Thanksgiving in High Dudgeon

The following are notable complaints from the Regency era about the bounty that we celebrate today, known asĀ  Thanksgiving:

“It is commonly reported that there is no season in the year in which so much wickedness and drunkenness prevail among the farmers, as in that of bringing the harvest home.”

— Cheap (!) Repository for Moral and Religious Tracts, 1810

Indeed, it appears that the juvenile crime of stealing from orchards tended to be more frequent during the harvest period, and particularly on Sundays:

“..for it is always remarked those depredations are committed by them on those days..The other days in the week, when fruit is ripe, boys are generally employed in the field, driving carts, or at harvest.”

— Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle (July – December, 1819)

The same edition of the Magazine reports that even a bountiful harvest suffers from the problems of an economy plagued by stagnant labor, for few that have left the fields for manufacturing jobs desire to return:

“..during the last harvest, men could not be obtained in sufficient numbers, in the agricultural counties, to get in the crops as fast as they were ready.”

Things are generally at sixes and sevens during this time of the year, and in particular for one lady in Sunderland who became quite ill. Her stomach behaved as if she had swallowed something that was alive; and later, after two swallows of brandy, she discovered that was indeed the case, for she expelled an animal that had all the appearance of a small dog-fish:

“The patient supposes that this may have resulted from drinking ditch-water in the last harvest; and she still remains ill, under the apprehension that more of the same kind may yet remain in her stomach.”

— The Annual Register, with a View on History, Politics and Literature for the Year 1827

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