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DEVELOPMENT

OF

ENGLISH LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE.

FIRST TRANSITION PERIOD.

CHAPTER I.

FEATURES.

The fact that constitutions are not made, but grow,'' is simply a fragment of the much larger fact, that under all its aspects and through all its ramifications, Society is a growth and not a manufacture.- Herbert Spencer.

Politics.—To the love of liberty succeeded the rage of faction. Ministry after ministry failed — the legal, the corrupt, and the national. The king aimed only to emancipate himself from control, and to gratify his private tastes. Ignorant of affairs and averse to toil, without faith in human virtue, believing that every person was to be bought, promising everything to everybody, and addicted beyond measure to sensual indulgence,- he brought the state by maladministration to the brink of ruin. Retribution was speedy. The defeated Roundheads, passing below the surface, began to reappear; and renouncing their republicanism as impracticable, took up the watchword of constitutional reform.

After fifteen years of dissolute revels, Charles was succeeded by his brother James II, who wished to achieve, at the same time, a triumph for pure monarchy and for Romanism. Again, as at the outbreak of the Civil War, there was a political struggle and a religious struggle, and both were directed against the government. The reaction which had prostrated the Whigs was fol

1 Mackintosh.

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lowed by one far more violent in the opposite direction; and the revolution of eighty-eight, which enthroned William of Orange, brought the grand conflict of the seventeenth century to a final issue - not in the establishment of a wild democracy, but in the transfer of executive supremacy from the Crown to the House of Commons. The ministers, who were chosen henceforth from the majority of its members, became its natural leaders, capable of being easily set aside and replaced whenever the balance of power shifted from one side of the House to the other.'

Society. In the eternal whirl of change, heads were made giddy. Laxity of principle in statesmen became too common to be scandalous. Austerity, too, nec

Austerity, too, necessarily produced revulsion. Profligacy became a test of loyalty, and a qualification for office. Devotion and honesty were swept away, and a deep general taint spread through every province of letters. In court circles, it was the fashion to swear, to relate obscene stories, to get drunk, to gamble, to deride Scripture and the preachers. Two nobles, nearly nude, run through the streets after midnight. Another, in open day, stark-naked, harangues a mob from an open window. Another writes poems for the haunts of vice. A duke, blind and eighty, goes to a gambling-house with an attendant to tell him the cards. Charles quarrels with his mistress in public, she calling him an idiot, he calling her a jade. Men and women appear alike depraved. Lords and ladies in festivities smear one another's faces with candle-grease and soot, 'till most of us were like devils.' A duchess disguises herself as an orange-girl, and cries her wares in the street. Another loses in one night twentyfive thousand pounds at play. Says a contemporary:

• Here I first understood by their talk the meaning of company th lately were called Ballers ; Harris telling how it was by a meeting of some young blades, where he was among them, and my Lady Bennet and her ladies, and their dancing naked, and all the roguish things in the world.' All this without an attempt to throw even the thinnest veil over the evil everywhere rampant. The regular and decent exterior maintained easily at Versailles, was here troublesome.

1 Thus terminated in England the contest which even now is raging in Germany. Within a few days of the present writing, Emperor William has asserted his right to dictate the policy of the Prussian government, without regard to the Ministry or the Parliament. A crisis is imminent. Perhaps the time has come for Germany to strike the blow that shall free her from military absolutism. Wise is the ruler who is in sympathy with the prevailing tendency, which, over all Europe, is liberal. The tyrant may disturh or retard, but the industrial organization, in its general course, is beyond his control.

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