Thursday, April 28, 2011

My birthday again

Today, one hundred and ninety years ago, was born Anthony Ashley Cooper, who later became the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. A religious man, and, in his day, a well-known philanthropist, he campaigned to improve factory conditions and to restrict the hours children were allowed to work. His diaries were quoted extensively in a three volume biography published the year after his death.

Cooper was born in Richmond, near London, on 28 April 1801, the eldest son of ten children. He was educated at Harrow and Christ College, Oxford, and when only 25, was elected as MP for Woodstock, a Shaftesbury family borough. He married Emily Cowper, whose real father was rumoured to be Lord Palmerston (who did marry Emily’s mother after Lord Cowper’s death). They had ten children some of them beset with health problems.

From the outset in his Parliamentary career, Cooper was interested in social reform. Early on he was a member of a committee looking into the treatment of lunatics, a subject which he followed through for much of his career. In 1832, he became the leader of the factory reform movement in the House of Commons. A year later he proposed a bill to restrict children’s working time to ten hours. It was defeated, but the government nevertheless brought in new restrictions on child labour in the 1933 Factory Act. Some years later, in 1840, Lord Ashley helped set up the Children’s Employment Commission which led to the Coal Mines Act prohibiting women and children from working underground.

In 1851, on the death of his father, Cooper became the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury. He continued to campaign for more restrictive legislation on child working hours, and his work led to the passing of the so-called Ten Hours Act in 1847. He also campaigned on education and was chairman of the Ragged Schools Union which established many schools for poor families. He died in 1885. For more biographical information see The Victorian Web or Wikipedia. The Diary Junction has information on the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, who lived two centuries earlier, and was also a diarist, and was also called Anthony Ashley Cooper.

Here are several extracts from The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury by Edwin Hodder, published in three volumes by Cassell & Company in 1886, all of them written by Cooper on his birthday.

28 April 1826
My birthday, and now I am twenty-five years old - a great age for one who is neither wise, nor good, nor useful, nor endowed with capability of becoming so. People would answer me, ‘Why, you have not lost your time, you have always been engaged;’ quite true, but always upon trifles; indeed, since my quitting Oxford, a space now of three years, I have absolutely done harm to my intellects, by false reasoning which, however rare it may have been, is the only exercise which has disturbed my mental indolence. What might have been performed in three years? but not a study commenced, not an object pursued; not a good deed done, not a good thought generated: for my thoughts are too unsteady for the honour of that title. Visions without end, but, God be praised, all of a noble character. I fancy myself in wealth and power, exerting my influence for the ends that I sought it for, for the increase of religion and true happiness. No man had ever more ambition, and probably my seeming earnestness for great and good purposes was merely a proof of hotter ambition and deeper self- deception than exists in others. That I am not completely in despair must come from God who knows, . . . Latterly I have taken to hard study. It amuses me and prevents mischief. Occasionally the question ‘cui bono’ sours my spirit of application; but generally speaking, I have stilled the passions. An attachment during my residence at Vienna commenced a course of self-knowledge for me. Man never has loved more furiously or more imprudently. The object was, and is, an angel, but she was surrounded by, and would have brought with her, a halo of hell.

28 April 1827.
‘My birthday again; and God be praised that I have arrived at it without any intolerable calamity of mind or body. It has been a year of study and exertion, but I have neither learnt nor done anything. Yet look at the history of all men who have obtained a degree of efficiency. They began much earlier to signalise their merits. Cicero opened his Pleadings at twenty-six, my age, . . ; Scipio was consul at twenty-four ; Pitt prime minister at twenty-three. All the men at the present day started while still of supple years. Peel, Canning, Robinson, were all younger than I am now, who have not done one thing, nor acquired the power of doing one thing, which might be serviceable to my country or an honour to myself. And yet I cannot keep down an aspiring sentiment - a sentiment which, God knows, aims at all virtue, and through that, aiming at all greatness. I cannot understand why my time is less profitably employed than the time of others. I read, think, make every endeavour, but no good result comes of it, and this year has found me as unprepared as the last, and the next year will find me no better than this has done. To be sure my weak stomach has a sad effect upon the head, but this is not all, I must confess painful deficiency, and in humbleness make the best of it.’

28 April 1831
‘Dorchester. Another birthday in the midst of an election and a falling country. Were I not married to a woman whose happiness, even for an hour, I prefer to whole years of my own, I could wish to be away from the scene of destruction and carried to an unearthly place, rather than see my country crumble before my eyes. Whatever be the result of this General Election relative to the Bill, the Ministers have succeeded in rendering some Reform inevitable.’

28 April 1843
‘My birthday. I am this day forty-two years old, more than half my course is run, even supposing that I fulfil the age assigned by the Psalmist to fallen man. ‘A short life, and a merry one,’ says the sensualist’s proverb; a long life and a useful one, would be more noble and more Scriptural; but it is spoken to the praise of Solomon, and by God himself, that he had not asked a long life; neither then will I; but I do ask, for to this we have the warranty of the Holy Word, that the residue of my years be given to the advancement of the Lord’s glory, and to the temporal and eternal welfare of the human race. Surely I may also pray to see, and even to reap, some fruit of my labours, to discern at least some probability of harvest, although to be gathered by other hands!

The Factory Bill drags a long - ten years have witnessed no amelioration - the plan for Education is defeated; the Opium effort is overthrown. On the Colliery Question alone have I had partial success, and that even is menaced by evil and selfish men.’

28 April 1884
‘My birthday, and I have now struck the figure of eighty-three. It is wonderful, it is miraculous, with my infirmities, and even sufferings, of body, with sensible decline of mental application and vigour, I yet retain, by God’s mercy, some power to think and to act. May He grant, for Christ’s sake, that, to my last hour, I may be engaged in His service, and in the full knowledge of all that is around and before me! Cobden used to say of D’Israeli - I have heard him more than once - “What a retrospect that man will have!” Retrospects must be terrible to every one who measures and estimates his hopes by the discharge of his duties here on earth. Unless he be overwhelmed with self-righteousness, he must see that, when weighed in the balance he will be found wanting. But what are the prospects? They may be bright, joyous certain, in the faith and fear of the Lord Jesus.’

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Acts of wanton cruelty

William Dyott, a soldier who served all over the world for the British army and faithfully kept a diary, was born exactly a quarter of a millennium ago today. He’s not well remembered - does not even have a Wikipedia entry for the moment! - but the published diary is available online and provides some extraordinary colourful descriptions of his experiences abroad, such as when he was sent to the West Indies to deal with a revolt by slaves.

Dyott was born in Staffordshire on 17 April 1761 into a well-off family, and was schooled privately before attending a military college near London. He joined the army in 1781, and served in Ireland, Nova Scotia (where he became friends with Prince William, later William IV), West Indies (to help quell a negro uprising influenced by French revolutionists) and Egypt. He rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming a lieutenant-colonel in 1795, a major-general in 1808, and a lieutenant-general in 1813, although by then he was no longer on active service. During his service he also travelled to Spain and The Netherlands, where he took part in the disastrous Walcheren Expedition.

For a short while, in 1804, Dyott took up duties as an aide-de-campe to George III, accompanying members of the royal family to the theatre, and playing cards with the queen and her daughters. He married Eleanor Thompson in 1806, and they had two sons and a daughter. However, she eloped with another man in 1814. A year earlier, he had inherited the family estates near Lichfield, and thenceforward became much concerned with agricultural policies. He was a local Justice of the Peace, and a neighbour/friend of Robert Peel. He died in 1847. There is a short biography of Dyott at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which requires a log in). Otherwise, though, more details are available online in the introduction to his diary.

From the age of 20 until the year before he died, Dyott kept a diary filling 16 volumes. This was edited by Reginald W Jeffery and published in two volumes by Archibald Constable in 1907 as Dyott’s Diary, 1781-1845: a selection from the journal of William Dyott, sometime general in the British army and aide-de-camp to His Majesty King George III. The full texts are available at Internet Archive.

Here are two extracts from Dyott’s time in the West Indies.

16 March 1796
‘Employed in burying the dead, and sending away the wounded by sea to St George’s. I never beheld such a sight as Post Royal Hill, etc. The number of dead bodies and the smell was dreadful. The side of the hill on which the enemy endeavoured to make their retreat was extremely steep and thickly covered with wood, and the only method of discovering the killed was from the smell. It was near a fortnight after the action that many bodies were found. Nine days after the post was taken a mulatto man was discovered in the woods that had been wounded in three places two shots through his thigh. The only thing he had tasted was water, but to the astonishment of everybody he recovered.

The negroes and people of colour can certainly suffer and endure far greater torture than white people. I have seen two or three instances of this kind that astonished me. One in particular at Hooks Bay. Two negroes were taken prisoners the day we got possession of the post, and in order to secure them they were forced into a sort of arched place something like what I have seen under steps made use of to tie up a dog. There was just room for the poor devils to creep in on their hands and knees and to lie down. After they had got in, two soldiers of the 29th regiment put the muzzles of their firelocks to the doorplace and fired at them. I ran to see what the firing was, but before I got to the place they had fired a second round. On reaching the spot I made a negro draw out these miserable victims of enraged brutality. One of them was mangled in a horrid manner. The other was shot through the hip, the body, and one thigh, and notwithstanding all, he was able to sit up and to answer a number of questions that were asked him respecting the enemy. The poor wretch held his hand on the wound in his thigh, as if that only was the place he suffered from. The thigh bone must have been shattered to pieces, as his leg and foot were turned under him. The miserable being was not suffered to continue long in his wretchedness, as one of his own colour came up and blew his brains out sans ceremonie. This account does no credit to the discipline of the army. I own I was most completely ashamed of the whole proceeding, and said all I could to the General of the necessity of making an example to put a stop to these acts of wanton cruelty, being certain that nothing leads to anarchy and confusion in an army so soon as suffering a soldier in any instance to trespass the bounds of strict regularity, or to permit him to be guilty of an act of cruelty or injustice.

During the night of the 26th the enemy set fire to their works on Pilot Hill and evacuated the post. This post was situated about two miles from Post Royal on the coast. There was a most unfortunate accident happened in Hooks Bay on the 26th. The Ponsburne East Indiaman, that had brought part of the reinforcement from Barbadoes, drove from her anchors and went to pieces in a very short time. All the hands were saved, but every article of stores, ammunition, etc., was lost. It was an awful sight seeing the power of the element dashing to atoms in the space of two hours so stately a production of man’s art. This with the loss of a schooner drove on shore made it necessary to retain the post at Madam Hooks longer than was intended to my very great annoy, as a great quantity of provisions, etc. etc., were drifted on shore, which it was thought proper to destroy to prevent it falling into the enemy’s hands.’

14 May 1796
‘A vessel with Spanish colours came close in with the land, as if she intended going into Hooks Bay. On the supposition of her having a reinforcement for the brigands on board from the island of Trinidad, a party was sent to oppose their landing, but the vessel did not run into the bay. My tent was, I believe, infested with every species of reptile the island produces: a scorpion, lizard, tarantula, land-crab, and centipede had been caught by my black boy, and the mice were innumerable. I was prevented bathing in consequence of what is called in the West Indies the prickly heat. It is an eruption that breaks out all over the body, and from the violent itching and prickly sensation it has got the above appellation. All new-comers to the West Indies are subject to it, and when it is out it is considered as a sign of health. Bathing, I was told, was liable to drive it in. Nothing can equal the extreme unpleasant sensation, and people sometimes scratch themselves to that degree as to occasion sores. About this time our part of the army was suffering in a most shameful manner for the want of numerable articles in which it stood much in need. Neither wine or medicine for the sick, and not a comfort of any one kind for the good duty soldier; salt pork, without either peas or rice, for a considerable time, and for three days nothing but hard, dry, bad biscuit for the whole army, officers and men. Two days without (the soldiers’ grand comfort) grog.’

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Last of England

‘Rain; so had out the picture of ‘Last of England’ & scraped at the head of the female, afterwards worked at it 2 hours without model & four hours with - using zinc white.’ This is Ford Madox Brown, a major British 19th century painter, associated with the Pre-Raphaelites, who was born 190 years ago today. Intermittently, he kept diary notes about his painting habits, though full of mundane details, they do give a vivid sense of his daily life.

Brown was born on 16 April 1821 to English parents in France, but then brought up and educated in Belgium. In the mid-1840s, he settled in London and began to associate with the Pre-Raphaelite painters, such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was his student for a while. Brown’s first wife, Elizabeth Bromley, died in 1846 aged 27, after giving birth to a daughter Lucy. He later married his model, Emma Hill, and they had one son, Oliver, who died as a young man, and one daughter, Catherine, who was the mother of Ford Madox Ford.

Brown’s two greatest paintings Work and The Last of England [as in illustration above] were both begun in 1852. During the 1860s, he was closely associated with William Morris’s developing business and worked as an illustrator and as a designer of furniture and stained glass. He is best known, though, for his historical and biblical paintings and frescoes. In 1878, Brown was commissioned to paint a series of 12 murals for Manchester Town Hall. They took up much of the last years of his life. He is credited with helping to found the Hogarth Club and the Working Men’s College. For further biographical information see the websites of Manchester Art Gallery or Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, or Wikipedia.

Intermittently, through his life, Brown kept brief diary notes, mostly about his painting life. There are six extant exercise books, five covering the period from 1847 to 1855 (held by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford), and one covering more then ten years from 1856 to 1865 (held by Pierpont Morgan Library in New York). The five earlier diary books were first edited by W M Rossetti (Dante’s br0ther) for his Pre-Raphaelite Diaries and Letters, published by Hurst and Blackett in 1900. This is freely available online at Internet Archive. In 1981, Yale University Press published The Diary of Ford Madox Brown, edited by Virginia Surtees. In this version, Brown’s diaries are reproduced more faithfully (i.e including Brown’s ‘distinctive’ spelling and punctuation) than they are in Rossetti’s grammatically-sanitised version.

Here are several extracts of Brown’s diary (taken from The Diary of Ford Madox Brown). See also The Diary Review article on William Holman Hunt - The might of genius

17 August 1854
‘Rose at 1/4 before nine - garden after breakfast. Shower Bath before work. To work by 11 till one at the view of Windermere. Dined, to work again by 2 till near six worked at sky & all over. Tea & then for a walk with Emma. An umbrella each for a threatening storm which caught us sure as we returned. This even I intended drawing but instead reflected on alterations made in the picture of Christ & Peter which I think of sending to Paris with the Chaucer, if the English Committee [of the Universal Exhibition, Paris, 1855] accept it (6 hours). The Christ in its present state I consider to be failure - too much melo-dramatic sentiment not sufficient dignity and simplicity of pose. What to do with it however I scarce know. To suite the public taste however it should be clothed! to suit my own, not - but then the action suits me not to alter which would be more trouble than to cloath the figure. Auriole they must all have. The St John is all right. The Peter would be perfect if the carnation were redder & deeper in tint & the cloak a better green, also a bit of the right arm should be shown; but how? Judas requires a fresh head of hair - his present one having been dabbed in from feeling in the last hurry of sending in. Memo, his garment to be a paler yellow. Four of the other apostles require more religious feeling which must be done. William & Gabriel Rossetti in particular require veneration to be added to them. The table cloath will require alteration & the tiles of the floor. Health & spirits tolerable to day, nerves quiet.’

19 September 1854
‘Rain; so had out the picture of ‘Last of England’ & scraped at the head of the female, afterwards worked at it 2 hours without model & four hours with - using zinc white. Afterwards retouched ‘Beauty’ which with constant wetting was much blurred - in the eveng fixed it in frame, lettered it, & pasted loosse drawing up in my big book (7 1/2 hours).’

20 September 1854
‘. . . After dinner, worked at drawing in the outline of the male head in ‘the Last of England’ - then reflected on it till near five, settled that I would paint the woman in Emma’s shepherd plaid shawl, in stead of the large blue & green plaid as in the sketch. This is a serious affair settled which has caused me much perplexity. After this I worked till tea-time at scraping away the ground of Zink white which I had laid myself for the picture at Hampstead. I found that the head of the man had cracked all over since I painted it, so had to scrape it out - his coat also has crack in it, a bad thing in a coat in particular, so I will have no more of this zink, confound it. There is nothing like tin for a foundation to go upon, in this system will I work henceforth. After tea I worked at altering the little laydy reading a letter in the ‘Brent’ which had rubbed in from Emma the other day, I have made it more sentimental. After this I cleaned my pallet & brushes & am now writing this. I must leave off to begin the lettering of the ‘Cartoon’ & painted scetch of ‘the Last of England’ - only did the scetch 11 pm (6 1/2 hours).’

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Drawing up the sluices

Soldier, politician and spymaster, Sir William Brereton - perhaps best remembered for besieging Chester during the Civil War - died 350 years ago today. As a youngish man, he travelled abroad, and kept detailed and interesting notes of his journeys, sometimes of local military tactics.

Brereton was born at Handforth, Cheshire, but lost his father when only six. He was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and then, when 23, was created a baron by Charles I. A year later he was elected MP for Cheshire but relinquished his seat so as to travel - to Holland, Scotland and Ireland. He married twice, once to Susannah who died in 1637, leaving two sons and two daughters, and once to Cicely, who also bore him two daughters (according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). A staunch Puritan he advocated major reform of the Anglican church.

Brereton was re-elected to Parliament in 1640, and opposed the King on policies in many areas. After the outbreak of civil war in 1642, he was appointed a major-general of Parliament’s forces. He is recorded to have had particular skills in the areas of espionage and siege warfare. His greatest triumph is said to be the siege and capture of Chester, which took over one year to complete.

Brereton was one of very few leaders allowed to retain his military command and his seat in Parliament after the Self-Denying Ordinance. With the war over, Brereton was rewarded with Eccleshall Castle and the tenancy of Croydon Palace, the former home of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1652. He died on 7 April 1661, according to Wikipedia, and further biographical information is also available from the Spartacus Educational.

During his travels, Brereton kept journals, and these were edited by Edward Hawkins and published by the Chetham Society in 1844 under the title, Travels in Holland, the United Provinces, England, Scotland and Ireland, 1634–1635. Parts of the diary were republished in North Country Diaries by the Surtees Society in 1915. Both volumes are freely available at Internet Archive.

It is said that Brereton learned warfaring tactics abroad, in Holland, and there is some evidence of this in his diary, such as when he notes: ‘Mr Goodier told me of a strange deliverance of this town besieged, wherein the famine and pestilence raging, the town not being able to hold out any longer, the country was drowned by drawing up their sluices and cutting the banks, and the night following the wall in one place, convenient for the enemies to enter, fell down and broke down (a great breach); the noise whereof and the sudden eruption of the water took such impression of fear, and occasioned the apprehension of some further danger by some further design; whereupon they broke up their siege, and left the town. For this strange preservation a solemn day of thanksgiving kept yearly in this city.’

Here is Brereton’s first diary entry in 1634 (taken from the 1844 volume), and this is followed by a long entry in 1635 (taken directly from University College Cork website which has the Irish parts of the journal online).

17 May 1634.
‘We departed from London by water; we came to Gravesend about eight of the clock In the evening; we came in a light-horseman [small boat]; took water about three clock in afternoon. A dainty cherry orchard of Captain Lord’s, planted three years ago, near unto Thames, not forty roods distant. The stocks one yard and a half high; prosper well; but I conceive the top will in a short time be disproportionable to the stock. Very many of the trees bear. It is three acres of ground; planted four hundred and forty-odd trees. An old cherry orchard near adjoining nothing well set: this year the cherries sold for £20: it is but an acre of ground: the grass reserved and excepted. A proper ship came from Middleborough on Saturday at noon, 17 May.

Stiff N.W. wind all Sunday; turned E. on 19 Monday morn. Passed by Gravesend on Monday about four. Captain Boare went from Gravesend on 15 May; went to Rotterdam; returned thither 20. Another ship came in twenty-four hours from Brill to Gravesend.

A delicate kiln to burn chalk lime; it is the Duke of Lenox, near Gravesend, upon the river side; it is made of brick, narrow at bottom, round, and wider at top; it is emptied always at the bottom; they hook out so much as is cold, until they pull out fire, and then cease. It is supplied with fire and chalk at top; one basket of sea-coals proportioned to eight of chalk; the fire extinguisheth not from one end of the year to the other. When it is kindled, fire is put to the bottom: it is sold for a groat, one hoop burnt. The pit is in the side of an hill, which is thirty yards high; one of the workmen fell (with whom I conferred) from top to bottom, not slain, but bruised and still sore. An horse stuck by the fore-legs, and held and cried out like a child, and stuck until he was helped up by men.’

21 July 1635
‘We went home about eight hour, and came to Ballihack, a poor little village on this side the passage over the river of Waterford, which here is the broadest passage said to be in Ireland, and a most rough, troubled passage when the wind is anything high. Here last day the boat, wherein my Lord of Kildare came over, was in danger to be run under water by carrying too much sail, and running foul upon the passage boat. Down this river come all the shipping for Waterford. Here we saw the Ninth Whelp lying at anchor, to guard the fleet which now is ready to go hence to Bristoll fair. Sir Beverley Newcombe is captain of her, and is now at Waterford. They say there are about fifty sail to go to St. James fair at Bristoll. The Irish here use a very presumptuous proverb and speech touching this passage. They always say they must be at Bristoll fair, they must have a wind to Bristoll fair, and indeed it is observed they never fail of a wind to Bristoll fair; yea, though the fair be begun, and the wind still averse, yet still do they retain their confident presumption of a wind. It is most safe here to hire a boat to pass over in, not with horses, which is rowed over with four oars. I paid for the hire of it 2s. This is a full mile over. The passage boat which carries your horses will not carry at one time more than two or three horses. Here is far better coming into the boat and landing than at Port Patricke, but less and worse boats. On Munster side is good lodging and accommodation.

This day we passed over the land of a gentleman whose name is [. . .]. He died about seven days ago of a gangrene; his fingers and hands, toes and feet, rotted off, joint by joint. He was but a young man, of above 1,000£ per annum, and married an old woman, a crabbed piece of flesh, who cheated him with a 1,000£ she brought him, for which he was arrested within three days after his marriage.

We came to Waterford about three hour, and baited at the King’s Head, at Mr Wardes, a good house, and a very complete gentleman-like host. This town is reputed one of the richest towns in Ireland. It stands upon a river (called Watterford River), which maintaineth a sufficiently deep and safe channel even to the very quay, which, indeed, is not only the best and most convenient quay which I found in Ireland, but it is as good a quay as I have known either in England or observed in all my travels. A ship of three hundred may come close to these quays. This quay is made all along the river side without the walls, and divers fair and convenient buttresses made about twenty yards long, which go towards the channel. I saw the river at a spring tide flow even with the top of this quay, and yet near the quay a ship of three hundred ton full loaden may float at a low water. Upon this river stand divers forts and castles which command it. At the mouth of the river is there a fort called Duncannon, wherein lieth my Lord Esmond’s company, consisting of fifty good, expert soldiers. Here is also a company of fifty soldiers, which are under the command of Sir George Flowre, an ancient knight. These are disposed of in the fort, which is placed without the gate towards Caricke, a pretty little hold, which stands on high and commands the town. There stands upon this river the Carick twelve mile, hence, and Clonmell about eight mile thence; hither (as I have heard) the river flows. There is, seated upon this river also Golden Bridge, and there is a passage by water from Cullen [?] and Limbrecke. This is no barred, but a most bold haven, in the mouth whereof is placed an eminent tower, a sea mark, to be discerned at a great distance; yet this river runs so crooked as without a W. or N.W. Hence went a great fleet to Bristoll fair, who stayed long here waiting for a wind.

This city is governed by a mayor, bailiffs, and twelve aldermen. Herein are seven churches; there have been many more. One of these, Christ Church, a cathedral; St. Patrick’s, Holy Ghost, St. Stephen’s, St. John - but none of these are in good repair, not the cathedral, nor indeed are there any churches almost to be found in good repair. Most of the inhabitants Irish, not above forty English, and not one of these Irish goes to church. This town trades much with England, France, and Spain, and that which gives much encouragement hereunto is the goodness of the haven.

This town double-walled, and the walls maintained in good repair. Here we saw women in a most impudent manner treading clothes with their feet; these were naked to the middle almost, for so high were their clothes tucked up about them. Here the women of better rank and quality wear long, high laced caps, turned up round about; these are mighty high; of this sort I gave William Dale money to buy me one. Here is a good, handsome market-place, and a most convenient prison that I ever saw for the women apart, and this is a great distance from the men’s prison. Herein dwells a judicious apothecary, who hath been bred at Antwerpe, and is a traveller; his name is (as I take it) Mr Jarvis Billiard, by whose directions and good advice I found much good, and through God’s mercy recovered from my sickness. After I had dined here, I went about four or five hour towards Caricke, where I stayed at a ferry about a mile from Waterford a whole hour for the boat, wherein we and our six horses were carried over together.

Hence to Caricke is accounted nine miles, good large ones, but very fair way, and very ready to find. We came to Caricke about nine hour. We lodged at the sign of the Three Cuts at Mr Croummer’s, where is a good neat woman. Here my disease increasing, I wanted good accommodation.

Here is my Lord of Ormond’s house, daintily seated on the river bank, which flows even to the walls of his house, which I went to see, and found in the outer court three or four hay-stacks, not far from the stable-door; this court is paved. There are also two other courts; the one a quadrangle. The house was built at twice. If his land were improved and well planted, it would yield him great revenue; for it is said he hath thirty-two manors and manor-houses, and eighteen abbeys. This town of Carick is seated upon the bank of a fine, pleasant, navigable river, but it is a most poor place, and the houses many quite ruinated, others much decayed; here is no trade at all. This hath been a town of strength and defence; it is walled about, and with as strong a wall, and that to walk upon, as is West Chester; the church in no good repair; nor any of the churches in this country, which argues their general disaffection unto religion. Here in this town is the poorest tavern I ever saw - a little low, thatched Irish house, not to be compared unto Jane Kelsall’s of the Green at Handforth. ‘Twixt Waterford and this town are many spacious sheep-pastures, and very fair large sheep as most in England; the greatest part of the land hereabouts is converted unto this use.’

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wicked worldly thoughts

‘This morne my wife began, after her old manner, to braule and revile mee for wishing her only to wear such apparrell as was decent and comly, and accused mee for treading on her sore foote, with curses and othes; which to my knowledge I touched not.’ This is Adam Eyre - whose funeral took place 350 years ago today - a Yorkshire yeoman who is remembered chiefly for his diary and its vivid domestic details.

Born in 1614 in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Eyre married Susannah Mathewman in 1640. During the Civil War, he was a commissioned captain in the Parliament’s army, under Fernando, Lord Fairfax. In 1651, he styled himself a gentleman, and purchased crown lands at Blandesby Park, in Pickering, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, though he went into debt to do so. Although the date of his death is not recorded, it is known that he was buried on 6 April 1661, probably at Penistone in Yorkshire.

A short biography for Eyre can be found at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (although log in is required); and English folk: A Book of Characters, by Wallace Notestein, available at Googlebooks, has a chapter on Eyre. Also there’s an article about him in the spring 1994 edition of Journal of Social History, available at JSTOR. However, almost all the information about Eyre is sourced from his ‘dyurnall’, a diary, covering a period between 1647 and 1649. Apart from recording his mediation in local quarrels, it provides vivid descriptions of domestic disharmony.

Jeremy Boulton’s home page at the University of Newcastle website has a few select entries from Eyre’s diary. The full text, however, was included in Yorkshire Diaries and Autobiographies in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries published by the Surtees Society in 1877, and this is available online at Internet Archive. Here are a couple of extracts.

8 June 1647
‘This morne my wife began, after her old manner, to braule and revile mee for wishing her only to wear such apparrell as was decent and comly, and accused mee for treading on her sore foote, with curses and othes; which to my knowledge I touched not; nevertheless she continued in that extacy til noone; and at diner I told her I purposed never to com in bed with her til shee tooke more notice of what I formerly had sayd to her, which I pray God give mee grace to observe; that the folly of myne owne corrupt nature deceive mee not to myne own damnacion. After diner I went to Bulhouse where I had bidden an Ale for Antho. Crosland, and got him 29s. 6d. I spent myselfe 1s. 5d., and lent Raph Wordsworth of Waterhall Dalton’s ‘Justice of Peace’ [a law book]. I received a note from Jos. Eyre to be at Castleton on Thursday next at the cort. I signed a note for payment for 2 waynes by the towne.’

6 August 1647
‘This morning wee went to the wayre in the Wayre field, and Christofer Marsden came, and would have made a rescusse for working in our owne ground; and sayd ye stream was the king’s, and hee had as much right in it as I; and gave mee other ill language; wherupon, as soone as hee was gone, I went and cutt the boughes which grew on this syde his fence. Then came his wife and gave somewhat better words, yett tarte enough. Then at noone I went home, and received for 2 loads of meal out of the new arke 1l. 18s. 10d.; and Thomas Marsden having pinned a peice of wood in the wayre, came and made mee standing for my meare in the old stable. Then I went up to them again, and sent 1s worth of ale; and at night payd to Jo. Goddard for this week’s work 5s; his sonne 3s; and Tho. Marsden 6d.

This night my wife had a painful night of her foote, which troubled mee so that sleepe went from mee. Wherupon sundry wicked worldly thoughts came in my head, and, namely, a question whether I should live with my wife or noe, if shee continued so wicked as shee is; wherupon I ris and prayd to God to direct mee a right. And, after I read good counsell of Lawrence concerning the assistance of Angells, and the Devil, and our owne wills provoking to him. I prayed God again to direct mee, and so slept til morne quietly, praysed by God.’