Page:Studies of a Biographer 1.djvu/230

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STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

admired the English country gentleman as the active supporter and originator of all improvements. His French rival was a mere incubus, an effete 'survival.' In France, according to Young, half, if not two-thirds of the land was already in the hands of small proprietors. Peasants supplied the industry, and carried out what improvements there were. They illustrated his famous phrase, 'The magic of property turns sand to gold.' Meanwhile the great seigneurs do nothing; they receive quit-rents and enforce tallies and corvées, and all the oppressive incidents of feudal tenure. Young accordingly transfers to the peasantry the sympathy which in England he felt for the country gentleman. He did not object to the large proprietor as such; but to the proprietor, large or small, who did not do his duty by his property. He draws up an indictment against the French nobility, which is all the more impressive because it does not imply any preconceived political theories. At one moment he even approves of the French peasantry for seizing waste lands by force, and even wishes that the English peasantry were authorised to take similar steps. After all, waste land is the great evil of the world. But it is quite intelligible that from his