Part of Stanley’s first Long Vacation (1835) was spent in a visit to Dublin, where he joined his father at a meeting of the British Association. Though unable, as he confesses, ‘to enter into the scientific business from my ignorance of the subject,’ he was keenly interested in seeing the eminent men who were assembled at the meeting, and in hearing the debates on social questions.His stay in Dublin was diversified by a visit to Glendalough and the Seven Churches, in company with his uncle Penrhyn and Mr. Lear.
‘Luggelaugh had been very beautiful, but Glendalough was perfect. You come down between woody hills on a narrow valley, with two lakes glittering in the sunset, closed at the end by the cliffs of Lugduff, and with finely-shaped hills and woody rocks jutting into it. At the entrance of the valley is the Round Tower, and three of the Seven Churches, small and in ruins, but the most interesting ruins I ever saw. The greatest trace of this former fame is preserved in the title of the Archbishop of Dublin, which is Dublin and Glendalough, as the latter was once the Episcopal See. The guide was, however, sufficient to drive away all sentiment. He began by shouting Moore’s poem on Glendalough at the top of his voice, and then went on with a profusion of legends, in one of which Fin McCoul, the Irish giant, cuts a hole in the rock with a sword forged by Vulcan and taken from the anvil by the great huntsman Ramrod (Nimrod), McCoul having previously been at school with the Prophet Jeremiah. He nearly broke my legs by trying to make them meet round a stone cross, which is necessary to secure a beautiful wife and a good fortune.’
He adds a string of similar stories, ending with a description of his
‘ascending shoeless with Mr. Lear along a narrow ledge — a mauvais pas on a small scale — and helped round the corner by an old woman surnamed Kathleen, who popped us into the hole (St. Kevin’s bed) just like a bathing-woman, saying all the time, “Don’t be fearful, my dear.” We drove on to sleep at Belleview, Mrs. Latouche’s place, but owing to the horse being knocked up, and the gradual expansion of miles from six to twelve, did not reach it till 9.30. We met with no sign in our nightly journey that we were travelling through a land of fire and blood, except that, at all houses where the driver knocked to ask the way, he had to say A friend “before the door was opened, and that we were repeatedly told “that there was no danger in the way.”‘
Prothero, Rowland E. The Life and Correspondence of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley: Late Dean of Westminster. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1884, vol. I, pp. 146-7.
The trip probably resulted in Lear’s illustrations for Moore’s “By That Lake, Whose Gloomy Shore,” from vol. 4 of his Irish Melodies.
Pingback: Edward Lear’s “Rich and rare were the gems she wore” | A Blog of Bosh