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A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland [...] (Author: Thomas Campbell)

Letter 5


The theatres being now shut, I can say nothing of them that you don't know; for as Dublin has long been our seminary for players, there is scarce any thing relative to it, we are better acquainted with, than the history of its stage. Let me then introduce two articles, which will at least have novelty to recommend them, I mean the wheel car, and the noddy.

The former is a machine drawn by a single horse, generally lean as Rosinante, and is composed of two shafts, with three or four transums behind the horse, supported by wheels of solid timber, of about two feet and a half in diameter. This is a general substitute for the waggon in the country, and for the cart in town; and therefore cannot fail of conveying an idea of poverty, to one just come from England. It might, however, be very useful to the English farmer, upon many occasions; and in London, it might serve for the carriage of small parcels, where two


horses are not necessary, and where the porters wooden horse is not sufficient.

The other vehicle called a noddy, which plies the streets here, is no more than a single horse chaise, with a seat for the driver upon the shafts; so that the rump of the horse is at his mouth, and his rump at the mouth of the person in the chaise; than which nothing can be more indelicate. It is used, however, only by the lowest orders of citizens, who hire carriages. It has its name, I suppose, from the nutation of its motion.

From the general badness of the streets, hackney-coaches are mare frequent in proportion than in London, and sedan chairs are every where as common as about St. James's. From this circumstance, one would argue for the opulence of the city of Dublin; but it only proves that many families of distinction reside here. As you may make a barometer of any fluid, so may you estimate the wealth of a nation from various phenomena.

One pretty sure sign of poverty is, that, though there are Jews here, there are not enow to form a constant and regular synagogue.


Another which solicits your attention as you walk the streets, is the wretched harridans who ply for hire. These, covered with tattered weeds, are the most horrid miscreants that ever degraded human nature. With vociferations that would startle deafness, and execrations that would appal blasphemy, they celebrate their midnight orgies, to the reproach of magistracy, the scandal of decency, and the terror of sobriety.

Leagued with these strollers, are the bands of robbers who infest this ill-policed city, and render it dangerous to the passenger who walks at night. My banker recommended to me a lodging in Capel-Street, near Essex-Bridge, assigning this reason, that as it was the most public part of the town, I was in less danger of being robbed coming home late: for it seems, that even two chairmen are not a sufficient protection. Newgate is now full of these ruffians, and it is thought that few of them can escape the sentence of the law; but many complain, that through an ill-judged lenity, reprieves are too frequently sought, and too easily obtained. It were, however, devoutly to be wished, that some


other punishment than the gallows could be thought of for such malefactors. To them slavery would be more terrible than death. Policy unites with humanity, in pleading for the lives of all, except of those who have imbrued their hands in blood.

The hawkers of news, and cleaners of shoes, fill up the measure of apparent poverty in Dublin. The filth of their bodies is offensive, and their manners shocking; their outrages upon decency disgust you at every corner; and their several cries, infinitely more sonorous than ours, tingle in your ears, with all the enraging variations of the brogue.

The street leading to the cathedral of St. Patrick is so noisome, that it is necessary to stop one's nose in passing through it. No wonder that poor Swift was so chagrined with his situation as dean of St. Patrick's; it was a sad reverse from the zenith of favouritism in the court of England. To spend those talents upon the sorry subject of copper coin, which had been employed upon the state of Europe; and in withstanding the corruptions of an Irish ministry, to waste the evening of a life, the meridian


of which had given lustre to the councils of Britain, was enough to sour a temper more meek than the Dean's. He has been heard to say, ‘I am not of this vile country;’ yet he, of all her sons, seems to have loved her the best.

In this extensive city, are but seven or eight coffee-houses, and they are resorted to for tea and coffee only, not as those in London for dinners and suppers. The first day I spent here, I dined at a chop-house in Essex-street, where I found a variety of the best things, and the charges nearly as in London. There are, I am told, three or four more of these equally good; yet such places are novel in Dublin. Their Hotels have been all set up within a few years, some of which are said to be elegant; I lay the first night in that of Liffey Street, it being next to me; and found it very tolerable.

But you are tired with these unimportant details, which I only set down to impress you more strongly with an idea of the place I write from. Let me then conclude with some account of my expedition to Tarah; which, by a little variation of its old name


Teamor into Temorah, has given title to one of the heroic poems of Ossian, son of Fingal.

This famous hill, situate above eighteen miles from Dublin, was at a distance too great for me to ride to it with pleasure, so I took a post-chaise, accompanied by a gentleman, whose extensive knowledge, and communicative temper, rendered the jaunt very pleasant.

After reading the pompous accounts of the triennial conventions at Tarah, where the monarch, provincial kings, and subordinate toparchs, solemnly assembled to adjust rights, enact laws and promulge them, one would naturally expect that there might still remain at least some mouldering heap of that vast edifice wherein the States-general met. The very same expectation is raised by the etymologist, who assures you that Teamor is, literally interpreted, the great house.

How then must you be surprised to hear, that there is not even the vestige of a palace to be traced; nay, that the very hill itself is evidence enough to prove, that there never could have been a considerable


house of stone and lime upon it. The circular forts indeed still remain, in which the several chiefs used either to pitch their tents, or to erect other temporary sheds; but these very intrenchments evince, that stone buildings were not so much as thought of for this eminence.

I will not pretend to deny that the monarch might have had for his own residence, a stone house, somewhere near this hill; perhaps at the foot of it, where the earl of Meath's house now stands. But even this is problematical, especially when we consider, that the palace, in which king John entertained the Irish kings, in this very city, was reared by himself, and made of hurdles. From the description of Pembroke Castle, built ex virgis & cespite tenui by Arnulphus de Montgomery, son of the great earl of Shropshire, it is plain that stone buildings were unusual among the Britons about the same period.

Tarah rises majestic in a most extensive plain, north-west of Dublin. From the bottom to the summit, where the royal assembly sat, it is said to be at least a mile in length; but the acclivity is so very gentle,


that it does not appear to be of any great height. In some directions, the eye reaches to an immense distance, and the prospect is upon the whole very pleasant, though by no means rich; the country being mostly under stock, with but few gentlemen's seats, two steeples, and one town to embellish the landskip.