Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

apartment he appeared to recognise it; the feeling of consciousness was but momentary, and he sunk upon his bed, powerless and senseless, prostrated in mind and body.

During the twelve months succeeding this day Banim merely existed. The whole system seemed shattered. His head ached so violently, that in his paroxysms of pain, his body rocked with an involuntary motion so violent, that as his head rested upon his brother's breast, it required all the latter's strength to curb the violent swaying of the sufferer. "It seemed," he said," as if the brain were surging through the skull from rear to front, and from front to rear, alternately." He lost all anxiety for his profession or for literature, no occupation could interest him, he could rarely be induced to leave the house, and when he did go abroad, he quickly became wearied; he seldom spoke-and thus, his first love laid the seeds of that frightful suffering, which, during the greater portion of his existence, rendered him one of the most miserable of men. The three nights of suffering and exposure to which, at Anne D's decease, he was subjected, broke down the stamina of life, and left him, at twenty years of age, a victim to spinal disease, which, but a few years later, reduced him to a crippled body, whilst gifted with a mind active as ever genius possessed, his fate indeed was harder than that of Tantalus.

The first symptom of returning health evinced by the sufferer was the composition of some verses. They show the weary spirit that would free itself from all recollections of the past, and would

"Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow

[ocr errors]

Raze out the written troubles of the brain.' Sorrow, however, at nineteen, cannot be very deeply seated,and he must be melo-dramatic indeed, who fancies that in plucking it from his bosom his heart may form its root; and thus,as time rolled on, Banim found that the world had its joys still, even after all his woes, and so, for him, once more arose the bright blue days—

"Full of the sun, loud with a thousand larks."

Then it was, that as the clouds passed away, the darkened spirit cast off its veil of grief, and he wrote such verses as these detached fragments:

"I saw her, God of goodness great!

I saw her in her winding sheet

And I saw her mingle then

With her mother earth again

I saw her and I could not save,-
Sink into her early grave.

It cannot last. The fever of affliction
But feeds on thought. And all the balm
Designed by preaching patience for the sufferer's pang
Changes to poison on his parched lip.

Avoid me, Memory-we are friends no more
It is an awful hour, the midnight moon
Looks from her land of loneliness upon me,
Yet in the silent night I fear no foe,

I fear no stalking spectre as I fear thee, Memory."

We hear close the first part of this biography of John Banim. We have told the story of his life to his twenty-first year. It shows him to have been swayed by all the passions and weakness that dictate the actions of other men, but it shows too the energy which marked his later years. A boy, he left his home for Dublin; two years in the metropolis had not corrupted him: like Southey, he was too pure a worshipper of beauty and of goodness to be vicious, even if faith and early training had not spread their shields above him; and so, a boy, he returned to his father' sroof.

In his life at home he may have shown that unsteadiness, that want of fixity of purpose, which has so frequently marked the early years of men whose genius is less bright than that of Banim; and when, in the succeeding parts of his biography, we shall prove what Banim really was; how unspoiled by society, he continued to the end; how willing he ever was to serve, even at the risk of loss to himself, a young adventurer in the world of literature; how nobly he hoped for himself that, by honest work and thought, he might make his name known in the literary history of the nation; how boldly he ever dared to be an Irishman; how, to the end, as a husband, he was a lover; how, as a father, he was tender as Scott, buoyant and thoughtful as Southey, anxious as Moore-when we shall have placed these truths before the reader he will know John Banim as he really was, and if some defect of character shall strike the reader's mind, it will but show that the novelist was like other men, and whose bad qualities must be pardoned for the sake of their good deeds :-because, as

Thomas Brown writes of the body, we may write of the mind "Affection should not be too sharp-eyed, and love is not to be made by magnifying glasses. If things were seen as they truly are, the beauty of bodies would be much abridged. And, therefore, the wise contriver hath drawn the pictures and outsides of things softly and amiably unto the natural edge of our eyes, not leaving them able to discover those uncomely asperities, which make oyster-shells in good faces, and hedgehogs even in Venus's moles."*

ART. III. THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF
TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN.

FIRST ERA.

In tracing the history of a Society the origin of which dates back so far as 1747, and the records of whose proceedings are of the most meagre description, it would not be surprising that many interesting particulars should be omitted-many names worthy of mention left unrecorded.

We have, however, endeavoured to fill up, from every possible source, the details that may be wanting, and have sought to impart interest to the subject, by bringing before the reader as great a number as possible of the distinguished men who have, from time to time, adorned the Society.

We do not purpose to enter into particulars concerning the rise and history of Debating Societies. Wherever a number of young and ardent minds are associated, confident in their wis dom and powers-with the boundless realms of knowledge, all but unexplored, lying before them-ere yet the pilot Experience has grasped the helm-there will ever be exhibited an anxiety to impart to others the information they conceive is possessed by themselves, and a wish to show to the world that

"Christian Morals." Sect. IX.

young though they be in years, they are not so in knowledge. And, accordingly, in almost all the Universities, and in many of the Public Schools, we find such societies existing in one form or another. In both the English Universities they have long flourished.

To go back further; in 1698, we find the celebrated Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, then a student of King's College, Cambridge, a member of one. So, also, in Scotland,

societies of this kind were early formed. In 1740 was established, in Edinburgh, a Society which numbered, among its members, Dr. Robertson, Home, the author of Douglas, and several others, who afterwards attained to celebrity. In 1754, The Select Society was founded, by Allan Ramsay, the poet, and some of his friends; and in 1764 The Speculative Society arose. We shall have occasion to write hereafter of the Speculative, but at present, without dwelling further on the various societies in England and Scotland, we will come at once to our own Historical Society.

This Society, which dates back so far as 1770, and of which the present Historical Society is the immediate offspring, was not the first of the kind or name in College. In 1747, there existed a Society, formed by Burke, for the cultivation of Composition, History, and Oratory, on the plan that was subsequently adopted by The Historical Society. From some interesting letters, given by Prior, in his biography of Goldsmith, it would appear that not only were many of the studies and occupations of the members in common, but even their letters were the joint productions of several of the number. Our readers, we are sure, will forgive the introduction of one of these letters, as giving a better insight into this little Society than anything we could write upon the subject:"May 28th, 1747.

"Scene I.-Burke, Dennis.-The Club Room-Dennis goes away about some business.

Burke solus.

"As the Committee appointed for the trial of Dennis has just now broke up without doing anything, for want of members sufficient, I have time enough on my hands to write what you desire-an account of the proceedings of our Society since your departure; in which you have been a perfect prophet, for Mohun was formally expelled last lustrum by the censor, Mr. Dennis. After an examination of his conduct from the first foundation of the Society, it was found exceeding bad, without one virtue to redeem it, for which he suffered the above sentence. He was tried some time before, (Burke pres.) for his bad behaviour, but behaved still worse at trial, which brought fresh punishments on him, and at length expulsion.

"This is not the only revolution in our Club. Mr. Buck's conduct much altered for the worse, we seldom see him, for which he has not been spared. Dennis, Hamilton, and your humble-ha! ha! attend constantly. Cardegrif,* as we expected, middling. You all this while are uneasy to know the cause of Dennis' accusation: it is no less than an attempt to overturn the Society by an insolent behaviour to the President and Society. I am the accuser and when you know that you will tremble for him. I must congratulate you, likewise, on the Censor's minor thanks, which you received, with a declaration that, had you entered earlier into the Society, you had been entitled to the grand thanks. The Censor gave himself the grand thanks and the same to me. We had, during your absence, the following debates very well handled.

"On the Stadtholder-Burke, an oration: Lenity to the rebels,† a debate-Dennis for, Burke against:-Prince of Orange to harangue his troops,-Dennis: The Sailors in a ship turning PiratesDennis for, Burke and Hamilton against. Catiline to the Allobroges-Dennis: General Huske for engaging at Falkirk-Burke for, Hawley and Dennis against; Brutus the First to the RomansBurke. Hamilton is now president and a very good one."

And again, in a continuation by another hand,—

"Burke is now writing the proceedings of the assembly, and just saying he'll pass over part of the debates because he is tired. You see he is semper eadem as lazy as you imagined, though I must do him the justice to say he designed writing last night: what prevented it heretofore was our expectation of your first challenge, and likewise Ned (Burke) thought it preposterous to be threshing his brains for you when he is writing for the public; pray laugh heartily now, lest you should split when you see the subject he has chosen, and the manner he has treated it; but I will not anticipate your pleasure by acquainting you any more."

The Hamilton mentioned in the above letter is, most probably, the late distinguished mathematician and divine, Hugh Hamilton, Bishop of Ossory, who was contemporary with Burke. He obtained a fellowship in his 22nd year, and died in 1805. Goldsmith may likewise be reckoned among the members of this Society; and though we cannot find that he was a very active member of a body that required attention and labor, yet we may be sure that the opportunities for display, which such an Institution afforded, were not without weight

A name given to one of the party, but to whom does not appear. † Alluding most probably to the lately suppressed Rebellion in Scotland.

Does this allude to the "Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful?" He had, we know, commenced it before he was 19 years of Age, and had kept it by him for several years, not having published it till 1756.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »