A Man's Merit cannot be judged by his Coat

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter II (17) | Start of Chapter

The passenger who accompanied us proved most happily that a man's merit cannot be judged by his coat. His was so much defaced, that when I found him seated near me, I felt a little annoyed. I was afterwards ashamed of myself for this weakness, for I found in the course of conversation, that he was well read in the history of his country, had travelled out of sight of the smoke of his own cabin, loved Ireland, appreciated its virtues, and acknowledged its faults; and though he was no enemy to O'Connell, yet repeal was not his hobby. If their bogs could be drained, their mines explored, their waste land reclaimed, and the laborer well paid for his toil, he would as willingly be under the English crown as that of the Irish. Peace was his motto; "If we cannot have our rights without bloodshed," he added, "let us die oppressed and hated as we are." He alighted from the coach, while the horses were being exchanged, and unasked returned with a list of every place from Tullamore to Dublin, written in a most neat and legible hand. My mistake in this man gave me a valuable hint, which has been of much service in my long tour through the country.

When the evening hour of reflection, in my own room, found me alone, I looked back upon the events of the day, and though the reader may see little in it that is interesting, yet to me it was a rich and valuable one. It was the last day of the first excursion I had made in Ireland, and it had given me in brief detail much of its true history. The heart-stricken woman whose house I had left in the morning, the laborers and beggars at the coach, the enchanting scenery and exhilarating air, the old woman and son, the Connaught men, the convicts and passenger, would each make a valuable chapter on the suffering, crime, beauty, deformity, and intelligence of Ireland.

"A mighty maze, but not without a plan."

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.