The name of "American Stranger" a Key to the People's Hearts

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IX (26) | Start of Chapter

Reader, wonder not that I love the peasantry of Ireland. Imagine yourself in my real condition and state of mind when I entered that house, and then meet the same kind, unmerited, unexpected reception from those for whom you had done nothing, and feel yourself changed into a friend, instead of a stranger and a lodger. We talked and read till a late hour, and then I slept undisturbed.

The reader may be told, if he never heard it whispered, that the Irish as a people have a quantum of leisure on their hands. The cabin housewife has done her morning's toil, when the potato is eaten and the pigs and fowl have been fed; no making of bread, no scouring of brass and silver, no scrubbing of floors, or cleaning of paint, makes her toil heavy; and in a few weeks' travel I found that, when I stopped in a village for the night, and wished to make the most of my visit, nothing was necessary but to call at some cabin, tell them I was an American, and had come to see the poor, and ask them to direct me to a good lodging house. This was electricity itself; all and everything that could be done would be, and by the time the lodging house was found, the fame had reached through the little hamlet, and a levee was on the spot in a few minutes. So in Oranmore; but the good woman of the house, putting on some of her American notions of propriety, insisted that I should not be "gaped to death," and often told them in sober earnest, that they must keep away, unless they had some business to the shop. All was unavailing. Night and day they were squatting about me, admiring my comely dress and comely hair, telling me that my face was young, and many a good day was before me yet; and seldom did they leave, till they made me both young and beautiful, with the best of all appendages added, a heavy purse of money. Here I talked and here I listened, here I read and they listened, and the little village of Oranmore will always be held in pleasant remembrance.

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.