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Register on the 30th of July, 1803, after to the public good. He could not, therethe declaration of war against France in fore, be a Tory; to be a Whig, he was the preceding May. The paper was sent ashamed; and he therefore dubbed him. round to all the clergy in the kingdom, with self a Radical. In this capacity he very directions to post it on the church doors soon brought himself within the grasp of and to deposit copies in the pews. It is the law; and in the year 1810 he was conwritten, in a style, no doubt, which has victed of publishing a seditious libel, cal. gone out of fashion; and that it was read culated to encourage mutiny and to make with avidity and admiration at the time the military service unpopular. For this only shows the depth and strength of the offence he was sentenced to two years' emotions by which Englishmen were then imprisonment in Newgate and to pay a fine stirred, and compared with which, anything of 1,000l. The confinement neither hurt we have since experienced has been as his health nor depressed his spirits, and water unto wine. There is, in this re- the fine was paid for him by the generosity markable composition, none of the glowing of friends, who at the same time advanced rhetoric and beautiful imagery of Burke; considerable sums for the payment of none of the florid generalities regarding other liabilities. life, property, and liberty, which are the Cobbett, with all his faults, was no hypostock in trade of ordinary writers on such crite, and he was not the man to prosess occasions. Cobbett tells his readers in a magnanimity which he did not feel. He direct and explicit terms exactly what they did not pretend to forgive his “ “persecuhave to expect, should England be subdued tors.” But, in the new corn-law, in the by France. He describes the effect of paper currency, and in the desperate dissuch an event upon our merchants and tress of the working classes he had plenty artisans, upon our farmers and peasantry, to write about, without trenching on deeper upon every class and every family in the and more searching questions. Parliacommunity, with a graphic realism as if he mentary reform indeed he continued to had biiselt seen it. The whole address demand loudly; but in all other respects is hot with the white heat of intense con he was widely different from the political viction, too intense and too awful to permit party which bears the same name at the of embellishment or ornament.
present day. As late as 1816 he writes Cobbett, in a lecture delivered at Man- to Sir Francis Burdett, “ You want nothchester in 1831, told his hearers that on the ing new. You do not wish to deprive the formation of the Grenville ministry in 1806 crown, the Church, or the aristocracy of he might have been under-secretary for any of their dignities or rights; you only war wlien Windham became the head of wish that the people should have their own." that department. He refused it, he says, So far from thinking that if the people had because Windham laughed at him when he their own rights they would use them to said that the interest on the debt must be attack the rights of others, he thought that reduced. The reason assigned is so char. in the people the gentry would find their acteristic of Cobbett that we can easily be best friends. He only rebuked these last lieve it; but there must have been some for their madness in supporting the policy thing else to account for the sudden of the government, which must inevitably termination of their intimacy, which took end in the total estrangement of the people. place about the same time. The investi All this was called radical and revolutiongation of some abuses in the war depart. ary at the time, and so obnoxious had ment, which Cobbett desired and Wind. Cobbett made himself to the ministry of ham refused to grant, was not impossibly the day, that when the Habeas Corpus act at the bottom of it. At all events, we find was suspended in 1817, he fancied, perin Windham's diary for February 1806, haps with some truth, that his own liberty the record of the last visit he ever paid to was in danger, and promptly betook himthe office of the Political Register. And self to America. The Political Register, in 1809, when Colbett was pouring daily, however, was kept up; but though its broadsides into the Duke of York, we find popularity and its profits were as large as an entry to the effect that he has all day ever, Cobbett's expenses had been so been reading Cobbett, inore wicked and great, and his affairs had been so badly mischievous than ever. We bave hence managed, that when he returned to Enforth, therefore, to consider him as having gland in 1819 he was unable to avoid bankcompletely broken away from his old con- ruptcy, nections: as haviog tried the Tory party, Cobbett brought home from America and found it wanting in all the qualities with him the bones of Tom Paine, whose and principles which he deemed essential | life he subsequently wrote, nor did he de. fend himself with much success against hours, and the change in his habits began those who reminded him that he had once to tell upon him. In the spring of 1835 he denounced Paine in language of ferocious caught cold, and when the new Parliament vituperation. There was something, too, met he was obviously unequal to his work. in the theatrical appearance of the act He fought hard against the enemy; and as which made it ridiculous in the eyes of late as May 25 he made a speech on agriEnglishmen. And altogether people were cultural distress. But it was his last apmore disposed perhaps, at this period of pearance, and on June 19 he was dead. his life, to believe stories to Cobbett's dis- Cobbett was little understood during his advantage than they had been at any previ- own lifetime. Few people took the trouble ous time. Among other stories which to consider what truth might possibly be obtained credence, he was accused of run- found underneath all his violent language ning from his creditors, and more par- and exaggerated statements. But his ticularly of an intention to cheat Sir writings contributed in part to form the Francis Burdett out of 3,000l. which the opinions of a future generation; and the latter had advanced on Cobbett's release seed which he sowed, though not visible from Newgate. Then, of course, when above ground when he died, has borne its Cobbett accused Sir Francis Burdett, in fruit since. It is difficult, indeed, to disenthe Political Register, of lukewarmness tangle the truth from the error both in his in the cause of reform, he exposed himself political and ecclesiastical views. Politito counter-charges of ingratitude and in-cally, one would say that he had really not consistency. Mr. Smith, his latest biog- changed at all, from the first formation of rapher, thinks the affair was creditable to his opinions to the hour when the grave neither; and on that footing we may safely closed over him. He was always staunchly let the matter rest.
monarchical; and one object which he At the first general election after the wished to see attained by Parliamentary Reform Bill, Cobbett was nominated at reform was the destruction of party, so that the same time for both Oldham and Man- the king should be able to choose his serchester, and was returned for the former vants as he liked, without Parliament havborough in company with Mr. John Field-ing anything to do with it. To the last he
When he took' bis seat in the House spoke of the rural aristocracy as the natu. of Commons he had all but completed his ral leaders of the people. The people of seventy-first year; and the time had long England,” said he still remember those passed when he ought to have expected to who are old enough — how much they distinguish himself in that assembly. That owed to the hospitality which formerly he did expect it, however, is clear from a reigned throughout the country, and parconversation recorded by Sir John Mal- ticularly in the mansions of the country colm in 1832. He had the satisfaction, gentlemen.". To see these mansions in however, of showing himself as he really decay or occupied by the new men,” who was to the people who had long heard him had made their fortunes in trade or stockdescribed as a villain and a cut-throat. jobbing, was gall and wormwood to him.
They saw," says his biographer, “a fine, The “Rural Rides and Drives,” published tall, hale old fellow, with a face sparkling between 1821 and 1832, teem with demonwith humor, and a voice of surprising gen- strations of this feeling. What in fact he tieness." But he was too old to learn the wished to see was the restoration of the ways of the House, and he brought great rural system of the eighteenth century, as ridicule on himself by moving that Sir it existed before the American war; as he Robert Peel's failures on the currency had heard his father describe it; and as question deserved to be punished by his he himself no doubt, to some extent, re. dismissal from the Privy Council
. Peel," membered it. "I wish to see the people says Greville in his diary,“ has the follow- of England as they were at the time when ing entry on the subject :”
I was born,” he wrote. And so far from
decrying feudalism and Catholicism, he May 19, 1833. – Peel compelled old Cob seems to have thought that the two combett to bring on his motion for getting him bined produced a happier England than erased from the Privy Council, which Cobbett wished to shirk from. He gave him a terrible we had seen for the last four hundred dressing, and it all went off for Peel in the years; in fact, he says that England had most flattering manner.
reached her zenith in the reign of Edward
III. And yet this man called himself, and He succeeded rather better afterwards. was generally esteemed, a Radical. The But his time was drawing near. He was age in which he lived was, it must be obnow an old man, used all his life to early served, as far as history is concerned, a
somewhat narrow-minded age. The Tories the bacon and the pudding. The cup of looked only to the French Revolution; the strong beer was the only distinction then Whigs only to the English. They regard- between master and man. Squire Chared the effects which these events had pro- rington dined in his parlor and drunk wine duced on our laws and institutions. Nei- by himself. The old oak table was desert. ther investigated what lay below these ed, and its former tenants banished to questions the effect, namely, which they hovels and public houses. Squire Charhad produced on the social condition of the rington's brother, when a boy, drove the people. Cobbett was the first to take it plough, and was not ashamed. Squire up: a man “acerrimi ingenii sed pauca- Charrington's sons are clerks in offices, run literarum : a half-educated, half- and a great deal too fine for the farm. informed man, full of half-truths, who did Cobbett calculates the thousands of scores almost more harm than good by the way of bacon, and thousands of bushels of in which he advocated them; but who nev. bread which have been eaten on the oak ertheless went to the root of the matter in table, and the reflection that it will probacertain social controversies which have bly be turned into a bridge over some artirecently come again to the front.
ficial river in the garden of a cockney Let us take the description of Squire stock-jobber is too much for him. Charrington in the “Rural Rides and God, it sha'n't,” he exclaims, and he comDrives,” October 25, 1825.
missions a friend to buy it for him, that he Having done my business at Hartswood may set it up in his own house, and keep to-day about eleven o'clock, I went to a sale it for the good it has done in the world." at a farm which the farmer is quitting. Here One quotation is as good as a thousand, I had a view of what has long been going on to show Cobbett's ideas on this subject. all over the country. The farm, which be- Small farms and small estates had been longs to Christ's Hospital, has been held by a swallowed up by large ones; farmers had man of the name of Charrington, in whose become mock gentlemen; and real gentle. family the lease has been, I hear, a great num- men had been bought out by cockneys and ber of years. The house is hidden by trees. stock-jobbers. This was the result of the It stands in the weald of Surrey, close by the national debt, superinducing taxation which river Mole, which is here a mere rivulet, the smaller proprietors were unable to though just below this house the rivulet sup. bear; and the national debt in turn was plies the very prettiest flour-mill I ever saw in my life. Everything about this house was the result of the glorious Revolution formerly the scene of plain manners and plen- brought about by the Whig families lest a tiful living Oak clothes' chests, oak bed- Catholic dynasty should compel them to steads, oak chests of drawers, and oak tables disgorge their plunder. This was the sim
- long, strong, and well supplied ple creed of William Cobbett. Down to with joint stools. Some of the things were the breaking out of the American war, and many hundreds of years old. But all
appeared during the earlier part of Mr. Pitt's adto be in a state of decay and nearly of disuse. ministration, the Tories had really been There appeared to have
been hardly any family the country party - the party which proin that house, where formerly there were, all probability, from ten to fifteen men, boys, tested against the debt and upheld "the and maids; and, which was the worst of all, claims of the landed interest against the there was a parlor. Aye, and a carpet, and a newly-created moneyed class who mainbell-pull, too! One end of this once plain and tained the credit of the government. Cobsubstantial house had been moulded into a bett therefore began life as a Tory, and “parlor ;” and there was the mahogany table, saw in Mr. Pitt a Tory after his owo heart. and the fine chairs, and the fine glass, and all But when Mr. Pitt in an evil hour adopted as barefaced, upstart as any stock jobber in the the Whig system, Cobbett shook the dust kingdom can boast of. And there were the off his feet against him. We cannot in decanters, the glasses, the dinner set of crockery ware, and all just in the true stock-jobber
these pages take up the political argument style. And I dare say it has been Squire here suggested. The Revolution, like Charrington and the Miss Charringtons, and most other great changes of the same kind, not plain Master Charrington and his son was an event of a very blended characHodge, and his daughter Betty Charrington, ter all of whom this accursed system has, in all likelihood, transmuted into a species of mock
πολλα μεν εσθλά μεμιγμένα, πολλά δε λυγρά. gentlefolks, while it has ground the laborers But as it is admitted that at the end of down into real slaves.
George the Second's reign, the prosperity Farmer Charrington sat at the head of of the agricultural peasantry had reached the old oak table, and dined with his labor. its highest point, it seems hard to charge ers, for whom he said grace, and carved l its subsequent decline upon the Revolution
to eat on
of 1688. Be this as it may, however, our | roundabout process, would get some of sympathies are all with Cobbett, if our that benefit from the charity of our pious reason is against bim. If we shut our forefathers which these had always meant eyes, and try to transport ourselves back them to receive. into the little world in which his boyhood Of Cobbett in private life he himself was passed in a round of healthy occupa. has left some very interesting glimpses in tions interspersed with plenty of amuse- his “ Advice to Young Men" a book ments; in which poverty and discontent marked by much good sense, but too much were unknown; where the relations be like Swift's “ Letter to a Young Married tween the gentry, the farmer, and the la: Lady” to be suitable for modern reading. borer were as yet unembittered; and He draws a picture of himself surrounded where, like the needy knife-grinder, nobody by his children in his garden at Botley, vexed his soul with politics, we can appré- where the blackbirds and thrushes and ciate the longing with which Cobbett whitethroats, and even goldfinches and looked back to it, and the feelings he en. skylarks, built their nests and reared their tertained towards those whom he believed young as safe in the middle of half-a-dozen to have destroyed it.
young children as they would have been in Cobbett's regard for the landed gentry, the wildest solitude. His letters are full however, was tempered by a doctrine of allusions to his greyhounds, his pointwhich brings him into direct communica- ers, and his spaniels, and he was evidently tion with lhe agrarian reformers of the a scientific courser. The river swarmed present day. He saw that all landed es with fish, and he has a net down from tates were originally held upon trust, and London in which he takes jack, trout, and on condition of military service. The salmon. Planting was the rural operation “army
estimates accordingly were in in which he took the most delight, and this those days a charge upon the land; and he seems to have understood throughout. when this was abolished, though some show Botley, where Cobbett pitched his tent, is of an equivalent was set up, the aristoc- a village in Hampshire, about nine miles racy in reality transferred the greater part from Fareham, on the little river Hamble, of their own obligations to the shoulders where the present writer has had many a of the people. His theory on the subject good day's partridge shooting : herehe of tithes dovetailed into this view. The made for himself a rural home such as he tithes, as originally granted to the Church, thought an English yeoman's ought to be. were held in trust sor three purposes : one. He became proprietor of a sinall estate, third was to go to the support of a resident part of which he farmed himself, and set parish priest, one-third to the maintenance an example of liberality to his laborers, of the fabric and all its appurtenances, and which it would have been well if his neighthe other third to the relief of the poor. bors had imitated, and which is still well By the inalappropriation of the great tithes, remembered by a few old people in the the poor had been robbed of a fund dis- village. tinctly set apart for their support. So that, Here in his own house he was seen to looking at the two transactions together the greatest advantage, and Miss Mitford the abolition, namely, of the feudal ser- has left us an account of a visit which she vices and feudal dues by which the land in paid to him in 1807 in company with her great part was made to support the mon- father, who had been led into an intimacy archy, and the confiscation of the great with Cobbett by a mutual passion for greytithes which were intended to relieve the hounds. She describes him as having poor the student of history would be something of the Dandie Dinmont look able to estimate the amount of wrong about him, "a tall, stout man, fair and which had been inflicted on the laboring sunburnt, with a bright smile and an air classes. As Cobbett grew older, his views compounded of the soldier and the farmer," of Church property enlarged. He came set off by“ an eternal red waistcoat,” very to adopt the very silly notion that the gentle in conversation, and never permit. Church of England was a new religion ting, if he could help it, political subjects created by an Act of Parliament, and that to be introduced. she had consequently po right to ecclesias. tical property which had been originally with a lawn and a garden sweeping down to
He had at that time a large house at Botley bestowed on Roman Catholics. He pro- the Bursledon River. ... His house, large, posed therefore that all Church property high, massive, red, and square, and perched should be sold and the proceeds devoted on a considerable eminence, always struck me to the payment of the national debt. If as being not unlike its proprietor. It was this were done, then the poor, by a rather filled at that time almost to overflowing.
Lord Cochrane was there, then in the very to look shy on him after his conviction ; height of his warlike fame, and as unlike the and the staunch Church and King Tories, common notion of a warrior as could be-a among the lesser country gentry and the gentle, quiet, mild young man. was a large fluctuating series of guests for the hour clergy, who thought "little" Perceval” alor guests for the day, of almost all ranks and most as great a man as Pitt, regarded with descriptions, from the earl and his countess to great disfavor the ruthless assailant of the farmer and his dame. The house had the minister. Cobbett repaid them with room for all, and the hearts of the owners interest, and the breach soon became irrepwould have had room for three times the num- arable. Cobbett, however, was no friend ber. I never saw hospitality more genuine, to the Dissenters, and among many other more simple, or more thoroughly successful in gibes at their expense, the following, from the great end of hospitality — the putting the “Cottage Economy," is perhaps the everybody completely at ease. There was not most amusing, as it bursts upon us quite the slightest attempt at finery, or display, or gentility. They called it a farmhouse, and unexpectedly. The scene is the laborer's everything was in accordance with the largest cottage after the pig has been killed : idea of a great English yeoman of the old The butcher the next day cuts the hog, and time. Everything was excellent, everything then the house, is filled with meat! souse, abundant, all served with the greatest nicety griskins, blade-bones, thigh-bones, spareribs, by trim waiting damsels; and everything went chines, belly pieces, cheeks, all coming into on with such quiet regularity, that of the large use, one after the other, and the last of the circle of guests not one could find himself in latter not before the end of about four or five
weeks. But about this time it is more than
possible that the Methodist parson will pay Here Cobbett, whose taste for manly you a visit. It is remarked in America that sports, like Mr. Windham's and Lord Al- these gentry are attracted by the squeaking of thorpe's, was in strange contrast with other the pigs, as the fox is by the cackling of the features of his character, used to get up tell you what I did know to happen. A good
hen. This may be called slander, but I will single-stick matches and distribute prizes. honest careful fellow had a sparerib, on which We do not hear, however, of his attending he intended to sup with his family after a long prize-fights, though a warm patron of the and hard day's work at coppice cutting. ring. But he defends both prize-fighting Home he came at dark with his two little and bull-baiting in the Political Register, boys, each with a stick of wood that they had announcing that it was illegal to kill a bull carried four miles, cheered with the thought for the consumption of the poor without of the repast that awaited them. In he went, first baiting him.
found his wife, the Methodist parson, and a It was, of course, a great blow to himself whole troop of the sisterhood, engaged in and all his family when his sentence of prayer, and on the table lay scattered the clean
polished bones of the sparerib ! imprisonment separated him for two years from everything he loved best. Bút he Need we remind our readers of the inhad his compensations. Every week or imitable description recalled by this anecoftener “a hamper” came up from Botley dote of Miss Grisel Oldbuck, the Rev. full of country produce, and the finest Mr. Blattergowl, and the chicken-pie? flowers which the children could gather in
Cobbett remained at Botley five years their gardens. These were accompanied longer. But in the “bad times” which by a letter from each child; and thus, says followed the peace, farming was a losing hé,“ while the “ferocious tigers’ thought concern. His own farm was no exception ; me doomed to perpetual mortification, I and after his second return from America, found in these spuddling' letters a de- in 1819, Botley was obliged to be sold, and light to which the callous hearts of the his country home was broken up. Не, tigers were strangers.” He thought that however, made himself another near Lone people brought up in the station of life to don, and resumed his usual habits of life which he originally belonged were fonder with unflagging spirits. It was in the year of their children than others.
immediately following the loss of Botley At Botley, in his best days, Cobbett that he composed his "Rural Rides and entertained good company, and was rather Drives - a book as fresh as the dew, and popular than otherwise with the neighbor. full of the most charming sketches of down ing squires and clergy. Here often came and forest scenery by a real master of the Lord Cochrane, who, in September 1806, picturesque. We wander with him through we find “hard at work, a shooting;” Lord cornfields, and meadows, and homesteads, H. Stuart, Lord Folkestone, and other and seem to catch the very fragrance of aristocratic admirers of Cobbett's charac. the new-mown hay or the long lush grass; ter and abilities; but the neighbors began to bear the creaking of the loaded wagons