Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter III.: LIFE IN LAMBETH. - Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside)
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Chapter III.: LIFE IN LAMBETH. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) 
Illustrations of Taxation (1. The Park and the Paddock, 2. The Haycock, 3. The Jerseymen Meeting, 4. The Jerseymen Parting, 5. The Scholars of Arneside) (London: Charles Fox, 1834).
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LIFE IN LAMBETH.
It is needless to explain that there were neither myrtles nor vines about the pottery-house. Not that there was any deficiency of scent around the dwelling. A soap manufactory near obviated every charge of this kind. It had given out its odours in full power at the moment of the Le Brocqs’ first approach to their new abode, and had greeted them just when they paused to admire the symbols which were erected on their pottery wall. It was by uncle Anthony’s taste that the establishment bore this refined character. It was he who had mounted a huge filterer on one angle; and on another a ladle which seemed made to fish up Truth out of a well. Uncle Anthony had done much. Would he had done one thing more!—removed from the neighbourhood of the soap manufactory, or got it removed by indicting it as a nuisance. But he had lived for fifty years on good terms with this establishment, and never dreamt of hurting it. Indeed, when he had been persuaded, on rare occasions, to give himself a day’s airing at Hornsey, he relished the atmosphere of his native street on his return, as the fuller’s heart leaps at the sight of the dust about his mill, and the weaver’s at the sound of the click-clack of his loom. Mrs. Le Brocq did not take it so easily, nor believe what she was told of the certainty that she would enjoy the nuisance in time, as much as her neighbours. Anna felt it a sad addition to the excitements under which she had to labour from dawn till night. Every morning she was startled from sleep by the workmen knocking at the gate of the yard; and then came the peevish bell of the dustman, and then a gradual increase of street noises. If it rained, the sprinklings of white earth in the yard became mud; if the sun shone in, the dust danced thick in its beams, and she felt as if she drew it in with every breath. At her former home, little dust was to be seen, as everything was green around, except the gravelly lane; but here no efforts to keep the furniture in a seemly state availed anything. It would have been as easy to parry one of the plagues of Egypt. There was a good deal to be admired, however, when it was not boiling day at the soapery, or when the wind was south. The river, as seen from the wharf behind the pottery, was not so fine, she thought, as the channel between Jersey and France; but the bridge was very grand, and nothing could be more beautiful than her father’s finely arranged stock of stone-ware. Mr. Studley, the foreman, had assured her that the process of the manufacture was in some parts very elegant; but her father would not let her see it till Aaron should be competent to the exhibition, on some holiday, or other occasion when the men should be absent. Through the stock-room, however, she was allowed to range; and her awe of London, as a place of civilization and wealth, was much increased by what she saw there;—such beautiful jars and pitchers, and so enormous a congregation of blacking bottles! Thither she carried her knitting, when not wanted in kitchen or parlour. She thought she must leave off knitting, as her mother could do all that was now required. Nobody seemed to wear knitted smallclothes or petticoats in London, nor even shawls. If it was really true that she must no longer make her father’s and Aaron’s coats, she feared she should want occupation: but it was difficult to credit that in a fine country like England the men would condescend to such womanish work as tailoring. She had no doubt she should find this to be a joke upon her, as a new comer. She had, indeed, seen a young man sitting upon a table, and doing tailor’s work; but he was very small and pale, and most likely permitted to do this because he was fit for nothing else.
While deep in thought over her work, she was planning how to make her mother more comfortable than she could possibly be at present. Mrs. Le Brocq could not live without apples, and was very much discomposed at having to purchase them; and when she went to the shop, or stepped out after a fruit-woman in the street, the neighbours invariably followed to stare at her costume. The butcher had given out that the new family were preciously stingy people, eating meat only once or twice a week, which was a sin and shame in the owners of a pottery. Mr. Studley cast a look of disgust at her, the only time he had entered the house,—which happened precisely at the moment when the dinner of lard and cabbage soup was being served up. If Mrs. Le Brocq could not be made more popular in the neighbourhood, it was to be feared that the possession of a pottery would not insure perfect happiness to the family.
How different from Studley had been another visitor who entered at a similar important point of time! “A gentleman,” who did not declare his name, called to speak to Mr. Le Brocq, a few days after his arrival, and walked in, as a matter of course, without waiting to hear whether the person he sought was at home. He uttered a cry of delight at the spectacle of the soup, and kissed Mrs. Le Brocq and her daughter, in sign of being a countryman. Before he could be asked, he drew a chair, rubbed his hands, and sang a verse of a song in the French of the island,—the language which it refreshed their ears to hear. He had not done when Le Brocq came in, expecting to find a customer for his stoneware rather than his dinner.
“Ha! countryman!” cried the stranger. “Don’t try to remember me. For my own sake, don’t try to remember me. There’s no use in looking back too far, when all is done; but I could not slink away when once I had seen the hem of your wife’s Jersey petticoat. My name is Durell: there is no occasion to remind us all that you have heard it before.”
Mr. Le Brocq looked grave. A farmer, of the name of Durell, had committed an assault on the King’s highway, in the neighbourhood of Gorey, and had anticipated his sentence of banishment by making off in a fishing-boat, within an hour of the information being laid against him. Every one had been sorry for the offender, who was known to be of a passionate temper, and to have received such provocation as would have gone far to justify him. Every one was sorry that he had precipitately given up his pretty farm, and compelled his wife and child to wander after him to another land; but Le Brocq now wished to have some evidence of the respectability of Durell, before he admitted him as a guest on terms of familiarity.
“You should have such a love of country as mine, man, and then you would not look so cold upon me,” cried Durell. “If you knew how my heart longs for a word about the deep shady lanes, and those blessed little coves, where the sea comes to kiss one’s feet, and slips away again! I have not seen what I call a dell any where else; and the pastures, with a green that makes one’s eyes water! Heaven keep them so! And how are they?”
“Did you come to hear this sort of news?” Le Brocq inquired.
“The devil take what I came for! that will do afterwards. Can’t you tell me whether the doves coo as they used to do when the wind dropped? For the soul of me, I can’t believe you are a Jerseyman! If I had not thrown open my doors wider to poor Stephen, I should have doubted my being a Jerseyman myself.”
“Poor who?” inquired Le Brocq, hoping to obtain something in the form of a reterence.
“A poor helpless body that lives with me, and tells me every night what makes me dream that I am leaning against a mossy stone gate-post, or throwing pebbles into the ivy to bring out the birdies. You shall see him; and we will make ourselves all of a company.”
Le Brocq was going to rebuke this familiarity, when Studley put his head in, and respectfully told Durell that all was ready for him when he pleased to come. Durell’s air was immediately as sober and business-like as that of Studley.
“I believe,” said he, “you have not told your principal what I am here for. Ay, you think he must know by instinct; but let me tell you that no more is heard of the excise in Jersey than there is here of knit small-clothes. Had he told you to expect me?” he inquired of Le Brocq.
“He said something yesterday about sending a notice to the excise; but I do not rightly see what the excise has to do with my manufacture.”
“That you shall see presently. We have only to visit you once a day, and to see your bottles come out of the furnace, and make you count and weigh them, if we choose, and measure them across the neck, to see if they are of the legal size, and—”
“What is all that to you?” cried Aaron, who had just entered.
“In order to determine the payment we are to take from you.”
“Payment! What payment? People are to pay us for our bottles, I suppose, and not we them, or I see little use in making bottles. What payment can you mean?”
“The excise duty,—the tax on home manufactures. In your case—”
“But we were told that the people in England paid no tax, except a mere trifle that they give without knowing it. Father, did not you understand that the English pay no tax?”
“That is a little mistake,” averred Durell. “Their paying without knowing it is partly true. What you are going to pay me, for instance, is not the same kind of contribution as you have paid out of your own pocket in Jersey, when the States wanted to erect a new pier, or other public building. You will repay yourselves by putting such a price on your bottles as will defray the tax, besides yielding you a profit; and the buyers of your bottles will not know the amount they pay for the tax from that which buys the bottle. You advance the tax for them, that is all.”
“But that is very hard,” observed Aaron. “Why are we to be obliged to advance money for hundreds of people that we do not know or wish to serve?”
“Oh! you must pay yourselves by charging interest upon this advance. Studley will tell you that you clap on a little more still upon the price, as interest upon your advance.”
“Well, I think that is hard upon our customers, I must say. I don’t call it any favour to them to take their money in such a way, instead of giving them a choice whether they will pay directly, or wait awhile and pay the interest too.”
“The buyer of your bottles pays no more for interest than he gains in time. There is no cheat in making him pay interest upon this kind of loan, any more than upon other kinds of loans.”
“But there is a cheat in not letting him know how the matter stands, so that he may have a choice. It is like putting physic between bread and butter for a grown man, who had, perhaps, much rather swallow a pill of his own accord.”
“Well; every man has the power of looking between his bread and butter. Every buyer may know how much duty is paid upon any article he buys.”
“But he is not able to choose between the pill and the powder. If he won’t take the powder as it is spread, he must go without both physic and bread and butter.”
“And I am far from sure,” observed Le Brocq, “whether our customers be not cheated, after all. I was frightened enough when I came, as Studley knows, to find what wages we have to pay. I set down the concern as ruin when the first Saturday night came; and I like the plan but little better now I find that these high wages are paid, in the same manner as the tax and the interest, out of the price of the article. I believe that the high wages are owing to this very tax. I must think so, because our workmen are not nearly so well off with their high wages as our Jersey labourers with only half the sum.”
Mrs. Le Brocq wondered that English labourers used so many stone bottles as to make all this difference. Her husband explained that the same tax was laid on other articles, more used by labourers than stone bottles—on soap, and beer, and spirits, and tea. Now, if the tax made the articles on which the labourer subsists much more expensive than they would otherwise be, the labourer’s wages must be much higher to buy the same comforts than they would otherwise be; and the wages being high acts again on the price of the article made by the labourer; and so the buyer pays twice over, and everything is put out of its natural course.
Le Brocq heaved a deep sigh, which was echoed by his son. They had calculated, from the price of their wares, compared with the expense of production, that they should be abundantly rich in a year or two. They had been startled by the amount of wages; and now, when they found that the price of their bottles was also to cover the tax, and interest upon its advance, their golden visions began to melt into the twilight of doubt.
The first object now was to finish dinner, and go over the premises with the exciseman, to see what his visit was like. Durell declined all further hospitality on the present occasion, declaring, with a look of gravity very unlike what he wore when Studley came in, that though he had tasted a favourite old dish for once, to show his goodwill, it was but for once. He always avoided occasion of misinterpretation in his office, and should therefore desire his visits to be strictly confined to business. Considering how frequent they must be, it was necessary to come to an understanding from the beginning, especially with strangers who might not be aware of the strictness of the rules by which excise officers must be guided. He requested Mr. Le Brocq and all his family to take notice that it would be better to offer no kind of favour to him or his excise brethren, since none could be accepted.
“So we are to have the pleasure of seeing you often?” observed Le Brocq.
“You will see me often,—one or other of us every day; but I advise you not to call this a pleasure. It can never be a pleasure; but you may prevent its being a plague by letting us go and come, and by being perfectly correct in your conduct—Ah! I perceive you are offended at the word; but when you have lived here a few months longer, you will see that I mean nothing more than a friendly caution. Finish your dinner; and I will go with Studley, and learn what your people are doing.”
Aaron was on the point of saying once more, “What’s that to you?” but his father desired him to dispatch his meal, and follow as soon as he could, to take a lesson in excise visitations.
“You may wonder now that you have not seen us before,” observed Durell to Le Brocq, as they passed into the manufactory; but your predecessor was on very good terms with us; and, from his long connexion with us, could be trusted to send for us on all proper occasions, so as to save himself from a daily visitation; and the same favour was continued to Studley till we found that the management had gone into other hands. You cannot do better than follow his advice. He will inform you of all that is necessary in your dealings with us. Ho! ho! what a brickmaking here is! For how many thousand are you going to account to us, Studley?”
“Sir, we do not sell bricks,” protested Le Brocq.
“Nor tiles. But those tiles that are now burning in every one of your furnaces would have paid tax a few months ago.”
“What! tiles that are used only for our ware to stand upon while it is burning! Bless me! are all these charges to be paid by the article when sold? Our bottles may well be called dear.”
“Though I fancy you take a little off the price of the bottles, and put it upon the jars which are not taxed. Hey?”
Studley observed that this was a very fair way of defeating the intentions of the glass-manufacturers, to whose jealousy it was owing that stone bottles were taxed at all.
Le Brocq was quite out of humour at being threatened with a charge of 5s. 10d. a thousand for his bricks. Was he to be expected to buy bricks to build that upper story, while he had the clay on his premises? He might do which he pleased, he was told: he was to pay the duty either way,—in the price of bought bricks, or into the exciseman’s hand.
“By the way,” observed Durell, “that new upper story is not entered. How comes that?”
“We keep that for articles that are not exciseable,” answered Studley, “You have no concern with that floor. There is not an exciseable article in it.”
“Take care that there never is, then. You may find that your walls have tongues, if you give them anything to tell. You know, friend,” turning to Le Brocq, “that for each and every of premises not entered according to law, there is a heavy penalty. If you did not know it before, you know it now; and heaven help you to keep out of my hands! Ah! here are your tiles!—pitiful things to pay tax upon, indeed. I am glad to leave you to your own devices about that article.”
Studley looked very impatient while the visiter went on talking, and turning over the burnt tiles. When Durell next entered a kiln that was cooling, and looked round at the streaks of glazing that the salt had left upon the sides, and afterwards descended to the place where the clay was being milled, and watered, and trodden, and conversed with the blind horse, and joked with the boys, the foreman thought it time to speak out.
“Pray, sir, do you know how long we have been waiting for you? Do you please that we should proceed without you?”
“By no means. Are you going to fill the kiln, or draw?”
“You seem to forget our notice, sir. We drew five hours ago; and your officer weighed the wares in due form. They are standing now for you to weigh; and if you keep us here to the end of the six hours, it will be too late to pack them off by the present opportunity. Another half-hour is our last chance this week. I told you so before, sir,” continued the vexed foreman, following as Durell skipped up the stairs, taking two at a time. “If I told you once, I told you thrice; but that stinking hotch-potch put everything else out of your head, I think.”
“You will pack off the larger articles, I suppose, Studley,” observed Le Brocq, “whether the bottles are ready or not? You will get off all but the exciseable articles to-night?”
Studley explained that the bottles were to be packed in between the larger articles, as in the kiln, thus saving carriage in the one case as they saved fuel in the other. If the officers meant to grow very strict just now, it might become necessary to have a separate kiln for burning, and a separate package, rather than keep eleven twelfths of the manufacture waiting for the rites to be performed on the exciseable portion.
The weighing was more a matter of show than use; for Durell was anxious not to prevent the departure of the goods. He even tried his hand at packing, and was not out of humour when plainly told that they could do better without him. Studley hinted that he might be more acceptable among the ladies, who had probably something to tell him about Jersey cows and orchards; but Durell took his stand near a boy who was beginning the practice of his art. The exciseman crossed his arms, and leaned against the wall while watching and commenting upon the progress of the lad, in shaping his little pots upon the wheel.
“Very fair! very fair, lad! Round it,—with a delicate rounding,—and coax it,—and bulge it,—and draw it narrow. ’Tis as if it made itself, or grew with a touch of magic. Pshaw! you have brought it off awry. ’Tis but a slovenly piece, after all. I should think myself a clever fellow, too, if I could come as near the mark as that. You are a lucky one to have that kind of work under your hands.”
The boy looked up with an intelligent smile. He had lately been promoted from turning the lathe, and the sense of his new dignity shone in his countenance as the gentleman looked on. The gentleman still soliloquized.
“Young thoughtless things like you see no more in such occupation than making so much clay into so many pots, for so much wages; and, perhaps, the pride of being a skilled workman. But those that have spent their first years in the fields, and have wandered about the world since, see much blessing to you in having beauty before your eyes, and growing up under your hands. ’Tis well for you that there is something to keep you fresh in all the dust of this place, and all the glare and noise of the street. The spirit of beauty that hung the cloud curtains of God’s throne may look bright down upon you, even here. Blessings on her, and Him that made her!”
The boy’s rising colour seemed to show that he heard and partly understood, though he proceeded diligently with his work.
“Did you ever go into the country, lad?” inquired Durell. “Did you ever see a green field?”
“Not he, I’ll be bound,” answered the little boy at the neighbouring lathe, who became impatient to be noticed. “My father took me to Tottenham once, and I had some ale; but his mother never lets him go anywhere.”
“She does,” asserted Brennan, turning red again. “She lets me stay out on the wharf till bed-time; and when I got a new coat given me, she went all the way into the Park with me, one Sunday afternoon.”
“You saw some green grass, there?”
“Yes, Sir, and the swans.”
“And plenty of ducks?”
“I did not care so much about them,—just like soda-water bottles with wings, when they are flying. But I made a swan, sir, when I came back.”
“What do you do out on the wharf till bedtime?”
“Look at the boats passing under the bridge, sir. And there are heaps of things that look better as it grows dark.”
“What sort of things?”
“Baskets of things on the wharf, heaped up; and barrows and packages—”
The boy at the lathe interrupted his companion by laying an information against him. There was not such a thing as a bit of slate ever found upon the wharf that was not covered over with Brennan’s drawings of barrows, and boats, and baskets, and sometimes Mr. Studley’s greyhound.
“I made a greyhound,” observed Brennan, looking up; “and when it was baked, Mr. Studley knew it for his own.”
“When shall you have a new coat again?” asked Durell. “Confound the question! just as if we could not get you a coat among us! You shall go to a place, Brennan,—I will take you to a place where you will see something prettier than that pitcher you seem to be admiring so much;—something that I think you will like better than green fields.”
“On a Sunday, sir?”
“No; I believe not. Studley! The British Museum is not open on a Sunday, is it?—No, boy; it must be some other day.”
“But I can’t go any other day,” said the boy mournfully.
“O yes; cursed be he that shuts out such as you from feeding your genius,—from adoring God in using his gifts—”
“Perhaps you would ask for a part holiday, sir?” suggested the boy.
“Will I? Ay—” But Durell remembered that he was an exciseman, and must not ask favours. In a cooler tone, he promised the boy to remember him; and desired that the greyhound and the swan might be ready for exhibition the next time he came. He left the boy happy in devising an opportunity for asking some of the wise men about the pottery what the British Museum was. The information gleaned in the course of a week did not give him any clear comprehension of what he should see that he should like better than green fields. “There’s a monster of a wild beast on the stair, as I’ve heard,” said one. “There’s a power of stones, laid out in rows, as my own eyes saw,” attested another. “Gold and precious stones! Lord bless ye! nothing like it. Only what you may pick up in the road any day.” “You forget the skin of the head with the hair on it,” observed another. “A wild man’s hair and the skin of his head.” The boy could not conceive how any of these things could be prettier than swan or greyhound. He could only wonder whether the gentleman was in earnest about giving him a new coat, and would remember to take him to that odd place.
The ware was precisely in time for the waggon. It was as near missing as possible; and while Le Brocq wiped his brows after his toil and hurry, he looked reproachfully at Durell. He found that no farming labours were so fatiguing as waiting the pleasure of an exciseman, in the heat and dust of a pottery.
“You look at me,” observed Durell. “You wish me a hundred miles off, I see: but I can’t help the system; and I tell you, you are better off than many of your neighbours. Only one-twelfth of your manufacture is exciseable, and—”
“That is the very thing I complain of,” said Le Brocq. “To be worried and watched for such a little matter!”
“I think it our business to complain of that,” replied Durell. “There is some satisfaction in one’s supervision when one collects enough to make it worth while—a hundred pounds or two. But it makes us feel like so many fools to be trudging here, and riding there, to collect less than would mend our shoes or feed our horses. In your business, there are but nine men that pay more than a hundred a-year in duty; and of that, they get back a third part when they export.”
“No more than nine?”
“In all England; and seven pay less than 1l. a-year. Here are we bound to visit their potteries every day, and as much oftener as they choose to call us, to collect fifteen-pence, or seven shillings and sixpence, or a guinea a-year! ’Tis a farce.”
“I should think these people would pay three times the sum to have you keep off their premises, every day of the year; and that would save your salary;—for I suppose you have one.”
“To be sure; and hundreds more of us. How would you have the whole kingdom watched,—every maker of glass, and soap, and beer, of bricks, and paper, and starch, and spirits,—every grower of hops,—every maltster and seller of tea and sweet wines and hides,—how would you have all these people watched and made to pay their fines and forfeitures, without an army of excisemen? and who will be an exciseman without pay? You may talk of the church, (heaven preserve it!) but I know one thing like it. The church has its hierarchy,—its gradation from the archbishop to the curate, all salaried. The excise has its hierarchy, too,—from the gentlemen that sit as judges in the court, with their messengers always in waiting, down to the poor devils that are for ever tramping in the outrides and footwalks.”
Le Brocq would not hear another word in the way of comparison of a hierarchy which existed for the purpose of supplying the people with religious aids, and one which levied a most vexatious tax. Durell could not refrain from going on to magnify the body to which he belonged. He told of the fifty-six collections into which England and Wales are divided; and the subdivision of these into districts, each with its supervisor; and the further division into outrides and footwalks, with a gauger or surveyor in each;—as elaborate a spy-system, at the utmost possible cost, as had ever been invented, his Jersey friend thought.
“By no means,” protested Durell. “The Customs beat us in expense, in more ways than one. In one respect only, the difference is more than 180,000l. We excisemen can live in houses that were built for other people: but the coastguard must have cottages for themselves alone; and this 180,000l. is what they cost. And then, if we have excise duties that yield less than any customs, they have a vast number more that yield but little. When 566 articles pay customs duties, and 510 of them yield under 10,000l. a-year, the expense must be greater in proportion to the gain than in any folly that the excise can practise.”
“They are not quite foolish enough yet, I suppose, to interfere with an entire branch of trade, for the sake of raising a few shillings or pounds here and there?”
“The two are pretty much on a par there. If we plague all the stone-bottle makers in England for the sake of little more than 3000l. a-year, our brethren of the Customs pry into all the cordage that comes into the kingdom for the sake of less than 150l.”
Aaron could speak to the annoyance of having his cordage taxed at the custom-house on the south coast, when he had two or three times wished to sell in England such produce of his rope-walk as was not wanted in Jersey. Yet, as a Channel Island man, he had been treated leniently; being charged no more duty than would countervail what the English had paid in tax before they could bring their article into the market.
“Well; I am gone,” said Durell. “I only stayed to show you Jerseymen that we are not quite the worst set of tax-gatherers in the world. If you are willing to be on good terms, so are we: but I must tell you, Mr. Aaron, that it is not every man of our tribe that would bear to be scowled at, as you have scowled at me to-day; nor could I always bear it myself: for I do not boast of my temper. If you will consider your interest—”
“What’s that to you?”
“Very true: so good bye till to-morrow. If you should want me sooner, it may give you the least trouble to send to Finch’s glass-house, near at hand. I am going there now; and one or other of us will be on the premises till night. I wish you joy of that lad Brennan. If you make the most of him, you may find yourselves in luck. Good day.”