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From the fort of Bellowing Oxent to far
No such feats were ever achieved in one
By Fians, of deeds of valour and bravery."
After these things, the chiefs of Leath Mocha departed from the royal fort of Cnoc Raffan to their several duns and lisses; and Cormac returned to Teamor, bringing with him Conla, son of Fiacha's uncle, whom by treaty he was to educate, and entertain at his court. Conla grew up, and learned the skill, and accomplishments, and duties of a curaidh (knight), and great was his fame through Erinn, till he used violence towards a beauteous woman of the sighe of Loch Gabhar. She afterwards asked of him a boon, and she requested that he would enter the
sighe where her people were; but he would not. "Then, at least, come opposite the mound, with your face turned towards it." This he did; and while her tribe had their eyes on him, she told them his crime. thou make her satisfaction?" said they; and his refusal was given. Then," said they, "you have abused our hospitality, and a blight shall you suffer while life endures." They blew their breath on him, and a scurf of leprosy fell upon him-head, face, and body. He repented deeply in his soul for the wrong he had wrought, and thus returned to the palace of Cormac. Cormac looked at Conla and wept. Why do you weep, Cormac?" asked Conla. "For the greatness of my grief," replied Cormac, "that you should be in that state, and for my great love for you. Also it is by you I hoped to avenge my wounds on Fiacha, in defending the Sovereignty of Munster for you." Have you heard of anything that will cure this disorder?" asked Conla. "Though I have heard it," replied Cormac, "you could not get it.' "What is it?" asked Conla. blood of a noble king," replied Cormac. "Who is he?" asked Conla. 66 Fiacha Muilleathan is the noble, replied Cormac; "but it would be treachery in you to kill him. However, if you were to procure it, it would relieve you." "I prefer the death of a friend," said Conla, "to be in this condition, were I but cer tain of the cure." Cormac swore an oath that it was true, and Conla said he would make the trial.
Conla thereupon went to Cnoc Raffan to the house of Fiacha. Fiacha was greatly grieved to see him in that condition. He bade him welcome, and sought remedies. He gave him the third of his confidence, and Conla's bed was as high as Fiacha's, and it was he who brought and carried stories to and from him. They lived a long time thus, and he used to go in and out along with him, and Fiacha was often alone in his company; and so it was till they came one day to the bank of the Suire.
Here Fiacha prepared to bathe, and he threw off his clothes, and left his
Conn of the Hundred Battles. †The site of Cormac's camp, near Limerick.
broad shining spear on the bank with Conla. Conla treacherously took up the spear, and thrust it through Fiacha, to where the wood and the bronze met. "Alas!" said Fiacha, 'grievous to friendship is that deed, and at the instigation of foes has it been done." And he said the poem, "Instigation of foes," &c. "Bathe as you have been told, but it will avail you nothing, and pleasing to your foes will be this deed." And that was the cause of the death and the fate of Fiacha Muilleathan, King of Munster.
Where that deed was done was at Ath Leathan (Ford of Leathan), which is now called Ath Isiul (Athassel, ford of treachery), from the foul deed of Coula. Conla derived no relief from his crime; and it was hunger and leprosy that caused his death, for none of the race of Eogan would allow him into their houses, scorning to revenge the deed in any other
We do not mean to offer many concluding remarks upon this story, which will, to our mere English readers, possess, at least, the quality of novelty in its matter and form. The extra
vagance and improbability of these old lays are calculated to prejudice the readers of modern fiction, which deals chiefly with the ordinary affairs of life, and has little of the extravagance of the supernatural in it.
Let it, however, be taken into account, that they were originally recited before impressionable and artless crowds, easily disposed to pardon trifling defects, provided their imaginations and national or clannish sympathies were pleasantly excited. It is a circumstance of the commonest Occurrence to read, speech or play, by the fireside in a state of the mildest emotion, when listening to the delivery of the one, and seeing and hearing the other performed will produce a high state of excitement or enthusiasm.
But it is chiefly for the incidental lights thus thrown: upon the regal, the domestic, and the military usages of a bygone race and a primitive period of history, and further, as illustrating the superstitions, the morality, and the tastes of that cyclopean age, that such narratives deserve to live. And with this apology, we consign our ancient fable to the judgment of the reader.
THE memoirs of Jane Cameron* are in the strictest sense a biography, not a romance. In such a life, of course, there are passages impossible to be given in detail. There are others which required modification, in tenderness, for the feelings of some, and even for the safety of others, connected more or less guiltily with the narrative, but whom it would have been, at a long distance of time, unfair to compromise.
The characters and events, the substance of conversations, and the record of emotions, are all presented with a conscientious literality. It is well at starting to allow the writer to speak for herself upon this point, which essentially affects the value of the narrative. She says, with these exceptions-"I claim the
story to be considered as a true relation of a criminal career."
This biography is hinted in the previous work, "Female Life in Prison," by the same author. It is there a rapid outline, quite destitute of detail, but touched at a few strong points with a sharpness that leaves no question as to the identity of the subject, though the name there given is not Jane Cameron, but Mary Graham. The writer, however, fairly warns us that her nomenclature is altogether arbitrary, and in no cases has she given us the real appellatives of the prisoners. This slight anticipatory sketch, it is fair to add, is, so far as it goes, in perfect accord with the expanded narrative on which we are commenting, and is itself, there
"Memoirs of Jane Cameron, Female Convict." By a Prison Matron. London: Hurst and Blackett.
fore, a corroboration of the author's claim, if indeed that needed to be corroborated.
If this work had been a fiction in the form of a memoir, and the character of Jane Cameron a product of fancy, the book would have indicated that highest type of genius-the wild and creative--which can summon from the unseen that which mortal thought did not conceive before, and impress the world with, in Coleridge's phrase when speaking of Ondine, a totally new idea.
As it is, it has fulfilled the latter condition with respect to that immensely preponderating class, whose knowledge of the world of crime is limited to the conventional London night-cellar and Hounslow Heath, with their tribe of melodramatic Dick Turpins, Jonathan Wilds, and Sarah Malcoms. We do not deny the special merit of the Harrison Ainsworth school--it has for many its fascination-but it is not that of truth. It is a portraiture which, in fact, no more resembles the real children of darkness than the laced and powdered shepherds and shepherdesses, whom we see in pink and sage-green lute-strings, and satins, and buckled shoes, making love on old Dresden china, do the actual herds and helpers who tend, or ever did tend, living sheep on prosaic plain or mountain.
Of criminal life in prison we have a great deal of reliable information; none more interesting than that furnished by the same author, the "Prison_Matron," in that striking book, "Female Life in Prison." It is there, however, exhibited under restraint, in its artificial state, under the discipline of silence, order, and labour; and we should more favourably study natural history among the tanks and cages of a menagerie than the genuine character and nature of the convict classes within the cells and pentagons of a prison.
In theMemoirs of Jane Cameron," however, we see them, not in their period of punishment and reserve only, but in their day of liberty and enjoyment. The spectacle is new, and appallingly impressed with that undefinable sense of reality which belongs to sharp and unexpected details, and to a sort of portraiture wholly unlike what fancy might have pictured, or anything
VOL. LXIII.-NO. CCCLXXVI.
we could have conjectured from the materials that are accessible to nonofficial inquiries.
The "Prison Matron" heard from her own lips the story of Jane Cameron's life, with all its details, all its traits of passion and of character, and with all its revelations concerning that subterranean system of crime, which is so finely organized, so unspeakably formidable, and yet so impenetrably concealed.
With the exception of her last imprisonment, and that portion of her life which succeeded it, and one pleasure trip, undertaken under curious circumstances, the scene of Jane Cameron's adventures is laid in the populous town of Glasgow, pronounced by competent authority to be the wickedest town, not in proportion to its population, but absolutely, in the British dominions.
"Croiley's Land," described as a nest of tall gaunt houses, not far from the High-street, and known to the police as the New Vennel, or Crescent, stands pre-eminent among all rival nurseries of crime-the Havannah Burnside, the Old Wynd, the Old Vennel, the Tontine Close, &c., as the worst haunt in Glasgow.
The construction of these houses is very much alike. "On each floor are four or five doors, opening into as many rooms, eight feet in length by six or seven feet in width; in each of these rooms men, women, and children, from four to five in number to ten or twelve, eat, drink, sleep, and live." Thieves here flock together in numbers unpleasantly large. The rents of these rooms-each termed in Scotch parlance, a hoose"-are about fifteen pence a week-lower or higher according to circumstances, and "in every hole and corner of the place, foul disease is lurking." These dens are "well-paying preperty on the whole, although the rent-collecting is objectionable and at times a trifle dangerous." We can easily conceive this when we learn, that a few years since it was estimated that the average number of robberies in one room alone of this densely populated quarter, was twelve a week!"
In a corner of a small room in the New Vennel, then, was Jane Cameron born on a litter of shavings." Her mother was a drunkard and
worse; her father, "whose trade it was difficult to guess at, who disappeared for weeks and months together, and turned up again, was a brutal, morose, dunken vagabond, whon Mrs. Cameron loved after a fashion, and of whom she was jealous after a wild beast fashion also." Jenny Cameron was not permitted to enjoy a life of idleness. Even in early childhood she was expected to bring home money, and was employed at the wages of "a shilling or two a week" before she had reached her tenth year, at a Glasgow factory. This money was greedily seized upon, every Saturday night, by her mother, and generally expended in whisky, which she drank largely. Her putative father was a particularly base and cowardly villain, to whom Mrs. Cameron was attached with that strange but powerful affection which, without any assignable reason, kindness, fascination, or even one act of honest duty to account for it-binds the female to the man with whom she has mated in a lawless concubinage, with a devotion and fidelity so much excelling in strength and even in purity, that which we often see in the more respectable regions of society. The diabolical homilies which this scoundrel addressed to the child, Jenny, then just ten years of age, deserve to be recorded as evidences of the atrocious school of life and morals to which they belong. "He told her with terrible plainness," says her biographer, "wl at was the best manner of living, young as she was; how it was possible to benefit the family by an easier method than working at a factory. This unnatural villain did not tempt his daughter, but mingled his counsel with fierce oaths, and threatened to turn her out of doors if she did not earn more money presently." She had often known before what it was to be shut out. How uncertain, even at the early age of seven years, was her right of domicile, appears from the fact that she was always liable to be turned out on the common stairs to make room for people with money in their pockets. Being turned out on the common stair in the winter time," says the Prison Matron, "for late arrivals to tread upon or kick aside with an oath; for the police, always on the
alert and in search of some one, to stumble over and remonstrate with, and insist upon the mother taking her indoors again; to be turned out again when the officials' backs were turned" was what often befell the poor child, and such were the consequences which this procedure of turning out of doors" primarily meant.
In the midst of this hideous agglomeration of crime, debauchery, and idleness, was found one tenement, like Lot's household in the midst of Sodom.
In the New Vennel there lodged at that period one honest couple-only one honest pair-working hard and struggling for a subsistence in the midst of the crime that was seething round them. This couple consisted of a mat-maker and his wife, renting a room on the same floor as the Camerons-a couple who worked late at night and early in the morning at the mats which they hawked all day about the Glasgow streets." Hard-working, moral, industrious-if this kind but poverty-stricken couple had been religious also, their influence upon little Jenny Cameron might have been alike more powerful and enduring, As it was they pitied her, received her into their room as often as she was shut out on the common stairs by her mother, gave her good advice with a quiet and earnest iteration, and even quarrelled with that unnatural mother on her behalf-quarrels of a very serious sort, for the poor mat-maker's wife was beaten, and her clothes torn by the termagant. Finally, however, this little gleam from a better life was shut out. The mat-maker's business declined; all their self-denial and exertion could not make up the rent. They, in their turn, were put out on the common stairs, and their mats and stools, and other humble trumpery sold off. So Mr. and Mrs. Macvee vanished utterly, and the Vennel, Glasgow, and littic Jenny Cameron saw their careworn faces no more.
In the constant companionship of precocious thieves and prostitutes, this wretched child was speedily introduced to "the streets. Perhaps the worst of the many evil influences that beset her was the dancing school or "Penny Skeel."
These penny dancing rooms had
their origin, we are told, in Liverpool, and to them half the girls, from ten years old and upwards, in poor Jenny's destitute and vicious level of society flock with the pennies they can beg, borrow, or steal.
Here, then, was what seemed to Jenny and her class something to dazzle, delight, and almost intoxicate -more genuine excitement and pleasure than the Belgravian belle finds in the west-end ball-room-"music, company, and a mad whirl of spirits." In this place she, like her fellows, was happy. The description of these resorts of Glasgow rascality is too minute and curious to be omitted
"In this room, lighted by gas or candles, according to the taste or means of the proprietors, a hundred, or a hundred and fifty, are speedily assembled, ranged around the room on forms placed against the wall. They are of all ages, from the boy and girl of seven or eight years old, to the man and woman of two or three and twenty; but the majority are boys and girls averaging from twelve to fifteen years. The boys are chiefly apprentices or young thieves; the girls are of the usual poor class-more than usually poor, perhaps three-fourths of them without shoes and stockings, and all of them bonnetless, as is usual among the Scotch girls. The boys are several degrees removed from clean, but the "lassies," as they are generally termed, are, without an exception, bright-faced, glossy-haired damsels, who have evidently been at no ordinary
pains to render themselves attractive and presentable. Here and there is evident a little effort at finery, in the shape of a pair of ear-rings, or a necklace of sham coral, and their poor and scanty garments are, in many cases, destitute of any signs of ragged
masculine portion, and a soft pattering of naked feet from the majority of the feminine. There is much setting to partners, and an infinitude of solo performances, winding up with the usual twirling and twisting common to Scotch dances in general; and in the midst of all this heat, and dust, and bustle, the man sits perched above his scholars, fiddling rapidly, and glaring at them, like the evil genius of the place."
So far the "skeel" is the scene of a revel. We are now to view it in another aspect-its perverted, but by no means unnatural subserviency to crime. This demon musician, remind.ng one of the famous piper seen by Tam O'Shanter on the altar of "Kirk Alloway's auld haunted kirk," knows familiarly every face in the
"To the elder girls who may have encouraged strangers there he is friendly, and fatherly, and watchful; he knows that before the evening is out the strangers will probably be robbed and there will be an uproar, and it may be necessary for some kind friend to turn the gas out or knock the candles over, and leave the entire company to grope their way down the common stair into the close; or the man at the door, who is a prizetighter by profession. will be called in to keep order, silence the remonstrants, or turn them out of the room. a rule, the proprietor objects to robbery in the skeel itself, and has a room on the other side of the landing where such things may be conducted with greater ease, and save the skeel from falling into disrepute."
A few well-placed words, directed against these baleful institutions, deserve quotation here, both on account of the information they supply and the experience which enforces them :
'Night after night in those Scotch cities still goes on this hideous revelry; still are attracted girls and boys from their homes; still are engulfed the heedless youth of both sexes. Many innocent children of poor, even respectable parents are lured hither to imbibe a love for dancing and bad company. The apprentice robs to go there. The girl begs in the street, or thieves her way to admittance. Step by step to ruin, surely and swiftly, proceed these untaught, uncared-for children, and they are past hope and have left all childhood behind them at an age that is horrible to dwell upon.
"Let us urge here the great importance of sweeping away these nurseries of crime at once. They are on the increase, and are working greater mischief daily. Surely there must be a law to expunge them from our cities. They must be evading the law by their very presence in our midst. There