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A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland [...] (Author: Thomas Campbell)

Letter 30


As the Irish in foreign services are reckoned among the best troops in Europe, I should have thought it needless to say more on that subject, if certain peevish reflections, thrown out by Harrington and others, had not been lately retailed. To these reflections I shall beg leave to oppose the testimony of Spencer, which, I believe, is as just as it is honourable. ‘I have heard, says he, some great warriors say, that in all the services which they had seen abroad in foreign countries, they never saw a more comely man than the Irishman, nor that cometh on more bravely to his charge.’ If they have failed at home, can we attribute this to anything but want of discipline? Their conduct at Aghrim, contrasted to that at the Boyne but a year before, shews that, in a very short time, they can acquire steadiness even at home.

It should not be forgotten, that the Inniskilliners, and defenders of Londonderry,


were Irish, as well as their opponents. And if these betrayed an inferiority when opposed to men free and accustomed to arms, it only shews what slavery and a disuse of arms will effect. ‘Etiam fera animalia, si clausa teneas, virtutis obliviscuntur.’

As to the personal courage of the individuals of this country, I have never heard it disputed. National reflection rather brands it with a hardihood of spirit. Shakespear, who of all men had the deepest insight into human nature, has left us a portrait of the Irish character in this line, as like as if they had sat for the picture but yesterday. The likeness is so very striking that I cannot refrain giving an extract. — Captain Fluellin, the Welchman, wanting to send the duke some hints relative to the conduct of the siege of Harfleur, is told by Gower, that


The duke of Gloucester is altogether directed by an Irishman, a very valiant gentleman i'faith.


It is Captain Macmorris, is it not? By Cheshu he is an ass as in the world; I will verify as much in his beard. He has no more directions in the true disciplines of


the wars, look you, of the Roman disciplines, than is a puppy-dog.

Enter Macmorris and Captain Jamy.


Captain Macmorris, I beseech you now, will you vouchsafe me, look you, a few disputations with you, as partly touching or concerning the discipline of the war, the Roman wars, in the way of argument, look you, and friendly communication partly, to satisfy my opinion, and partly, look you, for the satisfaction of my mind as touching the direction of the military discipline, that is the point.


It sall be very gud, gud feith, gud Captains bath. And I sall quit you with gud love, as I may pick occasion; that sall I, marry.


It is no time to discourse, so Chrish save me: the day is hot, and the weather, and the wars, and the king, and the duke; it is no time to discourse; the town is beseech'd, and the trumpets call us to the breach, and we talk, and by Chrish do nothing?, 'tis a shame for us all; so God sa' me; 'tis a shame to stand still; it is shame by


my hand; and there is throats to be cut, and works to be done, and there is nothing done, so Chrish sa' me law.


By the mass, ere these eyes of mine take themselves to slomber, aile do gud service or aile ligge i'th' ground for it; ay, or go to death; and aile pay it as valorously as I may, that sall I surely do the breff and the long; marry, I wad full fain heard some question between you tway.


Captain Macmorris, I think, look you, under your correction, there is not many of your nation——


Of my nation? What ish my nation? Ish a villain and a bastard, and a knave and a rascal? — What is my nation? Who talks of my nation?


Look you, if you take the matter otherwise than is meant, Captain Macmorris, peradventure I shall think you do not use me with that affability as in discretion you ought to use me, look you; being as good a man as yourself, both in the disciplines of the wars, and in the derivation of my birth and in other particularities.



I do not know you so good a man as myself: so Chrish save me, I will cut off your head.


Gentlemen both, you mistake each other.

I write you this from the Connaught side of the Shannon, from that county, particularly, which gave birth and title to Dillon, Lord Roscommon; in whose panegyric Pope seems to have contended with Dryden,

    1. The Muses empire is restored again
      In Charles's reign, and by Roscommon's pen.
    1. To whom the wit of Greece and Rome were known.
      And every author's merit, but his own.

But this county boasts of a still greater honour, the birth of the much lamented Oliver Goldsmith. I have learned a very curious anecdote of this extraordinary man, from the widow of a Doctor Radcliffe, who had been his Tutor in Trinity College Dublin. She mentioned to me a very long letter from him, which she had often heard her husband read to his friends, upon the


commencement of Goldsmith's celebrity. But this, with other things of more value, was unfortunately lost by accidental fire, since her husband's death.

It appears, that the beginning of his career was one continued struggle against the waves of adversity. Upon his first going to England he was in such distress, that he would have gladly become an usher to a country school; but so destitute was he of friends to recommend him, that he could not, without difficulty, obtain even this low department. The master of the school scrupled to employ him, without some testimonial of his past life. Goldsmith referred him to his tutor, at college, for a character; but, all this while, he went under a feigned name. From this resource, therefore, one would think, that little in his favour could be even hoped for. But he only wanted to serve a present exigency — an ushership was not his object.

In this streight, he writes a letter to Dr. Radcliffe, imploring him, as he tendered the welfare of an old pupil, not to answer a letter which he would probably receive, the same post with his own, from the


schoolmaster. He added, that he had good reasons for concealing, both from him and the rest of the world, his name, and the real state of his case: every circumstance of which he promised to communicate upon some future occasion. His tutor, embarrassed enough before to know what answer he should give, resolved at last to give none. And thus was poor Goldsmith snatched from between the horns of his present dilemma, and suffered to drag on a miserable life for a few probationary months.

It was not till after his return to London, from his rambles over great part of the world, and after having got some sure footing on this slippery globe, that he at length wrote to Dr. Radcliffe, to thank him for not answering the schoolmaster's letter, and to fulfil his promise of giving the history of the whole transaction. It contained a comical narrative of his adventures from his leaving Ireland to that time: His musical talents having procured him a welcome reception wherever he went. My authority says, her husband admired this letter more than any part of his works. But she would not venture to trust her memory in detailing


particulars. Which, after all, could not appear very interesting, but from his own manner of stating them.