Durell's 1847 guidebook
- Sir Walter Raleigh's Government of Jersey
- Dr Hooper and the climate
- Immoderate use of spirituous liquors
- High seasoned food
- The Poor's rate
- The Feudal System
- Old Roads
- Oficial visit of the roads
- Timber and corn trade
After having given our travellers a succinct historical sketch of the island, and a description of the present state of the town, it now remains for us to conduct them into a few of the most interesting parts of the country. It is not to be expected that a work of this kind can present much originality; the most that any new writer can do is to present scenes already well-known in a more striking and attractive view, and to take notice of any changes, or improvements, which have been effected by the general progress of civilization, and the various favourable circumstances under which Jersey has been placed in modern times.
It may be said to have remained nearly stationary from the reign of King John, in 1200, till the government of Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1601, the summer of which he spent in Jersey, when, according to some memorials of his residence preserved in the proceedings of the insular States of that period, his administration was particularly active. The administration of that great and injured man was short, and his life belongs more to the History of England than to ourselves. Still, it is with some sort of conscious pride that the Jerseymen of the present day reckon Sir Walter Raleigh among the list of their Governors.
From that period the island began to improve. Its final conformity to the Church of England was in the latter part of the reign of James I, and was favourable to the island, whose very misfortunes under Charles I, and the Protectorate, enlarged its intercourse with England. The subsequent wars with France, under the latter Bourbons, gradually developed its importance to Great Britain, and essentially contributed to the welfare of its inhabitants.
For a true account of Jersey during that period, we refer the English reader to the Rev Mr Falle's history, and to his copious commentator, the Rev Edward Durell. It is, however, since the French Revolution in 1789, that the island has made such rapid strides in the scale of improvement, that not a year seems to have elapsed without some signal increase in its prosperity, Well might M Luchet, a literary foreigner, and a recent writer on Jersey, exclaim "That every thing seemed to be new, and to have been created within the last fifty years".
In giving a sketch of the rural parts of the island, we shall have recourse to the best local authorities, particularly to the late edition of Falle's History, to Mr Ouless' Scenic Beauties, and to the recently published Souvenirs de Jersey, by M Luchet, a man long distinguished for the brilliancy of his talents on a larger sphere, before the iron hand of judicial severity had compelled him to seek for an asylum on our hospitable shores.
Before we enter upon our excursions through this beautiful island, it will be proper to say something about its climate. For the substance of our observations on this head, we are indebted to Dr Hooper, a native of this island, and one of its respectable practitioners. That gentleman distinguished himself during the prevalence of the cholera here in 1832, and published an account of it afterwards.
The climate of Jersey owing to its situation, and to its small extent, is remarkably mild, but for the same reasons, it is also very damp. It has, therefore, been properly observed that there will always be a nearer approach to an equality of temperature in a small island than on the coasts of any neighbouring continent. The heat in Jersey never rises very high, and it is but seldom that it descends below the freezing point. It is, therefore, very seldom that the winter is attended with any very severe falls of snow, or with any continued frosts, and the summer is as rarely parched up with droughts.
Nowhere does nature present a milder climate, and nowhere do the seasons afford a greater number of days with the equable temperature of spring. The mildness of the climate of Jersey bears some anology to that of the West of England, whose coasts, forming a peninsula, have the advantage of being placed between the British and the Bristol Channels. That is particularly the case with Penzance, the most westerly town in Britain, where laurels and myrtles thrive in the open air all the year round, and where geraniums and other exotics may remain exposed to the weather as under the genial suns of the South of Europe.
The spring in Jersey is a little warmer, and the winter rather less cold than in that favoured part of England, which is situated in almost the same latitude. The progress of the two seasons here is therefore more perceptible, and better regulated. As to our neighbours on the coast of France, there is nothing in their climate which can compete with those advantages. But notwithstanding the dampness of the atmosphere of this happy isle, it has a great counteracting evil, in the north-east wind, which coming over a vast extent of land impregnated with the ice and snows of Siberia, prevails during the months of March and April, and is productive of serious injury to the earlier fruit trees.
It is keen and withering, causes a disagreeable sensation of chilliness that contracts and dries up the skin. It may be said, indeed, to be the only inconvenience of that fine climate. The winter may be tiresome from its monotony, because it does not exhibit some of those phenomena of nature which are so strikingly displayed in other regions, but it does not last long, and its appearance after autumn is softened down again into spring, as it were, unperceived. In December the trees still retain a portion of their verdure, and in the March following there is already a renewal of vegetation. The old way of not beginning the new year till the end of March, setting aside all astronomical reasons for the present practice, was the best adapted, at least to European latitudes. Beginning the year with 1 January is to make winter the first of the seasons, when it ought to be the last, which is preposperous, and contrary to the acknowledged analogy, which it bears to the exhausted functions of Nature, and to the decrepitude of Man.
The climate of Jersey is, therefore, delightful for nine or ten months in the year. Even the temperature of the winter months has nothing dangerous, or even inconvenient, provided one takes but the ordinary precautions, which are necessary to be taken everywhere by the sick and the convalescent against all violent and sudden changes in the temperature. It is on that account that a residence here is so strongly recommended by the medical advisers of patients labouring under chronical affections, as that very mildness of the air, which might perhaps be too soft for persons in perfect health, wonderfully co-operates in the former case, with the efforts of nature and of art.
That is a quality which our climate participates in common, and to a certain extent, with the warmer parts of Europe. It is also the same with the rearing of some tropical plants, which in England cannot be raised but in a hot-house, but in Jersey will thrive in common greenhouses, and may afterwards be transplanted in the open air. The climate is also particularly well adapted to the residence of invalids, who have returned from the East or West Indies. The transition is not so great for them, as returning at once to the cold climate of England, and there is no doubt that many very valuable lives have been preserved by a temporary residence in Jersey, till such time as they could be seasoned to encounter without danger the cold and humid atmosphere of their native land.
We must not, however, suppose that the salubrity of Jersey exempts it from the frequency of diseases. The mortality among children and young persons is considerable. Rheumatic pains, affections of the lungs, and disorders of the digestive organs, are unhappily but too prevalent. But it would be unfair to suppose that such a long catalogue of evils should be attributed to the climate. Many causes, however, might be assigned as giving cause to the developement of those diseases, which it is unnecessary any more than to indicate in a work of this kind.
What strikes strangers on their first arrival, is the absurd manner in which young children are reared, sometimes with too much, and sometimes with too little clothing, and by alternately exposing them to the extremes of heat and cold. Among the children of the higher classes, too much indulgence in their meat and drink is often fatal, or else it generates complaints which lay foundations of irremediable evils in after life. It is true that many do not seem to be affected by this defective training, but it is to be attributed to the native vigour of their constitution, which overcomes those obstacles.
In the country, children among the lower classes are brought up to premature and excessive labour, which is often fatal; or the insufficiency of good and wholesome food makes them incapable of ever arriving at their full growth and strength.
Another cause of disease, and perhaps the greatest of all in the Channel Islands, arises from the immoderate use of spirituous liquors. It is true that this evil is mostly prevalent among the lower classes, but the evil is neither the less serious, nor the less dangerous on that account. The taste for spirits is very evident in the town from the great number of public houses, whose glittering ensigns stare in the unwary stranger's face.
The cheapness of spirits enables the labourer to form habits of intemperance, which soon exhaust his little earnings, to the destruction of his own comforts and to the ruin and starvation of his own family. That manner of life carries its punishment along with it, by the inevitable loss of health, and that tremulous stupid sottishness, which is the forerunner of death.
The better educated and more easy classes are disgusted with such beastly habits, and it requires no effort in them to avoid them; but are they themselves less liable to even greater reprehension? What those wretches have swallowed in strong stimulants, they sip up in small glasses, and at a greater expense, in the long list of luscious beverages.
Another fruitful source of disease in Jersey is owing to the large quantity of pepper, and of other hot spices, which are consumed in cookery. M Luchet, observes that Jersey consumes more pepper, cinnamon, nutmegs, and ginger, than all Paris.
The abuse in the selection of a wholesome diet is closely followed by a perversion of the resources of medicine. After having past a day of 12 hours in concocting some indigestible food or other, the next morning is spent in getting rid of it by gentle operatives. Hence the chemist becomes almost as indispensable to the existence of the lounger as the pastry-cook; for the number of pills, which some of those gentlemen swallow in the course of the year is almost innumerable.
Every chemist prepares medicines, and when we say that he does it, we mean that he not only practises it, but that on an emergency, he can also invent new medecines to suit the taste of his customers. From such a taste, however, exclaims sarcastically the ingenious M Luchet, the Lord deliver us though we find fault with nobody!
Notwithstanding these several exceptions, one may safely assert that the island has no diseases which are endemial to it, and that it affords a most salubrious place of residence. After having ravaged several other parts of Europe, the cholera appeared there also in the summer of 1832; but it did not rage with any particular violence, and the cases mostly occurred among the indigent and intemperate strangers, the ill-fed, and the ill-clad, without a comfortable, or a permanent home.
The moisture of the soil, which might be dangerous in other places, is not so in Jersey, where it is absorbed by the high state of cultivation, and leaves no superfluous matter to be exhaled in noxious effluvia. This is apparent at the very first glance, for never did a country present a finer picture of rural happiness or of general health. This fine country is interspersed with gentlemen's seats, farmhouses, and cottages in every direction. These, for the most part, have neither the ostentation of splendour, nor the mean depression of poverty. Let the tourist have but the curiosity to enter the farmhouse of one of the respectable yeomen who inhabits it.
He will be received with the cordial welcome and the simplicity of the Jerseymen of the good olden times. He will find the parlour fitted up with neat chairs, carpet, tables, and perhaps even with a pianoforte, as at St Helier. The kitchen, too, though a less showy apartment, has also its luxury in the profusion of its conveniences. Everything shines and has an air of satisfaction, and the eye as well as the mind dwell with pleasure at the sight of the parents and the children, and even on their domestic animals. The dress of the family is neat, but plain, and betrays no symptoms either of poverty or of slovenliness.
The feudal system still exists, but it is little more than nominal, and is dwindled down to be merely a certain description of private property. Those who are accustomed to the sight of the highest wealth contrasted with the most abject wretchedness as they are exhibited in large countries, would in vain look for the same in Jersey. Freedom and industry have raised the great mass of the people above those mean circumstances. The cottage which the Jerseyman inhabits is generally his own freehold, which the great sub-division of property, and the laws of the country, have given him particular facilities to acquire.
It is not, however, that there are no paupers in Jersey, but that the number of them is comparatively rare, and confined to unavoidable misfortune, to the helplessness of infancy, or to the decrepitude of age. It is true that a heavy poor's-rate is yearly raised, to which every freeholder is assessed according to his means; a large proportion of that rate, however, is absorbed in the relief of destitute strangers, who have no settlement in any of the insular parishes, and must be sent back to their own parishes, or be maintained at the charge of the public.
Before we begin our tour, it is right to say something about the roads. These are the ancient innumerable by-roads and lanes, which lead into every part of the island, and present inextricable labyrinths even to those natives who are not perfectly acquainted with them. We would not advise any stranger to entangle himself into any of those inextricable paths without a guide, however alluring they may be in point of shade, of seclusion and of rural scenery.
One might be inclined if fanciful to imagine, that those by-roads had been formed either to bewilder pirates attempting to penetrate into the interior, or to check the advance of French invaders at some distant period. Those roads are repaired by a statute duty as in England, to which every person is more or less liable, according to the value of his property. They are subject to a high official visit, once a year at Midsummer, by the Jurats of the Royal Court, in the name of the Sovereign, and attended by the Viscount or High Sheriff. As this visit is attended with much unnecessary parade, and closes with a good dinner at the expense of the Crown, its usefulness has sometimes been questioned, or treated with illiberal ridicule.
Dr Shebbeare, one of the historians of Jersey, has a witty passage about it, which has often been quoted, in which he says that the Viscount makes a solemn visit of those roads in the name of His Majesty, attended by the Jurats, the Constables and their suite, mounted as he wittily expresses it, on his "viscountal horse with his viscountal staff of office, perpendicularly erected on the pummel of his viscountal saddle".
The plain meaning is that the sheriff carries a rod of a certain length on the pummel of his saddle, and that every branch that touches it, and obstructs the free circulation of air into the narrow road, is ordered to be cut, and the owner is subjected to a small fine. Certainly, there is nothing either ludicrous or unbecoming in the procession. The danger of incurring the fine has, however, considerably diminished of late years by the indiscriminate levelling of hedgerows, and the destruction of timber. That is done, as it is said, to throw the ground more open, and to render it more favourable for the growth of corn; though by a strange anomaly, the home consumption of Jersey is supplied from the Baltic.
It is always an injury to any country to deprive it of too much of its wood, as it is a loss which can be effected in a few hours, but cannot be repaired but by the slow and progressive lapse of years. It is sacrificing too much to the produce of grain, and it is, therefore, an error. The soil of Jersey is adapted to the cultivation of fruits, and of vegetables; for nature formed there a garden, and not an arable district.
The fact is, however, that the Channel Islands have the privilege of exporting their corn to England duty free, to be sold there again at the current price. These exportations, however, do not amount to any large quantity. The Jersey corn would not suffice for one fourth of what is needed for its home consumption, which is made up from the Baltic, and from other countries, which can supply that commodity at a cheaper rate.
The English farmers took umbrage at this privilege, and endeavoured to induce Parliament to annul that privilege in 1833. They failed, however, and an Act, subsequently passed by the insular States, to render all fraud impossible, has removed the very pretence for any prohibition of the kind. Formerly the beverage of the natives was their own cider, but since they have sent their cider and apples to England, the consumption of spirits has increased in proportion. The cider which remains at home, is that which would not repay the expense of exportation. In consequence of that erroneous policy, many orchards have been destroyed, and luxuriant crops of corn now ripen, where not many years ago the apple and the pear threw out their rich blossoms in the spring.
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