Visit to a Presbyterian Minister who had just married a Rich Wife

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IX (22) | Start of Chapter

On my return, the market people were assembling, and my way was so hedged up, that in the fruitless effort to make a passage out in the right direction, I became so confused that all points of the compass were alike; and my only concern was not to lose the little sense remaining in me. Not a creature would budge, for they had me in close keeping, and no time should be lost in making out "the cratur." At length I was free, and begged of a woman, at the door of her house, to place me in a right direction. She kindly did so, and I returned and seated myself over the turf fire in the corner, to fix on some other peregrination; and resolved to make a call on the Presbyterian clergyman located there, having been told by the gentleman of the house where I lodged, that he was approachable, and knew much of the country.

I had no letter of introduction, and felt much more independent on that account. Knowing that from humble poverty he had become somewhat affluent by marriage, and lived in aristocratic style, I knew with such that the forms of etiquette must be most strictly regarded, and was careful that strings and pins should all be in their proper place. The walk was a long one, the road muddy, and the gibbering of all who pretended to direct me in the right course so confused me, that I was in danger of a return of the morning's mood; but finally the lodge belonging to the clergyman introduced me to a fine gravel walk leading to the mansion, and I was soon knocking at his ministerial door. A young interesting girl opened it. I handed her my card, requesting it might be given to Mr. F. She did so, and soon returned with the card and Mr. F's answer, "Mr.——says he has nothing to give to-day."[5] Disgust and indignation struggled a moment, and elevating my voice, so that he might hear, I said "Say to Mr. F. I did not come to ask charity, but a few questions, which to me were important." "Tell the woman she may come in," was the prompt reply. The woman did go in, and found the man of the pulpit sitting near a table, with a newspaper as large as a small pocket-handkerchief in his hand, a dandy watch-chain hanging in dandy manner about his neck, slippers on his feet, and dress in like accordance.

His wife was much older than her spouse, and what she lacked in youth and beauty was imperfectly made up in frippery. Her dress was a crimson colored satin; a gold watch was glistening at her side, and pink ribbons were about her cap, neck, and arms; but to her credit be it said, she was sewing. The fact is worth naming, because it was the first time I had seen in the country a fashionable lady with plain sewing in her hands. As I looked upon the inmates of this well-trimmed parlor, and upon the lord especially that adorned it, I said, "Can this be a messenger from God, to announce to a lost world the gospel of truth."

"Lay not careless hands on sculls that cannot

Teach and will not learn."

After adjusting himself in speaking attitude, he condescended to say, "I will answer any question respecting the state of the churches you may ask." He spoke of the poor as being in a deplorable state, and the wife said my object was certainly a laudable one, and she presumed I found the people kind. "So much so," was my answer, "that I had sometimes thought it would be best to keep them so; for when a few hundreds were added, I had seen them almost entirely divested of humanity, if not of common civility." My good parson found a loop-hole, for he said, "Ah, you don't know the poor as well as I do; they are cunning, and all the kindness they show is to get favors." "Not so had I found it;" I could say, "that when they saw me weary, and I told them my journey must be hastened because my money was well nigh spent, then was the time when they doubled their entreaties to detain me, without charges." A few months before this, in the cabins of the poor, this man could be found reading to them, and kindly administering to their wants. He was then poor, and employed as a Bible reader, "and now," said the wife of a curate, "he can only afford pennies, where he could give shillings at that time." It was getting late; I talked of muddy streets, of rain, the difficulty of the way, the many hours I had been out—all to no purpose; his pantry would not unlock, nor did a "cup of cold water" greet my lips. I left wiser than when I went, and the next day heard a sermon from this same man on Christian benevolence, expatiating on its importance, and its benefits to the soul. His congregation was small, and part of them were soldiers in military dress, with the weapons of death standing by their side. Certainly the Christian church has got a very supple kind of religion, if these warlike principles can find a shelter in it.

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.