Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Rural Rides, by William Cobbett

I was inspired to pick up my copy of Rural Rides when I heard of the death of that great radical of my time, Michael Foot. Foot and Cobbett did not have one of the most obvious things in common – Cobbett was no socialist, and was the scourge of those who professed any sort of collectivism. But they were both at various times in their lives radical thinkers, great orators, champions of the oppressed, fearless witnesses against injustice. Each had a wholly distinctive voice, in their speaking out loud, and in their written word, though Cobbett’s voice is louder, more homespun, and far less under control.

Another thing that they have in common, which makes me rather angry and sad, is that both had to suffer savage attacks when alive, only to be found to be national treasures after death. Am I alone in raging against the idea of de mortuis nil nisi bonum? It seems to me to be the ultimate tragedy that someone should live without hearing the words of respect that are accorded them after death. Let’s not mention the Daily Mail’s lately found admiration for Michael Foot, and pass swiftly on to Rural Rides.

Cobbett was born in Farnham, Surrey, and his grave can still be seen in the parish churchyard. He led an extraordinary and varied life, but his heart always resided in this beautifully rich corner of rural Southern England, Southwest Surrey and Northeast Hampshire, all rolling green downland. George Woodcock, in the introduction to my rather ancient Penguin Classics edition, says

Cobbett’s life […] reads as if a character from Fielding had adventured his way through a world created by Dickens.

At various times he was a sergeant-major in the British Army, a campaigning journalist, a political prisoner (who nevertheless entertained his admirers in gaol), an exile in America, the editor of journals, including a periodical nicknamed ‘Twopenny Trash’ (a name he adopted as a badge of honour), and the Radical MP for Oldham – ironically, as this northern cotton town was the antithesis of his earthly paradise in the rural South. Throughout his career, he found the people and the causes to champion – the soldier cheated of his rations by the quartermaster, the cottager evicted by the enclosing landlord, the pauper victim of the vile Speenhamland system of parish relief that depressed his wages to just below subsistence level, the factory worker. His voice was loud in their support, and his contempt for those who oppressed them was boundless. His prejudices were utterly fixed, and make both heartening and disheartening reading – he found no room for tolerance of bankers and stockbrokers, MPs for rotten boroughs and their patrons, Anglicans, Unitarians, Quakers, Scots and Jews. He supported Catholics against the discrimination they suffered and disqualification from public life. He utterly detested London and anything or anyone who came from it, for which he coined the phrase ‘the Great Wen’ (more generally in Rural Rides ‘The Wen’.) He also coined the phrase ‘the Thing’ for the body of people who made up a large proportion of the tax burden – placemen, half-pay officers, bureaucrats. I hope I am giving you a flavour of how much fun he is to read – truly exhilarating.

In the 1820s, returned from political exile in America, he undertook a series of rides through the countryside, as the basis for a series of articles for publication in his own journal The Political Register. In 1830, he made a selection of the rides and published them in book form. The Rides are topographical narratives, but intended as a vehicle for

Economical and Political Observations relative to matters applicable to, and illustrated by, the State of those Counties respectively.

The tone of voice is idiomatic and discursive and displays his entirely distinctive personality. The description of the countryside and the people he encounters, and the agricultural and economic conditions, is frequently broken off for Cobbett to deplore an outrage, or excoriate an enemy, or even (sometimes) to praise a hero. The tone is never less than strong and vigorous, often a howl of rage, or a blast of irony. I am reluctant to use the word ‘rant’ to describe the state that he often works himself up into – every few pages. These days, the word ‘rant’ is such a commonly used term online. We apologise to one another for an occasional rant, which can be anything from a ‘rage over a lost penny’ to a heartfelt storm of passion over something that makes the world a worse place. Thinking about it, though, there is a strong parallel between 21st century online rants, and Cobbett’s constant impulse to break off and tell it how he sees it. There is a similar sense of spontaneity, courage and freedom. However, I think I’ll use a different word, inspired by Cobbett himself. The title of the first ride is

Rural ride of a hundred and four miles from Kensington to Uphusband; including a rustic harangue at Winchester at a dinner with the farmers, on the 28th September

What a splendid concept is the ‘rustic harangue’! That will do nicely. Imagine what a great entertainment that must have been, in the time when a fiery sermon, the longer the better, was the finest diversion that most country people could anticipate. So, from time to time, in Rural Rides, he breaks off for a harangue. The Rides are all about him, and his opinions, and his prejudices, but he is so unselfconscious that I read them because I want to see what he sees, know what he thinks, engage with his prejudices. He is so passionate and honest.

There are famous bits, and favourite bits. One famous passage is an account of him hiring a man at a pub to guide him through a stormy night from Hampshire into Surrey, going by any route, so long as it was not via the turnpike at Hindhead. Cobbett hated turnpikes, as they taxed travellers, and he hated Hindhead for reasons that are rather less easy to explain. It is an odd corner of Surrey, scrubby heath, and a bottleneck through which the traveller has to pass. I think it is just that no one makes him do what he does not want to do, Everyone has to pass over Hindhead, so he won’t have it that way. Anyhow, the poor man from the pub gets lost, they do end up on Hindhead, and Cobbett is so enraged that he refuses to pay the man what he promised him. This story he tells against himself.

I have some favourites. Topically, last year a splendidly right-on folk duo called Show of Hands have recently inveighed against the bankers on an album entitled ‘Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed’ (oh go on, Show Of Hands, please tell us what you REALLY think). Listening to them, I could not help thinking of Cobbett’s description of the country round Whitchurch in Hampshire, where there are many paper mills, not least the mill of the Portal family that made banknotes; red rag to Cobbett, who harangues us so:

From this coppice to Whitchurch is not more than about four miles, and we soon reached it, because here you begin to descend into the vale in which this little town lies, and through which there runs that stream which turns the mill of ‘Squire Portal, and which mill makes the Bank of England note-paper! Talk of the Thames and the Hudson with their forests of masts; talk of the Nile and the Delaware bearing the food of millions on their bosoms; talk of the Ganges and the Mississippi sending forth over the world their silks and their cottons; talk of the Rio de la Plata and the other rivers, their beds pebbled with silver and gold and diamonds. What as to their effect on the condition of mankind, as to the virtues, the vices, the enjoyments and the sufferings of men; what are all these rivers put together compared with the river of Whitchurch , which a man of threescore may jump across dry-shod, which moistens a quarter of a mile wide of poor, rushy meadow, which washes the skirts of the park and game preserves of that bright patrician who wedded the daughter of Hanson, the attorney and late solicitor to the Stamp Office, and which is, to look at it, of far less importance than any gutter in the Wen! Yet this river, by merely turning a wheel, which wheel sets some rag-tearers and grinders and washers and re-compressers in motion, has produced a greater effect on the condition of men than has been produced on that condition by all the other rivers, all the seas, all the mines and all the continents in the world.

Although the Rides take in counties as far afield as Worcestershire and Bedfordshire, the main landscape for them is Surrey and Hampshire, with the odd foray into Kent and Sussex. This is my home turf, and I love to see the landscape (that I take for granted) through Cobbett’s keen and expert eyes. He can tell which is the productive land and which is the barren (he describes Chobham Common as ‘villainous’). He loves the fertile land that can feed the population, and riding through it stokes his hatred of those who are not sharing it fairly, and are cloaking their greed in cruelty, neglect and injustice. In the Ride Oct. 19th to 21st, 1825: Across Surrey he devotes a long passage to my home town, and a biography of one of the most extraordinary people who lived there, the deeply conservative, backward-looking Francis Maseres, Baron Cursitor of the Exchequer, and mathematical savant, who did not believe in negative numbers, and who founded the science of annuities and as a result the Actuarial profession. No particular meeting of minds there, you would think. However, even though from a family of Huguenot refugees, Maseres nevertheless gave charity to French catholics, exiled during the French revolution, and this even-handed championing of the oppressed endeared him to Cobbett (as you can tell, Cobbett is no package-dealer – his sympathies lie with the powerless wherever they come from, and his scorn is for the powerful oppressors, whatever their ideology). Maseres also visited Cobbett in Newgate, dressed in his official robes, as a mark of disapproval of his imprisonment. Such an unlikely friendship, wonderfully described. Cobbett’s biography of Maseres is an amazing story, with many twists and turns, and I recommend it.

Then Cobbett rides away through the lovely landscape I travel most days, from Reigate towards Dorking, past my parish church, and describes it thus:

Chilworth
Friday Evening, Oct . 21.

It has been very fine to-day. Yesterday morning there was snow on Reigate Hill, enough to look white from where we were in the valley. We set off about half-past one o’clock, and came all down the valley, through Buckland, Betchworth, Dorking, Sheer and Aldbury, to this place. Very few prettier rides in England, and the weather beautifully fine. There are more meeting-houses than churches in the vale, and I have heard of no less than five people, in this vale, who have gone crazy on account of religion. To-morrow we intend to move on towards the west; to take a look, just a look, at the Hampshire parsons again. The turnips seem fine; but they cannot be large. All other things are very fine indeed. Everything seems to prognosticate a hard winter. All the country people say that it will be so.

There is so often snow on Reigate Hill when there is none elsewhere. It has its own climate. I can see what he sees, trace his path. And I can smile indulgently as I wonder about the five people, no less, who have gone crazy on account of religion, and wonder if I know any of them.

You can read William Cobbett’s Rural Rides online on the website Vision of Britain.

Penguin Classics, 2001. (First published 1830.)
ISBN 13: 9780140435795 576pp

20 comments on “Rural Rides, by William Cobbett

  1. Anne Brooke
    March 10, 2010

    Sounds fabulous! I will have to find out more, particularly as he was a local lad 🙂

    Axxx

  2. Sarah Murison
    March 10, 2010

    This is wonderful! As a resident of Farnham and native of East Hampshire with family near Oxted I also love this countryside. The combination of history and place in Cobbett’s writing is fascinating, as well as the harangues of course, and its totally beguiling to read a review of a book about place by a person who also knows and loves the place. Thank you

  3. Conor
    March 10, 2010

    Hilary, I loved your vivid piece on Cobbett. He’s wonderful to dip into but I wonder what he’d do to your dinner party.
    I was puzzled by “this beautifully rich corner of rural Southern England, Southwest Surrey and Northeast Hampshire, all rolling green downland.”
    From an O level English practice passage which has stayed with me for over forty years I recall Cobbett writing about the very steep wooded “hangers” of this area, and when I struggled through Hindhead last Sunday I remembered him getting stuck on one of them.
    It would be fun to hear him on Surrey today.

  4. Hilary
    March 10, 2010

    Thanks for the lovely comments! Surrey is under-appreciated, and it is good to read Cobbett once in a while to learn to love it again at a slower pace (I spend far, far too much time on the M25).

    Conor, you’ve got me bang to rights – rolling green downland, yes I stand by that, around Whitchurch and the Bourne Valley, and the Meons, and South of the Hog’s Back and Holmesdale – and then, you’re right, there’s Hindhead, which surely isn’t, and which Cobbett irrationally loathed.

    So that this villainous tract extends from east to west, with more or less of exceptions, from Hounslow to Hungerford. From north to south it extends from Binfield (which cannot be far from the borders of Buckinghamshire) to the South Downs of Hampshire, and terminates somewhere between Liphook and Petersfield, after stretching over Hindhead, which is certainly the most villainous spot that God ever made. Our ancestors do, indeed, seem to have ascribed its formation to another power; for the most celebrated part of it is called “the Devil’s Punch Bowl .”

    He had an almost personal hatred of barren land – it was like a vendetta. Anyhow, any year now, we’ll be able to drive underneath Hindhead without even knowing it’s there – I wonder if Cobbett would have approved? As for the dinner party, I think the charming habit of a rustic harangue between courses might be worth reviving – but only if we’re all forewarned. I have to say, I think he’d regard me as part of the ‘Dead Weight’, or even ‘The Thing’.

    Sarah, thank you. I was in Oxted yesterday, pointing out the beauties of the Downs to colleagues from closer to The Wen, and trying to ignore the notorious Oxted gasometer. One day, I’ll dig out George Bourne’s ‘The Bettesworth Book’, and celebrate another wonderful description of life and landscape in South West Surrey.

  5. Jackie
    March 10, 2010

    Having never heard of Cobbett before, I was intrigued by this piece, which was wonderfully written, almost a little journey itself. And the ending was perfect. The excerpts you’ve given are quite vivid, I can picture the landscape though I’ve never been there.
    He would seem a candidate for folk hero from your description. Was it the upper class who attacked him? He probably made a lot of bigwigs squirm. My hat is off to him for that. Thanks for introducing me to this man & his writings.

  6. Patrick Murtha
    March 12, 2010

    I agree, it’s a great book, although not all of Cobbett’s “prejudices” are still palatable — he has a fairly wide anti-semitic streak, fir example. But one must read historically. Is the Penguin edition compete, as the two-volume Everyman hardcover edition is? It would have to be a fairly thick volume. If it is a “selected,” it wouldn’t surprise me if they pruned some of the less pleasant passages. But I believe one should experience Cobbett whole, just as one should experience Carlyle, another great writer, whole, despite his nasty racism.

    http://patrickmurthasdiary.blogspot.com/

  7. kirstyjane
    March 15, 2010

    What a thoroughly lovely piece, Hilary, and a great radical writer I am ashamed to say I missed out on getting to know thus far. Well, I’ll soon remedy that with the Rural Rides. Many thanks for telling us about Cobbett!

  8. Minnie
    March 15, 2010

    Superb review; made me want to re-read it. Many thanks from another appreciator of the South Downs (used to tramp around Leith Hill regularly & have lunch in pubs in Shere, Albury …).

  9. Hilary
    March 15, 2010

    Thank you, but don’t forget the surgical mask and gloves, Kirsty, because there’s no doubt some of his opinions are untenable these days. As you say, Patrick, all we can ever possibly do is read historically. The pleasures of reading Cobbett weighing into my particular soft targets – bankers, venal politicians, middlemen taking public money – are paid for in the less acceptable passages. Essentially, although a savage critic of it, he had no real interest in overturning the existing order – he persisted against all reason in thinking that human relations could be perfectible, and that injustice and greed were the enemies – his ideal was fair reward for honest toil.

    My copy is the previous Penguin Classics edition of 1967, edited by George Woodcock, Patrick, so I can’t speak for the current one, though I expect from the pagination that it is likely to be complete. The note on the text in my edition says that it follows the text of the original 1830 edition, with a number of pieces from the longer 1853 edition prepared by Cobbett’s son added as an appendix. So a longer modern edition may be based on that posthumous edition.

  10. Chris Harries
    September 6, 2010

    “…he found no room for tolerance of bankers and stockbrokers, MPs for rotten boroughs and their patrons, Anglicans, Unitarians, Quakers, Scots and Jews.”
    This is not at all true, although it is received wisdom.
    Cobbett was, for most of his life, a professed Anglican, contemptuous of Methodists. Perhaps that is what you intended to write.
    As for Unitarians he certainly attacked them, particularly during the French revolution but by the time he left Newgate he had become very open to the ideas of such as Eaton, upon whose punishment in thew pillory he wrote a famous piece.
    He was quite clear that the “Pennsylvania Quakers” were the finest people he had ever known. Far from being prejudiced against them, he always acknowledged his debt to them. His objection was to the Quaker businessmen in banking, grain dealing and brewing who played reactionary roles while professing ‘humanitarian’ principles.
    As to the Scots, he certainly teased them (as did Dr Johnson), and he detested the Scots intellectuals and writers who acted as a sort of Praetorian guard for the Utilitarians and evangelicals constructing an ideology for capitalists. Still read his Rural Rides through Scotland in 1830 and you will get an idea of what he thought about a nation with which he had been well acquainted throughout his life, in New Brunswick and Pennsylvania particularly. (He was devoted to Burns for example.)
    Cobbett’s treatment of Jews and blacks, particularly, does not always make for pretty reading but his views are far more complex than the image of him as a sort of bluff bigot (whose sins are forgivable because…)
    suggests.
    Cobbett wrote about 15 million words during a career which began in 1792 and ended in 1835. His Political Register alone runs to 88 volumes. Since his death he has been the object of generatioins of condescension at the hands of people who have either not read him or not understood what he was writing about. This is particularly the case with Rural Rides.
    I suggest as an introduction: Leonora Nattrass’s Selected Writing. Better yet Google up a Political Register and read some of them. You will soon realise that the man you are dealing with is a profound and astute observer of a new society (ours) being born in terrible upheavals.

  11. Chris Harries
    September 6, 2010

    Pity about the typos: re Rural Rides, GDH Cole produced a 3 Volume edition which includes Scotland and Ireland.

    GK Chesterton wrote a biography that is worth reading. Cole, George Spater and Daniel Green are among his other recent biographers, and they are all good. I haven’t read Richard Ingrams’s book but I expect it is fun too.

    One aspect of Cobbett that is often forgotten is his critique of US democracy and society, (to be found in his 12 Volume Collected Works of Peter Porcupine) which is often eerily prophetic.

  12. Chris Harries
    September 6, 2010

    One more thing: this is the 200th anniversary of Paper Against Gold, Cobbett’s disquisition on the currency question. As an introduction to government finances it compares very well with anything currently on offer from, for example, those howling calamity over the deficit.

  13. Hilary
    September 6, 2010

    Chris, thank you for the corrections, and for all the additional comment, information and resources. And for the reminder of the sheer size of Cobbett’s phenomenal output. I have only dipped the tip of my toe into this stream. But I am a huge admirer of Cobbett, believe me – he is a hero of mine, especially in the light of his unlikely comradeship with Francis Maseres.

  14. Jonathan
    April 3, 2011

    Chris, while he was an Anglican he was also pretty scathing of the Anglican clergy. He picked and chose his parsons. He got along not at all well with the one in Botley who stopped the residents ringing the bells to celebrate his release from Newgate in 1812. He castigated others in the Political Register for gratuitously interpreting sundry passages of the Bible as an instruction to the poor to shut up and be happy with their lot.
    I’ve just finished Richard Ingrams biography of Cobbett and can thoroughly recommend it.

  15. Chris Harries
    April 3, 2011

    Hilary what is the particular significance of Cobbett’s comradeship with Maseres? I know about it but I am eager to learn more.

    One more thing about Cobbett’s ‘anti-semitism.’ It is not at all unusual, much milder than Burke’s for example. And, where the cases of individual Jews are concerned, as in the case of Mrs (her name will come to me later) the woman who was charged with exporting gold sovereigns under an ancient law, he showed no prejudice and defended her from persecution. Again his writing on the suicide of the banker Goldsmid, did not strike me as anti-semitic, merely anti-banker. Again he disagreees with Ricardo but not as an anti-semite would (and did.)
    One has to be careful about attributing anti-semitism. The example of Burke is very instructive because Burke’s ‘conservatism’ earns him a pass though he writes about Jews (In Reflections on the Revolution for example) in ways that in the case of Cobbett are used as grounds to ignore the author. How does Coleridge write about Jews? Or Southey? Or Scott (in Ivanhoe and elsewhere) ? And was not Disraeli one of Cobbett’s greatest fans? Heine disliked him but then Marx took him very seriously.

    Jonathan.
    You are right. My suspicion is that Cobbett was exceedingly opportunistic so far as religion was concerned. He detested methodists and evangelicals, partly because he sensed that they were attacking one evil (slavery) in order to enforce another in the form of the new, strictly regulated proletarianised society. He saw them as busybodies interfering in the rights of the poor. And he reached these conclusions long before he had become a Parliamentary Reformer. He saw the clergy of the Established Church (most of whom were as impious as he was) as a constituency to be relied upon. As I see it he was always building a “party” from the King down through the ranks to the chopsticks. He was early disappointed with the parsons though, because their love of preferment made them easily corruptible by the government’s patronage mongers.
    One more thing that has struck me is that Cobbett was, in 1800, very much the Burkean champion. The two investors in the Register were Windham (very much Burke’s political heir, though he proved to be a dilettante and a broken reed) and Dr French Laurence (Burke’s literary executor.) Cobbett’s long and successful fight against the Peace of Amiens was straight out of the Letters on a Regicide Peace. As Burke had been, Cobbett was a political parvenu in 1800. Unlike Burke he refused to tolerate the airs and graces and arrogance of the Whig leadership.

    All very interesting to me but very boring to sensible people. One more thing about Farnham and that is of all the books written thereabouts or by natives thereof I think my favourite is George Sturt’s The Wheelwrights Shop. If you haven’t done so yet reading it is a pleasure to be savoured.

    Sorry I don’t have time to write a short letter!

  16. Hilary
    April 4, 2011

    Chris, I know what the significance of Cobbett’s friendship with Maseres is to me – as Reigate is my home town, I’ve in the past done some work on Maseres, as his house (“The Barons”) is a landmark in the town, and also because Maseres was partly instrumental in the revival of the Public Library in Reigate (now known as The Cranston Library of which I’m a trustee) in the late 18th century. Cobbett’s observations on Maseres’ heir, the Revd Robert Fellowes, gave me a lot of clues to his later years that I was able to follow up.

    Cobbett (as you know) brings in his extended anecdote about Maseres to underline an elaborate point he was making, after taking a look at Reigate Priory, about his conviction of the beneficent effect of monastic establishments in feeding the poor. Maseres, descended from Huguenots, constantly argued that the Catholic Church was corrupt, in particular that crafty priests inveigled people into leaving money away from their family. Cobbett’s peroration is that, because Maseres lived until a great age, well into his nineties, and lost his intellectual faculties at the end, he fell under the influence of Fellowes, left a fixed sum of money of 20k (Cobbett – elsewhere 30k) to his relatives who had been taking care of him (Cobbett says nieces, I thought cousins) and the residue to Fellowes. Maseres’s wealth was legendary, thought to be around 0.25m GBP. Another source has it that he used to live quite frugally, and invest his surplus income each year in the funds, never calculating how much he was worth, so had no idea that the value of his estate so far out-stripped what he left to his family. Cobbett’s towering rage comes from the fact that Maseres falls victim to a cunning man of the cloth, who is … a Unitarian (or suspected of being), and only out to enrich himself – whereas in Cobbett’s mind the Catholic church would have expended this fortune on relieving the poor. Fellowes, on the other hand, (this is not in Cobbett) gave up the parson-ing, bought an estate in Reigate (Doods, I think), and lived the life of a gentleman. I may be over-influenced by Cobbett, but I do not like the Revd Mr Fellowes.

    Not being sure if I’ve understood your question, I’m not sure either if this is a good answer!

    I’ve not read Sturt’s The Wheelwright’s Shop, but I love The Bettesworth Book so much that I’ll take this as a recommendation – thank you!
    .

  17. Ellis
    March 15, 2013

    Sorry I did’t see your kind reply. Reviewing my comments I feel bound to apologise for my pomposity. Thank you for your information on Maseres who had a career in Canada as you know when William was a baby. I seem to recall that Maseres was a mathematical genius and grew rich by shrewd speculation. I am sorry that you do not like Cobbett, I suspect that he would have liked your blog.

  18. Hilary
    March 15, 2013

    Hello! Are you therefore Chris Harries? Only you’ve come through under another name (Ellis). Thank you for all your comments, which were helpful and enlightening. I instantly wondered how I’d given the impression that I don’t like Cobbett (on the contrary, I think he’s terrific) and I see that I’ve phrased a sentence in my comment above rather awkwardly – I intended to say that, from Cobbett’s account of him, I don’t like the Revd Mr Fellowes, who seems to have been a con man through and through. I’ll edit it to make it clearer.

    There is much about Maseres to fascinate – his financial speculation was accidentally shrewd (and possibly a lesson to us all). He lived within his means and only ever put his surplus income into Consols, where it all just quietly accumulated until he was a very wealthy man. He was renowned for dressing all his life in the fashions of his youth in the 1750s. He lived comfortably in London and Reigate, but not extravagantly – his big indulgence was publishing, and he was a prolific author, editor and sponsor of work by writers he supported, which he published in luxurious editions at his own expense. He gave a collection of books to the Public Library in Reigate (which still exists as the Cranston Library) – all of them his own works. The collection includes his extensive mathematical work, including his book refuting the legitmacy of using the negative sign in arithmetic. His main claim to mathematical fame was his work on compound interest and annuities, which is the foundation of actuarial science. He also collected papers on the history of the French in Canada, and also Parliamentary tracts, and published them in collections. All still there, all (apart from the work on annuities which has recently been republished) forgotten these days, I think.

  19. Neil
    March 31, 2013

    I really enjoyed reading Hilary’s piece on Rural Rides.

    My interest in Cobbett has been rekindled, after first hearing about him over forty years ago whilst taking GCE O Level history, and I have now ordered the book plus two biographies from Amazon. I was recently in Philadelphia and spent a few minutes next to Christ Church looking across North Second Street and trying to imagine how number 25 would have looked in Cobbett’s time. There is an irony in the contrast between that space being used 215 years ago to expose human deficiencies and today being used as a salon/spa to cosmetically hide them.

    I do believe it would be a worthwhile challenge for academics and intellectuals to seriously try to bring Cobbett’s virtues and straight talking common sense to the attention of a wider audience. It seems to me there is a huge gap in the political market for “Cobbettism”.

  20. consignee
    October 26, 2013

    I’m pleased to have found this interesting post on “Rural rides”.
    Have just catalogued two editions of this book for the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. Am researching biographical information on Pitt Cobbett who edited a revised edition during his curacy as the vicar of Crofton, 1874-1901. He was a wine merchant in Adelaide around 1853 and returned to England and entered the ministry in 1864. His son, William Pitt Cobbett emigrated to Australia in 1890 to take up a senior post in the Law Faculty at Sydney University. These connections to Australia are of interest to the Society and the users of the collection.
    I’ve just contacted the present vicar of Crofton for information regarding Pitt Cobbett and he kindly referred my email to his curate, Colin Prestidge who has written a book on Stubbington. Unfortunately, not much is known about the good vicar but have confirmed that he died in 1901 aged 74 and is buried at St Edmund’s at Crofton.
    I would greatly appreciate any further information about Pitt Cobbett. Perhaps, someone may know if he was related to William Cobbett as the surname suggests.

    Sincerely

    http://www.rgssa.org.au/

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