Зображення сторінки

destroyed.” So much for agricultural skill. “Nothing can be so excellent as the crop which precedes and that which follows it.” The wheat “is thrashed by a cylinder, drawn by a horse, and guided by a boy, while the labourers turn over the straw with forks. This process lasts nearly a fortnight; it is quick and economical, and completely gets out the grain. . . . . In no part of the world are the economy and the management of the land better understood than in Piedmont, and this explains the phenomenon of its great population, and immense export of provisions.” All this under metayer cultivation. Of the valley of the Arno, in its whole extent, both above and below Florence, the same writer thus speaks;*— “Forests of olive-trees covered the lower parts of the mountains, and by their foliage concealed an infinite number of small farms, which peopled these parts of the mountains; chestnut-trees raised their heads on the higher slopes, their healthy verdure contrasting with the pale tint of the olivetrees, and spreading a brightness over this amphitheatre. The road was bordered on each side with village-houses, not more than a hundred paces from each other. . . . . They are placed at a little distance from the road, and separated from it by a wall, and a terrace of some feet in extent. On the wall are commonly placed many vases of antique forms, in which flowers, aloes, and young orange-trees are growing. The house itself is completely covered with vines. . . . . . Before these houses we saw groups of peasant females dressed in white linen, silk corsets, and straw-hats ornamented with flowers. . . . . These houses being so near each other, it is evident that the land annexed to them must be small, and that property, in these valleys, must be very much divided; the extent of these domains being from three to ten acres. The land lies round the houses, and is divided into fields by small canals, or rows of trees, some of which

[ocr errors]

are mulberry-trees, but the greatest number poplars, the leaves of which are eaten by the cattle. Each tree supports a vine. . . . . These divisions, arrayed in oblong squares, are large enough to be cultivated by a plough without wheels, and a pair of oxen. There is a pair of oxen between ten or twelve of the farmers; they employ them successively in the cultivation of all the farms. . . . . Almost every farm maintains a well-looking horse, which goes in a small twowheeled cart, neatly made, and painted red; they serve for all the purposes of draught for the farm, and also to convey the farmer's daughters to mass and to balls. Thus, on holidays, hundreds of these little carts are seen flying in all directions, carrying the young women, decorated with flowers and ribbons.” This is not a picture of poverty; and so far as agriculture is concerned, it effectually redeems metayer cultivation, as existing in these countries, from the reproaches of English writers; but with respect to the condition of the cultivators, Châteauvieux's testimony is, in some points, not so favourable. “It is neither the natural fertility of the soil, nor the abundance which strikes the eye of the traveller, which constitute the well-being of its inhabitants. It is the number of individuals among whom the total produce is divided, which fixes the portion that each is enabled to enjoy. Here it is very small. I have thus far, indeed, exhibited a delightful country, well watered, fertile, and covered with a perpetual vegetation; I have shown it divided into countless enclosures, which, like so many beds in a garden, display a thousand varying productions; I have shown, that to all these inclosures are attached well-built houses, clothed with vines, and decorated with flowers; but, on entering them, we find a total want of all the conveniences of life, a table more than frugal, and a general appearance of privation.” Is not Châteauvieux here unconsciously contrasting the condition

[ocr errors]

of the metayers with that of the farmers of other countries, when the proper standard with which to compare it is that of the agricultural day-labourers? Arthur Young says,” “I was assured that these metayers are (especially near Florence) much at their ease; that on holidays they are dressed remarkably well, and not without objects of luxury, as silver, gold, and silk; and live well, on plenty of bread, wine, and legumes. In some instances this may possibly be the case, but the general fact is contrary. It is absurd to think that metayers, upon such a farm as is cultivated by a pair of oxen, can live at their ease; and a clear proof of their poverty is this, that the landlord, who provides half the live stock, is often obliged to lend the peasant money to procure his half. . . . . . The metayers, not in the vicinity of the city, are so poor, that landlords even lend them corn to eat: their food is black bread, made of a mixture with vetches; and their drink is very little wine, mixed with water, and called aquarolle ; meat on Sundays only; their dress very ordinary.” Mr. Jones admits the superior comfort of the metayers near Florence, and attributes it partly to straw-platting, by which the women of the peasantry can earn, according to Châteauvieux,t from fifteen to twenty pence a-day. But even this fact tells in favour of the metayer system; for in those parts of England in which either straw-platting or lace-making is carried on by the women and children of the labouring class, as in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, the condition of the class is not better, but rather worse than elsewhere, the wages of agricultural labour being depressed by a full equivalent. In spite of Châteauvieux’s statement respecting the poverty of the metayers, his opinion, in respect to Italy at least, is given in favour of the system. “It occupies; and constantly interests the proprietors, which is never the case with great proprietors who lease their estates at fixed rents. It establishes a community of interests, and relations of kindness between the proprietors and the metayers; a kindness which I have often witnessed, and from which result great advantages in the moral condition of society. The proprietor, under this system, always interested in the success of the crop, never refuses to make an advance upon it, which the land promises to repay with interest. It is by these advances, and by the hope thus inspired, that the rich proprietors of land have gradually perfected the whole rural economy of Italy. It is to them that it owes the numerous systems of irrigation which water its soil, as also the establishment of the terrace culture on the hills: gradual but permanent improvements, which common peasants, for want of means, could never have effected, and which could never have been accomplished by the farmers, nor by the great proprietors who let their estates at fixed rents, because they are not sufficiently interested. Thus the interested system forms of itself that alliance between the rich proprietor, whose means provide for the improvement of the culture, and the metayer, whose care and labours are directed, by a common interest, to make the most of these advances.” But the testimony most favourable to the system is that of Sismondi, which has the advantage of being specific, and from accurate knowledge; his information being not that of a traveller, but of a resident proprietor, intimately acquainted with rural life. His statements apply to Tuscany generally, and more particularly to the Val di Nievole, in which his own property lay, and which is not within the supposed privileged circle immediately round Florence. It is one of the districts in which the size of farms appears to be the smallest. The following is his description of the dwellings and mode of life of the metayers of that district.” “Cette maison, bâtie en bonnes murailles à chaux et à ciment, a toujours au moins un étage, quelquefois deux, audessus du rez-de-chaussée. Le plus souvent on trouve à ce rez-de-chaussée la cuisine, une étable pour deux bêtes à corne, et le magasin, qui prend son nom, tinaia, des grandes cuves (tini) où l'om fait fermenter le vin, sans le soumettre au pressoir : c'est là encore que le métayer enferme sous clé ses tonneaux, son huile, et son blé. Presque toujours il possède encore un hangar appuyé contre la maison, pour qu'il puisse y travailler à couvert à raccommoder ses outils, au à hacher le fourrage pour son bétail. Au premier et au second étage sont deux, trois, et souvent quatre chambres à lit. ... La plus spacieuse et la mieux aérée de ces chambres est en général destinée par le métayer, pendant les mois de Mai et de Juin, à l'éducation des vers à soie : de grands coffres pour enfermer les habits et le linge, et quelques chaises de bois, sont les principaux meubles de ces chambres ; mais une nouvelle épouse y apporte toujours sa commode de bois de noyer. Les lits sont sans rideaux, sans tour de lit ; mais sur chacun, outre un bon garde-paille rempli de la paille élastique du blé de Turquie, on voit un ou deux matelas en laine, ou, chez les plus pauvres, en étoupe, une bonne couverture piquée, des draps de forte toile de chanvre, et sur le meilleur lit de la famille, un tapis de bourre de soie qu'on étale les jours de fête. Il n'y a de cheminée qu'à la cuisine ; dans la même pièce ou trouve toujours la grande table de bois où dîne la famille, avec ses bancs ; le grand coffre, qui sert en même temps d'armoire pour conserver le pain et les provisions, et de pétrin ; un assortiment assez complet et fort peu coûteux de pots, de plats et d'assiettes en terre cuite ; une ou deux lampes de laiton, un poids à la romaine, et au moins deux cruches en cuivre rouge pour puiser et pour conserver l'eau. Tout le linge et tous les habits de travail de la famille ont été filés par les femmes de la maison. Ces habits, tant pour les hommes que pour les femmes, sont de l'étoffe qu'ils nomment mezza lana si elle est épaisse, mola si elle est légere. La trame est un gros fil ou de chanvre ou

* Travels, vol. ii. p. 156. + Letters from Italy, p. 75. : Ibid. pp. 295-6

* From his Sixth Essay, formerly referred to.

« НазадПродовжити »