John: William Cobbett had an American career in the 1790s, which is how he came across my radar screen. He is a lively writer, still readable today, which is not true of a lot of even great eighteenth-century essayists. But he was both a fickle and bigoted partisan, not beyond making things up out of anecdotal evidence, or none. I am not a demographer of rural Georgian England. Was Cobbett’s description true? Was Pitt to blame? Were the former owners of the decayed houses better or worse off elsewhere? Where was their elsewhere?