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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Commenting on the human remains found at a friary near Kilcrea in Cork , the
Halls noted : “ As in all the ancient churches , human bones are piled in every
nook and cranny and thrust into corners or gathered in heaps directly at the
guishable as human habitations from the surrounding moor , until close down
upon them . ” Even where cabins were built above ground , travelers like Rev .
John East sometimes had a hard time recognizing them : “ So little like human ...
[ The peasants ' ] miserable abodes compel one to consider with astonishment
how it was possible for human beings to exist in such circumstances . ” A member
of the Blake family described the peasants around Letterfrack in Connemara as ...