The Sussex Diarists.
communities, composed of clergyman, squire, a few farmers and shopkeepers and a large gathering of labourers and of labourers' wives, sons, and daughters, which made up the greater part of England 100 years ago—how they worked and played—eat, drank, rode, and smoked, swore and prayed— quarrelled and amused themselves. Such a picture as this does Thomas Turner, general dealer, of East Hothly, give; and whatever his motives may have been for doing so we are thankful that he kept a diary.
Now, to leave our speculations and resume our quotations.
The spirits of Thomas Turner rose and fell with business, according as it was dull or brisk. In July, 1757, he chronicles " a most prodigious melancholy time and very little to do," adding, in a moralising vein, " I think that luxury increases so fast in this part of the nation that people have little or no money to spare to buy what is really necessary. The too frequent use of spirituous liquors and the exorbitant practice of tea-drinking has corrupted the morals of people of almost every rank."
The conjunction of spirituous liquors and "the exorbitant practice of tea-drinking" as corrupting the morals of the people will be a novelty in the eyes of tee-totallers of the 19th century! Mr. Turner makes this conjunction more than once, and, although he was a seller of tea, evidently did not look upon it with favourable eyes.
On the previous Sunday a brief had been read in East Hothly Church "to repair the groins and fortifications of the town of Brighthelmstone against the encroachments of the sea on that coast, which, if not timely prevented, will in all probability eat in and destroy the town, several houses having in a few years been swallowed up by the sea." Times are changed with Brighton as well as with tea!
If it be any consolation to know that there were wet summers in former days, it may be found in the following entry in July, 1757:—"This is the 29th day on which we have had rain successively." And yet some people think that the sun always shone in the olden summers.