The Author's Parentage

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter I (2) | Start of Chapter

My home education was of the most uncompromising kind. My parents were descended from the puritanical stock; they taught me that goodness alone was greatness; that, in order rightly to estimate the worth of a man, his gold watch and equipage, his title and station, must be deducted; that a conformity to the customs of the world, when they clashed with the sound principles of the gospel, or the strictest rules of morality, was not only a sin, but meanness of spirit. My father had read little and thought much; and though somewhat orthodox, yet he cared not whether his neighbor prayed kneeling or standing, if he prayed in the true spirit, or whether the psalm were in a minor or a major key, or performed in common or triple time, if sung, making melody in the heart to God. He hung no quakers, nor put any men in a corner of the church because they had a colored skin. He rebuked sin in high places with fearlessness, and forgave all personal injuries before forgiveness was asked.

My mother remembered the poor, and entertained strangers; hated oppression, scorned a mean act, and dealt justly by all. She taught me that in order to be healthy, I must rise early, and if I desired to take an honest breakfast with a proper relish, I must earn before eating it; that to find friends, I must show myself friendly; that to live peaceably, I must allow my neighbors to go out and in, eat, drink, and dress when and how they liked; always avoiding putting my head into a hornets' nest, if I would not be stung. "And when you are sent from home," she emphatically said, "conduct yourself well, and your good name will take care of itself; always remembering that a character which requires lawyers and doctors, ministers and elders, to look after it is not worth a groat." With these principles in my head, if not in my heart, I was sent into the world, to make my way, through good and through evil report, as best I could. I looked out upon the seas; the vessel was well under weigh, and the dizzy passengers had already begun to exclaim, "O dear! I am dreadfully sick."

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.