Learned Priest

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXII (12) | Start of Chapter

Saturday, April 12th.—Made an excursion which will long be remembered, in company with Mrs. S., (the woman who first introduced me to the priest, and to the family who so kindly entertained me), and the two Miss Jacksons, and little Thomas the brother. We were supplied with a basket of bread and meat for the dinner, and bound for Dunquin. The kind loquacious Mrs. S. had a favorite priest to whom she wished to introduce me on the way. An old church, and some Ogham stones which had long puzzled antiquarians, must first be seen, and then we were ushered in to see the priest. He was sitting by the fire, reading a newspaper, surrounded with Latin authors of various descriptions, and piles on piles of the most antiquated looking books in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He received us with the greatest kindness, and the most simple urbanity of manners, and never in Ireland had I spent an hour where so much real knowledge had fallen on my ear. He was truly a learned antiquary; retired in this desolate part of the earth, buried in his musty books, he had gathered rich materials for thinking and conversation. He showed us printed volumes of more than two hundred years old, one a geography, one a dictionary, and a few histories. He urged us to stay and take some refreshment. He was old and infirm, but insisted on accompanying us to the gate, upon the top of the pillars of which were two cannon balls, which Cromwell had left in besieging the place. I felt regret in leaving this complaisant old man, for he united the benevolent gentleman with the learned linguist and antiquary. I have since been told he is much esteemed by all classes.

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.