Irish London: Middle-Class Migration in the Global Eighteenth Century

Irish London: Middle-Class Migration in the Global Eighteenth Century

Irish London: Middle-Class Migration in the Global Eighteenth Century

Irish London: Middle-Class Migration in the Global Eighteenth Century

Synopsis

This book uses case studies of law students, lawyers and merchants to explore overlooked dimensions of Irish migration, the middle class, community and the social geography of London, in the eighteenth century.

Excerpt

MISTAKEN IDENTITIES

ONE DAY in the late 1780s, Michael Kelly sat down at the Milan Coffee House in Vienna to read the latest issue of the Vienna Gazette, wearing, as was his custom, a heavily embroidered coat, a shirt with lace ruffles and two watches. Two men who had just come in and taken a table nearby, observed this conspicuously fashionable beau with interest. Believing that Kelly was a foreigner who would not understand English, one of these men spoke a little more freely than he might have otherwise and in a strong Irish accent declared to his companion, ‘Luke at that fellow sitting opposite to us … did you ever see such a jackdaw … I suppose he wears ruffles, to mark his gentility.’ Kelly made no indication that he had heard or understood the disparaging comment, but at that moment rolled up his cuffs under his coat sleeves as if to make himself more comfortable and by doing so exposed the diamond rings he wore on each of his pinkie fingers. The Irishman, now convinced of his initial analysis, could not resist a further slight, ‘But now do luke … what a display he is making of his rings; I suppose he thinks he will dazzle our eyes a bit.’ At this point Kelly stood up, took off his rings, looked directly at the two men and said in English that he would happily alter his appearance further if they found any other part of his dress disagreeable. The Irishman turned red with embarrassment while his companion, an Englishman, offered an apology. Kelly turned the other cheek and to prove

1 R. Fiske (ed.), Michael Kelly, Reminiscences (1975), 126.

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