A WALK FROM LONDON TO JOHN O'GROATS
with notes by the way.
BY ELIHU BURRITT.
CHAPTER I. Motives to the Walk—The Iron Horse and his Rider— The Losses and Gains by Speed—The Railway Track and Turnpike Road: Their Sceneries Compared.
CHAPTER II. First Day's Observations and Enjoyment—Rural Foot- paths; Visit to Tiptree Farm—Alderman Mechi's Operations— Improvements Introduced, Decried and Adopted—Steam Power, Under- draining, Deep Tillage, Irrigation—Practical Results.
CHAPTER III. English and American Birds—The Lark and its Song.
CHAPTER IV. Talk with an Old Man on the Way—Old Houses in England—Their American Relationships—English Hedges and Hedge-row Trees—Their Probable Fate—Change of Rural Scenery without them.
CHAPTER V. A Footpath Walk and its Incidents—Harvest Aspects— English and American Skies—Humbler Objects of Contemplation—The Donkey: Its Uses and Abuses.
CHAPTER VI. Hospitalities of "Friends"—Harvest Aspects: English Country Inns; their Appearance, Names and Distinctive Characteristics—The Landlady, Waiter, Chambermaid and Boots—Extra Fees and Extra Comforts.
CHAPTER VII. Light of Human Lives—Photographs and Biographs—The late Jonas Webb, his Life, Labors and Memory.
CHAPTER VIII. Threshing Machine—Flower Show—The Hollyhock and its Suggestions—The Law of Co-operative Activities in Vegetable, Animal, Mental and Moral Life.
CHAPTER IX. Visit to a Three-Thousand-Acre Farm—Samuel Jonas; His Agricultural Operations, their Extent, Success and General Economy.
CHAPTER X. Royston and its Specialities—Entertainment in a Small Village—St. Ives—Visits to Adjoining Villages—A Fen-Farm— Capital Invested in English and American Agriculture Compared— Allotments and Garden Tenantry—Barley Grown on Oats.
CHAPTER XI. The Miller of Houghton—An Hour in Huntingdon—Old Houses—Whitewashed Tapestry and Works of Art—"The Old Mermaid" and "The Green Man"—Talk with Agricultural Laborers—Thoughts on their Condition, Prospects and Possibilities.
CHAPTER XII. Farm Game—Hallett Wheat—Oundle—Country Bridges— Fotheringay Castle—Queen Mary's Imprisonment and Execution— Burghley House: The Park, Avenues, Elms and Oaks—Thoughts on Trees, English and American.
CHAPTER XIII. Walk to Oakham—The English and American Spring—The English Gentry—A Specimen of the Class—Melton Mowbray and its Specialities—Belvoir Vale and its Beauty—Thoughts on the Blind Painter.
CHAPTER XIV. Nottingham and its Characteristics—Newstead Abbey— Mansfield—Talk in a Blacksmith's Shop—Chesterfield, Chatsworth and Haddon Hall—Aristocratic Civilisation, Present and Past.
CHAPTER XV. Sheffield and its Individuality—The Country, Above Ground and Under Ground—Wakefield and Leeds—Wharf Vale—Farnley Hall—Harrogate; Ripley Castle; Ripon; Conservatism of Country Towns—Fountain Abbey; Studley Park—Rievaulx Abbey—Lord Faversham's Shorthorn Stock.
CHAPTER XVI. Hexham—The North Tyne—Border-Land and its Suggestions—Hawick—Teviotdale—Birth-place of Leyden—Melrose and Dryburgh Abbeys—Abbotsford: Sir Walter Scott; Homage to his Genius—The Ferry and the Oar-Girl—New Farm Steddings—Scenery of the Tweed Valley—Edinburgh and its Characteristics.
CHAPTER XVII. Loch Leven—Its Island Castle—Straths—Perth— Salmon-breeding—Thoughts on Fish-farming—Dunkeld—Blair Atholl— Ducal Tree-planter—Strathspey and its Scenery—The Roads—Scotch Cattle and Sheep—Night in a Wayside Cottage—Arrival at Inverness.
CHAPTER XVIII. Inverness—Ross-shire—Tain—Dornoch—Golspie— Progress of Railroads—The Sutherland Eviction—Sea-coast Scenery— Caithness—Wick—Herring Fisheries—John O'Groat's: Walk's End.
CHAPTER XIX. Anthony Cruickshank—The Greatest Herd of Shorthorns in the World—Return to London and Termination of my Tour.
In presenting this volume to the public, I feel that a few words of explanation are due to the readers that it may obtain, in addition to those offered to them in the first chapter. When I first visited England, in 1846, it was my intention to make a pedestrian tour from one end of the island to the other, in order to become more acquainted with the country and people than I could by any other mode of travelling. A few weeks after my arrival, I set out on such a walk, and had made about one hundred miles on foot, when I was constrained to suspend the tour, in order to take part in movements which soon absorbed all my time and strength. For the ensuing ten years I was nearly the whole time in Great Britain, travelling from one end of the kingdom to the other, to promote the movements referred to; still desiring to accomplish the walk originally proposed. On returning to England at the beginning of 1863, after a continuous residence of seven years in America, I found myself, for the first time, in the condition to carry out my intention of 1846. Several new motives had been added in the interval to those that had at first operated upon my mind. I had dabbled a little in farming in my native village, New Britain, Connecticut, and had labored to excite additional interest in agriculture among my neighbors. We had formed an Agricultural Club, and met weekly for several winters to compare notes, exchange opinions' and discuss matters connected with the occupation. They had honored me with the post of Corresponding Secretary from the beginning. We held a meeting the evening before I left for England, when they not only refused to accept my resignation as Secretary, but made me promise to write them letters about farming in the Mother Country, and on other matters of interest that I might meet with on my travels there. My first idea was to do this literally;—to make a walk through the best agricultural sections of England, and write home a series of communications to be inserted in our little village paper. But, on second thought, on considering the size of the sheet, I found it would require four or five years to print in it all I was likely to write, at the rate of two columns a week. So I concluded that the easiest and quickest way would be to make a book of my Notes by the Way, and to send back to my old friends and neighbors in that form all the observations and incidents I might make and meet on my walk. The next thought that suggested itself was this,—that a good many persons in Great Britain might feel some interest in seeing what an American, who had resided so long in this country, might have to say of its sceneries, industries, social life, etc. Still, in writing out these Notes, although two distinct circles of readers—the English and American—have been present to my mind, I felt constrained to face and address the latter, just as if speaking to them alone. I have, moreover, adopted the free and easy style of epistolary composition, endeavoring to make each chapter as much like one of the letters I promised my friends and neighbors at home as practicable. In doing this, the "I" has, perhaps, talked far too much to beseem those proprieties which the author of a book should observe. Besides, expressions, figures and orthography more American than English may be noticed, which will indicate the circle of readers which the writer had primarily in view. Still, he would fain believe that these features of the volume will not seriously affect the interest it might otherwise possess in the minds of those disposed to give it a reading in this country. Whatever exceptions they may take to the style and diction, I hope they will find none to the spirit of the work. ELIHU BURRITT.
London, April 5th, 1864.
MOTIVES TO THE WALK—THE IRON HORSE AND HIS RIDER—THE LOSSES AND GAINS BY SPEED—THE RAILWAY TRACK AND TURNPIKE ROAD: THEIR SCENERIES COMPARED.
One of my motives for making this tour was to look at the country towns and villages on the way in the face and eyes; to enter them by the front door, and to see them as they were made to be seen first, as far as man's mind and hand intended and wrought. Railway travelling, as yet, takes everything at a disadvantage; it does not front on nature, or art, or the common conditions and industries of men in town or country. If it does not actually of itself turn, it presents everything the wrong side outward. In cities, it reveals the ragged and smutty companionship of tumble-down out-houses, and mysteries of cellar and back-kitchen life which were never intended for other eyes than those that grope in them by day or night. How unnatural, and, more, almost profane and inhuman, is the fiery locomotion of the Iron Horse through these densely-peopled towns! now the screech, the roar, and the darkness of cavernous passages under paved streets, church vaults, and an acre or two of three- story brick houses, with the feeling of a world of breathing, bustling humanity incumbent upon you;—now the dash and flash out into the light, and the higgledy-piggledy glimpses of the next five minutes. In a moment you are above thickly-thronged streets, and the houses on either side, looking down into the black throats of smoky chimneys; into the garret lairs of poverty, sickness, and sin; down lower upon squads of children trying to play in back-yards eight feet square. It is all wrong, except in the single quality of speed. You enter the town as you would a farmer's house, if you first passed through the pig-stye into the kitchen. Every respectable house in the city turns its back upon you; and often a very brick and dirty back too, though it may show an elegant front of Bath or Portland stone to the street it faces. All the respectable streets run over or under you with an audible shudder of disgust or dread. None but a shabby lane of low shops for the sale of junk, beer, onions, shrimps, and cabbages, will run a third of a mile by your side for the sake of your company. The wickedest boys in the town hoot at you, with most ignominious and satiric antics, as you pass; and if they do not shie stones in upon you, or dead cats, it is more from fear of the beadle or the constable than out of respect for your business or pleasure.
Indeed, every town and village, great or small, which you pass through or near on the railway, looks as if you came fifty years before you were expected. It says, in all the legible expressions of its countenance, "Lack-a-day!—if here isn't that creature come already, and looking in at my back door before I had time to turn around, or put anything in shape!" The Iron Horse himself gets no sympathy nor humane admiration. He stands grim and wrathy, when reined up for two minutes and forty-five seconds at a station. No venturesome boys pat him on the flanks, or look kindly into his eyes, or say a pleasant word to him, or even wonder if he is tired, or thirsty, or hungry. None of the ostlers of the greasy stables, in which the locomotives are housed, ever call him Dobbin, or Old Jack, or Jenny, or say, "Well done, old fellow!" when they unhitch him from the train at midnight, after a journey of a hundred leagues. His driver is a real man of flesh and blood; with wife and children whom he loves. He goes on Sunday to church, and, maybe, sings the psalms of David, and listens devoutly to the sermon, and says prayers at home, and the few who know him speak well of him, as a good and proper man in his way. But, spurred and mounted upon the saddle of the great iron hexiped, nearly all the passengers regard him as a part of the beast. No one speaks to him, or thinks of him on the journey. He may pull up at fifty stations, and not a soul among the Firsts, Seconds, or even Thirds, will offer him a glass of beer, or pipe-full of tobacco, or give him a sixpence at the end of the ride for extra speed or care. His face is grimy, and greasy, and black. All his motions are ambiguous and awkward to the casual observer. He has none of the sedate and conscious dignity of his predecessor on the old stage-coach box. He handles no whip, like him, with easy grace. Indeed, in putting up his great beast to its best speed, he "hides his whip in the manger," according to a proverb older than steam power. He wears no gloves in the coldest weather; not always a coat, and never a decent one, at his work. He blows no cheery music out of a brass bugle as he approaches a town, but pricks the loins of the fiery beast, and makes him scream with a sound between a human whistle and an alligator's croak. He never pulls up abreast of the station-house door, in the fashion of the old coach driver, to show off himself and his leaders, but runs on several rods ahead of his passengers and spectators, as if to be clear of them and their comments, good or bad. At the end of the journey, be it at midnight or day-break, not a man nor a woman he has driven safely at the rate of forty miles an hour thinks or cares what becomes of him, or separates him in thought from the great iron monster he mounts. Not the smock-frocked man, getting out of the forwardmost Third, with his stick and bundle, thinks of him, or stops a moment to see him back out and turn into the stable.
With all the practical advantages of this machine propulsion at bird speed over space, it confounds and swallows up the poetical aspects and picturesque sceneries that were the charm of old-fashioned travelling in the country. The most beautiful landscapes rotate around a locomotive axis confusedly. Green pastures and yellow wheat fields are in a whirl. Tall and venerable trees get into the wake of the same motion, and the large, pied cows ruminating in their shade, seem to lie on the revolving arc of an indefinite circle. The views dissolve before their best aspect is caught by the eye. The flowers, like Eastern beauties, can only be seen "half hidden and half revealed," in the general unsteadiness. As for bees, you cannot hear or see them at all; and the songs of the happiest birds are drowned altogether by the clatter of a hundred wheels on the metal track. If there are any poor, flat, or fen lands, your way is sure to lie through them. In a picturesque and undulating country, studded with parks and mansions of wealth and taste, you are plunging through a long, dark tunnel, or walled into a deep cut, before your eye can catch the view that dashes by your carriage window. If you have a utilitarian proclivity and purpose, and would like to see the great agricultural industries of the country, they present themselves to you in as confused aspects as the sceneries of the passing landscape. The face of every farm is turned from you. The farmer's house fronts on the turnpike road, and the best views of his homestead, of his industry, prosperity, and happiness, look that way. You only get a furtive glance, a kind of clandestine and diagonal peep at him and his doings; and having thus travelled a hundred miles through a fertile country you can form no approximate or satisfactory idea of its character and productions.
But no facts nor arguments are needed to convince an intelligent traveller that the railway affords no point of view for seeing town or country to any satisfactory perception of its character. Indeed, neither coach of the olden, nor cab of the modern vogue, nor saddle, will enable one to "do" either town or country with thorough insight and enjoyment. It takes him too long to pull up to catch the features of a sudden view. He can do nothing with those generous and delightful institutions of Old England,—the footpaths, that thread pasture, park, and field, seemingly permeating her whole green world with dusky veins for the circulation of human life. To lose all the picturesque lanes and landscapes which these field- paths cross and command, is to lose the great distinctive charm of the country. Then, neither from the coach-box nor the saddle can he make much conversation on the way. He loses the chance of a thousand little talks and pleasant incidents. He cannot say "Good morning" to the farmer at the stile, nor a word of greeting to the reapers over the hedge, nor see where they live, and the kind of children that play by their cottage doors; nor the little, antique churches, bearded to their eye-brows with ivy, covering the wrinkles of half a dozen centuries, nor the low and quiet villages clustering around, each like a family of bushy-headed children surrounding their venerable mother.
In addition to these considerations, there was another that moved me to this walk. Although I had been up and down the country as often and as extensively as any American, perhaps, and admired its general scenery, I had never looked at it with an agricultural eye or interest. But, having dabbled a little in farming in the interval between my last two visits to England, and being touched with some of the enthusiasm that modern novices carry into the occupation, I was determined to look at the agriculture of Great Britain more leisurely and attentively, and from a better stand-point than I had ever done before. The thought had also occurred to me, that a walk through the best agricultural counties of England and Scotland would afford opportunity for observation which might be made of some interest to my friends and neighbor farmers in America as well as to myself. Therefore I beg the English reader to remember that I am addressing to them the notes that I may make by the way, hoping that its incidents and the thoughts it suggests will not be devoid of interest because they are principally intended for the American ear.
FIRST DAY'S OBSERVATIONS AND ENJOYMENT—RURAL FOOT-PATHS; VISIT TO TIPTREE FARM—ALDERMAN MECHI'S OPERATIONS—IMPROVEMENTS INTRODUCED, DECRIED, AND ADOPTED—STEAM POWER, UNDER-DRAINING, DEEP TILLAGE, IRRIGATION—PRACTICAL RESULTS.
On Wednesday, July 15th, 1863, I left London with the hope that I might be able to accomplish the northern half of my proposed "Walk from Land's End to John O'Groat's." I had been practically prostrated by a serious indisposition for nearly two months, and was just able to walk one or two miles at a time about the city. Believing that country air and exercise would soon enable me to be longer on my feet, I concluded to set out as I was, without waiting for additional strength, so slow and difficult to attain in the smoky atmosphere and hot streets of London.
Few reading farmers in America there are who are not familiar with the name and fame of Alderman Mechi, as an agriculturist of that new and scientific school that is making such a revolution in the great primeval industry of mankind. His experiments on his Tiptree Farm have attained a world-wide publicity, and have given that homestead an interest that, perhaps, never attached to the same number of acres in any country or age. Thinking that this famous establishment would be a good starting point for my pedestrian tour, I concluded to proceed thither first by railway, and thence to walk northward, by easy stages, through the fertile and rural county of Essex. Taking an afternoon train, I reached Kelvedon about 5 p.m.,- -the station for Tiptree, and a good specimen of an English village, at two hours' ride from London. Calling at the residence of a Friend, or Quaker, to inquire the way to the Alderman's farm, he invited me to take tea with him, and be his guest for the night,—a hospitality which I very gladly accepted, as it was a longer walk than I had anticipated. After tea, my host, who was a farmer as well as miller, took me over his fields, and showed me his live stock, his crops of wheat, barley, oats, beans, and roots, which were all large and luxuriant, and looked a tableau vivant of plenty within the green hedges that enclosed and adorned them.
The next morning, after breakfast, my kind host set me on the way to Tiptree by a footpath through alternating fields of wheat, barley, oats, beans, and turnips, into which an English farm is generally divided. These footpaths are among the vested interests of the walking public throughout the United Kingdom. Most of them are centuries old. The footsteps of a dozen generations have given them the force and sanctity of a popular right. A farmer might as well undertake to barricade the turnpike road as to close one of these old paths across his best fields. So far from obstructing them, he finds it good policy to straighten and round them up, and supply them with convenient gates or stiles, so that no one shall have an excuse for trampling on his crops, or for diverging into the open field for a shorter cut to the main road. Blessings on the man who invented them! It was done when land was cheap, and public roads were few; before four wheels were first geared together for business or pleasure. They were the doing of another age; this would not have produced them. They run through all the prose, poetry, and romance of the rural life of England, permeating the history of green hedges, thatched cottages, morning songs of the lark, moonlight walks, meetings at the stile, harvest homes of long ago, and many a romantic narrative of human experience widely read in both hemispheres. They will run on for ever, carrying with them the same associations. They are the inheritance of landless millions, who have trodden them in ages past at dawn, noon, and night, to and from their labor; and in ages to come the mowers and reapers shall tread them to the morning music of the lark, and through Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, they shall show the fresh checker-work of the ploughman's hob-nailed shoe. The surreptitious innovations of utilitarian science shall not poach upon these sacred preserves of the people, whatever revolutions they may produce in the machinery and speed of turnpike locomotion. These pleasant and peaceful paths through park, and pasture, meandering through the beautiful and sweet-breathing artistry of English agriculture, are guaranteed to future generations by an authority which no legislation can annul.
A walk of a few miles brought me in sight of Tiptree Hall; and its first aspect relieved my mind of an impression which, in common with thousands better informed, I had entertained in reference to the establishment. An idea has generally prevailed among English farmers, and agriculturists of other countries who have heard of Alderman Mechi's experiments, that they were impracticable and almost valueless, because they would not pay; that the balance- sheet of his operations did and must ever show such ruinous discrepancy between income and expenditure as must deter any man, of less capital and reckless enthusiasm, from following his lead into such unconsidered ventures. In short, he has been widely regarded at home and abroad as a bold and dashing novice in agricultural experience, ready to lavish upon his own hasty inventions a fortune acquired in his London warehouse; and all this to make himself famous as a great light in the agricultural world, which light, after all, was a mere will-o'-the-wisp sort of affair, leading its dupes into the veriest bog of bankruptcy. In common with all those bold, self-reliant spirits that have ventured to break away from the antecedents of public opinion and custom, he has been the subject of many ungenerous innuendoes and criticisms. All kinds of ambitions and motives have been ascribed to him. Many a burly, red-faced farmer, who boasts of an unbroken agricultural lineage reaching back into the reign of Good Queen Bess, will tell you over his beer that the Alderman's doings are all gammon; that they are all to advertise his cutlery business in Leadenhall Street, Barnum fashion; to inveigle down to Tiptree Hall noblemen, foreign ambassadors, and great people of different countries, and bribe "an honourable mention" out of them with champagne treats and oyster suppers. Indeed, my Quaker host largely participated in this opinion, and took no pains to conceal it when speaking of his enterprising neighbor.
From what I had read and heard of the Tiptree Hall estate, I expected to see a grand, old, baronial mansion, surrounded with elegant and costly buildings for housing horses, cattle, sheep, and other live stock, all erected on a scale which no bona fide farmer could adopt or approximately imitate. In a word, I fancied his barns and stables would even surpass in this respect the establishments of some of those most wealthy New York or Boston merchants, who think they are stimulating country farmers to healthy emulation by lavishing from thirty to forty thousand dollars on a barn and its appurtenant out-houses. With these preconceived ideas, it was an unexpected satisfaction to see quite a simple-looking, unassuming establishment, which any well-to-do farmer might make and own. The house is rather a large and solid-looking building, erected by Mr. Mechi himself, but not at all ostentatious of wealth or architectural taste. The barns and "steddings," or what we call cowhouses in America, are of a very ordinary cast, or such as any country-bred farmer would call economical and simple. The homestead occupies no picturesque site, and commands no interesting scenery. The farm consists of about 170 acres, which, in England, is regarded as a rather small holding. The land is naturally sterile and hard of cultivation, most of it apparently being heavily mixed with ferruginous matter. When ploughed deeply, the clods turned up look frequently like compact masses of iron ore. Every experienced farmer knows the natural poverty of such a soil, and the hard labor to man and beast it costs to till it.
To my great regret, Mr. Mechi was not at home, though he passes most of his time in Summer at Tiptree. But his foreman, who enters into all the experiments and operations which have made the establishment so famous, with almost equal interest and enthusiasm, took me through the farm buildings, and all the fields, and showed me the whole process and machinery employed. Any English or American agriculturist who has read of Alderman Mechi's operations, would be inclined to ask, on looking, for the first time, at his buildings and the fields surrounding them, what is the great distinguishing speciality of his enterprise. His land is poor; his housings are simple; there is no outside show of uncommon taste or genius. Every acre is tile-drained, to be sure. But that is nothing new nor uncommon. Drainage is the order of the day. Any tenant farmer in England can have his land drained by the Government by paying six per cent. annually on the cost of the job. His expenditure for artificial manure does not exceed that of hundreds of good farmers. He carries out the deep tillage system most liberally. So do other scientific agriculturalists in Europe and America. Of course, a few hours' observation would not suffice for a full and correct conclusion on this point, but it gave me the impression that the great operation which has won for the Tiptree Farm its special distinction is its irrigation with liquid manure. In this respect it stands unrivalled, and, perhaps, unimitated. And this, probably, is the head and front of his offending to those who criticise his economy and decry his experiments.
This irrigation is performed through the medium of a small steam engine and sixteen hydrants, so posted and supplied with hose as to reach every square foot of the 170 acres. The water used for this purpose is mostly, if not entirely, supplied from the draining pipes, even in the dryest season. The manure thus liquified is made by a comparatively small number of animals. Calves to the value of 50 pounds are bought, and fat stock to that of 500 pounds are sold annually. They are all stabled throughout the year, except in harvest time, when they are turned out for a few weeks to rowen feed. The calves are housed until a year old in a large stedding by themselves. They are then transferred to another building, and put upon "the boards;" that is in a long stable or cowhouse, with a flooring of slats, through which the manure drops into a cellar below, made water-tight. Here the busiest little engine in the world is brought to bear upon it, with all its faculties of suction and propulsion. Through one pipe it forces fresh water in upon this mass of manure, which, when liquified, runs down into a subterranean cistern or reservoir capable of holding over 100,000 gallons. From this it is propelled into any field to be irrigated. To prevent any sediment in the great reservoir, or to make an even mixture of the liquified manure, a hose is attached to the engine, and the other end dropped into the mass. Through this a constant volume of air is propelled with such force as to set the whole boiling and foaming like a little cataract. One man at the engine and two at the hose in the distant field perform the whole operation. The chapped and "baky" surface of the farm is thus softened and enriched at will, and rendered productive.
Now, this operation seems to constitute the present distinctive speciality of Alderman Mechi's Tiptree Farm. Will it pay? ask a thousand voices. In how many years will he get his money back? Give us the balance sheet of the experiment. A New Englander, favorably impressed with the process, would be likely to answer these questions by another, and ask, will drainage pay? Not in one year, assuredly, nor in five; not in ten, perhaps. The British Government assumes that all the expenditure upon under-drainage will be paid back in fifteen or twenty years at the farthest. It lends money to the land-owner on this basis; and the land-owner stipulates with his tenant that he shall reimburse him by annual instalments of six or seven per cent. until the whole cost of the operation is liquidated. Thus the tenant-farmer is willing to pay six, sometimes seven per cent. annually, for twenty years, for the increased capacity of production which drainage gives to the farm he cultivates. At the end of that period the Government is paid by the landlord, and the landlord by the tenant, and the tenant by his augmented crops for the whole original outlay upon the land. For aught either of the three parties to the operation knows to the contrary, it must all be done over again at the end of twenty years. The system is too young yet, even in England, for any one to say how long a course of tubing will last, or how often it must be relaid.
One point, therefore, has been gained. No intelligent English farmer, who has tried the system, now asks if under-drainage will pay; nor does he expect that it will pay back the whole expenditure in less than twelve or fifteen years. Here is a generous faith in the operation on the side of all the parties concerned. Then why should not Alderman Mechi's irrigation system be put on the same footing, in the matter of public confidence? It is nothing very uncommon even for a two-hundred-acre farmer in England to have a small stationary or locomotive steam-engine, and to find plenty of work for it, too, in threshing his grain, grinding his fodder, pulping his roots, cutting his hay and straw, and for other purposes. Mr. Mechi would doubtless have one for these objects alone. So its cost must not be charged to the account of irrigation. A single course of iron tubing, a third of a mile long, reaching to the centre of his farthest field, cannot cost more, with all the hose employed, than the drainage of that field, while it would be fair to assume that the iron pipes will last twice as long as those of burnt clay. They might fairly be expected to hold good for forty years. If, then, for this period, or less, the process yields ten per cent. of increased production annually, over and above the effect of all other means employed, it is quite evident that it will pay as well as drainage.
But does it augment the yearly production of the farm by this amount? To say that it is the only process by which the baky and chappy soil of Tiptree can be thoroughly fertilised, would not suffice to prove its necessity or value to other soils of different composition. One fact, however, may be sufficient to determine its virtue. The fields of clover, and Italian rye-grass, etc., are mown three and even four times in one season, and afterwards fed with sheep. Certainly, no other system could produce all this cropping. The distinctive difference it makes in other crops cannot, perhaps, be made so palpable. The wheat looked strong and heavy, with a fair promise of forty-five bushels to an acre. The oats, beans, and roots showed equally well.
The irrigation and deep tillage systems were going on simultaneously in the same field, affording me a good opportunity of seeing the operation of both. Two men were plying the hose upon a portion of the field which had already been mowed three times. Two teams were at work turning up the other, which had already been cropped once or twice. One of two horses went first, and, with a common English plough, turned an ordinary furrow. Then the other followed, of twice the force of the first, in the same furrow, with a subsoil plough held to the work beam-deep. The iron-stones and ferruginous clods turned up by this "deep tillage" would make a prairie farmer of Illinois wonder, if not shudder, at the plucky and ingenious industry which competes with his easy toil and cheap land in providing bread for the landless millions of Great Britain.
The only exceptional feature or arrangement, besides the irrigating machinery and process, that I noticed, was an iron hurdling for folding sheep. This, at first sight, might look to a practical farmer a little extravagant, indicating a city origin, or the notion of an amateur agriculturist, more ambitious of the new than of the necessary. Each length of this iron fencing is apparently about a rod, and cost 1 pound, or nearly five dollars. It is fitted to low wheels, or rollers, on an axle two or three feet in length, so that it can be moved easily and quickly in any direction. It would cost over fifty pounds, or two hundred and fifty dollars, to enclose an acre entirely with this kind of hurdling. Still, Mr. Mechi would doubtless be able to show that this large expenditure is a good investment, and pays well in the long run. The folding of sheep for twenty-four or forty-eight hours on small patches of clover, trefoil, or turnips, is a very important department of English farming, both for fattening them for the market and for putting the land in better heart than any other fertilising process could effect. Now, a man with this iron fencing on wheels must be able to make in two hours an enclosure that would cost him a day or more of busy labor with the old wooden hurdles.
On the whole, a practical farmer, who has no other source of income than the single occupation of agriculture, would be likely to ask, what is the realised value of Alderman Mechi's operations to the common grain and stock-growers of the world? They have excited more attention or curiosity than any other experiments of the present day; but what is the real resume of their results? What new principles has he laid down; what new economy has he reduced to a science that may be profitably utilised by the million who get their living by farming? What has he actually done that anybody else has adopted or imitated to any tangible advantage? These are important questions; and this is the way he undertakes to answer them, beginning with the last.
About twenty years ago, he inaugurated the system of under-draining the heavy tile-clay lands in Essex. Up to his experiment, the process was deemed impracticable and worthless by the most intelligent farmers of the county. It was more confidently decried than his present irrigation system. The water would never find its way down into the drain-pipes through such clay. It stood to reason that it would do no such thing. Did not the water stand in the track of the horse's hoof in such rich clay until evaporated by the sun? It might as well leak through an earthenware basin. It was all nonsense to bury a man's money in that style. He never would see a shilling of it back again. In the face of these opinions, Mr. Mechi went on, training his pipes through field after field, deep below the surface. And the water percolated through the clay into them, until all these long veins formed a continuous and rushing stream into the main artery that now furnishes an ample supply for his stabled cattle, for his steam engine, and for all the barn-yard wants. His tile-draining of clay-lands was a capital success; and those who derided and opposed it have now adopted it to their great advantage, and to the vast augmentation of the value and production of the county. Here, then, is one thing in which he has led, and others have followed to a great practical result.
His next leading was in the way of agricultural machinery. He first introduced a steam engine for farming purposes in a district containing a million of acres. That, too, at the outset, was a fantastic vagary in the opinion of thousands of solid and respectable farmers. They insisted the Iron Horse would be as dangerous in the barn-yard or rick-yard as the very dragon in Scripture; that he would set everything on fire; kill the men who had care of him; burst and blow up himself and all the buildings into the air; that all the horses, cows, and sheep would be frightened to death at the very sight of the monster, and never could be brought to lie down in peace and safety by his side, even when his blood was cold, and when he was fast asleep. To think of it! to have a tall chimney towering up over a barn-gable or barn- yard, and puffing out black coal smoke, cotton-factory-wise! Pretty talk! pretty terms to train an honest and virtuous farmer to mouth! Wouldn't it be edifying to hear him string the yarn of these new words! to hear him tell of his engineer and ploughman; of his pokers and pitchforks; of six-horse power, valves, revolutions, stopcocks, twenty pounds of steam, etc.; mixing up all this ridiculous stuff with yearling-calves, turnips, horse-carts, oil- cake, wool, bullocks, beans, and sheep, and other vital things and interests, which forty centuries have looked upon with reverence! To plough, thresh, cut turnips, grind corn, and pump water for cattle by steam! What next?
Why, next, the farmers of the region round about
"First pitied, then embraced"
this new and powerful auxiliary to agricultural industry, after having watched its working and its worth. And now, thanks to such bold and spirited novices as Mr. Mechi—men who had the pluck to work steadily on under the pattering rain of derisive epithets— there are already nearly as many steam engines working at farm labor between Land's End and John O'Groat's as there are employed in the manufacture of cotton in Great Britain.
His irrigation system will doubtless be followed in the same order and interval by those who have pooh-poohed it with the same derision and incredulity as the other innovations they have already adopted. The utilising of the sewage of large towns, especially of London, has now become a prominent idea and movement. Mr. Mechi's machinery and process are admirably adapted to the work of distributing a river of this fertilising material over any farm to which it may be conducted. Thus, there is good reason to believe that the very process he originated for softening and enriching the hard and sterile acres of his small farm in Essex will be adopted for saturating millions of acres in Great Britain with the millions of tons of manurial matter that have hitherto blackened and poisoned the rivers of the country on their wasteful way to the sea. This will be only an additional work for the farm engines now in operation, accomplished with but little increased expense. A single fact may illustrate the irrigating capacity of Mr. Mechi's machinery. It throws upon a field a quantity of the fertilising fluid equal to one inch of rainfall at a time, or 100 tons per imperial acre. And, as a proof of how deep it penetrates, the drains run freely with it, thus showing conclusively that the subsoil has been well saturated, a point of vital importance to the crop.
Deep tillage is another speciality that distinguished the Tiptree Farm regime at the beginning, in which Mr. Mechi led, and in which he has been followed by the farmers of the country, although few have come up abreast of him as yet in the system.
Here, then, are four specific departments of improvement in agricultural industry which the Alderman has introduced. Every one of them has been ridiculed as an impracticable and useless innovation in its turn. Three of them have already been adopted, and virtually incorporated with agricultural science and economy; and the fourth, or irrigation by steam power, bids fair to find as much favor, and as many adherents in the end as the others have done.
He has not only originated these improvements, or been the first to give them practical experiment, but he has laid down certain principles which will doubtless exercise much influence in shaping the industrial economy of agriculture hereafter in different countries. One of the best of these principles he puts in the form of a mathematical proposition. Thus:—As the meat is to the manure, so is the crop to the land. Tell me, he says, how much meat you make, and I will tell you how much corn you make, to the acre. Meat, then, is the starting point with him; the basis of his annual production, to which he looks for a satisfactory decision of his balance-sheet. To show the value he attaches to this element, the fact will suffice that he usually keeps 65 bullocks, cows, and calves, 100 sheep, and a number of pigs, besides his horses, making one head to every acre of his farm. With this amount of live stock he makes from 4 to 5 pounds worth of meat per acre annually. Perhaps it would be safe to say that no other 170 acres of land in the world make more meat, manure, and grain in the year than the Tiptree Farm. In these results Mr. Mechi thinks his experiments and improvements have proved
Quod es demonstrandum.
Having gone over the farm pretty thoroughly, and noticed all the leading features of the establishment, I was requested by the foreman to enter my name in the visitor's book kept in his neat cottage parlor. It is a large volume, with the ruling running across both the wide pages; the left apportioned to name, town, country, and profession; the right to remarks of the visitor. It is truly a remarkable book of interesting autographs and observations, which the philologist as well as agriculturist might pore over with lively satisfaction. It not only contains the names and comments of many of the most distinguished personages in Great Britain, but those of all other countries of Europe, even of Asia and Africa, as well as America. Foreign ambassadors, Continental savans, men of fame in the literary, scientific, and political world have here recorded their names and impressions in the most unique succession and blending. Here, under one date, is a party of Italian gentlemen, leaving their autographs and their observations in the softest syllables of their language. Then several German connoisseurs follow in their peculiar script, with comments worded heavily with hard-mouthed consonants. Then comes, perhaps, a single Russian nobleman, who expresses his profound satisfaction in the politest French. Next succeed three or four Spanish Dons, with a long fence of names attached to each, who give their views of the establishment in the grave, sonorous words of their language. Here, now, an American puts in his autograph, with his sharp, curt notion of the matter, as "first-rate." Very likely a turbaned Mufti or Singh of the Oriental world follows the New England farmer. Danish and Swedish knights prolong the procession, mingling with Australian wool-growers, Members of the French Royal Academy, Canadian timber- merchants, Dutch Mynheers, Brazilian coffee-planters, Belgian lace- makers, and the representatives of all other countries and professions in Christendom. An autograph-monger, with the mania strong upon him, of unscrupulous curiosity, armed furtively with a keen pair of scissors would be a dangerous person to admit to the presence of that big book without a policeman at his elbow.
Tiptree Hall has its own literature also, in two or three volumes, written by Mr. Mechi himself, and describing fully his agricultural experience and experiments, and giving facts and arguments which every English and American farmer might study with profit.
ENGLISH AND AMERICAN BIRDS.
"What thou art we know not; What is most like thee? From rainbow clouds there flow not Drops so bright to see, As from thy presence showers a rain of melody." SHELLEY'S "SKYLARK."
"Do you ne'er think what wondrous beings these? Do you ne'er think who made them, and who taught The dialect they speak, whose melodies Alone are the interpreters of thought? Whose household words are songs in many keys, Sweeter than instrument of man e'er caught! Whose habitations in the tree-tops, even, Are half-way houses on the road to heaven." LONGFELLOW.
Having spent a couple of hours very pleasantly at Tiptree Hall, I turned my face in a northerly direction for a walk through the best agricultural section of Essex. While passing through a grass field recently mown, a lark flew up from almost under my feet. And there, partially overarched by a tuft of clover, was her little all of earth—a snug, warm nest with two small eggs in it, about the size and color of those of the ground-chirping-bird of New England, which is nearer the English lark than any other American bird. I bent down to look at them with an interest an American could only feel. To him the lark is to the bird-world's companionship and music what the angels are to the spirit land. He has read and dreamed of both from his childhood up. He has believed in both poetically and pleasantly, sometimes almost positively, as real and beautiful individualities. He almost credits the poet of his own country, who speaks of hearing "the downward beat of angel wings." In his facile faith in the substance of picturesque and happy shadows, he sometimes tries to believe that the phoenix may have been, in some age and country, a real, living bird, of flesh and blood and genuine feathers, with long, strong wings, capable of performing the strange psychological feats ascribed to it in that most edifying picture emblazoned on the arms of Banking Companies, Insurance Offices, and Quack Doctors. He is not sure that dying swans have not sung a mournful hymn over their last moments, under an affecting and human sense of their mortality. He has believed in the English lark to the same point of pleasing credulity. Why should he not give its existence the same faith? The history of its life is as old as the English alphabet, and older still. It sang over the dark and hideous lairs of the bloody Druids centuries before Julius Caesar was born, and they doubtless had a pleasant name for it, unless true music was hateful to their ears. It sang, without loss or change of a single note of this morning's song, to the Roman legions as they marched, or made roads in Britain. It rang the same voluntaries to the Saxons, Danes, and Normans, through the long ages, and, perhaps, tended to soften their antagonisms, and hasten their blending into one great and mighty people. How the name and song of this happiest of earthly birds run through all the rhyme and romance of English poetry, of English rural life, ever since there was an England! Take away its history and its song from her daisy-eyed meadows, and shaded lanes, and hedges breathing and blooming with sweetbrier leaves and hawthorn flowers—from her thatched cottages, veiled with ivy—from the morning tread of the reapers, and the mower's lunch of bread and cheese under the meadow elm, and you take away a living and beautiful spirit more charming than music. You take away from English poetry one of its pleiades, and bereave it of a companionship more intimate than that of the nearest neighborhood of the stars above. How the lark's life and song blend, in the rhyme of the poet, with "the sheen of silver fountains leaping to the sea," with morning sunbeams and noontide thoughts, with the sweetest breathing flowers, and softest breezes, and busiest bees, and greenest leaves, and happiest human industries, loves, hopes, and aspirations!
The American has read and heard of all this from his youth up to the day of setting his foot, for the first time, on English ground. He has tried to believe it, as in things seen, temporal and tangible. But in doing this he has to contend with a sense or suspicion of unreality—a feeling that there has been great poetical exaggeration in the matter. A patent fact lies at the bottom of this incredulity. The forefathers of New England carried no wild bird with them to sing about their cabin homes in the New World. But they found beautiful and happy birds on that wild continent, as well-dressed, as graceful in form and motion, and of as fine taste for music and other accomplishments, as if they and their ancestors had sung before the courts of Europe for twenty generations. These sang their sweet songs of welcome to the Pilgrims as they landed from the "Mayflower." These sang to them cheerily, through the first years and the later years of their stern trials and tribulations. These built their nests where the blue eyes of the first white children born in the land could peer in upon the speckled eggs with wonder and delight. What wonder that those strong-hearted puritan fathers and mothers, who
"Made the aisles of the dim wood ring With the anthems of the free,"
should love the fellowship of these native singers of the field and forest, and give them names their hearts loved in the old home land beyond the sea! They did not consult Linnaeus, nor any musty Latin genealogy of Old World birds, at the christening of these songsters. There was a good family resemblance in many cases. The blustering partridge, brooding over her young in the thicket, was very nearly like the same bird in England. For the mellow-throated thrush of the old land they found a mate in the new, of the same size, color, and general habits, though less musical. The blackbird was nearly the same in many respects, though the smaller American wore a pair of red epaulettes. The swallows had their coat tails cut after the same old English pattern, and built their nests after the same model, and twittered under the eaves with the same ecstacy, and played the same antics in the air. But the two dearest home-birds of the fatherland had no family relations nor counterparts in America; and the pilgrim fathers and their children could not make their humble homes happy without the lark and the robin, at least in name and association; so they looked about them for substitutes. There was a plump, full-chested bird, in a chocolate-colored vest, with a bluish dress coat, that would mount the highest tree-top in early spring, and play his flute by the hour for very joy to see the snow melt and the buds swell again. There was such a rollicking happiness in his loud, clear notes, and he apparently sang them in such sympathy with human fellowships, and hopes, and homes, and he was such a cheery and confiding denizen of the orchard and garden withal, that he became at once the pet bird of old and young, and was called the robin; and well would it be if its English namesake possessed its sterling virtues; for, with all its pleasant traits and world-wide reputation, the English robin is a pretentious, arrogant busybody, characteristically pugilistic and troublesome in the winged society of England. In form, dress, deportment, disposition, and in voice and taste for vocal music, the American robin surpasses the English most decidedly. In this our grave forefathers did more than justice to the home-bird they missed on Plymouth Rock. In this generous treatment of their affection for it, they perhaps condoned for mating the English lark so incongruously; but it was true their choice was very limited. To match the prima donna carissima of English field and sky, it was necessary to select a meadow bird, with some other features of resemblance. It would never do to give the cherished name and association to one that lived in the forest, or built its nest in the tree-tops or house-tops, or to one that was black, yellow, or red. Having to conciliate all these conditions, and do the best with the material at hand, they pitched upon a rather large, brownish bird, in a drab waistcoat, slightly mottled, and with a loud, cracked voice, which nobody ever liked. So it never became a favorite, even to those who first gave it the name of lark. It was not its only defect that it lacked an ear and voice for music. There is always a scolding accent that marks its conversation with other birds in the brightest mornings of June. He is very noisy, but never merry nor musical. Indeed, compared with the notes of the English lark, his are like the vehement ejaculations of a maternal duck in distress.
Take it in all, no bird in either hemisphere equals the English lark in heart or voice, for both unite to make it the sweetest, happiest, the welcomest singer that was ever winged, like the high angels of God's love. It is the living ecstacy of joy when it mounts up into its "glorious privacy of light." On the earth it is timid, silent, and bashful, as if not at home, and not sure of its right to be there at all. It is rather homely withal, having nothing in feather, feature, or form, to attract notice. It is seemingly made to be heard, not seen, reversing the old axiom addressed to children when getting voicy. Its mission is music, and it floods a thousand acres of the blue sky with it several times a day. Out of that palpitating speck of living joy there wells forth a sea of twittering ecstacy upon the morning and evening air. It does not ascend by gyrations, like the eagle or birds of prey. It mounts up like a human aspiration. It seems to spread out its wings and to be lifted straight upwards out of sight by the afflatus of its own happy heart. To pour out this in undulating rivulets of rhapsody is apparently the only motive of its ascension. This it is that has made it so loved of all generations. It is the singing angel of man's nearest heaven, whose vital breath is music. Its sweet warbling is only the metrical palpitation of its life of joy. It goes up over the roof-trees of the rural hamlet on the wings of its song, as if to train the rural soul to trial flights heavenward. Never did the Creator put a voice of such volume into so small a living thing. It is a marvel—almost a miracle. In a still hour you can hear it at nearly a mile's distance. When its form is lost in the hazy lace-work of the sun's rays above, it pours down upon you all the thrilling semitones of its song as distinctly as if it were warbling to you in your window.
The only American bird that could star it with the English lark, and win any admiration at a popular concert by its side, is our favourite comic singer, the Bobolink. I have thought often, when listening to British birds at their morning rehearsals, what a sensation would ensue if Master Bob, in his odd-fashioned bib and tucker, should swagger into their midst, singing one of those Low- Dutch voluntaries which he loves to pour down into the ears of our mowers in haying time. Not only would such an apparition and overture throw the best-trained orchestra of Old World birds into amazement or confusion, but astonish all the human listeners at an English concert. With what a wonderment would one of these blooming, country milkmaids look at the droll harlequin, and listen to those familiar words of his, set to his own music:-
Go to milk! go to milk! Oh, Miss Phillisey, Dear Miss Phillisey, What will Willie say If you don't go to milk! No cheese, no cheese, No butter nor cheese If you don't go to milk.
It is a wonder that in these days of refined civilization, when Jenny Lind, Grisi, Patti, and other celebrated European singers, some of them from very warm climates, are transported to America to delight our Upper-Tendom, that there should be no persistent and successful effort to introduce the English lark into our out-door orchestra of singing-birds. No European voice would be more welcome to the American million. It would be a great gain to the nation, and be helpful to our religious devotions, as well as to our secular satisfactions. In several of our Sabbath hymns there is poetical reference to the lark and its song. For instance, that favorite psalm of gratitude for returning Spring opens with these lines:—
"The winter is over and gone, The thrush whistles sweet on the spray, The turtle breathes forth her soft moan, The lark mounts on high and warbles away."
Now, not one American man, woman, or child in a thousand ever heard or saw an English lark, and how is he, she, or it to sing the last line of the foregoing verse with the spirit and understanding due to an exercise of devotion? The American lark never mounts higher than the top of a meadow elm, on which it see-saws, and screams, or quacks, till it is tired; then draws a bee-line for another tree, or a fence-post, never even undulating on the voyage. It may be said, truly enough, that the hymn was written in England. Still, if sung in America from generation to generation, we ought to have the English lark with us, for our children to see and hear, lest they may be tempted to believe that other and more serious similes in our Sabbath hymns are founded on fancy instead of fact.
Nor would it be straining the point, nor be dealing in poetical fancies, if we should predicate upon the introduction of the English lark into American society a supplementary influence much needed to unify and nationalise the heterogeneous elements of our population. Men, women, and children, speaking all the languages and representing all the countries and races of Europe, are streaming in upon us weekly in widening currents. The rapidity with which they become assimilated to the native population is remarkable. But there is one element from abroad that does not Americanise itself so easily—and that, curiously, is one the most American that comes from Europe—in other words, the English. They find with us everything as English as it can possibly be out of England—their language, their laws, their literature, their very bibles, psalm- books, psalm-tunes, the same faith and forms of worship, the same common histories, memories, affinities, affections, and general structure of social life and public institutions; yet they are generally the very last to be and feel at home in America. A Norwegian mountaineer, in his deerskin doublet, and with a dozen English words picked up on the voyage, will Americanise himself more in one year on an Illinois prairie than an intelligent, middle-class Englishman will do in ten, in the best society of Massachusetts. Now, I am not dallying with a facetious fantasy when I express the opinion, that the life and song of the English lark in America, superadded to the other institutions and influences indicated, would go a great way in fusing this hitherto insoluble element, and blending it harmoniously with the best vitalities of the nation. And this consummation would well repay a special and extraordinary effect. Perhaps this expedient would be the most successful of all that remain untried. A single incident will prove that it is more than a mere theory. Here it is, in substance:—
Some years ago, when the Australian gold fever was hot in the veins of thousands, and fleets of ships were conveying them to that far- off, uncultivated world, a poor old woman landed with the great multitude of rough and reckless men, who were fired to almost frenzy by dreams of ponderous nuggets and golden fortunes. For these they left behind them all the enjoyments, endearments, all the softening sanctities and surroundings of home and social life in England. For these they left mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. There they were, thinly tented in the rain, and the dew, and the mist, a busy, boisterous, womanless camp of diggers and grubbers, roughing-and- tumbling it in the scramble for gold mites, with no quiet Sabbath breaks, nor Sabbath songs, nor Sabbath bells to measure off and sweeten a season of rest. Well, the poor widow, who had her cabin within a few miles of "the diggings," brought with her but few comforts from the old homeland—a few simple articles of furniture, the bible and psalm-book of her youth, and an English lark to sing to her solitude the songs that had cheered her on the other side of the globe. And the little thing did it with all the fervor of its first notes in the English sky. In her cottage window it sang to her hour by hour at her labor, with a voice never heard before on that wild continent. The strange birds of the land came circling around in their gorgeous plumage to hear it. Even four-footed animals, of grim countenance, paused to hear it. Then, one by one, came other listeners. They came reverently, and their voices softened into silence as they listened. Hard-visaged men, bare- breasted and unshaven, came and stood gentle as girls; and tears came out upon many a tanned and sun-blistered cheek as the little bird warbled forth the silvery treble of its song about the green hedges, the meadow streams, the cottage homes, and all the sunny memories of the fatherland. And they came near unto the lone widow with pebbles of gold in their hard and horny hands, and asked her to sell them the bird, that it might sing to them while they were bending to the pick and the spade. She was poor, and the gold was heavy; yet she could not sell the warbling joy of her life. But she told them that they might come whenever they would to hear it sing. So, on Sabbath days, having no other preacher nor teacher, nor sanctuary privilege, they came down in large companies from their gold-pits, and listened to the devotional hymns of the lark, and became better and happier men for its music.
Seriously, it may be urged that the refined tastes, arts, and genius of the present day do not develop themselves symmetrically or simultaneously in this matter. Here are connoisseurs and enthusiasts in vegetable nature hunting up and down all the earth's continents for rare trees, plants, shrubs, and flowers. They are bringing them to England and America in shiploads, to such extent and variety, that nearly all the dead languages and many of the living are ransacked to furnish names for them. Llamas, dromedaries, Cashmere goats, and other strange animals, are brought, thousands of miles by sea and land, to be acclimatised and domesticated to these northern countries. Artificial lakes are made for the cultivation of fish caught in Antipodean streams. That is all pleasant and hopeful and proper. The more of that sort of thing the better. But why not do the other thing, too? Vattemare made it the mission of his life to induce people of different countries to exchange books, or unneeded duplicates of literature. We need an Audubon or Wilson, not to make new collections of feathered skeletons, and new volumes on ornithology, but to effect an exchange of living birds between Europe and America; not for caging, not for Zoological gardens and museums, but for singing their free songs in our fields and forests. There is no doubt that the English lark would thrive and sing as well in America as in this country. And our bobolink would be as easily acclimatised in Europe. Who could estimate the pleasure which such an exchange in the bird-world would give to millions on both sides of the Atlantic?
There are some English birds which we could not introduce into the feathered society of America, any more than we could import a score of British Dukes and Duchesses, with all their hereditary dignities and grand surroundings, into the very heart and centre of our democracy. For instance, the grave and aristocratic rooks, if transported to our country, would turn up their noses and caw with contempt at our institutions—even at our oldest buildings and most solemn and dignified oaks. It is very doubtful if they would be conciliated into any respect for the Capitol or The White House at Washington. They have an intuitive and most discriminating perception of antiquity, and their adhesion to it is invincible. Whether they came in with the Normans, or before, history does not say. One thing would seem evident. They are older than the Order of the Garter, and belonged to feudalism. They are the living spirits of feudalism, which have survived its human retainers by several hundred years, and now represent the defunct institution as pretentiously as in King Stephen's day. They are as fond of old Norman castles, cathedrals, and churches, as the very ivy itself, and cling to them with as much pertinacity. For several hundred generations of bird-life, they and their ancestors have colonised their sable communities in the baronial park-trees of England, and their descendants promise to abide for as many generations to come. In size, form, and color they differ but little from the American crow, but are swifter on the wing, with greater "gift of the gab," and less dignified in general deportment, though more given to aristocratic airs. Although they emigrated from France long before "La Democratic Sociale" was ever heard of in that country, they may be considered the founders of the Socialistic theory and practice; and to this day they live and move in phalansteries, which succeed far better than those attempted by the American "Fourierites" some years ago. As in human communities, the collision of mind with mind contributes fortuitous scintillations of intelligence to their general enlightenment; so gregarious animals, birds and bees seem to acquire especial quick-wittedness from similar intercourse. The English rook, therefore, is more astute, subtle, and cunning than our American crow, and some of his feats of legerdemain are quite vulpine.
The jackdaw is to the rook what the Esquimaux is to the Algonquin Indian; of the same form, color, and general habits, but smaller in size. They are as fond of ancient abbeys and churches as ever were the monks of old. Indeed, they have many monkish habits and predilections, and chatter over their Latin rituals in the storied towers of old Norman cathedrals, and in the belfries of ivy-webbed churches in as vivicacious confusion.
There is no country in the world of the same size that has so many birds in it as England; and there are none so musical and merry. They all sing here congregationalwise, just as the people do in the churches and chapels of all religious denominations. As these buildings were fashioned in early times after the Gothic order of elm and oak-tree architecture, so the human worshippers therein imitated the birds, as well as the branches, of those trees, and learned to sing their Sabbath hymns together, young and old, rich and poor, in the same general uprising and blending of multitudinous voices. I believe everything sings that has wings in England. And well it might, for here it is safe from shot, stones, snares, and other destructives. "Young England" is not allowed to sport with firearms, after the fashion of our American boys. You hear no juvenile popping at the small birds of the meadow, thicket, or hedge-row, in Spring, Summer, or Autumn. After travelling and sojourning nearly ten years in the country, I have never seen a boy throw a stone at a sparrow, or climb a tree for a bird's-nest. The only birds that are not expected to die a natural death are the pheasant, partridge, grouse, and woodcock; and these are to be killed according to the strictest laws and customs, at a certain season of the year, and then only by titled or wealthy men who hold their vested interest in the sport among the most rigid and sacred rights of property. Thus law, custom, public sentiment, climate, soil, and production, all combine to give bird-life a development in England that it attains in no other country. In no other land is it so multitudinous and musical; in none is there such ample and varied provision for housing and homing it. Every field is a great bird's- nest. The thick, green hedge that surrounds it, and the hedge-trees arising at one or two rods' interval, afford nesting and refuge for myriads of these meadow singers. The groves and thickets are full of them and their music; so full, indeed, that sometimes every leaf seems to pulsate with a little piping voice in the general concert. Nor are they confined to the fields, groves, and hedges of the quiet country. If the census of the sparrows alone in London could be taken, they would count up to a larger figure than all the birds of a New England county would reach. Then there is another interesting feature of this companionship. A great deal of it lasts through the entire year. There are ten times as many birds in England as in America in the winter. Here the fields are green through the coldest months. No deep and drifting snows cover a frozen earth for ten or twelve weeks, as with us. There is plenty of shelter and seeds for birds that can stand an occasional frost or wintry storm, and a great number of them remain the whole year around the English homesteads.
If such a difference were a full compensation, our North American birds make up in dress what they fall short of English birds in voice and musical talent. The robin redbreast and the goldfinch come out in brighter colors than any other beaux and belles of the season here; but the latter is only a slender-waisted brunette, and the former a plump, strutting, little coxcomb, in a mahogany-colored waistcoat. There is nothing here approaching in vivid colors the New England yellow-bird, hang-bird, red-bird, indigo-bird, or even the bluebird. In this, as well as other differences, Nature adjusts the system of compensation which is designed to equalise the conditions of different countries.
TALK WITH AN OLD MAN ON THE WAY—OLD HOUSES IN ENGLAND—THEIR AMERICAN RELATIONSHIPS—ENGLISH HEDGES AND HEDGE-ROW TREES—THEIR PROBABLE FATE—CHANGE OF RURAL SCENERY WITHOUT THEM.
From Tiptree I had a pleasant walk to Coggeshall, a unique and antique town, marked by the quaint and picturesque architecture of the Elizabethan regime. On the way I met an old man, eighty-three years of age, busily at work with his wheel-barrow, shovel, and bush-broom, gathering up the droppings of manure on the road. I stopped and had a long talk with him, and learned much of those ingenious and minute industries by which thousands of poor men house, feed, and clothe themselves and their families in a country super-abounding with labor. He had nearly filled his barrow, after trundling it for four miles. He could sell his little load for 4d. to a neighboring farmer; but he intended to keep it for a small garden patch allotted to him by his son, with whom he lived. These few square yards of land constituted the microscopic point of his attachment to that great globe still holding in reserve unmeasured territories of productive soil, on which nor plough, nor spade, nor human foot, nor life has ever left a lasting mark. These made his little farm, as large to him and to his octogenarian sinews and ambitions as was the Tiptree Estate to Alderman Mechi. It filled his mind with as busy occupation and as healthy a stimulus. That rude barrow, with its clumsy wheel, thinly rimmed with an iron hoop, was to him what the steam engine, and two miles of iron tubing, and all its hose-power were to that eminent agriculturist, of whom he spoke in terms of high esteem as a neighbor, and even as a competitor. Proportionately they were on the same footing; the one with his 170 square acres, the other with his 170 square feet. It was pleasant and instructive to hear him speak with such sunny and cheery hope of his earthly lot and doings. His son was kind and good to him. He could read, and get many good books. He ate and slept well. He was poor but comfortable. He went to church on Sunday, and thought much of heaven on week days. His cabbages were a wonder; some with heads as large as a half-bushel measure. He did something very respectable in the potato and turnip line. He had grown beans and beets which would show well in any market. He always left a strip or corner for flowers. He loved to grow them; they did him good, and stirred up young-man feelings in him. He went on in this way with increased animation, following the lead of a few questions I put in occasionally to give direction to the narrative of his experience. How much I wished I could have photographed him as he stood leaning on his shovel, his wrinkled face and gray, thin hair, moistened with perspiration, while his coat lay inside out on one of the handles of his barrow! The July sun, that warmed him at his work, would have made an interesting picture of him, if some one could have held a camera to its eye at the moment. I added a few pennies to his stock-in-trade, and continued my walk, thinking much of that wonderful arrangement of Providence by which the infinite alternations and gradations of human life and condition are adjusted; fitting a separate being, experience, and attachment to every individual heart; training its tendrils to cling all its life long to one slightly individualised locality, which another could never call home; giving itself and all its earthly hopes to an occupation which another would esteem a prison discipline; sucking the honey of contentment out of a condition which would be wormwood to another person on the same social level.
On reaching Coggeshall, I became again the guest of a Friend, who gave me the same old welcome and hospitality which I have so often received from the members of that society. After tea, he took me about the town, and showed me those buildings so interesting to an American—low, one-story houses, with thatched roofs, clay-colored, wavy walls, rudely-carved lintels, and iron-sash windows opening outward on hinges like doors, with squares of glass 3 inches by 4;— houses which were built before the keel of the Mayflower was laid, which conveyed the Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock. Here, now! see that one on the other side of the street, looking out upon a modern and strange generation through two ivy-browed eyes just lighted up to visible speculation by a single candle on the mantel-piece! A very animated and respectable baby was carried out of that door in its mother's arms, and baptised in the parish church, before William Shakespeare was weaned. There is a younger house near by, which was a century old when Washington was born. These unique, old dwellings of town, village, and hamlet in England, must ever possess an interest to the American traveller which the grand and majestic cathedrals, that fill him with so much admiration, cannot inspire. We link the life of our nation more directly to these humbler buildings. Our forefathers went out of these houses to the New World. The log huts they first erected served them and their families as homes for a few years; then were given to their horses and cattle for stabling; then were swept away, as too poor for either man or beast. The second generation of houses made greater pretensions to comfort, and had their day, then passed away. They were nearly all one-story, wooden buildings, with a small apartment on each side of a great chimney, and a little bed-roomage in the garret for children. Then followed the large, red, New England mansion, broadside to the road, two stories high in front, with nearly a rood of back roof declining to within five or six feet of the ground, and covering a great, dark kitchen, flanked on one side by a bed-room, and on the other by the buttery. A ponderous chimney arose out of the middle of the building, giving a fire-place of eight feet back to the kitchen, and one of half the dimensions to each of the other two large rooms—the north and south. For, like the republic they founded, its forefathers and ours divided their dwellings by a kind of Mason and Dixon's Line, into two parts, giving them these sectional appellations which have represented such antagonisms and made us such trouble. Every one of these old- fashioned houses had its "North" and "South" rooms on the ground- floor, and duplicates, of the same size and name, above, divided by the massive, hollow tower, called a chimney. A double front door, with panels, scrolled with rude carving, opened right and left into the portly building, which, in the tout ensemble, looked like a New England gentleman of the olden time, in his cocked hat, and hair done up in a queue. These were the houses built "when George the Third was King." In these were born the men of the American Revolution. They are the oldest left in the land; and, like the Revolutionary pensioners, they are fast disappearing. In a few years, it will be said the last of them has been levelled to the ground, just as the paragraph will circulate through the newspapers that the last soldier of the War of Independence is dead.
Thus, the young generation in America, now reciting in our schools the rudimental facts of the common history of the English-speaking race, will come to the meridian of manhood at a time when the three first generations of American houses shall have been swept away. But, travelling over a space of three centuries' breadth, they will see, in these old English dwellings, where the New World broke off from the Old—the houses in which the first settlers of New England were born; the churches and chapels in which they were baptised, and the school-houses in which they learned the alphabet of the great language that is to fill the earth with the speech of man's rights and God's glory. One hundred millions, speaking the tongue of Shakespeare and Milton on the American continent, and as many millions more on continents more recently settled by the same race, across the ocean, and across century-seas of time, shall moor their memories to these humble dwellings of England's hamlets, and feel how many taut and twisted liens attach them to the motherland of mighty nations.
On reckoning up the log of my first day's walk, I found I had made full twelve miles by road and field; and was more than satisfied with such a trial of country air and exercise, and with the enjoyment of its scenery and occupations. The next day I made a longer distance still, from Coggeshall to Great Bardfield, or about eighteen miles; and felt at the end that I had established a reasonable claim to convalescence. The country on the way was marked by the quiet and happy features of diversified plenty. The green and gold of pastures, meadows, and wheat-fields; the picturesque interspersion of cottages, gardens, stately mansions, parks and lawns, all enlivened by a well-proportioned number of mottled cows feeding or lying along the brook-banks, and sheep grazing on the uplands,—all these elements of rural life and scenery were blended with that fortuitous felicity which makes the charm of Nature's country pictures.
At Bardfield I was again homed for the night by a Friend; and after tea made an evening walk with him about the farm of a member of the same society, living in the outskirts of the town, who cultivates about 400 acres of excellent land, and is considered one of the most practical and successful agriculturists of Essex. His fields were larger and fewer than I had noticed on my walk in a farm of equal size. This feature indicates the modern improvements in English farming more prominently to the cursory observer than any other that attracts his eye. It is a rigidly utilitarian innovation on the old system, that does not at all promise to improve the picturesque aspect of the country. To "reconstruct the map" of a county, by wire-fencing it into squares of 100 acres each, after grubbing up all the hedges and hedge-trees, would doubtless add seven and a quarter per cent. to the agricultural production of the shire, and gratify many a Gradgrind of materialistic economy; but who would know England after such a transformation? One would be prone to reiterate Patrick's exclamation of surprise, when he first shouldered a gun and tested the freedom of the forest in America. Seeing a small bird in the top of a tree, he pointed the fowling- piece in that direction, turned away his face, and fired. A tree- toad fell to the ground from an agitated branch. The exulting Irishman ran and picked it up in triumph, and held it out at arm's length by one of its hind legs, exclaiming, "And how it alters a bird to shoot its feathers off, to be sure!" It would alter England nearly as much in aspect, if the unsparing despotism of pounds s. d. should root out the hedge-row trees, and substitute invisible lines of wire for the flowering hawthorn as a fencing for those fields which now look so much like framed portraits of Nature's best painting.
The tendency of these utilitarian times may well occasion an unpleasant concern in the lovers of English rural scenery. What changes may come in the wake of the farmer's steam-engine, steam- plough, or under the smoke-shadows from his factory-like chimney, these recent "improvements" may suggest and induce. One can see in any direction he may travel these changes going on silently. Those little, unique fields, defined by lines and shapes unknown to geometry, are going out of the rural landscape. And when they are gone, they will be missed more than the amateurs of agricultural artistry imagine at the present moment. What some one has said of the peasantry, may be said, with almost equal deprecation, of these picturesque tit-bits of land, which,—
"Once destroyed, never can be supplied."
And destroyed they will be, as sure as science. As large farms are swallowing up the little ones between them, so large fields are swallowing these interesting patches, the broad-bottomed hedging of which sometimes measures as many square yards as the space it encloses.
There is much reason to fear that the hedge-trees will, in the end, meet with a worse fate still. Practical farmers are beginning to look upon them with an evil eye—an eye sharp and severe with pecuniary speculation; that looks at an oak or elm with no artist's reverence; that darts a hard, dry, timber-estimating glance at the trunk and branches; that looks at the circumference of its cold shadow on the earth beneath, not at the grand contour and glorious leafage of its boughs above. The farmer who was taking us over his large and highly-cultivated fields, was a man of wide intelligence, of excellent tastes, and the means wherewithal to give them free scope and play. His library would have satisfied the ambition of a student of history or belles-lettres. His gardens, lawn, shrubbery, and flowers would grace the mansion of an independent gentleman. He had an eye to the picturesque as well as practical. But I could not but notice, as significant of the tendency to which I have referred, that, on passing a large, outbranching oak standing in the boundary of two fields, he remarked that the detriment of its shadow could not have been less than ten shillings a year for half a century. As we proceeded from field to field, he recurred to the same subject by calling our attention to the circumference of the shadow cast on the best land of the farm by a thrifty, luxuriant ash, not more than a foot in diameter at the butt. Up to the broad rim of its shade, the wheat on each side of the hedge was thick, heavyheaded and tall, but within the cool and sunless circle the grain and grass were so pale and sickly that the bare earth would have been relief to a farmer's eye.
The three great, distinctive graces of an English landscape are the hawthorn hedges, the hedge-row trees, and the everlasting and unapproachable greenness of the grass-fields they surround and embellish. In these beautiful features, England surpasses all other countries in the world. These make the peculiar charm of her rural scenery to a traveller from abroad. These are the salient lineaments of Motherland's face which the memories of myriads she has sent to people countries beyond the sea cling to with such fondness; memories that are transmitted from generation to generation; which no political revolutions nor severances affect; which are handed down in the unwritten legends of family life in the New World, as well as in the warp and woof of American literature and history. Will the utilitarian and unsparing science of these latter days, or of the days to come, shear away these beautiful tresses, and leave the brow and temples of the Old Country they have graced bare and brown under the bald and burning sun of material economy? It is not an idle question, nor too early to ask it. It is a question which will interest more millions of the English race on the American continent than these home-islands will ever contain. There are influences at work which tend to this unhappy issue. Some of these have been already indicated, and others more powerful still may be mentioned.
Agriculture in England has to run the gauntlet of many pressing competitions, and carry a heavy burden of taxation as it runs. These will be noticed, hereafter, in their proper connection. Farming, therefore, is being reduced to a rigid science. Every acre of land must be put up to its last ounce of production. Every square foot of it must be utilised to the growth of something for man and beast. Manures for different soils are tested with as much chemical precision as ever was quinine for human constitutions. Dynameters are applied to prove the power of working machinery. Labor is scrutinised and economised, and measured closely up to the value of a farthing's-worth of capacity. A shilling's difference per acre in the cost of ploughing by horse-flesh or steam brings the latter into the field. The sound of the flail is dying out of the land, and soon will be heard no more. Even threshing machines worked by horses are being discarded, as too slow and old-fashioned. Locomotive steam-engines, on broad-rimmed wheels, may be met on the turnpike road, travelling on their own legs from farm to farm to thresh out wheat, barley, oats, and beans, for a few pence per bushel. They make nothing of ascending a hill without help, or of walking across a ploughed field to a rick-yard. Iron post and rail fencing, in lengths of twenty feet on wheels, drawn about by a donkey, bids fair to supersede the old wooden hurdles for sheep fed on turnips or clover. It is an iron age, and wire fencing is creeping into use, especially in the most scientifically cultivated districts of Scotland, where the elements and issues of the farmer's balance-sheet are looked to with the most eager concern. Iron wire grows faster than hawthorn or buckthorn. It doubtless costs less. It needs no yearly trimming, like shrubs with sap and leaves. It does not occupy a furrow's width as a boundary between two fields. It may be easily transposed to vary enclosures. It is not a nesting place for destructive birds or vermin. These and other arguments, of the same utilitarian genus, are making perceptible headway. Will they ever carry the day against the green hedges? I think they would, very soon, if the English farmer owned the land he cultivates. But such is rarely the case. Still, this fact may not prevent the final consummation of this policy of material interest. In a great many instances, the tenant might compromise with the landlord in such a way as to bring about this "modern improvement." And a comparatively few instances, showing a certain per centage of increased production per acre to the former, and a little additional rentage to the latter, would suffice to give the innovation an impulse that would sweep away half the hedges of the country, and deface that picture which so many generations have loved to such enthusiasm of admiration.
Will the trees of the hedge-row be exposed to the same end? I think they will. Though trees are the most sacred things the earth begets in England, as has already been said, the farmer here looks at them with an evil eye, as horse-leeches that bleed to death long stretches of the land he pays 2 pounds per acre for annually to his landlord. The hedge, however wide-bottomed, is his fence; and fencing he must have. But these trees, arising at narrow intervals from the hedge, and spreading out their deadening shades upon his wheatfields on either side, are not useful nor ornamental to him. They may look prettily, and make a nice picture in the eyes of the sentimental tourist or traveller, but he grudges the ground they cover. He could well afford to pay the landlord an additional rentage per annum more than equal to the money value of the yearly growth of these trees. Besides, the landlord has, in all probability, a large park of trees around his mansion, and perhaps compact plantations on land unsuited to agriculture. Thus the high value of these hedge-row trees around the fields of his tenant, which he will realise on the spot, together with some additional pounds in rent annually to himself and heirs, would probably facilitate this levelling arrangement in face of all the restrictions that the law of entail might seem to throw in the way.
If, therefore, the hedges of England disappear before the noiseless and furtive progress of utilitarian science, the trees that rise above them in such picturesque ranks will be almost certain to go with them. Then, indeed, a change will come over the face of the country, which will make it difficult for one to recognise it who daguerreotyped its most beautiful features upon his memory before they were obliterated by these latter-day "improvements."
A FOOTPATH WALK AND ITS INCIDENTS—HARVEST ASPECTS—ENGLISH AND AMERICAN SKIES—HUMBLER OBJECTS OF CONTEMPLATION—THE DONKEY: ITS USES AND ABUSES.
Immediately after breakfast the following morning, my kind host accompanied me for a mile on my walk, and put me on a footpath across the fields, by which I might save a considerable distance on the way to Saffron Walden, where I proposed to spend the Sabbath. After giving me minute directions as to the course I was to follow, he bade me good-bye, and I proceeded on at a brisk pace through fields of wheat and clover, greatly enjoying the scenery, the air, and exercise. Soon I came to a large field quite recently ploughed up clean, footpath and all. Seeing a gate at each of the opposite corners, I made my way across the furrows to the one at the left, as it seemed to be more in the direction indicated by my host. There the path was again broad and well-trodden, and I followed it through many fields of grain yellowing to the harvest, until it opened into the main road. This bore a little more to the left than I expected, but, as I had never travelled it before, I believed it was all right. Thaxted was half way to Saffron Walden, and there I had intended to stop an hour or two for dinner and rest, then push on to the end of the day's walk as speedily as possible. At about noon, I came suddenly down upon the town, which seemed remarkably similar to the one I had left, in size, situation, and general features. The parish church, also, bore a strong resemblance to the one I had noticed the previous evening. These old Essex towns are "as much alike as two peas," and you must make a note of it, as Captain Cuttle says, was the thought first suggested by the coincidence. I went into a cosy, clean-faced inn on the main street, and addressed myself with much satisfaction to a short season of rest and refreshment, exchanging hot and dusty boots for slippers, and going through other preliminaries to a comfortable time of it. Rang the bell for dinner, but before ordering it, asked the waiting-maid, with a complacent idea that I had improved my walking pace, and made more than half the way—
"How far is it to Saffron Walden?"
"Twelve miles, sir."
"Twelve miles, indeed! Why, it is only twelve miles from Great Bardfield!"
"Well, this is Great Bardfield, sir."
"Great Bardfield! What! How is this? What do you mean?"
She meant what she said, and it was as true as two and two make four; and she was not to be beaten out of it by a stare of astonishment, however a discomfited man might expand his eyes with wonder, or cloud his face with chagrin. It was a patent fact. There, on the opposite side of the street, was the house in which I slept the night before; and here, just coming up to the door of the inn, was the good lady of my host. Her form and voice, and other identifications dispelled the mist of the mistake; and it came out as clear as day that I had followed the direction of my host, to bear to the left, far too liberally, and that I had been walking at my best speed in a "vicious circle" for full two hours and a half, and had landed just where I commenced, at least within the breadth of a narrow street of the same point.
My good friends urged me to stop and dine with them, and then make a fair start for the end of my week's journey. But it was still twelve miles to Saffron Walden, and I was determined to put half of them behind me before dinner. So, taking a second leave of them in the course of three hours, I set out again on my walk, a wiser man in the practical understanding of the proverb, "The longest way around is the shortest way there." At 2 p.m. I reached Thaxted, and rectified my first notion of the town, formed when I mistook it for Bardfield. Having made six miles extra between the two points, I resumed my walk after a short delay at the latter.