Arthur Young's Travels in France During the Years 1787, 1788, 1789
Matilda Betham-Edwards, ed.
London: George Bell and Sons
ARTHUR YOUNG'S TRAVELS
DURING THE YEARS 1787, 1788, 1789
LONDON: GEORGE BELL AND SONS
PORTUGAL ST. LINCOLN'S INN, W.C.
CAMBRIDGE: DEIGHTON, BELL & CO.
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO.
BOMBAY: A. H. WHEELER & CO.
EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTION, BIOGRAPHICAL
TRAVELS IN FRANCE
DURING THE YEARS
1787, 1788, 1789
SKETCH AND NOTES, BY
OFFICIER DE L'INSTRUCTION PUBLIQUE DE FRANCE
AUTHOR OF "THE ROOF OF FRANCE"
GEORGE BELL AND SONS
"That wise and honest traveller."—JOHN MORLEY.
by Matilda Betham-Edwards
IT is with peculiar appropriateness that these famous travels are once more given to the world. Just a hundred years ago the Suffolk squire accomplished his last journey, under circumstances without parallel in history. He had quitted Paris towards the end of June, 1789, having come to the conclusion that, with the constitution of the National Assembly "the whole business now seemed over and the revolution complete." With true British coolness he pursued his agricultural inquiries, this time taking an easterly direction. On the ever memorable fourteenth of July we find him at Metz, leisurely as any modern tourist inspecting "what was worth viewing" in the city. A few days later, on reaching Strasburg, he learns the great news: The Bastille has fallen!
The whole kingdom is now in a blaze. He sees famished mobs clamouring for bread; he hears of seigneurs fleeing from burning châteaux; he is roughly compelled to don the tricolour; his liberty, even life, are menaced; yet the imperturbable Englishman goes on.
The wind carries his first cockade into the river; he purchases a second, taking care to have it securely fastened, and although naïvely confessing the discomforts of travel "in such an unquiet and fermenting moment," the thought of turning back does not occur to him.
Alone, unarmed, ignorant of the various patois—sole medium of intercourse in rural districts—our inquisitive and dauntless traveller visits one out-of-the-way region after another, apparently unconscious, whilst narrating these unique experiences, that his conduct was little short of heroic.
The fittest introduction to the centennial edition of such a work is surely a survey of France in the present day—not made in the Rotunda of the British Museum or by the library fireside, but after Arthur Young's own fashion—the fruit of investigations as laboriously and lovingly pursued as those of my great predecessor. I have now followed in his footsteps for upwards of fifteen years, visiting and revisiting various parts of the country described by him so graphically on the eve of the Revolution. Let us glance at the contrasted picture of France under the ancien régime and under the Third Republic.
His earliest journey takes him in a south-westerly direction, through the Orleannais and the Berri, where for the first time he meets with métayage—"a miserable system," he writes, "that perpetuates poverty and excludes instruction;" and he goes on to describe the fields as "scenes of pitiable management, and the houses, of misery."
Throughout the entire work we find métayage, or farming on half profits, condemned in the strongest terms, yet nothing has done more to improve the condition of the peasant and of husbandry within the last fifty years. Métayage, indeed, which is but another name for co-operative agriculture, forms the stepping-stone from the status of hired labourer to that of capitalist; and whilst the métayer raises himself in the social scale, extensive wastes are by his agency brought under cultivation. So popular is "la culture à mi-fruits," that, according to the census of 1872, 11,182,000 hectares were in the hands of métayers, and 9,360,000 in those of peasant owners. In 1880 a diminution is seen—18 per cent. of métayage to set against 21 per cent. of proprietorship. Some parts of France are far more favourable to agricultural partnerships than others. We find 27,484 métairies in the department of the Landes, 24,893 in the Dordogne, 11,632 in the Allier, 11,568 in the Gironde, whilst in the Haute Savoie and the Lozère they may be counted by the hundred, the last-named numbering 325 only. In most cases, be it remembered, the métayer owns a bit of land. Two conditions are necessary to success: in the first place, the fermier-général, or farm bailiff, must be dispensed with; in the second, a good understanding is necessary between the two contracting parties—the one supplying land, stock, and implements, the other, manual labour, all produce being equally shared. From fifty to a hundred and fifty acres is found to be the most favourable size of a métairie.
We will now consider the present state of things in the Berri, a region about which Arthur Young has nothing to say, except that the husbandry was poor and the people miserable. As all readers of Georges Sand know well, it is a land of heaths and wastes, but the extent of uncultivated tracts is being reduced year by year. So rapid is the progress that the great novelist herself would hardly recognize certain portions of the country she has described so inimitably. What, then, must be the changes wrought in a hundred years? The transformation is partly realized by inspecting a pre-Revolutionary hovel. Here and there may be seen one of these bare, windowless cabins, now used as an out-house, and, in juxtaposition, the neat, airy, solid dwellings the peasant owners have built for themselves.
Four years ago I was the guest of a country gentleman near Châteauroux, chef-lieu of the department of the Indre, formed from the ancient Berri. Formerly owner of an entire commune, my host had gradually reduced his estate by selling small parcels of land to his day-labourers. He informed me that, whilst partly actuated by philanthropic motives, he was commercially a gainer. The expense of cultivating such large occupations was very great, and he could not hope for anything like the returns of the small freeholder. We visited many of these newly-made farms, with their spick-and-span buildings, the whole having the appearance of a little settlement in the Far West. The holdings varied in extent from six to thirty acres, their owners being capitalists to the amount of from two or three hundred to a thousand pounds. In each case the purchaser had built himself a small but commodious dwelling, and suitable out-houses. The land was well stocked and cultivated, the people were neatly and appropriately dressed, and the signs of general contentment and well-being delightful to contemplate. We next visited a métairie of nearly four hundred acres, and here the farmstead was on a large scale; the métayer employed several labourers who were boarded in the house, as was formerly the custom in certain parts of England, besides two or three dairymaids.
Artificial manures and machinery had here come into use; and if the culture could hardly be described as high farming, the land was clean and very productive. The cordial relations of "bailleur" and "preneur," or owner and métayer, testified to the satisfactoriness of the arrangement.
Not to be outdone by their rustic neighbours, the artizans of the Berrichon capital have, with few exceptions, become free-holders also. Suburban Châteauroux has, indeed, been appropriated by this class: the brand-new cottages and semi-detached villas on the outskirts of the town representing the thrift of the mechanic—an instance of self-help and sobriety hardly equalled throughout France. The houses were not only built for, but by their owners, in spare moments—another fact illustrating the innate economy of the French working man.
In purely agricultural districts of the Indre, land has quadrupled in value within the last forty or fifty years; near the towns, of course, the rise has been much higher.
Poitou is described by Arthur Young as "an unimproved, poor, and ugly country. It seems to want communication, demand and activity of all kinds." The ancient province of Poitou comprises La Vendée; but if we turn to the three carefully drawn maps appended to the original edition of the French Travels, we find the very name, so conspicuous a few years later, omitted altogether. Such a blank need not astonish us. "Who had so much as heard of La Vendée before 1793?" asks a French historian of the Vendean war. "Was it a province, a river, a mountain? Was it in Anjou, Brittany, or Poitou?" Nobody knew, and, till the outbreak of the insurrection, nobody cared to inquire. Only one road traversed the entire country—that from Nantes to La Rochelle—and on the creation of a department, it was found absolutely necessary to build a town as chef-lieu, none of sufficient importance existing. Waste, brushwood, heath and morass, with here and there patches of rye and buckwheat, occupied the place of the fertile fields and rich pastures that now rejoice the eye of the traveller in Bas Poitou. The transformation of recent years is startling enough. On the occasion of my first visit to this province fifteen years ago, many towns of the Vendean plain and Bocage were only accessible by diligence; since that period, railways have intersected the country in all directions—even the out of-the-way little town of Fontenay-le-Comte, so precious to the archæologist, has its branch line, whilst schools, railway stations, and other buildings of public utility have risen in all directions. Niort, chef-lieu of the Deux Sèvres, part of the ancient Bocage, and scene of the most terrible guerilla warfare of the Blancs and the Bleus, now possesses a railway station worthy of a capital. It may be briefly described as a town of 22,000 and odd souls, without a beggar. No rags, dirt, or vagrancy meet the eye in these clean, wide, airy streets. The Vendean costume still prevails, and whilst all is primitive, rustic, and provincial, evidences are here of immense and rapid progress. The immediate entourage of the town is one vast fruit and vegetable garden, the property of peasant owners. Melons, tomatoes, and peaches ripen in the sun, purple grapes cluster yellow walls, and luxuriant vegetation on all sides testifies to a highly favoured climate and soil. The produce of these market gardens is renowned throughout France. Two hundred acres are given up to the culture of the onion only.
La Vendée is a region of large tenant farms, and one visited by me in the neighbourhood of Niort may be accepted as a fair sample of the rest. The occupation consisted of four hundred and fifty acres, let on lease precisely as in England. For sixty-five years it had been held by members of the same family—a fact speaking volumes for both owner and tenant. It had consisted in part of waste, let at a nominal rent to begin with, the sum being raised as the land increased in value. Mule-rearing for Spain is one of the chief resources of La Vendée, and we were shown upwards of forty young mules of great beauty, varying in value from £30 to £80. The entire stock of the farm numbered seventy head of mules, horses, cows, and oxen, sixty sheep, besides pigs and poultry. Vineyards cover a tract of 30,000 hectares in this department, but here, as in many other places, the phylloxera had wrought entire ruin, only the blackened stocks remaining. The tenant farmer I name, as is almost universally the case, owned a small portion of land. Very likely, had inquiry gone back a generation or two, we should have found métayage the beginning of this prosperous family, their stepping-stone from the condition of day-labourer to that of capitalist.
Much larger holdings than the one just described exist in this part of France, and if the traveller takes a south-westerly direction from Niort to the sea coast, he will see a succession of large walled-in farmsteads recalling the moated granges of the Isle of Wight, the size and extent of the buildings attesting the importance of the occupation.
Of Languedoc Arthur Young writes in a very different strain. The picture, indeed, drawn by him of peasant owners round about Sauve and Ganges, in the department of the Gard, may well bear comparison with the traveller's experiences to-day.
"An activity has been here," he writes, "that has swept away all difficulties before it, and has clothed the very rocks with verdure. It would be an insult to common sense to ask the cause. The enjoyment of property must have done it. Give a man the secure possession of a black rock and he will turn it into a garden."
Here it is necessary to put in a word of explanation. Our author sets down one-third of French territory as belonging to the peasant at the time he wrote. This is one of the few errors of a very exact writer. In reality only a fourth of the soil belonged to the people before the Revolution, their little holdings having been acquired by means of incredible laboriousness and privation. The origin and development of peasant property throughout France can only be touched upon here. We must go very far back, farther even than the enfranchisement of the serfs by Louis le Hutin, in order to trace the progressive transfer of land.
The Crusades, especially that of St. Bernard, brought about a veritable revolution in the matter of land tenure. The seigneurs, impoverished by all kinds of extravagance, then sold portions of property, not only to rich bourgeois and ecclesiastics, but to their own serfs, for the purpose of furnishing the necessary equipment. Many nobles thus succeeded in procuring ransom, forfeiting patrimony for their soul's good. The small owner by little and little contrived to better his position, and in the Etats Généraux of 1481, summoned by the great Anne of France, for the first time we find free peasants taking part in a legislative assembly. The Tiers Etat as a political body already existed.
In the words of a living authority lately quoted, peasant property, far from being a device invented all of a piece and carried by force of law, dates from a period long anterior to the Revolution. In some places the number of small parcels of land has hardly changed from early times. The sale of church lands had by no means the effects attributed to it. About one-third of these consisted of forest, which was added to the state, another third consisted of buildings and town property, the remaining third, consisting of land, was sold in the lots actually existing without being divided at all, and the purchasers were for the most part well-to-do bourgeois.
These observations have seemed appropriate, as much confusion still exists on the subject among ourselves. That peasant property is the direct creation of the Revolution appears to be the generally accepted theory in England. Had Arthur Young's travels been read here with the attention paid to them by our French neighbours, such an error would have been cleared up long ago.
The Gard, of which our traveller gives so glowing a description, is by no means one of the most favoured departments. The phylloxera and the silkworm pest have greatly affected the prosperity of both town and country, yet the stranger halting at Le Vigan, or making his way thence to Millau in the Aveyron, finds himself amid a condition of things usually regarded as Utopian—a cheerful, well-dressed, self-supporting population, vagrancy unknown, and a distribution of well-being perhaps without a parallel in any part of Europe. Again and again will occur to his mind the famous passage with which Virgil concludes his second Georgic, that beautiful picture of pastoral happiness, which if imaginary in old Roman days, is so often realized in the rural France of our own.
Next Arthur Young visits the Landes on his way to Bordeaux. Here extraordinary changes have taken place within the last twenty years; what then must be the transformation wrought during the course of a century? Plantations, the sinking of wells, drainage, and irrigation, are fast fixing the unstable sands, making fruitful the marsh, and creating a healthful climate and fertile soil. Early in the present century the land here was sold "au son de la voix;" in other words, the accepted standard of measurement was the compass of human lungs. The stretch of ground reached by a man's voice sold for a few francs. Crops are now replacing the scant herbage of the salt marsh, and the familiar characteristic of the landscape, the shepherd's stilts, are already almost a thing of the past. The échasse, or in patois, chanque, a word dating from the English occupation, and derived by some authorities from "shank," is naturally discarded as the morass is transformed into solid ground. Six hundred thousand hectares of Landes planted with sea-pines produce resin to the annual value of fifteen million francs.
This noble tree, the pinus maritima, is here achieving a climatic revolution similar to the changes effected by the febrifugal Eucalyptus in the once fever-stricken plains of Algeria. The cork-tree, or chêne-liège, has proved equally effective. Many arid tracts are now covered with magnificent forests of recent growth, not only affording a source of revenue, but transforming the aspect and climatic conditions of the country. Only an inconsiderable proportion of the Landes remains in its former state.
Arthur Young's second journey takes him through Brittany and Anjou. Here also advance has been so rapid within our own time that the traveller revisiting these provinces finds his notes of ten or fifteen years ago utterly at fault.
"Landes—landes—landes" (wastes, wastes, wastes), "a country possessing nothing but privilege and poverty," such is the verdict passed by the Suffolk squire on Brittany in 1788. The privileges were swept away with a stroke of the pen twelve months later; the poverty, though an evil not to be so summarily dealt with, has gradually given way to a happier state of things Of no French province can the economist now write more hopefully.
Were I to renew my acquaintance with the friendly tenant farmers of Nozay in the Loire Inférieure, described by me elsewhere, or the hospitable freeholders of Hennebont in the Morbihan, I should without doubt find many changes for the better. The sabots into which the bare feet of both master and men, mistress and maids, were thrust a few years ago, have been replaced by shoes and stockings. Wheaten bread and butcher's meat find their way to many a farmhouse table. Cookery has improved. Wages have risen. Dwellings are built on a more wholesome plan. Intellectual progress, whilst hardly keeping pace with the spread of material well-being, is yet satisfactory in the extreme. When interrogated by travellers of our own day in French, the Breton peasant would shake his head and pass on. Only the ebbing generation now remains ignorant of its mother tongue.
One curious omission must have struck most readers of the French travels. This quick and accurate observer who takes note of every object that meets his eye, who traverses the three historic highroads, diverging to the right and to the left in quest of information, never by any chance whatever mentions a village school. Had such schools existed we may be sure that he would have visited them, bequeathing us in a few graphic sentences an outline of their plan and working. The education of the people was a dead letter in France at the time he wrote. Here and there the curé or frères Ignorantins would get the children together and teach them to recite the catechism or spell a credo and paternoster. Writing, arithmetic, much less the teaching of French, were deemed unnecessary. The Convention during its short régime (1792-1796) decreed a comprehensive scheme of primary instruction, lay, gratuitous and obligatory, but the initiative was not followed up, and the first law on the subject carried into effect was that of 1833. How slowly matters advanced in Brittany may be gathered from an isolated fact. So late as 1872 two-thirds of the inhabitants of the Ille and Vilaine could neither read nor write. It remained for the Third Republic to remove this stigma, and within the last eighteen years schools have sprung up in all directions. The department just named numbered in 1884 between seven and eight hundred alone.
Agricultural progress has been more rapid. Rotation crops and four-course farming have long superseded the ruinous method of sowing the same crops, generally buckwheat or oats, for several years in succession, followed by an equally long period of fallow. Arthur Young's corner-stone of good farming, a fine piece of turnips, may now be seen here as at his native Bradfield. Artificial manures and machinery are used instead of the dried leaves and antiquated implements once in vogue. Upper Brittany has won for itself the name of the granary of western France, from its abundance of corn. The Breton breed of horses and cattle is second to none throughout the country. Between the years 1840 and 1880 upwards of 400,000 hectares of wastes have been brought under cultivation, and the process of clearing goes steadily on.
To many causes are due this transformation of a region so long stationary. Foremost stands the great agricultural college of Grand Jouan, near Nozay, in the Loire Inférieure, founded in 1830. Our Suffolk farmer sighed for such an institution, and predicted the advantages that would accrue generally from training schools of practical and theoretic agriculture. Such schools, alike on a large or modest scale, the latter called fermeécole, are now scattered all over France, Grand Jouan, precursor of the rest, still retaining pre-eminence. Its object is twofold: firstly, to form good farmers, gardeners, land-surveyors, and agricultural chemists; secondly, to develop the progress of agriculture by the introduction of the newest machinery and the most improved methods, by farming high, in fact, for the benefit of outsiders. The curriculum occupies two years and a half; day students, many of whom belong to the peasant class, are received at a cost of two hundred francs yearly.
"It is Grand Jouan that teaches us to farm," remarked a tenant farmer of the neighbourhood to the present writer in 1875, when showing, with no little pride, a field of turnips grown upon a layer of bone phosphate.
The spread of railways, the creation of roads and other facilities of communication, must be taken into account, also the great advantages enjoyed by Brittany in respect of climate. Magnolias and camellias flourish out of doors all the year round at Nantes, and arrived at St. Pol de Léon (Finistère) in November, the tourist finds the soft air and warm sunshine of the south. The fruit and vegetables of Roscoff and other equally favoured spots produce sums that would have appeared fabulous a few years ago, much more in Arthur Young's time. The strawberries of Plougastel alone bring an annual return of half a million francs. These market gardens, varying in extent from two or three to twenty-five hectares, are the property of peasant owners, but here as elsewhere a great variety of land tenure is found.
Métayage, whilst existing in the Côtes du Nord and the Loire Inférieure, is not regarded with much favour by the Breton. Tenant farming and ownership are more congenial to his somewhat uncompromising temperament. The domaine congéable, a contract dating from the twelfth century, and of universal acceptance fifty years ago, is now found only in Finistère and the Morbihan. Nothing could be simpler than this arrangement—the owner handing over his land in return for a small rent, the farmer becoming possessor of outbuildings, if erected at his expense, stock and crops, both parties being at liberty to separate under certain conditions, one of which was the reimbursement of outlay. It will easily be seen that such a system would work well whilst the land possessed little value and capital was scarce. Nevertheless, the domaine congéable is still to be found in what we may well call a land of survivals. Two of these unfortunately form a serious stumbling-block to progress, and seem likely to outlast the picturesque costumes, the old-world traditions, even the ancient speech of the French Bretagne. Beggary and intemperance, from time immemorial, have degraded a population characterized by many sterling qualities. So far back as 1536 we find severe edicts against drunkenness in Brittany, comprised in the celebrated judicial reforms of François I. and his legists. According to this Draconian code, for the first offence the punishment was a term of bread and water diet in prison; for the second, flogging; in case of incorrigibility, loss of ears and banishment.
Orphanages, industrial schools, benefit societies, and other philanthropic measures are combating the first evil. The second, it is to be hoped, will disappear with the gradual spread of education and material well-being.
Great is the change that awaits the traveller in sunny, light-hearted, dance-loving Anjou. The Breton peasant, taciturn, reserved, yet hospitable, will set before his guest the best his larder affords—cyder, rye-bread baked weeks before, hard cheese, curds and whey; in Anjou the housewife brings out a white loaf, fresh butter and jam, wine, even liqueur. A lady tourist unaccompanied may safely entrust herself to a Breton driver. Throughout the long day's journey across solitary regions he will never once open his lips unless interrogated. But the English visitor in an Angevin country-house is soon regarded as a friend by all the neighbours. Many and many a time, the labours in the field over, the merry supper taken out of doors ended, have I been invited to join the peasant folk in the joyous round. Accompanied only by the sound of their own voices, and needing no other stimulus, for ball-room a stretch of sward, for illumination the stars, young and old forget the long day's toil and the cares of life in these innocent Bacchanalia. Ofttimes the dance would be prolonged till near midnight, the presence of a stranger apparently adding zest to the festivity; but no matter how hilarious the mirth, how open-hearted the sense of fellowship, no unseemly jest, no indecorous word, jars our ears.
"Maine and Anjou," writes our traveller, "have the appearance of deserts," and he goes on to note one feature of the country which even in our own time is apt to convey an idea of poverty. Throughout the department of the Maine and Loire, formed from the ancient Anjou, may still be seen those cave-dwellings or Troglodyte villages which astonished Arthur Young a century ago, ready-made habitations hollowed out of the tufa or yellow calcareous rock abounding in the department. Sometimes in our walks and drives we have the backs of the houses towards us, and see only their tall chimneys rising from behind the hedges. Elsewhere we come upon a vast cave, in shape like an amphitheatre, containing half-a-dozen cottages or human burrows, crops and fruit-trees flourishing overhead. But already in 1875 the darkest and most comfortless subterranean chambers had been abandoned, and on revisiting the country fourteen years later, I found neat, new dwellings everywhere springing up, the homes of peasant farmers built by themselves. In the commune of St. Georges des Sept Voies I visited several new houses constructed at a cost varying from £80 to £250, in every case most of the work being achieved by the owner. One well-to-do peasant was building for himself an eight-roomed house, or what in England would even be called a villa, with flower-garden in front, parlour, kitchen, and offices on the ground flour, above, four airy bedrooms.
In the Maine and Loire the land is much divided, very few farms consist of a hundred hectares, by far the larger proportion of three or four only, or closeries. Yet between the years 1833 and 1870 the value of land showed a rise of 50 per cent., and since that period progress has been far more rapid. The creation of roads and railways, the use of artificial manures and machinery, the cross-breeding of stock, had in 1862 given the Maine and Loire the fourth rank among French departments, whilst in 1880 it stood first as a corn-producing country. Wine, corn, and fruit are largely exported, and the slate quarries of Angers, the linen manufactories of Cholet, employ thousands of hands, and bring in vast revenues, the latter in 1869 reaching the total of fifteen million francs.
The desert that saddened Arthur Young's eyes may now be described as a land of Goshen, overflowing with milk and honey. The peasant wastes nothing and spends little; he possesses stores of home-spun linen, home-made remedies, oil, vinegar, honey, cyder, wine of his own producing. So splendid the climate, so rich the soil, that the poorest eats asparagus, green peas, and strawberries every day when in season, and, as everyone owns crops, nobody pilfers his neighbour. The absolute security of unguarded possessions is one advantage of peasant property, the absence of pauperism, another. Each commune charges itself with the maintenance of its sick or aged poor, provided no members of their own family are able to undertake the duty. The hatefulness of dependence and the strong inducements to thrift held out by secure possession of the land, render these public burdens comparatively light. As a rule only intemperance or an accumulation of misfortunes reduce the French peasant to accept alms.
The third journey covers an enormous area, and takes our traveller into regions widely divergent both in respect of scenery, population, and resources. He begins with Champagne, traverses Alsace-Lorraine, as the forfeited departments of the Upper and Lower Rhine are now called, makes his way through the Jura, Burgundy, the Bourbonnais, Auvergne, obtains a glimpse of the Rhône valley, visits the Papal state of Avignon and the Comté de Nice, familiar in these days as the Riviera, at the time he wrote, an appanage of Savoy.
It is curious that, although fully recognizing the existence of peasant owners and, as has been seen, rendering ample justice to their thrift and laboriousness, he never seems to have inspected any of the tiny holdings passed on the road. Probably the poor people, humiliated by want and all kinds of wretchedness, would have resented such an intrusion, feeling, in Scriptural phrase, "Verily to see the poverty of the land art thou come." In our own day nothing flatters the flourishing farming folk of the Seine and Marne more than the visit of an inquiring stranger. They are never too busy to be courteous, and the curious in agriculture need not hesitate to put a string of questions. What a contrast is presented by that recorded conversation with a peasant woman of Mars-la-Tour (Meurthe and Moselle) and chance acquaintance made with a housewife of eastern France at the present time!
Arthur Young describes his interlocutor as miserably clad, bent with toil, and although youthful, wearing a look of age, whilst the story she poured out, was one of hopeless struggle and unmitigated hardship. The farmeress of the rich cheese-making country of Brie en Champagne still works hard, drives to market with her eggs and butter, and even upon occasions lends a hand in the harvest field. But on Sundays and holidays her neat cotton dress is exchanged for a fashionable toilette; her children receive a liberal education; when her daughters marry, they have a dowry of several thousand pounds. With beaming satisfaction and genuine hospitality she welcomes an English visitor, offering new milk or cordials, delighted to show her household stores of linen, her dairy and poultry yard. Upon one occasion, after a long ramble amid the cornfields and vineyards near Couilly (Seine and Marne), I entered the shop of a village baker, and asked for a roll. The mistress very kindly invited me into her back parlour, brought out excellent bread, Brie cheese, the pleasant wine of the country, refusing payment. Hospitable instincts are fostered by prevailing ease and well-being. The little towns of this department all possess public baths, personal cleanliness is a noteworthy feature, and beggary is nil. Here, however, we have under consideration one of the wealthiest agricultural populations of France—the sale of cheese alone at the Meaux market reaches the sum of six or seven million francs yearly. Fruit and vegetables are largely exported, the village curé, as well as his parishioners, adding to income by the sale of pears and greengages. "You have come only just in time, ladies," said the vicaire of one of these villages to myself and friends, bent on making a purchase, during the summer of 1878; "almost all my greengages are ordered for the English market. Ah! those English, those English, they monopolize everything: our best fruit, and the island of Cyprus."
The rich red rose, erroneously called Provence rose, was in reality introduced here by the Crusaders, but no longer forms an article of commerce. Provins, ancient capital of La Brie, from which the rose derived its name, is as picturesque a town as any in the country.
The popularity enjoyed by Arthur Young on the other side of La Manche need not astonish us. Yet one passage of these Travels can but raise painful reflection in every conscientious and patriotic mind. Nothing can be more painful to ardent sympathizers with France and French character than a sojourn in Alsace-Lorraine. The sorrowful, indeed agonized clinging of born Alsatians to the mother-country, once witnessed, can never be forgotten. But who is able to read the following passage by an English traveller in the Rhine provinces just a hundred years ago, without some change of feeling?—
"In Saverne," writes Arthur Young in 1789, "I found myself to all appearances in Germany. Looking at a map of France and reading histories of Louis XIV. never threw his conquest or seizure of Alsace into the light which travelling into it did; to cross a great range of mountains; to enter a level plain inhabited by a people totally distinct and different from that of France, with manners, language, ideas, prejudices and habits all different, made an impression of the injustice and ambition of such a conduct much more forcible than ever reading had done; so much more powerful are things than words." Now-a-days, if you question a blue-eyed, fair-haired, square-built peasant girl of Alsace-Lorraine as to her origin, she will glance round shyly to assure herself that there are no unfriendly listeners, and proudly reply in the tongue of her primitive ancestors, recently the conquerors of the fatherland, "Ich bin Französisch geboren" (I am French by birth). When spending an autumn in Alsace-Lorraine five years ago, I found Mulhouse still a French town in every respect but name. "Nous sommes plus Français que les Français" (we are more French than the French themselves) was the universal sentiment of rich and poor expressed without reserve in English hearing. A system of repression only to be compared to the Russian rule in Poland, and wholesale immigration of born Prussians, is gradually forcing a hated nationality upon this population so susceptible and so warm-hearted, uniting the graces of the French character with the sturdy qualities of the Teuton.
Thrice unhappy Alsace! In the position of a beautiful and richly-dowered orphan—alike the darling and the prey of one jealous foster-parent after another—the ill-fated country seems doomed to perpetual disenchantment and betrayal; her affections no sooner firmly implanted than they are torn up by the bleeding roots.
Of Franche-Comté not much is seen, the traveller's plans being disarranged by local disturbances. He does, however, pass through the departments of the Doubs and the Jura, formed from the ancient domain of Mary of Burgundy. Here, again, we who know every inch of the road are struck by what at first appears an unaccountable omission. No reference is made to the numerous village industries which now characterize the country, not only from the economist's point of view, but also adding peculiar features to the landscape. In the remotest valley of the Jura, breaking the solitude of pine forests, mingling their din with the roar of mountain torrents, is now heard the sound of mill-wheels and steam hammers, tall factory chimneys not a little detracting from scenery inimitably described by Ruskin. Whilst the majority of the inhabitants lead a pastoral life, and cheese-making is carried on everywhere, hardly a hamlet but possesses its special manufactory or handicraft. Turnery and wood-carving at St. Claude, gem polishing at Septmoncel and Oyonnax, clock and spectacle making at Morez, employ thousands of hands; whilst among exports of lesser importance figure wadding, gum, clock cases, bottles, and baskets. Many of these trades are pursued by the craftsman at home and on his own account. Hours alike both pleasant and profitable have I spent in these cottage ateliers, chatting with my hosts as they worked, the clean little room opening on to a tiny garden, the baby and the kitten sporting in the sun.
The wood-carvers are veritable artists, and their elegantly carved pipe-stems find their way to the remotest corners of the earth.
Diamond polishing and turnery were carried on in the Jura several centuries ago. For the most part, however, village industries, as well as village schools, were ignored by Arthur Young, because they did not exist. When, in 1789, he passed within a few miles of the marvellously placed little cathedral city of St. Claude, the all-puissant count-bishop, inheritor of the rich abbey and its seigneurial dependencies, had only just been compelled to enfranchise his forty thousand serfs. These bond-servants of a Christian prelate, whose cause the so-called atheist Voltaire had pleaded magnanimously in vain, were up to that time mainmortable—that is to say, if childless, they had no power to bequeath their property, which accrued to the seigneur.
The country was not without resources, but its revenues did not enrich the tiller of the soil. From early times the white wines of the Jura were celebrated throughout France. "I have some wine of Arbois in my cellar," wrote the gay Gascon, Henry IV., to the Duke de Mayenne on their reconciliation, "and I send you two bottles which I think you will not dislike."
The pretty little town of Arbois is worth visiting, not only for the sake of tasting its matchless wine, but also for its scenery—the valley of the Cuisance is indeed a corner of Eden. The soil is poor and the land minutely subdivided in the Jura, yet the condition of the peasant is now one of comparative ease and entire independence. Both morally and intellectually these mountaineers rank high among the rural population of France. An excellent notion of the mental capacities of the small land-owners may be obtained by attending a sitting of the Juge de Paix. The skill and readiness with which they state their cause and act the part of their own advocate are remarkable. For the most part the quarrels among neighbours arise from contested boundaries; the judge, after patiently hearing both sides of the question, settles matters for once and for all by visiting the spot, and in person fixing the landmarks.
The villages of the Doubs, especially Ornans, home of the painter Courbet, so picturesquely placed, are also active centres of industry: kirsch, fabricated from cherries of local renown, absinthe, tiles, nails, wire, are largely manufactured, to say nothing of the Gruyère cheese, the staple product of Franche Comté. The Revolution in a few years metamorphosed entire regions. From this period dates the famous watch-making commerce of Besançon. Introduced by the Convention in 1793, it is now carried on so extensively that out of every hundred watches manufactured in France, eighty-six come from the chef-lieu of the Doubs. In 1880 the number of hands thus employed reached a total of 46,000. The Bisontin watchmaker often works on his own account; and here, as at Châteauroux in the Indre, is witnessed a striking example of thrift among the artizan class. Many of these working watchmakers contrive by dint of extreme laboriousness and economy to purchase a vineyard or garden in the suburbs. They build a summer-house, or even châlet, and with wives and children there spend Sundays and holidays amid their fruit and flowers.
From Franche Comté our traveller reaches Burgundy and the Bourbonnais. In the neighbourhood of Autun (Saône and Loire) he tells us that he looked for fat farmers, and found only starving métayers. The department is neither pre-eminent in the matter of agriculture nor of social advance, yet it is a sight now-a-days to see "the fat farmers" at the September fair of Autun. From early morning they pour into the town, some in gigs or hooded carriages, with wife and children, others on foot, and the greater number driving their cattle—the splendid white oxen known as the Morvan breed. These peasant farmers wear under the blue blouse shining broad cloth, and betake themselves at midday to the first hotel in the place, there to enjoy the table d'hôte breakfast; but no sooner is business over, without losing a moment, untempted by fireworks and other entertainments, all set off homewards. Such experiences enable us to understand the stability and solid wealth of the French farmer. He is not above work, and does not disdain the uniform of labour.
The same strict attention to daily concerns is seen on the occasion of a general election. Just before attending one of these cattle fairs of Autun I happened to be staying at St. Honoré-les-Bains, in the adjoining department of the Nièvre, when an election took place. The peasant farmers, although the day was Sunday, performed their electoral duties with the utmost despatch, and returned to their homes.
Much of the scenery of this part of France has an English look. We see fields set round with lofty hedges, winding lanes, sweeps of gorse and heather, alternately recalling Devonshire and Sussex. Here are found tenant farms, large properties cultivated by their owners, small holdings parcelled out among the peasants and métairies.
It was inevitable that a traveller in Arthur Young's time should miss many objects of striking interest on the way. The first itineraries of France seem to have been inspired by the Englishman's example—I allude to the voluminous works of Millin and Vaysse de Villiers published in the early part of the present century; the departmental system had not as yet created a French map, or, in the strict acceptance of the word, French geography. Archæology was a dead letter, and very little interest was felt, even by educated people, in the scenery or curiosities of their native land. Thus he halted at Auray, and there was no one to point out the great stone avenues of Carnac and the dolmens of Locmariaker; he passed through Alsace, ignoring the famous shrine and grandiose site of St. Odille, extolled by Goethe in his poetic reminiscences. Arrived at Autun, he was within easy reach of Avallon, so nobly towering over the beautiful valley of the Cousin, and of the abbey church of Vézélay, unique in splendour and of unique renown. Here, too, he was on the threshold of the little Celtic kingdom of the Morvan, where village communism, as existing among patriarchal tribes, remained in force till our own day, and where the stalwart husbandman still throws over his shoulder the Gallic sagum, or short cloak, worn by the contemporaries of Vercingetorix. The last village commune was broken up in 1848. The inhabitants of this most picturesque, but unproductive, country depend largely on industrial earnings, many migrating to Paris and other towns, and there pursuing various trades during part of the year. The curious "flottage à bûches perdues," or floating of loose logs, a speciality of the Morvan, gives work to thousands of men, women, and children at certain seasons.
A wretched village occupied the site of the world-famous iron-foundries of Le Creusot, when Arthur Young journeyed from Autun to Nevers in 1789. These works, now covering a superficies of three hundred acres, and employing ten thousand hands, have developed into a town almost tripling the respective populations of the above-mentioned towns, chefs-lieux of the Saône and Loire and the Nièvre.
From "the mild, healthy, and pleasant plains of the Bourbonnais," he passed into Auvergne, obtaining a glimpse of "the rich Limagne," of which Mr. Barham Zincke has given us an exhaustive account. The Velay is rapidly traversed, and the château of Polignac visited, already deserted by its owners, the thankless protégés of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette. From its ruined battlements and prison towers, the tourist now beholds a heart-quickening scene of rural ease and smiling fertility; far and wide the beautifully cultivated plain, with its varied crops, not one inch of land wasted, the whole forming a brilliant patchwork of green fields and yellow corn, whilst dotted here and there are neat little homesteads and pasturing flocks and herds.
From Le Puy, chef-lieu of the Haute-Loire, in spite of wretched inns and troublous times, Montélimar on the Rhône is reached, at that time belonging to Dauphiné, in our own, cheflieu of the Drôme. Here he describes "mountains covered with chestnuts and various articles of cultivation, which in districts not waste or volcanic, are waste, or in a great measure useless." Until the ravages of the phylloxera, the choicer vineyards of the Drôme sold at the rate of 60,000 francs the hectare; but the manufactures of Crest and Romans now constitute the chief wealth of this department.
Next he visits Avignon and the country of Venaissin, described as "one of the richest districts in the kingdom," and followed by a picture of Vaucluse no traveller has as yet surpassed. It was not till two years later, be it remembered, that the Papal state of Avignon and the little Comté Venaissin were incorporated into French territory at the request of the inhabitants, forming, with the principality of Orange and a portion of Provence, the department of Vaucluse. The supersession of madder by chemical dyes, and the phylloxera have of late years greatly diminished the revenues of this wealthy region, which, if visited in summer, almost persuades the stranger that he is in the East. Nothing can be more Oriental than the veteran figtrees, the peach orchards, the olive groves, all veiled with finest white dust beneath a burning blue sky.
Here may be said to end Arthur Young's survey of France on the eve of the Revolution, an enterprise altogether original, and carried out under extraordinary circumstances. We need not feel astonishment at the great popularity enjoyed by his work on the other side of the Channel. Whilst many fairly educated English folk have never so much as heard the author's name, it is familiar to every schoolboy in France. The Suffolk squire's scathing summing-up of the ancien régime, "Whenever you stumble upon a grand seigneur, even one that is worth millions, you are sure to find his property desert," is cited in the elementary histories for public schools approved by the minister of education. Whilst, moreover, English students have been hitherto compelled to resort to the British Museum or wait long and patiently for an expensive copy of these Travels to turn up at a secondhand bookseller's, unabridged edition after edition has appeared in Paris.
Arthur Young did not hesitate to tell his French readers some blunt home-truths, apparently taken in excellent temper; his journal must be described, for all that, as one long, graceful acknowledgment of courtesies and hospitalities, recorded in an age when anything like international friendship was rare indeed.
The book has greater claims upon French sympathy. In spite of certain reservations, it is a vindication of peasant property and the Revolution, the two cardinal points of French belief. From the first page to the last, he sets down the abject wretchedness of the people and the stagnant condition of trade and commerce to bad government. But another adage of our "wise and honest traveller," his famous axiom, "The magic of property turns sands to gold," equally with improved administration, must account for the contrasted picture that now meets our view. By the light of after-events he was led to modify his ideas concerning the establishment of a democracy in France. But he had already given his experiences to the world; he could not undo the effect of his published work, and the observations summed up in his final chapter, to quote a great living critic, were "a luminous criticism of the most important side of the Revolution, worth a hundred times more than Burke, Paine, and Macintosh all put together. Young afterwards became panic-stricken, but his book remained. There the writer enumerates without trope or invective the intolerable burdens under which the great mass of the French people had for long years been groaning. It was the removal of those burdens that made the very heart's core of the Revolution, and gave to France that new life which so soon astonished and terrified Europe."
Into Arthur Young's services to agriculture we have no space to enter here. They have been briefly indicated by the brilliant, but all too rapid, historian of the English people. "The numerous enclosure bills," writes Mr. Green, "which began with the reign of George the Second, and especially marked that of his successor, changed the whole face of the country. Ten thousand square miles of untilled land have been added, under their operation, to the area of cultivation, while in the tilled land itself the production had been more than doubled by the advance of agriculture, which began with the travels and treatises of Mr. Arthur Young."
His claims are not only those of a foremost agriculturist, an indefatigable promoter of the arts of peace, a citizen of the world in the widest acceptation of the name. He had pondered long and deeply on those social and political problems that occupy thinkers of our own day. Eminently practical, he yet indulged from time to time in the loftiest idealism. "Why may not the time come," he writes in an early work, "when the whole world shall be in a state of knowledge, elegance, and peace?" Scattered throughout his writings we find, side by side with a statesmanlike grasp of facts, veritable flashes of inspiration, a deep philosophical insight into the possibilities of human progress.
Notes for this chapter
See, for full information, the contribution of M. H. Baudrillart of the Institut to the "Revue des Deux Mondes," 1st Oct., 1885, "Le Métayage en France et son avenir."
See H. Martin's "Histoire de France," vol. iii., p. 268, et seq., "Les Serfs transformés en roturiers," and vol. vii., p. 190, "Etats Généraux."
M. H. Baudrillart, "Contemporary Review," May, 1886.
See E. Réclus, "Géographie de la France."
See M. H. Baudrillart, "Revue des Deux Mondes," 15th Oct. and 15th Nov., 1884.
During the year spent by the present writer in Western France (1875-6), the following announcement often met the eye at Nantes: "Ecrivain publique, 10 centimes par lettre." Women servants who could read, much less write, were then an exception. The free night-schools opened by the municipal council rendered infinite service before the passing of the great educational act of 1886. At the School Board election, Hastings, 1889, many voters could neither read nor write!
Nevertheless, in the space of five or six years the Revolution had quadrupled the resources of civilization and enormously developed material progress throughout the country.—Mignet, vol. ii., p. 179.
"Congéable. Tenure à domaine congéable, tenure avec faculté pour le bailleur de congédier à volonté le preneur, en lui remboursant son amélioration."—Littré.
See H. Martin, vol. viii., p. 273.
See "Mémoires de la Société Industrielle de Maine et Loire," also E. Réclus, "Géographie de la France."
I have heard of one rich farmer's daughter of this district receiving a million of francs, £40,000, as her marriage portion.
This lunetterie resolves itself into a scientific study of noses!—a long-nosed nation requiring one kind of spectacles, a short-nosed people an other, and so on. A pair of spectacles can be made here for three half-pence.
Twenty thousand copies were printed by order of the Convention, and distributed gratuitously in every commune. "Ce que," dit le Ministre de l'Intérieur, Garat, "contribua rapidement et sensiblement à métamorphoser les cailloux des collines en vignes fécondes, et les plaines abandonnées à la tourte en gros pâturages."—Garat, Mémoires, sur la Révolution, Paris, 1794.
"Burke," by John Morley ("English Men of Letters"), p. 162.
In one of his private note-books Arthur Young writes that the manuscript of the French Travels went through a most careful process of excision before being submitted to the printer. He adds, "I am strongly of opinion that if nine-tenths of other writers would do the same thing, their performance would be so much the better, for one reads very few quartos that would not be improved by reducing to octavo."
Another interesting fact recorded is the item of expenditure. The first journey, lasting just upon six months, cost £118 15s. 2d. The second journey, of eighty-eight days, cost just £61, or at the rate of fourteen shillings a day, about the sum an economical traveller would spend in France at the present time, obtaining naturally much more comfort for his money.
Readers of Arthur Young will do well to consult the reports of the Administration of Agriculture in France, 1785-7, recently published with notes by MM. Pigeonneau and De Foville, whilst the work of the latter on the subdivision of land, "Le Morcellement," Paris, 1885, is a mine of information conveyed in a most interesting manner.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH, by Matilda Betham-Edwards.
End of Notes
My warm thanks are due to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Young, grandson and granddaughter-in-law of the great agriculturist, without whose kind assistance the following memoir could not have been written. The materials were placed at my disposal whilst enjoying the hospitality of Bradfield Hall, the modern mansion occupying the site of Arthur Young's old home.
I also beg to express my indebtedness to M. Paul Joanne, and other obliging correspondents, French and English.
by Matilda Betham-Edwards
ARTHUR YOUNG was born Sept. 11, 1741, at Whitehall, but this accident of birthplace does not deprive Suffolk of a distinguished son. His home from the first, as it remained throughout the greater part of his life, was Bradfield Hall, of Bradfield-Combust, near Bury St. Edmunds, a property held by the Young family since 1620. He was the youngest son of the Reverend Dr. Arthur Young, Prebendary of Canterbury Cathedral, chaplain to Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons, and rector of Bradfield, and of Lucretia, born, de Coussmaker, a lady of Dutch extraction, whose family accompanied William III. to England. Mr. Speaker Onslow and the Bishop of Bristol stood sponsors for the boy, appropriate inauguration of a life destined to be spent in the best company. From his father, an extremely handsome man six feet in stature, and the author of a learned work commended by Voltaire, he inherited good looks, a striking presence, and literary facility; from his mother, an inordinate craving for knowledge, and conversational powers of a high order. He describes her as very amiable and cheerful, fond of conversation, for which she had a talent, and a great reader on a variety of subjects. She brought her husband a very large dowry, and no inconsiderable portion of this handsome jointure seems to have been swallowed up in the speculations of her son, one of the greatest agriculturists and least successful practical farmers who ever lived.
We can easily understand Arthur Young's love of rural life and keen appreciation of scenery, after a visit to Bradfield, reached from Mark's Tey on the Great Eastern Railway. It is a sweet spot, in the near neighbourhood of much of the beautiful country with which Gainsborough has familiarized us. Alighting at the quiet little station of Whelnetham, we follow a winding road overhung with lofty elms, that leads to the village; or in summer, knee-deep in wild flowers and waving grasses, we may take a traverse through the meadows, their lofty hedges a tangle of eglantine and honeysuckle, on every side stretches of rich pasture, cornfields, and woods. The place has a very old-world look; here and there, between the trees, peeps a whitewashed cottage, with overhanging thatched roof, or a farmhouse of equally rustic appearance, very little modernization having taken place in these regions.
The Suffolk farmer, as Arthur Young modestly calls himself, was in reality a country squire. His old home has been replaced by a Gothic mansion, but nothing can be more squirarchal than the well-wooded park, ornamental water with its swans, Queen Anne's garden and stately avenues, leading to church and lodge, which remain as they were in his own time. Opposite the gates of Bradfield Hall stands the village ale-house, no quainter, more antiquated hostelry in rural England. Between park and village, consisting of church, rectory-house, and a dozen cottages, lies the broad, elm-bordered road leading to the railway station. This is the old London coach road followed by our traveller when setting forth on his French travels a hundred years ago, enterprises regarded by his family mad as those of Don Quixote himself.
Entrancing as were these adventuresome journeys, we can fancy with what pleasure he hailed the first glimpse of Bradfield on returning home safe and sound from one expedition after another.
As happens with so many men of genius, Arthur Young owed little to schools or schoolmasters. He was first sent to the grammar school at Lavenham—that exquisitely clean, picturesque village, with its noble cathedral—no other name befits the church—lying between Sudbury and Whelnetham.
"I was sent to this school," he writes, "in order to learn the Latin and Greek languages, with the addition of receiving instruction in writing and arithmetic, taught by a man who attended every day for that purpose; but whether from my being a favourite of his, or having my attention too much affected by frequent visits to Bradfield, I afterwards found myself so ill-grounded in those languages, that for some time before leaving school I found it necessary to give much attention to recover lost time. My mother soon bought me a little white pony, which was sent every Saturday to bring me home, and though the plan was that of returning every Monday morning, yet the weather or some other circumstance would often occasion delays, not a little injurious. The latter part of the time I had a pointer and a gun, and went out with the master. I had also a room to myself and a neat collection of books, and I remember beginning to write a history of England, thinking that I could make a good one out of several others. How early began my literary follies! I seemed to have a natural propensity to writing books." Pretty well this for a boy of nine or ten! All readers of the "Travels in France" will remember Arthur Young's love of music and the drama. His diary shows at what an early age those tastes were fostered. In his thirteenth year, he tells us, he is taken to London, sees Garrick in tragedy, and hears the Messiah. Another characteristic, equally familiar to us, is his deep admiration of personal beauty, and his delight in the society of graceful, attractive women. This, too, we find a feature of his somewhat precocious boyhood.
"What commanded more of my attention," he writes, "was a branch of learning very different from Greek: it was the lessons I received from a dancing-master, who came over once a week from Colchester to teach the boys, and also some young ladies. Two of these in succession made terrible havoc with my heart. The first was a Miss Betsey Harrington, a Lavenham grocer's daughter, who was admitted by all who saw her to be truly beautiful."
On quitting Lavenham, his destiny remained for a moment undecided. His father wished him to be sent to Eton, and thence to one of the Universities. His mother opposed the scheme, and he was apprenticed, with a premium of £600, to a mercantile firm at Lynn. He wrote of this resolve in a strain of regret those who come after him cannot share. Had paternal influence prevailed, he tells us, his life might have been very different. Originality is nowhere more refreshing than in the Church. It is pleasant to fancy Arthur Young a bishop. But what other pen would have given us that inimitable picture of rural France on the eve of the great Revolution? Who else would have fought so valiantly the cause of the farmer at home?
"Every circumstance," he tells us, "attending this new situation was most detestable to my feelings, till I effected an improvement by hiring a lodging, surrounding myself with books, and becoming acquainted with a Miss Robertson, the daughter of the elder partner. She was of a pleasing figure, with fine black, expressive eyes; danced well, and performed on the harpsichord, as she received instructions from Mr. Burney (Dr. Burney, the author of 'The History of Music'), then a person in the highest estimation for his powers of conversation and agreeable manners." In these interesting reminiscences he speaks of the great foppery prevailing in dress—a weakness from which he was not himself exempt, as the vivacious Fanny Burney will tell us by-and-by. His extraordinary—we are almost tempted to say abnormal—energy becomes apparent in these early days. The future author of a history of agriculture in ten folio volumes was already busy with the pen, writing pamphlets "On the Theatre of the Present War in America," and kindred topics, for each of which he received the value of ten pounds in books—an arrangement between publisher and literary aspirant that might, perhaps, be judiciously followed in these days.
In 1759, being just twenty, he left Lynn, "without education, pursuits, profession, or employment," he writes despondingly. His father died during the same year. Somewhat later, whilst at Bristol recruiting from illness, his skill in chess-playing attracted the attention of a military authority, who offered him a commission in a cavalry regiment. If we could ill have spared Arthur Young for the Church, still more should we have begrudged him to the army. Again his mother interfered, and posterity owes her a debt of gratitude. Instead of exchanging bullets and sabre thrusts with his French neighbours, Arthur Young was now destined to the more pacific international give-and-take of roots and seeds. He became from that time a farmer.
"I was absolutely destitute of all means of advancement in any path of life that promised an independent support. So situated, I could hardly fail of following the maternal advice, to try what farming could do. I rented a small farm of my mother's, and farmed from 1763 to 1766. Having taken a second farm that was in the hands of a tenant, I gained some knowledge, but not much; and the painful effect was to convince me that, to understand the business in any perfection, it was necessary to continue my exertions for many years. And the circumstance, perhaps, of all others in my life which I most deeply regretted, and considered as a sin of the blackest dye, was my publishing the result of my experiences during these four years, which, speaking as a farmer, was nothing but ignorance, folly, presumption, and rascality. The only use which resulted from these years was to enable me to view the farms of other men with an eye of more discrimination than I could possibly have done without that practice. It was also the occasion of my going on the Southern Tour in 1767, the Northern Tour in 1768, and the Eastern in 1770, extending through much the greater part of the kingdom; and the execution of these tours was considered by all who read them (and they were very generally read) to be of most singular utility to the general agriculture of the kingdom."
It will not escape observation that these jottings of old age, interesting at they are, err on the side of redundancy and epexegesis. We wholly miss the vivacity, terseness, and vigour of the French Travels.
At twenty-four he married Miss Martha Allen, of Lynn, sister to Fanny Burney's stepmother. The marriage brought him an enviable connection—troops of friends, a passport into brilliant circles, but no fireside happiness. The lady was evidently of a captious disposition, shrewish temper, and narrow sympathies. "I wonder how he could ever marry her!" wrote the quick-sighted author of "Evelina." On the other hand, a generous woman might, perhaps, have had some ground for jealousy. A few years later Arthur Young became famous. Courted by the great, a conspicuous figure in society, handsome, witty, versatile, he certainly found a London salon more to his taste than a dull farmhouse—a day's outing with the Burneys more congenial than heavy land-farming in wet weather.
"Last night," writes Fanny, in the gossipy, ecstatic, invaluable journal of girlhood, "while Hetty, Susey, and myself were at tea, that lively, charming, spirited Mr. Young entered the room. Oh, how glad we were to see him! He was in extremely good spirits." Later she adds: "Well, but now for our Greenwich party. Talking of happiness, sensibility, and a total want of feeling, my mamma said, turning to me, 'Here's a girl will never be happy, never whilst she lives, for she possesses, perhaps, as feeling a heart as ever girl had.' Some time after, when we were near the end of our journey, 'And so,' said Mr. Young, 'my friend Fanny possesses a very feeling heart?' He harped on this some little time, till at last he said he would call me feeling Fanny; it was characteristic, he said, and a good deal more nonsense, that put me out of all patience, which same virtue I have not yet sufficiently recovered to recount any more of our conversation, charming as it was."
In the meantime he was making one disastrous attempt at practical farming after another, like a desperate gamester doubling the stakes with every loss. For a year or two after his marriage he remained at Bradfield, farming a copyhold of twenty acres, his sole fortune, and eighty more, the property of his mother.
This experiment proving a failure, he next hired an occupation of three times the size in Essex, which he was glad to be rid of in five years' time, paying a premium of £100 to the incoming tenant. His successor, a practical farmer, made a good deal of money out of the concern, probably as much as Arthur Young had lost by it, so hampering to worldly success is the possession of original ideas!
One of his farms he describes as "a devouring wolf," an epithet that need not surprise us when we consider that he made 3,000 experiments on his Suffolk holding alone.
The superstitious might see in the pertinacity with which Mrs. Young encouraged her son's ventures some preternatural foreshadowing of his career. Again and again she advertised for a farm for him, and nothing better offering itself, he hired some land in Hertfordshire, which ere long he anathematized as a "hungry vitriolic gravel, a Nabob's fortune would sink in the attempt to raise good, arable crops to any extent in such a country."
One of the most curious incidents in a career that detractors might well call Quixotic, is the origin of the famous English Tours. Will it be believed that just as Cervantes' half-mad hero set out in search of chivalrous adventure, and Dr. Syntax in search of the picturesque, this thrice-ruined farmer determined to explore the entire country till he could find land that would pay? Whenever he put pen to paper he was successful. Whenever he turned to experimental farming he almost ruined himself. These narratives of home travel from an agricultural point of view were a novelty, and also supplied an actual want. Not only did he give a succinct picture of farming as carried on at that time in various parts of England, but much information valuable to the general reader. The three works were largely sold, yet the author grew poorer and poorer.
In 1770 Fanny Burney gives a vivacious, jaunty picture of her uncle, as she used to call him. She describes him as most absurdly dressed for a common visit, being in light blue, embroidered with silver, having a bag and sword, and walking in the rain. "He was grown all airs and affectation," she adds, "yet I believe this was put on, for what purpose I cannot tell, unless it were to let us see what a power of transformation he possessed."
A year later we have a very different account. "Mr. and Mrs. Young have been in town for a few days," scribbled the girl-diarist. "They are in a situation that quite afflicts me. Mr. Young, whose study and dependence is agriculture, has half undone himself by experiments. His writings upon this subject have been amazingly well received by the public, and in his tours through England he has been caressed and assisted almost universally. Indeed, his conversation and appearance must ever secure him welcome and admiration. But, of late, some of his facts have been disputed, and though I believe it to be only by envious and malignant people, yet reports of that kind are fatal to an author, whose sole credit must subsist on his veracity. In short, by slow but sure degrees, his fame has been sported with and his fortune destroyed....His children, happily, have their mother's jointure settled upon them. He has some thoughts of going abroad, but his wife is averse to it." A few weeks later she adds, "Mr. Young is not well, and appears almost overcome with the horrors of his situation; in fact, he is almost destitute. This is a dreadful trial for him, yet I am persuaded he will still find some means of extricating himself from his distresses, at least if genius, spirit, and enterprise can avail."
His own diary for this year contains the following entry: "The same unremitting industry, the same anxiety, the same vain hopes, the same perpetual disappointment, no happiness, nor anything like it." He had indeed reached one of the acutest crises of his much-tried life; ruin stared him in the face.
But three months after that last sorrowful mention of her favourite, Fanny Burney once more strikes a cheerful note. Mr. Young had dined with her sister and herself, she wrote. Fortune, she hoped, smiled on him again, for he again smiled on the world. The originator of three thousand unsuccessful experiments was hardly the man to lose faith in himself. If occasional fits of dejection overtook him, he was ready an hour after to enter upon a history of agriculture throughout all ages and in all countries, make gigantic schemes in the interest of English husbandry, or to hire four thousand acres of Yorkshire moorland with the intention of turning the wilderness into a garden. His powers of work, of hoping against hope, of throwing heart and soul into new interests and undertakings, were phenomenal.
Of the year 1773 he writes: "Labour and sorrow, folly and infatuation: here began a new career of industry, new hopes, and never-failing disappointment." And once more the careless, yet inimitable pen of Fanny Burney gives us, in a few lines, the catastrophe that had wellnigh shipwrecked his life: "I have had lately a very long and very strange conversation with Mr. Young. We happened to be alone in the parlour, and either from confidence in my prudence, or from an entire and unaccountable carelessness of consequences, he told me that he was the most miserable fellow breathing, and almost directly said that his connexions made him so, and most vehemently added that if he was to begin the world again, no earthly thing should prevail with him to marry! That now he was never easy but when he was in a plow-cart, but that happy he could never be. I am very sorry for him, but cannot wonder."
In June, 1776, after a passage of twenty-four hours, he landed in Ireland. His stay did not extend over three years, and during a part of the time he was occupied in managing Lord Kingsbury's estate in County Cork. The result, nevertheless, was a survey of the country, and an inquiry into the condition of the people, which for accuracy, fulness of detail, and acuteness of observation, render it invaluable to this day. "Arthur Young's Tour in Ireland," wrote Lord Lonsdale to Croker in 1849, "has given me the idea that his views of Ireland were nearer the truth than any other work."
An accession of fame does not always mean an increase of fortune, and the future was as hard a problem to the popular author, now in the prime of life and the fulness of powers, as to the ambitious stripling of twenty. On his return from Ireland he wrote, "I arrived at Bradfield on the first of January, and had then full time to reflect upon what should be the pursuit of my life, and upon what plan I could devise for that fresh establishment of myself which should at the same time prevent any relapse into those odious dependencies and uncertainties which from 1771 to 1778 had been the perpetual torment of my life. Whilst I was hesitating what plan to follow, an emigration to America crossed my mind, and much occupied my thoughts." This project was prevented by his mother's advanced years, and instead he took up leases on her estate, gradually increasing his occupation to four hundred acres. Henceforth his home was Bradfield, of which a few years later he became owner.
"My father," he tells us, "inherited Bradfield from his father Bartholomew Young, Esq., called Captain from a command in the militia, and it is remarkable that with only a part of the present estate he lived genteelly, and drove a coach and four on a property which would in the present time only maintain the establishment of a wheelbarrow."
Four children had been born to him, two daughters and a son, and after an interval of thirteen years, his youngest and best-beloved child, the little girl familiar to readers of the French Travels. Whilst he appears to have been an affectionate and conscientious father, all the passionate depth and tenderness of his nature were lavished on this latest born, his "darling child," his "lovely Bobbin." Her name was Martha, but her bright, quick ways, rosy complexion, and dark, vivacious eyes, had won for her the pet name of Robin, afterwards changed to Bobbin, and these mentions of Bobbin in private diaries, little notes written to her from France, and letters to others concerning her welfare, show his character in a new and touching light. This exquisite child—for the adoring praise of her father is amply substantiated by others—was the supreme joy and consolation of a life often steeped in uncommon bitterness, and when she died, there went forth a wail from an utterly desolated heart, that moves us to tears after the long lapse of years. This awful shadow is as yet far off. The existence of his darling corresponded to the most brilliant years of Arthur Young's career.
Glancing at the entries made between 1780 and 1787, that is to say, between the Irish and French journeys, we find many a stirring episode, and much evidence of indefatigable, even colossal labours, undertaken in a hopeful spirit. Some of these memoranda are passing humorous: he tells us, for instance, how whilst at Petworth, on a visit to Lord Egremont, he went into a bath at four o'clock a.m., the thermometer standing below zero, and on coming out walked straight into a shrubbery, and rubbed himself in the snow to see the effect of cold upon the body. It had none, he complacently adds, except that of increasing strength and activity. From another note we learn that he had been busy on stanzas to a lady.
The year 1783 opens with the project of the "Annals of Agriculture," which he calls, as well he might do, one of the greatest speculations of his life. Literary contributions were invited from all sides, and the work was launched under royal patronage. Arthur Young not only acted as editor, but wrote voluminously for its pages. The "Annals" consist of forty-five quarto volumes, and although much of the information therein contained has been superseded, they form, in the words of a competent authority, "a noble addition to any library. It is here, as a statesman, that Arthur Young stands pre-eminent. On questions of home or international trade, on commerce, or prices, on monopolies, on religious bigotry, on class arrogance and insolence, on endowed charities, on the poor laws, on the law of settlement, on taxation direct and indirect, on bounties and drawbacks, he knew as much as Cobden, and has written as wisely. That which his great contemporary Adam Smith reasoned out, Arthur Young seems to have reached with electric despatch by instinct."
The "Annals" made a noise in the world; even Dr. Burney wrote enthusiastically about them. Would he were ten years younger, he said, he would take Arthur Young's white house and as much land as he could spare, and enter himself as his scholar. From far and near came testimonies equally flattering, and from remote quarters of Europe, flocked disciples and pupils to sit at the feet of the modern Varro. Among those who found their way to Bradfield were three young Russians, sent by the Empress Catherine to study farming under his care. He gives an amusing account of their examination. One of the three was so much awed that he resolutely refused to open his lips, for which offence, adds the narrator, I sincerely hope he was not sent to Siberia. Later came the nephew of the Polish ambassador, "a heavy, dull man, with a Tartar countenance; his intention was to learn agriculture, but he made poor progress." The Duke de Liancourt, that amiable champion of the Revolution, the President of the Dijon Parliament—and other distinguished personages familiar to readers of the French Travels—also visited Bradfield.
In the midst of these multifarious and engrossing occupations the scheme of an agricultural survey of France was gradually taking shape in his mind. Whilst contributing largely to the "Annals," making a variety of experiments with the aid of Priestley, holding what may be called a professorial chair in his own home, he was full of new projects.
In 1784 he had crossed to Calais with his son Arthur, "just to say that he had been in France." In 1787 his friends, the Duke de Liancourt and Lazonski, invited him to join them in a Pyrenean tour, and the invitation was accepted.
"This was touching a string tremulous to vibrate," he writes; "I had long wished for an opportunity to examine France. My darling child, my lovely Bobbin, I left in perfect health, the rest of my family well and provided for in every respect as they had themselves chalked out, the 'Annals' lodged in the hand of a man on whose friendship and abilities I could entirely confide." In spite of vehement remonstrances and agonized entreaties, he set out. "I implore you to give up this mad scheme. Think of your wife and children," his brother had written, and much more in the same strain, working himself up into a veritable frenzy of panic. An expedition to Patagonia, or a journey round the world, could hardly have inspired this timid counsellor with livelier terrors. He certainly never expected to see the foolhardy traveler again.
Arthur Young's mother had died two years before, and the event is thus noted in his journal: "My ever dear and venerated mother died. Happy, happy spirit." During her lifetime, as we have seen, he shrank from the notion of quitting England.
It is a curious and interesting fact that these French journeys exactly realized a plan of travel laid down in an early work. If we turn to the last chapter of that well-written and characteristic little book, "The Farmer's Letters to the People of England" (second edition, 1768), we shall find his own agricultural survey of France anticipated in every point. The nobility and men of large fortune travel, he writes, but no farmers; unfortunately those who have this peculiar and distinguishing advantage, the noble opportunity of benefitting themselves and their country, seldom inquire or even think about agriculture. Then follows the sketch of a farmer's tour in routes laid down for his imaginary traveller, being precisely those he was himself to follow a decade later. French Flanders must be visited, Lorraine and the adjoining provinces, Champagne and Burgundy. Then the tour of Franche Comté and of the Lyonnais should be made; next that of Normandy, Brittany, Orleannais, and Anjou. All the noble improvements of the Marquis de Turbilly in that province ought to be viewed with the most attentive eyes. From Anjou the traveller should journey through Guienne and Languedoc; next examine Provence—then enter Dauphiné, Gascony, and examine the heaths of Bordeaux; thence make his way to Spain, and travel towards Galicia.
To few of us is granted in middle age such entire fulfilment of the worthiest aspirations of youth. Little, perhaps, did the writer foresee that he was himself to be "that wise and honest traveller," who should describe rural France on the eve of the Revolution, not only for his own countrymen and his own epoch, but for all Europe and generations to come. We are gratified to find him at Turbilly, warmly received by its noble owner, and inspecting his farm, as he begged to be allowed to do, with the oldest surviving labourer of the late marquis.
He had left no anxieties behind him when setting out for France, but his heart is ever with his adored child. The fond letters he wrote to her in his large, clear, enviable handwriting have all been preserved. From Moulins, August 7, 1787, he writes, Bobbin being then four years old: "I think it high time to inquire how you do, pass your time, how the Mag (magpie) does, and the four kittens. I hope you have taken care of them, and remembered your papa wants cats. Do the flowers grow in your garden? Are you a better gardener than you used to be? The Marquis de Guerchy's little girls have a little house on a little hill, and on one side a little flower garden, on the other side a little kitchen garden, which they manage themselves and keep very clean from weeds. Bobbin would much like to see it." From Bagnères de Luchon he writes to his eldest daughter: "Do not forget to let me know how Bobbin does. God send her well and free from accidents. I hope she does not go alone near hedges for fear of snakes." From Limoges he sends many kisses to his dear little Bobbin, and her sister Mary is to say that he will be sure to bring her a French doll.
We must pass briefly over these rich, happy, dazzling years. The French Travels obtained all the éclat of a brilliant invention, which indeed, in a literary sense, they may be described. No one had done the same thing before, and now it was done to perfection. The author's name was soon in everybody's mouth. He received invitations to half-a-dozen courts. All the learned societies of Europe and America enrolled him as a member. His work was translated into a score of languages, and princes, statesmen, political economists, wits—not only of his own nationality, but from various parts of the world—paid a visit to Bradfield. Among his correspondents and guests were Washington, Pitt, Burke, Wilberforce, La Fayette, Priestley, Jeremy Bentham, that eccentric yet admirable philanthropist, Berchtold, and the Due de Liancourt. Never, perhaps, had been seen in Suffolk such distinguished international gatherings.
The Burneys were, of course, frequent visitors at the pleasant country house described in "Camilla." Occasionally the too hospitable host—for although now owner of the maternal estate, Arthur Young was far from rich—would give a fête champêtre. At an early hour the guests arrived. The fishponds in the park were dragged, and after a long animated morning spent by both sexes out of doors, the party sat down to a four o'clock dinner, degustating the fish just caught.
Travelling on the continent was now out of the question, but the home journeys were continued. We find mention of an eleven days' tour in Yorkshire, made at a cost of £17 3s. He also visited Norfolk, Bedfordshire, and Essex. Meantime the pen was as busy as ever. In the year 1792 the editor contributed twenty-five papers to the "Annals" on various subjects: Mr. Pitt's speech; the abolition of the slave trade; turnips in Germany; a Spanish merino ram, inter alia.
The merino ram was a present from the king, and is thus commented upon in the journal: "This year (1791) His Majesty had the goodness to present me with a present of a Spanish ram. The world is full of those who consider military glory as the proper object of the ambition of monarchs, who measure regal merit by the millions that are slaughtered, by the public robbery and plunder that are dignified by the title of dignity and conquest, and who look down on every exertion of peace and tranquillity as unbecoming those who aim at the epithet great, and unworthy the aim of men that are born for masters of the globe. My ideas are cast in a very different mould, and I believe the period is advancing with accelerated pace that shall exhibit character in a light totally new, and shall rather brand than exalt the virtues hitherto admired, that shall pay more homage to the prince who gave a ram to a farmer than for wielding the sceptre."
It is hardly necessary to remind the reader that these reminiscences belong to old age. No one could write more agreeable English than the Suffolk squire in his prime.
A ram and a secretaryship of £600 a year! Such were the ultimate rewards of a man of splendid talents, one who had rendered signal services to his country! Seldom, indeed, is the irony running through human fortunes so forcibly brought home to us, the lesson of the poet's words, so humiliatingly borne out—
"Alas! the gratitude of men,
Has of'tner left me mourning."
In 1793 the Board of Agriculture was established by Act of Parliament. Here Arthur Young saw the realization of a darling scheme, and as secretary he was certainly the right man in the right place. Yet he felt doubtful of nomination, and even laid a wager of books with his friend, Sir John Sinclair, a set of the "Annals" against the "Statistical History of Scotland," that some one else would be chosen for the post. He lost his wager, and thus wrote of his appointment: "What a change in the destinies of a man's life! Instead of entering the solitary lord of 4,000 acres (in allusion to his former purchase of Yorkshire moorland) in the keen atmosphere of lofty rock and mountain torrent, with a little creation rising gradually around me, making the black wilderness smile with cultivation and grouse give way to industrious population, active, energetic, though remote and tranquil, and every instant of my existence making two blades of grass grow where one was found before, behold me at a desk in the smoke, the fog, the din of Whitehall."
"It is well to be reminded," writes an author before quoted, Mr. Pell, "that a distinguished man like Arthur Young was satisfied to hold in old age an appointment with a salary of £600 a year, finding herein a haven of rest after all his troubles and labours." In this new capacity he showed all his phenomenal powers of work. The business of the new board was carried on with the utmost assiduity. Whilst directing several clerks and organizing schemes innumerable, he found time for literary undertakings that would have appalled the soul of any but Varro himself. It is odd that these two great authorities on agriculture, removed from each other by twelve centuries, should be among the most voluminous writers on record. Arthur Young had already begun his history of agriculture, the opus magnum, the crowning achievement of his life, destined as he hoped to be his legacy to the nation. Alas! like many another bequest of its kind, it occupies a spare cupboard into which the light of day never enters. The encyclopædia was eventually finished, and consisted of ten folio volumes of manuscript; some years after his death, a relation and devoted disciple got through the formidable task of reducing the ten massive tomes to six. We hardly know which to admire most, the industry of author or compiler. Were a third enthusiast to take the matter in hand, and pare down the abridgment by yet a sixth, we should doubtless have a compendium of husbandry adapted to every library, and perhaps the only work of the kind ever produced by a single pen.
Meantime honours and distinctions continued to pour in. The Empress Catherine sent him a magnificent gold snuff-box, with two rich ermine cloaks for his wife and eldest daughter. From her representative at Moscow came a second snuff-box, set with diamonds, and inscribed with the words in Russian, "From a pupil to his master." The Society of Arts adjudged him the honorary gold medal. The Salford Agricultural Society offered a special medal, on which was engraved, "for his services to his country."
And Fanny Burney paid him her prettiest compliments, which very likely he valued far more than gold snuff-boxes or medals. In a letter preserved at Bradfield occurs the following:—"P.S. Will Honeycomb says, if you would know anything of a lady's meaning, (always provided she has any) when she writes to you, look at the postscript. Now, pray, dear Sir, how came you ever to imagine what you are pleased to blazon to the world with all the confidence of self-belief that you think farming the only thing worth manly attention? You who, if taste, rather than circumstances, had been your guide, might have found wreaths and flowers almost any way you had turned, as fragrant as those of Ceres."
The enforced residence in London had many attractions. He dined out, he tells us, from twenty-five to thirty times in one month, and had received during the same period, "forty invitations from people of the highest rank and consequence." He mentions the fact of having had two interviews with the king, and what interests us in a far greater degree, a dinner in company of Hannah More. I was very eager, he writes, in listening to every word that fell from her lips, though not nearly so much so as I should have been many years after; an allusion explained by the last pages of this memoir. In 1796 he visited Burke, and this entry is too interesting to be passed by. The pair had corresponded on agriculture and had met before. Burke was naturally delighted with Arthur Young's recantation, "The Example of France." He had not seen, he wrote, anything in this controversy which stood better bottomed. It was a "most able, useful, and reasonable pamphlet." "I reached Mr. Burke's before breakfast," writes Young, "and had every reason to be pleased with my reception. 'Why, Mr. Young,' said Burke, 'it is many years since I saw you, and to the best of my recollection you have not suffered the smallest change. You look as young as you did sixteen years ago. You must be very strong. You have no belly. Your form shows lightness. You have an elastic mind.' I wish I could have returned anything like the compliment, but I was shocked to see him so broken, so low, and with such expressions of melancholy. I almost thought that I had come to see the greatest genius of the age in vain. The conversation was remarkably desultory, a broken mixture of agricultural observations, French madness, price of provisions, the death of his son, the absurdity of regulating labour, the mischief of our poor laws, the difficulty of our cottagers keeping cows, an argumentative discussion of any opinion seemed to distress him, and I therefore avoided it. Speaking on public affairs he said: 'I never read a newspaper, but if anything happens to occur which they think will interest me, I am told of it.' I observed there was strength of mind in the resolution. 'Oh, no,' he replied; 'it is mere weakness of mind.' It was evident that he would not publish on the subject that had brought me to Gregory's (here Arthur Young alludes to a project mooted in parliament for regulating the price of labour), but he declared himself absolutely inimical to any regulation whatever by law, that all such interference was not only unnecessary but mischievous. He observed that the supposed scarcity was extremely ill understood, and that the consumption of the people was clear proof of it. This in his neighbourhood was not lessened, as he had learned by a very careful examination of many bakers, butchers, and excisemen, nor had the poor been distressed further than what resulted immediately from that improvidence which was occasioned by the poor laws. After breakfast he took me a sauntering walk for five hours over his farm, and to a cottage where a scrap of land had been stolen from the waste. I was glad to find his farm in good order, and doubly so to hear that it was his only amusement except the attention he paid to a school for sixty children of noble French emigrants.
"Mrs. Crewe arrived just before dinner, and though she exerted herself with that brilliance of imagination which renders her conversation so interesting, it was not sufficient to raise the drooping spirits of Mr. Burke....Yet he tried once or twice to rally, and once even to pun. Mrs. Crewe observing that Thelwel was to stand for Norwich, observed that it would be horrid for Mr. Wyndham to be turned out by such a man. 'Aye,' Mr. Burke replied, 'that would not tell well.' She laughed at him in the style of condemning a bad pun. Somebody said it was a fair one. Burke said, 'It was neither very bad nor very good.' My visit on the whole," adds Arthur Young, "was interesting. I am glad once more to have seen and conversed with the man who I hold to possess the greatest and most brilliant parts of any person of the age he lived in. But to behold so great a genius so depressed with melancholy, stooping with infirmity of body, feeling the anguish of a lacerated mind, and sinking into the grave under accumulated misery—to see all this in a character I venerate, and apparently without resource or comfort, wounded every feeling of my soul, and I left him next day almost as low-spirited as himself."
The clouds were already gathering about his own horizon. A year later, and he too was a grief-stricken, desolated, prematurely aged man.
His second daughter Elizabeth, married to a son of Hoole, the translator of Ariosto, had died of consumption in 1794. Signs of the same terrible disease now began to show themselves in his bright, his adored Bobbin. In the midst of his engrossing occupations we find him constantly thinking of her, writing long letters, fulfilling her childish commissions. Bobbin has expressed a wish for a workbox, and he bestows as much attention on the purchase as if he were in treaty for 4,000 acres of moorland. He had looked at a good many, he wrote, but could find none under twenty-five shillings, or at still higher prices; he hears, however, that good ones are to be had at a lower figure, and will continue his researches. He shows the most painful eagerness about her health. She is to tell him every particular as to appetite, sleep, pulse, thirst. One of these letters ends thus: "I cannot read half your mother's letter, but enough to see that she is very angry with me for I know not what." He sends strict orders concerning her. Miss Patty is to ride out in the chaise or on double horse when Bonnet (a bailiff) is not obliged to be absent from the farm. If he is at market, when the days are long and Miss Patty rises early, she can have a ride before breakfast. Bonnet is to pay Miss Patty a shilling a week. In another note he reasons with the little patient on the childishness of demurring at medicines. She is ordered steel, and only takes it under protest. He urges her by the love she bears her father to follow out the doctor's orders in every particular. Change of air was tried, but the precious life could not be saved. She died about twelve months after his visit to Burke. "On Friday morning, June 19, at twelve minutes past one," he writes, "my dear, angelic child breathed her last." In a note below follows a later entry, "Here was my call to God. Oh! may it prove effective."
He never recovered from the blow. In his overpowering grief he could not bear to part with the mortal remains of his darling. When, at last, he consented to interment, the coffin was placed under the family pew, her heart lying where he knelt in prayer. He wept himself blind; the terrible calamity that now gradually overtook him being indeed imputed to excess of weeping.
Sorrow mastered, unmanned a nature singularly hopeful and elastic. He became a prey to morbid introspection, to the gloomiest views of human life. He fell at last into the mood that incites men to write or read such works as "Baxter's Saints' Rest," or in our own day, to join the Salvation Army. The blindness came on by slow degrees, and for some time he remained at his post.
"In London, I am alone and therefore at peace," he writes significantly in 1798. "I rise at four or five, and go to bed at nine or ten. I go to no amusements, and read some Scripture every day. I never lay aside my good books but for business."
He still continues to see old friends, however, and his former interest in public affairs does not wholly desert him. During the same year he visits Pitt several times at Holwood, and throws heart and soul into new enterprises. The loss of his child has awakened pity for suffering childhood. In one month alone we find seven dinners given to about forty-eight poor children each time. Another entry is to this effect: "Dinner to fifteen poor children, eleven shillings, another dinner, do., do., another to thirty-seven poor children, sixteen shillings and sixpence," and so on, and so on. Perhaps the following note may have something to do with these charities. "1798. Sold copyright of my travels for 280 guineas." What travels these were he does not say.
The business of the Board was still carried on as laboriously as before, but in 1808 he writes that his sight is so indifferent he is afraid of writing at all, and further on, "My eyes grow worse and worse. For me to read a letter of two sheets and a half would be a vain attempt. I pick out as much as they will let me."
Three years later he was operated upon for cataract, and from a curious and interesting letter written by his wife, we learn the cause, or supposed cause, of failure. All seemed going on well with the somewhat intractable patient, and the oculists held out good hope of recovery on one condition. He must remain calm. Weeping would be fatal. Wilberforce paid him a visit as he sat bandaged in a dark room. The visitor had been cautioned on no account whatever to agitate him, but either underrating his friend's susceptibility or his own, he began in his soft gentle voice, "The Duke of Grafton is dead," and went on to speak of the duke's death so touchingly that the other burst into tears. The mischief was done past recall. The last twelve years of life were spent by Arthur Young in total blindness. They were busier for all that than those of many men in the meridian. He was now chiefly at Bradfield, where the indefatigable veteran severely taxed the energies of his comparatively youthful associates. Besides his secretary, M. de St. Croix, he often enjoyed the friendly services of a granddaughter of Dr. Burney's, Miss Francis by name, a lady who, like Mezzofanti, was "a monster of languages, a Briareus of parts of speech, a walking polyglot." It was a definite understanding that this linguistic knowledge—to what special uses it was put we are not informed—should be kept up. Every day Miss Francis enjoyed an hour or more for the purpose of reading a little Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and so on. In a letter to her brother, Mary Young, the only surviving daughter, amusingly describes one of these long, well-filled days. When at Bradfield, she tells us, Miss Francis slept over the servant's hall with a packthread round her wrist, this packthread passing through the keyhole communicated with Arthur Young's room, and when he wanted to awake her, which was generally between four or five o'clock in the morning, he pulled it, on which she immediately rose. The pair would then sally forth for a two hours' walk on the turnpike road, stopping at some farmhouse to take milk, and afterwards distributing religious tracts at the cottages by the way, Miss Francis questioning the people upon their principles, reading to them, and catechizing the children. "At half-past eight they return," writes Miss Young, "as that is the hour M. St. Croix gets up, who finds it quite enough to read and write for two hours and a half before breakfast. After breakfast the three adjourn to the library till one, when Mr. St. Croix takes his walk for an hour, Miss Francis and my father read, write, or walk till three o'clock. He puts children to school at Bradfield, Cockfield, and Stanningfield, and every Sunday they meet and are catechized. Every Sunday night a hundred meet, when Mr. St. Croix reads a sermon and chapter, and my father explains for an hour, after which a prayer dismisses them. Last Sunday they (Arthur Young and the linguist) went to church at Acton. Every Sunday they go to Acton or Ampton, each church ten miles out and ten home, besides teaching the schools and the meeting in the hall." She adds, "My father has taken out a license for the hall (i.e. Bradfield), as there is an assembly of people which would have been liable to information." This letter bears date May 13, 1814.
The Sunday evening services made a deep impression on the country folks. The villagers of Bradfield and the neighbourhood still talk of the blind old Squire who was a great preacher. They know little or nothing of his literary fame. The achievement by which he will be remembered is to them a sealed book. But he lives in local memory as a second Wesley, a wonderful stirrer-up of men's consciences, an unrivalled expounder of the Gospel. There is still living at Bury St. Edmunds (1889) a nonagenarian who has a vivid recollection of Arthur Young's sermons. In his vehemence the orator would move to and fro till he gradually had his back turned to the congregation, whereupon his daughter or secretary would gently place their hands upon his shoulders and restore him to the proper position.
It is a touching figure we now take leave of, that blind, fervid, silver-haired preacher, a hundred eager faces fixed upon his own, the rapt silence of the crowded meeting-place only broken by his trembling, impassioned tones. For the story of Arthur Young's life is mainly told. The world had not yet lost sight of him. He was from time to time pleasantly reminded of the conspicuous part he had played in it. He tells us how, in 1815, when breakfasting with Wilberforce, he met General Macaulay, who, recently travelling from Geneva to Lyons, had visited a French farm, where he found everything "in the highest style of management, and so much superior to all the rest of the country, that he inquired into the origin of such superiority. The answer of the owner was, 'My cultivation is entirely that of Monsieur Arthur Young, whose recommendations I have carried into practice with the success you see.'" For the most part the remaining years were uneventful. He bore his privations and infirmities with resignation, and retained full possession of his faculties to the last. He died at Sackville Street on the 20th April, 1820, and was buried at Bradfield. The handsome tomb in the form of a sarcophagus erected to his memory stands close to the roadside, over against the entrance to his old home. Passers-by may read the some-what stilted yet veracious inscription on the outer slab:—
"Let every real patriot shed a tear,
For genius, talent, worth, lie buried here."
In France such a man would have had his statue long ago. Perhaps this more modest tribute were more to his taste. That a native of his beloved Suffolk, herself a frequent wayfarer throughout the length and breadth of France, should edit his French Travels a hundred years after they were written, would surely have pleased Arthur Young well.
Of his children two survived him, his daughter Mary, who died unmarried, and his son Arthur, whose son, the present owner of Bradfield, is the last of Arthur Young's race and name.
Notes for this chapter
The three adjectives seem to be an interpolation of a later date.
H. Pell, Esq, M.P. See "Arthur Young, agriculturist, author, and statesman," 'The Farmers' Club," W. Johnson, Salisbury Square.
There seems some confusion here, surely six must be meant.
Chapter 1, Author's Introduction
End of Notes
by Matilda Betham-Edwards
A Six Weeks' Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales. London, 1768. 8vo. Second edition, enlarged, 1769. 8vo. Third edition, 1772. 8vo.
A Six Months' Tour through the North of England, containing an account of the present state of Agriculture, Manufactures, and Population in several counties of this kingdom. London, 1771. 8vo. 4 vols. Plates.
The Farmer's Tour through the East of England; being a Register of a Journey through various counties, to inquire into the state of Agriculture, Manufactures, and Population. London, 1770 71. 8vo. 4 vols.
Tour in Ireland; with general observations on the present state of that kingdom in 1776-7-8. Dublin, 1780. 8vo. 2 vols. London, 1780. 8vo. 2 vols.
Travels during the years 1787, 1788, 1789, and 1790, undertaken more particularly with a view of ascertaining the Cultivation, Wealth, Resources, and National Prosperity of the Kingdom of France. Bury St. Edmunds, 1794. 4to. 2 vols. Vol. I. is a second edition, the first edition having been published in 1792. Reprinted, Dublin, 1798. 8vo. 2 vols.
The Farmer's Letters to the People of England; containing the sentiments of a practical Husbandman on the present condition of Husbandry, &c. London, 1768, 1771. 8vo. 2 vols.
The Farmer's Guide in Hiring and Stocking Farms. London, 1770. 8vo. 2 vols. With plans.
Rural Economy, or Essays on the Practical Part of Husbandry. London, 1770. 8vo.
A Course of Experimental Agriculture. London, 1770. 4to. 2 vols.
Political Arithmetic, or Observations on the present state of Great Britain, and the principles of her policy in the Encouragement of Agriculture. London, 1774.
The Farmer's Kalendar. London, 1800. 8vo. 1808. 8vo. 25th edition. Edited and extended by J. C. Morton. London, Routledge, 1862, bds., 10s. 6d.
Essays on Manures. London, 1804. 8vo.
Advantages which have resulted from the Board of Agriculture. London, 1809. 8vo.
Inquiry into the progressive value of money, as marked by the price of Agricultural Products. London, 1812.
Agricultural Surveys. Published by the Board of Agriculture.
Essex. 2 vols. 1807. 8vo.
Hertfordshire. 1804. 8vo.
Lincolnshire. 1798. 8vo.
Norfolk. 1804. 8vo.
Oxfordshire. 1809 or 1813. 8vo.
Suffolk. 1794. 4to. 1798, 1804. 8vo.
Sussex. 1703, 1808. 4to.
Baxteriana; a selection from the works of Richard Baxter. 1815.
Oweniana. Select Passages from the Writings of John Owen, D.D. 1817.
Tracts and Pamphlets (in British Museum) as follows:—
On the Husbandry of three celebrated Farmers, Bakewell, Arbuthnot, and Duckett. 1811.
The Expediency of a Free Exportation of Corn at this time. 1770.
An Idea of the Present State of France. 1798.
Letter concerning the Present State of France. 1769.
Observations on the Waste Lands of Great Britain. 1773.
Proposals to the Legislature for numbering the People. 1771.
The question of Wool truly stated. 1788.
On the Size of Farms (contributed to Hunter's "Georgical Essays"). 1803.
On Summer Fallowing, in Hunter's "Georgical Essays." 1803.
Letters on Agriculture to General Washington. 1813.
An Address. 1793.
The Constitution safe without Reform. 1795.
An Inquiry into the state of the public mind among the Lower Classes. 1798.
An Essay on the management of Hogs. 1769.
The Example of France. 1793. (Numerous editions.)
Peace and Reform. 1799.
An Inquiry into the propriety of applying Wastes to the better maintenance of the Poor. 1801.
"The Annals of Agriculture" contain many contributions of Arthur Young not reprinted elsewhere.
IT is a question whether modern history has anything more curious to offer to the attention of the politician, than the progress and rivalship of the French and English empires, from the ministry of Colbert to the revolution in France. In the course of those 130 years, both have figured with a degree of splendour that has attracted the admiration of mankind.
In proportion to the power, the wealth, and the resources of these nations, is the interest which the world in general takes in the maxims of political œconomy by which they have been governed. To examine how far the system of that œconomy has influenced agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and public felicity, is certainly an inquiry of no slight importance; and so many books have been composed on the theory of these, that the public can hardly think that time misemployed which attempts to give THE PRACTICE.
The survey which I made, some years past, of the agriculture of England and Ireland (the minutes of which I published under the title of Tours), was such a step towards understanding the state of our husbandry as I shall not presume to characterise; there are but few of the European nations that do not read these Tours in their own language; and, notwithstanding all their faults and deficiencies, it has been often regretted, that no similar description of France could be resorted to, either by the farmer or the politician. Indeed it could not but be lamented, that this vast kingdom, which has so much figured in history, were likely to remain another century unknown, with respect to those circumstances that are the objects of my enquiries. An hundred and thirty years have passed, including one of the most active and conspicuous reigns upon record, in which the French power and resources, though much overstrained, were formidable to Europe. How far were that power and those resources founded on the permanent basis of an enlightened agriculture? How far on the more insecure support of manufactures and commerce? How far have wealth and power and exterior splendour, from whatever cause they may have arisen, reflected back upon the people the prosperity they implied? Very curious inquiries; yet resolved insufficiently by those whose political reveries are spun by their firesides, or caught flying as they are whirled through Europe in post-chaises. A man who is not practically acquainted with agriculture, knows not how to make those inquiries; he scarcely knows how to discriminate the circumstances productive of misery, from those which generate the felicity of a people; an assertion that will not appear paradoxical, to those who have attended closely to these subjects. At the same time, the mere agriculturist, who makes such journies, sees little or nothing of the connection between the practice in the fields, and the resources of the empire; of combinations that take place between operations apparently unimportant, and the general interest of the state; combinations so curious, as to convert, in some cases, well cultivated fields into scenes of misery, and accuracy of husbandry into the parent of national weakness. These are subjects that never will be understood from the speculations of the mere farmer, or the mere politician; they demand a mixture of both; and the investigation of a mind free from prejudice, particularly national prejudice; from the love of system, and of the vain theories that are to be found in the closets of speculators alone. God forbid that I should be guilty of the vanity of supposing myself thus endowed! I know too well the contrary; and have no other pretension to undertake so arduous a work, than that of having reported the agriculture of England with some little success. Twenty years experience, since that attempt, may make me hope to be not less qualified for similar exertions at present.
The clouds that, for four or five years past, have indicated a change in the political sky of the French hemisphere, and which have since gathered to so singular a storm, have rendered it yet more interesting, to know what France was previously to any change. It would indeed have been matter of astonishment, if monarchy had risen, and had set in that region, without the kingdom having had any examination professedly agricultural.
The candid reader will not expect, from the registers of a traveller, that minute analysis of common practice, which a man is enabled to give, who resides some months, or years, confined to one spot; twenty men, employed during twenty years, would not effect it; and supposing it done, not one thousandth part of their labours would be worth a perusal. Some singularly enlightened districts merit such attention; but the number of them, in any country, is inconsiderable; and the practices that deserve such a study, perhaps, still fewer: to know that unenlightened practices exist, and want improvement, is the chief knowledge that is of use to convey; and this rather for the statesman than the farmer. No reader, if he knows anything of my situation, will expect, in this work, what the advantages of rank and fortune are necessary to produce—of such I had none to exert, and could combat difficulties with no other arms than unremitted attention, and unabating industry. Had my aims been seconded by that success in life, which gives energy to effort, and vigour to pursuit, the work would have been more worthy of the public eye; but such success must, in this kingdom, be sooner looked for in any other path than in that of the plough; the non ullus aratro dignus honos, was not more applicable to a period of confusion and bloodshed at Rome, than one of peace and luxury in England.
One circumstance I may be allowed to mention, because it will shew, that whatever faults the ensuing pages contain, they do not flow from any presumptive expectation of success: a feeling that belongs to writers only, much more popular than myself: when the publisher agreed to run the hazard of printing these papers, and some progress being made in the journal, the whole MS. was put into the compositor's hand to be examined, if there were a sufficiency for a volume of sixty sheets; he found enough prepared for the press to fill 140: and I assure the reader, that the successive employment of striking out and mutilating more than the half of what I had written, was executed with more indifference than regret, even though it obliged me to exclude several chapters, upon which I had taken considerable pains. The publisher would have printed the whole; but whatever faults may be found with the author, he ought at least to be exempted from the imputation of an undue confidence in the public favour; since, to expunge was undertaken as readily as to compose.—So much depended in the second part of the work on accurate figures, that I did not care to trust to myself, but employed a schoolmaster, who has the reputation of being a good arithmetician, for examining the calculations, and I hope he has not let any material errors escape him.
The revolution in France was a hazardous and critical subject, but too important to be neglected; the details I have given, and the reflections I have ventured, will, I trust, be received with candour, by those who consider how many authors, of no inconsiderable ability and reputation, have failed on that difficult theme: the course I have steered is so removed from extremes, that I can hardly hope for the approbation of more than a few; and I may apply to myself, in this instance, the words of Swift:—"I have the ambition, common with other reasoners, to wish at least that both parties may think me in the right; but if that is not to be hoped for, my next wish should be, that both might think me in the wrong; which I would understand as an ample justification of myself, and a sure ground to believe that I have proceeded at least with impartiality, and perhaps with truth."
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