[Punch, April 8, 1846]


“Castle Dunbilk, April 1st, County Cork.

BigFROM the day I set foot in this unhappy country, I have seen many a sight of misery, but that in the midst of which I am now writing exceeds everything I could have conceived. Talk of the oppressions of the Irish cottier! Read my letter, and then think of the sufferings of the Irish landlord.

“Several ejectments of this much-maligned class having taken place in this county, I proceeded to the spot in obedience to your instructions. The scene was heart-rending.

“SIR DONATUS DUNBILK, with his amiable lady and lovely family, had just been ejected under circumstances of peculiar atrocity and a writ of fi-fa and elegit. By the former, the goods and chattels of the unfortunate baronet have been seized by his rapacious creditors; while by the latter his lands and castle (in which the family had resided since STRONGBOW) are torn from their possessors, and they are left to the mercies of a Boulogne Hotel-keeper, or a Baden Gasthoff.

“I repaired to the scene of devastation. The sale was concluded just before my arrival. In the court-yard stood SIR DONATUS’s travelling carriage, (which had with difficulty been secured from the general wreck,) ready packed. SIR DONATUS himself, a fine portly man with a red nose, was smoking a cigar disconsolately, as he waited, with impatience, the arrival of his lady, who was dressing.

“I entered into conversation with the venerable and outraged old man, and subjoin some passages, which, better than any speculations of mine, will let you into the secret of the misery now prevailing in this unhappy country. This is, the rapacity of creditors, and the utter disregard to the natural rights of the landlords to unlimited credit, founded on the length of time they have gone on without paying their bills.

“‘A fine morning, SIR DONATUS,’ I remarked, respectfully raising my hat.

“‘Mighty fine, Sir, for thravelling,’ was his courteous reply; but a heavy sigh betrayed his inward agony at thus abandoning the home of his forefathers.

“‘So you’re going to leave Castle Dunbilk?’ I asked, in an offhand way.

“‘Blur’ and ‘ounds, Sir, I can’t stop. They’ve sould me up, the villains: horse and hounds, Sir, cellar and stud– all gone!’ and he sighed again.

“‘You have lived here long?’

“‘You may say that. Fifty years, barrin’ a month and five days, and a divil a thrick like this ever served me till now.’

“‘The counthry’s ruined, Sir,’ he continued, after a pause, in which he took several rapid whiffs of his cigar to conceal his agitation. ‘The thradesmen, Sir, ‘s getting as impudent as ould Nick, and a gentleman can’t get decently involved but down comes a writ upon him– But I’m off! I’m lavin’ the ungrateful counthry that’ll call me an absentee behind my back. Here have I been, huntin’ and shootin’ and drinkin’, and showerin’ all manner of blessin’s on the neighbourhood, conshumin’ more claret then any six in the county, and raisin’ every rap of rent I could screw out of the tinants– more by token I’ve driven sixty families by way of improvin’ the estate– and this is the return I get. Sir, you’d not believe what I did to raise money, but I couldn’t do miracles. Payment! mighty aisy to say it. Didn’t I spend every rap I got, and what could a man do more? And this is my thanks. The furniture seized under my roof; LADY DUNBILK’s boudoir, Sir, that I got that rascal DUFFY to furnish (cost me £1000, if it cost a farthing), and the black-hearted villain has the impidence to sue out his writ agin’ his benefacther for the amount! No wonder there’s ribbonmen, by ST. PATRICK!’

“While the old man was giving this simple but touching detail, with all the impassioned eagerness that distinguishes the son of Erin, I was disgusted to observe the heartless levity with which the tenantry and cottiers, who were lounging about, alluded to the mournful event, and mocked the old man in his degradation.

“‘Bad luck go wid him, for an ould screw,’ said one ill-looking scoundrel. ‘It’s little he ever did for any of us, barrin’ a day’s work at debatin’ in cock-season.’

“‘Sure this is a rethribution on him for drivin’ the widow BRADY’s cow for the thrifle rint she owed him!’ exclaimed a second.

“”Twill tache him to be cuffin’ at me wid his huntin’ whip, when he rode over my acre and ruined the lumpers for me,’ said a third, with a scowl of savage exultation. Not the least attempt at condolence, not the least expression of regret at the departure of their superior!

“And this is the lower class of the Irish population, for whom our sympathies are demanded! What gentleman would live in such a country?”