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but that in his official capacity he was compelled to ask me for my papers. These were forthcoming, and the serious, official air with which he pretended to read the English passport from beginning to end was very pretty comedy considering that he did not understand a word of the language.
Having asserted his importance, and made the desired impression, he invited me into his house, introduced me to his young wife, who was charmingly gracious, and who would have been pleased to see any fresh face at Marsal-English or Hottentot. I was really indebted to the schoolmaster, for he harangued in patois the people of the inn drawn up in line, and by seizing a word here and there, I made out that I was a respectable Englishman travelling to improve my mind, and that they might receive me into their house without any distrust. And they did receive me, almost with open arms, when their doubts were removed.
The old man slunk off, and I never saw him again; but the young couple to whom the inn had been given up, now proved to me that their only wish was to please. They were rough people, but sound at heart and honest, as the French peasants, when judged in the mass, undoubtedly are. The hostess was greatly perplexed to know how to get up a dinner for me, and as she told me afterwards, she went to the schoolmaster and held a consultation with him on the subject. An astonishing dish of minced asparagus fried in oil was concocted in accordance with his prescription. It was ingenious, but I preferred her dish of barbel from the Tarn, notwithstanding the multitudinous bones which this fish perversely carries in its body, to choke the enemy, although nothing could be more absurd than such petty
The schoolmaster's wife said to me, with a suggestion of malice at the corners of her mouth, that she was afraid I should be troubled by a few fleas at the auberge. "Oh! bast!" observed her husband. "Monsieur in his travels has doubtless already encountered a flea or two."
"Yes, and other bestioles," said I. Madame's local knowledge did not deceive her, but her expression, "a few fleas," did not at all represent the true state of affairs. And I had forgotten the precious powder and the little pair of bel lows, without which no one should travel in southern France, especially in the valley of the Tarn.
EDWARD HARRISON BARKER.
From Macmillan's Magazine. WILLIAM COBBETT.
To acquaint oneself properly with the works of Cobbett is no child's play. It requires some money, a great deal of time, still more patience, and a certain freedom from superfineness. For as few of his books have recently been reprinted, and as they were all very popular when they appeared, it is frequently necessary to put up with copies exhibiting the marks of that popularity in a form with which Coleridge and Lamb professed to be delighted, but to which I own that I am churl enough to prefer the clean, fresh leaves of even the most modern reprint. And the total is huge; for Cobbett's industry and facility of work were both appalling, and while his good work is constantly disfigured by rubbish, there is hardly a single parcel of his rubbish in which there is not good work. Of the seventy-four articles which compose his bibliography, some of the most portentous, such as the "State Trials" (afterwards known as Howell's) and the "Parliamentary Debates" (afterwards known as Hansard's), may be disregarded as simple compilation; and it is scarcely necessary for any one to read the thirty years of the Register through, seeing that almost everything in it that is most characteristic reappeared in other forms. But this leaves a formidable total. The "Works of Peter Porcupine," in which most of Cobbett's writings earlier than this century and a few later are collected, fill twelve volumes of fair size. The only other collection, the "Political Works,” made up by his sons after his death from the Register and other sources, is in six volumes, none of which contains less than five hundred, while one contains more than eight hundred large pages, so closely printed that each represents two if not three of the usual library octavo. The "Rural Rides " fill two stout volumes in the last edition; besides which there are before me literally dozens of mostly rather grubby volumes of every size from Tull's "Husbandry," in a portly octavo, to the "Legacy to Laborers," about as big as a lady's card-case. If a man be virtuous enough, or rash enough, to stray further into anti-Cobbett pamphlets (of which I once bought an extremely grimy bundle for a sovereign) he may go on in that path almost forever. And I see no rest for the sole of his foot till he has read through the whole of "the bloody old Times" or "that foolish drab Anna Brodie's rubbish," as Cobbett used with indifferent geniality to call that newspaper,
the last elegant description being solely due to the fact that he had become aware that a poor lady of the name was a share holder.
and from Santa Rosalia to the Folgoët, crammed and crouching under the shadow of Boston Stump! He "dare say that Ely probably contained from fifty to a hundred thousand people " at a time when it is rather improbable that London contained the larger number of the two. Only mention Jews, Scotchmen, the national debt, the standing army, pensions, poetry, tea, potatoes, larch-trees, and a great many other things, and Cobbett becomes a mere, though a very amusing, maniac. Let him meet in one of his peregrinations, or merely remember in the course of a book or article, some magistrate who gave a decision unfavorable to him twenty years before, some lawyer who took a side against him, some
Let it be added that this vast mass is devoted almost impartially to as vast a number of subjects, that it displays throughout the queerest and (till you are well acquainted with it) the most incredible mixture of sense and nonsense, folly and wit, ignorance and knowledge, good temper and bad blood, sheer egotism and sincere desire to benefit the country. Cobbett will write upon politics and upon economics, upon history ecclesiastical and civil, upon grammar, cookery, gardening, woodcraft, standing armies, population, ice-houses, and almost every other conceivable subject, with the same undoubt- journalist who opposed his pamphlets, ing confidence that he is and must be right. In what plain men still call inconsistency there never was his equal. He was approaching middle life when he was still writing cheerful pamphlets and tracts with such titles as "The Bioody Buoy," "The Cannibal's Progress," and so on, destined to hold up the French Revolution to the horror of mankind; he had not passed middle life when he discovered that the said Revolution was only a natural and necessary consequence of the same system of taxation which was grinding down England. He denied stoutly that he was anything but a friend to monarchical government, and asseverated a thousand times over that he had not the slightest wish to deprive landlords or any one else of their property. Yet for the last twenty years of his life he was constantly holding up the happy state of those republicans the profligacy, injustice, and tyranny of whose government he had earlier denounced. He sometimes came near, if he did not openly avow, the "hold-the-harvest" doctrine; and he deliberately proposed that the na- Like theirs it is a style wholly natural tional creditor should be defrauded of his and unstudied. It is often said, and he interest, and therefore practically of his himself confesses, that as a young man he capital. A very shrewd man naturally, gave his days and nights to the reading and by no means an ill-informed one in of Swift. But except in the absence of some ways, there was no assertion too adornment, and the uncompromising plainwildly contradictory of facts, no assump-ness of speech, there is really very little tion too flagrantly opposed to common resemblance between them, and what there sense, for him to make when he had an argument to further or a craze to support. "My opinion is," says he very gravely, "that Lincolnshire alone contains more of those fine buildings [churches] than the whole continent of Europe.' The churches of Lincolnshire are certainly fine; but imagine all the churches of even the western continent of Europe, from the abbey of Batalha to Cologne Cathedral,
and a torrent of half humorous but wholly vindictive Billingsgate follows; while if the luckless one has lost his estate, or in any way come to misfortune meanwhile, Cobbett will jeer and whoop and triumph over him like an Indian squaw over a hostile brave at the stake. Mixed with all this you shall find such plain, shrewd common sense, such an incomparable power of clear exposition of any subject that the writer himself understands, such homely but genuine humor, such untiring energy, and such a hearty desire for the comfort of everybody who is not a Jew or a jobber or a tax-eater, as few public writ ers have ever displayed. And (which is the most important thing for us) you shall also find sense and nonsense alike, rancorous and mischievous diatribes as well as sober discourses, politics as well as tradepuffery (for Cobbett puffed his own wares unblushingly), all set forth in such a style as not more than two other Englishmen, whose names are Defoe and Bunyan, can equal.
is is chiefly due to Cobbett's following of the "Drapier's Letters," where Swift, admirable as he is, is clearly using a falsetto. For one thing, the main characteristic of Swift- the perpetual, unforced, unflag. ging irony which is the blood and the life of his style is utterly absent from Cobbett. On the other hand, if Cobbett imitated little, he was imitated much. Although his accounts of the circulation
of his works are doubtless exaggerated as he exaggerated everything connected with himself, it was certainly very large; and though they were no doubt less read by the literary than by the non-literary class, they have left traces everywhere. As a whole, Cobbett is not imitable; the very reasons which gave him the style forbade another to borrow it. But certain tricks of his reappear in places both likely and unlikely; and since I have been thoroughly acquainted with him I think I can see the ancestry of some of the mannerisms of two writers whose filiation had hitherto puzzled me - Peacock and Borrow. In the latter case there is no doubt whatever; indeed, the kinship between Borrow and Cobbett is very strong in many ways. Even in the former I do not think there is much doubt, though Peacock's thorough scholarship and Cobbett's boisterous unscholarliness make it one of thought rather than of form, and of a small part of thought only.
He has left an agreeable and oftenquoted account of his own early life in an autobiographic fragment written to confound his enemies in America. He was born on March 9th, 1762,* at Farnham; and the chief of his interests during his life centred round the counties of Hampshire and Surrey, with Berkshire and Wiltshire thrown in as benefiting by neighborhood. His father was a small farmer, not quite uneducated, but not much in means or rank above a laborer, and all the family were brought up to work hard. After some unimportant vicissitudes, William ran away to London and, attempting quill-driving in an attorney's office for a time, soon got tired of it and enlisted in a marching regiment which was sent to Nova Scotia. This was in the spring of 1784. As he was steady, intelligent, and not uneducated, he very soon rose from the ranks, and was sergeant-major for some years. During his service with the colors he made acquaintance with his future wife (a gunner's daughter of the literal and amiable kind), and with Lord Edward Fitzgerald. The regiment came home in 1792, and Cobbett got his discharge, married his beloved, and went to France. Unfortunately he had other reasons besides love and a desire to learn French for quitting British shores. He had discovered, or imagined, that some of his officers were guilty of malversation of regimental money; he abused his position as ser
• Cobbett himself says 1766, and the dates in the fragment are all adjusted to this; but biography says 1762.
geant-major to take secret copies of regi mental documents; and when he had got his discharge he lodged his accusation. A court-martial was granted. When it met, however, there was no accuser, for Cobbett had gone to France. Long afterwards, when the facts were cast up against him, he attempted a defence. The matter is one of considerable intricacies and of no great moment. Against Cobbett it may be said to be one of the facts which prove (what indeed hardly needs proving), that he was not a man of any chivalrous delicacy of feeling, and did not see that in no circumstances can it be justifiable to bring accusations of disgraceful conduct against others and then run away. In his favor it may be said that, though not a very young man, he was not in the least a man of the world, and was no doubt sincerely surprised and horrified to find that his complaint was not to be judged off-hand and Cadi-fashion, but with all sorts of cumbrous and expensive forms.
However this may be, he went off with his wife and his savings to France; and enjoyed himself there for some months, tackling diligently to French the while, until the Revolution (it was, let it be remembered, in 1792) made the country too hot for him. He determined to go to Philadelphia, where, and elsewhere in the United States, he passed the next seven years. They were seven years of a very lively character; for it was the nature of Cobbett to find quarrels, and he found plenty of them here. Some accounts of his exploits in offence and defence may be found in the biographies, fuller ones in the books of the chronicles of Peter Porcupine, his nom de guerre in pamphleteering and journalism. Cobbett was at this time, despite his transactions with the judge advocate general, his flight and his selection of France and America for sojourn, a red-hot Tory and a true Briton, and he engaged in a violent controversy, or series of controversies, with the proGallic and anti-English party in the States. The works of Peter, besides the above-quoted "Bloody Buoy" and "Can. nibal's Progress," contain in their five thousand pages or thereabouts, other cheerfully named documents, such as, "A Bone to Gnaw for the Democrats," "A Kick for a Bite," "The Diplomatic Blunderbuss," "The American Rushlight," and so on. This last had mainly to do with a non-political quarrel into which Cobbett got with a certain quack doctor named Rush. Rush got Cobbett cast in heavy damages for libel; and though these
were paid by subscription, the affair seems to have disgusted our pamphleteer and he sailed for England on June 1st, 1800.
There can be little doubt, though Cobbett's own bragging and the bickering of his biographers have rather darkened than illuminated the matter, that he came home with pretty definite and very fair prospects of government patronage. More than one of his Anti-Jacobin pamphlets had been reprinted for English consump. tion. He had already arranged for the London edition of " Porcupine's Works" which appeared subsequently; and he had attracted attention not merely from literary understrappers of government but from men like Windham. Very soon after his return Windham asked him to dinner, to meet not merely Canning, Ellis, Frere, Malone and others, but Pitt himself. The publication of the host's diary long after wards clearly established the fact, which had been rather idly contested or doubted by some commentators. How or why Cobbett fell away from Pitt's party is not exactly known, and is easier to understand than to definitely explain; even when he left it is not certain. He was offered, he says, a government paper, or even two; but he refused and published his own Porcupine, which lasted for some time till it lapsed (with intermediate stages) into the famous Weekly Register. In both, and in their intermediates for some three or four years at least, the general policy of the government, and especially the war with France, was stoutly supported. But Cobbett was a free-lance born and bred, and he never during the whole of his life succeeded in working under any other command than his own, or with any one on equal terms. He got into trouble before very long owing to some letters, signed Juverna, on the Irish executive; and though his contributor (one Johnson, afterwards a judge), gave himself up, and Cobbett escaped the fines which had been imposed on him, his susceptible vanity had no doubt been touched. It was also beyond doubt a disgust to his self-educated mind to find himself regarded as an inferior by the regularly trained wits and scholars of the government press; and I should be afraid that he was annoyed at Pitt's taking no notice of him. But, to do Cobbett justice, there were other and nobier reasons for his revolt. His ideal of politics and economics (of which more presently), though an impossible one, was sincere and not ungenerous; and he could not but perceive that a dozen years of war had made its contrast with the actual state
of the British farmer and laborer more glaring than ever. The influence which he soon wielded, and the profit which he derived through the Register, at once puffed him up and legitimately encouraged the development of his views. He bought, or rather (a sad thing for such a denouncer of "paper "), obtained, subject to heavy mortgages, a considerable estate of several farms at and near Botley in Hampshire. Here for some five years (1805 to 1809), he lived the life of a very substantial yeoman, almost a squire, entertaining freely, farming, coursing, encouraging boxing and single-stick, fishing with drag-nets, and editing the Register partly in person and partly by deputy. Of these deputies, the chief were his partner, and afterwards foe, the printer Wright, and Howell of the "State Trials." This latter, being unluckily a gentleman and a university man, comes in for one of Cobbett's characteristic flings as "one of your college gentlemen," who "have and always will have the insolence to think themselves our betters; and our superior talents, industry, and weight only excite their envy." Prosperity is rarely good for an Englishman of Cobbett's stamp, and he seems at this time to have decidedly lost his head. He had long been a pronounced Radical, thundering or guffawing in the Register at pensions, sinecures, the debt, papermoney, the game-laws (though he preserved himself), and so forth; and the authorities naturally enough only waited for an opportunity of explaining to him that immortal maxim which directs the expectations of those who play at this kind of bowls. In July, 1809, he let them in by an article of the most violent character on the suppression of a mutiny among the Ely Militia. This had been put down, and the ringleaders dogged by some cavalry of the German Legion; and Cobbett took advantage of this to beat John Bull's drum furiously. It has been the custom to turn up the whites of the eyes at Lord Ellenborough who tried the case, and Sir Vicary Gibbs who prosecuted; but I do not think that any sane man, remembering what the importance of discipline in the army was in 1809, can find fault with the jury who, and not Ellenborough or Gibbs, had to settle the matter, and who found Cobbett guilty. The sentence no doubt was severe as such sentences to such cases were then wont to be- two years in Newgate. The judge, in imposing a fine of a thousand pounds, and security in the same amount for seven years to come, may be thought to have looked before and after as
well as at the present. But the Register | heat itself specially for him. He turned was not stopped, and Cobbett was allowed his eyes once more to America, and, very to continue in it without hindrance a po- much to the general surprise, suddenly left lemic which was not likely to grow milder. Liverpool on March 22nd, 1817, arriving For he never forgot or forgave an injury in May at New York, whence he proto his interests, or an insult to his vanity; ceeded to Long Island, and established and he was now becoming, quite honestly himself on a farm there. Unluckily there and disinterestedly more and more of a were other reasons for his flight besides fanatic on divers points, both of economics political ones. His affairs had become and of politics proper. much muddled during his imprisonment, and had not mended since; and though his assets were considerable they were of a kind not easy to realize. There seems no doubt that Cobbett was generally thought to have run away from a gaol in more senses than one, and that the thought did him no good.
I cannot myself attach much importance to the undoubted fact that after the trial, which happened in June, 1810, but before judgment, Cobbett, aghast for a moment at the apparent ruin impending, made (as he certainly did make) some overtures of surrender and discontinuance of the Register. Such a course in a man with a But he was an impossible person to put large family and no means of supporting down; even his own mistakes, which were it but his pen, would have been, if not pretty considerable, could not do it. His heroic, not disgraceful. But the nego-flight, as it was called, gave handles to his tiation somehow fell through. Unluckily enemies, and not least to certain former for Cobbett, he on two subsequent oc- friends, including such very different percasions practically denied that he had sons as Orator Hunt and Sir Francis Bur ever made any offer at all; and the truth | dett; it caused a certain belatedness, and, only came out when he and Wright quar- for a time, a certain intermittency, in his relled, nearly a dozen years later. This, contributions to the Register; it conthe affair of the court-martial, and an- firmed him in his financial crazes, and it other to be mentioned shortly, are the may possibly have supported him in a only blots on his conduct as a man that I sort of private repudiation of his own know, and in such an Ishmael as he was debts, which he executed even before bethey are not very fatal. coming legally a bankrupt. Finally it led him to the most foolish act of his life, the lugging of Tom Paine's bones back to a country which, though not prosperous, could at any rate provide itself with better manure than that. In this famous absurdity the purely silly side of Cobbett's character comes out. For some time after he returned he was at low water both in finances and in popularity; while such political sanity as he ever possessed, may be said to have wholly vanished. Yet oddly enough, or not oddly, the transplanting and the re-transplanting seem to have had a refreshing effect on his literary production. He never indeed again produced anything so vigorous as the best of his earlier political works, but in non-political and mixed styles he even improved; and though he is occasionally more extravagant than ever in substance, there is a certain mellowness of form which is very remarkable. He was not far short of sixty when he returned in 1819; but the space of his life subsequent to his flight yielded the "Year's Residence in America," the "English Grammar," the "Twelve Sermons," the "Cottage Economy," the "English (altered from a previ ous American) Gardener," the "History of the Reformation," the "Woodlands,"
He devoted the greater part of his time, during the easy, though rather costly imprisonment of those days, to his "Paper against Gold," in which, with next to no knowledge of the subject, he attacked probably the thorniest of all subjects, that of the currency; and the Register went on. He came out of Newgate in July, 1812, naturally in no very amiable temper. A mixture of private and public griefs almost immediately brought him into collision with the authorities of the Church. He had long been at loggerheads with those of the State; and it was now more than ever that he became the advocate (and the most popular advocate it had) of Parliamentary Reform. He was, however, pretty quiet for three or four years, but at the end of that time, in September, 1816, he acted on a suggestion of Lord Cochrane's, cheapened the Register from one shilling to twopence, and opened the new series with one of his best pamphlet addresses, "To the Journeymen and Laborers of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland." For a time he was very much in the mouths of men; but ministers were not idle, and prepared for him a state of things still hotter than he had experienced before. Cobbett did not give it time to 3968