Book Review - An Old Woman's Outlook In a Hampshire Village (1892)
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By Charlottte M Yonge. Published 1892. 345 Pages. A book of essays describing twelve months in Otterbourne, Hampshire in the mid to late 19th Century.
An Old Woman's Outlook, is a narrative firmly set in the mid to late 1800's, a time of great advances and great change. Being a personal diary, it reflects the attitudes and feelings of the time. She lived in Otterbourne
Charlotte outside her house, Elderfield, Otterbourne
As soon as you start reading the book, you can sense the move into a more 'modern age'. On page 2 of the book, she writes:
"When I first remember, the families used to go to bed as soon as the father had come in, so as to save fire and candle; but better wages and paraffin have made a difference...."
She probably means 'Paraffin Wax' to make candles. But affordable forms of lighting lengthened the days into evenings, thus transforming every day life. Before Paraffin wax and Paraffin Lamps, it would have been animal fats (whale oil) and then Camphine.
Later in the book she talks of a fascination with the night sky. So much more prominent before the modern electric street light and its pollution.
Old Cottages by John Anderson (1835 to 1919)
As the year moves on, she talks of wildlife pests: The Sparrow - Its extermination was paid for by the church, with payments for 'sparer heads' or 'sprow heads'. Although farmers continued to shoot sparrows on sight, the church condemned the practice in 1832.
On a happier note she describes the flora and forna that can be expected each month through the year.
Come the autumn and winter and the relationship with pigs. 'Hampshire Hogs' are described as ".... certainly fills an important place in the family possessions" She continues:
"A woman dying of a long illness expressed her mournful regrets to her clergyman that she had never seen the present pig, adding that her husband said that, if he had known in time how much she wished it, he would have carried it upstairs, but now it was too big and heavy. So the pig is the family pet and pride until the day when the parish executioner comes."
Circle And her Swine by Briton Riviére (1800s)
There is so much more in the 285 pages. Local customs are described in detail, some are now a distant memory, others still a part of forest life today. This is a fascinating book, that presents the reader with a window of life in the country some 170 years ago.
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