The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife is a bit of a conundrum, as strictly speaking it’s not what most of us would think a diary would be. Supposedly it was written in 1796-1797 by Anne Hughes who lived in a remote country farmhouse near Chepstow, Monmouthshire. However the existence of the diary seems only to have come about because a young girl who was born in 1884 and was called Jeanne Keyte met an elderly woman who told her about her mother – Anne Hughes who had kept a diary. The old lady read to Jeanne from a thin book containing spidery writing, and also told her lots of stories about her mother Anne Hughes, and Jeanne wrote them all down so that she could put them in a book eventually. Michael Croucher who wrote the Foreword says, Certainly it should not stand as a historical text in the conventional sense, he views the diary as being more like a folk song.
However, it’s a really entertaining read. Anne Hughes led a very busy life as a farmer’s wife and if there was anyone in the neighbourhood in need, she took it upon herself to send them food and blankets, whatever she thought would make them more comfortable. She had to do it under cover though as her husband wasn’t so open-handed. There’s a lot of humour involved as her husband had a hot temper, but she was always able to defuse it by feeding him his favourite food or drink. She described him as being like a great baby – which he was.
There are a lot of hatches, matches and dispatches, scandals and cooking, including recipes if you’re that way inclined. Anne comes across as being a really lovely woman, even hoping that men who might have stolen some sheep won’t be caught as they would be hanged.
In the end it doesn’t really matter if a lot of the book is the result of embroidery by Jeanne, it’s an interesting and comfortable read, one of those books that you could dip into at any time and find something to amuse you.
I read this one for 20 Books of Summer 2022.