The Ancient Regime eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 652 pages of information about The Ancient Regime.
they have less, and when they cannot possibly make a living the master is obliged to support them. . . .  The métayer is always reduced to just what is absolutely necessary to keep him from starving.”  As to the small proprietor, the villager who plows his land himself, his condition is but little better.  “Agriculture,[37] as our peasants practice it, is a veritable drudgery; they die by thousands in childhood, and in maturity they seek places everywhere but where they should be.”

In 1783, throughout the plain of the Toulousain they eat only maize, a mixture of flour, common seeds and very little wheat; those on the mountains feed, a part of the year, on chestnuts; the potato is hardly known, and, according to Arthur Young, ninety-nine out of a hundred peasants would refuse to eat it.  According to the reports of intendants, the basis of food, in Normandy, is oats; in the election-district of Troyes, buck-wheat; in the Marche and in Limousin, buckwheat with chestnuts and radishes; in Auvergne, buckwheat, chestnuts, milk-curds and a little salted goat’s meat; in Beauce, a mixture of barley and rye; in Berry, a mixture of barley and oats.  There is no wheat bread; the peasant consumes inferior flour only because he is unable to pay two sous a pound for his bread.  There is no butcher’s meat; at best he kills one pig a year.  His dwelling is built of clay (pise), roofed with thatch, without windows, and the floor is the beaten ground.  Even when the soil furnishes good building materials, stone, slate and tile, the windows have no sashes.  In a parish in Normandy,[38] in 1789, “most of the dwellings consist of four posts.”  They are often mere stables or barns “to which a chimney has been added made of four poles and some mud.”  Their clothes are rags, and often in winter these are muslin rags.  In Quercy and elsewhere, they have no stockings, or wooden shoes.  “It is not in the power of an English imagination,” says Arthur Young, “to imagine the animals that waited on us here at the Chapeau Rouge, — creatures that were called by courtesy Souillac women, but in reality walking dung-hills.  But a neatly dressed, clean waiting-girl at an inn, will be looked for in vain in France.”  On reading descriptions made on the spot we see in France a similar aspect of country and of peasantry as in Ireland, at least in its broad outlines.


Aspects of the country and of the peasantry.

In the most fertile regions, for instance, in Limagne, both cottages and faces denote “misery and privation."[39] “The peasants are generally feeble, emaciated and of slight stature.”  Nearly all derive wheat and wine from their homesteads, but they are forced to sell this to pay their rents and taxes; they eat black bread, made of rye and barley, and their sole beverage is water poured on the lees and the husks.  “An Englishman[40] who has not traveled can not imagine the figure made by infinitely

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The Ancient Regime from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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