Compleat Irish Traveller in 1788
THE COMPLETE IRISH TRAVELLER
IRCUMSTANCES of life, amd natural inclination, encouraged me to cultivate my domestic instructions with that liberal knowledge of men and things, which, by experience, I have found is best obtained by observation and convesation in different countries. I was advised not to begin with the Grand Tour of Europe, which is commonly laid down as a task to be performed by our English gentry as soon as they are taken fromm school; but to pass over into that country first, which, on account of its laws, religion, political dependence, &c. ought to be regarded and thoroughly known next to Great Britain, and so complete a tour through his majesty's dominions of England, Scotland and Ireland; the latter kingdom, reported by historians to abound with no inconsiderable store of antiquities amd natural curiosities, and affording a large fund of gratification to the British traveller.
Having crossed St. George's Channel from Liverpool, the most prosperous sea-port town on the western coast of England, the first land we made was Howth Heath, a point of land about eight miles east of Dublin, forming the north point of its bay, which is about three or four miles wide, and six or seven deep. The bar of this harbour is very incommodious, but the entrance into the harbour, being at least eight miles from Dublin city, is extremely beautiful and picturesque, diversified with hills and promontories on either hand, exhibiting a very spacious amphitheatre, bounded by a high shore, amd said to be exceeding in grandeur by none, except the bay of Naples, to whose superiority of view of Mount Vesuvius does nat a little contribute. The country all round is sprinkled with white villas. From the entrance the light-house or pigeon-house on the south side of the harbour appears to great advantage; at a little distance from it is Irish Town, (two miles distant from Dublin to which place the dyke from that city reaches; and which, when carried on to the extent proposed, will considerably encrease the quantity of marsh ground already retrieved from the bay, at the bottom of which the river Liffy discharges itself. The city of Dublin is not seen to advantage from the waters, yet the landscape upon the whole is highly rich and beautiful, being horizon'd in some places by mountains, exactly conical, called the Sugar-Loaf-Hills. I am persuaded there are many who would not regret a journey thither for this single prospect, to render which compleat, a mumber of circumstances are necessary, but which can seldom concur, suchas the season of the year, the time of the day, and the clearness of the atmosphere when you enter the bay.
The magnitude of the city of Dublin is much greater than is generally imagined, being nearer a fourth or fifth of that of London; if you view it from any of the towers it seems more, but from walking the streets you would suppose it to be less. In 1754 there were 12,857 houses in this city; but in 1766 they had increased to 13,194; and are now further augmented to above 13,500, which indeed is far short of one fourth of the number of houses in London, yet there is not so great a disproportion in the number of inhabitants, who are supposed, at a moderate computation, to amount to 160,000. It is nearly circular, about eight miles in circumference. We see it to great advantage from any of its steeples, the blue slate having a very good effect. The best view is from Phoenix park, (the Hyde park of Dublin,) but much more extensive than ours, and would be exquisitely beautiful, if dressed and planted; but except some thorns and the clumps of elms planted by the late Lord Chesterfield when he was Lord Lieutenant, there are very few trees upon it. In one part of this park his Lordship raised a handsome column of freestone fluted, with a Phoenix on the top, issuing out of a flame; with an inscription on the base, importing that he embellished the park at his own expense for the recreation of the citizens of Dublin; and his name is still held in veneration among them. The greatest part of Dublin is very indifferent, but the new streets are as elegant as the modern streets of Westminster. Lately has been added to it an elegant square, called Merion's square, built in superb style. Near that is a square called St. Stephen's Green, each side being a quarter of a mile, probably the largest in in Europe, round which is agravel walk of near a mile, where genteel company walk in the evenings, and on Sunday after two o'clock. This Square has some grand houses, and is in general well built, and although there is a great inequality in the houses, yet this in some respect adds to its beauty. In the midst of it is an equestrian statue of George II. in brass, erected in 1758. The situation is cheerful, and the buildings around it multiply very fast. A new square has lately been begun, called Palentine-square, near the barracks, a regular fine range of buildings, which, when completed, will considerably add to the growing improvements of this city.
The quays of Dublin are its principal beauty; they lie on each side of the river Liffey, which is banked amd walled in, the whole length of the city; amd at the breadth of a wide street from the river on each side, the houses are built fronting each other, which has a good effect. This embankment, when paved, will be sperior to any part of London. The Liffey runs for about two miles almost in a stratight line through the city, and over it are five bridges; of these Essex-bridge is most worthy of notice. It consists of five arches of stone, the chord of the middle one is 48 feet; it was begun in 1753, finished in about a year and a half, and cost 20,000 guineas. It has raised foot-paths, alcoves, amd balustrades like Westmister-bridge, of white stone, coarse but hard. It fronts Capel-streetto the north, and Parliament-street to the south. The length is 250 feet, and breadth about the width of that of Westminster:here the tide rises on average about ten feet. Queen's-bridge was rebuilt in 1764, is exceedingly neat, and consists of three elegant arches. The other bridges are not worth mentioning, as they are merely conveniences to save the trouble of ferrying across the river, and defy every order of arcitecture. At the end of Essex-bridge is the elegant new building of the Exchange, which does honour to the merchants who constructed it, the expense being mostly defrayed by lotteries. The wholes is of white stone, richley embellished with semicolumns of the corinthian order, a cupola, and other ornaments, with a statue of his present majesty, George III. erected in 1779. Near this on a litttle eminence, is situated the castle, the residence of the Lord Lieutenant, which consists of two large courts, called upper and lower castle-yard; in latter of which are the treasury, and some other public offices. Though there is little grandure in the outward appearence of either, yet, upon the whole, this castle is far superior to the palace of St. James's, as well in the exterior, as the size and the elegance of the appartments within. Over the gates leading to the upper yard, are two handsome statues, viz. Justice and Fortitude; these, with and equestrian statue of William III. in College-green, erected in 1701, another of George II. already mentioned, in the centre of St. Stephen's-green; and a third of George I. in the Mayoralty-garden, and of George III. at the Exchange, are all the statues erected in Dublin, except the twoon the Tholsel.
To expect many works of the fine arts in a country but just recovering from an almost uninterrupted warfare of near six hundred years, would be to look for ripe fruits of autumn in the lap of spring. Even London cannot boast of many, considering its mighty opulence. a single church, on the continent, is sometimes decorsted with more statues, than are to be seen in the greatest city of Europe.
Here are two cathedrals, eighteen parish churches, besides several chapels, meeting-houses, &c. Neither of the cathedrals are remarkable for their architecture; and as to the parish churches, except on the front of three or four of their steeples, external embellishments have been little studied; all that seems to heve been attended to, was neatness and convenience within; but they are generally destitute of every monumental decoration: In the cathedrals only, are to be seen whatever of the monumental kind is worthy observation. In that of Trinity, or Christ-Church, the sculptures which merit notice are, I. that erected in 1570 to the memory of Richard Strongbow, who died in 1177, but but has lately been injured by having been painted white. 2. That of Mr. Thomas PRIOR, founder of the Dublin society, an elegant piece of workmanship, excuted by J. VAN NOST in 1756, which represents two boys in white marble, one pointing to Industry and Agriculture, expressed in basso relivo, and the other to a representation of Minerva leading the Arts towards Hibernica. Beneath on a scroll, is an inscription by the late Dr. BERKLEY, the celebrated bishop of Cloyne. 3. That of the Earl of Kildare, who died in 1743, This is situated on the north side of the choir, and is very superb, executed in white marble by H. CHEERE. The late earl, afterwards duke of Leinster, and his sister are represented mourning over the body of their father. 4. In the nave of the cathedral is that of lord Bowes, late high chancellor of Ireland, who died in 1767. It represents, in white marble as large as life, the figure of Justice, in a pensive attitude, looking at a medallion, with his lordship's head in relief, which she holds in her hand, and weeps over it. The whole is pathetically expressed. This cathedral is the more beautiful of the two; yet the choir is rather too much narrowed by three rows of pews on each side, which leave the aile between then not more than ten feet width. It has a gallery on each side. The organ is placed on one side of the choir, near the altar, in a gallery. The choristers go up into this when the anthem is sung; and, what may seem extraordinary, they have only one set of choristers for both cathedrals, who perform at one cathedral in the morning, and at the other in the evening. Both the cathedrals are on the south side of the river.
In St. Patrick's the monuments are more in number, but not as well executed; that erected in 1766 to the memory of Dr. SMITH, late Archbishop of Dublin, is indeed, by some, esteemed elegant, but in my opinion the massy columns of Italian marbl are too large for their intended use. The epitaph you may suppose is very classical, when you are informed it was written by Dr. LOUTH, Bishop of London. Opposite to itv is a plain monument to DR. MARSH, formerly Archbishop of this See, whose benefaction of a vaaluable library to the public, is a more noble memorial of him. In the same nave are tablets of black marble, one one to a faitful servant of Dean SWIFT; anoher erected lately to that of Mrs. JOHNSON, his celebrated Stella; amd a third to the famous Dean himself. In the choir are several monuments of more antient dates, the principal of which is that of the family BOYLE, erected in 1629, an enormous pile of wood, with near twenty clumsy images as large as life. In the chapter house is a black slab over the Duke of Schomberg, who was killed at the battle of the Boyne.
The modern-built churches in Dublin have neither spires nor steeples. There are two or three of them adorned with elegant stone fronts. The Round Church, on the sout side of the Liffy, is, as its name expresses it, really round, and very convenient for the perormance of Oratorios.
Speculative men have been much divided in their sentiments about the proportions Protestants bear to Papists in Dublin. According to some inaccurate returns, the number of houses belonging to each denomination is nearly equal; yet it is generally thought, that there are two Papists for one protestant, most of the poorer sort, and nearly all the servants, being of the firt class; and among the Papists chiefly it is, that many families are crowded into one house.
There are few public buildings here of any note: in Ship-street, an antique round tower, seldom noticed by the inhabitants of Dublin, was demolished during my stay here. By some antiquarians it is suposed of Duridical erection from its shape; but others weak enough to emagine it Danish, of which there are several similar ones in different parts of the kingdom, as I shall hereafter notice at Clondalkin. If erected by the Danes, it is somewhat remarkable, that none such are extant in Denmark. Giraldus Cambrensis, who visited Ireland in 1172, describes very minutely those narrow and lofty round towers, pecular to, and so common in this kingdom, as having been built long before his time. Not only in the more open, but more seuestered parts of the kingdom, are these towers to be seen, and always near the remains of ancient churches. A late ingenious and learned writer remarks, "So blindly and wilfully prejudiced have modern writers concerning Ireland been, that the very maritime cities, in which the lofty towers, strong walls, and elegant buildings bespeak the power as well as the taste of the ancient Irish, are attributed to the Danes,a savage, barbarous crew, whose eruption, like those of their successors, the Saxons, were every where marked with bloo, rapine, and desolation! We every where read of countries laid waste, people as well as buildings destroyed by these Barbarians, but not a word of improvements."
The Bishop's Palace, or St. Sepulchre, is very old, and situated not far from St. Patrick's Cathedral. The Parliament-house in College-green, begun in 1729, finished in ten years, at an expense of 40,000l. is truly a most august pile, The House of Lords is beautiful, and as elegant as any public room in Great Britain. the House of Commons is octangular, capacious, convenient, and magnificant, infinitely superior to that of Westminster. This building is looked upon as one of the principal ornaments of the city. The front is a portico of the Ionic Order, and, in general well executed, in the form of the Greek Π [or Ω], supported by lofty columns of Portland stone, and is affirmed to be one of the most perfect pieces of architecture in Europe. Near the Parliament-house stands Trinity College, which constitutes whole of the University, consisting of two squares; in the whole of which are thirty-threebuildiongs of eight rooms each. The building has twenty-three windows in front, is of white stone, and of four stories in height. It was begun in 1591. Indeen its situation adds much to its grandeur. College-green, which is the name of the street leading to its front, regularly widens as you approach the College, and terminates in a triagular opening; on the right is the Parliament-house, and in the centre of the triangle as equestrian statue of William III. Three sides of the further square of the College are built of brick, and the fourth is a most superb library, which, being constructed of very bad stone, is mouldering to ruin. The inside is beautiful, comodius, and magnicificent, embellished with nineteen busts of ancient and modern worthies; among whom are those of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero, Demosthenes, Homer, Shakespear, Milton, Bacon, Newton, Locke, Boyle, Swift, Usher, Gilbert, Delany, &c. &c. A great part of the books, on one side, was collected by Archbishop USHER [USSHER], one of the original Members of this Body, and beyond comparison the most learned man it has ever produced. The remainder of the same side was the bequest of Dr. GILBERT. The modern publications in this library are very few, as there has been but few additions made for above 40 years past. The new square, three sides of which have been built within 20 years past, by parliamentary bounty, and from thence called Parliament-square, is of hewn stone, of a coarse grain, but so hard as to resist the coroding tooth of time. The front next to the city, is ornamented with pilasters, festoons, &c. Near the college, in the same line, is the Provost's house, a handsome building of free-stone. The chapel of the college is as mean a structure as can be conceived; destitute of monumental decoration within, and coarsly simple without
The old hall where the college exercises are performed, is in the same range, and built in the same stile; but the new hall where the members dine, is a large, fine room. In the Museum are but few objects to entertain curiosity, excepting a set of figures in wax, representing females in every state of pregnancy, which were presented to the university by the present Lord Shelbourne, who purchased them of the maker, (a French gentleman) after their having been exhibited in England for many years. In the anatomy-house of this college, is a human skeleton, of between seven and eight feet high. They told me it belonged to one MAGRATH, an orphan, in this country, somewhere near Cloyne. The child fell into the hands of the famous BERKLEY, then Bishop of that see. this subtile doctor, who denied the existance of matter, was as inquisitive in his physical researches, as he was whimsical in his metaphysical speculation. When I tell you, that he had well nigh put an end to his own existence , by experimenting what are the sensations of a person dying on the gallows, you will be more ready to forgive him for his treatment to the poor foundling, whose story I am to finish.
The bishop had a strange fancy to know whether it was not the power of art to increase the human stature. And this unhappy orphan appeared to him a fit subject for trial. He made his essay according to his preconceived theory, whatever it might be, and the consequence was, that he became seven feet high in his sixteenth year. He was carried through various parts of Europe for the last years of his life. and exhibited as the prodigious Irish giant. But so disproportioned were his organs, that he contracted an universal imbecility both of body and mind, and died of old age at twenty. His under-jaw was monstrous size. yet the skull did not exceed the common size. But they shew a skull there, which, if the other members symmetrized, does certainly bespeak a stature more than Patagonian. It wasthe skull of one O'DOWD, a gentleman of Connaught, whose family, now extinct, were all above common size.
In the same place I saw the skeleton of one CLERK, a native of the city of Cork, whom they call the ossified man: the greatest curiosity that ever nature produced. It is the carcase of a man intirely offified in his life-time, living in that miserable condition several years. Those that knew him before this surprising alteration, affirm he had been a young man of great strength and agility. He felt the first symptoms of this surprising change some time after he had lain all night in the fields after a hard debauch, till by slow degrees every part grew into a bony substance, excepting his skin, eyes, and entrails: his joints settled in such a manner, that no ligament had its proper operation: he could not lie down nor rise without assistance: he had at last no bend in his body: yet, when he sat upright, like a statue of stone, he could stand, but could not move in the least. His teeth were joined, and formed into one entire bone, therefore a hole was broke through them to convey liquid substance, for his nourishment I cannot say, but to linger on a miserable life. The tongue lost its use, and his sight left him, some time before he expired.
This seminary was founded and endowered by queen Elizabeth, yet they have neither statue, bust, picture, nor any representation of their munificient benefactress. The provostship is supposed to be worth 3000l. per annum. That of a senior fellow about 700i>l. of whom there are seven. A junior fellow's emoluments are about 100i>l. per annum, besides commons, and the instruction of pupils; of these there are fifteen; there are seventy scholars, and thirty sizers. Among the students are three different ranks.; fellow-commoners, pensioners, and sizers. The first are so nomed from dining with the fellows; for which privilage they pay little more than the pensioners, who dine by themselves,according to their classes. The principal difference is in the rate of tuition; yet, as they take their degrees a year sooner than pensioners, there is but little difference in the expense upon the whole. The sizers or servitors pay nothing for their commons, but carry up the dishes to the fellows table, which they attend, and afterwards dine upon the fragments that come from it. These wear black gowns of coarse stuff, without sleeves. Pensioners wear gowns of the same form, but of fine stuffs, with hanging sleeves and tassels. Commoners wear gowns of the same shape and stuffs, but with sleeves and velvet collars. Noblemen, knights, and sons of noblemen, wear gowns of the same shape as commoners, but with gold and silver tassels.
The number of students is vary variable; it is said to fluctuate upon the tide of peace andwar. About forty years ago, the number was pretty near the same as now, that is about 400. At the close of the last war, the number upon their books was less than 300. And so few went into the ministary at that period, that curates were wanting for the service of country parishes. It was therefor judged expedient to ordain upon Scotch degrees, which are obtained for the attendance of as many months, as years in England or Ireland. At present, few gentlemen of fortune who have not either the advowson of a living in their family, or some pecular episcopal or parliamentary connection, chuse to dedicate their sons to the church, as the education is too expensive for a curacy of fifty pounds a year. Yet they tell you, these few years of peace have produced such a redundancy of candidates for orders, that a nomination is not procured without some difficulty.
Near St. Stephen's Green is the mansion-house of the lord mayor, a brick building of two stories, with five windows in the front, of but two panes bredth in each. There are however, some magnicifient structures of modern date; such as the duke of Leinster's, near the mansion-house, a very august pile, not unworthy the premier peer of any country; and on the opposite side of the water is lord Charlemont's; though it cannot be deemed a large house, nothing can be more elegant, nor any situation more delightful; it stands upon a little eminence, exactly fronting Mosse's hospital generally called the Lying-in-hospital. Indeed there are several more houses in Dublin built of hewn stone, but those mentioned are the most worthy of a traveller's attention.