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Yeast: a Problem   By: (1819-1875)

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Transcribed by David Price, email



This book was written nearly twelve years ago; and so many things have changed since then, that it is hardly fair to send it into the world afresh, without some notice of the improvement if such there be which has taken place meanwhile in those southern counties of England, with which alone this book deals.

I believe that things are improved. Twelve years more of the new Poor Law have taught the labouring men greater self help and independence; I hope that those virtues may not be destroyed in them once more, by the boundless and indiscriminate almsgiving which has become the fashion of the day, in most parishes where there are resident gentry. If half the money which is now given away in different forms to the agricultural poor could be spent in making their dwellings fit for honest men to live in, then life, morals, and poor rates, would be saved to an immense amount. But as I do not see how to carry out such a plan, I have no right to complain of others for not seeing.

Meanwhile cottage improvement, and sanitary reform, throughout the country districts, are going on at a fearfully slow rate. Here and there high hearted landlords, like the Duke of Bedford, are doing their duty like men; but in general, the apathy of the educated classes is most disgraceful.

But the labourers, during the last ten years, are altogether better off. Free trade has increased their food, without lessening their employment. The politician who wishes to know the effect on agricultural life of that wise and just measure, may find it in Mr. Grey of Dilston's answers to the queries of the French Government. The country parson will not need to seek so far. He will see it (if he be an observant man) in the faces and figures of his school children. He will see a rosier, fatter, bigger boned race growing up, which bids fair to surpass in bulk the puny and ill fed generation of 1815 45, and equal, perhaps, in thew and sinew, to the men who saved Europe in the old French war.

If it should be so (as God grant it may), there is little fear but that the labouring men of England will find their aristocracy able to lead them in the battle field, and to develop the agriculture of the land at home, even better than did their grandfathers of the old war time.

To a thoughtful man, no point of the social horizon is more full of light, than the altered temper of the young gentlemen. They have their faults and follies still for when will young blood be other than hot blood? But when one finds, more and more, swearing banished from the hunting field, foul songs from the universities, drunkenness and gambling from the barracks; when one finds everywhere, whether at college, in camp, or by the cover side, more and more, young men desirous to learn their duty as Englishmen, and if possible to do it; when one hears their altered tone toward the middle classes, and that word 'snob' (thanks very much to Mr. Thackeray) used by them in its true sense, without regard of rank; when one watches, as at Aldershott, the care and kindness of officers toward their men; and over and above all this, when one finds in every profession (in that of the soldier as much as any) young men who are not only 'in the world,' but (in religious phraseology) 'of the world,' living God fearing, virtuous, and useful lives, as Christian men should: then indeed one looks forward with hope and confidence to the day when these men shall settle down in life, and become, as holders of the land, the leaders of agricultural progress, and the guides and guardians of the labouring man.

I am bound to speak of the farmer, as I know him in the South of England. In the North he is a man of altogether higher education and breeding: but he is, even in the South, a much better man than it is the fashion to believe him. No doubt, he has given heavy cause of complaint... Continue reading book >>

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