Born: Queen Elizabeth of England, 1533, Greenwich; Thomas Erpenins, celebrated orientalist, 1584, Gorcum, Holland; Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, great commander, 1621, Paris; George Louis, Count de Buffon, distinguished naturalist, 1707, Montbard, Burgundy; Dr. Samuel Johnson, lexicographer and author, 1709, Lichfield; Arthur Young, agricultural writer, 1741.
Died: Emperor Frederick IV of Germany, 1493, Vienna; Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio, historical writer, 1644, Rome; Captain Porteous, murdered by the Edinburgh mob, 1736; Dr. John Armstrong, author of The Art of Preserving Health, 1779, London; Leonard Euler, eminent mathematician, 1783, St. Petersburg; Mrs. Hannah More, religious and moral writer, 1833, Clifton.
Feast Day: St. Regina or Reine, virgin and martyr, 3rd century. St. Evurtius, bishop of Orleans, confessor, about 340. St. Grimonia or Germana, virgin and martyr. St. Eunan, first bishop of Raphoe, in Ireland. St. Cloud, confessor, 560. St. Madelberte, virgin, about 705. Saints Alchmund and Tilberht, confessors, 8th century.
The most popular and prolific of writers on rural affairs was Arthur Young. No great discovery or improvement in agriculture bears his name: his merit consists in the fact, that he was an agitator. He had a passion for novelties, and such was the vigour of his mind, that he succeeded in affecting the most stolid and conservative of classes with something of his own enthusiasm. He set land-lords thinking, enticed and drove them into experiments, and persuaded farmers everywhere to break from the dull routine of centuries. More than any man, England owes to Arthur Young that impulse which, within the last hundred years, has transformed her wastes into rich pastures and fruitful fields, and multiplied the produce of her harvests by many fold.
Young was the son of a Suffolk clergyman, and was born in 1741. He was apprenticed to a merchant in Lynn, but an inordinate taste for reading and scribbling interfered sadly with his mercantile progress. At the age of seventeen, he wrote a pamphlet on the war against the French in America, for which a publisher gave him ten pounds' worth of books. He next started a periodical, called the Universal Museum, which, by the advice of Dr. Johnson, he discontinued at the sixth number. Four novels, about the same time, flowed from his facile pen. At his father's death, in 1769, he wished to enter the army, but at his mother's entreaty refrained, and turned farmer instead, without any practical knowledge of husbandry, and, as he afterwards confessed, with his head bursting with wild notions of improvements. Farming supplied matter and direction for his literary activity, and in 1770 he published, in two thick volumes quarto, A Course of Experimental Agriculture, containing an exact Register of the Business transacted during five years on near 300 acres of various Soils. A few years before, he had printed A Tour through the Southern Counties of England, which proved so popular that he was led to under-take similar surveys in the east, west, and north, and Ireland. These tours excited the liveliest interest in all connected with agriculture: soils, methods of culture, crops, farm-buildings, cattle, plantations, roads, were all discussed in a most vivacious style, and praised or blamed with bluff honesty.
Between 1766 and 1775, he relates that he realised £3000 by his agricultural writings, a large sum for works of that order in those times. His own farming was far from profitable, and the terms in which he describes a hundred acres he rented in Hertfordshire, may be taken as a fair specimen of his outspoken manner: 'I know not what epithet to give this soil; sterility falls short of the idea; a hungry vitriolic gravel-I occupied for nine years the jaws of a wolf. A nabob's fortune would sink in the attempt to raise good arable crops in such a country: my experience and knowledge had increased from travelling and practice; but all was lost when exerted on such a spot. I hardly wonder at a losing account, after fate had fixed me on land calculated to swallow, without return, all that folly or imprudence could bestow upon it.' Finding that his income was barely sufficient to meet his expenditure, he engaged to report the parliamentary debates for the Morning Post. This he continued to perform for several years; and after the labours of the week, he walked every Saturday evening to his wretched farm, a distance of seventeen miles from London, from which he as regularly returned every Monday morning. This was the most anxious and laborious part of his life. 'I worked,' he writes, like a coal-heaver, though without his reward.'
In 1784, he commenced a periodical work under the title of the Annals of Agriculture, which he continued through forty-five volumes. He admitted no papers unless signed by the author, a regulation which added alike to the interest and authority of the publication. The rule was relaxed, however, in the case of the king, George III, who contributed to the seventh volume a description of the farm of Mr. Ducket at Petersham, under the signature of 'Ralph Robinson of Windsor.'
Young's English Tours possess considerable historic interest, which will increase with the lapse of years; but their present, and probably future, value in that respect is thrown into the shade by his Agricultural Survey of France, made on horseback, in 1788. The French admit that Young was the first who opened their eyes to the very low condition of their husbandry, but his observations on the social and political state of the peasantry, their poverty and hardships, are of peculiar and unique importance, as made on the very verge of the revolution; and no student of the circumstances which led up to that tremendous catastrophe, will ever neglect Arthur Young's Survey. In his French travel he displays a liberal and reforming spirit, but the excesses and atrocities of the revolutionists drove Young, as it did Burke and a host of others, into Toryism, and a pamphlet he published in 1793, entitled The Example of France a Warning to Britain, had a great sale, and attests the depth of his horror and disgust.
The fame of Young as an agriculturist was greater even abroad than at home, and many were the tokens of admiration he received. The French Directory, in 1801, ordered the translation of all his agricultural writings, and in twenty volumes they were published in Paris, under the title of Le Cultivateur Anglais. The Empress Catherine sent three young Russians to be instructed by him, and made him the present of a gold snuff-box, with rich ermine cloaks for his wife and daughter. His son, too, was employed by the Czar Alexander, in 1805, to make an agricultural survey around Moscow, and was rewarded with a sum which enabled him to purchase an estate of 10,000 acres of very fertile land in the Crimea, where he settled. Pupils flocked to Arthur Young from all parts of the world. The Duke of Bedford one morning, at his breakfast-table, counted representatives from France, Poland, Austria, Russia, Italy, Portugal, and America.
Sir John Sinclair, in 1793, persuaded the government to establish a Board of Agriculture, of which Young was appointed secretary, with a free house and a salary of £400 a year. It was a post for which he was admirably suited, and was the means of preserving him from a very hazardous speculation-a tract of Yorkshire moorland he purposed cultivating. 'What a change in the destination of a man's life!' he exclaims. 'Instead of entering, as I proposed, the solitary lord of 4000 acres, in the keen atmosphere of lofty rocks and mountain torrents, with a little creation rising gradually around me, making the desert smile with cultivation, and grouse give way to industrious population, active and energetic, though remote and tranquil, and every instant of my existence making two blades of grass to grow where not one was found before-behold me at a desk in the fog, the smoke, the din of Whitehall!'
About 1808, his sight grew dim, terminating in blindness, but his busy career did not close until the 12th of April 1820, when he had nearly reached his eightieth year.
OLD SAYINGS AS TO CLOTHES
It is lucky to put on any article of dress, particularly stockings, inside out: but if you wish the omen to hold good, you must continue to wear the reversed portion of your attire in that condition, till the regular time comes for putting it off-that is, either bedtime or 'cleaning yourself.' If you set it right, you will 'change the luck.' It will be of no use to put on anything with the wrong side out on purpose.
It is worthy of remark, in connection with this superstition, that when William the Conqueror, in arming himself for the battle of Hastings, happened to put on his shirt of mail with the hind-side before, the bystanders seem to have been shocked by it, as by an ill omen, till William claimed it as a good one, betokening that he was to be changed from a duke to a king. The phenomenon of the hind-side before' is so closely related to that of 'inside out,' that one can hardly understand their being taken for contrary omens.
The clothes of the dead will never wear long - When a person dies, and his or her clothes are given away to the poor, it is frequently remarked: Ah, they may look very well, but they won't wear; they belong to the dead.'
If a mother gives away all the baby's clothes she has (or the cradle), she will be sure to have another baby, though she may have thought herself above such vanities.
If a girl's petticoats are longer than her frock, that is a sign that her father loves her better than her mother does-perhaps because it is plain that her mother does not attend so much to her dress as she ought to do, whereas her father may love her as much as you please, and at the same time be very ignorant or unobservant of the rights and wrongs of female attire.
If you would have good-luck, you must wear something new on 'Whitsun-Sunday' (pronounced Wissun-Sunday). More generally, Easter Day is the one thus honoured, but a glance round a church or Sunday-school in Suffolk, on Whitsunday, shews very plainly that it is the one chosen for beginning to wear new 'things.'
While upon the subject of clothes, I may mention a ludicrous Suffolk phrase descriptive of a person not quite so sharp as he might be: he is spoken of as 'short of buttons,' being, I suppose, considered an unfinished article.
It is unlucky to enter a house, which you are going to occupy, by the back-door:
I knew of a family who had hired a house, and went to look over it, accompanied by an old. Scotch servant. The family, innocently enough, finding the front-door 'done up,' went in at the back-door, which was open; but great was their surprise to see the servant burst into tears, and sit down on a stone out-side, refusing to go in with them. If I recollect rightly (the circumstance happened several years ago), she had the front-door opened, and went in at that herself, hoping, I suppose, that the spell would be dissolved, if all the family did not go in at the back-door.
The Cross was made of elder-wood:
Speaking to some little children one day about the danger of taking shelter under trees during a thunder-storm, one of them said that it was not so with all trees, 'For,' said he, 'you will be quite safe under an eldern-tree, because the cross was made of that, and so the lightning never strikes it.'
With this may be contrasted a superstition mentioned by Dean Trench in one of the notes to his Sacred Latin Poetry, and accounting for the trembling of the leaves of the aspen-tree, by saying that the cross was made of its wood, and that, since then, the tree has never ceased to shudder.
Hot cross-buns, if properly made, will never get mouldy:
To make them properly, you must do the whole of the business on the Good-Friday itself; the materials must be mixed, the dough made, and the buns baked on that day, and this, I think, before a certain hour; but whether this hour is sunrise or church-time, I cannot say. Perhaps the spice which enters into the composition of hot cross-buns, has as much to do with the result as anything, but, experto crede, you may keep them for years without their getting mouldy.
In the appendix to Forby's Vocabulary of East Anglia, are given several local superstitions. One of them, regarding the cutting of the nails, is such a very elaborate one, that I give entire the formula in which it is embodied. The version that I have heard is nearly word for word the same as that which he has printed, and is as follows:
Cut 'em on Monday, you cut 'em for health;
Cut 'em on Tuesday, you cut 'em for wealth;
Cut 'em on Wednesday, you cut 'em for news;
Cut 'em on Thursday, a new pair of shoes;
Cut 'em on Friday, you cut 'em for sorrow;
Cut 'em on Saturday, you'll see your true love tomorrow
Cut 'em on Sunday, and you'll have the devil with you all the week.
I must confess that I cannot divine the origin of any of these notions, but of the last two. Sunday is, of course, the chief day for courting among the labouring-classes, and what can be more natural than that the cutting of the nails on a Saturday, should be followed by the meeting of true-lovers on the next day? the most likely one for such an event, whether the nails had been cut or not.
The last, again, seems to have arisen from considering the cutting of nails to be a kind of work, and so to be a sin, which would render the breaker of the Sabbath more liable to the attacks of the devil. This view is strengthened by the fact of the Sunday being placed not at the beginning, but at the end of the week, and thus identified with the Jewish Sabbath. Indeed, I have found that among poor people generally, it is reckoned as the seventh day, and that on the Sunday, they speak of the remainder of the week as the next week.
Superstitions with respect to the cutting of the nails are of very ancient date. We find one in Hesiod's Works and Day(742-3), where he tells you: 'Not to cut from the five-branched with glittering iron the dry from the quick in the rich feast of the gods,' a direction which may be compared with the warning against Sunday nail-cutting in the East-Anglian saw given above.
Mushrooms will not grow after they have been seen. Very naturally, the first person that sees them, gathers them.
The price of corn rises and falls with Barton Mere-an eccentric piece of water, which varies in size from twelve or fourteen acres to a small pond, and is some-times entirely dried up. It lies about four miles from Bury St. Edmunds, and a worthy old farmer, now deceased, used frequently to ride to Barton Mere to observe the state of the water there, before proceeding to Bury market. I do not know of any one who does this now, but it is an observed fact that the price of corn, and the height of the water, frequently do vary together: for instance, corn is now (October 1862) very low, and the mere is nearly dry. Probably the character of the weather may affect both in common, and in this manner the notion can be explained, as the saying that: 'If the rain-drops hang on the window, more will come to join them,' may be accounted for by the fact, that it is a sign of slow evaporation, of the presence of abundant moisture, which will be likely to precipitate itself in the form of more rain.
If, when you are fishing, you count what you have taken, you will not catch any more.
This may be paralleled with the prejudice against counting lambs, mentioned in a former paper. It is a western superstition, and was communicated to me by a gentleman, who, when out with professional fishermen, has been prevented by them from counting the fish caught till the day's sport was over.
The same gentleman also told me a method which he had seen practised in the same locality to discover the body of a person who had been drowned in a river. An apple was sent down the stream from above the spot where the body was supposed to be, and it was expected that the apple would stop above the place where the corpse lay. He could not, however, take upon himself to say that the expedient was a successful one.