Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

XXXVII
LORD GEORGE HILL (1849)

FOR fourteen miles Plattnauer conveyed Carlyle through greenish country, mostly tilled, not deficient here and there in wood, and with gnarled crags,'1 and then about six or seven o'clock up the long ascent of the broad main street of Letterkenny, to the hotel, where Lord George Hill's own car was waiting to finish their journey to his house at Bally-arr.2 When Hill stepped out himself to welcome them on arrival, this famous improver of Irish bog was seen to be a 'handsome, grave-smiling man of fifty or more; thick grizzled hair, elegant club nose, low cooing voice, military composure and absence of loquacity; a man you love at first sight.'

Indoors an elderly lady was seen and some children were still afoot, so that there was time for the men to take a walk after tea, 'with pleasant familiar talk,' as if between old acquaintances. Carlyle was shown not only potatoes and turnips, but also "Egyptian wheat"--grown from wheat found in a mummy case,--growing on what had been waste Irish bog till lately. 'For supper after our return' Hill ordered as a compliment to the stranger--'Irish stirabout, a frightful parody of "Scotch porridge," like hot dough, which I would not eat and even durst not, except in semblance.' This was all a mistake. The stirabout was porridge, but badly made by an English cook. Carlyle pretended to have a stomach equal to it, in order that Lord George Hill might not be disappointed by seeing that what he meant for a treat was not appreciated. Such hypocrisy received its proper punishment. Lord George provided the same for Thursday, too, which seems to have forced Carlyle into frankly confessing that it was useless to him. At any rate it was not mentioned on Friday.

____________________
1
Reminiscences of My Irish Journey, by T. Carlyle, pp. 228-53.
2
According to a map, north of Letterkenny, and between Ramelton on the east and Kilmacrenan on the west.

-186-

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