There is, perhaps, no country dependent on the British Crown, which Englishmen know less of than Ireland; and yet it may safely be affirmed, there is none which has a fairer and a stronger claim to their attention.
If civilization has not there been carried to that degree of perfection, which it has attained in England; if commerce does not flourish; — if manufactures do not thrive; — if agriculture be yet in a rude state; — if a spirit of discontent and emigration prevails; — in a word, if the connection between the two islands has p. not been productive of the greatest mutual advantages, it can only be imputed to a general want of information, and to those mistaken politics, which have, inconsequence, influenced the councils of this nation.
But the time seems to be approaching, when the value of Ireland will be better understood, and when the maxims, on which it is now governed, will be found to be too narrow, it not illiberal. To hasten that period is the design of the following letters, and the favourite political wish of the Writer,
May 14, 1777.
A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland [...]p.1
MY DEAR FRIEND, Dublin, July 17th,…
MY DEAR FRIEND,
July 17th, 1775.
On the 2d instant, I landed on George's Quay in Dublin, after a passage of near thirty hours, which is sometimes made in eight, and generally in less than twelve.
The sea was so calm, that though we went aboard at seven in the morning, darkness only made us lose sight of the Head. Before night I grew sickish, and therefore retired to my bed; but for the last seven or eight hours, I was free from every complaint except hunger, which I felt more keenly than I had done for some years before. This I considered as a good omen; and my health, I trust, is verging towards a re-establishment, by following your judicious advice. p.2 The sun shone bright as we entered the bay of Dublin; which was beyond comparison the finest view I had ever seen. It is a spacious amphitheatre, bounded mostly by a high shore. The country all round is spangled with white villas, which being then highly burnished by the sun, had a glorious effect. The city is not seen to advantage from the water, yet the landskip was upon the whole highly picturesque; being horizoned in some places by mountains, exactly conical, called the Sugar-loaf Hills. I am persuaded you would not grudge a journey hither for this single prospect. It must, however, be owned, that the full enjoyment of it is precarious, since it depends on a number of circumstances, which can seldom concur, as the season of the year, the time of the day, and the clearness of the sky, when you enter the bay; and above all, a freedom from pain.
The magnitude of this city is much greater than I imagined; I conclude it to be nearer a fourth, than a fifth of that of London. Viewing it from any of its towers, it seems to be more; but from walking the streets, I should take it to be less. To correct these contrary impressions of sense, some certain p.3 standard is necessary. I have reduced Sayer's pocket-map of London, and a map of Dublin, prefixed to its Directory, to the same scale, and from thence it appears, that Dublin is half as long as London; if therefore their figures were similar, the latter would be exactly four times larger than the former; but London is more protended in length, Dublin being nearly circular. On the other hand, to compensate for the dissimilarity of figures, there is a larger proportion of ground unoccupied by houses in the map of Dublin, than in that of London.
In the year 1754, the return of houses in this city was 12,857, in 1766 it was 13,194: so that however rapidly it may have increased since, we cannot suppose it to have above 13,500 houses at this day, which falls far short of one-fourth of the number of houses in London. Yet I should think there is not such a disproportion in the number of inhabitants, since, according to Dr. Price, “651,580 are very probably much greater, but cannot be less, than the true number of inhabitants in London.”
In the year 1731, the numbers of each house were carefully taken by Dr. Tisdal, p.4 in two parishes within the city, and two in the suburbs of Dublin; from which he computed, at a medium, 12 1/12 to each house; adding, that seventy persons have been known to live in one house. In this respect, the present state of Dublin resembles the antient state of London. For you know that the annual christenings and burials, in the ninety-seven parishes within the walls, have been reduced at least to one half within a century; formerly, several families were crowded together, and those classes of men, who contented themselves with one house, must now have two.
We may then suppose that the number of families is near double the number of houses, and reckoning six to a family, or twelve to a house, there will be above 160,000 souls in Dublin; but say five to a family, and the number will be 135,000. The general computation here, is 150,000; but they, who allow but four and a half to a house, will say, that, instead of being under, I am far above the truth. Let it however be considered, that I go not upon mere technical calculation; I have one grand datum, the actual numbers in four parishes.p.5
Though the bills of mortality kept here are not without their uses, yet from them alone, we can form no just estimate of the numbers at large. A vast majority of the inhabitants are papists; and of the protestants, the dissenters are not the least numerous; consequently, the children of all, except those of the establishment, being baptised privately, the christenings cannot be supposed to be registered regularly; and the Roman catholics burying in old cemeteries without the city, their numbers cannot be ascertained in the bills.
Dublin is seen to great advantage from any of its steeples, the blue slating having a finer effect than you can imagine. The best view of it that I have had from its environs, was from the Phoenix Park. This is the Hyde Park of Dublin, but much more extensive than that of London; and would be exquisitely beautiful, if dressed and planted; but, except some thorns, and the clumps of elm planted by lord Chesterfield in 1745, there are very few trees upon it. Whence it got the name of Phoenix I cannot learn; however, his lordship, in conformity to the name, p.6 name, raised in one part of it a handsome column of free stone, fluted, with a phoenix at top, expiring in a blaze. The inscription on the die informs you that he erected the column, and embellished the park, at his own expence, for the recreation of the citizens of Dublin. His name is still held in veneration among them.
The bulk of this city is like the worst parts of St. Giles's; but the new streets are just as good as ours. They have finished one side of a square, called Merion's Square, in a very elegant style. Near it is a square called Stephen's Green, round which is a gravel walk of near a mile: here, genteel company walk in the evenings, and on Sundays, after two o'clock, as with us in St. James's Park. This square has some grand houses, and is in general well built. The great inequality of the houses instead of diminishing, does, in my opinion, add to its beauty. The situation is cheerful, and the buildings around it multiply very fast.
Almost all the tolerable houses, and streets, have been built within forty years. Since the year 1685, the increase has been amazing. Sir William Petty relates, that p.7 there were then but 6,400 houses; it must, however, be observed, that Sir William varies prodigiously in his accounts: “Memorandum, says he, that in Dublin, where there are but four thousand families, there are 1,271 alehouses and brewhouses;” near a third of the whole: yet, in other places, he says, there are near 7000 families.
The quays of Dublin are its principal beauty; they lie on each side the river, which is banked, and walled in, the whole length of the city; and at the breadth of a wide street from the river on each side, the houses are built fronting each other, which bas a grand effect. When these quays are paved like the streets of London, we shall have nothing to compare with them.
The Liffey runs for about two miles almost straight through the city, and over it are thrown five bridges; two of which, Essex and Queen's Bridges, are newly built. The former, has raised foot-paths, alcoves, and balustrades, like Westminster; the latter, is exceedingly neat, and like the other, of a white stone, coarse but hard, which is p.8 found near the city. The remaining three are as poor structures as you can conceive.
Essex Bridge fronts Capel-street, one of the largest in town, to the north, and Parliament-street, a new and exceedingly neat trading street, to the south: at the end of which, is nearly finished an Exchange, a most elegant structure, which does the merchants who conduced the building of it great honour; the expence being mostly defrayed by lotteries. The whole is of white stone, richly embellished with semicolumns of the Corinthian order, a cupola, and other ornaments.
Near this, on a little eminence, stands his Majesty's castle, the residence of the chief governor; consisting of two large courts, called the upper and lower castle-yard: In the lower is the treasury, and some other public offices. Though there is little grandeur in the appearance of either, yet, upon the whole, this castle is far superior to the palace of St. James's, in the exterior, as well as in the size, and elegance of the rooms within. Over the gates, leading to the upper yard, are two handsome statues, one of Justice, the other of Fortitude; these, p.9 with an equestrian statute of William III. in College Green, another of George II. in the centre of Stephen's Green, and a third of George I. in the Mayoralty Garden, make up the sum total of the statuary, I could either see or hear of, in Dublin; unless we reckon the two upon the Tholsel (the Guildhall of Dublin) which I don't know whether to call monarchs or lord mayors.
But to expect many works of the fine arts in a country, but just recovering from an almost uninterrupted warfare of near six hundred years, would be to look for the ripe fruits of autumn in the lap of spring. Even London cannot boast of many, considering its mighty opulence. A single church, on the continent, is sometimes decorated with more statues, than are to be seen in the greatest city of Europe.
There are but few public buildings here of any note; some, however, there are. The parliament-house is truly a most august pile, and admirably constructed in all its parts. The house of lords is beautiful; the house of commons capacious and convenient. The front is a grand portico, p.10 in form of the Greek PI, supported by lofty columns of Portland stone; behind this, and over the house of commons, is raised an oblate dome, which not appearing from the street, gives a heaviness to the perspective, and the want of statues over the portico increases it; but, could it be viewed in its geometrical elevation, it would appear a very light structure.
Near the parliament-house stands the university, consisting of two squares; in the whole of which are thirty-three buildings, of eight rooms each. Three sides of the farther square are of brick, the fourth is a most superb library, which, being built of very bad stone, is unfortunately mouldering away. The inside is, at once, beautiful, commodious, and magnificent; embellished with the busts of several antient and modern worthies. A great part of the books on one side were collected by archbishop Usher, who was one of the original members of this body, and without comparison the most learned man it ever produced. The remainder on the same side were the bequest of a Dr. Gilbert, who, it is said, collected them for the purpose to which they are now applied. p.11 Since his time, which is above forty years, their number has not been much increased, though there are many vacant shelves on the other side. Of course the modern publications in this library are very few; yet I am told there is a sufficient fund for purchasing every thing that comes out.
If this be true, there is some ground for the severity of the following little epigram, written upon the rebuilding the front of the college:
- Our Alma mater, like a whore.
Worn out with age and sin.
Paints, and adorns herself the more.
The more she rots within.
The new square, three sides of which have been built within these twenty years, by parliamentary bounty, and from thence, called Parliament Square, is of hewn stone, of a coarse grain, but so hard, that it may bid defiance to the corroding tooth of Time. The front of it next the city, is ornamented with pilasters, festoons, &c. but upon the whole there is nothing very striking in its appearance.p.12
The provost's house, in the same line, has an elegant little front, entirely of Portland stone; yet altogether I cannot say that it pleases my eye. It is a close copy of a house in London, one side of which looks into Cork Street, and the other into Burlington Street; but the architect, like other servile imitators, not knowing how to avail himself of his original, nor considering that its depth, which exceeded its length, was screened at both ends by the contiguous houses, left the end of this naked and unadorned, without even a range of windows to interrupt the deformity; so that; seen diagonally from College Green, it produces a most aukward effect; for the façade and gable, though joined together, are evidently not of a piece.
The chapel is as mean a structure as you can conceive; destitute of monumental decoration within, it is no better than a Welsh church without. The old hall, where college exercises are performed, is in the same range, and built in the same style. The new hall, indeed, where they dine, is a fair and large room. In their museum are but few objects which could long detain your curiosity, except p.13 a set of figures in wax, representing females in every state of pregnancy. They are done upon real skeletons, and are the labours of almost the whole life of a French artist. You may remember they were exhibited several years ago in London. My Lord Shelburne purchased them, and made a present of them to this university.
The number of students is very variable; it is said to fluctuate upon the tide of peace and war. About forty years ago, the numbers were pretty nearly the same they are now, that is about 400. At the close of the last war, the numbers upon their books were less than 300. And so few went into the ministry at that period, that curates were wanting for the service of country parishes. It was therefore judged expedient to ordain upon Scotch degrees, which are obtained for the attendance of as many months, as years in England or Ireland. At present, few gentlemen of fortune who have not either the advowson of a living in their family, or some peculiar episcopal or parliamentary connection, chuse to dedicate their sons to the church; as the education is too expensive for a curacy of fifty p.14 pounds a year. Yet, they tell you, these few years of peace have produced such a redundancy of candidates for orders, that a nomination is not procured without some difficulty.
As this seminary was founded and endowed by Queen Elizabeth, you will be astonished to hear that they have neither statue, bust, nor picture of their benefactress. The original foundation consisted of a provost, three fellows, and three scholars; which has from time to time been augmented to twenty-two fellows, seventy scholars, and thirty sizers. Of the fellows, seven are called seniors, and in them is lodged the government of the whole body, subject nevertheless to the provost's controul, without whose consent, as sovereign, no act of theirs is valid. The other fifteen are of course called juniors. By their standing they become seniors, and consequently there is no incentive to emulation among them: the instruction of the youth, both in humanity and the arts, falls within their province.
The scholars are elected at three years standing, according to their proficiency p.15 in the classics, by a majority of the seven seniors, and hold their scholarships only for four years; that is, till the standing of master of arts. The fellows are eligible, at the beginning of any Trinity term, after they have obtained a batchelor's degree, by the majority of seniors also, for their proficiency in the learned languages, history, logic, and the sciences. But though all the seven should agree in the choice of both scholars and fellows, the provost can chuse whatever candidate he will, without a concurring voice: this mode of election, they call nomination. The prerogative, however, is but rarely exercised.
The fellows hold their places, while they chuse to live unmarried; the income of a senior fellow is supposed to be, communibus annis, above seven hundred pounds; but, as it depends upon the renewal of leases, it is uncertain. The emoluments of the junior fellows are their commons, and forty pounds a year, besides lectureships, which together amount to a hundred: and if they be industrious and popular, they get so many pupils, that some of them have very large incomes. The provostship is supposed p.16 to be worth near three thousand pounds a year.
Among the students are three distinct ranks, fellow-commoners, pensioners, and sizers. The first are so called from dining with the fellows; for which privilege, however, they pay little more than the pensioners, who dine by themselves, according to their classes. The great difference is in the rate of tuition; yet, as they get degrees a year sooner than pensioners, there is, upon the whole, little difference in the expence. The sizers, or servitors, pay nothing for their board; they carry up the dishes to the fellows table, which they attend, and afterwards dine upon what comes from it. These wear black gowns, of coarse stuff, without sleeves. Pensioners wear gowns of the same form, but of fine stuff, with hanging sleeves and tassels. Commoners wear gowns of the same shape and stuff, but with sleeves and velvet collars. Noblemen, knights, and sons of noblemen, wear gowns of the same shape with commoners, but with gold and silver tassels.
Though I have a deal more to say of this great town, I shall at present lay down p.17 the pen out of pure mercy to you; for though you like travelling over such grounds as I have carried you, yet I imagine you would rather go by short stages.
Dublin After the state of population…
After the state of population given in my last, you may, perhaps, be surprised to hear, that there are but twenty parishes in the city of Dublin; but consider how few there are in the city and liberties of Westminster; and that the inhabitants of the seventeen parishes without the walls of the city of London, outnumber those of the ninety-seven within, almost in the proportion of three to one. The number of parishes is no certain index of the number of people, either here or there. A very obvious reason presents itself, why churches should be comparatively few, where the majority of the people are Roman catholics, and near half the protestants are dissenters.p.18
People are much divided about the proportion which protestants bear to papists in Dublin. According to some inaccurate returns, the number of houses belonging to each denomination is nearly equal; yet it is generally thought, that there are two papists for one protestant; most of the poorer sort, and all the servants, being of the former class; and among them chiefly it is, that so many families are crowded into one house.
Over and above the parish churches, are two cathedrals, Christ Church and St. Patrick's; both of them mean Gothic buildings. There is, indeed, more elegance in any one of the six churches in the little borough of Stamford, than in all the churches of this great city put together. For except in the front of three or four of their steeples, external embellishment has been little studied; all that seems to have been aimed at, was neatness and convenience within. But they are generally destitute of all monumental decorations; and, what may seem extraordinary, is very true, they have but one set of choiristers in the whole city; which serves in the p.19 morning at one cathedral, and in the evening at the other.
In the cathedrals is to be seen, whatever of the monumental kind is worthy [of] observation. On the north side of the choir, in Christ Church, is a very superb monument, of the Kildare family, executed in white marble. The late Earl, afterwards Duke of Leinster, and his sister, are represented, mourning over the body of their father.
In the nave is a monument of lord Bowes, late high chancellor of Ireland. It represents Justice, large as life, in a pensive attitude, looking at a medallion, with his lordship's head in relief, which she holds in her hand, weeping over it. The thought is a good one, and well expressed.
Near to this is another, every way elegant, erected to the memory of the founder of the Dublin Society. Under his bust stand two boys, one pointing to a basso relievo of Industry and Agriculture, the other to a representation of Minerva, leading the arts towards Hibernia. Beneath, on a semicircular tablet, is the following inscription, p.20 written by Berkeley, the famous bishop of Cloyne:
Viri siquis unquam alius de Patria
Qui, cum prodesse mallet quam conspici,
Nec in senatum cooptatus,
Nec consiliorum aulae particeps,
Nec ullo publico munere insignitus,
Rem tamen publicam
Mirifice auxit et ornavit
Auspiciis, consiliis, labore indefesso;
Vir innocuus, probus, pius;
Partium studiis minime addictus,
De re familiari parum solicitus,
Cum civium commoda unice spectaret,
Quicquid vel ad inopiae levamen,
Vel ad vitae elegantiam, facit,
Quicquid ad desidiam populi vincendam,
Aut ad bonas artes excitandas, pertinet,
Id omne pro virili excoluit.
Auctor, Institutor, Curator.
Pluribus dicere haud refert; p.21 Quorsum narraret marmor
Illa quae omnes norunt?
Illa quae civium animis insculpta
Nulla dies delebit.
In St. Patrick's the monuments are more in number, but none of such curious workmanship; for, though executed by the same hand with the two last, I cannot admire those massy columns of Italian marble reared to the memory of the late archbishop of Dublin; brother to a doctor Smyth, who has been long at the head of your profession here. The epitaph, you may suppose, is very classical, when I tell you it was written by Dr. Lowth, bishop of Oxford.
Opposite to it is a plain monument of Dr. Marsh, a quondam archbishop of this see, who left a nobler memorial of himself than stone, a valuable library; which together with part of his estate, for the maintenance of a librarian, he bequeathed to the public. This library, which contains some curious manuscripts, and many rare books, is always open to the studious.
In the same nave are three inscriptional slabs of black marble, one to the memory p.22 of a faithful servant of Swift; another lately erected to that of Mrs. Johnson, his Stella and the third over himself, with an epitaph very expressive of that habit of mind, which his own disappointments, and the oppressions of his country, had produced. It concludes with these words, “ubi saeva indignatio cor ulterius lacerare nequit.”
In the choir are several monuments of an older date; the principal is that of the family of Boyle. In the chapter room, is a black slab over the duke of Schomberg, who fell at the battle of the Boyne, with an inscription by Swift; concluding with a severe stricture upon his relations, who refused to raise any sepulchral monument to his name, “plus potuit fama virtutis apud alienos quam sanguinis proximitas apud suos.”
West of the town, stands the hospital of Kilmainham, answering to our Chelsea. In the building there is nothing remarkable, but the situation is charming, and affords a comfortable retreat for time-worn veterans. No wonder it was chosen for the seat of their priory, by the knights templars of St. John of Jerusalem.p.23
As the winds on this coast are mostly westerly, they are but little annoyed by smoke from the city, or fogs from the sea; the air is so pure, that one would have thought it might have invited the gentry to extend the town this way, instead of intercepting the merchants from the sea. The hospital is said to furnish many instances of longevity; at present there are three men in it above 100, one of whom is 112.
On the opposite side of the river stands the Barrack, the largest building in the British dominions. It is capable of containing 3000 foot, and 1000 horse. The whole is of rough stone, ornamented with cornices, and window cases of cut stone. Some additions lately made, are not without sufficient elegance of architecture. Indeed the new houses of Dublin are exceedingly neat, and in general highly finished in the inside.
You may conceive what the style of building was here formerly, when I tell you, that the mansion-house of the Lord Mayor is a brick house of two stories, with five windows of but two panes breadth in each. p.24 There are, however, some magnificent structures of modern date; the duke of Leinster's is a very august pile, not unworthy the premier peer of any country. By the way, the family of Kildare has been longer ennobled, than any other now in his Majesty's dominions.
Lord Charlemont's cannot be called a great house, but nothing can be more elegant, and the situation is most delightful; it stands upon a little eminence, exactly fronting Mosse's Hospital, and between them lie those beautiful gardens, where the genteel company walk in summer evenings, and have concerts of vocal and instrumental music thrice a week. His lordship is not only a patron of the arts, but also a great proficient in them; his house is of his own planning. And I have seen, at his beautiful gardens at Marino, near town, a temple of his design; of which a print has been lately struck off in London.
There are two or three houses more of hewn stone in Dublin, but those I have mentioned, are most worthy notice; and, upon reflection, it is amazing how few of that fort we have even in London.
Dublin In my last, I mentioned…
In my last, I mentioned to you Mosse's Hospital; which, I think, deserves particular notice, whether we consider it as a specimen of architecture, or, as an example to prove, that every principle of our nature may be rendered subservient to the interests of humanity.
As a building, it is magnificent, and, being the most faultless I ever beheld, is a lasting monument of the abilities of Mr. Castels, who was also the designer of the duke of Leinster's, and the Parliament House. In other respects, the structure must do eternal honour to the founder, Dr. Mosse, a physician of this city; who, by the mere effort of his own genius, in defiance of avowed opposition, and contempt of popular clamour, erected this stately fabric, for the purpose of relieving lying-in-women; the first charity of the kind in these kingdoms, and in which, above 10,000 poor females have been delivered within p.26 twenty years. His only resources were lotteries, and the emoluments arising from the concerts and gardens. The benevolence of the public was at length awakened; the king gave stability to the institution by a charter, and parliament bestowed a bounty on the widow of him, who had devoted his life to the service of his fellow-creatures.
The present master of this hospital, is a Doctor Jebb, a gentleman of fine parts; whose acquaintance, I am sure, you would be pleased with. He tells me, that except some beds given, and endowed by private donors, the fund for support of this charity, is raised from musical entertainments, and from subscriptions to a right of walking in the gardens at all times. They have lately built a large circular room, called the Rotunda, of an area, as I guess, about a third of that of Ranelagh, but without any pillar in the centre. Here they have an organ and orchestra for concerts, in the wet evenings of summer, and for balls in winter. So that, upon the whole, this is the Vauxhall, Ranelagh, and Pantheon of Dublin.p.27
Nay, it is something more than all these, it is a polite place of public resort on Sunday evenings. Whether this entertainment be strictly defensible, in a religious point of view, I shall not determine; but, if the goodness of the end may in any instance be pleaded in justification of the means, I think it may in this. However, it seems rather a matter of wonder, that London, so fond of amusement, and so ready to adopt new fashions of dissipation, has not struck out something similar, for passing those hours, which on some people sit so heavy; and which may, after all, be spent in a much worse manner.
On these nights, the rotunda and gardens are prodigiously crowded, and the price of admission being only sixpence, every body goes. It would perhaps benefit the charity, if the price were doubled, for though it might exclude a great many, it would, I think, bring more money. On the other hand, it must be confessed, that the motley appearance gives an air of freedom; for the best company attends, as well as those to whom another sixpence might be an object.p.28
There are twelve other hospitals in Dublin, of great public utility, all of which are carefully and skilfully attended; a particular account of these, could give little entertainment even to you; one thing, however, in which they differ from those of London, I must remark to you; the physicians and surgeons are not elected by the governors, as with us; but when a vacancy happens, it is filled up by a majority of the faculty, who belong to the hospital.
Almost every parish in the city has schools, supported by charitable donations, collected principally in the churches at charity sermons. And to evince the national humanity, parliament grants an annual sum to a Poor-house, for receiving, and supporting foundlings from every part of the kingdom. To this house, I have been assured that they send children even from Wales, and the western coast of England.
Upon the whole, Dublin is no contemptible city; and we should rather wonder, that, considering its limited trade, it is as well as it is, than that it is not better. It must, however, be acknowledged, that p.29 except the new streets, which are paved and flagged like those of London, it is abominably dirty. In this rainy weather, I see the gentlemen of the army, and others, of the younger sort especially, generally booted; from which I suppose that boots are the ton here.
I, who you know always speak and write from present feeling, cannot describe to you how much I was hurt by the nastiness of these streets, and by the squalid appearance of the canaille. The vast inferiority of the lower ranks in Dublin, compared even with those of the country towns in England, is very striking. Seldom do they shave, and when they do, it is but to unmask the traces of meagreness and penury. In a morning, before the higher classes are up, you would imagine that half the prisons in Europe had been opened, and their contents emptied into this place. What must it have been then, even within three years, when near 2000 wretches, much worse, of course, than any now to be seen, exercised the unrestrained trade of begging? I am told that the nuisance was risen to such a pitch, that you could scarcely p.30 get clear of any shop you entered, without the contamination of either ulcers or vermin, from the crowd of mendicants, who beset the door.
Dublin, by the bye, is indebted to one of our countrymen, a Doctor Woodward, who has a deanery in the country, and a parish in the city, for its riddance of this pest. He, with a laudable and unremitting perseverance, so vanquished the national prejudice on this head, that he at length prevailed to have a poor bill passed, free from all those errors that experience had discovered in the English poor laws.
In London, one can rarely want amusement, the very streets are an inexhaustible source of it. There is something refreshing in that variety of cheerful objects, which they perpetually exhibit. There is such a cleanness in the streets, such a richness in the shops, such a bustle of business, such a sleekness of plenty, such a face of content, and withal, such an air of pleasure, as infuse the most delicious sympathies. Here, we see but little to cheer, or exhilarate reflection, but much to sadden and depress the spirits. There is, indeed, p.31 a motion, but it is such, as when the pulse of life begins to stagnate, or like that of the wheel of some great machine, just before the power which impelled it, ceases to act. Here, to be sure, you meet some splendid equipages, and a large suite of lackeys after a sedan chair; you see a fair range, or two, of houses, and some rich shops; and you frequently meet faces fair enough to make Circassia gaze; but all these scarcely compensate for the painful sensations produced by the general mass.
Yet the women say, that the social pleasures are more easily obtained here than in London. They argue, that the English are generally so intent upon business, that they will not spare time for their company, and are consequently devoid of all sentimental attachment; that, matrimony being less the fashion among them, they are for obtaining the favours of the fair, by speedier methods than those of attentions and respects, which, when reciprocal, are among the choicest sweets of life; and that public amusements being less frequent here, domestic entertainments are more in use. These are points I shall not dispute with p.32 the ladies, though I am not convinced of the truth of their arguments. I cannot help remarking, however, that the English are not so addicted to the bottle, which is as great an enemy to sentiment and the graces, as either business or pleasure.
Adhering strictly to your advice, I am every day on horseback, and find vast benefit from it. At first, I felt myself fatigued after riding ever so little; now, after repeated essays, like half-fledged birds, fluttering before they fly, I make excursions of some miles, without being weary. But the roads near the city are very bad, and the streets are so slippery, that I am obliged to have my horse led out of town.
Yesterday I went down the North Strand, catching the sea-breezes as I rode along. Summer-hill, the suburb leading to it, affords one of the most charming prospects in the world. Before you, is the sea, covered with ships; on the left of the bay, is a country beautifully varied, and sufficiently dressed by art, to enrich the landskip; to the right, the conical mountains of Wicklow terminate your view. The river Liffy, p.33 and part of the city compose the fore-ground of this exquisite piece.
Summerhill, as well for the beauty of the situation, as purity of the air, is become the residence of several persons of fortune. I was led to it a few days since, to see one of the most pleasing collections of pictures, I have almost any where observed; and you will be the more surprised when I tell you, that they are all copies; but they are copies of a very peculiar sort. One of them taken from the Galatea of Raphael, they now consider as an original; the original being almost defaced. They were the property of a Mr. Moore, who, during a long residence at Rome, had them painted by Albano, and others, the best masters, from the chef d'oeuvres in that imperial city.
I have seen another collection here, far more valuable, as composed of originals belonging to a Mr. Stewart, whose son was married to a daughter of lord Hertford; among them is a capital piece, of Christ in the manger, by Rubens.p.34
Though an amateur of the fine arts, I cannot think that catalogues of pictures are either worth your reading, or my writing, especially as they are not the productions of this country. You, I know, will be better pleased with pictures of life and manners; and were I a moral painter, I should be glad to gratify you. A sketch, however, I shall attempt of the quondam owner of the former collection, which, if highly finished, would exhibit a very extraordinary picture of human nature.
Born to a good estate, after receiving the best education this kingdom could give, he made the tour of Europe; but Rome had such attractions, that it became his home for several years. There he engaged in such connections, as rendered him for ever after estranged to his native country, and enthusiastically devoted to the house of Stuart, whose interests he not only maintained in conversation, but supported by his purse.
Upon his return to Ireland, too refined, perhaps, by Italian virtuosoship, for the relish of his country neighbours, he avoided their company, though fond of society, and confessedly one of the finest gentlemen in the kingdom. He p.35 therefore found himself unable to take that lead, to which his large fortune, and high accomplishments, gave him such just pretensions; his estate too lying in one of those northern counties, where whiggism was prevalent, he became at length almost sequestered from the world: his table was frequented by few, except mere toad-eaters, though he lived in a style of magnificence till then unknown in that country.
But his ruling attachment marked every action of his life. He was returned to parliament for a borough, but would not take his seat for several years, to avoid taking the oaths; till at length a rule of the house, pointing at him, was made, that whoever did not take their seats before a certain day, should be expelled.
Instead of following nature, in ornamenting his demesne, he took up the whimsical thought of cutting it into the form of a thistle. I have it from a gentleman, who has often seen the park, that he cut a deep and wide trench, of a mile in circumference for the bulb of the flower, with double ramparts from thence, forming the petals, with clumps of trees representing the down; the avenue to his p.36 house was for the stalk, and the several fields branching from thence, and from each other, delineated the leaves. This indeed was madness, but you must allow there was method in it.
To the famous Dr. King of Oxford, he committed the education of his son; who, instead of imbibing from his tutor, the principles of his father, became an admired character in the court of England; which so enraged his unnatural parent, that he withdrew that scanty maintenance he had before allowed him. What could the young man do? He was obliged to relinquish for ever all title to an estate of above 4000l. a year, for an annuity of about 800l. This transaction so crushed his spirits, that he soon after died of a broken heart.
The old gentleman had three daughters of distinguished accomplishments. The first gentlemen of the kingdom had asked, and had been refused, their hands; for no reason that could be discovered, but that the political principles of the suiters were different from those of Mr. M—e. The eldest at length listened to the addresses of a gentleman in every respect her equal, a knight p.37 of a shire, and of a most respectable character; whose only fault was, that he was descended of an old whig family. From that instant the father disclaimed her as a child, and settled his estate upon one of his younger daughters, who had issue. Here you'll say there was no great harm done, but mark the sequel.
In the neighbourhood of Mr. M—e lived a Mr. St—t, an old batchelor of small fortune derived from his ancestor, who settled there in the reign of James I. to whom he is said to have been a near kinsman. This gentleman did not fail to pay his constant assiduities, during the last years of Mr. M——e's life; and had the good, or rather indeed ill fortune, to insinuate himself thoroughly into his good graces. It became the established opinion of this now doating old man, that Mr. S——t was the next rightful heir to the crown of England, failing the Pretender and his issue. Accordingly, about six weeks before his death, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, being attacked by a palsy, which would have injured an understanding even hitherto unimpaired, he altered his will in favour of Mr. S—t, and disinherited all his own children and grandchildren.p.38
The heirs at law, however, did not acquiesce under this testament, so repugnant to the principles of equity, and the common feelings of humanity. They litigated it under the plea of an unsound mind in the testator, and of undue influence in the legatee. They had, indeed, no other; for the heir had used every precaution, that the will should be drawn, and perfected,according to all due solemnities and legal formalities. Chancery sent it to be tried by a jury in the King's Bench.
After a trial of twenty-four hours, the jurors divided in opinion, eight being for the will, and four against it; a juror was therefore withdrawn, and consequently there was then no issue. In a few terms after, it was decided by the same judges, and another jury, who were unanimous against the will. And thus, for once, triumphed over the vain ordinances of man, that eternal law of nature, which is the law of God.
I am, &c.
Dublin I am growing very fond…
I am growing very fond of Dublin; I shall not be able to leave it without regret. My letters of credit and recommendation have procured me full as many invitations as I could have wished. It is customary for almost every gentleman, who dines with our friend, to ask you for a day; nay, they will sometimes invite the whole company to be of your party. This hospitable custom is still very prevalent, though not so much, I am told, as it has been.
With respect to drinking, I have been happily disappointed; the bottle is circulated freely, but not to that excess we have heard it was, and I of course dreaded to find. Common sense is resuming her empire; the practice of cramming guests is already exploded, and that of gorging them is daily losing ground. Wherever I have yet been, I was always desired to do just as I would chuse; nay, I have been at some tables, where the practice of drinking healths, at dinner, was entirely laid aside. p.40 Let the custom originate whence it may, it is now unnecessary; in many cases it is unseasonable, and in all superfluous.
The tables of the first fashion are covered just as in London; I can see scarcely any difference, unless it be that there is more variety here. Well-bred people, of different countries, approach much nearer to each other in their manners, than those who have not seen the world. This is visible in the living of the merchants of London and Dublin; with these, you never see a stinted dinner, at two o'clock, with a glass of port after it; but, you find a table, not only plentifully, but luxuriously spread, with choice of wines, both at dinner, and after it; and, which gives the highest zeal to the entertainment, your host receives you with such an appearance of liberality, and indeed urbanity, as is very pleasing. Here, they betray no attention to the counter, discover no sombrous gloom of computation, but display an open frankness and social vivacity of spirit.
I have been more than once entertained with a history of the good-fellowship of this
country, by persons who look back with horror on the scenes of their youth; when there was no resisting the torrent of fashion. They tell you, that a large goblet called a constable, used to be placed on the table in terrorem, which he who flinched his glass, was obliged to drink. They have recounted with rueful countenances, what constables have been swallowed, what doors have been locked, what imprisonments have been endured, before they were finished,i. e. sent away like fleckered darkness, reeling before the sun's path, and Titan's burning wheels. I am for Horace's rule,
The toping part of the world may, however, defend itself upon the authority of the Grecian laws of drinking, reported and approved by Cicero. ‘Lex est quae in Graecorum conviviis obtinetur, aut bibat aut abeat. Et recte. Aut enim fruatur aliquis pariter cum aliis voluptate potandi; aut ne sobrius in violentiam vinolentorum incidat ante discedat.’ (Marcus Tullis Cicero, Tusculanarum Disputationum Liber Quintus, 41.)p.42
Hospitality is unquestionably a virtue, yet I suspect, that what is commonly so called, is not the characteristic virtue of a very civilized, certainly not of any trading nation. Dublin is, I suppose, the least hospitable part of Ireland. In some parts of the kingdom, which I purpose visiting, I am told that a beggar comes in, sits down, and fares as the rest of the family; and that “green grow the grass before your door,” is their most malicious imprecation.
If London be less hospitable than Dublin, it should be considered that a stranger is a greater rarity here than there. Wherever the means of accommodation are universally at hand, there the reason of gratuitous entertainment ceases. Indeed, if a person be in a country where the comforts of life are not to be purchased, and if he be taken in and entertained, this should be called humanity. True hospitality is quite another thing; and this my fond partiality leads me to think is still to be found, in as high a degree in England, as in any other country.
The old Britons were as hospitable as the old Milesians, yet the want of this endearing p.43 quality is objected to them by Scaliger, among his other reproaches of the English nation. As to the hospitibus feros Britannos, it does not refer to this disposition, but to that asperity with which they treated the Romans, who invaded their country. In those parts of England, where they subsist less by commerce than agriculture, this antient virtue is still to be found: and even in Ireland, we must go to the remote parts, if we would see it in perfection. Wherever the spirit of commerce has taken full possession, there hospitality is quite excluded; they cannot exist together; the one goes out as the other comes in. Is there such a word as hospitality in a Dutch dictionary? If there is, it must be marked as obsolete.
Though I, and other English who come here, should be losers, I wish most heartily that this country were less hospitable than it is, for then I should hope to see it in a sphere above such little attentions. And though I very highly prize the character, I cannot help thinking that the Irish pride themselves too much upon it. They should reflect, if hospitality has continued longer among them than us, that was only because p.44 they were longer oppressed by a feudal government: which gave birth to a custom here called coshering; the source of the most grievous exactions. The lord of the soil came with his retinue, and lived with his vassals as long as they could supply him with subsistence. All things became in common, and the oppressed slave thought himself honoured in being reduced to beggary, by giving his meat and drink with a good grace and cheerful countenance. These manners survived after their cause was happily removed.
If you prefer the men of this country for their hospitality, and the women for their beauty, you are likely to live well with them. The ladies are, I believe, full as handsome as ours, yet it was sometime before I could bring myself to think so. I have been several times at the New Gardens, the only place of public resort at present; the first time I was there, I should have been a very niggard in my praise of Irish beauty; the second time, I thought better of it, and could pick out many pretty faces; now I have not the smallest doubt, but that personal perfections p.45 are distributed here, in as full measure and proportion, as on our side the channel.
We should not be precipitate in our decisions upon questions of this nature; I was at first deceived merely by the different modes of dress. Feathers, and other ornaments, have not yet made their way hither. It must, however, be confessed, that the middle ranks here want that art of setting off their beauty, and displaying their charms, that they have in London. But ladies of fashion are just as you see them there, with all that exact and finished neatness, which enters into the character of English females.
They are said not to walk as well as with us. If the fact be so, I should rather attribute it to the badness of the streets, than to any wrong conformation of limbs. A stranger may be easily deceived in this respect, as there is a numerous class of women, who walk the streets of London, that is almost unknown here. So that it is difficult to form a true estimate. In another generation, when the sides of these streets are flagged, the ladies of Dublin may p.46 be as much praised, for their walking, as those of London.
It is deemed almost a reproach for a gentlewoman to be seen walking these streets. An old lady of quality told me last night, when speaking on this subject, that for her part, truly she had not once walked over Essex Bridge, since she was a girl. Now Essex Bridge is the grand pass here, as Charing Cross is in London. As she had nearly lost the use of her limbs, I suppose she thought her consequence was proportionably enhanced in my eyes.
If it were not for dancing, of which they are passionately fond, the poor girls must all become cripples. It is impossible they should excel in what they do not practise; but, if they walk ill, they certainly dance well. For last night, you must know, I was at a ball, and never enjoyed one more in my life. There is a sweet affability and sparkling vivacity in these girls, which is very captivating.
I am, &c.
Dublin The theatres being now shut,…
The theatres being now shut, I can say nothing of them that you don't know; for as Dublin has long been our seminary for players, there is scarce any thing relative to it, we are better acquainted with, than the history of its stage. Let me then introduce two articles, which will at least have novelty to recommend them, I mean the wheel car, and the noddy.
The former is a machine drawn by a single horse, generally lean as Rosinante, and is composed of two shafts, with three or four transums behind the horse, supported by wheels of solid timber, of about two feet and a half in diameter. This is a general substitute for the waggon in the country, and for the cart in town; and therefore cannot fail of conveying an idea of poverty, to one just come from England. It might, however, be very useful to the English farmer, upon many occasions; and in London, it might serve for the carriage of small parcels, where two p.48 horses are not necessary, and where the porters wooden horse is not sufficient.
The other vehicle called a noddy, which plies the streets here, is no more than a single horse chaise, with a seat for the driver upon the shafts; so that the rump of the horse is at his mouth, and his rump at the mouth of the person in the chaise; than which nothing can be more indelicate. It is used, however, only by the lowest orders of citizens, who hire carriages. It has its name, I suppose, from the nutation of its motion.
From the general badness of the streets, hackney-coaches are mare frequent in proportion than in London, and sedan chairs are every where as common as about St. James's. From this circumstance, one would argue for the opulence of the city of Dublin; but it only proves that many families of distinction reside here. As you may make a barometer of any fluid, so may you estimate the wealth of a nation from various phenomena.
One pretty sure sign of poverty is, that, though there are Jews here, there are not enow to form a constant and regular synagogue. p.49 Another which solicits your attention as you walk the streets, is the wretched harridans who ply for hire. These, covered with tattered weeds, are the most horrid miscreants that ever degraded human nature. With vociferations that would startle deafness, and execrations that would appal blasphemy, they celebrate their midnight orgies, to the reproach of magistracy, the scandal of decency, and the terror of sobriety.
Leagued with these strollers, are the bands of robbers who infest this ill-policed city, and render it dangerous to the passenger who walks at night. My banker recommended to me a lodging in Capel-Street, near Essex-Bridge, assigning this reason, that as it was the most public part of the town, I was in less danger of being robbed coming home late: for it seems, that even two chairmen are not a sufficient protection. Newgate is now full of these ruffians, and it is thought that few of them can escape the sentence of the law; but many complain, that through an ill-judged lenity, reprieves are too frequently sought, and too easily obtained. It were, however, devoutly to be wished, that some p.50 other punishment than the gallows could be thought of for such malefactors. To them slavery would be more terrible than death. Policy unites with humanity, in pleading for the lives of all, except of those who have imbrued their hands in blood.
The hawkers of news, and cleaners of shoes, fill up the measure of apparent poverty in Dublin. The filth of their bodies is offensive, and their manners shocking; their outrages upon decency disgust you at every corner; and their several cries, infinitely more sonorous than ours, tingle in your ears, with all the enraging variations of the brogue.
The street leading to the cathedral of St. Patrick is so noisome, that it is necessary to stop one's nose in passing through it. No wonder that poor Swift was so chagrined with his situation as dean of St. Patrick's; it was a sad reverse from the zenith of favouritism in the court of England. To spend those talents upon the sorry subject of copper coin, which had been employed upon the state of Europe; and in withstanding the corruptions of an Irish ministry, to waste the evening of a life, the meridian p.51 of which had given lustre to the councils of Britain, was enough to sour a temper more meek than the Dean's. He has been heard to say, “I am not of this vile country;” yet he, of all her sons, seems to have loved her the best.
In this extensive city, are but seven or eight coffee-houses, and they are resorted to for tea and coffee only, not as those in London for dinners and suppers. The first day I spent here, I dined at a chop-house in Essex-street, where I found a variety of the best things, and the charges nearly as in London. There are, I am told, three or four more of these equally good; yet such places are novel in Dublin. Their Hotels have been all set up within a few years, some of which are said to be elegant; I lay the first night in that of Liffey Street, it being next to me; and found it very tolerable.
But you are tired with these unimportant details, which I only set down to impress you more strongly with an idea of the place I write from. Let me then conclude with some account of my expedition to Tarah; which, by a little variation of its old name p.52 Teamor into Temorah, has given title to one of the heroic poems of Ossian, son of Fingal.
This famous hill, situate above eighteen miles from Dublin, was at a distance too great for me to ride to it with pleasure, so I took a post-chaise, accompanied by a gentleman, whose extensive knowledge, and communicative temper, rendered the jaunt very pleasant.
After reading the pompous accounts of the triennial conventions at Tarah, where the monarch, provincial kings, and subordinate toparchs, solemnly assembled to adjust rights, enact laws and promulge them, one would naturally expect that there might still remain at least some mouldering heap of that vast edifice wherein the States-general met. The very same expectation is raised by the etymologist, who assures you that Teamor is, literally interpreted, the great house.
How then must you be surprised to hear, that there is not even the vestige of a palace to be traced; nay, that the very hill itself is evidence enough to prove, that there never could have been a considerable p.53 house of stone and lime upon it. The circular forts indeed still remain, in which the several chiefs used either to pitch their tents, or to erect other temporary sheds; but these very intrenchments evince, that stone buildings were not so much as thought of for this eminence.
I will not pretend to deny that the monarch might have had for his own residence, a stone house, somewhere near this hill; perhaps at the foot of it, where the earl of Meath's house now stands. But even this is problematical, especially when we consider, that the palace, in which king John entertained the Irish kings, in this very city, was reared by himself, and made of hurdles. From the description of Pembroke Castle, built ex virgis & cespite tenui by Arnulphus de Montgomery, son of the great earl of Shropshire, it is plain that stone buildings were unusual among the Britons about the same period.
Tarah rises majestic in a most extensive plain, north-west of Dublin. From the bottom to the summit, where the royal assembly sat, it is said to be at least a mile in length; but the acclivity is so very gentle, p.54 that it does not appear to be of any great height. In some directions, the eye reaches to an immense distance, and the prospect is upon the whole very pleasant, though by no means rich; the country being mostly under stock, with but few gentlemen's seats, two steeples, and one town to embellish the landskip.
Dublin Since my last, I have…
Since my last, I have been to see some of the beautiful scenes of the county Wicklow; which is truly a charming country, abounding with romantic views, very like the good parts of Wales. The Glin of the Downs, Dargle, and Water-fall of Powerscourt, are celebrated; but such subjects appear to me much fitter for the pencil than the pen.
I have been also at Carton, the seat of the duke of Leinster, in the county Kildare. Of this nobleman, it may, I believe be said, that he is the best appointed of any in Europe, both for a town and country house. Near it is Castletown, the seat of p.55 Mr. Conolly, the greatest commoner in the kingdom; whose house is fitted up in the most elegant modern taste, and whose mode of living is in the highest style of hospitality. He has a public news or coffee-room, for the common resort of his guests in boots, where he who goes away early may breakfast, or who comes in late may dine, or he who would chuse to go to bed, may sup before the rest of the family. This is, almost, princely.
All the outlets of Dublin are pleasant, but this is superlatively so which leads through Leixlip, a neat little village, about seven miles from Dublin, up the Liffey; whose banks being prettily tufted with wood, and enlivened by gentlemen's seats, afford a variety of landskips, beautiful beyond description. Near the village is a venerable old house, seated on an eminence, where lord Townshend spent his summers, while chief governor; and which the late Lord Primate used as his country-seat.
Stone was a man of considerable abilities, but more of the politician than the prelate, he devoted his life to the supporting p.56 a party in the Irish parliament. It is said that when he went over to London, to consult the gentlemen of your faculty on his state of health, he very candidly said to them, “Look not upon me as an ordinary churchman, or incident to their diseases, but as a man who has injured his constitution by sitting up late, and rising early to do the business of government in Ireland.”
They consider his death an aera in the polity of this kingdom; for had he lived till now, he would have been always one of the Lords Justices, with the power of the whole; and of course business would have been concluded in the usual way. Administration would have continued to throw all its power into his hands; who made so proper a use of it, that the perpetual residence of viceroys would not have been thought necessary.
In this nation are three or four grandees, who have such an influence in the house of commons, that their coalition would, at any time, give them a clear majority upon any question. It has, therefore, always been a maxim of government to disunite these factious chiefs. And, still farther to disable p.57 opposition, it has been thought expedient to disengage as much as possible, the followers from their leaders. This was attempted by lord Chesterfield, so early as the year 1745; but his stay was too short to effect it.
Formerly, these principals used to stipulate with each new Lord Lieutenant, whose office was biennial, and residence but for six months, upon what terms they would carry the king's business through the house; so that they might, not improperly, be called undertakers. They provided, that the disposal of all court favours, whether places, pensions, or preferments, should pass through their hands, in order to keep their suite in an absolute state of dependence upon themselves. All applications were made by the leader, who claimed, as a right, the privilege of gratifying his friends in proportion to their numbers.
Whenever such demands were not complied with, then the measures of government were sure to be crossed and obstructed; and the faction of parliament became a constant struggle for power, between the heads of parties; who used to force themselves p.58 into the office of Lord Justice, according to the prevalence of their interest.
On lord Townshend devolved the arduous task of dissolving these factions, so frequently turbulent in the Irish parliament. He set out with an action so popular, that the mob took the horses from his coach, and drew him from the Parliament House to the Castle. This deed so pleasing to the people, was giving the royal assent to a bill, brought in, by the famous patriot Dr. Lucas, for limiting the duration of parliaments to eight years. But they now begin to think that this favourite law is of no other use, but to increase the value of boroughs; a single seat in one of which sells for 2000l. at least.
But his Lordship's popularity did not last long. By diverting the channel of court favour, or rather by dividing it into a multitude of little streams, the gentlemen of the House of Commons were taught to look up to him, not only as the source, but as the dispenser of every gratification. Not even a commission in the revenue, worth above 40l. a year, could be disposed of without his approbation. Thus were the p.59 old undertakers given to understand, that there was another way of doing business than through them. It was not, however, without much violence on both sides, that he at length effected his purpose. The immediate sufferers did not fail to call this alteration in the system of governing, an innovation; and, under various pretences, to spirit up the people to adopt their resentments.
The contest produced a series of political letters in the public prints, replete with wit and humour, inferior, perhaps, to nothing of the kind, except the letters of Junius. They are now bound up in one volume, under the title of Baratariana; from allusion to the island of Barataria, of which Sancho was made governor by Don Quixot.
Lord Harcourt now finds the parliament of Ireland full as obsequious as that of Great Britain; and from that courteous deportment, which, every where pleasing, is here particularly engaging, he is as popular as any man can well be expected to be in his station, which is of such a ticklish nature, that odium effugere est triumphus.p.60
Having now, I flatter myself, given you a tolerable notion of Dublin and its environs; I purpose setting out in a day or two to visit the principal places in the south of the kingdom. I prefer a southern to a northern tour, not only as the climate must be better; but because the north is in a thriving state of manufacture, and therefore cannot be supposed to differ so widely from England, as a country where neither manufactures nor agriculture flourish.
A slight sketch of the geography of this country, may enable you the better to trace me without a map. Ireland is divided into four provinces, Ulster, Conaught, Leinster, and Munster. The last is to the S. and the first to the N. Leinster is to the E. and Conaught to the W.
Leinster (in which is Dublin, about midway removed from either extremity of the kingdom) is the most level, and best cultivated; Ulster the most barren and mountainous, but the most thriving and populous; Munster the most fertile, yet the least thriving upon the whole; the increase of people in her cities not compensating her internal depopulation: Conaught is said to increase in numbers, p.61 by introducing the linen trade into the parts bordering upon Ulster; though its capital is declining, and its most fertile parts, like those of Munster, are verging to depopulation.
Let me hear from you soon, and direct to me at Mr. B—— 's, Corke. My future progress will, I hope, furnish materials of more importance, or, at least, of more novelty; for hitherto I have moved in a very beaten path. I shall write from every great town in my route.
Vive & vale.
Kildare, August 21, 1775. I set…
August 21, 1775.
I set out this morning from Dublin, with only half a dozen shirts in my portmanteau, to leave room for such books, relative to Ireland, as seemed the fittest to prepare me for a local inspection. Sir John Davies's Historical Relations and Spencer's View are my pocket companions; enow, I presume, to fill up the vacant intervals at an inn.
I purpose giving you sketches of the country through which I travel, that you p.62 may have some idea of its present state, whether natural or improved. But lest they should seem overcharged with still life, I shall heighten the prospect with human figures as they present themselves; and to vary the scenery, retrospective views of manners, customs, and arts shall be interspersed.
You are not to expect either order or method in the arrangement of my observations; I shall set them down as they occur, without much attention to time, place, or other accident. All I shall promise is, fidelity in reporting facts. And if I should sometimes miss my way in tracing causes from their effects, candour will suggest to you in extenuation, how difficult it is for one who is a stranger, and alone, to come in a short time at the knowledge of many things, which the natives might wonder how any one could be ignorant of. There are indeed certain characteristics in this country, which he that runs may read: yet I do not find that any traveller has been at the pains to point them out. I begin to wish I had set out earlier, for my tour must now be limited by the season, and I must either forego p.63 the sight of some places I would wish to see, or spend too little time in each to get any satisfactory information.
My object is not only to see the face of the country, and learn its present state, but also to compare this state, with what it has been, and what it might be. And in judging of national character, I would be for making a careful discrimination, between physical and moral causes, between the operations of nature and the influence of government.
This is but a poor town, consisting of a few scattered houses; the inn however is a very good one. The country for several miles on this side Dublin is flat, like that round London; but it is not like it either in the multitude or magnitude of the trees, and still less so in the appearance of the houses on the road side. The first village I passed through, about seven miles from Dublin, Rathcool I think they call it, was mostly composed of clay huts, which are sometimes, you know, both warm and neat; but these were so aukwardly built, and so irregularly arranged, that even Wales would have been ashamed of them. It hurt me p.64 to see them so near the capital, where the landskip was so prettily chequered by abundance of little white villas, spangling the country all around, and rendering it upon the whole very delightful.
Naas, fourteen miles from Dublin, is but a shabby looking place for a borough and shire town. But there are some pleasant seats near it, and the grounds begin to swell into gentle undulations, which gives a sweet variety to that rich corn country.
On the road hither is the ruin of a magnificent house, begun, but never finished, by Earl Strafford, when Lord Lieutenant. Near this, about thirty of our miles from Dublin, is the Curragh of Kildare, where all great matches are run. It is the Newmarket of Ireland: and the sportsmen tell you that the turf is equal to any in England, it is a spacious common and sheep-walk. Government gives annually two prizes of one hundred pounds each to be run for here. These were originally given at the suggestion of Sir William Temple; who, among other schemes for the improvement of Ireland, recommended this with a view of mending the breed of horses.p.65
As this ground was famous for horseracing long before kings plates were established here, I vainly flattered myself that it took its name from its being a horsecourse, and that it was called Curragh from the Latin word curro, or rather from some Celtic word of like found and import. Thus you see me delving for the roots of Irish names, though I believe there are few people more thoroughly convinced that etymology is frequently but the excrescence of literature. It degenerates even in the hands of Sir Isaac Newton, for he identifies persons and things, which have nothing in common, but a letter or two of their names.
Certain it is, the most useful things may be abused. But sceptical as I am with respect to etymology, the information I have received inclines me to think that every town and tract of country, nay almost every hill in Ireland, is denominated, either from some history of the place, or some quality of the soil; some virtue of the water, or some property of the air; some accident of the ground without, or from some mineral within; in a word, that each name contains p.66 a brief history, or marks out some curiosity of nature or of art.
Several instances of this I have been favoured with by Colonel Vallancey, a gentleman whose acquaintance alone is worth a journey to Ireland. And you will not be displeased when I tell you, that he is our countryman, was bred at Eton, and is now engineer-general of Ireland. At an age when words and other materials of knowledge are generally collected, he betook himself to the study of the Irish language, with a diligence so successful that he soon outstripped his teachers. To him we are indebted for the best grammar of this language, indeed the only one which deserves the name. So that the Irish nation may with little variation apply to him what Cicero says of himself, upon finding out the tomb of Archimedes: ‘Ita nobilissima Graeciae civitas, quondam vero etiam docissima, sui civis unius acutissimi monumentum ignorasset, nisi ab homine Arpinate didicisset.’ (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations.)
At the end of his grammar he has brought to light some very old Irish manuscripts; among the rest one, intitled, Lessons for a Prince. It was addressed to that celebrated p.67 monarch of Ireland, Brien Boiromhe, who exterminated the Danes at the battle of Clontarf. The style, which is not unlike the Proverbs of Solomon, marks the very high antiquity of it, and the fine moral and political spirit which animates the whole piece, sufficiently evinces that civilization had made a considerable progress here before the invasion of our second Henry.
This learned soldier had before favoured the world with an essay on the antiquity of the Irish language; wherein, from a collation of the Irish with the Punic, he shews it to have a strong admixture of the old Phoenician. His mode of proceeding is very satisfactory: he takes that scene of Plautus, wherein a Carthaginian slave is introduced speaking in his mother-tongue; and comparing it verbum verbo with the Irish, which is now generally acknowledged to be the purest dialect of the Celtic, shews the agreement between the two languages; which is indeed so striking, that even a person who understands neither may perceive it, by a bare inspection of the words.
And from this close affinity of language he furnishes a strong presumptive, if not p.68 decisive proof, that literature was very early introduced here by the Tyrians, either through the medium of that trade which was carried on with all parts of the world then known, or through that colony which migrated hither from Spain; and from which the old natives are so proud of being called Milesians.
It has been the doctrine of the Irish writers, that they derived their learning from the Phoenicians: their bards tell you of one Phenius a-fear-Saidhe, i. e. Phenius the Sidonian man, who taught them letters. The truth, divested of its poetical obscurity, appears to be, that the man who taught them letters was a Phoenician or Sidonian, Tyre being the daughter of Sidon.
O'Connor, who has published some ingenious dissertations upon the history of Ireland, brings a reinforcement of arguments from Newton's Chronology 4 , which wonderfully corroborate this matter. He gives you a table where, in one view, you may see the coincidence of the Irish accounts with the Newtonian amendment. The parallel is very striking.p.69
Spencer thinks that the Irish had their letters from the nation which migrated from Spain; which, as he proves from Strabo, used the Phoenician letters very early. He is not however decisive on this head, but he says, “It is certain that Ireland had the use of letters very anciently, and long before England.”
How comes it then, asks he, that they are so unlearned still, being so old scholars? To which inquiry, as he returns no answer, I shall perhaps in future risk some conjectures respecting it. For without having recourse to any physical incapacities, the dreams of intoxicated speculation, several causes might be specified, which have necessarily obstructed the progress of the arts in this country. In one word, a provincial government has in itself impediments enow, to prevent the attainment of perfection in every department, where the strongest exertion of the human powers is to be called forth. But a full discussion of this question I shall defer till I have more thoroughly digested my thoughts; for the answer is, periculosae plenum opus aleae.p.70
Perhaps you did not know that Spencer spent a great part of his life in Ireland: they tell me the house is still standing wherein he wrote his Fairy Queen; if it comes at all in my line I should be glad to visit it: there is a pleasure which we cannot account for in the sight of such places. I never was in Stratford that I did not feel an unusual emotion, at sight of that little wooden house, which gave our Shakespear birth. By the way, what think you could have inspired Shakespear, with that odd-looking epitaph?
- Good friend, for Jesus sake! forbear
To dig the dust inclosed here;
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.
The Old man, you know, spent the last years of his life at Stratford, where it was the custom to gather all the bones, sculls in particular, and pile them in heaps. The largest collection in England is still to be seen in the vaults and steeple of that very church, where Shakespear lies interred. It seems more than probable, that it was this, p.71 to him offensive, practice which suggested the thought in the above lines.
Kildare Having, in my last, conveyed…
Having, in my last, conveyed myself to Stratford and Shakespear, let me, in this, return to Kildare and Spencer. This poet tells us, that he once meditated a treatise upon the antiquities of Ireland. Pity that he never put it in execution! Under the hands of such a master it would have grown into a piece of entertainment, a quality so rarely to be found in works of that complexion.
The opinion, however, he has given, on this particular subject, should be sufficient to excite the curiosity of an antiquarian. It has, I own, disposed me to give a more impartial hearing to whatever can be offered, in favour of the antiquities of this country, than otherwise I mould have been inclined to do. “All the customs, says he, of the Irish, which I have noted and compared with what I have read, would minister occasion of a most ample discourse of the original p.72 of them, and the antiquity of that people; which in truth I think to be more ancient than most that I know of in this end the world. So that, if it were in the handling of some men of sound judgment and plentiful reading, it would be most pleasant and profitable.”
There must surely be some foundation in truth, for that high antiquity the Irish plume themselves upon; if not, would Tacitus have said, that “the ports and harbours of Ireland were better known by trade and commerce than those of Britain.” 5 And if this same antiquity be a thing so chimerical, as some would represent it, how comes it, That when the ambassador of Henry the Fifth claimed precedence at the Council of Constance, he founded his title upon his matter's being lord of Ireland?
Orpheus tells us expressly, that the Argonauts sailed near the island Ierne; a testimony prior to any which imperial Rome can produce in favour of her antiquity. Hibernia is comparatively but a modern name. Ireland is the ancient Scotia. In later days, Caledonia, or rather Albania, which had been for many centuries ruled p.73 by the descendants of Fergus, brother to the monarch of Ireland, began to be called Scotia minor, or nova. But this was not till the eleventh century, and Ireland retained the name of Scotia, with the addition of major, or vetus, till so late as the fifteenth. All which archbishop Usher incontestably proves, and he gives it as his opinion, that no writer, before the eleventh century, can be produced, who ever pointed out Albany by the name of Scotland.
It is near two hundred years since the learned primate gave this sort of challenge, and during that space, no writer has attempted to answer him; but on the contrary, Camden, Scaliger, Stillingfleet, Dupin, Prideaux, Rapin, Warner, Whitaker, and all other writers on the subject, except two or three of Scotland, confirm his opinion. It was an attack made upon the antiquities of his native country, which probably excited Usher to treat of them with such copious precision.
Dempster, a Scotchman, under the ambiguity of the name, had laboured to confound the matter. He sent Philip Ferrarius a collection of Scottish worthies, to enrich p.74 the Roman martyrology. But this learned and candid Italian betimes discovered the snare, and published an advertisement prefixed to his book, wherein he warned the reader; “that taking other writers for his guide, he had made some of the Irish saints natives of Scotland. The cause of which, was his being deceived in the name, Ireland being in old times called Scotland, and the Irish Scots; as we learn from Orosius, Prospero, Isidore, Cogitosus, Adamnanus, Jonas the Abbot, all antient writers; together with Bede, St. Bernard, and others who have written the lives of Irish Saints. For who does not know that the Saints Brigid, Brendan, Columb-cill, Columban, Gall, Fiacre, Virgil, Kilian, Rumoldus, Dympna, Fuscus, Malachy, and others, were Irish? who, notwithstanding are called Scots, and said to be born in Scotland; of which I thought proper to admonish you, that you may be aware of certain Saint-stealers..” By which coarse character he branded Dempster. And the only harsh expression in Usher's book, is vented against this man. ‘Tam suspectae fidei hominem illum suisse comperimus & toties p.75 tesseram fregisse, ut oculatos nos esse testes oporteat, & nisi quod videmus nihil ab eo acceptum credere.’ ()
Nicolson, whom, as the author of the Historical Libraries, we may suppose a competent judge in this affair, and as an Englishman, impartial, is so convinced of Dempster's dishonesty, that in one place, he calls him “the northern rover, who had kidnapped whole scores of Irish saints;” and in another place, he takes notice of “the good services done this kingdom, by Thomas Dempster's robbing it of its saints, and transplanting them into his own Albanian territory. Which raised a just resentment in the antiquaries of Ireland, who forthwith betook themselves to arms, for the recovery of their stolen goods, and proved clearly that the Scots of antient times, famed for sanctity and learning, were all of them Irishmen.”
But all the Scotch writers before Dempster, are so far from denying the Irish extraction of the present Scots, that they seem to glory in it. “It is by many arguments certain, says John Major, that we owe our origin to the Irish. This we learn p.76 from the language, for even at this day, one half of Scotland speaks Irish; and a few years ago, a much greater proportion spoke the same language. The Scots brought their speech from Ireland into Britain, as our annals testify; the writers of which, have shewn a laudable diligence in these matters. I say, therefore, that from whomsoever the Irish draw their origin, the Scotch derive from the same; not immediately indeed, but as a grandson from a grandsire.”
King James I. in one of his speeches, boasts of the Scottish dynasty being derived from that of Ireland. “I have two reasons to be careful of the welfare of that people; first as king of England, by reason of the long possession the crown of England hath had of that land; and also as king of Scotland, for the antient kings of Scotland are descended of the kings of Ireland.”. Conformably to which, Slaytyr, in his Palai-Albion, compliments this monarch upon his Irish pedigree,
- At quoniam, Arctoo Scotico rex noster ab orbe,
Nec minus occiduis, perhibent, Scotus ortus Hibernis,
Qui Britonum parent sceptris; mihi pauca recensens,
Musa age, et Ogygios Iernes reserato colonos.
From the above authorities, one would think this question was fairly decided; for, in points of antiquity, authority is the principal, if not the only argument which can be adduced. Yet, up starts another Scotchman still more hardy, who finding no authorities, either at home or abroad, to support the darling antiquity of his native country, is for annihilating all authorities against it; and vainly dares to obtrude upon us, for true history, the inverted sonnets of Hibernian bards,
- Whence issued forth at great M'Pherson's call,
That old new epic pastoral Fingal.
This learned gentleman very gravely tells us, that “Fordun was the first who collected the fragments of Scotch history, which escaped the brutal policy of Edward I. —— that he, possessed of all the national prejudice of the age, was unwilling that his country should yield in point of antiquity to England; and that, destitute of annals in Scotland, he had recourse to Ireland, which, according to the vulgar errors of the times, was reckoned the first habitation of the Scots.— That the writers who succeeded p.78 Fordun, implicitly followed his system; that as they had no new lights, and were,equally with him, unacquainted with the traditions of their country, their histories contain little information concerning the origin of the Scots. — That even Buchanan himself, except the elegance of his style, has very little to recommend him. It therefore appears that little can be collected from their own historians, concerning the first migration of the Scots into Britain.”
Thus you see the authority of all Scotch historians is torn up from the very root. Aristotle, they say, destroyed the works of all his predecessors to make way for his own. But in the name of wonder, where were the songs of Ossian, when Fordun's national prejudice had recourse to Ireland, to supply the want of materials in Scotland? Would not his filial zeal have gladly laid hold of them for the same purpose with our modern man of antiquity?
In the dissertations before Fingal and Temora, we are told, that “as the custom of retaining Bards and Senachies was common to both nations; so each, no doubt, p.79 had formed a system of history, it matters not how much soever fabulous, concerning their respective origin.” Now let me ask, if each had formed their systems, wherefore did Fordun adopt the Irish system? And if “it was the natural policy of the times, to reconcile the traditions of both nations together, and if possible to deduce them from the fame original stock;” why does the following paragraph insinuate that the system was not concerted, but that the Scots were imposed upon?
“For the Irish, who for some ages before the conquest by Henry II. had possessed a competent share of that kind of learning, which then prevailed in Europe, found it no difficult matter to impose their own fictions upon the ignorant Highland Senachies. By flattering the vanity of the Highlanders with their long list of Heremonian kings and heroes, they without contradiction assumed to themselves the character of being the mother-nation of the Scots of Britain. At this time, certainly was established that Hibernian system of the original of the Scots, which afterwards, p.80 for want of any other, was universally received.”
It is here, you see, dogmatically laid down, that the Hibernian system was the fiction of the thirteenth century; and it is also admitted, that it was universally received, for this good reason, that there was none other. This ample concession really looks as if the writer had a mind to arrogate to himself the original invention of the Caledonian system; but his candour should have confessed that it was the happy thought of the last century. The whole state of the case is briefly this:
In the fourteenth century, Fordun did collect such remains of antiquity as had escaped the ravages of Edward; and it is agreed, on both sides, that scarce any escaped, except those in the monastery of Hy Columb-cil. In the fifteenth century, bishop Elphinstone, chancellor of Scotland, after making the strictest search for old records, lays so little stress upon what he found, that he fairly refers you ad antiquos Hiberniae scriptores. We have seen what the opinion of John Major was p.81 in the beginning of the sixteenth century, towards the close of which Hector Boetius wrote his fabulous history, adhering closely to his predecessors in tracing the origin of the Scots. Buchanan follows him, rejecting his glaring incongruities, and supporting the Hibernian system by the collateral authority of foreign testimonies. To his contemporary Dempster, was reserved the innovating invention of the Caledonian system.
But Sir George M'Kenzie scorned to follow him; even he who thought it his duty, as advocate general of Scotland, to impugn certain parts of Irish history, in order to lengthen out the royal line, and to prove, for the honour of his Majesty, that his pedigree was derived from sovereign princes, rather than provincial kings. Sir George admits that the Scots of Britain came last from Ireland; and so doth Innys, whose more learned labours tend to shorten rather than lengthen the catalogue of Caledonian kings.
What then remains to support the credit of a system, exploded universally abroad, and generally at home, but the genius, style, p.82 and learning of Mr. M———n? Which, after all, betray his distrust of it, and cannot secure him from manifest self-contradictions. First, “the Hibernian system is concerted between the two nations;” next, “the one was imposed upon by the other,” then it was neither concerted nor imposed, but “the true Caledonian system was handed down by tradition; though a few ignorant Senachies might be persuaded out of their opinion, by the smoothness of an Irish tale, it was impossible to eradicate from the bulk of the people, their own national traditions.”
He sometimes attempts to entrench himself in verbal criticism, a sort, in which, one would have thought, he would have been impregnable; but even a person who knows nothing of the Irish language, may, with very little attention, perceive the improbability of what he advances. He asserts, what is universally denied by the Irish, that they call their language Caëlic-Erinach. They say, that the Irish of both the Scotlands, the old and the new, have all along called their language Gaëlic without any addition.p.83
Now to be convinced that this is the truth of the matter, let us only ask ourselves, to what purpose should a mark of distinction be added to the same language, though spoken by different nations? We use no addition, to discriminate the language of England, from that now commonly spoken in Ireland. No! we call both the English. And when we talk of the Latin tongue being generally spoken, at such or such a period, we do not say the Latin of France, or the Latin of Germany, but simply, and emphatically, the Latin. An epithet is indeed necessary to distinguish the people of a colony, from those of the mother-country; as to distinguish the descendents of the Saxons in England, we call them Anglo-Saxons. Accordingly we find, that in the Irish or Gaëlic, a Scotchman is called Albanach Gaël, i. e. a Scoto-Hibernian; but an Irishman is called emphatically Gaël.
Another circumstance there is, which tends to throw some light upon this matter; the songs of Ossian are as familiar to the original natives of Ireland, as p.84 they are represented by Mr. M'—n to be in Scotland. And it is reasonable they should be so. Ossian is mentioned by Keating, Flagherty, and all the other historians of this country, as an Irish chieftain; but no notice is taken of him by any Scotch historian. Nor is there any mention made by them of Fingal, father to Ossian; yet all the Irish histories are replete with his exploits. Fin-mac-Comhal (pronounced Finmacoal) i. e. Fin the son of Comhal is the great hero, to whom, as a Hercules, the common Irish assimilate all strong and gallant men.
So much, indeed, is virtually admitted by the publisher of Fingal; and to usher his work with greater plausibility into the world, he takes notice of an advertisement, which had appeared in the Irish newspapers, notifying that a translation of the Irish Fingal would soon make its appearance, and requesting the Public, to suspend the purchase of the Scotch translation, as being full of errors, &c. A blunder was sure to be inserted, to make the thing more probable, and go down the better; p.85 for what more natural, than for Irish sagacity to spy out the errors of a work it had not seen?
But, from all the inquiries I have made, I never could learn that such translation was ever meditated. Colonel Vallancey, who knows every Irish scholar in this kingdom, tells me, he never heard of any such work being in agitation. He says, Ossian's poems are all short ballads, not yet collected, to his knowledge, by any one. So you may guess the quarter from whence the blundering advertisement originated.
Yet it has been reported, and by great names too, that the first four books of Fingal were to be seen in the Isle of Sky, written in a fair hand on vellum, and bearing date in the year 1403. But this report proves ill authenticated. Dr. Johnson made the most diligent researches in the Isle of Sky, and elsewhere, for these supposed manuscripts; but the result of all inquiries issued in this conclusion, that there not only were no such manuscripts in existence, but that it was impossible there should be any such: for that the Erse had p.86 never been a written language, till within a century.
In short, the forgery committed in the publications of Fingal and Temora, is so clearly detected by the sagacious and learned author of the Journey to the Western Isles, that to oppose the evidence of such fictitious works, to that of established history, would be to persist in a most audacious insult upon the understandings of mankind. There are, we know, original poems ascribed to Ossian. Mr. M——n may have taken their images and sentiments, may have adopted their manner and spirit, but he has so changed the matter and order of the narration, by putting in, and leaving out, and other metamorphosing methods, that his work may be called any thing rather than a translation.
That this is the very method, which Mr. M——n has pursued, he in some measure acknowledges; for when he recommends it to the Irish to give a translation of their Ossian's poems, “he hopes that the translator will chuse to leave something in the obscurity of the original.” Now it is to p.87 be presumed, that he has too much candor to offer that advice to another, which he would not himself follow.
It is curious enough to see so learned a man as Lord Kaims, a man too, who in other respects seems divested of prejudice, such an advocate for the authenticity of the poems of Ossian in English. But I cannot think this agreeable writer in earnest. For while he tortures his ingenuity to give them a plausibility, which contradicts all his own systematic principles, he seems almost willing to compound for them as a forgery. But the glory of the antient Caledonians is at any rate to be supported; therefore, rather than it should sink, he is even for recurring to miracle. And upon this ground, he seems ultimately to rest his cause; a ground, which I thought he never would have chosen.
The refinement of sentiment in Ossian's characters, is so subversive of all that he had been for establishing, that he is utterly at a loss to account for it. “Had the Caledonians,” says he, “made slaves of the women, and thought as meanly of them as savages commonly do, it could never have p.88 entered the imagination of Ossian to ascribe to them those numberless traces that exalt the female sex, and render many of them objects of pure and elevated affection. Without the aid of inspiration, such refined manners could never have been conceived by a savage.”
Now is it not a fact of notoriety, that at this very day, the Highland women are employed in the most servile offices, even in carrying out manure like beads of burden? Yet, our truly curious fact collector, after some strictures on Ruffian manners, triumphantly asks, “can one suppose that the ladies and gentlemen of Ossian's poems, ever amused themselves after the age of twelve, with hide and seek, questions and commands, or such like childish play.”
Is not this to furnish laughter with a sneer at Highland manners? Does not Lord Kaims, arguing for the aid of inspiration, virtually betray that system he would support? Let those celebrated epics then be at best considered, but as ingenious Centos culled from Irish Bards; garbled and transposed, curtailed and interpolated, they are certainly not originals, and consequently p.89 they are not Ossian's. Perhaps they are better. If so, let Scotland glory in them; but, detected as they are by Dr. Johnson, betrayed by Lord Kaims, and self-condemned throughout, they must remain only a monument of the ingenuity of the Editor.
- Ossian sublimest, simplest bard of all,
Let English infidels McPherson call.
Kildare It is an opinion pretty…
It is an opinion pretty general, on our side the water, that the Irish had not any buildings of stone and mortar, before they were raised by the English; but I will enclose you the sketch of one, above 130 feet high, which was certainly built antecedent to that period; for Gyraldus Cambrensis, secretary to Henry II. and afterwards bishop of St. David's, describes those round towers, among the wonderful things of Ireland, and calls them ‘turres ecclesiasticas, quae more patrio arctae sunt necnon & rotundae.’ ()p.90
This writer was by no means partial in favour of the Irish nation; when therefore he says, that those towers were built after the fashion of the country, we cannot agree with those who suppose them to have been erected by the Danes. There are no such structures now in Denmark, nor in any other part of Europe, that I hear of, except in Scotland; where there are two of a small size, one at Abernethy in Perthshire, the other at Brechin in Angus. Which, by the bye, among other circumstances, tends to decide the descent of the Scots from Ireland, for we may easily conceive, that those Scottish towers were built by the posterity of the Irish, who went over with Fergus, in the manner of those of their own country, where they are so numerous.
The learned, however, are not agreed about the particular use, to which these edifices were applied. Some say they were places of penance; others, that they were belfries, the very name of them in Irish Cloghahd importing a steeple with a bell; but the prevailing opinion now seems to be, that they were anchorite pillars, such as Simon Stylites used to sanctify himself upon. p.unnumbered p.unnumbered p.91 upon. They tell you, that in order to preserve the appearance of piety in the Abbey, and augment the fame of the monks, one of them, most celebrated for his austerity, used to watch and pray, in an extraordinary manner; thus removed from the earth, and its low cares, and, as it were, holding nearer converse with the Deity.
I shall not presume to decide upon a question of such moment; yet I cannot help inclining to the second opinion, not only from the name given them by the indigenal natives, but from the following considerations: Over great part of the east, they have tall round steeples, called minarets, with balconies at top, whence a person calls the people to public worship at stated hours. As the Irish had their arts from Phoenicia, we may fairly suppose, that from thence also came the model of these towers, which served as the minarets of the east do at present, till bells came into use; for narrow as they are, (about ten feet in the clear, at the base) they might hold a bell large enough to summon the auditory, as effectually as the shouts of a man.p.92
Not far from the tower, they shew the ruins of a convent, of the nuns of St. Brigid; who, according to Gyraldus, makes Kildare illustrious by her unextinguishable fires, the ashes of which have never increased. The very oak under which she delighted to pray, has given a name to the place. Brigid, you must know, was the Virgin Saint of the land, and, after the Blessed Virgin and St. Patrick, held in the highest adoration by the Irish catholics. She was worshipped like Vesta, with unextinguished fires, kept burning by the nuns in their convent; which was therefore called the fire-house.
- Ignis inexctincti Dariae, quis crescere novit
Ævis tot lapsis, Brigida virgo, cinis?
The ladies of Ireland are too wise to imitate this patroness of virginity in making the vow; celibacy being, perhaps, more uncommon here than in any other country. Yet, the chastity of the women, and the bravery of the men, are traits of the national character, on which these people, not without justice, pique themselves.p.93
Among the higher ranks, the indiscretions of the fair sex are, probably, as uncommon as any where else, and certainly more so than in many other places. In a circle so small, that not to know every body is to be unknown, trespasses in this way can never escape observation, and therefore ceasure must be armed with double terrors.
But whatever strictness guards decorum in the polite world, they tell you that infamy does not long attend female frailty, in the lower walk of life. There a young woman may make the young squire a father, and marry her sweet-heart the very next year, who values his bride the more, as such a connection is supposed to enhance her dowry.
As it is doubted whether courage is natural or artificial, so it has been disputed, whether chastity originates from constitution or education. But is there not a firmness of nerves? Is there not a happy temperament? Poeta nascitur non fit, is not a true proposition, but it is more true than poeta fit non nascitur. Away then with the mighty examples from Hawkesworth's Voyages, which have been adduced to shew, that chastity is not an instinctive virtue.p.94
Let it not be argued that the ages of chivalry and romance over-rated female virtue, and that the present age, of polish and refinement, is bringing it back to its original value: nor let it be prophesied, that in this untainted isle, the morality of some future age will, like the religion of the present, unkalendar St. Brigid.
Kilkenny, August 30, 1775. My last…
August 30, 1775.
My last was from a little town which had its name from St. Brigid's cell of the Oak; this is written from the best inland town in the kingdom, denominated from the cell of St. Kenny. It is sweetly situated on the river Newre, covering two little hills; on one of which stands the cathedral, and on the other the old castle of the Ormond family. Near the cathedral is one of those round towers, I gave you a sketch of from Kildare. There are, besides, three towers of ruinous abbies, which still rear their heads aloft, and give a figure of some consequence to the town.p.95
But before I make you better acquainted with Kilkenny, let me give you some account of the way to it. From Kildare to Castle-Dermot the country is in general pleasant, and in some places adorned with plantations. Castle-Dermot is a very poor town for a borough, not even a ruin remaining of that castle whence it was called. That it was once a place of some note, is however evident from the remains of religious houses. One of its monasteries has been magnificent; two of the ailes, with one of its windows, still preserve the outlines of grandeur and elegance. The town was sacked and plundered by Bruce in 1316, yet a parliament was held there in 1377.
On this side Castle-Dermot the country grows less pleasant, and the road being one extended right line for several miles, becomes more fatiguing to the rider than to the horse. There, for the first time, I saw their sewel, with us called peat, but with them turf; piled up in prismatical heaps, like the mortars at Woolwich, upon the margin of those pits, from whence they are dug. They are cut by an instrument called p.96 a slane, which is nothing more than a spade of about four inches broad, with a steel blade of the same breadth, standing at right angles to the edge of the spade. So that each turf is a parallelepiped, of about ten inches by a square of four. From this instrument, Mr. Read, an ingenious cutler of Dublin, has borrowed the form of a knife, for delving into cheese, which they also call a slane.
As you approach Carlow, the scene alters; the country seeming to be entirely occupied by gentlemen's parks, walled in, and recently planted; which will appear most delightful when the trees are full grown. The town itself is pleasantly situated on the Barrow, and makes a very cheerful appearance, from the number of white houses scattered up and down; nor are you at all disappointed when you enter it, there being a cleanness and neatness in the streets, I had not hitherto seen on this road. There was a good flesh-market, and every thing wore the appearance of a good English village. Such are the happy effects of a little trade! For here they have a manufacture of the coarsest kind of woollen cloths, and are concerned p.97 in supplying the neighbourhood with coals from Kilkenny. They have a horse-barrack; and on an eminence, overhanging the river, stands an old castle, of an oblong square area, with large round towers at each angle; which has a fine effect.
Up the river from Carlow, the landskip is highly picturesque; and downward, for eight miles along its banks, to Leighlin-Bridge, the ride is delightful. At a due distance, the grounds swell gradually into mountains, which, from their feet to their midsides, are covered with woods; and, to enliven the prospect, the interjacent tract is interspersed with several little white villas, neatly planted around. From Leighlin-Bridge hither, the country is naturally cheerful; but let me reconduct you to Kilkenny, in Spencer's poetic barge, down the Newre, one of those three renowned brethren,
- Which, that great giant, Blomius, begot
Of the fair nymph Rheusa, wandring there,
One day, as she, to shun the season hot,
Under Slew-Bloome, in shady grove was got;
This giant found her, and by force deflower'd;
Whereof conceiving, she in time brought forth
These three fair sons, which being thenceforth pour'd.
In three great rivers ran, and many countries scour'd. p.98
The first the gentle Shure, that making way,
By sweet Clonmel adorns rich Waterford;
The next, the stubborn Newre, whose waters grey,
By fair Kilkenny, and Ross-ponte board,
The third the goodly Barrow. ——
There are but two churches in this large town, or rather city, consisting of between two and three thousand houses; but there are several mass-houses, each of which has congregations, vastly more numerous than both the churches. The cathedral is a Gothic edifice, so venerable, that whoever sees it must lament, that a spire, at least, had not been added to the stumpy steeple. From the Bishop's palace to the church, is a long and double colonnade, in the modern style. The nave is divided from the ailes, by massy columns of black marble, crusted over with a dirty lime white-wash. It is, however, a consolation, that the scaffolding is now rearing for the purpose of embellishing this ancient pile.
In the ailes are several ancient monuments of armed knights, and mitred bishops, some in horizontal, and some in praying postures, and one modern monument of white marble, p.99 finely executed; the device is Piety, with a book in her hand, leaning in a mournful posture over an urn. These, altogether, would have given a due solemnity to the place, were it not that its slovenly condition rather inspired a painful melancholy;
The hill on which the cathedral stands, is called the Irish Town, as that whereon the castle is, goes by the name of the English Town, and each of them send two members to parliament. The former is mostly composed of sorry houses, and poor huts; the latter is generally well built. The castle was founded by Randolph III. earl of Chester, but built, as it now stands, by the Butlers, ancestors of the dukes of Ormond. In the English town is the church of St. Mary, no contemptible structure, with several old monumental decorations; there also are the town-hall, jail, and market-house.
I mentioned to you the towers of three monasteries, these are St. John's, St. Francis's, and the Black Abbey. St. John's has great elegance, and amazing lightness in the p.100 style of the building. The Abbey-church of Bath is, I think, called the lanthorn of England; but this is more windowed still; for about fifty-four feet of the south side of the choir yet entire, the whole seems to be one window. I send you a sketch of it. The east window is sixteen feet wide, and about forty high, as I guess. Belonging to this Abbey are the remains of several old monuments, almost buried in the ruins.
St. Francis's has little remaining except the tower. But the Black Abbey is a magnificent remain; the windows are exquisitely curious; not unlike many you have seen; the architraves in the outside cornice under the parapet, are very expressive of their origin. Of this spacious ruin, two of the steeples are almost entire.
One of the old churches is converted into a mass-house, as the courts of two of the abbies are changed into barracks; St. Francis's for horse, and St. John's for foot. How different are the establishments of different potentates, at different periods! The Pope's barracks in Ireland were once filled with old fellows, with shaven crowns, p.unnumbered p.101 and without shirts, but clothed in long sweaty gowns, of black, and white, and grey. The king now fills his convents with young fellows, wearing long hair, linen shirts, and scarlet jackets lined with all the colours of the rainbow.
The castle, whose magnificence was heightened by the sublimity of its situation, has been gradually falling into decay, since the attainder of the late duke of Ormond. It was in his time a spacious square, two sides of which only are now standing: one they are rebuilding, and the other two they are putting into repair; but in a taste too modern for a building of such antiquity, and too frippery for one of such magnitude.
In a gallery of 150 feet in length, but very disproportioned in breadth, they shew you several old portraits; among these, in full length, are the whole Stuart race who reigned in England from Charles I. inclusive, together with William III. who is said to have dined here, on his march to the siege of Limerick, soon after the battle of the Boyne. But the most remarkable piece is a three quarter length of earl Strafford, p.102 said to be taken but a few days before his catastrophe; to which is contrasted, the picture of the same person, taken in the full career of his ambition. The different situations of life are strongly marked in the countenance of each.
In the room called the Presence Chamber, or at least in that next it, for I already forget, are the four elements in tapestry, finely executed, and in high preservation; the gloss of newness seems fresh upon them. In another apartment is a suit of hangings, representing the story of Decius, in the attitudes of taking leave of his friends, receiving the high priest's benediction, &c. &c. and at length devoting himself. These tapestries, though not so glowing in their colours as the seasons, are nevertheless admirable in other respects. Pity that they should be exhibited to so little advantage! They are hung up in a room, the shape of which is so inordinate, that I question whether any two sides of it are parallel, and it is illuminated diagonally from a window, in a segment of one of the round flankers. One of the largest pieces is folded p.103 round the mixed angle at the window, so that the part of it on the concave surface has a glaring light, while that on the plain is almost in darkness. This room affords too many beautiful views of nature from without, to require the sacrifice of so much art within.
The servant, who shewed the house, told me the situation was very like that of Windsor. I cannot say the likeness would have struck me, though there is at both places a town, a castle, and a river. However, let not Windsor fastidiously disdain the comparison. For though the country round Kilkenny is not improved like that round the most princely of the royal palaces, yet the site of this castle is at once bold and beautiful, with almost every advantage that could be wished to decorate the scene.
It stands upon a precipice, overhanging the bend of a deep and rapid river, with two stately bridges full in view: the more distant, and up the stream, is composed of seven arches, that next the castle has but three; but of a very wide span, of hewn p.104 marble, in fine elliptical proportions. The sides of the river are well planted, and the subjacent town looks as if it had been built merely to be looked at; for every thing in it worth seeing, bears upon the castle, whilst every thing dissightly is, somehow or other, screened from the view. The horizon is closed, in one limb, by mountains, placed at a due distance, to give variety without horror; and if any thing is wanting to render the prospect inchanting, it is that the middle distances are destitute of that richness of cultivation, and that embellishment of country-seats, which is the capital beauty of Windsor. But Kilkenny is far more picturesque.
Windsor castle looked at, is august and venerable, but when you look from it, there is nothing to inspire those ideas. Not Eton's spires, not Cooper's classic hill, not Cliveden's gay alcove, nor Glo'ster's gayer lodge, can furnish such a lavish variety to the landskip-painter, as these Hibernian scenes. There Nature has painted with her most correct pencil, here she has dashed with a more careless hand. This is the fanciful p.105 and fiery sketch of a great master, that the touched and finished work of a studious composer. Without either mountain or sea, no landskip can, in my conception, be perfect; it wants the grand attribute of sublimity. Windsor Forest was a theme exactly level to the tame genius of Mr. Pope, whose lines are not more harmonious than the subject; but it was such a rude original as this, which ravished Milton into that brilliant description.
- Straight mine eyes hath caught new pleasures,
Whilst the landskip round it measures,
Russet lawns, and fallows grey,
Where the nibling flocks do stray;
Mountains, on whose barren breast,
The labouring clouds do rest;
Meadows trim with daisies pied,
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide:
Towers and battlements it sees,
Bosom'd high in tufted trees.
Towers and battlements it fees,
Bosom'd high in tufted trees.
Kilkenny. Having heard a great deal…
Having heard a great deal of the cave of Dunmore, I went this morning to see it. Even beauties too highly extolled, before you see them, seldom answer your expectations. I will not, however, rank this among beautiful objects, for to me it had nothing to recommend it. After riding some miles over a very rough road, they shewed me a knoll, or swelling ground, in a green field, which they said was the cave's mouth, but I could see no cavity, till I came to the very lip.
The aperture was lined with a few stunted shrubs, intertwined with ivy. The descent was apparently easy, but after I got fairly in, it became very difficult, from the damp and slippery footing; I therefore soon made my way back again, and took my turn of holding the horses, that my servant might gratify his curiosity. He stayed a great while in it, and, when he came up, lamented that I had not gone farther, and begged of me to go down again. If there p.107 are any sparry incrustations there, it ought to have been viewed by candle-light. But I cannot conceive that the exhibition would reward the trouble.
Do not however imagine I lost my day with this bawble, for in my way I passed through the fine old park of Dunmore, and farther on, I saw the coal mines, which are well worth seeing. The pits are principally at Castle-comber, the estate of lord Wandesford, who is said to clear 10,000l. a year by them. If the grand canal were finished to the Barrow, he would then probably make much more, for that would open a communication with Dublin. But hills interpose, which must be pierced through for that purpose.
One would, however, think that even a canal could not much lower their price, considering the following extraordinary fact. The carriers pay 5d. per hundred weight, and sell them for 1s. 8d. in Dublin, which is above 80 English miles from the pits. Each car draws but seven hundred weight, which with 9d. for turnpike, makes the load cost 3s. 8d. and it sells for 11s. 8d. So that for six days travelling charges of a p.108 man and horse, there is but 8s. to say nothing of the labour of both, and the wear and tear of the car. They are said to be laid down in the most remote parts of the kingdom, at a price so low, that it puzzles calculation to make out how the wretched carriers can subsist.
These coals are universally prized for drying malt with; because they emit no smoke. A fire made of them yields a very intense heat; it does not blaze but glow, looking like lumps of red hot iron; the vapour is very dangerous, except in a room well ventilated. The other elements have, it is said, their peculiarities at Kilkenny; but these are not so well founded upon truth. It is true that their streets are paved with marble, for I believe they have no other stone. Their marble is black, variegated with white, and takes a very high polish. It is much used for chimney pieces all over the kingdom. The only manufactory here is for coarse cloths and fine blankets.
Kilkenny values itself upon its superior gentility and urbanity. It is much frequented by the neighbouring gentry as a p.109 country residence, has a stand of nine sedan chairs, and is not without the appearance of an agreeable place. I went last night to their weekly assembly, and was soon given to understand, by one of my partners, that Kilkenny has always been esteemed the most polite and well-bred part of the kingdom.
Knowing so little of this country, I am not furnished with any arguments from either reason or authority, to dispute this pretension. My partner was so beautiful a woman, and so striking an example of the doctrine she taught, that she led me away an easy captive to her opinion . For which I can see the justest grounds. This was the seat of the old Ormond family, here the last duke kept a court, as several of his predecessors had done, in a style much more magnificent than any of the modern viceroys. The people imbibed the court manners, and manners remain long after their causes are removed.
At present, the inheritor of the castle and some of the appendant manors, a Roman catholic gentleman, affects the state of his ancestors; his wife receives company as, p.110 I am told, the old Ormond ladies used to do; she never returns visits; and people seem disposed to yield her this pre-eminence.
The cook belonging to this inn, the Sheaf of Wheat, wears ruffles; and though an old man, is as full of vivacity as politeness. He brings me every day, after dinner, some delicious pears, and says he keeps a few for the quality who resort to the house; and that he has done so for thirty years.
I am not singular in remarking that the peasants of this country are a most comely breed of men. They are generally middle sized, and have almost universally dark brown hair, and eyes of the same colour. Their complexions are clear, their countenances grave, and their faces of that oval character, which the Italian painters so much admire.
Kilkenny. The endowed school here is…
The endowed school here is called a college; and certainly no seat of learning could wish for a situation more cheerful, or more healthful. Such stagnating floods as we have seen round Magdalen-walks, Merton-fields, and Christ-church meadows, could never annoy this charming spot. The city itself would be something like Oxford, if we could suppose Oxford dilapidated of its towers and pinnacles.
Many people in Dublin expressed to me an earnest desire, that Kilkenny should be made the seat of a learned society; hoping by that means to prevent so many from going to Scotland, in quest of education. Others again hinted, that if Armagh in the north was to divide with Kilkenny in the south, the emoluments of Trinity-College Dublin, it would be more conducive to the interests of literature and virtue.p.112
Discipline is, at present, attended to with the utmost exactness, and every possible care taken to enforce obedience to the statutes. Greater strictness is certainly observed than with us at Oxford. The gates are regularly attended, and no student can be in the city, without the knowledge of the porters. Defaulters undergo pecuniary mulcts, at the discretion of the Dean and a board of Fellows. Nevertheless, frequent and enormous outrages are committed. One of the gownsmen was lately killed in a riot with the watchmen; yet it is believed, that, in general, the poor watchmen are more sinned against than sinning.
The Lord Mayor's jurisdiction extends to the college; and it has been exercised, but not without tumult and disorder. From this principle, a perpetual feud is kept up with the inferior officers of magistracy, those obnoxious restrainers of natural liberty.
But there is a political evil in the constitution of this corporate body, which brings on a periodical fever, the crisis of which is generally violent. You already p.113 see, I mean the election of representatives. This never fails to breed abundance of ill blood, convulsing the whole system, and dissolving every principle of health within.
Nor is its malignant influence confined to the college walls. It not only sets the tutor against the pupil, and the pupil against the tutor, but it sets the father against the son, and the son against the father: and, what is still worse, it places self-advantage against general interest; at once overturning what Cicero and Cumberland are for establishing in the halls.
Old age is but too prone to adopt the sordid maxims of worldly wisdom; but this, alas! prematurely wrinkles the mind, and brings early decrepitude on private virtue and public spirit. But let every influence be far and for ever removed from our schools, which, instead of expanding the affections to the sphere of human happiness, contract them to the narrow focus of self-interest: which should always be considered, but as a particle, in the mass of universal good.
Unhappily for this society, the power of returning members is lodged, principally in the hands of boys; for of ninety electors, p.114 seventy are scholars, one half of whom are probably not of age. From the Provost's prerogative of nomination, which I have already explained to you; it is evident that he can, in seven years, as with a plastic hand, mould this society into the arbitrary form of his wishes; for in that period, between seventy and eighty of the whole may be of his own creation.
A new Provost indeed coming in, at the eve of an election, may find many refractory, and some rebellious subjects in his dominions. He should not therefore endeavour, all at once, to drive them into allegiance; he should only gradually lead them into compliance. And he has, in the plenitude of his power, such a magazine of resources, as cannot fail to operate powerfully on the majority.
If universities must have representatives in parliament, it would be well for that of Dublin, if its Fellows only had been vested with the privilege of freeholders, and that the Provost had here, as in other cases, the power of nomination; for reasons, obvious from what I have already said.p.115
Scarce a week passes without the appearance of some satirical production, either in prose or verse, pointed at the highest in station, and the most eminent for abilities of the whole body. No less than two volumes of these have been already collected, under the title of Pranceriana; which, however they may discover great talents for wit and humour, in the young gentlemen who wrote them, sufficiently evince the unfortunate political system of this learned republic.
Cashel, September 8th, 1775. On leaving…
September 8th, 1775.
On leaving Kilkenny, I was in doubt whether I should make my route by Waterford; it being a very thriving city, with the finest Quay in Ireland. But, the season being so far advanced, Cork, Limerick, and Galway, must suffice for the great cities. From them I hope to acquire some idea of the state of trade; and, by making this zigzag through the midland region, I shall have a better opportunity of noting indigenal manners, and the unmixed influence of the pastoral life.
I breakfasted at Callen, which withstood Cromwell's united forces for some days in 1649, now a poor dirty town, interspersed with the numerous ruins of old castles and religious houses. The prevalence of interest, in this paltry borough, has been long contested both in the courts of law, and in the fields of honour. They cross the seas to dispatch each other, by the pistol or the sword. The feud is become hereditary, p.117 and not likely to be extinguished by the death of one of the principals.
Duelling, it is argued, may in some cases be considered as a necessary evil; but if its tendency be to refine manners, the frequency of it, in this kingdom, is a certain sign of imperfect civilization. The contagion of it infects all ranks.
The first place I stopped at in the province of Munster, was a little village called Killynaul; where the country assumed a very different appearance from what I had before observed. The inauspicious operation of pasturage became, however, visible before I left Leinster. For ten or twelve miles on this side of Kilkenny, the soil was far from rich, it was rather indeed poor; yet it was pretty well cultivated, the fields were enclosed with hedges and ditches, and the country embellished with houses and plantations. But, as the ground improves, on approaching the borders of Munster, agriculture ceases, and not a house, not a hedge, not a ditch is to be seen. The country is abdicated by the human species, and peopled with sheep.p.117
Nor was the change less evident in the manners of the people. There was nothing in them, however, that could remind you of the golden age; no resemblance of that simplicity attributed by poets to the shepherd state; nothing like that surly awkwardness of our English clowns, who have one general answer, I dont know, to almost every question a stranger asks. These peasants have no sheepishness about them, are under no embarrassment when you speak to them, seem never at a loss, but are blessed with an abrupt and sudden promptitude of reply.
It may not, perhaps, be difficult to account for this obvious contrast. Our peasantry, intent upon their own proper affairs, are not at the expence of thinking upon other subjects; whereas these poor men, having neither labour nor trade to engage their attention, are more occupied with other people's affairs than their own; excussi propriis aliena negotia curant. 6
In ridicule of their passion for news, my companion Spencer tells the following story, “A Frenchman, who having been p.118 sometime in Ireland, and there marked their great enquiry for news, and meeting afterwards in France an Irishman, whom he knew in Ireland, first saluted him, and afterwards said merrily, O, Sir, pray you tell me of courtesy, have you heard any thing of the news, that you so much inquired for in your country?”
It is not necessary to assign so many causes, for this vain curiosity, as Spencer does; for idleness comprizes them all. Wherever a people have but little employment, and have, at the same time, quick and lively imaginations, they will of course be garrulous and inquisitive. The very same property, we find St. Paul ascribing to the Athenians, “who, spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or hear something new.”
My host was very courteous, for on my declining to go into his house, the exterior of which was not very inviting, and on telling him that I only meant to feed my horses; he replied with an air of frankness and civility: “Ah! by my shoul, you're welcome to the best room in my house, p.119 suppose you neither eat nor drink.” I then stepped in, and he became not less communicative than he was inquisitive. He supposed that I was a lawyer, and that I came from Dublin; and seemed astonished that I knew so little of the country, and that I never had been there before.
Upon my supposing, in my turn, that the clear fire before me was of Kilkenny coal, his answer was somewhat indignant, yet fraught with information. “Arrah no! my dear jewel, for by Shasus we have as good coal as Kilkenny ourselves, ay and better too. The devil an inch you rode today but upon coal pits. Sure it is we that serve all Munster with coals, and Connaught too. Did not the Dutch Boors offer to their countryman, king William, that, if he would let them live by the laws of Holland, that they would make meadow ground of the whole bog of Allen, and carry the coals of Killinaul, through their canals, all over Ireland, ay and England too. For you see, that our coal is the hottest coal in the universe, and the only coal for drying malt with, because it has no p.121 smoke, and therefore gives the beer neither taste nor smell.”
He then touched upon the affair of the White-boys, to whom he was no friend. He said they had been in that town the very night before. You have heard of these banditti. I am not yet in possession of the true state of their case. For it is so variously represented in this country, that one must listen with attention, and assent with caution. But the whole country round Killinaul bears upon the very face of it, an evident and sufficient cause for their insurgency; if insurgency it may be called, where each housekeeper disclaims all connection with the wretches concerned.
Cashel is a good town, but a poor city; it consists, as I guess, of between five and six hundred houses, some of which are very decent, and look as if inhabited by persons of condition. It must have been formerly a place of the first consequence in Ireland, for here Henry II. held a synod.
There is somewhat still venerable in the ruins of the churches and monasteries in p.122 this ancient city. ‘Quocunque ingredimur in aliquam historiam vestigium ponimus.’ (Cicero, De Finibus 5,5: quacumque enim ingredimur, in aliqua historia vestigium ponimus [retrieved from http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/cicero/fin5.shtml ].) The sight of the cathedral alone is a full compensation for the loss I may have sustained in passing by Waterford. It is at once the largest and most ancient in the kingdom. I took a perspective of it this morning, from a room in the Archbishop's house. It is, as you see, built upon a rock, and the whole is usually called the Rock of Cashel.
The dimension of the nave and choir, from east to west, is about 200 feet, as I computed by stepping through nettles, and over-tumbling fragments of stone and mortar. The steeple is in the centre of the cross; near the east angle of the north ile is a round tower, to which leads a subterraneous passage from the church. Tradition says it is the oldest structure upon the rock, which seems more than probable from a trifling circumstance; all the buildings upon the rock, which is limestone or marble, are built of the same material, except the tower, which is of freestone. It may, therefore, be at least presumed, that the practice of quarrying was not then very common.p.123
Sir James Ware says, this cathedral was built, about the time of the arrival of the English under Henry II.; but a learned clergyman, whom I met in Dublin, assures me, that in this the knight was mistaken; for it appears from an inquisition made in the second of Henry IV. that the donation of certain lands, by the founder Donald O'Brien, was confirmed by letters patent of king John. Now Donald was brother to Morough More, king of Munster, A. D. 1086, and this authentic record is to be seen Rot. Pat. ii. T. i. 3 pt. D.
Cormac's chapel, which you may observe in the angle, on the south of the choir, is near two centuries older than the church for Cormac was king of Munster A. D. 901: This chapel, fifty feet by eighteen in the clear, is a very curious structure, and of a style totally different from the church. Both on the outside and inside, are columns over columns, better proportioned than one could expect, from either the place or the time. The cieling is vaulted, and the outside of the roof is corbeled so as to form a pediment pitch. At the angles of the east end p.124 are two small towers, one of which you may distinguish in my sketch.
It may not be unworthy observation, that the chapel is not parallel to the church, as it tends to confirm the greater antiquity of the chapel; for had the church been the older building, it is probable they would have accommodated the chapel to it, though, on the contrary, they would not have adapted the church to the chapel. As the first builders of churches were religiously exact in placing them due east and west, the deviation of the chapel from the true line, we may presume, was corrected in the church.
If we could be certain that due attention was given to the meridian, at founding each of these structures, then the want of parallelism 7 in them would become a datum for ascertaining the difference of their p.125 dates. For we know that the equinoxes move in antecedentia, one degree in seventy-two years; therefore, by turning the angle, which these two buildings make with each other, into years, we have the interval between their respective foundations.
If this angle, the measurement of which I leave to some future traveller, be three degrees, it would answer nearly to the supposed difference. But the angle was apparently much greater; say nine degrees, and then it will bring the foundation of the chapel, to the middle of the fifth century. And it is more than probable that it was erected by Cormac, upon the very foundation of that church, originally built here by St. Patrick.
That there was an edifice of lime and stone here in the fifth century, Colonel Vallancey shews to be highly credible; for the name of the place is mentioned in the acts of the life of St. Patrick, and that name, Cas-iol, signifies literally a house of lime and stone. As this was the seat of the kings of Munster, we may naturally suppose, that the castle upon the rock was their residence, before the introduction of p.126 Christianity, as it continued to be after, Cormac was not only king, but Archbishop. Rex Anius, rex idem hominum Phoebique sacerdos.
Having now given you, Doctor, a full dose of learned disquisition, I shall conclude this epistle, with the quaint epitaph of an Archbishop of Cashel, who was a great favourite of queen Elizabeth. Bedrid for two years before his death, which happened in his hundredth year, he had the inscription deeply cut on a plate over his monument; which is placed on a high basis in the south side of the choir, with his effigy in alto relievo.
- Venerat in Dunum primo sanctissimus olim
Patricius, nostri gloria magna soli.
Huic ego succedens, utinam tam sanctus ut ille.
Sic Duni primo tempore praesul eram.
Anglia, lustra decem, sed post, tua sceptra colebam,
Principibus placui, marte tonante, tuis.
Hic, ubi sum positus, non sum, sum ubi non sum;
Sum nec in ambobus, sum sed utroque loco.
Dominus est qui me judicat.
Qui stat caveat ne cadat.
Mileri Magrath Archiepiscopi Casheliensis ad viatorem carmen.
Cashel. As the Rock of Cashel…
As the Rock of Cashel overlooks the town, and at the same time a great extent of country, the most fertile in the kingdom, it is no wonder that it was chosen for the residence of the kings of Munster. It has, however, lost its rank of importance among the cities, for want of a navigable river. This would have more availed it at present, than that it was once the throne of kings.
Such a tract of country as is seen from the Rock, if in England, or even under the hands of common industry, would be as beautifully rich as any in the British empire. From thence you have an extended horizon, except where the Gaultees interpose; and this long chain of lofty hills gives a most picturesque contour in many places. The interjacent grounds, fertile as avidity itself could wish, are not a dead level, but gently diversified by lively undulations.p.128
After all, the prospect is far from being pleasant. It requires an abstraction of adventitious circumstances to perceive its natural beauty: with a total neglect of cultivation, there is scarce a tree to be seen. The country is intersected with walls of dry stone, and ditches that never have been quicked. The squire's country seat, the rich farm house, or even the warm cottage, are here looked for, but looked for in vain. If there be an habitation, it is that of the face-ground shepherd, whose sordid hovel serves but to call a deeper shade upon the gloom of depopulation. Your philanthropy would sicken at the forlorn state of this goodly tract.
In the town is a large and comfortable See-house, built within half a century. The old episcopal seat was the building you may see, on the west end of the cathedral. But this was battered in the rebellion of 1641, by Lord Inchiquin, who put all the priests to death he found in it, as they were the principal part of the garrison, which defended the fortress.
The present Archbishop has a house upon his own estate, where he lives. You p.129 will be surprised when I tell you that there is not even a roofed church in this metropolis; the service being performed in a sorry room, where country courts are held. The choir of the cathedral was kept in repair, and used as a parish church, till within thirty years; but the situation not being accessible enough, — which, however, 20l. would have rendered so;— the roof was wantonly pulled down, an act of parliament and a grant of money being first obtained, to change the site of the cathedral, from the rock to the town. A new church of ninety feet by forty-five, was accordingly begun, and raised as high as the wall plates. But in that state it has stood for near twenty years.
You would be amazed, considering how thinly the country is inhabited, at the number of Romanists I saw on Sunday assembled together. Round the altar were several pictures, which, being at the distance of a very long nave of an old monastery, I went round to the door of one of the transepts, in order to see them more distinctly. The people made way for me, and some of them offered to conduce me to where the p.130 quality sat; but this I declined. While I stood at the door, a woman came up, and asked for some holy water, of a man who stood at the font; he reached her some in the hollow of his hand, and with the remainder he besprinkled me. He took me, I suppose, for an heretic, and therefore was sure I stood in need of lustration. I thought it, however, time to go, lest my not joining in the ceremonies might look particular.
The priest was very decently habited, in vestments of party-coloured silk, with a large cross embroidered, on the outside a garment, which hung down behind. He muttered the service, and frequently turned round to the altar and kissed it, after having first bowed to it. On the altar burned two candles; just emblem of their superstition! The dim light of tapers held forth in the blaze of day! Yet, even here, it is possible, that God may be worshipped in spirit and in truth; for “he dwelleth not in temples made by hands, as if he needed any thing.” 8
This argues not, however, that true religion should let her temples fall into ruin p.131 and decay. Much, very much, depends upon a decent exterior. What else has the church of Rome to support herself upon? Even that beggarly display of outward elements, exhibited in this old abbey of Cashel, has somewhat to engage the imagination, and even to mend the heart.
It is true, that telling of beads, saying Ave marias, crossing of the breast and forehead, being sprinkled with salt and water, and abstaining from flesh and labour, upon certain days, are as indefensible on the spiritual principles of the Gospel, as on the ground of philosophy. But I ask, where is the majority of any denomination of Christians, that can distinguish the letter from the spirit of the gospel? What multitude is philosophical? What vulgar is rational? The bulk of all persuasions believe they know not what, and practise they know not why.
One of the causes, assigned by Spencer, for the obstruction of due reformation in Ireland, is the neglect of the churches; which, he complains, “lie for the most part even with the ground; and of those lately repaired some are so unhandsomely patched, p.132 and thatched, that men do even shun the places for the uncomeliness thereof.”
After quitting the abbey, I went to the court-leet room to hear, and, I own, to see the service of God performed, according to the usage of the church of England. And there I found a thin congregation, composed of some well-dressed women, some half-dozen boys, and perhaps half a score of foot soldiers. For there is a school and a barrack in the town.
How differently is the state of the diocese of Armagh represented? It is said, that the archbishop of that see has not only decorated his cathedral, given it an organ, and fixed a choir there, but that he has built one of the best houses in the kingdom, a real palace, suited to his elevated rank.
It was originally intended that bishops should reside in cities. Lord Coke is of opinion that the very residence of a bishop constitutes a city. His Grace therefore, with ideas truly episcopal, would have Armagh a city not only of courtesy but in reality; and to effect it, he makes it a condition with his tenants, that they shall all build good houses, and slate them. Inventa p.133 lateritia, marmorea linquenda. Nor has he stopped here. He, at his own expence, has built and endowed a sumptuous diocesan library; and by his influence and contribution he has erected a magnificent hospital, a college, and even a barrack. His clergy are all following his steps; and new houses, new churches, and spired steeples are everyday rising through every quarter of his diocese.
Dr. Garnet, bishop of Clogher, had been long pursuing the same plan. He has improved his cathedral and palace, built churches where they have been wanting, and scarce a parish in his diocese is without a good new parsonage-house.
Still farther north, Hervey, brother to Lord Bristol, is following their examples. And, all together, they are rendering Ulster, the most mountainous and barren quarter of the kingdom, as eminently superior to the other provinces, in the ecclesiastical department, as it had been before in the civil.
But you must be tired with a subject which cannot appear at a distance, of such importance, as to one on the spot.
Cashel. My short stay here has…
My short stay here has afforded me frequent opportunities of conversing with the common people; who, having observed me measuring one of the monasteries, would sometimes follow me at a distance, and sometimes throw themselves in my way, in order to get or give information.
Their native humour was entertaining, and their remarks upon men and manners shrewd and sagacious; but nothing could be more ridiculous and absurd than their traditional tales. Asking them for the reason of the name of the Hore Abbey, they told me, that one of their queens, who in her youth had been a great whore, founded it for the salvation of her poor soul.
Their curiosity was strong to know whence I came, and where I was going, and what could be my motive for taking the dimensions of such old walls. It contributed not a little to remove their reserve towards me, that I was unknown by every body yet they did not, without an artful p.134 and wily address, discover their sentiments as to the White-boys. They always took care to say, that they were wrong in what they were about, at the very time they were insinuating that others were more in fault than they.
Yesterday there was a horse-race, and at night an assembly. Too busy for the course in the morning, I was glad of an opportunity to change the solitude of an inn, for such gaiety in the evening. And never was I more surprised than at the multitude and politeness of the company. Some nobility, and all the gentry from far and near, were collected together. We had no less than two sets of dancers, and three or four card tables. The ladies were not only well but elegantly dressed, in the ton of a winter or two since in London.
Of what extremes is this country composed? Here every thing wore the face of festivity and pleasure; it looked as if Amalthea had emptied her horn in this spot. I had heard of vivacity, and I had seen it in individuals, but never, till last night, did I see it universally pervade so large a mass.p.136
The women vied with the men in the display of animal powers.
You have seen Stubbs's picture of the Chariot of the Sun; and you may remember how the wheels blaze, and how the horses are maned with flame; every thing seems in the nascent state of conflagration. It was just so here. You would have said they breathed fire. We frog-blooded English dance as if the practice were not congenial to us; but here they moved as if dancing had been the business of their lives. The Rock of Cashel was a tune which seemed to inspire particular animation.
These people have quick and violent spirits, betraying them sometimes into sudden starts of indecorum, which the severity of punctilio would not fail to censure, while candour would only consider them as the venial flashes of mirth and good-humour. I have seen the whole room in a convulsion of laughter at a false step made by one of the dancers. Nor does penury repress these ebullitions among the lower ranks; for though four centinels, with their bayonets p.137 fixed, were stationed at the door, the mob rushed in, and rendered the room very offensive.
How different are the effects of the same sensibility in another line? I had been strolling through the market, in order to see what commodities were sold, and to observe the humours of the people; when I remarked a poor woman, who had lost her purse, containing but two or three shillings. The poor creature wept aloud, and the women, about her, joined in the lamentation which had such an effect, that a general outcry was the consequence, so piteous and so doleful, that the men themselves could not refrain the sympathetic tear.
In this market I observed a great number of little bags, which men carried in upon their shoulders, and set down for sale. Upon examination, I found them filled with wheat; some of them contained ten or twelve pounds, some a stone and a half, some more and some less. It is hardly necessary to review the face of the country, in order to learn the state of its agriculture; this single fact reflects it as a mirror.p.138
Were I to devise an emblematical figure of Ireland, in her present state, it should not be a Minerva-like figure, with her spear and harp; nor should it be a Diana with her wolf dogs coupled, and the moose deer in the thicket of the back ground. For that species of deer has been extinct here longer than the records of Irish history reach; the wolves too being all destroyed, and the dogs therefore useless, it looks as if nature intended that their species should fail also, for I never could see one of them. But my picture of Ireland should be mulier formosa superne, a woman exquisitely beautiful, with her head and neck richly attired, her bosom full, but meanly dressed, her lower parts lean and emaciated, half covered with tattered weeds, her legs and feet bare, with burned shins, and all the squalor of indigent sloth.
But to return to our assembly; where, though unknowing and unknown, I met an instance of that civility to strangers, for which this country is so justly famed. I had indeed hitherto withdrawn myself from all possible occasions of meeting with it, as I had little time to spare for this purpose, p.139 and was rather desirous to learn the true state of the country and people in other respects; their character for hospitality being already sufficiently established. But as this was the first opportunity I ever took, of experimenting in this way, I cannot in justice to true politeness pass it over.
A gentleman, whom I since learn to be a physician, seeing me a stranger, accosted me in a manner which bespoke the liberality of literature and travel; and after offering all his services in conducing me to whatever might gratify my curiosity in his country, he asked me whether I would chuse to dance or play cards, that he might introduce me, &c. I need not tell you which I chose. He got me an agreeable partner for one set, and the next I chose for myself. Their conversation was as spirited as their dancing. One of them had a person that would be gazed at in St. James's. These people were upon the whole so free, so easy, and so engaging, that I cannot help feeling myself interested in their national prosperity.p.140
My new acquaintance the Doctor, whose name is Carrol, made me known, or rather indeed he made several gentlemen known to me; for as yet, he did not know my name. Several polite invitations were the consequence; one of which I accepted from a gentleman, who, as my conductor, the Doctor tells me, is son to a Roman catholic of large property and great influence, descended from the once royal family of the Macarty's. This will be a scene of novelty. I shall not forget to let you know all that shall befal me, among these descendants of Hibernian kings.
Tipperary, September 20, 1775 Since my…
September 20, 1775
Since my last, I have spent some days most agreeably at Mr. Macarty's of Springhill; where hospitality was displayed in its best manner, divested of those qualities, which of old tarnished the lustre of that virtue in Ireland. There was no constraint in the article of wine, nor indeed in p.141 any other. There was as much ease as in the house of an English Duke.
However, lest from the little I have seen, so repugnant to what I have heard on this subject, I might lead to a misconception of the ruling manners at present, I must observe, that this ancient family have seen much of the world. The eldest daughter is married to a colonel in the Imperial service, who is also an officer of state at court; the eldest son, whom I met at the assembly, is an officer in the same service, and Miss Macarty is but lately returned from visiting her sister. You will not be displeased to hear, she preferred England to every other country she had seen; which to me still more endeared her,
who had every grace, and every charm
To win the wisest, and the coldest warm.
Here we were at meals, even on Sunday, regaled with the bag-pipe, which, to my uncultivated ear, is not an instrument so unpleasant as the lovers of Italian music represent it. After supper, I for the first p.142 time drank whisky punch, the taste of which is harsh and austere, and the smell worse than the taste. The drinkers of it say it becomes so palatable, that they can relish no other; which may very possibly be the case, for I suppose that claret is not relished by any palate at first.
The spirit was very fierce and wild, requiring not less than seven times its own quantity of water to tame and subdue it. They told me there was a sort much stronger, distilled with aromatic substances, at a guinea a bottle, called usque-bagh, which is literally eau-de-vie; as whisky or uisge is emphatically the water.
This was the liqueur, which the Czar Peter the Great was so fond of, that he used to say, “of all wines, Irish wine was the best.”
Here I met with Mr. Baker, a clergyman, and a man of letters, who gave me a cordial invitation to his house, promising to introduce me to Mr. Armstrong, minister of Tipperary; a gentleman curious in the antiquities of his country, and furnished with one of the best libraries in the kingdom. I had no difficulty in accepting this p.143 invitation, but that it separated me from the agreeable family at Spring-hill.
In Mr. Baker, I found a young-looking man, but of ancient plainness, and simplicity of manners. His words were few, but those were correct, and all his sentiments shewed that he thought for himself. His wife, of an elegant person, was rather under the common size, but the stature of her mind was of the first magnitude. She is sister to Mr. Jephson, author of Braganza, which had such a run the last winter. If this lady writes as well as she speaks, she would certainly figure in the Belles-Lettres. She has such a purity of diction, such elegance of sentiment, and such warmth of imagination as would amaze you. Yet these shining qualities serve only to shed a lustre upon the goodness of her heart; those make her an admirable, this renders her an amiable, woman.
Tipperary is a small, but thriving village, with little or no manufacture. An effort has been made to establish the linen manufacture, and for this purpose a colony of northern weavers was settled there about forty years ago. But this proved ineffectual; p.144 for the children of those weavers, like the other natives, neither weave nor spin; and in every thing but religion, are undistinguishable from the general mass. Such is the resiliency of all nature to its original state.
General and inveterate habits of sloth, must be removed upon systematic principles, before a way can be made for the introduction of the arts of industry; a few examples are not sufficient to excite an imitation of better things. We are all by nature abhorrent of labour, for labour gives pain. Sloth must prevail, till the incentives to diligence overpower the propensity to idleness: which can never be the case, till artificial wants become, at least, as numerous as those which are really natural. If an Irishman feels no inconvenience from walking barefoot, he will hardly be induced to work for the price of brogues.
The manner in which the poor of this country live, I cannot help calling beastly. For upon the same floor, and frequently without any partition, are lodged the husband and wife, the multitudinous brood of children, all huddled together upon straw p.145 or rushes, with the cow, the calf, the pig, and the horse, if they are rich enough to have one.
Their houses are of several sorts; but the most common is the sod-wall, as they call it. By sods you are to understand the grassy surface of the earth, or the cespes of the Latins. Some build their houses of mud, as we do: others use stone without mortar, for two or three feet from the ground, and sod or mud for two or three on the top of that; their side-walls being seldom above five or six feet high.
Sometimes you may see an ingenious builder avail himself of the side of a ditch, which serves for a sidewall, and parallel thereto, he rears a wall in one or other of the modes I have described, as his own fancy, the facility of the method, or abundance of materials may lead him.
Another will improve upon this plan, and make the grip or fosse of the ditch, serve for the area of his habitation, by a little paring to widen the space; he being thus saved the labour of erecting side-walls, and having only the trouble to build his p.146 gables; for the which his prompt invention has a noble succedaneum in the hip roof.
Their mode of roofing is not less ingenious. They take the branches of a tree, the largest of which they use as principals and purlins, and the remainder they lay parallel to the principals, for support of a thin paring of the grassy surface of meadow ground, like the sods, only much broader, tougher, and thinner. These they call scraws, meaning to be sure scrolls, seeing they are rolled up in that form, as they are pared. But they would be better called hides, for they are flayed off the earth. With these, however, they cover the small branches or wattles, and over all, they fasten a coat of straw, or, in default of straw, they cover with rushes or the haum of their beans or potatoes, and in mountainous tracts with heath.
Sometimes they have a hole in the roof to let out the smoke, and sometimes none. For to have a chimney, would be a luxury too great for the generality. The consequence is a house full of smoke, at least in the upper region, where it floats in thick clouds, the lower part being pretty clear p.147 of it. To avoid the acrimony of which you are obliged to stoop down, and the poor man of the house immediately offers you a low stool, that you may be, what he calls, out of the smoke. And this is, probably, the only stool in the house; for the children nestle round the fire almost naked, with their toes in the ashes. Even the women, though not so naked, sit upon their hams in the same way. But in spite of their general adhesion to the ground, the old people are, for the most part, blear-eyed, with pale and sooty faces.
The only solace these miserable mortals have, is in matrimony; accordingly, they all marry young. Most girls are, one way or another, mothers at sixteen; and every house has shoals of children. Not that, I suppose, women are by nature more prolific here than in England, yet their early marriages, and necessary temperance, furnish more frequent instances of foecundity.
Nor is this country without instances of extreme longevity. Mr. Russel of Cloneen died, April 1770, at the age of 145. But such are not found in the sooty 9 cabbins, whose wretched owners do not grow p.148 to the size of well-fed men, and consequently cannot extend their lives to the natural term. People may say what they please about the wholesomeness of a mere potatoe diet; but shew me a set of men, with such a rosy hue of health as the butchers of England.
From the promiscuous way these people lie together, a suspicion naturally arises in a stranger's mind, that incest is unavoidable amongst them. Yet upon the strictest inquiry, I find the fact to be otherwise. They are bred up in such an abhorrence of the turpitude of this crime, that I am inclined to think it as infrequent here, as among more civilized nations. The better sort of people seemed rather surprised that I should entertain such an opinion; which only shews, that what we see practised from our infancy, though ever so unnatural, makes no impression.
A little reflection, however, will remove even the grounds of suspicion. Bred up from childhood together, their wonted and innocent familiarity is carried on step by step, without impure emotions being excited. One of these poor souls is no more p.149 inflamed by the nude bosom of a sister, than in a more affluent state he would be on seing it covered with gauze.
There is no indecency in mere nakedness. Would drapery add to the modesty of the Medicean Venus? The chastest eye may gaze upon the naked figures of the Graces; but emotions will arise on seeing the lady stepping over the style; yet nothing is seen that our Madonas do not disclose. It is the imagination too dainty, from mistaken refinements, that annexes modesty or immodesty to dress, or to the want of it.
There are certain adjuncts peculiar, neither to the concealment nor display of beauty, capable of exciting ideas either gross or refined. And as the artist, by availing himself of these associations, may paint modesty naked, and lewdness wrapped up, so the nakedness of savage nations may not tend to immorality, whilst the dress of civilized people may be panders to sensuality. Was there not an ancient legislator, who, in order to lessen the influence of women over the men, exposed them naked?
It was far otherwise in the Hate of innocence and pure love,—
- Then was not guilty shame, dishonest shame
Of Nature's works; honour dishonourable!
Sin-bred! How have ye troubled all mankind,
With shews instead, mere shews of seeming pure;
And banished from man's life, his happiest life.
Simplicity, and spotless innocence?
So pass'd they naked on, nor shun'd the sight
Of God or Angel, for they thought no ill.
Tipperary I generally spend my mornings…
I generally spend my mornings here in riding to such places as my kind conductors think most worthy observation; I have been to see a large unfinished house of Lord Milton's at Shrone-hill, and other places of less note. But the only building worthy any remark, is the Abbey of Holy Cross the architecture of which, more than ordinarily elegant for this country, sufficiently rewarded the fatigue of a long ride.
I learn, from Mr. Armstrong, that this Abbey was founded in the twelfth century, by Donald O'Brien, whose monument is p.151 still to be seen near the high altar. In the south aile is the shrine, wherein some pieces of the cross were supposed to be preserved; both of which are more highly embellished than any other Gothic remain I had seen in Ireland.
From what I have said in a former letter, you may conceive that agriculture is at a very low ebb in this country; I need not add that you may ride for miles, in the most fertile part of it, without seeing an acre of ploughed ground; except where potatoes had been, a year or two before. This is a subject I do not understand, but the process of cultivation, generally adopted by the poor, I hear, is this: the first year they plant potatoes upon the ley, the next they sow bere, the third wheat, and the fourth oats.
Their manner of planting potatoes is the following: after cutting the potatoe into several pieces, each of which must have what they call an eye, they spread these sets on the ridges of about four or five feet wide, which they cover with mould, dug from furrows on each side, of about half the breadth of the ridge. In Autumn, p.152 when they dig out their potatoes, they sow the ridge, immediately before digging, with bere; and the same operation serves for gathering in their potatoes, and for covering the new sown seed. This method, you'll say, is facile enough; yet such is the fertility of the soil, that their crops are most abundant from it.
The above method, however, is not universal, for sometimes they do not dig out their potatoes, till the frost sets in; and as hard frosts are very rare in this climate, some dig only as they want them. Whence it happens, that if a nipping frost should chance to surprise them, many lose their whole crop, their chief subsistence; and then famine is sure to cling their bones the ensuing summer. Such are the effects of having little to do, that people become indolent and will do nothing.
The little culture, which is carried on, is exercised by the very dregs of the people, upon one acre or two, in the worst manner, subservient only to their immediate support, without any farther prospect. Their very implements of labour are of the most awkward and ineffectual forms.p.153
When I tell you the price of lands here, you will perhaps suspect I report upon hasty information; yet be assured that 40s. an acre is the common rent of g