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INTRODUCTORY TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF OUR TWENTY. FIRST YEAR.
It happens to every man, we believe, some time or other in the progress of life, to pause, as it were, upon his journey—to take breath-to look around him—to survey the road whereon he has been travelling, as far back as its tortuosities or inequalities will permit him—to look forward with an anxious, curious speculation, as far as it may be given to his short, dim vision to do so. Time, that measures out his periods by oft-recurring seasons, admonishes the wise and the self-communing spirit to this survey with each recurring year. But, at larger intervals, and upon some more eventful turning-point of buman life, every one stands still, as though on an eminence, to gaze aronnd him. Then, indeed, does the past spread out before him. He ponders with a pleasurable sadness over young days, young hopes, young friends ; be a ks of his own soul to what profit they have been spent, to what extent they have been realised; how many of those friends bave been ravished from him, or fallen away, in the weary, constant life-travel; how many of them still are by his side, faithful and enduring to the end. And, then, gaining strength and knowledge from past trials and past experience, he will shape his course hopefully for the future, and press firmly forward, as one who has essayed his own strength, and relies upon it.
One of those long-recurring intervals of time—a cycle of no less than twenty years_has now been accomplished in the existence of our periodical; and as we sit musingly in the decline of the old year, and reflect, that with the first morning of the new one we shall enter upon a new period, it occurred to us that it would not be unbecoming towards ourselves, or unacceptable to those for whom we have thus lived and laboured, that we, too, should pause a few moments, and detain them with us, while we take a survey, from the eminence upon which we stand, of the past, the present, and the future.
And, first, of our Past.
Twenty years! What a vast portion of the life of man, and even no inconsiderable space in the existence of a nation. Now-a-days, time, whose true philosophic measure is what it can achieve, bas enlarged the limits of hu. man existence. A year is expanded into seven of those which our forefathers lived. The locomotion of body, the progress of knowledge, the advancement in civilisation, the intercommunion of thought take place with a ra.
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pidity that, while it almost annihilates space and infinitely accelerates the operations of mankind, is practically bringing us back to that pristine longevity, when man counted “the days of the years of his life" by centuries. Let us, then, look back upon the twenty eventful years which have just passed away, and render, as justly as human infirmity will enable us to do, an account of the use which we have made of them.
We remember, as it were but yesterday, the circumstances under which “THE DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE" was projected, and the day upon which it first saw the light. Ireland possessed then, as indeed we believe it has ever possessed, men eminent for learning in every department of knowledge. Nevertheless, she had no national literature, few names which made themselves known through the world, and of those few the majority were so known through the medium of English or foreign publications. What we wanted was not genius, or wit, or learning, but we wanted that which should collect, intensify, and expound it. We wanted the bond which would bind the scattered rods in a strong fasciculus together—the lens that would catch the diverging rays, and make them confluent in a point of heat and irradiation. We wanted an exponent of our own thoughts, our own aspirations, our own tastes and feelings, in politics, in science, in belles lettres, in poetry, in music. We wanted, in a word, A NATIVE PERIODICAL.
This was no new feeling that had come upon the Irish mind. The craving was old, and had made many an effort to satisfy itself. More than one Irish periodical had arisen, but not one had struggled through its infancy. It would not now be over-profitable to consider the causes of their failure, though, at the period we speak of, they were anxiously investigated by the projectors of our MAGAZINE, that they might be remedied and avoided. Some were too green, in every sense of the word—too provincial in their feelings, too narrow in their views; others were too limited in their objects; others too local in their influ. ences and circulation. Yet were there spirits amongst us-adventurous, as all then admitted, and sagacious and far-seeing, as all will now confess—who felt that while England had her periodical literature, and Scotland her “Blackwood” and her “ Edinburgh Review," Ireland might reasonably expect, under judicious management, to sustain one periodical.
The period, too, was not unfavourable for a new project. The world—above all, our British world—had got a jog or two that pulled many of her old notions about her ears. In politics the democratic element was increasing in power, and the people had just attained their new charter, " the Reform Act.” The public mind was, in consequence, agitated by hope and fear, and all the intense anxiety which is inseparable from a bold and untried measure. Not long previously, the first of the world's Titanian causeways was laid, and British science and British art had the honour of devising and executing it—we allude to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. And men looked with wonder, and dreamed that they might live to see the day-ay, and they have lived to see it—when these ponderous and panting giant-coursers would yet outstrip the wing of the pigeon in fleetness, and the foot of the patient camel across the trackless desert.
And so we started upon our course, taking a hint from what we saw around us, determined to enlarge the intellectual franchise of our own people, and to facili
tate and accelerate their intellectual progress. With a noble cognisance upon our gonfalon, “clarum et venerabile nomen,” and a brave band, not of foreign condottieri, but almost to a man of children of our own soil, we went forward to do battle in a good cause, and with a hopeful spirit. We had—and with grateful hearts we acknowledge it-we had many a helping hand, and many a cheering voice. The press, ever generous in the cause of literature, ever discriminating to discover, and forward to encourage genius, sustained us through our early trials. From the commencement we advocated Conservatism in politics, and Protestantism in religion ; but in that true spirit of liberalism, in relation to the former, that acknowledges that to conserve our institutions we must repair them, as they decay or become partially unsuited to the changing exigencies of societyand in religion, we trust, in that spirit of charity and uprightness which will compromise no principle, while it wishes to wound no heart. As for literature, we avow ourselves to have ever been, in that respect, thorough latitudinarians. We knew no creeds, no opinions, no party, no rank; but we hailed every one as a true brother or sister who could show the credentials of learning, or the nobility of genius.
And in such a spirit, and with such resources, have we marched forward through the years that are now passed. We were not insensible to what was before usan up-hill course for many a long year. We knew well how the failures of those who had preceded us in similar attempts were calculated to prejudice our own advance. We knew how the apathy of many, and the ominous foreboding of a few, often countervailed the efforts, and neutralised the support of troops of friends. We knew that time, and time alone, could enable us to live down préjudice, to silence opposition, to establish character, and to attain a fixed and recognised position. We knew all this. We knew the dangers that beset our path, not that we might tremble and turn aside, but that we might prepare ourselves to meet and overcome them. A Christian sage has well said—“Qui omnia pericula timet, nil aggreditur ; qui nulla, facillimè perditur. Præstat tamen alacriter aggredientem sibi quædam pericula proponere, quam in re qualibet metuentem, nihil periculi in re ulla suscipienda velle subire et pati.” Onward, however, have we pressed, through good report and through evil report, till now we find ourselves on the eve of 1853, somewhat in the same state that any reasonably prosperous gentleman would find himself after the same interval of years; growing pursy and, it may be, a little consequential, as we are well to do in the world; unchanged in any one characteristic, though not without those alterations in deportment and feature which is the inevitable work of time upon all material things, animate and inanimate; without which man would never grow old gracefully; without which he would be as great an anachronism, as if he were to dress in a pinafore or a round jacket.
And, while we have done thus well for ourselves, what account can we render of our doings for others ? The one fact supplies the sure answer to the other. Had we not discharged our trust faithfully, we could not have prospered. The public is the true judge, as it is the only patron of literature ; and the success of a periodical permanently before the world is the surest proof that it has served the public and won its favour.
There are many retrospects which bring us unmingled pleasure-favours and aid received, favours and aid conferred. We scarcely know which is the most gratifying sentiment. Many a fine spirit, many a capacious intellect discovered, encouraged, developed, supported, till it attained its true position. Many a helping hand have we had to aid in our struggles, and these, too, come with a pleasant memory upon us—“Meminisse laborum suave ei qui servatus est." There are, however, other retrospects of a chequered character-retrospects which bring us pride, and yet sadden us. We think of many names which have attained high positions in literature, who, we are proud to feel, received their first impulses from The DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE. Some of those still live, whom, for obvious reasons, with the exception of Charles Lever, we forbear to particularise. Others, alas! have passed away from this mortal scene, over whose memory we linger with a saddened delight.
The imaginative, enthusiastic, and learned Ferris, skilled in strange lore: steeped in the mysteries of psychological speculations, in witchcraft and demonology, and the biography of ghosts. The wild, eccentric, Germanesque MANGAN, with the fervid genius of a true poet - and, alas! many of the aberrations of genius, too_one who possessed a copiousness of language, and a mastery over words, that he flung carelessly about, as if in disarray, till one looked and found them all harmonious and perfect, as one sees fortuitous atoms reduced to beauty and order by the magic of the kaleidoscope-one who has produced poems that may be placed beside those of Coleridge and of Shelley. One other there is, indeed, who fills a large space in our memory, as he does in the annals of his country_“Primus inter pares"-pre-eminent amongst his fellows, WILLIAM ARCHER BUTLER. Every reader of the DUBLIN UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE will remember the many fine papers contributed by him, on almost every subject-politics, divinity, classical literature, biography, and poetry. But they who had the privilege of knowing him in private life can alone form a just estimate of the beauty and the grandeur of a mind at once simple and sublime, at once gentle and impassioned — “that master-mind,” to use the felicitous language of his biographer, “which could charm by the playfulness of its fancy, while it astonished by the vastness of its intellect.” “It was in the unreserved intercourse of friendly conversation,” continues the same authority, “that the faculties of Professor But, ler seemed to find their happiest exercise. His multifarious knowledge was communicated on the most trivial suggestion, yet without effort or display. The profound reflection, the subtle analysis, the most pungent wit, dropped from him in brilliant succession, while he appeared entirely unconscious that he was speaking more than household words. Not a few of his collegiate contempora. ries still retain indelible impressions of the instruction and delight which they experienced in intercourse with him; not a few, as they deplore that intercourse for ever closed on earth, will recall these touching words, “Ejus sermone ita tam cupidè fruebar, quasi jam divinarem, id quod evenit, illo extincto, fore unde discerem neminem." Some years have passed since the grave closed over the poet, the orator, the scholar, the metaphysician—the laborious and pious parish minister, William Archer Butler ; and we have learned to speak and think of him with less emotion, though it may be with increasing love. But time has recently