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some among us who keep up the old ways-who fill their houses with retainers and guests of all degrees but these are fast disappearing. The land-buyer-the Sir Giles Overreach of the day-lies in wait for such profuse and reckless characters. With small advances of money and skilful legal manœuvres, he absorbs the lands of the blunt gentry around him, as the octopus makes havoc among the stupid crabs of the aquarium. In the play, of course, Sir Giles is put to shame, but in real life he flourishes and comes to honour. The progeny of the Overreaches are high in the peerage of England.
The middle-class homes of this period are much modified by religious influences. Puritanism prevails largely among them, which, whilst it narrows the culture, at least imparts a certain dignity and refinement of its own. It is the means also of increasing largely the intercourse between the trading classes. Cut off from intercourse with the worldly society about them, these religionists form connections with men of the same way of thinking in other towns. The merchant in London, and his correspondent in the country town, are probably of the same faith. They exchange ideas as well as goods, and bring the fervid dreams of the solitary enthusiast into contact with the practical sagacity of the man of the city.
Everything, however, is in a state of flux and change. The old order is passing away, the new is still forming in chaotic fashion. The home has ceased to be a community; it becomes the habitation of a solitary pair, cumbered and perplexed with the ideas of a past civilisation. And thus we rapidly come to the homes of the present.
Ir is, no doubt, one of those breaches of 'national courtesy,' to whose charge Professor Goldwin Smith lays the irritable malady of Irish politics, that Britons can never soberly bring themselves to think there ever was a time in Ireland worth a page in the world's history. We patronise the national vanity, indeed, in our own clumsy way, much as we buy boxes of tools for fanciful schoolboys to build castles and cathedrals. We charter a Royal Irish Academy, and conceive dimly of some circle of the Order of Dryasdust, who title themselves to their hearts' content, and earn the gratitude of their country by meeting the Lord-knows-when, and talking of the Lord-knows-what, and collecting into a museum, about as lively and as much frequented as a Morgue, treasures of old bones, old swords, old hats, harps, and drinking-horns, which, to any one but the proud Saxon or a theatrical cast-clothes-dealer, are proof clear as Holy Writ of the ancient civilisation of Ireland. But the proud Saxon never once lifts his eyebrows, though he be shown to his teeth that there were, so to speak, West-end tailors in the Green Isle in days when blue paint was his own chief winter-clothing. If we have heard talk of Ogham inscriptions, we have also heard tell of 'Mick Muggins his mark.' Many of us will recollect that there was a Brehon Law Commission which cost money. A select few know there is a person called the Deputy-Keeper of the Public Records, who issues photo-zincographic copies of priceless old Psalters and maunderings about prehistoric Ireland, to his own great edification. But let us own that, having dipped thus deep in the Consolidated Fund, the British taxpayer finds Brian Boru and Fionn MacCooil rather dear for the money, and takes his satisfaction in flippant heresies anent St. Colum Cille's prophesied massacre of the Sassenachs in the Valley of the Black Pig,' or measures his notions of Clontarf by reminiscences of Donnybrook.
Let us see if this snobbery be not more pitiful than the extravagances of Irish scholars which first gave it pungency. Is there really nothing greater in the history of Ireland than a régime of faction-fights, more or less tempered by feebleness or poltroonery? Or may it be that, behind the gauzy glories spun out of the fervid imagination of patriots, we discover a bright and simple land on the outermost ramparts of the old world, where, untouched by the waves of Roman innovation, we see blooming the true flower of those old races and manners which covered Europe in the misty
prehistoric time? The inquiry had little interest so long as only men like Petrie and O'Donovan and O'Curry wasted their lives in its pursuit. Men condescended to pity them, and did not despise them as they despised the canting empirics who talk of 'the Golden Age' of Ireland as glibly as the Egyptians might of the Pharaohs. But of late years Celtic scholarship has come into fashion. Antiquaries and philologists of mark on the Continent have furbished up the scrappy remnants of the old Irish tongue scattered through foreign museums, or buried in state-paper offices, and have detected therein clues to a long-lost chapter of human history-the homogeneity and character of the great Aryan family prior to their dispersion over Europe. Men like Pictet and Zeuss, like Bopp and Jacob Grimm, Gaulish societies in Paris, and thinkers in Heidelberg, threw themselves into the study; and the Celtic is to-day a recognised and influential factor in comparative philology. There will be time enough to settle what share of the credit of this result is due to the weary and ill-requited labours of Irish antiquaries, when popular interest in the subject is awakened sufficiently to care. Our intention just now is to take a short survey of the ground travelled, and to see what sort of place and people is disclosed to us from the latest eminence reached by the publication of Professor Eugene O'Curry's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish.*
O'Curry dug into all existing Irish manuscripts for his materials, and, with prodigious industry, sifted the little golden grains of fact from very mountains of tradition; but his judgment is not unfrequently tripped up by the enthusiasm of the collector. His editor, Dr. W. K. Sullivan, whose modestly-entitled Introduction' absorbs the portliest of these three volumes, is happily a man whose sobriety and culture are above all suspicion of descending to the service of mere local glorification; and his interesting evidence of the ancient history of Ireland, supported upon O'Curry's industrious researches, may fairly claim the sympathy of the English people with a subject that is too lightly supposed to be the happy huntingground of wearisome pedants. Dr. Sullivan cannot side with his imaginative countrymen, who trace back the old stock in a direct line to the time of the Deluge, not to talk of those who kept an ark of their own. Nor will he have it that the vernacular of Connemara was taught in the schools of Shinaar while Babel was yet standing. He sets his face stoutly against the conceit of pure Celts'-an epithet which, applied to any living race of men, has as much meaning as pure sons of Adam,' and no more. 'The Irish Aithechs, or tenants, of to-day are composed of the descendants of Firbolgs and other British and Belgic races, Umorians, Fomorians,
* Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. By Eugene O'Curry, M.R.I.A. Edited, with an Introduction, by W. K. Sullivan, Ph.D., President of Queen's College, Cork. 3 vols. London, 1873.
Tuatha de Danands, Milesians, Gauls, Norwegians, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, and English, each successive dominant race having driven part at least of its predecessors in power into the rent-paying or labouring ranks beneath them, or gradually falling into them themselves, to be there absorbed.' So that any delver in the mines of Cornwall might set up for lineal heir of King Arthur, and stir up rebellion to restore the dynasty of the Table Round, with just as much reason as The O'Mulligan who spouts treason can pretend to open his veins and let all but the Celtic blood flow through. The main theory of Dr. Sullivan (and it is one which the investigations of continental scholars are every year investing with more interest) is, that ancient Ireland was peopled, centuries before the Christian era, by offshoots of the tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed Aryan race, on the dispersion of the great Indo-European family. Physically, the relationship is not hard to prove. Though there was a small dark race in Eirinn, golden hair, great stature, and fair skin are always the attributes of the heroes and warriors. The safer test of language goes much farther to the proof; for although the Gaelic tongue has suffered centuries of corruption, and though its case-endings and inflexions have grown almost too decrepit to be recognised, it still abounds with roots manifestly akin to the archaic terms among the Norse, Slavonic, and Germanic branches of the family. The comparison of manners and customs, again, is deeply interesting; and if we cannot take it as quite proven that in the Comharb-ships, or associations of freemen, in ancient Eirinn, we have the germ of the Saxon frankpledge and the German guilds, or that the Lucht-fira, or redeeming-men, whom accused persons should find to testify to their innocence, were only rougher types of our own compurgators, the resemblance in these and a host of other points is, at least, striking enough to give scientific sanction to the theory.
But however the various races found in Ireland at the Christian era may have come there-whether we can give ear to the romantic tales of the Spanish wanderings of the Milesians, or whether they all strayed thither through Britain remote ages after their dispersion in Germany-Dr. Sullivan finds plenty of materials, in records still extant of laws, customs, and literature, and in a general agreement of unconnected chronicles, to sketch out a unique and often fascinating society, while they flourished. The one period of the sad history of Ireland upon which all men can rest their eyes with pleasure and profit embraces the three centuries that elapsed between the establishment of Christianity in the fifth century and the beginning of the Danish conquests in the eighth. All foreign raids were over. One of the kings, Niall, had fallen in battle near Dover. His successor, King Dathi, found his death in the Alps. His Scots came home laden with the spoils of the retreating Roman armies, and while the rest of Europe ran to weltering chaos, while
England was struggling into the Heptarchy and out of it, settled themselves down in Hyblic peace to enjoy the corn, milk, peace, ease, prosperity,' upon which their bards dwell so unctuously. Christianity in its first beauty came to make a home amongst them. Possibly the saints who swarmed in every pleasant nook and cloister in the land, and the fileadhs, or bardic philosophers, who roamed about at free quarters like hordes of musical highwaymen, were somewhat more of a nuisance than a glory to industrious people; still they throve upon a religious fervour, a taste for chivalrous history, and an open-hearted hospitality, which, in these days, seem to be in themselves sufficiently striking phenomena. Nor was the ample supply of kings and princes altogether the intolerable evil it might seem. True, a strong central government was wanting, as it was wanting in every state of Europe for many an age after. But the kings were not always slaughtering each other, as is popularly supposed. The succession of Ard Righs, or High Kings, of Eirinn, in this period, was far more regular than that of the Roman emperors. If the High King often seems to be a mere Gold Stick of State, who has the right of sitting in front of the fire, of receiving the cow-tributes of his provincial lieges, and feasting kings, bards, and bishops in his Tech Midhchuarda, or meadcircling hall, at Tara, the provincial kings, in their turn, who were elected by lesser or county kings, and hampered by local liberties, had not often the power, if they had the will, to do mischief. The true unit of the nation was the Tuath, or territory of a clan, about the size of a modern barony, within which the community of Aires, or gentry, Ceilés, or freeholders, and dependents of various sorts, under their elected chief, was practically sovereign, though their chief had to pay his tribute, and the clan to add its battalion to the provincial levy. Yet it is certain that one body of cawin, or statute-law, was recognised, and more or less regularly enforced all over the country. It emanated from such assemblies of kings and notables as that Feish of Tara, where three kings, three bishops, and three brehons drew up the Shanachus More (or Great Digest); or that subsequent one held at Drumcaith (A.D. 590) for the abatement of the bard nuisance; which are truer types of the National Assembly than any French Parliament up to the fourteenth century, or any English one of the Plantagenets. The lesser work of legislation was left to a sort of local grand jury, with the significant title of the Sabaid Cuirm-tigi, or Council of the Ale-house. Civilisation itself has not lessened the influence of pothouse politics. Speaking of the sympathy between legislation and small-beer, it was a curious piece of polity to commence every parliament with a threedays' jollification. We can imagine the state of mind in which our own House of Commons would approach, say the Permissive Bill, after three successive nights' junketing with the Lord Mayor.