America's good fame

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVIII (6) | Start of Chapter

Mucrus Abbey is of itself enough for a book; but as so much has been said of it to the purpose, and as minute description of castles or abbeys is not the object of this journal, the reader will find elsewhere what could not have room in a work like this.

On my way to the cascade, I stopped at the gate of the lodge on the borders of the lake, and the keeper said I could not be allowed to enter on any conditions. "I am a stranger from New York," said I. "Come in, come in," was the response. She conducted me through, and pointed me to the best views upon the lake; and seeing a pier built out to an island, I followed, and found a delightfully fitted-up spot with caverns, sitting rooms, rustic seats, and walks. There was once an old castle built upon this rock, and caves were made by the wearing of the water in the rock on which the castle stood. Going to the dwelling upon the shore, men-servants and maid-servants came out to salute me, yet none asked me in, though welcome was given me to visit all the domain without any restriction. But America is all the theme by the laboring class of Ireland; glad was I, that, notwithstanding her abominable slavery, yet here is a little green spot, where I could rest and look my enemies in the face undaunted. The free states of my own country have ever been an asylum to the foreigner, and the reward of his labor has been given him. The ragged laborer has soon exchanged his tatters for decent apparel, the bare feet of the cabin girl have been covered, and the basket has been taken from the back of the peasant woman.

I would acknowledge with gratitude that, throughout the length and breadth of Ireland, the poor have required no letter of introduction, but the name of America. It has opened the gate of many a porter's lodge; it has shown me into many a prohibited pleasure ground, and given me many a potatoe or cup of milk in the cabin, when the aristocrat would have looked with suspicion on the letter of introduction from the best authority.

One of the servants was fitting for a voyage to Boston, and asked what she should most need to recommend her. I answered, cleanliness; that want of this could not be supplied by any qualification, however good, in New England.

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.