This blog serial explored 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).
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.”
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
- Ragoo Mushrooms
- Kidney Beans
- Ragoo Oysters
…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.
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Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan