The Bishop stripped to his Shirt

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXIII (3) start of chapter

It was the custom of the Bishop to wear his ordinary episcopal robes—soutane, rotchet, and short purple cape—whenever he was preaching, whether in a public courthouse or a Protestant church. Many of these latter buildings being in his time rather primitive structures, and affording little accommodation for robing, he was frequently compelled to perform his ecclesiastical toilet behind the pulpit. This happened on one occasion, when his fame was at its height, and people of every creed, as well as class and condition, rushed to hear the famous preacher. One of the robes worn by a Bishop, the rotchet, is a kind of surplice, usually made of muslin or fine linen, and trimmed with lace. Dr. England remained some time hidden from the view of the audience, probably engaged in prayer; and the expectation was somewhat increased in consequence. At length, one, more impatient or more curious than the rest, ventured on a peep, and saw the Bishop in his rotchet, and before he had time to put on his cape; and, rather forgetting the character of the place, and the nature of the occasion, he cried out in a voice that rang throughout the building—'Boys! the Bishop's stripped to his shirt!—he's in earnest, I tell you; and darn me, if he ain't going to give us hell this time.' The Bishop, who, Irishman like, dearly loved a joke, and who frequently told the story, ever with unabated relish, mounted the steps of the pulpit, and looked upon his audience as calmly and with as grave a countenance as if these strange words had never reached his ears.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America