Small Extract from the Diary of William Upcott
Below is an excerpt from the diary of William Upcott (F82r to F84r):
Not a soul did I meet beyond Kislingbury, and I had to find my way thro' the village without a guide, and without knowing exactly whither to desist my steps. - I was already tired, - and grown weary with my present situation. By accident, a young girl at a window directed me to the spot, - and how happy was I on opening My Aunts door to find they were sitting up for me, - poor woman! with what pleasure did she receive me! - with what delight was I welcomed into that part of the country. - It seems she had got my Letter, but had almost given me up for that evening. - A young Man was sitting by her, and an old servant (Helen) was sleeping in the chair. All was bustle in a moment, - "What wouldst thee like" was the cry. - Nothing but rest was necessary, - and after talking over the disagreeables of the day, &c, - each betook themselves to their several apartments.
I was now at a house which was accustomed to business at an early hour, - but I cannot say that I was a street adherent to this principle. - My bedroom overlooked the garden, - and many times did I lay in bed, listening to the Notes of the birds. - I enjoyed the greatest satisfaction to observe my Aunt using her endeavours to make my stay comfortable, and as far as her exertions went, - I was so. - The village on the whole, was a poor miserable looking place, tho' some few good houses were to be found in it. - Twas in fact long - dull, and dirty. - The trade is chiefly confined to Farming but the New Canal which seems at the back of the Town, had considerably increased the number of houses, & warehouses, as well as the commercial appearance of it. - Doubtless I saw it to the greatest disadvantage, - for 3/4 of the Inhabitants were scattered thro' the neighbouring fields at harvest work. I might walk from east to west & see not a person, - 'till towards the evening, - then, what few lasses were to be seen, had taken their stations at their respective doors, - and even at the best of times, I saw but a meagre sample of beauty.
At times, I was rather puzzled for amusement, - and the hours hung heavy. - My Aunts house furnished but little, that her company & conversation were at all times agreeable to me. - I was in want of society, - her habitation was destitution accordingly I had to seek it elsewhere. - A young Man resided partly with her, (Thos Billing) who was ready to conduct me to every place around, - & from whom I met with great civility, - to him, having offered his services, - I looked for a conductor, and I found in him all that was necessary. The town of Baybrook could not boast of many luxuries, - at least such as are termed so, but I thought the greatest I could enjoy, was a wholesome basin of new milk for my breakfast, - and this was my only diet during my stay there, - no sooner had I quitted my chamber than I found this treat waiting my coming down. - Indeed I cannot think of my poor Aunts endeavours, - without sensible pleasure. If I left the house, she was all anxiety till my return, - if I appeared dull for want of company, she was studying something or other to divert my attention, - I remember, the first thing on the following Morning, - was to go with me to my old friend John Ashby's house directly opposite to her own, - to introduce me to a family where in my former visit, I principally resided. They soon recollected me, - and I was as soon on friendly terms with all. Here I remained the whole forenoon, and in short I was there, more or less, every day. But a great alteration has taken place in this family. - When I was last there, - Four or five sons were at home, and an agreeable daughter, - with whom I had played many a prank. - Now, but one son remains at home, - the rest are scattered round the County, and the only daughter married a person residing in London, - where she died leaving a little boy, now at Baybrook, - the delight of her parents. - Until this visit of mine, I remained ignorant of her dwelling in Town, - otherwise I should certainly have renewed my acquaintance with her, - as I always have various memorandums lying by me which I made at 14 years old, when there and with her, - of my partiality for her, - perhaps I might be thought too young to form an opinion. - It may be so, but I can call to mind what pleased me, - and being near her, - always did. - But that time is pared away, she is removed from this busy scene, - & I trust will enjoy eternal happiness.
Renewing my acquaintance with John Ashbys son, - furnished some extra amusement. tho' his time was so continually occupied at field. - When I wished for a gossip, - I walked to him, - and the ramble generally created such an appetite, that I readily partook of their homely yet wholesome fare. - Time brought me on intimate terms with several others of the village, particularly a very worthy family named Moore, who had always been on intimate familiarity with my Aunt, - for this acquaintance I was likewise indebted to her. - This was a downright farm. house, just the thing I liked, - and here I was always made heartily welcome. - A real industrious family through out. - No pride whatever! - But here, as in every other house, the junior branches of it were at Harvest work. Therefore I sometimes spent many pleasant hours with Mrs Moore & his Mother, - an aged person, approaching to 84 who appeared always glad to see me. - Shall I say I was more at home at another persons house named Parberry, - where I found three lively daughters, who were as ready at a joke as I could possibly be? - Yes, I will confess it, - Notwithstanding the many remarks which were made by the gossiping old women of the village. - I am sure I enjoyed with them, more of what is termed, Fun, than with all the rest put together. - We laughed, & we romped, we talked & we sung, - in short, we did every thing which tended to make the hours pass harmlessly away. - Many aspersions were thrown out at my conduct, - because, by many persons they are judged to be inferior to them in point of circumstances, - and not a few said "they could not think how I could let myself down so much". - A fig for such numpskulls! - I would ask them why I went into the Country? - Not to pine away my time by myself, - but to be merry, - then since I could not find any truth elsewhere, was I too blame to court it in this quarter? - I will give a negative to it without hesitation, - and those who think differently, - may, - for what care I.
In a few days after my arrival, - I was introduced to another, - I had heard much of the daughter, not altogether for personal appearance but for possessing considerable property. - My Aunt, of all things, wished me to have a Northamptonshire wife on purpose, as she said, "to tempt me to come that road again." - And this girl was talked of. - Indeed some others were mentioned, - but this bore the sway in her estimation. - At length I saw this lass, - what shall I say of her? That I was not struck with her charms is certain. I thought her a plain Country looking girl, - with few pretensions to beauty. - In other respects she appeared unexceptionable. Here behaviour was agreeable & unreserved, - & she possessed a superior understanding to any I had yet seen. - But the Fortune, - "there's the rub". - That did not tempt me. - No. for I again repeat it, I would rather many a female, without a farthing whom I had a thorough regard for, - than any other with a purse which might make me independent.