A Happy Family

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter III (4) | Start of Chapter

Reader, do you love domestic life, where plenty, order, and comfort reside? Then come to the garden of Ireland, the county of Wicklow, and I will introduce you to a family where all these rare qualifications may be found. This widow had been the mother of eleven children; one had been drowned, and his monument, with that of his father, was near the dwelling. A son was living in New York, and two in Ireland; four daughters were at home; the youngest had made a choice for herself, and was well settled near the family, in one of the tidy cottages that adorn the parish, where Lord Wicklow has lavished his good taste so profusely. Industry and economy were happily blended in this family; the daughters, unlike many in Ireland with smaller incomes than they, were not unacquainted with all that appertained to the good management of a house. Their plentiful board was spread with wholesome food of their own preparing, and every apartment of the house testified to their handiwork. The morning and evening prayer ascended from the altar here; and though not in accordance with my own habits of extemporaneous prayer, yet never did I assemble for the family devotion, but I felt on retiring that my heart had been warmed and my resolutions strengthened in serving my God. It may with propriety be averred, that when the morning and evening prayer are offered in a family circle, that family is generally the abode of peace and good order.

"Give me the sweet abode, however humble,

Where every child is taught to speak the name

Of God with reverence; where, morn and eve,

The lowly knee is bent around the hallow'd

Shrine of prayer and praise."

The following morning the mother walked with me to Arklow; and there, to my great joy, was my carpet bag left by the coachman on his return. I found that my aged companion had not lived in vain; for besides having, after her husband's death, paid some hundreds of pounds of debts that were in arrears, she reared eleven children in habits of industry, educated them for good society, and gave them all tolerable portions. She has a mind stored with interesting anecdotes of the history of her country, especially that part belonging to the days of ninety-eight. The poetry with which all the narrations of the Irish peasantry are mingled, makes an observing listener willing to give them Ossian for their countryman, for they spontaneously breathe out many of his sentences, without ever having known his book or his name.

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.