Affecting Incident

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VIII (6) | Start of Chapter

The hereditary sufferings which have been transmitted from father to son, through many generations in Ireland, have developed every propensity of the heart in striking characters, and every variation of mind may be seen in one day's walk, by an attentive observer—from strength to weakness, from love to hatred, and from right to wrong.

"Do you wish to see a new object?" said Mrs. W——, "step to the door." Here sat upon the ground a young woman, with a sweet infant in her arms, her person genteel, her features peculiarly symmetrical; a placid blue eye, finely arched eyebrows, and a high smooth forehead, fair skin, and brown hair; a subdued voice, and of the gentlest manners. She approaches softly, often without speaking; and if a piece be offered, she sits down quietly, feeding the infant, which she always calls General, and of which she is peculiarly fond. While eating, she mutters to herself, often using the name of William.

"And who is William?" I asked. "He's my husband, ma'am." "And is he kind to you?" "He is not, ma'am; he bates me." "And for what does he beat you?" "Because I don't bring him home more potatoes, ma'am." This was spoken in the most childlike simplicity, and like one that had been chastised for an alleged fault which had never been committed.

Inquiring who or what she might be, her simple history was, that her husband was a brute, and had so misused her that she had become insane, but perfectly docile. He turned her upon the street daily, to beg her own bread and his food; and when she returned with a scanty supply, he flogged her, while she never resisted, nor upbraided him. As she adjusted her General upon her back, she muttered something about her William, touching the hearts of all with pity, and they could only say, "Poor thing! she is crazed." And no wonder if the greater part of Ireland were crazed. Not a week since I have landed on these shores, but I have seen sufferers, should their tale be told, which would move the pity of the most unfeeling.

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.