Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- List of Abbreviations
- Part I Early Famine Travelers, 1845–1846
- Chapter 1 “An Acre of Stony Ground”: Orangeism, Wastelands, and Agriculture in Thomas Campbell Foster’s Letters, 1845–1846
- Chapter 2 Theresa Cornwallis West’s 1846 Summer Visit: United Irishmen, Young Ireland, and Mazzini’s Risorgimento
- Part II Relief Work and Infrastructure, 1847–1848
- Chapter 3 Peripatetic Charity in 1847: Pilgrimage, Soup Kitchens, and Skibbereen
- Chapter 4 Athlone, the Bog of Allen, and Famine Civil Engineering, 1846 to 1847
- Part III Revolution and Compassion Fatigue, 1848–1850
- Chapter 5 Revolutionary Ireland, 1848: New York City Tourists and the John Mitchel Trial
- Chapter 6 Celebrity Tourists, 1848–1849: De Vere and Tennyson – Duffy and Carlyle
- Chapter 7 Sidney Godolphin Osborne, the Irish Famine, and the Illustrated London News, 1849–1850
- Part IV Late Famine Ireland, 1849–1853
- Chapter 8 “Obliterated, Never to Return”: Travel Literature in Late and Post-Famine Ireland, 1849–1853
- Series index
I owe a tremendous debt to the many friends, family members, and colleagues who have read and commented on various chapters, or offered useful conversations regarding this project. John Bishop, John Paul Russo, Robert Casillo, Maura and Frank Shovlin, Miles Kennedy, Stephanie Judd, Deirdre Kennedy, Allison Judd Fee, Kathryn Freeman, Patricia Judd, Theresa Faherty Blomquist, Dexter Callender, Tim Watson, Mihoko Suzuki, Tom Goodmann, Pat McCarthy, Frank Palmeri, Pam Hammonds, Charlotte Rogers, Amina Gautier, Evelina Galang, Lydia Starling. A special thanks goes to Dr. Timothy White for reading the first draft of the nearly completed manuscript, and for offering much sage advice.
I would like to thank Charles Eckman, Dean of Libraries at the University of Miami, for his friendship and encouragement. Vera Spika, Valerie Peterson, and Kelly Miller of UM’s Otto Richter Library have also proven to be generous friends and colleagues. Otto Richter Library’s interlibrary loan division and its Kislak Center have been indispensable resources for the completion of my manuscript. Chapter 7’s illustrations are courtesy of UM’s Richter Library and Kislak Center. In addition, numerous Richter Library faculty and staff have offered much encouragement and assistance over the course of this project.
My editors at Peter Lang have been most helpful. I owe a debt of gratitude to Meagan Simpson, Eamon Maher, Anthony Mason, and Liam McLean for believing in my project and for their support and encouragement.
Research for this book was generously subsidized by a Summer 2018 grant from the University of Miami’s Provost’s Office (Dr. Jeffrey Duerk), by a Summer 2019 Book Manuscript Review grant from the University of Miami’s Dean’s Office (Dr. Leonida Bachas), and by a University of Miami’s College of Arts and Sciences’ Center for the Humanities 2017–2018 Faculty Fellowship (the Center was then under the able direction of Dr. Mihoko Suzuki).←xi | xii→
I owe an inestimable debt of gratitude to my parents – my step-mother Patricia Judd, and my father, the late Lewis Lund Judd. My father would have been very pleased to have seen this book in print. In addition, I have no doubt that my late mother, Anne Kennedy, and my birth father, Donald Elton Nealy, would have offered me encouragement and applauded the results. In 1848, my distant great-grandfather left County Cavan and sailed from Liverpool to New York on the Ashland. William McFarland would, I image, have found this study of interest.
Finally, I dedicate this book to my two children, Jack Judd and my dearest girl, the late Helena Bramble Roder, the loss of whose loving companionship, brilliance, and creative spirit has devastated all who knew her: “Tears from the depth of some divine despair/Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes.”
Travel Narratives of the Great Famine
Ireland’s Great Famine generated nineteenth-century Western Europe’s most devastating social crisis, yet the field of Irish Famine studies was not wholly established until the Famine’s sesquicentenary. From its outset in the 1990s, all branches of Irish Famine studies have utilized visitors’ accounts of the stricken nation. Economic and political historians, including Cecil Woodham-Smith, Joel Mokyr, Cormac Ó Gráda, and Peter Gray, have relied on such Irish Famine travel narratives as Thomas Campbell Foster’s Letters on the Condition of the People of Ireland (Letters) and Sidney Godolphin Osborne’s Gleanings in the West of Ireland (Gleanings) to create and sustain their arguments. In her seminal feminist readings of the Great Famine, Margaret Kelleher takes Osborne to task for what she interprets as salacious and intrusive representations of female Famine victims, while she applauds the “feminine gaze” represented by U.S. traveler Asenath Nicholson (Kelleher, 1997; Kelleher, 1996). Christine Kinealy likewise utilizes Nicholson’s Famine travelogues in her recent study Charity and the Great Hunger in Ireland (Charity). In addition, Kinealy relies on several other travel narratives written by U.S. and British travelers, such as those by William Bennett and Elihu Burritt, to bolster or to illustrate her arguments.1←1 | 2→
Irish travel narratives have engendered their own specific set of scholarly works.2 Within these writings, Famine travel narratives per se, with a few exceptions, have been given but slight attention. Melissa Fegan provides ←2 | 3→an indispensable chapter on Famine travelogues in her Literature and the Irish Famine (Fegan, 2002, pp. 73–103). Glen Hooper, William H. A. Williams, and Leesa Wheatley focus on aid-workers and Quaker Famine narratives for brief portions of their Irish tourism studies (Hooper, 2005, pp. 130–43; Williams, 2008; Wheatley, 2018).3 Elizabeth Meloy, Spurgeon Thompson, and Kevin J. James contemplate the impact of the Famine on post-Famine tourism, thereby placing the Famine squarely at the heart of their respective works, yet they discuss only peripherally travel narratives written during the Famine itself (Meloy, 2009; Spurgeon, 2012; James, 2016).4←3 | 4→
In Literature and the Irish Famine, Fegan devotes a full chapter to Famine travel narratives. Here she states her thesis clearly in that chapter’s title: “Victims and Voyeurs: Travelling in Famine Ireland” (Fegan, 2002, pp. 73–103). Fegan shares with many theorists of travel literature the starting premise, grounded in the works of Michel Foucault, Edward Said, and François Hartog, that tourism exists prima facie as an activity deeply connected to class, regional, racial, and religious condescension, as well as being an enterprise strongly motivated by different modes of narcissism and voyeurism.5 As Hartog writes of Herodotus, the traveler’s narrative is de facto a narcissistic mirror where the author “never ceased to peer as he pondered his own identity: he was the looker looked at, the questioner questioned, who always ended up by declaring his own status and credentials” (Hartog, 1988, p. xxiii).6
Fegan’s chapter, and other recent Irish-travelogue studies, have enhanced our understanding of the role that travel literature took in shaping contemporary discussions and debates during the Famine years. However, ←4 | 5→until Travel Narratives of the Irish Famine: Politics, Tourism, and Scandal, 1845–1853 (Travel Narratives), scrutiny of Famine travel narratives has been overly broad, peripheral, or has tended to group Famine travelogues in an undifferentiated whole. Keeping in mind Wai Chee Dimock’s caveat that “membership of any genre is an open rather than a closed set,” my argument here is that Famine-era travel narratives comprise a unique subgenre within the larger discursive field of travel literature (Dimock, 2007, p. 1,378). Generic characteristics of travel narratives – their hybridity, self-referentiality, picaresque structure, and quest for cultural power – are still present in Famine-era travelogues. However, I contend that the immensity of the Famine exerted great pressure on the form, topics, themes, and questing goals of Famine-era travelogues. For this reason, I would argue, Famine travel narratives deserve critical recognition of their particular status as an unprecedented subgenre, as well as detailed and organized consideration.
In contradistinction to less systematic approaches, Travel Narratives contributes to our understanding of Famine travel literature in several ways. First, Travel Narratives is, thus far, the sole book-length work to focus exclusively on Famine travel narratives. Here I establish a canon of approximately 55 British and American Irish-Famine travelogues (see Appendix 1).7 By interpreting and unraveling particular texts from this canon, my book offers the reader a richer sense of the debates, goals, and controversies contained within this sui generis subgenre. Crucial to Travel Narratives is an interdisciplinary reconstruction of individual Famine travelogues’ contexts using letters, newspaper articles, poems, diaries, biographies, memoirs, government documents, pre-Famine travel narratives, political cartoons, speeches, sermons, and other Irish, British, and American primary sources.←5 | 6→
After establishing a relatively stable canon of Famine travel narratives, I further note the presence of several recurrent typologies. Most commentators place all Famine travelogues within the sole discursive framework of tourism. However, only a minority of Famine travelogues, approximately 17 out of 55, are cast in the mold of traditional guidebooks or pleasure-tour memoirs. Indeed, Famine testimonials produced by aid workers, investigative journalists, or eye-witnesses, comprise the largest group of Famine travel narratives. In addition, there is an eclectic third mode of Famine travelogues. Those by abolitionist Frederick Douglass or Irish ex-patriate civil engineer William Henry Smith, for example, defy any easy categorization.
A further crucial step towards a more coherent understanding of Famine travel literature as a separate subgenre rests in placing these texts within a temporal framework. The importance of this move stems from the fact that the Famine-travel-narrative canon was shaped by very specific political and social events. This vital temporal structure – divided into early Famine travelers (1845 and 1846); relief and infrastructure workers (1847 and 1848); revolution and compassion fatigue (1848–1850); and late Famine Ireland (1851–1853) – gives us a broader understanding of the function and meaning of a rare and significant mid-nineteenth-century travel literature subgenre.
Recently, Joachim Fischer has raised objections to readings of Irish travel narratives that posit an “all-pervading cultural unity” and insists, instead, on reading these narratives for their “specificity” (Fischer, 2017, p. 52 and William H. A. Williams quoted. in Fischer ibid.).8 Over 20 years ago, Kelleher noted that despite abundant eye-witness accounts from the ←6 | 7→Famine years, these narratives were a “frequently neglected historical source” (Kelleher, 1996, p. 119). Further, when historians did utilize Famine travel narratives, typically those narratives were given short shrift: “eye-witness accounts … [often] serve as a type of shorthand for Famine’s effects, given in isolation from other aspects of the Famine study” (ibid.). For Kelleher, the greatest scholarly misuse of these travelogues resided in the lack of any “detailed analysis of their original context, audience or reception” (ibid.). Kelleher’s close reading of Asenath Nicholson’s The Famine of 1847, ‘48 and ‘49 was an intervention in the tendency to select quotations from Famine travelogues without offering contextualization. Yet aside from occasional close readings of certain Famine travelogues, such as we see here with Kelleher’s reading of Nicholson, or Fischer’s call for specificity, the overarching tendency has continued to be the wresting of Famine travel narratives from their distinct historical moments.9 The present volume hopes to reverse that trend. Further, it is my contention that much work remains to be done on the topic of Famine travel narratives. This volume aims to provide something of a roadmap and to pose new questions and directions for continued scrutiny of Famine travelogues as a unique genre engendered by the protracted cataclysm of the Great Famine.
By 1845, Irish distress appeared to be spiraling towards its nadir. Ireland’s subsistence farmers, approximately one-third out of a population of 8 or 9 million, lived in extreme penury. Many believed that Irish laborers and farmers lived in greater distress than their next poorest European cohorts, “the landless serfs of Hungary” (Fernihough & Ó Gráda, n.d., n.p.).10 ←7 | 8→One consequence of Ireland’s penury was the monocrop potato diet of Ireland’s poor.
In 1845, Europeans noticed a new potato disease they termed the “North American potato dropsy.” Once present in a potato field or within a barrel of harvested potatoes, it spread rapidly, rotting and blackening an entire crop or harvest. The potato, a highly nutritious tuber which can be robust even in the poorest soils, had become by the 1840s a staple of the European diet. Nowhere was this more evident than in Ireland, where the climate and soil were particularly amenable to potato cultivation and where, for a vast portion of the poorest segment of the Irish population, the potato was their dietary mainstay.
Historians now know that the potato blight was caused by Phytophthora infestans, an oomycete with origins in the Toluca Valley, located in Mexico’s central highlands (Yoshida, 2013, n.p.). This disease made its first notable appearance in 1843 in Virginia, from whence it spread across the United States and into Canada. Introduction of this “extraordinarily virulent and adaptable pathogen” into Europe continues to be a mystery, although genetic biologists feel confident that HERB-1 did not spread from North America into Europe (ibid.). Rather, nineteenth-century Europe’s potato blight and the U.S. and Canadian infections were “sister” strains of P. infestans. Some have suggested that the agricultural use of bird guano from Peru’s Chincha Islands spread variants of P. infestans in the United States as well as in Europe (Rhodes, 2019, p. 215). To this day, HERB-1 continues to decimate potato and tomato crops throughout the world, and it is a difficult malady to curtail once present in a crop or a harvest (Nowicki, 2011). Preventative spraying of copper sulfite fungicides remains the best means of battling the fungus, while, unfortunately, botanists have had only limited success breeding P. infestans-resistant potato strains, although the cultivar Orla has shown some promise in that direction (ibid.; Zuckerman, 2013).
Western Ireland’s monocrop potato culture in the 1840s was doubly endangered by the lack of genetic variations within their potato cultivars. Ireland’s high-yielding, waxy and knobby “lumper” potato, well-adapted ←8 | 9→to poor soil conditions and high moisture, was almost the sole potato grown in Famine-decimated Connaught and Munster since that variant’s introduction into Ireland from Scotland earlier in the nineteenth century (Ó Gráda, 1993; Yoshida, 2013).11 In 1847, Scottish journalist Alexander Somerville writes that while the English red potatoes of Carlow proved relatively resistant to the blight, Southern and Western potato crops, consisting mostly of lumpers, “have all failed”: “the disease is peculiarly a lumper disease” (Somerville, 1994, p. 37). Following the Great Famine, the “Irish lumper” disappeared from the scene and was replaced by more fungal-resistant potato varieties. Recently, however, several Irish agriculturalists have reintroduced the Irish lumper on a limited basis for historical and educational purposes (Pope, 2013; Cox, 2013; Zuckerman, 2013).12
When the Great Famine first assailed Ireland in the fall of 1845, Prime Minister Robert Peel lifted British agricultural tariffs in order to ease emergency grain importation. In so doing, Peel broke with his Conservative Party’s agricultural protectionist platform. Peel’s removal of the Corn Laws triggered his fall from power, and the newly victorious Whigs – led by John Russell – were markedly reluctant to allocate funding for adequate Famine relief.13 Prime Minister Russell, Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Wood, and Assistant Secretary to the Exchequer Charles Trevelyan, formed a governmental triumvirate bent on curtailing Irish relief costs.14 As a result ←9 | 10→of the Famine, Ireland experienced a population loss of perhaps as many as 2 million people due to death and disease, with another million lost to emigration (Kennedy et al., 1999, p. 26).
Willed Extermination Campaign?
Many now concur that British administrative approaches to Famine aid ultimately exacerbated Ireland’s experience of massive loss of life, epidemics, wide-spread evictions, and emigration.15 An April, 1849 editorial from the Cork Examiner (quoted in the London Times) writes of Russell: “beyond his present tinkering with the Poor Law, which is the necessary result of his and his predecessors’ mismanagement and neglect, of his and their active as well as passive hostility to Ireland, what has Lord John Russell done, or attempted to do for Ireland?” (“Ireland,” 1849, p. 5). Under Russell’s “blessed rule,” Ireland has been “abundantly starved, and considerably coerced; she has had little bread and water, much ferula” (ibid.). The “monuments of his legislative glory are two coercion acts, myriads of red graves, thousands of ruined homestead, universal bankruptcy, unanimous execration, and the invention of new modes of taxing our … country” (ibid.). This is Lord Russell, the “political crab, the man who walks backwards in these times of political progression” (ibid.). Peter Gray, however, cautions contemporary historians from over-vilification of individual governmental actors, and reminds us that a complex set of local factors, including geographic situations; geological circumstances; individual landowners; current political or religious beliefs; and personal animosities, contributed to excess Famine mortality (Gray, 2014, p. 43).←10 | 11→
The potato blight triggered catastrophic crop failure that could have been predicted, but would have been exceptionally difficult adequately to prepare for, as is the case with most natural disasters. Via the writings of James Fintan Lalor and John Mitchel, the most broadcast Irish nationalist reading of the Famine focuses largely on Russell’s government and secondarily on Ireland’s Ascendency landowners. What has come to be known as the Lalor-Mitchel reading of the Famine casts Ireland’s experience of mass mortality as a “willed campaign of extermination against the Irish people” rather than the “accidental outcome of catastrophic crop failure or the consequence of government incompetence, weakness or even indifference in the face of difficult circumstances” (Gray, 2014, p. 43). In Gray’s view, Lalor and Mitchel err in their conception of the Famine as the “most naked and ruthless” struggle for British sovereignty and colonial conquest in modern history (ibid.). Mokyr, Gray, Ó Gráda, and other recent Famine historians argue against the popular Irish nationalist belief that Russell’s government deliberately withheld or exported food that would have saved Ireland’s starving millions, a concept characterized typically by the Famine-era phrase “starving in the midst of plenty” (see, for example, Smith, 1848, p. 131). Gray contends that accusations of Russell’s government deliberately engineering a weak Famine response for genocidal purposes, and that therefore the Famine was an artificially created catastrophe, is not well-supported by the historical record. For Gray, Lalor-Mitchel-inspired readings of the Famine fail to consider individual and local specificities that contributed to excessive morbidity, mortality, and emigration (Gray, 2014, p. 43).
Nonetheless, the extent of deliberately genocidal policy under Russell remains an open question. Many contemporary observers were inclined to characterize Britain’s de facto military and colonial occupation of Ireland, as well as local political practices, as aspects of a genocidal “war” waged against Irish subsistence farmers. In The Art of Triage, Richard L. Rubenstein points out governmental responsibility for genocidal policies when its officials accept massive loss of life as the “necessary cost” of implementing those policies (Rubenstein, 1983, p. 124). London Times opinion columnist Sidney Osborne comments in 1850:
God forbid, that I should say, that all landlords, all agents, have acted the same wantonly cruel part in the life-destruction drama of the West … but I cannot rid myself ←11 | 12→of the conviction, that the general spirit of landlordism, and the policy of agents generally, connives at … that class war, that class extinction, which has existed, and now exists, to a degree defying all contradiction. (Osborne, 1850, p. 201)
Writing in 1847 of the coming year, Irish ex-patriate and civil engineer William Henry Smith asks his readers whether it is possible that “in this age of civilization, and universal charity, an entire people will be permitted to perish, or even to suffer, from a fear of interfering with existing [laissez faire] principles?” (Smith, 1848, p. 137). Although in “ordinary cases,” argues Smith, a strict adherence to principles and rules “may be considered prudent,” during times of “extreme emergency,” such as is the case with the Famine, Parliament’s unwillingness to bend established rules should be construed as “criminal indifference or neglect” (ibid., pp. 137–8). He reminds his readers that “in extraordinary emergencies, we must adopt extraordinary remedies,” and that Britain must avoid the mistakes of 1846 and 1847: “we may … export [Irish grain] at a low price, and bring it back at a high price; delay until we are in the midst of the evil, and then give a hurried remedy; allow partial employment and universal starvation” (ibid., p. 137).
Similarly, in January 1847, Manchester journalist Alexander Somerville writes to the Manchester Examiner that “never, in the known history of mankind, was there a country and its people so dislocated as Ireland is now; so inextricably raveled, and its people in such hazard of perishing utterly” (Somerville, 1994, p. 31). Therefore, he urged his readers and the British government to pay attention to the “imminent distress of Ireland,” noting that if the government did not send aid for agricultural activity at once, “the famine of next year will be immeasurably more disastrous than the famine of this year” (ibid.). Writing in 1849, Limerick poet Aubrey Thomas de Vere asserts that the Irish peasantry were an “afflicted race” whom “Man, not God abolished” (de Vere, 1897, pp. 5:337–8). British law, which “promised much, and lied” had “spread the waste” of the Famine in “circles hour by hour more wide” (ibid.).
In his dedication to The Black Prophet: A Tale of Irish Famine (Black Prophet), County Tyrone novelist William Carleton addressed Prime Minister Russell directly, commenting that he was placing before Russell “a story which details with truth the sufferings” of “our people” caused by ←12 | 13→Russell’s “illiberal legislation and unjustifiable neglect” (Carleton, 1847, p. iii). In writing The Black Prophet, Carleton hoped to “awaken those who legislate for us,” and to stimulate a “more humane perception” of the Famine calamity (ibid., vi). Commenting retrospectively, Charles Gavan Duffy concludes with regards to Russell that “no man has ever appeared at the head of a great party less fit to be entrusted with duties which appealed to the imagination and the heart” (Duffy, 1886, p. 6). Russell possessed a “cold, feeble nature” and a “limited intelligent” (ibid.). He was “skilled in nothing” and he “sacrificed the lives of the Irish peasantry mercilessly” merely to preserve the votes of “English ship-owners and corn-factors” (ibid.). Ireland’s Poor Law Commissioner Edward Twistleton resigned in 1848, declaring himself to be an “unfit agent for a policy which must be one of extermination” (Twistleton quoted in Rubenstein, 1983, p. 115). Thus we see that contemporary observers of differing political persuasions concurred with Lalor’s and Mitchel’s assessment that Russell’s government was indeed waging an intentional war of extermination against the Irish peasantry.
Rubenstein writes that according to Cecil Woodham-Smith, British government “did not have a plan to destroy the Irish people” and that the Famine’s massive loss of life occurred because “Russell’s government failed to foresee the consequences of its actions” (Rubenstein, 1983, p. 124). While Rubenstein feels “largely indebted to Woodham-Smith” for his knowledge of the Famine, he would contend that any government “is as responsible for a genocidal policy when its officials knowingly accept mass death as a necessary cost of implementing their policies as when they pursue genocide as an end in itself” (ibid.). Indeed, Rubenstein argues that genocide is seldom used by governments as an endpoint. Rather, “genocide is always a means of eliminating a target population that challenges an economic, political, cultural, religious, or ideological value of the politically dominant group” (ibid.). Therefore, whether Russell, Wood, and Trevelyan “planned mass death in Ireland” is irrelevant in Rubenstein’s view. The Famine instead needs to be read as the Whigs seizing an “opportunity” to “eliminate the Irish peasantry,” and the British government of the 1840s was perfectly willing to “accept mass death as part of the price of achieving that end” (ibid.). Rubenstein argues that had Russell’s government wanted to elect other, more life-saving policies during the Famine crisis, they would have done so: “this they did not do” (ibid.).←13 | 14→
After a few years of funding sub-par and mismanaged relief efforts, in 1847 Russell’s administration deemed the Famine crisis to have ended, and consequently halted most allocations of Parliamentary monies for Famine relief. Parliament mandated that henceforth, Irish property taxes should now pay for relief, an action which left hundreds of thousands of Famine victims stranded without sufficient aid. This aid, provided under the aegis of the New Poor Law of 1834 and the Irish Poor Law amendment of 1847, was a peculiar form of “work-fare” combined with a disastrous emphasis on “in-door” or workhouse relief (Edsal, 1971; Ó Ciosáin, 2014). Regarding the Irish workhouse, these chaotic, isolated spaces of confinement, managed and guarded by “people of little substance who carry the sick, bury the dead, clean and do many vile and abject offices,” exemplified the most extreme manifestation of what Michel Foucault has termed “the carceral” (Foucault, 1979, pp. 195 & 293–308). Foucault dates the “birth” of the carceral to “22 January 1844,” the “official opening day of the [the Parisian prison the] Mettray” (ibid., p. 293). It is worth noting that the carceral’s nascence precedes by only one year Parliament’s inhumane social experiment of responding to a severe social crisis by incarcerating the victims of that crisis. In addition, most of those confined to Ireland’s Famine workhouses were the elderly, women, and children (Senior, 1868, 1: 283–4).
In order to receive relief, families had to pass various test acts, including the infamous Gregory clause, which mandated that only the utterly destitute could receive governmental help (Besley, Coate, & Guinnane, 1993). These acts, tests, and clauses forced Famine sufferers to relinquishing holdings and all possessions before gaining entry into Ireland’s massive, disease-ridden Union houses. In Gleanings, Osborne asks his readers to “suppose the [entire] population of a large English county town” was confined to a colossal poorhouse. Here all exercise would be restricted to the workhouse yards, while even the hospitals and the places of worship would be located within the workhouse compound: “food, clothing, shelter, education, medicine, religious teaching, industrial teaching, are to be found for this mass; grave-ground for a very large portion of it: the law has undertaken this monster-task” (Osborne, 1850, p. 120).
Irish laborers and farm families who evaded the workhouse and received instead out-of-door provisions perished on scanty, unnourishing ←14 | 15→fare. Simultaneously, most poorhouses struggled to feed thousands of Famine refugees trapped within. Duffy comments that a “native government” would have eschewed the workhouse system or, if necessary, turned workhouses into agricultural colleges and “centres of industry” (Duffy, 1886, p. 5). Instead, during the Famine, “thousand[s of] young men and women able and willing to work” were left “rotting in idleness and demoralization” from which there was no escape other than the “pauper emigrant ships” or the “pauper grave” (ibid.).
Not only was the Famine extraordinarily destructive and broadcast, it was also excessively protracted. A series of notices from the Clare Journal record inmate numbers at the Kilrush Union workhouse between 1852 and 1858. In a workhouse designed to accommodate a maximum of approximately eight hundred inmates, we see in March of 1852 that Kilrush Union had 4,073 pauper inmates; in March of 1853, there were 2,732 (“Kilrush,” 1852, n. p.; “Kilrush,” 1853, n. p.). Throughout 1854, the number dropped rapidly as the Kilrush Board of Guardians arranged for local destitute farmers and their families, as well as for workhouse orphans, to emigrate to Canada and Australia (“Emigration,” 1853, n. p.). By February of 1854, Kilrush Union was housing 1,597; by August, the number lessened to 1,445, and by September it had dropped to 1,011 (“Kilrush,” 1854, n. p.; “Kilrush,” 1854a, n. p.; “Kilrush,” 1854b, n. p.). In January of 1855, a notice appeared in the Clare Journal that an auxiliary workhouse, a former distillery meant to contain up to 1,400 inmates, was for sale or let, after having been leased for pauper overflow since late January of 1849 (“Advertisement,” 1855, n. p.). By late April of 1856, the Kilrush Union contained 723 paupers, and by 1858, there were now only 270 occupants – a number in keeping with pre-Famine workhouse tallies (“Kilrush,” 1856, n. p.; “Kilrush,” 1858, n. p.). Thus although 1850 tends to be the standard date for situating the Famine’s conclusion, as we can see from the Clare Journal notices, an argument could be made for the Famine’s continued devastation being in motion through at least 1853, if not through 1854.16 Charles Gavan Duffy comments that ←15 | 16→by 1850, “the famine had not ceased,” but rather had “come to be regarded as a familiar phenomenon” (Duffy, 1886, p. 6).
Throughout the Famine, Irish Members of Parliament, Irish journalists and citizens, and Irish ecclesiastics of all denominations urged the British government to continue relief efforts. In letters, reports, and newspapers, these voices offered many anecdotes of the continued suffering of Irish farmers and laborers, particularly in western Ireland’s Gaeltachta. Nonetheless, many in England greeted these Irish reports skeptically, discrediting the information due to long-held stereotypes of a supposed Irish penchant for dissimulation and hyperbole. For this reason, eyewitness testimony from visitors to Ireland became crucial tools utilized in the effort to convince both Parliament and the British people of Ireland’s continued desperate condition.
Yet not all of the Famine travel narratives published between 1845 and 1853 were intended to launch an appeal for Irish aid, although this goal was certainly prevalent within Irish Famine travelogues. Some few travelers composed tour guides typical of those that dominated Irish travel literature pre- and post-Famine. These holiday-tour narratives include John Jay Smith’s A Summer’s Jaunt across the Water (Irish visit in 1845, published in 1846); Theresa Cornwallis West’s A Summer Visit to Ireland in 1846; and John Manners’ Notes of an Irish Tour, in 1846, among other titles.17 The ←16 | 17→stated purpose of these works was simply to record a tourist’s experience of the island, and to evaluate the quality of that experience. Here these particular travelers offered recommendations in terms of tourist spots, modes of travel, accommodations, and expected costs. Narrators of holiday-tour Famine travelogues tended to write in casual voices which were in turn intimate, humorous, and informative. Given the scale of Irish suffering witnessed by all Famine travel writers, the tour-guide or pleasure memoir mode of Famine travel narratives is quite jarring and bizarre, and thereby demands further analysis and scrutiny.
For most of these Irish pleasure-tour narrators, their ostensible starting point was to describe their Irish experiences while offering suggestions to readers who might one day vacation in Ireland. Yet the Famine disrupts consistently traditional structures of pleasure-tour memoirs. For example, as a member of parliament, John Manners opines on numerous political issues despite his travelogue’s basic “pleasure tour” structure. Further, Manners tours Ireland as a guest of fellow MP Augustus de Stafford O’Brien Stafford, a distant cousin of William Smith O’Brien and someone more deeply connected to Ireland than was Manners, who appears to be visiting Ireland for the first time.18 Thus Manners’ narrative spends equal amounts ←17 | 18→of time describing O’Brien Stafford’s Shannon-side manor house, Cratloe Woods, or extolling Lord Dunraven’s newly completed Adare Manor, as well as going into lengthy discussions of reclaimable wastelands, the folly of Parliament’s Irish road repair scheme, or the injustice of an Irish landlord’s legal case that illuminates “Irish misery and Irish disaffection” (Manners, 1881, p. 17).19
As we will see in Chapters 2 and 5 below, akin to Manners, neither West nor William Balch stay within their avowed touristic parameters. West sets out deliberately to urge her readers to tour Ireland in order to boost the Irish economy. Due to her close friendship with a former member of the United Irishmen, and also due to her admiration of Young Ireland’s nationalist ballads, West becomes caught up in the romance of Repeal. Indeed, West’s narrative anticipates the fervor and passionate support for Irish national freedom exhibited by a later pro-Irish-nationalism Englishwoman, Maude Gonne. Writing during the heart of the Famine, Balch finds it impossible to stay within his self-mandated pleasure tour parameters, and he soon surrenders his ←18 | 19→narrative to disquisitions on democracy, tyranny, and Irish oppression – this despite embracing anti-Catholic beliefs.
Investigators or aid-workers wrote the bulk of Irish Famine travel narratives. With only a few exceptions, the tone of these narratives generally is earnest, reflective, and austere. Foster’s 1845 Letters and Osborne’s 1849 to 1850 Times letters and his 1850 Gleanings were the most important travel narratives in terms of contemporary social impact. At the Great Famine’s outset, readers devoured Foster’s Times letters and his edited volume of those letters, while Osborne’s Times letters and his Gleanings garnered a large readership towards the end of the Famine cataclysm. Anthony Trollope’s Famine novel Castle Richmond, for example, was born from his letter-war with Osborne in a rival publication (McCourt, 2015, pp. 52, 110–2; Bigelow, 2014). Foster, contemptuous of Catholics and “the Celts,” envisioned Ireland’s regeneration through the introduction of a wage-based lautifundia agricultural system. Ideally, English, Scottish, or Welsh immigrants would bring both capital and disciple to Ireland as they purchased distressed Irish property and offered employment to Ireland’s cottiers. For this reason, Foster strongly opposed Irish emigration. Osborne, ever the champion of agricultural workers and an inveterate foe of British and Irish poor laws, writes bitterly of Ireland’s lawless evictions and its shockingly inhumane workhouses.
Many of these fact-finding travelers were reporters on assignment. As we have seen, Foster and Osborne published their observations in the London Times. Osborne likely also published a series of sketches and essays in late 1849 and early 1850 in The Illustrated London News, as I argue in Chapter 7. Somerville was on assignment for the Manchester Examiner. Horace Greeley sent his dispatches to his own New-York Tribune, while London’s Daily News commissioned Harriet Martineau’s 1852 letters from Ireland.
Other of these fact-finding travelers were not journalists but governmental or quasi-governmental agents sent on missions meant to aid British policy formation. This category includes the narratives of George Poulett Scrope, William Yolland, James Caird, and an 1853 report on Londonderry generated by the “Worshipful Company of Skinners.” In his 2014 study ←19 | 20→of the 1830s Royal Commission of the Poor in Ireland, Niall Ó Ciosáin points to the interpenetration of fictional accounts of Ireland, governmental reports, and Irish travel narratives, arguing that these apparently distinct genres “can be considered as part of a single discursive field” (Ó Ciosáin, 2014, p. 14).
Famine actors who went beyond donating or volunteering at a local level understandably have attracted much historical attention, and their dedication to the poor no doubt lessened Famine suffering. In Charity, Kinealy makes a distinction between volunteerism and donations, and then makes a further contrast between local actors and those who traveled great distances distributing seeds, goods, foodstuffs, and funds. These traveling aid workers provided more than eyewitness reports or suggestions for improvements as they journeyed into Ireland’s most devastated and often most obscure regions. In their travelogues, Famine aid workers such as American evangelical Asenath Nicholson, French celebrity chef Alexis Benoît Soyer, and British Quakers William Bennett, James Hack Tuke, and Robert Barclay Fox, recorded their attempts to feed and clothe the suffering poor.
Finally, there are several Famine travelogues that defy easy categorization. American statesman, editor, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass toured Ireland from August 1845 to January of 1846 delivering abolitionist lectures to enthusiastic audiences throughout Ireland (see Chaffin, 2014). William Henry Smith, an expatriate Irishman living in London since the 1830s, recounts his year-long experience employed by the Irish Board of Works as a district supervising engineer in Athlone from 1845 to 1846. Civil engineer George Preston White, later found managing the “Engineering Establishment” for the British Department of Public Works in India, traveled extensively in western Ireland, gathering notes on Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo’s Connemara infrastructure projects. Anglican minister John Hervey Ashworth outlines his 1850 quest for an Irish farm as he decides to emigrate from England to Ireland (he finally settles near Achill Island). Akin to White, Thomas Colville Scott’s 1853 Journal of a Survey of the Martin Estate explores the possibilities of financial exploitation for a London-based insurance company with regards to the 200,000-acre County Galway property, known then as the Martin Estate.←20 | 21→
Part I: Early Famine Travelers, 1845–1846
Thomas Campbell Foster’s Letters was a seminal Famine narrative. For this reason, Foster has been included in most discussions of Famine travel literature, discussions that have tended to examine Foster’s war of letters in the London Times with both Daniel O’Connell and the Irish press. Chapter 1 addresses that war but also considers aspects of Foster’s Letters that have been heretofore overlooked, including the possibility that Foster was a crypto-Orangeman, notwithstanding his claims of political neutrality. In addition, this chapter considers Foster’s quest to support expanding Ireland’s cash economy and wage labor. Here I argue that Foster seeks throughout his narrative to denigrate traditional barter structures in Ireland’s agriculture, placing barter in a category of the “primitive” and the obsolete. For Foster, Ireland’s modernity depended on transforming the nation’s economic structures from barter-based to a free market cash economy. Traveling at the beginning of the Famine, Foster records his alarm over the nature and extent of a new potato disease, heretofore unseen in previous Irish famines. Presciently, Foster predicts the Famine’s catastrophic nature.
While Thomas Campbell Foster’s Letters carried immense weight in shaping future policies and debates concerning the Famine and Ireland, the travel narrative featured in Chapter 2 – Theresa Cornwallis West’s A Summer Visit to Ireland in 1846 – was utterly obscure and garnered no public attention. One of the multitude of “petticoat tourist” travel narratives which owe their greatest debt to Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey through France and Italy and Germaine de Stahl’s Corinne, West’s text demonstrates West’s atavistic engagement with Grattan-era Liberal Whig politics, with Italy’s then-incipient Risorgimento, and with Young Ireland’s current arguments about culturalism and nationhood. This chapter represents the sole critical study of West’s travelogue.←21 | 22→
Part II: Relief Work and Infrastructure, 1847–1848
Chapter 3 probes the narratives and the varied motivations of, among others, evangelical Americans Asenath Nicholson and Elihu Burritt, as well as French chef Alexis Benôit Soyer. These, and other travelogue authors under consideration in Chapter 3, traveled throughout Ireland transporting food and other forms of relief from November of 1846 through December of 1847. Although these Famine travel narratives are among the most widely discussed in current Irish Famine studies, my chapter presents entirely new readings of these famous travelogues. For example, I note the parallels between Nicholson’s wandering years in Ireland, and the ancient Irish clerical practice of peregrinatio, place Burritt in the wider context of the many Skibbereen narratives generated in 1847, and consider seriously Soyer’s unrealized proposal to erect his specific soup-kitchen model throughout Famine Ireland.
In his Famine travel narrative, A Twelve Months’ Residence in Ireland During the Famine and the Public Works, 1846 and 1847, civil engineer William Henry Smith presents himself simultaneously as a visitor to Ireland and as an Irishman. Although Irish-born, in the opening pages of his Famine travelogue Smith emphasizes his émigré status and his adopted Londoner identity. As a district supervisor, Smith’s narrative offers us a unique view of Ireland’s Board of Works infrastructure projects and Ireland’s Famine road workers (Smith, 1848, p. 52). Smith describes his employment in Ireland as encompassing “the sole management of a tract of country [in and around Athlone] containing from twelve to fifteen thousand labourers” (ibid., p. vi). Despite presenting himself as a strong pro-Unionist, Smith buries harsh critiques of governmental mismanagement and distraught pleadings for Irish rescue deep within his narrative. Chapter 4 looks at both Smith and his work in Athlone as well as at a contemporary of Smith’s, the visionary Dublin-born inventor Jasper Wheeler Rogers. Rogers invented Ireland’s first automobiles in the 1830s and 1840s with a view towards engendering widespread employment via a system of road and automobile maintenance crews, fuel supply stations, inns, telegraph depots, and increased tourism. Rogers also sought to increase Irish employment and capital during the Famine years by converting Ireland’s bogs into charcoal mines and then ←22 | 23→selling Irish bog-charcoal to England for fertilizer, smelting, and as a sanitation prophylactic. Until this chapter, neither Smith nor Rogers have received any scholarly attention.
Part III: Revolution and Compassion Fatigue, 1848–1850
In the spring of 1848, two prominent New Yorkers – Unitarian minister William Stevens Balch and wealthy sugar merchant Frederick Christian Havemeyer, Jr. – sailed to Europe for a pleasure tour of the “Old World.” Famine Ireland was their first destination, and although determined to enjoy Ireland merely as tourists, Balch and Havemeyer found themselves increasingly caught up in John Mitchel’s May 1848 treason trial in particular, and Irish politics in general. Chapter 5 looks closely at Balch’s travel memoir while juxtaposing his travel narrative with memoirs of that same year written by Duffy, John Mitchel, and other Irish nationalists of the 1840s. By so doing, Chapter 5 situates Balch’s comments and impressions within the wider context of Revolutionary Ireland. Underlying this chapter is Balch’s persistent questioning of the relationship between democracy and revolution in Ireland and in the United States. This chapter represents the first detailed reading of Balch’s Famine narrative.
Chapter 6 considers two Victorian celebrities – Alfred Tennyson and Thomas Carlyle – and their respective travels in Famine Ireland in 1848 and in 1849. Although Tennyson left no direct record of his 1848 stay with Limerick poet Aubrey de Vere, I reconstruct the movements, activities, and impressions of Tennyson’s Irish visit through de Vere’s memoirs and other sources. Here I forward the argument that the Famine left indelible marks on two 1840s-era Tennyson works – In Memoriam and The Princess – as well as on his later poetry. In this section of the chapter, I also explore the controversies surrounding de Vere’s complicated positions on Irish nationalism and his status as an Irish poet. Chapter 6’s second section advances the argument that Carlyle’s posthumously published Famine travel narrative reveals the ways in which the Great Famine shattered Carlyle’s beliefs in Saxon supremacy and the rightness of British domination. Carlyle’s Famine-induced trauma over bearing witness to the suffering of the Irish ←23 | 24→led, not to his planned history of Ireland, but to his apocalyptic Latter-Day Pamphlets, which he published in 1850. In addition, this chapter considers the strange friendship between an avowed anti-Irish political theorist, Carlyle, and the leader of Young Ireland, Charles Gavan Duffy.
Chapter 7 argues that Sidney Osborne’s July 1850 Famine travel narrative, Gleanings, is in fact a continuation of work he began in late 1849 and early 1850 in an anonymous seven-part series of now-famous sketches and essays published in The Illustrated London News (ILN). By juxtaposing Gleanings with other Famine travelogues, I reveal the congruencies of pictorial style, vocabulary usage, topics raised, places and people visited or alluded to, and political and class positions that are unique to Osborne and the heretofore anonymous ILN author-illustrator. Discovering the plausible identity of the author-illustrator of the anonymous ILN Poor Law series helps to deepen and contextualize our understanding of the series’ illustrations as well as its political arguments. Similarly, realizing that Osborne contributed the text and sketches to the 1849–1850 Poor Law series elevates Osborne to a justly deserved centrality for those interested in late Famine journalism. Currently, rather than being seen as one of the more crucial journalists of Famine Ireland, Osborne and his Famine writings tend to be overlooked, viewed with suspicion, or misconstrued as marginal or unimportant. Indeed, so little is Osborne discussed in recent years that one essayist mistakenly characterized Osborne as female (Smart, 2010, p. 62). My chapter on Osborne contains illustrations from the 1849–1850 ILN Poor Law series, as well as illustrations sketched by Osborne for his 1855 war memoir, Scutari and its Hospitals.
Part IV: Late Famine Ireland, 1849–1853
Chapter 8 consists of three sections. The first part looks at Ireland’s newly awakening tourist industry as promoted by late or post-Famine travelers such as Samuel and Anna Hall. Although there is a pretense of normalcy, in fact the pre-Famine Irish tour has now become, de facto, a version of thanatourism.20 The next section follows the paths of late and post-Famine ←24 | 25→travelogue authors who toured the devastated nation in order to assess real estate bargains and investment opportunities now that the Famine had denuded large swaths of acreage, particularly in the South and the West. Travel memoirs studied in this section include: Thomas Colville Scott’s Journal of a Survey of the Martin Estate, George Preston White’s A Tour in Connemara, and John Henry Ashworth’s The Saxon in Ireland. Also under consideration in this segment of Chapter 8 is the purchase of County Galway’s Martin Estate by the prime author of the Encumbered Estates Act, Lord John Campbell.
Chapter 8’s final part consists of close-readings of memoirs by panicked Unionists who toured Ireland following the formation of Duffy’s “League of North and South” or “Tenant Right League.” Here former Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, Francis Bond Head; Charles Trevelyan’s first cousin Richard Digby Neave; and political economists Harriet Martineau and Nassau Senior, all offer their suggestions on strengthening Union ties between Ireland and Great Britain in the Famine’s aftermath. They seek, also, to justify or excuse Russell’s strictly enforced Famine policies in the wake of such catastrophic outcomes generated by those policies. In addition, they are all especially motivated to discredit the Land League’s historic July 1852 triumph and the way in which that win offered a political rebuke to British governance.
Structural Violence and Famine
Each one of the following chapters focuses on quite distinct phases within the Irish Famine as a whole, and the narratives scrutinized in these disparate chapters evince a wide variety of interests, occupations, and political positions on the part of their respective authors. One of the key aspects that ties each of the following chapters together is the observers’ ←25 | 26→witting or unwitting recordings of the convolutions of social and juridical violence at play throughout the Great Famine. In Human Encumbrances, David P. Nally claims that the typology of political violence “helps us think about mass starvation” (Nally, 2011, p. viii). Of great interest to Nally are the intricacies of this violence. Starvation in the wake of a retreating army’s wholesale destruction of a vanquished people’s crops is easily understood, but the mechanics behind peacetime famines are not as readily comprehended. Paul Farmer and Nally have termed this sort of subtle violence “structural violence” or the “complexity of violence,” that is, a violence that stems from “colonial policies, market crises, [and] state and corporate food control” (ibid., p. viii).
In addition, as Nally and Pierre Spitz have noted, “extractive forces” such as “tariffs, poll taxes, rent systems, and usurious credit” denude a particular group or population of their resources, leaving a legacy of “scarcity and hunger” in their wake (ibid., pp. viii-ix). Earlier, Ellen Hazelkorn, Chandana Mathur, and Dermot Dix pointed out Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ rejection of historicist arguments that accounted for Irish poverty and the Great Famine by laying blame on the Acts of Union and English anti-Irish prejudice (Hazelkorn, 1981, p. 26; Mathur & Dix, 2009, p. 97). Rather, in their discussions of Ireland under British rule, Marx and Engels turned instead to evaluations of the ways in which the “transference of capital, foodstuffs, and labour” from Ireland to England were really at the foundation of British–Irish relations throughout the nineteenth century (ibid.).
When the insidious work of extractive forces couples with state coercion and repressive policies, the result can be food scarcity or famine. From this perspective, a food crisis of this nature has not simply “occurred” ex nihilo. Rather, incremental and often scarcely visible interactions between structural and coercive violence work in tandem to create catastrophic alimental dearth. Such, the evidence suggests, was the underlying processes of Ireland’s excessively protracted and destructive Great Famine (see, also, Miller, 1985). To offer just one example of contemporary observations of structural violence in Ireland during the Famine, writing in 1850, Osborne appears to underscore the extraction argument when he concludes Gleanings with the determination that:
I cannot, however, acquit the Government of all blame, in those matters I am now seeking to expose …  is not a year of famine; [yet] the people have starved in ←26 | 27→many hundreds … within the last twelvemonths, in the face of an abundance of cheap food. I have no hesitation in adding my firm conviction, that very many have been done to death by pure tyranny. I have seen a very large amount of indisputable evidence, to the effect, that very many hundred evictions have been illegally carried out; death has again and again been the result. I do, therefore, charge the Government with this much of blame …. I fully believe the real condition of many of the Union Houses, has not, until now, been known at the seat of Government – but it ought to have been [known]. (Osborne, 1850, pp. 254–6, Osborne’s emphasis)
- XIV, 508
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Softcover)
- Publication date
- 2020 (November)
- Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. XIV, 508 pp., 17 fig. b/w.