AN IRISH CHIEFrAIN.
AN accurate and scientific description of the Irishman is as difficult to get at as was for a long time an accurate and scientific description of the Dodo. Novelists and poets, travel- lers and politicians, friends and enemies of Ireland, have all given
us their tinted sketches of the national character, but if an Englishman were to be guided by any of these in forming his conception of the Celt he would be likely enough to go astray'. Nor when we come to systematic observation, do we see our way much more clearly. Even among Irish politicians it is not easy • to point out a man who may be taken as a fair specimen of the Celtic element in the British Empire, —not taken (as our English journals, serious and comic, are too prone to take the Irish pea- sant) from the midst of squalor and ignorance, and held up to the scorn of this enlightened age and country, but taken with all the advantages that birth, position, and education can bestow. If we find such a man adhering firmly to the political beliefs which , it is the custom of some of us to consider mere Will-o'-the-Wisps that lure a few besotted and untaught peasants to sure destruction, and yet, in comparison with the educated English gentlexnau, showing himself inferior on the whole in no part of that graceful and dignified intellectual completeness which we instinctively require in him, the fact ought to furnish us with , grave matter for reflection, and might help to - clear up much that is dark in the causes of this unhappy Fenian movement and the means of cure. Among Irish public men there is one who fulfils, in a remarkable degree, the requisite conditions, who holds a place even among Irishmen peculiar and almost unique. We doubt whether many of our readers are aware of the strange and interesting relation which subsists between a large body of the Irish peasantry and an Irish gentle- man, with whose name we are tolerably familiar, and who bears in Ireland the title—prouder far, in the opinion of the people, than dukedom or earldom—of "The O'Donoghne of the Glens."
Among the many triumphs of Irish imagination there is none more conspicuous than its legendary lore, and among Irish legends the most exquisite for simplicity and delicacy is one which has for its scene Lough Lein, the fairest of the three lakes which have conferred a deserved celebrity upon Killarney. The spot is
indeed one which might well kindle into poetry a mind less impres- sionable than that of the peasant of Kerry. The lake, a miracle of miniature beauty, sleeps at the foot of the loftiest mountains in Ireland, and of crags in which the eagle builds. The softness and' warmth of the almost Italian atmosphere throw a charming languor around the place. The brilliant green of the turf,—the thickets of myrtle, arbutus, and holly which clothe the banks and the islets, —the ' grey, quaint-shaped, lichen-clad rocks, which your guide calls The O'Donoghue's castle, and prison, and library, transport you at once to fairy-land. Here alone should you hear the legend, for here alone can you feel it. Even the melodious verse of Moore; which keeps ringing in your ears, spoils the vision. You will best hear the tale from the lips of a peasant girl. On the 1st of May—so runs the story—a strange sight may be seen by the shores of the lake. No sooner does the atm begin to appear over the tops of the mountains than a wild strain of unearthly music rises from the rocks, and if there be present a spectator lately purified from his sins a glorious pageant becomes visible. Troops of fairies spring from every nook and scatter over the surface of the water the loveliest of flowers. Then a trumpet sounds, and the crags assume once more their pristine form of chapel and castle and donjon keep, and from under the archway rides out slowly upon a milk-white charger a princely cavalier, dressed in the gorgeous habit of an ancient Irish chief. His horse treads the water as though it were solid ground, and the prince gazes sedly on his Old home. Again the fairy music rises, and swells, mad rfinkis.; the 'horseman reaches the mid point of the lake, waves a- Weigel}, and ail this pageant disappears. But it is said those fortunate -Ones 'tio Witoin the vision has been vouchsafed are ever after praperous, and When, 'as sometimes happens, this favour has been bhdtorted On 'litany, the golden age returns for a while, the fields ate loaded With the harvest, and all the-valley reaps the bounty of The O'Doisigitne.
The old faMily with Whom this wild legend is connected has been always conspietions in Irish annals. It claims desteut from the Royal House of Minister, and is mentioned repeatedly in the chronicle of the Abbey of Itinisfailen as the head of the Eoganacht of Lough Lein. Among the most stubborn of the enemies of the English Pale during the Middle Ages were the Chiefs of this power- ful House. Nor when a partial Subjugation of the native power had been effected, did they -show themselves more inclined to submit. In 1603 The O'Donoghue of the Glens was attainted. In 1689 his grandson was a General in the army of James II. Rebellion was followed by confiscation, and but a small remnant was left of the vast estates which once formed the patrimony of this noble House. The chiefs sank in appearance,—not in reality, as we shall presently show,—to the position of countrygentlemen. The present head of the family, a young man of much promise, and in many ways remarkable, is not only heir through his father to these traditions, but through his mother to the power and popularity of
• O'Connell. Yet though the mantle of the great demagogue has fallen upon him, he has little of the demagogue in his character, as in truth it would be difficult for one to have who has his old rank and power so forcibly put before his mind in the mouldering towers of Ross Castle, and the tombs where sleep the many chiefs of his House in the ruined chancel of Muckross Abbey.
The °Donoghue, as we have known him here in England, has shown himself to be a young man of considerable ability, and has distinguished himself from the great majority of his colleagues, the Irish members, by a grace and delicacy which is too often absent in them. He has always advanced opinions which we should consider extreme in others, but which in him we almost admire while we condemn. On a late occasion, when bringing before the House of Commons a motion which was repugnant to the feelings of nine-tenths of his audience, he disarmed all hostility by his skilful deprecation:—" It is impossible for one who has come so much in contact with Englishmen as I have to hate them." or did he make less impression by his personal appearance, for he is, if not the handsomest man, at least among the handsomest men in Parliament. He showed also that Irish eloquence is not yet extinct, and though he can never hope to reach the mark of his uncle, he will undoubtedly make an excellent debater. There are one or two points in his character which, though not yet pro- minently exhibited, may contribute to diminish his value as a public man. He is vain, like many Irishmen ; he is extravagant, like most Irishmen ; and he cannot avoid, as he ought most care- fully to avoid, the unreason of extremes. If he can check these tendencies he may do a good work, for few have such opportuni- ties as he ; but if not, he Will sink to the level of the Feargus O'Connors of the last generation.
To Englishmen, however, The O'Donoghue is only a favourable specimen of an Irish party leader. What his position is in Ireland we can scarcely conceive. The Irish have never shown themselves slow to admire and follow a chief who has devoted his energies to their cause, whatever his rank or birth may be. But they are essen- tially an aristocratic people, and as such they feel towards The O'Donoghue in some respects as they never felt, ncit could feel, even towards O'Connell. Two circumstances, trifling in them- selves, but important as showing the current of feeling, may be worth notice. At the time when a subscription for the Lan- cashire sufferers was organized at Tralee, there had been a miser- able harvest in Ireland, and the scarcity had been most severely felt in Kerry. The county members had opened the meeting with speeches in favour of the subscription, when The O'Donoghue rose to oppose it. "I am but a humble individual," he began. There was a shout in the crow& "You a humble individual! You, The O'Donoghue of the Glens! You are a prince! You are the king.of the Lakes!" And then came a menacing cry, "Hats off!" and the h migh- tiest of the aristocracy, the bitterest enemies of The O'Donoghue, had to yield to the voice of the peasants, and to uncover before him whom the people esteemed royal. But this remarkable scene might be considered the mere enthusiasm of a mob. A more convincing testimony to this strange feeling almost of worship is furnished by a still later occurrence. The estates of The O'Donoghue, though large, have not been for many years in a prosperous state. Some time since he was compelled to bring them into the market, and the sale was duly announced. Almost immediately there appeared in most of the Irish provincial papers an address from the tenantry upon these estates. Now the tenants are all pods men, very much poorer than the average English farmer, and they asked their friends for assistance. For what object ? To help them in their disinterested effort to buy back and restore his lands to their chief. They entirely reject any voice -of his hi the :matter :—
"We, his own people," they say, "cannot be, and will nbt be, gain- laid. The work we come to do is our own, not his. It is our work peculiarly. It is the work of all Irishmen. We will, in the name Of his awn teiruntly, and of -the tenant-farmers and people of Ireland, for his personal and public deserving, raise funds to present him anew with the title-deeds of those estates. That'remnant which escaped the ,havoc of confibeatim'we will save from 'forfeiture now."
'We are not aware what result this generous effort has produced, bat in truth that is unimportant._ The feeling which promptedit is the remarkablepoint, and to Illustrate this we add .a 'few words 'more :— " We who address you," they continue, "are tenantryon the estates of a man whose name is well known, well loved amongst Irishmen
• everywhere—The O'Donoghue. To many of you he is known as an unflinching champion of his country— a sterling friend of the tenant- farmers of Ireland. To us he is much more. To say he. is our land- lord maymean little in Ireland ; for in our country few are the .land- lords who regard their tenantry with such feelings of confidence, kind- ness, attachment and friendship, as those which have always subsisted betWeen him and its. The estates on Which we hold have descended to him in direct succession through hundreds of years; and in him, it'is truth to say, the blood of his ancestors has not degenerated. To us he has been, in heart and hand, in act and word, the prince and the chief- tain still, noble mid generous and chivalrous in all things. From his earliest boyhood he has been 'amongst us. He joined in our =rat games ; he mingled in our humble sports ; and by many a good proof We found that 'whatever affected the least of -us, in grief or in joy, brought sorrow or gladness to him. With pride that claimed him as our own, 'we ha* 'watched him grow up to manhood; and since he first raised his voice in public for old Ireland, we have followed his career with such feelings' as none but his own people and clansmen could feel."
The exhibition of such a feeling at the present day is a pheno- menon on which we might think for a little. We well know that in our own country we have many -excellent proprietors, but for which of them, we may ask, would such a spontaneous enthu- siasm be elicited? Neither high birth nor munificence would pro- duce such an offer in this country, where "cash payment is the sole nexus of man to man." But in Ireland the people will not believe, in respect of land at least, that cash payment is the sole nexus. There lies our difficulty ; -there, perhaps, also mit opportunity.