Making a Name; or, Mortifications and Misfortunes
Introductory Note: Louisa H. Sheridan, the editor of The Comic Offering, or Ladies’ Melange of Literary Mirth, pokes fun at an ambitious Irish family trying to “make a name” for themselves and attain a higher standing in London society. Mr. and Mrs. O’Casey believe that if they just learn to act like the English elite, then they may become part of a more privileged social circle. Mr. and Mrs. O’Casey’s orphaned niece, Fanny, takes the role of narrator, and describes with shame the elaborate means her family uses to try to fit in to London high society.
Through her depiction of ethnic stereotypes, Sheridan’s story reveals the bigotry against the Irish that was common in her day, and that would continue throughout the nineteenth century. Her story draws upon the tradition of absentee landlords in Ireland, who relied on the wealth generated by Irish land holdings to finance their lives in England and abroad. The O’Caseys are a comic parody of such Irish landholders.
Advisory: This story contains language that is insensitive towards race, ethnicity and disability.
“I THINK it is an excellent scheme, provided we could make a name,” said my aunt.
‘Yes, yes, provided we could just make a name,” returned my uncle.
“Certainly, papa, if we could only make a name,” was said in chorus by my four cousins.
We were a family of project-formers and castle-builders; and whenever any member of the family group suggested an easy path to fame, fashion, or fortune, it was always eagerly swallowed by the others as the very best scheme on earth, and their rejoinder was always—“That’s elegant, if we could but make a name.”
Need I, after this, say that we were all “real Irish.”
The present discussion had arisen in consequence of the disturbed state of our county, in which we were by no means popular. My uncle had tried to render himself so; or, as he termed it, “to make a name as a pathriot,” some years before; and his voice had been the loudest in opposition at county meetings, elections, &c., bawling for the rights of the much-injured, and greatly-suffering, and all-enduring Irish peasantry: but finding that the people whose cause he vindicated did not give to a protestant advocate credit for sincerity, while on the other hand the aristocracy looked coldly on the “man of nothing” who opposed them, he changed his system altogether, and determined to make a name as an “Orangeman” on the other side of the question.
My aunt, too, had her share of little troubles and disappointments. For some years after her marriage, she had endeavoured to make a ‘name for charity,’ and had visited the neighbouring poor, giving them advice and assistance,—but not in equal quantities, I suspect; for their gratitude was by no means so rapid and luxuriant in its growth as she expected from the good seed she planted; and in disgust she determined to direct her future efforts towards ‘making her name’ as a good manager and economist.
There is nothing on earth which the lower order of Irish dislike so much as “good management,” which they contemptuously term “mainess.” Instead of being congratulated on the grand show she made at a trifling expense, my aunt used to encounter sneers and clever Irish jokes, not unmixed with soubriquets of “main skinflint” and “ould swaddlin’ nigger:” they had likewise threatened “to make the old farrum too hot to hould her;” and whenever there was a “rising in the county,” they always neutralized her economy by breaking her windows, destroying her poultry, &c. &c.1“Soubriquet” is French for “nickname”. The discussion of this evening was relative to our future residence; and my uncle had proposed England, to which the family had made the usual rejoinder. I never was honored by being asked my opinion, as I had ever been (with my uncle Lawrence) quite averse to the name-making system; but as I saw it was in vain to contend against the wishes of those with whom my orphan state obliged me to reside, I never ventured into an argument on these matters.
We were obliged to let the farm at a very low rent, on account of the crops being all destroyed; and as it was the only means my uncle had of supporting his family, he wished to live in England in what he termed “a quiet genteel way,” which means among us Irish, only 50 per cent. beyond the actual income. My aunt insisted on taking a Dublin servant with her, who knew something of style, to make a name for elegance in our future domicile: but my uncle stoutly objected to the expense, and was only induced to agree by my aunt introducing a “handy lad,” (about fifty-nine) who had offered to accompany her without wages, merely to see England; so we hired this bargain, without a character, and he really happened to be very clever, and had an appearance of having attended families of better style than our own. He was a strange-looking being, lame and deformed, with fire-coloured hair, while his complexion was dark mahogany; and when he laughed he displayed teeth which, from their whiteness, were quite ghastly beside his frog-like skin. With the singular acuteness of his clever nation, he was au fait with all our characters in a few hours; and while fooling my uncle and aunt “to the top of their bent,” he really seemed to guess my thoughts and wishes as soon as they were formed.2“Au fait” is a French term meaning to be up to the mark or in this case familiar with.
When we were packing and directing the trunks on the morning of our departure, my aunt reading one of the cards which I had written, exclaimed—“Well! O’Casey, dear, isn’t ours an ugly name?—Will I make the child Frenchify it into ‘Cassè,’ which sounds something like Napoleon’s man that wrote the journal?”
“To be sure, an’ you may,” returned my uncle; “write ‘P. Cassè, Esq.’ on some cards, Fanny.”
When I had written them, my uncle, with the little nails ready, and the poker to drive them (for among us Irish nothing does its own work—the poker acts ‘hammer,’ and the end of the bellows acts ‘poker’), my aunt stopped him once more, saying, “Ah! then, O’Casey, if we call ourselves a French name, we can only trace our family to the French revolution; but if we omit the ‘O,’ won’t we be able to say we’re related to the Caseys of Bally-knock-na-kil-Casey, and the Caseys of Castle-bally-na-Shamus-more-Casey, and the great Caseys of Clon-carrick-lough-Casey, near New-town-mount-Casey, county Kildare, and they are descended from O’Connor-M‘Columb-kil-Casey, king of Munster, you know.”
“Success to you then! but you’re clever!” said my uncle, gazing with admiration on his inventive wife: “Fanny, dear, write some more cards, with ‘P. Casey,’ Esq. upon them.”
According to orders I wrote another set, which was no easy task, my cards being taken from a pack rejected by the nursery. The chaise was now at the door, and we had scarcely time enough allowed us to reach the packet: not one of the overflowing trunks would close, and there were three still unpacked, while my uncle was hurrying off with the wet cards, which he blotted in his anxiety to dry them, (I do not know if blotting-paper be made in Ireland, but I may venture to say that none is used there): just as he reached the door, his wife exclaimed, “Ah! wait, O’Casey dear, isn’t it a pity you can’t put ‘Captain’ before your name, just to stop the impident English from asking our lad ‘What was your masther, Paddy?’”
“Why wouldn’t I put it?” said my uncle, smiling and turning back: “Or, as every body can be a Captain, will I call myself Major?”
“You’ve hit it then!” said Mrs. O’Casey, “sure yours is the head for contrivin’ afther all.”
For the third time I altered the direction; the cards were nailed on; Major Casey’s trunks pressed and corded, hundreds of requisites forgotten, hasty farewells, and at length we just reached the packet in time.
Many persons can plan falsehoods, which they consider to be very clever, but they cannot always support them: my relatives kept up to the spirit of theirs like old campaigners.— Both had studied from the army-list the officers’ names in the —th dragoons, and applied them to extempore military stories—my aunt talking of the meajor, and the meajor’s services, and the meajor’s bravery, to the edification of the tenants of the ladies’ cabin: while, as I was on deck, I heard my uncle holding forth about ‘the dulness of this piping time of peace,’ ‘Jackson of ours,’ ‘exchange,’ ‘difference,’ ‘ Waterloo,’ ‘Quartre-bras,’ &c. and stating that all other accounts were incorrect. His ‘troop’ in particular (we were none of your infantry ‘company’ people!) had done wonders, for the truth of which he appealed to our ‘lad’ Larry O’Shaughnessey, who willingly gave testimony with “Thrue far youh, surr,”—“Iss, indeed, upon my saafe conscience, surr,”— “Au, sure enough, surr, it’s the raal thruth,” while he turned round his large black eyes with a demure look. He was evidently a humourist in his own way, for I often detected him slyly watching and enjoying my confusion and annoyance when he had induced my uncle to carry a military story beyond the limits of safety.
I forgot to say that he was ordered to personate the character of a trooper of my uncle’s, who had saved his officer’s life; and any one who heard him relate the adventure, would have supposed he applied to lying, Lord Chesterfield’s hacknied maxim that “if it be worth while to do a thing, it is worth while to do it well.” Each time Larry told his story he increased the danger and the number of enemies, never failing at the end to say with a sigh, looking at me hypocritically, “I thought Miss Fanny there, was kilt didd when the masther and me came home wounded and tould her the story; but I won’t minshin it agin afore the soft-hearted crathur, blessings on her swate face!”
When we arrived in England, and had taken a house, for which we paid beyond its value on account of my uncle’s high military rank, the next anxiety was how to become acquainted with our neighbours. In vain the major lounged at the library, opening the door, offering seats to the ladies, and bestowing glances of Irish admiration and softness upon them: in vain he retained the newspaper, after spelling it twice over, until some person of consequence entered, to whom he handed it with a bow: the paper was received at arm’s length as if it carried infection, and the bow was only met with a stare and a distancing ‘hem!’ Equally vain were his attempts of “What sport, sir?” addressed to the fishers and shooters, who either whistled a tune, or moved away, saying, “Not any,—hem!” Then the major joined clubs, meetings, dinners, subscriptions, et cetera, et cetera: all in vain. A stranger, and an Irish stranger, (save the mark!) was something too dreadful to be approached, and name, rank, bravery, and even the great Caseys of Clon-carrick-lough-na-Casey, were totally useless.
At length a Mr. Dobbs, an old bachelor, whose sole amusements were tying fishing-flies, and learning every one’s business, came to see us, one desperately rainy day.
How the little purple man was flattered, and praised, and devoured by my despairing relatives: my uncle would not hear of his refusing to dine with us; and I fancy our guest was nothing loath to see the “raal Irish” at their meals. The old man, I could see, amused himself by taking a mental inventory of our dinner, which was in the true plentiful Irish style, a whole week’s provision having been sacrificed to render it so. I pass over the large dishes which are common to both nations, but I perceived Mr. Dobbs looked with wonder at a large boiled turkey, with celery sauce mixed with oysters; relays of fried potatoes; that untempting-looking dish called laver or sloak; roast salmon; sallad of celery and red-cabbage; and, above all, a mountain of Irish flummery (poor man, he had to swallow a dose of the latter in words also). He nearly destroyed my aunt’s amiability by asking her the name of everything ‘in Irish:’—It is quite insulting to be considered guilty of understanding a word of one’s native tongue in her country, and she gravely replied, “I reely cawn’t tell you, for neither the Meajor nor me can speak wan word of Haarish, it is not used in owa province, ’pon mee honour.”
“Well, well, now,” said the old man quickly, “wouldn’t it be funny if I, an Englishman, went to Ireland, and could not speak English? he! he!”
“Haw! haw! and thrue far yeuh, surr!” said old Larry, who knew my aunt spoke Irish with the greatest fluency “but that’s the differ, surr, bechuxt people’s feelins.”
“Dobbs, my dear friend, what wine will I help you to?” inquired the host, throwing back his shoulders and settling his military-whiskers.
“Why, as I want to taste every thing Irish, I should greatly prefer some whiskey-punch,—don’t you call it so?”
This was my uncle’s favorite beverage, en famille, but was much too vulgar to be acknowledged; and with an affected laugh he declared that “his good friend Dobbs had asked for the only spirit which the cellar did not contain, therefore he must put up with claret of our own importing, and madeira which had visited his wealthy brother at Madras, and come back again!”3“En famille” is French for “in family;” the usage here meaning known only among the family.
In this silly way was passed the whole evening (Larry having quite won the hearts of his master and mistress by his cleverness both in words and deeds), and Mr. Dobbs was a frequent and welcome guest, although, alas! still the only one. Thus we might have gone on until the end of our lives, but fortunately that most useful of all events for making little people great, a general election, took place.
One of the candidates had so great a majority of friends, that Mr. Wavering, his opponent, could not find any person of respectability to assist him in his unpopular canvassing; being an elderly, thin, nervous little man, his small stock of courage failed him, and he was about to resign, when Mr. Dobbs suggested that as Major Casey belonged to no party, he would doubtless join the first who asked him:—here he enumerated ‘the great Caseys,’ &c. &c., and added that a man of the Major’s rank and high connexions would be a creditable assistant.
Lady Emily Wavering, the candidate’s wife, conveniently recollected that she had known ‘the great Caseys’ formerly, and, ordering her carriage, she drove up (decked with crimson and orange election-ribbon, and drawn by four greys) to our rusty carriage gate, which slowly yawned with wonder at the novelty it admitted. Lady Emily inquired for many branches of the Casey family, to which my aunt answered as correctly as if she were first-cousin to them; for although the Irish may be uninformed in some matters, I defy any nation to be better genealogists, particularly with respect to families whom they do not know, even by sight! Mr. Wavering also asked after some of my uncles’ “companions in arms” whom he had known, and he received “neat and appropriate answers.” He then invited his new friend to an election dinner on the following day, while dear Mrs. Casey could go to the Castle and stay with Lady Emily: both invitations were joyfully accepted, and the parties at length separated, although I began to think their hands would grow together during the prolonged grasp of the election-shake and the Irish-squeeze.
Major and Mrs. Casey returned at a late hour, delighted with their respective debûts; while the Major had convinced all the electors of his long services and military knowledge, his lady had been ‘making the family name’ with her hostess and a bevy of female guests, and she had discovered that the qualities most esteemed in young ladies by Lady Emily were amiability, wit, accomplishments, and beauty. These cardinal points were to be represented by Amelia, Belinda, Clarissa, and Dorothea Casey. Amelia was extremely plain, and deficient in every sort of acquirement, therefore she was to make a name for amiability; Belinda, being pert and confident, was marked out by nature for a wit; Clarissa could paint a butterfly on a rose-bud, and play ‘Duncan Grey’ and two preludes on the harp, so her name was already made as ‘the accomplished;’ while my dear artless Dorothea, a fat, rosy, romping, restless school-girl, was starved, laced and imprisoned into a tolerably quiet beauty, although ‘unfortunately deficient in languor,’ her mother said, while looking at her smiling bright eyes.
The next event was an invitation to the Waverings to dine with us, and as we gave them a fortnight’s notice, they could not decline. The Casey family were busily employed in rehearsing their characters during this interval; and Larry, good old indefatigable Larry, assisted every one. Belinda was to say clever pointed things, and Amelia to make amiable replies to soften them: Larry furnishing the witty poisoned-shaft for one, and the soothing antidote for the other; he shewed Clarissa the position in which his late mistress sat at the harp (Clarissa was rather fond of keeping her fingers straight and her thumbs bent, with her elbows touching her sides); he likewise hinted that she wasted too much carmine upon her roses; and as for Dorothea, he constantly discovered some new plan to render her thin and pale, snatching away her plate if she attempted to consume more than a bird’s allowance, saying, “Faith, I’m ashamed o’ ye, Miss, where’s your dacency in you atin’?” He also insisted upon having ‘a raal illigant Frinch dinner,’ which he described volubly, and said he could dress in perfection.
Meantime the election went on, and notwithstanding the Major’s Irish shoulders, whiskers, and voice, Mr. Wavering was thrown out, by a most mortifying majority, which Dobbs kindly told us was ascribed by “the rejected” to having employed a person to canvass for him, whom nobody knew!
This was a sad termination to our schemes, on which we had expended so much money; but then, we knew a ‘Lady Emily,’ and that must make our name. On the eventful day of the dinner, Lady E. Wavering arrived nearly an hour sooner than we expected, and brought with her a beautiful stately-looking girl her niece: Mr. Wavering, she said, was detained with a friend, whom he would take the liberty of introducing. My aunt and I were the only members of the family who had completed the labours of the toilette: and as the girls seemed in no haste to appear, Lady Emily asked Miss Wavering to try the harp; she instantly complied, and played in such a style as to convince even a mother’s ear that Clarissa had better not exhibit ‘Duncan Grey’ nor either of the preludes. The simple style of our young visiter’s dress, too, threw a new light on my aunt’s ideas of beauty: and she cleverly contrived to write on a slip of paper for Larry, “Tell Miss C. not to play, and bid Miss D. put on a white frock;” this she dropt on the floor, and her aid-de-camp as cleverly picked it up, making a comical aside-face, which nearly made me laugh aloud and spoil the by-play.4“Aid-de-camp” is a French term to refer to an assistant to a senior officer, usually used in reference to military positions.
But here Mr. Larry’s cleverness ended as if by witchcraft:—He left the drawing-room open (à l’ Irlandaise), and going to the foot of the stairs, he shouted, loud enough to be heard by our silent and too attentive guests, “Miss Clarissy, ye musn’t pley a’ tap o’ yer haarp, ’caise wan o’ the leedies bates ye at it to smithereens, and ye’d betthur come down an’ put away yer picthur-book, ’caise I seen her smilin’ at thim grate rid-roaze-buuds in it.5“À l’ Irlandaise” is French for “as the Irish do.” Whe’ thin murdhur! Miss Dolly, is it a sthrolin’ play-acthur yer afthur makin’ o’ yersef in that ridan-yolla gownd? Gid out o’ that wid ye! atin’ a grate luump o’ cake; the Misthress tould me to ordhur ye to put on yer white bib-an-tuuckur, Miss.” Miss Wavering dashed away a loud prelude to drown Mr. Larry’s hints, but like a canary-bird, he struggled to make the most noise, continuing, “Miss Milly, shure ye won’t be forgittin’ the smart spaich I tould ye to say to the leedies, an’ yeu, Miss Lindy, don’t be afthur laving out yer purty answer in the right plaace, for I’ll be so bothur’d wid my Frinch dishes, dat I can’t be to the fore, riddy to prompt yez when yer out, as I’ve been doin’ all the blessed week past.”
In a few minutes there was a rustling of silks heard, and the four sisters entered, stiffened out, as nearly like the caricature-ladies in the magazines as they could render themselves: Belinda, our wit, in particular, had built up her head with bows, gallery-combs, wire and flowers, to so great a height that she seemed afraid to move round, for fear of upsetting the unsteady edifice, and she was obliged to keep her neck as stiff as a Roman water-carrier.
Larry ushered in the sisters, and described them to Lady Emily as they advanced,—“That’s Miss Milly, me Lady, mighty amiable; next is Miss Lindy, me Lady, she’s a powwur o’ wit, and lashins o’ hair as ye’d see in a summer’s day; that’s Miss Clarry, me Lady, who’s had the wuruld’s wondhur of an iddicashun, and bates the Thrinity-boys at the larnin’: and last of all, this is Miss Dolly, me Lady, an ye see she bates Banagher entirely for beauty an’ illigance, shure! She’s the littlest aiter on the blessed earth, but faith ye see she doesn’t put that same ‘little’ into an ill skin, as the sayin’ is, me Lady!”
Our guests could not help laughing as they shook hands with the Misses Casey, and Larry, being encouraged by their smiles, turned round as he departed, and whispered loudly to my aunt, putting his hand to one side of his mouth and winking, “Whe’ thin, lit me a lowan fur puffin’ yeez!”
It was now too evident that our confidential Larry, our aid-de-camp, prompter and factotum, had tasted the good things (the liquids at least) until his senses had become perplexed; and I sincerely pitied my poor aunt, who had incurred so much trouble and a vast expense on account of this entertainment, which we could but ill afford, as the tenant had now run away from the farm in Ireland without paying, and we were deeply in debt (to every creature who would trust us) in consequence of having kept “open house” for Mr. Wavering’s electors, so that we now knew not where to obtain money, or credit, which is just as good in the estimation of our hapless unthinking nation.
Shortly after his daughters, Major Casey entered, smoothing his mustachios, and greeted our guest with “How aw yaw? quaat delaated to see you ’pon me honaw!” pronounced in the true English-Irish style; and lastly came Mr. Wavering, accompanied by a sickly-looking, curry-powder-coloured gentleman, advanced in years, whom he merely introduced as “an old friend:” my uncle and the melancholy stranger exchanged bows, and Mr. Wavering stared as if he had expected something extraordinary in this meeting, which, however, did not occur, and we descended to Mr. Larry’s “illigant” French repast.
It consisted of the wildest looking mixture I ever saw: vegetables at the head and foot; meat at the sides; and, in fact, Larry had bewildered the cook so much with his orders, that it was impossible to recognize even our old friend the boiled turkey with celery and oysters!
Lady Emily’s manner became gradually cooler, and my poor aunt’s countenance flushed warmer at each mistake; and if Miss Wavering had not kindly exerted herself, I think the conversation would have failed, for even my uncle was what is termed in his country, “taken aback.”
The names of the dishes were unknown to us all, and when our guests wished to venture on any thing, Larry attempted to give the French name, which Lady Emily pretended to mistake for Irish, and said, “Oh! A native dish—not any, thank you; I dislike potatoes in any form.” And this rudeness she continued, until Miss Wavering kindly christened some plât before her, and helped her aunt to some.6Though the correct spelling of the French word is “plat,” meaning dish, the use of “plât” here is intentional to add to the humor and ignorance of the narrator and her family.
Our amiable Amelia, who should in character have lent her aid in this dilemma, quite forgot her rôle, and laughed outright at Larry’s blunders, in spite of his loudly-whispered reprimand, “How mighty nicely yer playin’ amiable, Miss Milly!” Belinda, too, whose wit should have withdrawn the observations of our guests from these contretems, was totally silent, because nothing had been said to lead to the impromptus she had studied: and Larry, perceiving this, said angrily, “Faith and throth I’m ashamed o’ ye, Miss Linny; arrah, spake out at wanst thin, an’ don’t sit stickin’ yer two eyes into the pudd’n, an sayin’ juust nuthin’ at all at all there, like an omadhaun!”7“Contretems” is most likely an intentional misspelling of the French word “contretemps, ” which means “mishap” or “setback.” “Omadhaun” is an Irish word for “a fool,” or “someone out of their senses.”
It was evident that Larry became worse, and unfortunately my uncle knew that his presence was indispensable, as there was no other attendant, therefore he affected to laugh at every thing, whispering to the gentlemen who sat on each side of him, “That pooa atteched creetua was wounded in the head at Watawloo, and we nevaw maand anny of his remawks!”
Lady Emily having asked my aunt whether her name was Casey or O’Casey? she replied, “Oh! good gracious, now, Lady Emily, why Casey: faw wot reason did you esk that question?”
“My niece here, saw Major Casey for the first time yesterday in the town, and she said, ‘That is one of the Irish orators whom I heard speak on opposite sides of a question in the space of one week; a farmer O’Casey.’ Now, although I knew she was wrong in thinking they were both the same person, yet I fancied they might be near relations!”
“Ah! I can assua your Layship we have no relations but the Caseys of Bally-knock-na—”
“I remember perfectly what you told me,” interrupted Lady Emily, quietly: “are you nearly related to them?”
“First cousins, only,—he! he! he!
“Those Caseys are most delightful people,” said Miss Wavering, “I had a letter from the daughter yesterday.”
“Ah! isn’t she an elegant, beautiful, lovely creatua?” said my aunt in affected ecstasy.
“Beautiful in mind, my dear madam; but Miss Casey is unfortunately deformed, and remarkably plain.”
“Oh! yes, of course I meant beautiful in mind, poor child,” stammered my aunt, reddening.
“It is very strange,” said Lady Emily, “that I desired my niece to write to Miss Casey, and inform her I intended to pay attention to her relatives, Major Casey’s family; and she, in reply, says she has no relations in the army!”
“Oh!” returned my aunt, “as the Meajor is on half-pay now, thet amusing gel says he is not in the awmy, he! he! he!”
Her Ladyship gave a cool, doubting look at her hostess, whose days of favor were evidently past; but all eyes were speedily attracted towards poor Dorothea, who, having ventured to help herself to some dinner, was just commencing to demolish it, when Larry rushed across the room and seized her plate, saying, “Och! murdur! Miss Dolly, would ye spile yer illigant figur by thryin to ate that grate hape o’ mate in that dhredful way: whe’ thin, it’s asheamed I am o’ ye Miss, afthur fastin for a week like a thrue Roman in Lint.”
“Larry, a spoon, if you please,” said the Major.
Larry ran round behind him, and audibly whispered, “Faith, an’ ye must do without it, Surr; for ye know all but thim six is pawned to pay for the dinner.”
Just at this time Miss Wavering said something, to which our witty girl thought one of her impromptus applied; and, turning round too hastily, she forgot the unusual size of her coiffure, which, losing its balance, fell down, dispersing black-pins, combs, flowers, bows, and wires in every direction: and, poor thing! although I pitied her confusion, I could not but rejoice at this ‘hair-breadth ’scape’ from uttering one of Larry’s ridiculous bon-mots.8A “coiffure” is French for “a hair arrangement;” and “bon-mots” is French for “a clever remark.”
After dinner, no wine having made its appearance, the Major ordered Larry to bring some from bin 47 and 29, saying to the yellow-gentleman, “I want you to taste my madeira, which has been out to my brother at Madras: perhaps, Sir, you knew him there?”
“I only knew one Casey there, Sir, who had a very excellent situation, but last year he was hanged for embezzling stores!”
My uncle could have (with truth) denied any relationship to the felon: but he had too clearly described to the Waverings the situation which his pseudo-brother held, which he had learned from the India-list; and, therefore, he was obliged to sit in guilty silence. From a wish, I supposed, to remedy the evil he had done, the yellow stranger asked what sort of person was the colonel of my uncle’s regiment?
“Oh! a cross old wretch, horribly detested by the lads,” said my uncle: “ I remember the year before last, when that merry dog young M‘Phun made a bet that he would steal every sporting-dog in the town which we were living—”
“I beg your pardon for interrupting you, Sir, but did Mr. M‘Phun accomplish this honorable feat, and were you then with the regiment?”
“Faith he did, Sir, and I have cause to remember being with him, for I foolishly gave him permission to fasten two dozen of the dogs in my stable, and such a row—”
“That is all a falsehood,” said the yellow invalid, coolly.
The Major coloured highly, and rose in an Irish passion. “Stop,” said his tormentor, “sit down; in the first place the colonel of the —th, is a very amiable young man, much liked by the whole regiment, and especially by the officer whom you have described as a dog-stealer; but I fancy in future you will scarcely call him ‘young M‘Phun,’ when I tell you that I am that identical person, the hero of your stories. Mr. Wavering can tell you that I have been in the —th dragoons during the last fifteen years, but I never had the advantage of seeing Major Casey in that regiment.”
I burst into tears at this fresh mortification my poor relatives experienced, and my aunt fell into hysterics: Larry at this moment rushed into the room, saying, “Och! murdher, surr, but that mane landlady of the ‘Pig and Asthma’, yondhur won’t give me a dhrop more wine until thim two is paid for, that I got in such a splutthur whin Laady Imly come an’ ait a snack wid us on could mate the day afore yisthurday: what was lift was dhrank this day at dinner ye naw, surr: what ’ill I do now I wundhur!”
Here all attention was turned towards the door, where angry voices were disputing the right of entrance with our female servant; and at length the village tradesmen rushed in and insisted that they should not be put off any longer, for they would not leave the house until their demands were settled.
The Wavering group now rose, and formally took leave of us, Lady Emily ‘being fearful they were interrupting Mr. O’Casey’s domestic affairs:’ Miss Wavering had contrived to leave her purse concealed in the serviette, but we were happily enabled to avoid our difficulties without her charitable aid.9“Serviette” is French for “napkin.” Larry having collected the bills, which amounted to nearly one hundred pounds, asked my uncle could he pay them? The unfortunate man shook his head, and this strange old servant (suddenly become perfectly sober) said, “I will pay the bills, sir, provided you will also let me pay for the whole family to return to your neglected farm, and promise never to leave it again.”
“Oh ! I will do any thing to leave this country, and hide myself from every thing but my own wretched thoughts!” sobbed my poor uncle.
Larry required no more; but drawing out his purse, paid all demands, and dismissed the wondering tradespeople. I wept afresh at being in the power of this mad creature, but oh! what was my surprise on hearing him say, “Fanny, my little darling, you have no cause to weep, for you joined with your odd old god-father in hating this name-making!” He extended his arms, and I flew to my dear odd rich kind god-father, uncle Lawrence, who now spoke to me in his natural voice, although disguised as Larry O’Shaughnessey.
Turning to his disconsolate brother, he kindly said, “My dear Patrick, we quarrelled many years since about the ‘name-making,’ and parted in anger: but when I found you bent on ruining yourself and your very large family for the same empty pursuit, I determined to interfere and save you, which I knew could not be effected without giving you a severe lesson. You have rendered it severer than I wished, but perhaps the effect may be more lasting: and we need never regret the late events, if they have taught you, as an Irish farmer, to live among and cherish the fine peasantry who support your family; and may kindness and attention to that peasantry, great care of your family, and strict attention to the duties of our humble line of life, be the only means you will ever employ to make for the O’Caseys—a name!”
Download PDF of original Text (validated PDF/A conformant)
How To Cite (MLA Format)
Louisa H. Sheridan. “Making a Name; or, Mortifications and Misfortunes.” The Comic Offering, or, Ladies’ Melange of Literary Mirth, vol. 2, 1832, pp. 140-72. Edited by Kayla Swan. Victorian Short Fiction Project, 10 December 2023, https://vsfp.byu.edu/index.php/title/making-a-name-or-mortifications-and-misfortunes/.
6 June 2020
10 December 2023
|↑1||“Soubriquet” is French for “nickname”.|
|↑2||“Au fait” is a French term meaning to be up to the mark or in this case familiar with.|
|↑3||“En famille” is French for “in family;” the usage here meaning known only among the family.|
|↑4||“Aid-de-camp” is a French term to refer to an assistant to a senior officer, usually used in reference to military positions.|
|↑5||“À l’ Irlandaise” is French for “as the Irish do.”|
|↑6||Though the correct spelling of the French word is “plat,” meaning dish, the use of “plât” here is intentional to add to the humor and ignorance of the narrator and her family.|
|↑7||“Contretems” is most likely an intentional misspelling of the French word “contretemps, ” which means “mishap” or “setback.” “Omadhaun” is an Irish word for “a fool,” or “someone out of their senses.”|
|↑8||A “coiffure” is French for “a hair arrangement;” and “bon-mots” is French for “a clever remark.”|
|↑9||“Serviette” is French for “napkin.”|