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We have glanced at some of bis novels of the ordinary sort, where sketching of character, and the excelling qualities of such a work as the one under review, were subservient to the interest of a mere story. But we prefer him as the caustic and close, though good natured observer, Jerome Paturot, or Nepomucene the Aristarch.
The reader cannot fail to be struck by the boldness and strangeness of the plan of the present story, where a well-known and accomplished writer is presented, and endowed with such selfish and unamiable traits of character.
ART. III.--JOHN BANIM.
CLOSING DAYS OF LIFE. DEATH. PENSION GRANTED TO HIS
DAUGHTER. DEATH OF HIS DAUGHTER. PENSION GRANTED TO MRS. BANIM. MEETING CALLED IN KILKENNY TO ERECT A PUBLIC TESTIMONIAL TO BANIM. RESOLUTIONS AND NAMES OF COMMITTEE. TESTIMONIAL ERECTED. CONCLUSION. APPENDIX.
At the conclusion of the last published portion of this Biography of John Baviin we left him, with the shadow of death around him ; the mind was waning-the tree was dying from the top—the stage was darkening as the curtain fell. Yet life was about him, and he longed for life. Those who watched by his bed in these days tell us of the time, in memories bright and gloomy—those "bitter-sweet” recollections which have in them as many smiles as tears.
One friend, not his brother, who lived in daily intimacy with Banim during these times-who knew his phases of thought, his modes of composition ; who watched the clouds and sunshine of his mind, has written, at our earnest request, the following narrative of Banim's last months of life :
“ February, 1856. My Dear Sir,
In consenting to your request that I would supply you with some written recollections of the late John Bauim, i have had to overcome a great deal of reluctance which I very naturally
felt when reflecting on the extreme delicacy of such a task, and the readiness with which many people take offence in matters of biography where none is even remotely intended. Your urgent importunity and my own desire to oblige you, however, have prevailed in the present instance, but I must observe in limine, that I greatly fear you will be disappointed, if you calculate on finding much or any at all of what I have to say worthy of being transferred to your pages.
I had some notion of putting what I had to say into the shape of a consecutive narrative; but considering there was so very little incident in the life of Mr. Banim after his return to his native city, and during the period of my intimacy with him, that the history of one day might well be regarded embracing this whole term, I feared I should produce a rather dull chapter, and, therefore, concluded it would be better to throw the substance of my recollections and observations under the headings suggested by a reference to your first note to me respecting the points on which you were desirous of obtaining information.
First, then, as to his
NODE OF LIFE AND HABITS.
My acquaintance with the Author of the 'O'Hara Tales' began in the latter months of 1836, about a year after his return to Ireland. He was then residing in Wind-gap Cottage, which does not require to be descibed by me, as, if I rightly remember, it has been fully noticed in a former chapter.
Here, sheltered from the public gaze, and safe from intrusion, he received only such visitors as he chose, and at such times as he thought proper to admit them. Though his limbs had now, for some time, refused to obey his desire to move, his mind was still vigorous and active, and enabled him, under an incredible amount of bodily suffering, to continue his literary pursuits, indulge his natural tastes, and labor to form those of his daughter.
He seldom arose in the morning earlier than eleven o'clock, and, if the weather at all permitted, had himself conveyed from his bed-chamber to a Bath-chair in the little enclosure that fronted the drawing-room window. The chair was provided with pillows and cushions which it was Mrs. Banim's or Mary's special duty to see properly arranged, as the organ
zation of his poor frame had become so sensitive that even a crumple was sufficient to cause a momentary agony, few turns round the circular bed of flowers which occupied the centre of the garden, he would order breakfast—a morsel of thin, dry toast, a rare egg, and a cup of tea. This despatched, the chair would be again put in motion, and the exercise continued for an hour or so, when he would have himself placed under the shade of either of the two trees which stood at opposite points of the enclosure, and devote the intermediate hours between that and three o'clock to writing or the care of his flowers, of which he was so passionately fond, that he frequently insisted on being carried out at night to ascertain by the light of a lanthorn what progress his favorites were making. He bestowed particular pains on the culture of a rose unique, which was afterwards affectionately transferred, by his daughter's band, to the turf under which he rested, and, when last I visited his grave, was the only mark by which it could be distinguished from the narrow dwellings of the humbler dead around.
When three o'clock approached the business occupying him, whatever it might be, was immediately laid aside, orders given to have the horse put to the little machine' in which the pillows and cushions had been previously arranged with thesame care as the adjusting of the chair required in the morning, and, accompanied by his wife or daughter, or some other esteemed friend, for he feared going out alone, he would proceed on the drive which, at this period of the day, he never under possible circumstances failed to take. This exercise seemed to be essential to his existence, for, if anything occurred to debar him from its enjoyment, he could not resume his occupation for the remainder of that day, but became dull, peevish, and uncomfortable, making every one about him share more or less in his unhappiness. On returning from his drive another process was to be gone through before undertaking the labor of dining -the table had but little pleasures for him for years before. An extraordinary chilliness invariably seized his whole body, particularly his lower extremities, on the cessation of the rapid motion of the carriage. To get rid of this disagreeable sensation he used to submit himself to a particular operation which he humorously termed champooing.' A field-laborer who lived close by was generally called in, by whose rough, horny hand he had himself briskly pinched from head to foot
for a full half hour, when his natural warnth would begin to return, and the business of the dinner become practicable. The champooing was regularly repeated before retiring to bed at night, and before leaving it in the morning.
Whenever the little carriage was disabled, which was a circumstance of frequent occurrence, or that a horse could not be procured-he had not always one of his own-recourse was had to the Bath-chair as a substitute for the drive, and, accompanied by Mrs. Banim and Mary, who occasionally lent it an impulse from behind, some friend of the other sex having generally volunteered to place himself at the front, the scheme sometimes succeeded exceedingly well, while it almost as often involved its peculiar difficulties and even perils. When once equipped, if there was any spot sufficiently near commanding a prospect which he once admired, or presenting a natural beauty with which in youth he had been familiar, an endeavour was made to reach it, every practicable route being sought, and none considered too circuitous to avoid the public road, and escape the public gaze. Many were the obstructions which the unfortunate chair had, in such excursions, to encounter; many an intricate way was entered without ever reflecting on the possibility of effecting a return; and often and often the limbs of the poor invalid had to repose on the grass till the chair had been carried over obstacles there were no other means of surmounting. His eagerness on one of these occasions to reach a spot on the banks of the Nore, endeared to him by some early recollection, was near having a fatal termination. The spot alluded to was to be gained by descending a gentle slope, as it appeared to him, at the base of which the stream flowed smooth and deep; none of the party present apprehended the slightest danger in gratifying his desire, and the chair was at once, and without reflection, turned in the direction indicated. But a very little progress, however, had been made when the motion of the little hand-carriage became too rapid for the control of the ladies who were to act as a drag in the rear; and had not the geutleman in front, by a sudden twist of the guiding wheel, and by dexterously placing his own person right in its way, succeeded in arresting its onward movement before it had acquired its full impetus, no human power could have prevented his being precipitated into the river, whereby the 'stubborn Nore' would have obtained with posterity the melancholy interest of having afforded Baniin a grave.
It would be impossible to describe the terror that, for the moment took possession of him, heightened, as it was, by the consciousness of his inability to help himself; but the arrangements for effecting a return were no sooner completed than he commenced jesting at the probable catastrophe from which he had escaped, and ridiculing Mrs. Banim and Mary for their weakness in having yielded to womanly fears on the occasion.
There was another circumstance, too, connected with his excursions productive of no small inconvenience to Mrs. Banim in the way of domesticarrangements, but which her' hereditary generosity' enabled her patiently to support. The roads, and green lanes in the neighbourhood of Kilkenny, in the latter of which the little carriage of our poet was frequently seen to pause on summer evenings, abounded at that time, at all events, in specimens of human misery which a sensitive heart, however well acquainted with the devices of mendicant hypocrisy, a species of knowledge in which he considered himself deeply skilled, could scarcely help commiserating. Whenever anything in the appearance or the story of one of these unfortunates seemed to speak of better days, or deserve a better fortune, he or she, or they-sometimes the case would comprise a whole family—had orders to follow the carriage or the chair home to Wind-gap where, when their comforts bad been attended to, lodgings would be procured and, if the subject was a fitting one, an effort made to procure a service or some kind of permanent employment. Some act of theft or ingratitude was generally the return for his excessive kindness; still, the very next day, a tale of woe would find as ready entrance to his heart as if he had never erred in his judgment of the narrator of one. Amongst the guests here alluded to was a deaf and dumb boy, of about fifteen years of age, who had been discharged, or else had made his escape from the Glasnevin Institution. Picked up one summer evening in the usual way, as Banim was enjoying his customary exercise, he was, of course, directed to come to Wind-gap, where his quick intelligence, docility, and eagerness to make himself useful, soon rendered him a general favorite. For nearly a month he presented himself regularly at the cottage, at the hour its master was wont to make his appearance in the garden. His face would beam with pleasure whenever Banim began to interrogate him, or invited him by means of slate and pencil or the telegraphic movement of his fingers, to draw the chair