German Travel Writers’ Narratives on Ireland from Before the 1798 Rising to After the Great Famine- Texts Edited, Translated and Annotated by Eoin Bourke
11 Magdalena von Dobeneck (1832)
Baroness Magdalena (Helene) von Dobeneck (1808-1891), a writer and com- poser, was born in Nuremberg and came from a culturally very prominent family. She was the sister of the enormously influential philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach and the aunt of the painter Anselm Feuerbach. At the age of 26, one year after her divorce from Baron von Dobeneck, she travelled through France, England and Ireland and wrote down her impressions in letters to her father, the eminent Professor of Jurisprudence Paul Johann Anselm von Feuerbach. Her comments demonstrate the emotionality of a loving daughter and religious zealot, but also of a keen and sardonic observer. In terms of breadth they are constrained by the lack of personal mobility to which ladies of society of the time were usually subjected. She reports from only two locations, Dublin at the time of a cholera outbreak and Dungannon. In the latter she was the guest of Thomas Knox, Earl of Ranfurly, and as the governess of the nine-year-old “Miss Emily” was confined to the grounds of Dungannon Castle unless chaperoned. She is included here as one of the few women travellers who wrote about Ireland in the period chosen and for the depiction of the social intercourse of the Northern Irish gentry (whom she subsumes under the category “the English”), so seemingly luxurious and untroubled at a time of undercurrent crisis. The extravagance of life in the Big Houses and the conceitedness of some of their occupants are described with considerable irony and sometimes out-...
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