Le Chevalier de Latocnaye

Criticism

Life
fl.1795-96; [Jacques Louis de Bourgenet; Chevalier de Latocnaye; var. De La Tocnaye]; Breton aristocrat and émigré in 1791; toured Ireland in 1795-96 (‘nothing better to do’); arrived at Waterford, missing the Cork post at Gorum and taking a ‘man and car’ - in whom he first encountered the drunken, locquacious Irish jarvey; author of Promenade d’un Français en Irelande, trans. as A Frenchman’s Walk Through Ireland 1796-97 (1st edn. 1917), in which he noted the poverty and good humour of the Irish peasant.

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Works
John Stevenson, trans., A Frenchman’s Walk Through Ireland, 1796-97 [1st edn. 1917] , intro. by John Gamble (Belfast: Blackstaff 1985), 308pp. [ltd. edn. of 50 copies in slipcase].

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Criticism
see Constantia Maxwell, Strangers in Ireland (1954), p.189ff. [extract]

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Commentary
Constantia Maxwell, Strangers in Ireland (1954); cites his Promenade dans la Grande Bretagne (1795): touring Ireland in 1795-96, he made the girls laugh by carrying an umbrella; travelled to Waterford and Wicklow, then to Cork, Tralee, and Limerick; onwards to Galway, Sligo, and the Giant’s Causeway; next visited Scotland but returned to Ireland; saw Richard Kirwan’s mineralogical display at TCD and Charlemont’s library; disgusted by wretches of Dublin; visited theatre; wrote of ‘religious and political quarrels which have for so long divided this people;’ visited Londonderry, which, with its degree of industry, had ‘no appearance of being an Irish city;’ wrote a pithy description of a peasant cottage where he stayed in Co. Waterford, sleeping among dogs and pigs [the passage is selected by Frank O’Connor, Book of Ireland]; describes keening, which he thinks to be an ‘imitation of the De Profundis which priests sing at burials .. a ceremony omitted in Ireland’; visited Croagh Patrick and Lough Derg [pilgrimage]; heard a priest threaten his non-paying peasant congregation with all ‘the Devils in Hell’; attended Belfast birthday celebrations for King William and found them ‘really terrifying’; witnessed Orange Boys and Defenders riots, burning of Catholic houses in Armagh; at Newtownards, he recorded the announcement: ‘If anyone fires on the sentinel again, orders will be given to burn the town’; left Ireland before the French landing in May 1798, but found companies of yeomenry already gathering; proceeded to Scandanavia to write another book; at least one edn. of Promenade d’un Francais en l’Irlande was printed in Dublin [?in trans.].

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Denis Ireland, From an Irish Shore (1930), quotes de Latocnaye’s Walk, ending with his conclusion, ‘A happy experience will prove to England that the prosperity of this beautiful kingdom, far from being hurtful to her, will [?nurse] her own, and then in destroying the ridiculous prejudices which have been for ages exists against the most beautiful and richest part ofher possessin, and in reality makes Ireland share the advantages of the beneficent laws which she is herself governed, she would acquire the love of 4 million of subjects whom her armies have conquered but whom justice alone will bring into submission.’ (Ireland, op. cit., pp.113-18; p. 118.)

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References
Frank O’Connor, ed., A Book of Ireland (London: Collins 1959, & Edns.), contains quotations from A Frenchman’s Walk Through Ireland, 1796-97 (1917) [ on peasant hospitality]; also in O’Connor’s Book of Ireland (1967 & edns.).

Belfast Central Public Library holds Frenchman’s Walk.

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Notes
On Irish round towers
: ‘Whatever these ancient buildings may have been, the Irish have now for them the greatest possible veneration’ (Quoted in P. J. Kavanagh, Voices in Ireland, 1994, p.11; from Stevenson, trans, 1917.)

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