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MRS. TIGHE, THE AUTHOR OF PSYCHE.
PERHAPS no writer of merit has been more neglected by her own friends than Mrs. Tighe. With every means of giving to the public a good memoir of her, I believe no such is in existence ; at all events, I have not been able to find one. The following brief particulars have been furnished by a private hand : “Mrs. Tighe was born in Dublin, in 1774. Her father, the Rev. William Blachford, was librarian of Marsh's library, St. Sepulchre, in that city. Her mother, Theodosia Tighe, was one of a family whose seat has been, and is, Rosanna, county Wicklow. In 1793, Miss Blachford, then but nineteen, married her cousin, Henry Tighe, of Woodstock, M.P. for Kilkenny in the Irish Parliament, and author of a County History of Kilkenny. Consumption was hereditary in Mrs. Tighe's family, and its fatal seeds ripened with her womanhood. She was constantly afflicted with its attendants, languor, depression, and want of appetite. With the profits of Psyche, which ran through four editions previous to her death, she built an addition to the Orphan Asylum in Wicklow, thence called the Psyche ward. She died on the 24th of March, 1810, and was buried at Woodstock, in Kilkenny, beneath a monument by Flaxman, from the finest marble of Italy. Mrs. Hemans, Banim, and Moore, have done homage to her genius, or lamented over its eclipse. North, in the Noctes Ambrosianæ,' with the assistance of Mr. Timothy Tickler, has paid her a very high compliment. But her abilities, her beauty, and her virtue, have not, as yet, been adequately pictured in any biographical notice of her that I have seen. The 1813 edition of Psyche contains some affecting allusions to her, in the preface written by her husband, who soon after followed her to the grave."
How little is known of Mrs. Tighe, when so short an account is the best that a countryman of hers can furnish ! and even in that there are serious errors. So far from her monument being of the finest marble of Italy, it is of a stone not finer than Portland stone, if so fine. So far from her husband soon following her to the grave, Mrs. Tighe died in 1810, and her husband was living at the time of Mrs. Hemans's visit to Woodstock in 1831. He must have survived
her above twenty years. In Mrs. Hemans's own account of her visit to Woodstock, she speaks of it as the place where “Mrs. Tighe passed the latest years of her life, and near where she is buried;" yet in the same volume with Psyche, (1811 edition, p. 306,) there is a “Sonnet, written at Woodstock, in the county of Kilkenny, the seat of William Tighe, June 30, 1809," i.e. only nine months before her death. For myself, I confess my ignorance of the facts which might connect these strangely clashing accounts of a popular poetess, of a wealthy family, and who died little more than forty years ago. I hoped to gain the necessary information on the spot, which I made a long journey purposely to visit. Why I did not, remains to tell.
The poem of Psyche was one which charmed me intensely at an early age. There was a tone of deep and tender feeling pervading it, which touched the youthful heart, and took possession of every sensibility. There was a tone of melancholy music in it, which seemed the regretful expression of the consciousness of a not far-off death. It was now well known that the young and beautiful poetess was dead. The life which she lived-crowned with every good and grace that God confers on the bright ones of the earth, on those who are to be living revelations of the heaven to which we are called, and to which they are hastening, youth, beauty, fortune, all glorified by the emanations of a transcendent mind-was snatched away, and there was a sad fascination thrown over both her fate and her work. The delicacy, the pathos, the subdued and purified, yet intense passion of the poem, were all calculated to seize on the kindred spirit of youth, and to make you in love with the writer. She came before the imagination in the combined witchery of brilliant genius, and the pure loveliness of a seraph, which had but touched upon the earth on some celestial mission, and was gone for ever. Her own Psyche, in the depth of her saddest hour, yearning for the restoration of the lost heaven and the lost heart, was not more tenderly beautiful to the imagination than herself.
Such was the effect of the Psyche on the glowing, sensitive, yet immature mind. How much of this effect has in many cases been the result of the quick feelings and magnifying fancy of youth itself! We have returned to our idol in later years, and found it clay. But this is not the case with Psyche. After the lapse of many years, after the disenchanting effects of experience, after the enjoyment of a vast quantity of new poetry of a splendour and power such as no one age of the world ever before witnessed, we return to the poem of Mrs. Tighe, and still find it full of beauty. There is a graceful fluency of diction, a rich and deep harmony, that are the fitting vehicle of a story full of interest, and scenery full of enchantment. Spite of the incongruity of engrafting on a Grecian fable the knighterrantry of the Middle Ages, and the allegory of still later days, we follow the deeply-tried Psyche through all her ordeals with unabating zest. The radiant Island of Pleasure, the more radiant Divinity of Love, the fatal curiosity, the weeping and outcast Psyche wandering on through the forests and wildernesses of her earthly penance,
the mysterious knight, the intrepid squire of the starry brow, are all sketched with the genuine pencil of poetry, and we follow the fortunes of the wanderers with ever-deepening entrancement. None but Spenser himself has excelled Mrs. "Tighe in the field of allegory. Passion in the form of the lion subdued by the Knight; Psyche betrayed by Vanity and Flattery to Ambition; the Bower of Loose Delight; the attacks of Slander; the Castle of Suspicion ; the Court of Spleen; the drear Island of Indifference ; and the final triumph and apotheosis of the gentle soul,-are all vigorously conceived, and executed with a living distinctness. The pleasure with which she pursued her task is expressed in the graceful opening stanzas of the fifth canto.
“ Delightful visions of my lonely hours!
Charm of my life and solace of my care!
And hear the inexpressive harmony
Bright as the roseate clouds of summer eve,
When quick confusion mocks the fruitless pain,
But let thine idle song remain unknown;
To thy dear silent hearth's enlivening flame,
Then shall the tranquil muse her happy votary claim!” Moore has recorded his admiration of Psyche in a lyric of which these stanzas are not the least expressive.
· Tell me the witching tale again,
For never has my heart or ear
So pure to feel, so sweet to hear.
When the high Heaven itself was thine,
And even thy errors were divine !
A glory round thy temple spread ?
Such persume o'er thine altars shed?" Mrs. Hemans had always been much struck with the poetry of Mrs. Tighe. She imagined a similarity between the destiny of this pensive poetess and her own. She had her in her imagination when she wrote The Grave of a Poetess ; and the concluding stanzas are particularly descriptive of Mrs. Tighe's spirit.
** Thou hast left sorrow in thy song,
A voice not loud but deep!
How often didst thou weep!
Thy tender thoughts and high?
And joy the poet's eye!" It was certainly among earth's glorious bowers that Mrs. Tighe passed her days. Rosanna, in Wicklow, is said to have been her principal residence after her marriage. The whole country round is extremely beautiful, and calculated to call forth the poetic faculty where it exists. All the way from Dublin to Rosanna is through a rich and lovely district. It is a gold district, much gold being found in its streams upwards of thirty years ago, the getting of which was put a stop to by Government.
As you approach Rosanna the hills become higher, and your way lies through the most beautifully wooded valleys. At the inn at Ashford-bridge you have the celebrated Devil's-glen on one hand, and Rosanna on the other. This glen lies a mile or more from the inn, and is about a mile and a half through. It is narrow, the hills on either hand are lofty, bold, craggy, and finely wooded ; and along the bottom runs, deep and dark over its rocky bed, the river Vartree. This river runs down and crosses the road near the inn, and then takes its way by Rosanna Rosanna is perhaps a mile down the valley from the inn. The house is a plain old brick house, fit for a country squire. It lies low in the meadow near the river, and around it, on both sides of the water, the slopes are dotted with the most beautiful and luxuriant trees. The park at Rosanna is indeed eminently beautiful with its wood. The trees are thickly scattered, and a great proportion of them are lime, the soft delicate foliage of which gives a peculiar character to the scenery. The highway, for the whole length of the park as you proceed towards Rathdrum, is completely arched over with magnificent beeches, presenting a fing natural arcade. On the right, the ground ascends for a mile or more, covered with rich masses of wood. In fact, whichever way you turn, towards the distant hills, or pursuing your way down the valley, all is one fairy land of beauty and richness. It is a region worthy of the author of Psyche, worthy to inspire her beautiful mind; and we rejoice that so fair, and gentle, and good a spirit had there her lot cast. In her poems she addresses one to the Vartree :
“ Sweet are thy banks, O Vartree! when at morn
Their velvet verdure glistens with the dew;
Thy chestnut glooms, where day can scarcely dawn.
The bleating flocks in panting crowds repose;
In her sonnets, too, she alludes to her favourite Rosanna, and to her “chestnut bower," which, I believe, still remains. Indeed Rosanna will always be interesting to the lovers of gentle female virtue and pure genius, because here Psyche was written; here the author of Psyche lived, loved, and suffered.
Woodstock, where she died, lies, I suppose, forty or fifty miles distant, in Kilkenny. It is equally beautiful, though in a different style. It lies on a high, round, swelling hill,-a good modern mansion. You see it afar off as you drive over a country less beautiful than that about Rosanna. There is a fine valley, along which the river Nore runs, amid splendid masses of wood, two miles in length, and meadows of the deepest green; and beyond swells up the steep round hill, covered also with fine timber to the top, eight hundred feet in elevation. The whole is bold, ample, and impressive. To reach the house, you pass through the village of Innerstiogue, at the foot of the hill, and then begin the long and steep ascent. A considerable way up you are arrested by smart lodge gates, and there enter a fine and well kept park, in which the neatness of the carriage roads, which are daily swept, and the skilfully dispersed masses of fine trees, speak of wealth, and a pride in it. On the top of the hill stands the house, commanding noble views down into the superb vale below, and over a wide extent of country.
In travelling between these two estates, a mind like that of Mrs. Tighe would find scenery not inferior to that immediately lying around both of them. In one direction she might traverse the celebrated district of Glendalough, or the vale of the Seven Churches ; in another she might descend the vale of Aroca, and cross some of the finest parts of Carlow to Kilkenny. I took this latter route. No part of England is more beautiful, or more richly cultivated than much of this: thick woods, fertile fields, well-to-do villages, and gentlemen's houses abounded. From the little town of Rathdrum we began to descend rapidly into the vale of Avoca, and passed the Meeting of the Waters just before dark. The vale, so far, had a very different character to what I expected. I imagined it to be a mile or two long, soft, flowing, and verdant. On the contrary, it is eight miles in length, and has to me a character of greatness and extensiveness about it. It is what the Germans call “grossartig,"—we want the word. You descend down and down, and feel that a deeper country is still below you. To me it had a feeling as if descending from the Alps into a champaign country. Long ranges of hills on either hand ever and anon terminated, as if to admit of a way into the country beyond, and then began again, with the river wandering on still far below us ; and here and there stupendous masses of lofty rock, open meadows, and bold, high woods. These were the features of this striking and great valley.
At the bridge, where the first meeting of the waters takes place, that is, the meeting of the two streains, Avonbeg and Avonmore, which thence become the Avoca, the driver of the car said—“Perhaps your honour knows that this is the Meeting of the Waters. It was bere that Moore made his speech !'