Phoebe Griffiths, an American writer in the 19th century, commented that Sussex dialect had considerable similarities with the dialect of New England at the time. Some phrases were common to both, such as “you hadn’t ought to” or “you shouldn’t ought”
Other phrases that may appear to be Americanisms were widely used in Sussex dialect. Examples include the use of “the fall” for autumn,
“mad” for “angry,” “I guess,” and “I reckon”.
Significant numbers of Sussex people moved to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, hence the dialect connection.
Richard Lower, born in Alfriston in 1782, was a son of John Lower, who owned the barge The Good Intent, and was the first person to navigate the River Cuckmere from the sea to Longbridge.
Richard, finding that he was physically too weak to adopt his father’s calling, and having received a fair education, opened a school about 1803 in the parish of Chiddingly. From his childhood he was addicted to rhyming, much to his mother’s displeasure.
His best-known production was Tom Cladpole’s Jurney to Lunnon, written in pure Sussex doggerel, printed in 1830 as a sixpenny pamphlet.
It was followed in 1844 by Trip to Merricur, written all in rhyme and principally directed against slavery.
Here is a chunk of his Jurney To Lunnon. It’s worth the read:
Last Middlemus ‘member well, when harvest was all over;
Us cheps had hous’d up all de banes, an stack’d up all de clover.
I think, says I, I’ll take a trip to Lunnun, dat I wol,
An see how things goo on a bit, lest I shu’d die a fool!
Fer sister Sal, five years agoo, went off wud Squyer Brown;
Housemaid, or summut; don’t know what, to live at Lunnun town.
I ax’d ol’ Ben to let me goo, Hem rum ol’ fellur he,
He scratch’d his wig, ‘To Lunnun, Tom?’, den turn’d his quid, ‘I’ll see’
So strate to mother home goos I, an thus to ur did say,
Mother, I’ll goo an see our Sal, fer measter says I may.
The story ends with Tom being stuck at the first signpost out of Chiddinly. The last stanza reads like this:
Now wust ant was, I couldn’t read de letters on de post,
So sumtimes I went roun about, an otherwhile was lost!
Poor old Tom never made it to ‘Lunnon’.
Pictured, the frontpiece of the pamphlet.