The Wild Irishman

The Wild Irishman
Title: The Wild Irishman
Release Date: 2018-09-03
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Author of
The Unspeakable Scot



Copyright, 1905, by

Published October, 1905.



The people of America may or may notindulge kindly views of the Irish community;but there cannot be the slightest question thatthe Irish of Ireland have kindlier feelingsfor America than ever they have had forEngland. To the Irish of Ireland, in fact,America has long stood in the relation of asort of promised land, and they have a habitof turning their thoughts thitherward evenwhen small matters are concerned. Thereis a tale of an elderly lady of Galway who,on being informed by her medical attendantthat it was desirable that she should consulta dental specialist, set forth incontinently forNew York to the total neglect of London.She believed that of the two places, New[vi]York was the friendlier. I am informed that,broadly speaking, New York is policed byIrish Americans and that the American Irishmanmakes a rather useful subordinatemunicipal official. Be this as it may, therecan be no doubt that very considerable numbersof Irishmen contrive to do themselvesa great deal better in the United States thanthey could ever have hoped to do in theirown native Erin. To those Americans andAmerican Irish who happen to be at all interestedin the present condition and prospectsof the green country, I venture to offerthe following pages for what they are worth.

T. W. H. C.



I.— Distressful 1
II.— The Shillelagh 11
III.— Blarney 19
IV.— Whisky 29
V.— The Pathriot 36
VI.— Orangemen 42
VII.— The Low Scotch 50
VIII.— Priestcraft 60
IX.— Morals 71
X.— Pretty Women 91
XI.— The London Irish 100
XII.— Tom Moore 105
XIII.— W. B. Yeats 117
XIV.— Wit and Humor 130
XV.— More Wit and Humor 141
XVI.— Dirt 151
XVII.— The Tourist 158
XVIII.— Potatoes 169
XIX.— Pigs 179
XX.— Emigration 187




The person who invented the Irish questionmay or may not deserve well of hisspecies. In a sense, of course, there has beenan Irish question since the beginning of history.But it is only within the last centuryor so that we have begun to spell it with abig Q. That big Q perhaps attained itslargest proportions during the eighties of thelast century, and associated, as it usually was,with a capital G, which stood for Gladstone,and a capital P, which stood for somebodyelse, it certainly did yeoman service wherevera use for letters could be found. At the timeof Mr. Gladstone’s Home Rule campaign[2]the existence of a highly insistent Irish questioncould not be doubted. A good deal ofwater has flowed under the bridges since then,however, and at the present moment, and inview of the present situation of Irish affairs,one is tempted to wonder whether there nowexists, or whether there really has ever existed,an Irish question with a big Q at all.It is true that at the time of writing there isan actual and undesirable famine raging inConnemara. It is true that the populationof the country is on the decline, and that thestandard of comfort among the people willnot bear comparison with the standard ofcomfort in any other country in the world,unless it be in the poorer and bleaker regionsof Kamchatka; and it is true also that Irishmenas a body continue to exercise themselvesboth at street corners, and on all sorts ofplatforms, in a habit of rhetoric, which manyyears of shouting have made second naturewith them. For all that, the Irish questionas a portentous and vital matter appears to[3]be somewhat played out. One may safelysay that in Ireland, at any rate, it has beenreduced to an obscurity which allows of itsbeing now spelled with about the smallest“q” in ordinary use among printers. InEngland it has been allowed to disappear,in favor of the Russo-Japanese War, Protection,and Do We Believe? On the whole,though it no doubt harrows the souls of thehorde of carpet-baggers which have come tous out of Ireland, this condition of affairs isexceedingly salutary for Ireland itself. Nowthat the factions, and the tumult, and the turbulence,and the wrangling have died down,or at least been in large measure abated, thefacts about Ireland are for the first time inhistory beginning, as it were, to swim intoour ken. We are beginning to perceive, forexample, that out of the quarrels and bloodshedof the past hundred years Ireland hasemerged triumphant. It has been a case ofa bankrupt, downtrodden and dwindling people’sfight against a rich and powerful dominant[4]people, and the weaker side has provedclearly that in the long run God is on theside of “justice.” To all intents and purposesIreland is at the present moment infull possession of all that she herself has feltit reasonable to demand. She has the franchise,she has land laws which are almostsocialistic in the benefits they offer to the cultivatorsof the soil, and she has local self-government.More than all, she has herselfbegun to recognize that the disposition ofEngland toward her is becoming year by yearless arrogant, less implacable, less contemptuous,and less severe. It has been said thatErin’s appeals for reasonable treatment atthe hands of England have had to be madeby violence of the most brutal and terrorizingkind. She has stood before us with thehead of a landlord in one hand and the tailof a cow in the other, and screamed till wegave her what she wanted. And always ina large measure we have succumbed. Andthe singular part of it is that in no instance[5]have we had cause, nor do we appear likely tohave cause, to regret it. Of course, that crownand summit of Irish blisses, Home Rule, hasnot yet been vouchsafed to her. But this,I believe, is due to the fact that Ireland herselfis still making up her mind whether shereally wants it. Half Ireland says, “Give usHome Rule,” the other half says, “Pleasedon’t;” and the two parties seem to be gettingon very well together by agreeing to differ.This is a true and natural settlement ofa problem which, as I believe, is purely artificial,arising out of the exigencies of partyand the jealousies of rival demagogues,rather than out of the desires of the people.If Ireland in her heart of hearts desiredHome Rule, she would have it withinthe next couple of years. She has the goodsense to know that, however fascinating thetheory of Home Rule may appear, the practiseof it for her would be difficult and irksome,if not altogether disastrous. Bothsides are agreed that Home Rule for Ireland[6]means an immediate spell of civil war forIreland. The Irish Catholic will tell youthis, and the Irish Protestant is equally clearabout it. In view of the condition and natureof the country, such a war were a calamityto be staved off at pretty well any cost, evenif it were certain—and it is by no means certain—thatthe subsequent benefits would beappreciable and lasting. The politicians willtell you that it is possible to have in Irelandwhat is somewhat prettily called a “unionof hearts.” “The union of hearts which Idesire,” says one of them, “is a union ofIrishmen of all classes and of all creeds, fromthe north to the south, from the east to thewest; landlords and tenants, Catholics andProtestants, Orange and Green; and I lookto this union as the surest way of bringingabout the national regeneration of our country.”Which is exceedingly beautiful, butamounts to asking for the moon. Oil andwater cannot be made to mix, and in a countrywhere a couple of cardinals and a number[7]of bishops were lately stoned by a rabblementof Protestants, the union of hearts may bereckoned still a great way off. Holy Ireland—andI think it is rather to her credit—willnever be brought to do what England andScotland have managed to do, namely to setthe political or material interest in front ofthe religious or spiritual interest. Catholicsand Protestants in Ireland are Catholic andProtestant from head to foot and rightthrough, and you will never induce them toforget it. All the same it is not impossible,with the exercise of a little charity and self-restraint,for the lion to lie down with thelamb politically, if not religiously, and thisis what is happening in Ireland. In otherwords the Irish Catholics and Protestantshave tacitly agreed that they can live in moreor less amity under one government, providingthat government is neither an Irish Catholicgovernment nor an Irish Protestant government,but an alien, impartial and practicallysecular government.


As we have said, the Irish question as aportent and terror to England is disappearing,if indeed it has not already disappeared.For all that, the fact remains that Irelandin the main is a distressful country. Thackeray’sSnooks gives it as his opinion that “ofall the wum countwith that I ever wead of,hang me if Ireland ithn’t the wummetht.”“Wum,” gay and irrepressible epithet thoughit may be, is really and deep down not theepithet; whereas “distressful” is. Thereare people in the world who are born tomisfortune, whose lives are touched with melancholyfrom beginning to end, and who cannotbe brought to rejoice even by Act of Parliament.Ireland’s woes may be said to belargely temperamental and still more largely“misfortunate.” Her very position in thegeographical scheme of things is strikinglylonesome and unhappy. Practically she is thelast outpost of Europe, and a little one atthat. With sheer Atlantic on one side of her,and sixty miles of sea between herself and[9]England, it is impossible for her to get ridof a certain feeling of isolation which is notgood for the spirits. The soft rain that is alwaysover her may heighten the green of hermeadows, but it keeps her damp and wateryand preternaturally boggy. She

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