Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Air and Exercise
By William Cobbett (17631835)
From Rural Rides
DURING the whole of this ride, I have very rarely been abed after daylight; I have drunk neither wine nor spirits. I have eaten no vegetables, and only a very moderate quantity of meat; and it may be useful to my readers to know, that the riding of twenty miles was not so fatiguing to me at the end of my tour, as the riding of ten miles was, at the beginning of it. Some ill-natured fools will call this egotism. Why is it egotism? Getting upon a good strong horse, and riding about the country, has no merit in it; there is no conjuration in it; it requires neither talents nor virtues of any sort; but health is a very valuable thing; and, when a man has had the experience which I have had, in this instance, it is his duty to state to the world, and to his own countrymen and neighbours in particular, the happy effects of early rising, sobriety, abstinence, and a resolution to be active. It is his duty to do this; and it becomes imperatively his duty, when he has seen, in the course of his life, so many men, so many men of excellent hearts and of good talents, rendered prematurely old, cut off ten or twenty years before their time, by a want of that early rising, sobriety, abstinence, and activity, from which he himself has derived so much benefit, and such inexpressible pleasure. During this ride, I have been several times wet to the skin. At some times of my life, after having indulged for a long while in coddling myself up in the house, these soakings would have frightened me half out of my senses; but I care very little about them: I avoid getting wet if I can; but it is very seldom that rain, come when it would, has prevented me from performing the days journey that I had laid out beforehand. And this is a very good rule: stick to your intention, whether it be attended with inconveniences or not; to look upon yourself as bound to do it. In the whole of this ride, I have met with no one untoward circumstance, properly so called except the wounding of the back of my horse, which grieved me much more on his account than on my own.