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been informed, unsuccessful, owing to disagreements with Edmund Kean.
Disappointments connected with this tragedy were not his only causes of uneasiness. Mrs. Banim's health had not improved, and she was directed by her physician to pass a short period in France. In the following letter Banim describes his position, his cares, his hopes, and his expectations. The old kindly home love is bright as ever--whether in joy or sorrow; struggling or prosperous-home, his wife and his mother are always at his heart. And yet how strange it seems that his love should cling so firmly to those scenes where lie had known many sorrows, many pains, and, save in childhood, no joys. Can it be that this thought of the lamented Arthur Henry Hallam is true, and that “ Pain is the deepest thing that we have in our nature, and union through pain has always seemed more real and more holy than any
other. Thus, at all events, John Banim wrote to his father :
“ London, January 28th, 1825. My dear Father,
I have to inform you, that I have kept back at Covent Garden to watch the fate of a play by This play! judged would not succeed, and my judgment has proved good. It was repeated only twice. I may expect to come on, when Young returns to his engagement, in about six weeks. The stage apart for a moment, pleasant little matters are recurring elsewhere. Our publishers, being highly pleased with the matter now in progress, engage liberal terms, should our venture have luck. Yesterday I received a proof of their good opinion, in the shape of a handsome snuff-box, with which I intend to present you when we meet. So far, my dear father, with other seasonable assistance from my good friend Mr. Arnold, who receives iny small theatrical pieces freely, I am very comfortable, considering that I have had to win my way in a scramble, where no human being was interested to lend me a hand. I think I have not altogether done badly. I have been here three years, and I do not owe a shilling. I am now esteemed in the market. Alas! literature is a marketable commodity, as well as any other ware, and sells according to its quality. But, if able, my regular business will soon send me to Ireland, and afford me the happiness of embracing my family.
One regret I must feel during my visit; I shall not be ac
companied by her who has for three years been the sharer of my struggles—the only friend in my exile. Ellen has been ordered to seek a milder clime for a while, and I must convey her to France for a period. She is not very or dangerously ill: I send a medical certificate to her father to convince him of this; but still her removal has been pronounced necessary, and I owe her too much to counteract the injunctions of her physician.
Michael gave me charming assurances in his last letter of my dear mother's good health. Were she ever so ill, I know the expectation of seeing ME (you see I am growing riotous in my own good opinion) will speedily make her well."
He accompanied his wife to France, and having secured apartments for her, he returned to London, and to its labors. In the following letter, written a few days after he had reached London, he informs Michael of the progress of The Tales through the press, and hints at his returning illness :
“ London, May 9th, 1825. My dear Michael,
I remained scarce a day in France after I saw Ellen housed: yet short as was my absence from London, matters got into a pretty pickle with the printers before I came back.
The labor of getting Crohoore' through the ordeal has been hideous : almost every sheet of him came back to me three or four times. It is tremendous work to compel English types to shape themselves into Irish words. Happily he is now equipped for his debut, as well as I can shape him. "The Fetches' is disposed of also, and I am through the first hundred
pages of the last volume. I have been leading a solitary life since my wife left me : but no help for that. To keep me alive I have plenty of work on hand, and there are fair prospects in view. My health has been only tolerable; as Shakespeare hath it,
The moon, the governess of floods,
That rheumatic diseases do abound.' I greatly dread and fear mother has also had her visitation, if the weather has been such in Ireland as we have had here."
Upon the eve of the publication of The Tales the next letter was addressed by John Banim to his brother, and in it he details a little publishing ruse; one of a class of which many instances have been afforded in London, during the present anxiety of the public to possess books containing information on the countries surrounding Sebastopol :
“ London, April 6th, 1825. My dear Michael,
Our tales have not been announced in the usual manner, and I will tell you why.
A certain literary gentleman, an Irishman too, of undoubted talent, he being aware of the nature of our volumes, started with a spirited publisher, and got out notices, and it became rather an amusing race between us. He would come occasionally, in the most friendly manner, to hope I was going on well. Pen against pen it was, as fast as they could gallop. Mounted on my grey goose quill I have beaten him, as to time at all events. It was necessary to keep him in the dark by leaving our books unannounced. What may be the further result of our race is yet to be seen. There is quackery in all trades, from the boudoir to the pill-box. 1
purpose to be in Derry, two hundred miles north of you, , in a few weeks, and in some time after I will run down to Kilkenny to shake hands with you all, and hear my poor mother call me her own 'graw bawn' once again.”
The visit to Derry, mentioned in this letter, was undertaken for the purpose of gaining an accurate knowledge, from personal observation, of the scenery and character of the country around the Boyne; and this knowledge was turned by Banim to excellent account, as may be perceived in those admirable descriptions introduced in that novel upon which he was then engaged— The Boyne Water.
The Tales By The OHara Family appeared on the 7th of April, 1825, and their success was, from the first day, unquestionable. Gerald Griffin wrote to his brother, and described Banim's triumph thus : " Have you seen Banim's O'Hara Tales ?-if not, read them, and say what you think of them. I think them most vigorous and original things; overflowing with the very spirit of poetry, passion, and painting , if you think otherwise, don't say so. My friend W
sends me word that they are well written. All our critics here say that they are admirably written; that nothing since Scott's first novels has equalled them. I differ entirely with W— in his idea of the fidelity of their delineations. He says they argue unacquaintance with thecountry;I think they are astonishing in nothing so much as in the power of creating an intense interest without stepping out of real life, and in the very easy and natural drama that is carried through them, as well as in the excellent tact which he shows, in seizing on all the points of national character which are capable of effect; mind I don't speak of The Fetches now.
That is a romance. But is it not a splendid one ? Nobody knew anything of Banim, till be published his O'Hara Tales, which are becoming more and more popular every day. I have seen pictures taken from them already, by first-rate artists, and engravings, in the windows."*
Literary fame, however, was not the only point to be considered, the pecuniary reward of merit was a very important consideration. The fame, indeed, belonged entirely, so far as the public knew, to John ; but Michael, living at home quietly in Kilkenny, had formed very prosaic ideas, and thought, very naturally, that if the public admired The O'Hara Tales, the public ought to prove its appreciation by purchasing them; and he wrote to John, requesting information upon the interesting topic comprized in the short question—" How do the books sell?” John's reply we shall just now insert, but we would here draw the reader's attention to the facts related in a former portion of this Biography, in which we detailed the plans of joint contribution agreed upon in the composition of the Taleš By The O'Hara Family.to
The first tale of the series, entitled Crohoore of The Billhook, was written by Michael Banim † who wrote also the opening chapter, descriptive of a “ Pattern,” in John Doe, the third tale of this first series : the remainder of this tale, and the entire of The Fetches, the second tale, were written by John Banim ; but, as was agreed upon, and, as we have in our last paper shown, fully and carefully performed, each brother submitted his contributions to the earnest criticism of the other.
And when one comes now to examine these fictions,-to mark their vigor and dramatic power, to note those qualities indicated
• See "Life of Gerald Griffin, Esq.,'' By his Brother, pp. 184, 185.
See IRISH QUARTERLY Review, Vol. IV. No. 16, p. 830.
Michael Banim is still living, and was Mayor of Kilkenny in the year 1850.
by Griffin, who wrote of them," they are astonishing in nothing so much as in the power of creating an intense interest without stepping out of real life, and in the very easy and natural drama that is carried through them, as well as in the excellent tact which he shows in seizing on all the points of National character," we must agree with Gerald in his estimate of the merit of the series. These qualities attributed by Griffin to The Tales appear more clearly in the fictions subsequently written, but the ability of the brothers is not the less plainly shown. And it is, indeed, strange that two young men, the one a shopman to his father, planning his scenes by day whilst attend. ing to his business duties, and stealing his leisure from the night; the other, a hard-worked literary man-one who, as he said himself, should " teaze the brain, as wool-combers teaze wool, to keep the fire in and the pot boiling," could have been able to produce those novels which, though entering upon a preoccupied branch of literature, obtained and secured attention from the earliest publication. In John Banim's case too, it should be remembered, that he was forced to write when he could write, that is he wrote at such times as he could snatch from his ordinary engagements; sometimes when racked in body by his own pains, sometimes when racked in mind through sympathy for the ill-health of his wife. But the strong bold will, the earnest hope of success, bear the mental hero above every sorrow—the victor of every woe—and thus is proved the wisdom of Wordsworth's thought
“A cheerful life is what the Muses love,
A soaring spirit is their prime delight." In the following letter those qualities of mind are proved, and his industry and mental courage are most admirably displayed :
" London, May 1st, 1825. My dear Michael,
You ask me a very vital question-How do the books sell ? Very well.
The publishers are quite contented : big with hopes and withal benevolent. On mature reflection, I venture to solve another important query-1 deem you should neglect neither your business nor three new volumes. Plan out three tales, and work at them from time to time at your leisure, and I think I can obtain for you a remunerative price.