Between Connacht and Dublin
Although formal admission to Trinity College in 1880 changed Douglas Hyde's perception of his status, outlook, and prospects with obvious implications for his sense of self, it had little immediate effect on the day-to-day pattern of his life, for like his brothers before him he was enrolled initially in a nonresident program popularly known in Trinity jargon as the "steam-packet degree." Instead of living behind high stone walls, shielded from the bustle and noise of late Victorian Dublin—instead of walking each day along tree-lined paths and across cobblestone courtyards shaped and worn by centuries of Trinity graduates, including Berkeley, Burke, Congreve, Goldsmith, Grattan, Swift, and his own ancestors—instead of sitting beside marble busts of Trinity notables in drafty, high-ceilinged lecture halls—instead of climbing tall, thin ladders to reach library books bearing centuries of thumbprints shelved under the timbered barrel-vault ceiling of the two-story Long Room—instead of dining beneath portraits of dyspeptic provosts now deceased and gathering evenings in gray stone residences for a glass of punch, a pipe of tobacco, and an impassioned debate—Douglas continued to study at home in Frenchpark on much the same schedule as he had adopted in 1877. Trinity's only requirement was that he sit at designated times for the examinations by which his progress was judged and recorded.
As Dominic Daly explains, Trinity's credit-by-examination "steam-packet" option got its unofficial name from its popularity with English students who studied at home and took the Dublin steam packet across
the Irish Sea only when examinations were scheduled. Douglas and his brothers, however, were less isolated from college life than this explanation suggests. From both Ballaghaderreen and Boyle there was good railroad service to Dublin. In Blackrock, just south of the city and an easy tram ride from Trinity, their grandmother Oldfield and unmarried Oldfield aunts were always pleased to provide a warm welcome and a comfortable bed. In nearby Monkstown, Foxrock, and Stillorgan they had standing invitations to dinners, evening parties, and Sunday afternoons at the homes of cousins and family friends. Certainly Douglas was no stranger to the city, nor were his reasons for frequently spending time there—to shop, keep appointments with dentist and eye specialist, visit friends and relatives, have his photograph taken—different from what they always had been. Although often transferred from place to place, his brother Oldfield, now well established as an officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary, often met Douglas in Dublin—sometimes casually, as one day when a half hour after Douglas arrived in the city they came upon each other quite by accident. For similar casual encounters with fellow members of Dublin Irish-language circles, Dubhglas de h-Íde (as he now called himself in letters to David Comyn and O'Neill Russell) had only to make the rounds of bookstores that stocked titles in Irish or stop by the Royal Irish Academy. Once he was in town, it was easy also for him to drop in at Trinity, consult with a professor, browse in the library, perhaps spend an evening with the resident students with whom he was acquainted.
But if Douglas Hyde's steam-packet status—so different from that of English classmates dependent upon tide and weather and the varying moods of the Irish Sea—allowed him greater participation in Trinity life, it did not remove him from Roscommon. At home in Frenchpark, he continued to spend much of each day tending the trees, shrubs, and flower gardens around the glebe house; haying and cutting turf in season; visiting local cottages where he was always assured of a warm welcome, a new story, and a bit of local gossip; or fishing, boating, or shooting. Afternoons and evenings he still boxed with Francis O'Ruark, played cards with Johnny Lavin, talked Irish with Mrs. Connolly, and argued politics with Dockry.
In 1880, in both cottage and glebe house, Parnell was the main topic of almost every political discussion. He had been in the United States at the beginning of the year, making speeches, raising funds for the Land League, and holding meetings with those American Fenians whom he could persuade to accept his policies of parliamentary reform.
Forced to rush home when Parliament was unexpectedly dissolved, he won reelection but found himself at the head of a divided Irish party. At least a third were Home Rule moderates who deplored his use of parliamentary obstructionism and dissociated themselves from the Fenian-supported Land League. In Parliament, Parnell dueled with Gladstone over the question of compensation for victims of eviction; in the countryside he delivered speeches threatening to the status quo. On September 19, 1880, the implications of his speech to the tenant farmers of Ennis aroused hopes on the one hand and fears on the other in the entire divided population.
When a man makes a bid on a farm from which a family has been evicted, declared Parnell,
you must show him on the roadside when you meet him, you must show him in the streets of the town, you must show him at the shop counter, you must show him in the fair and the market place, and even in the place of worship, by leaving him severely alone—putting him into a kind of moral coventry—isolating him from his kind like the leper of old—you must show him your detestation of the crime he has committed.
Within days Parnell's "moral coventry" found a new name when his message was extended to include the case of Captain Boycott, a land agent for Lord Erne in county Mayo who had sent eviction notices to tenants demanding fair rents. For continuing to advocate these and similar measures, leaders of the Land League, including Parnell, were soon arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy, but their trial in January 1881 only publicized their cause, especially as witnesses called in their defense were former tenant farmers whose families had been forced by eviction into the workhouse in Castlebar, county Mayo.
In the Land War that followed, despite passage of a new and more draconian Coercion Act, Parnell and his followers used parliamentary obstructionism, legal challenges, and rent strikes in their continuing battle for reform. The government retaliated with suspensions, arrests, and armed support for eviction squads. Early in the struggle Michael Davitt, founder of the Land League and a convicted Fenian, had been released on probation; now he was returned to Portland Gaol. On October 12 Parnell joined the Land Leaguers and other followers who already had been sent to Kilmainham. Abroad, especially in North America, anti-British sentiment spread as the Ladies' Land League used graphic descriptions of tenant conditions to build a relief fund for those who had been evicted. At home, "Captain Moonlight" rode the countryside after dark, intimidating and terrorizing landlords and agents.
This was the situation in the late spring of 1882 when, having established a record as an outstanding student, especially in language and literature, Douglas persuaded his father to allow him to spend the final term of his second year in borrowed rooms at Trinity. Between 1880 and 1882, relying only on self-directed study at home, he had earned honors twice in German and once in French and had won prizes in both. More significant to his father, he also had been awarded the Bedell Scholarship for future Irish-language preachers. But the cost of this achievement had been a recurrence of his old trouble with his eyes. By April the soreness was so constant that it was a severe strain for him to attempt to keep up with his schedule of readings. Douglas proposed that he stay in town for the last term before the long summer vacation. Temporary accommodations were always available, he knew, in the rooms of students not currently in residence. The double advantage, he pointed out to his father, was that attending lectures would help relieve the burden on his eyes, while being closer to Fitzgerald, the eye specialist, would provide him with better medical supervision.
In these years when Hyde's Anglo-Irish persona was winning academic honors and awards, his Irish persona, now publicly identified as An Craoibhin Aoibhinn, was assuming a more active role in the Gaelic Union, the impertinent offshoot of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language (SPIL) which had been founded in 1880 by members of the SPIL who favored a more activist approach to language preservation. Although continuing his SPIL membership, he regularly attended Gaelic Union council meetings, frequently taking the chair. Essentially antiquarian in spirit and politically mainly Unionist, the SPIL had concentrated its efforts, which Hyde supported, on republishing rare Irish texts, promoting the availability of courses in Irish, and encouraging successful students to qualify as Irish teachers, thereby assuring the future of the language as an academic subject. Watching the rapidly receding boundaries of the endangered Gaeltachts, the pro-language nationalist founders of the Gaelic Union had concluded that such a program was not sufficient. Their plan, which Hyde also approved, called for more active promotion, cultivation, and expansion of the use of Irish as the only means by which to avoid complete loss of the living language.
It was to publicize the goals of the Gaelic Union that Hyde had written "Smaointe" (Thoughts), an awkward and wordy open letter to David Comyn which had been printed in the October 1880 issue of the Irishman . Labored and deadly dull, it presented Hyde's then simplis-
tic views in the turgid prose of a pontificating twenty-year-old. More successful were Hyde's lyrical, fiery, and humorous poems that had appeared regularly in the Irishman and the Shamrock . Many were reprinted in the Celtic Monthly, the Celtic Magazine, the Pilot, the Irish Echo, and other American periodicals, often with English translations by Michael Cavanagh. Among those that excited patriotic readers on both sides of the Atlantic were a moving address to the Fenian rebel, O'Donovan Rossa, and "Come Boys to Camp, We'll Sprightly Tramp," a marching song with a rollicking meter and clearly revolutionary message. Predicting that soon there would be an outright call to arms, the speaker of "Come Boys to Camp" urges his readers to obtain a "Snider" or "repeater," coat the weapon with oil, lubricate the hammer, plug the bore, and bury it in a properly prepared hole in the ground against the fast approaching day when it would be needed, for "The talking line you must resign/And try 'The Good Old Way,' boys!"
At the beginning of May 1882 the no-win political conflict that had placed Parnell, the Irish party, and the Land League on one side and Gladstone, William E. Forster, chief secretary for Ireland, and the landlords on the other was settled by compromise: Parnell promised that the Land League would support a modification of the Land Act passed in 1881 and would try to control terrorism; the government promised that it would free Parnell, Michael Davitt, and other Land Leaguers and provide relief for tenants in arrears. Parnell was released from Kilmainham on May 2. Opposed to all compromise, concession, or commutation of sentences, Forster resigned. With a sense of relief Ireland awaited the arrival of the new chief secretary, Lord Frederick Cavendish, Gladstone's nephew by marriage. There was general agreement that Cavendish would better serve both Ireland and Gladstone than Forster, whose reliance on ever harsher and more rigorously enforced coercion laws had so outraged the tenant population as to result in two years of unprecedented violence in the Irish countryside.
On May 6, 1882, for the first time since his brief and unhappy enrollment in 1873 in a Dublin boys' school, Douglas again became a student among students, an Ascendancy-class Irishman in an Ascendancy institution. Also on May 6—the day on which Douglas arrived at Trinity—Dublin welcomed Lord Cavendish. That evening at sunset, as Cavendish strolled near the Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park with the permanent undersecretary, Thomas Burke, both were assassinated by a radical group that called themselves "the Invincibles." The target of the attack was the undersecretary, the man who had been charged
with responsibility for implementing Forster's coercive policies. Lord Cavendish died attempting to help him. Unmoved by the fact that all Irish leaders, including Parnell, Charles Kickham, and John O'Leary, denounced the murders, anti-Irish crowds surged around Parnell's London hotel. In London and other cities they filled the streets, threatening Irish citizens. In Ireland, where all parties immediately perceived that the senseless attack could only result in a return to coercion on the one hand and violent resistance on the other, it was a good time for a young man who had published fiercely nationalistic poems to be discreet.
Finding accommodations at Trinity was even easier than Douglas had anticipated, for Cambreth Kane (a Frenchpark neighbor who later married Douglas's sister) was not then using his college rooms. At Trinity he already had a good friend in Mackey Wilson, brother of Christine. Stimulated by the cultural and intellectual atmosphere of residential college life, Douglas quickly plunged into the give-and-take of after-lecture discussions. In the easy atmosphere of hall and quadrangle he forged lasting ties with others, among them W. M. Crook, George Coffey, John R. Eyre, F. I. Gregg, Friedrich Lipmann, Charles H. Oldham, James Sheehan, and the Stockley brothers, names that began to appear in his diaries of 1882 and recurred often thereafter. Many of these Trinity friends belonged to the same college clubs and societies as Hyde. Many agreed more or less with what, filtered through his Anglo-Irish persona, he cautiously revealed to them of his intellectual and political outlook. His fascination with the language and culture of contemporary Gaeltacht Ireland, although unusual, did not strike them as radical, for Parnellism was the issue of the day and neither preserving nor reviving the Irish language was a plank in Parnell's political program. The question of just where the preservation or restoration of Irish did fit in the political spectrum was in fact confusing, since there were language revivalists in almost every movement, from those advocating physical force to backers of parliamentary reform. In general those who opposed language revival were reformers and revolutionaries concerned with diffusion of effort; conservatives and Unionists who believed, with the editor of Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent, that to achieve peace between Ireland and England it was necessary for Ireland to lose its separate identity; pragmatic nationalists who regarded the Irish language as an anachronism that crippled Ireland's relations with the world; and others convinced that the dying language was a lost cause. Those who supported language revival were reformers and revolutionaries for whom Irish was a nationalist badge; conservatives
and Unionists with scholarly and antiquarian interests; cultural nationalists who considered themselves pragmatists; and others convinced that the language could and should be saved.
Like Dockry, with whom Hyde had had many arguments on this subject, neither Parnell's lieutenants nor the agents of the British government assigned to keep a careful eye out for possible seditious activities considered language revivalists relevant to the tensions of 1880–1882. Parnell was the leader of the day; he neither spoke Irish nor advocated that it be taught to others: there was little indication that the plight of the language concerned him. At Trinity in 1882 there was, therefore, little harm in being regarded as a language revivalist (especially one associated with SPIL)—except perhaps to such an obstreperous, opinionated, and influential Trinity Fellow as John Pentland Mahaffy. A classical scholar, Mahaffy had introduced Oscar Wilde to Greece; he respected only Old Irish. In 1878 he had openly criticized SPIL's successful lobby in favor of teaching modern Irish and had vociferously protested its addition to the list of intermediate subjects for which teachers were paid result fees. For the moment his animus was without consequence, as apparently he was not yet aware of the connection between young Hyde of the Gaelic Union and young Hyde, son of the rector of Frenchpark. (In fact, it was he who had administered Hyde's entrance examination in German and had rated it as an honors performance.) Certainly in 1882 neither he nor anyone else on the Trinity faculty knew anything that would connect Hyde with the poems by An Craoibhin in Irish and English that advocated physical force.
In 1882 W. M. Crook was perhaps Hyde's only Trinity classmate who understood the depth of Douglas's interest in Irish. He remembered the dismay with which Hyde had heard of a bewildered German scholar who had come to Dublin to perfect his Irish but could find no one, not even at Trinity (much less at his hotel, a fact that astonished the poor German) who spoke anything but English. But Crook also recalled how impressed he had been by Douglas's broadly based scholarly interests in general. A classics man himself, he had not expected to find a student of modern literature, even one with honors, reading the Iliad not just for "the grammatical niceties of Greek" but for the "imagination, melody, and beauty" of its lines. One day he asked Hyde to name the other languages that he knew. Douglas ticked off French and German—languages he read for pleasure, as his diaries show, when he needed relief from subjects less to his liking—then added Latin, some
Italian, and a bit of hebrew. Irish, he declared, was his favorite. He had learned to speak Irish, Hyde had said (stretching the truth to fit his wishful thinking, as he often did to everyone but himself), "almost as early" as English. It was, he confided, the language of his dreams. Years later other Trinity students recalled that the young man from Frenchpark who had joined them in 1882 had seemed amiable and attractive, interested in but not yet passionate about politics, and on the whole very much like themselves. They described him as tall and raven-haired, with a ready smile, a relaxed disposition, and gray eyes that sparkled with good humor and enthusiasm. Always among the liveliest participants in impromptu debates and late-night parties, he was also, they remembered, hardworking and serious, even if he did have what then seemed to them to be an eccentric interest in the language and life of Irish peasants.
As a boy in country Roscommon, Douglas had disliked groups, preferring the company of one or two or at most three companions. When visitors descended on the glebe house in awkward numbers, he and his dog would take to the fields. Trips with his aunts and visits to Drumkilla had armed him with the social skills and easy, friendly social manner he now demonstrated at Trinity. Something of these qualities had been evident during the summer holidays he had spent at Drumkilla, especially during the years 1876 to 1878 when he had learned to relax and enjoy his Anglo-Irish persona. Arthur was now dead. Oldfield had created for himself a different and remote life in the Royal Irish Constabulary. Douglas's beloved Hyde aunts—more friends than female relatives—were no longer present to monitor his behavior. For the first time in his life he was his own man, free to assess each situation and skilled at moderating his Irish and Anglo-Irish personae as the occasion required. Through his Trinity classmates he met interesting young women among whom he quickly became popular. To Oldfield he wrote that these young women of Dublin were as pretty and vivacious as the girls he had met in Frenchpark and Mohill, but more independent and better read. Among them was Frances Crofton, the "F.C." of Hyde's 1882–1890 diaries.
As June approached, Douglas did not look forward to returning to steam-packet status in Roscommon. On the evening of June 6, a month exactly from the day of his arrival and two days before the end of term, Douglas was enjoying an after-dinner glass of punch with Johnson, a fellow student, when the two decided to look up another student, Richards. In Richards's rooms they joined a happy crowd, singing and
drinking. At first Douglas (who by all reports could scarcely carry a tune) sat sipping quietly, listening. But after he had drunk his share, he rose to his feet, and to the cheers and congratulations of all, offered a rendition in Irish of "Beannacht leat, beannacht leat, a chondae Mhuigh Eo" (Goodbye, goodbye, O county Mayo) which he followed with an encore in French, "Trinquons et toc" (Let us clink glasses, so!). After that he was not sure exactly what happened. Lawson, he recalled, threw out some sort of challenge concerning their respective drinking abilities. He vaguely remembered buying a bottle of claret for seven shillings and sixpence. "I shamed him properly," Douglas wrote triumphantly in his diary, adding, "I went to bed at about 1:30 in the morning, and when I woke up I had nothing on but my boots."
It was not until the early autumn of 1883, more than a full year after the end of his temporary term as a Trinity College resident, that Douglas persuaded his father to allow him to give up his steam-packet status entirely and take rooms of his own. Father and son had been more congenial than usual during the academic months of 1882–1883. The Reverend Hyde was immensely pleased with Douglas's academic record. To him, Douglas's work in Irish was preparatory to his completing divinity school and obtaining a living as rector in an Irish-speaking district. Douglas too felt proud of his academic achievement, although outwardly he assumed a cavalier manner, as reflected in his flippant choice of Foghlam Gan Eolas (Learning without knowledge) for the title of the bound volume of the examination papers that he had carefully saved. Ironically, it was the academic success celebrated by both father and son that became the focal point of their dissension. The more prizes, awards, and honors Douglas won, the more tensions were exacerbated, for these led to discussions about his future. The Reverend Arthur Hyde still insisted that Douglas regard his work at Trinity as preparation for a career in the church. Douglas was adamant: never, he declared, would he become a clergyman. Frustrated by Douglas's obstinacy, the Reverend Arthur Hyde threatened, bullied, and drank. Resentful and angry, Douglas wrote sneering, satiric anticlerical poems that railed against "peace-preaching humbugs" whose "slave's creed" advised, "Go cringe, hat in hand, to the Saxon."
Matters came to a head one showery day in the summer of 1883. Douglas had been to Boyle to leave the smaller of the two family carriages to be painted. When he returned home on horseback the Reverend Hyde greeted him with "a droning monologue" on the subject of a minister's life and work. Interrupting his father, Douglas
declared that his conscience never would allow him to enter the ministry. His private reason, he explained in his diary, was that as a child he had heard and seen too much of ministerial hypocrisy. To his father he offered philosophic and ethical arguments. Furious, the Reverend Arthur Hyde unleashed an old threat: he would cut Douglas off without a farthing if he did not uphold the family tradition. Douglas countered with an old threat of his own: he would leave Ireland; he would seek a living in some other country; he would become a bohemian, more shame to the father who had left him with no alternative. It was a familiar and futile dialogue that neither seemed able to avoid.
On the evening of July 28, 1883, thoroughly tired from two days of bringing home turf, with the haying yet to be done in the week to come, Douglas retreated to his room to watch the still lingering light fade. It had been a beautiful day. Earlier he had had a drink with Seaghan na Pinghe and had taken down from Martin Brennan a story in Irish, "Monachar and Manachar," to add to his growing collection of Irish folktales. Opening his Craik, he dutifully read some fifty pages about English literature. But the continuing quarrel with his father rankled inside him. Taking out ink and paper, he began an essay entitled "Why I Do Not Want To Be a Minister in the Irish Protestant Church." It was late when he stopped writing and went to bed, his head still full of reasons. On August 9 father and son quarreled again, this time about belief in the Bible and the nature of angels. So heated was the exchange that both were shaken by their mutual vehemence. Neither was prepared to make a permanent break with the other. Having buried his eldest and alienated his second son, the Reverend Arthur Hyde could not risk estranging the third. Douglas was unwilling to cut himself off from mother, sister, aunts—or even from his father, who aroused in him such turbulent feelings, such a mixture of love and wrath and honor and shame. Yet neither could find a middle position.
Retreating to his room, Douglas began a new composition entitled "Reasons for Not Becoming a Clergyman in the Irish Protestant Episcopal Church (Late Disestablished)." The parenthetical cynicism of his title addressed aspects of his subject that from time to time he had unsuccessfully tried to broach: the church of his forefathers that his father wanted him to serve belonged to the past; the future of the disestablished church was still uncertain. Douglas's main objective, however, was not to argue about past or future but to state his own moral, ethical, and philosophical positions on the question of his becoming a clergyman. Choosing dialogue as his format, he argued his
case through two characters: a "poor devil of a student not out of college yet" (an obvious surrogate for himself) and an abstract figure at first called "Christianity," then simply "a florid man draped in black." Between these two he placed Reason. Reason explains that the man in black has been consulted because the student, having no inclination to become "a minister rather than a soldier, lawyer, banker, doctor," is now "over twenty years of age and of no profession." The student defends his refusal on moral grounds: he has always felt, he says, the "utmost repugnance for all kinds of metaphysical and religious arguments." From his "earliest years" he has believed "the difference of creeds to be of so slight an importance as not to merit any consideration from a man whose trade it is not to expand them." Religion and politics are to him "the two great sources of strife and embittered feelings in the world, and the fruitful spring from which domestic quarrels and social splits occur." He has concluded that "religion divides men more than politics."
From arguments and assertions intended for presentation to the Reverend Hyde, Douglas shifted his focus to matters of internal dispute. The student accuses the man in black of instilling "all kinds of prejudices and absurdities" in his brain. Yet he vehemently dismisses the idea of conversion:
I believe that it is . . . nonsensical and impossible for a man to choose a religion for himself, but that all men should remain in that one in which they have happened to be born, as being probably the most consonant to the manners and ideas of that place. . . . I happen to have been born in the Protestant Episcopal Church of Ireland, disestablished (rightly as I think) in 1870 [sic ], and I have no desire to change it, since my conscience tells me, or since I think it tells me, that I shall not be punished after death for having been born and brought up in the religion of my parents, even if it be an untrue one, since the fault was not mine.
He is equally opposed to the idea that he might convert others. His responsibility, he declares, is to examine for himself only whether he believes in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Thirty-nine Articles espoused by his particular denomination. He is not responsible, he avows, for imposing belief on anyone else. For himself he can say that he is as skeptical about souls being saved as souls being lost. Furthermore he rejects the right of "divines of all classes" to forbid "the reading of unorthodox books, as they call them, as a sin, and . . . the perusal of atheistic writings as a wickedness." "If a man were from his earliest days to circumscribe his reading . . . on religious subjects to
those volumes only which relate to Christianity," the student declares, "he would soon by continual running in the same circle satisfy himself that nothing true or good existed outside."
Off and on through the few remaining weeks of summer Douglas continued to work on this composition. Writing and rewriting in both pen and pencil, he struck out entire pages, inserted explanatory words and phrases, scribbled revisions along margins and between lines, repeated himself, deleted repetitions, and reintroduced them. When he stopped he had filled nine copybooks—a total of 139 pages—with a vehement statement, part essay, part parable, part satire, shored up by authors he had long admired, especially Voltaire. Although "Reasons for Not Becoming a Clergyman" was never read by its targeted audience, the Reverend Hyde, it did strengthen Douglas's inquiry into his own felt truths concerning his philosophical and ethical positions.
At the beginning of October the Reverend Hyde capitulated: if Douglas could find an appropriate alternative to the ministry, he would consider approving it. Douglas's main interests were language and literature: like Voltaire's father the Reverend Arthur Hyde regarded these as but gentlemanly pleasures to be pursued during leisure hours, not the stuff of an honest profession. His recommendation was that Douglas consider the army. Douglas objected on the grounds that soldiering was an "ungodly and immoral profession" (an irony, given the call to violence so often sounded in his poetry). He in turn countered with medicine, a career he had proposed several times before. To his surprise and dismay, this time the Reverend Arthur Hyde assented, leaving Douglas with a dilemma: He knew he could never overcome his "secret aversion" to the clerical life. It had been embedded in childhood, he told himself, as a result of his father's "inexcusable conduct." Yet he did not want to study medicine either. "If I were sure that my health would not collapse under the strain," he told himself, "I would not hesitate a moment." He was, however, "practically sure" that the study of medicine would cause his death. "Hence my state of mind," he lamented in his diary, "which is so awful that I would not wish it on a dog."
The truth, as at one point "the man in black" suggested, was that at the age of twenty-three Douglas was not yet far removed from adolescence. He had no strong interest in medicine or in any other profession. He had in fact no wish to be anything but what he was—simply a student. He had not proposed medicine with either serious intent or with the expectation that his father would find it acceptable. In fact,
he had anticipated rejection. Now faced with the unhappy prospect of being given what he said he wanted, he tried to present second thoughts based on his past illnesses and his weak eyes. He did, of course, suffer from eye infections, and in recent years he had had several bouts of pleurisy and other respiratory ailments, but it was surely an exaggeration for him to call himself frail or even to suggest, given his academic record, that his eyes would be a greater disability in medical school than in divinity or in any other academic program.
On the morning of October 6, 1883, a month before the beginning of the Michaelmas term, Douglas awoke in the glebe house feeling uneasy and unwell. The night before he had been drinking poteen. Taking up pen and paper, he described his circumstances and set for himself an ethical question: was it proper for him to countenance a trade forbidden by the government? His answer was quick: "the government not being a native or self-chosen one, its orders could not be allowed to be valid." In that case, he asked himself, what of the precept "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's"? And what about St. Paul's advice to those living in Rome, "that one ought to endure the state he is in and not seek violently to alter it"? Fitting these ideas into a narrative that relied heavily on the content of both "Why I Do Not Want to Be a Minister in the Irish Protestant Church" and "Reasons for Not Becoming a Clergyman," Douglas produced a dream allegory of 194 bound handwritten pages that reveals more about his struggle with himself than his conflict with his father.
The new composition begins with Hyde's author persona suffering from a headache. He tries to get rid of it by going out fishing "upon a lake that was broad and lovely." There, however, the wriggling of a worm on his hook so troubles him that he removes it. He falls asleep in his boat and has "a remarkable dream" that leaves "rather a deep and vivid impression behind it" in which he sees himself walking with his Conscience and Reason. Conscience proposes that they all live together in his house; Reason offers to be the servant; Conscience suggests that the dreamer be the host. Two visitors to the house, a Jew and a Muhammadan, advise the dreamer that he ought to choose a religion. They are accompanied by a man in black, described by the dreamer as one who had "served my family so well" that not only were "both my grandfathers . . . in receipt of some £800 a year, thanks to him, during the greater part of their lives," but they were both assured "a comparative sinecure." Dreamer and man in black debate the relative merits of the clerical, medical, and military life but reach no conclusions.
The Jew, Muhammadan, and man in black leave; Mr. Nogod appears, introduces himself as the representative of atheism, and presents the dreamer with a number of books, among them Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Hobbes's Leviathan, and Thomas Paine's Rights of Man . His advice is that the dreamer read the last book first because it is "lively" and will "lay a foundation." Before the dreamer has time to open it he receives a Chinese visitor and is interrupted by the delivery of notes from earlier visitors who ask for second interviews. Uneasy, he refuses the interviews. It would be best, he tells himself, to follow Mr. Nogod's advice and read the books he has been given before talking again with those who seek to convert him to their respective faiths. At that moment Mr. Nogod returns and, echoing almost to the word the student of "Reasons for Not Becoming a Clergyman," argues that religion is only another name for party. Religion and politics, he says, "are the two great sources of nearly all the quarrels social and domestic, the two great causes of all the strife and embittered feelings of the world, the two fruitful springs of pain and cruelty and heart-scalding all over this earth." Of the two, religion, he declares, does the most harm. For the dreamer, denial is difficult. "There is more or less truth in what you say," he concedes, although he suggests that the fault is "in the villainous nature of man rather than in the fact of his having religion or no religion." In the midst of this discussion a letter arrives for the dreamer from the "old family friend," the man in black:
I have a rather good position vacant just now if you care to accept it. As matters go, it is not bad in a monetary point of view, and payments are regular. There is a good house attached, and the farm . . . contains 30 English acres of good arable land. . . . P. S. I forgot to mention that the work is practically nil.
The dreamer's boat, which has drifted to the opposite shore of the lake, strikes a rock. The dreamer awakens to hear himself say, "I will think about it."
As the first day of Michaelmas term approached, wriggling like the worm on the hook of his own allegory, Douglas continued to declare himself irreversibly against a career in the church at the same time as the offer made by the man in black remained before him. In his diary he posed for himself questions that were both revealing and speculative: If he turned his back on a living so easily obtained, what else might he do? What was he prepared to do? A few days later his father drove him to the railroad station. They passed John French's Ratra, a handsome Georgian house overlooking the bogs where so often their guns had
brought down numberless birds. They passed the road to Seamas Hart's house and garden. They passed the blue hills beckoning in the distance. Horse and carriage, father and son continued on, toward the spire of the cathedral at Ballaghaderreen and the train to Dublin. Saying nothing further about the matter to his father, Douglas decided that he would neither apply to the medical program nor drop out of divinity school. A major crisis had been averted, at least for a time. The next question was whether Mahaffy, who disapproved of Douglas's commitment to Irish, had succeeded in blocking his request for rooms in the college residence hall.
Back at Trinity, Douglas attended lectures on theology, apparently as the price of the residential status to which his father had agreed. "Oh, how my heart sank at hearing the same boring old phrases I had heard with loathing so often before," he complained to his diary following the first lecture on November 2. After the next lecture on November 6 he scribbled angrily, "I hated it, and hated the people who were with me." His new anathema was the changing character of the Irish church. Previously he had attacked its Ascendancy snobbishness. Now he deplored theology students who were "not refined or well bred." One consolation was that, despite opposition from Mahaffy, he had been assigned his own rooms, number 24, on the ground floor of the residence hall. The walls had just been repapered, and a new grate had been installed to replace one that had been on the verge of collapse. He added a "very nice" carpet, several cabinets, three or four agreeable pictures to hang on the walls, and an ample supply of refreshments. Then very carefully he unpacked the books he had brought with him from his personal library in Frenchpark. Among them were works in Irish, French, and German that he had read and reread since he was sixteen. Some—among them The Ballad Poetry of Ireland , a collection by Charles Gavan Duffy published in 1848—were prize books that he had been awarded between 1880 and 1882.
Resident status at Trinity offered Douglas happy distractions that he never had had to resist in Roscommon: teas, dinners, and dances to which he was regularly invited; twice-weekly lessons in which he learned (or "almost" learned) the cotillion; long walks with James Sheehan (later remembered by Hyde's daughter Una as a frequent visitor to Áras an Uachtaráin); afternoons and evenings with "F. C.," with whom for a long time he shared an emotional tie that seemed destined to end in marriage; meetings of college clubs and societies to which he had been admitted. In the Chess Club he was soon recognized as a for-
midable opponent. At Theological Society meetings he was hailed as a talented speaker. But it was the College Historical Society, or "Hist"—the most prestigious and influential of Trinity's student organizations and the one that, since its founding in 1770, traditionally attracted the brightest minds and strongest personalities—that set the tone of his student life. One of thirty-one students elected to membership in April 1883, he was deeply stirred by the fact that among those who had preceded him were such men as Edmund Burke, Wolfe Tone, and Robert Emmet. "Hist" alumni—renowned scholars, barristers, physicians, men of letters, and members of Parliament—returned frequently to speak at meetings. "Hist" debates taught him how audacity and eloquence could become elements of style. Throughout his college years Douglas's favorite annual event was the full-dress spring meeting and banquet at which "Hist" speakers, judged as much by their talent for humor as by their poise, laid on a mixture of serious speech and mischievous bombast. Long after he had completed the last of his Trinity degrees, throughout the different times of his life when he was often at odds with his alma mater over questions of policy, politics, and the Irish language, Hyde remained an active participant in "Hist" affairs. He served as the organization's president from 1932 until his death in 1949.
Typical of regular "Hist" sessions was the first that Douglas attended, in which he watched with admiration as one member, a man he did not know, played the devil's advocate with humor and skill and "stirred up a great row . . . with his fooling." The next meeting was addressed by William Lecky, the distinguished Unionist historian. Although still awed by his surroundings, Douglas ventured a comment from the gallery. Other comments at other meetings followed. He discovered that he was a witty and effective impromptu speaker. In 1884 he was elected to the prestigious position of auditor. He also began to take his turn at presenting papers.
Among the prepared topics on which Douglas Hyde spoke at "Hist" meetings during 1884–1885 were "The Classical Temper," "Celts and Teutons," and even, boldly, "Irish Rule in Ireland." At the March 1885 meeting of the Theological Society he addressed an unsympathetic audience on an even bolder topic, "The Attitude of the Reformed Church in Ireland." His thesis—that the clergy of the Irish church should express their approval of nationalism—was described in the Dublin University Review , a new journal founded in February by Charles Oldham, as having "evoked . . . many hostile criticisms." Douglas him-
self acknowledged that he had been supported only by his friends Stockley and Hackett; others had remained silent or had railed against him. Yet the Review also noted, "It is not often that an essay is read in College where clearly defined views are expressed in language so beautiful and simple." Years later, Crook recalled that invariably, on any Irish subject Hyde addressed, he could be expected to take the "extreme nationalist viewpoint." However, not all the controversial causes he embraced were Irish. On a postcard to Annette written in 1885, Hyde noted regretfully that, although it was one of his "pet" subjects, he had spoken "very badly" on another unpopular issue, "Female Emancipation."
From 1884 to 1887, Crook, Mackey Wilson, and Hyde frequently formed the affirmative team in "Hist" debates. Whatever their subject and whether or not their audience agreed with them, Douglas handled his part of each program with a rhetorical skill that to some degree he owed, he knew, to the cottage and kitchen and dinner and drawing-room debates of his boyhood in Frenchpark. For that he could credit his father, Johnny Lavin, and even Dockry. At the opening of the 116th debating session on November 11, 1885, Hyde was among the speakers chosen to take the affirmative on the question of whether the Church of England ought to be disestablished. Although his arguments were unpopular, his eloquence was unchallenged. In the oratorical competition of 1885 Hyde stood second of thirteen; in 1886 he was fourth out of eleven; in 1887 he won the silver medal for oratory.
Between 1883 and 1887 Hyde discovered the network of off-campus "clubs" (many, as Breandán Ó Conaire points out, more properly called "soirees") that were attended not only by Trinity College students but also by graduates of Trinity and by other Dubliners with political, intellectual, and cultural interests. One was the Discussion Club on York Street, meeting place of the Young Ireland Society, where papers on topics related to nationalism were read and discussed. At Young Ireland meetings Hyde and Yeats discovered their mutual interests; there too, as well as at the Contemporary Club, founded in 1885, Hyde and John O'Leary (the Fenian leader convicted in 1867, newly returned from imprisonment and exile) often clashed on the subject of Parnell and Home Rule, about which O'Leary was severely critical. In time the group that formed the nucleus of both the Young Ireland Society and the Contemporary Club (the latter met Saturday evenings in Charles Oldham's rooms across from the main gate of Trinity) expanded to include women, notably O'Leary's sister Ellen, Rose Kavanagh, Katha-
rine Tynan, and the beautiful and sophisticated Maud Gonne. Even before Oldham established his Saturday Evening Club his rooms were a meeting place for T. W. Rolleston, George Coffey, Willie Stockley, W. B. Yeats, Fitzgerald (Hyde's eye specialist, perceived in a new role), and Hyde, who served as a kind of informal editorial staff to discuss with him how best to introduce the Irish national spirit into the Dublin University Review . For literary rather than political discussion, Hyde went to the Shakespeare and the Mosaic clubs. Sometimes the Mosaic Club's biweekly format was changed to allow for a playreading or even an amateur production, in which Hyde frequently was chosen for a leading part. Participation in all these groups expanded Hyde's social circle and increased his invitations to teas, dinners, evening lectures, and concerts. They also provided him, as Daly suggests, with a school of contemporary politics and literature.
Hyde's diary entries describing Saturday evening meetings of the Contemporary Club (written in a mixture of Irish and English punctuated by an occasional German phrase) note that about twenty men usually were present. Approximately half were, like Hyde, Trinity students; the other half, from Dublin's professional and intellectual community, included Fitzgerald, Hyde's eye specialist; George Sigerson, a medical doctor with an outstanding reputation in his own field who was also a notable literary figure, language revivalist, and nationalist; Alfred Webb, M.P.; and John O'Leary. Discussion ranged from the pros and cons of Parnell's parliamentary strategies and current educational schemes (including one that would have turned Trinity over to the Catholics) to the efficacy of English representative government and the relative merits of single- and double-chamber legislatures. Michael Davitt came on December 12 and was questioned on the current position of the Land League; O'Leary, who was almost always present, was the self-styled resident expert on almost every political question, but especially anything to do with Fenianism. In meetings of the Young Ireland Society, Yeats lionized O'Leary. At the Contemporary Club, Hyde found the old Fenian tiresome at best, exasperating at his worst. "I never came across so complete a Tory," Hyde wrote on December 20, 1885. "He did not think that the masses have a right to the franchise; it was not expedient he said, forgetting that he constituted himself the judge of expediency."
Despite his full round of extracurricular activities, Hyde's academic career continued to prosper, even though, as always, its direction was difficult to discern. In 1884, when he received his B.A. with honors,
he was one of only three students to be awarded the vice-chancellor's gold medal. Still undecided about his future yet still maintaining that he would not enter the clergy, he continued in the divinity program, taking a first in his examinations in 1885. In 1886 he again won the vice-chancellor's medal, this time for a thousand-line poem on Deirdre. For the history medal awarded in June 1886, he wrote on Lord Cornwallis's blunders as viceroy of Ireland. By this time, as Crook observed, it was certain that Hyde was "too Irish for the church of an unsympathetic minority." In the fall of 1886 he transferred to law. The move—dictated not by aspiration but by necessity—provided both an escape from divinity and a reason for his continuing residence at Trinity. Serendipitously, his successes to this point having owed as much to passion as to prowess, it also provided him with practice in writing and speaking on subjects in which he had little interest. For his examination for the LL.B., awarded in 1887, he was required to state the principal rules regulating the descent of an estate in fee simple. For his next major hurdle he had to give an account of the law of entail, explain the succession to the Crown of England, and write a short historical sketch of canon law. Again he placed first; again he won the vice-chancellor's prize. With a sigh of relief and a quatrain—
With, oh, such a wealth of distinctions
And, oh, such a splitting of straw,
He must be a patient poor devil
Who gives himself up to the law—
in 1888 he was awarded the LL.D.
Although Hyde's harvest of medals and prizes suggests a single-minded devotion to the programs in which he enrolled, he maintained in addition all through his student days a self-directed parallel course of study in Irish culture, history, language, and literary and oral traditions from which he drew the information he needed for his published essays. The first of these essays was inspired by a treatise by Justin McCarthy on Irish language and literature published in August 1885 in the Dublin University Review . In it McCarthy argued that not only did the "splendid stories" of Ireland's legendary history rival those of the Romans and the Greeks but that Ireland's legendary heroes were "as noble as any to be found in western Europe."
Cuchulain is as fine a hero as Theseus; Queen Maeve is no less marvellous than Helen; the fate of the children of Tureen is as grim as the fortunes of Heraclidae. Nor must I forget that wonderful story of the adventures of Oisin in
the Land of Youth, a legend which . . . has not to my mind its superior among all the legends of the earth. . . .
Calling on his countrymen to examine these neglected works from their own imaginative tradition, McCarthy urged also that they acquaint themselves with the language in which their ancient literature had been preserved—a language that might have been theirs, he reminded them, had history been different.
Two months later an essay by Hyde entitled "The Unpublished Songs of Ireland" appeared in the October issue of the same review. Readily acknowledging his debt to McCarthy, Hyde announced that his different but related purpose was to draw attention to an overlooked and "humbler field" of Irish tradition found in the songs and folktales of the Irish peasantry. Writing with a sense of style and an idea of his reader (neither previously evident in "Smaointe"), Hyde recalls the question Wordsworth asked on hearing a Gaelic song in the sweet mouth of a young girl: "Can no one tell me what she sings?" His essay, he says disarmingly, will tell something of what she sings about—but will also consider what songs are on the lips of her Irish sister in the "Connacht Highlands." However, he cautions, his own experience has been that the best songs ordinarily are sung not by a young girl standing alone in a harvest field but by old men and old women huddled over the smoke of a turf fire in a chimney corner. "You share a piece of twist tobacco with the ban a' tee ," Hyde explains, and "you can pretty easily sound her as to her knowledge about the Fianna Eireann, and as to the songs and 'bubberos' [spinning-wheel songs] which she used to sing as a girl." Moreover, young girls grow shy at the approach of a stranger, whereas an old woman "often . . . will feel rather flattered than otherwise at your noting down her verses." Thus he gracefully draws the reader to the subject that is his main concern.
That Hyde's selection of verses obtained under these conditions was derived from his own personal experience is evident from his extensive use of examples from the notebooks he had been filling since boyhood, at first with stories and poems told to him by Seamas Hart, then with those from the mouths of others. Each verse or poem or song included is presented within the context of a brief dramatic narrative that sets the scene of its telling. Each is accompanied by a comparative analysis of form and content that draws on Hyde's knowledge of nineteenth-century poems from the oral tradition, bardic poems from centuries past, and analogous writings in the languages and literatures of modern
Europe. His writing is seductive. Instead of scolding and preaching as in "Smaointe," he now suggests and persuades. His ending neither imposes a conclusion nor suggests an action but leaves the reader aligned with the forces of insight, reason, and virtue:
But alas! . . . as our language wanes and dies, the golden legends of the far-off centuries fade and pass away. No one sees their influence upon culture; no one sees their educational power; no one puts out a hand to arrest them ere they depart for ever.
The essay demonstrates not only how much Hyde had learned about writing since he struggled through "Smaointe" in 1880 but also how much he had developed intellectually. It introduces both the idea and the substance of what soon would be his first two full-length published books, Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta (A book of storytelling) and Beside the Fire .
Eight months later in June 1886, T. W. Rolleston, now editor of Charles Oldhma's Dublin University Review , included in his "Notes of the Month" a few lines on a dinner that had been held in May to celebrate the centennial of the Royal Irish Academy. Congratulating the academy on its accomplishments of the past 100 years, he took the opportunity to question the aims of its language revivalists, including An Craoibhin.
Do they wish to make Irish the language of our conversation and our newspapers? Impossible, and wholly undesirable. Do they wish to make us a bilingual people in the sense that everybody should know two languages? But peasantry and artisans cannot be expected to know two languages except at the expense of both. Would they separate Ireland into an English-speaking country and an Irish-speaking country? But how seriously this would affect the free circulation of thought. . . . What is there left except to treat Irish as a classic, and leave it to the Universities? Sufficient endowments will secure their attention to its interests.
As Hyde was one of the members of the Review 's informal editorial board and Rolleston was among his friends, and as the policy of the Dublin University Review was to stir up debate over different facets of nationalism, there is every chance that Rolleston's remarks and Hyde's reply—the latter announced in July and printed in August—had been planned. The time was right for such a discussion: in February, Parnell's position had been strengthened by the results of a new election which the Liberals had won by the slim majority of eighty-six (exactly the number of votes in the Irish party). Gladstone, who had promised
Home Rule, was again prime minister; Parnell held the balance of power. In April, Gladstone introduced his first Home Rule bill. In May the question seemed to be not whether there would be Home Rule in Ireland but when. Nationalists predicted that the bill would be passed by the end of summer. Meanwhile, as pressure for Home Rule was mounting, language revivalists were planning measures to take to the country on the occasion of its first independent election. They were most concerned with answering objections from anti-revivalists who, equally aware of the approaching moment, also had become increasingly vocal. As things turned out, within days of publication of Rolleston's "Notes," Home Rule was defeated. The country was in the midst of a general election when Hyde's reply, "A Plea for the Irish Language," was announced. By the time it was published the Tories were back in office. Yet the situation was not so upsetting as it might have been: the Liberals were no longer in charge, but the Tories could not take credit for either the defeat of the first Home Rule bill or the fall of Gladstone's government. Both had been the result of Whig opposition, some of it led by Lord Hartington, brother of the unfortunate Lord Frederick Cavendish. Parnell had come through the July election as popular as ever, with his strength intact. Lord Salisbury, leader of the Tories, had declared that he would concede nothing to the Irish but would in fact reduce if not eliminate Parnell's influence, but observers and proponents alike believed that it was only a matter of time before Parliament would find itself considering another Home Rule proposal.
Although predicated on such expectations, Hyde's essay was not merely topical but a reply to Rolleston's cui bono based on both philosophic and practical but not materialistic considerations. Within "a few short years," Hyde predicted, the dream of centuries would be fulfilled. With that hour approaching, the task of preserving the language had become more important than ever. For this reason there could be no question of leaving Irish to the universities. "We know what that means. We have seen our very numerous, very ancient and very interesting MSS handed over to the safe keeping of the colleges. . . . There they lie in their companies: 'No one wakes them, they are keeping/Royal state and semblance still.'" As these were manuscripts—the work of scholars, many of them Irish-speakers from infancy—that preserved the history, the traditions, the culture of the Irish people, they always must be accessible, Hyde insisted, to those to whom they rightfully belong.
Hyde's argument, however, was not for Irish by fiat. There could be no question, he declared, of an extreme in which Irish replaced English as the language of newspapers and clubs: "That is and ever shall be an impossibility." On the contrary, his prediction was that, almost certainly, social and commercial relations would make it necessary for "every man woman and child" in Ireland, even those in the Gaeltacht, to learn English sooner or later. But if English was to be not only maintained but fostered, so Irish too must have national support, for without it the Irish-speaking population would have little chance of surviving the heavy losses inflicted upon it—steadily for hundreds of years; precipitously, in their own late nineteenth century.
A reasonable plan for Irish, Hyde suggested, to avoid separating the people of Ireland from the stored memories and imagination of generations, would be for the government to foster a bilingual population in Irish-speaking areas on which future generations might draw "as from a fountain." Anticipating twentieth-century studies in language and psychology, he cited the importance to a cultural community of preserving the "stream of collected thought" shared by all, the traditions embedded in place-names, the characteristics of a language that shape a people's perceptions of themselves and their world. Those who have had no experience with the death of a national language, wrote Hyde, could have no conception of its impact on the thoughts and habits of a people.
Yet if the Irish people themselves resolved to let the Irish national language die, should it be kept alive through "twopenny-halfpenny bounties"? Hyde's answer was no. But had the Irish people ever had the opportunity to confront such a decision? Briefly recounting the history of Ireland, Hyde argued that Irish in Ireland had not been given either this or any other choice related to their cultural identity for more than 250 years. Only abroad, he avowed, had the Irish had the opportunity to promote the language of their ancestors: in New York City (he had the statistics from O'Neill Russell) it "has found a more congenial soil than in the streets of Dublin." That living Irish language, Hyde asserted, had to be given an equally fair chance in Ireland.
"A Plea for the Irish Language" took Hyde far beyond "Smaointe" if not yet as far as his 1892 speech, "The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland." As Daly points out, the very task of writing it forced him to come to terms with what hitherto had been contradictory ideas of his own about the nature of the Irish language and its contribution to the
Irish ethos. The result was the development of a perspective later to influence his work in the Gaelic League and his plans for a place for the language in Irish education.
Hyde was not in Dublin in August when "A Plea for the Irish Language" appeared in print. Early in July, accompanied by Mackey Wilson, he had gone to Scotland, to make an on-site assessment of the comparative status of Scots-Gaelic and Irish, a subject in which he had been interested for some years. In preparation for his trip he had read everything about the Scottish language movement that he could find and had seized every chance to engage Scots-Gaelic speakers in conversation. One day at Trinity, walking with his friend Crook, he had spotted a Highland piper on the cricket field. Crook recalled that the pipes were quickly laid aside while the two men, one in a kilt, the other in tweeds, engaged in an animated conversation incomprehensible to others.
Nothing Hyde had learned from his studies, however, had prepared him to find in Scotland such a vigorous and extensive commitment to the native language. It exceeded anything he ever had encountered at home. He noted that wherever Scots-Gaelic was spoken it was the language of everyone, not just the smallest of children and oldest of the elderly. Nor did anyone apologize for not using English. On the contrary, all seemed proud of their fluency in their native tongue and eager to help him engage them in conversation. There were problems: of vocabulary, because Irish and Scots-Gaelic often use different Gaelic roots for common concepts and items; of comprehension, because Hyde had not had sufficient ear training to catch correspondences between Scottish and Irish vowel sounds. Nevertheless, caught up in the positive spirit of the people, Hyde persisted in his attempts to understand and make himself understood. In the essays and lectures he later wrote about his experiences and observations, he credited the Scottish Presbyterian church with providing the environment in which Scots-Gaelic was thriving. The singing of Gaelic hymns and delivery of extemporaneous Gaelic prayers during church service were "a most powerful instrument," he said, "in cultivating the language."
Hyde and Wilson returned to Dublin on July 31. A few days later he was in Frenchpark, where he found his mother neither completely well nor seriously ill. For some years her recurrent asthma attacks had been steadily sapping her strength. She had rallied and failed, rallied and failed, in a predictable pattern. On August 23, as he was about to go off to the horse show, she suddenly collapsed. For two days she lay
writhing and unconscious, struggling for breath. Annette was traveling on the Continent; his father was no help at all. On August 25 she died. She was only fifty-two. In his diary Hyde described her as a woman "as selfless and disinterested . . . as ever walked this earth." For the next six weeks he remained in Frenchpark, alone with his father, awaiting Annette's return. To avoid quarrels he kept himself busy looking after the house, supervising the servants, and studying. He made considerable progress on a project he had begun, on the literature of the Celts. Evenings he did not allow himself to be drawn into conversations that inevitably would end in disagreement. To break the silence his father read out loud to him from Lecky and David Copperfield . He listened wordlessly. Occasional visits with the Frenches of Ratra helped relieve the tension. He was greatly relieved when at last it was time for him to go back to Trinity and the fall term. At Christmas he dutifully but briefly returned home. The prospect of soon departing with Mackey Wilson for an extended tour of the south of France helped him endure the gloom.
Ever since his first visit abroad in 1878 Hyde had longed to return to the Continent, especially to France. Yet during his Trinity years his few trips outside Ireland had been limited mostly to England. To keep the French experience alive within him he had had to content himself with reading and rereading. For years Rousseau's Confessions and the Maxims of Rochefoucauld, both bought on the quays during his memorable first tour, had been among his favorite books. Steadily and purposefully, his progress recorded in his diary, he also had forged his way through the French classics, French philosophy, French political thought, and French history. These readings had developed the sophistication he needed for a greater appreciation of Voltaire. They had sharpened his appetite for ideas and had aroused new intellectual passions. One year the "great book" was Emile . Another year he copied into his commonplace books long passages from the works of George Sand. Molière so fascinated him that he filled page after page of his diary with a long critical commentary on the French playwright's entire dramatic canon. Studying Taine and Carlyle, he declared that never had he read "anything in which French good sense and clear eye were more conspicuous." When discussions among members of Young Ireland turned to new political and philosophical theories, especially those Continental in origin, Hyde listened intently. Paris, with which Maud Gonne, Yeats, and others seemed so familiar, was for him a City of Light in more than the usual sense. French was a language of new
values. It often had served as a bridge between his Anglo-Irish and Irish-Gaelic personae.
In the spring of 1887, following the usual route from Dublin to Paris, via Holyhead, London, and Folkestone, Hyde and Wilson set out for France. Hyde regretted bypassing Brittany. Annette had assured him that he would find this Celtic province fascinating. In Paris his disappointment vanished as he and Wilson spent a few days sipping aperitifs in boulevard cafés, indulging themselves in fine French dinners, and making the rounds of the best-known Parisian cabarets. Then, marking sights along the way, they set out for the south, following a route that took them through Tours, Angoulême, and Orleans. Bordeaux impressed Hyde particularly: still quite unsophisticated, he had not anticipated there being so large a city outside Paris. He had thought that, like Ireland, France would have but one truly major urban center and the others would be essentially towns. To Wilson he remarked the contrasts in the countryside through which they traveled: the central plain rapidly giving way to heavily wooded hills; a mountain so broad and so high that the train passed through it instead of over or around it; the number of boats on the broad riverways. Wherever they went the punctuality of the French impressed him. He noted that even in the picturesque town of St. Jean de Luz at the edge of the Bay of Biscay where they stayed nearly a fortnight in the small and charming Hotel de France, morning coffee was brought promptly at nine, lunch was served promptly at twelve, and dinner was served promptly at six. It was a phenomenon that in some ways seemed more remarkable to him than the perpetual sunshine of southern France.
On his first Sunday morning in St. Jean de Luz, Hyde went to church. Up to this point his Parisian French had proved quite adequate for all occasions, but the sermon, he discovered, was delivered in Basque. He had not expected it to be so widely used. It interested him to learn that many farmworkers knew no French at all. The next Sunday he again went to church—this time, according to his information, to a service in French—but so strong was the Basque influence on the local dialect that again he could not understand the sermon. Fascinated by these new linguistic experiences, he longed to stay on and explore them, but his itinerary did not allow sufficient time. He and Wilson were expected in Biarritz, where there was a large British colony. There, in a round of lunches, teas, and tennis tournaments, Hyde forgot his curiosity, found new friends, flirted with young ladies who invited him to visit them in London, and otherwise allowed his Ascendancy persona free rein to enjoy itself for a full month.
On the trip home Hyde and Wilson again interrupted their journey in Paris. Again they sipped afternoon drinks in the cafés along the boulevards, dined in style, and made the midnight rounds of cabarets, but they also attended a play by Dumas fils at the Théâtre Française and a production of Gounod's Faust at the Opéra, went driving in the Bois de Boulogne, and visited Napoleon's tomb. On his last Sunday in France, Hyde attended the morning service at the Madeleine. The sermon, he noted happily in his diary, was in fully comprehensible Parisian French.
By the middle of May, Hyde was back in Frenchpark. In the small cemetery beside his father's church he erected a headstone of Sicilian marble to mark his mother's grave. She was the first of the family to be buried there. Arthur had been buried in Mohill; the Oldfield plot was in the Protestant cemetery in Castlerea, almost directly across the street from the house in which he was born. Through summer and early fall Hyde remained in Frenchpark, studying law, making uneven progress on assorted writing projects, performing glebe house chores, taking long walks alone and with Annette, visiting Big House neighbors who invited them both to luncheons, teas, and tennis parties, and fishing, boating, and swimming. On November 9 he returned to Dublin for the "Hist" awards ceremony, at which he received a silver medal for oratory and a gold medal for an essay on Celtic literature. He had arrived prepared to stay in Dublin for about a month to cram for his examinations for the LL.B. Since these examinations were no great worry to him, he made the rounds of his usual clubs, visited friends, and attended parties. As always he was vaguely troubled by a nagging concern about what he would do with the rest of his life, since law had no more appeal for him than the ministry, but in general his spirits were good.
On December 7, 1887—the last day of his LL.B. examinations—everything changed. Word reached him that Mackey Wilson was ill; that he was not expected to live; that he had died. Hyde had known him long before they entered Trinity. They had shared boyhood adventures and confidences. So warm was their friendship that Hyde's daughter Una remembered hearing Wilson's name when she was a child, although his death occurred nine years before she was born. Hyde's response to the tragic news was more intense than he himself had expected:
I was so shattered . . . that I cried like a child, and had to turn to the punch to clam myself. I drank half a pint and more, and smoked until my mouth was sore and raw. O God, I was miserable. I do not ever remember crying so much,
even when my mother died. Then I began arguing with myself as to the cause of my sorrow . . . and this heart-searching left me worse than ever.
Mackey Wilson's funeral on December 21 at the Wilson home near Enfield was a small affair, with only close friends and relatives present. Wilson's body was laid to rest in the grave beside that of his younger brother. As soon as the formalities were over, Hyde went home to Frenchpark. Ten days later, in the end-of-year review he wrote in his diary, he scolded himself for having whiled away so much of 1887, amusing himself when he should have been settling down and earning his living. At the beginning of the new term in the new year he returned to Dublin, ostensibly to study for the LL.D., actually to continue work on two projects that consumed the greater part of his time and attention. One was his long essay in English on the development of Gaelic literature; the other, in Irish, an annotated edition of folktales from the oral tradition that he had obtained from the mouths of native storytellers. On April 30, 1888, Hyde was informed that he had received a first in his examination for the LL.D. Although the ceremonial conferring of his degree did not take place until December 19 (it cost him ten shillings for his hood and gown and £22—"dear enough," he writes—for his sheepskin), that last day of April in 1888 was in fact the last day of his college life.
Hyde's transition from Trinity student to Trinity graduate was barely noticeable. Someone had to stay with the Reverend Arthur Hyde, and Oldfield's duties rarely allowed him much time at home. In any case Oldfield's relationship with the rector was still strained. Douglas's works-in-progress also required much time in Dublin, where his day-time hours were spent in bookshops and libraries; evenings he made the rounds of his clubs (additions to the list included the Pan-Celtic Society, the Franco-German Society, and the Theosophical Society), presenting papers and participating in discussions, or attended dinners, theater performances, concerts, and lectures. Responsibility for keeping up the glebe house and grounds and looking after the Reverend Arthur Hyde was therefore unevenly shared by Annette and Douglas.
Between 1888 and 1890, Hyde's club activities revolved chiefly around Young Ireland, in which he had been active since 1884, and the new Pan-Celtic Society, founded on March 1, 1888. Membership in the Pan-Celtic was restricted to published authors, but as the amount of publication required was minimal, it was far from exclusive. The significance of the membership clause was mainly the focus it gave to
meetings. For Yeats, who was also a member, and whose muse had become increasingly Irish since 1885, meetings were important. For him the Pan-Celtic offered opportunities to talk about native Irish traditions with people like Hyde, whose work he had followed with particular interest since the publication of "Unpublished Songs of Ireland."
The Hyde-Yeats relationship was complex from the start. Yeats was fascinated with Hyde's developing translation ethic, which subordinated literal meaning to the character of a language and found evidence in oral expression of linguistic influence on the mind and imagination of native speakers. Although Yeats himself knew little if any Irish, he recognized not only the soundness of Hyde's concepts but also the success of their application to Irish rhythms and diction. To Katharine Tynan and John Millington Synge he recommended the study of the Irish quality of Hyde's translations into English. For himself he found in them qualities that he adapted in the development of his own poetic voice. Yeats also recognized Hyde as a source of information for the articles on bardic poetry that he had agreed to write and as a potential contributor to the Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, a small book scheduled for publication in late 1888. In a letter to Hyde written on July 11, Yeats described his search for "little books of fairy tales to be found in peasant cottages brown with turf smoke." Listing the categories he planned to use in his collection, he asked if Hyde would help. Hyde agreed; consultations followed; and four days later Yeats wrote again: "I will be thankful for any stories. The more the better—I have just discovered my book to be 60 or 70 pages short." Hyde obliged with three stories, among them one that Yeats later described as the "best tale" in the collection: his "style is perfect—so sincere and simple—so little literary," he confided to Katharine Tynan in a letter written in September. Meanwhile, early in August, Yeats had asked Hyde, "Will you be even more generous still and consent to look through my proofs so as to give me some short notes?" And on August 25 he wrote again to say that he was sending Hyde his first batch of proofs, so that Hyde might correct any mistakes Yeats had made in them.
Attracted to each other by certain common goals and values, Yeats and Hyde differed in their attitudes toward Irish Ireland and anglicized Ireland. Different also were their respective concepts of self. Richard Ellmann's insight into the dominating consciousness of Yeats's poetic self is underscored in the titles of his biographical-critical studies: The
Man and the Masks and The Identity of Yeats . Yeats understood that even a minor poet could be driven by a sense of poetic mission. What he did not understand was the apparent lack or subordination of it (he was never sure which) in a poet as talented as Hyde. In fact, when he first met Hyde, he did not recognize him as a poet or even as a member of the social class to which he mentally assigned all poets, by virtue of their profession. Recalling that encounter, Yeats wrote in 1922:
I have a memory of . . . a very dark young man, who filled me with surprise, partly because he had pushed a snuffbox towards me . . . . I had set him down as a peasant, and wondered what brought him to college, and to a Protestant college, but somebody explained that he belonged to some branch of the Hydes of Castle Hyde, and that he had a Protestant Rector for father. . . . He had already . . . considerable popularity as a Gaelic poet, mowers and reapers singing his songs from Donegal to Kerry. (The Autobiography of William Butler Yeats, 145-46)
Suspicious that Hyde never spoke his real thoughts, Yeats complained to his diaries of Hyde's "super affability," "diplomatizing," and tendency toward "evading as far as he could prominent positions and the familiarity of his fellows," which he attributed to a fear of "jealousy and detraction." Years afterward it still troubled Yeats that the tenant farmers and villagers whose sparse communities were to him but wide places on a country road, having "picked up, perhaps" a "habit of Gaelic criticism" from "the poets who took refuge among them after the ruin of the great Catholic families," sang Hyde's words without a clue to his true identity—and that (the story may be apocryphal) "an old rascal was kept in food and whiskey for a fortnight by some connaught village under the belief that he was Craoibhin Aoibhin [sic ]." For a poet to choose a pseudonym and therefore anonymity was for Yeats as incomprehensible as a poet's choosing to subordinate his talent to the creation of "a great popular movement," however important "its practical results." Bewildered by the course of Hyde's career, he came to mourn "the great poet who died in his youth."
For his part, Hyde admired Yeats's single-minded dedication to poetry, often demonstrated in his generosity not only to younger writers but to those of a slighter talent; he had no doubts about Yeats's abilities. But impatient with Yeats's ego, he often expressed his irritation with the "blather" with which Yeats monopolized the company of others. To Hyde it was an impediment to serious talk. Hyde was particularly irritated one afternoon when having come, out of affection, to see his friend and former Trinity professor Edward Dowden,
he found Yeats there, trying to impress Dowden with his "blather." He also criticized Yeats's social climbing, his condescending behavior toward anyone he regarded as not his social equal, and his patronizing attitude toward Irish men and women whom he knew only collectively as "the peasantry."
Yeats and Hyde frequently saw each other at meetings of the Young Ireland Society and the Contemporary Club, where Yeats always deferred to John O'Leary. Impatient with the unshakable biases and inflexible attitudes of the old Fenian leader, Hyde preferred George Sigerson. Yeats was prickly and argumentative with John F. Taylor, a barrister, orator, and biographer of Irish subjects; to Hyde, Taylor was a silver-tongued "king among men." Both Yeats and Hyde were single-minded in their pursuit of the development of an idea. Hyde would spend hours tracking down elusive bits of information. Yeats would devote the same time to writing letters to able people like Hyde who could root out and present him with what he required. Hyde did not mind Yeats's steady stream of research requests, although they often took hours to fill, because he found the subjects intrinsically interesting He was therefore merely amused to receive two letters from Yeats in December 1888, asking for help in finding "some ragged peasant ready to sell his rags cheap." A pencil sketch of what Yeats had in mind accompanied the request. The clothes were needed by the Royal Irish Academy, Yeats explained, for an artist by the name of Nash who had been commissioned to illustrate John Todhunter's Tom Connolly and the Banshee . Hyde obliged, and in February 1889, having received the "peasant rags," Yeats asked Hyde's advice on what should be sent to the "old fellow": "clothes, money, tobacco?" Never fully understanding Hyde's tongue-in-cheek replies but nevertheless thankful for his help, Yeats welcomed opportunities to do him a good deed in return. He praised Hyde's work to the editor of the Academy; he introduced him to David Garnett of Fisher Unwin; he urged young poets to read his essays and translations.
Both Hyde and Yeats were infatuated with the tall, beautiful, articulate, and cosmopolitan Maud Gonne, a self-acknowledged Irish revolutionary who was as much at home in Paris as in Dublin. Hyde declared in his diary that her presence in a room was a signal for all the men to gather around. Charles Oldham had introduced her to the Contemporary Club, until then an all-male preserve, without a word of protest from anyone. Hyde, who had met her earlier at George Sigerson's declared her "the most dazzling woman I have ever seen."
Courtier-like, Yeats incorporated her into his mythologizing poetry that celebrated his devotion to her beauty. Hyde offered to teach her Irish, but their "tutoring sessions" ranged over such a number of topics that there was never time to try to discuss them in anything but English. Nevertheless, he continued to come to her flat on Nassau Street, convenient to the daily haunts of Pan-Celtics and Young Irelanders, first at the appointed weekly hour, then several times a day—sometimes when, musical-comedy style, other admirers were also swarming around her. Watching them all, Maud Gonne recalled in her autobiography, were two Special Branch men assigned to surveillance outside her building. "The tricks we used to play on those unfortunate sleuths," she wrote, "would fill a volume."
A less spectacular but more comfortable woman in Hyde's life during this period was Ellen O'Leary, coeditor with her brother, John O'Leary, of an important volume in the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Irish literature, Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland . Contributors to the book were the Young Irelanders of the 1880s; its contents followed the principles of the Young Irelanders of the 1840s; who had proclaimed that Irish poetry should be the servant of political nationalism. Ellen O'Leary was almost thirty years Hyde's senior. Their warm relationship was reminiscent of Hyde's boyhood affection for Anna White, his "Una Bán." On New Year's Day, 1889, he presented her with a brace of game birds that he had shot for her. In April he sent her his photograph and expressed his concern about her declining health. By summer she was too ill to have visitors, but when she could she answered his long letters, full of gossip and small talk. A few months later, all was over. Tuberculosis, that ghastly scourge of nineteenth-century Ireland, had again struck down someone he loved. Deeply shaken by her death, Hyde asked John O'Leary to return the letters he had written to her, promising on his part to return those she had written to him. Mourning Ellen, Hyde and O'Leary established their own friendship deeper than the differences of opinion that previously had divided them.
Meanwhile the initials "F.C." continued to weave through Hyde's diary. A close friend and frequent companion since their first meeting in the spring of 1882, Frances Crofton often walked with Hyde in the morning, lunched with him at noon, dined with him in the evening, and accompanied him to after-dinner lectures, concerts, and club meetings. At Hyde's insistence they sometimes talked of marriage. In 1886 she had deflected rather than refused him by saying that she simply had
no intention of ever marrying. In one way her answer made it easier for him to continue their relationship, since his prospects and financial situation were not yet sufficient to permit him to make a formal proposal. In another it left him socially and emotionally in an odd state, neither attached nor committed.
In June of 1889—an important year for Hyde, as at last he had put his name to a major publication, Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta (A book of storytelling)—Hyde, Frances Crofton, and Hyde's sister Annette made a two-week trip to Paris. Hyde was then striving to secure a university teaching position somewhere in Ireland. Had he succeeded he might well have pushed his suit with Frances, but his prospects remained uncertain. The only offer he received was from his friend Willie Stockley, who was then teaching at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. What Stockley proposed was an interim professorship for Hyde that would suit them both. With Hyde to replace him, he explained, he could take a year's leave in 1890–1891. Hyde meanwhile would have the advantage of an academic base from which he might launch a search for a more permanent post. Hyde immediately realized that it was an attractive idea, especially as his second book, Beside the Fire —a collection of folktales translated by him into the English that Yeats had so admired—was scheduled for publication in December 1890. By June 1891 he would have two published books and a year's teaching experience behind him. The fact that he had been teaching English, French, and German would expand the kind of position for which he might apply. Stockley was right: there was little doubt that such a move would improve his credentials immeasurably.