Sidney Godolphin Osborne’s eyewitness famine narrative Gleanings in the West of Ireland is a text that is currently both neglected and misunderstood. Written and published in July of 1850, Osborne’s Gleanings recounts his summer 1850 journey with an unnamed friend into the heart of late-stage famine Ireland. Most Irish Famine scholars have overlooked Gleanings, but those few who have examined Osborne’s work tend to portray him as an unsympathetic, or even voyeuristic, famine “tourist.” This is a mischaracterization, for in fact Osborne’s aim in his 1850 Irish visit was to report on the condition of Western Ireland’s famine victims. Far from touring Ireland for pleasure, Osborne’s primary goal was to examine eleven Poor Law Unions in counties Limerick, Clare, Galway, and Mayo, and secondarily to ascertain the amount of recent evictions in those counties and the circumstances of the newly houseless tenants. Osborne journeyed into western Ireland in both 1849 and 1850 in order to gather information with which to rebuke current governmental relief schemes and the Irish Poor Laws of 1838 and 1847, and also to attempt to stir compassion in his English readers in the hopes that their outrage would result in Parliamentary action to increase, clarify, and better administer Famine relief aid: “as to the Irish peasantry being deserving of the sympathy I and very many others would seek to excite in their favour, I can only say, that I can conceive no class of human beings on this earth, whose condition, every way, can be worse. I know no one ingredient in the catalogue of those dark ingredients which enter into the composition of human suffering, which is not to be found in the cup from which they have, of late years, been compelled to drink.” (Nova)
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