Charity Sermon

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VIII (14) | Start of Chapter

I went to the Protestant Church alone, and was twice asked by the sexton if there was no person in the town with whom I was acquainted. "Not one," I answered. "Not any one?" "No, sir, not any one," at the same time telling him where I lodged. "I will put you in his seat then." O! what a thousand pities I had not borrowed a gold ring!

The sermon was a charity one, and the introduction an encomium on the Christianity of the English; her disinterested benevolence, that though she was particular to gather her own brood, yet she was willing that all should have the benefit of her wings; that all denominations, though not of her church, were receiving bountifully of her kindness. Some wicked intruder whispered in my ear, that moment, "tithes! tithes! take all the poor unbeliever has; but pay me my tithes." He ended his sermon beautifully and scripturally by saying, that nothing at the last day would be accounted as benevolence, but what was attended with self-denial. The landholders, he said, would have a great account to give; for his part he would rather be a beggar than be rich, and have a heart to join house to house and field to field, instead of giving to the poor, and "dispersing abroad." Excellent theology! if Mene Tekel be not written on the practice.

When I returned from church, some potatoes were crisping on a nice gridiron for me, which the father had put there. A son of twenty-five was called in to dinner, and told his mother that the old jackass, his father, had taken the best gridiron to crisp my potatoes, and utterly refused taking any dinner on that account. He staid in the kitchen while I ate my potatoes, with his back towards me. What were the peculiar virtues of this gridiron I did not learn; but, by way of apology, the mother told me that this "old jackass" was a stepfather.

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.