Page images

fallen upon a time, when great eccentricity of character was pretty nearly gone by, but still I fancied there was an opening for some originality, and an opportunity for shewing at least my good will to mankind, if I introduced the characters of persons, who had been usually exhibited on the stage, as the butts for ridicule and abuse, and endeavoured to present them in such lights, as might tend to reconcile the world to them, and them to the world. I thereupon looked into society for the purpose of discovering such as were the victims of its national, professional or religious prejudices; in short for those suffering characters, which stood in need of an advocate, and out of these I meditated to select and form heroes for


future dramas, of which I would study to make such favourable and reconciliatory delineations, as might incline the spectators to look upon them with pity, and receive them into their good opinion and esteem.

With this project in my mind, and nothing but the turf-stack to call off my attention, I took the characters of an Irishman and a West Indian for the heroes of my plot, and began to work it out into the shape of a comedy. To

the West Indian I devoted a generous spirit, and a vivacious giddy dissipation; I resolved he should love pleasure much, but honour more; but as I could not keep consistency of character without a mixture of failings, when I gave him charity, I gave him that, which can cover a multitude, and thus protected, thus recommended, I thought I might send him out into the world to shift for himself.

For my Irishman I had a scheme rather more complicated; I put him into the Austrian service, and exhibited him in the livery of a foreign master, to impress upon the audience the mélancholy and impolitic alternative, to which his religious disqualification had reduced a gallant and a loyal subject of his natural king : I gave him courage, for it belongs to his nation; I endowed him with honour, for it belongs to his profession, and I made him proud, jealous, susceptible, for such the exiled veteran will be, who lives by the earnings of his sword, and is not allowed to draw it in the service of that country, which

gave him birth, and which of course he was born to defend : for his phraseology I had the glossary ready at my hand; for his mistakes and trips, vulgarly called bulls, I

[ocr errors]

did not know the Irishman of the stage then existing, whom I would wish to make my model : their gross absurdities, and unnatural contrarieties have not a shade of character in them. When his imagination is warmed, and his ideas rush upon him in a cluster, 'tis then the Irishman will sometimes blunder; his fancy having supplied more words than his tongue can well dispose of, it will occasionally trip." But the imitation must be delicately conducted ; his meaning is clear, he conceives rightly, though in delivery he is confused; and the art, as I conceive it, of finding language for the Irish character on the stage consists not in making him foolish, vulgar or absurd, but on the contrary, whilst you furnish him with expressions, that excite laughter, you must graft them upon sentiments, that deserve applause.

In all my hours of study it has been through life my object so to locate myself as to have little or nothing to distract my attention, and therefore brilliant rooms or pleasant prospects I have ever avoided. A dead wall, or, as in the present case, an Irish turf-stack, are not attractions, that can call off the fancy from its pursuits; and whilst in those pursuits it can


find interest and occupation, it wants to outward aids to cheer it. My mother, who had a fellow-feeling with me in these sensations, used occasionally to visit me in this hiding hole, and animated me with her remarks upon the progress


iny work: my father was rather inclined to apologize for the meanness of my accommodation, and I believe rather wondered at my choice: in the mean time I had none of those incessant avocations, which for ever crossed me in the writing of The Brothers. I was master of my time, my mind was free, and I was happy in the society of the dearest friends I had on earth. In parents, sister, wife and children greater blessings no man could enjoy. The calls of office, the cavillings of angry

rivals, and the jibings of news-paper critics could not reach me on the banks of the Shannon, where all within doors was love and affection, all without was gratitude and kindness devolved on me through the merits of my father. In no other period of my life have the same happy circumstances combined to cheer me in any of my literary labours.

During an excursion of a few days upon a visit to Mr. Talbot of Mount Talbot, a very

respectable and worthy gentleman in those
parts, I found a kind of hermitage in his plea-
sure grounds, where I wrote some few scenes,

amiable host was afterwards pleased to honour the author of The West Indian with an inscription, affixed to that building, commemorating the use, that had been made of it ; a piece of elegant flattery very elegantly expressed.

On this visit to Mr. Talbot I was accompanied by Lord Eyre of Eyre Court, a near neighbour and friend of my father. This noble Lord, though pretty far advanced in years, was so correctly indigenous, as never to have been out of Ireland in his life, and not often so far from Eyre Court as in this tour to Mr. Talbots. Proprietor of a vast extent of soil, not very productive, and inhabiting a spacious mansion, not in the best repair, he lived according to the style of the country with more hospitality than elegance: whilst his table groaned with abundance, the order and good taste of its arrangement were little thought of: the slaughtered ox was hung up whole, and the hungry servitor supplied himself with his dole of flesh, sliced from off the carcase. His

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »