Man sometimes behind the Lower Animals

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XVII (9) | Start of Chapter

This day finished my tour in the glen, and it had been the most peculiar of any I had had in Ireland. I had learned to a demonstration, that man left to instinct alone, will not make himself as comfortable as the beasts of the field, or birds of the air—they will construct their habitations and nests when wanted, with perfect system and even with mechanical taste—while man, with no stimulus to activity but barely the food that sustains him, will lie down in stupid content, in the most filthy, disorderly habitation, and even make a merit of doing so. Here were literally exemplified the words of Job, when he said of the poor—"They embraced the rock for a shelter." "For want and famine they were desolate." "To dwell in the cliffs of the valleys, in caves of the earth, and in the rocks—among the bushes they brayed, under the nettles they were gathered together."

Often have I seen the poor famished women gathering nettles to boil, because they had no other food. And here I would add, if any one thinks that man has anything to boast since the Fall, let him explore the mountains, the glens, the caves, and even the towns of Ireland: and, lest he should find a loop-hole for his pride, let him go to the places where the Bible is known, and if the grace of God have not changed the heart, he will find the same degradation in morals as in those places where it has not been read.

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.