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ART. IV.-JOHN BANIM.
THE RETURN HOME. LONDON : OLD FRIENDS. LINES TO BANIM
BY THE LATE THOMAS HAYNES BAYLY. DUBLIN : MICHAEL BANIM'S DESCRIPTION OF JOHN'S APPEARANCE AND SUFFERINGS, WONDERFUL CHEERFULNESS
MIND: HEROIC COURAGE. KINDNESS OF IRISH FRIENDS. DAMON AND PYTHIAS PLAYED FOR BANIM'S BENEFIT AT HAWKINS' STREET THEATRE. ARRIVAL IN KILKENNY. TAKES POSSESSIOY OF WIND-GAP COTTAGE : LIFE IN THE COTTAGE : THE
SHANDEREDAN.". THE MAYOR OF WIND-GAP” DRAMATIZED, AND PLAYED FOR BANIM'S BENEFIT, IN KILKENNY, BY GARDINER'S COMPANY. LITERARY LABOR. QUARREL WITH MESSRS. GUNN AND CAMERON, PROPRIETORS OF “THE DUBLIN PENNY JOURNAL: BANIM'S INDIGNANT LETTER TO THEM. DISTINGUISHED VISITORS AT WIND-GAP COTTAGE. BANIM's EXTHUSIASM WHEN THE EARL OF MULGRAVE, THE LORD LIEUTENANT, VISITED KILKENNY : THE
SHANDEREDAN" DECORATED, AND BEARING THE INSCRIPTION, MULGRAVE FOR EVER. A PENSION GRANTED. DESCRIPTION OF A DAY WITI BANIM. “FATHER CONNELL” COMMENCED. VISIT FROM GERALD GRIFFIN, HIS LEITER TO MICHAEL BANIM. THE STAGE DARKENING ERE THE CURTAIN PALLS : THE TREE DYING FROM THE TOP.
In closing the Sixth Part of this Biography of John Banim, we left him, with his child and his sick wife, at Boulogne.
When Mrs. Banim was pronounced by her physician sufficiently recovered to bear the fatigue of travelling, the poor, broken pilgrim of health, commenced his homeward journey.
He rested some days in London, and the old familiar faces, the friends of earlier, and, amidst all their sorrows, brighter days, gathered around his sofa. Amongst these friends, the late Thomas Haynes Bayly was one of Banim's most attentive and constant visitors, and referring to this period in the life of the two men of genius, a writer in a former number of The IRISH QUARTERLY REVIEW observes :
"All through life Bayly was on terms of intimacy, or friendship, with most of the literary men of his time; and we find
letters addressed to him from Moore, Rogers, Theodore Hook, Crofton Croker, Galt, and others; but our countryman, John Banin, whose memory is, like that of all distinguished literary Irishmen--neglected, was his dearest friend. "The last months of Banim's life were dragged out in all the wretchedness of corporeal anguish, which deprived him of all mental energy. He was, at the period of his death, a young man, and bright and buoyant years of life were, in the course of nature, before him; but hard and early struggles had worn out the body, whilst the spirit was but beginning to burn with that bril
. liancy of which the latest gleamings were the brightest. He longed for life as only the dying man who feels the fire of genius within him can long; or as the youth whose flower of health is withering away, hopes for its re-blossoming-to him, indeed, feeling and knowing his own genius, having worked for bread, and having won it, and fame, life was doubly life ; and he must have known but too deeply, that thought of Schiller, which Bulwer Lytton has so beautifully translated “ Earth and Heaven which such joy to the living one gave
From his gaze darkened dimly !--and sadly and sighing The dying one shrunk from the Thought of the grave,
The World, oh! the World is so sweet to the Dying !"
It was after he had called to see his friend thus expiring that Bayly wrote the following lines : 1.
He spoke of health, of spirits freed I saw him on his couch of pain,
To take a noble aim ; And when I heard him speak,
of efforts that were sure to lead It was of Hope long nursid in vain,
To fortune and to fame!
Which youth could rarely boast;
They bear him to a genial land, But prematurely lost.
The cradle of the weak;
Oh! may it nerve the feeble hand,
And animate the cheek!
Oh! may he, when we meet again, Among the first spring flowers;
Those flattering hopes recall
, Despairing thoughts had passed away, And smiling say—"They were not rain, He spoke of future hours;
I've realised them all!"* London, even with friends like Bayly, could now offer nothing to the poor, broken, world-weary man, comparable to the quiet beauty of the humble resting place which his fancy had created, and which he hoped to discover annidst the green and leafy scenes of his native place. He quitted London for
See IRISH QUARTERLY REVIEW, Vol. III. No. 11, p. 696, Art. “ Fashion in Poetry and the Poets of Fashion,"
ever, and arrived in Dublin, at the close of the month of July, 1835.
" When," writes Michael Banim to us, “I hastened up to Dablin in August, 1835, to meet my brother, I could voi at once recognise the companion of my boyhood,--the young man, who, thirteen years before, had been in rude healtli, robust of body, and in full vigour, could scarcely be identified with the remnant I beheld.
I entered his room unannounced. I found him laid listlessly on a sofa, his useless limbs at full length--his open hand was on the arm of the couch, and his sunken cheek resting on his pillow. I looked down on a meagre, attenuated, almost whiteheaded old man. I spoke, my voice told him I was near. He started, and leaning on his elbow he looked eagerly into my face. His eyes were unlike what they had been, there was an appearance of elfort in liis fixed gaze, I had not seen before --I had been prepared to meet a change, but not prepared for such a change as was now apparent,-we were uot long, however, recognising each other, and renewing our old love.
When we thus met, John was, the wreck of his former self. He was unable to change his position; dependent altogether on extraneous help:— To remove from one place to another, he should clasp with both his hands the neck of the person aiding him, and sitting on the arms of his assistant, be carried wherever it was necessary to bear him.-He should be conveyed in this manner from the bed to the sofa, and froin the sofa elsewhere.— It required expertness more than strength to convey hin safely,—and when one unaccustomed to be his carrier, undertook the task, his apprehension of falling effected him strongly.--Ilis extremities hung usclessly from the trunk, and were always cold,-it appeared as if the vital warinth had no circulation through them; and when out of bed, his legs and thighis should be wrapped closely in rugs and furs, or the heat of the upper portion of the body would pass away through them.
No day passed without its terin of suffering,—for two, or at most three hours after retiring to bed, he might, with the assistance of opiates, forget hinseli in sleep,-lie was sure to awake, however, after a short repose, screaming loud from the torture he suffered in his limbs, and along his spine: the attack continuing until exhaustion followed, succeeded by, not
sleep, but a lethargy of some hours continuance.-This was not an occasional visitation, but was renewed night after night. It was not during the hours of darkness only, that he suffered-frequently the pains came on in the day timeafter he endured them all night long, if the weather lowered, or the atmosphere pressed heavily, they were present in the day : to say nothing of his decrepitude, few of his hours were free from agony.
The account of one day and night will answer for every succeeding day and night; the only difference, a greater or lesser degree of torture.-On one occasion, after his establishment at Kilkenny, I visited him about noon, and found him as at the same hour was often the case, languid and drooping after the night and morning-With a melancholy smile he said, as he took my hand. My dear Michael, I can be food for the worms any time I please. If I wish for death, I need only stay abed, and resign myself to what must inevitably follow-If I make no effort against my malady, all will be over in three or four days, I will not act thus, however,-1 will live as long as God pleases.--Bat come, come my honest fellow, let us talk of something cheerful,-cheerful conversation is a balm to me. The sun is banishing the clouds; we will have a ride together in the Shanderadan—and look about us, and talk of something else besides my crippled body.'
In the intervals between one attack of pain and another, and when recovered from the consequent exhaustion, the spirit of the enduring man seemed to rebound, as it were, from its prostration.
He cheered up,-his brow relaxed from its compression; his eye brightened ; and as a smile displaced the contortion of his lip,--and he enjoyed with a high relish, every thing from which he could extract a temporary gleam of pleasure, any thing that could induce a forgetfulness. The mere negative good; the absence of actual suffering, was an enjoyment, and he became even mirthful.
In the intermissions of extreme illness his conversation, if I do not judge partially, was very attractive.—His youthful sense of nature's beauties would return; and he would become enthusiastic as he pointed out favourite bits of landscape.He would indulge in pleasant badinage. He would discourse of books and theories, or he would sketch vividly the vanities of human character he had encountered through life.- It was a blessing to him he had the power to forget, and to make his
companions forget also, that he was enjoying no more than a short vacation.
In Dublin, as in London, old and new friends gathered around Banim : literary friends ; friends of the early days of artist life came to him, and the Viceroy, the Earl of Mulgrave, was most attentive and thoughtful in his endeavors to aid the poor, broken sufferer.
As a graceful means of increasing his resources, it was resolved that Banim's fellow countrymen should be invited to show their appreciation of his genius by attending a performance, for his benefit, which it was proposed should take place at the Theatre Royal, Hawkins -street, and accordingly the following announcement appeared in all the Dublin Newspapers, of Thursday, July 16th, 1835.
“ Theatre Royal.--Under the immediate patronage of llis Excellency the Lord Lieutenant. Mr. John Banim, the author of Damon and Pythias,' Tales by the O'Hara Family, and several other National Tales and Dramas, being now in Dublin, his friends deem this a fitting opportunity to call upon his fellow-countrymen to testify the respect and admiration in which they hold his talents. The Theatre will open for this purpose on Tuesday evening, 21st July, when will be performed for his benefit, the Sergeant's Wife, dramatised by Mr. Banim from one of his own Tales, and the Sister of Charity, also written by him. There will be a Comic Interlude, with a variety of other Entertainments; the particulars in the bills of the day. Tickets to be had at all the Newspaper Offices; of Mr. G. R. Mulvany, Secretary to the Committee, 24, Upper Sackville-street; and of Mr. Eyre, at the Box-office, where places may be secured.”
The entire press supported this attempt to assist our sufferer, and the tone of all their appeals was, as in the following, from The Morning Register, of Friday, July 17th, 1835, the day following that in which the benefit was first advertised.
" MR. BANIM. It does not surprise, but it affords us, nevertheless, infinite gratis fication to find, that even already there is a stir, and a great one, for our suffering, but, thank God! not forlorn countryman. High and worthy names, in some number, were put upon the box sheet yesterday. The press, of all colours, lends its willing and creditable aid. We shall, then, have a bumper ; but let it be a bumper. Posterity will weave garlands for the grave of John Banim, and while they pay the merited tribute to his exalted genius, let there be in