« PreviousContinue »
Newenham's Antiquities of Ireland, &c. &c. &c.
Paddy O'Flanigan's remonstrance to "a Quiz.”
While Political Economists contend that the system of Absenteeism produces no ill effects on the prosperity of a country, it will not, we think, be denied by thie most desperate theorist, that the expatriation of native talent causes a positive decrease in the great fund of national intellect. The man of many acres, happily, cannot remove these at will. The sunshine of his countenance may invigorate and embellish the little system of which he is the centre; but the withdrawment of its beams--though it chill the current of social life-imprints no corresponding symptom of decay on the fair face of nature. His plantations and hedge-rows, and corn' fields, flourish as greenly as though his fostering glance were upon them: and it may be, that the spell of his personal influence on $ociety is maintained unbroken, by the medium of some curiously honest agent, or benevolent middle-man.
But the ills attendant on the emigration of a lackland man of genius, are balanced by no such comfortable compensations. His wealth lies in a small compass; but it is indivisible, and must accoinpany the possessor. He leaves no representative behind, to cherish the blossoms of literature, or cultivate the plants of science, which would have sprung up at his bidding. A waste of weeds marks the spot which he might have embellished in the domain of genius, and should a breath of the fragrance which he calls forth in the scene of his selection, be wafted to that which he has abandoned, it can excite only a transient animation, and comes but to waste its sweetness on the desert air.'
In truth, it is a melancholy fact, that the talent for which this country is confessedly remarkable, seems to droop 'till it is transplanted, and has become as it were an exotic in the land which produced it. Like certain idle, but clever urchins at school, who never study their own lesson, but who frequently perform the task of a dull or favourite companion ;
our writers spare no pains to contribute to the literary wealth of England and Scotland, while they quite overlook the just claims of their own country,
We may be told that we make a distinction without a difference, and that a community of interests, and therefore of glory, exists between the three countries, in the great body of British literature. This is some comfort:—but if Ireland be indeed a wing of this triple edifice, it resembles, we fear but too much, those deserted suites of apartments, in some old French chateau, which present--in a succession of wild corridors and unfurnished saloons—a dreary contrast to the splendours that are lavished on some more favoured part of the mansion..
This unequal distribution of intellectual wealth, has, we confess, appeared to us at times a greater national calamity, than the comparative inferiority of our funded capital;—and had Ireland the full benefit of her birth-right in the former, we, for one, should not repine at her forfeiting all interest in the transactions of Change-alley and the Share-market It is for the same reason, that in viewing the groups whọ daily leave this country, our eye has often strayed from the bloated possessor of thousands, with his equipages and retinue, to some humble owner of a small valise, haply with silver eye-glass, a rusty black coat, and a countenance
“Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought.” We have noted him slowly pacing the deck, or hanging over the vessel's side, -taking no part in the bustle of embarkation—but returning from the unmeaning din of his empty-headed betters, and drawing from his pocket a dog-eared volume, from which his eye has only wandered, to dwell for a moment on the dark wave, or distant mountains.-At length, hunters and pointers, and barouches, are safely stowed,—the vessel is under weigh-and, as we have turned from the contemplation of such a scene, we have mourned the departure of the obscure son of genius, while the loss of the “man of opulence,” with that of his liveried menials tQ boot, has not caused a sigh to escape us.
Had the Athenian mind been decomposed by the undue preponderance of the centrifugal power which causes the dispersion of Irish talent,--the age of Pericles had never existed! Can then be matter of surprise, that the sum of our national literature is so disproportionate to that of the sister countries ;-and is it, above all, wonderful, that in Periodical writing, we should have produced absolutely nothịng? This fact being admitted—we leave to others, the task of speculating on the many causes, which, in addition to the one above stated, have tended to produce it: neither shall we philosophize on those correctives which may be looked for in the influence of legislative acts, or political institutions. We invoke a higher tribunal even than that, to which Blackstone, by a bold figure of speech applied the epithet of “omnipotent!”– We appeal, for a remedy, to the energy of Public opinion ! With all
her disadvantages, there is no doubt that Ireland still possesses a vast stock of intellectual resources-surely far more than sufficient to furnish materials for a periodical work of the highest character. We are enemies to the cant of even national egotism; but public spirit is a very different thing; and we are convinced that if we assert-modestly but firmly-our' legitimate claims not only to Irish, but to Br tish support, we shall speedily retrieve the ground which we have lost in the department of periodical literature.
With this object, and in this spirit, the present work has been underta