Gustave de Beaumont

Commentary


Life
[fl.1835]; an associate of Alexis de Tocqueville (q.v.) in Ireland in 1835; he went on to issued L’Irlande sociale, politique et religieuse (1839), a critique of delinquent landlordism in Ireland.

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Works
  • L’Irlande sociale, politique et religieuse [1839; rep. edn.], 2 vols. (Ceriul, Univ. Charles de Gaulle Lille III 1990), xii, 408pp; 349pp. [reviewed in Linen Hall Review, Sept. 1991, p.22];
  • Do., trans. by W. C. Taylor as Ireland: Social Political and Religious, 2 vols. (London: Bentley 1839), and rep. in Michael Hurst, ed. & intro., Political and Cultural Analyses of Ireland, 6 vols. [Ireland Observed Ser.], Vols.1 & 2.

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Commentary
Margaret Kelleher, ‘Prose Writing and Drama in English; 1830-1890 […]’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed. Kelleher & Philip O’Leary (Cambridge UP 2006), Vol. 1: ‘A sharper and sustained investigation of Ireland’s internal political condition, specifically of the role of its “bad aristocracy”, came from the French writer Gustave de Beaumont, author of Ireland: Social, Political and Religious (translated 1839), based on his visits to Ireland in 1835 and 1837 [35] For the French traveller, as for many of the writers on Ireland in this period, much of Ireland’s misfortune could be attributed to the delayed emergence of a middle class: according to de Beaumont, in Ireland “where the aristocracy is at open war with the people, the middle class, from the very moment of its existence, is quite naturally the first and only national power” (Beaumont, Ireland [… &c.], trans. W C. Taylor, 2 vols., London: Bentley, 1839, Vol. II, p.115). De Beaumont’s depiction of the “condition of unfortunate Ireland” as worse than that of “the Indian in his forests, and the Negro in his chains” was much cited in later decades - by John Stuart Mill, Charles Gavan Duffy and many others.’ (p.462.)

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Quotations
Irish man: ‘I have seen the Indian in his forests, and the negro in his chains, and thought, as I contemplated their pitiable condition, that I saw the very extreme of human wretchedness; but I did not know then the condition of unfortunate Ireland. Like the Indian, the Irish man is naked; but he lives in a society where luxury is eagerly sought, and where wealth is honoured. Like the Indian, he is destitute of the physical comforts which human industry and the commerce of nations procure; but he sees a part of his fellows enjoying the comforts to which he cannot aspire […] a sad condition, which unites all the vices of civilization to all those of savage life.’ (W. C. Taylor, trans., Ireland, Social, Political, Religious, 1839; quoted in Peter Gray, The Great Famine, Thames and Hudson, 1995; cited in Luke Gibbon, “Some Hysterical hatred”: History, Hysteria and the Literary Revival, in Irish University Review, Spring/Summer 1997, p.10.)

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