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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10 As for rural poverty , some of the worst examples in the United Kingdom were
to be found in southern England . In 1821 William Cobbett , observing a group of
women reaping near the borders of Hampshire and Surrey , wrote that they ...
16 The truth was that Britain was home to much rural poverty , some of it , given
differences in diet and social custom , as desperate as that encountered in
Ireland . Although historians have long debated the contribution of the enclosure
In fact , the British had an almost mystical attachment to the type of rural scenery
created by enclosure . Brian Short observes that even today the three linked
words “ English , ” “ rural , ” and “ community ” are “ like a chemical reaction which