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Monthly Journal of Fashion.
LONDON, JUNE 1, 1839.
Unshackled by the restraints of“ etiquette,"—their hearts devoted to the hilarity of the passing hour, and reckless of cares that disturb them not at the moment,—the Irish peasantry enjoy those mirth-stirring festivals in the full flow of their lively temperament, with all the fervency of soul that native wit, native beauty, and native “potteen ” can inspire.
Few, however, regarded the observance of All-hallowmass or All Saints' Eve, as it is more generally termed, with such pious attention to its enjoyments, as Murthy Delaney himself. Never did he hail the return of that night, but the neighbours experienced the full tide of his hospitable influence, in the form of a plenteous entertainment. With a heart rich in its good nature, warm in its impulses, and blessed above the common lot in his circumstances, Murthy was enabled to indulge its generous promptings. Loved for the frankness of his disposition, the ingenuous warmth that knows not to appreciate the good it engenders, respected for his industry, and happy in the affections of his family, he felt but little intimacy with the many miseries of existence, and held as much influence over his neighbours, as the landlord himself. Murthy's antipathies were confined to the Brunswicker and the Exciseman ; those he detested to the utmost of Irish hate ; but Daniel O'Connel and “Ould Ireland” divided the throne of his affections with Kate herself. Such was Murthy Delany when our acquaintance first commenced.
It is some three years since, that a stranger was observed lying on the road side, with a fractured leg; his horse quietly browsing at some distance from him, outside the village of Aranure, in the ancient “kingdom of Cunnemara.". It was my unfortunate self. My steed, perhaps, to rid himself of his ignoble burthen, began to curvette and prance and rear and plunge, in such an animated style, that I, not the most expert horseman in the world, was immediately laid prostrate in the above mentioned pitiable condition. Some twenty or thirty persons, who were returning from their day's labour, surrounded me, and with looks of the
most charitable commisseration, bore me to the nearest cottage, the inmates of which received me with all the kindness that characterises Irish hospitality. The Doctor was immediately sent for; he was fortunately at hand, and I soon had the pleasure of learning that my hurt was not of a very dangerous nature. My leg (unfortunate limb ) was tortured into sanity ; but I found myself unable to venture on my journey, for a few weeks at least. The time, however passed more pleasantly than I could have imagined, and the individual night saw my invalidship in the midst of a merry group, who were, as usual, assembled at Murthy's (for such was my host) to enjoy the customary observance of All Saints' Eve.
I was in such a situation by the hearth side, that it afforded me a full opportunity of observing those about me.
Beside me was the village schoolmaster, who was placed there, as Murthy said, “bekase as how he was the fittest person to convarse with the jontleman.” He was the Paddy Burns of the village, and most of its inhabitants had been his "scholards.” He was looked up to as an oracle. No wonder then, if the pride of literature had transferred somewhat of its importance to his countenance. No man could puzzle him, from “ Abel, a man's name,” to “transubstantiation.” But place him on the hillock's side, without the chapel, on a Sunday, with the last Connaught Journal from Galway in his hand, and the horn cased spectacles on his nose, both equally venerable, a crowd of village politicians eagerly devouring his interpretations, then, indeed, was my learned neighbour in his element. Some fifty summers had numbered their existence, since he had first undertaken the office of instruction, and many a truant had he since lashed through the vistas of literature. For a long portion of this period had he acted as clerk to the Roman Catholic minister of the parish ; and when, during the ceremony of mass, he delivered the latin responses, the astounded villagers recognised in him the second literary character in the world. His age and infirmities, however, obliged him to relinquish this exalted servitude, and one of his most eminent pupils succeeded the “measther."
On the opposite side, despising the luxury of a stool, (I occupied the only chair in the house,) was seated on the hearth Murthy's mother, with some other antiquated dames, their knees in such happy communion with their chin, as evidently proved the familiarity of the position. They were inhaling the fragrance of their favorite leaf, through the medium of a “ dudeen” or pipe, so short that its tepid head was being kissed by the reverend wrinkles on their aged cheeks. They were watching the feats of cunning and activity, which were being performed by the younger guests of mine host, at the further end of the apartment, which alternately answered the purpose of kitchen and drawing room. Their gossip was in Irish ; but from the marked expression on their countenances, and their many significant ejaculations, I could ascertain that age was, even on this scene, as on others, acting its peculiar part; scattertering contempt on the march of modern degeneracy, and extolling the superior excellence of its own early days.
* The Western part of Galway, so called.