From six to eight days are requisite properly to enjoy all the charms of the neighbourhood of Killarney, and thoroughly to inspect its entire scenery. Then the picturesque ruins of some neighbouring castles must be visited, or the high mountain of Mangerton must be climbed, and the finger dipped into the little lake on its summit, to he convinced of the truth of the report, that, in summer as in winter, its waters are always icy cold, on which account, as well as from its round form, it is called by the people The Devil's Punch-bowl. But this minute survey is incompatible with the arrangements of one who, like myself, intends to travel over the whole of Europe. On the following morning, therefore, I was again on the road, in order to proceed to Cork by the route of Kenmare and Bantry. As the mail-car
p.142was not to start till pretty late, I left my luggage in charge of the driver, and set out on foot, in order to visit the ruins of Mucruss Abbey, which lie a little to one side of the road. They are situated in the beautiful park of a wealthy proprietor, whose name I have forgotten, in the midst of tall old trees, and may be cited as an admirable example of the picturesque appearance of Irish ruins. The walls are yet in tolerable preservation, and here and there are thickly covered with ivy. In the middle of the narrow inner court of the convent stands a large yew tree, one of the most beautiful and graceful I have ever seen. It overshadows the entire of the little court with its fan-like branches, the extreme tips of which touch the edge of the ruined walls. Another little court, and the dilapidated chapel of the abbey, are, like most Irish ecclesiastical ruins, filled with monuments and grave-stones. Among them sir, the kings of this country are lying, said my Cicerone, an old rag-enveloped woman, who seemed well versed in the history of the edifice. I saw on some of them the names of several once-powerful and well-known families, as M'Carthy, O'Donaghue, and others. I have seldom beheld ruins better adapted for a picture than these, and had Ruysdael painted them, just as they stood before me, he would certainly have produced a worthy companion to his famed Churchyard. The interior of the chapel was partially tapestried with ivy, and before this ivy-tapestry stood a lofty monument of clear stone. We beheld it as point de vue through a vast arched doorway, made still larger by the tooth of time, and whose arch was also draperied with ivy. The fore-court in which we stood was entirely filled with graves, ornamented with numerous pillars of polished stone. The roof of the fore-court, like that of the chapel, was completely gone, and the bright sunshine every where streamed in, yet broken into manifold patches by the branches of the stately trees, which stretched their protecting arms across, as if they wished to supply the place of the fallen roof.
The mail-car having arrived, I proceeded on my way. Mangerton lay towering and clear before us, and over its summit there hovered a little cloud like a pillar of smoke. In fact, sir, it looks exactly as if the devil was brewing his morning's drop in his punch-bowl there, said the driver as he arranged my seat. He doesn't yet belong to the temperance society; for, as you see, to vex us temperance men, he uses a punch-bowl every day which would shame all the big-bellied teapots in Ireland together. Surely, I replied, there must be some difference between him and we mortals; but let him brew his punch, provided no rain comes out of his bowl on us to-day.
As the first part of the road to Kenmare runs along the shore of the lakes, we had now almost a repetition of our boating excursion of yesterday; but as we were usually at an elevation above the water, the views and prospects were somewhat different. The road, which afterwards runs in many windings, over Turk Mountain, has been only recently formed, and passes through one of the most desolate and wildest regions in the west of Ireland, which for thousands of years before our time had only been traversed by those little mountain horses with straw bridles. Such a road could scarcely ever have been made by the poor Celtic inhabitants of this mountain country; and we shall soon have an opportunity of showing that they are not entirely insensible to the advantages it affords them. This is one of the benefits which Ireland derives, not from herself, but at the expense of England. But the Irish are unwilling to recognize as benefits all the advantages which spring from better roads, as, for instance, the new police stations, which are always erected upon them, and which render them in some respects similar to the patrol roads the Austrians are forming through the semi-barbarous countries of their military frontier.
The police station, which lay on our road, and at which we stopped, was a new, neat, spacious building. At a short distance it appeared like a little strong castle; and the natives may probably look upon it as a fort Uri in miniature, to keep them in awe. It lay at the highest part of the mountain, just where the road again begins to descend. All round was a wilderness, and reminded me of the military stations so often picturesquely situated in the wild regions of the Austrian frontier. The house contained eight men of the constabulary force, as it is called, and which is a military-armed police, now extended over the whole of Ireland, for the prevention of crime, the discovery and apprehension of criminals, the protection of property, and the preservation of the peace. It consists of 8000 men, classified and disciplined in the same manner as soldiers. They are commanded by inspectors-general, provincial inspectors, district inspectors, and other subordinate officers, and are distributed throughout the entire country in little bodies of from five to eight men. They are armed with carbines and swords, and also use their bayonets as daggers. They differ from the soldiers in their uniform alone, which is somewhat less ornamented and of a dark green colour. This police force is, therefore, properly a military garrison, though under another name. (The English constables carry no arms, but only a short, round baton.) Since the strongest men, and those only of the most unblemished characters, are admitted into this force, and then distributed into every corner of the land, they possess an extremely
p.144intimate knowledge of it and of its inhabitants, and in the event of a war or a rebellion would probably be more valuable than an army of 30,000 men. The sergeant who had the command of this station informed me that their district comprised the desolate mountains far and wide, but that there were only 220 inhabitants in it. Eight armed policemen for 220 inhabitantsa large proportion in sooth! And yet the county of Kerry is one of the least disturbed in Ireland. The poor mountaineers are neither refractory nor riotous; and although they have O'Connell, the greatest party-man in the country, residing amongst them, they have fewer party fights than the inhabitants of any other county in Ireland. This strong police force is, therefore, no doubt placed here, not so much on their account as to prevent smuggling, and to secure the safe transmission of criminals.
Everybody knows that the most disturbed of all the counties of Ireland is Tipperary, where there is a police station every three or four miles. The men receive excellent pay, twelve shillings a week each. I have somewhere read that these constables are mostly Englishmen; but from the inquiries which I made, I have no doubt but there are as many, if not still more, Irishmen among them. Even in the London police there are more Irish than English, for the latter are not over partial to this service.
So much is perpetually heard in Ireland of counties more or less disturbed, that the stranger is at first disposed to imagine that a rebellion must lately have broken out, but he gradually discovers that this is the continued and usual state of this wretched land. Riots, party-fights, murders through revenge, are every where more or less the order of the day; and we in Germany have not the slightest idea of a country in which the whole population is, in a certain measure, every moment disposed for rebellion, and seems to be involved in a universal conspiracy. Since the conquest of Ireland by the English, this has been the usual state of the country, which now and then (hitherto about every fifty years,) bursts into a preconcerted and bloody rising. I believe the entire history of modern civilized Europe cannot furnish any thing similar.
The Kerry mountains and valleys present only one wild and desolate waste, every where of a dark, smutty colour. As our car hovered far above on the heights, we could no where discover a tree, except here and there a few stunted birches, far down in the lonely valleys; and these my neighbour on the cara cockney, who had issued forth on his first tour in search of the picturesque, and was now luxuriating among the natural beauties of Irelandpronounced to be wild plum-trees, as he had heard that they were very numerous on the mountains of Ireland. Little lakes
p.145of dark water, with perfectly naked shores, are scattered through these comfortless mountains; whilst here and there might be seen, like genuine little cheering oases, the lovely, fresh, bright-green shades of a potato-garden beside a smoking cabin. Such, in fact, are the general features of all the wild western parts and peninsulas of Ireland as well as of Scotland. The beauties are confined to a few individual spots and districts.
In the midst of this wilderness the road branches off to Derrynane Abbey, the country-seat and summer residence of the greatest man in IrelandDaniel O'Connell. This mansion lies on the extreme point of a peninsula, close to the Atlantic Ocean; and in its neighbourhood are the estates and residences of his sons and relatives. A few miles distant, in the little town of Cahirsiveen, the house in which O'Connell was born is yet standing. It is a small dilapidated building, in a little hollow valley near the highroad. The O'Connells are an old Irish race, and many of them still possess extensive estates. But Daniel O'Connell, and his branch of the family, were originally poor, and they only hold their lands here as middlemen from the great head landlords. The origin of these middlemen I have already explained. Derrynane is one of those numerous abbeys which, since the time of Henry VIII. and of Cromwell, have become the seats of noble families, both in England and Ireland. O'Connell's hospitality is celebrated throughout the country, and when he is resident at the abbey, it is the gathering-place of many strangers. Even his political opponents have sometimes been compelled to assist in increasing his fame in this respect.
Some months ago, the carriage in which were travelling two, elderly ladies and a young gentleman, members of a well-known high Tory family, broke down, late in the evening, on one of the narrow roads of the wild country in the neighbourhood of Derrynane. As the servants declared they could not repair the damage, so as to enable the carriage to proceed, the party were compelled to make their way on foot, as best they could, through the wind and rain of a November night, towards a house which, by the lights in its windows, they perceived was fortunately at no great distance. Whilst proceeding thither, they were met by the servants of the house, whom the hospitable proprietor, on the first intimation of the accident, had sent to their assistance. Our master, said they, begs that you will do him the honour to make use of his house as long as it may be pleasing to you. We are very much obliged to your master for his kindness; in fact, we were in no little despair at being surprised by such a mishap in this wilderness. What is your master's name? Our
p.146master, your honour, is Daniel O'Connell, and that is Derrynane Abbey! When we remember the titles and opprobrious epithets which are usually bestowed upon Dan (as he is familiarly called by the people) by that party to which our travellers belongeda regular robber, being far from the strongest of those epithets;and when we also consider that for thirty years the ladies had been accustomed to hear all sorts of horrible things of this regular robber,it will be easy to imagine the horror which now thrilled through their veins at the idea of beholding him in living flesh and blood. So high does party spirit run in Ireland. So great was their abhorrence of him, that an exclamation of terror burst from them, and they stood as if rooted to the spot. But what was to be done? Behind them lay the broken equipage and the miry roads of Kerry, and far or wide not a cabin was to be seen; before them the robber's den, the comfortable exterior of which they could now perceive through the gloom of night. The November wind, which blew furiously from the Atlantic Ocean, and the Scotch mist, which penetrated the silk mantles of the ladies, speedily decided the question. The young gentleman gave the ladies each an arm, and led them, trembling with apprehension, towards the abbey, where they were welcomed at his hall door by O'Connell himself. So hospitably were they entertained during that night and the following day, that they have never since failed to assure their friends that it is not at all surprising that such a man is so much beloved and esteemed by all who have had an opportunity of perceiving his loveable qualities.
By those who are acquainted with his domestic life, O'Connell is much praised for abstaining from all political subjects when surrounded by his guests. On such occasions, any topic of conversation is by him preferred to politics. This is a rule generally observed by most political leaders and party-men in England, the internal politics of their country being entirely banished from the domestic circle. In France, on the contrary, whether in the salons, at soirées, or in family circles, politics are always discussed con amore.
Unfortunately, the great man had departed from Derrynane a few days before my visit to the neighbourhood, so that I was deprived of the opportunity, of which I should otherwise have availed myself, of paying him a visit in his mountain retreat.
At length we descended the hills and arrived at Kenmare, from whence, across an arm of the sea, a free prospect of the Atlantic Ocean opened on our view. On these occasions the Irish are accustomed to say: From here, westwards in a straight line, there is no other land till you come to America! The Irish
p.147ought to have discovered America, for, with the exception of Iceland, it lies nearer that vast continent than any other European country. Even the long narrow peninsulas of Kerry project a degree and a half further westwards than the promontories of Spain; and it is exactly under the same degree of latitude that, in America, Newfoundland and Labrador stretch furthest out towards the east, if we except the northern ice-shores of Greenland. Had Ireland been inhabited by enterprising Northmen, it is probable that the centre of America would have been discovered by them as early as, sailing forth from Norway and Iceland, they discovered Greenland. Midway between Ireland and America are the Azores, which also lie nearly under the fiftieth degree of latitude. This concatenation prescribed by nature, this natural road to the discovery of the Azores from Ireland, and of Newfoundland from the Azores, the unspeculative Celtic Irish knew not how to use; and it was not till the Germanic races poured down on this new continent, that they too were borne along with them to the other side of the Atlantic.
Kenmare River, on which the little town of the same name is situated, is one of the most singular rivers in the world. Originally a small mountain stream, it is joined near the town by various tributaries, each only a few miles long, and then suddenly becomes an English mile in breadth; from this point it flows towards the ocean with a gradually increasing breadth of three, four, and five miles. Yet nature is not to blame for this monstrosity, but the geography invented by the Irish, which calls that a river which ought to have been designated Kenmare Bay.
The town of Kenmare is the property of the Earl of Kenmare, to whom Killarney also entirely belongs. Most of the Irish towns are the property, not of those who inhabit them, but of some great landowners. Thus Tralee belongs to a family named Denny, and Waterford to the Marquis of Waterford. Nay, even Belfast, a city with 60,000 inhabitants, belongs almost entirely to the Marquis of Donegal. The Earl of Kenmare is one of the titles of the Marquis of Lansdowne, a distinguished man in England, and one of the benefactors of Ireland. His extensive estates in Kerry, many of which we passed, are every where marked by improved husbandry, and increased prosperity and comfort of the tenantry.
At Kenmare is the only suspension bridge that Ireland possesses. The peninsula on the other side of the river is just as wild a country as that through which we had passed. One group of the mountains which form this peninsula is called the Glanerought Mountains, and another is named the Hungry Hills. I am ignorant of the meaning of the first name, but the latter is really very
p.148appropriate, and suited to all the mountains of Kerry. Although many rivers are marked on the map, and at this season they were not likely to be dried up, yet far and wide I could no where discover even one of those little streamlets which, on our wooded German hills, trickle down in such rich fulness at every step. The moisture deposited from the atmosphere is here principally retained by the morasses, and by those large and small patches of turf I have before described; the hills must therefore be looked upon as immense sponges, which in wet seasons absorb nearly all the moisture, so that in warm weather, when the rocks become heated, the springs are drained, and only a few of them yield a supply throughout the entire year.
The furze is the principal plant that grows in the clefts and chinks of the rocks, and its yellow blossoms now marked out several patches in the dark vallies, whilst through its bushes flitted pretty little birds, to which it afforded but poor lodging. These wilds have certainly never been more thickly inhabited, nor better cultivated, than at present; nor is it probable they will be for a long time to come. Irish patriots talk of the beautiful thick woods with which their island was once covered; but the arguments which they adduce to prove this appear to rest upon some very undefined accounts and expressions of a few old writers. Small islands, like Madeira, might indeed be suddenly deprived of their timber by improvident management; but that a forest of the extent of Ireland could be so thoroughly destroyed, as to vanish from the soil, with its full-grown old trees, its roots, and its perpetuating seeds, and leave not a trace behind, seems to me more than could be accomplished in the course of many centuries, even though the inhabitants, like those of Ireland, lived in perpetual savage strife and devastating hostility. That Ireland formerly had more wood than she now has, is proved by the large trunks of trees which are frequently found in the bogs; but I must protest against the endless beautiful groves which are said to have covered these very regions of rock.
The green potato-fields were here again most charming; and equally charming were the new school-houses, which have been erected here and there in these wastes. The road itself is also quite a new work, still more so than that of Killarney, having, I believe, only been completed a year and a half. Extraordinary difficulties had to be overcome in its formation: rocks were every where to be blasted, and at the highest point it was requisite to bore a tunnel through the mountain. Besides this, a multitude of other new roads have either been completed or are now in progress in Ireland, some of which are truly wonderful.
Thus far I had been the sole occupant of one entire cushioned side of the mail-car; and I was therefore well pleased that it occurred to a woman, who was also crossing the mountain, to jump up and seat herself beside me. She was a Sullivana name which is as common in this part of Kerry as O'Brien is in Clare, or Blennerhasset in Tralee. The inferior members of the clan are usually called simply Sullivan, but the higher ranks O'Sullivan. Another family equally numerous here is the M'Carthys; and the woman informed me that there were few people in Kerry who were not in some way related either to the one or the other. Her own father was a Sullivan, and her mother a M'Carthy. She was smoking, and had a piece of lighted turf in her hand, which she was conveying to her husband, who was at work in a potato-garden among the rocks. Twice, when I looked at her, she immediately offered me her pipe, which I was unpolite enough to decline. To offer a pipe, and gratefully to accept it, has ever been a customary trait of Irish politeness. I would like to know how it comes, that not only in Ireland, but almost through the whole world, so much politeness is connected with this stinking tobacco. With most savages the pipe of peace is customary! A pipe is the first civility offered to a visitor in Turkey; and in Paris the cigar-case is not only placed upon the table, but is the first mark of politeness that friend offers to friend, or the host to his guest; and generally throughout the whole of civilized Europe, those are deemed very unpolite by whom this ceremony is neglected! This custom is still more observed with tobacco in that form in which it shows itself in our snuff-shops. When in Europe a person presents his snuff-box to the friend who sits beside him, the act has precisely the same meaning as when the pipe of peace goes round in the wigwam of the savage. Peace is concluded, people consider themselves friends, and converse more freely with each other. Other things we do not offer so regularly. The pipe, which soothes the mind, puts people in good humour, stops the mouth of the angry and the prise contenance, and infuses so much mildness, alone enjoys this privilege.
At the top of the mountain Mrs. Sullivan alighted, and climbed away through the rocks, with her piece of burning turf in her hand, the smoke of which enabled me to trace her course for some time. So usual is it for the Irish labourer to have a piece of ignited turf lying beside him in the field, that wherever you find the one you may be sure the other is not far distant.
After passing through an endless variety of blasted rocks and broken stones, we at length arrived at that portion of the road where its makers, tired of winding backwards and forwards, had
p.150tunnelled right through the rock. Here we turned our backs on the county of Kerry, and when we issued from the southern gate of the tunnel, beheld the county of Cork, lit up by the bright rays of the sun. This, as every Irishman informs the stranger the moment he puts his foot upon its soil, is the largest county in Ireland; and every Corkman repeats the information so long as he remains within its boundary. It contains 1,800,000 acres: whilst Louth, which is the smallest county, contains only 200,000 acres. The county of Cork has also many districts which resemble those of Kerry in wildness and want of cultivation; 1,100,000 acres, or three-fifths of the whole, are cultivated, the remainder being unimproved mountain and bog. In Kerry, 550,000 acres, or upwards of one-half, is rock and bog, while the remaining 500,000 acres are only capable of cultivation to a certain extent. The best cultivated county in Ireland is Meath, which lies to the west of Dublin, and in which, for 560,000 acres under cultivation, there are only 6000 acres unimproved. Donegal, in the north, is, on the other hand, the most uncultivated, for here there are 650,000 acres of uncultivated to 520,000 of cultivated land. Donegal, however, is the only one which exceeds Kerry in this respect. On the whole, something more than a fourth part of Ireland is waste land and bog, for in 19,944,209 acres which, according to M'Culloch, is the superficial area of Ireland, there are 14,603,473 acres cultivated and 5,340,736 waste. The average yearly rental of all the land in Ireland is 12s. 9d. per acre. In Kerry and in Donegal, however, it only averages 6s.; whilst in the county of Dublin it produces rather more than 20s. Almost on our very entrance into the county of Cork we enjoyed another celebrated little paradise, the mountainous country of Glengariff. We descended to it by an excellent road that wound zigzag down the hills, and met innumerable cars laden with sea-sand, a product of great use in Irish agriculture. It is mixed with the cold clay and the acrid bog by spreading it over the ploughed land, and afterwards harrowing it in. The Irish say, the sea-sand cuts up the clay. Being so serviceable, it is frequently conveyed, by carts or boats, distances of fifteen or twenty miles; and were it not for this ingredient much land in Ireland would be altogether unproductive. As excellent roads now afford great facility for inland transport, they will thus in no slight degree contribute to the better cultivation of the country. The sea-sand of Bantry Bay, which is called coral sand by the people, is said to be of a very superior quality: it consists principally of broken muscle shells, and contains some particles of lime.
Numerous beautiful trees, in which some pretty country-seats are embosomed, enrich the valleys of Glengariff; and the bay on which the little village lies, is studded with islands like the lakes of Killarney. These islands have exactly the same peculiarities as those of Killarney, being covered with bog-stuff, furze-bushes, and occasional thickets; and as they are of all sizes, the bay appears as if it were full of great whales.
This is the renowned Bantry Bay, so spacious, so deep, so sheltered on every side, and so calm, that all the fleets in the world might here ride at anchor in perfect safety. It was in this bay that the French attempted to land towards the close of the last century; here also, according to Moore, the Colonists from Spain landed upwards of a thousand years before; and it was probably to this bay that the Phoenicians resorted in times of yore. Irish writers, who believe in a colonization from Spain, find many points of similarity between this western extremity of Ireland and Gallicia, the opposite north-western extremity of Spain, and are of opinion that a constant and direct communication by sea formerly existed between the Bay of Corunna and Bantry Bay. According to the old traditions cited by Moore, the Spaniards sailed over in so short a time, that, in order to render it credible, it is also necessary to suppose that a stronger current must at that period have set between these two points than is now known to prevail in any part of the world.
The views of the bay from our mountain roads were charming; and equally so were those from the road around the bay, into which several little rivers flow, while several arms of the sea stretch into the land. These we crossed by ivy-mantled bridges. The little islands, between which the barks of the fishermen were sailing backwards and forwards, were also exceedingly pleasing. Some of the steep promontories which jutted out into the sea were covered with potato-gardens to the very summits, whilst others were equally covered with turf. In a little creek we found a boat laden with oysters, which are very plentiful on the western coasts of Ireland; and for sixpence we obtained such an abundant supply of them, that some of our party ate too many, and were consequently very much indisposed on their arrival in Bantry. Apropos of oysters: whenever I ate oysters in Ireland, a story was always told me respecting a certain gentleman who, being recommended by his physician to take a few oysters before dinner, in order to sharpen his appetite, afterwards complained to the doctor that although he devoured a hundred every day before dinner, he did not find his appetite a bit better than before! As this story was invariably told every time I ate oysters I cannot attribute it
p.152to chance, and must therefore set it down as a national Irish oyster anecdote.