Friday, 5 June 2009

Anne Hughes her boke.......


......in wiche I write what I doe.

Some time ago a friend found this book for me in a charity shop. First published in 1937 it is a diary kept by a farmer's wife for one year - 1796 to 1797. The diary was handed down to her daughter and kept in the family until the early 1930's when it was published as a serial in Farmers' Weekly. I find it absolutely enthralling. I love diaries anyway = they are such fun to pick up and put down when doing some domestic chore like waiting for a cake to finish baking, or waiting for the kettle to boil. But, being a farmer's wife myself, I was interested to find how little had changed apart from the usual modern machinery on the farm and modern domestic appliances which cut the real chore out of hard housework.

This was obviously a farm of some substance - they seem to have "standing" in the village(Chepstow, Monmouthshire) and they did have servants as well as farm workers. But her day to day life, and the little secret thoughts she jots down, make fascinating reading.Here is a little bit of the diary to make you want to read it. I expect it is out of print now but you can always keep an eye on the bookshelves in your nearest Oxfam.
Excerpt from "The Diary of a Farmer's Wife 1796 - 1797."
(To put it in context, the servant, Sarah, has come to her mistress with a story that a gypsy family are hiding in an old derelict cottage, where the wife seems seriously ill and they are so poor that they have nowhere to go and nothing to eat. The farmer's wife knows that her husband has no time at all for gypsies - but she desperately wants to help this family. They arrange for help but she knows she really needs the farmer to help her.) Here is the entry forApril ye 30:-


"I do think I will have to tell John. I mix the pigges food all reddie and put the cowes in the byres for the milking. He be pleased so it did make him fare-minded then. He to a good tee.Me having his pipe all reddie and a good glasse of my eldernberrie wine, I did tell hym what is agaite, and did make to ask his counsel, not saying oute we had done so far. He did saye not to interfere with them. Then I, verrie sly did say it would be verrie kind if he would say Sarah's sister could nurse the pore retch, it being well known he bein a goodly man and kind. To this he did say verrie well he would help us.Att nite when all readie,John and me to Mistress Prue. She being verrie surprised to see John, I did wisper to her what to do, were uppon she did thank John verrie prettie for his kindenessfor his thought for a poore sowle; so letting him think that he have done well, which did please him".

Nothing much has changed, girls, has it? I think we would call this the "softening up" process.

17 comments:

jinksy said...

After this I am 'reddie' to look high and low for a copy to read too. Almost makes me wish I'd kept diaries to secrete way for some future century...

Rowan said...

This sounds like my kind of book, like you I love reading diaries especially those from another age. Ann obviously knew just how to handle her husband, make them think they thought of it themselves - never fails:):)

Robyn said...

My husband found this book in the
hospice shop. He loved it and it's been passed around to all his farming relations. When it comes back I'll read it.

Heather said...

How you must love this book - it sounds fascinating. Your blog has become your diary or journal as you tell us of your daily doings. She was a clever woman wasn't she, and knew how to get the best out of her husband.

Cathy said...

I love this! It's so wonderful to read diaries. We women are so very smart when it comes to our menfolk.

gleaner said...

Truly amazing! I suppose blogging is the modern version of writing a diary. I wonder whether the farmer's wife let others read her diary or whether it was just for her own writing pleasure.

Arija said...

What a lovely diary, thank you for sharing this snippet of unchanging history. So nice to see the older form of lannguage as well.

Hildred and Charles said...

Ah. it's a wise woman who knows and follows this technique....

Janice Thomson said...

I have read a few diaries and find them so fascinating. As you say things haven't change much...just the way of doing them...

Dave King said...

I am invariably fascinated by books like that. They are not as easily found these days, so when one comes along it's a real treasure. Thanks for highlighting that one.

Derrick said...

What this diary really says, Weaver, is that you womenfolk are devious and wily and not to be trusted on any account!!!

BTW, yes, I do sit in a cubby hole aka the stock room, tapping away at the keyboard! Believe me, nothing would be more welcome than that customers were keeping me away from blogging!!

Teresa said...

Loved it! Ah yes, us women can indeed be "verrie sly" when necessary! Thanks for sharing that... was enjoyable and fascinating.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the comments - and, BTW Derrick, we can now all imagine you sitting in your cubby hole blogging away. Pity we can't get a coach outing up to all come and see you and buy things in your shop - that would be a surprise for you wouldn't it!

Amy said...

That sounds like a delightful book! Do you ever watch the series called Victorian Farm? Definitely worth it.

EB said...

Now this is a coincedence - I've just finished reading this book, having picked it up 2nd hand a few weeks ago.

Weaver, are you really sure it's not a fake? I'm suspicious for lots of reasons. In the Preface we're told it was thought to be a fake some time after it first came out. The tale of how the manuscript went missing (ie that it was presumed to have been given away to an American soldier during the war) sounds a little too convenient. The book itself seems incredibly action-packed just for one year. It finishes very neatly having married off Sarah. Finally I find it hard to believe the author would risk saying such things about her husband. I think the lady who "found" it may well have badly needed the money she got from faking it, so I don't blame her much.

I loved it, I'd love to believe in it, but I'm not sure.

Clare said...

I love this book, too. There's more information about it here: www.annehughesdiary.co.uk

I've also just finished reading A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich which is very good too.

Ian said...

Hello, I am one of the three researchers looking into the origins of 'The diary of a Farmer's Wife 1796-1797' and note that the link to our website has already been posted here previously. It's nice to see so much interest in this book and so I thought I'd mention that those wishing to obtain a copy, with a new introduction by us and new illustrations, can do so via The Good Life Press, publishers of the new edition. It has some photos not on the website, including one of Jeanne Preston the transcriber. It's published in aid of a dementia care charity, Age Concern Woodley, near Reading in the UK. The book launch was held there recently and we gave a talk all about Anne Hughes and our research. There are links to the Good Life Press on the AnneHughesDiary website but for those interested, the link to the relevant Good Life web page is here: http://www.goodlifepress.co.uk/nostalgia/anne_hughes_-_her_boke_1796_-_1797/
If anyone fancies leaving a review on their site I'm sure it would be much appreciated.

Our research continues and, if anyone has any questions they'd like to ask us, do get in touch through the Anne Hughes Diary website 'contact us' link.

Meanwhile, enjoy the book.

Best wishes,

Ian Shankland, pp, Adele Davey & Frances Houghton.