'Mister Paul'

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXI (5) start of chapter

To break a lance with the 'Popish Bishop' was an object of no small ambition to the controversialists of his day; and many a fledgling repented his rash attempt to provoke him to an encounter. Animated by the determination to crush the great champion of Rome, a young preacher was unlucky enough to fasten on the Bishop with the pertinacity of a gad-fly. The Bishop happened to be travelling in the same stage with the preacher, and was engaged in an earnest conversation with some of his fellow-passengers, themselves men of mark and position, on a matter which then excited considerable public attention. To the preacher the subject of conversation had no attraction at that moment; he was only thinking of the splendid opportunity which the occasion afforded of striking a blow that would be heard of throughout America, and possibly be felt in the halls of the Vatican. First, he ventured a question, then a sneer, then a challenge, but without effect: the Bishop altogether disregarded his would-be antagonist, and merely waived him off with a careless gesture or a careless phrase.

The spiritual Quixote would not be put down, and would not be waived off; he was resolved on piercing the armour of his scornful foe, and humbling his pride in the presence of chosen spectators of his controversial prowess; and so he persevered, interrupting the conversation, to the annoyance of the other passengers, who preferred the discussion of a topic in which they had a personal and immediate interest, to a bootless polemical disputation. The valiant preacher was not to be extinguished by the cunning evasions or cowardly subterfuges of the faint-hearted Romanist; so he came again and again to the charge, flinging St. Paul at the Bishop with the most destructive intention. It was nothing but 'Paul' here, and 'Paul' there, and how could the champion of the 'Scarlet Woman' get over Paul?—and what answer could 'Antichrist' make to Paul? The nuisance becoming intolerable, the Bishop determined to put an end to it effectually. Confronting the preacher, and directing upon him the blaze of his great eyes, which gleamed with irrepressible fun, he placed his hands with solemn gesture on his knees, and in a deep voice gave utterance to this strange rebuke:—' Young man, young man! if you have not faith and piety sufficient to induce you to call the Apostle "Saint Paul," at least have the good manners to call him "Mister Paul," and do not be perpetually calling him "Paul," "Paul," as if you considered him no better than a nigger.' The words, assisted by the comical gravity with which they were uttered, and enforced by the roar of laughter with which they were received by the delighted passengers, who had so long suffered from the infliction of his misdirected zeal, extinguished the poor preacher, who rapidly hid himself in the town at which the stage had just arrived. Nor was this the end of the disastrous encounter—for the story having soon got abroad, the unlucky man was interrupted by pome irreverent wag with 'Mister Paul—Mister Paul,' while addressing the congregation whom he had come to enlighten and inspire; and he had to leave the place in consequence of the absurdity of the affair.

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