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THE TOILERS OF THE FIELD

BY

RICHARD JEFFERIES

AUTHOR OF "THE GAMEKEEPER AT HOME," ETC. ETC.

[Illustration: THE SILVER LIBRARY]

_NEW IMPRESSION_

LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
NEW YORK AND BOMBAY
1898

_All rights reserved_


[Illustration: RICHARD JEFFERIES.

_From the bust by Miss Margaret Thomas, in Salisbury Cathedral._

_Photographed by Mr. Owen, Salisbury._]


_BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE._

_First Edition, October 1892._
_Reprinted, November 1892 and January 1893._
_Issued in Silver Library, November 1893._
_Reprinted, June 1898._




PREFACE.


The first and larger part of this volume, from which it takes its name,
consists of papers which will be new to the large majority of readers of
Richard Jefferies' works. The five entitled, "The Farmer at Home," "The
Labourer's Daily Life," "Field-faring Women," "An English Homestead,"
and "John Smith's Shanty," appeared in _Fraser's Magazine_ in 1874, long
before Jefferies had gained any portion of that fame which was so long
in coming, and came in full measure too late. Of the three letters to
the _Times_, written in 1872, one was republished, with the permission
of Mrs. Jefferies, in an appendix to Mr. Walter Besant's "Eulogy of
Richard Jefferies." It finds its natural place in this volume with the
other papers, which give so clear a picture of the life of all classes
of the cultivators of the soil in the early seventies. The "True Tale of
the Wiltshire Labourer" has never previously been published, and is
included in this volume by the kind permission of Mr. G. H. Harmer of
the _Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard_, for which paper it was written
when Jefferies was on its staff, but for some reason was never used.

All the papers in Part II. have appeared in _Longman's Magazine_, since
Jefferies' death, and though they are with one exception very slight,
yet they are all characteristic specimens of his work. From internal
evidence it appears certain that the longest of them, entitled "The
Coming of Summer," was written on June 1, 1881, and the subsequent days.
It contains one or two points of resemblance with the famous "Pageant of
Summer," which appeared in _Longman's Magazine_ for June 1883. It was
perhaps the first study of which that paper is the finished picture.

The frontispiece is reproduced by kind permission of Mr. J. Owen of
Salisbury, from a photograph taken by him of Miss Thomas' bust of
Jefferies in Salisbury Cathedral.

C. J. LONGMAN.




CONTENTS.


_PART I._

PAGE

THE FARMER AT HOME 3

THE LABOURER'S DAILY LIFE 60

FIELD-FARING WOMEN 111

AN ENGLISH HOMESTEAD 151

JOHN SMITH'S SHANTY 175

WILTSHIRE LABOURERS (LETTERS TO THE "TIMES") 211

A TRUE TALE OF THE WILTSHIRE LABOURER 259


_PART II._

THE COMING OF SUMMER 289

THE GOLDEN-CRESTED WREN 313

AN EXTINCT RACE 315

ORCHIS MASCULA 319

THE LIONS IN TRAFALGAR SQUARE 321




PART I.




_THE FARMER AT HOME._


The new towns, or suburbs which spring up every year in the
neighbourhood of London, are all built upon much the same plan. Whole
streets of houses present exact duplicates of each other, even to the
number of steps up to the front door and the position of the scraper. In
the country, where a new farmhouse is erected about once in twenty
years, the styles of architecture are as varied and as irregular as in
town they are prim and uniform. The great mass of farmhouses are old,
and some are very picturesque. There was a farmhouse I knew which was
almost entitled to be taken as the type of an English rural homestead.
It was built at a spot where the open wild down suddenly fell away into
rich meadow land. Here there was a narrow steep-sided valley, or
"combe"--and at the mouth of this, well sheltered on three sides from
the north, the east, and north-eastern winds, stood the homestead. A
spring arose some way behind, and close to the house widened into a pool
which was still further enlarged by means of a dam, forming a small lake
of the clearest water. This lake fed a mill-race lower down. The
farmyard and rick-barton were a little way up the narrow valley, on one
side of which there was a rookery. The house itself was built in the
pure Elizabethan style; with mullioned windows, and innumerable gables
roofed with tiles. Nor was it wanting in the traditions of the olden
time. This fine old place was the homestead of a large farm comprising
some of the best land of the district, both down and meadow. Another
farmhouse, still used for that purpose, stands upon the wildest part of
the down, and is built of flint and concrete. It was erected nearly
three hundred years ago, and is of unusual size. The woodwork is all
solid black oak, good enough for an earl's mansion.

These are specimens of the highest class of farmhouse. Immediately
beneath them come the houses built in the early part of the present
century. They vary in almost every architectural detail, and the
materials differ in each county; but the general arrangement is the
same. They consist as it were of two distinct houses under one roof. The
front is the dwelling-house proper, usually containing a kitchen,
sitting-room, and parlour. The back contains the wood-house (coal-house
now), the brewhouse--where the beer was brewed, which frequently also
had an oven--and, most important of all, the dairy. All this part of the
place is paved with stone flags, and the dairy is usually furnished with
lattice-work in front of the windows, so that they can be left open to
admit the cool air and not thieves. Coolness is the great requisite in a
dairy, and some gentlemen who make farming a science go to the length of
having a fountain of water constantly playing in it. These houses,
however, were built before scientific agriculture was thought of. The
wood-house contained the wood used for cooking and domestic purposes;
for at that date wood was universally used in the country, and coal
rarely seen. The wood was of course grown on the farm, for which purpose
those wide double mound hedges, now rapidly disappearing, were made. It
was considered a good arrangement to devote half-an-acre in some
outlying portion of the farm entirely to wood, not only for the fire,
but for poles, to make posts and rails, gates, ladders, &c. The coal
could not in those days be conveyed so cheaply as it now is by railways.
Such as was used had to be brought by the slow barges on the canals, or
else was fetched by the farmers' waggons direct from the pit-mouth. The
teams were not unfrequently absent two days and a night on the journey.
In the outlying districts this difficulty in obtaining coal practically
restricted the available fuel to wood. Now the wood-house is used as
much for coal as wood. Of course the great stacks of wood--the piles of
faggots and logs--were kept outside, generally in the same enclosure as
the ricks, only a sufficient number for immediate use being kept under
cover. The brewhouse was an important feature when all farmers brewed
their own beer and baked their own bread. At present the great majority
purchase their beer from the brewers, although some still brew large
quantities for the labourers' drinking in harvest time. At a period when
comparatively little ready money passed between employer and employed,
and the payment for work was made in kind, beer was a matter which
required a great deal of the attention of the farmer, and absorbed no
little of his time. At this day it is a disputed matter which is
cheapest, to buy or to brew beer: at that time there was no question
about it. It was indisputably economical to brew. The brewhouse was not
necessarily confined to that use; when no brewing was in progress it was
often made a kind of second dairy. Over these offices was the
cheese-room. This was and still is a long, large, and lofty room in
which the cheese after being made is taken to dry and harden. It is
furnished with a number of shelves upon which the cheeses are arranged,
and as no two can be placed one on the other in the early stage of their
maturing, much space is required. It is the duty of the dairymaid and
her assistant to turn these cheeses every morning--a work requiring some
strength. In this part of the house are the servants' rooms. In front of
the dairy and brewhouse is a paved court enclosed with a wall, and in
this court it was not uncommon to find a well, or hog-tub, for the
refuse of the dairy. Sometimes, but not often now, the pig-stye is just
outside the wall which surrounds the court. In this court, too, the
butter is generally churned, under a "skilling" which covers half of it.
Here also the buckets are washed, and other similar duties performed.
The labourers come here to receive their daily allowance of beer.

Most farmhouses in large arable farms were originally built so as to
have a small dairy at the back; though there was a time when the arable
farmer never thought of keeping a cow, and butter and cheese were
unknown, except as luxuries, in his establishment. This was during the
continuance of the Corn Laws, when everything was sacrificed to the one
great object of growing wheat. It was not impossible in those days to
find a whole parish (I know of one myself) in which there was not a
single cow. Now the great object is meat, then it was corn. But at the
time when most of the farmhouses were erected, the system of agriculture
pursued was a judicious mixture of the dairy and the cornfield, so that
very few old farmhouses exist which have not some form of dairy
attached. In the corn-growing times, most of the verdant meadows now
employed to graze cattle, or for producing hay, were ploughed up. This
may be seen by the regular furrows, unmistakable evidences of the
plough. When corn declined in price through the influx of foreign
produce, the land was again laid down in grass, and most of it continues
so till this hour.



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