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(Continued from Page 105.)

The month before last we cast a few rapid glances over these large and fertile, but almost untrodden, plains which stretch around us, in all directions, farther than the eye can reach, and to which even imagination can assign no definite bounds. This month we propose to examine some small patches that have already been cleared, and fenced, and cultivated, and to collect a few specimens of the fruit that they have yielded.

Decidedly the best Australian novel that we have met with is “Clara Morison,” the work (as we learn from the preface, written by some friend in England, where the book was published) of a young lady who, for many years, has resided in South Australia, in which colony the story is laid. Considered entirely apart from its Australian scenery and coloring, Clara Morison would be a book deserving careful criticism and much praise. It stands, we think, quite alone among all Australian stories yet published, in that it is free from the defect of being a book of travels in disguise. It is not written exclusively for distant readers, and


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as a means of giving lazy people an idea of what they call “life in Australia.” It is not a work of mere description, but a work of art. The novel is no more Australian than results from the fact that the author, having been long resident in Australia, having a gift for novel writing and writing about what she knew best, unavoidably wrote an Australian novel. But the wish to illustrate local peculiarities has had very small sway over the mind of the author of Clara Morison. She has merely illustrated Australian life insensibly in the process of illustrating human life. Paul de Kock describes Parisian life because he writes novels and is a Parisian. Dickens describes London life because he writes novels and is a Londoner. The local coloring in each case is the accident — the pourtrayal of human life and interest being the essential. In the same way the Australianism of Clara Morison is not obtruded. The story is thoroughly Australian, but at the same time is not a deliberate attempt to describe the peculiar “manners and customs” of the Australians. The points of resemblance are more numerous than the points of difference between the inhabitants of various countries, and it is therefore destructive to the completeness of any picture of human life to give great and obvious prominence to mere local peculiarities. If any of us, who have lived in this country for some years, pass in review our memories of what we have done, undergone, and witnessed, we shall find that, only occasionally — not every day and all day long — have we been encountering either persons or circumstances strikingly and distinctively Australian. Such persons and circumstances are, indeed, sufficiently numerous to give a description of life in Australia a special character, but the specialities should no more be obtruded than in a picture of Australian scenery, where the artist has to paint the outlines of cloud, and hill, and plain, and wood, and water, and to obey the laws of perspective, which hold good equally all over the world. It is by a judicious regard to tints — by a few artistic touches about the foliage and so forth, that the distinctive Australianism of the landscape is conveyed. If Australian characteristics are too abundant — if blackfellows, kangaroos, emus, stringy barks, gums, and wattles, and any quantity of other things illustrative of the ethnology, zoology, and botany, of the country are crowded together, a greater amount of detailed information may be conveyed upon a given number of square inches of canvass than would otherwise be possible, but the picture loses character proportionately as a work of art.

We remember to have seen, many years ago, a print of “organic remains restored,” in which earth, air, and water were crowded with all kinds of flying dragons, and slimy monsters, and antediluvian nondescripts, with necks as long as their names. “The world must have been very full of life in those days,” was the reflection of our ingenuous youth; for we mistook the artist's design, which was not to shew how the earth looked before the flood, but what kind of creatures then lived. He treated the subject with an eye to science, not art. Had he wanted to make a good picture of the antediluvian world, he would have foregone to crowd it with creatures, and perhaps one long neck upreared from the waters of some vast and desolate swamp, and a few enormous tree ferns, would have sufficed to convey to the mind a vivid conception of what sort of a place this globe would have been to live upon in those times. Some stories written deliberately to illustrate national habits remind us, by the unnatural


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crowding together of local peculiarities, of that engraving of organic remains restored.

We have dwelt at such length upon this matter, because the fault we point out is one into which the writers of Australian fictions, for many years to come are peculiarly likely to fall, and because it would be fatal to the claims of any story to rank in that higher class of literature, for the possible cultivation of which upon Australian soil we have been contending. From the fault in question Clara Morison is almost entirely exempt. The writer took too vital an interest in the fictitious personages she had created, in the development of their characters, in the furtherance of their fate, and in their mutual relations, to let the grand aims of fiction be subordinated to the desire of working up Australian peculiarities for the information of distant readers.

Clara Morison, indeed, deals with a time and place so peculiar that it was only necessary for the author to put her people down then and there, and to let them play their parts easily and naturally among the circumstances by which they were surrounded, to ensure the result being a thoroughly and unmistakeably (but not obtrusively) Australian novel.

South Australia, at the time when the Victorian gold fields “broke out,” as the common phrase runs, presented a most remarkable social aspect, well deserving to be recorded, and which has, we think, been put properly upon record only in the pages of Clara Morison. There is something very strange, and strangely alarming too, about the spectacle of a whole population packing up and going away. The men ran from South Australia in 1851 as the sand runs through an hour-glass, and the spectator, watching the rate at which they poured out, regarded absolute emptiness as a necessary consequence immediately to be expected. So far as the men were concerned, indeed, this result almost ensued, and in the midst of that sudden and tremendous social change very few people remained cool enough to feel secure that the ebbing tide would ever flow again. A man who owns fifty thousand pounds worth of land upon the Toorak road fancies he is rich for the rest of his life, and may he ever so think; but if he suddenly found the colony emptying — heard nothing on any side but a panic-stricken cry of ruin! ruin! ruin! to all who remained — saw his friends, his clerks, his workmen, everybody hurrying off as from a plague-stricken place — found that he could not sell for two-pence what he thought to be worth a pound — and the whole social structure, which he had accustomed himself to think immutable, breaking up like a wrecked ship among rocks and breakers, he would think himself surrounded by circumstances note worthy, to say the least of them.

Clara Morison is a young orphan lady, shipped out from the land o' cakes by an eminently respectable uncle, who thinks she may do very well in Adelaide, and is still more definitely persuaded that he can do very well without the cost of her maintenance in the modern Athens. So, with a letter of introduction, a Scotch blessing, and a ten pound note, he ships her off, to sink or swim, with a languid hope that she may swim rather than sink, but considerably preferring that she should sink at a distance than continue swimming longer in the Scottish waters. The description of the voyage out is not one of the best parts of the book, for poor Clara falls into very vulgar company, and the writer of the account seems to have been a


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little infected by the nature of the scenes and people described. This small episode in the story is, indeed, so far tinged with vulgarity that Mrs. Trollope (in some of her most refined moods) might almost have written it. There is one good point to be noticed in it, however. The few people introduced to us upon the waters are genuine people, with distinct outlines, though themselves common-place and vulgar; we forget them (thankfully) so soon as they are out of sight, but, during the few minutes for which we have to endure them, Mr. Renton, Mr. Macnab, and Miss Waterstone are as distinct and disagreeable as they would be in real life. But one can read contentedly for four minutes of people that it would be horrible torture to be bored with for four months.

The episodical character of this part of the book is, we think, in some respects, a distinct (though, perhaps, accidental) merit. Hundreds of our readers have experienced how, for ninety days or so, the world contracts within the wooden walls that hem us in during the “passage out,” and how, when Australian life fairly begins, those whom we have lived with and quarrelled, and thought so much about, and hated with such preposterous ardour, and who have for a few months so filled the foreground of our stage, pass utterly out of sight. Even in this unprepossessing portion of “Clara Morison” we have indications of the writer's affluence in “characters.” The book is crowded with people, but even the supernumeraries, who appear upon the stage and pass off again in the course of the play, possess distinct individualities.

On arriving in Adelaide, Clara finds that her consignee has lost his wife, and he surmises that the respectable Mr. Morison, of Edinburgh, had heard of this bereavement, and had exported Clara expressly to supply the place of the late Mrs. Campbell. Fortunately for Clara's peace of mind, she remains ignorant of this conjecture, and betakes herself to a boarding house while looking for (of course, alas! poor women!) a governess's situation. In the boarding house Clara and ourselves make the acquaintance of many persons, including the hero — one Mr. Reginald an up-country squatter, who begins talking modern literature, and displaying a highly cultivated mind with a promptitude and pertinacity frightful to contemplate. Clara, however, regarded Mr. Reginald in a more favorable light than we did on first making his acquaintance, insomuch that an hour's vigorous and sustained battery of references to Carlyle, Thackeray, Dickens, Scott, Byron, and others, made a breach in her heart which never closes again till the end of the book, when the ordinary cure for love, matrimony, is administered with, we trust, satisfactory results. There is a great deal to be gone through in the mean time, however, for Mr. Reginald is under engagement to Miss Julia Marston, in England; a discovery which poor Clara makes coincidently with this other, that Mr. Reginald habitually buttons up in his waistcoat all that would make life worth having. Mr. Reginald's sufferings are also acute; for his passion for the absent Julia has subsided a good deal in the course of many years' colonial residence, which she obstinately refuses to share, insisting (without any considerations founded on the price of wool and “the disease called scab in sheep”) upon his coming home and living en grand Seigneur. Still, he adheres to his contract until Julia bestows upon him what is sometimes the greatest favor which it is in the power of woman to confer upon man — by jilting him.




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Though Mr. Reginald's affections may alone be worth living for, something more substantial is necessary to live on while they are being got ready, and Clara begins the weary task of many lives — the search for suitable work, and finds none. She is not possessed of any considerable store of young lady's accomplishments, and the more sterling kinds of knowledge are in this age and generation lamentably unsaleable when packed up in petticoats. She had not, indeed, entirely neglected “the first duty of woman — that of being pretty,” but, as a countervailing disadvantage, she possessed earnest convictions, depth of feeling, and powers of observation and reflection; qualities more or less incompatible with the prevailing English and Turkish ideas of perfect womanhood. Partly on this account, probably, Clara failed to get a governess's situation, and, the ten pound manifestation of Scotch avuncular generosity being exhausted, she was compelled to go to Service as maid-of-all-work to one Mrs. Bantam, a harmless and common-place lady, who, during some months' intercourse, fails to perceive anything remarkable about her domestic. Poetical justice towards Mrs. Bantam is partially satisfied, however, inasmuch as she is victimised by a horrible and strong-minded Miss Withering (a consignment from home, like Clara), who knows the art of sticking-up people and robbing them of hospitality. To eject this lady from the premises is an object which Mrs. Bantam only accomplishes by the exercise of much domestic scheming and diplomacy. Among other visitors to Mrs. Bantam's are Miss Minnie Hodges, a bright, pleasant, colonial young lady, with a great deal of South Australian patriotism, and who fights fierce battles with Miss Withering and Mr. Reginald, who is very discreet, and endures being waited on by the object of his affections with perfect philosophy, and without betraying anybody.

It is not till after the gold discoveries, and in the midst of the consequent social convulsions, that Clara falls in with some cousins — Miss Elliotts, whose brothers have gone off to dig, and with whom she remains some time. The domestic pictures in this part of the book are very pleasant indeed. The three cousins are all young ladies with characters, and (the British and Turkish theory to the contrary nothwithstanding) are very likeable persons, well described, and natural, without being common place. Female writers, like the author of Clara Morison, have an advantage in not being afflicted by the necessity, under which most male writers seem to labor, of making all their agreeable feminine characters fit to be fallen in love with by anybody at a moment's notice, like the fascinating young ladies in Mr. Leech's social sketches. It is while Clara remains with the Elliotts that the narrative becomes most characteristically Australian. For, attached to the central thread of story that we have referred to with perhaps a somewhat too disrespectful mirthfulness, there are numberless little fibres leading in all directions, and by aid of these, while following the main story, we almost insensibly imbibe conceptions of the state of society which was peculiar to the time and place.

Clara does not permanently remain with the Elliotts, however, for she has an unorthodox aversion to dependent inutility, and she and her cousins are all sinfully poor together, and, moreover, the fraternal digging remains inadequately rewarded. So she goes into the bush as a companion to Mrs. Beaufort, a lady in failing health, who — but we cannot stop to introduce to


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our readers one in a dozen of the people Clara, encounters. Suffice it that poor Mrs. Beaufort's most mistaken idol worship, and the execrable idol whom she believes in, are alike well described, and that there is a great deal of true pathos about the closing scenes of her life.

We had intended to make some extracts from the pages of Clara Morison, but various considerations, of which that relating to space is the chief, induce us to refrain. Moreover, justice would scarcely be done to the book if it were judged by a few isolated passages. The author has not much of that humorous faculty which produces quaint fancies, descriptions, and forms of expression; nor has she such command over “the sacred source of sympathetic tears” as enables the master spirits of fiction to touch the heart by a few exquisite lines. But we believe that most readers who turn to the book itself, provided they can overcome some disagreeable impressions produced in the earlier pages, and the description of the voyage, and by the abruptness of Mr. Reginald's literary love making —

“Was ever woman in such humor wooed —
Was ever woman in such humor won? —

will be inclined to read it to the end. The personages are not mere wooden figures pulled about by perceptible wires, but, with few exceptions, are full of life and truth. The circumstances which control their fates are sustained and seem to follow one another like the events of real life in natural sequence. The private story adjusts itself properly and easily to the public history of the time. The production of this work was no mere mechanical operation; still less was the tale a toy in the hands of the writer. Her whole soul must have been given to it with conscientious earnestness, and she must have had her reward in the enrichment of her world with a group of personages, whom, though the offspring of her own imagination, she undoubtedly and devoutly “believed in” herself, as in a reality.

A tale of a very different kind is “Martin Beck, or the Australian Settler,” by A. Harris. Mr. Harris, long before the publication of Martin Beck, was very favorably known as the author of a little book upon Australia, called “Settlers and Convicts,” which appeared about ten years ago in Knight's series of weekly volumes. Mr. Harris was, however, certainly more at home in dealing with fact than with fiction, and Martin Beck, though full of very graphic descriptions of bush life and operations, possesses comparatively little merit as a novel. The story mainly concerns the fortunes of a Lieutenant Bracton and his family, settlers on the Murrumbidgee, and takes its name from their American negro overseer, who is an admirable Crichton as to skill in all kinds of bush work, but, unfortunately, addicted to cattle stealing and vengeance, both which propensities he indulges to such an extent as to compel him to fly and take to bushranging. At length he gets shot by the son of his old employer, and the redundant personages being killed out of the way — the Bracton affairs prosperous — and divers young couples joined together in holy matrimony — the story is brought to an orthodox conclusion. The book is full of incident and adventure — adventures with wild bullocks, adventures with wild blacks, adventures with bushrangers, adventures on land, and adventures on water.

There are many good descriptions of cattle mustering, and cattle branding,


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and stockyard making; and the way flocks get scabbed, and drays bogged, and how cattle and sheep are stolen both by black and white practitioners. The story, in fact, is a vehicle for such descriptions; and, though Mr. Harris has perceived the obligation that rests upon the novel writer to delineate characters and to introduce the love-making element into his composition, we do not think he has been very successful in these respects. The heroines are, no doubt, very angelic beings; for, Mr. Harris, who knows them much better than we do, assures us of the fact: and we have already learned, in many hundred novels, what a blessing it is to an old gentleman to have two beautiful girls in his family, both charming and pure minded, but one calm and the other lively. Between the characters of amiable young ladies this is the stock distinction recognised among legions of novelists. We must not overlook, either, Rachel, the wonderful young Jewess, daughter to an old Israelite storekeeper on the Murrumbidgee, where she has learned to talk about the wrongs of her people, after the style of Rebecca, daughter of lsaac of York, and where she has expanded into such marvellous loveliness that for it this pen can write no word adequately expressive. Mary Kable also demands our admiration, particularly as she is a “daughter of the soil;” and it is delightful to know that she, too, was the sunshine of the house she dwelt in. The young men to marry all these young women are Willoughby Bracton, gentleman and whaler; Reuben Kable, cornstalk, and brother to Mary; Mr. Henley, police magistrate; and Charles Bracton, a young medical practitioner, who emigrates just in time to whip up the beautiful Jewess, she having been, it seems, a Christian at heart all along, and no theological difficulties therefore intervening. It is perfectly delightful to find that, in so small a circle, not merely has the adjustment in the number of the sexes been so complete, but that the matrimonial requirements as to age, disposition, &c., of every body are all supplied to a nicety, and nothing over. The dialogue of the book, except perhaps some of the conversations between Martin Beck and his cattle-stealing accomplices, is very undramatic. The merit altogether lies in the vivid description given of the externals of Australian bush life. One drawback to the book arises from the fact that it was written after many years' absence from the scenes described. It treats entirely of Australia before the flood, and, being in effect a book of information, loses much of its value by describing things as they were many years ago rather than as they are now. It is not without value, however, as a graphic record of how things were managed some years ago in New South Wales, when convictism was rife, and the assignment system in full operation.

Rowcroft's “Tales of the Colonies,” a description of life in Van Diemen's Land many years ago, certainly long bore the palm among Australian stories. Though avowedly designed to give intending emigrants information — which is now in a great measure out of date — and though many artistic considerations have been sacrificed to that design, it is a very vigorously written book, full of life and adventure, with many interesting scenes, bold sketches of character, and dashes of humor, about it. Perhaps it received rather more attention than it deserved when it first made its appearance a dozen years ago, for at that time bushrangers and wild Australian cattle were alike unfamiliar to the reading world of London. The prevailing ignorance of affairs at this side of the


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globe was startlingly great at the other, considering that thence came the ukases of Downing street; and Mr. Rowcroft's clever book took people by surprise. Society was agitated to find that Van Dieman's Land was really an inhabited island, most people having previously only considered it “a place on the map.” Used-up readers discovered a new emotion as they read bush stories, colored up to the highest tints compatible with truth, and other people found other sources of interest in the “Tales of the Colonies.” Though we cannot read accounts of cattle branding, and that kind of thing, year after year, in successive works, with any great degree of interest, the field which Mr. Rowcroft opened up was so entirely new, and he performed the duties of a describer of external things so well, that it would have been unreasonable to complain much because his book did not possess the dramatic merits of a first-class fiction. Mr. Rowcroft's enterprise in breaking up new ground was duly rewarded. His book had gone through six large editions in 1850, and we know not how many more have been published since.

In the “Tales of the Colonies” Mr. Rowcroft alternately assumes and ignores dramatic responsibilities just as circumstances render expedient. If it becomes convenient to explain or to argue out of the mouth of one of the personages of the story, that personage's powers of oratory rise with the occasion in a most marvellous way, and he speaks off half a page or a page of well constructed sentences with an accuracy and fluency that the best debater of “the ninety” might envy, and which his previous manifestations of conversational power by no means led us to expect. It would not be fair to apply the laws of dramatic criticism very rigorously to a work which, though in the novel form, purports to have for its chief object the supply of a kind of emigrants' hand-book — now, of course, much injured as a practical guide by the changes years have made. A book setting forth such modest pretensions disarms censure, and compels gratitude for the performance of so much more than the preface promises. It is a very much better novel than the avowed scheme of its construction would have justified us in expecting, and it is only because its own merit has forced for it an entrance into a rank of literature to which it does not altogether properly belong, that we allude to its dramatic imperfections. Some of the characters, however, are really good. Crab, for instance, though a bit of a caricature, is an excellently sustained personification of inveterate grumbling, and he is, moreover, the type of a class by no means uncommon in this part of the world — men who are continually fattening on the fruits they as continually condemn.

Mr. Rowcroft has written another story, whereof the scene is partly laid in these colonies: “The Emigrant in search of a Colony;” but in this, even more than in his previous work, the dramatic purpose is subordinated to the design of giving specific information upon all sorts of subjects interesting to emigrants.

The hero — who, by the way, is in such constant danger of being hanged (now by Lynch law administrators in the slave States, then by pirates at sea, and anon on board a British man of war on suspicion of piracy) that in the end he must have lost all confidence in the powers of hemp — is sent “scuttling” over the world to give information about the different emigration fields to his readers, and to try and clear up for his own satisfaction the


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mysterious circumstances of his parentage. On one occasion when he is going to be hanged — we forget what for that time — a clergyman turns up full of valuable recollections, and — but we will not spoil the interest of possible readers by saying what happens. As a story the book is full of exaggeration and absurdity. For example, near the beginning we have a scene, in the house of Captain Sullivan, intended to illustrate the miseries of keeping up appearances on small means in England, and the tax collectors keep dropping in as fast as they can knock, exactly as they would under similar circumstances in a broad farce at the Adelphi. However, let us not grumble at the book. It is something to get the medicine of fact in an agreeable medium, and although a high-art confectioner may scorn the notion of degrading jelly into the mere vehicle of calomel powders, yet utilitarian philosophy has much to say in support of that subordination of the beautiful to the useful. Moreover, the jelly in which Mr. Rowcroft gives us the medicine above alluded to, though much better than that ordinarily used for such purposes, is hardly good enough to be consumed as a luxury upon its own merits, and is therefore appropriately bestowed where it is.

Some very good Australian sketches have appeared occasionally in the Household Words, and we particularly recommend for perusal two papers entitled, respectively, “The Old Squatter” and “The New Squatter.”

In the remote antiquity of sixteen or eighteen years ago, long Tom Scott, the “ Old Squatter,” came over from Van Dieman's Land, and pushed up into the interior, fighting manfully against difficulties and dangers, and leading a hard, rough life for many years; a true rugged pioneer of civilization. Little thought Long Tom Scott that a worse enemy than blacks or drought, or scab itself — the “New Squatter,” destined eventually to take possession of all Tom's territory and flocks and herds, to reap all the harvest of Tom's sowings, to gather all the fair fruit that Tom's toil and perseverance had caused to grow — was standing “douce” and snug in a white apron behind a grocer's counter in Glasgow, even at the time when Tom first pushed up into the interior. Yet so it was; for some years previously little Davy McLeod, ragged callant, out of pure mischief, spattered some dirty water over a decent ballie body, and the ballie, having first caught and cuffed the little vagabond, benevolently tells him that some better employment than dirtying honest people's clothes shall be found for him. So Davy becomes supernumerary boy in the ballie's shop, and works himself up to the dignity of the white apron of the regularly constituted assistant; and he has quiet specs of his own, and does all things prudently, and, finally, with a snug little capital, comes out to Melbourne, and goes cautiously into business, and gradually increases it, and becomes a capitalist, and makes advances (douce good-natured man) to divers of his customers, and gradually draws many persons into his net. Of course, commercial crises overtake the colony, and Davy has to bewail his awfu' losses; but somehow or another, when the storm has blown over, it always turns out that during the panic more property has been sacrificed to him than by him, and so douce Davy swells into a colonial magnate. He is now “The New Squatter;” for many stations and flocks have fallen into his hands in satisfaction of long arrears of debt — the douce honest man knowing well how to put the screw on at the right time, when a debt paid in kind will be paid twice over at least — and one fine day he takes it into his head that


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a trip into the bush would do him good, and also give him an opportunity for the first time of seeing his nibbling flocks and his “cattle upon a thousand hills.” Of course, it need not be told that poor Tom Scott's run has been one of douce Davy's peaceable and easy conquests. On that run the old and new squatter casually meet — the ruined man, gaunt and grisly with toiling and fighting for years to break in the wilderness for the other's enjoyment — douce Davy, sleek and fat, and filled with the comfortable sense of large possessions. Tom gives Davy a piece of his mind, accompanied with such vigourous gesticulation as make that amiable gentlemen shiver down to the tips of his toes, and then strides away into the bush, and we know him no more. As for douce Davy, we presume he returns to Melbourne to urge his claims to compensation as a much-wronged “pioneer of civilization.”

These capital sketches are evidently the work of two hands. The stories have been written in Australia by some one, knowing the place well, but not brilliant as a writer, and some very first class writer, probably Dickens himself, has breathed into them the breath of genius. In some places phrases occur that could not have been written by any one who had ever been in Australia, but which are wonderfully conducive to literary effect, and in others we can perceive unmistakeable traces of local knowledge. The polishing process is, however, so skilfuly performed, and the general effect is so good, that it is only by close observation that we are enabled here and there to detect the tool marks.

We might easily lengthen out this paper by references to other Australian stories that have appeared in various fugitive shapes, but we content ourselves with having briefly called attention to a few of the best products of these fiction fields that have yet been published. We believe it is found among farmers generally that nothing stimulates agriculture more than the exhibition of good specimens of agricultural produce, and we hope like benefit may be produced by like means with respect to cultivation of a less material kind.

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