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VILLAGE LIFE. How it might be made more popular. As one who has spent many liappy years in village life, it would be unbecoming of me to condemn it, even though condemnation were deserved but experience enables one to point out the difficulties that exist, to diagnose, as it were, the prevalent diseases, and to sug- gest how the one may be removed and the t, others remedied. If villagers differ, it is only in degree. As a rule each man goes his own way, and excludes from his sympathy many of his neighbours to the end. The parson and the minister, and perhaps a few benevo- lent inhabitants, chiefly women, delight more or less in being useful to their fellow-creatures, but even among these angels of mercy, there is seldom either bond of union or sympathy, while the dividing line of either politics, social position, or religion stands in the way of the general good. There is. in a word, no combination of all ranks and all classes for seeming the greatest good to the greatest number. There is, however, no reason why village life should not be as perfect as the frail conduct of man can make it in this Wales of ours. In a Welsh village we find the trader and the mechanic- -blacksmith, wheelwright, and juiuor,—the farmer, the labourer, and the landowner. How seldom do we find among these peo- ple any combined effort—nay, any individual ettbrt, for the elevation of their neighbours, those who, it may be, are dependent upon them The busy farmer finds no time to assist in the improvement of village life nor is he a man to assume the role of a leader. He persuades himself that that is the duty of the squire and the parson. The trader takes a similar line, however keenly he may criticise the action oi those who make some attempt for betterment. The mechanic and the labourer wait to be led, if indeed they wait at all, for, those who patronise the alehouse excepted, the completion of a day's labour finds them ready for the sleep of the just. If I am any judge of the requirements of the hour, I believe that the regeneration of village life, upon which so much depends, will be the result of but one national step-- the sinking of class and the union of hearts, regardless ot rank or creed. The terrible diminution in our rural population bodes ill to the master spirit of the country. To make village life popular, therefore, is a duty which every patriot owes to his country and himself, and if for no other reason but the national good it were well if the squire were to descend from his pedestal and if the parson were to abandon the privilege of his position with the one object of meeting the people on equal terms and learning how, by ceasing to rule or to reign, they can command the love of those around them. After all it is better to stoop and be loved than to live the superior life and be feared. The patronage of the poor and the sick may gratify the pride Z, of the patron, but it sears his conscience. It may ensure gratitude but never love. Let those who are able-the superiors of the village—seek to comfort the aged and the sick, counsel the strong, and encourage youth to lead good lives and to yield only to the promptings of a healthy ambition, as man to man or woman to woman, without the exhibition of side or purseproud patronage and then, while helping the individual, they will simultaneously help in the elevation of a whole people. There are indeed few villages in which there is sufficient energy and capital, if both are rightly employed, to establish an institu tion as the source and centre of all good work, with its reading-room, its library, its games, its social gatherings, its technical instruction classes, its co-operative bank, its clothing and coal clubs, its bath and wash- house, and its occasional meetings for men and women, both led by those whose advantages in time and knowledge and whose willingness to make them one with the people fit them as counsellors and fellow- helpers of their brother-men. I have spoken of self-sacrifice, and such there must be not in one but in many cases if success is to be achieved. But what satis- faction is so great as that which results from the devotion of life to principle, of time and money for the benefit of those who are in need of both ? Success in such a cause means the co-operation of the rich with the poor, the learned with the ignorant, the leisured class with the labouring, the employer with the employed, and all with the young, those with characters to build and conduct to form. It is not for the amusements of a people that I plead, but for their moral and intel- lectual and, I would prefer to add, their spiritual education—the preparation of the young for their life-work, the encouragement of self-reliance, manliness, and truth, and the development of those principles which lie at the base of all forms of social success, by which I mean the power to live even on a labourer's wage in comfort and health. There are few villages in which there are no men of education capable of devoting occasional evenings to the instruction of the people in such matters as sanitation and hygiene or of imparting facts relating to the heavens above and the earth below. Already much has been done by the County Council technical instruction classes, but one or more such classes should be com- mon at the village institute, whether it be cookiug or dressmaking, carving or carpen- tering, or, on the other hand, the cultivation, on the basis of scientific teaching, of school garden plots or of quarter-acre allotments and here comes the help of the village school- master, who in the near future should be equipped with practical knowledge of soil and plant culture and thus enabled to take his part as a co-worker in village life. JAMES LONG. o.





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