In 2011 I visited the Library in Cork City in Ireland. I am working on a novel set in 1803 in Ireland and had done a lot of research. I usually use published books for research, but I needed a primary source, and a more direct way of finding out about people’s daily lives in 18th century Ireland. I don’t live in Ireland anymore, so a friend of mine, who does, had sent me pictures of the archives at Cork City Library. Therefore, I knew that I needed to see the archives myself. I wanted to read the old newspapers from the time my novel is set in. And was particularly interested in public executions, as one of my characters ends up that way; and, also, because executions form an important theme in my book. What initially aroused my interest was the way Jane Austen describes life during the turn of the 18th century, she never mentions any real cruelty towards ‘criminals’ or poor people; where as, in my history books from school, the most gruesome tortures and executions are described. I wanted especially to get a feel, first-handedly, of the way people thought about these things back then.
This is a small excerpt from the Freeman’s Journal in 1803 describing the maltreatment of two milk cows.
“TWO HUNDRED POUNDS REWARD.
Whereas on the night of Thursday, the 14th April inst. Some evil-minded Persons entered the Pasture Field of the Rev. GEORGE MOLDEN, at SANDYMOUNT, in the City of Dublin, and maliciously and feloniously houghed and otherwise most cruelly cut and wounded two Milch Cows, Mr Molden’s property.”
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