Piss-pots, printers and public opinion in eighteenth-century Dublin
Richard Twiss's 'Tour of Ireland'
Martyn J. Powell
This book explores the visit of the English tourist Richard Twiss to Ireland and the resulting controversy - enthusiastically stoked by Dublin's printers - that followed the publication of the account of his travels. A Tour in Ireland in 1775 derided Ireland's cultural achievements and the morals and manners of the inhabitants. Most famously it described the people of Connaught as 'savages' and the legs of Ireland's women-folk as less than svelte. The resulting outcry saw dozens of newspaper articles, squibs, poems and caricatures aimed at the unfortunate tourist. This can be seen as evidence of a newly politicized Irish 'nation' spoiling for a fight. But the episode also sheds important light on publishing and print culture in Dublin. Twiss could see the value of courting controversy, and Dublin's printers and booksellers set him up as a pantomime villain to ensure steady sales. At the locus of the furore surrounding Twiss's tour, and consequently of this study, was an item sold by printers that married the new consumer culture of eighteenth-century Ireland with popular patriotism: a chamber pot at the bottom of which was emblazoned Twiss's image, thus allowing any right-thinking Irish man or woman to urinate on this most hated member of the Royal Society.
Martyn Powell is a Senior Lecturer in history at Aberystwyth University. He is the author of Britain and Ireland in the Eighteenth-Century Crisis of Empire (2003) and The Politics of Consumption in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (2005).