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No XXXIX.-VOL. VII.] For FEBRUARY, 1807.
The Right Hon. LORD SOMERVILLE. their chief residence, after a lapse of so many ages.
HE noble lord, most striking John Lord Somerville was born in Tannons do dia ess of whom the year 1705, on the family estate in decorates our present number, traces the vicinity of Fitzhead, Somersethis descent, on the clear evidence of shire. He received the rudiments at landed possessions uninterrupted in Harrow school and under a private his family, from the Norman con- tutor at Peterborough, and his eduquest The family of De Somerville, cation was completed at St. John's according to ancient tradition, were College, Cambridge, where he took of Roman origin, and settled at a very an honorary degree. In the years remote period, near Ebreux, in Nor- 1785 and 1780, he made the usual mandy, giving their name to an ad- continental tour, in company with joining village, which was built upon the late illustrious Duke of Bedford, their demesne. Gaultier, the head and between those two noble friends of the family, afterwards Sir Walter an early attachment was formed, in England, was one of the great which was cherished by similarity of chieftains who served under William pursuits, and which never cooled or Duke of Normandy, in his expedition diminished, subsisting in full force to England, and was rewarded after until the lamented death of the duke. the conquest with considerable grants On his return to his native country, of land in Staffordshire and Glouces- Lord Somerville discovered that pretershire of the latter of those, the dilection for rural affairs, which has village of Somerville Aston, the title since raised him to such high and deto which is antecedent to any exist served eminence, as a promoter of the ing records, was demised with certain interests of agriculture. His first esother estates, to James the twenty- say was on a most unfavourable the fifth lord, great grandfather to the atre, the mountainous part of Somerpresent, by Somerville the celebrated setshire, where it was said that he had poet, the last of that branch of the an estate to make before he could family, which, from their establish- possess it. His early labours were, ment at the conquest to their extinc- however, attended with such success, tion, had not quitted England. that the estate in question has since The peerage originated in Scotland, returned eleven per cent. on the cawhere, and in Ireland, the heads of pital expended, and yet the land is this house have for many centuries supposed capable of farther improvehad landed possessions, and in the ment. former country the clan of the So
But this strong attachment to rural mervilles are still very numerous, business and to the sports of the field, The traditional cause of their esta- which seemed, as it were, inbred and blishment in Scotland, during the natural to Lord Somerville, by no reign of the Plantagenets is as follows: means engrossed the whole of his atone of the family, in those turbu- tention, a due share of which was di lent times, having spilt the blood of rected to those social and political duhis antagonist, fled to the north, and ties incumbent upon his rank in life. was highly distinguished and pro- Spending the usual season in the moted by the Scottish king. The metropolis, where he moved in the English inheritance falling to the im- highest circles of fashion, and fremediate ancestors of the present lord, quented that society in which the they again adopted this country as best information was to be obtained, UNIVERSAL MAG. VOL. VII.
he could not avoid coming to a deci- 1799, from which period he has desion on those grand political points, clined the offer of presidency to the which then agitated the nation. That Board of Agriculture, with which he stupendous event, the French revo- has had no farther connection than as lution was then at its height, but a member and promoter of the instinotwithstanding Lord Somerville was tution. in habits of intimate connection with
Lord Somerville succeeded to the some of those noblemen and gentle- title in 1797, on the decease of his men who were most sanguine in their uncle, one of the sixteen peers of expectations of general benefit to Scotland, being then elected, and in mankind from the principles then the late parliament, re-elected one of promulgated, and from the example the sixteen. Two years afterwards, of France, he viewed the probable he was honoured with an appointresult through a very different me- ment to his Majesty's bedchamber, dium: and in consequence of the po- an honour we believe owing neither litical opinions which he adopted, to any court or political intrigue, but was one of the first to promote the the voluntary distinction of a man of plan of a general arming the country, approved principles and favoured both by precept and example. pursuits; and this envied and honour
On this occasion it was, that in able partiality Lord Somerville has 1794 he addressed a spirited pam- constantly enjoyed.
phlet to the yeomanry of the coun- The voyage to Portugal for the retry; urging them to arm and defend covery of his health, his lordship the fruits of their honest industry. made subservient to another importThis publication attracted the atten- ant purpose; namely, to obtain a stock tion of the highest powers in the of genuine Merino or Spanish Sheep, state, and is supposed to have been in which he succeeded after a variety the ground of that honourable predi- of difficulties and at great expence, lection which its author has since in- the laws of Spain forbidding, on pain variably experienced. Notwithstand- of death, the exportation of fine ing a bad state of health, in conse- woolled sheep. From this first purquence of his horse falling upon him chase, and several succeeding ones, in hunting, his lordship raised a corps in consequence of a correspondence of yeomanry, to which other troops then settled, Lord Somerville's Spabeing joined, he acted as colonel for nish flock in Somersetshire has been some years, until meeting with an- increased to its present state, being other unfortunate accident in Hert- the most numerous, and said to bear fordshire, by which both his shoul- the finest fleece of any in this counders were fractured, narrowly escap- try.
ing with life, he was compelled to re- It may be necessary here, for the sign his military command. information of many of our readers, to The name of Somerville had now say a few words on the much agitated become implicated with the agricul- question of the improvement of our ture of the country, and in a very fine, or carding wools. By a singular few years after the Institution of a fortune, the kingdom of Spain has Board of Agriculture, his lordship been the depository of that invaluable was elected to the presidency: an ho- breed of sheep, which bear the true nourable appointment, which yet gave golden fleece, for nearly two thoufar greater satisfaction to the public sand years. They were originally than, there is reason to believe, it did obtained, according to Columella, to the noble lord himself, who was the celebrated Roman writer, de re never able, from the narrow and in- rustica, from Asia and Greece, and volved funds of the Board, to bestow styled covered sheep, from their being that encouragement on meritorious thickly covered with wool, from the exertion, so necessary to the promo- head and face to the very feet; and tion of the great cause to which he farther denominated erythræan, from was enthusiastically attacked. His the bright and reddish colour of their lordship's health afterwards being in fleece, distinctions which the genuine such a state as to require a change of species bear equally at the present climate, he embarked for Lisbon in day, upon whatever soil they may be
bred or fed. The native fine woolled thing impossible, we should still find sheep of this country have, in all a balance against us, in the article of probability, originated in casual im- mutton, from the small size of the portations from Spain, but being carcase.'
blended with an inferior race, their In answer to these arguments, our fleece intire has never been of suffi- improvers urged, first, the examples cient fineness for the manufacture of of Sweden, Saxony, Prussia, and Haour best broad cloths, whence the nover, countries where the winter is necessity has immemorially existed, far more severe than with us, yet in of an importation of wool from Spain, all of those, Merino sheep had been at a high price and vast expenditure of naturalized, and fifty years experience treasure. To obviate this national loss, in Sweden and Saxony had proved, has for a long time been a prime ob- that the wool had not degeneratedject with our ablest rural economists, That the expense of keeping Spanish and his Majesty, with a patriotism sheep in winter had proved to be no well becoming royalty, sat the first way superior to that of keeping Eng example of a large importation of lish-That no loss resulted in the arSpanish sheep. ticle of mutton, from the smallness This improvement of clothing wool, of the Merino carcase, on account of by the introduction of Spanish Sheep, the greater number of individuals has been successfully practised through which an acre of land would main a considerable period of time, by va- tain-and, That the Spanish mutton rious nations on the continent; and it was the best in the world, and would isa curious although usual coincidence, bring the highest price at market. that the dealers and manufacturers in These arguments were ultimately each and all of those countries, seemed backed by that unanswerable species to vie with each other, who should of logic, from which there can be no most effectually oppose and counter- appeal-actual proof.
act a measure calculated to insure the Anglo-Merino wool, which had home growth of their staple raw ma- been so long and so industriously deterials, and to relieve them from the preciated, now held up its head in the uncertain dependance on foreign sup- market, and was eagerly bought up plies! But, excluding prejudice and at a fair advance of price. The cloth the force of habit from the question, made both from the pure_Angloimmediate and partial gain, not re- Merino wool, and that of the Ryeland mote, general, or national benefit, and South Down crosses, from the are the objects of traders, who seldom flocks of his Majesty, Lord Somerdesire to see their commodities either ville, and Dr. Parry, was found to be too plentiful or at too low a price; of a beautiful fabric, and fit for every and, to a certain extent, generally purpose of durability or shew and profit in proportion to the increase of Lord Somerville proved, in authentic details, laid before the Bath Society, The controversy was maintained in that in his ordinary routine of sheep this country with considerable warmth, husbandry in the West, the produce and several pamphlets were published by Spanish rams of his English ewes, by the wool importers and manufac- chiefly Ryeland, South Down, and turers, which were satisfactorily an- Mendip,was even superior in acreable swered in the writings of Dr. Parry return of mutton, to that which he and Lord Somerville. The manutac- had been previously accustomed to turers asserted, "That the wool of make upon the same land from EngSpanish sheep invariably degenerated lish stock alone, the new Leicester on a foreign soil-That its fine quality and the Bampton, or large longdepended on certain annual journeys, woolled sheep of the West. For these which the Merino sheep were ac- curious details, so highly interestcustomed to travel in Spain, a plan of ing to every British farmer, we refer management impracticable in this the reader to Lord Somerville's late Country-That the winter care of those publication, intitled, "Facts and obsheep would be too expensive-and, servations relative to sheep, wools, That could we succeed in preserving ploughs, and oxen." In consequence the genuine quality of the wool, a of such unequivocal proofs of success,
the Spanish cross has been since gra- from which erroneous conclusions are dually finding its way into most parts drawn. Another, and perhaps more of England, where fine-woolled sheep universal cause, is the poor keep alare kept; and the only wonder now lowed to oxen, whence double the is, that the eyes of our flock-masters number of them is required for lashould not have been earlier opened bour. Lord Somerville's oxen, alto so speedy and obvious an advan- though not allowed corn of any kind, tage. In various instances, the first do an equal quantity of labour, both Cross of the Spanish ram upon English in the field and upon the road, beast ewas has nearly doubled both the for beast, with the best farm horses; quantity and price of the wool of a and at seven or eight years old, their Hock. Lord Somerville states in his period of labour being complete, are book, that he had not sold any of his made fat and sold at the best price. pure Merino wool for less than one Some very interesting particulars, guinea per flecce. It is to be expect- well worthy the attention of all farmers ed, and indeed desired, that the in- from this nobleman's account of oxcreasing quantity of these famous labour for the year 1804, may be sheep will reduce the price of them found in Mr. Lawrence's General and their wool, unless such a ten- Treatise on Cattle. A most importdency should be counteracted by the ant example is there held up to the policy of the French Emperor, who country. has lately prohibited the exportation It would be manifest injustice to of fine wool to this country from any the humanity of Lord Somerville's part of the continent within the reach character, to pass unnoticed his streof his gigantic influence. An occur- nuous and persevering, although unrence which gives a sort of propheti- successful, attempts to relieve these cal complexion to the arguments used poor animals from those unnecessary some years since by Lord Somerville, sufferings they are made to undergo in his system of the Board of Agri- in the last stage of their useful existculture, and which surely must en- ence. He had witnessed, in Portugal, hance, in every one's opinion, the im- the easy and expeditious method of portance of naturalizing to our soil depriving them of life, called laying, the Merino sheep. performed by passing a knife through The substitution of oxen for horses, the spinal marrow in the nape of the as beasts of labour, in the culture of neck, cn which the unconscious anithe soil, has been invariably another mal falls down instantaneously, sensegreat object with Lord Somerville, less and lifeless. It is a very ancient whose native county and the adjoin- practice, and very general upon the ing one of Devonshire, produce the continent. It is most expeditious also, speediest and most appropriate cattle and is surprising in what a short space for that purpose. His Lordship seems of time a skilful operator will lay, to to have received a strong confirmation everlasting rest, a score of oxen placed of his judgment in this matter, by the in a row. The miseries of apprehenpractice of Portugal; where the oxen sion and reality which those unoffendare of an excellent kind, and perform ing creatures suffer at the slaughterexclusively all the labour of slow house, from the uncertain and repeated draught. He even attributes, in his blows of the pole-axe, need but be last-mentioned publication, the so mentioned. Lord Somerville put himfrequently recurring scarcity of bread- self to the expense of bringing up a corn to the immense and useless num- man from the West, at his annual ber of cart horses, kept for the pur- cattle show, to lay the prize oxen, pose of farm-labour in this country. and to instruct any persons in the art, The disuse of ox-labour in this coun- who were willing to practise it; but try, within the last half century, is the bravery and gallantry of the exprobably to be referred to the general ploit of knocking down a defenceless great improvement of cart horses, and ox, securely bound, far outweighed to the paucity of those breeds of oxen the sense of humanity in the breasts which are adapted to the purposes of of butchers!-and a continuance of draught, and to trials being frequently this savage practice is held necessary, made of the heavy and slow breeds, as one of the demonstrations of our