Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

is regarded by our peasantry of all races-Celts. semi-Scotch, and descendants of the English settlers-with superstitious interest. It is described in Ulster as a gentle wee thing,' the word 'gentle' always meaning of fairy origin. It is thought to be very lucky when crickets come to a house, and very unlucky when they leave it, and it is considered a dangerous thing to kill them. The writer of this article saw her cook stoop to examine something on the kitchen floor the other day, and on asking what it might be, received the following

answer:

[ocr errors]

'It's a cricket, miss; I thought it was a clock" (i. e., black beetle), 'an' I was very near putting my foot on it. I'm sure I'm glad I did not, for if I had killed it, the other crickets wouldna ha' left one stitch o' my clothes that they wouldna ha' cut holes in."

This idea about the revengeful feelings of the crickets is universal, and is not confined to any race or religion, but how it originated we are unable to discover.

Not long ago we fell in with a "flitting" on the high road. The father went first, with the cart piled with bedding, chairs, tables, and other furniture; next walked the mother, with the cock under her arm; then the little son, carrying the cat; and lastly the younger children, each with a small bundle. We wished the family good fortune in their new home.

66

Look, miss," said the man, taking his tobacco-box out of his pocket and showing two crickets within-"look what we're taking wi' us for luck."

The weasel is accredited with the same revengeful feelings as the cricket, and the people are most unwilling to kill one, lest all the weasels in the country should track out the murderer, and avenge the death of their comrade by cutting his throat. A ploughman came from his work in much agitation one evening, and on his master inquiring what was the matter, he replied—

"I killed a weasel in the fairy field, your honour, and two other weasels has been chasing me up an' down the furrowe all day, trying to get at me. Dear, dear, but I had the ill luck!"

"What folly is this, Martin?"

I beg your honour's pardon, but it's allowed that weasels 'll pursue you to cut your throat if you kill one o' them; an' there was a grand-uncle o' my own killed a weasel, an' the next day he lay down by the roadside

"Well, Martin ?"

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Well, sir, he fell asleep, an' he was found dead and bleeding, wi' dozens o' weasels swarming over him!"

It is thought unlucky if a weasel should cross the path of any one setting out upon a journey -some misfortune will surely follow. The murderous and blood-thirsty nature of this little a imal is thus explained. When the Danes came to Ireland they brought their cats with them, which, when their masters were driven out of the coun

[ocr errors]

try, escaped to the woods and fields and turned into easels! The memory of the Danes is held in detestation, and red-haired people are considered unlucky, because supposed to be descended from them.

A curious superstition connected with the hare has come lately to the writer's knowledge. If a woman about to become a mother sees the little white tuft upon a hare's tail, it is thought that her child will be born with a hare-lip; and any man who kills a hare, pulls off the tuft of white fur at once, lest this misfortune should happen in his own family or in that of a neighbour. But the woman may avert all danger of this kind by keeping a small portion of her petticoat unsewn: if she have but the breadth of an inch of this garment unravelled, she may encounter any number of hares without fear of injury to her expected infant.

The idea that a newt is on the watch to creep down the throat of any person who happens to fall asleep out-of-doors, so prevalent in Ireland, has given rise to many strange stories. A turf-cutter in the county Antrim is said to have been afflicted with the company of a newt for several months. He had been so foolish as to sleep in the bog one warm summer day. The reptile proving a most uncomfortable inmate, he applied to a country doctress for a cure. The old woman advised him to eat largely of salt herring, which would have the effect of making his disagreeable guest so intolerably thirsty that it would have to come up to drink.

"Lie down," she concluded, "fornenst the river, wi' yer mouth open, an' yer troubles 'll soon be over."

He obeyed strictly, while a crowd of anxious neighbours kept watch at a little distance, when, mirabile dictu, they saw a full-grown newt, followed by seven little ones, issue from his mouth, and hasten down to the stream to drink! Of course the patient beat a rapid retreat.

This little reptile, regarded with so much fear and dislike, has however its own use in the world. Anyone who catches it, holds it by its feet, and licks its back three times from the head to the tail, will be able henceforth to cure all burns and scalds, if he apply his tongue to them immediately after they have been received, before the blisters have begun to rise. As few people have courage enough to touch a newt even with their hands, those who have acquired this gift of healing are not very many; yet we have the pleasure of being acquainted with three old men who are thus gifted.

While writing on the subject of cures performed by animals, it is only kind to inform our suffering fellow-creatures that they may obtain relief from toothache by rubbing their gums with a young frog. A young Irish frog, at any rate, is warranted to ease their pain. In Cavan, Louth, and Meath, a field-mouse made into broth is administered to consumptive patients, as in parts of Germany spiders and their webs are swallowed for ague.

We shall conclude this paper by relating the tragic fate of "the wren with little quill”—“the poor wren, the most diminutive of

birds"-who is pursued by far more than half of the inhabitants of Ireland with unflagging animosity. Every Roman Catholic of the lower classes kills a wren when he has the chance, and the reason for his rancour is well known to the Protestants. The legend is that during one of the rebellions a party of Protestant soldiers, weary from the hardships they had undergone, lay down to sleep in a glen, the sentinels also being overcome with sleep. The rebels advanced softly, hoping to surprise them asleep, when a wren tapped with its beak three times upon the Protestant drum, awakening the drummer-boy, and the assailants were ignominiously routed. This incident, not told by Mr. Froude in his History, must, we fear, be accepted with caution, as the Protestants differ very much about the date of the occurrence, some saying it took place during the massacre of 1641, others in the rebellion of 1798, and others, again, in the time of their hero King William "of glorious, pious, and immortal memory.'

The writer confesses that she has heard the story from Protestants only, her researches among Roman Catholics in this direction having always been nipped in the bud. "The wren has a drop of the diel's blood in it," is all that they will ever say on the subject.

On St. Stephen's Day, in the south of Ireland, boys carry about a wren in a furze-bush, which is decorated with ribbons. They shout and dance and sing. Later in the day, when they have killed the bird, they knock at all the doors in town and country, saying that the wren is in its coffin, and they want money to bury it.

LETITIA MCCLINTOCK, in Belgravia.

MR. JOHN BLACKWOOD.

THE news of the death on Wednesday last of Mr. John Blackwood, senior partner of the firm of Messrs. William Blackwood & Sons, will be received with deep regret by a large number of attached friends. For some years Mr. Blackwood's health has caused anxiety, and though he rallied last season after a sojourn in Italy, it continued to fail during the past summer. Until a month ago he was able to discharge his duties as editor of Blackwood's Magazine with all his old clearness and vigour, and until within a few days of his death he continued to manifest his usual keen interest in business and in literature.

John Blackwood, the sixth and last surviving son of. William Blackwood, the founder of the famous magazine, was born in Edinburgh, December 7th, 1818. From an early age he displayed marked literary tastes and critical discrimination. He was educated at the High School and University of Edinburgh, and finished his studies by a long tour on the Continent, under the tuition of an excellent classical scholar and well-known contributor to Blackwood, the late Mr. William Hay, whose translations from the Greek into English poetry

ought not to have been so soon forgotten. On his return, young Blackwood passed a short time in the house of Messrs. Whittaker & Co. in order to learn the practical part of a publisher's business, and in 1840 a branch office of the Edinburgh firm was opened under his direction in Pall Mall, which was subsequently removed to Paternoster Row. As the London representative of his brothers, Messrs. Alexander and Robert Blackwood, who, on their father's death, in 1834, had succeeded to the business, John Blackwood proved himself most active and judicious, while his literary tastes led him into society and secured him friendships which proved of great advantage to the magazine. In addition to the regular contributors to Blackwood, many of the most popular authors of the day used to make Mr. Blackwood's office in Pall Mall a centre of meeting. Thackeray, although he never published with the Blackwoods, was a constant visitor, and a close and cordial intimacy sprung up between him and Mr. Blackwood, which was continued unimpaired until the death of the former. Mr. Delane, too, was one of the warmest of young Blackwood's friends at th's period, and the two editors, amid the shifting tides of politics, maintained their personal regard for each other until the last.

On the death of Mr. Alexander Blackwood, under whose short editorship the influence and popularity of Blackwood's Magazine had been largely increased, John Blackwood was summoned down to Edinburgh to undertake the management of the literary business. From the outset his editorship of the magazine was marked by signal ability and tact. He made powerful literary friends, and he always succeeded in keeping them attached to himself. As the old race of giants, the companions of Christopher North, died out, he filled their places with new and worthy successors. Chief among these was Prof. Aytoun, who devoted his many-sided talents to the service of the magazine with a zeal and a fidelity to which it would be difficult to find a parallel in periodical literature. Warren, too, was still following up, by frequent articles and sketches, the success which he had earned by "Ten Thousand a Year" and the " Diary of a Late Physician." Mr. John Blackwood had an intuitive faculty of discerning genius wherever he encountered it, as well as of penetrating through the most specious veil of pretension and cleverness. He took great pride in being the means of bringing forward young authors of talent through the magazine, and he spared no pains to advance the reputation of those who committed their works to his charge. He never paid for names, and till his death he steadily and wisely vindicated the advantages which anonymous writing as opposed to the system of signed articles affords to the rising generation of writers.

Mr. Blackwood had many editorial triumphs during the three-andthirty years of his literary career. Prominent among these was the success which Lord Lytton's "Caxton" series of novels achieved in the magazine, and the sensation which the "Coming Race" and the "Parisians caused before the authorship of those tales was known. But it will be as the publisher who first recognized the early genius

[ocr errors]

of George Eliot that Mr. Blackwood's name will be most permanently connected with English literature. After reading the first instalment of "Scenes of Clerical Life," which he received anonymously, Mr. Blackwood was able to make up his mind that his new contributor was an author of no ordinary power; and we believe her later successes only realized the prospects which he then saw ready to open up before her. He was also fortunate in obtaining the friendship of Charles Lever when his powers were at their highest maturity, and from his first introduction into the columns of "Maga" the pen of "Cornelius O'Dowd " continued to steadily amuse its readers until his death, more than ten years after. Mrs. Oliphant, whose ability he encouraged at a time when she was almost unknown in the literary world, has also, it is understood, been one of the mainstays of the magazine during the last ten or fifteen years. General E. B. Hamley, the author of the " Operations of War" and of the delightful novel of "Lady Lee's Widowhood," and his able brother, Major-Generl W. G. Hamley, R. E., have, we believe, been among the most frequent living contributors to the magazine. And among novels recently published from its columns are works by Mr. R. D. Blackmore, Mr. Anthony Trollope, Col. Chesney, Mr. Charles Reade, and Col. Lockhart, showing that Mr. Blackwood never omitted to enlarge his staff when a likely re Icruit could be enlisted. We shall only have to give a list of a few of those whose connection with Blackwood's Magazine is a matter of public notoriety to show how varied were the talents of the collaborateurs whom John Blackwood gathered around him; and when we remember that he exerted himself as far as possible to make each contributor a personal friend, some idea may be formed of the extent of the literary circle of which he was the centre. The names that most readily occur to us, in addition to those we have casually mentioned, are those of Laurence Oliphant, Dr. John Hill Burton, Sir Archibald Alison, and his son the present baronet, the late Sherard Osborn, Lord Neaves, Capt. Speke, E. S. Dallas, the ex-Chaplain-General Gleig, a contributor of nearly sixty years' standing, Ŵ. W. Story, Sir Garnet Wolseley, R. E. Francillion, Prof. Bonamy Price, Principal Tulloch, William Smith, &c. In politics Mr. Blackwood was, of course, a Conservative, and a valued friend and counsellor of many of the leaders of that party; but the literary columns of the magazine were frankly opened to writers of every shade of opinion. His generosity to his contributors has always been most heartily acknowledged; and he possessed in a remarkable degree the rare faculty of being able to reject an article without offending its author. The kindly feelings and genial temperament which he showed in private life he carried into his business relations, and many of the friends who have known him longest declare that they never saw him out of temper. In the management of the affairs of his house he was always actuated by a high sense of honour and a consideration for the interests of those who were dealing with him. In all literary questions his opinion was

« VorigeDoorgaan »