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The Tithe-Proctor The Works of William Carleton, Volume Two   By: (1794-1869)

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By William Carleton


After the reader shall, have perused the annexed startling and extraordinary narrative, on which I have founded the tale of the Tithe Proctor, I am sure he will admit that there is very little left me to say in the shape of a preface. It is indeed rarely, that ever a document, at once so authentic and powerful, has been found prefixed to any work of modern Irish Fiction proceeding as it does, let me add, from the pen of a gentleman whose unassuming character and modesty are only surpassed by the distinction which his name has already gained in one of the most difficult but useful departments of our native literature.

I trust that there will be found nothing in the work which follows that is calculated to give any serious offence. Yet, when we look back upon the contentions, both political and polemical, by which this unhappy country in connection with tithe especially, has been so frequently and so bitterly distracted, we can hardly hope, that any writer, however anxious, nay studious, to avoid giving offence, can expect to treat such a subject without incurring animosity in some quarter. Be this as it may, I have only to say, on behalf of myself, that in composing the work I was influenced by nothing but a firm and honest determination to depict the disturbances arising from the tithe impost with a fair and impartial hand: and if any party shall feel hurt by observations which the necessity of rendering full justice to a subject so difficult have imposed upon me in the discharge of a public duty, I beg them to consider that such observations proceeded from no wish to offend existing prejudices, but are to be looked upon as arising inferentially from those stern and uncompromising claims of truth and justice, which equally disregard the prejudices of any and every party. After all, I am of opinion that the spirit in which the work is written will be found, whilst it correctly delineates the state and condition of the country during the fearful tumults and massacres of the Tithe Rebellion, to have left little, if anything, to be complained of in this respect.

In constructing narratives of this sort, it is to be understood that certain allowances are always made for small anachronisms that cannot be readily got over. The murder of the Bolands, for instance, occurred in the year 1808, and the massacre of Carrickshock, as it has been called, in 1832. It was consequently impossible for me to have availed myself of the annexed "Narrative" and brought in the "Massacre" in the same story, without bringing down the murder of the Bolands to a more recent date.

It may be objected that I have assumed, as the period of my story, one which was calculated to bring into light and action the worst feelings and the darkest criminals of my country. This, however, was not my fault. If they had not existed, I could not have painted them; and so long as my country is disgraced by great crimes, and her social state disorganized by men whoso hardened vices bring shame upon civilization itself, so long, I add, these crimes and such criminals shall never be veiled over by me. I endeavor to paint Ireland, sometimes as she was, but always as she is, in order that she may see many of those debasing circumstances which prevent her from being what she ought to be. In the meantime, I trust the reader will have an opportunity of perceiving that I have not in the Tithe Proctor , any more than in my other work, forgotten to show him that even in the most startling phases of Irish crime and tumult, I have by no means neglected to draw the warm, generous, and natural virtues of my countrymen, and to satisfy him that a very few guilty wretches are quite sufficient, however unjustly, to blacken and degrade a large district.

There is, however, a certain class of pseudo patriots in this country, who are of opinion that every writer, professing to depict our national character and manners, should make it a point of conscience to suppress all that is calculated "to lessen us in the eyes of the world," as they are pleased to term it, and only to give to the public the bright and favorable side... Continue reading book >>

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