John Bush

Life
[styled John Bush of Tunbridge Wells;] author of Hibernia curiosa: A letter from a gentleman in Dublin, to his friend at Dover in Kent, giving a general view of the manners, customs, disposition, &c., of the inhabitants of Ireland (1769), based on his experiences in Ireland in 1764 and dated on the last page ‘30th Novemb. 1764’, though printed later; some material in the footnotes in the Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent (1800) - usually attributed to her father - are taken nigh-verbatim from his work, while the whole is extensively plagiarised, along with works of W. R. Chetwood (1746), Richard Twiss (1776), and Thomas Campbell (1777), in John Luckombe’s Tour (1780).

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Works
  • Hibernia Curiosa: A Letter from a Gentleman in Dublin to his Friend at Dover in Kent, giving a general View of the Manners, Customs, dispositions, &c., of the Inhabitants of Ireland, [...] collected in a tour through the Kingdom in the years 1764. Ornamented with plates (London: W. Flexney; Dublin: J. Potts 1769) [see details].
  • Hibernia Curiosa: A Letter from a Gentleman in Dublin to his Friend at Dover in Kent, giving a general View of the Manners, Customs, dispositions, &c., of the Inhabitants of Ireland, [...] collected in a tour through the Kingdom in the years 1764. Ornamented with a map of the city of Dublin and several copper plates (Dublin: J. Potts at Swift’s Head Dame St. M,DCC,LXIX [1769]), xvi, 174pp., 12° [a copy with the printed label of “Circulating Library, Convent of Our Lady of Mercy, Dungarvan“ [Co. Wexford] pasted inside the front cover is held in the British Library.]
  • Do. [rep. edn.] (General Books LLC 2009), 74pp., plain cover pb. [ 978-1-151-61625-8; see loot.co.za - online; 19.10.2010]
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Bibliograhical details
Hibernia Curiosa: A Letter from a Gentleman in Dublin to his Friend at Dover in Kent, giving a general View of the Manners, Customs, dispositions, &c., of the Inhabitants of Ireland, with occasional observations on the State of Trade and Agriculture in that Kingdom, And including an account of some of its most remarkable Natural Curiosities, such as Salmon-Leaps, Water-Falls, Cascades, Glynns, Lakes, &c.; with a more particular description of the Giant’s Causeway in the North; and of the celebrated Lake of Killarney in the South of Ireland; taken from an attentive survey and Examination of the Originals; collected in a tour through the Kingodm in the years 1764. Ornamented with plates (London: Printed for W. Flexney, 1769), [2], xvi, 143 [1]pp., ill. [pls. & map] - ESTC, T086113;and Do. (2nd edn. 1782).

Note: There is also a microfilm edition (New Haven: CT Research Publications 1976) and an electronic edition (Gale 2003).

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Commentary
Joseph Th. Leerssen
, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co. 1986), writes of John Bush, Hibernia curiosa [ &c.] (London 1769), ‘a successful work read as a counter-blow to the denigrator versions of Irish character, and attributing the miserable conditions of the poor Irish not to their own vices but the injustices that left them in direst poverty. Denounces absenteeism, rackrents, middlemen, religious tithes, etc., and identifies with the rural poor “who live in huts ... of such shocking materials and construction that through hundreds of them you may see smoke ascending from every inch of the roof ... and through every inch of which defenceless coverings, the rain, of course, will make its way to drip upon the half naked, shivering, and almost starved inhabitants within.”’ (p.30; Leerssen, 77.] Further: “... while the priests and subordinate landlords, in ease and affluence, live in haughty contempt of their poverty and oppression, of which the first proprietors are but too seldom, indeed, for the interest of this kingdom, spectators” (Bush, ibid.; Leerssen, idem.). See also Bush, Het merkwaardig Ierland (Harlingen 1769) [Leerssen, bibl.].

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Quotations
Hibernia Curiosa: A Letter from a Gentleman in Dublin [... &c.] (Dublin 1769): [On land tenure]: ‘If in any part of the kingdom there are any wild Irish to be found, it is in the western parts of this province, [35] for they have the least of law and government of any people in Ireland, I believe, except that of their own haughty and tyrannic landlords, who, in a literal sense, indeed, are absolute sovereigns over their respective towns and clans, which the western part of this province may not improperly be said to be divided into. Their imperious and oppressive measures, indeed, have almost depopulated this province of Ireland. The will and pleasure of these chiefs is absolute law to the poor inhabitants that were connected with them, and under whom they miserable wretches live in the vilest and most abject poverty [...] This is no exaggeration of the whole truth, upon my honour, and it is the most disagreeable scene that presents itself to an English traveller in this kingdom. Happy would it be for the lowest class of people (whom oppression and want of employment too often and unjustly subjects to the imputation of being idle) if the method of parochial provision [39] in English were introduced into this country ... the case of the lower class of farmers, indeed, which is the greatest number, is little better than a state of slavery, which the priest and subordinate landlords, in ease and affluence, live in haughty contempt of their poverty and oppression, of which the first proprietors are too seldom, indeed, for the interest of this kingdom, spectators.’

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Hibernia Curiosa [... &c.] (Dublin 1769) - [on bogs]: ‘Though the bogs have generally been classed among the natural disadvantages of this kingdom, I shall, notwithstanding, take them into the number of its natural curiosites, at least they will appear sch to the English traveller, both as to their origin and produce. But prepare yourself to travel as lightly as possibe, throw off every unnecessary weight, for the surface you have now to tread on is very inform and dangerous; and should you once break through, you have but little chance of stopping, in your descent, ’till you reach [90] the antediluvian world, for that will probably be the first firm footing that your feet will find; such, however, seems to tbe the most generally prevailing opinion here concerning these bogs - that the timber and trees of every kind which, are frequently found at the bottom of them at very different depths were originally thrown down by the universal deluge in the life of Noah. There may be truth in this opinion, but ’tis certain, at best, that ’tis altogether conjectural, though not altogether improbable.’ [For longer extracts in RICORSO Library > “Authors”, attached.]

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Hibernia Curiosa [... &c.] (Dublin 1769): ‘there is a native sprightliness in their general manner, that is conspicuous and engaging, and that cannot fail to recommend them to strangers.’ (1769, p.9; quoted in Richard Kain, Dublin in the Age of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, Oklahoma UP 1962; Newton Abbot: David Charles 1972, p.16.)

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Hibernia Curiosa [... &c.] (Dublin 1769): ‘[V]ery few of the lowest class are met with that cannot speak English’ (q.p.; quoted in Declan Kiberd, Irish Classics, London: Granta 2000, p.62.)

Hibernia Curiosa [... &c.] (Dublin 1769): Bush, living in Dublin in 1764, wrote in his Letter to a friend living near Dover that the numbers of middlemen resulted in holdings being sold to the highest bidder ‘in small parcels of £20 and £30 a year at third, fourth and fifth hand from the first proprietor’ and called the condition of the lower class farmer a ‘little better than a state of slavery.’ (Q. source.)

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Notes
Census: Bushe is probably referred to in Edward Hay’s remarks about his own proposal for an Irish census, which he compares favourable with that advanced by a Mr. Bushe - viz., I have been favoured with authentic copies of all the documents on which the late Mr. Bushe grounded his return of the inhabitants of this country, which has gained him so much credit, and lean positively affirm that he was not in any degree possessed of such various and detailed accounts, as those, which on my plan, have been returned to me [...].’ (History of the Insurrection in County Wexford, Dublin: 1803, Introduction, p.viii.) Note that the epithet late rules out Charles Kendall Bushe, the parliamentarian and Chief Justice, who lived on until 1843. [For longer extracts from Hay’s work, see under Edward Hay, q.v.].

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