Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (41) | Start of Chapter

The origin of the letters which follow was simply this: When going over these grounds, through the cottage, and through the tower, but one item seemed to be wanting to make the whole complete, that was, a few choice literary books to grace the center-table of that otherwise well-fitted drawing-room. It was proposed to a few friends, and was done without any intention of display, or wish to have it thus memorialized. A letter was sent me the following day, and an answer returned the next. They both unexpectedly appeared in print, in the Cork Examiner, a few days after, where they doubtless would have slept forever, had not the death of O'Connor revived so painfully the visit to that beautiful spot.

If ever vanity, ambition, or pride, have stimulated me to seek notice or applause from men, these propensities have been so subdued, that when contempt has been added to privation, I have felt an inward gratitude, that since in Ireland so few comparatively hindered my labors by false attentions and fulsome flatteries, which travelers too much seek in foreign lands; and never should any of the neglects or rudeness which have been received been recorded; were it not that the character of the people was the object to find out and show, rather than to draw pity or favor to myself:—

The Mathew Tower——Mrs. Nicholson.

Last week, Mrs. Nicholson, now well known by her tour on foot through Ireland, and the very interesting book which she has written descriptive of her wanderings, paid a visit to Mount Patrick. She was accompanied by some friends. She was met by the Very Rev. Mr. Mathew, Mr. O'Connor, the hospitable proprietor, and some other gentlemen. After visiting the Tower, which is now superbly finished, and promises to stand in firmness and durability, for the next five hundred years, and perambulating the grounds which are laid out in a highly ornamental style, the parties partook of lunch, which consisted principally of fruits and coffee. Mrs. Nicholson, and the friend who accompanied her, are, besides being strict total abstainers, also vegetarians, disciples of a strict dietetic school, in which no animal food is permitted. The object of her visit was then announced; it was to present to Mr. O'Connor, a small but beautiful select library, in testimony of her ardent respect for the cause and the Apostle of Temperance, and in kindly appreciation of the services and worth of Mr. O'Connor, who not only built a testimonial unexampled in the history of such memorials erected by private individuals, but with a hospitality that cannot be over-estimated, throws open his grounds daily to the public. Mrs. Nicholson presented the following short address:—

"These volumes are presented by a few friends of temperance, in grateful acknowledgment of his generosity in throwing open his tasteful and beautiful place to the public, and for the purpose of affording a profitable recreation to its numerous visitors; with a desire that the lovely spot may be ever sacred to that glorious cause, to whose most successful and untiring advocate it has been dedicated, and to the advancement of universal philanthropy.

"Cork, August 28th, 1848."

The reply was as follows:—

Madam,—I receive the books with pride and pleasure. The subject of each volume, and the names of the authors remarkable in our literature for their genius or scientific knowledge, are the best tests of your own pure taste and judgment.

Ten years have elapsed since I found this spot a wilderness—four since a monument, I hope an enduring one, has been erected, to perpetuate, in a small degree, the true greatness and glory of the Christian benefactor of Ireland. As that monument belongs to him and the public and as those grounds, which you and others have been pleased to eulogize, are but the abiding place of the Tower of Temperance, so my gates have never been closed, and never shall be, against visitors, whether they be residents of our own favored but unfortunate land, or citizens of Europe, or of your own great country.

It is a singular spectacle to witness—a lady gently nurtured and brought up, giving up, for a time, home and country and kindred—visiting a land stricken with famine—traversing on foot that land from boundary to boundary—making her way over solitary mountains and treading through remote glens, where scarcely the steps of civilization have reached, sharing the scanty potato of the poor but hospitable people, and lying down after a day of toil, in the miserable but secure cabin of a Kerry or Connaught peasant. All this is unusual. But above it shines, with a steady light, your sympathy, your benevolence, your gentleness of heart, and your warm appreciation of the virtues, rude but sincere, of a people whose condition it is necessary to improve, in order to make them contented and happy.

The first step to raise them socially, to create in them self-respect, and elevate their shrewdness into the wisdom of morality, has been taken by the man whom you revered so much, and to whom and not to me, you have this day paid a grateful and graceful tribute. May he live forever in the memories of his country!

You are about to depart for your own great country, because you could not witness again the desolation of another famine. But you will carry back from Ireland the heartfelt sense of her people for past kindness, to your Christian countrymen. To them, to the generous people of England, and to the Society of Friends in England, Ireland and America, we are indebted, but utterly unable to discharge the debt.

Again, Madam, expressing my deep sense of your kindness and personal worth, and wishing you many happy years in your beloved America,

I beg to subscribe myself,

Your grateful servant,

William O'Connor.

Mount Patrick, August 1848.

To William O'Connor.

Sir,—The unmerited compliment you publicly bestowed on a stranger, in the last week's Examiner, deserves a public acknowledgment, and the more cheerfully given, because it affords an opportunity of saying, that not to me alone is the honor due of the small bestowment of books upon your table. It says, "there are hearts in Cork that do appreciate the Mathew Testimonial, as well as the noble generosity of the man who designed it, and though small the offering, it may be the prelude to more liberal demonstrations of a people's gratitude."

These few volumes, it is hoped, are but the alphabet to a well chosen library that shall one day grace a room in the Tower, affording the citizen and the stranger a profitable, as well as a pleasant recreation.

And now, sir, allow me to say, that in a four years' tour through this beautiful isle, from the Donegal sea to Cape Clear—from the mountains of Wicklow to the Killery Peaks, I have never seen from the top of mansion or castle a flag so gracefully waving—a flag on which is inscribed so much love of country—so much just appreciation of worth—and so much that deserves the appellation of "Well done," as that which is flying in the breeze from the tower of Mount Patrick, and should my eyes ever again look out upon the proud mountains and waters of my own native land, when memory shall revert to the summer of 1848, the brightest and happiest associations will be—the hours passed in the cottage and tower, the garden and walks dedicated to the man who lives for humanity. And though I return to my people with a sorrowing heart, that the tear is still on the long wasted cheek of Erin, yet this shall be my joy, that there live among her country-loving sons, hearts that can feel and hands that can act, when worth and virtue make the demand, and to the proud monument of Mount Patrick will I point as a witness, to all who may sail up the green banks of the sweet-flowing Lee.

When the hand of Theobald Mathew shall cease to rest on the head of the pledge-taking postulant, and when he shall have been gathered to the dust of his fathers—when the generous heart that devised the lasting memorial shall have stopped its pulsation forever—on every health-blowing breeze that fans the flag of Mount Patrick, shall be whispered—"Peace to the Apostle of Temperance, who said to the wine-maddened brain of the maniac, Peace be still, who wiped the tear from the face of heart-stricken woman, and who 'lifted up him that was ready to fall.'"

And when from heaven's high battlement his gentle spirit shall look down on this Tower, future generations shall rise in succession and call him "blessed."

And let their long-sounding echo reverberate over mountain and glen, "honor and gratitude to William O'Connor."

Asenath Nicholson.

Ireland "I love thee still."

September 4th, 1848.