In a meditative piece on travel, Coane remembers the effect on him of Samuel Griswold Goodrich’s description of Killarney—and of seeing the real landscape years afterward.
Titus Munson Coane reads Peter Parley; from “On Being Born Away from Home,” by Titus Munson Coane (from The Galaxy, April 1877; p. 539)
[Transcriber’s note: This engaging essay (pages 533-542 of the magazine) wanders through all aspects of its subject; I’ve transcribed here only the paragraphs in which Coane discusses the effect of one Peter Parley book he read as a child.]

… How swiftly, how silently, like the irrevocable sequence of images in a dissolving view, our premonitions vanish under the light of reality! The actual Rome, the living man, the painting, the landscape which we travel far to see—these dispel at once the preconception; a glance, and the dream is gone, however long domesticated in the mind, however brightly glowing but now in the imagination. Fact is a careless bedfellow, and overlays the tender child, Fancy; and even when nature contrives the change less rudely, we can hardly resign our poor, familiar fancies without regret. But sometimes, happily, we can do what Wincklemann did not do; we can retain the old fancies and compare them with the experience. Let me give a personal instance: I remember framing the distinctest image of the lakes of Killarney from my childhood readings in Peter Parley’s veritable histories. There was the cool spring, shaded with bushes, and pouring out abundant waters; and there was the blessed Saint Patrick, standing by the rocky edge of the spring, clasping down the stout lid of an iron-bound chest upon the last of the unhappy serpents of Erin, and saying, “Be aisy, darlints!” just before casting the box into the depths of the lake. It was a pleasant scene, a clear imaginative microcosm; never was a distincter picture in my mind than that of this fancied Killarney. The real Killarney I saw many years after reading those histories of Peter Parley, yet that first vivid picture did not vanish at the sight; the fancied lake held its place against the reality; nay, even at this day, I can call up the two pictures at will, the imagined and the real, and compare the two—the scene of my early fancies with the humorous Celtic saint standing beside the spring and snapping down the lid of his box upon the tail of the last snake, on the one hand, and the broader landscape of reality, of which there were no saints, but many Patricks. …

Copyright 1999-2019, Pat Pflieger
To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines
To “Voices from 19th-Century America
Some works for adults, 1800-1872
To Titles at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date | Map of the site

Talk to me.