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Ireland’s Huguenots (Dublin Review of Books)

The Irish Huguenots were originally French Calvinists who, following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, departed from France rather than convert to Catholicism. The Dublin writer Charles Maturin, who it was said used to sit in Marsh’s Library with a host pasted on his forehead to indicate that he was composing and should not be disturbed, was from a Huguenot family. The practice may also have served to demonstrate his low opinion of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. It was a point he laboured at some length in his celebrated Sermons on the Errors of the Roman Catholic Church, published in 1824, in the course of which he denounced transubstantiation as “absurd in point of reason”.

At the time Scripture was treated by Anglicans engaged in attacks on Catholicism as having an almost scientific validity and as something to be held up and valued in stark contrast to Rome’s dependence on tradition, irrationality, superstition and the like. A few decades later the discoveries of French geologists were to leave claims for the Bible as a source of objective and historical truth in shreds. Both Maturin’s son and grandson were to respond to the increasing impossibility of rational Protestantism in different but related ways in the course of the following century, ways which would have alarmed the author of The Milesian Chief, a novel written by Maturin under the pseudonym Denis Jasper Murphy.

In all about forty thousand Huguenots settled in England, with perhaps a quarter of that number coming to Ireland. The literary impact of the Irish Huguenots in their host country was significant in relation to their overall numbers, especially in the nineteenth century. The English Huguenots barely registered in the area of literary production over their first two centuries in England. Daphne du Maurier, who published in the twentieth century, is that community’s most notable literary figure.

On arrival in Ireland many if not most Huguenots conformed to the Established Church, as was expected of them by the authorities, and a good number of them prospered within the politically and economically dominant world of Irish Protestantism. The name La Touche is long associated with banking in Dublin. The original David La Touche fought with King William at the Boyne and later laid the basis of his fortune through astute land purchases in the St. Stephen’s Green and Aungier Street areas of the city. D’Olier Street is named after Jeremiah D’Olier, a Huguenot who was High Sheriff in Dublin and a founder of the Bank of Ireland. Thomas Lefroy, who was to become Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, was another. Lefroy is more famous to-day as the man who flirted with, and may have even toyed with the feelings of, the incomparable Jane Austen. Austen was working on Pride and Prejudice when she knew Lefroy. Some say Darcy is modelled on Lefroy while others maintain it is the character of Elizabeth Bennett that is based on the quick-witted Anglo-Irish Huguenot.

The Church offered other possibilities for Irish Huguenots. They were warmly welcomed by Church of Ireland luminaries conscious of the demographic challenge in Ireland: Jonathan Swift himself preached to the émigrés in their own tongue. Gabriel Jacques Maturin became Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral following Swift’s death in 1745. Maturin’s own father had been Dean of Killala in Mayo, later the site of a military engagement in which French troops, supporting Irish rebels, played a small part. The grandson of Swift’s successor was Charles Robert Maturin, Dubliner and author of the classic Gothic terror novel Melmoth the Wanderer, generally recognised as a late Gothic masterpiece.

Maturin’s father — unlike his son and his forebears — did not take Holy Orders. Rather he held a position in the General Post Office, which was then located on Fishamble Street, close to the grocery shop run by the parents of the poet James Clarence Mangan who, as a young man, greatly admired Charles Robert and observed him closely when the former worked as a scrivener a few doors from the Gothic novelist’s house on York Street. Around 1808 things took a turn for the worse in the Maturin household; the father lost his position in the Post Office, having been accused of malversation, which means having one’s hand in the till or comparable corruption. Thereafter the burden of supporting the family fell on the shoulders of the young Maturin, who can thus be counted among that considerable number of Dublin writers whose male progenitors failed to provide. (It has been said that the father was later found innocent but, if this is so, he does not appear to have been reinstated.)

Maturin’s financial difficulties further increased when he stood bond for a man (thought to be his brother) who subsequently went bankrupt, leaving the author to bear his debts. As a result of these burdens, financial worry was Charles Maturin’s constant companion for the remainder of his days, an unfortunate fate for one who, more than most, enjoyed a life of parties, wine and above all dancing. (Evidently the French Calvinist heritage had largely washed out by this time! Indeed in his sermons on the errors of Rome he took a well-aimed side swipe at the Calvinists.) His love of entertainments and parties was widely known. In 1804 he had married the acclaimed singer Henrietta Kingsbury and it is said that notwithstanding his wife’s high colour the clergyman insisted on her wearing rouge, such was his love of gaiety. Taking the wider view, perhaps we should be grateful to those who contributed to his financial woes considering that he turned to writing primarily in the hope of relieving them.

Charles Robert Maturin had been ordained in 1803 and after a period in Loughrea became curate in St. Peter’s Church on Aungier Street. St. Peter’s, which was one of largest Church of Ireland parishes in Dublin at the time, had been built on lands forfeited by the Whitefriars at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. The Whitefriars had come to Dublin in the wake of the Norman Invasion, settling on what was probably a Celtic Christian site. John Fitzgibbon the Earl of Clare, known as the Black Earl to many, and whose property-owning Catholic family conformed to the Established Church some time in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, was buried there. While en route to an engagement Fitzgibbon had developed a nose bleed in his carriage from which he eventually expired. It is said that his symptoms were consistent with cirrhosis, which may well be true as the diminutive earl was well known to enjoy a drink. The Black Earl, who had a fearsome reputation, was not at all popular with the plain people of the city and it is said that his funeral resembled a carnival, with dead cats and other noxious debris being flung at the cortège as it made its way to St. Peter’s. Actually, Fitzgibbon was buried twice. The second time was in 1983, which occasion was also signally deficient in dignity.

The graveyard to the side of St. Peter’s was used as a burial ground by sections of the city’s Huguenot community. Indeed this association may have assisted Maturin in gaining his appointment. James Clarence Mangan witnessed Maturin preach at several funerals held in St. Peter’s and found him impressive in the performance of his duties. The church itself was demolished in 1983 — the site is now occupied by a Y.M.C.A. hostel and gym advertising ballet sculpt classes among other services. At the time of the demolition the mortal remains of the Huguenots were moved to a mass grave in Mount Jerome. Fitzgibbon was dumped in along with the others.

Property speculation in the area, which has clearly continued into contemporary times, began with the activities of David La Touche, who had begun his commercial life in Dublin with a poplin shop on High Street. La Touche developed residential sites on Aungier Street and in the Liberties. Indeed his impact is still evident on the street, which contains some of the city’s oldest residential buildings; some of these date from the early seventeenth century and probably have a La Touche connection.

Just a short distance away and on the opposite side from St. Peter’s stood the grocery shop run by Thomas Moore’s family — now J.J.’s public house. That building, or an earlier version, might also have a La Touche connection. Young Tom shared a small room upstairs with one of the shop’s curates. Another upstairs room, the parlour, housed a pianoforte, where the future Bard of Erin’s parents entertained their friends with patriotic songs of their country’s woes at the end of a hard week behind the counter. It was also where the young Tom Moore performed to delighted guests. Moore, in adult life, went on to form the closest of bonds with Lord Byron who, as it happens along with Sir Walter Scott, held the highest opinion of Maturin’s writing. When Coleridge criticised Maturin’s play Bertram, Scott advised him not to respond as Coleridge would soon be forgotten!

The politics Moore imbibed on Aungier Street were national, and the young man, as a first year student in Trinity College, supported the 1798 cause. Following the defeat of the rebels, the Lord Chancellor, John Fitzgibbon, was determined to weed out any students sympathetic to the rebel cause and personally interrogated suspects, including the young Moore. In his answers Tom was somewhat Jesuitical or, as we say nowadays, economical with the truth and happily he survived to complete his degree.

Maturin’s grandnephew by marriage was one Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde who, during his last broken days in Paris, discarded his family name and, in a reference to his relation’s great work, took on the name Sebastian the Wanderer. Maturin’s wife, Henrietta Kingsbury, was a sister of Sarah Kingsbury who married Charles Elgee. Their daughter, Jane Francesca Wilde (née Elgee), was Oscar’s mother. She was also Speranza of The Nation, author of stirring national verse celebrated in Ireland and abroad and especially in the United States throughout the nineteenth century. Indeed when Wilde went on a speaking tour in the U.S. it was often this connection — which he learned to push — more than interest in the Æsthete movement for which he was ambassador, that drew an audience. Oscar was not the only member of the family to lecture in the United States. Maturin’s grandson — and Wilde’s second cousin, who like his grandfather was also a clergyman — preached in the United States. Indeed he drowned returning from a visit in 1915 when the Lusitania was torpedoed off the Old Head of Kinsale.

The drowned man’s father and Maturin’s son was William Basil Maturin, an Irish Anglican clergyman with Tractarian tendencies, which is to say he had drifted towards Newman’s crypto-Catholic Oxford Movement. His son (Maturin’s grandson) was Father Basil William Maturin (1847-1915). Like his father and grandfather he was originally an Anglican minister but with similar religious tendencies to his father. In due course, and like Newman himself, Basil William “swam the Tiber” and converted to Rome. His body was recovered at sea and identified. The funeral Mass was held at the famous Brompton Oratory in Kensington, the London centre of Newman’s followers.

Returning to the history of the Irish Huguenots, if many from this community conformed to the Established Church on arrival in Ireland some declined to do so on principle, drifting instead towards the more doctrinally congenial Presbyterian Church. There was an element — to say the least — of political expediency in the Huguenot willingness to conform to the Anglican Church given that its episcopal structure stood in sharp contrast to the democratic Calvinist model over which the Huguenots had made a principled stand in France. Perhaps they were just tired of making principled stands.

Of course, not all French Huguenots became religious refugees. Many were pragmatic and, as it were, took the soup and simply converted to Catholicism with its hierarchical model and other features unattractive to Calvinist Protestants. For them, it seems, property and position were “worth a Mass”. A similar trend existed in Ireland and many property-owning Catholics, such as Lord Clare’s family, conformed to the Established Church in order to maintain property and position. The family of Edmund Burke offers another example. Indeed throughout the eighteenth century several thousand property-owning Catholic families, in the language of Leopold Bloom, crossed the street to the other shop.

Nevertheless, the situation for refugee Huguenots in Ireland conforming to a hierarchical Anglican model must have been psychologically difficult. After all, there was in the Presbyterian Church a non-hierarchical Protestant church to hand. It is hardly surprising there were some tensions in the refugee community between those who conformed and those who did not. These tensions, like the speaking of French and other Gallic traits, largely disappeared in the course of the eighteenth century. But again it would hardly be surprising if there was within the Anglican Huguenot community a less than complete identity with the values and interests of the Ascendancy. The Irish Ascendancy had a specific origin in the Williamite and Cromwellian confiscations, a formative event which was the ultimate source of that community’s cohesive energy. The Huguenots were for the most part late arrivals who purchased whatever property they had and were therefore at a remove from the Ascendancy’s expropriation-based self-understanding.

It may not be entirely fanciful to suggest that, at least at an emotional level, a certain reserve regarding the Anglican Establishment continued to characterise Irish Huguenot thinking. In any event, when in the nineteenth century that Establishment was forced to face existential questions regarding its purpose and future, two Dublin writers of Huguenot origin — while maintaining an external loyalty — depicted indirectly and allegorically in their fiction the position of Irish Protestantism as impossible and even indefensible. These were Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and Charles Robert Maturin.

Maturin was one of the first Protestant Romantic authors who struggled to square the circle of a rational and desirable Palladian social order and a native population which had to be included on its own terms. The exotic worlds which the Gothic offered had the advantage of removal from the identifiable politics of the day and allowed the author to struggle with deep and troubling matters through allegory and metaphor. In Maturin’s case it is the struggle that is illuminating; there is no resolution. Indeed in Melmoth, it seems, the more he struggled for resolution the more chapters and subplots he added. We witness authorially desired but impossible and unequal marriages between natives and settlers in remote parts. The more he endorses the ideologies of the settler figures, the more he gives moral authority and virtue to the native. Reconciliation and harmony remain permanently elusive.

In public Maturin pursued the official anti-Catholic position. His sermons on the errors of popery are good examples of a genre ubiquitous in the 1820s. By then he really had few hopes of advancement in the Establishment. He had turned to writing to improve his financial lot. (His position in St. Peter’s earned him a modest income of around £80 a year.) However, in 1816 his play Bertram was a great success, earning him around a thousand pounds. Some thought it atheistic in tendency and Coleridge — still busy sliding away from earlier opinions — denounced it for its Jacobinism. It was not calculated to please the Irish Church authorities and unfortunately he had to acknowledge authorship in order to collect his earnings. Thereafter his hopes of preferment in the Church were at an end.

There were huge divisions in his life: he was in the Church but denied advancement there, he was of the Ascendancy but an outsider, he was on the side of the colonised but virulently anti-Catholic, he was attached to good living but was permanently short of money. It seems these divisions had their equivalent at a sartorial level. He was known as something of a dandy at parties yet on the street he was a dowdy and eccentric dresser. Mangan saw in him a Romantic hero, and followed him several times:

The second time I saw Maturin he had been just officiating, as on the former occasion, at a funeral. He stalked along York Street with an abstracted, or rather distracted air, the white scarf and hat-band which he had received remaining still wreathed round his beautifully shaped person, and exhibiting to the gaze of the amused and amazed pedestrians whom he almost literally encountered in his path, a boot upon one foot and a shoe on the other. His long pale, melancholy Don Quixote, out-of-the-world face would have inclined you to believe that Dante, Bajazet, and the Cid had risen together from their sepulchres, and clubbed their features for the production of an effect. But Maturin’s mind was only fractionally pourtrayed, so to speak, in his countenance. The great Irishman, like Hamlet, had that within him which passed show, and escaped far and away beyond the possibility of expression by the clay lineament. He bore the “thunderscars” about him, but they were graven, not on his brow but on his heart.
The third and last time that I beheld this marvellous man I remember well. It was some time before his death, on a balmy autumn evening, in 1824. He slowly descended the steps of his own house, which, perhaps, some future Transatlantic biographer may thank me for informing him was at No. 42 York Street, and took his way in the direction of Whitefriar Street, into Castle Street, and passed the Royal Exchange into Dame Street, every second person staring at him and the extraordinary double-belted and treble-caped rug of an old garment — neither coat nor cloak — which enveloped his person. But here it was that I, who had tracked the footsteps of the man as his shadow, discovered that the feeling to which some individuals, rather over sharp and shrewd, had been pleased to ascribe this “affectation of singularity,” had no existence in Maturin. For, instead of passing along Dame Street, where he would have been “the observed of all observers,” he wended his way along the dark and forlorn locality of Dame Lane, and having reached the end of this not very classical thoroughfare, crossed over to Anglesea Street, where I lost sight of him. Perhaps he went into one of those bibliopolitan establishments wherewith that Paternoster Row of Dublin then abounded. I never saw him afterwards … An inhabitant of one of the stars dropped upon our planet could hardly feel more bewildered than Maturin habitually felt in his consociation with the beings around him. He had no friend, no companion, brother: he and the “Lonely Man of Shiraz” might have shaken hands and then — parted. He — in his own dark way — understood many people; but nobody understood him in any way.

The description of Maturin’s appearance may be substantially accurate but in Mangan’s speculations regarding the author’s lonely soul it is clear that James Clarence is really talking about himself. Mangan was given to extraordinary flights of romantic fancy and regularly described oppressions visited upon him that were hardly possible. His description of conditions at the York Street attorney’s where he was employed as a scrivener make those experienced by Bob Cratchit in Scrooge’s office seem positively cushy, and Mangan’s unending accounts of his tortured soul make the Young Werther seem like a trainee accountant. Yet his account of Maturin is valuable and, of course, there is the wonderful poetry in which he rejects the rational in all its pretentions.

’Tis idle:— we exhaust and squander
The glittering mine of thought in vain;
All-baffled reason cannot wander
Beyond her chain.
The flood of life runs dark — dark clouds
Make lampless night around its shore;
The dead, where are they? In their shrouds —
Man knows no more.

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Correction:  Charles Maturin’s father did not work in Fishamble Street. The Post Office moved from that location in 1709. It had previously been located on High Street. After Fishamble Street it moved to Sycamore Alley and in 1755 to Fownes Court. In 1783 it moved to a five storey building in College Green. This was probably where Maturin senior was employed. In 1818 the G.P.O. moved to its present location on Sackville Street, now O’Connell Street.

[The essay above was composed by a contributor to the Dublin Review of Books, Issue 49, 2014]

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Monuments to Mangan (The Irish Times)

A review article by the poet John Montague saluting Clarence Mangan in prospect of his bicentenary on May Day of 2003 ; published in The Irish Times on Saturday, April 26, 2003.

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Another Veilèd Prophet utters a mystic speech,

To be translated only by a future age . . .

With his bicentenary on May Day, James Clarence Mangan rises up like some Gothic creature, glowing, from his grave. I am referring to the many volumes of The Collected Works, the four of poetry and the two of prose, which have been published by the Irish Academic Press, along with a fine biography, and bibliography. These are essential reading not only for departments of Irish literature, but also for Irish history as well, because Mangan was the most piercing voice of his epoch. Even the periodical publication of his poems and prose pieces, such as ‘The Woman of Three Cows’, published in an Irish Penny Journal of 1840, or the appearance of ‘Siberia’ and ‘Dark Rosaleen’ in The Nation, in the gloomy year of 1846, are testimonies to the survival of the creative spirit during the darkest days of our history.

Though sometimes he sounds like a voice from a shroud. His poems, especially in the 1840s, have an almost monotonous melancholy, which seems like the distillation from some weeping cloud crossing the stricken landscape of mid-19th-century Ireland. Or, to change the metaphor, a funeral bell knelling endlessly.

And towards the West at first they marched,

Then towards the South,

Those endless FUNERALS, till the sky o’erhead,

As one vast pall, seemed overarched

With blackness, and methought the mouth

Of Hades had cast up its Dead!

Published in the United Irishman in March 1849, ‘The Funerals’ might seem to sound some ultimate note of gloom, but Mangan haunts the same darkness in ‘The Famine’ a few months later, in the same periodical.

Despair? Yes! For a blight fell on the land –

The soil, heaven-blasted, yielded food no more –

The Irish serf became a Being banned –

Life-exiled as none ever was before.

But then this “piercing wail”, while indeed a lament for all Ireland, also has its source in Mangan’s own psyche. An early poem, composed in competition with other Dublin wags, begins: “Come get the black, the mourning pall . . .” And one of his few prose pieces of first intensity, his fragmentary Autobiography, reprinted by the Dolmen Press in 1968, describes a blighted childhood: “In my boyhood I was haunted by an indescribable feeling of something terrible”. This text was probably the germ for Tom Kinsella’s fine gloomy poem on Mangan: it is as if, as a child, Mangan had suffered the kind of “vastation” of the spirit to which Ted Hughes ascribes the genius of Emily Dickinson.

Mangan depicts his father terrorising his wife, and gleeful that his children try to flee like mice at his approach. This was a father who squeezed the life out of his entire family, “a human boa-constrictor”. Mangan sought refuge in books and solitude: “I isolated myself in such a manner from my own nearest relatives that with one voice they all proclaimed me mad.” Yet these early methods of escape – solace in books and a disdain for the outer world – were clearly not completely successful, for Mangan also describes a “feeling of impending calamity”.

It was in his boyhood “that the seeds of that moral insanity were developed within me which afterwards grew up into a tree of great altitude”. Convinced of his waywardness and eccentricity, but compelled to seek work as a scrivener, at which he laboured long hours for low pay, the coarseness of his colleagues afflicted him: “My nervous and hypochondriacal feelings almost verged upon insanity.”

Once again the serpents seethe: “I seemed . . . to be shut up in a cavern with serpents and scorpions . . . which . . . discharged their slime and venom over my person.”

Perhaps his greatest poetry came when his blasted psyche was mirrored by a blighted landscape, when political and personal suffering finally met in his verse.

From the sordid scrivener’s life, Mangan sought relief in scribbling. The buffoonery of his early constitutional satire, ‘Our Quackstitution’, with its gross word play – “the House of Hangover”, and “Longdulldreary” for Londonderry – seems tedious, like the whimsy of ‘A Treatise on a Pair of Tongs’. Such prose could be seen as an ancestor of the exuberant linguistic lunacy of writers like Myles. But it does not seem as natural to Mangan’s psyche as his ventures into the Gothic, especially The Man in the Cloak, which is already a version of a story of Balzac, intended as a sequel to Melmoth the Wanderer. And of course Mangan worshipped Maturin. As a child, he followed Maturin along the streets, and later would consider that haggard, solitary, oddly dressed figure an alter ego in eccentricity, and perhaps also in genius.

There is a curious moment in The Man in the Cloak where one of the bank secretaries is described as “a flippant litterateur, who translated German poetry and wrote German stories for the magazines . . .” How much German did Mangan really know, and where, indeed, had he learnt it? He certainly knew enough to act as tutor to some pretty Dublin ladies. And his voluminous Anthologia Germanica produced the only book published in his lifetime, German Anthology: A Series of Translations (1845).

When I was compiling my Faber Book of Irish Verse, I included poems which I then took to be original, but now discover were copied from the German. For instance, the wonderfully dolorous ‘Siberia’, which must be one of the great protest poems of the world –

In Siberia’s wastes

The Ice-wind’s breath

Woundeth like the toothèd steel . . .

– turns out to be based on an obscure German poem about Polish leaders sentenced to Siberia after the 1830 revolution.

An autobiographical aside here: the first poem of Mangan that I read was not one of his political/historical visions. I was, after all, brought up in the North of Ireland, so British war poetry was more likely to be on the syllabus; echoes of that early training can still be heard in much Northern Irish poetry. Whereas my Southern contemporaries were subjected to dirges like ‘O’Hussey’s Ode to the Maguire’ and, of course, ‘Dark Rosaleen’. Those visionary poems are extraordinary; a lurid light plays over an often arid landscape, and the language is infected with a hectic glitter, as if the poet were drunk or drugged. But I fell in love with a love poem, as I trudged through the woods of south Dublin, chanting to myself: “I saw her once, one little while, and then no more:/ ‘Twas Paradise on Earth awhile, and then no more./ Ah! what avail my vigils pale, my magic lore?”

This of course is from the original German of Rückert. In addition to gently purloining original German poems, Mangan sometimes signs his ostensible translations “Selber”, a variant of “Self”. As when he refers to his translations of the Persian poet, Hafiz, jokingly since he knew little or no Persian, as being “Half-His”. Mangan’s Oriental translations can be seen as part of the fascination with Arabia which led to Goethe’s Westöstlicher Divan and, of course, Moore’s ‘Lalla Rookh’. Of our living Irish poets, only Desmond O’Grady has inherited some of this scholarly passion for the East, translating some of the great Arabic odes. Mangan worked from the available scholars, yet his version of a poem by Jami, ‘The Hundred-Leafèd Rose’, has a gorgeous symmetry. But then this gaunt, golden-haired spectre had a thing about roses, as in his beautiful translation from the Turkish, ‘The Time of the Roses’. And also his haunting, nostalgic poems of youth lost and time passing: “Remember/ The days of roses but as a dream.”

Although the posthumous Poets and Poetry of Munster is a landmark in our literary history, there is the question as to how much Irish Mangan actually knew. Douglas Hyde tells how it was Mangan’s “custom to stretch his body halfway across the counter, while John [O’Daly] would translate the Irish song to him and [he] would versify it . . .” Some of his versions, or “perversions”, are quite beautiful, and again when I was looking for some O’Rahilly for my Faber anthology, I chose Mangan over even Austin Clarke.

Now that we have the mass of Mangan, nearly 1,000 poems, re-evaluation can begin. The more or less official Selected winnows these, with a thoughtful introduction by Terence Brown of Trinity College, whose Dublin University Magazine sustained the poet for years. Brown links the failing fortunes of post-Union Dublin to those of Mangan, his attraction “to the romantic trope of ruination”.

And the dirge still draws us, from Kinsella to Durcan, and beyond. Another, slimmer Selected has been edited and introduced by David Wheatley, a gifted young poet whose own volumes, Thirst and Misery Hill, surely entitle him to write with authority on Mangan’s “landscape of grandeur and desolation”. Brown and Wheatley sometimes see him as a Borges-like “shape-changer”. But while Mangan may lack the length and breadth of his fellow 19th-century Irish poets, Ferguson and Allingham, the nervous intensity of his best lyrics are unique mediumistic masterpieces.

The entire Irish Academic Press series, comprising nine volumes, is also a monument to the tireless general editorship of the late Augustine Martin.

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TWENTY GOLDEN YEARS AGO.

The present poem first appeared in The Dublin University Magazine in June of 1840 as one in James Clarence Mangan’s series of “Stray Leaflets From the German Oak”. Mangan was an admired translator out of various tongues, but had as well earned a reputation for intricate literary hoaxes and a sort of “reverse plagiarism” (what he himself called “the antithesis of plagiarism”, i. e., passing off one’s own writings as the work of another) which he perpetrated complete with invented exotic origins, sly foot-notes and punning pseudonyms. As with many of the assumed Oriental oversettings he made “From the Ottoman” under various noms de plume, the Irish author claimed to have translated verses from the German of a certain poet named “Selber” (Ger. selber, “oneself” ; Ich selber, “myself”). Hood-winked readers were led along page by page with a battery of critical interpretations and a mockery of marginalia :

 

Nobody can translate Selber to advantage : his peculiar idiosyncrasy unfortunately betrays itself in every line he writes— and there exists, moreover, an evident wish on his part to show the world that he possesses
“A life within himself, to breathe without mankind.”

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No evidence ever emerged to confirm that person’s existence, and any act, on Mangan’s part, of “translating” Herr Selber must have only held to Quince’s sense of metamorphosis in Shakespeare : “Thou art translated !”

Be all that as it may, this nostalgic poem breathes a comfortable sort of fireside melancholy, and the mention of the poet Kerner, in a touch of seriocomic rivalry, is significant : Mangan made real English versions of Kerner’s verses for his famous Anthologia Germanica. ~Q~

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TWENTY GOLDEN YEARS AGO.

+++++++++++++(SELBER.)

O, the rain, the weary, dreary rain,
++How it plashes on the window-sill !
Night, I guess too, must be on the wane,
+++Strass and Gass around are grown so still.
Here I sit, with coffee in my cup—
++Ah ! ’twas rarely I beheld it flow
In the taverns where I loved to sup
+++Twenty golden years ago !

Twenty years ago, alas !— but stay,
++On my life, ’tis half-past twelve o’clock !
After all, the hours do slip away—
+++Come, here goes to burn another block !
For the night, or morn, is wet and cold,
++And my fire is dwindling rather low :—
I had fire enough, when young and bold,
+++Twenty golden years ago.

Dear ! I don’t feel well at all, somehow :
++Few in Weimar dream how bad I am ;
Floods of tears grow common with me now,
+++High-Dutch floods, that Reason cannot dam.
Doctors think I’ll neither live nor thrive
++If I mope at home so— I don’t know—
Am I living now ? I was alive
+++Twenty golden years ago.

Wifeless, friendless, flagonless, alone,
++Not quite bookless, though, unless I chuse,
Left with nought to do, except to groan,
+++Not a soul to woo, except the Muse—
O ! this, this is hard for me to bear,
++Me, who whilome lived so much en haut,
Me, who broke all hearts like chinaware
+++Twenty golden years ago !

P’rhaps ’tis better :—Time’s defacing waves
++Long have quenched the radiance of my brow—
They who curse me nightly from their graves
+++Scarce could love me were they living now ;
But my loneliness hath darker ills—
++Such dun-duns as Conscience, Thought and Co.,
Awful Gorgons ! worse than tailors’ bills
+++Twenty golden years ago.

Did I paint a fifth of what I feel,
++O, how plaintive you would ween I was !
But I won’t, albeit I have a deal
+++More to wail about than Kerner has !
Kerner’s tears are wept for withered flowers,
++Mine for withered hopes ; my Scroll of Woe
Dates, alas ! from Youth’s deserted bowers,
+++Twenty golden years ago.

Yet, may Deutschland’s bardlings flourish long !
++Me, I tweak no beak among them ;— hawks
Must not pounce on hawks ; besides, in song
+++I could once beat all of them by chalks.
Though you find me, as I near my goal,
++Sentimentalising like Rousseau,
Oh ! I had a grand Byronian soul
+++Twenty golden years ago !

Tick-tick, tick-tick !— Not a sound save Time’s,
++And the wind-gust, as it drives the rain—
Tortured torturer of reluctant rhymes,
+++Go to bed, and rest thine aching brain !
Sleep !— no more the dupe of hopes or schemes ;
++Soon thou sleepest where the thistles blow—
Curious anticlimax to thy dreams
+++Twenty golden years ago !

++++++++++++++++++++++++J. C. M.

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Mangan’s “Bugle” (and how he blew it)

In “My Bugle, and How I Blow It”, Clarence Mangan is, characteristically, trading in masks and cloaks and puns and puzzles — what one critic calls the “identitarian” aspects of the artist’s expression. By means of such masking —in Man an ancient trait, in Mangan a manifesto— the poet would playfully engage his reading public.

This comic sketch was originally composed for The Belfast Vindicator in 1841, and reprinted three years later in what was a new paper on the Irish scene, The Nation. At the head Charles Gavan Duffy put up a rather bemused editorial note, for Mangan had shied from any commitment to political writing, the declared mission of The Nation.

The modern reader, in imbibing the present item —a heady Dublin draught of quare ould quizzicality if ever there was one— will perhaps recognise how the author of Finnegans Wake found much to admire, celebrate and emulate in the prose, as much as in the poetry, of Clarence Mangan.

Now, for fullest explications one can go and consult the authoritative latter-day annotators of Manganiana, such scholars as Jacques Chuto or Peter van de Kamp or David Lloyd ; but a handful of ready glosses on the text may be worth giving here beforehand :  1) Sam Slick was a sort of Mark Twain phænomenon before there was Mark Twain, and a “cloud-blower” was the Indians’ name for a tobacco pipe, or a smoker thereof, in works such as The Clockmaker ; or, The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville (1835), which relates the comical adventures of a highly quotable character created by T. C. Haliburton, a judge in Nova Scotia.  2) The word “demonogolist” (here retained for the putative pun on Arabic gol for “ghoul”) must be a misspelling of demonologist, given that Kerner (whom Mangan translated) had written on supernatural themes.  3) The name Jacques Corveau is Mangan’s jeu de mots on a popular minstrel show refrain of the time, “Weel about and turn about and do jis so, Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow”.  4) Of the reference to a “Grant”, Mangan’s biographer, D. J. O’Donoghue, furnishes the explanation that James Grant was the author of a book on London, entitled The Great Metropolis5) Cœlum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt quotes Horace’s Epistles (properly : animum), and reads as “They change their clime, not their disposition, who rush across the sea”.  6) The French phrase Mettez cela dans votre pipe, et fumez-le is translated into English with a well-known Dublin saying which is, even nowadays, still used as a common bit of repartee in that city : “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.” 7) Bienséances are social proprieties.  ~Q~

MY BUGLE, AND HOW I BLOW IT.

BY THE MAN IN THE CLOAK.

[This pleasant Extravaganza —a quiz upon the German school— by a popular writer, was given some years ago to the Editor of the Nation for a publication of a literary character. It is thought necessary to mention this, as we have not an opportunity of communicating with the author, and he may not choose to be identified with the particular politics of the Nation.]
Ein Alphorn hör’ ich schallen
Das mich von hinnen ruft ;
Tönt es aus wald’gen hallen ?
Tönt es aus blauer Luft ?
Tönt es von Bergeshöhe
Aus blumenreichem Thal ?
Wie ich nur steh’und gehe
Hör ich’s in süsser Qual.
Bei Spiel und frohem reigen,
Einsam mit mir allein,
Tönt’s ohne je zu schweigen
Tönt tief in’s Herz hinein.
Noch nie hab’ ich gefunden
Den Ort, woher es schallt
Und nimmer, wird gefunden
Dies Herz, bis es verhallt.
A mystical bugle calls o’er
The earth to me everywhere—
Peals it from forest halls or
The crypts of the azure air ?
From the snow-enrobed mountains yonder ?
From the flower-strewn vales below ?
O ! whithersoever I wander
I hear it with sweetest woe !
Alone in the woods, or present
Where mingle the song and dance,
That summoning sound incessant
Is piercing my heart like a lance.
Till now hath my search been ceaseless,
And its place I have nowhere found,
But my spirit must ever be peaceless
Till that Bugle shall cease to sound !
IF the German poet speak truth in the last two lines he had better set sail for England without delay, and assassinate ME, for I am the Bugle-player ! I plunge at once, like an Epic versifier, in medias res ; you perceive, Reader, and “give my worst of thoughts the worst of words.” Yes ; I am the Bugle-blower ; and, like Sam Slick’s cloud-blower, I am willing to blow away and “take the responsibility.” And who, you ask, is the poet ? That will I tell you instanter. The original grubber-up of the gem that I have set in gold, silver, or pewter, as the metal may turn out to the touch-stone, is, be it known to you, Justinus Kerner, man of many accomplishments — poet, physician, metaphysician, hobgoblin-hunter, widower, and weeper. He is by birth a Swabian, or, perhaps I should say a Swab ; just as we call a native of Poland a Pole. The word “Swab,” moreover, has the advantage of “Swabian” in being shorter by three letters ; and I have seen three letters take up six newspaper columns. Little did Kerner imagine the first evening the bugle smote his ears that the Man in the Cloak, whom he saw climbing the hill to the right, was his electrifier ! Up went his dexter ogler along the rocks, and there encountered— a goat : him the poet did not for a moment suspect of practising on either of his own horns ; and so down went his sinister peeper to the flood below, where, however, it was at once rebuked by a corpulent codfish, whose interrogative eye appeared fixed on “the first demonogolist in Europe,” with a library of wandering questions in the pupil thereof. I, my cloak, and my bugle, meantime, had vanished for the night. Pretty considerably bewildered, my Swab toddled homeward to his attic, and over a second tankard of heavy wet composed the stanzas I have quoted.
I confess, nevertheless, it has always appeared to me singular —I would say shameful— that neither during the concert of that nor of any subsequent evening did Kerner seem to recognise me as the musician. True it is that I wore a cloak a quarter of a hundred weight, with expansive wings at the sides, and a hood that hung down from the head, obscuring the light of my countenance ; and bugle-players are generally less cumbrously clad. But still it is difficult for me to acquit him of hoggish stupidity if I suppose that his suspicions were not at intervals directed towards me. Indeed, the very circumstance of a man’s walking about and perspiring under such a peculiar cloak, ought, alone, to have been sufficient to convince him (the swab) that there was a mystery of some sort connected with the perspirer ; and had he only trundled up to me and put the interrogatory — “Man in the Cloak, art thou he ?” I would have responded to his sagacity by nobly, and without all disguise, flapping my side-wings in his physiognomy and treating him to a blast that would have shaken him to the centre of his system.
I was one day —very recently, indeed— recounting this adventure, with slight additions, to my friend, the King of the Sicilies, when an Englishman near me, who had just been admitted to the horrors of an audience, turned round, à la Jacques Corveau, and stared at my cloak from hood to hem in the rudest manner through his lorgnette.
“Pray, sir,” he asked, “are you celebrated for anything besides wearing a cloak ?” Every hair in my moustache quivered at the ruffianism of the fellow ; but on account of the king’s proximity I restrained myself from sneering, or even sneezing.
“Yes, sir,” I replied, “for playing on my bugle. Have you not heard my anecdote, you sumph of the muddiest water ?”
“Come, come,” interrupted the king, “no personalities ; this gentleman is a Corn-law Repealer.” (This he said, evidently not knowing the signification of his words).
“Aye,” said the Englishman, “I am a Corn-law Repealer !”
“And I,” cried I, flapping my pinions, “I— I am a Unicorn-law Repealer !”
“A Unicorn-law Repealer !” and the Manchesterian grinned ; “what may that be ?”
“A Repealer in virtue of that law of my being which compels me to play on the Horn,” said I, holding up my bugle.
“How a Repealer ?” he asked,
“Thus,” quoth I : “a Pealer, when I peal ; a Re-pealer, when I peal again. Do you understand, trapp ?”
“Pardon me,” said the Englisher, waving his hand ; “I do not carry a flash vocabulary about me.”
Here the king should thrust himself in. “What does he mean by a flash vocabulary?” said he to me in an under voice.
“A horn of sulphur, your majesty,” I answered, in the same tone. “I take it as a direct insult to you, your recent political squabble with Great Britain considered.”
Up flared the king, like a rocket from Mount Vesuvius.
“Who talks of sulphur at this time of day ?” he cried.
“What on earth is he after ?” asked the Corn-law Repealer of me, sotto voce.
“He wants your opinion of the Sulphur Question,” whispered I.
“I shall be happy to give it,” said the Englishman. “The sulphur monopoly, your majesty, I conceive to be totally—”
“I wish the devil had the sulphur monopoly from the beginning !” roared the king.
“I think the devil has had the sulphur monopoly from the beginning,” observed the Corn-law Proser. “I was just about to remark that he is the legitimate monopolist of the article.”
“You were, were you ?” cried the king — then turning to me — “did any man ever see such a silly fellow ?”
“I fancy,” said I, folding my cloak about me like an emperor, “that your majesty’s subjects are pretty much in the habit of seeing fellows quite as silly.”
“Indeed! Why so?”
“Because,” said I, “you are the King of the See-sillies.”
This tickled the monarch so home that his good humour returned like fine weather on an April day, and he ordered in coffee, cigars, and a steaming bowl of bishop, in return for my share of which I executed an unapproachable solo on my bugle, which dissolved the entire court in an ecstacy of tears, and made the king, strong as his nerves were, instantaneously mix an additional tumbler, to save himself from fainting.
Then I was at Naples — now I am in London. From sulphur to coal-gas ; out of the frying-pan into the fryer. “A bitter change — severer to severe,” as the poet Young — now, alas ! grown old in dusty obscurity — sings. I have imported myself hither free of duty — free of all duties, at least, save one, that of blowing my bugle ; and here I am, in “the great Metropolis,” though I have got no Grant (either from Government or otherwise) to place me there ; my bugle on the table of my inn, and my cloak, “fold over fold, inveterately convolved,” around my majestic person. A thousand troubles menace me — Cœlum non animam mutant qui trans mare currunt ; yet I care not. Come what may my cloak will stick to me, my bugle depend from my baldric. My cloak and my bugle I must always retain, until my last hour shall see the one rended into shreds and the other divested of its identity, melted into air, transmuted into ethereality, as viewless and intangible as one of its own melodies.
Here, however, and before I advance a sentence further, I know that some noodles will be disposed to take me very short. Bah ! the jackasses will bray ; you over-rate your pretensions to notice. How are you a greater man than Plato, Brougham, or Bombastes Paracelsus ? You have a bugle and you wear a cloak ; well, and what of all that ? In what way can all those extraneous appendages of the man confer intellectual pre-eminence on the mind ? Were I for answering those green-horns seriously, I should certainly drub them until they dropped. Do the twaddlers not know that the whole thing is æsthetical ? That it involves the abstrusest metaphysical views at all ? That philosophy beholds an admirable harmony in connection between the interior and exterior of man, not only in the abstract but in the individual, and moreover, recognises the eternal truth, not to be controverted by scepticism, not to be shaken by twaddle, that every individual is himself, and that he cannot become another as long as he remains himself, for the simple reason that if he were to become another he would cease to be himself ? No, the ganders, they don’t, because they know nothing upon any subject connected with anything that has ever at all existed anywhere whatever. Let the dunderheads for once show themselves tractable, and attend to what I am going to spout. Public, do you listen ; you are elevated to the high honour of being my confidante. I am about to confer an incredible mark of my favour on you, Public. Know, then, the following things : —
Firstly.— That I am not a Man in a Cloak, but the Man in the Cloak. My personal identity is here at stake, and I cannot consent to sacrifice it. Let me sacrifice it, and what becomes of me ? “The earth hath bubbles as the water hath,” and I am thenceforth one of them. I lose my cloak and my consciousness both in the twinkling of a pair of tongs ; I become what the philosophy of Kant (in opposition to the Cant of Philosophy) denominates a Nicht-ich, a Not-I, a Non-ego. Pardon me, my Public, if I calmly but firmly express my determination to shed the last drop of my ink before I concede the possibility of such a paltry, sneaking, shabby, swindling, strip-and-pillage-me species of contingency.
Secondly.— That I am the Man in the Cloak, viz. : I am not an “Old Woman,” as Mrs. Trollope complains that the Yankees would call her, despite her best bonnets, satin frocks and flounces, and corsets à l’enfant. Neither am I a lump of moonshine all out. Stigmatise me, if you will, as a Hottentot, as a Troglodyte, as a hang-a-bone jail-bird ; still, you cannot put your hand on your heart and assert that I am a make-believe, a bag of feathers, a non-ens, a bull-beggar, a hobgoblin, a humbug, a lath-and-pulley get-up, like Punch. Not at all. I do not say that you dare not, but I clap my wings, like a bantam on a barn-roof, and I crow aloud in triumph that you cannot, Public. It is outside the sphere of your power, my Public ! I am the Man in the Cloak. Mettez cela dans votre pipe, et fumez-le, mon public !
Thirdly.— That I am the Man in the Cloak. In other words, I am by no manner of means the Man of the Cloak, or the Man under the Cloak. The Germans call me Der Mensch mit der Mantel, the Man with the Cloak. This is a deplorable error in the nomenclature of that otherwise intelligent people ; and I am speechless with astonishment that they should have fallen into it. Why ? Because my cloak is not part and parcel of myself. The cloak is outside, and the man is inside, as Goldsmith said of the World and the Prisoner ; but each is a distinct entity ; of that I am satisfied ; on that point I, as the Persians would say, tighten the girdle of assurance round the waist of my understanding, though, perhaps, there is no waste of my understanding whatever. I admit that you may say, “The Man with the Greasy Countenance,” or “The Chap with the Swivel Eye ;” thus, also, Slawkenbergius (vide Tristram Shandy) calls his hero ”The Stranger with the Nose,” and reasonably enough ; for, although it was at one period conjectured that the nose in question might extend to five hundred and seventy-five geometrical feet in longitude, not even the most incredulous amongst the Faculty of Strasburgh were found to advance an opinion that the nose was not an integral portion of the individual. With me the case is a horse of another colour. I do not put my cloak on and off, I grant, but I can do so when I please by a mere exercise of volition and muscle ; and therefore it is obvious to the meanest capacity (I like original tours de phrase) that I am just the Man in the Cloak, and no mistake. If any cavillers feel inclined to dispute the proposition with me further, they may await my arrival in Dublin at the Fifteen Acres.
Finally.— That I am the Man in the Cloak. Other men tabernacle their corporeality in broadcloth, Petershams, Redingotes, Surtouts, Macintoshes, Overalls, Wraprascals, Kangaroos, Traceys, Dreadnoughts. Every blunderer to his fancy or the fashion. I quarrel with nobody for his taste or want of taste. I do not approach any mooncalf in the public street with an uplifted crowbar, poker, pike, pitchfork, or pickaxe in my grasp, because his toggery is of a different order from my own. I could not do so, independent of my intuitive benevolence of disposition, I have what Harriet Martineau would call “a powerful preventive check” in my sense of what is due to the bienséances of society. On the other hand, however, I yield not up a whit of my own liberty. I am aware that in Africa and Asia people wear “cotton, muslin, and other stuffs with which I won’t stay puzzling ;” that in parts of America the run is upon blankets ; that in the West Indies nankeens are all the go ; that in Egypt the men sometimes carry their duds under their arms. But am I, therefore, to ape their example — to become an African, an American, a West Indian, an Egyptian ? I see not the decillionth part of a reason for doing so. I call Europe to witness that I shall never do so as long as I have my cloak. In a case like this I laugh at coercion and despise the prospect of torture. What did I buy my cloak for ? Why did I pay fifteen shillings and sixpence, besides boot, for it to a Jew hawker of old rags, but that I might don it, and never doff it, I should be glad to know ?
After all, I am the most rational of mankind, including Robert Owen himself, and I will show him that I am. Notwithstanding all I have so eloquently said, there may still remain some persons reluctant to concede my qualifications for amusing or illuminating them, because I carry a bugle and wear a cloak. Suppose, then, that in compassion to the hide-bound prejudices of those poor creatures, I gallantly waive all ground of superiority derivable from my bugle and my cloak. What if I cast away, as far as I possibly can — much further than they could cast a bull by his horns — both the one and the other ? Will my magnanimity be appreciated ? Surely, it may, can, might, could, would, or should be, only really the world is such a settled dolt ! Let me not be misunderstood. I cannot avoid blowing my bugle and showing my cloak. What I mean to state is, that I shall refrain from claiming any especial merit in possessing either. I shall not glorify myself because I split the ears of groundlings, nor shall I give myself any extra-mundane airs, though my wings do occasionally flap like winglings in the eyes of the lieges, children of dust — dusts themselves — as they are. In the very fulness and churchflower of my triumph I shall talk “with bated breath and whispering humbleness” of what I have done, am doing, and mean to do ; so that spectators shall say of me, as I said t’other day of my friend, Barney Higgins, the vintner, while he was trying to coax the Bench into (or out of) a renewal of his spirit license—
“How like a fawning Publican he looks !”
With which specimen of my Wit and Wisdom (N.B.—I am not the father of all the jests in the book that goes by that title), good Reader, I bid you farewell for the present.
There is much talk here of “embarking capital.” I wish the talkers could embark the capital itself, for never did city need an aquatory excursion so much — “all the town’s a fog, and all the men and women merely fograms.” I shall steam over to the Green Isle shortly ; and, once there, I mean to apply to some Vindicator of Talent in my own behalf and that of my cloak and bugle, and supplicate his patronage for six weeks. Beyond that period, alas ! I may not remain an abider within any town. Your surprise. Reader, is, doubtless, excited — ah ! you know not what a vagabond I am ! Perhaps I may communicate my history to the Irish people, and if I should I have no hesitation in assuring them that they will pronounce it without a parallel in the Annals of the Marvellous and Mournful. Only see the result ! — for me there is no stopping place in city or county. An unrelenting doom condemns me to the incessant exercise of my pedestrian capabilities. It is an awful thing to behold me at each completion of my term scampering off like Van Woedenblock of the Magic Leg— galloping along roads— clearing ditches— dispersing the affrighted poultry in farmyards as effectually as a forty-eight pounder could. Other men sojourn for life in the country of their choice ; there is a prospect of ultimate repose for most things ; even the March of Intellect must one day halt ; already we see that pens, ink, and paper are— stationary. But for me there is no hope ; at home or abroad I tarry not. Like Schubart’s Wandering Jew, I am “scourged by unrest through many climes.” Like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, “I pass like Night, from land to land.” No matter who or what becomes paralytic and refuses to budge, I must progress. “Tramp, tramp along the land ; splash, splash across the sea” is my maledictory motto. A fearful voice, to all but me inaudible, for ever thunders in mine ear, “Pack up thy duds !— push along !— keep moving !” I see no prospect before me but an eternity of peripateticalism—
“The race of Life becomes a hopeless flight
To those that walk in darkness—on the sea
The boldest steer but where their ports invite,
But there are wanderers o’er eternity
Whose bark drives on and on, and anchored
.                                                                ne’er shall be.”
Once again, Reader, farewell, but forget not—THE MAN IN THE CLOAK.

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