Travel to Ireland, Geography and Customs of the Country
There is a rich literature by international visitors to Ireland, commenting on geography, life, local customs and contemporary politics, stretching far back to the medieval period. One of the earliest is Nennius, whose Historia Britonum also treats of Ireland, and incorporates legendary materials, but we also have early descriptions of travels to St Patrick's Purgatory at Lough Derg. The first is by Vescomte Ramon de Perellós y de Roda, and dated 1397. Apart from this English translation, this text is also available in a modernized Catalan version prepared for CELT by Dr Alan Mac an Bhaird. Another description is available by the Italian Papal nuncio Francesco Chiericati (c.1480–1539) written c. 1516. From the year 1517, we have a fascinating record in French of an 'accidental royal visit to Kinsale' by later Archduke Ferdinand of Habsburg, brother to Emperor Charles V, which sheds much light on Irish costume and dress. This account has been translated into English exclusively for CELT readers.
There may be well be a number of early travel journals that are still unedited in the manuscript holdings of continental or British libraries.
We have had a lot of interest from our readers in these texts, so we would like to add more for you to enjoy. Financial support for CELT is always welcome and can be channeled tax-effectively through UCC.
Around 1590, there are more descriptions: one is Robert Payne's, Briefe Description of Ireland to attract English settlers into the south of Ireland. Another account is by German nobleman Ludolf von Münchhausen who travelled to Monaincha in Tipperary in 1591. (If the name Münchhausen sounds familiar: he is a distant relative of the later Lügenbaron, infamous for his lies, who comes from a different line of that family.)
Around 1600, Fynes Moryson (1566–1630), secretary to the Lord Deputy Sir Charles Blount of Ireland, a widely travelled and prolific writer, penned his Description of Ireland as part of a much larger journal detailing his voyages all over Europe.
We also have the interesting Treatice of Ireland, written c. 1600 by John Dymmok. Richard Butler, who edited this text, suggested in 1843, that Dymmok was probably an "Englishman in attendance upon Essex, when he was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland."
Just seven years later, Tadhg Ó Cianáin's travel journey detailed the Flight of the Earls from Rathmullen to the Continent (available both in Irish and in an English translation.We also have the Visit to Lecale, County Down by Sir Josias Bodley (originally written in Latin), Luke Gernon's Discourse of Ireland, anno 1620 and the Travels of Sir William Brereton; all online at CELT.
Recently we have also added, thanks to a donation by an independent researcher, the Description of Ireland: A.D. 1618 by soldier Thomas Gainsford (1566–1624). All these authors are more or less contemporary with the great Irish writer Geoffrey Keating, who finished his Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, or, History of Ireland around 1634.
For the turbulent years of the Confederate Wars, there are many accounts of a military nature. Some of these also allow good insights into the life and customs of civilians. For instance, we have an account of a civilian traveller from France, François de La Boullaye de la Gouz dated 1644. After that, there is Albert Jouvin's description of Ireland under the Restoration, written in 1668.
Just one year later, you can enjoy the account of a high-ranking nobleman, Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who visited Kinsale in 1669, when the idea of travel as educational instrument for the nobility was already well established. This account was written by his companion, Count Lorenzo Magalotti.
By the way, we also have a short account of an Irish nobleman online who was sent to the Continent for education: the famous Robert Boyle, son of the first earl of Cork, and often called 'father of chemistry'.
For the years of war culminating in the Battle of the Boyne, there is a very detailed account by John Stevens, who was a soldier on the Irish side, and tells us much about the ugly realities of warfare.
Travelling as a pastime for the wealthy became really popular in the eighteenth century, and the early tourists were often enterprising men of excellent education who had many observations to share, such as the Irish church dignitary Richard Pococke in 1752, or the well-known and prolific English writer and agriculturalist Arthur Young in 1776–78. The 1770s see the emergence of guides written with the tourist in mind, and CELT has a sample of one online, too, A Description of Killarney.
We also have thirteen letters in German by Saxon scholar Carl Gottlob Küttner (1755–1805) online, who spent the summer of 1783 in the south of Ireland as tutor of an Irish nobleman's children. His letters contain the first lengthy eye-witness account from a German perspective of the country, its manners and customs of the modern era. Moreover, Küttner, who had studied in Leipzig and previously worked for several years as a tutor in Basle and other Swiss cities, did not come as a tourist but had to work for his livelihood.
CELT has just exclusively made available for our readers the Irish journal (written in German) of Caspar Voght, (1752–1839), a Hamburg merchant, agriculturalist and philanthropist. He was a widely travelled gentleman, who took an interest in everything around him, and had worked for years to improve the situation of the poor. His account was written in autumn 1794, a mere four years before the rising of 1798.
Another account, by German miltary surgeon Johann Friedrich Hering, describes Connacht in the years 1806–1807.
In the nineteenth century travel accounts proliferate. However, Thomas Crofton Croker, who travelled the southern part of the country between 1812 and 1822, still notes in his
Researches in the South of Ireland: "Intimately connected as are the Sister Islands of Great Britain and Ireland, it is an extraordinary fact that the latter country should be comparatively a terra incognita to the English in general (...)." You can compare what he wrote with a later guide on Killarney and Glengariff from the 1830s, and see what had changed over the years in tourism.
In that century, a number of long and detailed narratives are suited to the contemporary readers' taste. Their authors are as diverse as the flamboyant Prince of Pückler-Muskau (1828), the polygraph Johann Georg Kohl (1842), and comprise many more.
CELT is committed to bring to you the full range of these diaries, letters, and descriptions. It has been digitising and publishing Ireland's historical and literary heritage on the web since 1996. Our expertise in this area is second to none in Ireland. Our searchable Text Corpus contains over 15 million words of text in scholarly editions, and spans over 1200 years of Ireland's history. To the chosen texts, we apply deep-level XML markup conformant to the rigorous academic guidelines of the TEI, guaranteeing the highest standard of content delivery.
We have patiently developed our infrastructure to include both source material in the best editions, with full copyright clearance, from which electronic texts and tools for text interrogation are created. Our aim has been to make CELT a sophisticated, searchable and comprehensive Irish Text Corpus. It is crucial that such a Corpus contain materials from the widest possible range of genres.
To continue our task, and to move into editing hitherto unpublished manuscripts, requires a sustained effort, labour, and money.
If you would like to support us, please get in touch with us.
Compiled by Beatrix Färber
ŠJan 2013 Corpus of Electronic Texts
Email CELT: b.faerber(at)ucc.ie