389. To Thomas Poole Address: Mr T. Poole | N. Stowey | Bridgewater | Somerset Single Sheet. MS. British Museum. A few lines pub. Thomas Poole, ii. 40. Postmark: 27 March 1801. Stamped: Keswick. Keswick, Tuesday, March 24. 1801 My dearest Poole The latter half of my yesterday's Letter was written in 'a wildlywailing strain.' 1 The truth is, I was horribly hypochondriacal. So ____________________ 1 Cf. a fragmentary poem concluding with the line, 'A wildly-wailing Note'. Poems, ii. 997. -710- many miserable Beings, that day, travelling with half-famished children, had levied contributions on us, that when I received the Newspaper, I could scarcely read the Debates; my heart swelled so within me at the brutal Ignorance & Hardheartedness of all Parties alike -- Add to this, I was affected by a Rheumatism in the back part of my head -- and Add to this too, that I was irritated by the necessity, I was under, of intermitting most important & hitherto successful Researches, in order to earn a trifle of ready money by scribbling for a Newspaper. Having given to my own conscience proof of the activity & industry of my nature I seemed to myself to be entitled to exert those powers & that industry in the way, I myself approved.-In that mood of mind nothing appeared to me so delightful as to live in a Land where Corn & Meat were in abundance -- & my imagination pointed to no other place, than those inland parts of America where there is little communication with their foul Cities, & all the articles of Life, of course, to be had for a trifle. -- But my Country is my Country; and I will never leave it, till I am starved out of it. -- Do not mistake me, my dear Poole! -- I am not alarmed for the present year. I know that what I shall have finished in two or three months will fetch a fair Price, & disembarrass me compleatly; but I foresee, that my works will not sell, & that the Booksellers finding this will have nothing to do with me, except as an anonymous Hack at starving Wages. The Country is divided into two Classes -- one rioting & wallowing in the wantonness of wealth, the other struggling for the necessaries of Life. -- The Booksellers feel this -Longman told me, that 'scarcely any, but Books of expence, sold well. Expensive Paper, & Ornaments &c were never layed out in vain. For the chief Buyers of Books were the Wealthy who bought them for Furniture.' -- Now what can I write that could please the Taste of a Rich Man? -- Dear Poole -- a man may be so kindly tempered by nature, and so fortunately placed by unusual circumstances, as that for a while he shall, tho' rich, bear up against the anti-human Influences of Riches; but they will at last conquer him. It is necessary for the human Being in the present state of society to have felt the pressures of actual Hardships, in order to be a moral Being. Where these have been never & in no degree felt, our very deeds of Pity do to a certain point co-operate to deprave us. Consider for a moment the different Feelings with which a poor woman in a cottage gives a piece of Bread & a cup of warm Tea to another poor Woman travelling with a Babe at her Back, & the Feelings with which a Lady lets two pence drop from her Carriage Window, out of the envelope of perfumed Paper by which her Pocket is defended from the Pollution of Copper ----- -711- the difference is endless. But all this is better for our fire side Conversation, than for an eight-penny Letter. I have sent you two more Letters, 1 & will send the Rest / all of which you must bring back with you when you come. -- When you come, I shall beg you to bring me a Present -- it is, three Prismsthey will cost you 8 shillings a piece. Some time ago I mentioned to you a thought which had suggested itself to me, of making Acorns more serviceable. I am convinced that this is practicable simply by malting them. -- There was a total failure of acorns in this country last year, or I would have tried it. But last week as I was turning up some ground in my garden, I found a few acorns just beginning to sprout -- and I eat them -- they were, as I had anticipated, perfectly sweet & fine-flavored, & wholly & absolutely without any of that particular & offensive Taste which Acorns, when crude, leave upon the Palate, & Throat. -- I have no doubt that they would make both bread & beer, of an excellent taste & nutritious Quality. -- It may be objected, -- Suppose this -- what gain? -- They fatten pigs at present -- . This is however inaccurately stated -- Where there are large woods of Oak, a few Pigs may be fattened -- but Acorns are so uncertain a Crop, that except in large woods Pigs can never be kept on that speculation -- & in truth of the Acorns [drop]ped every year ths are wasted. Secondly, Pigs fed with only acorns have a bad flavor / thirdly, Pigs are likewise & more regularly fatted with Potatoes & Barley-meal -- & if the Objection, which I have stated, held good against the humanization of Acorns it would have held good against the introduction of Potatoes & Barley, as human Food -- nay, it actually has been made in Germany & France against Potatoes. -- What gain, said they? -- they are already useful -- we fatten our Pigs with them. -- In this Country Oaks thrive uncommonly well, & in very bleak & rocky Places -and I have little doubt, that by extending & properly managing the Plantation of Oaks, there might be 20 Families maintained where now there is one -- For Corn in this country is a most uncertain crop; but it so happens, that those very seasons which utterly destroy Corn produce an overflow of Acorns, & those Seasons, which are particularly favorable to Corn, prevent the Harvest of Acorns. Thus, the Summer before last all the Corn was spoilt, but there was a prodigious Crop of Acorns -- last summer there was a fine Crop of excellent Corn in these Counties (which never want as much moisture as Corn needs) but no acorns. -- If my hopes should be realized by my experiments, it would add another to the innumerable Instances of the Almighty's wisdom ____________________ 1 Letters 382 and 383. -712- & Love -- making the Valleys & the Mountains supply, each the Failure of the other. When the Mountains are struck with drouth, the Valleys give Corn -- when the Valleys are rotted with rain, the Mountains yield Acorns. -- The great objection at present to the Planting of Oaks is their slow Growth (the young wood which is weeded out not paying sufficient for the Board & Lodging of the wood destined for Timber) -- But very young Trees bear a certain proportion of acorns ----- Oaks, I apprehend, draw, even more than other T[rees], their nourishment from the moisture &c of the air, for they thrive in dry soils alone; yet are most fruitful in wet seasons. It is worth trying whether the Oak would be injured if the Leaves were taken off after the Acorns have fallen / they make a food for Horses, Cows, & Sheep. -- Should it be true, that the Oak is fructified by superficial Irrigation, what a delightful Thing it would be if in every Plot adjacent to Mountain Cottages stood half a dozen noble Oaks, & the little red apple-cheeked children in drouthy seasons were turning a small Fire engine into the air so as to fall on them! Merciful God! what a contrast to the employment of these dear Beings by a wheel or a machine in a hellish Cotton Factory! -- 'See! see! what a pretty Rainbow I have made!' -- &c &c Write to me -- I cannot express to you what a consolation, I receive from your Letters! S. T. C. My Wife has a violent Cold -- Derwent is quite well -- & Hartley has the worms. Do not forget to ask Chester for Greenough's address. -- Love to your dear Mother. -- The Farmers in these Northern Counties are getting rich. Their Crops last year were excellent; but the County itself is starving. If it were found, that Potatoes would bear Carriage as well as Grain, there would be no Food left in the County. It would all go to Liverpool and Manchester, &c.