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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The 1854 edition of Tourist ' s Illustrated Handbook for Ireland announced that
extensive descriptions of the West of Ireland were no longer necessary , but it did
provide a brief history of the opening of Connemara for tourism , referring to Inglis
ing , most British tourists could neither ignore peasant poverty nor completely
contain it within picturesque descriptions . Thus , in addition to being technicians
of romantic aesthetics , the travel writers were also forced to become reporters of
A Week at Killarney , Descriptions of the Routes Thither from Dublin , Cork & etc .
( 1843 ) . London , 1865 . Hall , Spencer T . Life and Death in Ireland as
Witnessed in 1849 . Manchester , 1850 . Hamilton , Rev . William . Letters