Page:A book of the west; being an introduction to Devon and Cornwall.djvu/46

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22
THE WESTERN FOLK

around as she seeks for words, perhaps completing her unfinished sentence by a snap of the fingers. The Cornish woman—at all events while she is young and not submerged by the drudgery of life — exhibits a certain delightful volubility and effervescence. In this respect she has some affinity with the bewitching and distracting heroines of Thomas Hardy's novels, doubtless because the Wessex folk of the South Coast are akin to the Cornish. The Cornish girl is inconsistent without hypocrisy; she is not ashamed of work, but she is very fond of jaunts, and on such occasions she dresses herself, it would be rash to say with more zeal than the Anglo-Saxon maiden, but usually with more success. She is an assiduous chapel-goer, equally assiduous in flirtations when chapel is over. The pretty Sunday-school teacher and leader of the local Band of Hope cheerfully confesses as she drinks off the glass of claret you offer her that she is but a poor teetotaller. The Cornish woman will sometimes have a baby before she is legally married; it is only an old custom of the county, though less deeply rooted than the corresponding custom in Wales."[1]


The Cornish are, like the Welsh, intensely religious, but according to their idea religion is emotionalism and has hardly enough to do with morality.

"So Mr. So-and-So is dead," in reference to a local preacher. "I fear he led a very loose life."

"Ah! perhaps so, but he was a sweet Christian."


Here is something illustrative at once of West Country religion and dialect. I quote from an amusing paper on the "Recollections of a Parish Worker" in the Cornish Magazine (1898):—

"'How do you like the vicar?' I asked. 'Oh, he's a lovely man,' she answered, 'and a 'ansome praicher—

  1. The New Century Review, April, 1897.