The Voices of the Fathers
Although years passed before Douglas Hyde again wrote of Seamas Hart, their relationship did not end at Hart's grave but continued in Hyde's consciousness throughout his long life, even into Áras an Uachtaráin. Hart had introduced Douglas to Irish history, folklore, myth, and legend; had shared with him his own store of poems and stories; had passed on to him, as if he were a son, the seanfhocail —fragments of ancient wisdom and folk belief—that he had received from his elders. It was from Hart—"the best reciter I ever knew," Hyde later declared—that he had heard his first tales of the Irish spirit world: of ghosts and banshees and the alp luachra (newt) which had so afflicted a wealthy Connacht farmer that only "the best doctor in the five provinces," The MacDermot, prince of Coolavin, could save him. From Hart he had learned love songs, religious songs, drinking songs, and laments. Hart had schooled him in histories not found in books but written across the face of the land. Caves, cairns, sacred wells, old temples, ancient forts, dolmens, standing stones, a rippled path across a winter lake—all, Hart had assured him, could be read; all told of Irish heroes, kings, queens, and celebrated events, of powerful poets and enchanters, of a nation that was and a time when Ireland would be a nation once again.
Douglas loved words: their sounds, the look of them on paper, the different qualities they assumed on his tongue, in his exercise book, in the handwriting of another, and on a printed page. Woven in words, the combined riches of antiquity and folk imagination to which Hart
had introduced him had fired his desire to see if he himself could fashion stories spun from them. Encouraged by Hart, he had struggled to acquire the Irish language that was the key to these treasures: in his daily diary entries he had laboriously practiced the alchemy of its diction and syntax; on the pages of his exercise books and the blank back leaves of his diary he had cultivated its wordsong. The miscellany he thus accumulated in text and translation included such varied items as "Socraidh na gClein" (Clinton's burial), a song for singer and chorus in five verses of five lines each; a thresher's motto of four lines; a five-line charm for exorcising crickets; and three verses of "Róisin Dubh" (Dark Rosaleen). In his diary and exercise book he had pasted word inventories cut from printed sources, among them a table comparing the botanical, Irish, and English names of common flowers. Experimenting with Irish dialogue, he had created short scenes in strophe and antistrophe and tested his descriptive, comic, and narrative powers in simple prose and imitative verse. One of the last items he had written before Hart's death was a short narrative describing a few hours in which, slowly and pleasantly, warmed by whiskey, a turf fire, and the evening's camaraderie, he, his father and brothers, and the gamekeeper had quietly slipped together into a mellow drunkenness.
In prefaces and introductions to the works he published throughout his long career, Douglas Hyde faithfuly acknowledged Seamas Hart's contributions to his poetry and prose, his folklore studies, and his literary and historical scholarship. In his diary he recorded his more personal debt to Hart during a difficult period of his life when on the one hand he was struggling free of the constraints of the Kiplingesque world of nineteenth-century Anglo-Ireland, while on the other hand he was attempting to make of the hyphen between the two cultures that claimed him a mark of connection rather than division.
In Áras an Uachtaráin, when journalists asked Hyde where and how he had acquired his knowledge of Irish, he used to respond by reciting, in the north Roscommon dialect long vanished by the time he became president, a quatrain that Hart had taught him—"the first verse of Gaelic I ever learned," he would avow. He never spelled the words conventionally but always wrote them out for the inquisitive in his own peculiar phonetic Irish, just as he had recorded them in his schoolboy copybook when, imitating the voice of the gamekeeper, he had hurried home, repeating the sounds to himself so that he would not lose them before he had the chance to capture them on paper:
Ballagh-a-derreen a chran
Bolla gon aggus gurtugh,
Munna will thu st'yeeh in om
Yucee thu woll' a trussgo.
Beneath these lines he would write the English translation that Hart had given him:
Ballaghaderreen of the tree,
A town scanty and famine stricken,
Unless you are there in time,
You will come home fasting.
Scanty and famine stricken: that was how Tibohine seemed to Douglas Hyde when in January 1876 he faced the new year without Hart. For more than a month he wrote no more than a half dozen phrases and a few sentences in Irish, taking refuge from the emotions he could not express in the aloof, remote, English-speaking persona of his early 1874 diary entries—a persona so like his brother Arthur's, despite marked differences in their personalities. Terse and noncommittal, avoiding the people whose sympathy might have renewed his pain and the cottages in which talk would have turned, inevitably, to Hart's unexpected death, he focused once again on insignificant external events. More than a month went by without a single reference to Connolly, Dockry, or the Lavins. His own birthday passed without mention. He was a son bereaved; he had lost his Irish father.
Douglas's actual father, the dominating, mercurial, and passionate Ascendancy rector of Frenchpark, was lonely too. Arthur was in his fifth year at Trinity; Oldfield was in his first. Since their childhood he and his two elder sons had been almost constant companions. In their absence in the early months of 1876 he turned for company to his third son, Douglas. Before long, at his urging, Douglas had begun to join him in activities, indoors and out, that in former days he had been accustomed to sharing only with Arthur and Oldfield. They went shooting together almost daily. When the two elder boys returned home for brief holidays, Douglas was not excluded; father and sons formed a foursome. For a time his father and brothers were very nearly the only companions with whom Douglas broke his solitary rambles. In rain, heavy dew, and an occasional wet, gray snowfall that quickly turned to ice and mud, through a long, damp, chill January as gloomy and overcast as Douglas's spirits, they tramped, all four together or two or
three at a time, across bog, field, and meadow, along river path and edge of lake, in search of game.
Shooting was the Reverend Arthur Hyde's favorite sport; his sons had caught the fever from him. Normally it was a sport they easily enjoyed together, for the observation, concentration, and action it required allowed little opportunity for discussion of subjects on which they disagreed. And all four were superb marksmen, skilled in predicting the movements of birds and small animals. In January of 1876, however, birds were scarce. One day father and sons came home with but a single snipe among them. Another day, alone with Diver, having been disappointed at Ballinphuil, Douglas wandered along the Lung River near the Crinaun bridge, straying inadvertently beyond the bounds of de Freyne territory until he was confronted by an angry gamekeeper of alien fields. A shilling sent the man home grumbling. It was more than Douglas himself got for his time and trouble.
What the month did offer Hyde, in addition to companionship in a time of need, was a kind of schooling in the manners and mores of the Anglo-Irish squirearchy that he had not had before, partly because he had been a third and much younger son, until now excluded for the most part from the social activities of father and older brothers, partly because his own temperament had led him to make a separate life for himself with Hart, Dockry, Connolly, the Lavins, and other local men and boys rather than tag along where he had not felt wanted. Contrasts did not escape him: His father's anecdotes about the races in Roscommon and Galway presented a different side to stories he had heard from gamekeeper and tenant farmer. Watching his father and his father's peers at a cattle fair, he noted that the talk and techniques used by a country gentleman to strike a bargain were not the same as those he had witnessed in the company of Connolly and Dockry. Information obtained from readings in natural history provided the basis of the Reverend Arthur Hyde's lectures on the habits of birds and other game; Hart's traditional lore had been drawn from practical experience, his own and that of the men who had taught him. Focusing on time past, the Reverend Arthur Hyde reminisced about cricket fields, his playing companions at Trinity, and the team he had organized as a young minister in Kilmactranny. Hart's nostalgic recollections, although local in setting, had included stories of wondrous events for which he used to cite for authority eyewitnesses who had preceded him to the grave.
There were similarities, too, between the gamekeeper and the minister. Hart had been a strong-minded man. Sometimes Douglas had been
afraid to question assertions that he did not fully understand, for fear of trying Hart's patience. Equally strong-minded, the Reverend Arthur Hyde had unshakable opinions on such subjects as the best method for building turf ricks, the best recipe for making whiskey punch, and the best strategies to use when playing cards or chess. Telling a story or singing a song, Hart could be soft and nostalgic. Remembering the classical scholar he was in his youth, the Reverend Arthur Hyde intoned Homer in a voice not at all like that in which he delivered Sunday sermons, barked instructions to his sons, or ordered workmen about. Hart had given Douglas lines of Irish poetry to memorize. The Reverend Arthur Hyde lectured Douglas on the need for applying himself more diligently to the study of Horatian odes. Evenings in the gamekeeper's cottage or at a neighboring hearth Douglas and Hart used to listen to old men's tales of past events: the monster meetings of fifty years ago through which O'Connell had demonstrated public support for repeal of the laws that had barred Catholics from serving in Parliament; the daily tragedies encountered on western roads during the Famine; the land clearances of the 1850s. Since Hart's death Douglas often spent evenings at home in the glebe house, hunched over a game of chess or backgammon with his father. Intent on the strategies the game required, the Reverend Hyde was less expansive in this setting than he was out-of-doors or sitting idly before the fire, telling stories of his youth, a glass of whiskey in his hand: to his son's questions and comments he replied monosyllabically if at all. That was a lesson, too. Douglas learned that for an Anglo-Irish gentleman social games were serious business.
Between the winter and early spring of 1876 father and son developed a mutual tolerance and respect previously not evident in their relationship. Perhaps it was the memory of these months that sustained them through less companionable, more difficult times ahead. For the moment, for Douglas, they helped dull the pain of Seamas Hart's death.
Otherwise unbountiful, nature also provided helpful diversions during these trying months. On February 9 an unusually heavy snowfall blanketed the ground. Whipped by strong winds it piled itself into drifts of a size and depth seldom seen in northwest Roscommon. From the middle of December there had been no mention of Connolly's or Dockry's name in his diary, but on this day, rolling huge snowballs into the yard with Annette and Connolly, Douglas discovered that he could still enjoy the older man's companionship. Soon Dockry's name reappeared also, in an entry describing an afternoon's shooting in which he had joined Douglas and Arthur. On the night of February 19, at the
end of a day spent outdoors cutting wood, a spectacular display of northern lights lured everyone out again into field and meadow. In awe and astonishment Hyde watched great, glowing curtains of eerie blue and green and dark red, the color of drying blood, sweep across the sky. Old men, their eyes bright and fixed on the ancient world they seemed to see in their turf fires, told stories about such skies, which in ancient legend usually portended death and destruction. If Douglas, remembering those traditional tales, shivered as he watched, it was perhaps only partly from the cold; partly from some instinct he shared with Diver, for on such nights dogs seek dark places in which to hide; and partly from a memory of the shining eyes of old men.
Birds, meanwhile, remained as scarce throughout February as the Irish in Douglas's diary. On the fifth of the month, in one of but eleven entries between January 1 and March 1 in which he used any Irish at all, he complained that, devil a thing, not even a crow or a hare, was to be found. More frustrating was the night of the seventh: he had gone out at ten; he had returned empty-handed at two-thirty in the morning, unable to bring down a single bird, although the float river had been full of wild geese. On the seventeenth, again in Irish, he recorded the killing of a grouse rat in the haggard. In meadow and bog and along the riverbank, his luck had been poor, but this incident at least provided comforting evidence that his marksmanship was still good. The twenty-fourth brought better sport at last: he bagged a snipe and a "very curious bird," a "dipper," that had no tail and was unable to fly. It was a new "thing" to be noted on March 12, the next date set by family custom for totaling and recording the monthly kill of birds and small animals.
Meanwhile, "Bhí Shán an so" (John [Sean] was here), Douglas wrote on February 15, echoing "Vee Shamus an so" of happier days in the still partly phonetic but increasingly conventional Irish script that he had begun to develop just before Hart's death. Seamas Hart had not been replaced, but Johnny Lavin with his fluent Irish and Fenian sympathies was gradually becoming a new and needed friend. With the end of winter came a physical complaint, the first recorded since December, an aching cheekbone. It flared up during the last days of February when changing temperatures and humidity inflamed Douglas's sinuses even as they were harbingers of spring. Unpleasant as it was, the pain was homey, familiar, the kind of thing that besets only the living. It separated him from the dead.
In the weeks that followed, Lavin was often mentioned, as "John"
or "Johnny" in English, "Eóin" or "Seán" in Irish, the uncertainty of his Irish name indicating that he was better known to all but Douglas by his name in English. For a time "Bhí Dockry annso" (Dockry—sometimes written "Coiducruidh" or "Colducruidh"—was here) was a competing refrain. Employed, like Connolly, by the Reverend Hyde, therefore a frequent companion in work and sport, Dockry was a Frenchpark Irish speaker with strong Fenian sympathies. Douglas liked him but sometimes became impatient with his dogmatism. Johnny Lavin, to be sure, could often be argumentative, especially when he had "a drop too much taken" of the whiskey that flowed freely in cottage and glebe house, but he, like Hart, brought to political questions a cultural and historical perspective. Dockry, when determined to make a point, had no perspective at all. For him there were never two sides to a political question, only his own.
Douglas had been schooled by both his fathers, Seamas Hart and the Reverend Arthur Hyde, Jr., to value cultural and historical perspective. From the stories of each he had learned that in appearance the west of Ireland in which he was growing up had not changed significantly since the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Before then there had been great forests and enormous game animals. Elizabethan axes had cut down most of the forests, leaving little beyond the wooded acres of Big House estates spared for the benefit of English and Anglo-Irish lords who were their owners. The enormous game animals had disappeared completely. Only the great antlered heads mounted in the entrance halls of castle and Big House bore witness to the size of the extinct red deer.
Cramped, crude stone cottages, many either unroofed and derelict or, their thatch gone to seed, given over to sheltering animals, also had their place in the history Douglas learned, chiefly from Hart and his Irish-speaking neighbors. In the folk imagination such cottages provided the setting for many traditional tales. It was behind a half-door the like of that, or before just such a hearth, the storyteller, or seanachie , would declare, that our kings and queens of old reigned in splendor; it was in a cottage much like the one beyond that the king of Ireland's son encountered a visitor from the Celtic otherworld. Both the folk memory drawn upon by Hart and the written history on which the Reverend Arthur Hyde relied preserved tales of nearby castles in northwest Roscommon, former homes of provincial monarchs more powerful than local kings and queens. Douglas knew that Ballintober, just outside Roscommon town, had been the seat of the O'Conors; Moygara, near Ballaghaderreen, had been the home of the O'Garas. Ballintober
was the more impressive of the two. Covering as much ground as a small village, it had thick, turreted walls surrounded by a moat, a spacious courtyard, and a keep so large and well-built that part of it was still being used as a residence by descendants of Rory and Turlough O'Conor and Cathal of the Red Hand. Moygara, by contrast, was in ruins, for the O'Garas had been forced to abandon their castle in 1690, following the Battle of the Boyne in which King Billy had routed the leaderless Irish soldiers of the renegade James II.
Douglas learned, not only from his father but also from the lavishly illustrated books written by antiquarians that he found in his father's library, that the smaller but thick-walled rectangular fortified houses popularly known as "ten-pound castles" had not been built by the Irish. Constructed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries with ten-pound subsidies from the Crown, they were the former strongholds of Saxon knights who had crossed the Irish Sea with commissions from English kings to establish English order in rebellious Ireland. In Frenchpark as throughout the country, the wide-windowed Big Houses surrounded by lavish gardens that were hidden behind high stone walls also were called castles by their cottage neighbors. These, however, were more recent additions to the landscape, most going back no further than the early eighteenth century, when rebel Irish chieftains having been subdued or exiled, a siege mentality no longer dictated Ascendancy architectural fashions. The home of Lord de Freyne in Frenchpark and that of Sandford in Castlerea were such Big Houses, Douglas knew. So was Castle Hyde, the Hyde family seat on the Blackwater near Cork. A frequent focus of illustrated newspaper and journal essays on famous Irish residences, it no longer belonged to the senior Hyde line (having been sold in 1851 under the Encumbered Estates Act), yet young Douglas was fascinated by pictures of the mansion and demesne as well as by "Sweet Castle Hyde," a composition by a poetaster often called "probably the worst ballad ever written." Douglas had memorized it as a boy; as professor of Irish at University College, Dublin, and even later, as president of Ireland, he would sometimes amuse himself and guests with off-key renditions of such verses as:
'Tis there you'd hear the thrushes warbling,
The dove and partridge I now describe,
And lambkins sporting every morning,
All to adorn sweet Castle Hyde.
To the Reverend Arthur Hyde, who read history as a record of English kingships and calculated years by the passing of an estate from
one owner to another, castles and Big Houses were not a source of amusement but symbols of order and hierarchy. Castle Hyde was a case in point. Built on the portion of the earl of Desmond's Cork estates that had been granted to Hyde's ancestor, Sir Arthur Hyde, in 1599, in 1851 it had been purchased by John D. Sadleir, M.P. Sadleir had sold it to Sir Henry Becher in 1862. As Sir Henry was a descendant of Fane Becher, who had been granted the neighboring portion of Desmond's Cork estates in 1599, the Desmond lands that had been divided were thus recombined in ways that reinforced for men of the Reverend Arthur Hyde's background the concept that aristocratic order and history were philosophically related. In 1876 this concept was being challenged by Charles Stewart Parnell, M.P., a young Protestant landowner who had aligned himself politically with Joe Biggar and Isaac Butt. A believer in aristocratic order, the Reverend Hyde was uncompromising in his opposition to Parnell.
While absorbing his father's frequent dinner-table pronouncements, Douglas had acquired from Hart and Lavin and the talk of others in Frenchpark cottages a different historical perspective on land, its uses, and its ownership. Folk history treated time as space, depicting the great pre-Elizabethan forests as standing both physically and chronologically between anglicized Ireland and the ancient world of story and saga. It compacted centuries to create a measured sequence of myth and historic event. Recent history was no exception: eleven years had passed since the arrest, trial, imprisonment, and exile of the Fenians, yet stories told around cottage fires gave to Fenian exploits, in Ireland and America, the immediacy of yesterday. Nor were other events of Irish Ireland's history more remote. Before the Fenians, there had been the Bold Men of 1848, their survivors still active in Boston and New York. The Great Famine of 1846–1848 had driven abroad sisters and brothers of Frenchpark neighbors and had sent countless souls to quicklime graves through the dreaded "Black Gable" of the Castlerea workhouse (which stood but twelve years and a few hundred yards from the house where, in 1860, Douglas had been born). In 1829 Daniel O'Connell had led to victory the struggle for Catholic emancipation.
Like leachta cuimne , the memory stones that line Irish country roads, vivid accounts of such events evoked the past, creating narrative markers that led, one beyond the other, back through time: to Robert Emmet's defiant speech from the dock following the rebellion of 1803; to the rising of 1798, coordinated by Wolfe Tone, founder and leader of the United Irishmen; to the hedge schoolteachers who risked their lives re-
sisting laws that threatened to reduce the native population to hewers of wood and drawers of water; to the broken Treaty of Limerick and Flight of the Wild Geese in 1691; to the Irish soldiery left leaderless by James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690; to the Cromwellian invasions and "plantations" of the mid-seventeenth century; to the turbulent reigns of Charles I, James I, and Elizabeth I. Cutting down trees, building ships, creating the empire on which for nearly three hundred years the sun would never set, the Elizabethans had been the first to bring in "planters": English subjects loyal to the Crown who were deeded homesteads from which the native Irish had been driven in order to "pacify" the land.
In cottage history, Gaelic Ireland, shrouded in Celtic myth, flourished on the far side of this space/time continuum, its distant shores preserved for succeeding generations in an oral tradition older than England. There where wild boar and great stag roamed, land belonged not to those who bought and sold it but to those who used it; justice prevailed under Brehon law. Similar ideas, it was said in the cottages, were now being proclaimed even by the son of a landlord, the new young Protestant M.P., Charles Stewart Parnell. To men like Hart, Lavin, and Dockry who dreamed of an Irish Ireland in which Irish women and men would once more till their own fields and no more labor fruitlessly on acres rented from English landlords, these ideas were lawful and just; they reflected an historical imperative. Stirred by their romance and rhetoric, Douglas embraced them. Only Dockry, in Douglas's opinion, lacked a vision of the future. Greedy, short-sighted, and embittered, he regarded all landlords with the same disdain. Yet, Douglas noted, he, too, supported Parnell.
With April came the first swallow of 1876, the first butterfly, and—for Douglas—more progress in written Irish. In early May from his uncle in Drumkilla he received a present of an Irish dictionary that gave impetus to his reading and composition. Such items as "Lá Bealtine," a poem of four alternating verses of Irish and English celebrating the first day of May, were added to the miscellany preserved in the back pages of his diary. From daily entries in Irish he constructed a continuing discourse that lasted almost four weeks. Among the ominous notes of this period was one that recorded the death of Terence Carty, a local man who had been killed on May 1, the day of the Ballaghaderreen fair.
June and July 1876 brought a succession of visitors to the glebe house, among them an unidentified man with whom Douglas had several conversations in Irish. Douglas lunched with the visitors, joined
their boating and swimming parties, and even went sightseeing with them and accompanied them on visits to fairs, although at first with no great show of enthusiasm. They interrupted his studies, he complained to his diary; they opposed Parnell; they talked excitedly of the "agrarian crime" reported in newspapers and repeated what they had heard of murders and deaths and injuries caused by weakened bridge supports and blocked roads in other localities. Some blamed damage to crops on maliciously opened sluice gates and vandalized drainage devices; some muttered darkly about the maiming of cattle. Distancing himself from such topics, Douglas confined his concerns to the drought, so severe that it was thought to have caused the observable decline in the grouse population. When he did join in the conversation, it was usually to echo the general sentiment that rain was badly wanted. It was the thing to say, of course, but to his diary he confessed that he did not really mean it, despite the grouse problem. He had begun to enjoy the continuing fair skies and the diversions—long walks, tennis, cricket, croquet, swimming, boating—that fine weather made possible.
On July 7, 1876, Douglas went with his father to the bishop for a long talk about his future. Together the older men outlined a program of home study that would lead to his admission to Trinity, a degree in theology, and a career as a clergyman. Douglas listened without agreeing or protesting, but to himself he acknowledged that the prospect was not to his liking. Yet there seemed no alternative. His father's willingness to support his education was clearly dependent upon his choosing a career in the church. Both Arthur and Oldfield had refused to follow in the footsteps of father, grandfather, and great-grandfather: the Reverend Hyde was determined to have a successor. The onus of avoiding a break in tradition was now on Douglas. He could do worse, he told himself; he would consider it, he promised himself, in the fall. Meanwhile, so filled were his days with social engagements that for the moment there was no possibility of his giving any thought to the schedule of reading and study that he would have to adhere to in order to prepare himself properly for entrance examinations to Trinity. He could not put off these matters for long, however. He was devilishly weak, he reminded himself, in several important curricular areas. Arthur, to whom he sometimes sent his exercises, had identified the subjects in which he was deficient and noted those which he had not yet begun to study. Yet summer activities were so distracting that he did not even fulfill his promise to himself to keep up his work in Irish.
On July 8, the day after Douglas's talk with his father and the bishop,
young Lord de Freyne attained his majority. Frenchpark House festivities were the talk of provincial Big House society. They included dinner under a marquee, music, dancing, and fireworks in which Frenchpark servants and tenants were invited to participate. As neighbors and kinsmen, the Hydes of course attended. It was difficult to feel threatened by agrarian crime on such an occasion; it was even more difficult to think that such a pleasant summer would end and that soon autumn days would be filled with lessons and exercises. Throughout the remainder of the month new guests arrived daily for luncheon, dinner, or tea. Some stayed on. Lawn tennis, cricket, and boating occupied the young people; everyone played croquet.
On July 29 Douglas and Oldfield went to Drumkilla for a similar round of social activities. Although heavy rains at the beginning of August briefly broke the dry spell, another unusually long stretch of exceptionally fine weather followed. Enjoying himself, Douglas remained at Drumkilla even after Oldfield left for Dublin. Perfunctory notes in his diary, mostly in English, record only where he had been and whom he had seen, but to Oldfield he wrote long, chatty letters full of enthusiasm for the pleasures of Anglo-Irish society. For a time it appeared as if the voice of Seamas Hart had been stilled, not by a persuasive bishop and a determined father but by the self-indulgent ease of Ascendancy life against which bishop and father fared no better.
As fine weather meant a good harvest, Douglas was needed at the glebe house in late August to help with the haying and with bringing in the oats. Another death had occurred in his absence: Diver, the dog that had been his almost constant companion since 1873, was gone. Even this fact was recorded unemotionally, in the diary to which Douglas no longer confided feelings but only, like his brother Arthur, facts and events. The only exception was an invitation from his two favorite Hyde aunts to accompany them on a sightseeing trip through the west of Ireland, which—as his diary reveals—he obviously anticipated with pleasure.
The timing of the trip arranged by Douglas's aunts could not have been better for a number of reasons: Away from his father, on neutral ground, Douglas hoped that he would be able to reflect on the present and assess the prospects he soon would have to face. Turning sixteen had been a milestone: since the summer his social role had changed markedly; agreeable as he found his new position, he had not yet digested its implications. Whatever he decided about the future, he felt he must return to work on the Irish language. The trip, he told himself, would
provide a ready-made subject for an Irish journal. At the same time it would give him a chance to see more of the Irish countryside. Except for occasional visits to Mohill, Galway, and Dublin, he had traveled very little outside Roscommon.
Douglas and his aunts set out from Castlerea on September 5. Their plan was to travel north and west through Mayo and Connemara, then south through Galway, Clare, and Kerry en route to Killarney; then east to Cork for the train home via Portarlington. In his new, neatly lettered Irish script modeled on examples of Irish printing that he had been studying, Douglas recorded their departure. Although he still had to rely in large part on phonetic spellings, he was pleased and relieved to find that Irish words and phrases were coming to him more easily than he had expected. His Irish persona was another matter. Occasional associations—a fragment of a story, a place-name, the look of the sky on a particular morning, the open door of a cottage—evoked involuntary memories of a gamekeeper and a young boy. In other respects, although the language in which he wrote was Irish, Douglas's Irish self seemed to be fading with his rapidly receding childhood.
Never before had Douglas visited the countryside through which he traveled with his aunts, but he did know something of its history. The route from Castlerea to Castlebar formed the first leg of the travelers' journey: in Frenchpark cottages he had heard about "the Races at Castlebar," a 1798 battle in which the British had been put to rout by outnumbered French troops that had been joined by ill-equipped, untrained but determined Irish forces. The short-lived victory—when British reinforcements arrived the rebels were defeated—had been the beginning of a strange drama, for the British reinforcements had been under the command of a Scotsman called John Moore, and among those captured by the British was John Moore of Moore Hall, leader of the Irish rebels, who had been proclaimed president of the Republic of Connaught. Louisa Browne Moore, mother of the rebel John and a cousin of the marquess of Sligo, had tried in vain to use both money and family position to secure her son's release. The man who opposed her was her own kinsman, Denis Browne, the "hanging judge" of Mayo; John Moore died a British prisoner. Rumor had it that rebel sympathies had continued for a time among the Moores: John's nephew, the late George Henry Moore, M.P., was said to have been a friend and supporter of the Fenian leader O'Donovan Rossa. George Henry Moore had died in 1870; in 1876 his eldest son, George Augustus Moore, was an art student living in Paris. Little that was said of the son suggested
that soon he would become the talk of the Dublin literary world—or that one day he would stage Hyde's Irish play An Tincéar agus an t-Sidheog (The tinker and the fairy) in his Dublin garden.
On September 6 Douglas and his aunts set out for Westport, a pretty seaside town and popular touring center on Clew Bay in county Mayo. Here, too, the past had its ghosts, the future its shadow of things to come. From Westport House, on the edge of town, Lord Altamont had joined George Henry Moore in various schemes to relieve victims of the Famine in 1847–1848. The new Protestant church that soon would be built would be served one day by Canon J. Hannay (the novelist George A. Birmingham) who would become one of Hyde's close friends and a staunch supporter within the Gaelic League. Nearby was Sheeaun, a prehistoric mound doubly famed as the site of one of Daniel O'Connell's "monster meetings." Six miles to the south, directly on the bay, rose Ireland's "Holy Mountain," Croagh Patrick, its sugarloaf peak on which St. Patrick himself was said to have fasted and prayed for forty days dominating the landscape. The site drew thousands of pilgrims during the last week in July. Hyde wished he could explore it. His aunts were merely thankful that in September the area was pleasantly quiet.
On September 7 scenic roads leading south toward Connemara offered magnificent views of the coast and opportunities to study at close range the antiquities for which west Mayo was deservedly famous: ancient churches, dolmens, prehistoric pillarstones, and an intricately carved eleventh-century High Cross. By evening the travelers reached Letterfrack, where Douglas met an Irish-speaking schoolmaster with whom he carried on a brief but encouraging conversation: in his diary he noted with pleased surprise that he had had no difficulty understanding the man or making himself understood. At Kylemore his aunts agreed to wait while he climbed part way up a mountain less mystical than Croagh Patrick but nevertheless worth the exertion for its spectacular full view of the Atlantic. Clifden was disappointing: to Douglas the bustling market town was "dirty and ugly." He was glad to leave it for the trip eastward, through the central valley of Connemara and the Joyce country, toward Cong, where in 1198 Rory, last high king of Ireland and an ancestor of the O'Conors of Castlerea, had died. The route took them past picturesque lakes and stony fields still blooming with golden gorse and purple heather, a romantic picture viewed against the backdrop of the Twelve Bens and the Maamturk Mountains. They were not far from Moytura Castle on Lough Corrib, where Sir William Wilde and his family spent their summers, when all romance
vanished, for Cecilly discovered that she was missing the bag that contained much of her money. Certain that the rest of the trip would have to be cancelled, Douglas was miserable. To his relief, the loss delayed them but did not change their itinerary, and his aunts' spirits were dampened only temporarily.
From Cong the travelers boarded a steamer across Lough Corrib to Galway, following a route later described in Trollope's posthumous novel, The Landleaguers . From Galway, where one day Hyde would play the poet Raftery in the premiere performance of another of his dramas in Irish, An Pósadh (The Marriage), they continued by boat across the harbor to county Clare and by carriage to Lisdoonvarna, missing Craughwell, where Raftery lay buried, and Coole Park, the estate of Lady Gregory, sites that would figure importantly in Douglas's future. On September 10, well wrapped for the day's expedition, he and his aunts stood on the Cliffs of Moher, scene of the tragedy in Trollope's An Eye for an Eye . Mesmerized by the force with which the wind-whipped Atlantic crashed against menacing rocks two hundred yards below, Douglas was astonished to discover that he could taste the salt spray from the impact. By contrast, the comfortable rooms in which they lodged that evening, overlooking the horseshoe bay of fashionable and sheltered Kilkee, seemed to belong to another world.
The next morning Douglas and his aunts left Kilkee for Kilrush, a few miles to the south on the Shannon estuary, to board an eastbound steamer across the Shannon to Foynes, from which they traveled by train to Limerick. After touring the historic city associated with both Brian Boru, the high king said to have defeated the Danes at Clontarf in 1014, and Patrick Sarsfield, hero of the Siege of Limerick, they caught the train for Killarney, arriving at eleven o'clock on the morning of September 12 for a week's stay. There, overwhelmed by the majesty of the Torc Cascade, the panorama of the Gap of Dunloe, the beauty of the three Lakes of Killarney (explored by boat under fine, clear skies), the picturesque ruins at every turn, Douglas's descriptive vocabulary failed him. After four days' sightseeing, "Never saw the likes of that scene ever" was all he could record of his impressions in his Irish diary. In Glengarriff on September 20 his Irish vocabulary failed him again, until the excitement of finding himself walking about on the actual ground that once had belonged to his ancestors inspired him to compose short Irish lyrics, or "ranns."
The route to Cork on September 21 had been planned to take in Gouganebarra and Macroom, two of the best-known scenic spots of
the southwest, but the weather was so bad that the three travelers could see nothing but the lashing rain from their carriage. Douglas was thoroughly and uncomfortably soaked, the rain having penetrated even his heavy overcoat. Nevertheless, awaiting the afternoon train from Cork, he could not resist browsing in bookstores and shopping for souvenirs, especially as he anticipated that once Portarlington had been reached he would have a hot meal, comfortable bed, and good rest in the hotel in which Cecilly had made reservations. When they arrived in Portarlington, however, they found that the hotel had been overbooked. By the time alternative private accommodations were arranged, all three travelers were exhausted and Douglas was thoroughly chilled. The next day's journey was also long and uncomfortable—twice they were delayed for three hours at intermediate stops—but by the evening of September 23, Douglas and his aunts were again home in Drumkilla, where the opportunity to relive their trip by talking about it to others revived the excitement of their adventures. September 24 began with a new round of picnics, boatrides, tennis, croquet, long walks, and other diversions of Anglo-Irish life.
As he had promised himself, Douglas did keep a full account of his tour of western Ireland entirely in Irish, but the persona he adopted for the task was that of his English-speaking self: aloof, removed, tunnel-visioned. No notice of Irish-speaking communities was included in his written record, although in 1876 the Gaeltacht stretched along the entire coast, from Donegal to Killarney. Except for his conversation with the schoolmaster in Letterfrack, he spoke no Irish but remained physically and psychologically within the Anglo-Irish corridor of hotels and guest houses that extended the length of the land. It was a narrow, insulated world in which he and his aunts regularly encountered family friends and other tourists who, if not prior acquaintances, were known to them by name and family connection. Shielded from everyone and everything else, Douglas made no decision—he did not even attempt to make a decision—about his future.
Little changed for Douglas internally or externally during the next three months. If his intention was to follow the course that his father and the bishop had laid out for him, he did nothing toward removing deficiencies in his academic preparation. If he planned to choose a different course, he did nothing to weigh potential alternatives. His few diary entries, mostly about shooting, were written in English. The weather ranged from indifferent to harsh, with hard frost by October 10 and days of strong, biting wind. In late October one of his Hyde
aunts, his father's sister Barbara, died in Dublin, where she had lived with her husband and children. The Reverend Arthur Hyde and his wife attended the funeral, after which Mrs. Hyde went on to Munster while her husband returned to the glebe house where Douglas and Annette had been left in charge. There he took to his bed almost immediately with a severe attack of gout. A few days later, at the beginning of November, while the Reverend Arthur Hyde was still bedridden, Arthur came home from Trinity with first-class honors but also with excruciating pains in his back. By the time Bessie Hyde returned to Frenchpark on November 20, Arthur's unrelieved suffering had become a cause for concern. Fortunately, Cecilly had come home with her, for Bessie was not entirely well herself and there were two patients to nurse. It was an unhappy household, very different from the one that had been the scene of summer parties, to which Emily Hyde journeyed from Mohill on November 27, nor had there been much improvement when the Lloyds arrived for luncheon on November 30.
To escape the sickroom atmosphere that permeated the glebe house, Douglas had spent most of November outdoors, shooting. On November 19 he had acquired a new companion, on loan from Narry, from whom he and Annette had bought new boots: a dog called "Shot," half brother to Diver, and just as black. Cecilly stayed on through December. The weather was mostly fine, if frequently cold. By the middle of the month Arthur was up and around at last, able to join Douglas, Annette, and Cecilly on walks down to the float river. The Reverend Arthur Hyde improved, too, but slowly, with setbacks. Meanwhile, under Douglas's careful tutelage, Shot turned out to be a fine hunter; on December 19 he retrieved six snipe that Douglas had downed in the rushy fields near Lissachurcha and three more that Douglas had caught wheeling overhead as he walked home in the dark. Three days later, "after a great stalk, behind a low ditch" near the Lung River, Douglas killed a scotch grey at sixty yards with a green cartridge of No. 1 shot. The goose, also retrieved by Shot, weighed about seven pounds, he noted proudly.
Meanwhile, spurred on perhaps by Arthur's academic successes, at last Douglas initiated a formal program of study. His diary entries, most of them written wholly or partly in conventionally spelled Irish, record his progress in translating Latin verse and conquering elementary German. But they also include short paragraphs devoted to observation and description that suggest a reawakening of Douglas's Irish persona and old love of words as well as a new conscious attention to Irish prose
style. Among them the following, dated December 7, is evocative even in English translation:
Since I was born I have not seen anything like the look of the lake, nor water so quiet, nor a scene so pleasant. The water and the air were as one, and I saw every island in the water so plainly that I did not know what was an island, what was water. At the end, as we were going home, there was great fog, but we guided ourselves by the one star only. There was great danger in it.
On Christmas morning it was evident from the gifts Douglas was given (a Gaelic Bible, a history of the Church of Ireland) that, whatever Douglas had said or failed to say, his family had assumed that the question of his future had been settled. Only from Cecilly Hyde, who perhaps knew him best, did he receive a different kind of present: a Lett's Diary or Bills Due Book and Almanac for 1877 . His mother's cast-off household account book—the makeshift journal with its inkblots, its pen-and-ink soldiers and knights on guard at top and bottom margins, and its arsenal of swords, daggers, and pistols stored along each side in which he had been keeping a record of his inner and outer life since a month past his fourteenth birthday—was stored away with other artifacts of his childhood. He was almost seventeen; he had decisions to make about his future; he had work to do before he could implement those decisions.
A new Hyde emerged in the new diary begun January 1, 1877. Serious and studious, he scheduled his time carefully, kept track of his daily accomplishments in a neat, small hand, and in businesslike fashion divided each entry so that half was written in English, half in Irish. More socially confident and congenial than in the past, he now went out of his way, returning from a walk along the lake, to speak with Marie de Freyne, whose carriage he had spotted on the road. So remarkable was the external transformation that at first it seemed as if it could not last. Week after week, however, until well into March, Douglas kept to his rigorous program, encouraged by Cecilly Hyde, who had volunteered to stay on after Christmas to tutor him in French. To his diary Douglas confessed that he was quite sure that she did not know much more of the language than he, but he gladly accepted her help for the companionship she provided. She was, he wrote in his diary, his best friend in the family; there was no one, he avowed, for whom he had more love.
Bad weather also helped keep Douglas at work indoors: in all of January there were but four fine days, none of them mild. The rest were too cold, too windy, and too wet to spend much time outside. Shooting
had to be curtailed despite the fact that Douglas's guns were probably in better condition than ever before, for he cleaned them over and over in anticipation of good weather that did not come. By January 30 the turlough, the winter lake in the meadow generally agreed to be the best site for bagging waterfowl, had risen so high that nearby cottages had to be abandoned.
Staying indoors at home day after day was not easy for Douglas, especially as his father, still crippled by gout, was usually irritable; his mother was not well, either; and until they returned to Dublin, Arthur and Oldfield regularly took refuge from the situation in short visits to Drumkilla. The management of the glebe house was thus left to Douglas and Annette—a considerable responsibility as Annette was then not quite twelve years old. On January 15 Oldfield packed books and clothing sufficient for a four-month stint at Trinity: results of examinations for which he had to prepare would determine his eligibility for honors and a scholarship; therefore, he announced, he had no plans to return home before May. As Arthur, too, had returned to Dublin, it was a quiet seventeenth birthday, with just Cecilly and Annette for company, that Douglas celebrated on January 17, 1877. His present from Cecilly was a two-volume life of Bishop Peterson. She, too, had come to believe that he had reconciled himself to a career in the church. He himself was still not sure exactly what he might do.
A few days after Douglas's birthday a Tibohine parishioner, John Carty, died of natural causes. No one had told the Reverend Arthur Hyde, still housebound because he was too lame to walk, that Carty's body had been placed inside the church. When no arrangements for burial had been made by January 21, there was "great trouble" within the congregation. The incident embarrassed Douglas, increasing the old distance between himself and his father, evident in his diary since late October.
On January 27 Douglas noted in his diary "considerable talk" of his "going out for an Irish sizarship in the college." Such an appointment was attractive because of the independence it would offer him. Realistic in appraising his academic capabilities, he observed, "It is not so hard but I . . . have a lot to do." Redoubling his efforts in Greek, Irish, Latin, German, and French, he became his own strictest taskmaster. No tutor could have been more disapproving when he failed to put in the minimum number of hours he had assigned himself or did not complete the work he had scheduled within the time allotted. On a typical day his plan of study called for two hours of Latin before midday dinner;
an hour or two of Irish between dinner and supper; and an hour of Greek, another hour of Latin or German, and an hour of French between supper and bed. There were in addition books to read and poetry to memorize.
Roscommon weather continued to be cloudy and wet through February and March. Even on fine days there were sudden showers; storms and squalls were frequent. Meadows and fields in which Douglas walked regularly became so marshy from the repeated rains that a man could sink in them. Turloughs appeared where even the oldest of "ould wans" had never seen them before. Cecilly, who had delayed her departure so that she could continue to be of help not only to Douglas but to the entire household, left for Dublin and Stillorgan on February 8. The next day a dispirited Douglas, dissatisfied with himself and cranky at being confined, complained to Connolly of the way in which he had cut the laurel hedge, the ivy, and the fuchsia. The laurel would never grow again, he insisted peevishly. New plants would have to be bought at once. On February 10 he wrote petulantly in his diary in Irish, "I have nothing to do because there is no fowling, nor games, nor visiting, nor sport at all." Yet, he added, bringing himself up short: "I am well settled down now studying." On February 12, feeling tired and unhappy, he diagnosed a sore throat as the root of his problem, dosed himself with whiskey, and went to bed. In a similar frame of mind, stiff from rheumatism as well as sore from gout, unable to go out shooting or walk along the road or even take a turn in his garden, the Reverend Arthur Hyde was making regular use of the same medicine, in much larger quantities.
Lonely and depressed, Douglas began dropping into the Connolly cottage for conversations in Irish with Connolly's wife, a native speaker in her youth who had promised to try to recover her former fluency for Douglas's benefit; he also renewed ties with Johnny and Michael Lavin, Cloigionín-a-naosc, and Dockry, with whom he had spent little time for more than half a year. Under their cottage roofs he was assured of a warm fire, a glass of whiskey, and a friendly chat to counter the gloom of the glebe house. Johnny Lavin was the man whose company he now enjoyed most.
Lavin had a sharp mind, in Douglas's opinion, except when he was drinking, when he had no sense at all. Like so many other Frenchpark Irish speakers, he was fluent but illiterate in his native language, having been taught reading and writing only in English in the local school; but unlike others, he wanted to learn to read and write in Irish as well.
Douglas loaned him the Irish catechism out of which he himself had traced Irish letters and studied the spelling of simple words and phrases. Cloigionín-a-naosc, one of the few local people who not only read Irish but owned several Irish books, was a different sort. Douglas borrowed a volume of Irish ballads from him, lending him in return one of his own books, the Reverend William Neilson's Introduction to the Irish Language (a grammar printed in 1843 for the use of Protestant missionaries in Irish-speaking districts). The ballad book interested Douglas. He liked not only the ballad stories but their narrative modes. Storytelling was an art that enticed him. He was intrigued by connections between the narrative techniques used by the ballad makers and those of the traditional storytellers.
Mrs. Connolly was a good source of oral tradition. Visits with her always yielded interesting stories as well as a variety of Irish expressions. Whenever Douglas stopped to see her she had a few new phrases which she presented to him as happily as if they were gifts. He was quick to perceive the pleasant truth: she enjoyed their Irish conversations as much as he, for in the process of searching her memory for words forgotten in her youth she recalled forgotten incidents as well. Douglas took both words and stories home with him for phonetic inscription in his exercise book, then tried to work out their standard spellings according to the patterns he was learning to recognize and apply. Dockry alone among these old companions had become less congenial. Douglas was beginning to find him tiresome, for drunk or sober, in Irish or English, he talked of nothing but land and money.
With two glebe house neighbors, Michael Lavin and Francis O'Ruark, young Hyde sometimes put on the gloves for a round of boxing. Francis was an easy man to be with; he and Douglas sometimes planned small expeditions together. One day, taking the boat out on Lough Gara as far as Coolavin, they rowed across Doctor's Lake, beached the boat, and walked along the railroad tracks until they reached a path on their right that led up the hill to Moygara Castle. The four towers of the old castle, one at each corner, were connected by walls fifty yards long and so broad that they were easily able to walk the whole length of them as if they were on a country road. Some expeditions were spoiled by Douglas's practical jokes. One evening when they were coming home together in the dark, Douglas tried to trick Francis into thinking that they had walked in the wrong direction. Against all Francis's protests he insisted that they were approaching not Tibohine but Castlerea. By the time he acknowledged his joke, Francis
was confused and upset, but Douglas was neither embarrassed nor contrite. He took his relationships with Frenchpark cottagers at face value, never wondering if his welcome was something they could not refuse because of their relative social positions, or if under their surface cordiality something akin to Dockry's resentments were stirring—not against him personally, perhaps, but against the Ascendancy world to which (like it or not, as he himself was learning) he inescapably belonged. Yet the new persona that appeared in 1877 did reveal moments of self-awareness and sensitivity. From time to time he took stock of himself and his behavior. Often he was dissatisfied. On January 17—his seventeenth birthday—he was particularly harsh: "Alas, alas, O the sorrows of Mary," he lamented in Irish to his diary, "I'm afraid I'm not what I should be." Shamefacedly he also admitted, "I have written that under the power of a bottle. . . . I got the courage to write that from whiskey."
On the positive side, Douglas was, as he himself said, "well settled down" to his studying. Certainly the evidence was encouraging: he had completed Virgil's Georgics on January 31; he began the Aeneid on February 24. He had started the New Testament in Greek and Irish during the last week in January; by February 22 he had finished the Fourth Gospel in Greek. Nor was life so joyless and solitary as he sometimes made it out to be. Cecilly, to be sure, had gone back to Drumkilla, but Arthur had come home, and even if he was not Douglas's favorite companion, he could be counted on to go shooting when the weather permitted. On one rare day when the weather was reasonably good the two brothers took their guns and went out in their boat on Lough Gara. With no particular destination but a place where they might find game, they happened upon a bog neither had seen before in which there was a little lake, perhaps a turlough, around which eighty to a hundred snipe had gathered. As they considered how best to approach the birds across the spongy ground, they were challenged by an old woman who, having identified herself as wife of the keeper of the bog, scolded them in "Béarlaige," the mixture of English and Irish increasingly found in transitional areas where the native language was dying out and English was not yet fully established. Using the same talent for caricature evident in his drawings in his diary and exercise book, Douglas parodied the incident in a lighthearted Béarlaige of his own that anticipates the writings of "Myles na gCopaleen" (i.e., Brian O'Nolan):
I shot a brace in the bog, but after a little time an old cailleach who said she was bean na keeper came up & put triobloid mor on me, blaidaircacht &
barging, refusing to take airegeod no uiscebeatha, so that in spite of my most soothing sentences in the teanga blasda milis, I had, air dheiradh, to leave the bog & let a fine gearrfiadh escape . . . & come home inglorious.
On another expedition by boat that yielded no game but gave Douglas a chance to practice his conversational Irish with visitors to Roscommon from Mayo, the brothers stopped so long at a shebeen that they did not come home until considerably after dark.
Political talk, always available at Johnny Lavin's, was another favorite diversion. Like the summer visitors to the glebe house, the cottagers were divided on the subject of Parnell, especially as in 1877 it now looked as if Biggar and Parnell were taking over Butt's Home Rule movement. There were those who, remembering the trial of the Fenians in 1865, were sympathetic to Isaac Butt, who had stood alone against Keogh. Others argued that sentiment could not be allowed to interfere: Parnell was the man for the job. Still, O'Kelly's election as M.P. from Roscommon was a surprise to everyone. Some said it was about time—the old O'Conor Don had been in the House for twenty years, and what, they asked, had he done for the tenants. Others defended O'Conor Don's record, reminding the Parnellites that the O'Conors had been the best landlords in the area for as long as anyone could remember; that it was an O'Conor who had worked with O'Connell for Catholic emancipation; that this same O'Conor had been among the first Catholics to be elected to Parliament in 1831; and that it was an O'Conor in Parliament during the Famine who had answered the skeptics with facts and figures concerning the sick and dying people of the west.
On February 21, a man who had been ten years old in 1798 when the French sailed into Killala Bay spent the evening at Johnny Lavin's. Young Hyde sat close to him, near the fire. Fascinated, he listened to the old man's vivid recollections of the event. On February 27 Douglas was again at Lavin's for an account of a Fenian meeting held in Frenchpark that all present jubilantly hailed as a success. Aware of his father's attitudes and those of the neighboring Anglo-Irish, Douglas kept what he learned about the Fenians to himself. Anything he might say almost certainly would reveal sympathies unacceptable to the Reverend Arthur Hyde. In the years since his confrontation with Dublin schoolboys Douglas had learned to be discreet in some circles. But on the question of Parnell, Douglas admitted to himself that the flam-
boyant new M.P. was a fascinating figure—a Protestant like himself with radical sympathies that resembled his own.
At the end of March the weather turned fine at last. Douglas had adhered to a schedule of seven and more hours of intensive study every day while the rain and cold persisted. He was doing well. By the middle of March he had finished the Aeneid; by the middle of April he had covered most of the lessons in Neilson's Irish grammar. He also had read Pendennis and several books of poetry, including a Latin-Irish text by a man from Derry. His Irish was improving dramatically. No longer did he write phonetically, using English characters: entries in his diary and exercise books showed the same talent for drawing evident in the sketches and caricatures that used to decorate his work, producing a handsome imitation of printed Irish in which most words were spelled correctly and formed grammatically, with appropriate diacritical marks, and standard abbreviations were used. His exercise books had become commonplace books into which he copied portions of texts that particularly appealed to him, sometimes with and sometimes without comment.
Toward the end of April, Douglas's pace slowed. He was drinking more than was good for him, he knew—so much, he confessed to his diary, that at times he was unable to work. Even when he had drunk nothing at all, he often felt subdued, restless, lacking in his usual vitality. In his diary "mar a riamh " (as always) began to replace his previous careful accounting of how his daily time was spent. There were things that were bothering him, he acknowledged, among them questions to which he did not know the answers: What if he passed the examinations for Trinity but refused to enroll as a theology student? Would his father really cut off the funds he needed to attend college?
It was not unusual for Douglas to interrupt an afternoon's shooting to explore a prehistoric site. Antiquities had fascinated him ever since he had first learned about them from Seamas Hart. Liosairgul, not far from Hart's bog, Lough Gara, the Lung River, and Ballinphuil—all favorite haunts within an easy walk of Tibohine—always had seemed to him to be "a curious place, all full of raths & holes going down perpendicularly in the ground sometimes 20 yards wide & as many deep & always round." Often a man cutting turf would find in the bog an artifact of such intricate design that there was no doubt of the sophistication of the people who would make or own such a thing. Old Irish castles—not the tower houses built by the English with a small subsidy
from the Crown, but formidable structures of the kings of Ireland, such as Ballintober—fired his imagination.
Eighteen months had passed since the death of Seamas Hart when, on the morning of May 24, 1877, telling no one, Douglas silently left the glebe house before six o'clock for a strange and solitary expedition. During most of that time he had allowed himself to be carried along by shifting currents. For the last four months he had seemed to be following the course set for him by his father and the bishop, but without enthusiasm. Taking with him no food, only a candle, he walked to the float river, from which he caught the train to Kilfree, then tramped across "rugged country without roads or paths" toward Keshcorran, highest of the stony mountains near Ballymote that comprise an extended prehistoric cemetery of cairns, promontory tombs, and caves in which it is said that remains of reindeer, Irish elk, and other extinct animals have been found. Too tired to reach his objective, the cairn atop Keshcorran, Douglas entered one of the caves. Lighting his candle, he made his way along a narrow passage as far as he could go—about thirty yards. The central chamber, he reported, was "large enough for 10 couples to dance in." He says nothing more about what he did or saw although he does indicate that he lingered for a considerable time before returning to Kilfree by way of sparsely traveled roads that crisscross Keshcorran, providing a longer but easier descent. At the station he discovered that he would have a long wait for the next train back to Ballaghaderreen.
The mood or thought or doubt or conflict that had precipitated the day's behavior apparently left Douglas as he waited for the train. Boyish again, he passed the time, he wrote, amusing himself by "letting on to be Catholic" and pretending to know no English to a man whom he engaged in conversation in Irish. The man not only believed him, he gleefully confided to his diary, but took him to be a young priest or seminarian. Faced with a tired and bedraggled young stranger who spoke Irish with a pronounced Ascendancy accent while claiming to be a monolingual native Irish speaker, the Kilfree man no doubt had amused himself as well, pretending to believe Douglas's pretenses. But to what extent was the pretense which Douglas maintained as if it were just one of his practical jokes related to his behavior earlier in the day?
During the months that followed, nothing more came of either Douglas's strange psychodrama of May 24 or his father's ultimatum concerning his future, partly because other issues, public and personal,
dominated glebe house conversation, partly because Douglas had made up his mind to try for the Irish sizarship. At first, public issues appeared to be the greater concern. Agrarian crime was increasing; it could no longer be denied, even by Douglas, who on the one hand feared and on the other hand was fascinated by its potential. Incidents involving threats and physical violence were no longer remote. Mysterious fires broke out on nearby estates. In Frenchpark at the beginning of May, five to six hundred angry men had confronted a bailiff, demanding the price of a heifer that had been taken from one of them. On June 2, Captain Sandford's agent, Mr. Young, was shot dead. His body was found close to his own house in Castlerea, no more than several hundred feet from town, covered by a large sheepskin.
Public outcry demanded immediate and swift justice, but local gossip expressed confidence that Young's killer would never be named or found. Dockry's behavior reflected a new militant attitude evident among some of the cottagers. A few days after Young's death he stood on the back doorstep of the glebe house, holding forth about land reform and similar measures, refusing to change the subject or simply go away, to Douglas's increasing irritation. The next day word spread that another delegation of angry tenants had presented a list of demands backed by felonious threats to Sandford.
Although never in danger themselves, the Hydes could not help but be uneasy. For Douglas, who felt himself a member of both worlds, Anglo-Irish and native Irish, there was tension in what was said as well as what was unsaid in glebe house and neighboring cottage. Ambivalent toward both, he tried to concentrate on the reading and study schedule he had set for himself in January. He wanted to keep in touch with what was happening, yet he knew that if he was going to try for a sizarship at Trinity, he could not allow himself to be distracted. It was almost the middle of June and he had begun Euclid, the next subject, following Arthur's advice, that he had to cram. Even shooting was curtailed while he bent over his writing table for hours at a time, his books and papers scattered about him on the floor. Some days his diary contained nothing more than a cryptic record in a newly devised system of symbols and abbreviations of how he had allocated his waking hours. One day, in need of a break, he walked to Buckhill—a distance of three to four miles, he estimated, possibly a bit more—to talk with Rochesfort, a man with scholarly interests, a good library, and a good command of Irish whom he had sometimes visited with his father. It was, he declared, a "successful pilgrimage" that gave him a chance to rest
his eyes and stretch his legs— as well as to discover an unusual Irish poem that he took home with him to reread and analyze.
Meanwhile, Bessie Hyde's long, debilitating illness, later diagnosed as asthma, continued. Day after day she stayed in bed or dragged herself around, neither improving nor getting worse despite powders and herbal teas and other homegrown remedies. She did not feel up to a journey to Dublin, but everyone agreed that there was no alternative: she had to consult a specialist. Douglas was glad to accompany her, for her sake as well as his own. Except for an occasional respite such as the day spent at Keshcorran or the afternoon at Buckhill, he had been working hard for months. He needed a change of scene and a different pace, if only for a few days.
The trip to Dublin on June 19 was fortuitous. Douglas and his mother stayed as usual with the Oldfields in Blackrock where she could rest comfortably in her sisters' home between doctors' appointments while he was free to walk about the city and browse in its bookstores. In a shop on Anglesea Street where on previous trips he had purchased Irish books (the owner was John O'Daly, honorary secretary of the Ossianic Society, and a well-known publisher of Irish texts), he discovered that a "new society founded for keeping up the Irish language" was holding a meeting. He took a seat and listened "for a good while," looking around at the small but serious group of articulate and well-dressed women and men of different ages who had been drawn together by a subject in which he would not have expected Dubliners to be interested. When at last he got up to leave, a tall, muscular man with a small imperial beard also stood up and, walking with him to the door, invited him to tea the next afternoon.
Described by Dominic Daly as "a tireless worker for the . . . language," the man who approached Douglas was Thomas O'Neill Russell, a native of Westmeath who sailed regularly between Ireland and the United States, serving both his vocation (he was a commercial traveler for a whiskey firm, Hyde later learned) and his avocation, the promotion of Irish. He and the others at the meeting, Douglas discovered, were members of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, a respectable semischolarly organization to which O'Conor Don, one of its founders, already had introduced him.
The next afternoon, after accompanying his aunt Cecily Oldfield on a visit to Dublin cousins, the Mansfields, Douglas went to Kingstown to have tea with O'Neill Russell and his wife. At first he thought that Mrs. O'Neill Russell was French, for that was the language in which
the couple spoke to each other. Later, surmising that they had met in France where O'Neill Russell had lived for a time, he concluded that she was Swedish or Danish. In the hours they spent talking together about the fortunes of the Irish language, Douglas heard for the first time that there was strong interest in Irish in the United States—that indeed, there were American societies organized for the sole purpose of promoting Irish culture—and that some of those societies actually held regular classes in conversational modern Irish. O'Neill Russell also chatted familiarly about old Irish books and manuscripts that could be read in Dublin, at the Royal Irish Academy, and offered to introduce Douglas to the librarian and show him around the library there.
At eleven o'clock on June 21, Douglas stood on Dawson, a short street that runs between St. Stephens' Green and Trinity College, at the gracious entrance to the neoclassical residence that had been built for the Knox family in 1770 and acquired by the Royal Irish Academy in 1852. Itself an architectural gem, as Douglas admiringly noted, it was, he soon discovered, but the setting for such treasures as he had never dreamed existed. Hearing a friendly shout, he spied the tall figure of O'Neill Russell energetically cutting his way through dawdling pedestrians, surveying his walking stick as if it were a companion. Russell introduced Douglas to Mangan, director of the library, a kindly man who accepted a pinch of snuff and offered to provide Douglas with "every help . . . in learning Irish" if he could manage to come to the academy regularly. J. J. MacSweeney, the assistant librarian, repeatedly assured him that he was welcome to return whenever he liked. To his diary that evening Douglas confessed that the sight of so many priceless Irish artifacts—"old books eight hundred years of age, spearheads, harps, swords, the Tara brooch, the Cross of Cong, bog butter"—so dazzled him that he could not remember all that he had seen and examined. Two weeks later, back home in Roscommon, he received the very first letter ever sent to him in Irish, precursor of thousands. It was from O'Neill Russell, asking him for a contribution to help support the work of the society. Douglas's response was the first letter he had ever composed in Irish—written, he apologized, "as best he was able."
The Dublin trip with its unexpected outcome was exhilarating. For Douglas it provided a first indication that he could pursue his interest in Irish culture and the Irish language without necessarily limiting himself as his father thought to the life of a country vicar in a remote village in the west. At home there were Rochesfort three or four miles away in Buckhill and O'Conor Don about double that distance at
Clonalis. That Dublin could gather together in one room so many people of his own class and background who shared his interests in modern Irish was a revelation. His excitement, however, was short-lived, for other realities soon impinged on his mood. For one thing, despite his mother's consultations with Dublin doctors, her condition did not improve. The new carpet with which she had come home had cheered her temporarily, but within days she was again weak and dispirited. Well into July she often lacked sufficient strength even to go to church on Sunday. Nor was she the only one who had to be looked after. Johnny Lavin was sick, too. Douglas made frequent visits to his cottage to try to encourage him. And the Reverend Arthur Hyde also was spending much time in bed, although "not for a good reason," Annette confided: he had been drinking heavily again. But it was a minor matter that seemed to occupy Douglas disproportionately: during his absence the Hyde boat, which had been taken without permission, had been scraped in some mishap. As a conciliatory gesture Dockry (whom Hyde suspected of involvement in the unauthorized borrowing) had painted and caulked it. But Dockry also had inscribed on its hull a new name of his own choosing: Home Rule .
Within the two short years since Charles Stewart Parnell had entered Parliament, Home Rule had become, throughout Ireland, the most divisive political issue of the day. County Roscommon was no exception: it had been the rallying cry of the Parnellites who had supported O'Kelly against O'Conor Don in the last parliamentary elections. O'Conor Don's position had been regarded as unquestionably solid, but to the voters what counted more than trust and tradition was Parnell's membership in the Amnesty Association and his publicly proclaimed belief in the innocence of the Manchester Martyrs, who had been hanged in 1867 for their role in a plot to secure the release of Fenian prisoners. Moreover, there always had been radicals and political nonconformists in the Parnell family, it was said: in 1800 Sir John Parnell, Charles Stewart Parnell's great-grandfather, had opposed the Act of Union; Parnell's mother was an American; his sister, Fanny, wrote poetry for the Irish People . In the cottages of Frenchpark and Castlerea talk of an Irish bloc that could win parliamentary support for Irish interests evoked memories of 1850 and arguments for solidarity. If voters would give Parnell the wedge of support he needed, many were heard to declare, he could insist that the major parties negotiate with him. If the major parties refused, he could bring the government to a standstill. Parnell was not just a member of Parliament. He was a cause.
A political rather than a cultural nationalist, Charles Stewart Parnell (1846–1891) had grown up, like Douglas Hyde, hearing stories of 1898 and 1848 from his father's tenants, many of them veterans of these events. From Avondale in county Wicklow he had gone to Cambridge where (as in the Ascendancy school in Dublin briefly attended by Hyde) to identify oneself as Irish was to risk being regarded as déclassé. Little had changed in the attitudes of most nineteenth-century Englishmen, as Sarah Bradford, Disraeli's biographer, points out, since Swift complained of his loss of status when he crossed the Irish Sea. In 1877 Douglas was unaware of the particulars of Parnell's education and experience. What attracted him was the combination of nationalist sentiment and Anglo-Irish background that he saw in himself. For him Parnell was one more man to be admired and emulated in a long tradition of nineteenth-century Protestant Ascendancy leaders who had declared themselves for Ireland.
Douglas's irritation with Dockry was not caused therefore by Dockry's impudence in naming the Hyde boat Home Rule but by his ignorance and lack of interest in Irish history. Dockry, like Lalor and Mitchel, saw Ireland as a land divided between landlord and tenant, not unionist and nationalist. His philosophy was simple: a good landlord was preferable to a bad one; far better to have no landlord at all. If he supported Home Rule it was because Parnell and his bloc were said to be on the side of the tenants. For Douglas, Ireland was a land that conferred its unique and ancient heritage on all its people, regardless of class or background; both land and heritage were threatened by those who, careless of its cultural riches and historic identity, governed Ireland only to exploit it as a source of money, position, and power. To Douglas, Parnell was the heir of Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, and Thomas Davis.
Douglas was particularly stung by Dockry's wholesale condemnation of all landlords, which to him was eminently unfair. Even his own father, although thoroughly unionist and inalterably opposed to Home Rule, was scarcely a rack-renting landlord. A man of great physical energy and a genuine love for the outdoors, he often worked side by side with his tenants and his sons during planting and haying seasons. Rector of Frenchpark, he was at the same time a man of the land: he could care for his crops and livestock and mend his walls and roads as competently as Connolly and Dockry. In his role of "masther" he might refer to Connolly, Dockry, and others as "the lower orders," but he got on well with them. Douglas knew that his father was not a man who
would take a family's cow or evict a tenant down on his luck. He was simply an English subject born and living in Ireland who had a one-sided view of Irish history and little or no knowledge or understanding of Irish culture. Never did it occur to him that Dockry's target was not landlords as individuals but landlords as a class.
At home in the glebe house the target was the Parnellites. When the government's position on the subject was propounded, Arthur and Oldfield could be counted on to echo the sentiments of the Reverend Arthur Hyde. Visitors entertained in the drawing-room affirmed that similar opinions were expressed in the Georgian houses of friends and relatives as far away as Dublin and Cork. Theirs were the views also of O'Conor Don and other Catholic landlords. To them the Fenians were dangerous conspirators supported by ill-advised Americans who, if unchecked, would bring violence and bloodshed to peaceful Roscommon. Parnellism, they avowed, was but another name for parliamentary Fenianism. No one seemed to notice that Douglas had little to say on the subject. Discreet among family members and friends, he gave full vent to his nationalist sympathies in fiery poems and radical essays written in English and Irish—juvenilia, riddled with clichés—that he preserved in his commonplace book and diary. Yet he also considered privately all that he had heard of the disappointment and disenchantment that had followed the rise of hopeful movements of the past. How had they been undermined? By what had they been defeated? If the United Irishmen, the Men of 1848, the Young Irelanders, the Repealers, and the Fenians all had failed, could the Parnellites succeed? In his young heart, Douglas regarded himself as a champion of the Irish people; he too wanted Ireland to achieve nationhood; he too wanted to throw off what, following the poetasters of the period, he called "the hated yoke of the Saxon." His own personal independence, however, depended not on Parnell but on the Irish sizarship.
During the next twelve months Douglas steadily increased the hours he spent studying. He added Euclid to his schedule; helped by Cecilly Hyde, he made his way through "twenty or thirty" lessons of Ollendorff, a German text. Respites were few, although from time to time he had long talks with Rochesfort at either Buckhill or the glebe house. Around him life proceeded as usual: Johnny Lavin was soon up and about again, but then Mrs. Connolly fell ill, and his mother and father, if no better, were at least no worse. Observing the embarrassing behavior of his father and his brother Oldfield, for a time he restricted his own consumption of beer and whiskey. One day when he and An-
nette were visiting the Hamiltons, he was concerned to find that a bottle of Hollands had left him in danger of becoming, as he said, "non compos mentis." He had been out boating with others when he began to feel foolish and light-headed. Curling up in the boat's cabin, he went to sleep. By dinner he was all right, but he drank nothing more that day.
O'Neill Russell continued to send Douglas letters in Irish, usually about the progress of the language, but sometimes on other subjects. In one letter O'Neill Russell advised Douglas to read Ruskin. It was a great pity, Douglas's new mentor declared, that such a man was not Irish. "So ignorant was I at this time," Hyde later confessed, "that I had to inquire who Ruskin was!" But even as he had begun to realize how much there was to learn, how much he did not know, he was steadily becoming more confident of his ability to quantify his academic accomplishments and to set for himself realistic intermediate and long-range goals. One intermediate goal before him at the beginning of 1878 was the schedule of work he had determined to finish by the end of June. His Drumkilla aunts, Emily and Cecilly Hyde, had invited him to join them on a summer tour of France and Switzerland, but he could not allow himself to go without first making substantial progress toward proficiency in the subjects in which he knew he would be examined when he applied to Trinity. The tour was to begin and end in London. That in itself was an exciting prospect. Never before had he been out of his own country.