Learned Schoolmaster

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXIII (9) | Start of Chapter

My place of stopping was Outerard. A clean house and hospitable woman gave me a pleasant evening. The town is a tidy one in outward looks, and is somewhat celebrated for having a mineral well, and a salmon-leap in the river. A bathing house is made in a rock of curious construction, and a cottage of such beautiful finish that it is an ornament to the town, and a standing monument of the correct taste of the doctor who designed it. The family refused any compensation, sending me away with the kindest wishes, and I turned into a house where were huddled a group of boys and girls. Certainly if there is any skill in packing lumber, they had acquired it, and any merit in a desire for instruction, they deserve it. When I entered, the "master skilled to rule" was standing, one foot upon a chair, his elbow resting upon his knee, spectacles across his nose, a pen in his hand, which he was mending, ever and anon flourishing it, as he vehemently expatiated on some clause in the lesson he was explaining. He bowed long and low to me, and then spoke in Latin to a boy who answered in the same language. Then turning to a bevy in a dark corner, who were urging their rights by hunches and threats, he told them that the wandering Arab in the great desert of Sahara, or the Siberian at the frozen regions of the north, could as well understand the meaning of civility as they; and should he enjoin taciturnity (though that was too refined a word for such boors as he had before him), they would as readily obey him.

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.