« FöregåendeFortsätt »
of the people in them; because they treat of motives as largely as of actions; and because he possesses the art of making his people so real that they are not characters in books to us, but men and women, whose fortunes we follow, in many instances from youth to middle age, through the strife of motives, and the development of aims.
Mr. Trollope's novels may be divided into three classes, the clerical, the domestic, and the Irish. Of these three classes, the clerical is the most famous, and the Irish is the least appreciated. In our opinion, the Irish novels furnish the inost striking evidence of Mr. Trollope's rare ability, and the comparative absence of appreciation of these novels by the public supports us in that position. Novels which deal with Irish life have been out of fashion since Miss Edgeworth’s time; Maxwell and Lever notwithstanding. The one presented the romantic side of Irish affairs, the other wrote brilliant stories, with certain superficial points of likeness to Irish Jife, chiefly of a pleasant social kind, but which, when they treated of deeper and wider questions, did so in a purely conventional and English tone. Banim and Carleton were not widely read in England, and it is with the fashion of literature we are now concerned. Mr. Trollope is an Englishman who should be, judging by the tone and tendencies cf his other works, wholly unsympathetic with Ireland and the Irish in every sense, and on every subject. That the chronicler of Barsetshire, the faithful delineator of society in all its towny aspects,--of parliamentary life, of official life, of commercial life, of club life, of that hallowed institution known as “the domestic hearth of England," and so talked about, before the last phase of modernism developed itself, that it niight have been supposed no other nation or country in the world had any domesticity at all; that the student of the English young lady, her matchmaking mamma, and her coaxing, flattering sisters,-that this writer should understand Ireland so thoroughly, and delineate it so faithfully, is truly astonishing. He lived in the country a long time, but. so have many other clever Englishmen, who can and do write, lived there too, and learned nothing about it. That Mr. Trollope should have liked the place, as a good hunting country, and should have inquired into the statistics of its foxes and its packs of hounds, would have been but natural. But who would have supposed that any Englishman could have written such works as “The MacDermots of Ballycloran," “ The Kellys and the O'Kellys,” “ Castle Richmond," and lastly, “ Phineas Finn," though the scene of the latter story is the English capital and Parliament, and the perfe,
evenness of the effect of the other two is wanting in the more brilliant and happier narrative. If an Irishman had written the first of these books, the achievement would have been less surprising, but we cannot imagine any Irishman bringing to the task such unsoftened candour, such entire impartiality. Either love of his countrymen on the one hand, if he were of the class of Irishmen who do love their countrymen, or prejudice of social position and creed, if he were of the class who do not, must have interposed, in the one case to brighten and soften, in the other to darken and harden the picture. But this Englishman, keenly observant, painstaking, absolutely sincere and unprejudiced, with a lynx-like clearness of vision, and a power of literal reproduction of which his clerical and domestic novels, remarkably as they exhibit it, do not furnish such striking examples, writes a story as true to the saddest and heaviest truths of Irish life, as racy of the soil, as rich with the peculiar humour, the moral features, the social oddities, the subtle individuality of the far west of Ireland, as George Eliot's novels are true to the truths of English life, and rich with the characteristics of Loanshire. The English public, who so fully appreciate his clerical and domestic studies, have no means of learning how great is the merit of the Irish series, and probably consider them, for books by Mr. Trollope, rather heavy reading. If the author had made them lighter, he must have sacrificed some of their reality. They deal with heavy themes, and though they contain samples of Irish humour which prove that Mr. Trollope has thoroughly imbibed its spirit, and mastered its forms more completely than any other writer who ever studied them, the turmoil
, the perplexity, the failure, the passion, the disjointedness which marked the period of which he wrote, in Ireland, are too faithfully delineated to permit the general effect to be anything but harsh and sombre. “The MacDermots of Ballycloran” is one of the most melancholy books that ever was written. Its tone is subdued, quiet, matter-offact. The author has materials out of which almost any other writer would have constructed something more emotional and striking; but he uses them with a sober seriousness which is deeply impressive. There are only two persons introduced into this one tragedy of his upon whom the reader dwells with pleasure; one is Mrs. McKeon, the kindly woinan who befriends to her unavailing utmost the wretched brother and sister whose fate is so awfully sad; the other is Father John Maguire, the exemplary priest, who is an easily recognized type by all who know what the priest is to his people in the remote Irish parishes. The MacDermots, in the decadence of their fortunes, are drawn with a master's hand; the semi-idiotic old father; the harassed, ignorant, well-meaning, heavy-hearted son, little more than a peasant, but flattered by the peasants for the “old blood,” and schemed for by the disaffected,-proud, sensitive, and honourable in his lumpish, uncivilized way, a born victim with his destiny in his face; the handsome, slatternly, novel-reading sister, motherless, without a defined rank in even the society of such a place, half a lady, but the companion of shopkeepers and servants, vain, passionate, but modest even in her fail, ashamed of her uncouth brother though uncouth herself, devoted to infatuation to the underbred, manly, flirting, strong, brave, unfeeling, unprincipled man, who tempts her, to her swift destruction and his own.
The plot of this story is very much superior to any other of Mr. Trollope's plots. Plots are not a strong point with him; he is indifferent about them, heeding samenesseven repetition—not at all, and relying, with reasonable confidence, upon his power of fixing attention upon the people in his books so firmly that it shall not stray to the incidents. But ini this one instance he has bestowed equal care upon plot and personages. The book is as fine as a story, as it is perfect as a delineation of character; a book which must have produced supreme satisfaction to its author, though he was probably aware that it would not find anything like universal appreciation. There is one phase of Irish peasant character portrayed in the story with startling and painful accuracy, in the person of Pat Brady, an appendage to MacDermot's household, in whom the reader at once surmises an evil influence. Here is the passage, in itself a sample of the author's accurate knowledge of his subject, in which Brady is introduced. The scene is poor Thady MacDermot's rent-office, where he is going over the rent-book :
Pat's business was not only to assist in collecting the rents, by taking possession of the little crops, and driving the cows or the pigs, but, moreover, he was expected to know who could, and who could not, make out the money; to have obtained and always have ready that secret knowledge of the affairs of the estate which is thought to be, and is so, necessary to the managing of the Irish peasantry in the way they are managed. Pat Brady was all this ; moreover, he had as little compunction in driving the cow or the only pig from his neighbour or cousin, and in selling off the oats or potatoes of his uncle or brother-in-law, as if he was doing that which would be most agreeable to them. But still he was liked on the estate ; he had a manner with him which had its charms to them ; he was a kind of leader of them in their agrarian feelings and troubles ; and, though the tenants of Ballycloran half feared, they all liked and courted Pat Brady.
“ Well, Pat,” began his master, seating himself on the solitary
old chair, which, with a still older-looking desk on four shaking lezs, comprised the furniture of MacDermot's rent office, “What news from Mohill to-day? was there much in the fair at all ?”
“Well, yer honour, then, for them as had money to buy, the fair was good enough ; but for them as had money to get, it was as bad as them that was afore it, and as them as is likely to come after it." “Were the boys in it, Pat ?”
They wos, yer honour, the most iv them.”
“Bad manners to bim, and why did'nt he? Why, he owes (and Thady turned over the old book) five half-years' this gale, and there's no use gammoning ; father must get the money off the land, or Flannelly will help himself.”
" I know, Master Brady, I know all about it. Jim has between five and six acres, and he owes twenty-two pound ten ; his oats is worth, maybe, five pound fifteen, from that to six pound, and his cow about six pound more ; that's all Jim has, barrin' the brats and the mother of them. An' he knows right well, yer honour, if he brings you the price of the oats, you would'nt let him off that way, for the cow should folly the oats, as is nathural ; the cabin would be saized next ; so Jim ses, if you choose to take the cow yourself, you can do so, well an' good, an' save him the throuble of bringin' it to Mohill."
“Did the Widow Reynolds sell her pig?"
“She did, yer honour, for two pound ten. And she owes seven pound. And Dan Houlahan,"
“Dan didn't cut the oats, good or bad.”
“He wos, yer honour, and I was tellin' him yer honour 'd be wantin' the money this week, and I axed him to step up o' Friday mornin'; an', sis 1, Misthur Tierney,-- for since he made out the mare and the ould car, it's Misthur Tierney he goes by—it's a fine saisin, anyway, for the corn, sis I, the Lord be praised ; an' the hay all saved on them illigant bottoms of yours, Misthur Tierney. The masther was glad to hear the cocks was all up before the heavy rain was come! Well, Pat,' sis he, “ I'll be at Ballycloran o' Friday, plase God, but it's little I'll have wid me but meself ; an' if the masther likes the corn an' the hay, he may just take them as it's plazin' to him, for the divil a cock or a grain will I sell, an' the prices so bad.'
“ Obstinate old fool! Why, Pat, he must have the money."
* Money ! to be shure he has the money, Misthur Brady ; but maybe he'd be the bigger fool if he giv' it to yer father.”
“Do the boys mane to say they won't pay the rent at all ?"
They mane to say they can't, an' it's nearly thrue for them.” “ Was Joe Reynolds at the fair, Pat?'
“ He wos not, that's to say he wos not at the fair, but I seen him in the evenin' wid the other boys from Drumleesh, at Mrs. Mulready’s.
" Them boys has always the money when they want a drop of whiskey. Bedad, if they go to Mulready's with the money in their pockets on a Tuesday, where's the wonder they come here with them empty on a Friday. Fetch me a coal for the pipe, Pat."
The grim truth of all this is a thing to be felt, not described. As the colloquy proceeds, Thady MacDermot drops more and more into a tone of equality with Pat Brady: vulgarisms crop up in his speech, and with consummate art the reader is made to feel the man's baleful influence. Captain Ussher, the Sub. Inspector, turns up in the course of the conversation, and Brady insinuates that the tenants would be more amenable if the foe of the whole country side were not so kindly welcomed at Ballycloran. The skill of all this is incomparable; the way in which the man works on the sullen pride, the dull despondency of Thady, and leads up to an insinuation that Ussher means ill to MacDermot's sister, is only exceeded in cleverness by the scene of his cross-examination when the story is nearing its terrible end, which, indeed, is matchless as a specimen of prevarication, suggestion, and low cunning. One more extract we must make from this conversation, as a sample of the author's knowledge of his subject.
" Because Captain Ussher visits at Ballycloran,” said Brady, " is that any reason why he should interfere between my father and his tenants ?”
“Sorra a one av me knows them, Misthur Thady ; only that the tinints is no good friends to the Captain ; nor why should they, an' he going through the counthry with a lot of idle blaggards, with arms an' guns, sazin the poor divils for nothin' at all, only for thryin' to make out the rint for yer honour, wid a thrille of potheen? That's quare friendship ; ay, an' it's the thruth I'm tellin' you, Misthur Brady, for he's no friend to you or yours. Shure isn't Pat Reynolds in Ballinamore Bridewell on his account, an' two other boys from the mountains behind Drumleesh, becaze they found a thrifle of half-malted barley up there among them ? an', be the same token, Joe was sayin', if the friend of the family wos parsecutin' them that way, an' puttin' his brother in gaol, whilst the masthur would'nt rise a finger, barrin' for the rint, the sooner he and his wos off the estate, the betther he'd like it ; for Joe said he'd not be fightin' agin his own masthur, but whin you was not his masthur any more--thin, let every one look to hisself . . . Joe mostly leads them boys up at Drumleesh, an' hard to lead they are ; I'm thinkin' Captain Ussher, wid all his retinue of peelers are his guns, may meet his match there yet. They'll hole him, so he goes on much farther, as shure as my name's Pat."
“They'll get the worst of that, Brady--not that I care a thrawneen for him