Page images

flight from one commercial fellow to another, who has no more business with it than I have with-any thing that I have too much of already, and don't know what to do with-say common sense and modesty."-p. 122.

And this, while he was writing to his sick brother at home, fearful lest they should think of suspecting that he was in want. "At present let me distinctly say, that I am not in want of money, and the furthest inconvenience which I apprehend, is the being obliged for some time to remain in statu quo"!

His brother's account of him during those days of bitterness is most affecting.


But it will be a relief to turn for awhile from those gloomy scenes. All his efforts were not doomed to disappointment. By slow degrees, and after failures which would have struck down many a stronger mind, he obtained a footing as a contributor to the periodical literature of the day. It is much to be regretted that nothing approaching to an authentic record of his contributions has been preserved. Their number must have been prodigious, and if we judge of their excellence from his other productions at the same period, they must be well worthy of being collected and republished as a sequel to the complete edition of his works. The account of his first connection with the News of Fashion is not uninteresting.

"Notwithstanding all I have stated, it appear extraordinary, that when his affairs began to wear such a gloomy aspect, he did not explain the state of them clearly and plainly to "I am in statu quo with one exception, that his brother, who would have been shocked at the is, that I have got an engagement on a paper thought of his allowing matters to run to such (The News of Fashion) of which you've seen a an extremity; and I believe he would readily number. I sent the editor a couple of essays or have done so, if it had not been for the unfortu- sketches of London life, or some trash of the nate occurrence of that illness to which he al-kind, anonymously. He begged to know my ludes in his letters, aud which he was sensible name. I did not tell, but offered to continue would in a professional person have a natural them gratuitously. He wrote to say he would tendency to lead to embarrassment. All the cir-be glad to pay for them. I had no objection cumstances I have mentioned; the depth and whatever, and he gives me a pound per pageearnestness with which he felt his vocation; his fair enough. I am furnishing him now with a observation, that his partial success had been regular series, of which he has had six in numdue to himself alone, and his delicacy about tres-ber already. I generally get in from thirty passing further on his brother; his many distress-shillings to two pounds per week in this way, ing efforts to obtain employment, together with which, if it continue, is pleasant enough, conthe wasting anxiety which such a state of things sidering that it does not interfere with my other naturally engendered in a mind like his-seem occupations. The gentleman, however, is conto have made him adhere only the more strongly foundedly apt to slip a column or so in the to his early determination, and when his diffi-reckoning, which is not agreeable. culties thickened, and his necessities became "This editor of the News has dealt handmore urgent, induced him to push those feelings somely enough too. He made out several artito an extremity; to shrink entirely within him- cles which I had published anonymously in his self; and to reject even the commonest offices paper, before I dreamed of asking him for an of friendship; those little favors which it de- engagement, and paid me liberally for each of lights to bestow; which are often the very tests them. This I took as an inducement to make of its truth, and without the exersise of which me do my best. It is pleasant, too, inasmuch as on proper occasions its professions would be the rest of the paper is furnished by the first peworthless, and itself a mere shade that follows riodical hands of the day. By the way, he don't wealth or fame. It is perhaps one of the charac-know me as it is. He sends the money to my teristics of all minds endowed with much sensi- address every week by a livery servant, who bility, and with a high feeling of independence, never says a word, but slips the note to a servant to have this sensibility exalted, and to become-touches his lips and mum! presto! off he is. quick and irritable beyond what is rational, in cir- All very romantic, isn't it? A good illustration cumstances such as those I am about to men- of a remark I made to you concerning patronage tion. We all remember the indignation within the literary world is this. I applied openly to which Johnson in his poverty, flung away a pair this same gentleman about a year since through of new shoes, which some unknown but kind his publisher. He wouldn't have any thing to friend, as related by Boswell, had left at his do with me. Latterly, however, he determined door. The difficulty which friendship has to it seems, to find me out, though I gave a wrong overcome in these instances, is not so much to name, and I was a little surprised one day to bestow the favor, which it is always willing to see here in my room a tall stout fellow with do cheerfully; but to bestow it in such a man-mustachio'd lips and braided coat, announcing ner as not to rouse a very universal feeling, himself as Mr. W-, after I had three or four which is seldom dormant, and is at such times times declined invitations to his country seat more than usually watchful. The careful (wishing to keep incog.) I went there yesterconsideration of this difficulty during the ex-day, and had a long chat with him. He has a ercise of such favors, is perhaps one of the perfect palace there, with Corinthian piazzas, surest trials of its sincerity and depth.", vines, and the Lord knows what besides; a magnificent apartment with low win


dows going to the garden, &c. On one side | over, it is so very rapid. Nothing can equal the a splendid double-action harp, for which he variety of colors the woods exhibit in the latter gave, as he says, three hundred guineas. On part of the year. They look very beautiful inanother, a grand piano-his wife a pleasing deed, though I suppose I shall not admire them woman-no great shakes of a musician after so much this season as I did the last, they are all. We settled that he should give me £100 a so associated in my mind with the approach of year, paid weekly, according to what I sent. I winter, which I do not like, notwithstanding it have just been scribbling off now two hundred is the season of amusement to all the people lines of an epistle to Liston on his return to here, who are continually sleighing about, and London-poetry of course."-pp. 160-61. go hundreds of miles to visit their friends. The place about us is pretty thickly inhabited by the Yankees, as they call the people of New EngThey are decent and obliging, and seem to take an interest in showing us the easiest mode of doing farming business, as theirs is in many things different from ours. They have an agreeable accent, and are very intelligent; but their peculiar application of words is sometimes very diverting. A man called here the other day, who was going to Chenango, a town about nine miles off. He told me that if I had got any little notions to send for, he would bring them for me with great pleasure. I have observed some others use the word in the same way since. May God bless my dearest Gerald, prays his fond mother,

It was not till his prospects began to
brighten somewhat, that he could bring him-land.
self to write to his mother, who was still in
America. The following simple but charm-
ing letter from her in reply is not unworthy
the notice of such a son. It must have been
a balm to him in his trials; but his family
and American friends were never able to ob-
tain his address during his difficulties, and
hence this is the first letter which he re-
ceived from them after his removal to Lon-

"Mrs. Griffin to her Son.
"Fairy Lawn, Susquehanna County,
"Dec. 26th, 1825.


ting with a little party of friends on Christmas eve, when your letter reached me, and a more welcome visitor, unless indeed it were the dear writer himself, could hardly have appeared amongst us. It was unlucky that I could not procure your address since you left Ireland. I did all that writing could do to obtain it, and yet failed. The sympathy of his family would have been some comfort to my poor Gerald under the adverse course which his probation as an author has subjected him to. It is an ordeal, however, which some of our greatest writers have been obliged to pass through.

ELLEN GRIFFIN."-pp. 151-53.

and he again began to mix a little in the soBy degrees his circumstances improved, ciety from which he had for a time withdrawn. It may not be uninteresting to have his opinions on a few of the literary characters of his day;-not the stars, for to them there are few allusions; but the minor luminarics, especially those whose walk, like his own at that time, lay chiefly in periodical literature. The following letter throws some curious light on certain matters, which the readers of Blackwood about the time to which it refers may possibly remember :

Gerald Griffin to his Brother.

"I have, dear Gerald, travelled with you through your mortifying difficulties, and am proud of my son-proud of his integrity, talents, prudence, and above all, his appearing superior "London, Nov. 10th, 1824. to that passion of common minds, revenge; "MY DEAR WILLIAM,-Since my last I have though I must own, fully provoked to by ***'s visited Mr. J- several times. The last time, conduct. I hope, however, they may soon have he wished me to dine with him, which I hap to seek you, not you them. Perhaps, after all, pened not to be able to do, and was very sorry for it may have been as well that we did not know it, for his acquaintance is to me a matter of great at the time what you were to endure on your importance, not only from the engine he wields first outset. We should in that case have been—and a formidable one it is, being the most advising you to come out here, which, perhaps, widely circulated journal in Europe--but also would have been turning your back on that because he is acquainted with all the principal fame and fortune, which I hope will one day literary characters of the day, and a very reward your laudable perseverance and indus-pleasant kind of man. He was talking of Matry. When the very intention you mention of paying us a visit delights me so much, what should I feel if Providence should have in reserve for me the blessing of once again embracing my Gerald.

We have had one of the finest summers, and most delightful autumns you can imagine; the latter I like best here, the woodland seenery is so beautiful, tinged with a thousand dyes at that season: the air so still and so serene, that if you come to visit us, your muse will surely be inspired. It is very interesting to witness the progress of vegetation here, after the winter is MAY, 1844. 7

ginn, who writes a good deal for Blackwood, and spoke in high terms of his talents: nevertheless, though he is his friend, he confessed he did not think him a very considerate critic, and thought there was something unfeeling in his persecution of Barry Cornwall, who, by the way, is an acquaintance of my Spanish friend. You may have seen those letters to Bryan Proctor, in Blackwood's Magazine. Barry Cornwall is, he says, one of the mildest, modestest young fellows he ever knew, and does any thing but assume. Maginn, however, imagines that those he attacks think as little of the affair as him

Apropos of reviewers, we must enter our protest against the following being taken as a specimen of the style in which we perform our work of "critical dissection."

self, which is by no means the case. The other reading as if he would devour it-completely day, he attacked Campbell's Ritter Bann most absorbed-absent and drinking it in like mortal happily, and at the same time cuttingly, and poison. The instant he observed any body near afterwards wanted J—— to get up a dinner, and him, however, he would throw it by, and begin bring Campbell and him together. J beg to talk of some indifferent matter. The book ged leave to decline. He is a singular looking displays great genius, but unfortunately it af being, Dr. Maginn. A young man about twenty-forded one or two passages capable of being six years of age, with grey hair, and one of the twisted to the purpose of a malignant wretch of most talented eyes, when he lets it speak out, I a reviewer, such as Gifford is, with much effect." ever beheld. Banim, who is his bosom crony, p. 190. says, he considers him the most extraordinary man he ever knew. He attacked Banim, too, before they were acquainted, but that's all for got long since. Hazlitt praised Banim in the London Magazine, and of course rendered it imperative on Blackwood to abuse him. Have you seen Campbell's late poems, any of them? I have been told that the volume of his, which is coming out shortly, Theodric, &c., is very poor indeed-lamentably so. Campbell is the most finical, exact kind of fellow in the whole world. As an instance, I have heard that he was asked to write a little poem some time since for the occasion of Burns' monument, which was then in agitation, and in which my informant took great interest. Campbell consented, but directed that proofs should be sent to him to the country, and before the poem appeared, had actually sent five or six messengers back and forward, to and from town, with revisions of commas and semicolons!! There is a young writer here, Miss Landon, the authoress of The Improvisatrice, a poem which has made some noise lately, who has been brought out by Jand to be sure he does praise her. She sent some pieces to the Literary Gazette, a few years since, and through that journal (without intending any insinuations as to desert), has made herself popular enough to run through a few editions. has asked me to meet Alaric Watts, at his house, when the latter comes to town, which he intends shortly. Watts is a very sweet writer in his own way, and rather a favorite. I have got, a few days since, a note from my friend Banim, to know what has become of me? and he adds, as a spur, that Dr. Maginn has just been with him, and said that Mr. Jexpressed himself highly pleased with the series I am at present furnishing him. I dined the other day-at least, about a month since-with him and a friend of his, an artist of the name of Foster (to whom, if you recollect, Madame de Genlis dedicated one of her works, and express-1 es her gratitude for his assistance in some of her literary labors). He is one of the most delightful, facetious fellows I ever saw. My dear William, ever affectionately yours,

"GERALD GRIEFIN."-pp. 180-2. Perhaps, for the honor of our craft, we should gloss over this indignant allusion to poor Keats, the victim of a malignant reviewer.

"He was often highly amused at receiving from the editor of some periodical, three volumes of a newly published novel, accompanied by a request that he would not cut the leaves. This, which he at first conceived so very ridiculous, and so apparently impossible with any justice to the author, he eventually found was almost a matter of necessity with many of the publications sent to him. They were of so trashy a description, that no one of ordinary taste could possibly get through even the first few chapters. His usual plan was to glance through the early part of a work, so as to obtain some notion of the plot; a peep here and there in the second volume gave him an idea of the skill with which it was developed, and a slight consideration of the latter end of the third, or slaughter-house, as he used to call the concluding part of a disastrous story, or fifth act of a tragedy, satisfied him both as to the genius of the author, and the merits of the performance. He, no doubt, made a more intimate acquaintance with his subject, when his first hasty supervision gave him reason to believe it was written by a person of more than ordinary talent; and did not appear to feel conscious of having done any injustice during the short period he was engaged as a professional critic."-pp. 205-6.

It would be an act of gross injustice to our worthy friends of the printing desk, to suppress Griffin's humorous panegyric of their almost preternatural sagacity in discovering the meaning of a manuscript to all else illegible.

"You tax me with my illegible writing; but fear I cannot amend it, for I must not stay to shape my letters, and I have, I believe, got a bad habit from the facility with which the printers here make it out. I verily believe, if I shut my eyes, or flung the pen at the paper, so as to make any kind of mark, the London_printers would know what I intended to say. They alprinted proofs for correction, and I actually have ways send me back my manuscript with my repeatedly been unable to make out what I had "Keats, you must know was in love, and the written, until I had referred to the same articles lady whom he was to have married, had he sur-in print. What a dull, mechanical, imperfect vived Gifford's (the butcher) review, attended him to the last. She is a beautiful young creature, but now wasted away to a skeleton, and will follow him shortly, I believe. She and her sister say they have oft found him, on suddenly entering the room, with that review in his hand,

mode of communication this is though, of writing, and reading, and speaking! Why cannot we invent some more rapid and vivid means of transferring our ideas? Why cannot we commune in spirit, or by intelligence? I suppose I must give myself a lady's reason in reply. It is

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

because we can't. Well! we shall do better in character as a novelist of the very highest Heaven."—pp. 155–156.


The success of this work induced him to


But it is time to return to the history. Once established, as we have seen, in per- founded on some story in our national hishis thoughts to an historical novel, manent, though humble and ill-requited occupation, his after success, though purchased sion, in 1828; but, in his anxiety to become tory. He commenced this work, The Invawith a hard struggle, was eventually secure. His letters, through this later period of his fully conversant with the manners and charliterary life, are full of interest; particularly till 1832, issuing, in the meantime, a new acters of the time, he deferred its completion a correspondence which arose out of a mis-series of Tales of the Munster Festivals. understanding with his friend Banim, and which, though removed by a short explana-eral years longer without interruption. But, His literary occupations continued for sevtion, was for a long time a source of great about this period, a change came over all his uneasiness to Griffin. But we have already views and feelings, which deadened, if it did extracted so liberally, that we must content not destroy, the relish which he had formerly ourselves with a reference to them. felt for those pursuits, and ended, a few years later, in his abandoning them altogether. The reflections of his biographer on this subaject are very just, and extremely creditable to brother: but we shall transcribe, in preferhis feelings as a Catholic, no less than as a Gerald's own account of the change of


his opinions, given in a letter addressed to his father, in 1833.

Disappointed in his hopes from the drama,* and feeling that his precarious contributions to periodical literature were, at best, but away of his as as his time, he was induced to try his powers in a wider field of fiction; and, accordingly, without discontinuing his other labors (on which, indeed, he was dependent for his livelihood), he commenced the series of tales afterwards published under the title of Holland-tide. His application at this time was wish I had leisure to write, but at present I have "I owe many letters to America, which I absolutely beyond all belief. After an early more to do than my health will suffer me to disbreakfast, he wrote without interruption till charge with the necessary expedition. There dinner, except that, before sitting down to is one subject, however, my dear father, which I table, he took a turn round the park: after a wish no longer to defer speaking of. I mean short walk in the evening, he resumed his the desire which I have for a long time enterpen, and continued his labors till late in the tained of taking orders in the Church. God only knows whether I may ever live to carry the night. All this time, he was suffering from wish into execution. I have good reason to severe palpitation of the heart. In order to judge, however, that at least I do not act rashly avoid the attack, which invariably awaited in entering on the preparatory studies. They him if he retired early to bed, his practice must take some time, and under the uncertainty was to recline on a sofa, or upon chairs, till in which one must always continue of this being the usual hour of visitation had passed, when truly a merciful vocation from God, I have the (about two or three o'clock in the morning) is nothing lost by my acting as if it were. My satisfaction of knowing that at all events there he arose, undressed, and retired to bed for time is divided between my college course of the brief remainder of the night. He arose study and my usual pursuits, and I have no invariably at five, and, after a cold shower-doubt that the Almighty, who sees that with a bath, resumed his ordinary occupations.

His first essay in regular fiction, in 1827, was entirely successful, and so complely established his character with the "trade," that although he left London immediately after its publication, and returned to reside with his family, the very men who for years had been deaf to all his solicitations for the humblest literary employment, now vied with each other in their efforts to secure his services. The Tales of the Munster Festivals soon followed; and The Collegians, the most successful of his works, completely fixed his

He wrote one or two successful pieces for the English Opera House; but although it appeared to open a sure and easy road to competence, he abandoned it after almost the first trial.

thousand faults I have a sincere desire to exe

cute his will, in his own time will not fail to
To say nothing of the
make it known to me.
life in which a man can do so much good, both
arguments of faith, I do not know any station in
to others and himself, as in that of a Catholic
priest, and it gave me great satisfaction to find
that my dear friends in America were of the
same mind with me on this point. Mary Anne
says truly, that there need be no reserve upon
such subjects, yet for a long time the idea gave
me so much to think of, and debate about in my
own mind, that I felt unwilling to say any thing
about it. It could not have found a being more
unwilling than myself, nor one more entirely re-
luctant to make the trifling sacrifices it required;
but, thank God! I can shake my head at them
all now, and look upon them as literally nothing.
But enough, dear father, on that very serious
subject, only let all my dear friends pray for


their faith, if I supposed they did not well know how far the claim of God was before all others, and that it would be to wrong his goodness and mercy, to delay entering on his service through an apprehension of worldly evils which he may never mean to send, and which he has it in his power to send, in spite of all our worldly precautions. But surely, all this is obvious, and it is trifling to dwell upon it. My dear sisters will forgive me for concluding this spiritless letter without writing to them. When I get home, I hope to say something more than asking them to pray for me; and that I hope will be within the next fortnight, for the book, though ready for press, is not to be published till next season. Ever my dear father's affectionate,

"GERALD GRIFFIN."—pp. 252–54.

that I may not be deceived. I feel a great security in the approval of so many friends, and how much indeed in the words of my poor mother (so like herself in their discretion and humility), which EW mentioned to me in his last letter. I dread myself so much, that I am unwilling to say all that I could wish, while I have yet advanced so short a way towards this great object, but I hope, before many months have gone by, to be able to talk as freely as dear Mary Anne can wish. How well our Saviour knew us, when he advised those who were about building a tower, to calculate beforehand, whether they should be able to finish it! Such flashes of thought as this are enough to startle one, and make him work a little harder than he might be inclined to do, if left to himself. My dear father, pray for me This change in his views and opinions was that I do not miscalculate—that I may be able neither sudden nor indeliberate. From a letto finish the tower which I have begun. "March 17th, 1833. The above was written, ter to Banim, and another to a friend, whose my dear father, as you perceive, nearly three name is not given, it would appear that he months ago, and on looking it over now, it had for a time yielded to doubts regarding seems to me so lukewarm, so wavering and un-religion, though they do not seem to have worthy of one who had any reason to believe gone the length of positive unbelief. These, himself called to the service of God, that I am however, were soon dissipated; and perhaps ashamed to send it. I have, however, no longer the reaction may have carried him onward any doubt that it is my duty to devote myself to religion to the saving my own soul, and the souls of others. This letter alone, my dear father, may show you in some degree, that this is not a conviction hastily adopted; nor can I suppose it necessary to enter into any full explanation of all that has passed in my own mind on the subject, in order to save myself from any imputation of rashness, for giving up the affairs of time, and embracing those of eternity. To compare the two for an instant is enough. To say that Gerald the novel writer is, by the grace of God really satisfied to lay aside for ever all The years which he spent among his famhope of that fame, for which he was once sacri-ily were among the happiest of their lives. ficing health, repose, and pleasure, and to offer Among the few friends whom his retiring himself as a laborer in the vineyard of Jesus habits permitted him to cultivate, was a famChrist-that literary reputation has become a

more generously, than if he had never wavered in his faith. However this may be, his first thought, as we find in the above and several similar letters, was to devote himself to the sacred ministry; and he actually commenced his preparation for entrance into St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, and continued regularly to devote a portion of each day to a revision of the entrance examination course of that college.

worthless trifle to him, to whom it once wasily of the Society of Friends, who resided in almost all-and that he feels a happiness in the his neighborhood. The letters which he thought of giving all to God-is such a merciful addressed to them form a large section of his favor, that all the fame and riches in the world published correspondence. They could not dwindle into nothing at the thought of it. But be judged, and indeed might possibly be misthis is talking of myself, and my own happiness alone. I am not to forget that there were other apprehended, from a few specimens ; but duties connected with my hopes in literature, they are almost necessary, as an illustration which cannot equally be answered in this new of the gayer shades of the writer's character, vocation. It is true, my dear father, scarcely which they exhibit in a very pleasing light. any circumstance connected with my success in But it is already time to draw to a close, those pursuits could have given me greater and we have left the most important portion satisfaction, than the reflection that I was at the of his life untouched. There do not appear same time an instrument in the hands of God, to be any data whence the time of his relinfor adding any thing to the temporal happiness of even a few; but, generally speaking, I fear quishing the idea of the Church can be satisthe world is at the bottom of too great precau-factorily inferred. But the pleasure which tion on this point. If I serve God well, have I he began to take, about the period of which not his own promise, that he will not forsake my we are writing, in instructing poor children, friends or me. I feel great pain in speaking on this subject, for I fear it may look as if I wanted sympathy for friends, whom God is pleased to try with worldly visitations. God knows such is not my feeling; and I trust I shall always be ready to do my duty when it is made clear to me-but I should wrong their affection, and

would seem to indicate that he already looked towards the project which he eventually realized, of devoting himself to the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.*

*For a full account of this admirable institute, see "Dublin Review," vol. ix. p. 331, et seq.

« PreviousContinue »