« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
pidity that, while it almost annibilates space and infinitely accelerates the operations of mankind, is practically bringing us back to that pristine longevity, when man counted “the days of the years of his life" by centuries. Let us, then, look back upon the twenty eventful years which have just passed away, and render, as justly as human infirmity will enable us to do, an account of the use which we have made of them.
We remember, as it were but yesterday, the circumstances under which “TAE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY Magazine” was projected, and the day upon which it first saw the light. Ireland possessed then, as indeed we believe it has ever possessed, men eminent for learning in every department of knowledge. Nevertheless, she had no national literature, few names which made themselves known through the world, and of those few the majority were so known through the medium of English or foreign publications. What we wanted was not genius, or wit, or learning, but we wanted that which should collect, intensify, and expound it. We wanted the bond which would bind the scattered rods in a strong fasciculus together—the lens that would catch the diverging rays, and make them confluent in a point of heat and irradiation. We wanted an exponent of our own thoughts, our own aspirations, our own tastes and feelings, in politics, in science, in belles lettres, in poetry, in music. We wanted, in a word, a NATIVE PERIODICAL.
This was no new feeling that had come upon the Irish mind. The craving was old, and had made many an effort to satisfy itself. More than one Irish periodical had arisen, but not one had struggled through its infancy. It would not now be over-profitable to consider the causes of their failure, though, at the period we speak of, they were anxiously investigated by the projectors of our Magazine, that they might be remedied and avoided. Some were too green, in every sense of the word—too provincial in their feelings, too narrow in their views; others were too limited in their objects; others too local in their influ. ences and circulation. Yet were there spirits amongst us-adventurous, as all then admitted, and sagacious and far-seeing, as all will now confess—who felt that while England had her periodical literature, and Scotland her “ Blackwood” and her "Edinburgh Review," Ireland might reasonably expect, under judicious management, to sustain one periodical.
The period, too, was not unfavourable for a new project. The world-above all, our British world—had got a jog or two that pulled many of her old notions about her ears. In politics the democratic element was increasing in power, and the people had just attained their new charter, “the Reform Act.” The public mind was, in consequence, agitated by hope and fear, and all the intense anxiety which is inseparable from a bold and untried measure. Not long previously, the first of the world's Titanian causeways was laid, and British science and British art had the honour of devising and executing it—we allude to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. And men looked with wonder, and dreamed that they might live to see the day-ay, and they have lived to see it—when these pon. derous and panting giant-coursers would yet outstrip the wing of the pigeon in fleetness, and the foot of the patient camel across the trackless desert.
And so we started upon our course, taking a hint from what we saw around us, determined to enlarge the intellectual franchise of our own people, and to facili.
tate and accelerate their intellectual progress. With a noble cognisance upon our gonfalon, “ clarum et venerabile nomen,” and a brave band, not of foreign condottieri, but almost to a man of children of our own soil, we went forward to do battle in a good cause, and with a hopeful spirit. We had—and with grateful hearts we acknowledge it-we had many a helping hand, and many a cheering voice. The press, ever generous in the cause of literature, ever discriminating to discover, and forward to encourage genius, sustained us through our early trials. From the commencement we advocated Conservatism in politics, and Protestantism in religion ; but in that true spirit of liberalism, in relation to the former, that acknowledges that to conserve our institutions we must repair them, as they decay or become partially unsuited to the changing exigencies of societyand in religion, we trust, in that spirit of charity and uprightness which will compromise no principle, while it wishes to wound no heart. As for literature, we avow ourselves to bave ever been, in that respect, thorough latitudinarians. We knew no creeds, no opinions, no party, no rank; but we hailed every one as a true brother or sister who could show the credentials of learning, or the nobility of genius.
And in such a spirit, and with such resources, have we marched forward through the years that are now passed. We were not insensible to what was before usan up-hill course for many a long year. We knew well how the failures of those who had preceded us in similar attempts were calculated to prejudice our own advance. We knew how the apathy of many, and the ominous foreboding of a few, often countervailed the efforts, and neutralised the support of troops of friends. We knew that time, and time alone, could enable us to live down prejudice, to silence opposition, to establish character, and to attain a fixed and recognised position. We knew all this. We knew the dangers that beset our path, not that we might tremble and turn aside, but that we might prepare ourselves to meet and overcome them. A Christian sage has well said "Qui omnia pericula timet, nil aggreditur ; qui nulla, facillimè perditur. Præstat tamen alacriter aggredientem sibi quædam pericula proponere, quam in re qualibet metuentem, nihil periculi in re ulla suscipienda velle subire et pati.” Onward, however, have we pressed, through good report and through evil report, till now we find ourselves on the eve of 1853, somewhat in the same state that any reasonably prosperous gentleman would find himself after the same interval of years; growing pursy and, it may be, a little consequential, as we are well to do in the world ; unchanged in any one characteristic, though not without those alterations in deportment and feature which is the inevitable work of time upon all material things, animate and inanimate; without which man would never grow old gracefully; without which he would be as great an anachronism, as if he were to dress in a pinafore or a round jacket.
And, while we have done thus well for ourselves, what account can we render of our doings for others ? The one fact supplies the sure answer to the other. Had we not discharged our trust faithfully, we could not have prospered. The public is the true judge, as it is the only patron of literature ; and the success of a periodical permanently before the world is the surest proof that it has served the public and won its favour.
There are many retrospects which bring us unmingled pleasure_favours and aid received, favours and aid conferred. We scarcely know which is the most gratifying sentiment. Many a fine spirit, many a capacious intellect discovered, encouraged, developed, supported, till it attained its true position. Many a helping hand have we had to aid in our struggles, and these, too, come with a pleasant memory upon us—s Meminisse laborum suave ei qui servatus est.” There are, however, other retrospects of a chequered character-retrospects which bring us pride, and yet sadden us. We think of many names which have attained high positions in literature, who, we are proud to feel, received their first impulses from The DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE. Some of those still live, whom, for obvious reasons, with the exception of Charles Lever, we forbear to particularise. Others, alas! bave passed away from this mortal scene, over whose meinory we linger with a saddened delight. The imaginative, enthusiastic, and learned FERRIS, skilled in strange lore : steeped in the mysteries of psychological speculations, in witchcraft and demonology, and the biography of ghosts. The wild, eccentric, Germanesque MANGAN, with the fervid genius of a true poet — and, alas! many of the aberrations of genius, too-one who possessed a copiousness of language, and a mastery over words, that he flung carelessly about, as if in disarray, till one looked and found them all harmonious and perfect, as one sees fortuitous atoms reduced to beauty and order by the magic of the kaleidoscope-one who has produced poems that may be placed beside those of Coleridge and of Shelley. One other there is, in. deed, who fills a large space in our memory, as he does in the apnals of his country—“ Primus inter pares "-pre-eminent amongst his fellows, WilLIAM ARCHER Butler. Every reader of the Dublin UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE will remember the many
fine papers contributed by him, on almost every subject-politics, divinity, classical literature, biography, and poetry. But they who had the privilege of knowing him in private life can alone form a just estimate of the beauty and the grandeur of a mind at once simple and sublime, at once gentle and impassioned — " that master-mind," to use the felicitous language of his biographer, “which could charm by the playfulness of its fancy, while it astonished by the vastness of its intellect." “ It was in the unreserved intercourse of friendly conversation,” continues the same authority, “ that the faculties of Professor Butler seemed to find their happiest exercise. His multifarious knowledge was communicated on the most trivial suggestion, yet without effort or display. The profound reflection, the subtle analysis, the most pungent wit, dropped from him in brilliant succession, while he appeared entirely unconscious that he was speaking more than household words. Not a few of his collegiate contemporaries still retain indelible impressions of the instruction and delight which they experienced in intercourse with him; not a few, as they deplore that intercourse for ever closed on-earth, will recall these touching words, “Ejus sermone ita tam cupidè fruebar, quasi jam divinarem, id quod evenit, illo extincto, fore unde discerem neminem.” Some years have passed since the grave closed over the poet, the orator, the scholar, the metaphysician-the laborious and pious parish minister, William Archer Butler; and we have learned to speak and think of him with less emotion, though it may be with increasing love. But time has recently ravished from us one who, from the first number of our periodical, almost up to the time of his decease, was a constant contributor to its pages. One of exten: sive reading, great acquirements, a capacious intellect, and a wide experience the Rev. Dr. SAMUEL O'SULLIVAN. It is but a few months since we have recorded our sense of his merits and worth; and though the tribute was a brief and a basty one, we feel that he needs no monument at our hands, for he has left the materials of an enduring one in the works of his genius, his industry, and his erudition ; and pious hands are even now preparing to build them up into a monument which will not speedily perish.
These, then, and many more, have passed away from us, by the unsparing ordinance of God's providence; but the same dispensation that has withdrawn them has raised up others to fill their places. The ranks of literature are never vacant. There is ever a young spirit panting to take the place of the veteran who dies at his post, or is invalided ; and so we have gone on extending our conquests from year to year, penetrating into new regions, and strengthening ourselves in those already occupied, till we find ourselves at length in the position of taking some state upon ourselves, as we are doing " at this present time of writing."
And now that brings us to “our Present."
To speak of the present, whether it regards one's self or one's neighbours, is always a difficult affair. To speak of the past is, as it were, to speak of another than yourself. You may, therefore, do so with little egotism. We listen with complacency to a withered old lady proclaiming the beauties and charms of her young days, and recounting her conquests. We smile at the gouty old gentleman, in his dressing.gown, who tells his feats of horsemanship and his success with the fair sex. But to dilate upon yourself as you are at the present always savours of vanity, and puts you in the same position as Narcissus when he was entranced by the contemplation of his own person in a fountain, or a modern petit-maitre admiring himself in a full-length mirror, a position which, to the by.standers, becomes, after a short time, rather wearisome. Still something we must say for ourselves. We are standing as it were before the curtain, one whom the public has favoured, though not spoiled, we hope; and it would be disrespectful towards that kind public, as well as affectation on our own part, were we to bow in silence and retire. Bear with us then, dear Public, for a little space, while we speak briefly, rather of what, with your kind co-operation, we have done and attained to, than of what we are.
Well, then, we have, at all events, demonstrated one fact in our natural history which, for many a long year, was believed or affected to be believed as more than doubtful. It was the habit of our worthy neighbours on the other side of the Channel, who, by the way, are not ordinarily given to joking, to assert, that their sister Ierne was born with a certain physical defect not very common to the sex--that, in fact-nay, now don't laugh, good public—that, in fact, she was dumb. And so it was common some twenty years ago, or even within that period, to speak, half in contempt, balf in pity, of “ The Silent Sister!" Who ever hears that epithet now? Who ever dares to use it ? It may, perhaps, be too much to arrogate to the DUBLIN UNIVERSITY Magazine the entire merit of taking away our reproach among men ; but assuredly it will be conceded, that we have done much towards removing the stigma. We have done this directly and indi. rectly, by giving a voice to our literature, an encouragement to our scholars, and a support to many a man of genius, during that most trying of all periods, the commencement of a professional career. We have, in truth, created a periodical literature in Ireland, and for Ireland ; and in so doing, we have had an ample reward. We have extended our publication far and wide. Our numbers have penetrated to the lofty range of the Himmalaya Mountains, and, crossing them, have entertained, and we hope instructed, in China ; we have been read in the Pacific Ocean, and have found our way to the utmost limits of civilisation in Australia and the interior of America; while in England and Scotland we enjoy a large circulation. In these our endeavours, we have been largely aided by the press of Great Britain, and to it we now desire to render our best and most grateful acknowledgments. While our views upon subjects on which great difference of opinion prevails, have been canvassed with a free spirit of criticism, which we neither deprecate nor dis. approve of, we heartily admit the fairness and good-feeling with which we have, on the whole, been treated. The British press is the most candid, the most enlightened, the most incorruptible, we firmly believe, in the world; we honour and admire the free-born spirit that animates it, and we feel that while it exists, freedom of speech and freedom of thought shall ever be secured to us. Long may this high and holy safeguard be ours. Long may popular opinion thus find its legitimate exponent and its legitimate guide; and when we fail to deserve its approval, we shall be ready to admit that we have failed in the great object of our existence, and shall no longer be worthy of popular support.
But while we aim at being cecumenical in our views, we admit that our principal object is to be national. National, not in a narrow sense of the term, but in that larger sense which endeavours to raise ourselves, our interests, and our institutions from the position of mere provincialism, to that of a component part of the greatest and the most extended empire that the sun ever shone upon. Our country has ever been the land of poesy and of song. It is but recently that one of her sons, the first of lyrists, has passed away from amongst men. It is, nevertheless, a fact, however strange, that till within recent times the poetic resources and the poetic mind of Irishmen were not brought forward as they should have been. We believe that we have aided in remedying this: we believe that we have done much to foster and encourage the efforts of many a child of song, and raised around us a body of bards who may yet do credit to our land, and not dishonour the country which produced a Goldsmith, a Wolfe, a Butler, and a Moore.
And such are we at this Present, dear Public. Our worst trials past, our greatest dangers overcome: we have weathered the storm, we have escaped the shoals and the syrtes, and are now safe in the haven. We can look around us with a thankful heart and an honest pride_estimating and sympathising in the struggles of others, and wishing them, too, God speed. And if, while we watch them anxiously as they work their toiling way, even as we did, we feel a complacent satisfaction, not that they are in peril, but that our perils are over :
“Suave mari magno turbantibus æquora ventis,