Page 6, 28th January 1949

28th January 1949
Page 6
Page 6, 28th January 1949 — TH I: A HOLY WORKING-MAN

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Organisations: Holy Cross College
Locations: Dublin, Rome


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The Story of Matt Talbot, Malachy Carroll (Mercier Press, 10s. 6d.).

Reviewed by IVOR HAEL THOSE who like the style of one

" who sprang almost overnight into the forefront of Catholic writers with his brilliant biography of St. Thomas Aquinas " (cf. " blurb '') will probably appreciate a racy reconstruction of the life of a servant of God who began life—we are not told when—" in the direction of Fairview slobs where the wideopen spaces and the lure of the dump-heaps were calling," to finish it " crucified with years of severest suffering" in a Dublin side-street on Trinity Sunday, 1925.

In an imaginary tavern—dubbed "The Barge and Cargo "—we assist at imaginary scenes of dalliance with the " cream-crowned beauty " of " Guinness ", enlivened by still more imaginary repartee which is, admittedly, not " reported . . . . quite accurately," as " you must imagine the Holy Name powdering his sen tences . . with mild blasphemy."

From this Joycean scene, with the theft of a fiddle which " stands out like one spot of soot on a length of sheerest white silk " in the early life of one who was "tangential" (p. 17) to his home, as later (p. 92) he was to live "tangentially to his age," we turn over a new leaf, lay down the " hat," and pick up the -' halo " as we accompany Matt Talbot, while knitting our brows over elusive dates and facts—" one of those little problems which are the small, page-filling blessings of biographers "—to the starchless atmosphere of Holy Cross College, where the reek of freek liquor is advantageously replaced by " the odour of sanctity rising in lavender waves." !

Let no one think that we are merely making fun of Mr. Carroll's style—in which the slang of Dublin jostles with the hubris and the nemesis."

llis previous success with St. Thomas Aquinas proves that there are many to whom it is acceptable. Some of us may be excused for preferring the more factual record by Sir Joseph A. Cilynn (Life of Matt Talbot) to which Mr. Carron tnakes occasional reference. We revere Matt Talbot, and it gave us a thrill to see his humble name uncrusted in the long Latin document in which the introduction of his cause was announced on every church door in Rome, but we believe that his claim to sanctity will best he served by that simplicity of presentatian which appears in the well-known painting by Sean O'Sullivan—described but not reproduced in the present work.

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