A Rare Lady

My sanguine expectations were a little repulsed, at the distant reception with which my warm salute was returned by the widow and her daughter. They could not trust their eyes, ears, or my testimony, that a journey from New York could bring a solitary female to visit Ireland. A meek, unassuming woman entered the parlor, attired so unostentatiously, that I supposed her some kind of necessary appendage to the family. "Did you come to see the poor of Ireland? I love the name of those that love my Master." Supposing she was one of the poor, I spoke kindly, and she gave me her hand and went out. "Lady Nevin," said the widow, when she was out, "lives in the Hermitage, and is a pattern of goodness to us all. She said truly, when she told you she loved those who loved her Master, for she is continually visiting the poor, administering to their wants, and talking to them of the Love of Christ." A strange lady surely! such an one I had not met in Ireland, and when afterwards I visited the Hermitage, and saw her meek, unassuming manner, her simplicity of dress, and the arrangement of her house, and heard her kind words of the poor about her, my heart said, Would that all the titled ones of Ireland had been with Christ, and learned of Him like this disciple! Then would this poverty-stricken isle sing for joy and gladness.

The American family had been introduced to Ireland by the estated gentleman, whose parentage was somewhat pretending, but who, by a natural defect of the lip, could not speak clearly, which doubtless had served to keep in subjection that pride which is too much the offspring of high birth, and caused his good sense, clear judgment, benevolence, conscience, and firmness to have full scope, and made him the Protestant gentleman, if not the Protestant Christian. His wife was a genuine New Englander, trained in the land of "steady habits" (the state of Connecticut), and could not, would not like Ireland. Her husband had visited New York, and persuaded her to leave her country for himself and estate, and the mother, a widow, having no other child, had followed her. An adopted son, on whom they placed their affections, was the only little one that adorned their hearth.

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.