THE ENGLISH VILLAGE.* KISS PATTON'S study of the English village
is most attractive. It deals pre-eminently with the interpretation of the village in prose and verse in the period 1750-1850; but combined with this study, and indispensable to it, according to Miss Patton, is a study of the social and political development of village life :—
" In a sense the village has never been absent from English literature. Its pointed spire and thatched cottages, its tavern and smithy, have always been somewhere discernible in the literary landscape. But in the eighteenth century it came into a new position in literature which it has ever since retained. Before that time rustics numerous enough since Chaucer and 'Piers Plowman' had appeared as single figures, often indeed merely ap types representative of social classes ; now the whole community, a social group in its setting, was introduced and individuals appeared as members of the group. Shakespeare's rustics do not suggest the villages to which they must have belonged ; there is no 'Deserted Village' or Favourite Village' or 'Village Oppressed' hi the sixteenth century. The eighteenth ientury shows the handling of a theme distinctly new, only hinted at in earlier periods and reached through the course of a long development, by various lines of approach and under diverse influences,. literary ed social. In the third quarter of the century the village in this sense became a literary fashion, and a fashion of more significance than at first appears."
The village cult, like all cults, led some of its adherents into extravagance, which expressed itself in the stereotyped " pastoral " poem—artificial eulogy of a simple life that was unknown to the writers. "Comparatively few of the poets who wrote of the country knew it or cared to know it, as it really was." Thus James Hammond, writing in 1732, rhapso- dizes in the seventh of his "Love Elegies" on "Delia's being in the country, where he supposes she stays to see the harvest " :—
" Oh, with what joy, my Delia to behold, I'd press the spade, or wield the weighty prong,
Guide the slow plough-share through the stubborn mold, And patient goad the loitering ox along : The scorching heat I'd carelessly despise,
Nor heed the blisters on my tender hand ; The great Apollo wore the same disguise,
Like me subdued to love's supreme command."
In spite of idyllic surroundings and devoted lovers to plough for them, the Delias and Grind:vs were not altogether satisfied
• The Brtglish nitage. By Julia Patton. London : Macmillan. [8s. net.]
with rural existence, for thus sighs one Flavia in Lord Lyttelton's "Soliloquy of a Beauty in the Country" :—
"Now with Mamma at tedious whist I play,
Now without scandal drink insipid tea : . .
From books to work, from work to books I rove, And am (alas!) at leisure to improve. . . .
Let me revisit the dear town again : Let me be seen !—could I that wish obtain, All other wishes my own pow'r would gain."
But truer voices than those of Corin and Amaryllis made them selves heard as the village consciousness awoke. There came Clare, the peasant poet ; Thomson and Goldsmith with their more faithful pictures of rural life ; Crabbe with his passionate realism ; and a number of minor singers. Miss Patton gives some curious examples from these last, and we cannot resist quoting the following from an anonymous poem, "The Con- tented Clown," which appeared some twelve years previous to Goldsmith's "Deserted Village" :— "Young Hodge, a poor, but a contented Swain, Rented a homely Cottage on a Plain ;
Homely you'd say, if you the Cottage saw, The Walls were rear'd of Mud, and thatch'd with Straw. .
Well with the Place the Furniture agreed ; No Implements of Luxury, but Need. . . .
All that you could unnecessary call, Were some old tatter'd Ballads on the Wall ; Alike of Wealth was all his Stock and Store, Two Bee-Hives (one forsaken) at the Door, And Cabbages and Turnips half a Score. • A meagre Tit that on the Common graz'd, A small Runt Cow that from a Calf he rais'd ;
One Cook, two Hens, and half a Dozen Chicks, Two little Heaps of Hay, which Hodge call'd Risks;
Three Pigs within Doors kept, and served with Care;
To these—a Wife—two Writs—a son and Heir ;
These were his Stock—nor did he e'er repine, Tho' Pigs, Wife, Children, often did combine To greet his Ears, and in loud Concert join.
But midst this Scene of Poverty and Woes, Hodge, by his Looks, no Discontentment shows.. . . At Work he whistles ; when his Work is done, No more is tir'd than when he first begun ; Homeward he hies, and tunes a merry Song, His Iov'd, tho' dirty squawling Tribe among. . . .
Such Hedge's Life was, which a neighb'ring Squire Did often with an envious Mind admire.'
We would also refer readers to that quaintly realistic poem quoted in the appendix, " Snaith Marsh: a Yorkshire Pastoral."
In Miss Patton's study of the village in prose we are glad to see a warm appreciation of William Cobbett and of that delightful piece of egotism, Galt's Annals of a Country Parish. The book closes with a brief chapter on the village in modern literature and its probable development in the future.