Drogheda, County Louth

By the time we had concluded our mental inventory of the movables of our hostess, we were agreeably surprised by a cessation of the rain which had driven us to her cabin, and bidding her a grateful farewell, we returned to partake of a hot dinner at Drogheda—a better dinner, it may as well be recorded, than one usually gets at English inns, and twice the time to eat it. We smiled while at table at another instance of the national talent for persuasion, and reminded our companions that no service had been rendered us since our landing in the country, unaccompanied with a bit of advice, or an attempt in some way to change our mode of attaining any given object. The waiter at Belfast had interfered with the selection of a mutton-chop from the dish, and had run after us from the hotel to change the direction of our walk; and we have elsewhere given (a little out of place, perhaps), instances of the suggestive and persuasive talent of Irish beggars. "No, sir," said the waiter at Drogheda, when we asked for a bit of a very promising beefsteak, "take the fish, sir, and be that time there'll be a hot one!" We followed his advice, and after doing excellent trencher-service on the second steak, asked for a glass of brandy-and-water. "The whiskey's betther, sir," was the reply, and it was poured out before we had time to give an opinion upon it. So whiskey was our fate, though taste and rheumatism (the latter by advice) were both of contrary mind. You might pass a life in English inns without finding a waiter with an opinion, and two lives without getting advice, or, indeed, anything else not charged in the bill.

We left the rain behind us at Drogheda, and got a fair view of the country, till the night closed in about us, a few miles from Dublin. The cultivation improved, and the seats of the gentry occurred oftener as we approached the capital, though still there was the same dearth of human beings which we had remarked all the way—scarce a soul to be seen except in the streets of the towns for the entire distance. Two groups of men and women, digging and weighing potatoes in the field (in both cases, the men weighing and the women digging), were all the people we observed from the road in a hundred miles of travel. We remarked the same indolence of attitude everywhere that had struck us in Belfast—the hands uniformly thrust into the pockets or breast, and the shoulder against the wall or the post; the pocket, if by chance the hand were out, gaping with a most expressive fixedness, and the hand dropping into it, when the action was achieved, with the ease of a foot into a slipper. If this love of national ease does not extend to Irish horses it is not for want of temptation. We saw several standing up to their bellies in the bogs, grazing, in great apparent comfort, from the sward just at their breasts, without drawing up a leg oftener than once in fifteen minutes. Grazing in a bog must be very delicate work, however, and from several leaps over mud-fences and stone-walls, which we observed during the day, by very indifferent looking steeds, we should think the Irish horse an animal of rather uncommon judgment and tractableness.

Whoever entered a great city without paying tribute in his heart to the truth of that part of natural history which asserts that "man is a gregarious animal?"[47] What delight, after long travel through the lonely fields and over the bleak hills of the country, to be driven suddenly into the streets of a crowded metropolis, to see the gay shops, the whirling past of splendid equipages, the press of vehicles, the thronging of gay and busy multitudes, and to hear once more, with unaccustomed ears, the stir and murmur of these seas of human life! What heart's blood does not quicken with sympathy at the spectacle? What heart's grief is not unseated or charmed to sleep by the grand monotone of human stir and utterance? The entrance to any great city, more especially for the first time, is a thing to be looked forward to and looked back upon as an era. We are free to confess that we have numbered the capitals of the world, and those we have not seen are as unopened chambers in our souls—cardinal sensations unfelt—great pleasures still possible while life exists, and so to be hoped and struggled for. Oh! to see Rome again with new eyes—Athens—Constantinople! There is a flood of feeling with which such events come to pass, which carries the soul off its feet. We forget everything in the magnitude of the novelty—even (as the story has it), "the skeleton under our cloaks."


NOTE

[47] We remember to have met but one person who excepted himself from this attribute of the human family. Dining one day with Mr. Charles Kemble, the eccentric author of "The Adventures of a younger Son," chanced to be of the party. He had just returned from America, and a gentleman at the table broke the silence of the soup, by enquiring of him in what packet he had sailed. "I'm not gregarious, Sir," was the singular reply:—"I took the cabin of a merchantman to myself."


Library Ireland Facebook