Family Affliction

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter II (7) | Start of Chapter

The appearance of the people here was not prepossessing, for there was not one among them decently clad, and everything indicated that a last effort had been made to set off the merchandise to the best advantage, while the looks of the seller seemed to say, "We have toiled all day, and caught nothing."

A son of the lady to whom I had letters, conducted me to the terrace, and as the letters were from her daughter in America, I expected a cordial reception, and was not disappointed. Tinctured a little with aristocracy, well educated, and disciplined by family disappointments, her mind had become chastened, and she appeared as if struggling to support an independence which a heart sinking under silent grief could not long sustain. The children were well trained, and had been educated mostly at home by herself. Her husband was of a good family, and had speculated her property away, and as the last resource fled to that "house of refuge," America; and an absence of three years, without sending her any relief, left suspicions on her mind that all was not well. I had seen her daughter in New York, who had followed her father thither, and she begged me to search out the family in Ireland, and do what I could to comfort her mother. My errand was a painful one,—family troubles can seldom be mitigated by foreign legislation; and while this noble minded afflicted woman made full, meaning, but indirect inquiries, her voice faltered, the tear was in her eye, and for a moment I regretted that I had complied with her daughter's request. Her well-regulated family being assembled around the family altar, she read an appropriate prayer with practical observations, adding suitable ones of her own, which made the devotions pleasant to me, for it savored of a heart that had been made better by the things it had been called to suffer.

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.