05 Jan 2013

“The Taxing Thing”

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Hurstbourne Tarrant (or Uphusband),
Monday, 7th November 1825.

We came through a village called Woodcote, and another called Binley. I never saw any inhabited places more recluse than these. Yet into these the all-searching eye of the taxing Thing reaches. Its Exciseman can tell it what is doing even in the little odd corner of Binley; for even there I saw, over the door of a place, not half so good as the place in which my fowls roost, “Licensed to deal in tea and tobacco.” Poor, half-starved wretches of Binley! The hand of taxation, the collection for the sinecures and pensions, must fix its nails even in them, who really appeared too miserable to be called by the name of people. Yet there was one whom the taxing Thing had licensed (good God! licensed!) to serve out cat-lap to these wretched creatures!

– William Cobbett, Rural Rides (1830).

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