Arthur Young

He is the fifth of the Richard Stone’s British Empiricists, and the first to come to my attention way back in the early 1960s. I think Miss Holmes must have had a crush on him because he featured prominently in her lessons about The Agricultural Revolution. The other rural movers and shakers of the late 18th century paled in comparison, though Jethro TULL would undergo a make-over almost 200 years later and become a household name.

In the 1980s I made Arthur’s acquaintance again. I was living in a cradle of the Industrial Revolution and discovered he had visited the area and made some observations. His 1776 Tour took him from Essex to Shropshire and…

…into the neighbourhood of Colebrooke Dale, famous for its iron works. Crossed the Severn at the ferry at Lincoln Hill, in the midst of a most noble scenery of exceeding bold mountainous tracts, with that river rolling at the bottom. The opposite shore is one immense steep of hanging wood, which has the finest effect imaginable. Mounted through that wood, thickly scattered with cottages, the inhabitants busily employed in the vast works of various kinds carried on in the neighbourhood. One circumstance I remarked which gave me much pleasure. There was not a single cottage in which a fine hog did not seem to make a part of every family; not a door without a stone trough with the pig eating his supper, in company with the children at the same business playful about the threshold. It was a sight which shewed that chearfulness and plenty crowned the board of the humble but happy inhabitants of this romantic spot.

Vision of Britain

On another Tour, Arthur had something to say about my home town.

IN the the thirty years since I was at Hull, I conceive there are few places in the kingdom more improved than this. It was a close-built dirty, ugly place, that seemed to be far removed from all ideas of improvement. neatness, or beauty in buildings, whether public or private. The change effected is striking! A new town is added, containing many very handsome, well-built houses: the streets are wide, and the houses elegant.

Vision of Britain

Richard Stone tells us that Arthur had admirers all over the world and maintained “a vast correspondence” with some of the most famous people of his time. He probably met one of them on his visit to Hull – William WILBERFORCE. (I was in Wilberforce House at school.) Others included Pitt, Burke, Priestly, Malthus, Washington and Lafayette. The Empress Catherine of Russia sent him a gold snuffbox and ermine cloaks for his wife and daughters.

Ah, the former Miss Allen. She had an ‘ungovernable temper’ and quarrelled with Arthur’s mother, of whom he was ‘very fond’. In his memoirs, written towards the end of his life, he would write about a time when, ‘No carthorse ever laboured as I did…spending like an idiot, always in debt’ and ‘What would not a sensible, quiet, prudent wife have done for me? But had I so behaved to God as to merit such a gift?’.

Arthur made three Tours of the continent between May 1787 and January 1790, spending seventeen months abroad and experiencing another Revolution. Returning from the first Tour he arrives home ‘and have more pleasure in giving my little girl a French doll, than in viewing Versailles’.

His second Tour begins badly when, after fifty miles his old mare begins to go blind. ‘A plague on a blind horse! – But I have worked through life with her; and she TALKS’. They plod on together and about his arrival in Dieppe he writes:-

I was lucky enough to find a passage-boat ready to sail; go on board with my faithful sure-footed blind friend. I shall probably never ride her again, but all my feelings prevent my selling her in France. Without eyes she has carried me in safety above 1500 miles, and for the rest of her life she shall have no other master than myself; could I afford it, this should be her last labour; some ploughing, however, on my farm, she will perform for me, I dare say, cheerfully.

His third and last Continental Tour was the longest and most eventful. He he “travelled post”. There is no shortage of published accounts of his journeys from online booksellers, at modest prices and up to almost $1,000. Or you can download a PDF for no money. Most of Arthur’s pamphlets about agricultural matters may be downloaded as free ebooks.

When he was 56 years old Arthur’s favourite daughter, Martha Ann, died of consumption.

After this, though he continued to write and fulfil his dutes at the Board of Agriculture, Young was a broken man. His melancholy deepened into religious obsession, he cut down his correspondence and gave up social life altogether. In 1807 he became aware that his eyesight was failing and in 1811 he went completely blind. His diary ends in 1818. He died in London on 20 April 2830 and is buried at Bradfield.

Richard Stone

The best representation of Arthur’s family in the FamilySearch Shared Tree indicates that he had been a widower for about five years when he died. A son Arthur, with an unnamed spouse, had a boy they called Arthur who died in 1896, without issue it seems. Our main subject’s pedigree doesn’t extend very far into the past but his mother,  Anna Lucretia de COUSSMAKER, had siblings whose descendants may be alive today. Find Arthur the Empiricist here.

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Muston Sands

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