The Scholar with his Iliad

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XII (8) | Start of Chapter

It was now church-time. I returned to town, in company with the young woman and laughing boy, who kept near us down the mountain, a distance of two miles; then leaping over a wall, he left us for chapel. Returning to my lodgings, the woman had locked the door of my room and gone to mass, and I was compelled to wait the return of the light-house keeper in the kitchen, till both church and mass were ended. Twilight was gathering, and the young stranger had not called as she promised, and taking a few tracts and a Douay translation for the old man, I ascended the mountain, and entering the cabin, was cordially welcomed. The gift was gratefully received, and the daughter of the old man accompanied me on, till reaching a gate we met a young man well dressed, with Homer's Iliad in his hand, who politely showed us through the gate to the rock, where in the morning I had lost two tortoise-shell combs, when singing to the boys. The mountain linguist found them, and then read aloud the tract, "The worth of a dollar." He was a good reader, and when I offered the tract as a donation, he answered, "I thank you, ma'am; I have a good library at home, and you had better present it to some one who has no books." I was now forced to resort to the strange fact, that has often been related of Ireland, that among her wildest mountains and glens shepherd boys are found reading and talking Latin.

Darkness was gathering, and showing me through the gate, my learned linguist and cabin-girl bade me a good night, and returned to their smoky abodes in the mountain; and a short walk led me to the light-house, and an apology from the young mother, that she was a stranger in town, and could not find my lodgings, corrected all suspicions.

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.