Catherine Luby: The Spirit of the Lakes; or, Mucross Abbey. A poem, in three cantos. With explanatory notes, from the best and most approved authorities. London. Published by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. 1822. WPRP 50.
An excerpt from the Preface, perhaps, conveys the author’s perception of the importance of Killarney, to the philosopher, the naturalist, the botanist, the landscape painter, and the amateur:
“To those who have witnessed the scenery of Lough Lane and Mucruss, the following lines, attempting the descriptive, may perhaps recal sensations that must have thrilled through souls of sensibility, on a first view, of the magnificent, awful, and stupendous region, then before their eyes, softened down in contrast, as it is, by its blooming islands, and, generally, tranquil waters.
To those who have not yet enjoyed that happiness, this first Essay of an enthusiast in her admiration of Killarney’s Lakes, may not prove unacceptable; for, however conscious she may feel of the many errors in poesy that abound in her book, she still flatters herself that local description has not been distorted or exaggerated. With humble, but firm serenity, she therefore consigns her Work to the kindness of her numerous friends and subscribers, to the impartiality of those literary tribunals, that in general so justly direct public opinion; and not having alluded in the most remote degree, to any subject adverse to the interests of religion, her country, or manking, she hopes that the loves of Adeline and Desmond may not sink into oblivion. –Brighton, August, 1821.”
Built in 1448, this Franciscan friary is one of the best preserved in Ireland. The ruins are partly Norman, partly Gothic, with impressive cloisters surrounding a massive yew tree; this yew is said to be as old as the abbey itself. When the abbey was attacked in 1589, the friars hid sacred vessels and church valuables on one of the 30 lake islands. Although tortured, the friars would not reveal their secret and the riches were never found. The abbey is surrounded by a graveyard, which holds the remains of ancient O'Sullivan, MacGillycuddy, and O'Donoghue chieftains, as well as the last King of Desmond.