To the editor of the “Clonmel Chronicle” W. S.
Sir,-As I sat by my tent fire this evening, the spirit moved me to address a letter to a local journal, giving expression to the feelings of pleasure and gratitude which I experience at the great kindness shown to me by all those with whom I have come in contact. I came here partly on account of health, and partly to paint pictures of the wild and beautiful scenery. Before leaving London my wife (who has never visited the Emerald Isle) expressed doubts of my safety, and hoped I would not get shot; but I assured her that the Irish were kind and hospitable to strangers, and would cer-tainly not shoot an artist who could paint such good pictures as I intended to do of their beautiful country. I have travelled in many countries, but I never met with much real kind attention as I have met with here. An artist can’t get on without this, He is con-stantly wanting something – some of his apparatus carried, or himself (I have been carried through bogs) – subjects , both human and animal , as models – food and drink in out-of-way places and hours – and interest in his occupation. I find myself here among people who seem ever ready to help me, and if I thank them they say, “Sure it is nothing yer honour ; God help ye, and are ye not painting beautiful pictures of the country entirely?”
Before I set up a tent, I went to stay in a cottage by the side of Ischisolis (Stream of Light). Why, the very name was enough to tempt me to brave any discommforts-poetical as well as classical-“solis,” of course, being one of the numerous Latin words which occur in the Irish language. Well, I did pictures of Ischi-solis and Coumshenaun Lake, which is certainly one of the most weird, wild, and awfully picturesque places I ever saw; my host and hostess vied with each other in showing me attention, and I think felt really sorry when I left them. Had I been able to paint figures like a Wilkie or a Webster, I should not have painted the scenery, but the pretty daughter of my host, who, feeding the chickens, or fetching water, or mending the fire, or the stockings, in everything she did was unconsciously appearing like a perfect picture. One evening we had a visitor, who impressed me so much that I feel inclined to say a few words about him. A fine-looking young man, with such charming manners that he might have been a gentleman in disguise, came apparently to chat and smoke, but possibly with the idea of “coorting.” If so I fear he must have been disappointed, for the lovely damsel was even more quiet, cold, and dignified than usual; may be, however, that I am no judge of the courting here; but to return to the man-he was a casual reaper, earning a precarious 3s. a day-so superior in appearance and manners to any reaper I ever saw that I should have taken him for a man in a much higher position but for his dress. He spoke with striking intelligence about the war ‘in the East ; and after singing a song, which I praised very much, he said, “Oh yes, even a small national song of any country is sure to be interesting,” and we talked about Moore’s melodies, of whuich he knew much more than I did.
The puzzle to me was, that he should be so happy and contented with his present lot, for he seemed to me physically and mentally capable of quickly raising himself to a much higher position (and then he might marry the beautiful E–, who, by-the-bye, sang two songs, after being much importuned).
Generally speaking, I notice a want of robustness, which, I fancy, comes from poor feeding. Potatoes eaten alone are not good, but mashed up with butter, and as an accompaniment to other food, would do very well. Tea, as in Scotland, has suddenly become a necessary, and I suspect that often too much of it is taken. I should like to see tins of Australian meat consumed at all events once or twice a week, and more rice, cocoa, and coffee used. ,It is evident that a kindly disposed landed proprietor here can do any-thing he likes with the tenants, and I fear they would quicklydeteriorate under bad rule. This leads me to say a few words about the very unusual good feeling and cordiality which seems to exist between the Catholics and Protestants. I have tried to get some. of the small farmers and peasants to talk about re-ligion, but with the instinctive good taste and refine-ment which distinguish them, they evidently think it better not to say too much to a Protestant. Nothing will make me belileve that they look on me as an English Roman Catholic would do, as a doomed heretic. Our Clergy, I am told, are on the best terms, generally with the priests.
As I ammore than half Scotch, and an intense admirer of a people who have made the most wonderful advance in civilisation and material prosperity which history records, I hoe that I may be allowed to criticise them. Travelling in Scotland as an artist, I find less refinement and civility than I meet with here-in fact, conspicuous by their absence are the qualities which I admire so much among the Irish. I refer to the Lowland Scotch when I say this, and not to the Gaelic-speaking Highlanders, who are very similar to the Irish. I am glad to find, however, that the Scotch agents generally are praised for their fairness and kindness to the tenants.
The clannish feeling here is so strong, and the people are so devoted to a kind proprietor, whether absent or resident, that I rather wonder absentee proprietors, who have occasion to employ workmen and labourers, do not employ their own tenants. This would be a mutual advantage, for it is said that even some of my amiable friends here, who are lazy about work, will labour with a right good will when away from home, and they would surely do this for a popular pro-prietor, and as rivals to spoilt and overpaid English workmen.
I am taking home many unfinished pictures and studies of the varied and picturesque scenery about here; and often, when working upon them through the winter, shall I think of the many small and great acts of kindness which I have received from poor and rich in this, to me, most interesting country. The tent was kindly lent to me by a doctor, whose valuable and gratuitous services among the poor here are much spoken of. Without mentioning his name, I may say that the echoes chiefly come from Coumgouha (the Lake of Echoes) and from Coumshenaun and the Mahon Glen, where the good deeds of those who have been the owners of the land for centuries are too well known for me to mention them.