Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1832/Blarney Castle

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1832-45-Blarney Castle, Co. Cork.png


Artist: W. H. Bartlett - Engraved by: T. Dixon


"A local habitation and a name."

Although Mr. Crofton Croker has devoted no less than eighteen quarto pages of research to the history of Blarney Castle, and has minutely told us how its Lord (Clancarty) lost his property, how his ring was fished up, and where his plate may be found,—he has nevertheless left the precise meaning of the word Blarney unexplained.—Those who are curious on the subject of its extended use, may consult Salt's Abyssinia. I shall only attempt, by illustration, to shew the accordance of what in England has long been termed "a French compliment," with our notion of Irish blarney: as it is impossible better to illustrate Blarney Castle, than by compositions which embody its very spirit.

Voltaire's Impromptu to a Lady, who wished him yet another eighty years of life:

Lady, it is a selfish boon,
    The life your prayer would give;
We're fain to keep what is our own,
    We wish our slaves to live.

Marmontel’s Impromptu to Madame de Stael, on his giving her a pen which she had dropt:

Love dropt this feather at your feet;
    What time, his wanderings o'er—
He trusted you to clip his wings,
    And wished to rove no more.

Marie Antoinette, finding a lady of her court writing to M. le President Hainault, added a few lines with her own hand, which called forth the following:

Who traced these words, where loveliness
Has stamped its own divine impress?—
    Dare I imagine who?
It were ungrateful not to guess;
    Too daring, if I do.

Shakspeare showed his usual judgment in putting the well-known exclamation, "What's in a name," into the mouth of a young lady in love, who may very well be supposed not to know what she was talking about: and if a castle is to have such a name, it must be content to abide by its associations. The tea-table was the last resource of these little attentions; but the "bubbling urn's" dismissal has carried with it that once-common flattery of "Pray, Miss, look in the cup, and then it won't want sugar." Alas! our grandmothers were better off than we are. When an art reaches its perfection, it must decline; and certainly the French carried "the delicate science" of blarney to its perfection.

To quote two instances: Madame Helvetius reproached Fontenelle, that he passed her without even looking at her, by saying, "Comment, Monsieur, peux tu me passer sans me regarder?" "Si je vous avals regardé, je n'aurois pu passer," was the gallant reply.

Madame de Stael asked Talleyrand, (while they were engaged in a game then much in vogue, which supposed that out of two in a sinking boat you were to save one,) which he would save, Madame de R—, or her. There was not a little jealousy between the ladies; still Talleyrand named Madame de R—; but instantly smoothed matters by saying to Madame de Stael, "Ah, Madame, l'assistance est ce qu'on n'osoit vous offrir." Such was the ingenious extrication of the diplomatist.

A rich strain of flattery pervaded our elder poets. A lover bids his lady unveil in the following imagery:

"As some fair tulip, by a storm opprest,
Shrinks up, and folds its silken arms to rest,
Hears from within the wind sing round its head;
So, shrouded up, your beauty disappears.
Unveil, my love, and lay aside your fears."

Again, a young sea captain entreats his fair incognita to tell her name, that he

"may call upon it in a storm,
And save some ship from perishing;"

Or, Carew's "painted words" to his mistress, beginning—

"Ask me no more where June bestows,
When June is past the fading;
For in your beauties' orient deep
Those flowers as in their causes sleep."

Or, take the immortal wreath the dramatist offered his mistress:

"I sent thee late a rosy wreath;
    Not so much honouring thee,
As giving it a hope that there
    It could not withered be.

But thou thereon didst only breathe,
    And sent it back to me,
Since when, it grows, and smells, I swear,
    Not of itself, but thee."

One more of Carew's, on the sight of a gentlewoman's face in the water:

"Stand still, you floods; do not efface
    The image which you bear,
So votaries from every place
    Shall altars to you rear."

Enough of illustrations of "the subtle art," which has given the Castle its name: still I must add a charade of Fox's, addressed to the Duchess of Devonshire—

"Myself is my first, in a very short word,
And I am the second, and you are my third;"

(the word is idol.) I will conclude with the latest specimen of the kind I have seen. It is extracted from the album of a young lady:

"Miss, in your nose an epigram's discerned—
‘Tis pretty, short, and elegantly turned."