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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Assuming a link between aesthetics and agricultural productivity , the visitors
believed that the failings of the Irish ... and frequently missed , what were for them
signifiers of aesthetically pleasing , but also highly productive , agricultural ...
23 As a result , large sections of rural Ireland lacked the visual cues by which the
British identified productive agricultural land . Then there was untilled land .
Whelan calculates that by the eve of the Famine , 30 percent of Ireland ' s land lay
14 Touring Connemara about a year later , John Barrow was convinced that the
region was “ capable of being converted into one of the most fertile and
productive districts in Ireland ; and that , by means of the multitude of lakes , or
tarns . . . an ...