Picture of John Byng

John Byng

places mentioned

A Tour of Bedfordshire in 1794: September

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I am now striking up the second part of the tune, composed in 1794—the movements of which may prove so similar, as not to attract your attention: The first part has consisted of equestrian only—this may attack some piscatory pleasures.

Sorry I am not to have taken a diary of a very pleasant week at Biggleswade passed there with my son John (the only week of holidays he has had) in fishing pursuits having there remet after a long absence, a sapient angler, an itinerant, who is a citizen of the world and perhaps none of the honestest. But he is a shrewd, cunning fellow, makes excellent artificial flies, and understands to perfection the use of them. Now this was the sort of man that I wanted as a master—as my Isaak Walton; and I found him at Biggleswade, or rather he came there to find me.—

During that week I acquired much knowledge; and to discover that if in our River Ivel, there is pretty roach and chub angling, yet in the Ouse—6 miles distant, both chub and perch fishing are to be had in good stile. To this pursuit did John and I actively attach ourselves for one week and were then heartily sorry to quit our pastime, and the fine weather.—

Saturday September 6

For now September 6th the season has turn'd cold, wet, and windy. During our stay, this summer, in Berkshire, where we retired after our long stay at Biggleswade, Mrs B ventured herself, several times in a horse chair, to my surprise after years of terror, when we formerly drove in that equipage which upon the Italian plan is one of the most useful family vehicles. Now, in one of these, I might travell about in family society, and with much luggage; (for I feel that I cannot trail about alone). So I talk'd to Mrs B. upon the subject; and to accomplish a beginning, I wrote to General B.—about an heavy Dutch horse he had to dispose of—Genl B, coming to town in August—brought this horse with him and presented it to me:—So chaos is come again! But may I not resemble the man being furnish'd with a lemon—bought a loyn of veal; and was ruin'd by a civility? For I hunt about all the coachmakers shops and all the repositories, to find a chaise that will fit my horse, or rather my short intention of a drive, or rather Mrs B's nervousness; and, at last, fix'd upon, for hiring, one of those four wheel'd phaetons which, laden by a large family, is drag'd by one horse to Dulwich on a Sunday.

Frederick's ear ach delay'd us one day; two days of terrible rain cut off two more of our holidays, and now too when the summer is ebbing apace, and I feel such an impatience for a renewance of fishing.

My daughter A[nna]45 was married on Septr 3rd (Oliver's crowning day) by their special appointment! for I had wish'd that it should have happen'd 4 or 5 days sooner, or 5 or 6 days later that I might have met Mr S. according to long promise on the 1st Septr at Biggleswade.—But it could not be I So I was obliged to put back Mr S. who is now in the North! 'Look to her, Moor'.

I now seek comforts from animals; and have a dog, a squirrel, and a canary bird.

Tuesday September 9

Upon Tuesday Septr 9th after much delay from the wetness of the weather, I did resolve upon going—at all events, and now, learn'd reader, bear your eyes upon me—from Duke St: to Tidifield Street, there you will see the horse harness'd to the one-horse phaeton, you will see, with smiles, perhaps the difficulty of his setting forward, and hear the lamed advice I receive from ignorant, and out of danger spectators. T. B. ran by me on foot. I had passed Cavendish Square when the shaft breaking away from the chaise, the horse could do no less than follow the example:

The reins were wrench'd from my hands, and I sat (safely indeed) in my triumphal car, observing the outrageous kicking of my new horse, running to ruin, followed by a croud, as highly diverted as I was chagrined! 'That is he, the gentleman with the whip; how did it happen Sr? Your horse will be spoil'd Sr'. This was the alleviating discourse whilst I stood centry near the chaise: till the horse was led back by an assistant mob apparently little hurt: A smaller posse attended the broken shaft. After a partial repair with ropes, I at length, had the horse led to Duke Street; where I was to fee every contributor to the restoration of the horse and shaft.

Go I would, so I ordered the chaise forward to the new road, and to await me.— (Here I should add that Mrs. B will follow us in a day, or two, accompanying Miss S in a post chaise to Southill).

After much difficulty finding out the chaise in the new road, we, viz F, T. B., and Fancy moved forward thro' heavy roads, and an heavy rain, which the high wind drove in our faces:—But these misfortunes are not to be thought of in a party of pleasure. Twenty times did I think of returning.

Having surmounted the drag, and hight of Highgate Hill the storm became so outrageous that I sought shelter and refreshment at an alehouse at the six miles stone.

No housing for the horse; for ourselves we procured brandy and water and bread and cheese and then push'd forward our trembling horse, who kicks, and plunges for some minutes ere he will advance.

Our arrival at the Green Man at Barnet appear'd a pleasure, and to dry our coats and to get some tough chops for dinner.

It was really a bad day for November! and from our delays, and misfortunes the evening was quickly advancing; and what was worse my poor horses chest was terribly gall'd by the breast collar.

Here was a repair made of our cracks, and strains, by bars and bolts charge 2s 6d. Then was I resolv'd tho' near twilight, to undertake further pleasure; to reach Welwyn was impracticable: But at last, we did arrive at the White Hart Alehouse, Bell-Bar. Now such a ride, in such weather upon a good hackney, were a trifle; for then you had been warm and comfortable but here we came in benumb'd by wet and cold and did bustle ourselves to blow a good fire, and to order beds and supper.—It appeared to me like an old hunting evening at an inn; but wanting hope, and comforts.—

Mr Mayes our landlord was abroad; but came home at 9 o'clock—drunk, and very fatiguing—he hung upon us and in revenge I made him drink up the pint of port; of which he could not swallow a glass. His address to F. was, 'Dear, how does your Mummy'. Our horse being well we climbed to the garret where F slept in a truckle bed, and I rowled about upon a feather bed covered with blankets. The rain and the wind continued during the night and heavily in clouds brought on the morn; when I was hasty to rise and seek better quarters, but no one of this drunken alehouse was awake, till at length Mr M. stagger'd forth to receive the reckoning.

Wednesday September 10

We reach'd Hatfield at 8 o'clock when the day began to mend which with the sweet walk up Brocket Hall Hill and the arrival at Welwyn to a good breakfast, drove the horrors of yesterday from my mind. Here I ought to have been last night and to have drank up my own wine. Mr B. our landlord is become a fencible which adds not a little to his swaggering vein; he made me observe his charger—his bit, and accoutrements; and I complimented Mr B. upon thus meritoriously standing forth to preserve the peace of his country—the only mischief of these establishments may be the lifting up the consequence of these fencible gentlemen and by that means, promoting a levelling disposition.

Having seen his horse it became necessary to talk about my own and to fit him with one of the farming collars; for to go at all were now impossible in the breast collar.

Breakfast, and a long discussion about field sports and field days, being finish'd we re-entered the family vehicle; which our newly equipped horse drew nimbly along, with pleasure to himself and us.

The day and the roads were fine and in my walkings up hill I amused myself in picking up pebbles; a new pursuit: but all pursuits from the cradle to the grave are good, as keeping mind and body alive.

Whilst ye can employ them both as much as they will bear—after altering harness 20 times and once passing a pack of hounds in the road we arrived at the White Horse, Baldock; where we dined most comfortably, and where the Lynn port is very tolerable.

Happier and happier do I find myself as the miles lengthen from London: My load seems thrown off—I cant carry it allways but must pitch it where I can. (Surely itineraries must be pleasant to the writer and reader: or how came Mr Rays ever to have been publish'd?—why it is as bad as mine?)

He travels away with little mention of himself or of the country, but only of the little plants he picks up. Why so may I of my pebbles; and say I pick'd up a pretty one to-day; for now I pry about the tops of hills and the bottoms of gullies and Mr T. (a seal engraver) urges me, by flattery to pick up fine peebles (for him to cut)—

Now this is the way with all great collectors and great writers; they must, they ought to flatter each other, to set each other forward; and for the better training of genius.

What is Genius? What is wit?
A lucky thought; a lucky hit
Reason form'd on Constitution,
Leads to sense and resolution.

At Baldock I allways refer to hare hunting speculations but now I am going to catch fish, so up rise the thoughts of Isaak Walton and all his innocent descriptions.

Half a mile ere you reach Biggleswade and where the road turns off to Potton, stands the pleasantly placed alehouse the Spread Eagle which in distant quarters might be thought a good inn.—Reach my old shop—abt stables; sheets; chest, &c.—Then to send for my fisherman H. Oldstock, who comes from Bedford, to meet me here; and to listen to all his wild, cunning stories about his fisheries, his adventures—and his Bedford pupils, but little of what he relates is fact and about him there hangs such an air of cunning, and of duplicity as to make me dread him, and despise myself; and yet for the pleasure one often falls into dirty measures—

My ground angler F[inch] next had the honour of an audience—of a different kind—he professes only country cunning, not London knavery.

Thursday September 11

Upon our first morning Thursday 11th Septr. I had only to refit, to repair; to send for Spot; to have Van Trump shod; to arrange my fishing tackle and where and when to use it: and to hold long and sapient discourses with my piscatory dependants. After dinner at 3 o'clock (for we dined at one) we drove forth in the chaise (Tom B. riding the mare who allways at first goes very hastily) by Ickwell to Mr Windsor's; talk'd to him about many nothings with seeming affability; and then had the honor of an important conversation with Mr W. 'The Great Pan of the Dairy'—today Mrs B. comes from London to Southill with Miss S.; so I am to be there in good time to drive her home: When I came in, they were at dinner; and we were strongly press'd to stay—and to tea—and to be in the dark and danger; but I will keep good time, and daylight hours.

Even then in spite of what is call'd my hurrying impatience, we did not get into Biggleswade till deep dusk; when Mrs B. for one of the first times, did seem to enjoy the fire an ease of an inn after a removal from a cold room and the fatigue of civility.—F having now abandon'd the old grey poney will procure the loan of one much better and safer, from Mr R., a lawyer of this place who very politely made this offer to him.

Friday September 12

I was up very early on Friday morning; and was to take My fishers with me (both of whom were introduced in form last night to Mrs B) F. of course follows on horseback.

The day seem'd unpleasant and the wind was N.E. but I have only a strip of time. Hearing that the fishers were walk'd forward I hurried away (still as happily in a pursuit as ever I was, and hope long to continue) and taking the shorter road from Girford Bridge soon found my chaise could not move in cross roads, from its narrowness and the 4 wheels. So I had most tiresome dragging over Barford field till I reach'd Barford Bridge over the Ouse and the little Alehouse the White Hart, No anglers arrived! Where can they be? Ordering breakfast I had to unharness my horse (no man being at home) tie him up: and then in peevish despair to walk over the bridge of Barford—a bridge of great antiquity and of great length. Barford Bridge consists of seventeen arches is built of brick and very narrow.

From a water-colour by the Diarist

Now F, arrived—with his groom; and then we went to breakfast.

At last my fishers arrive; 'having walk'd;'—knew not of my going, mistake of our hostler, &c. &c. How many lies or truths, signified not; and to enquire only increases the deception.

That I might not act amiss, I sent to Mr G. a near farmer, who rents part of the river, to speak my intention; and with much civility; but he was compliantly uncivil.

At our outset,—F. with Mr Finch took to perch angling whilst Mr O[ldstock] led me forward to the fly fishing for chub; when I succeeded but little—and O. not with great fortune:

Thus we wandered along the rivers bank till we came to Wellington Mill, a famous spot according to O.—but the wind was cold and the fish were not in humour to be taken.—

Here we try'd our best skill; and here my master said the best fish were to be found. Some few we caught; but the hot weather and the long days is the lean for fishing; this fine season I lost in Berkshire! and now with terror look forward to a long confinement in London shivering thro a cold winter:—

We now worked our way back and upon the bank recover'd the ground anglers—and together return'd to the alehouse to dinner. Where I had wisely brought a pint of mountain wine.

Our dinner consisted of fish in plenty with a leg of mutton.

Oldstock was still eager for the evening; but we had employ'd time sufficient and the sulky Gurny overawed my intention.

Tea 1 4
Eating 4 0
Ale 1 6
Servant 1 2
Hay & Corn 2 0
  11 3

So I forced them to pack up; and away. My chaise was well cramm'd by my two followers, their rods, nets, &c, &c. F. and his follower on horseback. In this March we return'd to Beetson Cross, a most comfortable new built public house 2 miles and a half from Biggleswade, at the door of which stood to my great surprise Mrs B. who with her late nurse had atchiev'd this walk—and drank tea here: She seem'd to admire the cleaness of the house and the civility of the hostess. Here was H. Oldstock left to repair his tackle and to form new flies, (and new lies) in which he seems to excell.

Mrs B. return'd with me in the chaise and to an early supper and an early repose.

Saturday September 13

Saturday Having order'd breakfast to be prepared for us at Beaston Cross in the best and very good parlour—I hurried off Mrs B. at an early hour and that I might lose not an hour of the waining year, the wind and weather are not suitable.—I rode this morning (for the 1st time) and lik'd it; got to B[easton] Cross before 9 o'clock and pleasantly hurried about breakfast, whilst my master O. was dubbing his hooks. Upon this poor, unprofitable river (F. and T. B. diverted themselves by trying for perch) O. and I toil'd till we came to Blunham Mill where we took some small chub—as I had caught some dace in the way. B. Mill is not an unpleasant spot (all mill pools are in general spots of great beauty, as happy for the painter)

By this I get instruction and the method I hope, of managing my line and my fly so that if hereafter should I arrive upon the banks of a nice river stored with fish eager to bite, I should be completed as an angler.—We returned to a late dinner at Biggleswade and then I had the comfort of a long quiet muzzing evening which with writing and supper fill'd up the measure of the day.

Sunday September 14

Mr S. I have expected here; but no Mr S. being arrived I shall move forward to my own pursuits.—Oh for a summer again and such a summer over again and then I would know how to employ it; this we say of life could it but return! and then perhaps we might be worse than our former tether.

A long a pleasant walk before breakfast is this wholesome or not? Why good in summer I believe but otherwise in winter.

At coming in to breakfast found Mr S. but with no intention to stay hurrying on to London, upon very particular business. After breakfast he pushed forward and we soon followed our route—myself on horseback, our chaise well laden: (The roads are fine but the wind N. and cold). We stopped at (my Walton public house) the Anchor beyond Tempsford, to give orders for tomorrow; for as my time is short it must be employ'd.

Had I a full country swing, I should think of angling in bad weather, but I am eager for instruction: Fly fishing when rapid and productive, must be very gratifying, else your ground fishing in a good perch hole is a calmer and easy diversion: Fly fishers are the fox hunters who overate their own performances, and undervalue the simple, and more certain pastime of the (beagling) ground anglers. We arriv'd at the Cock Eaton at one o'clock; my ride was very pleasant. Here was a recognition of F's old friends and of his pack of dogs who came around us. Our dinner veal cutlets with a brace of partridges brought by us. Mrs B. went with old Mrs W. to evening service. As long as light permitted F. and I, two little boys holiday making, wander'd about the Castle Hill in search of rabbets; and then we had a stable lounge pleasant enough as both my horses are in excellent order. I am vexed to find from the impossibility of accomplishment, that my old hunting ideas revive, tho glad to feel some stuff about me; Oh! how a legacy of 10,000 would bring rejuvinessence!

I built many aerial castles when by myself after supper, after the retirement of the ewe and the cade lamb: and in thinking I must send decent liquor to these inns, else when I am tired, and faint, I am forc'd to drink British spirits call'd brandy—or medicated sloe juice call'd port—till I am overwhelmed by bile.

Monday September 15

This morning I had appoint'd my generals to assemble at early days, upon the banks of the Ouse—to secure the ford leading to Wroxton, and then to possess the mill dam below the church. Strict and clear were my orders, I doubt'd not the obedience of my troops; as a commander I am active, and punctual, I lose no time, I miss no opportunity.

At 7 o'clock I was stirring, collecting my body guard, with all our proper ammunition; before nine o'clock, I was at the Anchor Alehouse; but where are my troops? None arrived!! Was the D of York ever more chagrin'd?46 A successful—or unsuccessful general must have his breakfast: This was on a pleasant stile—quite in the angling way. But Mrs B. is unwell and will not rouse herself, so looks heavily on all these matters.

What's to be done? Why first F and I will try our fortune at the staunch (whence this lower view is taken) but here we had poor success: Then in despair we resolv'd upon going to Tempsford Mill—a mile distant; I walk'd away first and F follow'd me in an hour.

Here we two dawdled till past one o'clock; when lo! Finch appear'd with many idle excuses: 'Where is Oldstock?' 'He Sr, awaits you at the inn' 'Ridiculous at this Hour!' So then I had to walk back again and then to try with a fly with Oldstock opposite our inn till past 3 o'clock—eat some scrambling dinner—but in no comfort—as Mrs B. is cheerless.

(Few women can encounter difficulties or will bear up against trifling illness or calamity: Tender and born for indulgence they should indulge, and be indulg'd at their ease upon warm sophas; but flutter them then and they are anger'd by their exertion, and overwhelm'd by their timidity).

We were now anxious for departure, but as F and Finch were not come in I and O took another turn for an hour upon the rivers bank—opposite our public house, where we caught some fish.

Our short return was in a fine evening, Mrs B from illness quickly retired to bed; but F and I quietly regal'd upon a good hot supper with all our dogs around us, I fancying that I was upon a hunting party in which, did fortune favour me, I would indulge for three months at this season keeping two steady active hunters.—This place must have been a gluttanous quarter, from the name of Eaton-Socon, Eat on—Soak on.

Tuesday September 16

On the following morning Mr Walker was to go coursing With F so he and I were up at early day: I was oblig'd to return to my anglers; after an hasty breakfast I had trott'd away to the Anchor before 9 o'clock.

The day was warm, but windy, seemingly very proper for fishing. Finch had try'd some trolling.

Oldstock and I went up the river for a long distance; when the water being deep and rough little could be done in our way. F had some unsuccessful runs.

At 12 o'clock I return'd to the alehouse to settle my accounts; which must be better arranged another year, going quietly and steadily to work. This years pursuit was taken up in haste, without knowing the right spots; for nothing can be done in hunting, or fishing without knowing every inch of country. Returning, I heard of the coursers and of a famous long course.

Not finding then in the open fields I hurry'd back, and to order dinner. F was full of description of his sport. Mrs B was unwell and eager to return to Biggleswade; so we dined at 2 o'clock, and by past 3 had repacked.

1794   s. d.
Septr 15 To 3 Breakfasts 2 0
  " To Servts Breakfasts 0 6
  " To Brandy in the Day 1 7
  " To Finch and Oldstock when came to dinner 0 7
  " To 4 dinners 2 0
  " To Holdstock at dinner time 0 2
  " To Horse Corn and Hay 0 7
  " To Ale in the course of the day and at night 2 0
  " To Finch and Holdstock suppers 1 0
  "     "           "               "     Breakfast 1 0
  "     "           "               "     Dinner 2 0

Our cargo was a waggon load—fish, fishing tackle, linnen, &c &c; a hare and 2 great chub that F takes to his friends the light Dragoons at Biggleswade who clean his leathern breeches. Mrs B. spoke and felt, with pleasure of our return; for the Eaton is a goodish inn, yet this is more homelike, and comfortable.

Wednesday September 17

Mr G[all] was call'd in last night for his advice, and assistance to Mrs B; he is as full of advice, and as assistant as any of the faculty: but what can they do? In youth we want them not, in middle age we must aid ourselves and in age who can aid us?—Their profits arise from folly, and idle imbecility; prevention will assist us for a time, and when prevention fails our end is come.

F and I pursued our early thoughts of ferreting; ('from the flea in the blanket to the elephant in the forest'); he, dear fellow thus urging me to youthful sports, make me feel young again:

He this morning was mount'd upon a little poney most civilly tender'd to him by Mr R. of this place.—

In our way—we had a good hare-hunt with Fancy from hill grounds.—

Our horses were left in the good stables, at the public house at Wardon.—Frank Young has lost his tarrier so we are ill off for dogs—but it was a fine day. In and around the hill formerly Nodes Warren—did we hunt; ferret and dig for many hours. Mr W. came to us.

How clear is F's judgment about him! A sneaker to his superiors—a tyrant to his inferiors who from cunning and cold blood passes as a wise and virtuous man.

Being exhausted—we sought some refreshment in his house and drank of his made wines. His wife's daughter is one of the most finished pieces of conceit I ever saw, a creation formerly unknown in the country, words drawn forth with precision and attire finish'd by fashion.

F and I heartily and pleasantly tired were glad to get home by 4 o'clock.

When lo! another deluge of country fashion to make a morning visit, Lady B. with all her adulations, all her satire—and all the Irish posse—comitatus with their wild brother now on a visit at Sutton.

All this inundated me; but they soon went away on their morning drive of fashion; and we went to dinner quite unfashionably.

We seem'd all tired—all eager for bed; F and I the more so as we intend'd to meet the hounds next morning: when lo! Genl. B[ertie] on his restless way from Lincolnshire. Then his supper—yawning, grindings, gruntings, and egotisms! So with him I did abide till 11 o'clock: Nothing new to start; nothing old (now) will he remember, seemingly asham'd of youth and happy times.

Thursday September 18

Up at five (when as that great poet—the Marquis of Salisbury]47 says 'None but reapers are alive') got some milk, and brandy; and saw the sun rise before we got to Northill. T. B. who went with us was mount'd on a deplorable Rozinante, but which Rozinante I preferr'd riding—to my own mare who when she heard the hounds was so irritable, that I was oblig'd to send her home.

A storm of rain, and thunder now drove me, and F into a pitiful alehouse at the corner of Sheer-Hatch Wood.

Here F and I remain'd a solitary hour—and eat some bread and cheese till the weather clearing up brought the hounds to the wood.—My beast was a wonder and disgrace! F rode merrily up and down the wood—whilst these idle,—ill manag'd high bred hounds—chopp'd about the covert, without ever enjoying a scent—or listening to each other; nor could they well, from the constant hallooing, and smacking of whips of the master and his servants;—by which hounds are cow'd, not encourag'd and in terror return to the huntsmans heels: Who then wisely declares, with his master 'that there is no scent; that the wind is too high;—that the leaves fall, that nothing can be done' &c. &c.

All these modern methods of hunting are to me unknown.—Let me recollect taking out my brothers hare hounds 22 years since to Sheerhatch Woods as soon as the harvest was got in; our pack was very numerous, perhaps 25 couple of old hounds and 15 couple of puppies. When we came near the wood—the huntsman and whipper-in spreading wide—every old hound from a wave of their hands rush'd forward; without the smallest noise, abreast into the wood—we followed slowly.—Presently the challenge of a noted hound is heard (the modern practice is to halloo and bawl) listen to him, comrade;—Ye know him well? Now the cry begins to thicken; every old hound clings to the pack—even the puppies begin to get away to them to taste the joy—and become in 3 or 4 hours half-made hounds—instead of distrusting each other and being whipp'd into ignorance this pack revell'd in mutual assistance: The wood seem'd to shake with their vociferous melody which might be heard for miles.

When the hounds ceased death of their game was the consequence. Those hounds who were not blood'd by destruction, there torn by bushes and brambles; the young hounds test'd the delight; and probably some of the murder.

Sometime a hare hardpress'd took a round in the adjacent fields and gave the hounds a foretaste of stubble hunting. Sometimes they perplex'd a fox so much that he was glad to shelter in his earths.

The day now growing warm and the hound sufficiently exercis'd and the younger ones well lesson'd; one or two departing halloos from the huntsman, with one or two cracks of the whipperins whip, (then only used) brought away every hound quietly from covert nor did one dare (without punishment hereafter) to stay behind. In their way home there was no flagging or riding round them (as I have seen) to worry, and tieze them, by keeping them back or forcing them forward.

His Ldship48 and his hounds finding that nothing could be done, depart'd to their homes as did F and I to Biggleswade: where I was forc'd to dismount from my wretch'd nag.

Mr O. now paid us a visit and I was obliged to walk about with him. Then for my morning ride—upon my mare too, with F. and T. B. to the Warreners Lodge upon Sandy Warren; where (despairing of great hare-hunting) I purchased 4 live rabbets—, which we carefully return'd with.

Upon the meadows near Biggleswade I remain'd with the game till F. and T. B. went back with the horses—and came to me—at last after a tedious delay with my pack Fancy; who perform'd four excellent courses after these rabbets (far superior to the mornings sport) How pleasant how boyish this? reminding me of my youth at Southill: age and youth meet in likings.—The Alpha and the Omega. At dinner we sportsmen were rarely hungry; our evening too was quiet, with much reading for the 1st time; and for the 1st time that Mrs B. would honour my small library here with her inspection; for she disdains the stupidity of my collection, delighting only in novels which I abominate, modern ones I mean, tho' no man revels more in the works of Fielding and Richardson, or can oftener read Gil-Blas.

History and anecdotes; a well written tour; a surprising voyage or a description of antient customs, and manners.

These are the books for my money. Nor did I ever purchase books which are ever to be had at the booksellers. My library did amply consist, and what is left does consist, of curiosities; oddities; unique topics to be sure, in great haste, and in ignorance, I have cast some pearls away; which are now too closely kept, to come quickly to market.

You may think that I was early, and sufficiently fatigued; but in good truth, I rise tired—my mind is jaded, and my limbs feel as if tumbling from my trunk:—bad omens these! But I have had enough, lately, to tieze a Job. So I catch each trifling pastime, and hurried off T. B. to purchase more game for us from the warrener; then F and I to more courses of the new and old rabbits when I proposed leaving these unhurt in the neighbouring bushes, to furnish future diversion can they be found again.—

Friday September 19

After breakfast, we drove thro the meadows, to Southill Parsonage—a scheme of visiting no other thought here; dinner against dinner; form against form; scandal against scandal. In London you may shut your doors and sit snug but give way to the country taste, and you are hunted down.

Miss S[mith] comes into my chaise: I am nervous to a dread and Mrs B. increases my fears. Miss S has none so I drove bolder.—Meeting Mr D[ill]y and his coursing crew made my blood boil for I abominate these murdering ministers! At More Hall my horse started at Mr W[ells]'s beard—cross'd Rowney Warren near these beautiful cottages to Chicksands Priory.

O un-fortunate nimium may the poor cottagers of this country deem themselves, who exist within hovels of lath and plaister, that 'Let in new light thro' chinks which time has made'.

Here is little fuel to be bought, little to be pick'd up, but that is punish'd as theft, no land allott'd them for potatoes, or ground for a cow: Agues devouring the children: Despondence overcoming the aged. At the mercy of an oppressive farmer; at the beck of a domineering overseer.—To these cottages upon Rowney Warren near Chicksands Priory did Lady H[eneage] O[sborn] go with much tenderness, (when I was in the country) to medicine to the sick; but Madam said I, you only apply temproary balm; let them be consider'd by their landlord and allow'd to rent the small adjoining Vale betwixt the hills for their orchards, cows, pigs, and poultry, quickly then would the clouds of poverty, despair, and sickness, disperse at the rising of the sun of hope, content, and comfort—than these cottages (the property of Ld T[orringtonj) nothing can be more wretch'd; surround'd by hether they dare not collect, and by a profusion of turnips they dare not pluck.

Lady H. sitting with Mrs and Miss H. all in form; Sr G[eorge] was from home, I walk'd about and then Return'd to a luncheon with Mrs B. and Miss S[mith].

About this sweet place not an addition to taste has been bestowed! What is done is done wrong; ground levell'd improperly; nothing to uphold monastic grandeur—We return'd to Southill; F. was abroad attending Mr I. S's shooting.

Here we stay'd dinner not to be avoided—and submitt'd to the forms and cold of a private house: But I will not be in the dark so hasten'd back to the ease, and fires of an inn.

Saturday September 20

On the early morning F. and I try'd in vain for our former rabbets then coursed 4 fresh ones, two of whom we left for a future hope.

At our breakfast Mr W—n with his son George and a client Mr B—p came in from London in their way to Buckden; George was left to us till they return.—Rain and cold—but no rain could exceed that of last night.

At eleven o'clock the day clearing up—we rode and drove to Mr H's, where in that good house we stay'd some time—; and then treat'd G. W. with a long drive about Southill etc which was well bestow'd—as he—a gentle civil lad—seem'd truly happy and grateful. At home by past 3 o'clock when Mr W. and Mr B. return'd from their expedition—dined with us and sat till dark—; then off in the dark for their departure. Strange this to me who prefer bed and tranquility during the dark hours.

Sunday September 21

We went to try for the rabbets but in vain they are either kill'd or crept away. Breakfast at 9 Mrs B., G. W. and F. went by invitation to Sutton. I am left at home to my meditations and to receive Genl. B. who writes that he will dine here at 5 o'clock; besides I do not like Sutton finery hours, and conversation. Miss S. call'd here, in her way to join that jovial crew. After drawing for sometime I walk'd about my rabbet field where I found and kill'd one: What will F. say to this? Fancy made the prettiest and most innocent point at a hares nest wherein 3 very small hares. At my old dinner hour I took a slice of cold meat—and then rode 3 miles Southward—where I loiter'd about. In my return was overtaken by the Genl when we hasten'd dinner.—As to the wines here now there are none for a sitting! Surely the General may take some Madeira in his chaise? Anon who travells in his own carriage has no right to complain.

The Genl talks away in his prosing stile till he loses himself and then says 'What was I saying'? Mrs B. and retinue came back in a post chaise with Lady B. at ten o'clock after our stable time and suppering time. He and I have lost all conversation. He has buried memory in pomp, and new methods and is struggling forth to grandeur: I stare and smile at him and shrink into my own snugness.

From a water-colour by the Diarist

Monday September 22

I was up very early (on Monday 22nd) to see the General forth and then to set forward to London G. W. a quiet sensible lad, whom I could wish to serve, but alas, I cannot serve my son E[dmund] or myself and lack that pomposity that procures respect!!!

F., G. W. and I endeavour'd to find a rabbet; till the stage coach passed, into which we placed G. W. It rain'd fast till 8 o'clock when with fishing basket along, over my shoulder, I trott'd so briskly along, as to reach Shefford 5 miles in 25 minutes! Here I met Finch who came over night.—When I came to Chicksands nobody was stirring but Sir G[eorge] to whom I introduc'd my follower.

Mrs B. arrived to breakfast, here was Mrs C. and Mr W. the latter accompany'd me to my angling which was sadly delay'd from a want of baits (Sr Georges servants neither obey him, nor are civil to his guests)

Having set some trimmers we try'd for perch who came at our call and produced us excellent sport—tho we were pelt'd by the wind and rain: but the sport made me despise the weather: many and good perch did I take in this deep meandering stream: never was my float idle and notably did they pull.—Near to where the stream enters these grounds a fishing house has been erected by Sr G. of very proper taste which somewhat reminds me of my old Master Cottons to whom and my Maister Walton I allways refer. I felt myself oblig'd to return and dress for dinner at 5 o'clock when all the lady F's had arrived with all their clamour. These and a cold room ill suit'd me as one sort of port wine; however another kind not in esteem as was said suited my taste and of that I made ample libations.

Evening tea and then whist when Sr G, (who is an old man and not the boy that I am) escapes to bed: I being expected to maintain the field for ever.

Finch my attendant took some jacks the last of 4 lb weight. He retired to bed at Shefford but to be with me early this morn Septr 23rd.

Tuesday September 23

I had a pleasant revolving on all the capaceties of this place and what might easily be done to render it charming. Sir G. at present is plagued by the pollevil—reverting to the past election with all the possibilities of a future one; in these wild (I think them) thoughts burying all the happy present all what I call the pleasures of life. The good servants 'The nice beds' 'The choice wine' 'The excellent horses' the approved cooks in the ideal vanities of politics and of false pride. I know when a perch bites well but does Sr G. know when he has hooked a freeholder or how long he can secure him?


VILE Factions have ceas'd, and our wisest of Heads
Have Concord restor'd to the County of Beds.
All Classes of Mortals that favor the Throne,
A Member accept, whom they now call their own.


Happy we, who can see Unanimity reign,
Young Osborn for ever, Osborn for ever,
May he live to be chosen again and again.


Safe waft him, ye Winds, from the Regions severe
Where Winter and Tyranny rule thro' the Year,
To this fortunate Island, where Patriots arise,
Under rational Freedom, and fostering Skies.

Chorus —Happy we, &c.


Then join, all ye Freemen, with Heart and with Voice,
To welcome the Youth that will honor your Choice
Tho' green be his Years, yet his Mind is matured,
He will watch o'er your Rights, and will see them secur'd.

Chorus —Happy we, &c.

We all bleed at different veins: I could not perhaps were I rich withstand a horse, or a pipe of Madeira.

Sir G. will only move at some high mind'd politicks (by which, however he expects to be repaid). In thus canvassing and succeeding for his son49 he has indulged the wish for all his life; and at this sport he would act better than the son, who to be prased must never be seen.

We breakfasted in great form; then for another morning of fishing and of good sport again. In the two days I caught 50 brace of perch, none of them small and some of good size, besides a carp, and several handsome roach. Thus ends and successfully my fishing campaign—at 4 o'clock I return'd to dinner and to all the form and all the chill; Sr G. as usual all worry. Never sits still nor will permit anyone else; when he walks you must walk; when he rides you should ride: and when he rises from table, no one must abide there.

In the evening uninteresting whist Sr G. then goes to bed and at 11 we retired.

After dinner—my worthy barber Finch took leave of Sr. G.—O. getting his permission for future angling; but will Sr. Georges servants ever permit him? No; they love poaching too well.

Wednesday September 24

The morning of Wednesday the 24th. proved dismally black and rainy with every show of early winter: lucky I have been to have had two tolerable days here.—In spite of weather I determin'd on departure but as often as I order'd my chaise there fell a fresh torrent of rain: As for our chaise preparation and harnessing and trunking that was labour'd at by myself and T. B. as no servant of the house was ready to assist!! So back to our inn I say.

We depart'd; but no one holding my mare or preventing him plunging T. B. was thrown! Away she gallop'd; at last he overtook us. The day and roads were terrible and the rain almost blinded us.

I am of the family of Tracey's with the wind allways in their faces. We were most sadly beat, and buffetted into our own quarters; but there we were consoled by quiet, good fires, and a interruption from form. Our dinner was hot; I attended my stables, and had only to recollect the miseries of the morning.

Thursday September 25

My turn'd out rabbets are either destroy'd, or wander'd far away for I cannot find them and Fancy is not bold enough in her hunting. For an hour from 7 to 8 o'clock on Thursday did I puddle about in wet grass in this pursuit; when we muster'd to drive to Mr H's, Ickwellbury to breakfast—in form and haste! I must get collers for my horses or they cannot be tied up in bad stables.

Mr H. was hastening to Bedford about a yeomanry corps, an idle business particularly in this county. Ld O's hounds passing by raised F's impatience, and reminded me of my boyish days when I incessantly came to this house to hunt with this gentleman's great uncle—an elderly and very fat man whom we nicknamed the Professor.

With Mr H. we rode to the end of Sheer Hatch Wood and then hunted the track of the hounds in a full trot still before us thro' Moggerhanger and over Barford Bridge. Why leave much good country behind them? Because they know nothing of trailing and finding the open field hare; and like the trot and gallop over a country in desultory folly.—At Wroxton Spinneys a woody wild country, we overtook them hallooing, whipping, and doing everything but hunting. They gallop here, they wander there, and they know not why. My mare was so uneasy that I was obliged to keep aloof and in open ground. F, dear fellow, busied himself amongst them; but I could only follow, not to guide or guard him. The hunters wander'd further on, till a violent storm of rain drove me into a hedge to shelter, which sicken'd these sportsmen: So when the day clear'd up and soften'd they left off!

'Are you for home My Lord'? ' Yes Sir'.

'You will not try by the way'? 'No Sir'.

'Then let us be going Frek' Think of crawling home, in pomp, for 8 miles at early day over a good country, without letting your hounds spread and try! I understand not this!! Why my hare hounds should try back every inch of ground till they smelt their hot meal. We had 10 miles of return, think of that.

Miss S. was with Mrs B. her brother was expected; who came in when our dinner was half finish'd. I would retire myself here, unvisiting and unvisited—but at present that won't do. After dinner, Mr S and I held long discourses about Ld O[ngley] and hunting: He, a young buck was only for the splash and dash of fox hunting and spoke with bitter contempt of hare hunting—; and so he well may here, managed as it is.

Tea—stables till Mr S rode home—; then we 4 sat down to Casino and to a comfortable supper at 10 o'clock.

Friday September 26

Early on Friday morning I try'd in vain my rabbet ground (like Mr Ashmole50 I write down each petty fond record).

F. went off at past 7 o'clock with T. B. to Mr H—y's to see him shoot. Miss S. and I breakfasted together; 'Our hostess keeps her state'.

The day was gray and cold; my ride was to Mr D's Hill Hall in gloomy retirement; to Mr M's farm about my puppy; gallop'd over the fine riding of Southill field to W. Warren; by Gastlings to Mr Well's—thence to Rowney (a kind of farewell ride) where I held discourse with the old people.

Then back to our statute and to dinner, when F. soon arrived, pleased with his day. Miss Rudd drank tea with us. I walk'd out to look at a young moon, and to reverie about hunting in my own way.

Saturday September 27

Saturday the 27th of September was my last day of asking. I call'd upon Frank Young yesterday to prepare another ferreting for the diversion of Masters Jacky, and Freky Byng. Mrs B. would for Southill Parsonage so I drove her to Brome Corner—whence she and T. B. proceeded in the chaise, F and I galloping away to W. Warden, near to which Ld O. and Mr P. were exercising their hunters! What folly! Gallop after your hounds and your horses will be exerciesd. But these new systems are founded in fashion, and having no other basis quickly fade away.

In the good stabling at Warden (where the public house is not fit to be enter'd) we left as before, our horses. Then walk'd to the Gothic Lodge where F. Y. with his, and our dog, hunted thoroughly the wood about the white Summer-House Hill for rabbets—; and really was very good sport till 11 o'clock. Three rabbets and one hedge hog we dug out alive, and these with a 4 they kept for us, we coursed with excellent success. F. in some of his tumblings about lost his whip. We return'd to our stable and drank brandy and water, F. in triumph, would trot home with the hedge hog in a net.

Tolerably tired we both were and in equal haste for dinner. Mrs B had been long return'd.—A curricle drove in with some Irish acquaintance of Mrs B's; a visit was unavoidable tho particularly avoided by me as neither understanding their breeding or language,

This was a loss of evening to me for I was dragg'd to see his coach horses drink warm water and then be swaddled up in cloathes. When we retired to our old fashioned hour of supper, they call'd for tea for she is most tediously fine and he is aquiescent: They have just finish'd a cold autumnal tour to the Lakes, because nobody of elegance can quit London during all the heat and stinks of a metropolis. I being tired at an unfashionable hour, hurry'd to bed.

Sunday September 28

Upon Sunday 26th Septr. I arose to take my departure and to make a calculation of expence, time and pleasure; the weather has been very unlucky, wet and windy; the fishing season is past; and had I a horse, where could I find hunting? I have had but little quiet; but where is quiet to be had? Are we rich, are we poor, quiet seems impossible. The harrass of acquiring money, the harrass of spending money, wears us all out.

Mrs B's friends went off in their grandeurs with their servants and their led horses (I sometimes repine but that benefits me not).

Our trunk went by the coach; our hedgehog was turn'd out into the back garden; and our rabbets are gone for aye! Two fowls presented to us by Mrs K was a civility. T. B. went off upon my mare first with a note to Mrs H; then to leave her at Wells; and return by coach. At 12 o'clock we departed, day and road fine. Come to Baldock at past one; and there dined. At 3 o'clock in a fine autumnal evening continued our way to Wellwyn where we arrived at past five.


Dinners 4 6
Beer 0 6
Wine 2 6
Fire 0 6
  8 0

Unlike the gaiety and warmth of the season at our last stop here. A mad dog had just been kill'd in the yard—after biting Mr B's greyhounds and other dogs—who will be hanged tomorrow.

Having nothing to do, I hasten supper and to swallow my last bottle of port—then to bed. T. B. not arrived.

St. Michael produced a dark, dripping morn which I should admire if turning my back on London, for a hunting party. No more of that. I am now for the noise, the dirt, the overwhelmings of London and of my situation.


Oh that it might be said of me,
as Dr. Johnson said of Grey:

'He that reads this epistolary narration wishes, that to travel
and to tell his travells had been more of his employment.'


45 His third daughter, Anne Maria (see Tree).

46 Frederick, second son of George III, born 1763, married in 1791 the Princess Royal of Prussia, daughter of William II, of Prussia, and died in 1827.

47 Probably James Cecil, seventh Earl (1780) and first Marquis (1789) of Salisbury, born 1748 and died 1823.

48 In 1661 Charles II granted Ampthill Park to John Ashburnham. It remained in his family until 1720, when it was bought by Lord Fitzwilliam, who in 1736 sold it to Lady Gowan. The latter was succeeded by her son, who was created Earl of Upper Ossory in 1751, and he by his son the second Earl, who was Lord Lieutenant of the County from 1771-1818.

49 Sir George Osborn's son, John Osborn, M.P. for Bedfordshire, elected as an Independent member, 15th September, 1794.

50 Probably refers to the founder of the Ashmolean at Oxford.

51 The insertion of these final lines suggests that it was the last Tour and so the end of these series of Diaries. But there is no certainty. It would be quite in accordance with the character of the writer if he started off within a few months, as cheerfully pessimistic as ever, to explore the neglected beauties of his own country.

John Byng, The Torrington Diaries: Containing the tours through England And Wales of the Hon. John Byng (Later Fifth Viscount Torrington) between the years 1781 and 1794 (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1938)

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