In Germany, we sometimes say to a person whose name we do not know, May I take the liberty, sir, to ask you your name? In England, one would do better to say, How do you spell your name, sir? otherwise one would derive little information from the answer, which generally consists of some corrupted, inarticulate sounds. How do you spell your name, sir? asked I of a man, who, having thrown his luggage into the well of the car, took his seat on the bench beside me. I received a volley of letters in reply; but as I was not yet sufficiently practised in English spelling, I was nothing the wiser, for I neither knew how to write or to pronounce it. This much, however, I know, by the final syllable pen, and the Christian name John, that my friend must be from Cornwall; for of Cornishmen is sung the following couplet:
- By tre, pol, lan, and pen,
You may know most Cornishmen.
These Cornishmen are usually called John, as the Welsh are Johnson: hence the former say that the latter are their sons. Mr. [...]pen was a thorough trader, and had no mind for any thing that was not in his line. When, therefore, I told him I had come from Saxony, Ah, Saxony, said he, that is a very fine wool country! When I expressed my regret that the weather was bad, and that we would see but little of the interesting country, he replied, that all weathers were the same to him, if business were only doing; but the worst of all was, that it was now so dull and slow. But it is some consolation to me, said I, to think that we are entering on a better-cultivated part of
p.295Ireland, and that the cultivation of the country and of the people goes on increasing towards the north. It is remarkable, observed he, that in like manner the linen and flax become finer and better as we proceed northwards. That of Drogheda is not so fine as that of Newry; and there are some places yet farther north where still finer articles are woven.
All this conversation passed between us while we were making ourselves as comfortable as we could on the car. At last we started off. The cloud of poor invalids, beggars, useless helpers and helpers' helpers, and hawkers of newspapers and picture-books, all of whom were proclaiming in a loud voice the important novelties contained in their papers, to induce us to buy, cleared away, and our car, with its mountain of luggage, and its sixteen outside passengers, rolled off through the suburbs of Dublin. I remarked in passing, that here also a great number of houses were adorned with ivy, in the same manner as all ruins in Ireland. As Erin is the ivy-land, so is Dublin the ivy-city.
Under a heavy fall of hail, rain, and snow mixed togethera kind of weather which the English call sleet, and which is very common in Irelandwe drove past the ruins of the cathedral of Swords. There stood beside them a large and almost perfect Round Tower, and many lordly old trees. The name Swords, although English, reminded me of the old Irish battles fought by Erin's king, Brian Boru.
Farther on we passed another ruin, the old castle of Balruddery; but at the next town, Balbriggan, quite a spectacle presented itself to mea large manufactory! Balbriggan was the first place in Ireland in which I found a great cotton-mill. Balbriggan stockings are celebrated, even in England. From this place the north-eastern manufacturing district of Ireland may be said to begin. The ruins cease to be the principal objects of interest; and such grand groups of ruins as those of Kilkenny, Glendalough, and Cashel, are no longer to be met with in the north.
We took a little siesta at Balbriggan, and changed our horses. As we again seated ourselves on the car, we were surrounded by the usual swarm of poor people, begging us for Heaven's sake to give them a halfpenny. There's time enough yet, gentlemen! the car's just going off! exclaimed they, as the driver raised his whip. There's time enough yet, your honours! Sure your honours won't go away without leaving us and our poor families a trifle! I'm not asking for myself, your honours, but for my poor dying children! Oh! oh! the car is going off, and your honours won't give us any thing!
In the meantime it had become dark. It is by no means pleasant to be on an Irish car when night comes on, without the light of either stars or moon, as was now our case; for one cannot venture to sleep through fear of tumbling off. A stout lady, who sat at the other side of me, therefore after a while began to sing aloud. She said she did so to keep herself awake and lively. Accompanied by her song and our universal dumbness, both of which, as well as the rough sleet, continued all the way to Drogheda, we entered the last-named town.
In this entire district, and particularly in Drogheda, the linen manufacture is the staple trade of the inhabitants. In consequence, however, of the erection of extensive flax spinning-mills at Leeds, this branch of Irish commerce has of late greatly decreased, and the linen manufacture is now much depressed. In England, it is one of the most recent branches of its manufacturing activity; whilst in Ireland it is one of the oldest. The linen manufacture of Ireland has occupied the attention of the English and Irish legislatures for two hundred years; but in England it has only obtained importance since the beginning of the present century, in consequence of the introduction of vast spinning-machines. These machines have also been lately introduced into Ireland, and the flax-spinning is now conducted on quite a new system. Many towns have been losers, and others gainers, by this change. It is remarkable that the exportation of Irish linen to England and foreign countries since the beginning of the present century, has regularly fluctuated between thirty-five and fifty-five millions of yards yearly. The general lamentations of the linen manufacturers and flax-spinners, that their trade has been destroyed, may therefore probably be caused by the increase of population, and of hands seeking employment. The population of Ireland has almost doubled itself since 1800; and to prevent these lamentations, the production and exportation of linen should also have been doubled in the same period.