Page images
PDF
EPUB

My viear Sirs--I return through you, to my fellow-citizens, my proudly-grateful acknowledgments of their tasteful as well as munificent present; and for your and their kind wishes for my continued possession of it, I also beg leave to offer my heartfelt thanks, assured that no spot on earth can so much contribute to the re-establishinent of my health as that of our unique Kilkenny. Allow me to subjoin, that upon this the earliest occasion when I have had a fitting opportunity to express my sense of national kindness, I hope I may a"ail myself

' of it to remind you, that in the beautiful though half depopulated metropolis of our Ireland I have, on my way here to you, experienced friendships and services, such as even you could not have excelled, and that I now anxiously request my

aus Dublin creditors, to whom, one and all, I own myself a bankrupt in gratitude, to accept this passing allusion as part payment of my deep debt to them. And again I pray you to allow me a parting word. In Dublin, as well as here, flowers of every tint of the political parterre have been condescendingly wrought into a little holiday garland for a very humble brow; and may I not, therefore, take the liberty of asking you, is not this a slight proof at least that Irishimeu of all opinions can unite in recognising, through the medium of no matter how unmeritiny occasion, that principle of the perfect and universal establishment of which we all stand so much in need—namely, the great and glorious principle of nationality!

I remain, my dear Sirs, and my dear fellow-citizens, with profound respect and esteem, your faithful humble servant,

JOHN BANIM. To Christopher James, Esq., and

Robert Cane, Esq., M.R.C.S." Thus was Bauim received by the people amongst whom he had past his boyhood; and as the words of the address told Juin of their appreciation of his genius, of their pride in his fame, of their syinpathy in his sorrows, the brave, strong heart must have grown bright once more, as in the old times when the battle of life was as notlıing, but a thing to rouse every faculty, with no doubt or pause ; when bope was too weak a term to express the knowledge of certain success, when to secure success required but work and thought; and then, with John Banim, work and thought made up the whole sum of life, with all joys and sorrows centred in them,

We asked Michael Banim to tell us the story of his brother's return; and, of John's first months of the new life in Kilkenny, he writes thus :

“John was received, in the old house where he was born, by the remaining members of his family: not now as on his last visit, to boast of his hopes and aspirations : but to tell the tale of his wreck and failure. When I saw him in the old room, where we had been all assembled together thirteen years before, giving credit to the bright visions of prosperity and distinction he then described as in store for him, I could scarcely regret that his mother was no longer with us to witness the present contrast.

After some preliminary arrangements the object of our solicitude was established in a suburban cottage close by the road leading to and from Dublin. This cottage was on a height above our river, at the outlet called Windgap, and the scene of one of the tales by • The O'Hara Family.' After a short residence here, the neighbours knew him sotto voce' as the Mayor of Windgap,'—the title of the tale I have referred to. There were at this cottage dry air, as much suu as any other spot was favoured with, the view of green fields---and from one of the windows a glimpse of our crystal Nore, wending through a beautiful valley—these recommendations, joined to seclusion from observation, were desirable, and guided the choice of Windgap Cottage' as the future abode of the ailing resident.

There was a slight inconvenience, however, which to another would have been trivial in the extreme, but which annoyed my brother to some extent.

In the spring of 1836, the occupant of Windgap Cottage set to work, at the formation of a flower garden, outside his parlour window; and, when the weather permitted, he sat without doors propped in his bath chair, superintending the operations of his man of all work, as he planted shrubs and flowers, laid down sods, and formed broad sanded walks, in contact with which the invalid still hoped to place his feet. The Dublin road ran outside the high boundary wall of the enclosure, and as the public coaches passed to and froin the metropolis, those seated on the outside could look down into the little garden. My brother soon discovered that he had become an object of curiosity and comment; regarded as one of the shows of the road, exhibited by the driver for the entertainment of his fare- he could notice the coachman's whip pointing him out, the exhibitor at the same time turning his head from one passenger to another, as he answered their queries, and then there was the stretching of necks for a view, and comments going the round of the coach.

On one occasion he overheard a portion of the dialogue passing from the rere to the front of the vehicle.

• He'll never see the bushes an inch higher,' said a rere passenger: He's booked for the whole way, and no mistake," responded the coachman, chirpiug to his horses, and smacking his whip artistically, in satisfactory appreciation of his own wit—a laugh went round as the coach drove on. It shewed a weakness of mind in the subject of the jocularity, to be so sensible to ridicule; but for the future, he never sat out in the sun, directing the plantation of his shrubs or flowers, when the passage of the coach was expected.”

Shortly after Banim had become the oceupant of Windgap Cottage, some strolling players, under the management of Gardiner who, about twenty-three years ago was a performer of Irish characters, iu Power's line, at the Abbey-street Theatre, Dublin, happened to be on circuit at Kilkenny; and amongst the company was an actor named De Vere, of very considerable ability, and who was also an excellent scholar, and a man of cultivated taste. This De Vere bad been attracted by the admirable situations' of the tale by The O'Hara Family, entitled The Mayor of Windgap, and had, at his leisure hours, dramatized it. This circumstance became kuown to Banim's Kilkenny friends, and after some consultation it was arranged that The Mayor of Windgap, and Danon and Pythias, should be performed by Gardiner's company for Banim's Benefit. The plan was speedily carried out, and a crowded house and full treasury were the welcome results.

But, it may be asked, how did Banim pass his time ? how did he visit his friends ? how was he able to leave his garden in search of changed scene, and other air ? We asked these questions, and Michael Banim thus replied :

" Motion and air, for a portion of each day, were prescribed as indispensable for the sufferer's endurance of life : a postchaise and pair, was the only vehicle he could use, as he should be supported at lris back to the height of his shoulders, and have something to hold by with his right hand. This mode of conveyance, having been indulged in for some months, was found too expensive, and it became necessary to provide some kind of earriage for his own particular use. A gentleman having an old four-wheeled chair lying by presented it to him, and it was gratefully accepted. On examination this was found unsuitable, but as it had been a gratuitous offering, it was deemed worth remodelling, and much consultation there was as to the mode of adaptation. It was a low chair, in which two persons could sit facing the horse, while the driver took place immediately in front; there was no support for the back, no grasp for the hand, and no defence against the weather. All these defects were to be remedied. On a stout iron frame a roof of oilcloth was raised, projecting to the front over the person, a lap of leather, or apron, was contrived, folding over the occupant nearly breast high : and a stout loop of leather was attached to the iron stauncheon of the roof, through which the arm could be passed.

'Chus added to; the nuts, and bolts, and soforth put into gear, and the whole newly painted, it was tolerably convenient for use; and being unique in structure and appearance, it received from its owner, in one of his lapses from pain, the title of the “Shanderadan'a translation, he said, of its rattle and rumble as it went along. After a little use the Shanderadan gave way bit by bit ; the axle, the springs, the shafts, the wheels, all of it in fact, became disjointed and broken, and a year had scarcely gone by, when my brother would entertain his visitors with a humorous description of its several dislocations, and his “ hair-breadth 'scapes' in consequence; and he would enlarge on the joint skill of himself and Geoffry Grady, the neighbouring carpenter, who had, the one by plan, the other by operation, displaced scrap by scrap, the entire vehicle, so as to leave scarcely any of the primary Shanderadan existing

The conveyance held together, however, by constant patching, longer than its occupier. For six years he daily took his seat therein, in his little garden, whenever the weather, and his ailment, allowed him to be abroad-seated in this, or in his bath-chair, should the Shanderadan be under Geoffry Grady's hands, he received his visitors; and almost daily, while his life continued, he was to be met driving about on one or other of the roads in the neighbourhood of Kilkenny.-In the Shanderadan he frequently penetrated into the demesnes of the gentry of our locality, and even into their gardens, and he visited any of the contiguous villages not too distant, to continue his acquaintanceship with the native resorts of his youth.— Ile was seldom without a companion as he went along; at times his wife; at times his brother, but most frequently his daughter, a lovely and loveable child, bore him

a company.- Very frequently he invited any of his visitors, whose conversational powers gave him pleasure, to sit with him during his little excursions. Gerald Griffin was his guest for a fortnight, shortly preceding the death of that eminent writer. And during the term of the visit the brother authors drove out every day together.-Griffin was tall, and he was forced to bend his knees uricomfortably to adapt himself to the inconvenient mode of conveyance, that he might enjoy his friend's society.

Poor Griffin ! the old times were around him in memory; many a pleasant hour they had at this period ; and yet these were hours snatched from physical pain by Banim, and from pangs of a false and tender conscience by Griffin,-for he had begun to think of the past as a void in life, and to look forforward to the future years as a period of expiation. He fancied that his novels might be injurious, and as he expressed it, he felt the horrors of " the terrible idea, that it might be possible he was mis-spending bis time," or as le wrote to a friend,

“ Because the veil for me is rent,

And youth's illusive fervour spent,
And thoughts of deep eternity
Have paled the glow of earth for me,
Weaken'd the ties of time and place,
And stolen from life its worldly grace ;
Because my heart is lightly shaken
By haunts of early joy forsaken ;
Because the sigh that Nature heaves,
For all that Nature loved and leaves,
Now to my ripening soul appears
All sweetly weak, like childhood's tears.
Is friendship, too, like fancy, vain?
Can I not feel my sister's pain ?
Ave, it is past! where first we met,
Where Hope reviving thirsted yet,
Long draughts of blameless joy to drain,
We never now may meet again.
At sabbath noon or evening late
I ne'er shall ope that latched gate,
And forward glancing catch the while

« PreviousContinue »