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 place was filled with people “ such as one never sees in our country (
England ] where devotion is by no means so crowded as here . ” Thackeray
observed the “ kneeling , and bowing , and humming , and chanting , and censor
- rattling .
half - century earlier Dr . Edward Daniel Clarke , wandering the streets of Dublin ,
had observed bitterly : “ If you enter a fruit shop or tavern , a crowd of those poor
creatures [ beggars ) infest the door , through which you must press your way ...
Its object is the infinite reality , God , and it is felt only when for a moment we lay
aside the transitory ideas of sense ' and come face to face with the power that has
been always present , but not always observed " ; see The Sublime , 143 . 6 .