WE AND THE WORLD.
"All these common features of English landscape evince a calm and
settled security, and hereditary transmission of home-bred virtues
and local attachments, that speak deeply and touchingly for the
moral character of the nation."--WASHINGTON IRVING'S _Sketch Book_.
It was a great saying of my poor mother's, especially if my father had
been out of spirits about the crops, or the rise in wages, or our
prospects, and had thought better of it again, and showed her the bright
side of things, "Well, my dear, I'm sure we've much to be thankful for."
Which they had, and especially, I often think, for the fact that I was
not the eldest son. I gave them more trouble than I can think of with a
comfortable conscience as it was; but they had Jem to tread in my
father's shoes, and he was a good son to them--GOD bless him for it!
I can remember hearing my father say--"It's bad enough to have Jack
with his nose in a book, and his head in the clouds, on a fine June
day, with the hay all out, and the glass falling: but if Jem had been a
lad of whims and fancies, I think it would have broken my poor old
I often wonder what made me bother my head with books, and where the
perverse spirit came from that possessed me, and tore me, and drove me
forth into the world. It did not come from my parents. My mother's
family were far from being literary or even enterprising, and my
father's people were a race of small yeomen squires, whose talk was of
dogs and horses and cattle, and the price of hay. We were
north-of-England people, but not of a commercial or adventurous class,
though we were within easy reach of some of the great manufacturing
centres. Quiet country folk we were; old-fashioned, and boastful of our
old-fashionedness, albeit it meant little more than that our manners and
customs were a generation behindhand of the more cultivated folk, who
live nearer to London. We were proud of our name too, which is written
in the earliest registers and records of the parish, honourably
connected with the land we lived on; but which may be searched for in
vain in the lists of great or even learned Englishmen.
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