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.