I mean the refinement which appreciates and cherishes whatever there is in nature, as manifested through the influence of the softer arts of music and poetry. The effect of music upon the Irish heart I ought to know well, and no man need tell me that a barbarous or cruel people ever possessed national music that was beautiful and pathetic. The music of any nation is the manifestation of its general feeling, and not that which creates it; although there is no doubt but the one when formed perpetuates and reproduces the other. It is no wonder, then, that the domestic feelings of the Irish should be so singularly affectionate and strong, when we consider that they have been, in spite of every obstruction, kept under the softening influence of music and poetry. This music and poetry, too, essentially their own-and whether streaming of a summer evening along their pastoral fields, echoing through their still glens, or poured forth at the winter hearth, still, by its soft and melancholy spirit, stirring up a thousand tender associations that must necessarily touch and improve the heart. And it is for this reason that that heart becomes so remarkably eloquent, if not poetical, when moved by sorrow. Many a -time I have seen a Keener commence her wail over the corpse of a near relative, and by degrees she has risen from the simple wail or cry to a high but mournful recitative, extemporized, under the excitement of the moment, into sentiments that were highly figurative and impressive. In this she was aided very much by the genius of the language, which possesses the finest and most copious vocabulary in the world for the expression of either sorrow or love.
 It has been said that the Irish, notwithstanding a deep susceptibility of sorrow, are a light-hearted people; and this is strictly true. What, however, is the one fact but a natural consequence of the other? No man for instance ever possessed a high order of humour, whose temperament was not naturally melancholy, and no country in the world more clearly establishes that point than Ireland. Here the melancholy and mirth are .not simply in a proximate state, but frequently flash together, and again separate so quickly, that the alternation or blending, as the case may be, whilst it is felt by the spectators, yet stands beyond all known rules of philosophy to solve it. Any one at all acquainted with Ireland, knows that in no country is mirth lighter, or sorrow deeper, or the smile and the tear seen more frequently on the face at the same moment. Their mirth, however, is not levity, nor their sorrow gloom; and for this reason none of those dreary and desponding reactions take place, which, as in France especially, so frequently terminate in suicide.
 The recreations of the Irish were very varied, and some of them of a highly intellectual cast. These latter, however, have altogether disappeared from the country, or at all events are fast disappearing. The old Harper is now hardly seen; the Senachie, where he exists, is but a dim and faded representative of that very old Chronicler in his palmy days; and the Prophecy-man unfortunately has survived the failure of his best and most cherished predictions. The Door old Prophet’s stock in trade is nearly exhausted, and little now remains but the slaughter which is to take place at the mill of Louth, when the mill is to be turned three times with human blood, and the miller to have six fingers and two thumbs on each hand, as a collateral prognostication of that bloody event.
 The amusement derived from these persons was undoubtedly of a very imaginative character, and gives sufficient proof, that had the national intellect been duly cultivated, it is difficult to say in what position as a literary country Ireland might have stood at this day. At present the national recreations, though still sufficiently varied and numerous, are neither so strongly marked nor diversified as formerly. Fun, or the love of it, to be sure, is an essential principle in the Irish character; and nothing that can happen, no matter how solemn or how sorrowful it may be, is allowed to ‘proceed without it. In Ireland the house of death is sure to be the merriest one in the neighbourhood; but here the mirth is kindly and considerately introduced, from motives of sympathy - in other words, for the alleviation of the mourners’ sorrow. The same thing may be said of its association with religion. Whoever has witnessed a Station in Ireland made at some blessed lake or holy well, will understand this. At such places it is quite usual to see young men and women devoutly circumambulating the well or lake on their bare knees with all the marks of penitence and contrition strongly impressed upon their faces; whilst again, after an hour or two, the same individuals may be found in a tent dancing with ecstatic vehemence to the music of the bagpipe or fiddle.


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The Hedge School” (in Traits & Stories, 1830 Edn.): ‘There never was a more unfounded calumny, than that which would impute to the Irish peasantry an indifference to education. I may, on the contrary, fearlessly assert, that the lower orders of no country ever manifested such a positive inclination for literary acquirements, and that, too, under circumstances strongly calculated to produce carelessness and apathy on this particular subject. Nay, I do maintain, that he who is intimately acquainted with the character of our countrymen, must acknowledge, that their zeal for book learning, not only is strong and ardent, when opportunities of scholastic education occur, but that it increases in proportion as these opportunities are rare and unattainable. The very name and nature of Hedge Schools are proof of this: for what stronger point could be made out, in illustration of my position, than the fact, that, despite of obstacles, whose very idea would crush ordinary enterprise - when not even a shed could be obtained in which to assemble the children of an Irish village, the worthy pedagogue selected the first green spot on the sunny side of a quickset-thorn hedge, which he conceived adapted for his purpose, and there, under the scorching rays of a summer sun, and in defiance of spies and statutes, carried on the work of instruction. From this circumstance the name of Hedge School originated, and, however it may be associated with the ludicrous, I maintain, that it is highly honourable to the character of the people, and an encouragement to those who wish to see them receive pure and correct educational knowledge. A Hedge School, however, in its original sense, was but a temporary establishment, being only adopted until such a school-house could be erected, as was in those days deemed sufficient to hold as many children as were expected, at all hazards, to attend it.’ (See full text in “Irish Classics”, infra; also quoted in Tessa Maginess, ‘How Does Carleton Begin a Story?’ - QUB Dept. of Education Extension Course Lectures [2013], citing Carleton, 1844 [rep. edn.] p.271.)

Further: ‘The fact is, that Hedge Schoolmasters were a class of men, from whom morality was not expected by the peasantry; for strange to say, one of their strongest recommendations to the good opinion of the people, as far as their literary talents and qualifications were concerned, was an inordinate love of whiskey, and  if to this could be added a slight touch of derangement, the character was complete.’ (Quoted in Maginess, op. cit., citing Carleton 1844, p.272.)

Cf. Autobiography (q.d.) - On Pat Frayne’s school ‘A school house was built for him – a sod house scooped out of the bank on the roadside – and in the course of a month it was filled with upwards of a hundred scholars, most of them males, but a good number of them females. [...] Every winter’s day each [scholar] brought two sods of turf for the fire, which was kept burning in the centre of the school; there was a hole in the roof that discharged the functions of a chimney. Around this fire, especially during cold and severe weather, the boys were entitled to sit in a circle by turns. ...The seats about the fire were round stones.’ (Carleton, Autobiography, quoted by P. J. Dowling, in The Hedge School [1935] 1968, p.36; citing Autobiography [n.d.], pp.19-20]; quoted in Tessa Maginess [QUB], ‘Hedging Hegemony: From  Salubrious Scriptorium to the Sunny Side of a Ditch’, Feb. 2014; supplied by the author.)

Note further: ‘[Pat Frayne] continued to get more butter from his pupils than five families like his could consume.’
(Quoted in P. J. Dowling, Hedge Schools of Ireland, 1935; rev. 1968, p.83; no. ref. - as infra.)

‘I got a promise of about a dozen of two wretched boys and girls, and the gift of an uninhabited hut - one of the eorst that ever covered a human head. In due time the establishment was opened, and I, William Carleton, became the master of the school. Yes, a hedge-school - so it must be called, for it was. But when I bethought me of the hedge-schools in which I had myself been educated, of the multitude assembled, of the din arising from the voices of the comic crew around, I felt like a hermit in the wilderness.’ (Autobiography, pp.186-87; quoted in P. J. Dowling, The Hedge Schools of Ireland [1935]; rev. edn. Mercier Press 1968, p.37.)

‘I think it a mistake to suppose that silence, among a number of children in school, is conducive to improvement either of health or intellect. That the chest and lungs are benefited by giving full play to the voice, I think, will not be disputed; and that a child is capable of more intense study and abstratction in the din of a schoolroom, than in partial silence (if I may be permitted the word), is a fact which I think any rational observation would establish. There is something cheering and cheerful in the noise of friendly voices about us - it is a restraint taken off the mind, and it will run the ligher for it - it produces more excitement, and puts the intellect in a better frame of mind for study. The obligation to silence, thogh it may give the master more ease, imposes a new moral duty upon the child, the sense of which must necessarily weaken his application.’ [45] Further, of the boy going to school, ‘Do not sent him in quest of knowledge alone, but let him have cheerful companionship on his way.’ Of classroom joking or even horseplay: ‘It is an exercise to the mind and he will return to his business with greater vigour and effect.’ (Traits and Stories [4th Edn.], Vol. II, pp.219-22; quoted in P. J. Dowling, The Hedge Schools of Ireland [1935]; rev. edn. Mercier Press 1968, p.45-46.)

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Quotations from Carleton in P. J. Dowling, The Hedge Schools of Ireland (1935; rev. edn. Mercier Press 1968).

Dowling: ‘Carleton tells us that by the age of thirteen or fourteen he had “only got as far as Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Justin and the first chapter of John in the Greek Testament”. This was after a period of three yeras under Charles McGodlrick in a school at Tulnavert.’ (Dowling, op. cit., p.56; no ref.)

Carleton on his mathematical education: ‘[I] got a tolerably good notion of Gough’s Arithmetic ... My brother John made a first-rate arithmetician; but Pat [Frayne] could never succeed in that direction with me. I had no genius for sicence, nor was I ever able to work out a propositioin of Euclid during my life.’ (Quoted in Dowling, op. cit., p.60; no ref.)

Dowling: ‘On seeing a copy of Gough’s Arithmetic in the hands of a well-known teacher, Carleton affected to be shocked: “‘Gough’s,’ he exclaimed ... ‘Surely it is not possible that you are teaching [62] the system of a man who for years has proved himself to be ignorant of the doctrine of proportion! I thought I should have found Thompson here, not Gough - but indeed, Mr. Newland, I did expect to have met you with Homer or Virgil in your hand, and not with such a schoolboy’s book as Gough’s Arithmetic.”’ (Dowling, op. cit., pp.62-63; no ref.)

Carleton - of reading books for children: ‘The matter placed in their hands was of a most inflammatory and pernicious nature, as regarded politics; and as far as religion and morality were concerned, nothing could be more gross and superstitious than the books which circulated among them.’ (Traits and Stories, Vol. II, pp.234-46 [sic]; in Dowling, op. cit., p.65.)
  Carleton on his journey to Munster as a ‘poor scholar’: ‘My outfit was simple enough but a portion of it very significant of the object of my journey. My sachel consisted of a piece of grey-beard linen, made after the manner of a soldier’s knapsack, and worn in the same fashion. At a first glance, every one could see that it was filled principally with books, whose shapes were quite visible through it, and the consequence was that my object as a young traveller was known at a glance. I nnever stayed in the towns as I went along, but always at the small roadside inns, where I was treated with kindess to which I could scarcely render justice.’ Further: ’During this youthful pilgrimage such was the respect [74] held for those who appeared to be anxious to acquire education, that, with one exception alone, I was not permitted to pay a farthing for either bed or board in the roadside houses of entertainment where I stopped.’ (Autobiography, pp.69-70; Dowling, op. cit., pp.74-75.)

Dowling: ‘Carleton states that when a scholar had learned all that his local teacher had to give, he issued a challenge to the teacher to meet him in a contest of knowledge before competent judges. If defeated, the pupil remained under his old teacher; but if victorious, he went on to another school where he continued his studies. Again a contest too place with the new teacher; and once again if victorious he moved on. I this way he increased his stock of knowledge and became more subtle in argument. After a year or two he returned home, and again challenged his first teacher. If the contest was decided in his favour, he sometimes took over the school while his teacher was compeleld to go elsewhere. The position of the hedge schoolmaster was evidently no sinecure; he was liable at any time deposed by a younger and abler teacher.’ (Dowling, op. cit., p.77.)

Carleton: ‘A hedge schoolmaster was the general scribe of the parish, to whom all who wanted letters or petitions written, uniformly applied - and these were glorious opportunities for the pompous display of pedantry.’ (Traits & Stories, Vol. II, p.222; quoted in Dowling, op. cit., p.85.)
 Further [Carleton]: ‘The schoolmaster had also generally the clerkship of the parish; an office, however, which in the country parts of Ireland is without any kind of salary, beyond what results from the patronage of the priest, a matter of serious moment to a teacher, who, should he incur his Reverence’s displeasure, would be immediately driven out of the parish. The master, therefore, was always tyrannical and insolent to the people, in proportion as he stood in high in the estimation of the priest.’ (Idem.)

Dowling quotes Carleton: ‘disloyal principles were industriously insinuated’ into the minds of children ‘by their teachers’. (Dowling, op. cit., p.92; no ref.)

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Lough Derg Pilgrim” (in Traits and Stories, 1990 edn.) - On his attempt to walk on water: ‘It is singular to reflect upon what slight and ridiculous circumstances the mind will seize, when wound up in this manner to a pitch of superstitious absurdity.’ (pp.240-41.) Criticises the morbidity of penance as producing only more sin: ‘It was this gloomy feeling that could alone have strangled in their birth those sensations which the wisdom of God has given as a security in some degree against sin, by opening to the heart of man [to] sources of pleasure, for which the soul is not compelled to barter away her innocence.’ (p.243.) Address to the reader: ‘The welfare of your immortal soul was not connected with your imaginings, your magnificent visions did not penetrate into the soul’s doom. You were not submitted to the agency of transcendental power. You were, in a word, a poet, not a fanatic. What comparison, then, could there be between the exercise of your free, manly, cultivated understanding, and my feelings on this occasion, with my thick-coming visions of immortality that almost lifted me from the mountain path.’ (p.255.) ‘A large lake, surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains, bleak, uncomfortable and desolate [...]’, p.255.) ‘There is not on earth, I say a regulation of a religious nature, more barbarous and inhuman ... even worse that death [in] stretching the powers of human endurance until the mind cracks under them.’ (p.259). [Cont.]

A Pilgrimage to Patrick’s Purgatory” [later The Lough Dearg Pilgrim], The Christian Examiner (April-May 1828) - Intro.: ‘A man must be brought up among the Irish peasantry and under the influence of superstition, before he can understand its form and character correctly [...] But there is no specimen of Irish superstition equal to that which is to be seen at St. Patrick’s Purgatory, in Lough Dearg. A devout Romanist who has not made the pilgrimage to this place can scarcely urge a bold claim to the character of piety.’ (pp.268-69; quoted in Daniel J. Casey, ‘Lough Derg’s Famous Pilgrim’, in Clogher Record, 7, 3 (1971-72), pp.449-79, p.449 [available at JSTOR online. [Casey notes that the ‘introduction’ was omitted from the revised work. Idem., ftn.1.]

Cf. ‘There is no specimen of Irish superstition equal to that which is seen at St Patrick’s purgatory, in Lough Derg [...] It is a melancholy to perceive the fatal success to which the Church of Rome has attained, in making void the atonement of Christ by her traditions [...]’ (“The Lough Derg Pilgrim”; in Father Butler [and] The Lough Derg Pilgrim, Garland Publ. [facs. rep.] 1979, p.202.) See also Carleton’s own estimate of the authenicity of this tale where the Lough Derg episode is recounted in the Autobiography (1996 Edn.), at pp.97-100; as infra.)

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Lough Derg Pilgrim” (1990 edn.) - cont. [Pilgrims ultimately regard as victims:] ‘poor unsuspecting people ... pitiable creatures ... sunk forever in the incurable apathy of religious melancholy’ (p.259); ‘[The] heartfelt sense of God’s presence, which Christian prayer demands [and] its existence in the mind would not only be a moral but a physical impossibility in Lough Derg.’ (p.257.) ‘I experienced also that singular state of being in which, while the senses are accessible to the influence of surround objects, the process of thought is suspended, the man seems to enjoy an inverted existence, in which the soul sleeps, and the body remains awake and susceptible of external impressions.’ (p.261.) At the end, the narrator is robbed of his clothing, and appears to himself as ‘a goose stripped of my feathers; a dupe beknaved and beplundered’ (p.270).


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Phelim O’Toole’s Courship” [from Traits and Stories]: ‘The house to which Phelim and his father directed themselves was, like their own, of the humblest description. The floor of it was about sixteen feet by twelve; its furniture rude and scanty. To the right of the fire was a bed, the four posts of [xii] which ran up to the low roof; it was curtained by straw mats, with the exception of an opening about a foot and a half wide on the side next the fire, through which those who slept in it passed. A little below the foot of the bed were ranged a few shelves of deal, supported by pins of wood driven into the wall. These constituted the dresser. In the lower end of the house stood a potato-bin, made up of stakes driven into the floor, and wrought with strong wicker-work. Tied to another stake beside this bin stood a cow, whose hinder part projected so close to the door, that those who entered the cabin were compelled to push her over out of their way. This, indeed, was effected without much difficulty, for the animal became so habituated to the necessity of moving aside that it was only necessary to lay a hand upon her. Above the door in the inside, almost touching the roof, was the hen-roost, made also of wickerwork; and opposite the bed, on the other side of the fire, stood a meal chest, its lid on a level with the little pane of glass which served as a window. An old straw chair, a few stools, a couple of pots, some wooden vessels and crockery, completed the furniture of the house. The pig to which Sheelah alluded was not kept within the cabin, that filthy custom being now less common than formerly.’ (Quoted in Maurice Harmon, ed., Wild Goose Lodge and Other Stories, ed. Cork: Mercier Press 1973, Intro., p.xii-iii.)

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The Battle of the Factions” (in Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, 1830; rep. in Works of Carleton, NY: P. F. Collier 1881) - Pat Frayne narrates: ‘[...] In a party fight, a prophetic sense of danger, hangs, as it were, over the crowd - the very air is loaded with apprehension; and the vengeance burst is proceeded by a close, thick darkness, almost sulphury, that is more terrifical than the conflict itself, though dearly less dangerous and fatal. The scowl of the opposing parties, the blanched cheeks, the knit brows, and the grinding teeth, not pretermitting the deadly gleams that shoot from their kindled eyes, are ornaments which a plain battle between factions cannot boast, but which, notwithstanding, are very suitable to the fierce and gloomy silence of that premeditated vengeance which burns with such intensity in the heart, and scorches up the vitals into such a thirst for blood. Not but that they come by different means to the same conclusion; because it is the feeling, and not altogether the manner of operation, that is different. / Now a faction fight doesn’t resemble this at all at all. Paddy’s at home here; all song, dance, good-humor, and affection. His cheek is flushed with delight, which, indeed, may derive assistance from the consciousness of having no bayonets or loaded carabines to contend with; but anyhow, he’s at home - his eye is lit with real glee - he tosses his hat in the air, in the height of mirth - and leaps, like a mounteback, two yards from the ground. Then, with what a gracious dexterity he brandishes his cudgel! what a joyous spirit is heard in his shout at the face of a friend from another faction! His very “who!” is contagious, and would make a man, that had settled on running away, return and join the sport with an appetite truly Irish. He is, in fact, while under the influence of this heavenly afflatus, in love with every one, man, woman, and child. If he meet his sweetheart, he will give her a kiss and a hug, and that with double kindness, because he is on his way to thrash her father or brother. It is the acumen of his enjoyment; and woe be to him who will adventure to go between him and his amusements. To be sure, skulls and bones are broken, and lives lost; but they are lost in pleasant fighting - they are the consequences of the sport, the beauty of which consists in breaking as many heads and necks as you can; and certainly when a man enters into the spirit of any exercise, there is nothing like elevating himself to the point of excellence. Then a man ought never to be disheartened. If you lose this game, or get your head good-humoredly beaten to pieces, why you may win another, or your friends may mollify two or three skulls as a set-off to yours; but that is nothing.’ [Cont.]

The Battle of the Factions” (in Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, 1830; 1834 edn., pp.336-38.) - Pat Frayne narrates: ‘[...] I mentioned, some time ago, that a man had adopted a scythe. I wish from my heart there had been no such bloody instrument there that day; but truth must be told. John O’Callaghan was now engaged against a set of the other O’s, [336] who had rallied for the third time, and attacked him and his party. Another brother of Rose Galh’s was in this engagement, and him did John O’Callaghan not only knock down, but cut desperately across the temple. A man, stripped, and covered with blood and dust, at that moment made his appearance, his hand bearing the blade of the aforesaid scythe. His approach was at once furious and rapid, and I may as well add, fatal; for before John O’Callaghan had time to be forewarned of his danger, he was cut down, the artery of his neck laid open, and he died without a groan. It was truly dreadful, even to the oldest fighter present, to see the strong rush of red blood that curvated about his neck, until it gurgled, gurgled, gurgled, and lappered, and bubbled out, ending in small red spouts, blackening and blackening, as they became fainter and more faint. At this criticality, every eye was turned from the corpse to the murderer; but he had been instantly struck down, and a female, with a large stone in her apron, stood over him, her arms stretched out, her face horribly distorted with agony, and her eyes turned backwards, as it were, into her head. In a few seconds she fell into strong convulsions, and was immediately taken away. Alas! alas! it was Rose Galh; and [337] when we looked at the man she had struck down, he was found to be her brother! flesh of her flesh, and blood of her blood! On examining him more closely, we discovered that his under-jaw hung loose, that his limbs were supple; we tried to make him speak, but in vain - he too was a corpse. / The fact was, that in consequence of his being stripped, and covered by so much blood and dust, she knew him not; and impelled by her feelings to avenge herself on the murderer of her lover, to whom she doubly owed her life, she struck him a deadly blow, without knowing him for her brother. The shock produced by seeing her lover murdered - and the horror of finding that she herself in avenging him, had taken her brother’s life, was too much for a heart so tender as hers. On recovering from her convulsions, her senses were found to be gone for ever! Poor girl! She is still living; but from that moment to this she has never opened her lips to mortal. She is indeed a fair ruin, but silent, melancholy, and beautiful as the moon in the summer heaven. Poor Rose Galh! you and many a mother, and father, and wife, and orphan, have had reason to maledict the bloody Battles of the Factions!’ (Also rep. in Works of Carleton, NY: P. F. Collier 1881; see full text in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, infra;

Note: The whole is ‘composed into a narrative by a hedgeschool master’ - i.e., Pat Frayne. [Note that Pat Frayne was the actual name of the schoolteacher whose classes Carleton briefly attended - and that Mat Kavanagh is his fictional counterpart in “The Hedge School” elsewhere in Traits and Stories.]

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Wildgoose Lodge”: ‘The Captain approached him coolly and deliberately. “You will prosecute no one now, you bloody informer”, said he; “you will convict no more boys for taking an ould rusty gun an’ pistol from you, or for giving you a neighbourly knock or two into the bargain.” Just then from a window opposite him, proceeded the shrieks of a woman who appeared at it with the infant in her arms. She herself was almost scorched to death; but with the presence of mind and humanity of her sex, she was about to thrust the little babe out of the window. The Captain noticed this, and with characteristic atrocity, thrust, with a sharp bayonet, the little innocent, along with the person who endeavoured to rescue it, into the red flames, where they both perished. This was the work of an instant.’ (Quoted in Robert Welch, ‘Irish Writing in English’, in Introduction English Studies, ed. Richard Bradford (London: Pearson Educ. 1996), p.660.)

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Tales of Ireland (Dublin: Curry 1834) - Preface: ‘With the welfare of the Irish people my heart and feelings are identified, and to this object, in all its latitude, have my pen and my knowledge of their character been directed. I found them a class unknown in literature, unknown by their own landlords, and unknown by those in whose hands much of their destiny was placed. If I became the historian of their habits and manners, their feelings, their prejudices, their superstitions, and their crimes; if I have attempted to delineate their moral, religious, and physical state, it was because I saw no other person willing to undertake a task which surely must be looked upon as an important one. I had also other motives. I was anxious that those who ought, but did not, understand their character, should know them - [x] not merely for selfish purposes, but that they should teach them to know themselves and appreciate their rights, both moral and civil, as rational men, who owe obedience to law, without the necessity of being slaves either to priest or landlord: such is the position in which I wish to see them. There is little prospect, however, of this. Even since the period in which these stories were written, now so short a time since, a gloomy change has come over them. The pestilent poison of mercenary agitation, joined to the neglect of landlords and the interference of priests, has created a reaction which threatens to trample - and does trample - law, morals, and religion, under foot. How it may end, it is impossible to say; but God grant that it may be for the best!’ (Quoted [in part] in Benedict Kiely, Poor Scholar, 1947; 1972 Edn., p.37; see full-text version of the Preface, attached.)

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The Black Prophet (1847), Preface: ‘Hearses coffins, long funeral processions, and all the dark emblems of mortality, were reflected, as it were, on the sky, from the terrible works of pestilence and famine which were going on the earth beneath it.’ (Q.p.; quoted in Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, Detroit: Gale Research 1978, p.xiv.)

The Black Prophet (1847), Preface: ‘But why talk of exaggeration or contradiction? Alas! do not the workings of death and disolation among us in the present time give them a fearful corroboration, and prove how far the strongest imagery of Fiction is frequently transcended by the terrible realities of Truth?’ (London[: Lawrence] 1899, p.viii; quoted in Patrick Sheeran, “The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism”, Ph.D., UCG 1972, p.186.)

The Black Prophet (1847), Preface: ‘Let not the reader imagine, however, that the principal interest of this Tale is drawn from so gloomy a topic as famine. The author trusts that the workings of those passions and feelings which usually agitate human life, and constitute the character of those who act in it, will be found to constitute its chief attraction.’ (Dublin, 8 Feb. 1847).

Preface addressed to Lord Russell: ‘It is in your character of Prime Minister that I take the liberty of prefixing your Lordship’s name to this “Tale of Irish Famine”. Had Sir ROBERT PEEL been in office, I would have placed his name where that of your Lordship now stands. There is something not improper in this; for although I believe that both you and he are sincerely anxious to benefit our unhappy country, still I cannot help thinking that the man who in his ministerial capacity, must be looked upon as a public exponent of those principals of Government which have brought our country to her present calamitous condition, by a long course of illiberal legislation and unjustifiable neglect, ought to have his name placed before a story which details with truth the sufferings which such legislation and neglect have entailed upon our people.’ (The Black Prophet - Preface; quoted in John Cronin, William Carleton: The Black Prophet’, in The Anglo-Irish Novel: The Nineteenth Century [Vol. I], Belfast: Appletree Press 1980, p.91.)

The Black Prophet (1847): ‘Almost every house had a lonely and deserted look; for it was known that one or more beloved beings had gone out of it to the grave. A dark, heartless spirit was abroad. The whole land, in fact, mourned and nothing on which the eye could rest bore a green or thriving look or any symptom of activity, but the Churchyards, and here the digging and the delving were incessant - at the early twilight, during the gloomy noon, the dreary dusk, and the still more funereal-looking light of the midnight taper.’ (Ibid., Lawrence Edn., 1899, p.211; quoted in Patrick Sheeran, “The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism”, Ph.D., UCG 1972, p.187.)

On the continuing export of Irish food during the Famine: ‘Such indeed was the extraordinary fact! Day after day vessels laden with Irish provisions, drawn from a population perishing with actual hunger, as well as with the pestilence which it occasioned, were passing out of our ports, whilst, singular as it may seem, othervessels came in freighted with our own provisions, sent back, through the charity of England, to our relief.’ (Preface, quoted in John Cronin, op. cit., 1970, p.91.)

Further: ‘Let not the reader imagine, however, that the principal interest of this Tale is drawn from so gloomy a topic as famine. The author trusts that the workings of those passions and feelings which usually agitated human life and constitute the chief character of those who act in it, will be found to constitute its chief attraction.’ (Ibid; quoted in Cronin, op. cit., 1970, pp.91-92.)

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Willy Reilly and His Dear Coleen Bawn [2nd Edn.] (1857) - Preface: ‘I am agreeably called upon by my bookseller to prepare for a Second Edition of Willy Reilly. This is at all times a pleasing call upon an author; and it is so especially to me, inasmuch as the first Edition was sold at the fashionable, but unreasonable, price of a guinea and a half - a price which, in this age of cheap literature, is almost fatal to the sale of any three-volume novel, no matter what may be its merits. With respect to Willy Reilly, it may be necessary to say that I never wrote any work of the same extent in so short a time, or with so much haste. Its popularity, however, has been equal to that of any other of my productions; and the reception which it has experienced from the ablest public and professional critics of the day has far surpassed my expectations. [...] Concerning this Edition, I must say something. I have already stated that it was written rapidly and in a hurry. On reading it over for correction, I was struck in my cooler moments by many defects in it, which were, kindly overlooked, or, perhaps, not noticed at all. To myself, however, who had been brooding over this work for a long time, they at once became obvious. I have accordingly added an underplot of affection between Fergus Reilly - mentioned as a distant relative of my hero - and the Cooleen Bawn’s maid, Ellen Connor. In doing so, I have not disturbed a single incident in the work; and the reader who may have perused the first Edition, if he should ever - as is not unfrequently the case - peruse this second one, will certainly wonder how the additions were made. That, however, is the secret of the author, with which they have nothing to do but to enjoy the book, if they can enjoy it.’ (For full-text version, see attached.)

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Willy Reilly and His Coleen Bawn [2nd Edn.] (1857) - Chap. I [Opening with heavy irony]: ‘It was one evening at the close of a September month and a September day that two equestrians might be observed passing along one of those old and lonely Irish roads that seemed, from the nature of its construction, to have been paved by a society of antiquarians, if a person could judge from its obsolete character, and the difficulty, without risk of neck or limb, of riding a horse or driving a carriage along it. Ireland, as our English readers ought to know, has always been a country teeming with abundance - a happy land, in which want, destitution, sickness, and famine have never been felt or known, except through the mendacious misrepresentations of her enemies. The road we speak of was a proof of this; for it was evident to every observer that, in some season of superabundant food, the people, not knowing exactly how to dispose of their shilling loaves, took to paving the common roads with them, rather than they should be utterly useless. These loaves, in the course of time, underwent the process of petrifaction, but could not, nevertheless, be looked upon as wholly lost to the country. A great number of the Irish, within six of the last preceding years - that is, from ’46 to ’ 52 - took a peculiar fancy for them as food, which, we presume, caused their enemies to say that we then had hard times in Ireland. Be this as it may, it enabled the sagacious epicures who lived upon them to retire, in due course, to the delightful retreats of Skull and Skibbereen,* and similar asylums, there to pass the very short remainder of their lives in health, ease, and luxury. (See version at Gutenberg Project; online.) [See also Clare Library notice on Ellen Hanley - The Colleen Bawn, attached.)

See “The Geography of an Irish Oath” in which the following reference is made to “the Ballad of Willy Reilly and His Colleen [sic] Bawn” - tearfully performed by Peter Connell: ‘The simple pathos of the tune, the affection implied by the words, and probably the misfortune of Willy Reilly, all overcame him. He finished the second verse with difficulty, and on attempting to commence a third he burst into tears. “Colleen bawn!” (fair, or fair-haired, girl) -“Colleen bawn!” he exclaimed, “she’s lyin’ low that was my colleen bawn! Oh, will yees hould your tongues, an’ let me think of what has happened me? She’s gone: Mary, avourneen, isn’t she gone from us? I’m alone, an’ I’ll be always lonely. Who have I now to comfort me? I know I have good childhre, neighbours; but none o’ them, al of them, if they wor ten times as many, isn’t aquil to her that’s in the grave. Her hands won’t be about me - that was thindherness in their very touch. An’, of a Sunday mornin’, how she’d tie at my handkerchy, for I never could right tie it an myself, the know was ever an’ always too many for me; bot och, och, she’d tie it an so snug an’ purty wid her own hands, that I didn’t look the same man! The same sone was her favourite. Here’s your healths; an’ sure it’s the first time every we wor together that she wasn’t wid us: but now, avillish, your voice is gone - you’re silent an’ lonely in the grave; an’ why shouldn’t I be sarry for the wife o’ my heart that never angered me? Why shouldn’t I? Ay, Mary asthore machree, goor right you have to cry afther he; she was the kind mother to you; her heart was fixed in you; there’s her fatures on your face [...] Another favourite song of hers, God rest her, was “Bryan O’Lynn”. Troth an’ I’ll sing it, so I will, for if she was livin’ she’d like it.”Och, Bryan O’Lynn, he had milk and male, / A two-lugged porringer wantin’ a tail”. / Och, my head’s through other! The sorry one [is] me, I bleeve, but’s out o’ the words, or, as they say, there’s a hole in the ballad. Send round the punch, will yees? [...]’ (Traits and Stories ... &c., 2nd. Series 1883, p.48; Do., 1844 [Definitive] Edn. [1843-44], Vol. II, p.58.) [Note: The second series is available at Google Books - online; accessed 05.11.2011.)

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Willy Reilly and His Coleen Bawn [2nd Edn.] (1857), Chap. XXIV - ‘Jury of the Olden Time’ [The speech of Sir Robert Whitecroft in defence of the “raparee”: ‘[...] Gentlemen of the jury, let me ask you what has been the state and condition of this unhappy and distracted country? I have mentioned two opposing creeds, and consequently two opposing parties, and I have also mentioned persecution; but let me also ask you again on which side has the persecution existed? Look at your Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, and ask yourselves to what terrible outburst of political and religious vengeance have they not been subjected? But it is said they are not faithful and loyal subjects, and that they detest the laws. Well, let us consider this - let us take a cursory view of all that the spirit and operation of the laws have left them to be thankful for - have brought to bear upon them for the purpose, we must suppose, of securing their attachment and their loyalty. Let us, gentlemen, calmly and solemnly, and in a Christian temper, take a brief glance at the adventures which the free and glorious spirit of the British Constitution has held out to them, in order to secure their allegiance. In the first place, their nobles and their gentry have been deprived of their property, and the right of tenure has been denied even to the people. Ah, my lord, and gentlemen of the jury, what ungrateful and disloyal miscreant could avoid loving a Constitution, and hugging to his grateful heart laws which showered down such blessings upon him, and upon all those who belong to a creed so favored? But it would seem to have been felt that these laws had still a stronger claim upon their affections. They would protect their religion as they did their property; and in order to attach them still more strongly, they shut up their places of worship - they proscribed and banished and hung their clergy - they hung or shot the unfortunate people who tried to worship God in the desert - in mountain fastnesses and in caves, and threw their dead bodies to find a tomb in the entrails of the birds of the air, or the dogs which even persecution had made mad with hunger. But again - for this pleasing panorama is not yet closed, the happy Catholics, who must have danced with delight, under the privileges of such a Constitution, were deprived of the right to occupy and possess all civil offices - their enterprise was crushed - their industry made subservient to the rapacity of their enemies, and not to their own prosperity. But this is far from being all. The sources of knowledge - of knowledge which only can enlighten and civilize the mind, prevent crime, and promote the progress of human society - these sources of knowledge, I say, were sealed against them; they were consequently left to ignorance, and its inseparable associate - vice. All those noble principles which result from education, and which lead youth into those moral footsteps in which they should tread, were made criminal in the Catholic to pursue, and impossible to attain; and having thus been reduced by ignorance to the perpetration of those crimes which it uniformly produces - the people were punished for that which oppressive laws had generated, and the ignorance which was forced upon them was turned into a penalty and a persecution. They were first made ignorant by one Act of Parliament, and then punished by another for those crimes which ignorance produces.’ (Ibid.) [See also a poetry chapbook entitled Willy Reilly, 1813, as in Notes, infra.]

Note: The full text of “The Ballad of Willy Reilly and His Colleen Bawn” [sic] is contained in a Preface by Carleton prefixed to the 1856 edition - viz., Willy Reilly and his Dear Cooleen [sic] Bawn (Boston: Patrick Donahoe 1856), with a Preface dated Dublin, February 1855. [The text is available at Google Books - online; accessed 05.11.2011; see Preface [only] - attached.)

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Autobiography (1896) - on his father: ‘My father, indeed, was a very humble man, but in consequence of his unaffected piety and stainless integrity of principle, he was held in high esteem by all who know him, no matter what their rank might be. When the state of education in Ireland during his youth and that of my mother is considered, it will not be a matter of surprise that what education they did receive was very limited. It would be difficult, however, if not impossible, to find two persons in their lowly station so highly and singularly gifted. My father possessed a memory not merely great or surprising, but absolutely astonishing. He would repeat nearly the whole of the Old and New Testaments by heart, and was besides a living index to almost every chapter and verse in them. In all other respects, too, his memory was amazing. My native place is a spot rife with old legends, tales, traditions, customs, and superstitions; so that in my early youth, even beyond the walls of my own humble roof, they met me in every direction. It was at home, however, and from my father’s lips in particular, that they were perpetually sounding in my ears In fact, his memory was a perfect storehouse, and a rich one, of all that the social antiquary, the man of the letters, the poet, or the musicians, would consider valuable. As a teller of old tales, legends and historical anecdotes he was unrivalled, and his stock of them was inexhaustible. He spoke the Irish and English languages with nearly equal fluency. With all kinds of charms, old ranns, or poems, old prophecies, religious superstitions, tales of pilgrimages, anecdotes of blessed priests and friars, revelations form ghosts and fairies was he thoroughly acquainted. And so strongly were all these impressed upon my mind by frequent repetition on his part, that I have hardly every since heard, during a tolerably enlarged intercourse with Irish society, both educated and uneducated - with the antiquary, the scholar, or the humble seanachie - any single tradition, legend, or usages, that, so far as I can at present recollect, was perfectly new to me or unheard before in some similar cognate dress. This is certainly saying much, but I believe I may assert with confidence that I could produce, in attestation of its truth, the names of Petrie, Sir William Betham, Ferguson, and Donovan, the most distinguished antiquaries, both of social usages an otherwise, that every Ireland produced. What rendered this besides of such peculiar advantage to me in after life, as a literary man, was that I heard them as often in the Irish language as in the English, if not oftener, a circumstance which enabled me in my writings to transfer the genius, the idiomatic peculiarity and conversational spirit of the one language into the other, precisely as the people themselves do in their dialogue, whenever the heart or imagination happens to be moved by the darker or the better passions.’ (David J. O’Donoghue, The Life of Wiliam Carleton: Being His Autobiography and Letters; and an Account of His Life and Writing from the Point at Which the Autobiography Breaks Off, London 1896, I, p.5-7 [and Do., rep. edn., White Row Press 1996, p.19], quoted in Patrick Sheeran, “The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism”, Ph.D., UCG 1972, p.184-85; also quoted [in part] in Maurice Harmon, Introduction to Wild Goose Lodge and Other Stories, Cork: Mercier 1973, p.viii; sine ref.)

Note that the paragraph above is also given in Carleton’s Introduction to the 1843 edition of Traits and Stories, issued by William Curry (Dublin) - and presumably transcribed therefrom to the autobiographical manuscript which O’Donoghue published. (See Traits and Stories [...], Introduction, in RICORSO Library, “Irish Classics”, attached.)

Autobiography (1896; 1996 Edn.) - on his mother: ‘She had several old songs which, at that time [...] had never been translated; I very much fear that some valuable ones, both as to words and airs, have perished with her [...] she had a prejudice against singing the Irish airs to English words; an old custom of the country was thereby invaded, and an association disturbed which habit had rendered dear to her. I remember on one occasion when she was asked to sing the English version of that touching melody, “The Red Haired Man’s Wife”, she replied, “I will sing it for you, but the English words and the air are like a man and his wife quarrelling - the Irish melts into the tune but the English doesn’t” - an expression scarcely less remarkable for its beauty than its truth.’ (Autobiography [rep. edn.] Belfast: White Row Press 1996, p.19.) [Cont.]

Autobiography (1896; 1996 Edn.) - cont.: ‘My native place was [alive] with old legends, tales, traditions, customs and superstitions; so that in my early youth, even beyond the walls of my own humble roof, they met me in every direction.’ (q.p.; quoted in Mariana Avelas, M.Dip., UUC, 1997; but see do., under Traits and Stories, supra).

Autobiography (1896; 1996 Edn.): ‘I was a Protestant at least twelve months before the change was known to a human being.’ (Ibid., p.215). [See longer extracts from Autobiography in the White Row Press Edition introduced by Benedict Kiely - attached.]

Autobiography (1896; 1st Edn.): ‘It was that pilgrimage [to Lough Derg] and the reflections occasioned by it, added to a riper knowledge and a maturer judgement, that detached me from the Roman Catholic Church, many of whose doctrines, when I became a thinking man, I could not force myself to believe. Still, although I conscientiously left the church, neither my heart nor my affections were ever estranged from the Catholic people, or even from their priesthood.’ (Life [ed. D. J. O’Donoghue], Vol. 1, p.101; quoted in Daniel J. Casey, ‘Lough Derg’s Famous Pilgrim’, in Clogher Record, 197-72, p.451.)

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Sundry remarks
Classical authors: ‘[...] if ever a schoolboy was affected almost to tears, I was by the death of Dido. Even when a schoolboy, I did not read the Classics as they are usually read by learners. I read them as novels - I looked to the story, the narrative, not the grammatical or other difficulties. The field was new to me, and consequently presented a singular charm to me. The truth is, I read the classics through the influence of my imagination, rather than of my judgement.’ (D. J. O’Donoghue, [ed.,] Life of William Carleton, p.73; cited in John Dillon, ‘Some Reflections on the Irish classical Tradition’, in The Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 1982, pp.448-52, p.449.)

See further remarks on Hedge-school education - supra.

Pathos and humour - ‘The two levers by which the Irish character is raised or depressed; and these are blended in a manner too anomalous to be ever properly described.’ (Pref. Traits and Stories; q.p.; q.source; but cf. ‘a tear and a smile’ under Thomas Moore, q.v., and elsewhere .)

British mercy: ‘For nearly a century, we were completely at the mercy of our British neighbours, who probably amused themselves at our expense with the greater licence, and a more assured sense of impunity, inasmuch as they knew that we were utterly destitute of a national literature.’ (Preface, Autobiography; q.p.; cited by Tess Hurson [MA Teaching Material], UUC 1997.)

Irish-style marriage: ‘There is not a country in Europe where so many rash and unreflecting marriages are made as in Ireland; the habit has been the curse of the country. The youngsters manage their “runaways” in the following manner; they first determine upon “running away”, which is only another phrase for getting married: the lover selects the house of some relation or friend of his own, and after having given notice to that friend or relation of his intention, and having gained his assent, he informs the friend of the night when he and his sweetheart will come to their house as a “running away couple”; and in order that they may not be without the means of celebrating the event with a due convivivial spirit, he generally places a gallon of unchristened whisky in their hands. The night of their arrival at the house of that friend or relation is of course a jolly one. On the next morning the friend or relation goes to their respective families and discusses the fact of their “runaway”. The girl is then brought home to her family and remains there until the marriage takes place.’ (The Life of William Carleton: Being His Autobiography and Letters [with] An Account of His Life and Writing from the Point at which the Autobiography Breaks Off, by David J. O’Donoghue, Vol. I, p.94; cited in Patrick Sheeran, The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism, UCG 1972, p.17.)

Literary famine: ‘During some of the years of the Irish famine, such were the unhappy circumstances of the country, that she was exporting provisions of every description in the most prodigal abundance, which the generosity of England was sending back again for our support. So was it with literature. Our men and women of genius uniformly carried their talents to the English market, whilst we laboured at home under all the dark privations of a literary famine.’ (Traits and Stories, William Tegg edn. [n.d.]), Preface, Vol. 1, p.v.)

Ultimus romanorum: ‘The only names which Ireland can point to with pride are Griffin’s, Banim’s, and - do not accuse me of vanity when I say it - my own. Banim and Griffin are gone, and I will soon follow them - ultimus romanorum [last of the Romans], and after that will a lull, an obscurity of perhaps half a century, when a new condition of civil society and a new phase of manners and habits among the people - for this is a transition state - may introduce new fields and new tastes for other writers, for in this manner the cycles of literature and taste appear, hold their day, displace each other, and make room for others.’ (Letter to Dr. T. C. S. Corry, 1863, quoted in O’Donoghue’s Life of Carleton, 1896, Vol. II, p.293 [var. p.305]; see Barry Sloan, The Pioneers of Anglo-Irish Fiction, 1800-1850, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1986, p. 237; also quoted in Patrick Sheeran, “The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism” [Ph.D. Diss.], UCG 1972, p.189.)

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