Arthur Young (1741-1820)

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
b. 11 Sept.; son of vicar of Bradfield, Suffolk and prependary of Canterbury, married to Miss Cousmaker, of Dutch descent; grammar school in Lavenham; apprencticed to firm at Lynn; father d. 1759; unsuccessfully attempted to launch magazine, Universal Museum ; married Martha Allen (d.1815), whose life was ‘a scene of worrying, time trifled with, a book never looked in, quarrels and irritation never subsiding’;
 
took a farm of his own [ODNB 1768], the estate at Bradfield being settled on his mother; not very successful as farmer; advocated large-scale agriculture in Farmers’ Letters to the People of England (1767); Fanny Burney wrote that he ‘destroyed his fortune by experiments’ and calls him ‘almost destitute’ (Diaries); issued Political Arithmetic (1774), which was trans. into four languages;
 
first visit to Ireland suggested by Shelburne, Marq. of Landsdowne, 1776; arrive Dunleary, 20 June 1996; received introductions from Burke and others; wrote Tour of Ireland (1780) chiefly as a record of this journey, making ‘general observagions on the present state of that kingdom, made in the years 1776, 1777, and 1778’; served as agent to Lord Kingsborough in Co. Cork [owner of the Mitchelstown estate], 1777-79, but separated after disagreements;
 
his Tour noted a steep rise in prosperity as indicated by a doubling of [trade] to 5,293,312 in twenty-five years; Young’s Autobiography, ed. A. W. Hutton (1898), contains anecdotes; there is a modern life by J. G. Gazely (1973) and there is a amusing portrait of Young in Fanny Burney’s Camilla (1796); note also that the Tour is cited in The Absentee as the book that Sir James Brooke recommends to Colambre on his arrival in Ireland. ODNB FDA OCIL

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Works
  • Annals of Agriculture, 47 vols. (1784-1809), and parts of another vol., 1812 and 1813;
  • Tour of Ireland 1776-1779 (1780);

Modern editions

  • Constantia Maxwell, sel. ed., Tour of Ireland: Irish History from Contemporary Sources (London: Allen & Unwin 1925); Do., ed. A. W. Hutton, [facs. rep. edn.] 2 vols. (IUP 1970); and Do. [facs. edn.] (Blackstaff 1983), 244pp.; Tour of Ireland [rep. edn.] (Belfast: Blackstaff 1983);
  • Miss Betham-Edwards, ed., Young’s Autobiography (1898).

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Commentary
Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent (1880): ‘Mr. Young’s picture of Ireland, in his tour through that country, was the first faithful portrait of its inhabitants. All the features in the foregoing sketch were taken from the life, and they are characteristic of that mixture of quickness, simplicity, cunning, carelessness, dissipation, disinterestedness, shrewdness and blunder, which in different forms, and with various success, has been brought upon the stage or delineated in novels.’ (World Classics Edn., ed. George Watson, 1964; 1969, p.97; also quoted in Brian Hollingworth, Maria Edgeworth’s Irish Writings, Macmillan 1997, p.86, with ref., CR, 1800, p.181.) Note, Maria Edgeworth claimed that Tour of Ireland contained most faithful portrait of Irish peasantry (See R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland, p.169.)

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T. Crofton Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland (1824) - on Irish accommodation: ‘[...] An examination of the bedrooms will not prove more satisfactory; a glass or soap are luxuries seldom found. Sometimes one coarse and very small towel is provided; at Kilmallock the measurement of mine was half-a-yard in length and a quarter in breadth; its complexion, too, evinced that it had assisted in the partial ablutions of many unfastidious persons. Mr. Arthur Young’s constant ejaculation when he lighted on such quarters in Ireland usually occurred to my mind, “Preserve me, Fate, from such another!” and I have no doubt he would agree with me that two very essential requisites in an Irish tour are, a stock of linen, and a tolerable partiality for bacon. But travellers, any more than beggars, cannot always be chusers, and those who will not submit with patience to the accidents and inconveniences of a journey must sit at home and read the road that others travel.’ (p.36.)

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Constantia Maxwell, ‘Arthur Young, English farmer and Agriculturist’, Chap. XIV, The Stranger in Ireland (1954), pp.163-78: Travels in France (1792) ranks as classic; Tour in Ireland (1780), not written with the same sparkle; entrusted his horse and chaise to a dishonest servant on the way to London, and lost his trunk containing specimens of soil and minerals collected in Ireland, and private papers ‘almost certainly contain[ing] many interesting and amusing anecdotes noted on the spot which of course failed to make their appearance in the published book; the Tour written from what he calls his Minutes; of first-rate importance to historian; reached Dublin 19th June 1776; visited Charlemont’s in his new house; tour began 24th June, c.1500 miles; did not penetrate remote regions, e.g., Connemara; [166] immensely struck by extravagant and improvident way of living of many of the Irish upper classes; at Castletown he found ‘an air of neatness, order, dress and properté is wanting in a surprising degree around the mansion, even new and excellent houses have often nothing of this about them’ [167]; [passage on landlords, quoted by T. de Vere White, infra]; condemned absenteeism in general but had sympathy with those who found country life dull; in his Autobiography he speaks of Rich Aldworth of Cork, whose wife ‘had in her possession one original manuscript letter of Dean Swift, entrusted to her under a solemn promise that she would permit no copy to be taken, nor ever read it twice to the same people. It is without exception the wittiest and severest satire upon Ireland that probably ever was written … equally hostile to the nobility, the gentry, the people, the country, nay the very rivers and mountains, for it declared the Shannon itself to be little better than a series of marshes, that carried to the ocean less water than flows through one of the arches of London bridge’; praises Aldworth as landlord and man of culture; [169; cont.]

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Constantia Maxwell, ‘Arthur Young, English farmer and Agriculturist’ (The Stranger in Ireland, 1954): Young gives detailed and graphic account of Irish peasant and his poverty (he even includes a detailed labourer’s budget, and a sketch of a particularly miserable-looking cabin), but he takes pains to point out that in some respects he was actually better off than his landless counterpart in English, for he had a plot of ground from which he got turf, and on which he kept a pig, hens, and probably a cow, and he seemed to thrive on his butter, milk, eggs and potatoes, more nourishing items of diet, he says, that the ‘beer, tea and gin’ of the Englishman, who was forced owing to growing industrialism to buy almost everything from shops; his picture of the character of the peasantry praised by Maria Edgeworth [no source]; [170] notes their vivacity, love of society, task for music and dancing, ‘they are infinitely more cheerful and lively than anything we commonly see in England having nothing of that incivility of sullen silence with which so many Englishmen seem to wrap themselves up, as if retiring within their own importance’; noticed also that they were hard drinkers, quarrelsome, lazy, secret and revengeful enemies; recorded tales of Whiteboys; called tithe proctors ‘a bad set of people [who either] screwed the cottiers up to the utmost shilling or relet the tithes to such as did it’, and the middlemen ‘the most oppressive species of tyrant that ever lent assistance to the destruction of a country’. [cont.]

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Constantia Maxwell, ‘Arthur Young, English farmer and Agriculturist’ (The Stranger in Ireland, 1954) - cont.: Of poor Catholics in the south, ‘they are generally under such discouragements that they cannot engage in any trade which requires both industry and capital … they can neither buy land nor take a mortgage, nor even sign down the rent of a lease. Where is there a people in the world to be found industrious under such a circumstance?’; ‘the want of commerce in her ports is the misfortune not the fault of Ireland’; gives description of cambric [linen] production in Lurgan; remarks on ‘foreign’ settlements in the Baronies of Bargy and Forth, Co. Wexford; German Palatine colony ‘very industrious’; uninterested in antiquities such as Rock of Cashel; an eye for natural curiosities such as Giant’s Causeway; Galtys [Galtees] form ‘the most formidable and romantic boundary imaginable’, with Galtymore ‘rising like the lord and father the surrounding progeny’; chief praise for ‘glories’ of Killarney; deplores lack of good lodgings; economically, he was chiefly interested in agricultural matters and wages [173]; figures for trade; compares rentals; discusses woollens, fisheries, burning of kelp, beneficial influence of Quakers, and emigration from North; ‘Upon the whole, we may safely determine, that judging by those appearances and circumstances which have been generally agreed to mark the prosperity or declension of a country, that Ireland since the year 1748 made as great advances as could be possibly expected, perhaps greater than any other country in Europe; views on the future of Ireland eminently practical and constructive; agriculture, industry and trade to be promoted; landlords to de-absentee and dismiss middlemen; did not necessarily believe all he was told, ‘a traveller must be very assiduous to see.’ [174; cont.]

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Constantia Maxwell, ‘Arthur Young, English farmer and Agriculturist’ (The Stranger in Ireland, 1954) - cont.: Spent 9 weeks examining and transcribing public records back in Dublin; received invitation from Lord Kingsborough, 1777; wanted Kingsborough to get rid of middleman Thornhill; gave up agency, autumn 1779; back in England, after his mother’s death in 1785, he began to edit Annals of Agriculture, a monthly publication which ran to 46 vols.; a copy always carried by George III, who presented him with a portrait of a Spanish merino from a royal farm; Young knew notables; attended at last illness by Dr Paris, who wrote obituary in Quart. Journal of Science, Literature and Arts, speaking of his hospitality to learned guests; French journeys &c.; Travels in France (1792), 20,000 copies distributed by Commune as indictment of ancien regime; The Example of France a Warning to Britain, Young calls for defence against ‘banditti, cut-throats and Jacobins’; on the side of Burke and conservatives [176] in 1797 his adored little dg. Bobbin died; in 1811 he went blind; d. 20 April, Sackville St. London; democrat; in Irish tour declares that the welfare of the ‘lower classes’ forms the ‘broad basis of public prosperity [in] proportion to their ease is the strength and wealth of nations, as pubic debility will be the certain attendant on their misery’; Irish Tour (London 1780), well received but not a financial success; formal letter of thanks from RDS but was offended to receive no further notice; 19th c. survey of counties traceable to his influence; and he learned that his work had been of ‘some value to Ireland’ and that ‘the agriculture of the kingdom had been advanced in consequence of it’, in conversation with Irish gentlemen (Autobiography, 1898). [Cont.]

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Constantia Maxwell, ‘Arthur Young, English farmer and Agriculturist’ (The Stranger in Ireland, 1954) - cont.: Wrote of Irish national character in Tour, ‘That character is upon the whole respectable, it would be unfair to attribute to the nation at large the vices and follies of only one class of individuals. Those persons from whom it is candid to take a general estimate do credit to their country. That they are a people learned, lively, and ingenious, the admirable authors they have produced will be an eternal monument; witness their Swift, Sterne, Congreve, Boyle, Berkeley, Steele, Farquhar, Southerne, and Goldsmith. Their talent for eloquence is felt, and acknowledged in the parliaments of both the kingdoms. Our own service both by sea and land, as well as that (unfortunately for us) of the principal monarchies of Europe, speak their steady and determined courage. Every unprejudiced traveller who visits them, will be as much pleased with their cheerfulness, as much obliged by their hospitality, and will find them a brave, polite, and liberal people.’ [End.] In Notes, ‘the greatest part of the Kingdom exhibits a naked, bleak, dreary view for want of trees’; Young tells us that practically all provisions cost less in Ireland than in England and gives particulars.

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Estyn Evans, in Irish Folk Ways (1957), quotes Young’s Tour on the building of houses with turf: ‘Before we can attribute such deficiencies to absolute poverty we must take into account the customs and inclinations of the people.’ (Tour, 2, par. 2, p.37; Evans, p.46.)

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John Philip Cohane, The Indestructible Irish (NY: Hawthorn Books 1969): ‘The most famous firsthand detailed picture of the Irish common people as they were int he eighteenth century appeared in Arthur Young’s A Tour in Ireland, published in London in 17809 as part of a series describing conditions in various countries. This Englishman, again a Protestant, coverd both the psychological and the physical aspects of what was happening in Ireland.’ (p.114.; here quotes extensively - e.g.:) ‘The landlord of an Irish estate, inhabited by Roman Catholicks, is a sort of despot who yields obedience, in whatever concerns the poor, to no law but that of his own will […, &c.’; as given in Quotations, infra.]

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David Norris, ‘Imaginative Response versus Authority: A Theme of the Anglo-Irish Short Story’, in Terence Brown & Patrick Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979), quotes from A Tour of Ireland, remarks on the vivacity, eloquence and love of society of the “common Irish”, together with their addiction to hurling “the cricket of savages” […] summ[ing] us all up as being “hard drinkers and quarrelsome; great liars, but civil and submissive”.’ (A Tour of Ireland, ed. A. W. Hutton, Shannon: IUP 1970, pp.146-47; Norris, op. cit., p.55.)

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Allen Feldman, with Eamonn O’Doherty, The Northern Fiddler (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 1979), Preface: ‘Arthur Young noted that “all the poor people, both men and women, love to dance, and are exceedingly fond of the amusement … besides the Irish jig, which they can dance with the most luxuriant expression, minuets and country dances are taught; and I even heard some talk of cotillions coming in.” He further remarked that “dancing is very general among the poor people, almost universal in every cabbin. Dancing masters of their own rank travel through the country from cabbin to cabbin, with a piper or blind fiddler; and the pay is sixpence a quarter … Weddings are always celebrated with much dancing; and a Sunday rarely passes without a dance.” As for their source of energy, he deduced, “the sparingness with which our [English] labourer eats his bread and cheese is well known; mark the Irishman’s potato bowl placed on the floor, the whole family on their hams around it devouring a quantity almost incredible, the beggar seating himself to it with a hearty welcome, the pig taking his share as readily as the wife … No man can often have been an witness of it without being convinced of the plenty, and I will add cheerfulness, that attends it.”

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Quotations

Of the ordinary Irish:
‘[…] fewer people of a disagreeable countenance than any part where I have been … rather tall than low, strong and active and both sexes generally handsome. They excel in most bodily exercises, endure fatigue of all kinds with great patience, and are satisfied with very sparing food. They are of ready wit; the ridiculous notion we have of their stupidity is the worst grounded in the world.’
Of despotic landlords:

‘[N]othing satisfies … but an unlimited submission.’

 

(from Tour of Ireland, 1780; given in Frank O’Connor, ed., Book of Ireland, all edns., p.264).

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Tour of Ireland (1780): ‘Returned to breakfast, and pursued Mr. Herbert’s new road, which he has traced through the peninsula to Dynis island, three miles in length: and it is carried in so judicious a manner through a great variety of ground, rocky woods, lawns etc, that nothing can be more pleasing; it passes through a remarkable scene of rocks, which are covered with woods; from thence to the marble quarry, which Mr. Herbert is working, and where he gains variety of marbles, green, red, white and brown prettily veined. (Cited in Brian Hollingworth, Maria Edgeworth’s Irish Writings, Macmillan 1997, p.85.)

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Tour of Ireland (1780): [Walking in the streets of Dublin] ‘from the narrowness and populousness of the pirincipal thoroughfares, as well as from the dirt and wretchedness of the canaille, is a most uneasy and disgusting exercise’; ‘The landlord of an estate inhabited by Roman Catholics is a sort of despot who yields obedience, in whatever concerns the poor, to no law but that of his will.’ (Vol. 2., p.40); ‘The domineering aristocracy of five hundred thousand Protestants feel the sweets of having two million slaves.’ (Vol. 2, p.48); ‘Generally speaking the Irish poor have a fair belly full of potatoes, and they have milk the greater part of the year.’ (Vol. 2, p.30.)

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Tour of Ireland (1780): ‘The cottages of the Irish, which are all called cabins, are the most miserable looking hovels that can well be conceived; they generally consist o[f] only one room: mud kneaded with straw is the common material of the walls; these are rarely above seven feet high, and not always above five or six: they are about two feet thing, and have only a door, which lets in light instead of a window, and should let the smoke out instead of a chimney, but they rather keep them both stopped up in stone cottages, built by improving landlords; the smoke warms them, but certainly is as injurious to their eyes as it is to the complexion of the women, which in general in the cabins of Ireland has a near resemblance to that of smoked ham. The number of the blind poor I think greater than in England, which is probably owing to this cause.’ (Vol. 2, p.35; all quoted in Denis Donoghue, We Irish, 1986, p.61-62.)

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Tour of Ireland (1780): ‘It is not the simple account of the rental being remitted into another country, but the damp on all sorts of imporvements, and the total want of countenance and encouragement which the lower tenantry labour under. The landlord at such a great distance is out of the way of all complaints, or which is the same thing, or examining into, or remedying evils; miseries of which he can see nothing, and probably hear as little of, can make no impression. All that is required of the agent is to be punctual in his remittances, and as to the people who pay him, they are too often welcome to go to the devil, provided their rents could be paid from his territories.’ (q. source.)

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Tour of Ireland (1780): ‘A landlord in Ireland can scarcely invent an order which a servant, labourer, or cottier dares to refuse. Nothing satisfies him but unlimited submission. Disrespect or anything tending towards sauciness he may punish with his cane or his horsewhip with the most perfect security … Knocking down is spoken of in the country in a manner that makes an Englishman stare. Landlords of consequence have assured me that cottiers would think themselves honoured by having their wives or daughters sent for to the bed of their masters; a mark of slavery that proves the oppression under which such people must lie. Nay, I have heard anecdotes of the lives of the people being made free with without any apprehension of justice or jury…. When MANNERS are in conspiracy against LAW, to whom aree the oppressed people to have recourse? … They have no defence but by means of protection from one gentleman against another, who probably protects his vassal as he would the sheep he intends to eat.’ (Quoted in T. de Vere White, The Anglo-Irish, 1972.)

Tour of Ireland (1780), remarks that trade is held in contempt ‘by those who call themselves gentlemen,’ while commercial people are ‘quitting trade and maufactures, when they have made from five to ten thousand pounds, to become gentlemen.’ Young considers ‘this is taking people from industry at the very moment they are best able to command success’ and recommends the Irish who are so ‘ready to imitate the vices and follies of England’ to imitate her virtues instead, especially ‘her respect for commercial industry’. (Tour of Ireland, ed. A Hutton, London 1892, ii, 247-8; quoted in Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the 18th Century, ed. Gerard O’Brien (1989.)

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Tour of Ireland (1780)
‘The landlord of an Irish estate, inhabited by Roman Catholicks, is a sort of despot who yields obedience, in whatever concerns the poor, to no law but that of his own will. […] A long series of oppressions, aided by many very ill-judged laws, have brought landlords into a habit of exerting a very lofty superiority, and their vassals into that of an almost unlimited submission: speaking a language that is despised, professing a religion that is abhorred, and being disarmed, the poor find themselves in many cases slaves even in the bosom of written liberty. […]
 
A landlord in Ireland can scarcely invent an order which a servant, Labourer or cottar dares to refuse to execute. Nothing satisfies him but an unlimited submission. Disrespect or anything tending towards sauciness he may punish with his cane or his horsewhip with the most perfect security; a poor man would have his bones broke if he offered to lift his hand in his own defense. Knocking down is spoken of in the country in a manner that makes an Englishman stare. It must strike the most careless traveller to see whole strings of cars whipt into a ditch by a gentleman’s footman, to make way for his carriage; if they are overturned or broken in pieces, no matter, it is taken in patience; were they to complain they would perhaps be horsewhipped.
 
The cottages of the Irish, which are all called cabbins, are the most miserable looking hovels that can well be conceived: they generally consist of only one room: mud kneaded with straw is the common material of the walls; these are rarely above seven feet high, and not always above five or six; they are about two feet thick, and have only a door, which lets in light instead of a window, and should let the smoak out instead of a chimney, but they had rather keep it in […] the smoak warms them, but certainly is as injurious to their eyes as it is to the complexions of the women, which in general in the cabbins of Ireland has a near resemblance to that of a smoaked ham. […]
 
The furniture of the cabbins is as bad as the architecture; in very many consisting only of a pot for boiling their potatoes, a bit of a table, and one or two broken stools; beds are not found universally, the family lying on straw. […] / The roofs of the cabbins are rafters, raised from the tops of the mud walls, and the covering varies; some are thatched with straw, potato stalks, or with heath, others only covered with sods of turf cut from a grass field; and I have seen several that were partly composed of all three; the bad repair these roofs are kept in, a hoel in the tatch being often mended with turf, and weeds soupting fromevery part, gives them the appearance of a weedy dunghill, especially when the cabbin is not built with regular walls, but supported one one, or perhaps on both sides by the banks of a braod dry ditch, the roof then seems a hillock, puon wich perhaps the pig grazes. […]’
All quoted in Cohane, op. cit., pp.115-16 [supra].)

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Tour of Ireland (1780) [of a Westmeath landlord]: ‘His hospitality was unbounded, and it never for a moment came into his head to make any provision for feeding the people who came into is house. While credit was to be had, his butler or housekeeper did this for him; his own attention was given solely to the cellar, that wine might not be wanted. If claret was secured, with a dead ox or a sheping hanging in the slaughterhouse ready for steak or cutlets he thought all was well. He was never easy without company in the house, and with a large party in it would invite another of twice the number. One day the cook came into the breakfast parlour before all the company; “Sir, there’s no coals …” “Then burn turf.” “Sir, there’s no turf.” “Ten cut down a tree.” (Quoted in Mary Campbell, Lady Morgan: The Life and Times of Sydney Morgan, London 1988, p.42.)

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Tour of Ireland (1780): ‘Another great family in Connaught is [Myles] MacDermott, who calls himself Prince of Coolavin. He lives at Coolavin, in Sligo, and though he has not above one hundred pounds a year, will not admit his children to sit down in his presence. Lord Kingsborough, Mr Ponsonby, Mr O’Hara, &c., came to see him, and his address was curious: “O’Hara, you are welcome! Sandford, I am glad to see your mother’s son (his mother was an O’Brien); as for the rest of you, come in as ye can!”’ (Quoted in Campbell, op. cit., 1988, p.65.)

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References
Dictionary of National Biography gives bio-dates 1741-1820; son of prependary of Canterbury and namesake [ODNB q.v.] Tour in Ireland (1780); also Travels in France (1792); and fdn. ed. of Universal Museum, monthly magazine, Lon. (1792) His economic papers included Observations on the Present State of the Waste Lands of Great Britain (1773); took farm in Hertfordshire, 1768; left materials for a great work entitled Elements and Practice of Agriculture . Travels in France includes the phrase, ‘the magic of property turns sand into gold.’ See also Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael, 1986, pp.79-80.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry 1991), Vol. 1, describes him as a land agent for Kingsborough estate, Co. Cork, 1777. biog. John G. Gazley, The Life of Arthur Young 1741-1820 (Phil. 1973).

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