Book: The Irish Sketch-book
Author: William Makepeace Thackeray

The Irish Sketch-book By William Makepeace Thackeray

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 333
Publication Date: 1845

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One of two travel books written by Thackeray (the other one being 'The Paris Sketch Book') Marked by it's hostility to Irish Catholics, the book appealed to British prejudices, and Thackeray was given the job of being Punch’s Irish expert, often under the pseudonym Hibernis Hibernior. It was Thackeray, in other words, who was chiefly responsible for Punch's notoriously hostile and condescending depictions of the Irish during the Irish Famine (1845–51).

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THE coach that brings the passenger by wood and mountain, by brawling waterfall and gloomy plain, by the lonely lake of Festiniog and across the swinging world's wonder of a Menai Bridge, through dismal Anglesea to dismal Holyhead--the Birmingham mail manages matters so cleverly, that after 10 hours' ride the traveller is thrust incontinently on board the packet and the steward says there's no use in providing dinner on board, because the passage is so short.

That is true: but why not give us half an hour on shore? Ten hours spent on a coach-box render the dinner question one of extreme importance; and as the packet reaches Kingstown at midnight, when all the world is asleep, the inn-larders locked up, and the cook in bed; and as the mail is not landed until five in the morning (at which hour the passengers are considerately awakened by great stamping and shouting overhead), might not "Lord Lowther" give us one little half hour? Even the steward agreed that it was a useless and atrocious tyranny; and, indeed, after a little demur, produced a half-dozen of fried eggs, a feeble makeshift for a dinner.

Our passage across from the Head was made in a rain so pouring and steady, that sea and coast were entirely hidden from us, and one could see very little beyond the glowing tip of the cigar which remained alight nobly in spite of the weather. Then the gallant exertions of that fiery spirit were over forever, and burning bravely to the end it had breathed its last in doing its master service, all became black and cheerless around; the passengers had dropped off one by one, preferring to be dry and ill below rather than wet and squeamish above; even the mate, with his gold-laced cap (who is so astonishingly like Mr. Charles Dickens that he might pass for that gentle man)--even the mate said he would go to his cabin and turn in. So there remained nothing for it but to do as all the world had done.

Hence it was impossible to institute the comparison between the Bay of Naples and that of Dublin (the Bee of Naples the former is sometimes called in this country), where I have heard the likeness asserted in a great number of societies and conversations. But how could one see the Bay of Dublin in the dark? and how, supposing one could see it, should a person behave who has never seen the Bay of Naples? It is but to take the similarity for granted, and remain in bed till morning.

When everybody was awakened at five o'clock by the noise made upon the removal of the mail-bags, there was heard a cheerless dribbling and pattering overhead, which led one to wait still further until the rain should cease. At length the steward said the last boat was going ashore, and receiving half a crown for his own service (which was the regular tariff), intimated likewise that it was the custom for gentlemen to compliment the stewardess with a shilling, which ceremony was also complied with. No doubt she is an amiable woman, and deserves any sum of money. As for inquiring whether she merited it or not in this instance, that surely is quite unfair. A traveller who stops to inquire the deserts of every individual claimant of a shilling on his road, had best stay quiet at home. If we only got what we deserved--heaven save us--many of us might whistle for a dinner.

A long pier, with a steamer or two at hand, and a few small vessels lying on either side of the jetty; a town irregularly built, with many handsome terraces, some churches, and showy-looking hotels; a few people straggling on the beach; two or three cars at the railroad station, which runs along the shore as far as Dublin; the sea stretching interminably eastward; to the north of the Hill of Howth, lying grey behind the mist, and, directly under his feet, upon the wet, black, shining, slippery deck, an agreeable reflection of his own legs, disappearing seemingly in the direction of the cabin from which he issues: are the sights which a traveller may remark on coming on deck at Kingstown pier on a wet morning--let us say on an average morning; for according to the statement of well-informed natives, the Irish day is more often rainy than otherwise. A hideous obelisk, stuck upon four fat balls, and surmounted with a crown on a cushion (the latter were no bad emblems perhaps of the monarch in whose honour they were raised), commemorates the sacred spot at which George IV. quitted Ireland. You are landed here from the steamer; and a carman, who is dawdling in the neighbourhood, with a straw in his mouth, comes leisurely up to ask whether you will go to Dublin? Is it natural indolence, or the effect of despair because of the neighbouring railroad, which renders him so indifferent? He does not even take the straw out of his mouth as he proposes the question--he seems quite careless as to the answer.

He said he would take me to Dublin "in three quarthers," as soon as we began a parley. As to the fare, he would not bear of it--he said he would leave it to my honour; he would take me for nothing. Was it possible to refuse such a genteel offer? The times are very much changed since those described by the facetious Jack Hinton, when the carmen tossed up for the passenger, and those who won him took him; for the remaining cars on the stand did not seem to take the least interest in the bargain, or to offer to overdrive or underbid their comrade in any way.

Before that day, so memorable for joy and sorrow, for rapture at receiving its monarch and tearful grief at losing him, when George IV. came and left the maritime resort of the citizens of Dublin, it bore a less genteel name than that which it owns at present, and was called Dunleary. After that glorious event Dunleary disdained to he Dunleary any longer, and became Kingstown henceforward and forever. Numerous terraces and pleasure-houses have been built in the place--they stretch row after row along the banks of the sea, and rise one above another on the hill. The rents of these houses are said to be very high; the Dublin citizens crowd into them in summer; and a great source of pleasure and comfort must it be to them to have the fresh sea-breezes and prospects so near to the metropolis.