Mountain Air or City Smoke?

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXI (8) | Start of Chapter

A little girl, at a distance upon a rock, was gazing in astonishment, wondering at seeing a moving being with a bonnet upon her head on this mountain. Still further on had a man ascended the point of a hill, and stood in silence. A pony slowly approached, looked, and turned away. There was not a cabin in sight, nor the smoke of one; but somewhere lived men, women, and children in these defiles. The road was a new one, lately cut through this mountain; no carriage had passed it, and mine was certainly the first American foot that had ever trod this bold, defying height; and in my pride I looked down upon cities, with all their little fripperies, with a kind of contempt. Ah, who would have your smoke, your bricks, and your marbles, huddled into confirmed streets and stenchy alleys, when the unadulterated air of heaven might be yours, where God has thrown together, in awful grandeur, piles on piles, and scattered the rising springs, and sent down the laughing rivulet, and wound the serpentine brook and river in every varied profusion? Romantic as I was, the spot was more so; and as I sat upon a rock, eating a deliciously sweet and dry crust, with my bonnet and parasol by my side on this fairy spot, had youth and beauty been mine, the pencil of a tourist might have made out a mountain landscape of no small interest.

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.