Tourism, Landscape, and the Irish Character: British Travel Writers in Pre-Famine Ireland
Picturesque but poor, abject yet sublime in its Gothic melancholy, the Ireland perceived by British visitors during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries did not fit their ideas of progress, propriety, and Protestantism. The rituals of Irish Catholicism, the lamentations of funeral wakes, the Irish language they could not comprehend, even the landscapes were all strange to tourists from England, Wales, and Scotland. Overlooking the acute despair in England’s own industrial cities, these travelers opined in their writings that the poverty, bog lands, and ill-thatched houses of rural Ireland indicated moral failures of the Irish character.
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As I demonstrate in this book , the “ metacommentary ” that suffused many of the
British travel accounts about Ireland often dealt with the failure of the Irish
character to measure up to British standards . The Development of Irish Travel
37 Interesting as these accounts are , they lack that essential dynamic , the British
- Irish connection , that forms the focal point for this book . Most of the authors
discussed here were English , along with a few Scots , such as Henry D . Inglis ...
The renditions of Irish dialect in travel accounts inevitably made the peasant
speakers sound like living relics of a premodern past . This was reinforced by the
travel writers ' tendency to sprinkle those accounts with stories , legends , and bits