« PreviousContinue »
companions forget also, that he was enjoying no more than a short vacation."
· In Dublin, as in London, old and new friends gathered around Banim : literary friends; friends of the early days of artist life came to him, and the Viceroy, the Earl of Mulgrave, was most attentive and thoughtful in his endeavors to aid the poor, broken sufferer.
As a graceful means of increasing his resources, it was resolved that Banim's fellow countrymen should be invited to show their appreciation of his genius by attending a performance, for his benefit, which it was proposed should take place at the Theatre Royal, Hawkins'-street, and accordingly the following announcement appeared in all the Dublin Newspapers, of Thursday, July 16th, 1835.
“Theatre Royal. Under the immediate patronage of His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant. Mr. John Banim, the author of Damon and Pythias,' Tales by the O'Hara Family,' and several other National Tales and Dramas, being now in Dublin, his friends deem this a fitting opportunity to call upon his fellow-countrymen to testify the respect and admiration in which they hold his talents. The Theatre will open for this purpose on Tuesday evening, 21st July, when will be performed for his benefit, the Sergeant's Wife, dramatised by Mr. Banim from one of his own Tales, and the Sister of Charity, also written by him. There will be a Comic Interlude, with a variety of other Entertainments; the particulars in the bills of the day. Tickets to be had at all the Newspaper Offices; of Mr. G. R. Mulvany, Secretary to the Committee, 24, Upper Sackville-street; and of Mr. Eyre, at the Box-office, where places may be secured.”.
The entire press supported this attempt to assist our sufferer, and the tone of all their appeals was, as in the followiog, from The Morning Register, of Friday, July 17th, 1835, the day following that in which the benefit was first advertised.
“ MR. BANIM. It does not surprise, but it affords us, nevertheless, infinite gratification to find, that even already there is a stir, and a great one, for our suffering, but, thank God! not forlorn countryman. High and worthy names, in some number, were put upon the box sheet yesterday. The press, of all colours, lends its willing and creditable aid. We shall, then, have a bumper ; but let it be a bumper. Posterity will weave garlands for the grave of John Banim, and while they pay the merited tribute to his exalted genius, let there be in their memory nothing giving them ground to cast the reproach of a base and unfeeling niggardness on those who dwelt in one town with him, and were aware of his misfortunes, in July, 1835."
And the following day the same journal thus declares for him :
“ MR, BANIM_DEBENTURE TICKETS. There are over one hundred debenture tickets on our Theatre. These, we understand, are for the most part sold—and their action, night after night, on the profits of the concern, help to explain why it is running fast to total ruin. It would be lamentable, we had almost said
scandalous, if they were suffered to interfere with the receipts on Tuesday night. We are told that some of the ordinary tea. dors of these tickets have come to the laudable resolution of suspend. ing their sale, at least on this sacred occasion. We hope an obser. vance so deserving, from its generosity, of the highest commendation, will become general, or if it do not, that there will, at least, be few willing to go in a cheap, and sort of back-stairs way, to poor Banim's henefit. The prospects of a bumper are increasing ; but let there be no relaxation in the efforts of the friends of genius. Much must be done before that which is intended as an advantage is secured from the risk of becoming a source of new embarrassment. In plain words, to cover the very EXPENSES will require an exertion in the present state of the town."
The performance took place on Tuesday, July 21st,—the Lord Lieutenant attended; the house was filled by a rapturous, overflowing audience ; Banim reclined on a sofa in a private box, surrounded by a few of his oldest, and firmest friends ; and the following address, written by George F. Mulvany, Esq. Was spoken by one of the performers :
"This night to welcome to his native land
mels freed, A pleasing pride to win the author's meed, And still a crowd-perchance to fame un
known, But yet with hearts which Irish bosoms
All here assembled, with soal-bearing
Tho' dark clouds lour-must not the gladd'- To him whom HOMEWARD now a soft voice ning sight
calls, Of friends assembled as around to-night, Th' awakened echo of O'Hara's halls; Repay in part the grateful tribute due, There, in the magic of his native hearth, And bid Hope's flow'rets blossom forth To feel, fresh springing in Antean birth, anew!
New strength to cope in Herculean strife So may it prove to him, whose ev'ry hope With toils and care that track the poet's Hath been concentred in the patriot scope life, Of country's cause-whose labour to unfold To work afresh th' unexhausted store Th' historic records of her days of old, Of Irish character and Irish lore, To draw oblivion's dusky veil aside,
Rich mine of hidden wealth, of unwrought And paint his country's claims with filial ore pride
To dare new labours in his country's cause,
plause!" Back he went, in the month of September, to his longedfor home. Ile was so worn and weak, that he could only travel by post-chaise, and the journey from Dublin to Kilkenny required three days in its completion. He went first to the old house where so many years of hope, of dreaming, of love, of pain, and of memories, “ bitter sweet," were passed.
The “ little octagon table” in the “ sanctum sanctorum” of his father, with the dear mother, and Michael, and the schoolmaster, and the sister around it, reading his praises, and weaving the laurel crown, were the dreams of the dead, cold, forgotten, past,--and now he came to the grave of all those things, and even hope itself was dead, and nothing was in memory but pain and woe, nothing in the future, but rest which was poverty, and life which was worse than death, in its pains and in its inutility.
Early in the month of September, 1835, John Banim, accompanied by his wife and daughter, and by his brother Michael, arrived in Kilkenny, and his fellow town's-men received him warmly and kindly. They assembled to consider the best method of shewing their regard for hiin, and their appreciation of his genius; and after some debate, they resolved, unanimously, to present to him the following address :“ Address from the Citizens of Kilkenny,
TO JOIIN BANIM, ESQ.,
AUTHOR or 'THE O'HARA TALES,' &c. SIR-Influenced by personal regard, and by that esteem which your talents have won, even in far distant lands, your fellow.citizens hail, with sincere pleasure, your arrival amongst them, though that pleasure is accompanied by the regret that your health is not such as the desires of your countrymen would have it ; but they trust that native scenes and air shall tend to your restoration, and that, ere long, a fostering legis
lature shall extend to you that liberal aid which a good and wise government is ever ready to bestow upon distinguished literary worth.
Your fellow citizens have resolved to offer to you some testimony of that respect which native and well-directed talents ever merit-respect due from every Irishman who recollects that your writings have pourtrayed his country in the colours of truth delineated, without concealment or exaggeration, its national character-sketched its peasantry as they really are, placing their virtues in relief, and tracing their misfortunes and their crimes to the true sources whence both springshowing this country to the sister kingdom as it really is, and begetting there commiseration for its sufferings, and esteem for those social virtues and ennobling qualities, which centuries of wrong and bondage have shrouded, but not entombed.
As citizens of Kilkenny your claims come still more forcibly upon their esteem. Your pen has preserved many of the beautiful localities in and around this city-given new charms to most of its popular legends, and delineated, with truth and accuracy, many of its original characters, blending the charins of truth with the creations of a powerful fancy, and directing all to the noble purpose of elevating the national character, and vindicating a too long.neglected and oppressed land,
The citizens of Kilkenny, therefore, hope that you will accept of the token of your countrymen's regard, which accompanies this address, and they venture to express their ardent wish that you may live to use it in an advanced and honourable old age, with bodily powers then as vigorous as is that intellect which has won you the proud distinction of fame, conferred an honour on Kilkenny, and an important benefit upon Ireland. Signed, for their fellow-citizens, by
C. JAMES, Chairman,
R. CANE, M.R.C.S., Secretary. This address was written by Dr. Cane, and was engrossed on satin, and was presented to Banim with a silver snuff-box containing in it a subscription of eighty-five pounds ; the snuff box bore the following inscription :
“ This Box, containing a token of regard
And esteein for his talents,
Was presented to
By his fellow-citizens,
Banim thus replied to the address of his fellow citizens :
“MY DEAR Sirs-With a son's deep affection I returned to my mother land—with a child's delight I re-entered my vative city; and from the moment that I touched Irish ground, after attentively regarding, during many years, other countries, my mind has been gradually and irresistibly impressed with the proad and happy conviction, that among strangers Ireland is at present ignorantly, and, I may add, presumptuously underrated, and that to no country that I have seen is she, in my humple opinion, inferior-except, alas ! in the disunion, and in the consequent poverty, misery, and crime, caused by the born-blindness of those who unfortunately cannot perceive that their own proper interests are naturally, derivatively, and inevitably identified with hers. Superior to any other country I am not enthusiastic enough to wish to make her; but, in some instances she has made herself so ; yes, in the social and domestic relations in that glorious quality which we all agree to call heart ; and, taking one class with another, in true urbanity of manners-and of good inanners, too-we may, although her sons, safely venture such an assertion.
All this you may call the exaggerated glee of a boy sent away to liis school, and yow asked home to spend his holidays. I will, however, hazard another remark, which perhaps may sound even more like flattery to you, and more like homeprejudice on my part :- no matter, this it is—that of any city or town of Kilkenny's population and resources-considering it also as an inland city--it has not yet been my chance to lave observed one equal in beauty of scenic appearance, in the pervading intelligence of its citizens, in unostentatious morality, and above all in public and private charity, to my own dear native place. As to the flattering mention inade by you of my Tales-1 beg to say that they were inspired simply by a devoted love of our country, and by an indignant wish to convince her slanderers, and in some slight degree at least to soften the hearts of her oppressors ; although that in writing in her cause to other nations, I saw the necessity of endeavouring, cautiously and laboriously, to inake fietion the vehicle of fact; and while thus, for the first time, called upon to reply to compliments paid to me as the writer of these volumes, I cannot hesitate to mention that a considerable portion of the success of some of the stories they contain, is attributable to the assistance of a dear and respected brother.