On his first trip to the Continent in July 1878 Douglas continued the love affair with France begun when, as a boy of fourteen, he had first tried to compose poems and simple descriptive prose paragraphs in elementary French. Now quite competent in the language, he enjoyed reading French literature, especially romances. During the spring he had started St. Pierre's Paul et Virginie . He finished it in Paris, then browsed in the stalls along the Seine, looking for similar books to buy.
One disappointing purchase was Voltaire's Lady Babylon and Other Stories, chosen as much for its author as for its contents. Voltaire, it was said, was a son who had desired no profession but literature who had been opposed by a father who considered literature no profession at all. The parallel to Douglas's conflict with his own father was irresistible. Voltaire, moreover, had been a champion of the oppressed; in his youth, like Douglas, he had secretly written dangerous poems libeling the existing political regime and opposing its persecuting and privileged orthodoxy. A striking feature exploited by caricaturists who depicted Voltaire was the unusual brilliance of his eyes. Douglas's eyes also were unusual in their brightness and intensity. Voltaire reportedly had many mistresses. Douglas had not yet had any at all, except vicariously, through identification with the heroes of the romances he liked to read. But during the past year he had become increasingly if cautiously interested, from a safe distance, in certain women. Only recently it had struck him that Christine Wilson, sister of his friend Mackey,
was very pretty, while Marie de Freyne was very plain. He particularly enjoyed attention from sophisticated older women who did not giggle or blush but showed a real interest in what he had to say. Two years ago on his trip to Kerry with Emily and Cecilly Hyde, a chance encounter with his aunts' warm and charming friend, Anna White, had left him smitten. In his diary he wrote of her as "Una Bán." It was, of course, a direct translation of her name, but it also had a romantic undertone that appealed to him.
The similarities Douglas had noted between himself and Voltaire did not extend to the ideas that the French author expressed in his fiction. Having taken his newly acquired copy of Lady Babylon back to his lodgings, he had opened it—and been repelled by what he read. It was nothing, he avowed, that he would ever write. Granted the story was cleverly composed. But to even an advanced thinker like himself (he was certainly advanced, he assured himself, in comparison with his father and brothers) it was clearly "atheistic, dirty, and ugly." This did not mean, however, that he should stop reading or discard the book or not buy more books by the same author: he prided himself on his agreement with Voltaire that taste must never become the basis for censorship. (Later, when he tried his pen at satire, Voltaire was one of his models.) He also shared Voltaire's belief in educating the masses. His favorite Paris landmark was the Bibliothèque Nationale. For him it epitomized France, a country "so fine," where "so many books are written that they are put out free."
After Paris, London at first seemed pedestrian. In France Douglas had observed "a greater measure of civility among people, women and men," than he had seen in England or Ireland. He noted, for example, that when Frenchmen were spoken to, they raised their hats, a custom he considered adopting. He approved of French gallantry, especially the Frenchman's habit of taking off his hat and holding it in his hand whenever a woman passed by. But London was agreeably less foreign, a relaxing change from France, once he had completed the ordeal of converting his remaining francs back into pounds and then translating his record of expenditures into the same currency. London was also fun. In the fashionable district where he and his aunts were staying, he kept running into people he had met in Ireland. One happy encounter was with none other than Anna White. To his diary he confessed, "I think I am in heaven when I am with her." Dashing about London by himself, visiting Anna White, and making impromptu appointments with others, Douglas felt that he had become very sophisticated. Alone and
with groups of two or three or more, he dined out, went to the theater, and shopped for such a number of books, gifts, and souvenirs that on his last day in England he had to buy an extra portmanteau to carry them all.
On July 29 Douglas and his aunts began the long journey home, by train through Wales to Holyhead, by night ferry to Dublin. Arriving at the North Wall at six o'clock the next morning, they first checked their luggage at Broadstone, then separated briefly, his aunts to spend the day with friends, Douglas to wander about the city, seeing it with the new eyes of a young Irishman just returned from England and the Continent. Strolling about aimlessly, he stopped first for a large, leisurely breakfast, next for a warm bath, and then headed for his usual haunts, the bookstores, where he used his leftover travel money to buy several pictures of Ireland, a book of prophecies in Irish and English, a history of Ireland, a copy of the Proceedings of the Ossianic Society, and a first edition of Donlevy's Irish catechism, published in Paris in 1742. In one of the bookstores he encountered Father Nolan, secretary of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, who told him that John O'Daly had died and that there was to be a grand auction of books from his shop. Father Nolan also announced to Douglas that, in response to a memorial on the subject of education in the Irish language that had been sent by the society to the National School Commission in June, the commissioners had agreed to grant result fees for student proficiency to secondary-school teachers of Irish on the same terms as those that applied to secondary-school teachers of Greek, French, and Latin. It was not only a major breakthrough in the struggle to preserve modern Irish, Nolan triumphantly declared, but proof of what might be accomplished, for until the society had entered the debate on the side of the language, the National School commissioners had refused to recognize modern Irish as an academic subject.
In midafternoon Douglas hurried to Broadstone to meet his aunts and catch the four o'clock train to the west. They reached Drumkilla before midnight for a happy reunion with Frances, her husband, and Douglas's brother Arthur, who had come up from Frenchpark for a visit. Despite the hour they promptly began distributing gifts and recalling excitedly everything they had seen and done. In turn they received the latest news of Mohill. As usual, it had been a whirl of activity: lunches, dinners, teas, cricket, soccer, tennis—even one enormous early-morning-to-late-night party at Drumkilla to which a hundred people had been invited. It was easy to get caught up in such an agreeable so-
ciety, Douglas admitted to his diary. It would be pleasant to stay longer. But at the end of a week he faced the fact that he had been away from his studies for over a month.
On August 8 Douglas and Arthur left Drumkilla for Frenchpark. Before them, alas, was a far from happy homecoming. Arthur had warned Douglas that both their father and Oldfield had been drinking heavily. What he found was worse than he expected. Dinner was not yet over when Oldfield staggered upstairs and fell asleep, only to wake up vomiting. At ten o'clock he was back downstairs, obstreperously demanding more to drink. Meanwhile the Reverend Arthur Hyde, with a glass before him, obviously satisfied with himself for having proved his greater drinking prowess, declared that he felt as if he were a college man again. "Indeed, there is a great difference between this place and Drumkilla," Douglas wrote that night in his diary, with a wry restraint he was soon to find hard to maintain.
On August 14 Douglas received an enthusiastic report from Russell on the progress of Irish classes in America and the details of the important agreement struck with the National School commissioner about which he already had been briefed by Father Nolan. The same mail brought a list of the books and manuscripts that were to be auctioned at O'Daly's bookshop on August 19. It was a pity, he thought, that he would not be able to take advantage of such an opportunity, but his final reckoning of trip expenses confirmed that he had spent the last of his money in Dublin on his return from Europe. To his amazement—the Reverend Arthur Hyde was rarely generous with money, even only shillings and pence—his father offered him six pounds. Delighted with his good fortune, Douglas immediately made plans to return to Dublin on Saturday, August 17, for a pre-auction look at the items that would be included in the Monday sale.
Before Saturday, however, there was trouble in the glebe house. On August 15 Douglas noted that "Ma was not well and the Master was bad enough as usual for the same reason—too much of the full jug." Arthur bitterly reproached his father, but the rector, behaving as if he were a Trinity student conducting a mock debate with one of his contemporaries, answered "full of sophistia and a kind of slippery wisdom." Oldfield did not occupy his usual third position in the old trio; he was despondent for a different reason. Without money or prospects that would enable him to make an offer of marriage, he had been courting a young woman from Carrick-on-Shannon. Her father, who had previously made clear his disapproval, had told him never to come to the
house or otherwise try to see the young woman again. Douglas was sympathetic: "I think O was hot after this girl. . . . I think she felt warmly toward him, too." Yet he recognized the hopelessness of Oldfield's position and took it as a warning to himself. If he refused to consider a career in the church, what would his own prospects be in five or six years, when he was approaching Oldfield's age? His father already had raised the question with him, sneeringly suggesting that with his interest in languages, he might consider becoming a missionary "to the black men in foreign lands." He realized that it was not just some hypothetical future desire to marry but the whole question of how and where he would live that was at stake. When he returned from Dublin, Douglas vowed, he would redouble his efforts to qualify for the Irish sizarship. At the very least it would give him a measure of independence during the next few years.
On Saturday, August 17, Douglas was up at five o'clock in the morning. Connolly drove him to Boyle, where he caught the eight o'clock train to Dublin. As soon as he arrived he went to D'Olier Street where the books to be auctioned had been set out for examination. Both their number and variety astonished him. He had determined, however, that he would buy only Irish items, so it was on these that he concentrated, moving slowly from one to another, carefully noting the contents and condition of each, through a long and tiring yet exciting day. At six o'clock in the evening he left D'Olier Street to catch the train from Westland Row Station to Blackrock, where he stayed with his Oldfield aunts and his grandmother. He could hardly wait for Monday morning. Only Sunday intervened. It was not easy for him to sit through morning services with his grandmother and aunts, then accompany Cecily Oldfield on her usual rounds of afternoon and evening sermons in the different churches of the area—especially as most of the ministers were not so eloquent as Dr. O'Gallaher, author of the collection of sermons printed in English and Irish on facing pages that had become Douglas's usual Sunday reading. In the last church they visited on Sunday evening, he had scarcely settled into his seat for the last sermon of the day when his head began to nod and, to his aunt's distress, soon he was fast asleep.
Although the O'Daly auction did not begin until one in the afternoon, Douglas was back in Dublin early Monday morning. In his diary he wrote regretfully, "There was many a book on which my heart was set but which I had to let go because I could not offer as much as others." At the same time he noted that he was lucky to get what he bought as cheaply as he did, for there was more interest in Irish items
than he had expected, and more money going on them. He had bid five shillings and ninepence for Keating's History of Ireland "translated by O'Mahony the Fenian in America"—a good book to show Dockry, who prided himself on his Fenianism, but had so little interest in Ireland's past. What would Dockry think of his hero, John O'Mahony, a founder of the Fenian Brotherhood, undertaking such a task? Among the other eight items he purchased were O'Reilly's Dictionary with a supplement by John O'Donovan, published in 1864; The Celtic Miscellany for 1849; and Oidche Cloinne Uisneach (The fate of the sons of Usna) published by the Gaelic Society in 1808. Had it not been for a bookseller named Traynor, his strongest competitor throughout the day, he also would have had a copy of the Annals of the Four Masters, but his bidding at least had kept the bookseller from getting it for a pound.
On Tuesday morning Douglas returned to the auction, where he now felt quite at home. A good part of the excitement of each day was the chance it offered for discussion of Irish books and manuscripts with other members of the Dublin Irish-language circle to which he now felt that he belonged. He found to his pleasure that he knew a lot more than he had realized about the subject. He put in his bid for a rare Irish catechism published in Rome in 1707, acquiring it "very cheaply entirely at ninepence." He and Traynor struck a bargain that allowed Douglas to obtain a lot of ten books at a good price with the understanding that Douglas would give the bookseller three if he would stay out of the bidding. Among the items Douglas wanted were several in Scots Gaelic, which he had just begun to study seriously, and a copy of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress in Irish. The three items he gave to the bookseller were, he wrote gleefully, the least interesting of the ten.
Clearly enjoying the clublike atmosphere of the auction (many of the bidders and observers were people with whom he had become acquainted through O'Neill Russell, the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, or O'Daly's bookstore), Douglas returned again on Wednesday and Thursday, making additional book purchases and buying the first manuscripts to be added to his collection. Among them was a bound manuscript by John O'Donovan containing many religious poems that Douglas later published in his Religious Songs of Connacht . There was no doubt that he had bargained shrewdly. Remembering how his father always used to come home from Dublin with packages of books under his arm, he looked forward to telling him about his week's experiences. Yet after the auction Douglas remained in Dublin
another sixteen days, visiting friends and relatives in the company of Cecily Oldfield, making the rounds of churches with her on Sunday, going to the dentist, sightseeing, shopping.
One day Douglas went to Trinity to talk about the Irish sizarship with a Mr. Millar and a Mr. Gellett. It was an intensely disappointing interview. He had set his heart on becoming a sizar, but he was told that his father was too well-off for him to be eligible. He could still try for prizes, of course. Indeed he had intended to: he had hoped he could equal Arthur's and Oldfield's record. Arthur had taken his B.A. with first honors. Oldfield had earned a university scholarship, the vice-provost's prize for composition, and the vice-chancellor's gold medal for Latin. But honors and prizes would not give him the independence he needed. Certainly they had been no help to Oldfield, who was always at odds with the Reverend Arthur Hyde now. Remembering what his father had said about his future, he asked Cecily what she thought about his becoming a missionary in some foreign land. As she seemed startled by his question, he tried to put the Trinity problem out of his head, but with little else to claim his attention beyond daily sessions with the dentist—a painful tooth required a series of office visits—that was a hard thing to do. Nor did the weather help. Most days were rainy. He caught a cold. He wondered if the weather was the same at Bundoran, where his mother had gone with Annette and Emily in the hope that the sea breezes might do her some good. He found a book he thought she might like and posted it for her.
For his mother's sake as well as his own, Douglas wished that the weather might change for the better, but it remained wet, cold, and unhappy for all the Hydes of Frenchpark not just in September but for the entire rest of the year. Repeated bouts of asthma disabled his mother. Arthur became so ill in October that he had to be sent to Drumkilla, where his aunt Frances and her husband, Hunt, could look after him. Oldfield, still disconsolate over the unhappy end of his love affair, was drinking heavily. The Reverend Arthur Hyde alternated between staying in bed with the gout and staying in bed with a hangover. Even when he was up and around and reasonably well, his mood was black, and he railed against his elder sons in whom he had invested so much of himself only to have them disappoint him. Arthur's academic record at Trinity had proved both his son's worth and the value of the preparatory education he had been given. Now Arthur ungratefully refused to enter the ministry, and Oldfield was taking the same stand. Neither would carry on the family tradition; neither cared anything about it.
The last setback, to which the Reverend Arthur Hyde responded with a burst of temper out of all proportion to its significance, was a letter from Lord de Freyne which suddenly and inexplicably ordered the Hydes to refrain from shooting partridge on his land.
Upset by the tensions and problems that afflicted the Hyde household, Douglas tried to bury himself in his studies, but every evening his schedule was interrupted by his parents' insistence that he play cards with them after supper. Hours of work were left undone if he agreed; there were arguments, recriminations, and charges of ingratitude if he refused. Sundays brought more arguments and recriminations if he objected to teaching Sunday school. Since his chance of an Irish sizarship had been ruled out, his father had again begun his old threats that he would not send to the university a third son who did not show more interest in clerical obligations and some clear intention of studying for the ministry.
One day a letter arrived for Douglas from a Dr. Welland, a professor of divinity in England, in response to a request he had received, apparently from Cecily Oldfield, for information about the proper preparation of a missionary. There was no escape: Dr. Welland's answer was that Douglas should enroll in divinity school, either in Trinity or in some English university. When Douglas tried to discuss the letter with his father, the Reverend Arthur Hyde flew into a rage. "T.C.D. be damned!" he shouted. "Look at how it made an undisciplined scoundrel of Oldfield and an agnostic of Arthur. I won't let you through any college! You can be a preacher to your own Irish-speaking countrymen." Wise enough to know that it was useless to point out that even this alternative would require a Trinity education, Douglas wrote a long letter to Cecily thanking her for her kindness and returned to his studies. Surely, he thought to himself, his father would see him through Trinity if he ranked among those who sat for the entrance examinations.
November brought snow so heavy that at times Douglas could not get out the door to shovel it away. Some days he finished shoveling only to begin again immediately, as more snow fell. If he delayed, the wet snow formed solid blocks of ice. He was continually troubled now by a soreness in his eyes so painful at times that he could not read. Yet if he stopped reading or even reduced his study schedule, he would reduce his chances of doing well on the Trinity entrance examinations. With or without a sizarship, he had set his sights on Trinity. November also brought word from Drumkilla that Arthur was no better. Twice during the month Frances had summoned Douglas, but he did not see
how he could get there. One problem was the snow and ice that impeded travel; another was his reluctance to leave Annette to look after things at home, with his father half crippled from gout and his mother weak from severe attacks of asthma. In the middle of the month he sent Francis O'Ruark to be of what help he could. When his father was somewhat better—at least able to get around the house—he himself responded to his aunt's second call, on November 25.
Actually, except for Arthur's condition, which continued to be a source of worry, Drumkilla was a pleasant place to be, with its opportunities for visiting, shooting, and walking. One day on the road he met a blind piper from county Galway, a good Irish speaker and, like others of his occupation, an inveterate traveler. The piper had been in twenty-seven of the thirty-two Irish counties, he said. Douglas walked along with him for a while, asking questions, and carefully listening to his cleverly phrased answers. His favorite counties, the piper said, citing his reasons, were Mayo, Kerry, Tipperary, and Dublin. He was not too fond of Longford and Limerick. Something of the piper's personality and experiences, carefully noted in Hyde's diaries, eventually found its way into his poems, plays, and stories.
By December 12 Douglas had left Drumkilla and was again home in the glebe house. Bitter cold had continued; there was still snow on the ground. His mother was better one day, worse the next. His brother Oldfield, home for the holidays, quarreled almost constantly with his father. Everyone was concerned about Arthur. Except for a pleasant hour or two when he and Annette opened presents together—she gave him O'Curry's Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History, a book by Voltaire, another by Schiller; he gave her Alice in Wonderland and I Promissi Sposi —Christmas, 1878, was sober and subdued. More snow fell on St. Stephen's Day, leaving a blanket of about ten inches. Douglas tried to study, but his eyes hurt so badly that it was becoming more and more difficult for him to read.
On January 7 Douglas joined Oldfield, who was returning to Trinity, on the train to Dublin. Arrangements had been made for him to consult Fitzgerald, an eye specialist. Fitzgerald diagnosed Douglas's problem as "weak eyes," recommended eyeglasses, and advised that he not try to read without them. Douglas bought a pair of eyeglasses at Spenser's for twelve and sixpence, then caught the train to Mohill. There Arthur's appearance, so weak and thin and "quite worn away," gave Douglas "a great fright." It said more than words about the steady and continuing deterioration of Arthur's health. Most of the time now, Frances said,
he was too weak to get out of bed. On even his best days he could not get downstairs without assistance. It was clear that Frances both wanted and needed not only help but emotional support—she could hardly speak of Arthur without weeping. Douglas assured her that he would stay on for a few days to do what he could to buoy up Arthur's spirits and be generally as useful as possible. To himself he noted that it would be necessary to improve his aunt's spirits as well.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months. Everyone talked of Arthur's getting better even as he grew steadily and visibly worse. For Douglas, the winter and spring of 1879 was a strange and surrealistic time in which he discovered a number of things about himself that both surprised and confused him. At first he was genuinely concerned and solicitous, eager to do his part, and grateful for all the unselfish attention Frances and Hunt gave to Arthur. In his long talks with Frances he showed a mature understanding of Arthur's intermittent peevishness and his aunt's increasing panic as she sensed that all her efforts might well be in vain. But, as inside Drumkilla the battle against Arthur's illness took on the quality of a siege while outside everything remained unchanged, Douglas privately found himself coping with feelings he could not express. One day when, thoroughly chilled and wet from having fallen through the ice on the pond, he started to feel feverish, he realized that, preoccupied as everyone was with Arthur, there was no one to be concerned about him. Twinges of jealousy began to alternate with periods of shame and remorse. These feelings increased as he tried to cope with other physical complaints which he himself suspected of being aggravated by his state of mind. Pains in his joints kept him awake half the night; his eyes were still terribly sore, despite his eyeglasses; he was beset by a general sense of malaise.
At the beginning of February, when Douglas had been at Drumkilla about three weeks, his father arrived in response to a message from Frances. She had sent word for him to come as soon as he was able, for Arthur had grown increasingly depressed. To everyone's relief the Reverend Arthur Hyde was not drinking—in fact, having recently completed a regimen of diet and rest prescribed for a severe case of gout, he both looked and felt cheerful and well. There was no doubt that the visit revived Arthur's spirits. Douglas also was glad to see his father. He wished he could return with him to Frenchpark. With Arthur so sick, however, he said nothing, for he felt his duty was to remain and help Frances. A few days after his father's departure he had reason to regret his selflessness. In addition to pains in his joints, he had de-
veloped an ugly boil on his neck. But as both Emily and Sisilla were now in bed with flulike symptoms and Hunt had been called to Dublin to attend to his dying elderly aunt, there could be no question of Douglas's going anywhere. The only good news was that for a week or two Arthur seemed a bit better, but by the end of February he was worse again. Resigned to remaining at Drumkilla through spring if necessary, Douglas took powders morning and evening to help ease the pains in his joints and treated his boils (another had appeared on his knee) with compresses. Whenever he could he studied; he tried not to complain.
Warmer weather came at last at the beginning of March, and with it the opportunity to take long walks along a pretty country road that led to a little lake in a meadow. Hunt returned from Dublin with a thoughtful selection of Irish books that Douglas could hardly wait to read: O'Donovan's notes on Irish annals; a life of Columcille; a Latin life of Adamnam; an old Irish grammar that used Latin declensions; and Irish glosses by Whitely Stokes. But if Douglas was slowly recovering, Arthur was now rapidly declining. The doctors were agreed on their diagnosis: it was, as everyone had feared, consumption. The judgment of the doctors was harsh. They did not expect Arthur to live through the summer, perhaps not even through the month.
In a letter to Oldfield, Douglas described the situation in full detail; to his parents he wrote but a partial truth, then went out on the bogs hunting a snipe with which he hoped he might tempt Arthur's appetite. On March 8 he wrote in his diary in Irish, "I killed a wild pigeon for Arthur." His aunt Anna Kane traveled to Frenchpark by carriage to bring back Bessie Hyde, still very sick herself, but determined to visit Arthur whom she had not seen since October. A week later the Reverend Arthur Hyde returned. Awakened by noises in the middle of the night, Douglas and Hunt found the poor man crying and beating on the wall. He was a minister; he had seen enough of death and dying to know that he was losing his eldest son. Douglas gave his father half a glass of gin to help him sleep. Back in his own room he wrote in his diary, "O dear Mary, that I may be out of this place!!!"
On March 22 Douglas returned to the glebe house with his father. He was still not well; he had been at Drumkilla coping with his brother's slow and inevitable decline, his own needs and wants overlooked or forgotten, for more than two months; he was far behind in his work. Never had the glebe house seemed so welcoming. By the end of April he was feeling stronger, but the problem with his eyes had become worse. There was talk of sending him to a specialist in London.
Meanwhile, from Lavin, Dockry, and others, Douglas learned that all the misery of the world had not been divided, as he had sometimes thought during the past six months, between the glebe house and Drumkilla. The harsh winter and delayed spring of 1879 had taken a terrible toll. In some parts of the country crop failure, eviction, and hunger had reached proportions that evoked the nightmare of 1846–1848. A general shortage of dry peat had left those lucky enough to escape the bailiff without fuel to warm their bones or to cook what little food they had. The government was preparing harsher measures against the forces of "Captain Moonlight," who roamed the countryside, intimidating landlords and their agents.
Arthur died on Wednesday, May 14, at about five o'clock in the afternoon. The Reverend Arthur Hyde was at his bedside; Oldfield was in Dublin; Annette was in Frenchpark, taking care of her mother; Douglas had just arrived in London to see a specialist named Critchett. Douglas did not know of Arthur's death until May 17, the day set for the funeral at Drumkilla, when he heard the news quite by chance while paying a call on Anna White: she had just received a letter from Emily Hyde. His diary entries of the next few days record his ambivalent feelings: pity for the "poor boy," who was better off dead than suffering; awareness that, of his two brothers, he had always preferred Oldfield; sympathy for his father and the others at home; hope that Arthur's death might "improve the Master"; sadness that Arthur, who was twenty-six, had not been in good health for the last six years; admiration for the excellent academic record Arthur had achieved despite his debilitating illnesses; self-pity that the rest of the family would be together, he alone would not be present, for the family ceremony mourning Arthur's death; awareness that, as brothers, he and Oldfield shared Arthur's loss in a particular way. "I will never see him again," he wrote, in one disconnected diary entry. "I abhor lamenting him, but I think he was willing. . . . I am very sad . . . to hear that he is gone." Another, more coherent entry, concerned chiefly with details of a morning and afternoon church service, an afternoon visit with Anna White, and an evening's conversation with a low-church young Irishwoman staying at his lodging house in Bayswater, made no direct reference to Arthur's death but ended with a lament written in Irish that was obviously intended for him:
My sorrow that there is nothing for us now
In place of the wise man but a lament and a tear
A tear and a cry and a lament
Is all there is for us, and a breaking heart.
On Tuesday, May 20, Douglas wrote to his mother. He had had "no idea" of Arthur's death, he said, describing how the news had reached him; it had shocked him greatly. Strictly speaking, this was not true, for he had known when he left Drumkilla in March that Arthur's condition was hopeless. But as he had then softened the blow for his mother, he could not now admit to it. He assured her that his sore eyes seemed better already, although he was not sure whether the improvement was due to medication or rest, and he sent word through her to Annette, whose birthday was coming, that he had bought for her "a beautiful book of Italian poetry." The next day Douglas received a letter from his mother that had crossed his letter in the mail. It said nothing about him, his recent illness, his eyes, or Annette's birthday; it was full of nothing but Arthur, his last days, and his funeral. Arthur had used his last breath, she wrote, to effect a reconciliation between Oldfield and his father; he had been a wonderful boy "greatly loved by all who knew him." This last line opened at last the floodgates of pent-up resentment: "Not me," declared Douglas to his diary in Irish. "He and the Master seemed made to be the two most opposed to my way of thinking than anyone else on the ridge of this world."
Douglas returned to Ireland at the beginning of June. His eyes were somewhat improved, but he was not yet free of the pains in his chest that he had complained of during his long stay at Drumkilla. The Dublin doctors he consulted diagnosed his problem as pleurisy, recommended rest, and gave him some pills to help him sleep. Reading the Dublin newspapers on his way back to Roscommon, Douglas learned that Michael Davitt had succeeded in mustering support for Parnell among all but the most radical of the Fenians. Davitt's idea, outlined in Parnell's speech delivered in Westport on June 7, was that tenant farmers could gain relief for themselves if they would but stand together in a massive show of strength and commitment to unity. "A fair rent is a rent the tenant can reasonably pay," Parnell declared. But to make landlords see this position, tenant farmers would have to demonstrate their determination to hold on to their homesteads and lands. "You must not allow yourselves to be dispossessed as your fathers were dispossessed in 1847," he insisted; "you must help yourselves." It was a message that appealed to Douglas, but for the moment he was too ill to do more than remember it. Back in Frenchpark he told Dr. Cup-
paidge, his uncle by marriage, what the Dublin doctors had said. Cuppaidge checked his lungs, declared them clear, found no sign of pleurisy, and insisted that, despite his continuing complaints, there was nothing wrong with him. The next five weeks were a nightmare: Douglas's chest pain became more severe; he developed chronic diarrhea. Remembering that these had been Arthur's symptoms in the last months of his illness, he was badly frightened, but there was no one to turn to for help. Oldfield had gone to England, his mother was in Dublin, and Annette was in Scotland. He and his father were left alone, he declared, "in Connacht and in hell."
Belligerent often to the point of violence, the Reverend Arthur Hyde was refusing to eat but finishing a bottle and more of whiskey each day until Douglas managed to get possession of the household keys, lock up all the bottles in the house, and gradually reduce his father's drinking to four or five glasses daily. Quarrels erupted at all hours of the day and night as a tug-of-war over the keys ensued. Unable to study or rest, Douglas grew weaker and weaker until finally his father came to himself long enough to realize that something was seriously wrong. Bypassing Cuppaidge, he sought another medical opinion. Again the diagnosis was pleurisy; Dr. Cuppaidge was the only one who disagreed. Dr. O'Farrell, the man who responded, advised rest and prescribed cod liver oil and iodine, one to be taken after meals and the other at bedtime. The best medicine was that the Reverend Arthur Hyde, no doubt fearful that he was about to lose another son, managed to get hold of himself and began to moderate his drinking.
Three weeks after Dr. O'Farrell's visit, Bessie Hyde and Annette returned home. Still seriously ill, Douglas was unable to leave his bed for another week, but then slowly began to recover. It was during his convalescence, while he remained quiet and for the most part too weak to move about or to study, that "the spirit of poetry rose" in him, and he composed a number of poems, most of them in Irish, a few in English, and at least one of them inspired by Parnell's speech of June 7. His muse, he was now convinced, was Irish. It had always been so, he believed, ever since he had learned his first Irish words.
Douglas gradually recovered from the ravages of the summer; his relationship with his father did not. Throughout October, November, and December of 1879 and well into 1880, exchanges over the Reverend Arthur Hyde's drunken rampages increased in harshness and frequency. Usually these took place at night, but sometimes they broke out in the middle of the day, even with visitors present. Meanwhile,
Douglas's father and mother quarreled constantly between themselves, usually about Oldfield, whom his father had barred from the glebe house. At times these quarrels became so heated as to require Annette's intervention. Like Arthur before him, Douglas reproached his father for his brutishness, his lack of feeling for anyone in the family, and the hypocrisy of the sinful ways against which he himself preached when he was well enough to mount the pulpit. "Ugly is the sinner with us, very ugly," he wrote in his diary on October 30. By the end of December, when Douglas made his customary summary of the year past, an uneasy calm had returned to the glebe house at last: for the time being his father's animosity toward Oldfield appeared to have abated; everything seemed "civil and settled" between them. Remembering, however, the brief reconciliation that had followed the death of Arthur, Douglas did not expect the peace to last.
Of his own past year Douglas wrote, "It was harsh, harsh, my health to be attacked from the month of May until now, but glory be to God that it was short—I am becoming myself again." The truth is that by the end of 1879 Douglas was a different self than he ever had been before, not simply because he was about to begin his twenty-first year, nor even because the past year had been a crucible in many respects, but because he was now a published writer. Two of his Irish poems already had appeared in "Our Gaelic Department," a regular Irish-language feature of two English-language weeklies, The Irishman and the Shamrock, that were circulated in both Ireland and North America. These columns, edited by David Comyn, cofounder of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, had been introduced in response to criticism that the weeklies served only enthusiastic supporters, not speakers, of Irish. They proved so popular that Comyn added a third column, "Fáinne an lae," to which Douglas contributed not only poems but also short prose passages. In his diaries and his correspondence with O'Neill Russell and other members of the Irish-language circle to which he now belonged, he often had Irished his name to Dubhglas de h-Íde. With the public emergence of what until now had been his private persona, he adopted a pseudonym, An Craoibhin Aoibhinn, "the delightful little branch." It was surely not a whimsical choice but a deliberate act of discretion. He intended to sit for the entrance examinations at Trinity in June 1880. To publicly identify himself by his own name (even his own name translated into Irish) with what the Ascendancy would term "Fenian sentiments" clearly would have been unwise.
Hyde's first published poem, "Shiubhal mé lá go tuirseach trom" (I
walk today wearily, with heavy step)—a lament narrated by an impoverished old man, a homeless wanderer, who has lost everything, children, family, and comrades—appeared in both the Irishman of Saturday, October 25, 1879 and the Shamrock of November 1, 1879. The Irishman was the more serious of the two publications; the Shamrock was humorous and gently satirical. In the latter, Hyde's poem of eighteen stanzas—none humorous or satirical, but nevertheless to the public taste—shared space with "Mick McQuaid, Alderman," an episode in Major William F. Lynam's famous series about a rascally hero, and chapter 31 of "Wilful Pansy; or, The Bride of a Week" by Emma Garrison Jones. Four weeks later, on November 29, a second Hyde poem, "Ólfamaid sláinte na tíre" (We drink the health of the land), a spirited patriotic drinking song with a rattling rhythm, appeared in the Irishman . The following week, on December 6, it was reprinted in the Shamrock .
On New Year's Eve, 1879, the Reverend Arthur Hyde began a period of heavy drinking that lasted for two weeks. Douglas and Oldfield joined him to toast the old year out and the new year in, but they both went to bed an hour after midnight on the first day of 1880, for each had much reading and studying before him. In the weeks that followed the brothers worked on something of a schedule. Both would concentrate on their own work much of the day, with occasional rest breaks to check the turlough or to take a walk with a gun, on the chance of finding birds; after supper, often in the company of Connolly and John and Michael Lavin, they drank whiskey and poteen (Douglas called it "'rum,'") and played cards until about one o'clock in the morning.
On January 17, Douglas's twentieth birthday, there was a hard frost that continued for nearly a week. His eyes were again very sore. He did not want to abandon the schedule he had laid out for himself (actually, he did not want to abandon all but Euclid, which he had come to hate), but Oldfield advised him to give his eyes a rest lest their condition deteriorate further. Oldfield returned to Dublin on January 18; Bessie Hyde, her asthma worse, was too tired and weak to leave her bed. Annette was busy looking after her mother and overseeing the household. With no choice but to give up reading and studying for a few days, Douglas allowed himself to be tempted outdoors by the ice on the turlough, but it was so cold that he could not skate more than twelve or fifteen feet before returning to the glebe house, where he restlessly cleaned his guns. A letter from Comyn received on his birthday helped dispel the dreariness of a week's idle wait for his eyes to
improve, a third poem was to be published in the Irishman and the Shamrock . Readers had responded enthusiastically to his first two poems. Furthermore, everyone—including O'Neill Russell, who was then in America—was insisting that Comyn identify An Craoibhin Aoibhinn. O'Neill Russell had declared that he was the "best new Irish poet" on the horizon.
February brought warmer weather but heavy rains. As Bessie Hyde had improved, Annette left on the twelfth for a three-month sojourn in France. Douglas accompanied her to Dublin, where he visited Oldfield, who had not been well. He also had a long and serious talk about poetry with Comyn, who had now received even more fan letters from readers, urging him to continue to publish the poems of An Craoibhin Aoibhinn and to identify him. Comyn proposed writing a brief sketch of Douglas for the March issue. It was exhilarating news, which countered his father's threats and predictions and added to his general optimism about his future. Reviewing the work he had completed in preparation for the Trinity examinations, Douglas felt sure that he was ready for college.
This was Douglas's mood on February 24, 1880, when, walking around outside the glebe house, he could not shake the impression that a ghost was following him. It was not a malevolent spirit, he assured himself—it did not make him uneasy—but he could not help but wonder why it was there.
Mixed weather in March provided days suitable for the long walks that helped Douglas rest his eyes between reading and study sessions. In the middle of the month his mother went to Castlerea for a week. She seemed better when she came back, but within two weeks of her return she began losing blood. Before long she was so weak as to seem, to Douglas, "like a stone." Worried about her repeated lapses, Douglas tried to remember how long it had been since she was well. When she began to improve again early in April, he was relieved, but he could not help thinking that it would not be long before she had another relapse. The awful thing was that no one seemed absolutely sure just what was causing her illnesses. Repressing his fears, Douglas tried to concentrate on his work. He had received an encouraging letter from O'Neill Russell who had been delighted to discover that the young poet he admired was none other than his own protégé. Praising Douglas's achievement, he had enclosed an American newspaper that contained his review of the poems of An Craoibhin Aoibhinn. Reading the review had given Douglas's spirits still another boost. Yet he could not help but notice
that, in the same issue of the same newspaper, another reviewer had printed an attack on Irish writing in general and the poetry of An Craoibhin Aoibhinn in particular. Even among nationalists, Douglas observed wryly, there was no agreement on the language question.
Oldfield wrote often, encouraging Douglas to keep up with his studies. He was now in the home stretch, Oldfield reminded him; the examinations for Trinity would be held in June. Oldfield also included good news of his own. He had taken fourth place in the examination for the Royal Irish Constabulary. Mercurial as always, the Reverend Arthur Hyde was delighted, although just a few days earlier he had been abusing Oldfield in a quarrel with his wife. He went immediately to Arthur O'Conor of Mount Druid with a note for £100 to pay for Oldfield's official uniform. From Mount Druid he returned full of political talk, for Arthur O'Conor was a cousin of O'Conor Don who, along with Meopother, had just lost another election. The victors were O'Kelly and Dr. Brennan, both Home Rulers. There was to be a victory meeting at the crossroads on May 31 at which both O'Kelly and Brennan were scheduled to speak.
To the Reverend Arthur Hyde the election results were a shocking turn of events. It meant that the Parnellites were now stronger than ever. Douglas, who also had heard the election news, would have liked to attend the victory celebration, but he knew that this was impossible. If his father as much as suspected his Parnellite sympathies, there would be another uproar in the glebe house. Dockry would go, however, and he, Douglas knew, would provide a complete report.
Annette returned home in the middle of May, bringing with her a concertina. Although he had no ear at all for music, Douglas was determined to learn to play the instrument. To everyone's dismay, he spent hours practicing, although it was only a month to his examinations. As for his studies, he continued to review the subjects on which he would be tested, but he had reduced his schedule in order to save his eyes. It was a relief to be able to turn to something as relaxing and inconsequential as the concertina. He was also devoting more time to writing poetry, for he was now a regular contributor to the Irishman and the Shamrock . As Comyn had promised, a short piece about him had appeared in the March 13 issue of the Irishman . Comyn had not revealed his name but with some exaggeration had identified the poet who signed himself An Craoibhin Aoibhinn as "one of the founders of the Gaelic Union and of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language." (Douglas was indeed a member of both organizations, the first a new offshoot
of the second, but he had had no founding role in either.) The item had drawn even more letters from readers.
The themes of Douglas Hyde's early poems published in the Shamrock and the Irishman were largely those he had been working and reworking in his exercise books from the time he was thirteen or fourteen: nature, love, drink, English injustice to Ireland, the evils of landlordism, the greatness of the Irish past, the glories of the Irish cultural tradition. A few items with more topical references were drawn from his 188-page, four-by-seven-inch, black-bound notebook of 1877–1880 in which he carefully and neatly copied in ink, in addition to finished examples of his own compositions, polished translations and adaptations from German, French, and Irish which he had completed both for his own pleasure and as a way of reviewing the languages and literature in which he would soon be examined. Some of these translations were as sophisticated as the use of such models would suggest. Some were as simple and naive in manner and expression as "After the Irish," which conveys in English much of the feeling of Hyde's own short Irish compositions:
God grant our country may thrive
God devastate England instead
Who so does not wish us alive
We wish that himself he was dead.
God keep us from famine and ill
And grant that we yet may be free.
Who does not wish Ireland well
It's ill that we wish he may be.
Other poems developed around a central narrative employ different techniques and a variety of voices. One, on the subject of hunger, an ever-present specter in nineteenth-century Ireland, presents a scene recurrent in nineteenth-century poetry and prose: Death personified appears at the door of a cabin in which mother and father lie starving, she in bed, he on the floor. Their sole wish is to depart this world swiftly so that in heaven they may join their children, who died the night before. Life has been hard and cruel. With a greater capacity for pity than Life has ever shown, Death, granting their wish, "stabs them both together that selfsame minute and day." Also in this genre is "The Famine," a long narrative poem that consists of ninety lines of rhymed couplets in which memories of a fictional survivor of 1846–1848 are presented through a voice characterized by such unsubtle devices as (in
Hyde's term) "peasant pronunciation." Yet its subtly shifting attitude, between first line and last, is both dynamic and dramatic. Most significant is the obvious debt that the entire poem owes to Parnell's Westport speech of June 7.
The speaker of "The Famine" begins in a low-key conversational tone: with the long, cold nights coming, he says, people soon will be telling tales again of such times as the Famine of Forty-eight. He poses a musing question: how account for "the quare sort of softness that we found in the great" whose sleep was untroubled by the corpses heaped in the graveyards and the "bodies that lay thrown on the roadside like stones"? Imagine, he suggests, as if with detached curiosity, people so hungry that they would eat anything, even "an ould sae-gull or a crow or a kite," for whom "an armful of nettles" would be "a blessing from God." An undertone of pity gives an unexpected vibrancy to the speaker's voice as remembered scenes come into focus: old men of eighty weeping to hear a dying child's cries; a bleak and blasted countryside in which there is "no gathering of neighbors, no wakes, no cardplaying at night, and no dancing or cakes"; a village "corpse house" filled to overflowing. Suddenly stark and real, all come to life in a scene in which even the living are dead: "The people was as quiet as an angel or saint, Och! to see them dying off there without a complaint." Resentment stirs slowly as the narrator recalls how docile everyone was, himself as well as others: why, he asks, had "we let ourselves starve off like men that were crazed" while the landlords "had lashings and lavings, enough and too much"? Fiercely angry at last, eloquent in his anger, with little trace of his "peasant pronunciation," he ends with a direct call for violence: if castastrophe strikes twice, do not die—organize and seize what you need by force to feed yourselves, your wives, your children.
An unusual series of poems, each discrete, yet together forming a suite, introduces different perspectives on the root of Ireland's problems and again suggests a topical source—in this case, the kind of running debate that in 1879 and 1880 could be read in the editorial columns and letters to the editor of Irish newspapers. In the first poem in the sequence, it is indifferent and uncaring England from which a united Ireland, it is said, must break free:
Yes strong indeed our master
The Saxon chain is strong
And bind it bind it faster
Is all the Saxon's song.
But writhe no more in pain,
Up! rend thy bloody chain,
Rise Catholic and Protestant.
We wait our opportunity
To rise and right our land.
A second poem cites the power of the landlords as the root of Ireland's problems:
And me sons, now I've told you of the bad times I saw
How the people were ejected without thrial or law.
A third deplores the greed and selfishness of the Irish people themselves:
The Catholic crawling to social position
The wrongs of his nation refuses to heal,
The Protestant sneers at his petty ambition
Regardless as he of the national weal.
A fourth laments defeatist attitudes:
Hark Liberty is calling:
But we are crushed and broken
And sore are we oppressed,
And land and laws and language
And literature are lost.
Although derivative in form and diction, these early poems reveal a capacity for tonal restraint, historical perspective, and poetic abstraction not usually found in juvenilia.
On a fine evening in the middle of June, less than a week before he was to go to Dublin to take the examinations for which he had been working intensively for more than three years, Douglas strolled down the sloping meadow to Lough Gara with a group of friends. Mrs. Dockry, whose house was near the lake, had just made poteen. The men sat about talking as usual—at times in conspiratorial whispers, at times, as political discussions grew heated, in more strident tones—while she filled and refilled their glasses. Douglas later estimated that he must have had perhaps five or six glasses before he began to feel queasy. A few others were not too well either, whether because the poteen was unusually strong or because it was a bad batch, no one could say. Everyone hoped it was the former, for it was well known what could happen to a person if the poteen were bad. Even so, an ad-
verse reaction to even good poteen could lay up a man for a week. All through the night and the next day, Douglas was sick, but on the second day, although shaky, he was able to get up and move around. It had been a close call, but he went off to Dublin on schedule. His mother took the train with him—happily, as she was feeling quite well, not for appointments with doctors but to visit her sisters and see Christine Wilson's new baby. With a day or so to spare before he had to sit for his examinations, Douglas visited Oldfield in Phoenix Park. Oldfield looked very smart in his new uniform. He was as usual very encouraging.
On June 21, Douglas's examinations began. On the first day he wrote papers on Euclid, algebra, history, contemporary geography, ancient geography, and English poetry. For the subject of his composition in English he chose the life of Oliver Cromwell "and gave him hell for an hour." He was "dead exhausted" when he came out, but on the morning of June 22 he was back at ten o'clock to begin assignments on the odes of Horace, four books of Virgil, three books of Homer, and three books of Xenophon. In the afternoon he took an oral examination in Euclid. On the morning of June 23 his name was on the college gate. Out of 16 he had placed fifth; 158 had gone out. On June 24 he wrote three more papers, in classics and history, then returned in the afternoon for mathematics. There were sixteen questions on the examination. "The moment I saw these I knew I would do no good on them," he wrote in his diary, "so I left the hall." On the morning of June 25 his name was again on the college gate. This time—despite his obvious failure in mathematics—out of 17 he had placed seventh; 100 had gone out. He had succeeded in the required subjects. Next came electives. On June 28 he was examined in Irish. He took first place, receiving books from Hodges Figgis as a prize. He was a Trinity scholar at last. The stage was set; the next part of his life was about to begin.