Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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106               Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
What would we not give, for instance, to set down in that freshness and sharpness which a diary can only convey, the features, moral, domestic, and physical, of that specimen of the old English cottage-wife whom we will try to introduce to our readers under the name'of Mrs. Colly. She was a type of a class that was once common in Sussex, and which is still to be found in the little gable-end cottages with their open timber-work fronts and shelving thatched roofs, coming down at one end nearly to the ground, and little lattice-windows that look out so cosily from the eaves. Prettier pictures than these cottages for landscape painters, standing back as they generally do from the roadside, amidst apple, cherry, plum, and pear trees, it would be difficult to find in any part of the world. And inside, for the most part, they are as clean and neat and as carefully tended as their gardens are outside—not without a touch of the ornamental, too, in gaily-coloured cups and saucers, and mugs and ornaments of quaint design, or even of the artistic, in engravings illustrating the adventures of Joseph and his brethren, or other Scriptural incidents, intermixed, probably, with adventures in the sporting field. But when thus much has been said for their cleanliness and neatness, not much remains to be added of a compli­mentary character. The brick floor is generally damp and uneven—the ceiling (often formed of massive oak beams, strong enough to support a Church and heavy enough to pull it down) is low; and the only place free from draughts full of rheumatism is the innermost corner in the huge open chimney —the place, according to immemorial usage, of the male head of the family. As to the female head, to judge by our typical cottage-wife, Mrs. Colly, we should say that she never sat down. She was always, like the sun, running her daily course of duty. Her place was on her feet, and the chairs of her cottage were for her visitors—not for her. As some good women are sure that they never should live " if so be they took to their beds," so Mrs. Colly was assured that her days would be numbered " if so be she took to a chair." Her legs were, to her thinking, made to be used as much as her hands,
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