In his recent book, Heathcliff and the Great Hunger, Terry Eagleton comments that, through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, 'Ireland figured as Britain's unconscious'. 1 The notion of a 'mirror' country, against which the national characteristics of the home country are defined, has become a central tenet of post colonial critical theory. Lacan's theory of the mirror self has been translated into the racial arena and the Other (black, or, here, Irish) occupies the site of the reflected self. 2 Whilst culturally a country might be described as discovering its own features in the glass of its colony, and whilst it is accepted that the relationship between colonizer and colonized is inextricable and an interface, for the nineteenth-century middle-class Englishman, the mirror-image was perhaps not to be found in the colonies or the occupied, Marxists situate the workers as the Wellsian Morlocks of the Victorian middle classes; Thackeray, on the other hand, found the working-class and popular culture of the 1830s and 1840s to be derivative and similar to that of his own. Moreover, he recognized that few of his class had much knowledge of the working-class districts close by their own. Elsewhere, however, the interconnection of cultures was more pronounced and complex. For much of the first half of the nineteenth century, Britain looked to the east for its uncomfortable opposite, to France — the country that best exemplifies the fascination-repulsion syndrome of the mirror-image.