Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

V
KILDARE AND GLENDALOUGH (1849)

ON Sunday morning he returned to Dublin1 and took train to Kildare, on the way to Kilcullen, where Edward Fitzgerald's relatives were expecting him. He was to be the guest for two nights of the widow of the poet's "Uncle Peter" Purcell. Purcell was the name of the poet's father and of the poet himself when a boy, till it was changed to the more fashionable name of his mother, Fitzgerald.2 Let curious readers see Thackeray's description3 of the home of this good Uncle Peter as it was in 1842, for the H----- of Thackeray means Halverstown near Kilcullen, where Carlyle was now to stay, and his Mr. P----- was Peter Purcell. "Such people," wrote Thackeray,4 "are not to be met with more than a few times in a man's life." "Uncle Peter" was now dead. It was his widow who received Carlyle.

Duffy in the meantime had gone to Kilkenny, where Carlyle was not due till Tuesday night. The attraction of Kildare was antiquarian mainly, as appears from one of his letters from London before he started:--'Kildare town and then to Glendalough through Wicklow (Gap) is figuring in my imagination. Kildare for St. Bridget's sake-- Bridekirk, her kirk I suppose, was almost the place of my birth; and Bridget herself, under the oaks 1400 years ago, is for her own sake beautiful to me.' She had founded four nunneries, whereof the chief was Kildare.

So when he landed at Kildare this Sunday about noon, he at once enquired, but discovered nobody who knew anything, about 'St. Bridget's "Fire Tower-House,"' of long ago. The bishop had abolished her sacred fire

____________________
1
Reminiscences of My Irish Journey, by T. Carlyle, pp. 67-81.
2
Life of Ed. Fitzgerald, by Thomas Wright, I, pp. 29, 30, 165, 233.
3
Thackeray's Irish Sketch Book, Chap. II.
4
Works of W. M. Thackeray, with Biog. Introdn., Vol. V, p. xxvii.

-112-

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