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a coffin for their mother; and the Provost, struck by their forlorn appearance, asked why their father had not come, who would have been better able to carry it? We buried our father yesterday, Sir,' was the reply."

Mr. Ritchie is not a man to speak on any subject without evincing strong proofs of rapid observation, and habits of earnest and independent reflection. Hear him in the account he gives of Belfast.


"Belfast is reckoned the third town in Ireland; but, in a moral point of view, it is the first. Dublin and Cork are great cities, but they are strictly Irish cities while Belfast, if transported, with its population, to England, would be reckoned a credit to the country. Its intellectual character I consider decidedly higher than that of an English manufacturing town of the same importance; while its buildings, if they do not pretend to the exhibition of taste, are at least, to outward appearance, the abodes of ease and wealth.

"The streets, generally speaking, are wide and well-aired; and the houses by which they are lined, clean and respectable, although built of unstuccoed brick, as plain as a band-box. The suburbs, inhabited by 'the hewers of wood and drawers of water' to the easier classes, have nothing of that filth and misery which are almost an unfailing characteristic of an Irish town. Every thing in and around Belfast proclaims that it is the abiding place of a shrewd and intelligent population, devoted to worldly gain, and far from being unsuccessful in its pursuits.


This, of course, is a general picture; for a town which has more than doubled its numbers three times within the last seventy years, must draw constant supplies of population from the country; and to correct the habitual imprudence and want of neatness observable in the Irish peasant, must be a work of time. A considerable number of the masters, however, now provide their workmen with lodgings; and some of these establishments are clean and wholesome, and extremely neat.


It need hardly be said that the peasantry are not improved in morals by their transplantation from comparative solitude into a crowd; but it is agreeable to know that a steadily progressing improvement in this particular is now going on. One of the surest tests of the extent of this improvement is the flourishing state of the Savings Bank. The gentleman who conducts the establishment informed me, that he could trace clearly, by his books, a gradual yet rapid amelioration in the character of the people, and more especially in that of the females.


In the midst of all their business, the upper classes of Belfast have time to quarrel with each other as fiercely-but without the shillelagh -as if they were at Donnybrook Fair. But what they quarrel about I cannot tell. To say that it is religion, at least the Christian religion, would be a manifest absurdity; and yet it somehow or other happens, that the belligerents always belong to a different communion. No analogy taken from the position of the Church and the Dissenters in England can give the faintest idea of the motives of social warfare in Ireland. Religion and politics, no doubt, are the foundation; but, as in chemistry, two substances may produce a third totally different in its properties from both, so religion and politics are the parents of an Irish something, which is

altogether destitute both of piety and common sense. This something is only known in its effects-which are a monomania. When the morbid chord is touched, there is no pitch of insanity too wild, no depth of idiocy too humilitating, for the unhappy patient. I have frequently spoken with men in this condition, who were otherwise shrewd and intelligent, bu whose conversation filled me at once with shame and compassion.

"In Belfast such dissensions are nearly confined to the upper classes, or a small minority of the population; and the parties being nearly balanced in numbers, the contest is fiercer. As for the lower classes, Catholic and Protestant are mingled in the same manufactory, and no difference is observable; although an intelligent and accomplished Protestant gentleman told me he would prefer Catholic workmen. When the people get drunk they, of course, quarrel and fight as usual; and on these occasions religion is sometimes made use of as a party word."

The following are striking facts, and illustrative of much that is Irish.

"The lower classes are so bigoted to their customs, that the goods requisite for one part of the country are unsaleable in another. For instance, there are no white-handled knives to be seen south of a line drawn from Belfast to Coleraine; while to the north of that line there are none with black handles. Throughout the country, the knife which shows the iron at the end of its handle is preferred, the other not being sufficiently strong. The real Irish knife, made on purpose for Ireland, is that awkward-looking machine, with a blade at either end. For other classes of society the goods must be showy and cheap. It matters not for the quality, for whatever may be the difference in this respect between any two articles, a difference of five per cent. in the price will determine the purchase. I saw an order to an immense amount for scissors, at the rate of sixpence half-penny per dozen, the blades of which in consequence of their not being tempered alike, would be useless in a week. Vast quantities of imitation silver, as might be expected, are sold in Ireland; and I heard of a gentleman giving twelve pounds for an article which in genuine silver would have only cost twenty pounds."

Another of the Annuals, viz., " the Book of Gems," may be instanced also, which although following out a good idea, and completing a combined series of volumes-the former of them having obtained a deserved celebrity-as a considerable change from the original design of such works. It has certainly never been a failure; and although Mr. S. C. Hall, by making the "Modern Poets and Artists of Great Britain" his present subject, encountered a difficult and delicate task, yet he has done his work well. His biographical sketches and his criticisms are written in a generous spirit, and for the most part are judicious and satisfactory. Still his opinions are but those of one man on points where very frequently there will be great diversity of sentiment. He has, for instance, honoured several names with a notice that, according to our judgment, ought not to have been brought into his general company, while others have been passed over in silence who deserved a place in his selection.

We come now to an example where the departure from the general manner of filling the Annuals, appears to us to be a decided achievement, that promises to be carried out in future to great excellence; we allude to "The Christmas Library." This beautiful little volume is not only an addition to the family, but being the production of a highly-gifted and cultured mind presents to the reader an instance where the effusions are both beautiful and excellent, and where the genius and character of that mind may be studied at length and on a great number of interesting topics. In this view "The Christmas Library" possesses special claims to extensive patronage.

The present volume is the first of an intended series by the fair writer. The young are the persons to whom it is specially addressed, but the middle-aged and the old will with great profit resort to it also. Not only is it written by one pen, but it is devoted to one range of subjects, viz., " Birds and flowers, and other country things," Every succeeding year a new and different class of themes is to be adopted.

In the Preface we are told that the poems have been written literally while the authoress dwelt amid the objects described; and, indeed, they have all the truth and freshness of reality as pictured by her. She enjoys an extraordinary knack at making the commonest things and creatures the theme of song; and brings with remarkable ease and force the loftiest and most touching moral lessons to rest upon simple facts; while she never fails to rise with the occasion, and to deal in bursts of noble sentiments, that though happily introduced, come quite unexpectedly upon the reader. In short, while her pieces are exquisitely beautiful as pastoral poems, a whole chapter of precious doctrines and truths is inculcated by them. Thus a plant is sometimes made to introduce a tale of superstition. The "Hedgehog," for instance, affords an opportunity for the description of its harmless habits, and the wickedness of cruelty to dumb animals. Touches of natural history come aptly in; and when there is propriety for it, little prose notices are given.

It is delightful to hear, for example, how Mary Howitt can make the "Falcon" bring up a story of feudal times, and the pastimes of the Barons of old, and how she thereby passes on to a comparison of past and present times. The " Poor Man's Garden" furnishes a subject that is manifestly a favourite with the writer, and one which affords an apt occasion for the display of her peculiar feelings and modes of reflection. The garden of the "Poor Man" in fact, like the sofa to Cowper, gives a scope to Mary where endless distinctions and meditations might be originated; and some of those which she has here marked are as instructive and profound as they are striking. She tells how fondly those in humble circumstances regard some common flower in their little gardens, and how indiffe

rent the great ones of the earth are to the rarest plants which have cost them gold; and hence she finds a theme of gratulation to the poor, inasmuch as the distribution of good and evil may thus be shown to be far more exactly balanced than the discontented allow. We quote two examples, the first having "The Wolf" for its subject, the other "Butter-cups and Daisies."

"Think of the lamb in the fields of May,
Cropping the dewy flowers for play;
Think of the sunshine, warm and clear;
Of the bending corn in golden ear;
Of little children singing low
Through flowery meadows as they go;
Of cooing doves, and the hum of bees,
'Mong the lime trees' yellow raciness;
Of the pebbly waters gliding by,
Of the woodbird's peaceful sylvan cry;
Then turn thy thoughts to a land of snow
Where the cutting icy wind doth blow-
A dreary land of mountains cold

With ice-crags splintered, hoar and old,
Jagged with woods of storm-beat pines.
Where a cold moon gleams, a cold sun shines!
And all through this dismal land we'll go
In a dog-drawn sledge o'er the frozen snow,
On either hand the ice-rocks frore,
And a waste of trackless snow before!
Where are the men to guide us on?
Men in these deserts there are none.
Men come not here unless to track
The ermine white or marten black.
Here we must speed alone.-But hark!
What sound was that? The wild wolf's bark!
The terrible wolf!-Is he a-nigh,

With his gaunt lean frame, and bloodshot eye?
Yes! across the snow I saw the track
Where they have sped on, a hungry pack;
And see how the eager dogs rush on,

For they scent the track where the wolf has gone.
And beast and men are alike afraid

Of that cruelest creature that e'er was made!
Oh, the horrible wolves! methinks I hear
The sound of their barking drawing near;
Down from their dismal caves they drive,
And leave behind them nought alive :
Down from their caves they come by day,
Savage as mad dogs for their prey;

Down on the tracks where the hunters roam,
Down to the peasant's hut they come.
The peasant is waked from his pine-branch bed

By the direst, fiercest sound of dread;
A snuffing scent, a scratching sound,
Like a dog that rendeth up the ground;
Up from his bed he springs in fear,
For he knows that the cruel wolf is near.
A moment's pause-a moment more-
And he hears them snuffing 'neath his door.
Beneath his door he sees them mining,
Snuffing, snarling, scratching, whining,
Horrible sight! no more he sees,
With terror his very senses freeze ;-
Horrible sounds! he hears no more,
The wild wolves bound across his floor,
And the next moment lap his gore;
And ere the day come o'er the hill,
The wolves are gone, the place is still,
And to none that dreadful death is known,
Save to some ermine hunter lone,
Who in that death foresees his own!

“Or think thee now of a battle-field,
Where lie the wounded with the killed;
Hundreds of mangled men they lie:
A horrible mass of agony!

The night comes down-and in they bound,
The ravening wolves from the mountains round.
All day long have they come from far,
Snuffing that bloody field of war;

But the rolling drum and the trumpet's bray,
And the strife of men through the livelong day,
For a while kept the prowling wolves away;
But now when the roaring tumults cease,
In that dreadful hush which is not peace,
The wolves rush in to have their will,
And to lap of living blood their fill.
Stark and stiff the dead men lie,

But the living-Oh, woe to hear their cry,
When they feel the teeth of those cruel foes,
And hear them lap up the blood that flows!
Oh, shame that ever it hath been said,
That bloody war is a glorious trade,
And that soldiers die upon honour's bed!
Let us hence, let us hence, for horrible war
Than the merciless wolf is more merciless far."

Our next extract is still more simple and original.

"Buttercups and daisies-
Oh, the pretty flowers!
Coming ere the spring time,
To tell of sunny hours.

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