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RURAL ECONOMY OF ENGLAND.
1. Essai sur l'Économie rurale de l'Angleterre. Par M. Léonce
de Lavergne, de l'Institut. 1854. 2. Gisborne's Essays on Agriculture. 1843. 3. Coleman's Visit to England. 1850. 4. Un Voyage à Londres. 1851.
FOREIGN travellers, in shoals, have printed and published their impressions of the British Isles; we have had our portraits painted in all conceivable styles, whilst our national vanity has certainly been ministered to by admiring strangers in a way to satisfy the most exigent John Bull amongst us. At the same time, it is as well to admit that some of the Continental ramblers who have visited our shores, pretend to have discovered many imperfections in the social arrangements of England which justly displeased them and offended their taste: with one or two of these dissentients we intend one day to have a passing word, but our chief purpose in approaching the subject of foreign criticism upon the British people and their domestic economy, is to present, in somewhat of a prominent manner, the remarkable work which stands at the head of this article, by M. Léonce de Lavergne, Ex-Prof. at Coll. Agron. of Versailles. The book would seem to have been written, in great part, with a design to convey information and instruction to his own countrymen, especially those engaged
in agriculture. Long inclined to a belief in the superior science and advancing progress of English husbandry, the author resolved to examine into it personally, and having devoted some time to the work of inquiry and observation—constantly taking notes of what he saw and learned—he has digested his views at leisure into a comprehensive form ; drawing parallels or contrasts, according as the case suggested, between the rural economy of France and that of England. It is hardly necessary to add that the comparisons run a good deal in our favour; their backward science, and the incomplete methods pursued by a large proportion of French cultivators, being repeatedly adverted to, with obvious regret, not to say humiliation.
To incite our neighbours to improved efforts being, as has been stated, one of the leading aims of the author, he never hesitates to place in the broad light of contrast, sometimes of ridicule, the shortcomings of those amidst whom it is his fortune to dwell. And if lucid exposition, practical appeals to their interest, and counsels inspired by a thorough comprehension of the subject, could awaken the emulation or quicken the apprehension of the French "paysan,” this book ought to make a sensible impression upon that numerous body. Indeed, we have reason to believe that it has already done so, and that it is obtaining considerable circulation. Meanwhile, our own people will do well to study in the pages before us, the history as well as the theory and practice of modern improvements in husbandry. In a picture traced by the hand of a stranger, curiosity blends itself with the simple appetite for knowledge, and we become as interested
in his account of "short-horns," " new Leicesters," and "improved South Downs," as though it were untrodden ground.
In setting forth the principal features which distinguish the agriculture of England from that of his own nation, M. Lavergne naturally attaches the highest importance to the introduction of the Norfolk husbandry, with its wide-spread system of root culture, and its green crops : enabling the cultivator to dispense in a great measure with fallows, to rear a much larger number of animals, and to hasten their arrival at maturity.
The author estimates the number of sheep maintained in the British islands and in France as double in amount to what it was a century since. In 1750, the number in each kingdom respectively was about seventeen to eighteen million head; whilst the total now existing he sets at thirty-five millions. But here the equality stops ; the extent of ground devoted to the maintenance of our flocks being, he says, equivalent to thirty-one millions of hectares, whilst in France it must be set at not less than fiftythree millions! And this striking fact becomes yet more instructive when we learn that “England proper” feeds about thirty out of the thirty-five millions of sheep on fifteen millions of hectares ;* Ireland and Scotland furnishing between them the remainder, in the proportion of two and four, speaking in round numbers.
From this one element of agricultural progress is deducible a whole series of results, of which M.
* A hectare is nearly equal to two and a half English acres.