Billeder på siden

tween Carlingford Bay and the Hill of Howth, the country may therefore as well be obliterated from the maps in future.

Howth deserves our attention-we are on classic ground. That affecting epic touching the life and adventures of Saint Patrick thus alludes to its imposing altitude in one of its thrilling stanzas, which, however, has lost much by the translation :


"The Wicklow hills is very high, And so's the Hill of Howth, ma'am, But there's a hill much higher still, 'Tis higher nor them both, ma'am. 'Twas on the top of this high hill Saint Paddy preached the sarmint, That driv the frogs intil the bogs, And bothered all the varmint."

In the touching ballad, "Molly Malone," the poet dexterously introduces his subject in the following sublime adjuration, illustrative at once of the altitude of the hill and the towering passion of the hero :

"By the big hill of HowthThat's a bit of an oath."

Howth is remarkable, too, for its famous waterproof asylum harbour, upon which half a million was expended so successfully, under the auspices, as usual, of Government Commissioners, that the whole area of the basin within the piers is dry as a bone at all times of tide, and effectually excludes water" in the wettest seasons." It is at present only in use as an arena for the blackguards of the neighbourhood, who find it excellently well adapted for their favourite amusement of "pitch and toss," and by no means contemptible as a cock-pit.

The aristocrat smiles at the idea of a Howth oyster. I care not for his smiles-no, nor for his sneers either. I write for posterity, and must distribute equal justice to the oyster of the poor man and the oyster of the rich. Howth furnishes peculiarly the poor man's oyster-six a penny, sometimes nine, according, of course, to the state of the market. Six may be taken as a fair average, and allow me to tell you, Aristos, that with a fresh penny roll, a pennyworth of good Howth natives, pepper included, and a pennyworth of beer, I have seen a poor hard-working fellow dine as heartily, and thank God as fervently, as if he had been set down vis-a-vis with your worship to soup, fish, and dessert.

The singularly happy adaptation of the good things of this life to the tastes and resources of the various classes of recipients has often struck me as a powerful evidence of the intention that gradations should be established in human society. To the poor man the oyster of Carlingford would be no treat-too small-too tasteless; that of Howth suits his palate as it suits his pocket, of a large size, full, fresh flavour, and plenty for the money. I would not advise an epicure to order Howth oysters, nor, indeed, are they to be had in those emporia adapted t the better classes. If he be desirous to taste them, he will find an abundance on the quays of Dublin, when, if he carry with him, as I do, his pocket oyster-knife and pepper-castor, he may whet his appetite very agreeably with a sixpen'orth.

Behold me now in Dublin, very decently lodged at the Carlingford Tavern on Aston's Quay, a house which I selected not less on account of the name than by reason of its contiguity to the principal oyster-eating establish ments of this metropolis. As sixteen hundred and forty of the folio pages of the intended Oyster-bed Commissioners' Report are to be devoted to a historical view of the oyster-cellars of Dublin from the earliest periods to the present time, I do not intend to go fully into this part of the subject, replete as it is with matter of the highest antiquarian and economic interest. It will be sufficient to observe, that whereas formerly oysters were invariably eaten below the earth's surface, in subterranean cavities excavated for that express purpose, they are now chiefly consumed in tidy boxes behind the shops, or in genteel first-floor apartments, neatly fitted up, as was very truly put forward in the last session of Parliament by the Right Honourable Mr Forcible Feeble, as an illustration of the rising importance and growing prosperity of Ireland.

What veteran oyster-eater does not remember the cellar of the once celebrated Queen Casey-a cellar that, from its extent and the number buried within its gloomy walls, might better be denominated a catacomb? No ray of sun-light ever penetrated further than the top of the companion-ladder leading to the den-no besom had ever profaned the dirty floor or the blackened ceiling-no grindstone had

dared to remove the sevenfold rust from the knives and forks of the establishment

"No Molly mopp'd it with a mop, Nor brush'd it with a broom."

cordingly, to eat mine "out of hand" upon all occasions, and recommend a similar procedure to every individual of a delicate gusto in the important business of oyster-eating.*

Who that has ever seen her can forget the majesty of Queen Casey herself? Most lamentably tossicated, never without one or more "blue eyes," a piece of adhesive plaster bestriding her Milesian proboscis-her unkempt hair escaping every where from the contamination of a greasy cap-a pair of elephantine legs, terminating in trotters "to match," a fine specimen, assuredly of the finest peasantry in the universe. But the glories of old are departed-oysters, darkness, and dirt are no longer necessarily associated-the "schoolmaster" has "walked into" the oystercellars with a vengeance, and the sceptre of the once paramount Queen Casey is now wielded in turn by halfa-dozen rival potentates of the masculine gender.

Malahide, Carlingford, Lissadell (Co. Sligo), and Burren (Co. Clare), furnish respectively their quota of oysters for consumption in the Dublin market. Of these various sorts, the Malahide alone are exported in any quantity, the land-carriage precluding any extensive exportation of the oys ters of the western coasts. Carlingford sends her tribute in boats of from twenty to thirty tons burden, which are moored in the river above Carlisle Bridge, exactly vis-a-vis with the Carlingford Tavern on the one side, and Killean's Hotel at the other. At either of these houses the epicure will do well to form his own judgment of this the finest oyster, certainly, in the world; and I would recommend him to decline the assistance of the waiters, and to order in the boatman to open the fish on the spot, receiving them from the hand of the opener, taking care that they be eaten off the deep shell, to preserve every drop of the precious liquor so peculiarly their own. It is my firm conviction, that laying an oyster, after being opened, on a dish, no matter for how short a period of time, diminishes materially the piquancy of flavour, and deteriorates the fish. I make it a rule, ac

The Malahide oyster next demands our attention, and the student will find the celebrated "O'Hara Tavern," French Street, on the south side of the city, the favourite habitat of this noble animal, and the locality where its peculiar excellencies may be best appreciated, cart-loads of individuals arriving daily for no other purpose than that of being submitted to the scientific investigation of successive groups of experimental philosophers, who devote the energies of their active jaws to the analytic investigation of the bivalve crustacea. The "O'Hara Emporium," so called after the patronymic of its enterprising proprietor, acquired much of its wellearned reputation under the enlightened rule of its former possessor, who rejoiced in the not unusual cognomen of "Smith," and who has retired, after the honourable fatigues of a well-spent life, with a competent fortune to his marine residence, which is more particularly designated to the eye of the inquisitive traveller, by an inscription upon the gate-posts, in red letters on a black ground, the post to the right displaying the letters POLDOO that to the left giving the final syllable, and the noun which completes the name, thus, —DY CASTLE

both posts being read together, announce the stucco residence in the distance as no other than the venerable CASTLE OF POLDOODY. I regret to observe that wealth and good taste are not accompanied, in the case of the excellent proprietor of Poldoody Castle, with sound political principles, and cannot conceal the chagrin with which I beheld him and his amiable consort, familiarly recognised in the oyster world as " Ould Mother Smith," condescending to patronise, in their private car, the last select ball at the Phonix Park. Really, Smith, you let yourself down sadly!

Admirers of the Atlantic, or greenfinned oyster of Burren, will find in the "O'Ryan," shell-fish tavern, Trinity Street, the choicest selection, the proprietor having devoted his valuable life

* See Dr Kitchener, Cook's Oracle, third edition, page 239, to the same effect.

to the not unworthy aim of being first among those who traffic in the "green fins." I do him no more than justice when I state that, but for his praiseworthy labours in their behalf, many thousands would have lived and died unconscious of the briny excellencies of the bivalves of Burren. If it be a matter of honest pride to a man to have caused two blades of grass to grow where but one grew before, what exultation of soul may not be permitted to him who has extended the limits of crustaceous enjoyment-who has given to the world a new oyster, and a new sensation to the epicure!


When I desire a miscellaneous assortment, or oyster medley, as it were, I am accustomed to direct my steps to the "O'Donohoe emporium, in Abbey Street. By the way, all the magnates of the oyster trade boast of patronymics purely Milesian. This has continued to be the case from time immemorial, as we are assured of in the pithy verse which has come down to us from the obscurest antiquity;

"By Mac and O',
You'll always know

True oyster-men, they say;
But if they lack

Both O' and ' Mac,'
False musslemen are they."
One of the clerks in the office of the
Oyster-bed Commissioners, a very in-
telligent gentleman, has directed my
attention to the division of labour,
which appears to have existed at a
very early period, in the shell-fish
line-collectors of oysters, mussels,
and, we may reasonably infer, of peri-
winkles and black cockles, being dis-
tinct classes of society, as fixed and as
unalterable as the castes of the Hin-
doo; an interesting fact altogether un-
noticed, strange to say, by Adam
Smith, Malthus, Ricardo, Nassau Bal-
loon Senior, the Edinburgh Review-
ers, or Mistress Martineau. An ela
borate attempt was made, I must
confess, by Counsellor O'Rubbishy to
prove that" mussulmen" is the cor-
rect reading; and hence he goes on
to infer, that the green turban must
have been worn at an early period in
Ireland by the followers of the Pro-
phet. The disquisition on this inte-
resting subject occupies the third,
fifth, and ninth volumes of the Col-
lectanea de Rebus Hibernicis; which
learned production, I lament to say,
was discontinued before the Counsel.

lor had got farther than the first descent of the Phoenicians upon Mud Island, a.m. 1.

"Mais revenons à nos huitres!"

The north-west coast of Ireland furnishes ample contributions to the shell-fish establishments of Dublin, among which the oyster of Lissadell deserves most honourable mention. As Diana to her nymphs, as a haunch to a scrag, and as Hyperion to a Satyr; as a sirloin to a sticking-piece, as all the world to a bit of chalk, so is a luscious Lissadell to the other oysters of the north-west. O'Ryan, to whose patriotic exertions on behalf of the oyster of Burren, we have already paid our humble tribute of respect, is no less distinguished for his anxiety to promote the consumption of Lissadell. His supplies are received daily "by express." generous rivalry subsists along the great north-western road between her Majesty's mail and the oyster-cart of O'Ryan. A blowing horn notifies to the lieges the safe arrival of both, and both establishments announce, by bills in the windows of their respective offices, the hour when the "sorting' is completed, and the "delivery " going to begin.


In speaking so freely as I have thought fit to do of the illustrious heptarchy of oyster-sellers, who wield the once undivided sceptre of Queen Casey, far be from me the unworthy wish to aggrandize one potentate at the expense of another, or to stimulate our national benefactors to unseemly opposition. I have rather chosen to set in a favourable point of view the bivalve in which each dynasty respectively exeels, and to direct the judicious tourist how he may best bestow upon all in turn his undivided attention. For my own part, I prefer to all others in Dublin the ministrations of the O'Hara, Prince of Malahide, the characteristics of whose hospitality are cleanliness and civility. The amateur not ravenously, but appetizingly hungry, directs his impatient steps to a little green door in French Street, either post whereof is decorated with an escutcheon, with two lobsters rampant, and the motto, OYSTERS WITHIN, Worthily emblazoned in letters of gold.

[ocr errors]

A l'intereure, a marine odour exhales through the little apartment. You may fancy yourself in a bathing

box. Here, were I a physician, my patients should resort for the benefit of sea air, as well as for the generous diet that the place affords. Taking a seat on the raised bench, behind a counter white with continual scrubbing, the judicious epicure grasps the pepper castor firmly in the right hand, while pats of delicate butter and crisp biscuits are laid before him. If he be as old a customer as I am, there is no occasion to intimate his wish that the fish shall be furnished to his lip from the deep shell. A morning paper is officiously presented to those epicures who like their oysters peppered with a leading article. A glass of fair water, with a thimbleful of Cognac, neat as imported, finishes the repast. Thus having moderately eaten, and as moderately disbursed, the complacent connoisseur departs, like a giant refreshed, to get, as he best can, an appetite for dinner.

The county of Wicklow, through which I took my way to the southern provinces, boasts two gigantic Sugarloaves, the greater and the less; titbits for the hammer of the geologist. Near to these I observed inferior elevations, which, pursuing the sensible nomenclature that prevails in these parts, I conclude to be denominated Nutmeg and Lemon, and have no doubt that rivulets of whiskey-punch meander in the vicinity. Although this county is unfortunately destitute of oysters, it nevertheless enjoys no mean celebrity in the purveyance of several other good things of this life, of which I will make sufficient mention in my forthcoming great gastronomic survey of Ireland. Just now, I only hint for the benefit of the initiated, that mullet, red and grey, of large size and exquisite flavour, abound in the vicinity.

We sleep at Arklow, famous as the nursery of Irish oysters. From hence, as well as from Wexford, the artificial oyster-beds are abundantly supplied with stock, which being furnished by the fishermen at so much per bushel, and laid upon the beds for two or three years, becomes a full-flavoured, well-conditioned oyster, all fat and no fin, instead of remaining at home, all fin and no fatso manifest are the advantages of travel and a polite education. I have observed, however, that no transplanted oyster ever does or can acquire that perfection of flavour which the native, properly so called, attains.

These, as happens to animals of a higher grade in the social scale, have an intuitive raciness, a mother-wit, as it were, about them, which the epicure fails to discern in the more artificial mollusk. Not an oyster to be had nearer than the town of Wexford, where they enjoy a reputation in the manufacture of oyster-sauce—an equivocal reputation at best, as if nature ever intended that an oyster, good for any thing else, should be smothered in butter and flour, like plebeian tripe, or sans-culotte cow-heel. Oysters are cheap here-eightpence to a shilling the long hundred, and have the like attributes with low-priced law, lowpriced government, and other firstcost articles. They are not alone cheap, but moreover nasty.

Make my way by an inland route to Limerick-cross the river Shannon at Killaloe. Here Saint Patrick was accustomed to enjoy ecl-soup.

"Nine hundred thousand vipers blue
He charm'd with sweet discoorses,
And dined on them at Killaloe,
In soups and second coorses,"

where the eels, as if in honour of the Saint, are to this day the best in Ireland. The method of pursuing this fishery by charming the eels with "sweet discoorses," was supposed to have perished with the Saint himself, but has been latterly revived, with wonderful success, by the prime mountebank of the Poldoody Association. The majestic Shannon, like every thing else on the surface of the habitable globe, has become the prey of Commissioners. Hercules in Lydia, Sampson among the Philistines, the Shannon in Commission. I am not, however, disposed to quarrel with this particular Commission, as a few Gilaroo trouts have been captured, and a capital cray-fish discovered by some of the deputy-clerks, apprentice engineers, or seven-and-sixpenny surveyors, who crowd about the banks of the venerable stream, like Cornish choughs tugging at the carcass of a dead racer. Long life to you, Father Shannon— may you majestically flow until the Commissioners have done with you, let who will live to see it!

Limerick is a wonderful placewonderful in its beggars, more wonderful in its dirt, most wonderful in a column, surmounted by a little squab, pragmatical statue, in a white hat, which a bystander informed me with

a grin was intended to represent the Right Honourable Mr Forcible Feeble, a financial statesman, of whom I had never heard—any good.

The Red Bank Burren oyster furnishes a staple commodity of the Limerick connoisseur, who enjoys it here in rare perfection, although de. prived of the " appliances and means to boot" which the metropolis affords -here, the sepulchral cellar still yawns for the adventurous Dandohere, mutton-lights are still stuck in tin sconces round the walls-here, two-pronged forks, dirty napkins, and last week's mustard it would be unreasonable not to expect. The following is a verbatim copy of an announcement regarding a class of men who really deserve better treatment, which I found posted, in good legible type, round the walls of apparently the most extensive oyster emporium in the place, situate in the main street, not far from Moriarty's hotel :—

"Gentlemen frequenting this establishment are requested not to kick, beat, or otherwise abuse the waiters in attendance, as they have orders to behave with the utmost politeness and attention. Any complaint to the contrary will be attended to and redressed."

99 #

I hope and trust, for the credit of Limerick, that this notification, point. edly indicating a bad state of society, no longer stares the tourist in the face, and that the brutal practices which called it forth have ceased to stigmatize the oyster-eater of Garry-owen

"That beautiful city called Cork" was long in a deplorable state of wretchedness, the only supply of oys ters being that afforded by the fishermen-a supply as precarious as their own existence. The Barry family, to

Mob. Blackguard boys shouting.

whom the County Cork is indebted for benefits of less importance, set seriously to work to remove this national degradation, and to a certain extent have succeeded in procuring for the city the benefit of at least a steady supply; nevertheless, after having studied the Cork oyster almost to indigestion, I am unable to make a favourable report of it-size and fatness have been too much considered, flavour too little. "What care I for the thews and sinews? give me the flavour, Master Shallow."-The Oysterbed Commissioners may, perhaps, arrive at more favourable conclusions. However undistinguished in a crustaceous point of view, Cork is a favourite with me,-the natives are frank and friendly,-their welcome is warmer, and the parting squeeze of the hand more emphatic than elsewhere, and I owe them not a few of the happiest days of my life. Let us part fair

"Farewell to you, Cork, with your pepper-box steeple,

Your whiskey, your oysters, your girls, and your fun."

Back to the metropolis. The feast of Saint Michael answers to the 9th of August in England, being Oyster-day, a holiday among the oyster folks of the strictest obligation to get drunk. On this memorable day the oyster year is ushered in by a regular jollification-placards are distributed by the importers and owners of the beds, who give fêtes, at which "his Excellency the Lord-Lieutenant," as the morning papers inform us," is expected to attend," and send their retainers through the city, decorated with ribands, in solemn procession, the strict order of which I am enabled to exhibit, by permission of Oyster King-at-Arms.

Two Oyster-men on foot.
One ditto on horseback.

A Watering-cart, conveying one blind Piper, one ditto Fiddler, playing distinct tunes with might and main. Two Oyster-men on foot.

One ditto on horseback with a banner. Oyster-carts according to seniority, each carrying a banner. Donkey-carts with sweeps-Dustmen, two-and-two.


I am sorry to say, an unvarnished fact.

Blackguard boys shouting. Mob.

« ForrigeFortsæt »