Wednesday, November 2, 2016

In Search of Ireland

In Search of Ireland, by H. V. Morton

I love reading H. V. Morton's travel books!  If you're not familiar with the name, he was a journalist who got lucky--he broke the story of the opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922.  After that he did a lot of travel writing, about the British Isles, parts of Europe, and the Holy Land. 

In Search of Ireland is the chronicle of a trip made in about 1929, so Eire is newly independent, and that made it really exciting to read.  Morton starts in Dublin and talks a lot about the heroes of the Irish independence movement, as well as the current political climate.  He has a lot of sympathy for the Irish point of view and wishes several times for the Irish equivalent of Sir Walter Scott, pointing out that Irish history is an enormous trove of dashing, romantic stories that would make wonderful novels.  (Morton is writing so early that he's beforehand on the massive wave of Irish travel, memoir, and romance that has been written since, although I don't know of a Walter Scott counterpart--anyone?)

From Dublin, Morton goes south and eventually makes a circuit around the whole island that mostly sticks to the edges; he never gets further inland than Armagh.  In every location, he describes the landscape, some history, and the current people.  He meets cottage dwellers, sailors, and townsfolk, stays at a monastery, describes a curragh, and most everything else you could wish for.  He mourns the constant loss of younger people to America and describes how many Irish people feel closer to New York than to London because they have siblings there and often plan to go themselves. 

He describes the Book of Kells and adds detail I wasn't aware of, which helped me make more sense of a lovely animated film we have enjoyed several times, The Secret of Kells.  (If you've never seen it, watch it--it's on Netflix).

Morton also crosses the new border into Northern Ireland and travels around there, making sure to stop at the Giant's Causeway, a spot that I would certainly love to visit (along with all of Ireland!).  He spends a good amount of time in Armagh and eventually winds up closing the circle. 

He goes into absolute raptures over quite a lot of the landscape, wondering why no one has yet done literary justice to Killarney or any other beautiful spot he comes across.  Of course, nowadays it's been done many times over!

It's a lovely travel book in its own right, but the fact that it was written in about 1930, so soon after independence and before many others had yet gotten to writing about Ireland, gives it a good deal of added interest.  If you're interested in Irish travel or history, it should be required reading.


Nancy Leek said...

Let's go!

Tarissa said...

Hi! I'm stopping by from the Mount TBR challenge.

I'm now in raptures over this book after reading your review. I need to read it! I'd love to visit Ireland one day myself... but in the meantime, I'm sure this will do nicely. :)

Jean said...

Hi Tarissa, thanks for stopping by! I bet you'll really enjoy it, and I hope you (and I) can go to see Ireland one day!

Joy said...

That sounds cool. On the plane ride over to Ireland, I read Insurrection in Dublin by James Stephens, essentially a diary of the Easter Rising. The immediacy was amazing -- especially when I was walking in that space later in the day. Here's my review: