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Tourism, Landscape, and the Irish Character

British Travel Writers in Pre-Famine Ireland

William H. A. Williams

Publication Year: 2008

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.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Series: History of Ireland and the Irish Diaspora


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p. viii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

I did not begin this study with full awareness that it would eventually embrace tourism, landscape, and the Irish character. The landscape came first. When I lived in Ireland in the late 1960s and . . .

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pp. 3-20

Good Tom Moore, the popular Irish poet, would have had little truck with Mephistopheles. However, he might have understood why Goethe’s satanic tour guide looked around for the ubiquitous . . .

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1. Picturesque Tourism in Ireland

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pp. 21-31

During the eighteenth century the stimulus for travel changed as the old didactic, sociohistorical focus of the Grand Tour was gradually replaced by a fascination with scenery.1 It was no . . .

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2. Historical and Religious Landscape

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pp. 32-50

The ideology of the picturesque involved more than questions of class and power. It also dealt with relationships among the past, the present, and national identity. The British tourists’ search for the sublime . . .

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3. Putting Paddy in the Picture

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pp. 51-62

On a carriage ride from Kilkee to Carrigaholt in Clare in 1841, Mary Francis Dickson observed a group of peasants: “The varied employment of peasant life—the mingle of poetry and . . .

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4. British Tourists and Irish Stereotypes

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pp. 63-79

The tourist-native relationship is built on the perception of types, Dennison Nash suggests. Strangers to each other, hosts and guests both resort to the shorthand of . . .

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5. Tourism and the Semeiotics of Irish Poverty

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pp. 80-104

The modern tourist, according to Dean MacCannell, is a semeiotician ever searching for the signs that define or symbolize the host country. John Urry agrees, describing the tourist gaze as an essentially . . .

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6. Irish Povety and the Irish Character

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pp. 105-126

Genteel sensibilities limited how realistically the sights and smells of poverty could be described. This may help explain why British travel writers in Ireland so often reached for comparisons that suggested . . .

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7. Misreading the Agricultural Landscape

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pp. 127-146

Landscapes “are signifiers of the cultures of those who have made them,” Brian Graham suggests in his introduction to In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography. “They can be regarded as vital texts . . .

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8. Discovering the Moral Landscape

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pp. 147-161

The province of Ulster historically consists of Ireland’s nine northern counties: Down, Antrim, Armagh, Londonderry, Tyrone, Cavan, Monaghan, Fermanagh, and Donegal. The province has always . . .

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9. Landscape, Tourism, and the Imperial Imagination in Connemara

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pp. 162-194

More than any other region, the West of Ireland disturbed British tourists, even while it fascinated and delighted them with its rugged splendor.1 By the early nineteenth century, the popular romantic . . .

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pp. 195-200

British travel narratives were, inevitably, products of, as well as contributions to, the complex history of Anglo-Irish relations. Nonetheless, they were also shaped by the very nature of tourism. Tourism creates . . .


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pp. 201-231


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pp. 233-255


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pp. 257-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780299225230
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299225247

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1st paperback
Series Title: History of Ireland and the Irish Diaspora