1Ireland has often been cited as the best example of Celtic culture since it “remained outside the sphere of conquest of the Roman Empire” (Leerssen 9). Untouched by the attacks of Roman conquerors, the island possesses valuable evidence of Celtic archaeology and traditions, as is frequently asserted. Consequently, the country attracted the antiquarians who were interested in the history, traditions and archaeology of the Celts as early as the eighteenth century, a phenomenon which continued into the next century with the creation of societies such as the ‘Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland’, founded in 1849 (Ireland 72) or the publication of books, among which is Matthew Arnold’s famous text, On the Study of Celtic Literature (1867). The revived interest in Celtic culture culminated in the 1890s with the Celtic Revival, during which Celtic material was reappraised by many artists, be they writers, poets or painters, who offered a new definition of Irish identity. These artists drew their inspiration from Celtic myths, and their works convey their fascination for Celticism. This phenomenon coincided with the development of new forms of tourism addressed to the middle classes from the nineteenth century onwards, as is witnessed by the numerous publications of travel narratives and various guides, which described the particularities of other cultures. As a consequence, these writings participated in the construction of “foreign” identities in general, and of Irish identity in particular, because at the end of the 18th century, the renewed interest in Celticism allowed a “reappraisal of the Celtic fringe as a political entity” and as a “viable” tourist destination in Continental Europe (Hooper 178), so that more and more British tourists chose to visit Ireland.
- 1 Anna Maria Hall was made famous by her book, Sketches of Irish Life, which was edited five times fr (...)
- 2 “The work […] is the result of five several Tours made by the writers, together since the year 1825 (...)
- 3 At the end of his life, Samuel Carter explains his satisfaction about Ireland, its Scenery, Charact (...)
2In this context, Samuel Carter Hall (1800-1889), and his wife Anna Maria (1800-1881) who were both famous for their literary careers, 1 departed for Ireland in 1825 with the intention of collecting information for their future book. After five tours of the country, 2 they wrote three volumes entitled Ireland, its Scenery, Character etc., which were published in London from 1841 to 1843. The volumes were so successful that they were followed by other writings in the same vein: Handbooks for Ireland (4 volumes, London, 1853), A Week in Killarney (London, 1843), and A Companion to Killarney (London, 1878). 3
3The aim of Ireland, its Scenery, Character etc. (hereafter Ireland), was to promote tourism in the land of St Patrick, and as a consequence, to show that there was a veritable union between the nations of Great Britain and Ireland. According to the authors:
- 4 The advertising of Ireland is continued in the next volumes. In the second, it is expressed by an e (...)
Ireland will, unquestionably, supply every means of enjoyment that may be obtained in any of the continental kingdoms, and without calling for the sacrifices of money and comfort that will be inevitably exacted by the leeches of Germany, France, and Italy [...]. We shall indeed rejoice, if our statements be the means of inducing English travellers to direct their course westward—knowing well that, for every new visitor, Ireland will obtain a new friend (Hall 1841, vol. 1, 253). 4
4The quotation shows that the volumes are addressed to middle-class travellers, for whom the “sacrifices of money and comfort” were important issues. Moreover, the insistence on the feelings of friendship felt by English travellers for Ireland, described as natural or inevitable, is particularly meaningful. Indeed, the book was published in the 1840s when Daniel O’Connell, at the head of the National Repeal Association, was struggling to get a constitutional reform of the Union. The last volume of Ireland was edited in 1843 which historians labelled “Repeal Year”, in an echo of O’Connell’s expression. The fight for Irish independence is depicted negatively in the Halls’ works. The nationalist discourse is associated with the words of a madman (vol. 2, 34), and the “Repeal agitation” iss supposed to be responsible for Ireland’s underdeveloped industry (vol. 1, 311) or lack of “moral and physical improvement” (vol. 3, 495). On the contrary the authors insist on the friendly relationship, and therefore, the natural “union” between English and Irish people who, according to the Halls, were not so different, especially insofar as the elite were concerned:
The difference between the higher classes in Ireland and those of England is [...] very slight [...]. Of late years, [...] the intercourse between the two countries [...], has nearly removed a distinctive character from either (Hall 1842, vol. 2, 313-314).
5Despite their fondness of Ireland, the authors adopt a typical colonial stance. According to David Cannadine, the relationships between the colonizer and the colonized are not so much defined by race as by class and hierarchy, and he explains that the British elite in India felt closer to Indian princes and pashas than to British workers (Cannadine 87-88). The quotation shows that his analysis can be applied in Ireland in general, and in the Halls’ work in particular. For the authors, friendship and exchanges between the upper-middle classes of each nation were expected to create connections in politics and to reinforce the Union. But to be convinced of the legitimacy of the Union, one needs to know more about Ireland first, and the Halls were aware of the need to improve the knowledge about the Sister-Isle. The aim of the couple is clearly defined, they mean to “throw light on the state of the country, and the character of its people” and “obtain such topographical and statistical information as may be useful to those who visit Ireland, or who desire the means of judging correctly as to its capacities and condition” (vol. 1, IV). This type of writing was likely to feed the collective imagination, and to influence the way the British people perceived foreign countries and other populations.
6The three volumes include 456 illustrations by different artists, as “the Artist will go hand in hand with the Author” (vol. 1, VI), an approach which was usual for the guidebooks of the time. These images are essentially divided into two groups: the most numerous ones are the vignettes, which are framed by a text; the others are the engravings which cover an entire page. Together, they provide an overview of the Irish scenery, and the comments which accompany them furnish instructions and information to the future traveller, concerning the history of the land, its geography, and the customs of its people, as any guidebook would. But how do these volumes go beyond the genre of the guidebook, thus providing a definition of Irish identity? This paper will explore the strategies used by the authors to convince their readers of the beneficial effects of the Union. First, their books are based on “scientific” methods, and on a network of references aimed at helping the reader to define Ireland. Then, the study will focus on the textual and visual representations that are meant to appeal to the reader.
Figure 1: “Map of Tipperary and Waterford”, Hall 1841, vol. 1, 236-237.
- 5 The publishers declare that the work “will be issued in Monthly Parts; each Part to contain Two Eng (...)
7The writers constantly repeat their desire to be objective. In the authors’ advertisement of the first volume, they claim their “firm adherence to that honesty of purpose which can alone create confidence and produce success” (vol. 1, III). Their goal is to mirror the situation of Ireland as realistically as possible. This is made obvious through the use of maps, since each part of the guidebook, focusing on a different county, is introduced by a map. 5 A map is a necessary prop to tourists exploring a foreign land as it allows them to find their way. But this effort to map the foreign Irish land is particularly meaningful in the context of the colonial era, as the map is transformed into a tool of appropriation. [Figure 1]
8On British maps, indigenous names are gradually suppressed, as can be seen on the map of Tipperary and Waterford. Though some Irish names remain (Carrick-on-Suir; Cashel; Ballynacourty), the most visible ones are English (Waterford; King’s County; Queen’s County etc.), which tends to erase the existence of another culture. Renaming places is a common colonial feature, as was noted by Bertrand Westphal when he claimed that spatial representation can be compared to the literary technique of palimpsest, since it works to wipe out or to transform the original names, too redolent of a different culture (“La représentation spatiale fonctionne comme un palimpseste, par gommages et surlignages successifs. L’étymon qui renvoie à la population aborigène est effacé et remplacé”, Westphal 101). Furthermore, Susan Bassnet explains that “Naming the new and labelling it became a means of making ownership, in both physical and intellectual terms” (Basnett 231). Indeed, it enabled the colonisers to control the land, as well as to get a better knowledge of its resources. As a result, mapping precedes land settlement.
9The creation of new roads is part and parcel of the land settlement, and this question is addressed by Mr and Mrs Hall, who refer to the latest scientific techniques, as can be seen in their description of the road leading to the Giant’s Causeway. It is presented as a technological prowess, on the ground that the road was “unparalleled in the kingdom […] for the difficulties, apparently insurmountable, which have been completely overcome in order to form it” (vol. 3, 127). A footnote, illustrated by two drawings taken from the second report of the “Commissioners for the Extension and Improvement of Public Works in Ireland”, explains the two main difficulties. [Figures 2 and 3].
Figure 2: “New Road to the Causeway”, Hall 1843, vol. 3, 127-128.
Figure 3: “New Road to the Causeway”, Hall 1843, vol. 3, 127-128.
10The first was to dig a part of the road under a rock plunging into the sea, as illustrated by the first sketch, and the second was to conduct it through steep hills made of unstable clay soil, as can be seen with the second one. The topographical drawings offer a better understanding of the textual explanation which becomes quite technical:
The tendency of this claycy substance has been to move gradually over the road. To counteract this inconvenience, […] it was proposed to construct a retaining wall […]: ‘Very solid piers […] are formed of heavy rough block, at 30 feet distance asunder, to be connected by substantial walls, having a vertical curvilinear batter combined to an arched horizontal curve […]; the whole founded on the immovable footing before described. The entire distance being also concave, affords a combination of resistance against the pressure’ (Hall 1843, vol. 3, 128).
11In this excerpt, the authors quote a national report, which shows their ability to use official documents to demonstrate their point of view. In this case, the road to the Giant’s Causeway serves as an example of the improvements brought to Ireland by the British who, according to the Halls, have proved their formidable capacity to overcome the obstacles imposed by nature thanks to their skills in civil engineering. The excerpt insists on the technological superiority of English road-making. Authoritative sources justify English domination of Ireland and are thus further evidence of the advantages of the Union.
12Authority is all the more important as the text is addressed not only to British tourists, but also to investors. In the first volume, the couple describes the Milford Mills of Carlow as an ideal location for potential manufacturers, and just in case the readers would not have understood that money should be invested over there, the footnotes read: “Here is an invitation to the cotton-spinners of Manchester! But not to this particular locality alone; there are hundreds of places in Ireland where the water power is as great or greater, giving sure promise of fortune” (vol. 1, 406). The Halls seem to be unaware of the decline of Irish industries that started in the 1820s in the South of Ireland at the end of the Napoleonic wars (1793-1815). During these wars, Great Britain had stopped its commercial exchanges with the continent, which increased the British demand for Irish goods. But when Napoleon was defeated, the British market was opened to foreign suppliers from the continent again, which reduced the demand for some Irish imports. Moreover, from the beginning of the century, the cotton and woollen mills of Ireland could not compete with their English or Scottish counterparts in terms of technology, which enhanced their decline (Connolly).
13Despite this industrial reality, the Halls insist on the technological progress taking place in Ireland. In order to lure British patrons to the island, they dwell on the latest steam-boats, which could bring you from Liverpool to Dublin in only twelve hours, which was indeed very rapid at the time (vol. 1, 2-4). Similarly, they put forward the development of roads and means of travelling, such as Bianconi’s cars (figure 4), or the new suspension bridge in Kerry, cited by the authors as another example of successful cooperation between the Irish and the English, as it was built with the help of the Board of Works (vol. 1, 162).
Figure 4: “Bianconi’s cars”, Hall 1842, vol. 2, 77.
14In the authors’ eyes, the inhabitants of the island are gifted with all the qualities for success: they are characterised by their generosity and hospitality (vol. 2, 333, 349; vol. 3, 143) for drunkenness, “the shame and the bane of Ireland” had been successfully defeated by the Temperance Movement so that, in their opinion, the country was “likely to become prosperous” (vol. 1, 33, 42). Although their condescension can be read between these lines, the Halls willingly cast a positive light upon Ireland, giving as many examples as possible of their point of view. Their aim is to show the progress of the country as well as its potential wealth, of which they are absolutely convinced, although this was “ironically […] just before the famine” (Morris 31).
15In a post-colonial perspective, they adopt what Mary Louise Pratt has defined as the anti-conquest stance of travel writers who “encode […] what is available for improvement”, and describe landscapes with “a potential for producing a marketable surplus”, apparently unaware that this is a form of domination over the country (Pratt 61). This is true of Ireland. In the third volume, a map of the Giant’s Causeway is provided (vol. 3, 156-157). It was corrected and enriched by the Halls for the purpose of their publication, and is addressed to tourists. The use of maps underlines the topographical dimension of the illustrations. Initially, topography was a representation of landscape with geographical indications. It was part of the desire to improve our knowledge of the world, to classify and catalogue its different landscapes, with a view to mastering them better. In the eighteenth century, the genre inspired artists who represented more and more hilly landscapes, in which small characters give an idea of the scale. Most of the full-page engravings belong to this genre, as “The Gap of Dunloe, Kerry” or “Ballyshannon” by Thomas Creswick, an English artist (born in Sheffield in 1811), who was made popular by his regular exhibitions at the Royal Academy (Bryan, vol. 1, 353). He had travelled in Ireland in 1837 and often contributed to the works published by the Halls. [Figures 5 and 6].
Figure 5: “The Gap of Dunloe”, Hall 1841, vol. 1, 206.
Figure 6: “Ballyshannon”, Hall 1843, vol. 3, 272.
- 6 This illusion of objectivity is probably the main deficiency of the work. Hazel Morris writes that (...)
16With these illustrations, the Halls offer an image of Ireland which is expected to inform the British public, and to arouse their attention. Ireland’s potential for tourism is underlined, which goes back to Pratt’s theory. Despite the biased presentation of the country, insisting on the under-estimated resources of the Sister-Isle, the Halls constantly mention their neutral perspective. Even if the “imperial eyes” of these “anti-conquest” narrators “passively look out and possess”, they introduce themselves as “innocent” (Pratt 7). Indeed, their refusal to take sides with any of the political or religious parties is supposed to demonstrate their unprejudiced approach, as is shown by the introduction to the volumes, in which they claim “their fixed determination” not to “consult the wishes or intentions of any party” (vol. 1, III),—a statement which is quite paradoxical given the pervading unionist argumentation. However, the Halls seemed to be sincerely convinced that their point of view was impartial. 6 Undoubtedly, they thought of their work as a true and faithful representation of Ireland, especially as they based their reflexion on numerous authoritative documents.
17In the same way, they draw upon historical sources whenever they relate the story of a place or object. For instance, in the third volume, there is a long account of the religious divisions in Belfast (from page 72 to 80), which concludes with a mention of their sources, and a commentary on their quality:
The above account, […] is derived from […] the admirable ‘History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’, by the Rev. J. S. Reid, […] now professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Glasgow, a work rich in original research […]. The third volume, bringing down the history of the Presbyterian Church to the present day, has not yet appeared (Hall 1843, vol. 3, 80. My emphasis).
- 7 “We must, […] content ourselves with a mere enumeration of the many interesting objects to be encou (...)
18The objective and scientific varnish is undermined by the limiting Presbyterian perspective and by the adjectives, giving only one side of the story. Nonetheless, the writers seem to be aware of the most recent contemporary academic publications. Thus, the work is based on a rich bibliography. The beginning of the section devoted to Dublin suggests other references to the reader who would be willing to learn more about the town, such as a history book and another guidebook.7 Moreover, as evidence of their intellectual honesty, the authors feel free to oppose contrasting points of view: if specialists disagree about historical truth, the reader is made aware of the debate. For example, the origin of a tomb at Christ Church in Dublin being unsure, the Halls report different elements which bring useful insights into the significance of the monument, illustrated by an Irish painter of French ascendency, George Victor du Noyer (1817-1869, Coffey 102-119). [Figure 7].
Figure 7: “Strongbow’s Monument”, Hall 1842, vol. 2, 311.
- 8 The authors quote the famous historian of the XIIth century: Geraldus Cambrensis. The quotation is (...)
- 9 Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838) was the author of a Journal of a Tour in Ireland, printed for W. Mil (...)
- 10 There are also numerous Figures reported in the footnotes (such as the ones regarding the port of C (...)
19The grave is supposed to be the last resting place of Strongbow, “the great Anglo-Norman conqueror of Ireland”. 8 According to the Halls, this is the belief of Sir Henry Sidney (1529-1586), who was Lord Deputy of Ireland and who erected a monument in honour of the knight. But Sidney’s conviction is questioned by Sir Richard Hoare 9 who, according to the Halls, has expressed some “doubt if the effigy has been rightly attributed to [Strongbow]; grounded on the fact that the arms on the shield of the knight are not similar to those described as belonging to him by Enderbie and also an ancient manuscript by George Owen” (vol. 2, 311). Therefore, the footnotes are meant to be signs of objectivity. 10
20The Halls not only quote previous works about Ireland, but they also use journalistic techniques. They interview the people that they meet on their way, and sometimes write their answers in direct speech, as is the case with their guide in Limerick. While they are visiting Carrig-o-Gunnel, the guide hints at the terrible fate of a young Irish girl, which was sealed on the spot. His speech is given credit by his own declaration, reported by the authors: “I know what I believe, and bear witness to what I have seen”. This is how the guide insists on his own honesty, while the narrator claims: “From the information we gleaned from him, added to subsequent inquiries, we are enabled to tell our readers her sad history” (vol. 1, 371-372). The technique is repeated in the second volume, when the authors are visiting County Tipperary: “The Moat of Knockgraffon is [...] a treasury of legendary lore; we gathered from some of the aged women in the neighbourhood a store of traditions” (vol. 2, 91). The reader is in the comfortable position of the confident who has the luck to hear typical Irish stories directly from the locals interviewed by the authors. One may share the pleasure of meeting these interesting and communicative characters, presented as real people. This impression is conveyed by the dialogues, in which the local accent is preserved, and which sound like unaltered pieces of conversation. In the third volume, a gossip of Antrim exclaims: “And so, Mary O’Neil, afther all, is going to marry the hardest man in the country!” and her companion replies: “Och, sure” (vol. 3, 109-110). The preservation of the dialect and its specific accent works as a guarantee of genuine transcription, and as the accounts of the inhabitants are presented as reliable, a feeling of authenticity is achieved through these colourful episodes.
- 11 “A Number will appear on the 1st day of the month; and it is designed to complete the Work in Twent (...)
21As a consequence, all these textual and visual devices give the appearance of truth to the definition of the Irish scenery and character. A reality-effect is generated by the accumulation of these details which, in the theory of Roland Barthes, contribute to the realism of the text because they do not have a narrative function. Such details belong to the descriptive mode and create an atmosphere that the readers may recognize (Barthes 84-86), or a landscape which will fascinate them. As noted by Williams, “the tourist’s gaze […] had an aesthetic dimension” and “much of this aesthetic was informed by the British fascination with the artistic representations of landscape” (Williams 53). Visual elements were a main feature of travel narratives, in which the tourist’s gaze was expressed in graphic illustrations or textual descriptions. This is how Ireland wins the readers’ trust and entices them to visit the island. Such techniques were addressed to the reader of the Victorian era, who was delighted by travel narratives which were deemed “authentic”, and which were imbued with exoticism at the same time. This accounts for the success of the volumes, underlined by the preface which reads: “We are justified in assuming that it has not disappointed public expectation; for its sale has far exceeded our most sanguine hopes, having more than doubled the calculation of the Publishers” (vol. 1, VI). Yet, these publications were not likely to be read by everyone. Each of the twenty parts was sold for half-a-crown, that is to say one eighth of a pound, which was rather expensive. 11 Books at such a price could only be bought by the middle class or the gentry living in England. This may explain why the Irish situation is systematically compared to the English one. England is the reference or the norm according to which the reader will get an idea of the neighbouring island.
22There are frequent comparisons between Irish and English characteristics. One of them opposes the beggars of Dublin to their English counterparts. This opposition rests on a binary rhythm, especially in the last two sentences of the paragraph:
The poverty of the English, except at stated times, is sullen; the poverty of the Irish is garrulous: the Englishman takes relief as a right; the Irishman accepts it as a boon. You may aid half a dozen English paupers without receiving thanks; you cannot relieve an Irish beggar without being paid in blessings (Hall 1842, vol. 2, 350. My emphasis).
23The network of repetitions (“poverty”; “man”; “English”; “Irish”), of opposites (“takes”/“accepts”; “half a dozen English paupers”/“an Irish beggar”) and the use of a negative form “cannot”, as opposed to “may”, strengthen the difference between the two groups. This literary technique should make the English reader feel more comfortable about the beggars that he may meet on the other side of the Irish Sea, since the comparison between the English and Irish paupers is clearly in favour of the second group. As they focused on beggars, the Halls also tended to resort to stereotypes. As noted by Williams, British travel writers frequently described Irish society as composed of two classes only—the rich and the poor—because they were unable to distinguish the middle-classes from the poor, as they all wore rags (Williams 107-108). Thus, a well-known cliché associated ‘Paddy’ or the stereotypical Irishman with poverty. The passage devoted to the mendicants fits quite well into such preconceived ideas, and it is echoed the first volume, which also portrays the beggars of Cork. On page seven, the engraving by Charles Harvey Weigall—a British artist who lived in London—mirrors the pathetic gathering of paupers around Mr and Mrs Hall’s carriage. On the contrary, the young female beggar introduced on page eight is the embodiment of beauty [figures 8 and 9].
Figure 8: “The Beggar Group”, Hall 1841, vol. 1, 7.
Figure 9: “The Beggar Girl”, Hall 1841, vol. 1, 8.
24The portrait of the girl was made by William Harvey (1796-1866), an English wood engraver and former apprentice of Thomas Bewick (Bryan, vol. 3, 19), and his illustration offers a sharp contrast with Weigall’s. Harvey’s sitter is wrapped in a large cloak, which hints at clothes from ancient times, and the comparison with Roman or Grecian figures is suggested by the text, in which she is identified with a “Grecian statue”. She is represented in a dignified manner, and shows the artistic embellishment brought by artists who represented Ireland. The aesthetic norms of the nineteenth century are visible in the illustrations and the text, because the Halls extensively used the genre of the picturesque to characterise the country.
- 12 For example, the parts of a dominican friary near Limerick “furnish good subjects for the pencil in (...)
- 13 Thus, the section devoted to Waterford is introduced without enthusiasm: “Waterford is, perhaps, th (...)
- 14 Defining the picturesque view of some ornamented monument, Gilpin writes: “The proportion of its pa (...)
25In the nineteenth century, the genre of the picturesque was highly appreciated. As they resorted to this genre, the Halls probably knew that they would interest the “picturesque-hunters”. These travellers went around the world equipped with their pens and pencils, as well as Claude glasses—“tinted portable mirrors to frame and darken the scenes” (Buzard 46). These glasses were named after the famous painter Claude Lorrain whose canvasses were cited as examples of the picturesque. One may even wonder if Anna Maria herself was not this kind of traveller, for a few references show that she brought pencils, sketch books and paper knives during her tours, and that some of her own sketches were improved by professional artists before being published in the volumes under the name of the artist (vol. 1, 163, 320, 356; vol. 2, 252; vol. 3, 421). Beyond middle-class tourists, the Halls addressed artists and picturesque lovers, as is showed by several apostrophes. 12 In their volumes, the Irish landscape is divided into what is picturesque and what is not. In the discourse of the Halls, the latter is minor compared to the former, especially as the towns which are “by no means remarkable either for cleanliness or picturesque character” can be “described briefly” (vol. 2, 189-190). 13 The origins of the picturesque dates back to the eighteenth century, and to William Gilpin’s Three Essays, On Picturesque Beauty; On Picturesque Travel; and on Sketching Landscape (London, Printed for R. Balmire, 1792). From the outset, Gilpin asserts the main characteristic of the genre: ruins. 14
Figure 10: “Abbey of Holy Cross”, Hall 1842, vol. 2, 110.
- 15 Leitch Ritchie. Ireland Picturesque and Romantic, With Engravings from Drawings by Daniel Maclise, (...)
26In Mr and Mrs Hall’s work, the greatest number of full-page engravings represents ruins, such as the Abbey of Holy-Cross, Co. Tipperary, depicted in the second volume [Figure 10]. The drawing was made by Thomas Creswick, who provided many illustrations for the three volumes of Ireland, though most part of them had already been presented in Leitch Ritchie’s Ireland Picturesque and Romantic. 15 For instance, “Glengariff” (Ireland, vol. 1, 124) and “Kilkenny Castle” (vol. 2, 7) appear in this earlier publication in volume 1 page 253 and volume 2, page 223, respectively. That the reader may be “familiar” with some of Creswick’s illustrations is mentioned in the introduction, but the reference is vague enough to hide the original source (vol. 1, V). So one may wonder to what extent the Halls drew their illustrations from other works, though the picturesque representation of the Abbey of Holy Cross seems to be original. According to Jackson, such picturesque descriptions are necessary to make a travel narrative lively, and he defines a typical picturesque view in these words:
The traveller, seated on some lofty eminence, discovers a vast horizon. Here the sea—a port—a city rising in form of an amphitheatre, and crowned with a citadel; there a range of hills, rising in succession, displaying at intervals its loftiest peaks; at his feet, a river winding through the valley, fertilizing its meadows, and impelling its mills; on his right a ruined castle; on his left an awful precipice and a roaring torrent, and behind, another valley spreading in faint perspective (Jackson 384).
- 16 One may also refer to the second volume: “There is perhaps no city in Ireland so full of striking, (...)
27This can remind us of Burke’s essay entitled A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757), in which the philosopher defines the concept of the sublime. Whereas beauty is experienced aesthetically through the senses, which are pleased by curves and soft outlines, the sublime arouses “agreeable horror”, a “frisson”, resulting from the safe contemplation of a terrifying object, implied in this description by the “awful precipice”, an expression contributing to the picturesque composition of the scene (Burke quoted by Buzard 45). In the full-page engravings included in the three volumes by the Halls, it is true that the reader can discover picturesque “precipices”, “winding rivers” or “fertilizing meadows”. Besides, the word “picturesque” is recklessly employed by Mr and Mrs Hall in their text. The genre is visible in the illustrations, as well as in the text, as a great number of descriptions use the notion. Furthermore, it is enhanced by numerous hyperboles, as the word picturesque is often accompanied by the adverb “exceedingly” (cf. vol. 1, 212; vol. 2, 242; vol. 3, 21) and generally combined with superlatives: “Here occurs one of the most striking and picturesque of all the basaltic formations; it is called ‘The Stack’” (vol. 3, 174). 16 Texts and illustrations are so idealised that they blur the limits between reality and aesthetic representations. This idealisation is sometimes acknowledged by the authors, who write about Harvey’s Connemara maidens that they are “taken from the life”, and that “the originals” were “quite as graceful” but that they “shall find it difficult to convince [their] readers that the pictures owe absolutely nothing to the painter’s fancy” (vol. 3, 470). [Figure 11]
Figure 11: “Delphi Girls”, Hall, 1843, vol. 3, 470.
- 17 Several passages offer the authors the opportunity to mention literary sources. For instance, as th (...)
28Such a distorted reality is close to fiction, and so, the volumes may be compared to the authors’ fictional works. In the same vein, Anna Maria’s early work, Sketches of Irish Life (1829), introduces a picturesque vision of Ireland. All these techniques emphasise the beauty of the Irish scenery: for the Halls, it is unsurpassable. This is made conspicuous when the authors fail to render the attraction of the scene, and hand it over to a poet. About the island standing on the lake of Gougane Barra, near Cork, the writers say: “To describe the romantic grandeur of the scene is […] impossible without calling poetry to our aid” (vol. 1, 115). A poem of 1826, written by J. J. Callanan who was born in Cork, is then reproduced entirely. 17 Along these lines is raised the theme of Ut Pictura Poesis, the attribution of aesthetic qualities of painting to poetry, an ideal which was influential throughout the 18th and 19th centuries (Morris 78). Many other poets are also quoted in the volumes: the lines of Spenser, for instance, are often resorted to (vol. 1, 85, 87, 92, 94, 109), so that the connections between poetry and the picturesque contribute to an impression of magnificence.
- 18 According to James Buzard, the picturesque is bound up with the gothic and celticism because it sup (...)
29However, the picturesque is a genre which involves the use of natural colours like shades of green and yellow. This aspect is somehow missing in the engravings in black and white, and many illustrations tend to be rather dark. As a consequence, the superimposition of darkness and ruins verge on the gothic, a style which is closely linked to the picturesque. 18 Indeed, the shadowy engraving of the Abbey of Holy Cross is gothic both in terms of architecture and atmosphere. Fred Botting defined shadows as a typical feature of the genre:
Shadows […] were among the foremost characteristics of Gothic works. They marked the limits necessary to the constitution of an enlightened world and delineated the limitations of neoclassical perceptions. Darkness, metaphorically, threatened the light of reason with what it did not know. Gloom cast perceptions of formal order and unified design into obscurity; its uncertainty generated both a sense of mystery, and passions and emotions alien to reason. Night gave free reign to imagination’s unnatural and marvellous creatures, while ruins testified to a temporality that exceeded rational understanding and human finitude (Botting 21).
- 19 The Halls had a taste for gothic atmospheres. For instance, they recommend visiting the Giant's Cau (...)
30The engraving of Shane Castle by Andrew Nicholls (1804-1886), a native of Belfast, corresponds to the definition (Bynion, vol. 3, 140). A play of light reveals and hides the outline of the mansion in the background, and a sense of mystery is derived from the pale moonlight (figure 12). 19 This prepares the reader for the story to come. According to the writers: “It requires […] no great exercise of the imagination to believe that the place is haunted” (vol. 3, 105). In fact, the castle is said to be “the chosen realm of the Banshee”, (“Banshi” or “Benshi”) and “to hint a doubt of the existence of the Banshee of the O’Neils would, in the estimation of their people, be tantamount to blasphemy” (vol. 3, 104). With this word of caution, the reader is introduced to the strange character of the supernatural creature, from page 104 to 108. [Figures 12 and 13].
Figure 12: “Shane Castle”, Hall 1843, vol. 3, 103.
Figure 13a: “The Banshee”, Hall 1843, vol. 3, 105-06.
Figure 13b: The music score of the Banshee's lament, Hall 1843, vol. 3, 105-106.
31To sum up the legend reported by the Halls, the Banshee is a feminine spirit who looks after the noble family to which she belonged in a distant past. Whenever the death of a member of her family is imminent, she manifests herself with a loud and beautiful lament. The textual definition is emphasised by an illustration on page 105, and by a music score (figure 13). The etching is the work of the English artist John Bell (1811-1895) who was specialised in outline designs (Bynion, vol. 1, 97), and his vignette anticipates the motifs which would appear in the 1890s in the context of the Celtic Revival—one may think of John Duncan’s Anima Celtica (1895), for example. Halls’ readers are then ready to believe in the tales of the Banshee because, thanks to the engravings, they can see her and hear her, so that the ghostly character is made even more real. Three different stories about this unnatural phenomenon are related in a footnote, and the second is typical of the gothic genre, so that it may be quoted extensively:
A short time before the arrival of the first Newfoundland trader [her husband] the anxious wife was disturbed several successive nights by strange noises in her bedroom; and once or twice she was crossed in the passage to her room by a light shadowy figure of indistinct perceptibility, and many of the neighbours said they had heard dismal wailings round the house, though they were never heard by any of the inmates […]. One night while in that state when the heaviness of sleep is creeping over the senses […], she was startled by the figure of a man leaning over her in the bed. She started up; the figure receded and passed out at the door which she had locked previously to her going to rest. She started out of bed, and, with a courage she could no way account for, followed the intruder to the door, which she found locked as she had left it. Her father and mother slept in the adjoining room, and she resolved to arouse them; but on opening the door she saw a female figure with long dishevelled hair, and wrapped in a shroud or winding-sheet, sitting at the back window, who uttered three long and dismal cries of lamentation, and disappeared. Her horror was indescribable; she had power sufficient to enter the room of her parents and fainted away. Being far advanced in pregnancy, she was taken in premature labour, and herself and infant fell victims to her fright. She survived long enough to be sensible of the loss of her husband, the Betsey having foundered off the coast of Dungarvan, where he, with two more of the crew, perished (vol. 3, 107).
32Thus, the extensive use of footnotes allows the insertion of many references, but also of significant details and anecdotes which complete the main text. The story is likely to thrill the reader, as all the features of the gothic are there. The introduction adds drama to the scene: the young husband is the last heir of the family. In addition, the vocabulary creates an atmosphere of danger. The woman is “anxious”, as can be expected regarding the “painful” situation of her husband, causing “racking fears”. Of course, the event happens at night, when light is too faint to distinguish the worrying silhouettes, reduced to “a light shadowy” one, or to a figure which “recede[s] and passe[s] out at the door”. The play of light echoes the engraving of Shane’s Castle. Furthermore, the passage is touched with doubt and uncertainty. The looming danger can hardly be defined: it has an “indistinct perceptibility” and its indecisive nature is rendered by the general expression “something very heavy”. The senses are deceived by darkness. One has to be all ears to perceive the “dismal wailings”, until the object of horror is eventually perceived: “she saw a female figure with long dishevelled hair”. Obviously, the gloomy apparition is of ill omen. The woman is wrapped in a “shroud”, a synecdoche for her morbid message, which can be guessed by the Victorian readers, who were fond of such narrations. As the Halls associated Ireland with gothic legends, they confirmed the myth according to which the country was marked by supernatural phenomena. This is not rare in travel writing, a genre in which authors “tend to perpetuate certain myths and stereotypes about tourist destinations”. Stereotypes are used to confirm what the readers already know, and therefore to conform to their expectations (Mitchell). As noted by Williams:
The tourist-native relationship is built on the perception of types […]. Strangers to each other, hosts and guests both resort to the shorthand of stereotyping. Stereotypes are always more likely to be confirmed than contradicted, since tourists know what to look for. (Williams 63).
33The encounter with the other was thus governed by stereotyping for the Halls, but this did not go against the pleasure of their readers. On the contrary, finding a confirmation of their pre-conceived ideas could flatter Victorian readers and reinforce their sense of intellectual superiority, just like the various anecdotes related by the volumes.
34Actually, the guidebook is sometimes written like a thrilling adventure story. The depiction of the coast near Ross-Carbery is a chance to show the bold attitudes of the authors as they visit the house of a smuggler and accompany him on one of his perilous trips to unload a merchant ship. Soon, the writers reach the boat and meet her captain when an unexpected incident disrupts their observations:
The crew had been resting for a few minutes, and singing with a careless air; but their voices lowered and their words half smothered. […] Almost the instant the alarm was given, their voices were hushed, all hands were on deck, the hatches were fastened down, fire-arms were distributed, and preparations made for repelling some anticipated attack. The reason was soon ascertained. Rounding the point, still at a distance, and dimly seen by the uncertain light, a sail was discerned approaching the lugger. We can remember, even now, our awkward sensations on the occasion; apprehensive that we might have to pay a frightful penalty for our curiosity […]; we had no means of returning to land, and were compelled to share the destiny of our comrades of the moment, whatever that destiny might be; the easiest, perhaps, a trip to Holland (vol. 1, 133-135).
35The fine example of British humour in the last sentence reflects the general state-of-mind of the work. The text undeniably displays literary qualities; the voice of the guides becomes that of a narrator and gives the impression that we are reading a novel, rather than a guidebook. The acute description of the adventure makes the reader hold his breath, and the rhythm of the passage helps to arouse suspense. These literary techniques accentuate the pleasure of reading, and the reader becomes more and more affected by the scenes represented.
36Similarly, domestic stories, so dear to Victorian society, pervade the volumes. Many moving tales are mentioned as soon as the authors meet the locals, who apparently have many sad stories to tell. Amongst others, the life of Catherine Gallagher is an interesting account of the situation of Irish servants reported by the Halls. The story of ‘Kitty’ Gallagher begins when she applies for a job as a servant in an English house. According to the Halls, the mistress of the place, being wary of Irish women, was decided to hire a person of English origin, but she eventually agreed to give Catherine a chance when she saw her “open and honest countenance” (vol. 2, 322). Then, the authors describe Kitty’s willingness to do well over the years. Subsequently, Kitty becomes the nurse of her mistress’s children. When the family loses their wealth, the young nurse offers to stay with them unpaid, and to delay the date of her marriage, for the love of the children. The Halls draw a conclusion from this happy ending: the mother is rewarded for her sensible choice. The anecdote is used to make a point about the relationships between masters and servants. The story works as a medieval exemplum, because the tale is given to illustrate a moral issue:
We write of the middle class, and a step below them; and we say, that until they treat their servants better, and pay them better, they cannot have decent servants. Our domestic comfort, here and everywhere, depends on our servants; and surely it is worth while to consider how we can best obtain that comfort (vol. 2, 321).
37The logic and the binary rhythm of these sentences reinforce the strength of the argument. It is made all the more poignant as the illustration of this rule is imbued with pathos. A detailed relation, including the words of the main characters, plunges the reader into this domestic scene:
Mrs L. […] placed Kitty’s quarter’s wages in her hand, and told her that, for the future, she must herself attend to the children; her voice faltered as she thanked the poor Irish girl for the care and tenderness she had bestowed upon them […]. We quote Mrs L.’s own words. ‘I was more agitated at parting with her than with all my other servants; […]. ‘Is it to leave you; ma’am, you want me, and to leave the young master and miss? […] I’ll never leave you in trouble’. ‘Her devotion, so simple, so perfectly unaffected’, added Mrs L., ‘drew more tears from my eyes than my own sorrows. I had nerved myself for them, but this overpowered me’ (vol. 2, 324-325).
- 20 This feature has also been noted by Michael Scott, who edited a condensed version of the three volu (...)
38One cannot help smiling at the patronizing tone, but the vocabulary of feelings and emotion will touch the reader. 20 Furthermore, the appreciative terms of judgement which qualify her behaviour highlight the virtue of Kitty. The moving example of this faithful servant serves to restore the dignity of the Irish population. At the same time, it debunks English prejudices, since at that time, many English households systematically rejected the applications of Irish servants whenever they wanted to hire a new domestic. Several other passages, like a worried account of a tragic eviction witnessed by the authors in volume 2 (398-404), are explicitly made to move the reader, in order to improve the predicament of the Irish poor that the authors perceive with sympathy, even if it is often condescending. Pathos is often linked to moral indignation in the volumes.
39Morality was an issue of the Victorian era, so that the reader will not be surprised if the Irish landscape itself is representative of morality. The beauty of the scenery is seen through the prism of moral value, as can be noted in the comment about the landscape near Glengariff: “we saw a water-mill, in full work, which, although it diverted the current, […] evidenced activity and industry, and heightened the moral beauty of the scene” (vol. 1, 148-149, and see similar remarks in vol. 2, 170; vol. 3, 267-268). [Figure 14].
Figure 14: “Glengariff”, Hall 1841, vol. 1, 124.
40In the eyes of the Halls, there was moral beauty in Ireland. The land and its people are gradually associated through this theme. The authors want to reassure future tourists: if they come to the Sister-Isle, they will not meet a crowd of barbarous characters, as was the common stereotype of these days. To contradict this anti-Irish prejudice, the Halls insist on the splendid landscape, and on the benevolent character of Irish women insofar as, at the time, women were supposed to be the keepers of morality.
41In terms of gender studies, the excerpts dealing with domestic stories can be analysed as the work of a female hand. In fact, the passage should be attributed to Anna Maria rather than to Samuel Carter Hall, given that it possesses common features with other female writers of travel narratives. Susan Bassnett distinguishes several specificities of female travel narratives, among which “documenting the everyday”, and “fictionalising process” (Bassnett 229-231). The relation of everyday scenes is often located in the private sphere, as is the case in the tale of the Banshee. The scene is intimate: we follow the character “out of bed”, in her “bedroom” and then in the “passage leading to it”, a setting which is convenient for the development of fictional details which will add drama. A sense of intimacy pervades the text, and defines the relationship which, over the 1500 pages, is gradually built between the reader and the narrator.
- 21 Samuel Carter also indulges in the autobiographical mode to speak of his father in the Cork section (...)
42As a matter of fact, the text is frequently given an autobiographical touch. Philippe Lejeune defined autobiography according to the peculiar relationship which is created between an autobiographer and his reader. Contrary to any author of fiction, an autobiographer requires his reader to believe him, to accept the narrated events as pieces of truth, and to be lenient (Lejeune). In this perspective, Anna Maria adopts an autobiographical stance. She was born in Wexford, and the passage commenting on Bannow is typical of an autobiography: “It is with no ordinary emotion we look back to our childhood’s years, spent within the now decaying walls of Graige”. A sense of love and loss pervades the text as she describes the place and the people who used to live there. The strength of the author’s emotions is underlined by the numerous exclamations: “[They] are all gone! Our readers, will, for once, we trust, forgive a brief indulgence of our own strong feelings” (vol. 2, 155-156). 21 The broken rhythm of the sentence, resulting from the multiplication of commas, mimics the interrupted sentences of a sobbing woman. The author/narrator gives free rein to her feelings.
- 22 See also Morris, 59, about Vizetelly’s opinion of Carter.
43Hazel Morris’ research confirms this perspective: in her study of Samuel Carter’s works, she writes that he was mainly interested in history and topography, whereas Anna Maria had a talent for narratives (Morris 33, 137). In addition, Anna Maria seems to have been the recipient of the peasants’ personal stories, because some of the reported dialogues are addressed to “the lady” (vol. 1, 428). As was often the case, the personal was related by the female author, while the man was given the authoritative voice. But this seems to have been an illusion of power or intellectual superiority willingly cultivated by Anna Maria. A connection of the Halls, Henry Vizetelly, wrote a telling account of their relationship: “[Samuel Carter] assumed an intellectual authority over her, and she blandly accepted the false position, but no one was taken in by it” (Vizetelly. Glances Back trough Seventy Years. 2 vols. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co, 1893, vol. 1, 305, quoted by Morris, 126). 22 Apparently, Vizetelly was not the only one who held this point of view: Charles Osborne, a relative of the couple, wrote that “there was no comparison between Mr. Hall and his wife; and morally, as intellectually, she was […] infinitely his superior” (Charles Churchill Osborne. “Mr Pecksniff and His Prototype”. The Independent Review September 1906: 325, quoted by Morris, 60). The testimony strengthens the surmise that this is a piece of women’s writing. Whereas Samuel Carter must be the author of the topographical parts of the volumes, it is to Anna Maria that we owe the detailed anecdotes which thrill, frighten, or move the reader.
- 23 Among the places that the tourist should see is the Bay of Murlough, noted for its magnificent scen (...)
- 24 The book is frequently intolerant of Roman Catholicism, which is another proof of the authors’ colo (...)
44In conclusion, Ireland, its Scenery, Character, etc. provides all the information that tourists could expect to find in a guidebook. The three volumes indicate to travellers the attractions that they should not miss, the best places to stay and the most interesting routes to follow. They even tell where to buy the best souvenirs. 23 Yet, the text is not as “objective” or “impersonal” (Buzard 48-49) as any other guidebooks, such as Murray’s or Baedeker’s, thus it goes beyond the limit of the genre. The work is rather “personal” and records the authors’ reactions to the “stimuli of the tours”; therefore it corresponds to the definition of a travel narrative, according to James Buzard (48-49). Like many other travel writers visiting Ireland, the Halls had an ideological purpose: to justify the Union between Ireland and Great Britain. As Protestants and Unionists, the authors frequently adopt a patronizing stance 24 which leads them to compare the country and its inhabitants to Great Britain. However, as they were both born in Ireland, their perception of the Irish land is paradoxically torn between their love for this island, and their desire to make it more British. This is why they insist on the potential wealth of the country, as well as its progress, especially as far as roads and means of transport are concerned. The originality of their work is to adorn their personal point of view with a scientific varnish, including the extensive use of footnotes or official documents. Their rich bibliography is presented as evidence of their scientific methods and intellectual neutrality, just as their synthesis of historical debates. This scientific perspective is further enriched by the use of well-known references, which allowed their British readers to feel familiar with this foreign country. For example, the Halls resorted to a habit which was well-established among the British writers who published an account of their journeys from the end of the eighteenth century to the 1850s: the use of the picturesque. This aesthetic category allowed them to enhance the beauty of the Irish scenery. Besides, the numerous anecdotes which take place in such landscapes give a literary quality to the book. Indeed, the volumes play with other literary genres such as the gothic or adventure novel, the moral tale or the autobiography. This autobiographical touch is doubtlessly one of the most unusual aspects of this travel narrative, as it shows how two Anglo-Irish travellers could link their affection for Ireland to the necessity of the Union. All the qualities of this book, made to prove the authors’ point, and to please and convince Victorian readers at the same time, account for the success of the work, not only in Britain but also in America, where the volumes were published in 1911, providing booklovers with a luxury edition.