Lark Rise

Excepting the two or three men who frequented the inn in the evening, the villagers seldom visited the hamlet, which to them represented the outer wilds, beyond the bounds of civilisation. The hamlet people, on the other hand, knew the road between the two places by heart, for the church and the school and the farmhouse which was the men's working head-quarters were all in the village. The hamlet had only the inn.

They still spoke the dialect, in which the vowels were not only broadened, but in many words doubled. 'Boy' was 'boo-oy', 'coal', 'coo-al', 'pail', 'pay-ull', and so on. In other words, syllables were slurred, and words were run together, as 'brenbu'er' for bread and butter. They had hundreds of proverbs and sayings and their talk was stiff with simile. Nothing was simply hot, cold, or coloured; it was 'as hot as hell', 'as cold as ice', 'as green as grass', or 'as yellow as a guinea'. A botched-up job done with insufficient materials was 'like Dick's hat-band that went half-way round and tucked'; to try to persuade or encourage one who did not respond was 'putting a poultice on a wooden leg'. To be nervy was to be 'like a cat on hot bricks'; to be angry, 'mad as a bull'; or any one might be 'poor as a rat', 'sick as a dog', 'hoarse as a crow', 'as ugly as sin', 'full of the milk of human kindness', or 'stinking with pride'. A temperamental person was said to be 'one o' them as is either up on the roof or down the well'.

Background

Lark Rise by Flora Thompson was first published in 1939. It is part of a trilogy about three closely related Oxfordshire communities - a hamlet, the nearby village and a small market town. The stories are based on Thompson's experiences during childhood and youth, and record the daily lives of people living in a rural community.

In this excerpt Flora Thompson attempts to capture the dialect used in a small village in Oxfordshire, including its pronunciation and idioms.

Glossary

poultice a damp mixture of healing plants or flour held in place over a wound by a cloth

pail bucket

a guinea twenty-one shillings (one pound and five pence)

Taken from: Lark Rise to Candleford: a trilogy
Author / Creator: Flora Thompson
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date: 1945
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 10861.b.21