I continue to get a kick out of reading J. Bailey Moore’s discussion of farming in Candia, New Hampshire in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. I offer the following passage as an example of an author who is not afraid of digression. From fettering sheep to the life of Samuel Johnson to haying, without so much as a “But I digress . . . “!
The sheep of those days often caused their owners much trouble by jumping over the walls and fences into the cultivated fields under the lead of an old ram or bell wether. In such cases fettering the legs of the sheep was considered the only remedy.
The reference to sheep recalls a passage in Thomas Carlyle’s great essay upon the life of Dr. Samuel Johnson. After quoting the statement of the German philosopher, Jean Paul, that a whole flock of sheep will jump over an imaginary pole after the real pole over which the bell wether has jumped has been removed, Carlyle declares that the great masses of mankind are utterly incapable of guiding themselves and, like stupid sheep, they too must have their bellwethers and jump over nothing, blindly following those who undertake to lead them, whether in the matter of fashion, politics or religion, without knowing or caring to know why they are led this way, that or the other.
Haying begins soon after the 4th of July. A few patches of grass around the house are first moved, and soon after the red-top and clover fields are attacked.1
Uh oh. My digression from the subject of Brown family history wouldn’t be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, would it?
1J. Bailey Moore, History of the Town of Candia, Rockingham County, N.H., from Its First Settlement to the Present Time (Manchester, N.H.: George W. Browne, 1893), 259.
I can’t resist sharing this choice passage from J. Bailey Moore’s History of Candia. I just love the juxtaposition of late Victorian sentimentality and flinty New England pragmatism:
Later on, a few lambs and calves make their appearance. How delighted are the children to jump over into the pens in the barn and take up the tender lambs and fondle them in their arms . . . . Sometimes a lamb is disowned by its mother and the poor thing is taken into the house, to be placed in a basket upon a warm blanket and kindly nursed in the hope of saving it for future usefulness. But the experiment often failed and the poor lamb, after a few hours of struggles and sufferings, gives up the ghost. How pitiful are its moans through the long, dreary night and how sincerely is it mourned by the children. The bodies of the dead lambs were often hung upon the limbs of apple trees out of the reach of dogs, for the purpose of preventing the latter from acquiring a habit of attacking and devouring sheep as they roamed in the pastures.1
1J. Bailey Moore, History of the Town of Candia, Rockingham County, N.H., from Its First Settlement to the Present Time (Manchester, N.H.: George W. Browne, 1893), 255.
I find one of the best things about the Internet is having full-text access to obscure books that have been digitized for no discernible reason except that the copyright has expired. Case in point for A History of the Town of Candia, Rockingham County, New Hampshire, From Its First Settlement to the Present Time, the present time being 1893.
A History of Candia was written by a gentleman named J. Bailey Moore (no relation to the Moores I’ll be researching, as far as I know). His health was apparently failing when he took on the task of writing the town’s history–which indeed proved so arduous that he died before he could finish it: his preface to the book leaves off in the middle of a sentence. The publisher then informs the reader of the author’s death:
Can’t you just picture Mr. Moore slumped over dead at his desk, pen in hand, the literary version of dying in the traces?
I’ll share what my mother and I learned about Jonathan Brown and his seven sons from A History of Candia. Then, I think I ‘ll need to follow the trail of this intriguing tidbit left by Mr. Moore in his preface:
Who could resist a series of “spicy articles”? Not I!