Return to Dublin

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter II (13) | Start of Chapter

Tullamore is the assize town of the King's county; it is situated nearly in the centre of the bog of Allen, and the proprietor, the Earl of Charleville, has done much to improve it. Good schools are established, and the poor in the town are more comfortable than in many others in the vicinity. The road lay from Tullamore through a part of King's county and Kildare, to Dublin, a distance of fifty miles; and forty-five of this it was lined on each side with hawthorn and cinnamon-brier hedges. The brier was in full bloom; the air had been purified by the preceding day's rain; and the fragrance of the sweet brier, united with that of the new-mown grass, which lay here and there as we passed, made a day's ride of the pleasantest I ever enjoyed, so far as sweetness of air and beauty of scenery were concerned. But the beggars we had left, and the beggars that met us at every village where the coach stopped, made me dread the appearance of a human creature. We passed the most beautifully cultivated fields, where not a stone or a stump could be seen, and saw gardens joined to the most forbidding-looking hovels, where roses were blooming upon the walls, and even upon many a thatch were waving flowers of variegated beauty; so that the unaccustomed stranger must ask, "What means this strange contradiction? How can such taste for farming and gardening be blended with such unseemly rags, such debased minds, and such a lack of self-respect as many of these beings manifest? What must be the state of that people, who can walk and breathe in such a paradise of delights, and not be assimilated in some measure to the more than enchanting prospects around them?"

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.