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

Letter 11


Having heard a great deal of the cave of Dunmore, I went this morning to see it. Even beauties too highly extolled, before you see them, seldom answer your expectations. I will not, however, rank this among beautiful objects, for to me it had nothing to recommend it. After riding some miles over a very rough road, they shewed me a knoll, or swelling ground, in a green field, which they said was the cave's mouth, but I could see no cavity, till I came to the very lip.

The aperture was lined with a few stunted shrubs, intertwined with ivy. The descent was apparently easy, but after I got fairly in, it became very difficult, from the damp and slippery footing; I therefore soon made my way back again, and took my turn of holding the horses, that my servant might gratify his curiosity. He stayed a great while in it, and, when he came up, lamented that I had not gone farther, and begged of me to go down again. If there


are any sparry incrustations there, it ought to have been viewed by candle-light. But I cannot conceive that the exhibition would reward the trouble.

Do not however imagine I lost my day with this bawble, for in my way I passed through the fine old park of Dunmore, and farther on, I saw the coal mines, which are well worth seeing. The pits are principally at Castle-comber, the estate of lord Wandesford, who is said to clear 10,000l. a year by them. If the grand canal were finished to the Barrow, he would then probably make much more, for that would open a communication with Dublin. But hills interpose, which must be pierced through for that purpose.

One would, however, think that even a canal could not much lower their price, considering the following extraordinary fact. The carriers pay 5d. per hundred weight, and sell them for 1s. 8d. in Dublin, which is above 80 English miles from the pits. Each car draws but seven hundred weight, which with 9d. for turnpike, makes the load cost 3s. 8d. and it sells for 11s. 8d. So that for six days travelling charges of a


man and horse, there is but 8s. to say nothing of the labour of both, and the wear and tear of the car. They are said to be laid down in the most remote parts of the kingdom, at a price so low, that it puzzles calculation to make out how the wretched carriers can subsist.

These coals are universally prized for drying malt with; because they emit no smoke. A fire made of them yields a very intense heat; it does not blaze but glow, looking like lumps of red hot iron; the vapour is very dangerous, except in a room well ventilated. The other elements have, it is said, their peculiarities at Kilkenny; but these are not so well founded upon truth. It is true that their streets are paved with marble, for I believe they have no other stone. Their marble is black, variegated with white, and takes a very high polish. It is much used for chimney pieces all over the kingdom. The only manufactory here is for coarse cloths and fine blankets.

Kilkenny values itself upon its superior gentility and urbanity. It is much frequented by the neighbouring gentry as a


country residence, has a stand of nine sedan chairs, and is not without the appearance of an agreeable place. I went last night to their weekly assembly, and was soon given to understand, by one of my partners, that Kilkenny has always been esteemed the most polite and well-bred part of the kingdom.

Knowing so little of this country, I am not furnished with any arguments from either reason or authority, to dispute this pretension. My partner was so beautiful a woman, and so striking an example of the doctrine she taught, that she led me away an easy captive to her opinion . For which I can see the justest grounds. This was the seat of the old Ormond family, here the last duke kept a court, as several of his predecessors had done, in a style much more magnificent than any of the modern viceroys. The people imbibed the court manners, and manners remain long after their causes are removed.

At present, the inheritor of the castle and some of the appendant manors, a Roman catholic gentleman, affects the state of his ancestors; his wife receives company as,


I am told, the old Ormond ladies used to do; she never returns visits; and people seem disposed to yield her this pre-eminence.

The cook belonging to this inn, the Sheaf of Wheat, wears ruffles; and though an old man, is as full of vivacity as politeness. He brings me every day, after dinner, some delicious pears, and says he keeps a few for the quality who resort to the house; and that he has done so for thirty years.

I am not singular in remarking that the peasants of this country are a most comely breed of men. They are generally middle sized, and have almost universally dark brown hair, and eyes of the same colour. Their complexions are clear, their countenances grave, and their faces of that oval character, which the Italian painters so much admire.