9 January 1818

A. Smyth, Lismore, Ireland, to Mary Hays, at Messrs Hays & Wedd, 5 Gainsford Street, Southwark, London, 9 January 1818.1


Direct to Dean Scotts Balleen2

Lismore Ireland


Janry 9th 1818

My Dear Friend

        I should not have suffered you to remain so long without hearing from me but for the unlucky circumstance of having mislaid your direction, I sailed on the day I mentioned in my letter to you and after a voyage rough and unpleasant but neither tedious nor dangerous arrived safely at my place of destination; I felt more emotion and regret at leaving England than I had looked forward to but the certainty of leaving all those with whom I had been associated for over four years and the probability that I should see them no more served to throw all their faults into shade; I must however have been insensible and ungrateful if all feelings of sorrow had not disappeared at the sight of my amiable cousin and the kindly affectionate welcome with which I was received by her and her husband; I believe you know that they reside chiefly in the Country at a place beautiful indeed as ever poetic fancy conceived or poetic pen described; the house is small but convenient it commands a fine view of the river backed by a wood belonging to the Duke of Devonshire3 whose castle half seen through the trees adds much to the beauty of the scenery the surrounding country is also very beautiful and not devoid of poetic associations as it was once the abode of Spenser who is said to have written part of his fairy Queen4 while in the neighbourhood of Lismore, and Lady Morgan had been on a visit to this spot for some time, the impression she left was rather favorable and you who love liberality will be pleased to hear that the coarse and unfair criticism in the Quarterly Review is deprecated by all parties, Southey stands acquitted he had not read the book when the criticism appeared, to Mr Croker it is generally attributed he disclaims it but Lady Morgan convinced he is the author is preparing a reply which is eagerly looked for by all lovers of literary squabbles;5 I find the mode of living and general habits differ more from those ^to which^ I have been lately accustomed that I expected; I find here an extreme love of society which is indulged without ostentation there is no vying with each other either in dress equipage or entertainments which certainly leaves society on an easy & pleasant footing there is a great deal of intellect & imagination & some motivation but your love of order is wanting charity abounds distress is always sure to find relief but the principle of preventing it cannot be acted upon from the poverty of the country which renders it impossible to procure permanent employment for the lower class yet they are cheerful though poor & though idle are not mischievous and you who read accounts of Ireland in English Newspapers will be surprized to learn that in this part of it we rest undisturbed without a stronger guard than an Irish made lock nor notwithstanding the pressure of want have I heard of a higher outrage than the plunder of a few cabbages and now my dear friend having relieved your anxiety as to myself a topic on which you know I never loved to expatiate allow me to express my hopes that the expectations we formed of domestic comfort & rational pleasure have been completely realized, and that this winter has been in every respect more propitious than the last I was delighted with your manner of passing your time at your nieces6 & look on it as one of I trust many advantages of your present residence that you are within reasonable distance of your own family so many of whom appear to be both estimable & agreeable I hope your sister has by this time recovered her health & spirits7  remember me to her & believe me ever

                                    Yours A Smyth


Address: Mrs M Hays | Messrs Hays & Wedd | 5 Gainsford Street | Southwark | London

Postmark:  13 January 1818, Lismore


Written on address page at top in a different hand:  


The Victim of Intolerance by Major Torrens or the Hermit of Killarney, A Catholic Tale8'

1 Misc. Ms. 2196, Pforzheimer Collection, NYPL; Brooks, Correspondence 533-34.

2 For Dean Scott, see n. 14, previous letter.

3 The Devonshires came to Ireland in the 1730s as Lord Lieutenants and were still maintaining estates in Ireland at the time of this letter. In 1753 Lismore Castle was purchased by William Cavendish, 4th Earl of Devonshire; his son, the 5th Duke (1747-1811), carried out many improvements on the castle, a transformation continued by the 6th Duke (1790-1858). He was in control at the time of the above letter.  

4 Edmund Spenser (1552-99), the Elizabethan poet and defender of Ireland, best known for his important long poem, The Fairie Queene (1590). 

5 A unsigned review of Morgan’s France appeared in the Quarterly Review 17 (April 1817), 260-86. Morgan’s response remains untraced, if it appeared at all. Southey was a frequent contributor to the Review, as was its long-time editor, John Wilson Croker. 

6 Most likely the niece referenced here is Sarah Dunkin Wedd, living at that time in Gainsford Street, where Hays spent much of her youth. 

7 Elizabeth Hays Lanfear (see previous letter). 

8 Robert Torrens, The Victim of Intoleriance: or, the Hermit of Killarney. A Catholic Tale (London: Gale, Curtis and Fenner, 1814).