23 MAY 1835, Page 15


Is a collection of various readable and pungent stories; though, like the other works of this author, it leaves an impression of disappointment, for we feel that he might and ought to have done better. The Tales, generally, display a high degree of power—so high, that it almost reaches genius : they show another quality, without which genius may perhaps exist, but can scarcely be made manifest—that of observation : there is also a good deal of Irish humour, and some dramatic spirit, both in dialogue and monologue. But their number, their brevity, and the want of unity and novelty of matter, in the longest and the best, show clearly that they were either the result of a publisher's inspira- tion, or that the author is not disposed to underrate the most casual productions of his pen. That more pains ought to have been bestowed upon a three-volume work, is clear; but we cannot to a certainty predicate, with GOLDSMITH'S Connoisseur, that it would 'have been better had the author taken more pains; for he pos- sibly wants that ample stock of materials for a sustained and well- considered novel which nothing but an extended and patient view of life can supply. The general scheme of the book is not greatly dissimilar to that of Miss MITFORD'S " Village." The writer describes the scenery, legends, and characters of his " Neighbourhood:* The vicinage affords one story of genteel sentiment, in the love-match of a spoiled and wilful daughter, which our fair friend might have told; and another illustrative of the crime of duelling, from whose death and wretchedness she would have shrunk. But the chief strength of the writer is displayed in his pictures of landscape; his sketches of the old Irish characters, half-blackguard, half- gentleman, who are nearly if not quite extinct ; his superstitious stories, deriving their charm from their rich and characteristic absurdity ; and his development of the manner of the Irish peasantry. There are some superior verses scattered up and down tile volumes; but everybody knows the classical denunciation against any poetry short of excellence. The author also tries his hand at an allegory or two in reference to existing manners and opinion; in which difficult line of composition his power does not sustain him, though it enables him to make a hit now and then. His old legends are purely Milesian in spirit ; and he has one story which professes to exhibit the manners of the day. In this he is not strikingly successful ; and the scene where the vanity of Miss M'Orient applies the proposal intended for her bosom friend to her- self, might, we think, have been more effectively done; but the ridicule of' her sickly sentiment for the woes of Ireland, whilst she refuses the slightest assistance to the wretches around her, is pretty well touched ; and the cross readings at luncheon are laughable though farcical. The best story of the whole is called "The Barber of Bantry," from one of the heroes of the tale. A ruined house in the " Neighbourhood" gives occasion to its telling; and the subject is the fortunes of the house of Moynehan for three generations, with the last of which the Barber has an accidental though deep connexion. It may be conjectured that the tale has not much unity of action; neither has it any particular object, unless it be to show the dangers of circumstantial evidence; but the variety, power, and occasional metaphysical skill displayed in its compo- sition, impart to it a considerable interest. Take the opening scene, as at once conveying a specimen of power in landscape- painting, and a description of the country in which the story is laid.

There is a small river which, rising amid the wildest and least cultivated up- land of the county of Limerick in Ireland, pursues its lonesome course amid heath and bog, by cliff and quarry, through scenery of the bleakest and yet the most varied kinds, until it discharges its discoloured waters into the bosom of the Lower Shannon. Now gliding, deep and narrow, through some heathy plain, it presents a surface no wider than a meadow streamlet, and like placid characters in the world, indicating its depth by its tranquillity ; anon, it falls in one white and foamy volume over the brow of some precipitous crag, at the foot of which it dilates into a pool of tolerable extent. Further down it may be traced through the intricacies of a stunted wood, now babbling in one broad sheet over the limestone shallow ; now rolling silent, deep, and dark, beneath the overhanging briar and hazel-bushes that fling their tangled foliage across its waters from the indented bank. In another place, it may be found dashing noisily from ledge to ledge of some opposing mass of limestone, or pursuing its swift and gurgling course along the base of a perpendicular cliff until, as it ap- proaches the mighty river in which its waters are received, it acquires surface and depth sufficient to float the fisher's skiff, and the small cot or lighter that conveys a lading of marl or sea-weed to manure the little potato-garden of the bumble agriculturist upon its banks. Nor even in this dreary region is the wild streamlet wholly destitute of animated figures to give a quickening interest to the general loneliness of the scenery along its side. The neighbouring cottager " snares " for pike and salmon in its shallows ; the cabin housewife beetles her linen in the summer evening on its banks, and the barefoot and bareheaded urchin, standing or sitting by the side of an overhanging ash or elder, drops his pin-hook baited with an earth-worm, into the deep and shaded corner which he knows, by profitable experience, to be the favourite haunt of the eel and trout ; and in which it may be said, in passing, his simple apparatus is often as de- structive as all the erudite machinery of Izaak Walton and his disciples.

In the summer season the appearance of this little river is such as we have described. In the winter, however, after the great rains common in mountain scenery have set in, the shallow bed of the stream is often filled, in the course of a few minutes, with a body of water, collected from the heights around its source, that presents a formidable contrast to the usually placid tenor of its course. It is then seen roaring and foaming along in one huge yellow flood, inundating not unfrequently the cottages and hamlets near its banks, and carrying dismay and death among pigs, poultry, and other anti-aquatic animals, who happen to stray within reach of its overflowing current, and sometimes even placing life in jeopardy.

It was a mystery how the first establisher of the Moynehan family in this region acquired his wealth, for he had neither habits of thrift, nor was he fortunate enough to inherit any : some said he had been lucky in that kind of " free trade" to which all go- vernments are opposed, but others attributed his fortune to super- natural means. Of the stories circulated upon the subject, here is we, not very new in itself, but striking and Irish in the telling.

It was said by some, that on one occasion when yet a young man, Pat Moyne- ban Went to attend the " berrin' " of a friend. 'While the retnaindef of the crowd were occupied at their devotions in the place of death, young Moyosban, little impressed by the solemnity of the scene before him, rambled about among the graves, "funning " and amusing himself, and paying little attention to the se. vere glances that were occasionally directed towards him from the kneeling crowd. On one occasion, it happened that he found, placed upon the corner of a monu- ment, a bleached skull, the eyeless sockets directed towards him, and seeming to convey a more terrible rebuke than ever could have proceeded from the eyes that once moved within their orbits. Moynehan, however, was nothing checked in his career of mirth.

" Look there," he said, pointing out the skull to a companion, who in vain endeavoured to repress his unseasonable levity, " much as you think of your_ self, that was once as fine a man as you are, and you'll have as ugly a grin upon your own face yet ; he was just as good a gentleman and as devout a Christian." Then turning to the skull, and taking off his hat with an air of mock politeness, he added, " I am happy, Sir, to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance, and will feel obliged by your giving me the honour of your company at break• fast next Sunday." And off he turned with another bow of Mock respect, and left the churchyard with his companion. Before breakfast-hour on the following Sunday (the legend still continues), young Moynehan went out to speak with a neighbour. While he was absent, and while the servant girl was occupied in preparing breakfast, the door was opened from without, and " a big man " entered. Ile did not say " God save you," nor " God bless you," as he came in, but walked silently to a chair that stood near the fire, and took his seat without speaking. His singular conduct was but the counterpart of his appearance. His dress was that of gentleman, and rich, but so grotesque in form and strange in material, that it was impos- sible to decide on the rank or country of the wearer. A high standing collar, a flowered silk waistcoat, ruffles at the wrists, a handsome pair of plush under- garments with golden knee-buckles, and silver ones of an enormous size across the instep of his square-toed shoes--these, together with a well-powdered lead of hair, brushed backward and gathered behind into a handsome queue, a cocked- hat, which he carried under his arm, and a slender rapier by his side, constituted, the chief portion of that costume which looked so perplexing in the eyes of the mountain handmaiden. With all this there was in the expression of his eves, and in the mechanical regularity of his movements. an air of she knew not what, that chilled the spirit of the young woman, and left her scarce the power to ask his business. Being, however, naturally of a free and hearty disposition, she did not suffer herself to be altogether daunted, but said, in a laughing manner, and after waiting a considerable time to hear him speak, " Why, laughing Sir, arn't you a droll gentleman, to walk into a house in that kind o' way, au' sate yourself without sayiu' a ha'p'orth ?"

The stranger looked fixedly at her. " It is a law where I come from," says he, " that none of us shall speak until we are spoken to ; and if the same law

Pprevailed among people I know here, there arc many of their friends that would ave reason to be glad of it. But where's the man o' the house? Isn't it a shame for him to ask a gentleman to breakfast with him and not to be at home before him ? "

While lie was speaking Moynehan entered. " Isn't it a burning shame for you," said the stranger, in a loud voice, "to ask gentleman to breakfast with you, and not to be at home before him? " " Me ask you to breakfast ! " exclaimed the astonished Moynehan ; " I never laid eyes on you before, but you're as welcome as if you got fifty invita- tions."

" Indeed, but you did ask me," said the stranger, " and I'll tell you where, too ; " and stooping over towards him, he whispered in his ear.

The instant Moynehan heard the whisper, be fell in a deathlike faint upon the floor. The stranger showed not the least concern, nor made any effort to relieve him, but waited with the utmost indiffereuce until he should revive. While lie was yet insensible, the girl, standing in awe of this mysterious guest, requested him to sit down to breakfast. " No, no," he answered ; " I can eat nothing until your master sits with me; it was with him I came to breakfast."

When Moynehan came to himself, understanding from the girl what the stranger had said, he repeated the invitation, which was immediately accepted, and both sat down together. The effect of the first shock having passed away, Moynehan made up his mind to perform the part of host with true Irish hospi- tality. He laughed, talked, jested, told his best stories, shook his guest by both hands together, and protested that he was as welcome " a rose in June." He ordered the freshest eggs and fried the richest bacon, and treated the stranger with the most perfect hospitality. They had scarcely done breakfast, when a bell was heard ringing at a dis- tence.

" What's that bell?" asked the stranger; in a sharp tone. " Oh, it's nothing," said Moynehan with a careless air ; " only the bell for chapel."' The stranger said nothing, but looked very serious. At length, rising from his chair, he addressed his host as follows : " You're an honest fellow, after all, and you may thank your hearty, hospitable conduct that I do not make you suffer severely for the trouble you gave me by your invitation ; however, you must not say that you gave your breakfast for nothing. Meet me this evening by the elder-tree near the river side, and you shall hear of something that you will thank me for."

Moynehan kept the appointment, and those who gave credit to the story (and they comprised no small portion of the inhabitants of the surrounding cottages), asserted that during their evening. conference, his unearthly visiter revealed to him a quantity of hidden treasure in a neighbouring ruin, more than sufficient to warrant the expensive style in which be soon began to live.

But if there is not much story properly so called in the tale, it will be useless for us to try and tell it. Pass, therefore, the life and funeral of Mr. Moynehan the first ; pass altogether his suc- cessor; and take a little bit illustrative of direct taxation in the Green Isle—the appointment of the third hero to the office of col- lector; an event in the book of some importance, for from it the murder and the mystery ensue. This life of tranquillity and goodness, however, was doomed to meet with a singular reverse. The fiend,

" grown wiser than of yore, Who tempts by making rich, not making poor,"

put it into the head of some official functionary of the state to appoint Mr: Moynehan a collector of assessed taxes in his district, and into Mr. hioneyhan a to accept it What the publicans were in the ancient Roman provinces, tax-collectors were at a certain period in "our own green isle ;" that is to say persons well paid for taking pains to make their own fortunes. A. few years before, the proprietor of Tipsy Hall might have thought such a situation tato! la worthy of his acceptance, but a considerable alteration had taken place i affairs of that establishment. It was therefore with no little satisfaction that Mr. Moyoehan received the appointment,

welt wholly ignorant as he was of the innumerable risks by which it was attended. He had heretofore been honest,

and he did not see why a man might not be an honest tax-gatherer as, as

an honest farmer. Accordingly he *et about the dut'es of his new office with alacrity. An eminent statesman, some years since, when about to announce the inten- tion of government to repeal the assessed taxes in Ireland, assigned as one of the motives which influenced Ministers in coming to such a resolution—" that they were found to fall very heavy upon those country gentlemen who were kind enough to pay them." Mr. Movnehan found few of his neighbours to dis- posed. It was true, nothing coulil be more frank and hospitable than the man- ner in which they all received him when he came to their houses. They loaded him with attentions. The best bed in the house and the best wine in the cellar were at his service. They had company to meet him, and they had a thousand little things which he might want, and which they would find an opportunity to send him. But few articles liable to the King's taxes could be find in their

possession. They had no windows, no hearths, no cows, carriages; all the wealth which, on the previous evening, hal been displayed with so much munificence, had dwindled on the following morning into absolute poverty. Air. Moynehan was thunderstruck—but he could not help himself. Ilis pre- decessors in office, he was told, had pursued a certain line of conduct, and he must not make himself singular. On one occasion his preciseness was near in- volving him in a serious affair. There was no carriage, he was told ; and as he knew that truth towards a tax-gatherer was not here regarded with much scrupulosity, he asked to see the coach-house. The gentleman bowed in assent, but signified at the same time that he eonsidered such conduct as an impeach- ment of his veracity. Mr. Moynehan did not pet sist, and he was favoured in a few day s with a cordial salute fro m this veracious gentleman as he passed him in a dashing cabriolet. It was indeed a thing almost impossible (so irresistible is the influence of bad example) to hold the office and to keep the hands un- tainted—

" And things impossible can't be.

And never, never come to pass."

Temptation effected for Mr. Moynehan what it has effected for millions. It wrought his fall. Bribes were poured in upon him from all quarters. One supplied his table, one his manger, another his bin, a fourth his cellar, a hundred his pantry. Every house in the country had a convivial hoard, a comfortable chamber, and a blazing fire for the tax-gatherer. The least he felt to be expected of him, in return for these civilities was (like the unjust steward) where one owed a hundred bushels to the state, to take his pen anti write down fifty, or perhaps not a fifth of that, and it often happened that even that fifth remained unpaid.

The character of the Barber, though not perhaps in keeping with his district and profession, is profoundly true in itself. He had a mind above his condition : as a youth, he lived servant with a recluse, where he had little to do but to read, and his reading was of a speculative kind ; but on the death of his masterand his father, he assumed the sign of the pole, and became a philosophic barber— a village Eugene Aram. In the following passage, there appears to us to be a happy mixture of the results of self-examination and metaphysical knowledge.

Were we to take opinions on the cause of O'Berne's reserve and awkward-

ness, it is probable that we should find a great variety. Some would call it pride, some sensibility, some modesty, and some, by way of being wiser than all the rest, might say " it was a mixture of all these." Whatever was the cause, the young barber, unlike his fellow in the Arabian Nights, was reserved

and meditative. lie courted no fl iendships, sought no society, and seemed even impatient of that which he could not avoid. Still he bore in mind his

father's dying counsel ; and, m.hilc lie courted solitude as much as possible, he gave no one any actual reason to complain of him. The young barber felt a want which none of us, in whatever rank or station we may be placed, have failed to experience at some portion of our lives—the want of mental sympathy. There was no one in the village who shared his information, or who could understand his thoughts on any subject ; and it was not contempt, but the actual difference of mind that made him unwilling to mingle in societies where he could find nothing of considerable interest to him. It so happened that the train of his reading was one peculiarly adapted to foster such contemplative habits. The works which fell into his hands related principally to moral and metaphysical subjects; and the barber, who had an acute, intelligent spirit, was deeply caught by the profound and absorbing dis- quisitions which those books contained. How could he who had been all the preceding evening engaged in arduous endeavours to comprehend the reasonings of various philosophers on the connexion of mind with matter, and the mysteri- ous manner in which both seemed blended in the human individual, be ex- pected on the following day to take an active interest in the labours of a mechanical vocation, or in the vulgar sports that made the village echo near his dwelling? There is no fact, however, more notorious than the possibility of uniting an extensive knowledge of and the liveliest interest in moral studies with a very inferior course of moral practice. The pleasure which Godfrey took in such pursuits as we have described was one of a purely intellectual character; the heart had little or nothing to do with it. He pleased himself with the noble exercise which the subject afforded to the faculties of his tim. derstandiog, and thought little of deducing rules of practice from the sub- lime and immutable truths which he contemplated. Satisfied to let his imagi- nation roam through the boundless sea of being, he bestowed comparatively little thought on the necessity of fulfilling with exactness, the part allotted to himself in the universal scheme, and used the light afforded him, rather for the gratification of an active spirit than for the direction of his course through life. His silence, however, and his habits of application, produced a strong impression of his learning on the rustics in his neighbourhood, and they looked on him as one of the profoundest scholars in the world.

We must stop here, though there are several other passages we had marked for extract. In the mean time, we may say that we are glad to see the author, and shall be glad to see him again, especially if he can contrive to cultivate his mind. We think he has begun to reclaim it—there seems to us less of wildness in the present publication than in his former works, though the pub- lication itself is not of so ambitious a kind.