Ah! fair Hope! what a pleasing, but illusive companion hast thou often
been to me! Many a bright morning hast thou called me forth, and hast led
meadow-paths, and through wild-flowers, and wood-gloomings, all echoing
bird-songs, and brilliant with dew-pearls. How often hast thou so guiled
forth with thy sweet wind-whispers, telling me we should have a live-long
day, all bright, and melodious as that happy hour? How often hast thou
me so? how often have I believed thee? when, alas! a breath of wind;
the moving of a vapour; a flash of lightning, hath engloomed heaven, and
and marred all thy happy dreams, and mine.
Still thou sayest, "Be of good cheer! remember thy book! 'tis a long
night which has no day, a long journey which has no end. Life is full of
shall thine have no change? shall providence, for thine especial
persecution exhibit a miracle? think not so; be thou not vain enough to
hast done thy work, thou shalt have rest, and not till then. Lag not,
therefore, behind now, when the struggle is almost over, when the race is
and thou art looked for, victorious, at the goal!" Remember, "there is no
hill without its dale; no storm without its calm; no shadow without its
forth then with thy book; cast it on the waters, it will be to thee and
others, a blessing! live, and be thankful.
Ah! fair Hope! I am thankful; thankful for the humblest of God's gifts,
and my book is one of them. Thankful am I also, for thy words of advice,
but I dare not
cast my book upon the waters. No, fair Hope; one sop in the mouth is
worth two in the millpond.
Encouraged however, by thee, I again venture forth, my little pen-work in
hand. The booksellers I cannot deal with largely, the sops being too few
them and me. I must, therefore, as hath been my wont, do much of my
business myself, and sell my pen-work wherever I can find a market.
To my humble brothers of the anvil, the loom, and the jenny, will I offer
it; and they will read it, well pleased, when they have sat down from
and have wiped the sweat from their brow, and have partaken the homely
meal. It will be to them, what thou, Oh Hope, hast been to me; a
adversity; a star in mid-gloom; a well in their desert journey; a soother
of life; a putter-away of evil broodings.
I will tender it unto the dealer who sells food from behind his counter;
to the dark-vested, hard-handed son of crispin; to the apothecary, who
anodynes for whining children, it will keep even him awake; to the
manufacturer, who, "reduces wages," as well as to him who pays them
the warehouseman, who, enquiring after knowledge, nightly associates with
others for instruction, with him it may beguile an hour, stolen from more
severe reflections. The man of law shall behold my book. To the door of
his closet will I venture, where he sits amidst wills, writs, conveyances,
bankrupt commissions: I will fear not his grave and learned look through
his glasses, though his eye do scan me with the plain fore-question,—"who can
this be? this is no client of mine, why comes he here?" also that most
useful and industrious, dumb-sitting, back-bending, and knee-cramping man,
makes our clothes, shall hear my footstep on his stair, and peruse my
little inimitable, when, o'nights, he has time to stretch his limbs. The
who buys and sells, to me will
be a buyer. If Webster and company offered him their Calicoes yesterday,
why may not I offer him my prints to day; my living, moving, soul-vivid
prints; my dyes of human life. The merchant too shall have
my book laid before him. He may look at it, turn it over, and haggle a
little, if he choose, but he also will buy; aye! and read, and buy more
friends in the south country. "Hast thou anything to do? do
it thyself," says Poor Richard; even so will I do my business myself, and
sell my book. The clergy, I know, will be readers of mine: they are always
see individuals of the humble class rising up to do good. They never
forget, that their Lord and Master was one of "our order;" they are
friends to instruction;
to the enlightenment and enlargement of mind, and most especially will
they patronize a book penned by one who learned to make letters at a
school. Wesleyans will hail, with joy, the "one sinner that hath
repented." Catholics will absolve me, having humbly confessed. Friends
doubt, tender me the hand of friendship; whilst nobles, statesmen, judges,
and legislators of our land, will read my book with deep thought and
beholding therein, a kind of indicator; a whisper of the rising wind; a
ripple of the coming tide; a footstep before the tramping of the
multitude which is
putting on the shoe, and binding the latchet, before it sets forth, to
tread over the whole land.
May God so direct the hearts of our rulers and law-makers, that they may
be disposed to meet this universal movement of mind, whilst it is yet of
only; in a spirit of justice, and of peace, such as shall make the honest
labourer contented, and rescue him from the influence of designing and
agitators. May they at last relent, and permit him to have that for which
he bowed to the primeval curse—bread, for the sweat of his toil. And may
exalted great ones, whether of the land or of manufacture, also come
forward as liberators, ere the pent up souls, and down-bended bodies of
ones, rise up, and rush forth with the mad joy of cage-broken wolves.
May they, whilst it is yet in time, "loose the band of wickedness, and
undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free, and break every
And "may the Lord then guide them continually, and satisfy their souls in
draught, and make fat their bones, and may they be like a watered garden,
a spring of water whose water fails not."
And "may they that be of them, build the old waste places; may they raise
up the foundations of goodness, in the hearts of many generations; may
called the repairers of the breach, the restorers of paths to dwell in." So be it.
WHAT a naturally fine country is this SOUTH LANCASHIRE! and what an
interesting people inhabit it! let us approach nearer, as it were ; let
us cast an
observant eye over the land; let us note the actions, and listen to the
conversation of the people, and endeavour to express in writing, our
to both. the country and its inhabitants.
From Liverpool to Manchester, the land is generally level, and is almost
wholly applied to agriculture; but in traversing the country from
Todmorden, which is on the extreme northern verge of the district,
probably not one mile of continuously level ground will be passed over. Betwixt Bury on
the western, and Oldham, on the eastern verge, some comparatively level
tracts are found, as those of Radcliffe, Whitemoss, and Failsworth; but
small as compared with the distance, and all the remaining parts of this
northern district, are composed of ups and downs, hillocks, and dells,
and turned in every direction. Take a sheet of stiffened paper for
instance, crumple it up in your hand, then just distend it again, and you
will have a pretty
fair specimen of the surface of the northern part of South Lancashire. The
hills are chiefly masses of valuable stone and coal; on the north, some
heathlands overlap them, but their sides are often brilliant with a
herbage that yields the best of milk and butter, whilst of all the
valleys, you shall traverse
none, where a stream of water does not run at your side, blabbing all
manner of imaginary tidings, and asking unthought of, and unanswerable
To be sure, during six days out of the seven, the brooks, and lowland
waters, are often turgid and discoloured with the refuse of manufactures;
along one of these quiet dells an a Sunday morning, go over the shallows,
where the loaches used to lie basking, and look into the deeps, and quiet
and shady shots, where the trout were wont to be found, creep under the
owlers, and through the hazels, when their golden blossoms are hung in the
go plashing among the willows, and over the hippin-stones, and along the
gravel-beds, where the pebbles lie as white as hail turned to stone. Go
maundering, solitary and thoughtful, for an hour or two, amid these lonely
haunts, and you shall confess that our county is not reft of all its
poetry, and its
fairy dells, and its witching scenes.
Then, the meadows and fields spread fair and green betwixt the towns. Clean, sleek milk-kine are there,
licking up the white clover, and tender grass. Small farms are indicated
by the many well-built, and close-roofed homesteads, contiguous to which
patches of potatoe, corn, and winter food for cattle. A farmer's man is
never met with here, whose cheek does not shew that he lives far above
want, and that, if he dines not on delicacies, he feeds on rude plenty.
The smoke of the towns and manufactories is somewhat annoying certainly,
and at times it detracts considerably from the ideality of the landscape;
bad as it is, it might have been a great deal worse; for we may observe
that the smoke only goes one way at one time; that the winds do not divide
scatter it over all the land: it sails far away in streams, towards the
north, east, west, or south, and all the remainder of sky, and hill, and
vale, are pure and
From the top of one of the moor-edges, Old Birkle, for instance, on a
clear day, with the wind from the south west, we may perceive that the
betwixt the large towns of Bury, Bolton, Manchester, Stockport, Ashton,
Oldham, Rochdale, Middleton, and Heywood, are dotted with villages, and
of dwellings, and white detached houses, and manufactories, presenting an
appearance somewhat like that of a vast city scattered amongst meads and
pastures, and belts of woodland; over which, at times, volumes of black
furnace clouds go trailing their long wreaths on the wind.
Such is the appearance of the country to the east and south of where we
stand, (Old Birkle) whilst the
aspect of that to the west and north, is more strongly marked by nature,
being ridged with high moor-land hills, dark and bleak; and furrowed by
and precipitous dells, which are swept by brooks, and mill streams, and
enlivened by nooks of evergreen pasture, and groups of cottages, and far
detached dwellings. Here also is generally found, the eternal
money-making-mill, the heart-work, the life-organ, the bread-finder, and
the deformity of the
The inhabitants are a mixture of Celts, Saxons, and Norse-men, or Danes;
but the Saxon blood is supposed to predominate, and it may be affirmed
certainty, that Saxon is prevalent in the dialect of the rural population. The name of nearly every hill, valley, stream, or homestead, is Celtic or
Saxon, and of
the old families, perhaps, a still greater proportion are designated in
The population may be divided into three classes; the monied—the
middle—and the labouring classes. The former we will suppose to comprise
of independent property, whether they be engaged in trade or otherwise;—the middle, includes tradesmen, manufacturers, shopkeepers, and masters
every branch of industry;—and the working class, will, of course, consist
of such as labour daily to supply the necessaries of life. The first class
more numerous than in any other equal space of ground out of Middlesex,
and probably they are more wealthy than any other equal number of persons,
any one district of the same extent—the above excepted—on the whole
earth. They are therefore vastly powerful, so far as money can make them
In matters of trade, exports, imports, profit, and loss, their information
cannot be exceeded. In the management of banking concerns they are not so
as has recently been shewn; they have been too credulous of plausibility;
the rise in life, of many of them, seeming almost a miracle, they have
more disposed to believe in other miracles, and so became deceived. In
politics, they, as a body, are but new beginners; and it is but lately
that leaders of
ability in their own rank, have sprung up amongst them.
Some of them still appear to consider politics as a forbidden theme, and
are vastly sensitive if such subjects are introduced, even in connection
matters, the very essentials of which are political, but the number of
these fastidious gentlemen is becoming less, as common sense comes more
use. The prejudice has been rather clung to, in consequence of the strong
feelings which have too often characterized political advocacy in this
neighbourhood; some exhibitions of the sort occupy a place in history,
and though scenes and actors pass away impressions remain which are a long
time in wearing out.
When we find members of this monied class acting in bodies, we see them
perform nobly; their time, their labour, and their money are given
this, the ministers of religion, the promoters of
public institutions, and the leaders of any movement where wealth and
energy are required, know, and they take their measures accordingly. In
individual characters, members of this class evince less promptitude;
not, probably, because they are less inclined to act, but because they
wish to know
what others are prepared to do; they seem to be shy of leading, save in
matters of trade, and hence they act better in public, as a class, than as
The middle class is still more numerous than is the monied, and the remark
with respect to the wealth of the former may be applied here. In politics
are better informed, and more public-spirited; more honest also, and more
zealous in the support of their several views of things. As a body, they
are perhaps unequalled for general information, as well as for talent in
the application of it to public uses. Of all municipal matters, they are
the life and
soul. In literature, they are far before the monied class; and liberally
patronise resident talent; they number among them many who are eminent in
science; many who are patrons of, and no mean proficients in the fine
arts; whilst music is becoming to them a passion, oratory a relaxation,
and poetry a
And what shall I say of the working class?
That they are the most intelligent of any in the island—in the world. The
Scotch-workers are the only ones who approach them in intelligence; they
greatest readers; can shew the greatest number of
good writers; the greatest number of sensible and considerate public
speakers. They can shew a greater number of botanists; a greater number of
horticulturists; a greater number who are acquainted with the abstruse
sciences; the greatest number of poets, and a greater number of good
whether choral or instrumental. From the loom they will bring out any
thing that has ever been worked in Europe; in mechanics they are no-where
surpassed, and in mining take rank with the best. They probably turn out a
greater amount of work than any other equal number of people under the
They are ardent in temperament, which helps them to support their heavy
labour, but which also tends to lead them into ill considered schemes and
projects, and into the traps and snares of designing political quacks. Being of honest intention themselves, they have seldom paused to examine
pretensions of those who sought to become their leaders; hence they have
been miserably duped. The late Henry Hunt was the first who obtained their
blind devotion: some of his distinguished followers also shared his
popularity, but of those, Hunt, as is well known, was jealous, and if any
received more attention than the leader liked to share, he kicked the
aspirant, or tried to do so, and there was a feud; his own train,
however, at last
dwindled into something more like a country stang-riding than a gathering
After him followed successive contentions about
wages. Combinations, conspiracies, and turn-outs, came in their turn, and
some of them were stained with blood. Each event had its leader, who for
the time, occupied a share of the public notice. Then came the three
glorious days, and parliamentary reform, and when O'Connell deemed it
whisk off a joint or two from his tail, he did so, and Mr. Feargus
O'Connor appeared on our stage. He has tried to enact the English Hunt,
and the Irish
O'Connel over again before us, and he has failed in both characters; not
having the nerve of the one, nor a tithe of the talent of either.
Latterly, he has
been holding forth about the purchase of land, by a class who cannot
entirely purchase bread; just at present, I understand, he is
the colliers: and thus the miserable deluder is hastening through life to
find himself, at last, deluded.
At present, there is not amongst our workers any political leader, in whom
is united any considerable share of their confidence. Joseph Sturge has
one or two efforts that way, but he is not the man to walk at the head of
this people. He is, I think, too amiable, and too honest,—although a
meekly vain perhaps—for the trade of a demagogue. He may be useful in
some way however, and I doubt not he will endeavour to be so; but
is not calculated for a mob-rider.
Meanwhile the seed, which from time to time has been sown, whether of
tares or of corn, is germinating
amongst a thoughtful people: the advancement is silently at work, down in
the coal mines, up in the factories, abroad in the fields, far o'er the
close by in the cottages: the ground is moving with emotion; the moral
atmosphere is thickening with words, and thoughts, and silent expressions,
significant than words. All are moving, in some manner
or other, forward! forward! There is no turning back. And when this
motion becomes united in one stream, to which it is daily tending, what
shall resist it? whither shall it go? how shall it end?
And is this tendency to be wondered at? The people are born in masses, we
may almost say; they live in masses; they work in masses; they
drink in masses; they applaud in masses; they condemn in masses; they joy
in masses; they sorrow in masses; and, as surely as that Etna will vomit
they will, unless they be wisely and timely dealt with, some day, act in
I do not undertake to say that here is a power capable alone, of
disarranging the present order of things; but I do say that I am of
opinion, that here, in time
will be found, mind sufficient to conceive, and will—aided by
circumstances—to give the first impulse to a movement, the like of which
has not been known
in England. These explosive elements—ever increasing—cannot be
continually tampered with, without producing their result.
If God has bestowed upon me some little ability,
and by his own ways of adversity, led me to dwell amongst this people, one
of them, and still apart,—having thoughts, and ways, and views of my
own;—loving all that should be loved, and despising only the
despicable,—if he has so fortified my heart by severe experience, that I
can judge in charity, and
disapprove without anger; that I can support the right without wishing to
retaliate in wrong; that I would feed the hungry without robbing the
plenteous; that I
would free the enslaved, without enchaining their task-masters; that I
would mitigate asperities, and promote kindly regards amongst all classes: if my
Creator has given me a heart to wish these things, and a head to labour
for their accomplishment, or any part of it, shall I not evince my
gratitude to Him,
by exercising the little talent he has bestowed? Assuredly so. And if, as
the greatest reformer and patriot that ever lived, once said, "Blessčd
peace-makers," may it be my endeavour to deserve a place,—however
humble—amongst those blessed.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
You ask my opinion as to what should be done in the present state of the
country. You seem to have a kind of fore-boding of some great
change shortly to take place, and you are pretty much of my way of
thinking, as to the part the people,—the working classes—are likely to
take during such
change, should it occur. How they are likely to conduct themselves during
the transaction; and what should be done, to render them instrumental for
instead of evil, when the time arrives, seem to be the main questions of
your letter, and I will, if you please,
confine my reply to the second question. "What should be done?" the
other depends entirely on it,
and may be shortly answered. The people are likely to conduct themselves,
during any great change that may occur, exactly as they have been
instructed to conduct themselves; or, in other words, as they have cause
to conduct themselves; therefore the question is, "What should be done?"
This is a momentous question, friend Acreland; you do me no small honour
by asking my opinion upon it; and to you, I will frankly give it, because
you will receive it in the same spirit of candid sincerity in which it is
tendered; that spirit which is always essential to a useful
undoubtedly benefit us both in our present enquiry; and with such mutual
good-will, we may proceed.
You ask, "What should be done?" and I reply, the working people—the
masses—should be cultivated. That, in my opinion, is what should be done.
Oh! methinks I hear you say, "we are doing that, you know, we are
instructing them. You must have read in the papers how the dissenters are
stirring in the cause; what noble donations they have given; and you
cannot have overlooked the meeting lately held in Manchester, of the
members and friends of 'The Church Education Society.' You must have heard of these proceedings."
I have heard of them, dear Acreland; I have read the details in the
newspapers, and have been greatly interested by the reading. I have been
to see even these movements, greatly short though they fall, of the
purposes one might have expected from such high quarters. I could
disparagingly, but I wont; my task being to shew what should be done,
rather than what is purposed to be done, and the inefficiency of the
The people then, I say—emphatically—should be
cultivated, and your education schemes, good, and well intended as they
are, do not go that length.
"Why, what would you have? again you say. What is
cultivation but instruction, education, training up of the mind?"
Oh, cultivation, my friend, is a little more than that. The Irish tell us
they are the most learned people in the world; that their bog-cutters
speak the dead
languages; the Scotch say they are the best educated, but I believe
neither the one nor the other; and if both were true, our people here want
more than either; they want cultivation, and that, you know, begins with
succour. They must be fed.
"Oh, but your cultivation is likely to lead a great way then."
Still farther, good Acreland. They must be fed; they must be clothed;
they must be sheltered; and how is all this to be accomplished? they must
employed; aye! and paid for their employment.
After you have thus cultivated their outward life, you will find but
little difficulty in winning their inner life to any thing which is
reasonable and proper. If you
really care for their well-being, they will soon find it out,—you need
not make a parade of your sympathy. Was there ever a class of sentient beings in the world which did not,
in some way or other, evince a
regard for their benefactors? Certainly not. And does any reason exist
which might lead us to suppose, that man is less grateful than other
animals? Certainly not. Try the experiment then. Feed our people; clothe them;
shelter them; or in other words, employ them; pay them; and give them an
opportunity for feeding, clothing, and sheltering themselves. Watch over
their interests; be regardful of their worldly welfare, help the feeble;
oppressed; comfort the sorrowful; relieve the destitute. Do these things,
and I may defy all the fire-brand demagogues that ever flared away at
meetings, to estrange one heart from its affection towards you and your
Above all things, be just towards them in respect of their civil rights,
and fear not. You need not hesitate, they will never be like a French mob. There
is more of an aristocratic spirit in the commonalty of England, than any
other people; there is indeed too much of it. They are as regularly
stratified, as are
the the rocks of our island, and they wont be disrupted, except by great,
and long continued ill usage. Oh! no, no, they wont be elbowed out of
place by a trifle; they wont stand that, nor do they wish to mount into
yours, you may depend upon it. They want none of your fineries, nor your
sumptualities, nor your knackeries of big babyism; they rather contemn
those things, but they do want what they have a right to have, a good
living for their
right good labour; aye! and they will have it too, either with labour or
without it. Let them have their cottages then, with their bright warm
them have their neat gardens, with flowers, and spring herbs and potatoe
plats: let those in towns have money where-with to purchase from the
and the butcher, and the butter maid, and the herb seller, that they may
have broth on sundays, and, good hash or hot-pie on week days, with
left for a gown or a shirt, or duds for the little ones, when they are
wanted. In short, live, and let live, and stand aside for once, and ever,
sun-shine may fall on other hearts than your own. Do these things, friend Acreland; that is, let your order do them, and Oh! I need not say how
all your and our difficulties would be overcome.
Then, my dear friend, you might begin to instruct us at railway speed. We
should drink it all in, and never forget the lessons given by those we
hearts, teeming with grateful emotions, would be like ground prepared for
every good seed, and you might sow and cultivate a harvest, at which
might weep with joy. Oh, what a glorious work is spread before the great
ones of our land, if they would but perform it, or would but lend aid that
others might do it for them.
Will they do this, friend Acreland? I believe you would if you could, but
will your order take up the
good work? Will they plow down the old sour sods of prejudice, and
selfishness, and ignorance, and turn up the new mould, which has long been
give forth—to God's glory and man's benefit,—all the riches, and
blessings with which it is endowed.
Still, the subject is not exhausted; we have agreed, I will suppose, that,
"the people should be cultivated," in order to which, "they should be
Then the question arises, how is employment to be found for them? and the
answer to that will explain my views with respect to their physical
and the means for that end. We may afterwards discuss the subject of their
mental cultivation; but for the present, perhaps enough has been advanced.
Adieu! dear Acreland. I shall be happy to hear from you again; and still
more so to learn that you have become a convert to the opinions of,
Yours most truly,
TO THOMAS ACRELAND, GENT.
WALKS AMONGST THE WORKERS.
THE condition of the working classes, physically,
morally, and mentally, having of late begun to attract that degree of
attention which it ought long ago to have done, I conceived that, at this
particular crisis, some good might be rendered to the country―some
advancement made towards the Truth―by an actual survey of the present
condition of such labouring persons. I determined therefore, on
taking a series of perambulations amongst them, for the purpose of noting
down their real state and condition, and of making it known through the
public press of the country.
The course which I marked out for myself in the performance
of this self-imposed but important task, was to obtain the best
information I could from persons supposed capable of giving it; to
converse with the employers, wherever I found them accessible, as well as
with the employed; to notice the latter at their dwellings and at their
places of labour―in their hours of rest as well as at their daily
toil―and generally, whilst I sought information from others, from men and
women of all classes and conditions, not to omit any opportunity for the
exercise of my own observation. With the effect, however feeble,
which my notices might have on a great question of the day―with their
tendencies for or against the doctrines of contending parties―I conceived
that I had nothing to do; the elucidation of the simple truth, for its own
sake, and the good which accompanies it, being the only object of my
Directing my steps to the northward of my dwelling, I first
paused on gaining the summit of the highway across the township of
Thornham, near Middleton, and looking around, I felt that a few minutes
would not be mis-spent in glancing over the bold and interesting scene
which was spread out before me. Going forth to note the brief joys and
sorrows of my fellowman, could I feel less than admiration and
thankfulness at the prospect of the goodly land which his beneficent
Creator had spread out for his habitations. To the west are the hills and
moors of Crompton, the green pastures year by year, cutting further up
into the hills; the ridge of Blackstone-edge, with Robin Hood's bed,
darkened as usual by shadows; whilst the moors, sweeping round to the
left, (the hills of Caldermoor, Whitworth, and Wuerdle) bend somewhat in
the form of a shepherd's crook around a fair and sunny vale, through which
the Roche flows past cottages, farms, and manufactories. Such is the scene
before us, fair and lovely at a distance, mute to the ear and tranquil to
the eye―like a cradle below the hills, where the bright day reposes amid
sweet airs and cooling streams. So much for the landscape before us; now
then, for the closer realities of our task.
The colliery of Messrs. Wilde, Andrew, and Co., at Addershaw, or
Hathershaw, or Heathershaw, first claims our inspection. The shaft is
about a hundred yards in depth, the coal about forty-two inches in
thickness, and some of the coals extend to the distance of eleven hundred
yards from the shaft; the coal is wound up by a perpetual chain, which
works admirably. The men are paid by "the quarter," which contains fifteen
loads, or thirty baskets, or sixty hundred weight of coal; for this they
get three shillings and nine-pence, with three-pence added for every
hundred yards they have to waggon the coal to the shaft; so that a man
working close to the shaft receives three shillings and nine-pence for his
quarter, he who works one hundred yards off, gets four shillings, one
working at two hundred yards, four
shillings and three-pence, and so in proportion. The price of coal at the
pit is seven-pence halfpenny per basket, a very reasonable price in
some necessaries. A man at full work would get eight quarters of coal in
six days, and his wages for them would be one pound ten shillings, besides
the allowance of three-pence per hundred yards for waggoning.
The man working at a distance from the shaft has generally a stout lad to
waggon for him, and the lad's wages are one-third of whatever the collier
gets. A man, therefore, who gets his eight quarters, and pays a waggoner,
will have twenty shillings for himself, and he who does without a waggoner,
will have his thirty shillings. These earnings would, one is apt to
suppose, be a pretty comfortable thing for the cottage of a
working man. Colliers, however, such is the nature of their employment,
can hardly be too well paid, and, unfortunately, we have something else to
take into consideration. The men are now, both at this and the adjoining
colliery, compelled to work "short time," a short but expressive phrase
which we meet with at nearly every step. They are paid fortnightly, and
sometimes, of late, they have only been allowed to get six quarters in the
fortnight. The cause is want of sale, in consequence of the neighbouring
factories working short time also: the good brisk sale which they formerly
had, "is gone out of this side of the country;" it is only about
two-thirds of what it used to be, and the falling off in employment is
Several wives and children came to the pits with the men's dinners; they
mostly carried a small tin can with a lid on, and a ring to hold it by. Some would bring the victuals in a hot basin, tied in a napkin, or
pinned in a bit of clean rag. I felt a curiosity to know what the poor,
panting, toiling fellows in the
dark mine had to sustain them, but I could not make up my mind to ask the
women to let me see of what their humble supply consisted; a banksman at
Hanging Chadder (the next colliery) informed me that the men generally got
boiled milk and loaf for their dinner, at their work; sometimes they might
have potatoes and a little flesh-meat, and sometimes they would get
potatoes and salt only, and very seldom was it, he said, that they had any
ale at meals. I must own I was disappointed in this bill of fare; I had
expected that these men would be living on good substantial food, as they
ought to do; I had not supposed that a collier could sustain his most
laborious and horrid toil without plenty of highly nourishing food, but I
found it otherwise. Well might the poor women look half sorrowful, half
ashamed, as I thought some of them did, when they handed the uncheering
meal to the banksman; they cast an averted glance as it descended, and then hurried away. I did not hear of any dissatisfaction
against the coal-masters―their rate of wages is probably as good as any
in the district; the complaints were against the shortness of work,
occasioned by the low demand for coal.
We are now at a place called Gravel Hole, a fold or hamlet of some fifty
brick houses, situated on an elevated site in the township of Thornham. About twelve or fourteen years since, these houses were all inhabited by
fustian hand-loom weavers; they are now occupied, one or two excepted, by
The old inhabitants have gone down into the vallies to work at the
factories, and the present residents are new-comers from many parts of the
country―from Manchester, from Lymm in Cheshire, and from Yorkshire. The
master cutters, I am informed, make a good living here; they are supposed
to earn from thirty to thirty-four shillings per week. A young boy or
girl, working journey-work, will get from seven to nine shillings, by five
days' labour. They work, four or five together, in the old loom-shops and
the chambers, and farm very agreeable company, wiling away their
monotonous employment by singing in a very pleasing manner, in concert,
snatches of popular songs, or religious pieces. The rent of a house with a
shop which formerly held four looms, and with present convenience for
about twelve cutting-frames, is six pounds; and eight shillings for poor
rates, and one shilling for highway rate; the firing of course is very
cheap, not in any case probably exceeding one shilling
a week. Every house is now occupied, and the fustian cutters are, as we
have seen, not in a condition to make complaint.
At Narrow-head-Brow, whither I turned instead of going into the valley of
the Roche, I found some hand-loom weavers employed on toilonett, a neat
light cloth, made of black cotton warp, and shot with white woollen yarn
in hank. It is about an eighteen hundred reed, thirty-two inches in width,
and the pieces or cuts are thirty yards in length; the shoots from one
hundred and eighty, to two hundred in the inch. A weaver will be four days
in dressing his warp, and about eight in weaving a cut, and his wages will
be seventeen shillings, including the charge for winding, and sow, or
paste for dressing, which if we reckon at two shillings and sixpence, will
leave his actual gain
about seven shillings and three-pence per week. The cloth is made for the
Yorkshire market; it is dyed and finished for cloaks, and some of it is
used for Macintosh cloth. The rents here are about four pound ten
shillings to five pounds, for a four-loomed house, with all rates,
probably making ten
shillings more. The condition of these hand-loom weavers―the remnant of
the old fustian weavers―is not so comfortable as that of the fustian
cutters last described. Several houses were unoccupied; others in a state
of partial dilapidation; garden fences were broken down, and the gardens
had become grass plats. The interior of the dwellings were not so
comfortable nor well ordered as the last I had seen; the poor occupants
were not by any means uncleanly or slovenly, but they seemed to be
contending against necessities, which left them small leisure for thinking
of niceties in dress or furniture.
At High Crompton, the factory hands were all returning from dinner to
their work. I noticed them particularly, and did not observe one, of
either sex, who was not decently and cleanly attired. Some of the young
men and women were very respectably dressed,
for their station; and, with but few exceptions, all the hands appeared to
be healthy. One of the principal manufacturers at Shaw coming up the
street, I stated to him, candidly, the motive for my visit to this part,
and expressed a hope, that when I called at his mill, as I probably
should, no difficulty would be experienced by me in endeavouring to
ascertain the actual condition of his workpeople. He said there would be
no difficulty, but seemed to think that the best information might be
obtained from the overseer of the poor, and the collector of rates, the
latter of whose address he gave. I said I should be glad to avail myself
of whatever information they could afford, but must at the same time make
use of my own observation as much as possible. After parting from this
gentleman, I called on Mr. J. C., a manufacturer at this place, to whom I
explained the nature of my visit, as before. He readily entered into my
views, and without the least hesitation took me into his counting house,
and shewed me his book of the wages he paid to his spinners and weavers. He employed about one hundred and sixty hands, spun thirties counts, and
paid from two shillings and sixpence to two shillings and eightpence per
thousand hanks. His mules were of the largest size and newest
construction, running four hundred and eighty spindles each, and one
spinner, with two piecers, would superintend two mules, or nine hundred
and sixty spindles. The spinner would get from three pound ten shillings,
to four pound seven
shillings in fifteen days, and the average of his earnings would be three
pound eighteen shillings and sixpence in the same time, and of this he
would have to pay his piecers seven shillings a week each, that would be
one pound eight shillings in the fortnight, and it would leave him one
pound ten shillings, of clear gain, or fifteen shillings a week. Mr. C.
employed sixtyseven power-loom weavers of cords and velveteens. The
weavers generally superintended two looms each, several had three looms,
and one or two had four looms, the latter being assisted tenters, whom
they had to pay. A weaver of average ability, would earn, on two looms,
from ten to twelve shillings per week; one with three looms, would get
from thirteen to fourteen shillings; and one with four looms, would earn
as much as fifteen shillings a week clear. A number of the hands lived in
houses belonging to Mr. C., for which they paid from one shilling and
sixpence, to two shillings and nine-pence per week, and their rent was
settled every pay day. I made excuses to enter some of the houses, and
found them uniformly neat and clean, one tenement was beautifully clean;
the walls were as white as lime could make them; the good housewife, who
was up to the elbows in suds, gave me liberty to see her chambers, and I
found the walls and the beds on a par with the house below; they were
almost spotless, and the air was as untainted as the wind. This was one of
a row of houses; several others which I entered were almost in as good
condition; they had generally flowers and green shrubs in the windows, and
before the doors were small gardens with flowers and a few pot herbs. The
tenements consisted of a front room, a kitchen, and two chambers, and the
front rooms were furnished with handsome fire-grates, ovens, and boilers,
all as well burnished as black lead, a good brush, and a willing hand
could make them. The rent of these dwellings was two shillings and
nine-pence per week, clear of all rates. At another house which I visited
I found a dame-school. A young married woman sat with about a dozen fine,
cleanly, and healthy looking children around her. She learned them
reading, knitting, and sewing, and charged from three-pence to four-pence
a week; but complained that the factories working short time had deprived
her of many scholars (this was in the year 1841).
At the village of Shaw I readily found the overseer, the collector of
rates, and the registrar of births and deaths, each of whom, with the
greatest frankness communicated to me such facts as lay within his
respective province. I am sorry to say that the gentleman, the
manufacturer whom I have mentioned as having met at High Crompton, did
not, any more than his partners, evince an equal willingness to oblige me. One of these persons, as a preliminary question, asked who paid me, and
expressed his belief that I must be employed by "some government spy!"
The gentleman first alluded to, when asked to inform me what wages he gave
his workmen? said he thought he
had given me ample reference for my purpose, in directing me to the
overseer and the collector of rates. Had I not seen the collector? I said
I had, and he had given me all the information he could. Well, and was not
that sufficient? did it not show the distress of the township? I said it
did, but that was not what I
was looking after; I wished to ascertain the actual condition of the
labouring population, in order to which
I must have a knowledge of their earnings. Perhaps,
he said, I wished to ascertain their prosperity? No, I said, I wished not
to ascertain either their prosperity or their distress; I wished to know
their actual condition only; I had nothing to do with party questions. Well, he could not see what good could arise from an enquiry so directed. I said he must allow me to judge on that point myself, but as there seemed
to be some reluctance to afford the information, I should not press for
it, and so I left him.
From the three public officers before-mentioned, I learned that the
township of Crompton, of which Shaw is the principal village, was two and
a half miles in length, and two in breadth, comprising about two thousand
one hundred and forty-four statute acres; that its population, in one
thousand eight hundred and thirtyone, was―six thousand nine hundred and
ninety-three; and in one thousand eight hundred and forty-one―six
thousand seven hundred and twenty-four; that the number of inhabited
houses, was one thousand two hundred and twenty-six, uninhabited, two
twelve; that there were twenty-one public-houses in the township, and
twenty-three cotton manufactories six of which were stopped; that there
were two schools at which reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught;
several day schools at which factory children were instructed, and eight sunday schools, at four of which writing was taught; that the number of
families relieved from the poors' rate was seventy-five, and the number of
persons relieved on an average, four hundred and ninety-two. The amount
paid to the poor fortnightly, was about twenty-five pounds. The amount of poors' rate in one thousand eight hundred and forty, was―one thousand
nine hundred and fifteen pound, seven shillings and fourpence halfpenny,
and it would be as heavy this year; the amount of uncollected rates at
present, was sixty-eight pounds fourteen shillings and eleven-pence,
exclusive of rates which had been remitted to some of the poorest
inhabitants. The collector said he had been in office six years, and he
never knew the rates so difficult to collect as at present; it arose from
the factories working short time. They had been continually working short
time during the last six months, until a week or two of late, when they
again commenced working full time. The millworkers in general were not so
very badly off, but many who appeared in comfortable circumstances as
working people, were actually distressed. There was not a pawn-shop in the
township, but many of the necessitous people went to Oldham and Royton to
pledge articles. Many ratepayers, who, five years since, always paid
their rates on the first application, now could not pay, and he had to
call upon them many times. The licensed victuallers were frequently
transferring their houses; the business was not a steady or a profitable
one. There was no mechanics' institute―no public library―no reading
room, except one supported by chartists―nor any bookseller's or
stationer's shop in the place. I also ascertained, from various sources, that it is customary to have
provision shops connected with the mills. These shops were not conducted
in the master's name, but were superintended by the family of an overlooker, or a relative of the master manufacturer (as in one instance,
where the master's brother kept the shop). Those workmen who bought their
necessaries at these shops were generally in steady employment, whilst
those who, through previous engagement, or a wish to better themselves,
went elsewhere, were not so sure of employment. The prices of articles at
a shop not connected with a mill were as follow:―Flour, two shillings
and sixpence per dozen; meal, one shilling and seven-pence per dozen;
malt, two shillings her peck; hops, one shilling and fourpence per lb.;
butter, (Irish,) eleven-pence per lb.; cheese, seven-pence halfpenny per
lb.; bacon, seven-pence to eight-pence per lb.; and potatoes, one
halfpenny per lb. I had not an opportunity of ascertaining what the prices
were at the mill shops, but was informed that it is well understood, that
articles may be purchased for less money at the shops not belonging to the
mills, and very often of better quality.
IT was on the afternoon of a day in the month of November, that a
stranger, travelling on foot, entered the little inn at the village of
Webster-dyke, in the well known district of South Lancashire. He was,
apparently, about the age of thirty years, of a tall and sinewy form. He
wore a drab coat, buttoned tight at the waist, cord breeches, kersey
gaiters, and stout, well thonged shoes; a brown spotted silk neck-kerchief
was neatly tied below his white shirt collar, a black beaver hat,
seemingly new, was on his head, and he carried a knotted crab-stick in his
hand, whilst a powerful, rough-haired, surly looking dog followed close
at his heels; in short, he would have been taken, at nineteen places out
of twenty, for a young farmer, or a farmer's son, travelling across the
country on leisurely business, or pleasure.
Betty, the waiting maid, showed him into a comfortable parlour, and having
received his commands which he gave in a kindly and unassuming tone, she
set before him a jug of ale, some cold meat, and bread and cheese.
At that time the hostel of the Grey Mare was kept by a very worthy couple,
in their way, named Jacob and Dorothy Deawkintwig, who, with three
children, the maid Betty, and Curry the ostler,―claiming to be an
offshoot of the Scotch Curries―formed the family group at that well known
The idea resulting from a glance at the person of our host was far
different from that conveyed by his name; for, whilst the term Deawkintwig
conveys the notion of a slender drooping branch, the person of Jacob
presented that strength of body and limb, and height of stature, which are
generally found in representations of our old English yeomen. True, he was
of quiet demeanour, and almost of child-like simplicity; still he was as
fearless as he was simple and powerful; probably nothing human was capable
of coercively moving him, except the voice of his wife, and when that
broke upon his ear, either in tone of request or command―and the latter
was far the most prevalent―he would instantly move as if this pulsation
was accelerated, and without a why, or a wherefore,
straight set about obeying the command. Still he was far from being devoid
of plain, strong sense; in some things he was rather shrewd; had a
compassionate heart; and, when out of the hearing of his checkmate, he
would launch into conversation, or would joke and banter with the company,
always having the fairness to receive back, in good humour, principal and interest of the jokes
he gave out. Like a school-boy escaped from the surveillance of his
pedagogue, he would enjoy the natural buoyancy of his spirits, but he was
unlike most school-boys in other respects, for Jacob loved, almost adored
his ruler, whilst his reverence for her high qualities, and understanding,
equal to his love. His fatherly feelings were of the same mould as the
husbands; he doated on his children, especially his first-born son, whose
cradle he was rocking when our traveller entered; he would snatch his
children to his heart, and almost smother them with caresses, and when,
as he supposed, no one was near, he would try to divert them with a
nursery rhyme, or to sing a lullaby; on which latter occasions he was sure
to be heard by all in the house, for he bellowed like a bull, and
generally set the infant a crying.
Mrs. Deawkintwig, both in person and character, presented, in many
respects, a strong contrast to her husband. She was of middle stature;
and, whilst he was as dark as a dunnock, she was of that excessively fair
complexion, which being too delicate to withstand our feeble sun,
frequently breaks into brown blotches,
called fawn-freckles. Her hair was inclining to what we call red, and was
worn in profusion; her expressive eyes were of a lively grey colour, and
either flashed with anger, or twinkled with expressions of pleasure,
as the case might be. She was of a good form; incessantly active; with a
rather handsome nose,
thin compressed lips, and a general expression of countenance which
displayed more of a will and a determination of her own, than of the
milder attributes of her sex. In temper indeed, she was hasty and
imperious―held her head high in the town, and failed not, whenever an
opportunity occurred, to impress her husband with a conviction of her vast
understanding, and unapproachable management. From the servants, and all
who dependently approached her kitchen, as well as from her husband, she
exacted the most implicit obedience, and that once yielded, she also had
her blind side; a word of submission, or of flattery, was quite sufficient
to ensure from her, forgiveness, or indulgence.
Betty, the maid of all work, was a pretty, cleanly, hard-handed,
apple-cheeked lass, from the neighbourhood of Cannock Chase, in
Staffordshire. Her dress was generally a printed cotton bed-gown, or short
vest; a knot of strong hair behind, and curls before; a twisted necklace
of many coloured beads, a striped kirtle of linsey-wolsey, black, knitted
hose, and neat clogs, fastened with clasps of brass upon her feet: after
dinner, she would, of course, appear in her gingham gown, with long
sleeves and flounces, according to the newest fashion; her feet would trip
in a pair of smart shoes; and a green calimanco kirtle might be seen
below her tucked up skirt.
As for Curry, the ostler, there was nothing whatever remarkable about his
person, and the reader may take
him in whatever guise his imagination presents him. The only thing worth
notice in his history, so far, was the circumstance of his having been
disappointed in love. He fell into the company of a very pretty girl, at a
neighbouring wakes, and courted her to the verge of matrimony, without
either party knowing the others real surname, until the morning when
Joseph Curry was asked at church to Catherine Combe; there was a general
titter in the congregation, and the girl that day dismissed him, declaring
it had never entered her head to become a Curry-Combe.
Jacob was pleasantly, as usefully employed in smoking his pipe and rocking
the cradle, where lay his first-born son, crowing and kicking the clothes
off his heels, when the mistress of the house made her appearance from
up-stairs, where she had been dressing for the day, and taking the child
from the cradle, sat down and gave it the breast.
"Was it Mc. Sandy, or Mc. Rabb that came in?" she asked of Betty.
"Neither of them, Mrs." replied the girl; "he's a young man, a
traveller, I think, an I've taen him a jug of ale, meat, and bread and
"What sort of ale?" asked the landlady.
"Best ale," said Betty.
"Then you put a little alegar into the sixpenny, did not you?"
interrogated the mistress.
"Yes," said Betty, "I asked him what sort he would like, and he said our
best old ale."
"That's a good lass," said the mistress; has he a horse?"
"No," said Betty; "he came on foot; he's only a dog with him."
"You unconscionable slut!" exclaimed the mistress; "how could you think of
putting a tramp, and a dog, into a room furnished as yonder is? the next
thing you'll be handing carters through the bar."
"He's a very farrantly lookin young man," said Betty.
"Dont tell me of your farrantlies; I never knew a respectable traveller
who didn't ride on something;" said the dame.
"The Scotchmen sit in that room, an they dont ride," said Betty.
"And what's that to you, hussey, if they do; arnt they respectable
tradesmen, and good customers," replied the mistress; "have you the
impudence to compare them with highway tramps, and dog trailers; marry,
come up! I wish I'd never heard that."
"No, mam; I dont compare them with any one," said the lass, in a humble
tone: "no doubt you know better than I do, what tramps are; you've seen
the world more than I have; only the Scotch gentlemen come on foot, the
same as this young man did."
"Yes, Betty, but they'r regular customers; they'r known in the country;
and then, they dont sit over ale; they've a good tea, or a hot supper,
and glass it afterwards. And then consider," said the mistress―"consider what yon room has cost us furnishing. There's the brass fender
and the eight days' clock, and mahogany card and dining tables, and prints
of the leger, and the great coursing at Waterloo, where my father's
sister's son-in-law stands in a corner holding dogs; and there's my
likeness in the room, in oil painting, and Jacob's here,―an old
sober-sides as he is,―and bran new chairs, and a Turkey carpet that cost
no less than thirty shillings, when old Mrs. Dusty's furniture was sold. I say, turn these matters over in your mind, and consider whether if they
were yours, you'd put strange footpads into the room. But here, he rings,
lass; see what he wants; and if he's done, we'll shift him into the tap
at once. Be sharp, will you."
Betty did as she was ordered, and returning into the kitchen with the tray
in her hand, proceeded to pour some hot water into a jug.
"What's that for?" demanded the mistress.
"He wants brandy and hot water," said the girl; "and to speak with
"Master! what can he want you for, Jacob?" said the mistress, musingly.
"Mayhap it's something about those sheep at we picked up last week," said
"Betty!" said the mistress, prompted by female curiosity; "take the
child, and I'll go in with the brandy and water myself."
"Hadn't I best take it in?" asked Jacob.
"No! sit still till I come back; and if he really wants you on business,
you can go in then," said the dame, and with that she took up the tray and
entered the room.
The stranger was looking at a newspaper; but on seeing the mistress, he
courteously accosted her, and said if Mr. Deawkintwig were at hand, he
should be happy to have his company over a glass.
"He will attend you directly, sir," replied the good woman, whose
austerity,―the moment he spoke,―became changed to a most obliging
"Bless me!" said she, on returning to the kitchen, "yon is a civil and
well-behaved young man, to say the least of him. Jacob, you must go to
him, he wants you for something: Betty, take your master's glass in. Why
you ninnyhammer," she continued,―addressing the patient servitor―"you
might have told me at once that yon person was none of your common padding
"I told you what I thought, mam; that he was a decent young man, but you
chose to think differently, and so you have done best to judge for
yourself," said Betty, as she went to attend her master's bell.
After the usual introductions of civility had passed betwixt Mr.
Deawkintwig and the stranger, the latter enquired about a farm which he
saw was advertised to be let, and which he understood was in that
Deawkintwig said he knew the farm right well; it
was the property of Sir Thomas Lookout, as indeed, the whole of the manor
was; and Daisy-knowe, the farm in question, was as nice a bit of land as
any on the estate. The present family and their predescessors, he said,
had farmed it, time out of mind, but something had fallen wrong betwixt
widow Barnet, and the agent of Sir Thomas; and she being unable to come
forward with her rent, was to be sold up the day following, and the farm
was to be let. Every one was sorry for the widow, said Jacob.
"Was she much respected then?" asked the stranger.
"Very much," said Deawkintwig; "she is a worthy woman, and has been
"'That was a pity," said the stranger.
"First her husband died," said Jacob; "then her eldest son, who was the
main stay of the house, died; then her second son went abroad, some said
to the East Indies; then her youngest daughter got entangled with a young
spark of an officer, whose party was sent out here during the first
election. Some said they were married, but however it was, a child
increased the family, and added to the old woman's trouble of mind. The
girl has scarcely ever been abroad since; she has stopped at home, and has
worked like a horse, they say, to keep her old mother's head above water,
but all wont do, it seems; and now they will be rooted out of house and
"I wish," said the traveller, "the poor woman may
have a good sale, and find something over and above paying her rent."
"I wish she may," said Jacob, "for if she doesn't, she will find herself
unroofed in her old age, it is to be feared."
"I should like to walk over the place," said the stranger.
"That you may easily do," said Jacob, "it is not more than a mile from
hence, and if you dont know the road I'll go with you, if you'll accept of
The traveller thanked him, but said the day was too far spent, and he
should perhaps come on the morrow to the sale.
Jacob then asked how far the stranger purposed going that evening? and
was informed that he intended going as far as Brimbeck, where he had a
friend to see.
Jacob said it was good six miles off, and nights came early at that
The traveller said he did not think much of walking twice that distance,
either by night or day; and after receiving a few directions, he called
for the shot, and paid it, and was about to depart, when Jacob noticed his
dog which lay on the floor, casting wistful glances at his master. He was
a rough, broken haired dog, young and powerful, though not large; as ugly
a looking brute as we might meet with in a year's travel, and, as his
master said, chiefly remarkable for his ugliness, and a set of fangs more
like those of a wolf than of
a dog; in confirmation he laid hold of him and showed his teeth.
"What's the price on him?" asked the landlord. "Why its a matter I've
never thought about," said the young fellow; "its the first time I've
ever had the question put."
"Will he do for a tenter? will he bark at night?" queried the host.
"Well I cannot say much for his barking," said the traveller; "he's
chiefly in the other line, I should think."
"What! will he hunt?" asked the landlord, in his wonted simplicity."
"No! no! man," replied the guest, "he's chiefly for getting hold and
"Hum!" ejaculated the landlord, "I wanted a bit of a tenter; but he is
as you say, a deawr, sulky lookin' thing: what do yo call him?"
"Murky," said the traveller.
"Murphy! is he Irish then? " asked Jacob.
"Not an atom of Irish has he in his carcase, he's thorough Saxon, and
that's something in his favour," said the traveller, in as grave a manner
as he could command. "I call him Murky because of his sullen temper."
"Aye! that's right; and he's murky enough by the looks of him," said
"Do you fancy him?" asked the owner.
"If he was mine I'd take care of him," said Jacob, I think he'd suit us.
"Take him then, and behave well to him. I believe he's an honest brute,"
said his master; "though I never found much good in him yet."
Murky was accordingly taken possession of by the landlord, whilst his late
owner started upon his journey, at one of those paces, which appear so
easy in a good pedestrian, and which, without the least hurry carry him
about his five miles an hour.
The road lay for some distance, across enclosures marked by stone walls,
and it became evident to the traveller, soon after his setting out, that
the best indicators of the path, were the gap-steads left in the walls for
a passage: the rock-head of that noted hill, called Cleawd-rip, also
loomed before him on the right; and with these land-marks, and the host's
directions, he doubted not being able to track the way as readily as if a
forest ranger stepped it before him.
He now leaped a brook, and crept through some stunted alders, and began to
cross a field which appeared to be the last patch of enclosed ground
adjoining a common. Briskly and lightly, though he trod,
night he found, was treading faster. Old Cloud-rip seemed less distinct
every time he glanced that way; wide tree-less slopes, and sweeping
vales, were settling into gloom on his left, whilst before him lay what
appeared to be a wayless, shelterless moor, stretching far below, and
darkening to the horizon.
He had not walked much longer, when he found there was no track before
him. He stopped at once, and tried to discover a path, but nothing of the
kind was perceivable. He listened; there was no sound save the sooing of
the wind in a solitary tree; no light
above; nothing but a thick rayless air; and not a gleam below, except one
that seemed at great distance,
somewhat on his right. He inclined to blame himself for adventuring forth,
that, however, would not avail. He thought to return, but that was
scarcely practicable, as there was now, not any way-mark, either before or
behind; he therefore resolved to make for the only object he could
perceive, namely, the light before-mentioned. As he proceeded, complete
darkness overtook him, and had he not carried as good a pair of eyes as
ever did night-hunter, he would have had many an unpleasant flounder into quags and over jutting boulders; but he escaped pretty well considering
all circumstances, and after a long and tiresome tramp, he found himself
at the door of an old stone building, like most of the habitations on the
moor-sides of the county. He looked through the window; a lamp hung from
the ceiling, and a few sparks of fire were in the grate; before which, sat
an old dame whose visage and manner brought to his mind the stories of
Mother Demdike, and other witches of Lancashire. She was seated on a low
chair rocking a child, which kept whining in a cradle, whilst she sung the
following words, to an air he had never heard before,
"Bla bla Blacksheep,
Hasto onny wool?
Turn ogen, curly yed,
And fillthe poke full.
Sum for the meastur,
Sum forthe dame,
An sum for that little lad
At lies ibed lame."
He could only see part of the room, but there were evidently other persons
within, as shadows occasionally darkened the opposite wall, and the clack
of a shuttle was heard.
When he knocked at the door, the old woman gave over croning, and a female
of youthful appearance, but of a care-worn and dejected look, opened the
door, and bade him step in, which he did. A pale emaciated young fellow
sat at a loom, weaving calico. He ceased weaving when the stranger
entered, and began to cough in a painful manner, the perspiration standing
in drops on his forehead. He looked a wistful and staring look, as gasping
for breath, he rested on his loom.
It was a sad looking place, was that cottage, though quite clean in
appearance. Another loom, but without work, stood beside a window; not a
particle of any thing like food was to be seen; the place felt miserably
chill; the air mouldy and stagnant; the walls were oozing wet; the floor
black with damp; whilst, as if to make it still more dolesome, the wind
was heard at intervals, howling o'er the lumm, and down the cold,
dark chimney, in tones quite in unison with a place so lorn, and beings so
"Wot may be your wish, sir?" asked the young woman, in a manner
rather polite, as the traveller gazed around, forgetful of himself.
"God help you, poor people," he ejaculated.
The woman looked surprised. The weaver raised his bony, blue-veined hand,
and wiping his clammy forehead, said in a humble tone, "thank yo sir, an
may God bless yo."
"You are the new overseer, sir, I suppose," said the young woman.
"Oerseer! oerseer!" interrupted the old one, "hooa ever yerd God
bless yo, come eawt ov an oerseer's meawth?" and then she began winding
again at a furious speed, singing
"Hasto ony wool?
Hasto ony wool?
Fill the poke full.
War I a sheep
Heaw warm cud I sleep."
"I am not an overseer. I almost wish I were, for your sakes," the
stranger said, "I am travelling in these parts, and am wishing to get as
far as Brimbeck to night, but I fear I am far out of the way."
"Weer didn yo start fro?" asked the weaver.
"I set out last from the inn at Webster-dyke;" replied the traveller.
"Then yo are indeed eawt o' yur way," said the weaver.
"Eawt oth way dusto say?
Why dus he stray?
Iv he'll not stop o'whom,
Hie him away,
Till he meets dooming day."
sang the old woman again.
The young woman motioned him not to notice her, intimating, what he had
begun to suspect, that she was not in her senses.
The weaver dragged himself off his loom, and taking the lamp, hobbled to
the door, and pointing across the fold, asked the stranger if he saw a
gate? He replied that he did. "Well," continued the man, "yo mun goo
throo that, and keep byth wall-side, till yo gett'n toth' top oth' hill,
yo'n then yer a roor o' weatur, unless th' clews are up, an mayhap yo may
see a leet afore yo; but however, yo mun make forth' weatur, an follo' th'
bruck, till yo comn to a brig, an yo man goo o'er it, an op th' lone till
yo comn to some heawses, an th' foke theer win sho yo th' road eend-way."
The stranger thanked him, and remarked that they seemed very poor and
destitute. "Poor indeed!'' said the man, "but still honest, I hope." "I
hope so too," said the traveller. "No bein i' this heawse," continued the
man, "has tasted food sin yuster-neet, except th' chylt, an there's no
pap for it neaw."
"And how happens it to be so?" asked the stranger.
"It wud be a weary lung tale," said the man, "to tell it o'; but th'
short ont is, at I am ill,―deein i' fact. My wife, at shad weave o' that tother loom, has had no wark a lung
time; th' owd women, as yo seen, isno
her own person; an wot wi rent, an foyer, an sickness, wee'n bin torn
deawn, and conno get op ogen; we conno even get one meal a day."
"And the overseer, have you not been to him?"
"Yo may be sure at we han;" said the man. "He refust to relieve us, an we
summunt him, paying th' last farthin at we had forth' summuns; an th'
justices orthert us to attend at th' vestry, which dusno sit till th' next
week, an so iv we con live till then, we may happen get summut, an if we
dee'n, we shanno want it," said the poor fellow, leaning against the
"Had I resided permanently in this neighbourhood," said the stranger,
taking out his purse, "I might have rendered you some service, but as my
stay is likely to be short, accept that in return for your present
services," and he put a broad piece of silver into the man's hand.
"A theawsun, theawsun blessins on yo, kynd gentleman," shouted the poor
weaver, as well as his feeble voice enabled him. "I wudha gone wi yo
mysel, but yo seen I'm so kilt for my wynt. "Good neet, sur; good neet,"
again he shouted. "Good neet, kynd sir, a hunthurt times o'er," said the
young woman, who stood at the door with her child in her arms, tears of
joy and gratitude glistening in her eyes.
"Didno I tell the at we shud'n ha good luck;" the young woman said,
kissing her child, and shutting the door. "Didno I tell the so, yusterneet,
when th' cinder flew eawt oth foyer, an it wur a purse, an this mornin
when I don'd me stockin oth left leg furst, an
it wur th' wrung side eawt. God bless my little bab!" she continued, "but it shall ha summut in it pap soon."
"I dunno believe i' sitch yethen nonsense," said the husband; "it's o
the providence ov a good God, an so let us goo deawn on eawr knees an
That poor and humble couple drew each a seat, and kneeled down before it;
the old woman also ceased winding, and took the whim to join their
devotions, in her way. The man poured forth his feelings in terms of the
most fervent gratitude. He recounted his unworthiness, and his many acts
of sin against God; he remembered God's great mercies towards himself and
his dear family; how they had been sustained under affliction of body, and
tribulation of mind: how amidst all their troubles they had been mindful
of another and a better world, where sorrow was unknown, and the weary
were at rest; and he humbly besought God to prepare them for so blessed a
change. He next implored blessings on the head of the kind stranger who
had been the instrument that night for effecting another of God's merciful
interpositions on their behalf. He prayed God to protect their benefactor
in the dark shadows of the night; to be his guide and his supporter under
all the circumstances of life; to return him in safety to his family, to
his old father and
anxious mother, if he had such, who were perhaps waiting to hear his
welcome footsteps at the door: to bless all belonging to the stranger,
however they were related; and finally he prayed God to remember him on
that great day, when he should say, "Come ye blessed, for I was hungry,
and ye gave me meat."
During this affecting act of heartfelt devotion, the sobs of the wife
prevented her utterance, except the broken ejaculations, "Thank God!
thank God! Lord, accept our prayers! God bless him! God bless him! God
The old woman also occasionally prayed, and as they were accustomed to her
ways, there was no interruption, nor breach of gravity. Her constant
expressions were, "Bless the Lord, O my soul! and let all that
is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul! Jack, set th' porritch on; Bless the Lord!
Jack, Jack, fetch sum meal, mon. Bless the Lord! an wod-cakes too; an
mowffens too, mon; an potatus too; there's curn i' Egypt yet. Eh; bless
the Lord! Jack, bless the Lord."
The husband and wife arose from their knees, and met each others looks
with moistened eyes and tranquil hearts. The old woman was despatched to
the yard, to bring in a turf or two, and the last piece of coal: whilst
the wife, on the certainty of being able to repay, hurried off to the
nearest house, about a half a mile distant, to borrow a piggin of meal,
and an oat-cake, if they had any.
The fire was quickly blazing; water was shortly afterwards boiling in a
pan; the wife, who was not long absent, returned with meal and bread; and
what was more, a little treacle; a good warm dish of porridge was soon
smoking on the table, and that grateful family, after asking a blessing,
partook, were satisfied and returned thanks.