7 DECEMBER 1901, Page 57


The Beltesworth Book : Talks with a Surrey Peasant. By George Bonnie. (Lamley and Co. Gs. net.)—We have read this book with great pleasure. It is the faithful record of conversations with an old rustic; and Mr. Bourne has remembered and written down the rambling monologues and simple philosophy with praiseworthy industry. That the record is accurate we cannot doubt, for every turn of phrase recalls the old weather-stained labourer,-thin and grizzled, in his soiled slop and patched cordu- roys. Old Bettesworth's village lies in Surrey, in that pleasant part of the county near the Sussex and Hampshire borders, some- where between Farnham and Haslemere. His life began as a farm lad, and then he took to wandering, working a year or two years for this master or that,—sometimes as a carter, at others as a navvy, at others as a farm labourer. He has tramped to Carlisle and Newcastle, and in the season he has been as a harvester to Sussex cornfields round Chichester and Bognor. In Mr. Bourne's service he has worked at intervals as gardener, cultivating his own little patch of ground and doing odd jobs for other masters as well. To Mr. Bourne he has recounted the adventures of his youth, the rural legends he has heard, the jokes of the villagers, and the gossip of the alehouse. There is a simple charm about Bettesworth's talk and humour that is often pathetic. We see the long life of the farm labourer struggling with poverty, bearing illness stoically, wearing himself out with work and exposure, and having nothing but the Union to look forward to in old age. Such is old Fred Bettesworth ; and so are thousands of others in the Southern counties of England. A pagan philosophy, a Christian piety, and a sturdy independence; these are the characteristics of a Surrey peasant like Bettesworth. Mr. Bourne's account of the old man and his life is very charming ; not less so, perhaps, on account of the tinge of melancholy which it produces in the reader.