Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXX
BY GALWAY BAY (1849)

ON Thursday afternoon, 26.7.49, young Bourke who had contrived the visit conveyed Carlyle to Gort, where he could see an insolvent union, and also catch the Galway coach next day, and on the way see all the country well. First they went up the Shannon to Killaloe, and saw the south end of Lough Derg, looking over the water to the green high hills on the eastern side and the great slate quarries there, with the hills of Clare on their left as they bent through Scarriff to the west and north, bare, high hills, 'black-fretted, and with spots of culture.' It was a stony country, but much of it reclaimable, 'a country that might all be very beautiful, but is not so, is bare, gnarled (and) craggy, (so that it) speaks to you of sloth and insolvency.' It reminded him of how the Irish describe the beginning of time,--"When every place was no place, and Dublin was a shaking bog."1

Among the hills beyond Scarriff Carlyle saw a girl at the door of a solitary cottage 'dripping a potful of boiled reeking greens,--(she) has picked out one as we pass, and is zealously eating it; bad food, great appetite,--extremity of hunger, likely, not unknown here.'

They reached Gort too late to go inside the union, but in time for tea and a talk with a friend, Poor-law Inspector Horsley. Bourke stayed with him. Carlyle slept at the inn, and caught the early morning coach on Friday. So he arrived in Galway early, after seeing on the way 'fifteen miles of the stoniest, barest barrenness I have ever yet seen, in some places almost like a continuous grey flagged floor.'

It was well that he was in time enough to see the town without staying overnight; for the assize had filled the hotel, and 'the town was one vortex of lawyers.' The letters waiting for him did not detain him long,--he was

____________________
1
Reminiscences of My Irish Journey, by T. Carlyle, pp. 178-95.

-166-

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