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

Letter 6


Since my last, I have been to see some of the beautiful scenes of the county Wicklow; which is truly a charming country, abounding with romantic views, very like the good parts of Wales. The Glin of the Downs, Dargle, and Water-fall of Powerscourt, are celebrated; but such subjects appear to me much fitter for the pencil than the pen.

I have been also at Carton, the seat of the duke of Leinster, in the county Kildare. Of this nobleman, it may, I believe be said, that he is the best appointed of any in Europe, both for a town and country house. Near it is Castletown, the seat of


Mr. Conolly, the greatest commoner in the kingdom; whose house is fitted up in the most elegant modern taste, and whose mode of living is in the highest style of hospitality. He has a public news or coffee-room, for the common resort of his guests in boots, where he who goes away early may breakfast, or who comes in late may dine, or he who would chuse to go to bed, may sup before the rest of the family. This is, almost, princely.

All the outlets of Dublin are pleasant, but this is superlatively so which leads through Leixlip, a neat little village, about seven miles from Dublin, up the Liffey; whose banks being prettily tufted with wood, and enlivened by gentlemen's seats, afford a variety of landskips, beautiful beyond description. Near the village is a venerable old house, seated on an eminence, where lord Townshend spent his summers, while chief governor; and which the late Lord Primate used as his country-seat.

Stone was a man of considerable abilities, but more of the politician than the prelate, he devoted his life to the supporting


a party in the Irish parliament. It is said that when he went over to London, to consult the gentlemen of your faculty on his state of health, he very candidly said to them, ‘Look not upon me as an ordinary churchman, or incident to their diseases, but as a man who has injured his constitution by sitting up late, and rising early to do the business of government in Ireland.’

They consider his death an aera in the polity of this kingdom; for had he lived till now, he would have been always one of the Lords Justices, with the power of the whole; and of course business would have been concluded in the usual way. Administration would have continued to throw all its power into his hands; who made so proper a use of it, that the perpetual residence of viceroys would not have been thought necessary.

In this nation are three or four grandees, who have such an influence in the house of commons, that their coalition would, at any time, give them a clear majority upon any question. It has, therefore, always been a maxim of government to disunite these factious chiefs. And, still farther to disable


opposition, it has been thought expedient to disengage as much as possible, the followers from their leaders. This was attempted by lord Chesterfield, so early as the year 1745; but his stay was too short to effect it.

Formerly, these principals used to stipulate with each new Lord Lieutenant, whose office was biennial, and residence but for six months, upon what terms they would carry the king's business through the house; so that they might, not improperly, be called undertakers. They provided, that the disposal of all court favours, whether places, pensions, or preferments, should pass through their hands, in order to keep their suite in an absolute state of dependence upon themselves. All applications were made by the leader, who claimed, as a right, the privilege of gratifying his friends in proportion to their numbers.

Whenever such demands were not complied with, then the measures of government were sure to be crossed and obstructed; and the faction of parliament became a constant struggle for power, between the heads of parties; who used to force themselves


into the office of Lord Justice, according to the prevalence of their interest.

On lord Townshend devolved the arduous task of dissolving these factions, so frequently turbulent in the Irish parliament. He set out with an action so popular, that the mob took the horses from his coach, and drew him from the Parliament House to the Castle. This deed so pleasing to the people, was giving the royal assent to a bill, brought in, by the famous patriot Dr. Lucas, for limiting the duration of parliaments to eight years. But they now begin to think that this favourite law is of no other use, but to increase the value of boroughs; a single seat in one of which sells for 2000l. at least.

But his Lordship's popularity did not last long. By diverting the channel of court favour, or rather by dividing it into a multitude of little streams, the gentlemen of the House of Commons were taught to look up to him, not only as the source, but as the dispenser of every gratification. Not even a commission in the revenue, worth above 40l. a year, could be disposed of without his approbation. Thus were the


old undertakers given to understand, that there was another way of doing business than through them. It was not, however, without much violence on both sides, that he at length effected his purpose. The immediate sufferers did not fail to call this alteration in the system of governing, an innovation; and, under various pretences, to spirit up the people to adopt their resentments.

The contest produced a series of political letters in the public prints, replete with wit and humour, inferior, perhaps, to nothing of the kind, except the letters of Junius. They are now bound up in one volume, under the title of Baratariana; from allusion to the island of Barataria, of which Sancho was made governor by Don Quixot.

Lord Harcourt now finds the parliament of Ireland full as obsequious as that of Great Britain; and from that courteous deportment, which, every where pleasing, is here particularly engaging, he is as popular as any man can well be expected to be in his station, which is of such a ticklish nature, that odium effugere est triumphus.


Having now, I flatter myself, given you a tolerable notion of Dublin and its environs; I purpose setting out in a day or two to visit the principal places in the south of the kingdom. I prefer a southern to a northern tour, not only as the climate must be better; but because the north is in a thriving state of manufacture, and therefore cannot be supposed to differ so widely from England, as a country where neither manufactures nor agriculture flourish.

A slight sketch of the geography of this country, may enable you the better to trace me without a map. Ireland is divided into four provinces, Ulster, Conaught, Leinster, and Munster. The last is to the S. and the first to the N. Leinster is to the E. and Conaught to the W.

Leinster (in which is Dublin, about midway removed from either extremity of the kingdom) is the most level, and best cultivated; Ulster the most barren and mountainous, but the most thriving and populous; Munster the most fertile, yet the least thriving upon the whole; the increase of people in her cities not compensating her internal depopulation: Conaught is said to increase in numbers,


by introducing the linen trade into the parts bordering upon Ulster; though its capital is declining, and its most fertile parts, like those of Munster, are verging to depopulation.

Let me hear from you soon, and direct to me at Mr. B—— 's, Corke. My future progress will, I hope, furnish materials of more importance, or, at least, of more novelty; for hitherto I have moved in a very beaten path. I shall write from every great town in my route.

Vive & vale.