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Going to Maynooth Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, The Works of William Carleton, Volume Three   By: (1794-1869)

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Young Denis O'Shaughnessy was old Denis's son; and old Denis, like many great men before him, was the son of his father and mother in particular, and a long line of respectable ancestors in general. He was, moreover, a great historian, a perplexing controversialist, deeply read in Dr. Gallagher and Pastorini, and equally profound in the history of Harry the Eighth, and Luther's partnership with the devil. Denis was a tall man, who, from his peculiar appearance, and the nature of his dress, a light drab colored frieze, was nicknamed the Walking Pigeon house; and truly, on seeing him at a distance, a man might naturally enough hit upon a worse comparison. He was quite straight, carried both his arms hanging by his sides, motionless and at their full length, like the pendulums of a clock that has ceased going. In his head, neck, and chest there was no muscular action visible; he walked, in fact, as if a milk pail were upon his crown, or as if a single nod of his would put the planets out of order. But the principal cause of the similarity lay in his roundness, which resembled that of a pump, running to a point, or the pigeon house aforesaid, which is still better.

Denis, though a large man, was but a small farmer, for he rented only eighteen acres of good land. His family, however, like himself, was large, consisting of thirteen children, among whom Denis junior stood pre eminent. Like old Denis, he was exceedingly long winded in argument, pedantic as the schoolmaster who taught him, and capable of taking a very comprehensive grasp of any tangible subject.

Young Denis's display of controversial talents was so remarkably precocious, that he controverted his father's statements upon all possible subjects, with a freedom from embarrassment which promised well for that most distinguished trait in a controversialist hardihood of countenance. This delighted old Denis to the finger ends.

"Dinny, if he's spared," he would say, "will be a credit to us all yet. The sorra one of him but's as manly as anything, and as longheaded as a four footed baste, so he is! nothing daunts or dashes him, or puts him to an amplush: but he'll look you in the face so stout an' cute, an' never redden or stumble, whether he's right or wrong, that it does one's heart good to see him. Then he has such a laning to it, you see, that the crathur 'ud ground an argument on anything, thin draw it out to a norration an' make it as clear as rock water, besides incensing you so well into the rason of the thing, that Father Finnerty himself 'ud hardly do it betther from the althar."

The highest object of an Irish peasant's ambition is to see his son a priest. Whenever a farmer happens to have a large family, he usually destines one of them for the church, if his circumstances are at all such as can enable him to afford the boy a proper education. This youth becomes the centre in which all the affections of the family meet. He is cherished, humored in all his caprices, indulged in his boyish predilections, and raised over the heads of his brothers, independently of all personal or relative merit in himself. The consequence is, that he gradually became self willed, proud, and arrogant, often to an offensive degree; but all this is frequently mixed up with a lofty bombast, and an under current of strong disguised affection, that render his early life remarkably ludicrous and amusing. Indeed, the pranks of pedantry, the pretensions to knowledge, and the humor with which it is mostly displayed, render these scions of divinity, in their intercourse with the people until the period of preparatory education is completed, the most interesting and comical class, perhaps, to be found in the kingdom. Of these learned priestlings young Denis was undoubtedly a first rate specimen. His father, a man of no education, was, nevertheless, as profound and unfathomable upon his favorite subjects as a philosopher; but this profundity raised him mightily in the opinion of the people, who admired him the more the less they understood him... Continue reading book >>

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