A contemporary glimpse of eighteenth century Cuckfield high life - in verse!

Updated: Sep 27, 2020


Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 06 February 1940


LIFE AT CUCKFIELD 170 YEARS AGO.

A “RHYMING EPISTLE” ON

THE SERGISON FAMILY.

In "Parks and Forests Sussex” (1885). W. S. Ellis, the author, states:-


The following Rhyming Epistle I communicated to the S.A.C. (Sussex Archaeological Collections] (xiv.. 266), through Mr. Lower, which, without any pretensions as a literary composition, gives an interesting idea of Sussex country life a century ago in connection with the Sergison family….. The Mrs. Mary Sergison, the writer of the letter (or as we should now say, “Miss”). was probably daughter of Thomas Sergison, Esq. Mrs. Prudence Sergison, the "Sister Prue” referred to, was buried at Cuckfield Jan. 4. 1762, and died unmarried. Her sister Mary married John Tomlinson, Esq. "Uncle Mich” was the brother of Thomas Sergison, who succeeded him on the estate. "Good Sir Russell*’ was probably Dr. Russell (a native of Lewes), resident physician at this time at Brighton. The "sister in London” must refer to Sarah, wife of Charles Langford.



A LETTER FROM MRS MARY SERGISON IN THE COUNTRY TO HER SISTER IN LONDON

While you, dear sister, fond of town.

Drive far the thought of coming down

And dress and visit Park and play.

And gall'ant your hours away.

Vouchsafe to hear in humble rhyme.

How we poor girls at home do spend our time.

The morning sister Prue with care

Devotes to family affairs—

Gives out her orders -calls for John-

Then reads and writes and works till one.

Meanwhile I thus my hours employ.

In healthy sports and manly joys;

I beat the drum or mount the back

Of never-tripping famous “Black” -

Halloo with Stephen to the hounds

And fill the Park with cheerful sounds.

Invited by the air and day.

To Slaugham now we take our way.

In pity view that ancient seat.

In ruins venerably great.

Arrived at Widows, tea we sup.

Enrich'd with cream - a cooling cup.

But uncle Mich, tho’ very sober.

Had got a pot of rare October.

I join with him and poz, I say,

Tis far before poor slip-slop tea!

Refreshment had, we mount again,

And travel o’er the forest plain.

The fearful rabbits scour with haste.

The nimble dogs pursue as fast.

Just at their cells secure their prey.

And bear it to their lord away.

Such exercise gives life anew,

Adds colour, health—and far surpasses

All the pale pleasures of your London lasses.

I guess ere now you smile and say,

“O, the dull, stupid country way!

What’s this to drawing room and hall

And Ranelagh and dear Vauxhall?”

Dear Madam, hold! Be not in passion.

You’ll find that we, too, are in the fashion -

For let me tell you sister Prue

Has had a rout as well as you;

A rout scarce seen by London fare—

We had to eat to drink—to spare

On ham and chicken too we dined;

Toasted your health in generous wine.

A Lord and Captain graced our board

(No fop nor sharper, on my word).

We’d ladies, too, of fame and worth

Whose beauty might adorn a court

A Chaplain, too, with due decorum.

At bottom plac’d, said grace before ’em.

We laugh’d and prattled, drank and played.

And cards amused till evening’s shade

A social walk passed time away

And cheerful chitchat closed the day

In short our hearts knew little care

We want but only one thing here—

If good Sir Russell but restore

Mama to health, we ask no more

The greatest best of blessings sent

All will be joy and sweet content.