Pastoral perfection or tormented toil? contrasting views of rural labour in the second half of the nineteenth century, in works by Richard Jefferies and John Linnell by Catherine Usher
This article considers and contrasts the representations of the life of the agricultural labourer in the second half of the nineteenth century by Richard Jefferies (1848-87), and John Linnell (1792-1882), one a writer and the other an artist. Linnell painted the labourers as happy and contented. Jefferies wrote of them as downtrodden, hungry and miserable. A comparison is made of passages from articles originally written by Jefferies for magazines and an image by Linnell, The Cornfield Cradle (1859). This article will argue that Jefferies was driven by a desire to improve the lot of the labourer and that Linnell was following accepted artistic and social conventions, while also being influenced by religious and commercial considerations.