A Wealthy Eccentric

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter IX (3) | Start of Chapter

I set off in the heavy rain to find the house or castle of a rich man, who was considered a great eccentric. He was owner of three domains, hut had divested them of all their frippery, had put on a frize coat and brogues, and literally condescended to men of low estate in dress and equippage. He had taken many orphans into his house, and provided them food and clothing. When I reached his dwelling, my clothes were profusely drenched. Mr. S—— was not at home. I asked the housekeeper if I might step in till the rain should abate and dry my clothes. She allowed me to do so; and I followed her through a long gangway of desolated halls, to a kitchen, and found a company about to dine in the same way and on the same materials as the cabin people do. The rain continued, and an invitation to stop over night was not needed a second time. A fire was made in a parlor, where no carpets or supernumeraries met the eye. Tea, bread, and butter were offered, and the housekeeper made everything pleasant. She had embraced the principles of her master, who had taken her, when but two years old, begging her from a widowed mother, who was embarking for England. He had been a father, indeed, she said, and the care of the house was entrusted to her.

When I was comfortably prepared in my lodging-room, with a fire and clean bed, and contrasted it with the preceding night, in what extremes do I find myself, from cabin to castle, tossed like a "rolling thing before a whirlwind," yet never destroyed. I slept in peace, and thanked God that in Ireland one rich godly man could be found, who called all mankind his brethren.

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.