It was not my intention to have written any Preface to this book, but to have allowed it simply to speak for itself. As it is very likely, however, that both it and the motives of its author may be misrepresented by bigoted or venal pens, I think it necessary to introduce it to the reader by a few brief observations. In the first place, then, I beg to say, that the work presents phases of Irish life and manners that have never been given to the public before by any other writer upon the same subject. So far, therefore, the book is a perfectly new book—not only to the Irish people, but also to the English and Scotch. I know not whether the authenticity of the facts and descriptions contained in it may be called in question; but this I do know, that there is not an honest man, on either side, who has lived in the north of Ireland, and reached the term of fifty years, who will not recognize the conduct and language of the northern Orangemen as just, truthful, and not one whit exaggerated. To our friends across the Channel it is only necessary to say, that I was born in one of the most Orange counties in Ireland (Tyrone)—that the violence and licentious abuses of these armed civilians were perpetrated before my eyes—and that the sounds of their outrages may be said still to ring in my ears.
I have written many works upon Irish life, and up to the present day the man has never lived who could lay his finger upon any passage of my writings, and say “that is false.” I cannot, however, avoid remarking here, that within the last few years, a more enlarged knowledge of life, and a more matured intercourse with society, have enabled me to overcome many absurd prejudices with which I was imbued. Without compromising, however, the truth or integrity of any portion of my writings, I am willing to admit, which I do frankly, and without hesitation, that I published in my early works passages which were not calculated to do any earthly good; but, on the contrary, to give unnecessary offence to a great number of my countrymen. It is due to myself to state this, and to say, that in the last edition of my works I have left as many of these passages out as I readily could, without diminishing the interest, or disturbing the narrative.
A fortiori, then, this book may be considered as full of truth and fidelity as any I have ever written: and I must say, that in writing it I have changed no principle whatsoever. I am a liberal Conservative, and, I trust, a rational one; but I am not, nor ever was, an Orangeman; neither can I endure their exclusive and arrogant assumption of loyalty, nor the outrages which it has generated. In what portion of my former writings, for instance, did I ever publish a line in their favor, or in favor of any secret and illegal confederacy?
Again, with regard to the Landlords and Agents, have I not written a tale called the “Poor Scholar,” and another called “Tubber Derg”? in both of which their corruptions and oppressions are exposed. Let it not be mistaken. The two great curses of Ireland are bad Landlords and bad Agents, and in nineteen cases out of every twenty, the origin of the crime lies with the Landlord or Agent, instead of the tenant.
With respect to the Established Church of forty years ago, if there is any man living who asserts that I have not under-drawn her, rather than otherwise, he is less intimate with truth than I could wish. On this subject I challenge and defy inquiry. I grant you she is much changed for the better now; but yet there is much to be done in her still. It is true Irishmen at present get Mitres, a fact which was unknown forty years ago. We have now more Evangelicism, and consequently more sleekness and hypocrisy, more external decorum, and, I would also trust, more internal spirituality. We have now many eminent and pious Prelates in the Church, whose admirable example is enough even to shame the Clergymen under them into a sense of their duty. It is to be wished that we had many more such as they, for they are wanted. The Irish Evangelical party are certainly very numerous, and they must pardon me a slight anachronism or two regarding them, concerning what has been termed the Modern Reformation in these volumes. Are those who compose this same party, by the way, acquainted with their own origin? If not, I will tell them. They were begotten by the active spirit of the Church of Rome, upon their own establishment, when she was asleep; so that they owe their very existence to those whom they look upon as their enemies: and if it were only for this reason alone, there ought to be more peace between them. In England the same spirit has effected a similar seduction on that Establishment, but with this difference, that the Puseyites are a much more obedient and dutiful progeny than the Irish Evangelicals—inasmuch as they have the grace to acknowledge the relationship.