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The Spirit of the Nation/English Schools and Irish Pupils



Ballysassenagh, March 29, 1843.

I write, my dear Deb., in the greatest distress—
How great it must be you will easily guess,
When I tell you I'm just about bidding adieu
To poor Johnny and Jemmy. I'm sending the two
To England to school. Oh! Debby, my heart
Is ready to break, when I think I must part
My dear darling boys; but its all for their good,
And I'd go through a thousand times more, if I could,
To rear them genteely—for ev'ry sensation
Of mine is in favour of nice education.
Above all, 'tis the accent I'm anxious about;
Good accent's the main point beyond any doubt.
You remember last year how your dear little Kitty
Delighted us all here, her talk was so pretty.
When you asked her to sing about Margery Daw,
And she said with her sweet little frown, "Au mammau,"
"Don't ausk me, I pray, sure you know that I caunt."
Had she sung it, she couldn't have more pleased her aunt.
Yes! England's the place for an accent—it's there
One imbibes the pure sounds with the pure English air;
Besides, 'tis the place where a young man will learn
All his mere vulgar Irish attachments to spurn.
While he talks with a tone, he will act with one, too,
That will show he has little with Ireland to do.
Will be thoroughly Englified—shamed out of all
Those nonsensical notions the frize-coated call
Patriotic—will always evince a sang froid
That vastly contributes in my mind to awe
People into respect; one moves on so distingue,
In a path quite apart from the middle-class gangway.
I like a young man with an air supercilious,
Looking English, and aristocratic, and bilious—
It shows folk at once he has rank on his side,
When he looks down on all with a cool, conscious pride.
Now, Deb., I would ask you, what is there in all
Their language, and science, and stuff that they call
Education at home here that is not vulgarity
Compared with nice manners?—just think what disparity!
And yet, though fine accent and notions abound
In your Oxford and Cambridge, yet trust me, I found
Poor Mr. O'Rorke hard enough to bring round.
He's a good man, indeed—as a husband no better—
Whatever his wife's bent on doing—he'll let her;
Minds his lands and his cattle, his markets and fairs;
Talks of rises and falls, and the prices of shares;
In these vulgar affairs he displays some ability,
But not an idea has he of gentility.
Only think how he said th' other day, he'd regret
That his sons were aristocrats—soon was he met
With an answer, I fancy, he'll hardly forget:
"Are your sons like yourself," said I, "Mr. O'Rorke,
To be noted for knowledge of mutton, and pork?
Fie, for shame on your meanness—I'll not be a fool—
I must have my sons sent to England to school—
I'll have none of your brogue—they must speak with an accent,
If all Ballysassenagh were set at a rack rent.
See the Blacks and the Browns—sure my heart it annoys
To see those young fellows look down on our boys;
And why? I'm convinced it's for no better reason,
Than that they were at college in England last season."
Thus I argued and fought—above all did I use
Such a tone that I quite beat him out of his views;
So now I'm all tears, and confusion, and racket,
Preparing the boys for the very next packet.
This being the case, Deb., I'm sure you'll excuse
All mistakes in my hurry to tell you the news;
But whatever my feelings, my fuss, or my fidget,
I am always the self-same, affectionate,