The Budding Branch
February 28, 1940, was brisk and cold. A chill wind swept through Phoenix Park, rattling the great windows of its three stately homes, former residences of British government officials. From the chimneys of Áras an Uachtaráin, official residence since 1938 of the president of Ireland, smoke from turf fires rose and quickly dispersed, its unmistakable scent evoking warm recollections of distant cottages in hearty Dubliners walking or cycling nearby. During the hard winter months past, to relieve distress caused by wartime shortages, the president had ordered that the mansion's coal stores be distributed among the people of Dublin. A turf fire was in any case what he himself preferred, nor did he mind giving up dusty bins of shiny black coal for the velvet-brown stacks from midland bogs that he now had the pleasure of seeing when he took an occasional turn outdoors, striding along purposefully or stopping to banter with a workman, his long woolen muffler and the smoke from his pipe both curling around and behind the collar of his tweed jacket.
Built as an eighteenth-century ranger's lodge, Áras an Uachtaráin had been enlarged in 1816 to create a proper viceregal residence for the British lords lieutenant who then governed Ireland. It was at that time that the wings and portico that give the mansion its neoclassical appearance had been added. hastily and not yet completely renovated in 1938 to serve as the home of the first Irish president, it needed just such touches as a turf fire, in its new occupant's opinion, to give it a proper Irish flavor. Similar patriotic sentiments, he sometimes ex-
plained to visitors, his eyes wide and shining with feigned innocence, led him to keep a small flask of poteen in the presidential study. Michael McDunphy, secretary to the president, frankly disapproved of the poteen—and had not been so sure of the turf. An efficient, conscientious, and serious man favored by de Valera for the newly established government position to which he had been appointed even before Hyde's election, McDunphy worked hard at the job of hiring and heading the presidential staff, assuring its efficient operation, establishing protocol, maintaining liaison between Áras an Uachtaráin and other branches of the government, and communicating through diplomatic channels and the media with the world at large. Stacking turf outside the presidential mansion was just one of many things he had to be concerned about, for fear of what the newspapers might make of it. McDunphy was right, of course—from previous experience Hyde knew that political cartoonists, like cats, should never be overfed—but in this case wartime exigencies allowed the president to have his turf and the people of Dublin to have their coal, yet left the caricaturists, good hunting cats all, still lean and hungry.
Caricaturists and cats both figure in Irish history—probably because, as a monk with an ironic bent observed some eleven centuries ago, they employ similar skills:
I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
The original of that old Irish poem—found in Austria, in the margins of a manuscript of a codex of St. Paul—was well known to Hyde. As a young man he had made oblique and playful allusion to it in a mock lament he had written in modern Irish, about the loss of a kitten, companion of his study, on which a portly friend had sat. Himself a Gaelic scholar, translator, and poet, Hyde admired the way in which Robin Flower had hunted and caught the flavor of the poem in a singsong English different from Kuno Meyer's earlier and more literal verse translation. The German Celticist, an old friend, had struck a nice balance beween scholarly integrity and poetic sensibility, but Flower's greater concern for the spirit of the original was more consistent with Hyde's own translation ethic.
Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.
On this February day in 1940, that was Hyde's task: to ply his simple skill with words. Warmed by the turf fire in his study, he sat at his writing desk, his sturdy figure hunched over three sheets of blue four-by-six-inch notepaper, his rounded back to the door.
'Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.
Less able to find time to entertain his imagination since taking office as president, Hyde delighted in opportunities such as the one before him that combined duty with pleasure. His task was to make a rough draft of what he planned to say to an audience of schoolchildren on the subject of studying Irish.
Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.
Seeking meanings that he might catch in his nets, Hyde looked up from his work to glance through French windows, past formal gardens, at the high, white sky beyond. It was an old habit of his, resting his eyes on the sky while he was thinking, learned when he was a boy of twelve or thirteen and had begun to have the soreness of his eyelids that had plagued him off and on ever since. A nuisance, that soreness of the eyes. Fortunately it had never completely disabled him, nor had he ever let it interfere seriously with either his reading or his writing, not even at home in Roscommon, where it always seemed worse. If some days through habit he found himself looking up at the sky more often than usual, it was not always to rest his eyes but to search for—what?
'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
In his presidential study in Aras an Uachtaráin, whenever his glance strayed first round the room and then through the French windows to
the sky above the garden, the sky was full of wheeling gulls. A great country for birds, Ireland. Even in the center of the city, in the reading rooms of the National Library, they could be heard scuffling on the roof and screaming overhead. In Roscommon, in that same sky continually covered and uncovered by scudding gray clouds, a teal might be dropping back to the sheltered ledge bordering the lake near Caoile from which the entire flock had arisen, moments before, at the sound of a hunter's first shot. At Ratra, if the turlough in the far field were larger today, a lapwing reflected in its shallow waters would be an easier target. If not, for the hunter's gun there were always the omnipresent crows silhouetted in the leafless trees of late winter.
Though miles away in Dublin, any Roscommon man would know from the look of the sky how the air smelled west of the Shannon, how the wind felt on a reddened cheek. Days toward the end of February often were fine there: brisk and cold, with perhaps a light dusting of new snow to limn the prints of a saucy hare after a week's thaw. In the early, frosty morning on just such a day as this when he was a boy Hyde used to walk down to Cloigionín-a-naosc's in snow that squeaked underfoot; flush a snipe at the flash; return home slowly, sometimes stepping in his own earlier footprints, grown large since he had left them. On such a day, as a boy, he often went out again after supper, sending Diver to retrieve a jackdaw shot close by the house or running along well-worn paths, the dog at his heels, to enjoy for a while in the lengthening twilight the comfort of Seamas Hart's turf fire and the warmth of his companionship.
Such thoughts of the past inevitably crowd out the present when a writer faces the kid of task Hyde had before him on that last Wednesday in February at the start of his eighty-first year, a winter's day with a promise of spring in the air. To think what would draw a response from children requires remembering what it is like to be a child.
When a mouse darts from its den
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!
Hyde wrote and crossed out and wrote again. Sixty-five, seventy years had passed since he was a boy. Curious turns and twists of fate separate youth and age. A memory that would bridge the distance between himself and the children he soon would meet, that was what he needed: something that would persuade them that near the end of the journey
of life the old must look to the young for assurance of that continuity of effort that is their last earthly reward. Would the children respond to such a memory? How would they regard him? Would they listen to what he had to say? Or would they squirm, suppressing giggles and yawns, wishing the event over, the old man gone? If Hyde could have met each youngster separately, coaxed from the eyes of each the mirror of his own, surely they would have become friends. Protocol, however, required that the president of Ireland address schoolchildren in groups.
Hyde always had had an easy rapport with children. Summers in Roscommon in the years before his wife became ill, while she chatted with other ladies in the drawing room at Clonalis, he used to play hide-and-seek with the six O'Conor girls, up and down stairs, behind chairs, under beds, and through the forty-odd rooms of the "new" house (so-called to distinguish it from the old one, down by the river, abandoned in 1872 after the first wife of Charles Owen O'Conor Don died there of the tuberculosis that also had killed his mother). Hyde liked visiting Clonalis with Lucy, even when none of the O'Conor men was about, not only for enjoyment of the children but for the pleasure of past associations. Castlerea was a familiar seven-mile drive from Frenchpark village; it was just nine miles from Ratra, the old John French estate forever associated with Seamas Hart where he expected that one day he would end his days. The road through the top of the town passed the nine-hole Clonalis golf course where he still sometimes played when he was home, then curved along high stone walls past the great iron gates of the estate on its way to Castlebar. When he and Lucy had business to transact in Castlerea they would turn left onto Main Street before reaching Clonalis, cross the bridge over the river Suck, and pass the post office on the left, to the market square. The road entering from the right a few yards beyond ran down to the railroad station. On one side of this road, at the junction of Main Street, was Kilkeevan Church, where he had been baptized; on the other was the Hill, then the glebe house of Kilkeevan parish, home of his grandparents, where he had been born. His grandfather Oldfield had died later that year. Sometime after, his grandmother and unmarried aunts, Maria and Cecily, had moved to Blackrock, in county Dublin. In addition to Maria, Cecily, and his own mother (her name was Elizabeth, but everyone called her Bessie), the Oldfield daughters included Ann, wife of Dr. William Cuppaidge, the physician who was always called to treat his chronic soreness of the eyes and other family ailments.
Charles Owen O'Conor Don, whose first wife had died at Clonalis,
had known the Oldfield family. He had been a young man serving his third year in Parliament when Douglas Hyde was born. The O'Conors also had known the Wildes, Oscar Wilde's father and grandfather. Sir William, who had received his early education at the Elphin Diocesan School, had left Roscommon for Dublin long before Oscar was born, so Oscar and Douglas had not been acquainted as children. George Moore, however, who had grown up at Moore Hall near Partry in Mayo, used to tell of summertime boating and picnicking, himself and his brother Maurice, with the Wilde boys, Oscar and Willie, on Lough Carra. As a young man Hyde had been fascinated by stories of the boys' mother, Lady Wilde, who called herself "Speranza" and who had written poetry for the Nation .
February 28, 1940: more than seventy-nine years had elapsed since the Venerable John Orson Oldfield had been laid to rest behind the iron gates of the overgrown Church of Ireland cemetery on Castlerea's Main Street, across from Kilkeevan Church; almost thirty-six since Charles Owen O'Conor Don had taken his place in the family plot of the Roman Catholic cemetery adjacent to Clonalis, his ancient title passing to first one nephew and then another. Oscar Wilde had died in 1900. George Moore was dead, too; it was seven years since his ashes had been buried on an island in his silver-green lake. Where were the O'Conor girls on this crisp winter morning? Married, some of them—Jo working in London for the British Foreign Office. On a postscript to a letter, Hyde had written that he could not send her his love as long as she held that job.
But on this February day Hyde had no time to reflect either on the curious convergence of personalities associated with Castlerea or on the whereabouts of the six O'Conor sisters. The work at hand had nothing to do with Frenchpark or Castlerea or any other part of his native county. The children for whom he was planning his brief talk were not those he had known as Roscommon neighbors and friends. Who was he to these young citizens of a new and different Ireland? A symbol—their first constitutional president? How old he must seem to them, how distant his memories of the past. Would they understand that once upon a time an t-uachtarán had been a child like each of them? Could he talk to them perhaps not as their president but as An Craoibhin Aoibhinn, the poet, playwright, and folklorist whose work they had read or recited? If he had taught their parents or teachers, some might have heard of him as the Dr. Hyde who had been professor of modern Irish at University College. He was often photographed for the newspapers,
greeting visiting scholars and other dignitaries from abroad. But what do children care about scholars and dignitaries? What do they care about? Wars, heroes, history? What had he cared about when he was a boy?
Against the high, white sky over Phoenix Park there rose in the mind of Douglas Hyde the image of a small boy, not more than ten years of age, who had been taken from his native Connacht bog and mountain across the troubled Irish Sea to England. A crowd of other boys surrounded him, mocking him because (the written words leaned forward as Hyde wrote, straining to outdistance his pen as they raced uphill across the page) "nach raibh mé cosamhail leo féin" (I was not like them). One boy—Hyde recalled wryly that he was "in the same situation as myself" (that is, another Irish boy in England)—led the attack, calling Hyde an "Irish Paddy." Hyde wrote out the scene in Irish, that he might reconstruct it for the children he was to address: "Never say that again," he had threatened the boy, raising his fists. "You're nothing but a lazy loafer; I can beat you any day. I speak your language as well as you, and can you say a single word of mine? You had better realize that I'm twice the man—the double and better of yourself. And you, you grinning half-brain, you make fun of me and call me names."
"I was young then, and hot-tempered." Hunched over as Annette always remembered him, Hyde continued his recollection, contracting the size of his letters in his haste to finish before his remembered emotions cooled, excusing the fury of the embattled child he had been as he became again the elderly president of Ireland. But a blaze is not easily extinguished, even after seventy years, especially when it has been kindled by thoughts of injustice; firm and clear were the letters of the words with which he ended his account: "I still think I was right."
He had it then, three full sheets of notes and phrases from which to develop what he would say to the children.
So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
All he needed to finish his task were a few final words in Irish to encourage the children to continue their study of the national language.
Each of you, every boy or girl among you . . . you can say as courageously and truly as I did that you are the better person, twice over! But you can't say it without your own language, so don't lose a bit of your Irish, because if you
do it is history that you lose. Speak Irish among yourselves, for fear of losing it. And don't be timid—it won't be long before Irish spreads all over the world.
As he worked the little drama into his speech, for a short while Hyde was no longer, as he sometimes complained, a bird in a gilded cage. He had rummaged through memories of his childhood to find his characters; he had turned the clock back to set them moving and talking. He was a guest again at Coole Park, working on the script of a new play that he would read out to Lady Gregory and Yeats after dinner. At Coole, when he finished the scene he was working on, he used to walk down to the lake to watch the swans before dinner. At Áras an Uachtaráin, he might take a turn around the house to enjoy the turfragrant air.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
Had such an event as Hyde described occurred when he was ten? Did it take place in England? Were the circumstances as he related them? In the diary of his eighteenth year he had recorded in retrospect a few facts about his brief and only school experience, apparently the kernel of his story. It had taken place when he was thirteen: "My brother Arthur went to college in the year 1871 and my other brother Oldfield did the same in 1875. I stayed all the time safe at home except in 1873 I hurt my left thigh." The leg injury had set him back in his studies. He was sent in consequence to a "thieving school in Dublin" where he remained about three weeks and "learned nothing." Dissatisfied with the quality of the school, his father soon had withdrawn him.
Hyde's later accounts of this experience, separately retold by his daughter, Una Hyde Sealy, and his first biographer, Diarmid Coffey, suggest other reasons for his withdrawal: on the one hand, a case of measles; on the other, the Reverend Arthur Hyde's unwillingness to shoulder the cost of Douglas's tuition. Between these two sources there are discrepancies also in just how long Douglas remained at the school before he was taken home. The school is not named, but Una Sealy was sure that it was in Kingstown, now Dún Laoghaire, a suburb south of Dublin, rather than in Dublin proper. Coffey agreed, adding that only the shortness of Hyde's enrollment "prevented his becoming as Anglicised as most Dublin schoolboys," for such Irish schools, catering as they did to upper-class families, were modeled on English boys'
schools. Recreating the experience in 1940, Hyde seems to have mirrored reality not as it was but as it might have been. Creating a scene reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies, he increased the tension between boy and setting by repositioning his remembered self in England rather than Dublin, then enhanced the potential for conflict by providing his boyhood persona with the verbal ability to defend a principle he but half understood against a half-felt wrong.
The truth is that in 1873, when Douglas Hyde was thirteen, he could not have made any honest claim to being an Irish speaker. His excercise books indicate that what he then knew of the language probably was limited to at most twenty or thirty common phrases. These he had but recently begun to record as part of a newly serious effort to learn Irish, which until then he had simply parroted. His new method was to listen carefully to the Irish speakers who lived and worked on the glebe lands, at nearby Ratra, or at the edge of the bog; to repeat the sounds he thought he had heard; then like a magpie to take them home and store them in his exercise book, together with their meanings, using a phonetic system he had devised for himself. Such a primitive program of study was possible because, contrary to the conclusions of 1851 census takers who had identified northwest Roscommon (a sparsely settled midland area west of the Shannon, bordering Leitrim, Sligo, and Mayo) as largely English-speaking, when Hyde was a boy many men and women of hill, hollow, and bog (including those employed by Hyde's father and other local landlords) still spoke Irish among themselves or used a mixture of Irish and English in their daily lives. In the cottages of Frenchpark, Fairymount, and Ballaghaderreen, even in some of the houses in Castlerea, Irish was therefore the first language of countless very young children and the only language of most ould wans —women and men in their seventies, eighties, and beyond who spoke the local north Roscommon dialect that has now long since died out and who were revered for their wisdom and memory and respected as guardians of cultural lore and traditions. Contemporary scholars suggest that their dialect probably was close to the Irish still spoken today in Menlo, in east Galway.
The content of Hyde's beginning Irish vocabulary was restricted, of course, by the context in which it was learned. The first expressions he reconstructed in his exercise book involved shooting, drinking, agricultural chores, marketing, and the weather. Sometimes in the shop in Ballaghaderreen or at the fair in Bellanagare, he would eavesdrop on other Irish speakers, testing his comprehension. Although Hyde's
brothers shared his environment, neither took the trouble to learn to communicate in Irish, nor apparently did their father. It is almost certain that Hyde's upper-class schoolfellows in Kingstown would have known no Irish either. These were the boys whom Hyde apparently set out to impress with his blas (fluency), going so far as to pretend not only that he was bilingual, but that Irish was his native tongue. With twenty or thirty phrases at the ready to hurl into the contest he set up, there is no doubt that he would have had the advantage, if he had found anyone who considered a knowledge of Irish worthy of the challenge. Naive as he was at thirteen, with so little experience outside his native Roscommon (was this the reason why, in retrospect, he thought the incident in the schoolyard had occurred when he was only ten?), possibly he expected that his arcane knowledge would confer upon him the status a new boy always needs. His ability to rattle off an expression in Irish had won indulgent attention at home. Even his father, a Trinity graduate for whom education meant fluency in Latin and Greek, had shown interest in the increasing number of Irish words he was able to use, and Douglas's brother Arthur had told him that at Trinity College, Irish speakers were eligible to compete for a sizarship. "Maith an buachaill " (good boy) and "Good on you, boy," the country people of Tibohine would say, smiling and shaking their heads as if in amazement, whenever he mastered a new phrase.
Reactions in Kingstown were predictably different. To be sure, scholars did study Irish at Trinity College, then a bastion of Ascendancy attitudes and culture in the center of Dublin, but by "Irish" Trinity scholars meant the old language of Continental scribes that had been deciphered by European philologists, the classical language of bardic poets, or the literary language of chroniclers and historians artfully inscribed on parchment or vellum. Regarded not as the heritage of modern Ireland but as artifacts of a lost civilization, such manuscripts, many of them collected a century earlier for the Duke of Buckingham by Dr. Charles O'Conor, the duke's librarian, were accessible only to those who could qualify for admission to the libraries and manuscript rooms of Trinity, Oxford, the Royal Irish Academy, or the British Museum Library, or to such private holdings as the family archive of the O'Conors of Clonalis. But the unrecorded daily language of thatched hut and bog cabin? To suggest that such Irish had any relation to the language of the manuscript tradition was, to most nineteenth-century scholars, to equate the cries of Italian street vendors with the poems of Catullus and Horace or the superstitions of Greek seamen
with Homer's Iliad and Odyssey . No wonder the Kingstown schoolboys laughed and jeered.
By the time Douglas realized that, contrary to his expectations, native fluency (real or pretended) in modern Irish would not enhance his stature in the Kingstown school—that, on the contrary, it would actually diminish him in the eyes of the other boys—apparently he had gone too far to reverse himself. His spirited defense, if delivered at all (the words remembered in 1940 for delivery to Irish schoolchildren may represent only what Hyde wished he had said) no doubt seemed in retrospect the right answer to their jeers. In 1873, in a school for Ascendancy boys, it could not have been more than a brave front, after which Douglas returned to Roscommon and to a life that went on much as it had before.
To Dominic Daly, author of The Young Douglas Hyde, Hyde's Roscommon childhood seemed idyllic. Free from school routine, with a boat and a horse at his disposal, a dog for companionship, and unencumbered hours to spend rambling the countryside, boxing with local youths in the glebe house farmyard, playing cards in the kitchen with gamekeepers, stewards, and farm laborers, or listening to Irish stories before cottage fires, it had a Huck Finn quality. These were indeed pleasant days when together the rector of Frenchpark and his three sons constructed targets for rifle practice, checked the turlough in the meadow for waterfowl, hunted birds and rabbits, and rowed, sailed, and swam in Lough Gara. But Douglas's diaries also document tension and unhappiness, especially between sons and father; illnesses that eroded family relationships; and an angry resentment of the tyrannical and unpredictable behavior of the Reverend Arthur Hyde.
A microcosm of all that Trollope had portrayed of western Ireland, especially in The Macdermots of Ballycloran —its complexities misunderstood by Englishman and Dubliner alike, its way of life alien to the anglicized eastern establishment, its attitudes and values rooted in cross-currents of written and unwritten history—the town of Mohill in county Leitrim where the Reverend Arthur Hyde, Jr., grew up in the half century before disestablishment had defined for him the choices available to the son of a clergyman born in Leitrim in 1820 into the junior branch of an Ascendancy family. By heritage he was thoroughly Ascendancy, by social and educational background he was thoroughly Anglo-Irish. To continue in the family tradition, to become the fourth Reverend Arthur Hyde of the Church of Ireland, was for him an appropriate choice at a time when the social fabric and economic and polit-
ical mores of the west of Ireland could be counted on to support his taste for security on the one hand and independence on the other.
At Trinity College the Reverend Arthur Hyde distinguished himself as an excellent classicist. In the churches to which he was assigned he served as a man of the cloth on Sunday; the rest of the week he divided between his library, where he enjoyed the role of gentleman scholar, and the fairs, fields, and bogs where he was known as a handsome, devil-may-care country squire and sportsman. For his sons he wished no more than that they, too, should become country vicars, learn to shoot accurately and drink lustily, carry out their responsibilities civilly, and devote themselves, as behooved Hydes of their birth and breeding, to a gentlemanly kind of scholarship.
Scholarship was important to the Reverend Arthur Hyde: Trollopian in many respects, he was a dignified man, not a Somerville-and-Ross Church of Ireland minister. Proud of his achievements at Trinity (he had been awarded the bachelor of arts in 1839, when he was but nineteen, and a second-class divinity testimonium a year later), at home he quoted Greek and spoke Latin to his sons, insisting that they develop a similar fluency, especially before servants. (It was this practice, carried over by his sons Arthur and Douglas in their diaries, that resulted in entries in which "nova ancilla " signaled the arrival of the new housemaid, to be followed shortly by "ancilla expulsa est .") In Kilmactranny he was remembered as a man who eagerly studied the natural world, especially the medicinal properties of local plants and the habits of birds and animals. No subject was too esoteric to warrant his attention. Additions to the library of the glebe house were made regularly. Douglas notes in his diary that invariably the packages his father brought home from his frequent trips to Dublin included new books for the library shelves.
But the Reverend Arthur Hyde was neither so patient nor so reflective as his love of reading and scholarship might suggest. "Passionate" was the adjective employed by old Bertie McMaster of Kilmactranny when he recalled stories that the elders of his generation used to tell, of how the vicar bullied the young men of the parish into joining his cricket team, then raged at them during practice sessions for their unskilled performance; how he pilloried boys and girls who had not learned their Sunday school lesson; how he stopped in the middle of a Sunday sermon to scourge latecomers; how he was known for miles around as an exemplary shot—a man who, drunk or sober, could knock a magpie off a pig's back with a single bullet or catch a plover in flight.
In Frenchpark, in the pubs along the road between the village and Tibohine, local people who remembered the rector would say of him with a smile and a wink, "He was a playboy, he was."
Unorthodox, impetuous, strong-willed, scarcely the reticent and reserved Christian clergyman portrayed in some biographical sketches of Douglas Hyde, the Reverend Arthur Hyde, Jr., was not a man to accept disappointment or disobedience from his sons nor to encourage meekness by example. Inevitably there were clashes. His disagreements with young Arthur, although heated, were usually intellectual. His more frequent quarrels with Oldfield at times ended in violence. To the Reverend Hyde a thigh injury would not have been an acceptable excuse for Douglas's falling behind in his studies. Capricious as well as contentious, he was clearly capable of one day, without warning, packing the boy off to the hated Kingstown school—and then withdrawing him just as quickly the next, especially if the school failed to meet his exacting standards. Chronic attacks of gout (brought on by chronic drinking) did not improve his normally irascible nature. If he had no patience with the shortcomings of others, he had less with his own: his illnesses were perceived by him to be both a deficiency and a curse. Yet he was also a man of boundless energy and ingenuity who could tackle drains and the souls of the damned with similar enthusiasm, devise and construct mechanisms for moving rocks, labor alongside the hardiest workmen during haying or harvest season, encourage his sons to match and surpass his own ability at sports, and in a dozen other ways present himself as a father to admire and emulate. About money he was at times miserly, at times generous. Although in private he mouthed a narrow bigotry particularly upsetting to Douglas, his behavior toward Catholic tenants, workmen, and neighbors was above reproach. Frequently unreasonable, in general (except for one lengthy feud with Oldfield) he did not hold a grudge. Frequently penitent, his resolutions to change his ways did not last either. A mercurial man capable of softness, understanding, high good humor, pigheadedness, irrational anger, and boorishness, all within the space of minutes or hours, he was neither easy to love nor easy to despise, although by turns he inspired these and other strong emotions in all three of his sons.
Following his return from the school to which he had been briefly banished, Douglas appears to have coped with his unpredictable father by assiduously meeting his obligations and concealing feelings that would not meet with parental approval, meanwhile subtly distancing himself. Yet to most people he seemed a typical adolescent, wandering off on his own with his gun and his dog; seizing opportunities to ride
into town or to a local fair with Connolly, his father's steward; helping Dockry, a workman, with minor repairs; matching his strength and skill in boxing and broad-jumping against that of cottage boys near his own age. But in the notebooks in which he faithfully wrote out the academic exercises that were assigned but rarely reviewed by his father, he also allowed himself opportunities to exercise his imagination in ways that provide early clues to the character, personality, and attitudes beneath his untroubled mask.
Most striking in Hyde's boyhood exercise books is his playful delight in words—whether in English, French, or Irish—and his aptitude for using them to set mood and create character. His earliest constructions are easily recognized projections of himself introduced in roles devised for his own ironic amusement. Complaining, for example, of chronic soreness of his eyelids, adolescent Douglas chose a mock-heroic stance, a popular verse form, and third-person narrative in French to make light of his discomfort:
J'ai grand mal aux mes yeux,
Dit le brave D.H.
J'ai grand mal aux mes yeux,
Dit le brave D.H.
J'ai grand mal aux mes yeux,
Aux mes yeux si beaux et bleus,
Mais enfin je suis au bout,
Dit le brave D.H.
Very different although of approximately the same date is the limited diction, wavering tone, uncertain rhythm, and unmusical meter of his rhymed composition extolling the pleasures of alcohol, written in unpunctuated schoolboy English:
What drink is so nice
As a tumbler of punch
Hot with lemon and spice
Just after one's lunch.
Lordpunch is the loveliest beverage can be
Tis the wholesomest sweetest and nicest of all
And the greatest restorer I ever did see
After weakness or illness a shake or a fall.
Punch must not be made carelessly or badly
If you would wish to thoroughly enjoy it
The water must be boiling fierce and madly
For if it is not so you will destroy it.
Give me punch both hot and strong
And I'd ask for nothing more
I would drink all evening long
Till I fell upon the floor
Now I feel my head is going
Round and round the room doth spin
One glass more to overflowing
And I think I'll turn in.
Different again is the melodramatic diction and swashbuckling, declamatory style of the voice of his rebel patriot:
Let each son of Erin unsheath his bright blade
Let the ruthless oppressor insult us no more
We'll avenge our houses in ruin low laid
We'll avenge the injustice they've done us of yore.
Because the Reverend Hyde's educational method was to assign lessons, establish the levels of achievement he expected, make books available, and then leave his sons to arrange their own study schedule in the tradition of the English tutorial system, Douglas was free to play his verbal games whenever he pleased, without fear of a schoolmasterly reprimand. From time to time, apparently at Douglas's own request, his brother Arthur would review his work, especially his English essays and his translations from Latin; Cecilly Hyde, his favorite aunt, helped him with his French. Irish was a language he had to learn viva voce, from such tutors as Seamas Hart, Mrs. Connolly, and Biddy Crummy, for although many native speakers learned to write English in school, Irish remained for them the oral language of cottage and field. Using symbols and spellings from French, Greek, English, and (later, when he was introduced to it) German, Douglas devised for himself as a study aid a phonetic system through which he could record in writing the useful phrases, wise sayings, and snatches of poetry and song that he was then acquiring daily. "Noreya ve dhoul rotin, " Douglas's phonetic rendering of nuair bhí an diabhal ró-tinn (when the devil was very sick), a case in point, begins one of many Irish-language stories he transcribed in his exercise book, using the system he had developed. A similar system was devised by Jeremiah Curtin, the American-born folklorist and linguist (at his death he reportedly commanded sixty languages) who in 1887, 1891–1893, and 1899 collected and recorded Irish folktales using symbols and spellings from German, French, and Polish.
With young Douglas thus occupied to his own and his father's satis-
faction, life in the glebe house of Tibohine parish settled for a time into a reasonably pleasant routine. Sundays everyone in the family went to church where (unless crippled by gout or otherwise "not well") the Reverend Arthur Hyde preached temperance, gentleness of spirit, moderation of behavior, verbal restraint, and other virtues he did not practice at home. Sometimes Lord de Freyne attended the service, after which Lady de Freyne often invited Mrs. Hyde to Frenchpark for luncheon or tea. Annette usually accompanied her mother and helped entertain Lady de Freyne and other visitors invited in turn to the glebe house, but Douglas rarely joined them. In his early adolescence he was particularly wary of social situations that required him to be cordial to girls of his own age, especially Lady de Freyne's daughter, whose mother seemed intent on their becoming friends. More to his liking were invitations to Ratra, then the estate of John French, Lord de Freyne's brother, where open fields that sloped down to Lough Gara offered good shooting almost any time of the year.
Among frequent visitors to the glebe house there were always aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, chiefly from Mohill, Galway, Cork, and Dublin, whom singly and together Douglas's family visited in return, often for days and weeks at a time. Again, as much as possible, Douglas avoided such visits, preferring his rambles at home, alone or with Seamas Hart, Lord de Freyne's gamekeeper. Drumkilla, the home of the Mohill Hydes, was an exception. Although modest in size by Ascendancy standards, to Douglas it was spacious and charming. Neat, comfortable, and attractively furnished, built high on a hill overlooking a wooded pond, on a fine day it offered a view of four counties from its large and graceful windows. By contrast, the glebe house of Tibohine stood in a grove of trees that obscured distant views, even as it provided shade and shelter from the wind. When Douglas returned from Drumkilla his own house always seemed to be unpleasantly small, dark, and cluttered, with books, papers, clothing, guns, rackets, balls, and other items—all the paraphernalia associated with the multiple daily activities of its occupants—scattered about. At Drumkilla, moreover, where servants were not new and inexperienced and no one had to endure the Reverend Arthur Hyde's quick temper, household affairs ran smoothly under Frances, eldest of the Reverend Arthur Hyde's five sisters, with the help of Douglas's unmarried Drumkilla aunts, Cecilly and Emily. Frances's husband, FitzMaurice Hunt, archdeacon of Armagh, encouraged Douglas's Irish interests, sometimes bringing him books from Dublin. Nearby lived Anne, who was married to John Kane of Mohill
Castle. And in Mohill, in addition to Drumkilla and the Castle, there were other Big Houses, estates of family friends and distant relatives, where Douglas was always welcome at luncheons, tennis parties, teas, and dinners.
At home, although Douglas's time was neither scheduled nor supervised, he was surprisingly organized. Weekdays he devoted to reading, study, and daily chores, relieved by occasional trips with William Connolly to Frenchpark, Ballaghaderreen, or Ballina to buy shot, whiskey, ale, stout, and other provisions or to attend local fairs. Late afternoons he often boxed with Michael Lavin. In summer he spent the long Irish daylight hours at the lake, swimming, boating, and fishing. For sheer pleasure and sport, shooting—at targets, birds, wild rabbits, whatever the season could offer—was the glebe house passion.
In season the Reverend Arthur Hyde and his sons seem to have nearly decimated the Roscommon bird population. Hundreds of teal, partridge, lapwing, redwing, snipe, rook, grouse, curlew, and duck fell regularly to their guns, according to the family's monthly bird-kill statistics, charted by both gunman and species of bird, with additional notes on the number of hares that had been shot. Keeping these records was initially Arthur's responsibility. In the fall of 1873, with Arthur preoccupied by his studies at Trinity, Douglas was appointed to this task. That same year the Hydes acquired Diver, an excellent retriever that was always at Douglas's heels. In late autumn and winter the spirited dog added to the daily excitement focused on the rise and fall of the turlough that lured migrating waterfowl to nearby meadows.
Externally at least, except for Douglas's brief enrollment in the school in Kingstown, little disturbed or disrupted Hyde family life in the years 1873 and 1874. Aside from Douglas's measles and thigh injury, his father's chronic complaints, his mother's asthma, and such minor ailments as colds and unspecified aches and pains, family health remained reasonably good. The comings and goings of neighbors, parishioners, friends, uncles, aunts, and cousins provided occasional diversion (in season, when there were enough to play, cricket and tennis were favorite games) as well as opportunities to enjoy the company of others. Father and sons enjoyed—or so it seemed—an easy companionship.
In March 1874, Douglas Hyde began another journey. This time it was no voyage out, nor did it require that he board the
train from Ballaghaderreen to Dublin as he had when he had been taken to school in Kingstown. Instead, by means of a simple diary whose field of exploration was his own consciousness, he traveled inward. His vehicle, neither elegant nor new, was an old cash book covered in mottled paper that had been used by his mother for household accounts. Along with scratched-out sums and abbreviated notes, its inside cover was inscribed twice with her name ("Bessy Hyde," and then "Bessie Hyde"), twice with his own ("D. Hyde," partly obscured by a large inkblot, then "Douglas Hyde," with flourishing capitals). Douglas added also a drawing of a snub-nosed witch or dunce with unruly hair. In this first of many diaries Hyde was to keep throughout much of his long life, he set out to discover worlds not yet imagined, even in his fourteen-year-old fancy: external worlds that he helped to create; worlds within him that developed gradually as, traveling silently and alone through his inner universe, his more daring leaps of dream and imagination undetected, he was assured protection from the kind of misstep or misjudgment that in 1873 had made him the butt of schoolmate jokes and jibes.
Among educated Victorians, diaries were, of course, commonplace. The nineteenth century, R. L. Stevenson had once declared, was the age of the optic nerve in literature. Letters and journals of the period typically contain visual observations and descriptions that provide a continuing source of information about Victorian society. But the nineteenth century also prized subjectivity: it was an era of confession, reflection, and self-examination. In its private and public writings, documentary as well as fictional, what appear to be external truths often mask inner responses to outer realities. Toward the end of the century psychological novels and tales were increasingly in vogue; even short fictions serialized in newspapers as "letters," "journals," or "true accounts" reveal the trend toward subjectivity.
Books and newspapers were numerous in the Hyde household, yet at first Douglas's boyhood diary, unaffected by popular fashion, seems much like that of any country-bred fourteen-year-old:
Got new boots from Narry on Feb 1
Had two new lambs on March
Snow on March 9. Heavy on March 10
Pa made a double shot at snipe at the flash on March
I shot a jackdaw Pa shot two snipe on March 10
Pa shot a jackdaw
Snow & frost on March 11
Pa shot a jackdaw on March 12
Thaw on March 12
Began thathing [sic ] the cowhouse
Out shooting shot a partridge & field hare on Mar 13
Took a ride on the pony
Pa went to French park fine day 14
Sunday Fine day 15
Wet day 16
Fine day 17
Fine day. Shot a seagull, took a ride
Pa out shooting. Shot 2 snipe 18
Finished thaching [sic ] the cowhouse 18
Hart gave me a black-thorn 18
Connolly began harrowing 18
Rough day. Pa out shooting shot a snipe. Ma's sheep had two lambs 19
Fine day. Ma's sheep had a lamb. 20
Arthur came home from Dublin. Wet day. O went to London on the 21
Arthur out shooting and shot a snipe, fine day took a ride on the pony 23
Hart gave Arthur a black-thorn on the 23
Very fine day. Pa and Arthur went to Cornwall [the Irish town, not the English
district] Connolly harrowing. I sowed some oats 24
Connolly branded the lambs. Pa shot a couple of rooks for the oats. Fine day.
Connolly bought 2 calves at Ballagh a derreen [sic ] for f 12s 10 25
Connolly harrowing, pretty fine day. Pa went to Slievroe [sic ] & gave cigars to
a man who had astma [sic ] on 26th
Had a third lamb. Very wet day. Harrowed a little 27
Although the voice of these entries—matter-of-fact, noncommittal, emotionally remote from events observed—strongly resembles the diary voice of Douglas's older brother Arthur at the same age, Arthur was far neater than Douglas and wrote with a businesslike dispatch. The diary of his adolescent years was also more efficiently circumscribed in terms of purpose: with few exceptions he confined his terse accounts to the arrival and departure of housemaids, the daily bird kill, and lessons completed. Typical of Arthur's diary entries, "7 November 1866. Shot 2 redwings, did 30 lines of Salust" provides, characteristically, few clues to anything beyond his immediate concerns.
Unfocused and unhurried, Douglas's very different chronicle meanders like the river Suck, washing impersonally over a broader range of observations: the weather, the activities of others, changes in flora and fauna, anything that happened into his stream of consciousness at the moment of writing. At times the stream narrowed to a trickle, leaving wide margins and interlinear spaces to be filled with sketches and doodles. Some sketches are caricatures. One labeled "owner of this
book" shows a male figure holding a bouquet. Others—detailed drawings of guns, flintlocks, pistols, tumblers, and pitchers on tables—display a draftsmanlike skill. Words wind between and around these illustrations, their letters difficult to contain within narrowly ruled lines. Wherever Douglas's pen paused, ink formed pools that obliterated what he had written, sometimes obscuring half a page or more. When the stream moved on he did not bother to rescue what had been lost. At times his pen moved hastily, uncertainly, impatiently scratching out letters that had not been formed as intended. Occasionally he lingered over a page, embroidering his firm, round, open letters, double-inking and thickening lines, shading spaces, and enhancing capitals with elaborate flourishes and curlicues. The leisure he devoted to these graphics contrasts with the short shrift he gave to the syntax, diction, and punctuation of his elliptical sentences and phrases.
Despite similarities in diary voice, Douglas at fourteen was in fact the opposite of his brother Arthur in almost every respect. Nor was he much like Oldfield or even Annette, although with his sister he always had a strong bond of affection and understanding not evident in his relations with his brothers. As in many families, these differences in personality seem related in part to sequence of birth. Arthur, born November 10, 1853, had been named not only for his own father and the three earlier Reverend Arthur Hydes who had preceded the rector of Tibohine into the ministry but also for the Arthur Hyde who had been knighted by Elizabeth I and had established the Irish branch of the family in Cork. The burden of family tradition and expectation fell heavily upon him. Oldfield, born almost a year to the day after Arthur, was so close in age as to be constantly paired with him, as if the two were twins, creating a situation that Oldfield often vehemently rejected. Douglas, the fourth son, born January 17, 1860, was separated from his elder brothers not only by an expanse of years but by the intervening birth of Hugh, who did not survive infancy. Fifth and last born May 19, 1865, was Annette, younger than Douglas by five years (therefore much younger than Oldfield and Arthur), and the only daughter. Her brothers were understood to be the care and responsibility of their father; different attitudes and expectations shaped her future and placed her, during childhood and adolescence, under her mother's supervision.
More removed than his brothers and sister from his father's passions and his mother's concerns, Douglas had in some respects the easiest childhood. Less closely supervised, he was freer to come and go unques-
tioned, to let his imagination wander, to speculate on aspects of his own nature and the nature of others, and to sketch and doodle and experiment with ways of putting his thoughts and feelings on paper in the poems, prose pieces, and drawings of 1873–1876 found in his exercise books and diaries.
It was in a diary entry of March 28, 1874, that Douglas tested a new voice, different from any he ever had used before—his own voice in Irish: "Wet day Thoine moisther war shane a l'oure ulk de Arthure oge [italics ours]. Had a fight with the gloves with Michael Lavin. Pa made a double shot at rooks for the oats." He had previously used his phonetic system to copy into his exercise book Irish words and phrases that he had heard, but this was his first recorded attempt to put his own thoughts and observations into a form of written Irish.
Among Hyde scholars, Dominic Daly has devoted the most time and effort to analyzing Hyde's phonetic script and suggesting readings for key passages. "Thoine moisther," he notes, a recurrent phrase in Hyde's boyhood-diary Irish, and the two words with which the March 18, 1874, Irish entry begins, is easily identified as tá an máistir (the master is); "shane" is surely sé féin (himself), with the f aspirated as it usually is in conversation. Less convincing is Daly's suggestion that "a l'oure ulk de Arthure oge" may be transliterated as a labhair olc de Arthure óg , which Daly translates as "who spoke badly of young Arthur." A major problem is "war," for which Daly tentatively offers i bhfeirg (angry), admitting that it does not provide the link necessary to make sense out of the whole.
An alternate reading, based on identifying "war" as "bhfuair" and "l'oure" as leabhar , provides Tá an máistir, an bhfuair sé féin an leabhar olc de Arthure óg? (ungrammatical Irish for "The master, did he himself get/take the bad book from young Arthur?"). This not only makes sense but has the virtue of credibility, given the Reverend Arthur Hyde's relationship with his eldest son. Omission of the an before bhfuair is easily explained by the fact that it is scarcely audible if not dropped altogether in conversation; for similar reasons an before leabhar would be reduced to "a." As for the question mark, even in English, Douglas was careless about punctuation, so its omission cannot be considered significant. A parlor game, however, easily could be made of other possible readings.
More significant than a literal translation of this uncertain line is the way in which Douglas's new voice introduced in his diary entry of March 28, 1874, drops the purely objective, matter-of-fact, and non-
committal stance imitative of Arthur to express, if only obliquely, perceptions concerning his relationships with those around him. This new persona changes figure and ground: it presents him as an observer rather than a participant within the family circle. Its diction is that of Seamas Hart, William Connolly, Mrs. Connolly, the Lavins, and Dockry, the Irish country people with whom his unsupervised days were spent. It interposes distance between himself and selected others. Although Daly regards "Thoine moisther" (the master), "Arthure oge" (young Arthur), and (in later entries) "Thoine moisthuress" or "moistrass" (the mistress) as merely a result of Douglas's "having picked up his Irish from listening to the servants and the local people who had dealings with the Rectory," the effect of these terms is to emphasize separation. The Irish equivalents of "Pa" and "Ma," the English terms Douglas normally used to refer to his father and mother, are "Da" and "Mam," not "thoine moisther" and "thoine moistrass" —and as he never, in English or Irish, referred to his father by his first name, he had no reason of course, to add "oge" (Irish óg , young) to "Arthure" to distinguish brother from father.
That Douglas's shift in figure and ground is intentional and specific is evident in its selectivity: although names of other family members (e.g., "Fiach" for Hunt; "Sisilla" for Cecilly) are Irished, the people themselves are not distanced but rather drawn along with Douglas into his new milieu. As Douglas developed greater fluency in Irish, his Irish persona (which he later referred to as "Dubhglas de h-Íde") used language with an even greater sophistication that reflected on the one hand ambivalence toward felt social and psychological relationships within each of the two worlds to which he belonged, and on the other hand acceptance of the duality of his own attitudes and emotions. Clearly he did not want to discard his English persona but to maintain distinctions between the English and Irish selves he had identified within him. His treatment of his relationship with James, or Seamas, Hart, is a case in point: In English entries the voice of the narrative I is that of the son of the Reverend Arthur Hyde, kinsman of Lord de Freyne; the gamekeeper, called simply "Hart," is presented as a minor figure. In Irish entries, the narrative I is a country boy; the gamekeeper, called "Shamus," is a major presence, a loved and respected friend, companion, and father figure.
As Douglas's use of Irish improved and increased, examples of his hidden persona proliferated, revealing emotional qualities of hitherto unrecognized perspectives and relationships. Eventually his visible and
invisible selves were reintegrated in the public figure known to the world as An Craoibhin, but in 1874 and for some years after, only his diaries held evidence of how different young Douglas was from the boy his family and friends thought that they knew.
In the months that followed March 28, 1874, Douglas introduced French in addition to Irish into his diary entries. When his vocabulary in one or the other did not provide the words he needed, he sometimes combined the two languages in a single hodgepodge expedient. At first he advanced faster in French, but as a small but steady stream of new Irish words were added to his phonetically written Irish, he found new opportunities to use what he called "Gaeliclish." On April 19 he completed in Irish a sentence begun in Greek. These verbal experiments signaled not only his future linguistic interests and ability but also the extent to which language was for him what paint is to the artist or sound to the composer: a means of self-expression, a medium for interpreting life.
For Douglas, progress in Irish did not come easily. It required repeated modification of the simplest phrases as his ear detected new aspects of non-English sounds. Alert to differences in pronunciation and intonation patterns among individual speakers, he constantly varied the form in which he recorded common expressions. Before he wrote he tried each phrase himself, twisting his tongue around strange-sounding phonemes as best he could, searching for English-language sounds that could be combined to indicate them. If Irish lines in his diary are sometimes undecipherable, it is because this form of mimicry, based on what he thought his ear had heard as well as what his tongue had tried to reproduce, at times resulted in strange constructions.
Like most students of Irish as a second language, Douglas struggled also with syntax. However much he tried to guard against intrusions from English, in the process of weaving simple Irish sentences into short descriptive passages he inevitably mangled constructions. Some nonstandard expressions that he continued to use long after he achieved fluency were not, however, the result of his own linguistic errors or misunderstandings but adoptions from the changing idiom of north Roscommon which became a bogus currency when that dialect vanished.
By spring of 1875 Douglas was able to sustain a short written narrative in both French and Irish. But while French diary entries revealed an acquaintance with literature as well as language, Irish
entries—which he continued to write phonetically—reflected only the oral culture. For the moment there was no remedy for this situation, for he was without either tutors literate in Irish or Irish books from which he might learn to read and write on his own. Then in August, Hyde found in a storage cupboard of the glebe house an Irish-language Church of Ireland catechism left behind by one of his father's predecessors. With the English version readily available as a trot, he immediately set himself the task of learning to form Irish letters, spell Irish words, and understand Irish grammar.
As a result of Douglas's experiments linking voice and language, three personae began to take shape in his diary entries during 1874–1876. Chief among them was of course his English persona, expressed in the public voice so much like that of his brother Arthur. Very much that of a squire in the making, it presents him as prosaic, proper, restrained in his expression of feelings, uncritical in his acceptance of his own social and economic position, confident, and satisfied. The idiom of upper-class English is evident in its diction (e.g., "fetched capitally" to describe Diver's performance in retrieving a duck downed by his gun). Its interest in the environment is focused on sports and on the practical aspects of estate management. It is the voice of privilege and plenty, of the writer of the drinking songs recorded in his exercise book, of an Ascendancy lad who regards ample supplies of porter, whiskey, and tobacco as perquisites of a young squire's life.
With this English persona filtering out any hint of unpleasantness, Hyde's diary in English shows little evidence of family tension, incompatibility, anger, resentment, or even mere disagreement: it paints a family portrait in which brothers, sister, mother ("Ma"), and father ("Pa," or "Governor") enjoy a genial, stress-free relationship in a benign world. Unmentioned is the agrarian unrest that threatened the Irish social order of the 1870s. Awareness of the violent character of nearby confrontations is evident only in the report that at the Sligo races four landlords, "Harman King & 3 others," were "stabbed by a man of the name of Clancy." Little else suggests concern with contemporary political or intellectual issues or an interest in world events. Shooting is the major interest, the goal of Douglas's English persona being always to increase the number of "things" killed. No empathy for bird or animal, no awareness of one as a living creature, is ever expressed. The "things" themselves are regarded as no more than targets. A list at the end of the 1875 diary names the books Douglas has been reading, but
their texts are not discussed, nor is there any mention of daily lessons or recitations. The general impression (accepted by Dominic Daly and Diarmid Coffey) is that as a boy Douglas Hyde was "no bookworm." If it were not for his exercise book of 1873–1876 and a later, more detailed diary account of his reading and study during this period, it would be easy to assume that, scholastically, Douglas was the unidentified dunce who sometimes shows up in his drawings.
The persona presented in Douglas's diary entries in French is strikingly different. It expresses a reverence for life and ambivalent feelings toward the killing of a hare in an account of an incident in which he is the boy with the gun: "I tried to take a shot at one of the rabbits, but the gun failed me because the powder was wet," begins the French text. Subsequent shots also fail as the rabbit crouches, trembling, before him. Finally, "the fourth time I killed him. The poor rabbit was so filled with fear that he could not move." Other French entries reveal a persona that is less lusty, more sophisticated than Douglas's English persona. Boastful accounts of drinking sessions are reduced to wry references to a brief "malade " both caused and remedied by drinking "l'eau de vie ." Response to the natural beauty of the world is poetically if inaccurately and ungrammatically expressed in such lines as "Ils avait beaucoup de astres dans le soir." The French persona celebrates a capacity for tenderness and sensitivity that he repressed—for a time at least—in English. It demonstrates also a greater interest in "un livre ."
Douglas's Irish persona seems shier and less sophisticated. It immediately retreats to sidelined observer in situations involving members of his own immediate family but is foregrounded when, alone and conscious of the natural world on a frosty morning, it expresses a sense of being at one with the universe. In the company of Hart, Lavin, Mrs. Connolly, and other Irish speakers (all referred to by their names in Irish), it is described as socially engaged, sitting before the fire, drinking, smoking, and talking. Its gregariousness in this company contrasts with the reserve of the solitary persona of English entries whose encounters with local people (referred to by English names) occur for the most part by accident, when he is out walking with his brother Arthur or alone with his dog. The cumulative effect does not come quite to the point of casting Douglas's Irish persona in the role of local country lad, but it does present the narrative I of Irish entries as more at home among country people than with the Anglo-Irish of manor and glebe house.
As Douglas improved his ability to communicate in Irish, his diary
entries began to show distinctions between subjects chosen for treatment in English and those recorded in Irish. English becomes the language of facts and events related to his Anglo-Irish milieu (his home, his father's library, the church in Tibohine, its parishioners, family friends and relations, and Ascendancy-class neighbors). Roscommon weather, flora, and fauna are (to the extent that vocabulary was available) noted in Irish, as are facts and anecdotes from Irish history, and stories learned from Hart, Connolly, and Dockry.
On March 23, 1875, less than six months after he had successfully written his first short, simple narrative in Irish, Douglas tackled a complex account of a curious incident in which a pooka, or ghostly apparition, resembling his brother Arthur (at that time in Dublin) suddenly opened the door of a room in which he and other family members were entertaining visitors, the Lloyds, and then just as suddenly disappeared. Annette was close to the apparition; so was Hyde's mother. The account is given verisimilitude by the report that this was not the ghost's first visit: it had been seen before by his aunt Emily and his mother; by Jane Drury, a former local schoolteacher who had become a member of the Hyde household (she is buried with the Hydes in the Tibohine churchyard); and by a painter working about the house whom it had so frightened when it appeared on the stone stairs that he nearly had collapsed from fright. Although still dependent on his phonetic system, Douglas imbues this story with a sense of wonder and suspense. He skillfully arranges details so that he first captures reader attention with the announcement that something extraordinary has happened; second, he states his facts simply and matter-of-factly, to answer the immediate question of what has happened; third, he names unimpeachable eyewitnesses (Annette and Hyde's mother, who were even closer to the apparition than the Lloyds) to silence the incredulous; and he concludes with testimony designed to remove any question of error or conspiracy (the same thing, observed by a workman, had happened here before). Interestingly, Hyde does not call on himself as witness, although he is among those reported to have been present. Instead, he presents the entire story (Daly identifies it as possibly one told to Douglas by Seamas Hart) through the reports of others. In an interview late in his life Hyde stated that his lifelong interest in the art of storytelling had begun when he was a boy. The art of this narrative suggests that by 1875 this interest was well developed—and that he already had decided that his storyteller would be his Irish persona.
Three months after his fourteenth birthday, on April 22, 1874, Douglas reported in his diary that he weighed nine stone six pounds and was growing rapidly: not a bad record for a boy his age. By the end of October the new boots he had bought at Narry's on February 21 had to be replaced because they were too small. Such evidence of his physical growth and development delighted him. He also liked to test his muscular strength and agility. "I jumped about 15 feet on one of the grass walks on pretty level ground," he noted proudly two months after he turned fifteen, in his diary entry for March 30, 1875.
Year by year, Douglas indeed was changing, but life in Roscommon retained the same predictable rhythms. In the spring—an exciting time for Douglas, as he was the owner of several sheep—the lambs were born. One or two of the new lambs usually belonged to him. May was the month when all the sheep were washed and sheared. In May 1874 he dutifully recorded that Connolly had sold his wool for £13 and his new lambs for £3.16. After sheepshearing there were cricket games with Arthur and Oldfield, home from Trinity by the third week of May. May was the month also, according to the Reverend Arthur Hyde (who had made a particular study of folk medicine), for giving Diver sulphur in his dinner and making sure that the dog was "rub'd . . . well with sulphur & unsalted butter" in accordance with his prescription.
Day-to-day chores were a fact of life throughout the year, but especially during the drier months between spring and fall, for the glebe lands of the Tibohine church were energetically and efficiently worked by the Reverend Arthur Hyde, assisted by his three sons, his steward, and several farm workers. The Reverend Arthur Hyde also attended to whatever farm or household objects needed mending or fixing, from flower boxes to drains, and together with his sons planned and executed remodeling and construction projects, some essential, some associated with one or another of the sporting activities that were a regular feature of Frenchpark life. Douglas's diary records one afternoon in June 1875 when brothers and father designed and set up a target for gun practice:
After tea we raised the large stone out of the little yard with ropes and rollers for which we cut down a tree. And with great difficulty we placed it in the garden. . . . [The next day we] painted the target & fired at it.
Pleased with their success, they began their next task, the building of a summer house, two weeks later; they completed it in three days.
Experienced in handling tools and confident of his skills, Douglas also had his own separate building and mending projects. One year he made a swing for his sister, Annette, and painstakingly assembled cartridges only to discover, when he went to use them, that they had been torn apart by mice. In his diary he noted how he had planed a bow that had splintered and mended a torn stirrup with a piece of hemp. A prized possession was a "lucky briar" that he had cut for himself. It was, he declared, "nearly 7 feet long & very straight."
Boxing was a popular pastime whenever the weather permitted. Usually Douglas's opponent was Michael Lavin, with whom he was fairly evenly matched, but sometimes he liked to challenge others. One afternoon in 1875 he discovered that putting on the gloves with another neighbor, MacDermotroe, was more than he could handle. He fared better on Corpus Christi Day when the Tibohine church sponsored an outing attended by about eighty people who "came for cricket & box'd with the gloves & a little with naked fists."
After Corpus Christi, to Douglas's delight, the weather usually turned warm enough for the Hyde boys to bathe in the lake. Summer nights, mostly clear, were filled with the fascination of stars. On one clear night, the fourteenth of July, 1875, Hyde was awed by the sight of a comet, plainly visible in the northwest sky. As August approached, he added his voice to the general concern that the good weather continue through the next two months of haying and harvest time, for the crops would be spoiled if they could not be brought in because of a period of prolonged rain. Between August and December shooting fever increased, especially when water birds were spotted along the borders of the lake or near the turlough. Douglas filled his diaries of these fall months with details of ammunition purchased, birds killed, and the rise and fall of the turlough. In accordance with the ritual he and his brothers had been taught by their father, he regularly took apart, cleaned, and reassembled his guns. In this way he tracked the seasons of the year.
Next to the Reverend Arthur Hyde, William Connolly bore chief responsibility for managing the glebe estate, washing and shearing the sheep, sowing the oats, looking after sick cows, buying and selling the Hyde family's livestock at local fairs, and dealing with local suppliers of equipment and provisions. Douglas and Annette—either or both—frequently accompanied him on his trips to Ballaghaderreen, French-
park, and Castlerea. A staple item always included in the glebe house shopping list was whiskey. One day Connolly bought a barrel of porter and a gallon of uisce beatha (whiskey) in Castlerea, then went to Boyle for a canister of powder, a potted ham, Worcestershire sauce, pickles—and another gallon of whiskey. Arthur, moreover, who had accompanied Connolly to Boyle ostensibly to help with the purchase of provisions, had come home with a separate bottle of whiskey for himself as well.
Strong drink was consumed in considerable quantities by everyone associated with the glebe house. All the Hyde boys were introduced early to porter, hot punch, whiskey, and poteen; all developed a taste while still children for these "national" drinks, as Hyde used to call them. Only for Oldfield was the habit to become, as for the Reverend Arthur Hyde, a serious problem.
Neighboring farmers and workmen came and went informally in the Hyde kitchen, sometimes stopping for a cup of tea or glass of ale during the day or a game of cards and tumbler of whiskey in the evening. Douglas and his brothers came and went just as informally in the cottages along the lanes that crisscrossed meadow and bog. When Dockry's son was short of powder and caps, he came up to the glebe house to borrow some from Douglas. Douglas regularly went down to the Lavins to box with Michael. Sometimes he rode his pony to Hanly's in the village. Among these local companions, especially during the summers of 1874 and 1875, Hyde's Irish persona was strengthened. His brother Arthur, aloof and serious, very much the Trinity man, no longer could be counted on to fish with him from the iron bridge or ramble around the countryside: he was continually arriving from or leaving for Dublin with an air of great importance. Oldfield was in London during much of the summer of 1874. Annette, who had just turned nine, was too young to join Douglas in his excursions on foot over meadow and bog or by boat on the river, and in any case she was often in Mohill or Dublin or Galway with their mother. Douglas did not mind; he preferred his independent life. He could choose if he pleased to accompany the men and boys from along the road and from the back of the meadow to see the "great race" in Bellanagare or, as on one very wet day, he could stay warm and comfortable, chatting with old men and old women by a cottage fire. Even on a pleasant morning that might have lured him away from his usual haunts, he declined an invitation from a crowd bound for the Sligo races to remain with Seamas Hart, helping clear the meadow of sticks and stones. His
favorite hours were those he spent with Hart in the meadow and on the bogs or sitting before a fire in the gamekeeper's cottage, listening to his stories.
When in 1875 a series of family illnesses disrupted life in the glebe house, Douglas was especially glad of Hart's company and the friendship of neighbors. During the Reverend Arthur Hyde's attacks of gout he took refuge with them. When Bessie Hyde, weakened by asthma, was too ill to attend church services, when both Arthur and Oldfield were incapacitated by unspecified complaints that required the attention of Dr. Cuppaidge, and when the glebe house was silent and gloomy, they provided a comforting place in which to spend Sunday afternoons. During this period Douglas complained vaguely to his diary in phonetic Irish of his own health: "I am not well" and "I am not well at all." He was in fact fine, but he tended to make such complaints when illness focused attention on others, leaving him lonely and alone. The only physical problem that repeatedly troubled him was a recurrent muscle pain, unpleasant but not incapacitating, in his right leg; at fifteen he was prone to "growing pains." Other than that, except for a bruised arm suffered when his gun kicked, a thumb sprain from boxing, a single bout with a queasy stomach, and an occasional sore throat, he was a sturdy adolescent, with consistently fewer illnesses, accidents, and injuries than anyone else in his family, except possibly his sister, Annette.
Seamas Hart, with his fluent Irish, his talent for reciting poem and story, his rich store of Irish historical and cultural tradition, his knowledge of the natural world of Frenchpark and environs, his Fenian sympathies, his calm strength, and his capacity for warmth and affection, was not only a central figure in Douglas's daily life but a major influence on his development. Brief notes—that Seamas was here or was not here or was ill or had begun to improve; that Douglas had walked down to Hart's or was with him at Ratra; that Douglas, Arthur, and Oldfield had gone together to Hart's in the evening—recur throughout his 1875 diary. From time to time Hart even stayed overnight at the glebe house, helping out in times of illness or other kinds of trouble that required his patience and wisdom. Between May and September when Bessie Hyde was seriously and recurrently ill, Douglas's days began to take their character from these diary notes, recorded in his phonetic Irish: "Ve Shamus in sho" (Seamas was here); "Neil Shamus gummoich" (Seamas is not well); "Shool mae iga tyoch Shamus"; (I walked down to Seamas's house); "Ve Shamus liom" (Seamas was with
me). After August, when he began studying the Irish catechism he had found, his spelling gradually changed. First he introduced the long stroke, or fada , over vowels that he had been writing as oa, ab, ee , and oo . He did not always employ the mark consistently or correctly, but it was a step in the direction of conventional spelling.
In May, when Douglas's mother suffered several long and severe asthma attacks, "Ne ve a Moistrass gummoich" (The mistress was not well) and "Thoine Moistrass besuch" (The mistress is improving) joined "Ve Shamus in sho" as alternating refrains. Illness struck the farm animals also. "Mo cuira foor shee baus" wrote Douglas, after one of his sheep died. Seamas was there, too. Three cows became so sick with a common infection called "red water" that the doctor had to be called; one cow almost died. Seamas was again present.
Although dependent on the daily presence of Hart, more and more during the troubled May of 1875, Douglas wandered on his own through the fields and bogs of Frenchpark and Tibohine to the countryside beyond, often staying out very late at night. He also began keeping enough money in his pocket to purchase whiskey and porter in Ballaghaderreen. In July there was great excitement at the glebe house, during a period when Bessie Hyde seemed to be improving, over a sailboat that the Reverend Arthur Hyde had bought in Carrick-on-Shannon. For a time Douglas, his brothers, his sister, and his father grew close again, spending entire days together as, pairing up in various combinations, together they learned to manage the craft. Sailing briefly replaced shooting as the family sport. When the newness wore off, relations returned to normal; Douglas again went his separate way.
The year progressed: as the voice in which Douglas recorded his day-to-day activities and experiences in Irish became more personal, his diary began to reflect not just actions and ideas but fears, disappointments, pleasures, interests. The rector's son remains present in entries written in English; no ripple disturbed the surface calm of his carefully managed existence. Lines written in Irish, however, though briefer and less polished, tell a fuller story. On August 10, Douglas employed both English and Irish to describe a boat race on Lough Gara. Oldfield had been appointed sole judge of the event, a sensitive situation, since the Hyde boat, with Arthur as steersman, was among the competitors. All went well until the last race, which Arthur won by a quarter length. Oldfield's judgment was challenged by members of the crowd. "There was near being a faction fight on account of it," wrote Douglas in English, distancing himself from the situation by characterizing the
protest as a kind of brawl among the country people rather than as the howl of indignation it actually was. His apprehension, however, was clear from his Irish: The crowd did not regard the Hyde boys as merely Ascendancy onlookers. Many of the men who participated in the race were joined by supporters from the crowd in what became an increasingly heated protest. A particularly hot-tempered man by the name of Mark was loudest; he was to be feared the most. Dockry warned that the situation was dangerous. "If one man stoops to pick up a stone, others will also," he warned Douglas; "if one man is struck, two hundred will be at it." Cool heads prevailed in the end, and the crowd dispersed without incident. Douglas's English persona replaced his Irish persona after the danger was past.
In September Douglas's mother was again seriously ill. Hart was at the glebe house almost daily, often sleeping there. These facts, plus the monthly register by species and number of birds killed, were recorded, as usual, in Irish. One day, while shooting the "wild bog," Douglas noticed "a very curious sort of ring around the sun such as is round the moon late at night"; it mystified him. In the swamp he spotted a strange-looking duck: "his bill was very large and broad and his wings were a kind of greyish blue." Diver proved himself an extraordinary dog once again by catching and killing a bat in the kitchen. These incidents were noted in English, probably because Douglas's Irish vocabulary was inadequate to their content.
Fine weather had prevailed during September; in contrast, October was often dark, windy, and cold. A few berries remained on the bushes in the garden, but all other natural signs indicated that the harvest season was over. The appearance of large numbers of water birds tempted Douglas outdoors with his gun early each morning and late each night. His success was chronicled in a three-page account that began under a profile sketch of an unidentified bald, smiling man. The receding forehead, which takes its angle from the receding chin, gives the figure a vaguely imbecilic appearance. A sequence of round collars, each larger than the one above it, encircles his neck and shoulders. On the facing page there is a wine glass and a bottle. Were the round collars intended to signify that the man was a cleric? Was this a caricature of the Reverend Arthur Hyde? (His drinking during Bessie Hyde's illness had been troubling Douglas; he had figured less and less in his youngest son's life as the father-son relationship between Douglas and Seamas Hart had intensified.) Or is this Everyman as Douglas—who himself had been experimenting with ale, porter, whiskey, and even poteen,
usually in the company of one or both of his brothers—then saw him? An incongruous note on an adjacent page provides the only evidence that academic studies also had been occupying portions of Douglas's time—that he had been reading and rehearsing Horatian odes.
Toward the end of October, Hart became ill. Douglas took a small bottle down to him. In November, Hart was no better. Hyde's diary entries became less detailed, briefer, sometimes containing no information beyond the fact that day after day and sometimes several times a day, he visited Hart's house. A marked decrease in the proportion of Irish to English restores Douglas's impersonal, public persona to control of this portion of his diary, perhaps because he could not take the time to write in Irish, perhaps because he could not cope with his feelings. Irish regained ground as Hart improved at the beginning of December. On December 9, out walking with Arthur, Douglas had a frightening experience that he recounted entirely in Irish, in the first long passage written in months: They had been in the potato field near Hart's cottage when Arthur suddenly fell to the ground, suffered convulsions, and lapsed into unconsciousness. Certain that Arthur was dead, Douglas did not know what to do. Fortunately the incident was witnessed by Thomas Higgins, who quickly obtained from Beirne, a nearby cottager, a door that could be used as a stretcher, then called others to help carry Arthur home. Arthur recovered, but ironically by the twenty-seventh of the month Higgins himself was dead. "Drimma mudya ig a suchreca " (I went to his funeral), wrote Douglas in his phonetic Irish, the first such event to be noted in his diary. Soon, however, there was another.
On December 20 Hart was, as usual, at the glebe house. On December 21 he slept there. On December 22 "ní bhí Semuis go maith," wrote Douglas in an entry in Irish in which everything but Hart's first name is spelled correctly: once again, Hart was ill. On December 28 Hart was dead. It was the most devastating loss Hyde ever had suffered—a loss he remembered throughout his life. He expressed his sorrow in a simple, direct, and moving passage written partly in phonetic Irish, partly in conventional Irish script in his diary for December 29:
Seamas died yesterday. A man so decent and generous, alas, so true and honest, alas, so friendly, alas, never will I see again. He was sick about a week and today he is gone. Poor Seamas, I learned Irish from you. A man so good with the Irish, never will there be another like you. I can see no one at all from now on whom I would love as well as you. May seven angels be with you and may your blessed soul be in heaven now.