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AFTER much consideration, we have come
to the conclusion that there is less wear of
shoe-leather in Ireland than in any Christian
country in the world. In Ireland, when a
man ceases to go barefoot, he somehow or
other rides. This is a curious and a rather
serious matter, which may be looked at in
more ways than one. The deficiency of a
middle class in Ireland is a solemn and
mournful truth, on which it is not now our
business to enlarge. We do not mean, of
course, that there is no middle class; nor that
it is much smaller in the half-dozen chief towns
of Ireland than in considerable towns elsewhere.
In fact, a town is impossible without a broad
middle-class stratum on which to found its
institutions. What we mean is, that over the
greater part of the surface of Ireland there is
spread a thin population of uncomfortable
people (as we should think), with a noblemans
seat, and the mansions of a few gentry
somewhere near; and very few shopkeepers,
or farmers, or merchants, to transact the
business of those above and below them. My
lord's family and the gentry ride and drive,
of course, as lords and gentry are wont to do:
and the poor people walkwithout shoe-leather.
They are, no doubt, less uncomfortablable
than they look to English eyes; for in
good looks, in health, strength, and merriment,
they seem to beat the English and Scotch all
to nothingthat is, between June and the
new year, when they have their potato crops
to feast on (and they do consider it feasting
to eat potatoes, in comparison with all other
food). How it may be with their looks and
spirits during the rest of the year we cannot
say from personal observation; but it is well
known that they have never, under any
circumstances, any desire to be plagued by the
consideration of shoe-leather. They like a
cast in a vehicle very well; but they excuse
themselves from wearing shoes, even when
there is a handful of bank-notes in the thatch,
or a handsome litter of pigs under the bed, or
half-a-dozen sleek cows wading among the
ragwort and thistles in the field. You may
see the fishermen's wives walking barefoot on
the sharp rocks and rough shingle, looking for
bait, or bringing up the lobsters. You may see
the peasant women, with stout red petticoats
and blue cloaks, or gay yellow and red shawls,
trotting and skipping barefoot over the bogs,
finishing with a grand hop over the last ditch
into the road, on the way to chapel, market,
or fair. If the last, they are probably carrying
stockings and shoes in their hands, to be
put on when within sight of the spot: but the
same pair may last a life-time, if worn only at
such times, and in such a manner.

If you travel near a bog in autumn
and that is a thing sure to happen to the
tourist in Irelandyou will occasionally see
a dingy procession on the road before you,
which looks, from a distance, like a small
brown funeral. When you come nearer, you
see a dozen or so of large hampers, without
lids, filled and piled up with dried peat, in the
shape of bricks; each hamper being mounted
on a rude sort of truck, and each truck being
drawn by a small donkey. On the truck is
somewhere perched a boy, man, or woman.
Time seems to be of small value; for these
cars are proceeding as slowly as possible,
exactly in the middle of the road, till your
driver calls out that if the people do not
clear the way, he will bring the Police upon
them. Then heads pop up from behind
the hampers, and voices shout and scream,
and donkeys scramble, and the way is cleared,
half-a-dozen children catch hold of your
carriage, and run for half-a-dozen miles,
begging for a halfpenny. This is, we believe,
the lowest order of Irish carriage. Then
comes the superior sort of turf-car, made of
upright slips of wood, sloping outwards, so
as to look like a square basket of rails upon
wheels. This is light and pretty, and serves
well for carrying peat, hay, animals, and
whatever the farmer has to convey that is solid.
Our substantial country carts and waggons are
rarely seenand still more rarely the farmers'
gigs which abound on English roads. Besides
that, there are few men in Ireland answering
to our farmers; they prefer their "outside car"
to our gig and very reasonably. That
"outside car" is the most delightful vehicle we
know ofso light and well-balanced, that a
horse can draw a greater load for a longer
distance than an Englishman can believe, until
he sees it: so safe, that it is scarcely possible
to apprehend an accident: so convenient, that
it has been praised till people are tired of
hearing of it; wherefore we will say no more