Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 13

The tenant of the Manor Farm was a good specimen of his class; a thorough Saxon, ruddy and bright visaged, with an athletic though rather bulky frame, hardened by exposure to the seasons and constant exercise. Although he was the tenant of several hundred acres, he had an eye to the main chance in little things, which is a characteristic of farmers, but he was good-natured and obliging, and while he foraged their pony, furnished their woodyard with logs and faggots, and supplied them from his dairy, he gratuitously performed for the family at the hall many other offices which tended to their comfort and convenience, but which cost him nothing.

Mr. Ferrars liked to have a chat every now and then with Farmer Thornberry, who had a shrewd and idiomatic style of expressing his limited, but in its way complete, experience of men and things, which was amusing and interesting to a man of the world whose knowledge of rural life was mainly derived from grand shooting parties at great houses.

The pride and torment of Farmer Thornberry’s life was his only child, Job.

“I gave him the best of educations,” said the farmer; “he had a much better chance than I had myself, for I do not pretend to be a scholar, and never was; and yet I cannot make head or tail of him. I wish you would speak to him some day, sir. He goes against the land, and yet we have been on it for three generations, and have nothing to complain of; and he is a good farmer, too, is Job, none better; a little too fond of experimenting, but then he is young. But I am very much afraid he will leave me. I think it is this new thing the big-wigs have set up in London that has put him wrong, for he is always reading their papers.”

“And what is that?” said Mr. Ferrars.

“Well, they call themselves the Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge, and Lord Brougham is at the head of it.”

“Ah! he is a dangerous man,” said Mr. Ferrars.

“Do you know, I think he is,” said Farmer Thornberry, very seriously, “and by this token, he says a knowledge of chemistry is necessary for the cultivation of the soil.”

“Brougham is a man who would say anything,” said Mr. Ferrars, “and of one thing you may be quite certain, that there is no subject which Lord Brougham knows thoroughly. I have proved that, and if you ever have time some winter evening to read something on the matter, I will lend you a number of the ‘Quarterly Review,’ which might interest you.”

“I wish you would lend it to Job,” said the farmer.

Mr. Ferrars found Job not quite so manageable in controversy as his father. His views were peculiar, and his conclusions certain. He had more than a smattering too of political economy, a kind of knowledge which Mr. Ferrars viewed with suspicion; for though he had himself been looked upon as enlightened in this respect in the last years of Lord Liverpool, when Lord Wallace and Mr. Huskisson were astonishing the world, he had relapsed, after the schism of the Tory party, into orthodoxy, and was satisfied that the tenets of the economists were mere theories, or could only be reduced into practice by revolution.

“But it is a pleasant life, that of a farmer,” said Mr. Ferrars to Job.

“Yes, but life should be something more than pleasant,” said Job, who always looked discontented; “an ox in a pasture has a pleasant life.”

“Well, and why should it not be a profitable one, too?” said Mr. Ferrars.

“I do not see my way to that,” said Job moodily; “there is not much to be got out of the land at any time, and still less on the terms we hold it.”

“But you are not high-rented!”

“Oh, rent is nothing, if everything else were right, but nothing is right,” said Job. “In the first place, a farmer is the only trader who has no security for his capital.”

“Ah! you want a lease?”

“I should be very sorry to have a lease like any that I have seen,” replied Job. “We had one once in our family, and we keep it as a curiosity. It is ten skins long, and more tyrannical nonsense was never engrossed by man.”

“But your family, I believe, has been on this estate for generations now,” said Ferrars, “and they have done well.”

“They have done about as well as their stock. They have existed,” said Job; “nothing more.”

“Your father always gives me quite the idea of a prosperous man,” said Mr. Ferrars.

“Whether he be or not I am sure I cannot say,” said Job; “for as neither he nor any of his predecessors ever kept any accounts, it is rather difficult to ascertain their exact condition. So long as he has money enough in his pocket to pay his labourers and buy a little stock, my father, like every British farmer, is content. The fact is, he is a serf as much as his men, and until we get rid of feudalism he will remain so.”

“These are strong opinions,” said Mr. Ferrars, drawing himself up and looking a little cold.

“Yes, but they will make their way,” said Job. “So far as I myself am concerned, I do not much care what happens to the land, for I do not mean to remain on it; but I care for the country. For the sake of the country I should like to see the whole thing upset.”

“What thing?” asked Mr. Ferrars.

“Feudalism,” said Job. “I should like to see this estate managed on the same principles as they do their great establishments in the north of England. Instead of feudalism, I would substitute the commercial principle. I would have long leases without covenants; no useless timber, and no game.”

“Why, you would destroy the country,” said Mr. Ferrars.

“We owe everything to the large towns,” said Job.

“The people in the large towns are miserable,” said Mr. Ferrars.

“They cannot be more miserable than the people in the country,” said Job.

“Their wretchedness is notorious,” said Mr. Ferrars. “Look at their riots.”

“Well, we had Swing in the country only two or three years ago.”

Mr. Ferrars looked sad. The reminiscence was too near and too fatal. After a pause he said with an air of decision, and as if imparting a state secret, “If it were not for the agricultural districts, the King’s army could not be recruited.”

“Well, that would not break my heart,” said Job.

“Why, my good fellow, you are a Radical!”

“They may call me what they like,” said Job; “but it will not alter matters. However, I am going among the Radicals soon, and then I shall know what they are.”

“And can you leave your truly respectable parent?” said Mr. Ferrars rather solemnly, for he remembered his promise to Farmer Thornberry to speak seriously to his son.

“Oh! my respectable parent will do very well without me, sir. Only let him be able to drive into Bamford on market day, and get two or three linendrapers to take their hats off to him, and he will be happy enough, and always ready to die for our glorious Constitution.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19