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THERE was a timeeven until very lately
when almost any child in Ireland would
understand the parable of the house built
upon the sand better than an English reader
of the New Testament; for, until lately,
houses as fragile as any mud dwelling in
Palestine, and far more wretched than Jew
or Arab ever lives in, were exceedingly
common in Ireland. There are some now,
but so few that travellers point them out to
one another as they pass. I do not mean
I wish I didthat wretched dwellings are
few in Ireland. They are fearfully common
still; but that particular sort of housethe
mud hovel of the lowest orderhas nearly
disappeared. Wrecks and ruins of such huts,
not quite melted away, remain, as mournful
objects in the landscape; and it is but too
well known what would be found under the
rubbish of some of them, the bones of families
who died in the famine, and who were buried
no other burial being possibleby tumbling
down the roof upon them. But to scores of
these there may be only one such now tenanted.
I remember one in Connemara made with
very little trouble. In a bank or dyke a
passage was cut; a bit more bank was heaped
up at the further end, and some sticks and
straw were laid over the top for a roof. It
was in a heavy rain that we saw this, and the
shower was washing the yellow mud of the
bank smoothly down into the dwelling, almost
quenching the peat sods, which sent their
smoke out in front. Another, in Kerry, was
scarcely like a house; so many furze bushes
were growing straight out from the side-
walls, and the roof was so green with weeds,
among which the hens were scrabbling: yet
there was a family lodged within, with the
pig in the midst of them. A third, in Clare,
was down in a sort of pit by the roadside,
once a little quarry. The inhabitants had to
leap and climb down to it and up from it,
and had to live in a pond after every shower,
for there was no outlet for the gathered
waters. A pent-house of straw and rushes
leaned from the side of the quarry, and the
front was a pile of clay. There was just room
for a great chest, and a litter of straw to sleep
on; and the mother and her little children,
and the pig, were huddled within the enclosure,
when they were not dabbling in the
puddle of manure and thick water. On the
whole, I think this was the worst I ever saw.

Where do the people live who once lived
by thousands in hundreds of such hovels?

They live in the handsomest, and certainly
the very cleanest abodes in Ireland; so clean
that one might eat one's dinner off the floors,
and look long for a speck on the window-
panes, or a spider in the sleeping-rooms;
mansions of greystone, of the domestic-gothic
style of architecture, with lofty ceilings, vast
kitchens, and some acres of ground round the
walls; and usually, a blooming garden in
front, with bushes of roses and fuchsias,
and plots of balsams, with tall evergreens

What can this mean ? It means that, set
down thickly all over Ireland, there are now
refuges for the poor, called Workhouses.

The time is past for all argument as to
whether there ever should have been these
workhouses in Ireland. There they are:
and if they had not been there, the greater
part of the poor of Ireland would have gone,
long ago, into the narrowest house of all
underground. No one foresaw the famine
when those houses were decreed, planned, and
built. They were decreed in 1838; begun in
1839, and first inhabited in 1841; whereas,
the famine, as we all know, did not happen
till 1846. The houses never were like
English workhouses, nor the inmates like
English paupers. In Ireland, working for
wages never was the rule among the poorer
classes, while subsistence upon charity always
was encouraged by the old custom of society,
and by the popular religion, which makes
alms-giving, without stint and without
inquiry, a duty and privilege of religion.
There were other influences, too, which
made destitution something very unlike
what it is elsewhereless of a fault and a
disgrace than it is usually esteemed. The
workhouse class, therefore, never was an
outcast class. If it was not so before the famine,
much less could it be so afterwards. When
millions of the population were in want of
food, and could have it only there, any line of
distinction that might have existed before
between the people within the workhouses
and those outside must be at once effaced.

At first, the people objected vehemently to