The Sussex Diarists. 27
Steyning fair: and received 31s. 6d. of John GofFe, as part paiment of 3 guineas which I had lent him. Bought five runts of Thomas Jones for £16. Drank with Thomas Vinal of Cowfold at J. Beard's. Met with J. Gold of Brighthelmstone at Bramber as we were coming home; and concluded that he should have a load of my wheat at £7 10s.—which is to be delivered on friday se'nnight next at the Rock. We did not agree for any Barley; because some one had told him that my Barley was all of it mowburnt. Ned Grey kept holiday. The day was dry; we took in the evening 22 pigeons."
And so the diary of Thomas Marchant runs on, filled with details which are purely personal and, for the most part, relating to business matters, and pounds, shillings and pence —scarcely a reference to national affairs, which now occupy so much of men's thoughts—of the great contests of parties or collisions of Empires—hardly a thought beyond the parish in which Mr. Marchant lived, or its immediate neighbourhood. Brighthelmstone, indeed, figures more than once in the diary and Lewes pretty frequently, Mr. Marchant going to the Sessions on parochial business, disputed settlements being a fertile source of litigation between neighbouring parishes, which rejoiced in their triumphs over each other as though it were a gain to the community that some unfortunate labourer, who had strayed from his parish, was transferred from Hurst to Cuckfield, or vice versa, as the case might be.
" Went to the Sessions at Lewes, where we had a trial with the parish of Cuckfield about the settlement of Thomas Mitchell: and we cast them."
With what exultation did Thomas Marchant make that entry, not forgetting the inevitable sequel: " Dined at the Crown "—the parish paying for the dinner to celebrate the victory over Cuckfield in re Thomas Mitchell, pauper !
Obsolete customs, coins and terms crop up here and there. Ex. gr.: " Sold John Smith a steer at £b certain ; and, if he prove worth it, I am to have a noble more."
How long is it since nobles disappeared from our current coin ?
Thomas Marchant was not an intemperate man ; but all men in those days, in all ranks of life, drank freely and at times deeply, and our Sussex diarist does not blink the matter.