Picture of William Cobbett

William Cobbett

places mentioned

Sept. 29th to Oct. 2nd, 1826: Ryall to Burghclere

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"Alas, the country! How shall tongue or pen
Bewail her now, uncountry gentlemen!
The last to bid the cry of warfare cease,
The first to make a malady of peace!
For what were all these country patriots born?
To hunt, and vote, and raise the price of corn.
But corn, like ev'ry mortal thing, must fall:
Kings, conquerors, and markets most of all."

Friday Morning, September 29, 1826.

I HAVE observed in this country, and especially near Worcester, that the working people seem to be better off than in many other parts, one cause of which is, I dare say, that glove manufacturing , which cannot be carried on by fire or by wind or by water, and which is, therefore, carried on by the hands of human beings. It gives work to women and children as well as to men; and that work is, by a great part of the women and children, done in their cottages, and amidst the fields and hop-gardens, where the husbands and sons must live, in order to raise the food and the drink and the wool. This is a great thing for the land. If this glove-making were to cease, many of these women and children, now not upon the parish, must instantly be upon the parish. The glove-trade is, like all others, slack from this last change in the value of money; but there is no horrible misery here, as at Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Paisley, and other Hell-Holes of 84 degrees of heat. The misery walks abroad in skin, bone and nakedness. There are no subscriptions wanted for Worcester; no militia-clothing. The working people suffer, trades-people suffer, and who is to escape, except the monopolisers, the Jews, and the tax-eaters, when the government chooses to raise the value of money and lower the price of goods? The whole of the industrious part of the country must suffer in such a case; but where manufacturing is mixed with agriculture, where the wife and daughters are at the needle, or the wheel, while the men and the boys are at plough, and where the manufacturing, of which one or two towns are the centres, is spread over the whole country round about, and particularly where it is, in very great part, performed by females at their own homes , and where the earnings come in aid of the man's wages ; in such case the misery cannot be so great; and accordingly, while there is an absolute destruction of life going on in the hell-holes, there is no visible misery at, or near, Worcester; and I cannot take my leave of this county without observing, that I do not recollect to have seen one miserable object in it. The working people all seem to have good large gardens, and pigs in their styes; and this last, say the feelosofers what they will about her "intellectual enjoyments," is the only security for happiness in a labourer's family.

On my return from Worcester to this place, yesterday, I noticed, at a village called Severn Stoke, a very curiously-constructed grape house; that is to say a hot-house for the raising of grapes. Upon inquiry, I found that it belonged to a parson of the name of St. John, whose parsonage-house is very near to it, and who, being sure of having the benefice when the then rector should die, bought a piece of land, and erected his grapery on it, just facing, and only about 50 yards from, the windows, out of which the old parson had to look until the day of his death, with a view, doubtless, of piously furnishing his aged brother with a memento mori (remember death), quite as significant as a death's head and cross-bones, and yet done in a manner expressive of that fellow-feeling, that delicacy, that abstinence from self-gratification, which are well known to be characteristics almost peculiar to "the cloth!" To those, if there be such, who may be disposed to suspect that the grapery arose, upon the spot where it stands, merely from the desire to have the vines in bearing state, against the time that the old parson should die, or, as I heard the Botley Parson once call it, "kick the bucket;" to such persons I would just put this one question; did they ever, either from Scripture or tradition, learn that any of the apostles or their disciples erected graperies from motives such as this? They may, indeed, say that they never heard of the apostles erecting any graperies at all, much less of their having erected them from such a motive. Nor, to say the truth, did I ever hear of any such erections on the part of those apostles and those whom they commissioned to preach the word of God; and Sir William Scott (now a lord of some sort) never convinced me, by his parson-praising speech of 18O2, that to give the church-clergy a due degree of influence over the minds of the people, to make the people revere them, it was necessary that the parsons and their wives should shine at balls and in pump-rooms . On the contrary, these and the like have taken away almost the whole of their spiritual influence. They never had much; but lately, and especially since 1793 , they have had hardly any at all; and, wherever I go, I find them much better known as Justices of the Peace than as clergymen. What they would come to if this system could go on for only a few years longer I know not: but go on, as it is now going, it cannot much longer; there must be a settlement of some sort : and that settlement never can leave that mass, that immense mass, of public property, called "church property," to be used as it now is.

I have seen in this county, and in Herefordshire, several pieces of mangel wurzel; and I hear that it has nowhere failed, as the turnips have. Even the lucerne has, in some places, failed to a certain extent; but Mr. Walter Palmer, at Pencoyd, in Herefordshire, has cut a piece of lucerne four times this last summer, and when I saw it on the 17th Sept. (12 days ago) it was got a foot high towards another cut. But, with one exception (too trifling to mention), Mr. Walter Palmer's lucerne is on the Tullian plan; that is, it is in rows at four feet distance from each other; so that you plough between as often as you please, and thus, together with a little hand weeding between the plants, keep the ground, at all times, clear of weeds and grass. Mr. Palmer says that his acre (he has no more) has kept two horses all the summer; and he seems to complain that it has done no more. Indeed! A stout horse will eat much more than a fatting ox. This grass will fat any ox or sheep; and would not Mr. Palmer like to have ten acres of land that would fat a score of oxen? They would do this if they were managed well. But is it nothing to keep a team of four horses, for five months in the year, on the produce of two acres of land? If a man say that, he must, of course, be eagerly looking forward to another world; for nothing will satisfy him in this. A good crop of early cabbages may be had between the rows of lucerne. Cabbages have, generally, wholly failed. Those that I see are almost all too backward to make much of heads; though it is surprising how fast they will grow and come to perfection as soon as there is twelve hours of night . I am here, however, speaking of the large sorts of cabbage; for the smaller sorts will leave in summer. Mr. Walter Palmer has now a piece of these, of which I think there are from 17 to 20 tons to the acre; and this too, observe, after a season which on the same farm has not suffered a turnip of any sort to come. If he had had 2o acres of these, he might have almost laughed at the failure of his turnips, and at the short crop of hay. And this is a crop of which a man may always be sure , if he take proper pains. These cabbages (Early Yorks or some such sort) should, if you want them in June or July, be sown early in the previous August. If you want them in winter, sown in April, and treated as pointed out in my Cottage Economy . These small sorts stand the winter better than the large; they are more nutritious; and they occupy the ground little more than half the time. Dwarf savoys are the finest and richest and most nutritious of cabbages. Sown early in April, and planted out early in July, they will, at 18 inches apart each way, yield a crop of 30 to 40 tons by Christmas. But all this supposes land very good, or very well manured, and plants of a good sort, and well raised and planted, and the ground well tilled after planting; and a crop of 30 tons is worth all these and all the care and all the pains that a man can possibly take.

I am here amongst the finest of cattle, and the finest sheep of the Leicester kind, that I ever saw. My host, Mr. Price, is famed as a breeder of cattle and sheep. The cattle are of the Hereford kind, and the sheep surpassing any animals of the kind that I ever saw. The animals seem to be made for the soil, and the soil for them.

In taking leave of this county I repeat, with great satisfaction, what I before said about the apparent comparatively happy state of the labouring people; and I have been very much pleased with the tone and manner in which they are spoken to and spoken of by their superiors. I hear of no hard treatment of them here, such as I have but too often heard of in some counties, and too often witnessed in others; and I quit Worcestershire, and particularly the house in which I am, with all those feelings which are naturally produced by the kindest of receptions from frank and sensible people.

Saturday Morning, Sept . 30.

Though we came about 45 miles yesterday, we are up by daylight, and just about to set off to sleep at Hayden, near Swindon, in Wiltshire.

Saturday Night, Sept . 30.

From Ryall, in Worcestershire, we came yesterday (Friday) morning first to Tewksbury in Gloucestershire. This is a good, substantial town which, for many years, sent to parliament that sensible and honest and constant hater of Pitt and his infernal politics, James Martin, and which now sends to the same place his son, Mr. John Martin, who, when the memorable Kentish Petition was presented, in June 1822, proposed that it should not be received, or that, if it were received, "the House should not separate until it had resolved that the interest of the debt should never be reduced!" Castlereagh abused the petition; but was for receiving it, in order to fix on it a mark of the House's reprobation . I said, in the next Register, that this fellow was mad; and in six or seven weeks from that day he cut his own throat, and was declared to have been mad at the time when this petition was presented! The mess that "the House " will be in will be bad enough as it is; but what would have been its mess if it had, in its strong fit of "good faith," been furious enough to adopt Mr. Martin's "resolution!"

The Warwickshire Avon falls into the Severn here, and on the sides of both, for many miles back, there are the finest meadows that ever were seen. In looking over them, and beholding the endless flocks and herds, one wonders what can become of all the meat! By riding on about eight or nine miles farther, however, this wonder is a little diminished; for here we come to one of the devouring Wens; namely, Cheltenham, which is what they call a "watering place"; that is to say, a place to which East India plunderers, West India floggers, English tax-gorgers, together with gluttons, drunkards, and debauchees of all descriptions, female as well as male, resort, at the suggestion of silently laughing quacks, in the hope of getting rid of the bodily consequences of their manifold sins and iniquities. When I enter a place like this, I always feel disposed to squeeze up my nose with my fingers. It is nonsense, to be sure; but I conceit that every two-legged creature that I see coming near me is about to cover me with the poisonous proceeds of its impurities. To places like this come all that is knavish and all that is foolish and all that is base; gamesters, pickpockets, and harlots; young wife-hunters in search of rich and ugly and old women, and young husband-hunters in search of rich and wrinkled or half-rotten men, the former resolutely bent, be the means what they may, to give the latter heirs to their lands and tenements. These things are notorious; and Sir William Scott, in his speech of 1802, in favour of the non-residence of the clergy, expressly said that they and their families ought to appear at watering places, and that this was amongst the means of making them respected by their flocks! Memorandum: he was a member for Oxford when he said this!

Before we got into Cheltenham, I learned from a coal-carter which way we had to go in order to see "The New Buildings ," which are now nearly at a stand. We rode up the main street of the town for some distance, and then turned off to the left, which soon brought us to the "desolation of abomination." I have seldom seen anything with more heartfelt satisfaction. "Oh!" said I to myself, "the accursed THING has certainly got a blow , then, in every part of its corrupt and corrupting carcass!" The whole town (and it was now ten o'clock) looked delightfully dull. I did not see more than four or five carriages and, perhaps, twenty people on horseback; and these seemed, by their hook-noses and round eyes, and by the long and sooty necks of the women, to be, for the greater part, Jews and Jewesses. The place really appears to be sinking very fast; and I have been told, and believe the fact, that houses, in Cheltenham, will now sell for only just about one-third as much as the same would have sold for only in last October. It is curious to see the names which the vermin owners have put upon the houses here. There is a new row of most gaudy and fantastical dwelling places, called "Colombia Place," given it, doubtless, by some dealer in bonds . There is what a boy told us was the "New Spa ;" there is "Waterloo House !" Oh! how I rejoice at the ruin of the base creatures! There is "Liverpool Cottage ," "Canning Cottage ," "Peel Cottage" ; and the good of it is, that the ridiculous beasts have put this word cottage upon scores of houses, and some very mean and shabby houses, standing along, and making part of an unbroken street! What a figure this place will cut in another year or two! I should not wonder to see it nearly wholly deserted. It is situated in a nasty, flat, stupid spot, without anything pleasant near it. A putting down of the one-pound notes will soon take away its spa -people. Those of the notes that have already been cut off have, it seems, lessened the quantity of ailments very considerably; another brush will cure all the complaints!

They have had some rains in the summer not far from this place; for we saw in the streets very fine turnips for sale as vegetables, and broccoli with heads six or eight inches over! But as to the meat it was nothing to be compared with that of Warminster, in Wiltshire; that is to say, the veal and lamb. I have paid particular attention to this matter, at Worcester and Tewksbury as well as at Cheltenham; and I have seen no veal and no lamb to be compared with those of Warminster. I have been thinking, but cannot imagine how it is, that the Wen-Devils, either at Bath or London, do not get this meat away from Warminster. I hope that my observations on it will not set them to work: for, if it do, the people of Warminster wil never have a bit of good meat again.

After Cheltenham we had to reach this pretty little town of Fairford, the regular turnpike-road to which lay through Cirencester; but I had from a fine map, at Sir Thomas Winnington's, traced out a line for us along through a chain of villages, leaving Cirencester away to our right, and never coming nearer than seven or eight miles to it. We came through Dodeswell, Withington, Chedworth, Winston, and the two Colnes. At Dodeswell we came up a long and steep hill, which brought us out of the great vale of Gloucester and up upon the Cotswold Hills, which name is tautological, I believe; for I think that wold meant high lands of great extent . Such is the Cotswold, at any rate, for it is a tract of country stretching across, in a south-easterly direction, from Dodeswell to near Fairford, and in a north-easterly direction from Pitchcomb Hill, in Gloucestershire (which, remember, I descended on the 12th September), to near Witney in Oxfordshire. Here we were, then, when we got fairly up upon the wold, with the vale of Gloucester at our back, Oxford and its vale to our left, the vale of Wiltshire to our right, and the vale of Berkshire in our front: and from one particular point I could see a part of each of them. This wold is, in itself, an ugly country. The soil is what is called a stone brash below, with a reddish earth mixed with little bits of this brash at top, and, for the greater part of the wold, even this soil is very shallow; and as fields are divided by walls made of this brash, and as there are for a mile or two together, no trees to be seen, and as the surface is not smooth and green like the downs, this is a sort of country having less to please the eye than any other that I have ever seen, always save and except the heaths like those of Bagshot and Hindhead. Yet even this wold has many fertile dells in it, and sends out, from its highest parts, several streams, each of which has its pretty valley and its meadows. And here has come down to us, from a distance of many centuries, a particular race of sheep, called the Cotswold breed, which are, of course, the best suited to the country. They are short and stocky, and appear to me to be about half-way, in point of size, between the Rylands and the South Downs. When crossed with the Leicester, as they are pretty generally in the north of Wiltshire, they make very beautiful and even large sheep; quite large enough, and, people say, very profitable.

A route , when it lies through villages , is one thing on a map, and quite another thing on the ground. Our line of villages from Cheltenham to Fairford was very nearly straight upon the map; but upon the ground it took us round about a great many miles, besides now and then a little going back, to get into the right road; and, which was a great inconvenience, not a public-house was there on our road until we got within eight miles of Fairford. Resolved that not one single farthing of my money should be spent in the Wen of Cheltenham, we came through that place, expecting to find a public-house in the first or second of the villages; but not one was there over the whole of the wold; and though I had, by pocketing some slices of meat and bread at Ryall, provided against this contingency, as far as related to ourselves, I could make no such provision for our horses, and they went a great deal too far without baiting. Plenty of farm-houses, and, if they had been in America, we need have looked for no other. Very likely (I hope it at any rate) almost any farmer on the Cotswold would have given us what we wanted, if we had asked for it; but the fashion, the good old fashion, was, by the hellish system of funding and taxing and monopolising, driven across the Atlantic. And is England never to see it return! Is the hellish system to last for ever !

The crops on the Cotswold have been pretty good; and I was very much surprised to see a scattering of early turnips, and, in some places, decent crops. Upon this wold I saw more early turnips in a mile or two than I saw in all Herefordshire and Worcestershire and in all the rich and low part of Gloucestershire. The high lands always, during the year, and especially during the summer, receive much more of rain than the low lands. The clouds hang about the hills, and the dews, when they rise, go, most frequently, and cap the hills.

Wheat-sowing is yet going on on the wold; but the greater part of it is sown, and not only sown, but up, and in some places high enough to "hide a hare." What a difference! In some parts of England no man thinks of sowing wheat till November, and it is often done in March. If the latter were done on this wold there would not be a bushel on an acre. The ploughing and other work, on the wold, is done in great part by oxen, and here are some of the finest ox-teams that I ever saw.

Fairford, which is quite on the border of Gloucestershire, is a very pretty little market-town, and has one of the prettiest churches in the kingdom. It was, they say, built in the reign of Henry VII; and one is naturally surprised to see that its windows of beautiful stained glass had the luck to escape, not only the fangs of the ferocious "good Queen Bess"; not only the unsparing plundering minions of James I; but even the devastating ruffians of Cromwell.

We got in here about four o'clock, and at the house of Mr. Iles, where we slept, passed, amongst several friends, a very pleasant evening. This morning, Mr. Iles was so good as to ride with us as far as the house of another friend at Kempsford, which is the last Gloucestershire parish in our route. At this friend's, Mr. Arkall, we saw a fine dairy of about 60 or 80 cows, and a cheese loft with, perhaps, more than two thousand cheeses in it; at least there were many hundreds. This village contains what are said to be the remnants and ruins of a mansion of John of Gaunt. The church is very ancient and very capacious. What tales these churches do tell upon us! What fools, what lazy dogs, what presumptuous asses, what lying braggarts, they make us appear! No people here, "mon, teel the Scots cam to seevelise" us! Impudent, lying beggars! Their stinking "kelts " ought to be taken up, and the brazen and insolent vagabonds whipped back to their heaths and their rocks. Let them go and thrive by their "cash-credits," and let their paper-money poet, Walter Scott, immortalise their deeds. That conceited, dunderheaded fellow, George Chalmers, estimated the whole of the population of England and Wales at a few persons more than two millions , when England was just at the highest point of her power and glory, and when all these churches had long been built and were resounding with the voice of priests, who resided in their parishes, and who relieved all the poor out of their tithes! But this same Chalmers signed his solemn conviction that Vortigern and the other Ireland-manuscripts, which were written by a lad of sixteen, were written by Shakespeare.

In coming to Kempsford we got wet, and nearly to the skin. But our friends gave us coats to put on while ours were dried and while we ate our breakfast. In our way to this house, where we now are, Mr. Tucky's at Heydon, we called at Mr. James Crowdy's , at Highworth, where I was from the 4th to the 9th of September inclusive; but it looked rainy, and therefore we did not alight. We got wet again before we reached this place; but our journey being short, we soon got our clothes dry again.

Monday, October 2.

Yesterday was a really unfortunate day . The morning promised fair; but its promises were like those of Burdett! There was a little snivelling, wet, treacherous frost. We had to come through Swindon, and Mr. Tucky had the kindness to come with us, until we got three or four miles on this side (the Hungerford side) of that very neat and plain and solid and respectable market town. Swindon is in Wiltshire, and is in the real fat of the land, all being wheat, beans, cheese, or fat meat. In our way to Swindon Mr. Tucky's farm exhibited to me what I never saw before, four score oxen, all grazing upon one farm, and all nearly fat! They were some Devonshire and some Herefordshire. They were fatting on the grass only, and I should suppose that they are worth, or shortly will be, thirty pounds each. But the great pleasure with which the contemplation of this fine sight was naturally calculated to inspire me was more than counterbalanced by the thought that these fine oxen, this primest of human food, was, aye, every mouthful of it, destined to be devoured in the Wen, and that too, for the far greater part, by the Jews, loan-jobbers, tax-eaters, and their base and prostituted followers, dependants, purveyors, parasites and pimps, literary as well as other wretches, who, if suffered to live at all, ought to partake of nothing but the offal, and ought to come but one cut before the dogs and cats!

Mind you, there is in my opinion no land in England that surpasses this. There is, I suppose, as good in the three last counties that I have come through; but better than this is, I should think, impossible. There is a pasture-field, of about a hundred acres, close to Swindon, belonging to a Mr. Goddard, which, with its cattle and sheep, was a most beautiful sight. But everything is full of riches; and as fast as skill and care and industry can extract these riches from the land, the unseen grasp of taxation, loan-jobbing and monopolising takes them away, leaving the labourers not half a belly-full, compelling the farmer to pinch them or to be ruined himself, and making even the landowner little better than a steward, or bailiff, for the tax-eaters, Jews and jobbers!

Just before we got to Swindon, we crossed a canal at a place where there is a wharf and a coal-yard, and close by these a gentleman's house, with coach-house, stables, walled-in-garden, paddock orné , and the rest of those things, which, all together, make up a villa , surpassing the second and approaching towards the first class. Seeing a man in the coal-yard, I asked him to what gentleman the house belonged: "to the head un o' the canal," said he. And when, upon further inquiry of him, I found that it was the villa of the chief manager, I could not help congratulating the proprietors of this aquatic concern; for though I did not ask the name of the canal, I could readily suppose that the profits must be prodigious, when the residence of the manager would imply no disparagement of dignity if occupied by a Secretary of State for the Home, or even for the Foreign, department. I mean an English Secretary of State; for as to an American one, his salary would be wholly inadequate to a residence in a mansion like this.

From Swindon we came up into the down country ; and these downs rise higher even than the Cotswold. We left Marlborough away to our right, and came along the turnpike-road towards Hungerford, but with a view of leaving that town to our left, further on, and going away, through Ramsbury, towards the northernmost Hampshire hills, under which Burghclere (where we now are) lies. We passed some fine farms upon these downs, the houses and homesteads of which were near the road. My companion, though he had been to London and even to France, had never seen downs before; and it was amusing to me to witness his surprise at seeing the immense flocks of sheep which were now (ten o'clock) just going out from their several folds to the downs for the day, each having its shepherd, and each shepherd his dog. We passed the homestead of a farmer Woodman, with sixteen banging wheat-ricks in the rick-yard, two of which were old ones; and rick-yard, farm-yard, waste-yard, horse-paddock, and all round about, seemed to be swarming with fowls, ducks, and turkeys, and on the whole of them not one feather but what was white! Turning our eyes from this sight, we saw, just going out from the folds of this same farm, three separate and numerous flocks of sheep, one of which (the lamb -flock) we passed close by the side of. The shepherd told us that his flock consisted of thirteen score and five; but, apparently, he could not, if it had been to save his soul, tell us how many hundreds he had: and, if you reflect a little, you will find that his way of counting is much the easiest and best. This was a most beautiful flock of lambs; short legged, and in every respect, what they ought to be. George, though born and bred amongst sheep-farms, had never before seen sheep with dark-coloured faces and legs; but his surprise, at this sight, was not nearly so great as the surprise of both of us at seeing numerous and very large pieces (sometimes 50 acres together) of very good early turnips, swedish as well as white! All the three counties of Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester (except on the Cotswold) do not, I am convinced, contain as great a weight of turnip bulbs as we here saw in one single piece ; for here there are, for miles and miles, no hedges and no fences of any sort.

Doubtless they must have had rain here in the months of June and July; but as I once before observed (though I forget when) a chalk bottom does not suffer the surface to burn, however shallow the top soil may be. It seems to me to absorb and to retain the water, and to keep it ready to be drawn up by the heat of the sun. At any rate the fact is that the surface above it does not burn; for there never yet was a summer, not even this last, when the downs did not retain their greenness to a certain degree , while the rich pastures, and even the meadows (except actually watered) , were burnt so as to be as brown as the bare earth.

This is a most pleasing circumstance attending the down-countries; and there are no downs without a chalk bottom. Along here the country is rather too bare : here, until you come to Auborne, or Aldbourne, there are no meadows in the valleys, and no trees, even round the homesteads. This, therefore, is too naked to please me; but I love the downs so much that, if I had to choose, I would live even here, and especially I would farm here, rather than on the banks of the Wye in Herefordshire, in the vale of Gloucester, of Worcester, or of Evesham, or even in what the Kentish men call their "garden of Eden." I have now seen (for I have, years back, seen the vales of Taunton, Glastonbury, Honiton, Dorchester and Sherbourne) what are deemed the richest and most beautiful parts of England; and if called upon to name the spot which I deem the brightest and most beautiful and, of its extent, best of all, I should say the villages of North Bovant and Bishopstrow , between Heytesbury and Warminster in Wiltshire; for there is, as appertaining to rural objects, everything that I delight in. Smooth and verdant downs in hills and valleys of endless variety as to height and depth and shape; rich corn-land, unencumbered by fences; meadows in due proportion, and those watered at pleasure; and, lastly, the homesteads, and villages, sheltered in winter and shaded in summer by lofty and beautiful trees; to which may be added roads never dirty and a stream never dry.

When we came to Auborne, we got amongst trees again. This is a town and was, manifestly, once a large town. Its church is as big as three of that of Kensington. It has a market now, I believe; but I suppose it is, like many others, become merely nominal, the produce being nearly all carried to Hungerford, in order to be forwarded to the Jew-devils and the tax-eaters and monopolisers in the Wen, and in small Wens on the way. It is a decaying place ; and I dare say that it would be nearly depopulated in twenty years' time if this hellish jobbing system were to last so long.

A little after we came through Auborne, we turned off to our right to go through Ramsbury to Shallburn, where Tull, the father of the drill-husbandry, began and practised that husbandry at a farm called "Prosperous." Our object was to reach this place (Burghclere) to sleep, and to stay for a day or two; and as I knew Mr. Blandy of Prosperous, I determined upon this route, which, besides, took us out of the turnpike-road. We stopped at Ramsbury, to bait our horses. It is a large and, apparently, miserable village, or "town" as the people call it. It was in remote time a bishop's see . Its church is very large and very ancient. Parts of it were evidently built long and long before the Norman Conquest. Burdett owns a great many of the houses in the village (which contains nearly two thousand people), and will, if he live many years, own nearly the whole; for as his eulogist, William Friend, the actuary, told the public, in a pamphlet in 18 I7, he has resolved that his numerous life-holds shall run out , and that those who were life-holders under his aunt, from whom he got the estate, shall become rack-renters to him , or quit the occupations. Besides this, he is continually purchasing lands and houses round about and in this place. He has now let his house to a Mr. Acres; and, as the Morning Herald says, is safe landed at Bordeaux, with his family, for the winter! When here, he did not occupy a square inch of his land! He let it all, park and all; and only reserved "a right of road" from the highway to his door. "He had and has a right to do all this." A right ? Who denies that? But is this giving us a specimen of that "liberality and generosity and hospitality" of those "English country gentlemen" whose praises he so loudly sang last winter? His name is Francis Burdett Jones , which last name he was obliged to take by his aunt's will; and he actually used it for some time after the estate came to him! "Jones" was too common a name for him, I suppose! Sounded too much of the vulgar !

While our horses were baiting at Ramsbury it began to rain, and by the time that they had done it rained pretty hard, with every appearance of continuing to rain for the day; and it was now about eleven o'clock, we having 18 or 19 miles to go before we got to the intended end of our journey. Having, however, for several reasons, a very great desire to get to Burghclere that night, we set off in the rain; and as we carry no greatcoats, we were wet to the skin pretty soon. Immediately upon quitting Ramsbury, we crossed the river Kennet, and, mounting a highish hill, we looked back over friend Sir Glory's park, the sight of which brought into my mind the visit of Thimble and Cowhide, as described in the "intense comedy," and when I thought of the "baker's being starved to death," and of the "heavy fall of snow," I could not help bursting out a laughing, though it poured of rain and though I already felt the water on my skin.--MEM. To ask, when I get to London, what is become of the intense "Counsellor Bric"; and whether he have yet had the justice to put the K to the end of his name. I saw a lovely female shoy-hoy, engaged in keeping the rooks from a newly-sown wheat field on the Cotswold Hills, that would be a very suitable match for him; and as his manners appear to be mended; as he now praises to the skies those 40s. freeholders whom, in my hearing, he asserted to be "beneath brute beasts" ; as he does, in short, appear to be rather less offensive than he was, I should have no objection to promote the union; and, I am sure, the farmer would like it of all things; for if Miss Stuffed-o'-straw can, when single , keep the devourers at a distance, say, you know him, whether the sight of the husband's head would leave a rook in the country!

Turning from viewing the scene of Thimble and Cowhide's cruel disappointment, we pushed through coppices and across fields to a little village called Froxfield, which we found to be on the great Bath road. Here, crossing the road and also a run of water, we, under the guidance of a man who was good enough to go about a mile with us, and to whom we gave a shilling and the price of a pot of beer, mounted another hill, from which, after twisting about for awhile, I saw and recognised the out-buildings of Prosperous Farm, towards which we pushed on as fast as we could, in order to keep ourselves in motion so as to prevent our catching cold; for it rained, and incessantly, every step of the way. I had been at Prosperous before, so that I knew Mr. Blandy, the owner, and his family, who received us with great hospitality. They took care of our horses, gave us what we wanted in the eating and drinking way, and clothed us, shirts and all, while they dried all our clothes; for not only the things on our bodies were soaked, but those also which we carried in little thin leather rolls, fastened upon the saddles before us. Notwithstanding all that could be done in the way of despatch, it took more than three hours to get our clothes dry. At last, about three quarters of an hour before sunset, we got on our clothes again and set off: for, as an instance of real bad luck, it ceased to rain the moment we got to Mr. Blandy's. Including the numerous angles and windings, we had nine or ten miles yet to go; but I was so anxious to get to Burghclere, that, contrary to my practice as well as my principle, I determined to encounter the darkness for once, though in cross-country roads, presenting us, at every mile, with ways crossing each other; or forming a Y; or kindly giving us the choice of three, forming the upper part of a Y and a half. Add to this that we were in an enclosed country, the lanes very narrow, deep-worn, and banks and hedges high. There was no moon; but it was starlight, and as I could see the Hampshire hills all along to my right, and knew that I must not get above a mile or so from them, I had a guide that could not deceive me ; for as to asking the road, in a case like this it is of little use, unless you meet some one at every half mile: for the answer is, keep right on ; aye, but in ten minutes, perhaps, you come to a Y, or to a T, or to a +.

A fellow told me once, in my way from Chertsey to Guildford, "keep right on , you can't miss your way." I was in the perpendicular part of the T, and the top part was only a few yards from me. "Right on," said I, "what, over that bank into the wheat?" "No, no," said he, "I mean that road , to be sure," pointing to the road that went off to the left . In down countries the direction of shepherds and pig and bird boys is always in precisely the same words; namely, "right over the down," laying great stress upon the word right . "But," said I to a boy at the edge of the down at King's Worthy (near Winchester), who gave me this direction to Stoke Charity; "but what do you mean by right over the down?" "Why," said he, "right on to Stoke, to be sure, zur." "Aye," said I, "but how am I, who was never here before, to know what is right, my boy?" That posed him. It set him to thinking: and after a bit he proceeded to tell me that when I got up the hill I should see some trees; that I should go along by them; that I should then see a barn right before me; that I should go down to that barn; and that I should then see a waggon track that would lead me all down to Stoke. "Aye!" said I, "now indeed you are a real clever fellow." And I gave him a shilling, being part of my savings of the morning. Whoever tries it will find that the less they eat and drink , when travelling, the better they will be. I act accordingly. Many days I have no breakfast and no dinner. I went from Devizes to Highworth without breaking my fast, a distance, including my deviations , of more than thirty miles . I sometimes take, from a friend's house, a little bit of meat between two bits of bread, which I eat as I ride along; but whatever I save from this fasting work, I think I have a clear right to give away; and, accordingly, I generally put the amount, in copper, into my waistcoat pocket, and dispose of it during the day. I know well that I am the better for not stuffing and blowing myself out, and with the savings I make many and many a happy boy; and now and then I give a whole family a good meal with the cost of a breakfast, or a dinner, that would have done me mischief. I do not do this because I grudge innkeepers what they charge; for my surprise is how they can live without charging more than they do in general.

It was dark by the time that we got to a village called East Woodhay. Sunday evening is the time for courting in the country. It is not convenient to carry this on before faces, and at farm-houses and cottages there are no spare apartments; so that the pairs turn out and pitch up, to carry on their negotiations, by the side of stile or a gate. The evening was auspicious; it was pretty dark , the weather mild , and Old Michaelmas (when yearly services end) was fast approaching; and, accordingly, I do not recollect ever having seen so many negotiations going on within so short a distance. At West Woodhay my horse cast a shoe , and as the road was abominable flinty, we were compelled to go at a snail's pace: and I should have gone crazy with impatience had it not been for these ambassadors and ambassadresses of Cupid, to every pair of whom I said something or other. I began by asking the fellow my road ; and from the tone and manner of his answer I could tell pretty nearly what prospect he had of success, and knew what to say to draw something from him. I had some famous sport with them, saying to them more than I should have said by daylight, and a great deal less than I should have said if my horse had been in a condition to carry me away as swiftly as he did from Osmond Ricardo's terrific cross! "There!" exclaims Mrs. Scrip, the stock-jobber's young wife to her old hobbling wittol of a spouse, "You see, my love, that this mischievous man could not let even these poor peasants alone." "Peasants ! you dirty-necked devil, and where got you that word! You who, but a few years ago, came perhaps up from the country in a waggon; who made the bed you now sleep in; and who got the husband by helping him to get his wife out of the world, as some young parti-coloured blade is to get you and the old rogue's money by a similar process!"

We got to Burghclere about eight o'clock, after a very disagreeable day; but we found ample compensation in the house, and all within it, that we were now arrived at.

William Cobbett, Rural Rides (Letchworth: Temple Press, 1932)

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