Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

VI
KILKENNY (1849)

Kilkenny Carlyle was to stay at the house of the Mayor, Dr. Cane, 'lately in prison for "Repale," now free and a mayor again.'1 In honour of the occasion Mrs. Cane had asked to dinner to meet him three Poor Law Inspectors, O'Shaughnessy and two others, besides Duffy, and he found them all waiting when he arrived after eight, and listened to the immense amount of things they had to tell him. He had sprained his foot in the potato field this morning, and Dr. Cane bandaged it so well that, as he said,--'it didn't trouble me above another day.'

Mrs. Cane was that best of all good things, an 'excellent mother and wife,' and a motherly hostess. She not only made him sure of two good nights' sleep, but even discovered his writing-case needed a canvas cover and quickly provided one. The doctor deserved such a mate,--'a tall, straight man,' wrote Carlyle, 'grey eyes, black head; deep bass voice, speaks slowly as if preaching. Irish moral Grandison--touch of that in him; sympathy with all that is good and manly, however, and continual effort towards that. Likes me, is hospitably kind to me, and I am grateful to him.'

On Wednesday O'Shaughnessy, whom also Carlyle liked, took him to see the poor-houses. He had to cater for 8000 paupers: 'huge arrangements for eating, baking, stacks of Indian meal stirabout; 1000 or 2000 men lying piled up within brick walls, in such a country, on such a day! Did a greater violence to the Law of Nature ever before present itself to sight? . . . Hospital: haggard ghastliness of some looks,--literally, their eyes grown "colourless," as Mahomet describes the horror of the Day of Judgment. . . . No hope but of stirabout; swine's meat, swine's destiny: right glad to get away.'

Duffy and he set out together for Waterford on the Thursday.

____________________
1
Reminiscencess of My Irish Journey, by T. Carlyle. pp. 81-7.

-116-

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