Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXV
AN IRISH TRIPTOLEMUS (1849)

ABOUT eighteen years ago a tract of waste extending to many miles, about King William's Town and the sources of the Blackwater river, had lapsed to Government by the expiry of long leases, and instead of leasing it again for a trifling rent as useless moor, Mr. Griffith of the Irish Board of Works had got sanction to improve it, and had put Mr. Boyne on the work of reclamation.

Mr. Boyne had proved a capital "Colonel of Spademen," and had already turned more than a square mile of the waste into 'a country beautiful to eye and mind,' wrote Carlyle.1 750 acres were now yielding good crops. There were many small farms, and Mr. Boyne's own farm ran to some hundreds of acres, with thirty or forty cottagers. 'His dairy,' wrote Carlyle, 'was the best--or practically equal to the best--I ever saw. Excellent rye,--"walk through it, gentlemen, you won't hurt it,"' said Boyne,--'as high as one's chin,' declared Carlyle, 'thick, clean and regular.' There were oats also, 'bright, copious green grass and 100 head of "specimen cattle" among others;' and his cottagers, 'as we saw them at their labours, looked healthy, hearty, swift and brisk, and even joyful,--decidedly the pleasantest aspect, or the only "pleasant" one, I can remember in Ireland.'

The Government outlay had been £24,000; but, as Boyne explained, there were roads to Kanturk and other places made out of that for the benefit of the whole countryside, and the rents of the farms go to the Government. He told many details which made the result seem very satisfactory. At the same time he candidly admitted that if he had been a landowner, he would not have taken the same method of reclamation, but got good farmers and let the land with improving leases. "But," asked Carlyle, "if you had 2000

____________________
1
Reminiscences of My Irish Journey, by T. Carlyle, pp. 147-54.

-152-

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