Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
The Crown Grub
By William Cobbett (17631835)
From Cobbets Corn
I WAS once going by the house of a Quaker in Long Island, and drove up to it for the purpose of getting entertainment for man and horses. After introductory matter, I said, How is your corn? which is the common question in that country. He shook his head, and said, Now, William Cobbett, can thee, that knows so many things, tell how to destroy the Crown grub? Ah, said I, that devil has mastered me all my lifetime. Your only remedy is patience, or absolutely going with a candle and lantern, and watching every plant all night long. After breakfast he took me into his field, which was in fact an orchard, with trees widely planted in it, and which, according to the custom of the country, had been ploughed up at the fourth or fifth year, for the double purpose of benefiting the trees and obtaining a crop of corn. It was fine land, some of the best in the whole island, on the side of one of the little inlets from the east river. The sight was truly distressing. The cursed creatures (saving their right of nature) had cut off the corn, when it was two inches and a half or three inches high, hill after hill, in many places for ten hills together. The owner had been preparing himself for beating all his neighbours in this prime crop, and he saw all his hopes blasted from this miserable cause. I went and raked round some of the hills with my finger, and we found a dozen grubs together in some places, lying under the clods, contemplating the pleasures of the feast of the next evening or night. In a country where numerous hands could have been obtained at a moderate expense, the crop might have been saved to a considerable extent. Such means were not at command here; and when I saw my friend in the fall of the year, I found that he had not had five bushels upon an acre, where he ought to have had fifty at least.