Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXII
CORK (1849)

THE forenoon of Tuesday, 17.7.49, was filled by letters and a walk in the streets and market-place of Cork. At two o'clock Duffy introduced his friend Denny Lane, with whom they were to dine that evening in his cottage by the sea,--'a fine brown Irish figure, Denny,' wrote Carlyle,1 a distiller by trade, but lately, like Duffy, a prisoner for his 'repale' politics;2 'frank, hearty, honest air, a little like Alfred Tennyson.' At four o'clock Carlyle joined Duffy and the rest of their company on the deck of a steamer, and as it moved down the Firth admired the 'beautiful white city' of Cork, 'at the foot of its steep woody slope.'

On the way to Denny's cottage, Carlyle called for Father O'Shea and was kept waiting for some time, because the servant was unwilling to disturb the holy man doing his devotions in the garden,3 where he looked in the distance like a living statue. The usual devotions done, 'statue Shea becomes live Shea, and cordially greets me again,' and in a few minutes they are facing each other at the dinner-table of Denny Lane, with Lane's old mother on the one hand of Carlyle, and Father O'Sullivan on the other, a cheery man of fifty with a brick-complexion and a yellow wig, the wittiest of O'Shea's curates. Duffy was there too, and editor Barry, and three or four others. But the priests did best. O'Shea revealed himself to Carlyle's admiration, 'didactic, loud-spoken,' yet 'courteous, good every way, a true gentleman and priest in the Irish style;' and as the punch went round the wit of O'Sullivan kept them laughing merrily all the time.

The sun had set when they came out, but eastward across the water lay the seaport of Cork on the "Great

____________________
1
Reminiscences of My Irish Journey, by T. Carlyle, pp. 117-23.
2
Conversations with Carlyle, by Sir C. Gavan Duffy, pp. 95-6.
3
Thomas Carlyle, by Moncure Conway, p. 72.

-145-

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