Delightful Family

Returning at night through mud and tempest, I found a quite different commodity in the person of a Mrs. P——, whose two young daughters are the "polished stones," which might adorn any palace where grace and virtue reside.

"You find poor Ireland," she said, "in deep affliction; and can you see any way to better her condition?" An invitation to her house was accepted, and I then found that the love of kindness was not only upon her lips, but in her heart; her house and family were so well regulated, that I could see no cause for improvement, and I feared my stay would be made quite too pleasant. The lawn before the door, with its pile of wild rocks—the bird that tamely sat upon the window-seat each morning for its crumbs—the sheep and the goat that licked the hand of the sweet girl that caressed them—the pony that lapped the cheek, and the spaniel that lay at the feet of these children of kindness, added to the cheerful comfort of the well-paid, well-fed, faithful domestics, made this house to me a little Bethel. One Sabbath was spent in it, and it was one of profitable quiet rest; the domestics and children the day previous had anticipated its approach, and, by long habit, had made all things ready.[10]

The mother, daughters, and myself rode upon a car to church, through the deer-park and well laid out lands of a lord, who is not an absentee, but stays at home, making his tenants comfortable. A sick curate gave us a sickly sermon; his stinted salary gave no spur to rhetorical flourishes or well-turned periods, and his sunken cheek and husky voice warned of hasty dismission to another, more permanent parish. On our way home, a mile distant from each other, we passed two fools, who lived upon the street, and were better clad than their more sensible neighbors of the laboring class, strong and hearty, good-natured, and always welcome to the inhabitants, for their innocent mirth and ready wit, which would have made them well qualified for king's fools.

At evening I must say adieu to this pleasant widow and lovely family, and return to town to my old lodgings. My American friend arrived with a huge piece of plum-cake, of my own baking at her house, and being laden with kind wishes, a boy, cart, and ass, were equipped cap-a-pie to conduct me thither; but not without "casting many a longing look behind" did I leave this spot, going out I scarcely knew whither.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.