April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 18 July 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490718-TC-JWC-01; CL 24: 132-134


Killarney, 18 july, 1849—

My Dearest,—The night before last I wrote to you copiously from Cork; but being desolate, weary, and for an hour yet incapable of trying my cabin for sleep, I turn (as in all such moods) to my own poor Goody, as if she would surely pity me; and will soothe myself by writing a little word to her. I had two nights in Cork, two hours sleep apiece, and a bustling flary hot day intervening,—you may figure what a piece of work it was! Today, windy, cold and at last wet and utterly bleak and bitter, has been passed on the Coach-roof from Cork to this Lake Country, 70 miles or so; and it is now 10 o'clock, in the public room of a Lake Inn,—terribly ill-ventilated too,—Good Heavens, what a comfort travelling is to the sick soul of man!— But to take the matter historically.

All the morning while I sat last writing to you, to Jack, and others, Duffy and Co (most luckily) had lost me, the waiters reporting me out; so that til 2 o'clock, I had the day to myself; and not till 4 did the aquatic excursion down Cork Harbour to dine with “Denny Lane” (a big fine Irishman, much like Alfred Tennyson) take effect.1 The sail was really beautiful, “nothing equal to it but the Bay of Naples” say the Natives: I was very ill, but struggled to keep quiet, and make what out of it I could. An excellent bathe in sea water, I did make; I struggled to walk none, not being able for it; the people were all friendly and merry,—and finally in a little cottage hanging over the bright blue ocean-stream, we did dine, and got into great spirits indeed. One other scene of Irish Life, the like of which, in any form, I had not seen for 20 years or more. We were Cork Trading-people, two Editors,2 two Snuff-manufactures, one ironmonger (or some such thing),— lastly two Catholic Priests: figure it! Father O' Shea, I remember he wrote to Fraser about Sartor and me (as already said); I thought he had been dead, but behold here he was alive: a small innocent-hearted, loud-spoken gesticulating little creature; he and Father O'Sullivan, his Curate, a middle-aged man, of brick-coloured skin, and brown-yellow wig, who as the wine took effect, developed himself into a Cork Wit of the first magnitude, and did in fact produce an immense quantity of shallow laughter (from me as well as others), and came forth very strong as an Embodiment of Irish Botheration in the human form. Ah me!— But we sailed too, over to Cove Island and Town, saw Spike Island and Fort Carlisle;—finally got all home to Cork in cars at one in the morning; and I, who had to start after breakfast, got to sleep soon after five in the morning. Oh my Dear, how many things I shall have to tell you of when once we meet again!—

This day has been a rapid wild journey, thro' 70 of the saddest miles I have seen; land drearier almost all than most Scotch moors, and filled with the horridest scenes of human beggary. We met once a heap of human males and females, huddled into carts, escorted by green Police,—criminals going to Cork for trial. Another time we passed thro' two long rows of tattered wretches, sitting under the screen of the hedges waiting for “outdoor relief.” In every village were hordes of beggars,—scrambling, sometimes fighting for the coppers, or even for the hope of them. Ruined huts; “hedges” all of whins exclusively; mossy fields everywhere scabbed with peat-pits: a roaring grey wind, laden with showers, blowing in our faces to heighten the charm. Mallow however was beautiful; and “the Rakes,” I suppose, are all quieted now.3 Somebody said, he had yesterday got spoiled potatoes to dinner:4—think what an omen, for the whole hope of Ireland just now seems to lie in that one fatal root!—

But finally across the dreary naked, peat-pit wastes the Killarney Hills, crowned with flowing storms, looked forth, and the sun bleakly at intervals gave promise of a Lake (or Tourist) Country, where at least a Cup of Tea for thy servant might peradventure be procurable. In fact we saw clearly the big ugly hill called Mangarton5 near by and “the Devil's Punch-bowl” we believed to be on its top (a dismal Lakelet there); we actually skirted Macgilliecuddy's Reeks (the highest land in Ireland), found ourselves in a planted, really pleasant country, got into Killarney Town, a place such as Annan (swarming with waiters, beggars and other fatal creatures),—I rather wish we had staid in the Town; but Duffy drove down hither, a strange kind of country Inn or rather agglomerate of Lodgings for people of taste, where, to judge by the bedrooms, the accommodation is none of the brightest!6 However the people, to whom Duffy is a venerable martyr and “patriot of his Country,” do their best: tomorrow Shine Lawlor, a mighty man in these parts, makes his entrance, and—we shall see. My room, tho' one of the smallest ever built, looks quiet, and has a curtained bed.— The “Lake of Killarney,” tho' we are close by it, cannot be seen.— I tried on all sides, found it everywhere padlocked under walls and grated gates, beset with guides, whom in my spleen I determined not to employ. Lawlor's château, I believe, lies on it;—nay, at worst, I do not care a penny whether, I see “the picturesque” of this place, or go without seeing it.— Duffy, “dead with sleep,” is now gone to bed; I too will take a little whiskey punch and go. Good night, Dearest; I wish to Heaven thou wert here to screen me from myself and from all the world, poor little soul! God keep thee. Tomorrow morning I will add a word, when the Post hour is. Adieu, dear Jeannie; sleep if thou canst.

19th Perceptibly better this morning; have slept till six, then sorted my things (cigar-case broken) in my little cabin,—feeling as if tied up in a sack there;—breakfast is coming now; the morning is the fine one of a rainy country: and now for a sight of Killarney Lake and the visage of illustrious Shine Lawlor, about both of which, to say truth, my soul feels dreadfully indifft just now.— Duffy, who indeed is very good, I think I shall nevertheless part with about Limerick if not sooner.— Adieu, Dearest.

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