Glances at Great and Little Men
by Paladin
(Excerpt of pages 86-88)


One night I went to the Queen's Royal Theatre, in order, once and for all, to see a thoroughly Irish play--The Donagh. The theatre is an ugly, uncomfortable building, dirty and malodorous, and the audience was not unworthy of the theatre. The highest price for a seat, exclusive of the boxes, was three shillings. In due course, I discovered that the "Donagh," which gives its name to the piece, was an ancient and most sacred casket containing nothing in particular, but redolent of the blessing of St. Patrick (N.B., it plays hardly any part in the drama, though it gives its name to it. This, too, is a little Irish). The piece itself is racy of the soil. All the qualities, good and bad, which we associate with the Irish character are emphasized, but hardly, I imagine, exaggerated. The recklessness of gushing flattery in the form of "blarney;" the recklessness of life and limb in the form of eager quarrelsomeness; the fierce devotion to the whisky bottle; the superstitious reverence for the priesthood; the delight in dirt and the revelling in rags,--these were revealed in all their nakedness before an audience which could not contain its rapture. Many details connected with the performance had at least the charm of novelty. The deliberate washing, for example, of a "gossoon's" face--the "gossoon" was a young man of five- or six-and-twenty--by a young peasant woman with her saliva, with which she from time to time wetted a cloth, could hardly have been seen out of Ireland. The spectators showed no disgust; on the contrary, they were delighted. Then again, when the performers were called before the curtain, the villain was always vociferously hissed, and invariably returned the compliment by making faces at the audience. Of course, there were many patriotic allusions. For instance, Lanty, the whisky-drinking, shillelagh-brandishing hero, fairly brought down the house by roaring out; "Is there iver a counthry in the worrld where a gintleman imploys a thief as an agent except Oireland?" After this, it was comparatively tame to hear him say, "Love is the divil!" and to allude to the telephone in a piece the date of which, to judge from the costumes, is meant to be the beginning of the present century. The acting was but indifferent, except that of Lanty, who was "a rale broth of a bhoy" such as the Irish love. I ought to add that some of the scenery, especially a panorama of the Lake of Killarney, was really beautiful. Altogether, the thing was worth seeing and hearing once; but only an Irishman would care for it a second time.