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«Poor Green Erin»

German Travel Writers’ Narratives on Ireland from Before the 1798 Rising to After the Great Famine- Texts Edited, Translated and Annotated by Eoin Bourke

Edited By Eoin Bourke

The area of 19 th -century German travel writing on Ireland has received widespread scholarly attention over the years in treatises in both English and German, but these efforts were directed largely at fellow-scholars and formed part of an academic discourse on travel, interculturality and alterity. This book, on the other hand, is conceived of more as a reader for the general public than as an academic treatise, presents a surprisingly extensive body of comments drawn from German and Austrian sources from between 1783 and 1865 and lets them «talk for themselves». Some of these remarkably empathetic and well-founded eye-witness accounts were translated into English already in the 19 th century by people like Sarah Austin and Sir Lascelles Wraxhall, but the editor has re-translated them to remove varying degrees of antiquatedness of formulation and has added other accounts that were hitherto largely unknown to the non-German-speaking reading public.
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23 Franz Arnold Cöllen (1847)

Extract

Franz Cöllen (1830-1860) travelled to Ireland at the age of 17 while the Great Famine was taking its toll. His report is incidental to his main purpose, which was to journey to Cork with the intention of boarding a transatlantic steamer there. His account is therefore very short, describing the simultaneity of ele- gance and unimaginable squalor, of luxury and starvation in the summer of 1845. Andreas Oehlke has remarked on the contrast between the scenes of misery and the plenteous spread of the table d’hôte in the Adelaide Hotel, Cork, only a few lines later, saying that the author does not seem conscious of its irony and that as a result there is little evidence of genuine sympathy or even of his being deeply struck by what he saw [Oehlke 1992, 99]. Be that as it may, Cöllen’s seemingly callous account, preceded by the depiction of the Dublin of splendid townhouses and gentlemen’s clubs, does serve to bear out Cecil Woodham-Smith’s pointed statement that “the Irish people starved and died in one world, the landowning classes inhabited another.” [Woodham- Smith 1980, 299] 23.1 Famine amidst wealth Dublin is a very beautiful, regularly laid out city. On the whole the streets are broad and well paved. Sackville Street is the broadest and finest street in all of Great Britain; on both sides are most splendid shops, and in the middle of the street there is the Post Office, a lovely building facing a bronze monument. At the...

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