Category Archives: IUC, Revisted

Ireland Under Coercion: Killone Abbey

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“In the afternoon we took a delightful walk to Killone Abbey, a pile of monastic ruins on a lovely site near a very picturesque lake.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert visited numerous places and sites in Ireland 130 years ago that remain tourist attractions today. In Clare, this included Killone Abbey, about three miles south of Ennis. Like similar Irish ruins, the former Augustinian abbey was converted into a graveyard used “not only by the people of Ennis, but by the farmers and villagers for many miles around,” Hurlbert wrote.

But he was appalled by the conditions:

The graves are, for the most part, shallow, and closely huddled together. The cemetery, in truth, is a ghastly slum, a ‘tenement-house’ of the dead. The dead of to-day literally elbow the dead of yesterday out of their resting-places, to be in their turn displaced by the dead of to-morrow. Instead of the crosses and the fresh garlands, and the inscriptions full of loving thoughtfulness [of German and English cemeteries] … all here is confusion, squalor and neglect.

Hulbert and his hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Stacepoole, also found skull with “a clean round bullet hole in the very center of the frontal bone,” the American wrote. “Was it the skull of a patriot or of a policeman? of a “Whiteboy” or of a “landlord”?

Father Patrick White, in Hurlbert unmasked, mocked the scene, writing that Hurlbert “had not read his ‘Hamlet’ in vain.” The priest was bothered that Hurlbert sarcastically answered his own question by suggesting the shooting victim had been “some peasant selfishly and recklessly bent on paying his rent.” The American reporter was taking his own shot at the Land League.

Killone Abbey. Image by John Armagh.

Hurlbert’s party moved on:

Near the ruins of Killone is a curious ancient shrine of St John, beside a spring known as the holy well. All about the rude little altar in the open air simple votive offerings were displayed, and Mrs. Stacpoole tells me pilgrims come here from Galway and Connemara to climb the hill upon their knees, and drink of the water. Last year for the first time within the memory of man the well went dry. Such was the distress caused in Ennis by this news, that on the eve of St John certain pious persons came out from the town, drew water from the lake, and poured it into the well!

The County Clare Library has additional resources about Killone Abbey Graveyard and St. John’s Well.

NOTES:  From pages 176-179 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American; page 11 of Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion’ .

NEXT: Hurlbert who?

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: On boycotting

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“The author … tells a story … of ‘boycotting’ long before Boycott.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert mentioned “boycott” about two dozen times in his book, which is somewhat remarkable considering the word had not existed eight years earlier. It resulted from the 1880 social and commercial ostracism of County Mayo land agent Captain Charles Boycott in a key early protest of the decade’s agrarian agitation in Ireland.

In his discussion about boycotting in Milltown Malbay (See previous post), Hurlbert referenced a passage from the 1852 book Fortnight in Ireland, by  Sir Francis Head. The book was based on Head’s one-week visit to the island, his first, near the end of the Great Famine.

In a description of religion conversion efforts tied to charity (“Protestant missionary zeal with Protestant donations of meal”, in Hurlbert’s phrasing), Head noted 36 years earlier:

Any Roman Catholic who listens to a Protestant clergyman, or to a Scripture reader, is denounced as a marked man, and people are forbidden to have any dealings with him in trade or business, to sell him food or buy it from him.

A boycott! The phenomenon is even older, however, according to Samuel Clark in his seminal work, Social Origins of the Irish Land War:

The practice was obviously not invented by Irish farmers in 1880. For centuries, in all parts of the world, it had been employed by active combinations [social groups] for a variety of purposes. In rural Ireland itself the practice of refusing to bid for involuntarily vacated farms or for distrained livestock had a long history, as did the ostracism of landgrabbers. Even during the Land War, the tactic was used well before the Boycott affair; and it had been advocated on numerous occasions before [Charles Stewart] Parnell recommended it in September 1880.


It seems an oversight by Hurlbert that as he reported about boycotting in County Clare, he did not reference Parnell’s speech eight years earlier at Ennis. Parnell spoke weeks before Boycott’s troubles began in the Lough Mask area of Mayo, 80 miles to the north. Parnell said:

When a man takes a farm from which another has been evicted, you must shun him on the roadside when you meet him – you must shun him in the streets of the town – you must shun him in the shop – you must shun him on the fair green and in the market place, and even in the place of worship, by leaving him alone, by putting him in moral Coventry, by isolating him from the rest of the country, as if he were the leper of old – you must show him your detestation of the crime he committed.


Michael Davitt also used the image of a leper in his 29 January 1888, speech at Rathkeale; the oration about not overusing the term “Bloody Balfour” that caught Hurlbert’s attention upon his arrival in Ireland. Davitt also said:

I maintain that a landgrabber is a thief, when he covets and steals his unfortunate neighbor’s holdings, and I want to say once more, what I repeated on a hundred platforms, that the landgrabber incurred malediction in the days when the Holy Bible was written: ‘Cursed be he who removes his neighbor’s landmark.’ He is a cowardly, slimy renegade, a man who should be look upon as a social leper, contact with whom should be considered a stigma and a reproach.

As noted in an earlier post, Davitt complained in his diary that the Freeman’s Journal (and other papers) did not report this portion of his speech. It was, however, quoted in Parliament the week that Hurlbert was in Clare.

In Ireland Under Coercion, Hurlbert reported that some landlords and their workers suggested they were able to withstand boycotts without much impact. In places such as Kerry, however, he noted that the “dual government” of the Land League “enforce[d] their decrees by various forms of outrage, ranging from the boycott, in its simplest forms, up to direct outrages upon property and the person.”

This included the murder of boycotted Kerry farmer James Fitzmaurice, two days after Davitt’s Rathkeale speech. See my earlier post.

Period illustration of the January 1888 murder of boycotted Kerry farmer James Fitzmaurice in front of his daughter Nora. She was not physically harmed.

I’ll give the last word to Father Patrick White, parish priest of Milltown Malbay, who Hurlbert reported as being “the moving spirit” behind a series of boycotts in Clare. Father White denied the allegation in his rebuttal booklet, Hurlbert unmasked: an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion’ . He explained:

There was unquestionably boycotting in the district, and as [local Land League] president … I had to take note of it. The people, goaded by desperation by the terrible distress of [18] ’78, ’79 and ’80, were up in arms against the heartlessness and the cruelties of the Landlord system, which had paved the way to it. … Against such an obstacle as this neither an appeal to justice nor argument of was of any value whatsoever, so boycotting was resorted to. Desperate diseases require desperate remedies … The people fully appreciated my difficulty [as a priest] acting as president with them, and never pressed me to accept, or put from the chair, any boycotting resolution.

I’ll return to this issue in a future post about another word that came out of the late 19th century agrarian agitation in Ireland: moonlighting.

NOTES:  Hurlbert referenced Fortnight on page 172 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. Quote about “dual government,” etc., on page 219. Quote from Head on page 155 of Fortnight. Quote from Clark on page 311 of Social Origins. Quote from Father White on pages 17-18 of Hurlbert Unmasked.

NEXT: Killone Abbey

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion: Milltown Malbay

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“Only yesterday no fewer than 23 of these publicans from Milltown Malbay appeared at Ennis here to be tried for ‘boycotting’ the police. … An important feature of this case is the conduct of Father White, the parish priest.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

One of the more controversial aspects of Hurlbert’s Ireland Under Coercion was his coverage of boycotting activity in Miltown Malbay, about 20 miles west of Ennis in County Clare. Citing government officials and reports, Hurlbert accused Father Patrick White of helping to organize the activity.

Father White strongly rebutted Hurlbert’s characterizations in his own booklet, Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion’ , published in 1890 or 1891, about two years after Hurlbert’s book.

Hurlbert arrived in Ennis on 18 February 1888, a few days after his London meeting with Michael Davitt. (See post 15 and post 16). The American reporter had left Ireland four days earlier for an unexplained side trip to Paris, which suddenly became “unnecessary.”

At Ennis, Hurlbert connected with Colonel Alfred Turner, a high-ranking police commissioner; Cecil Roach, a resident magistrate from neighboring County Kerry, and Richard Stacpoole, “a gentleman of position and estate” who had welcomed London journalist Bernard Becker to the region eight years earlier.

“I was struck by the extraordinary number of public houses in Ennis,” Hurlbert remarked. He reported being told by a police sergeant that Milltown Malby, with a population of 1,400, had 36 pubs, and that 23 of the publicans had boycotted the police. Hurlbert reported that during their trials, one was acquitted; one discharged; 10 signed guarantees in court to refrain from further conspiracies; and 11 were sent to the gaol (jail).

Main Street in Milltown Malbay, circa 1890, a few years after Hurlbert’s visit. Image from The Lawrence Photograph Collection, National Library of Ireland.

Col. Turner told Hurlbert that Father White “was the moving spirit” of the local boycotting activity. Hurlbert wrote:

All this to an American resembles a tempest in a tea-pot. But it is a serious matter to see a priest of the Church assisting laymen to put their fellow-men under a social interdict … [I]t is a serious scandal that a parish priest should lay himself open to the imputation of acting in concert with any political body whatever, on any pretext whatever, to encourage such proceedings.

In three days of diary entries and 30 pages of the book, Hurlbert weaved in and out of the case. He reproduced the full police report of a related case handed to him by Col. Turner, as well as letters between Col. Turner and Father White. As the book was going to press later that year, the policeman and the priest each provided additional letters to Hurlbert to further clarify their positions. These were published in the Appendix.

Father White devoted half of his 32-page pamphlet to rebutting Hurlbert’s characterization of himself and the situation in Milltown Malbay. “He has libeled me, and libeled me unsparingly,” the priest wrote. He considered taking Hurlbert to court, “but legal friends … dissuaded me” because a Tory or Unionist sympathizer on the jury would probably nix a favorable verdict.

The tit-for-tat of the episode is too tedious to detail here. It does illustrate how local tensions between police and communities unfolded against the national developments of the Land War and Home Rule movement. In fact, as Hurlbert noted, the case of one boycotted family in Milltown Malbay was raised in Parliament in a debate between John Redmond, then a nationalist M.P. for Wexford North, and Chief Secretary for Ireland Arthur Balfour.

The Clare County Library has compiled a number of resources about Milltown Malbay, including the relevant extract from Hurlbert’s book and an article about the July 1888 evictions on the Vandeleur Estate, Kilrush. Unfortunately, Hurlbert unmasked is not so easy to access.

NOTES: Pages 165 to 195 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. I obtained a copy of Hurlbert unmasked thanks to an inter-library loan from Hesburgh Libraries at the University of Notre Dame. The pamphlet is also available at the National Library of Ireland.

NEXT: On boycotting

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: More Davitt

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“…I could neither ask, nor, if I asked, could expect to get from him.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hulbert recognized that Michael Davitt was not going to divulge the latest strategies inside the Irish agrarian and nationalist movements. Based on the five pages Hurlbert devoted to his one hour interview with Davitt, it appears the American reporter did not ask many tough questions about such activities. He focused on other issues.


Hurlbert reported that Davitt’s thoughts were occupied with managing a wool export business, which the author believed could penetrate the American markets despite a tariff at the time.

“He has gone into it with all his usual earnestness and ability,” Hurlbert said of Davitt. “This is not a matter of politics with him, but of patriotism and of business. He tells me he has already secured very large orders from the United States.”

The day before his 15 February 1888, meeting with Hurlbert in London, Davitt wrote in his diary:

Attended Woolen Co. meeting. While doing fairly well in America, orders not as large as expected though. Visit was another loss for season.

The Irish Woolen Manufacturing & Export Company was established in spring 1887 with backing from about 20 Dublin business men. Davitt told the Freeman’s Journal that the enterprise would buy wool from small mills, pay owners on delivery of orders, “and in that way increase their confidence and help them to extend their works, improve the workmanship of their goods, and gradually multiply their hands.”

Hurlbert also suggested that Davitt was “quite awake” to the possibility of developing granite quarries in counties Donegal and in his native Mayo:

This bent of his mind towards the material improvement of the condition of the Irish people, and the development of the resources of Ireland, is not only a mark of his superiority to the rank and file of Irish politicians–it goes far to explain the stronger hold which he undoubtedly has on the people of Ireland.

The American reporter recognized Davitt’s interest in cultivating native industries. Davitt wrote a series of articles between November 1885 and January 1886 for the Dublin Evening Telegraph that “advanced practical proposals on industrial rejuvenation at a time when Dublin industries were moribund,”  historian Laurence Marley has noted. Marley continued:

Davitt had spoken of the need for Irish industrial development after his release from Dartmoor [prison]. … He undertook a number of industrial ventures, incurring considerable financial costs. His practical interventions met with little success, but the ideas which he expounded were nevertheless significant.

Davitt did not mention his interview with Hurlbert in his diary entries for February 1888, which include the passage about the Woolen Co. He also made more mundane notations, such as “Sick” ; “At home gardening all day” ; and “Wrote 25 letters since 8 last night.” His diary, notebooks, letters and other papers are held at Trinity College Dublin.

During his October 1889 testimony before the Special Commission on “Parnellism and Crime,” Davitt made a passing reference to Hurlbert as having attended a July 1882 speech he gave in New York. He described the American journalist as “at the time editor of a New York newspaper, now Coercionist chronicler for Mr. Balfour in Ireland.”

In his 1904 book, The fall of feudalism in Ireland; or, The story of the land league revolution, Davitt again briefly mentioned Hurlbert, by then dead for nine years:

Ireland Under Coercion … was intended to show that Mr. Parnell and the National League, not Mr. Balfour and Dublin Castle, were the true coercionists in Ireland. What the purpose or motive of the book was has remained a mystery.

Though Davitt did not mention his meeting Hurlbert in his diary, he certainly paid attention to his coverage in the press, including his 29 January 1888, speech in Rathkeale, County Limerick. In the diary, Davitt wrote:

Splendid report in yesterday’s London Times of my Rathkeale speech. Freeman[‘s Journal] had left out references to boycotting etc. Times leader strangely complimentary–which means, if it has any meaning–put this man in Tullamore.

Hurlbert commented about the Freeman’s coverage of Davitt’s speech upon his arrival in Dublin, as noted in my earlier post. The author made other references to Davitt throughout his book, which I’ll explore in later posts, as appropriate.

Davitt’s grave, Straide, County Mayo, February 2018.

NOTES: From pages 159 to 164 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. I reviewed Davitt’s diary 21 February 2018 at Trinity College Dublin. (Thanks to the helpful staff.) Davitt’s Special Commission quote from page 152 of The Times Parnell Commission Speech Delivered by Michael Davitt in Defense of the Land League. Davitt’s second quote about Hurlbert from page 559 of  The fall of feudalism in Ireland. Details about Davitt’s business interests from pages 130 and 156-158 of “Davitt and Irish economic development: ideas and interventions” chapter of Michael Davitt: Freelance Radical and Frondeur, by Laurence Marley, Four Courts Press, 2007. … The paragraph about Davitt’s quote at the Special Commission added during revision, about a week after the original post.

NEXT: Milltown Malbay

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Meeting Davitt

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“Mr. Davitt spent an hour with me today, and we had a most interesting conversation.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert sought to interview Michael Davitt since his late January arrival in Dublin. The American journalist finally connected with the agrarian activist nearly three weeks later in London; Hurlbert having been called away from his travels in Ireland for reasons he did not explain in the book.

Hulbert reported that he had followed Davitt’s career “with lively personal interest” since they met in 1878 during the Irishman’s first visit to America. Davitt had just received his “ticket of leave,” or parole, from Dartmoor Prison, where he had served half of a 15-year sentence for treason related to his Fenian activities.


Davitt returned to Ireland in 1879 and helped found the Irish National Land League. Hurlbert, then editor of the New York World, said he dispatched a correspondent to Ireland to interview Davitt. He quotes Davitt from the nine-year-old interview as saying “the only issue upon which Home Rulers, Nationalists, Obstructionists, and each and every shade of opinion existing in Ireland could be united was the Land Question.”

(Davitt wrote at least one piece about the Land League for the New York World, on 4 June 1894, a year after the newspaper changed owners and Hurlbert departed as editor.)

In the 1888 London interview, Hurlbert reported that Davitt, then 42, was supporting English poet and writer Wilfrid Scawen Blunt in an upcoming by-election in Deptford, England. Blunt had become a supporter of Irish nationalism a few years earlier. According to Hurlbert, the parliamentary candidate told Davitt that Chief Secretary for Ireland Arthur Balfour “meant to lock up and kill” the four “pivots” of the Irish movement: William O’Brien, Timothy Harrington, John Dillon and Davitt.

“How did you take it?” Hurlbert asked.

“Oh, I only laughed, and told him it would take more than Mr. Balfour to kill me, at any rate by putting me in prison,” Davitt replied. “As for being locked up, I prefer Cunninghame Graham‘s way of taking it, that he meant ‘to beat the record on oakum.’ ”

Graham was a journalist, socialist and Scottish nationalist M.P. who spent six weeks in prison for participating in the November 1887  Trafalgar Square Riots against unemployment and coercion in Ireland. He reportedly displayed great stoicism and refused to accept special privileges while incarcerated. As for oakum, the hard labor of unraveling old ropes was a common punishment in Victorian prisons; work Davitt had done during his Dartmoor imprisonment, despite having lost one arm in an industrial accident at age 11.

Statue of Michael Davitt outside the museum in his honor at Straide, County Mayo, his birth and burial place. Note the armless right sleeve of his jacket.

Blunt lost the by-election two weeks after Davitt’s interview with Hurlbert. In his own book about the Land War in Ireland, published in 1912, Blunt recalled his first meeting with Davitt in 1886 at the Imperial Hotel in Dublin:

“He is a most superior man, with more of the true patriot about him than any of those I have yet met. He knows the west of Ireland well, and is more interested in the Land Question even than Home Rule; an odd looking man, dark, sallow, gaunt, disfigured by the loss of his right arm, which is gone from the shoulder.”

Hurlbert also praised Davitt:

“If all the Irish ‘leaders’ were made of the same stuff with Mr. Davitt, the day of a great Democratic revolution [in Ireland] … might be a good deal nearer than anything in the signs of the times now show it to be. … I have always regarded him as the soul of the Irish agitation, of the war against ‘landlordism’  … and of the movement towards Irish independence. Whether agitation, the war, and the movement have gone entirely in accordance with his views and wishes is quite another matter. … [But] he has never made revenge and retaliation upon England either the inspiration or the aim of his revolutionary policy.”

NOTES: From pages 159 to 164 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. Davitt’s 1879 quote on page 17. Blunt quote from page 50 of The Land War in Ireland: Being a Personal Narrative of Events. Davitt’s 1884 freelance story noted in Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World, by George Juergens, Princeton University Press, 2015, pages 258-259.

NEXT: More Davitt 

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Other books

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“Before reaching Limerick we passed through so much really beautiful country that I could not help expressing my admiration of it to my only fellow traveler.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

My last post mentioned Hurlbert’s reference to French journalist Philippe Daryl, who wrote about his 1886 and 1887 travels to Ireland in a book published shortly before the American arrived in Dublin. Hurlbert referenced several other contemporary accounts in his book.

There have been numerous travel books written about Ireland, and not just by journalists. Travellers’ Accounts as Source-Material for Irish Historians, is an excellent 2009 reference by Christopher J. Woods. It details 209 accounts from Sir William Brereton in 1635 to S.P.B. Mais in 1949, including Hurlbert. Woods provides travel dates, itinerary, people encountered and content overviews.

Map of Ireland showing Hurlbert’s 1888 travels.

By the 18th century, “the act of ‘writing one’s journey’ became commonplace, and by the 1750s reading and emulating printed narratives was a firmly entrenched intellectual pursuit that heralded the golden age of travel writing, waning in the 1850s with the advent of rail,” Sylvie Kleinman commented in a History Ireland review of Woods’ book. “Accounts of journeys, even if not infallible sources, can especially serve the historian as material on a wide range of issues, if only as a record of conditions or places long since altered.”

The Tourist’s Gaze, Travellers to Ireland, 1800 to 2000, edited by Glen Hooper, contains excerpts from 72 accounts, including several titles not listed in Travellers’ Accounts. Tourist’s Gaze features a portion of the March 8, 1888, passage of Hurlbert’s Ireland Under Coercion. (Elsewhere in the book, Hurlbert references his own 1878 and 1883 trips to Ireland.)

My exploration of Hurlbert’s book is part of my broader interests in 19th century Ireland, especially the 1880s Land War/Home Rule period. Among other digitized titles from that decade, representing a range of views:

Now, on the eve of my seventh trip to Ireland in 18 years, I will take a short break from my Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited project as I do further research on this and other topics. I will update the hand-written entries of my black leather travel journal of my 2000, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2012 and 2016 trips. I also will post on the blog about my latest travels.

The #IUCRevisited project will resume by early March.

NOTES: Top quote from page 168 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanHurlbert notes his earlier visits to Ireland on pages 41-42. Historic books linked via HathiTrust Digital Library.

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: National Gallery

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“It already contains more really good pictures than the Musée either of Lyons or of Marseilles, both of them much larger and wealthier cities than Dublin.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

On Valentine’s Day in Dublin, Hurlbert did not mention the late saint’s reliquary a few blocks from his hotel. Instead, he visited the closer National Gallery of Ireland on Merrion Square. Gallery Director Henry Edward Doyle walked him through the art museum, founded in 1864.

Hurlbert was impressed with the collection, including paintings by Jan Steen, Giovanni Bellini, Jacob Ruysdaels, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Jan Both, Paul Potter and Cornelius Begyn. He also noted the popular drawings of his host’s brother, Richard Doyle, who had died five years earlier.

“I wish the Corcoran Gallery [founded in 1869] were half as worthy as Washington, or the Metropolitan Museum [established in 1870] one tenth part as worthy of New York,” the American visitor enthused.

National Gallery of Ireland

Hurlbert never missed the chance to jab at Irish nationalism. He described the gallery director as “a devout Catholic who is also an outspoken opponent of Home Rule.” Doyle, he wrote, relayed the story that “a young sister” of Irish Parliamentary Party leader Charles Stewart Parnell [probably Anna Parnellonce was “an assiduous student” at the gallery. When Doyle revealed he did not support her brother’s political efforts, she replied with “melancholy resignation” that they no longer could be friends.

Hurlbert also referenced the gallery visit of French journalist Paschal Grousset, who spent the summers of 1886 and 1887 in Ireland as a special correspondent for Le Temps. Writing under the pseudonym Philippe Daryl, his newspaper articles were collected in the 1888 book Ireland’s Disease, the English in Ireland, and an English translation, Ireland’s Disease, Notes and ImpressionsHurlbert wrote that he “picked up” a copy of the book in Paris.

Daryl briefly described the Dublin gallery early in his first chapter, “First Sensations.” With a few exceptions, he wrote, “…the collection is not worth much … It is only a pretext for a national collection of portraits where are represented all the glories of Ireland,” including Jonathan Swift, Lawrence Sterne, Edmund Burke, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Daniel O’Connell and Henry Grattan. “Art exiled in the background, and patriotism shining to the fore.”

Doyle, the museum director, curated the portrait collection in 1874. He expanded it in 1884, shortly before Daryl and Hurlbert arrived in Dublin, to become the Historical and Portrait Gallery. These portraits of Irish heroes still hang today.

In his nod to Darly, Hurlbert also mentioned the “glories of Ireland” gallery, with its “wits and statesmen, soldiers and belles, rebels and royalists, orators and poets.” But the American dismissed the Frenchman’s suggestion that its presence “proves the passionate devotion of Dublin to Home Rule.”

NOTES: From pages 157 to 159 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanPage 10 of Ireland’s Disease, and page 142, The Tourist’s Gaze, Travellers to Ireland, 1800 to 2000Edited by Glen Hooper, Cork University Press, Cork, 2001.

NEXT: Other visitors, other books

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Kilkenny visits

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“Kilkenny, chiefly known in America, I fear, as the city of the cats, is a very picturesque place, thanks to its turrets and towers.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

After nearly two weeks in the northwest of Ireland, Hurlbert made his way back to Dublin for a quick stop. Next, he boarded a train at Kingsbridge (now Heuston) Station for the 35 mile trip southwest to Kildare town, then another 30 miles by carriage to Abbeyleix, County Queens (now Laois).

Abbeyleix House

The American was a guest at the “large, rambling, delightful house” of Viscount de Visci. He mentioned the fountain memorial in honor of his host’s father at the center of town, and the ancient Catholic abbey that gave the place its name, which “stood in the grounds of the present mansion.”

On 13 February 1888, the party traveled 20 miles south to Kilkenny in a snowstorm, which “enlivened rather than diminished the scenic effect of the place … [with its] two cathedrals, a Round Tower, a Town Hall with a belfry, and looming square and high above the town, the Norman keep of its castle. … The castle windows look down upon the [River] Nore, spanned by a narrow ancient bridge and command, not only all that is worth seeing in the town, but a wide glorious prospect over a region which is even now beautiful, and in summer must be charming.”

Kilkenny Castle and surrounding town.

The group visited Kilkenny College, “at which Swift, Congreve, and Farquhar,–an odd concatenation of celebrities–were more of less educated,” Hurlbert recorded. The party had luncheon at the Imperial Hotel.

Hurlbert returned to Kilkenny in March and again in June. On his second visit to Kilkenny Castle, he viewed a supper menu from a feast given by the second Duke of Ormonde to an unknown number of guests on 23 August 1711. Hurlbert recorded the menu in the appendix of his book. It included:

  • 5 Pullets, Bacon and Collyflowers
  • 6 Buttered Chickens
  • Pikes with White Sauce
  • Hasht Veal and New Laid Eggs
  • A Shoulder and Nick of Mutton
  • Haunch of Venison
  • Lobsters
  • Ragoo Mushrooms
  • Kidney Beans
  • Ragoo Oysters
  • Fritters…

…and more. Nothing is said here about the beverages served at the meal. Hurlbert described the wines and other 1668 living expenses of the first Duke of Ormonde, from the upkeep of 19 horses to buying seven dozen tallow candles, in the pages that chronicled his first visit to the castle.

NOTES: From pages 141 to 152; 319; 375-383; and 465 (menu) of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: National Gallery

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Unnamed sources

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“When he wants to throw out some offensive innuendo on the Irish Party, or the Irish people, or the Irish Priests–anything Irish so it be on the National side–he nearly always introduces some unnamed and, as I believe, unnameable individual to to the work for him.”
–Father Patrick White commenting on William Henry Hurlbert

In a fortuitous coincidence, my launch of this project coincided with the January 2018 release of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

Micheal Wolff

Wolff’s book about the American presidential administration and Hurlbert’s 1888 publication about Irish political agitation share one significant characteristic: frequent use of unnamed sources.

As we’ve discovered in this blog serial, Hurlbert was very transparent about his sympathies for Irish landlords and the unionists supporters of London’s ruling conservative Tory government. He openly disdained Irish nationalists and the island’s urban and rural poor.

In his attacks on the latter, Hurlbert often relies on unnamed sources to make his point, as Father Patrick White noted in his rebuttal pamphlet to the American’s book, Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion.’ [The text doesn’t show a year published. It appears to have been released in 1890 or 1891.]

Father White was Catholic parish priest in Miltown Malbay, about 20 miles west of Ennis, County Clare. In his book, Hurlbert accused the priest of organizing boycott activities, which Father White strongly rebutted in his pamphlet. I’ll return to this matter in a future post.

In a section of Hurlbert unmasked headlined “Mr. Hurlbert’s Anonymous Informants,”  Father White savaged the American author’s use of unnamed sources, which included a …

  • Catholic from the south of Ireland
  • sarcastic Nationalist acquaintance of mine
  • jarvey with a knowing look
  • shrewd Galway man
  • resident of the county who gave me his views on the Plan of Campaign
  • magistrate familiar with Gweedore

“I will not here mince words,” Father White wrote. “Such tactics as these are cowardly and contemptible … [Hurlbert] finds vent by this devise for a stream of contempt and scorn poured out on the Irish representatives, which must have been pleasant reading, indeed, for all Unionists.”

William Henry Hurlbert

Or, as the New York Sun noted in its 1891 review of Hurlbert umasked, “the third person singular indefinite is a difficult witness to rebut.”

Father White heaps more scorn on Hurlbert for cloaking some of the people he encountered late in his travels with a series of  “* * * *” in place of their name or identifying characteristics. The priest calls the device “a sensational novelty” and “a fit crowning to the work.”

In a footnote, Hurlbert explained:

After this chapter had actually gone to press, I received a letter from the friend who had put me into communication … [with these people] begging me to strike out all direct indications of their whereabouts, on the ground that these might lead to grave annoyance and trouble for these poor men from the local tyrants. … What can be said for the freedom of a country in which a man of character and position [his “friend”] honestly believes it to be ‘dangerous’ for poor men to say things recorded in the text of this chapter about their own feelings, wishes, opinions, and interests?

The explanation bolsters Hurlbert’s contention that the worst coercion in Ireland came from shadowy and violent agrarian activists, not the police and government officials who enforced the laws of London. Ireland Under Coercion does identify people in this latter group, which is why the book remains relevant for historical study.

Which brings us back to 2018, and the furor that Fire and Fury has created over reporting with unnamed sources, whether in daily online journalism or modern book publishing. I give the last word to my wife, Angie Drobnic Holan, editor of PolitiFact, from her 9 January review of Wolff’s book:

The lack of sourcing is a problem because it means evidence is given a back seat to narrative oomph. It encourages people to suspend their critical thinking skills and follow their emotions into a pleasing narrative. That narrative might be true or it might not be, and it’s almost impossible to independently evaluate.

NOTES: Bulleted “sources” from pages 54, 71, 88, 125, 152 and 179, respectively; footnote from page 361, of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. … Father White’s comments on pages 24, 25 and 28 of Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion.’ Special thanks to Hesburgh Libraries at the University of Notre Dame. … New York Sun, 31 January 1891, page 7.

NEXT: Kilkenny visits

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Lixnaw murder

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited


“James Fitzmaurice took, for the sake of the family, the land from which [his brother] Edmund was evicted, and for this he was denounced as a ‘land-grabber’ and boycotted, and finally shot dead in the presence of his daughter [Nora].”
–William Henry Hurlbert”

James Fitzmaurice was killed at dawn, 31 January 1888, at Lixnaw, County Kerry, about 175 southwest of Dublin, where Hurlbert awoke for his first full day in Ireland. The American journalist referenced the “hideous murder,” neatly summarized by his quote above, several times in the book he published later that year.

The Fitzmaurice murder fit Hurlbert’s narrative that the people who advocated on behalf of tenant farmers and Irish nationalism were lawless or misguided. He included Land League supporters, Catholic clergy, even British politicians.

“Mr. Gladstone [the Liberal British Prime Minister who in 1886 backed Home Rule for Ireland] would perhaps have hit the facts more accurately, if, instead of calling an eviction in Ireland a ‘sentence of death,’ he had called the taking of a tenancy a sentence of death,” Hurlbert wrote. Gladstone’s 1880 comment was generated by crop failures the year before, which meant many tenants could not pay their rent. The resulting evictions, often followed by starvation, was “very near to a sentence of death,” he said.

Three weeks after the Fitzmaurice murder, Hurlbert traveled to Tralee, 11 miles south of Lixnaw. There, he touched a truth about this period of Irish history as he discussed the case with a local landlord’s agent and his wife. “The tenants are in more danger than the landlords or the agents,” she said.

In Kerry and neighboring Clare, in particular, farmers and their families were targeted for boycotts if they leased land other tenants had been evicted from for refusing to pay high rents as part of the agrarian agitation, or if they fell in arrears for other reasons. Boycott activity ranged from social and economic ostracism to verbal harassment, threatening notes, livestock mutilation or physical assaults. Those who cooperated with police and other government authorities often experienced similar trouble.

Period illustration of the 31 January 1888 murder of James Fitzmaurice, witnessed by his daughter Nora. The family was boycotted in the Lixnaw community of Kerry.

On 28 July 1888, shortly after Hurlbert left Ireland, another land-related murder similar to the Fitzmaurice case occurred five miles east of Lixnaw. Boycotted farmer John Foran was shot point blank in front of his young son, instead of a daughter, in the afternoon, instead of at dawn. Their murders were among 262 agrarian crimes in Kerry during 1888, the highest tally of any county in Ireland for the year.

Two men were charged with the Fitzmaurice murder. Their trial was moved more than 200 miles away, to Wicklow, to avoid community bias. Both men were convicted and executed in April 1888, which Hurlbert neglected to mention in his book. Instead, he bashed the Irish nationalist press as “always putting in some sly word” on behalf of the two killers as it neglected the “poor girl and her murdered father.”

Five other people witnessed the Foran murder in addition to his young son, but they refused to identify the suspect in a trial that was kept in Kerry. The government dropped the case.

Both murders reverberated for years to come in legal proceedings and legislative debates about the land question in Ireland. They were raised during the special Parnell Commission hearings that began in the fall of 1888 about agrarian agitation in Ireland. They came up again in 1891 elections after Parnell’s extramarital affair became public and split the Irish Parliamentary Party.

It was through researching the Fitzmaurice and Foran murders that I first came across Hurlbert’s book, though it was hardly a primary source. For more details about both crimes and this period of Irish history, read my 2016 story, Nora’s Sorrow.

NOTES: This post is based on pages 127, 213, 251, 261 and 305 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an Americanand my earlier research of the 1888 Fitzmaurice and Foran murders.

NEXT: Unnamed sources

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan