Visit to a Great Brewer

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VIII (17) | Start of Chapter

Friday—I went to see a ruined antiquity, two miles from the town, and the walk to it was more like Elysian fields than that of commonplace earth and water. Here were the seats of the wealthiest landlord, fitted up in the most elegant style, and the miserable cabins of the poor full of woe. Here was one of the most extensive distilleries still in operation in all Ireland, and Father Mathew has a large field yet to occupy.

Calling in at the house of an Englishman, who was an extensive brewer, I found him in his parlor, with a well dressed sister from London, and was introduced to them as an American lady. "I never saw but one American lady," said the sister, "and she was very wealthy; but the most ignorant, unlearned creature that I ever saw that was well dressed." "Alas for my ignorant countrywoman!" I sighed, "and will you tell me what part of America was her residence?" "Halifax," was the reply. Her brother seemed mortified, and a silence ensued, when it was broken by my saying, that sorry was I to say, that all the British colonies were in a pitiful state as far as education was concerned, and that whoever visits them in the Canadas, will find that but few comparatively are educated of the native inhabitants. She was silenced, and should have blushed at her own ignorance of the geography of the country; for she actually thought Halifax belonged somewhere in the United States. I am truly disgusted at so much national pride as is everywhere met with in travelling, and when I feel any for my own, it is only in self-defence. The conceited boasting of those who have never read anything but a prayer-book, and never travelled beyond the smoke of their own chimney, is truly annoying.

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.