Those who have been little at sea are always more anxious than they need be in an uproar of the elements. This was the case with my solitary fellow-passenger and myself, during the storm which assailed us on board her Majesty's mail-packet, whilst on her voyage from Anglesea to Dublin, on the night of the 22d September, 1842. Throughout the entire night we were expecting to hear our sailors call, as in Shakspere, All lost! to prayers, to prayers! all lost! But on awaking, towards morning, from a very restless and by no means pleasant slumber, which, in spite of sea-sickness, had stolen upon us, we perceived that the engine of our steamer was at rest, and that we were lying quietly at anchor in Kingstown harbour, on the coast of Ireland; a coast at which no one arrives in a more agreeable manner than that in which King Alonzo arrived at his enchanted island. For this Erin, this Isle of Saints, this Holy Isle, this Emerald Isle, as it is styled alike in the most ancient and modern times: this isle of fairies and witchesthis isle of misery and quarrels, as it might be called at the present daythis land, infinitely rich in peculiarities unknown in the rest of Europe, may be fairly called, like Prospero's, an isle of wonders.
The Irish Sea, which separates England from Ireland, has been described, alike by ancient and modern writers, as particularly rough and stormy. Solinus1 expresses himself as follows:Mare quod Hiberniam et Britaniam interluit, undosum inquietumque, toto in anno non nisi paucis diebus est navigabile. (The sea which flows between Great Britain and Ireland is billowy and boisterous, so that it is navigable but for a few days in the whole year.) Giraldus agrees with him, for he says,
p.10Hibernicum mare concurrentibus fluetibus undosissimum, fere temper est inquietum, ita ut vix etiam aestivo tempore paucis diebus se navigantibus tranquillum praebeat. (The Irish Sea runs high, and is almost always rough, on account of the currents which meet there; so much so, that even in summer-time it seldom favours those who navigate it with a smooth voyage.)
Many have doubted the peculiar boisterousness of the Irish Sea. But I am greatly inclined to concur with old Giraldus, partly because I both arrived in Ireland with a storm, and was borne back again on the wings of another; and partly, too, because the position of the sea is such as allows its restlessness to be explained from very natural causes. The oval island of Ireland lies with its greatest length opposed, on the west, to the Atlantic Ocean, from which tides rise twice every day, and rush towards the western coasts of Ireland, the southern coasts of England, and the north of Scotland. Driven back from Scotland, as well as from England, they here change their direction, and run from the south, through St. George's Channel, northwards into the Irish Sea, and also into the straits between Portpatrick and Belfast. Thus there arises many times every day a repeated warring of the waters, which, at the confluence of the two currents, causes a troubled sea. This roughness is of course particularly great in the narrower partsin the north, between Portpatrick and Belfast; in the south, between St. David's in Wales and Carnsore Point in Ireland; and in the middle, between Anglesea and Dublin. Between these three points, said our sailors, it is seldom smooth.
The Bay of Dublinthough it may give but little joy to the mariner, being shallow and unprotected by nature, and exposed to every windpresents a beautiful sight to the stranger, especially if he contemplates it on a cheerful morning, from the deck of a steamer in which he has passed a stormy night. The land, stretching out in two peninsulas, extends both its arms to meet him. In the southern hand it bears the harbour and town of Kingstown, and in the northern the harbour and town of Howth; while in the centre of its deep bosom it cherishes the capital itself, called Ballagh-Ath-Cliath by the ancient Irish (a name it bears even to the present day). By Ptolemeus it was erroneously called Eblana; and to all the non-Irish part of the world it is known by the name of Dublin.
On the left side, near Kingstown, lies the little island of Dalkey; and on the right, near Howth, the equally little island named Ireland's Eye. This name is characteristic: since it is here, in the middle of her eastern coast, that Ireland has opened
p.11her eye on England; and one might claim this name of the little isle for the city of Dublin itself. For here is Ireland's face, and Dublin is the eye with which she watches the rest of the world, and especially England herself. I say Ireland has here opened her eye. It might, perhaps, be better to say, it has here been placed by violence, or torn open by force. For had Ireland her own waywere she freed from her proximity to, and her dependence upon Englandcould she disclaim all knowledge of England, turn her back upon her, and wheel round on her centre, she would have opened her eye in quite another direction. O'Connell, the great Irish Patriot, has his summer residence in the far west of the island, on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, into which he is fonder of looking than into the Irish Sea, over towards England. Perhaps all the Irish, if they were left to their own free will, would run over to the west, and remove their capital, their seat of government, the eye of their land, to the shores of the Atlantic. For 600 years, however, the English have turned round her refractory head, and taught her attentively and obediently to direct her eye towards England, and not unpolitely to turn her back upon it.
The old capital of Ireland, if such an expression may be used here, was Tara, in the interior of the country. Dublin is not the capital which the Irish have chosen for themselves, but that which the English have built and thrust upon them. Richard I. built a castle here first in 1204: where he also established the superior courts of justice, and fixed the seat of his chief governor of Ireland. From that period, demonstrations of favour and titles of magistrates, charters and corporations, public edifices, statues of kings, and Wellington testimonials, have poured upon this city, which grew ever greater, and more beautiful than London and Edinburgh; while in return, ever since that year, the loyal armed citizens of Dublin, under their provosts and lord mayors, and the English armies under their lords deputies, and lords lieutenant, and bishops' excommunications, and royal threats, have poured down upon the rest of Ireland, which thus, through the medium of Dublin, became every day more dependent and more English.2
We (my fellow-passenger and I) set our feet on shore in Kingstown close beside two illustrious footprints cut in the rock on the quay of this harbour; namely, the footprints of George IV., who, on his visit to Ireland in the year 1821, landed here, and to whose honour a monument was raised on the spot, while beside the monument the two footsteps were chiselled in the rock. I could never have believed that the art of flattery was so well understood in Great Britain. The footsteps of a king chiselled out on his visit! and columns raised to commemorate the event! Would it not lead one to imagine Ireland was some little island, far, far removed beyond the usual paths of men; perhaps one of the Orkney or Faroe islesa perfect out-of-the-way place as the English saythat the visit of her ruler should be deemed a remarkable and never-to-be-forgotten occurrence? And, in fact, when one considers that Ireland, although comparatively so near London, was never visited either by George III., George II., nor George I., nor by any one of her kings throughout the whole of the past century: nay, that no other English king ever before came to Ireland, except with arms in his hands, and when war, rebellion, or foreign enemies required his presence, one may justly say that Ireland looks like a little despised shallop, or a dismasted and conquered cutter, taken in tow by the line-of-battle-ship England.
Our Kings of Prussia often rejoice the various provinces of their kingdom with their visits. Lithuania alone they seldom visit. The Emperors of Russia are almost always travelling in the various countries of their empire, and show themselves, now in Moscow, now in St. Petersburgh, now in Odessa, now in Warsaw; to Siberia alone they rarely gothey send a friend there now and then. The Emperors of Austria, on their accession, receive homage in all their various provinces, and at other times also frequently show their gracious countenances to the various cities of their empire. To their Wallachian and Hungarian possessions alone they seldom go. But Ireland, this important third of the Trinity of the British Empire, like the Prussian Lithuania, the Russian Siberia, and the Austrian Wallachia, has been passed by on the left; and, on all English accessions to the throne, has had nothing to do but to waft her applause across the Channel, as well as she could with her wounded and manacled hands.
But even though a man be no king, yet in Ireland he attains a due share of honour as soon as he has set foot on shore. Your honours, said a Dublin car-driver to us, since 'tis yet very early, and the train from Kingstown to Dublin will not be ready to start this hour and a half to come, your honours couldn't do
p.13better than hire my car; besides, I will drive your honours up straight to your hotel, and that's what the railroad won't do for you.
Since the reasons were valid, we accepted this offer which honoured us so much, and set off for Dublin in a little coach, which, from its strange and comical appearance, seemed very inviting. It was a kind of four-cornered box, fixed upon two wheels, and provided with glasses in front. We crept into it from behind. Methinks I have seen pictures of such carriages in books of Chinese travels. The driver sits in front of this box, with his feet on the shafts. The shafts are not attached to the axle of the wheels, but to the box-carriage itself, and they are even fastened to it without any hinge. Behind the horse's tail is a little board on the shafts, like a tray. It is intended for the feet of the driver, but is regularly used by the horse at certain intervals for a very different purpose. This little board must appear to all who have travelled in Ireland to be a strange invention of Paddy's. Since the horse holds the carriage by the stiff shafts, it follows all his hopping motions, and one sits in the shaking equipage just as if it were tied on the horse's back. All Irish carriages, covered and not covered, whether used for the purposes of agriculture or for pleasure, are built upon this principle. The character of a people expresses itself in their inventions and the peculiarities of them.
In such an invention, then, we seated ourselves, and galloped and hopped with it along the shore of the bay of Dublin, till we at last drew up before our hotel, where our little equipage made the following manoeuvre. The driver ran the vehicle obliquely across the street, and then backed the horse till the wheels struck the curb-stone directly opposite the hall door; and now our little coach gave out from behind its entire contents, passengers and luggage, as a hen lays eggs.
Of all the three capitals of the three united kingdoms, Dublin is the youngest. Ptolemaeus, it is true, mentions this city; it is also true that no less than 25 Ostman (Danish) kings resided here from the 9th till the 12th century; and who knows how many kings of Leinster before? But the city, at that time, was a town as unknown to the rest of the world as the other capitals of the numerous Danish and Norwegian sea-kings, or those of the countless Irish sovereigns. Its houses were built of hurdles and clay, and its entire circumference was scarce an English mile. Nor did it attain any importance until the English viceroys took up their residence here; and even then its progress was, at first, slow and inconsiderable. It was not until
p.14Elizabeth's time that houses began to be built of timber; and stone did not take the place of wood until the reign of James I. Even so late as in 1610, the walls and boundaries of the city, properly so called, did not exceed their old circle of one mile. It is now ten miles in circumference. Its increase and prosperity may be dated from William III., who once more subdued Ireland, in the battle of the Boyne against James II. His statue is accordingly the oldest royal statue in Dublin. Edinburgh and London both date their greatness from a more remote period. Both were long the seats of the governments of kingdoms which played a part in the affairs of Europe; while Dublin was but the provincial capital of that disputed and frequently invaded district called The Pale. Hence Dublin has neither an old, narrow-streeted, crook-cornered City, like London, nor an antique, many-laned quarter, speaking of by-gone centuries, like Edinburgh.
Dublin, whilst it is the second city of the United Kingdom, is at the same time one of the first and largest cities in Europe; for, in respect of number of inhabitants, it approaches St. Petersburgh, Moscow, and Vienna; rivals Berlin and Lisbon; and exceeds Brussels, Stockholm, Rome, Milan, or Pesth. But few of those capitals have so quickly raised themselves from comparative insignificance to so high a rank. In this respect, St. Petersburgh alone surpasses it.
Dublin is, in its exterior, an entirely English city. Except its miserably poor, filthy suburbs, and its lanes so thickly peopled with beggars, it possesses nothing which the great English cities do not also possess, and which it has not received from the other side of the Channel. The private houses of the wealthy are just as small, neat, unornamented, and precisely of the same cut and design, as private houses in all English towns. And the public buildings are just as rich in ornaments and columns, as full of rotundas, colonnades, and porticos, as the public buildings of English cities, like the houses of Pericles on the Acropolis of Athens. Beautiful moles and harbourslighthouses, docks, and patent slips, such as are seen in Liverpool, London, and other English seaports. The sumptuous Custom-housethe Post-office, with columns of the Ionic orderthe Four Courts, with columns of the Corinthian, highly ornamental! remarkably beautiful! exceedingly fine! as the English sayare met with just as they are found in every English city. Moreover, there are just such wide streets, and wide convenient footways, as in London; just such charming green squares in the middle of the city as in the middle of English cities; except perhaps that the squares are something more beautiful, and the buildings something more
p.15ornamental. This word ornamental which the English use so much, is characteristic of their cities. As the French are always talking about villes monumentales, so the English are continually speaking of ornamental and very ornamental towns, by which they mean towns which have a great many columned edifices. Only the Russian, and next to them the American towns, can be compared with the English in regard to richness in columns. In this respect our continental towns appear to the English very unornamental. We Germans speak more of antique and picturesque towns, and we have them; while the English, notwithstanding all their columns, have them not: there are of course a few exceptions to this rule.
Nelson's Pillar (a lofty, handsome column) stands in the middle of Sackville-street, the most splendid street in Dublin; whilst Wellington Testimonials and King George's Statues are as plentiful in this city as in English towns. Trinity College (the Dublin University) has its beautiful walled-in garden, like the Oxford colleges; and the Castle, the seat of the Viceroy, is a repetition of many similar castles to be found in England. You must not however imagine, because you are now in a Catholic country, that this its capital possesses anything peculiar in the way of old churches and cloisters, splendid Catholic cathedrals, or many-coloured chapels at the street corners. One remarks as little of Catholicism in Dublin as of Protestantism in Praguejust as little as in all the other towns of the British empire. Although in Ireland there are five Catholics for one Protestant, yet there is scarce a trace of the Catholics in the capital of the country. No processions, no monks, no priests, are to be seen in the streets. The Catholic buildings (here called merely Catholic chapels) set apart for the worship of God are very small and few in number, and concealed in I know-not what by-lanes of the city. Till the middle of the last century, the Irish Catholics could only hear mass within the walls of their own houses, and the religious wants of the poor were satisfied by some travelling priest, in some spacious stable, or ruined, uninhabited house. It was only in 1745 that they dared again to open some of their old chapels. Now, it is true, they have several, but, as I have said before, a stranger scarcely remarks them; whilst the twenty-two or twenty-three Episcopal churches (among which St. Patrick's, Christ Church, and the chapel of the Viceregal Castle are the most worthy of notice,) resemble the Protestant churches of the Established Church in England. The famed St. Patrick's, which is the most distinguished old ecclesiastical structure in Ireland, is, in its entire style of architecture, only the
p.16counterpart of the old cathedrals in the west of England, those of Chester, Carlisle, &c. At first I could not reconcile it to myself when I found no Catholic service in churches called St. Patrick's, St. Kevin's, St. Audeon's, St. Michan'sall national names of Irish Catholics and saints, which can have scarcely any meaning for Protestant Englishmen.
As I had not braved a storm in her Majesty's mail-packet to find myself again in England, and as I came to see Irelandnational Irelandwhich is not to be found in her great cities, I made but a short stay in the beautiful and (as it is called) merry capital of the island. I resolved to make a tour through the West and South, and then return to Dublin, in order to prosecute my inquiries concerning matters characteristic of the country and generally interesting.