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Rural Rides

3.56  ·  Rating Details  ·  61 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
Between 1821 and 1836 William Cobbett toured the southern English countryside by foot and on horseback, and Rural Rides is his remarkable account of what he saw. A prolific writer and journalist of genius, Cobbett matured into a radical left-wing politician, and a farmer who ensured his labourers had access to the three Bs: bacon, bread and beer. Recording swiftly changing ...more
Published September 27th 2001 by Penguin Classics (first published 1830)
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russell barnes
Dec 01, 2008 russell barnes rated it liked it
Shelves: classics, a-levels
Bonkers. On the one hand a really really boring series of rides around Surrey, Hampshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire during the 1820s. He describes fields of turnips, almost relentlessly on every page, the state of corn and wheat, and the fatness of oxen. And when he's not doing that he's railing against the Jews and the Scots. Oh, and he always seems to end up in the same villages, and then tells the same tales, and inevitably compares the turnip crops.

However Cobbett *is* quite funny;
Clare Flynn
Hugely repetitive in the routes he takes, the places he stops at, the things he rants about and the scenery he describes (turnip fields feature strongly!)
I skim read it, looking for the gems of useful information on agricultural wages, the cruelty of the Game Laws and the plight of farm labourers and tenant farmers
Feb 16, 2013 Brenda rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, politics, history
I couldn't follow all the of-his-time politics, nor stomach all the of-his-time prejudices and the still universal habit of name-calling. But the Rides are not boring, the descriptions of the landscapes and people are delightful, and I appreciated the tour guide. Not a simple guy, but not a dumb one. Worth spending some time with, though maybe in small doses.

One note on the politics: this politician got his privileged ass out of London and his own context to go look at the rest of the country. H
Jul 26, 2014 Lesley rated it it was amazing
Hard going at times but so interesting, English countryside as it used to be through the eyes of a unique individual
Sep 26, 2012 Lucy rated it it was ok
Long-forgotten - or, long-won - quarrels, turnips and bacon are the chief features of this work. Cobbett comes across as a chronically bad-tempered know-all. To be fair, the writing was probably less tedious when taken in its original serial form, and is probably of more interest if you are familiar with southern England. As it stands, though, in the Penguin English Library edition, far and away the most readable section is the excellent introduction by George Woodcock. It's only to be recommend ...more
Feb 22, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
cool book. Cobbet has this pretty standard formula where first he describes the soil texture of a place and how good it is for growing turnips, and then he'll do a really cool rant about how the Pitt system of taxation is grinding the rural people down to powder. This happens basically throughout the book but it doesn't get old too much because in some of the rants he'll put in cool anecdotes like the bit where he says that some wealthy landowner was really bad at tree maintenance. pretty insigh ...more

Opening: Fog that you might cut with a knife all the way from London to Newbury. This fog does not wet things. It is rather a smoke than a fog. There are no two things in this world; and, were it not for fear of Six-Acts (the “wholesome restraint” of which I continually feel) I might be tempted to carry my comparison further; but, certainly, there are no two things in this world so dissimilar as an English and a Long Island autumn.
Justin Tyers
Sep 01, 2012 Justin Tyers rated it really liked it
I loved this book for the glimpses (more than glimpses, really) into life in England in the 1820's. Whether it's chatting to farm labourers or squires; descriptions of the hospitality available in Inns; descriptions of the country-side before housing estates blotted it out; or just silently witnessing the concerns of ordinary people 200 years ago - it makes me wish I could walk beside him along the muddy lanes.
Jul 29, 2015 Val rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
William Cobbett was a social campaigner on behalf of the rural poor. On his rides he saw many examples of injustice and poverty which angered him. He also observed the English countryside and agricultural practices. This is a detailed portrait of rural England at the time.
Fazackerly Toast
finished at last! Dispatches from the front line of the early nineteenth century British war against the poor - lively, funny, immediate - I really enjoyed it.
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An English pamphleteer, farmer and journalist, who was born in Farnham, Surrey. He believed that reforming Parliament and abolishing the rotten boroughs would help to end the poverty of farm labourers, and he attacked the borough-mongers, sinecurists and "tax-eaters" relentlessly. He was also against the Corn Laws, a tax on imported grain. Early in his career, he was a loyalist supporter of King a ...more
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