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A Tour in Ireland in 1775byRichard Twiss

A Tour in Ireland in 1775
by
Richard Twiss

            In 1775, an English gentleman called Richard Twiss (later FRS) spent some months in Ireland, and on his return home, wrote this account of his journey. It describes an itinerary from Dublin north to the giant's Causeway, thence to Londonderry, Donegal, and Leitrim; down by the Shannon to Limerick, Killarney, Cork, Waterford, Wexford and so back to Dublin. He was not impressed by what he saw; the general tone is contemptuous, and even when he praises something, he often qualifies this by saying that better examples can be found elsewhere. His disparaging remarks are many, and include the following:

As to the natural history of the Irish species, they are only remarkable for the thickness of their legs, especially those of the plebeian females.

The outskirts of Dublin consist chiefly of huts, which are termed cabins; they are made of mud dried, and mostly without either chimney or window; and in these miserable dwellings, far the greater part of the inhabitants of Ireland linger out a wretched existence. What little the men can obtain by their labour, or the women by their spinning, is usually consumed in whiskey, which is a spirituous liquor resembling gin. Shoes and stockings are seldom worn by these beings, who seem to form a distinct race from the rest of mankind.

Neither did I go into that quarter of Ireland called Connaught, which comprehends the counties of Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, and Galway, as I was assured that they were inhabited (especially along the coast) by a kind of savages.

            It is not surprising that great offence was taken by the Irish, and attacks and lampoons on Twiss were published in prose and verse. There survives a fragment of a chamber pot with a picture of Twiss on the bottom, accompanied by the words "Let everyone piss/On lying Dick Twiss." Lady Ann Clare composed another chamber pot verse:

Here you may behold a liar,
Well deserving of Hell-fire
Everyone who likes may piss
Upon the learned Doctor Twiss.

            It is unlikely that Twiss was upset by this. He ends his book with an appendix in which he abuses every other country, and says that it is best to stay in England, the finest country of all.

 

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Article by Hyland and Kelly in Eighteenth-Century Ireland

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