Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

made still more manifest by the bold speeches of Peter Wentworth and Mr. Strickland.

Thus intelligence and independence developed, ripened, until in the times of the succeeding Stuarts, the curtain of history rises and reveals the magnificent drama of the puritan and nonconformist struggle, THE AGE OP PARTIES, an age the most prolific of great events of any chapter of modern history, when universally men became partizans, when democracy was first avowed as a religion and a law, when first from bold and daring hands the young truth was hurled against the antiquated and titled error. On the Continent, to this great period belong the battles of the league, the victories of Gustavus, and the struggles of Holland: it includes the rise of the American colonies ; while closely in conjunction with this period, must be named that second night of Europe and of Britain, the day of the restored ascendancy of Bourbons and Stuarts : that might have been called an age of trifles, but it was an age of war too, marked by little of greatness or heroism, little of worth, either in literature or science ; yet the elegant trifles in which that age abounded prepared for better times. Looking back to the seventeenth century, we cannot but feel for it much more affection than either admiration or respect; its warfare marked in an especial manner the spirit of opinion even in the vicinity of cabinets and thrones, since it was the warfare of opinion and the contest of conflicting principles, those wars in reality were with tyrants and conspirators; over many sections of the European Continent, that age has not yet closed, in our own

country, we may fondly hope, that it has passed, and that another has commenced ; to an external observer, after the stormy excitements of the warlike period, it might almost seem as if we had fallen on the evening of the world. We have met with persons so isolated in our country, that it has seemed to them as if we had entered the

After the wild uproar of preceding times, it is not surely wonderful if our age seems rather like the sabbath of the universe. Judging from the first view of things, it would seem that life has greatly increased in its importance and value : old enemies have been visited as next-door neighbours; the Post Office has become the great national mission-house and benefactor ; wonderful and incredible improvements in communication have taken place; towns and cities have sprung up, rivalling in immensity and importance, not merely the metropolis of the seventeenth century, but for commercial and political influence, the metropolis of our own day; beyond any other time, our century is the age of action ; beyond any other age, it is marked by simultaneousness, by the universal awakening of the nations to their right and destiny, by the fusion of parties, so interblending with each other, that we scarce can tell in what the distinction lies. Science is action, and this is the age of experiment, everything is passed through some alembic; there is a strange absence truly of all present faith and belief, but the cheerful fact is, that almost all men are yearning after a faith, that the fires of the crucible are trying all things, creeds, principles, and institutions, and persons, of what sort they are. And unless we are passing through a process which contradicts every other process of nature, we are near the stationary state ; certainly the present is by no means a happy ideal of life or society ; let us hope we are on our way to order and to law; storms work themselves to rest ; fermentation precedes deposition ; action hastens repose; years may undoubtedly roll away before that period dawns; but without emulating the prophet's distinction, or the foresight of the seer, it seems consistent to believe, that the next age of our history will be the age of system, of combination in a higher and nobler sense than it has ever been defined as yet, an age of moral order and intelligence ; for that age it

age of peace.

it is the especial mission of the present to prepare.

F

CHAPTER II.

THE VICTORIAN COMMONWEALTH.

PROLOGUES OF QUOTATIONS.

“ In our provinces a rich man visits his stable and his dog-kennel, if disengaged, every day, who hardly five times in his life has entered a peasant's cottage, unless it might be for shelter from the rain, though perhaps the cottage was his own. His stables must be warm, yet well ventilated; his dog-kennel littered with clean straw, and abundantly supplied with running water; the cottage, meanwhile, has no cover to its draw-well,—no drain from its dung-hill, and no resident incumbent in its pigsty. He pats his horse, he plays with his spaniel (both of whom always are sure to be well fed); but for his poor Christian neighbour, it is a sufficient familiarity if he condescend to touch his hat in return for his salutation."

ROBERT EYRES LANDON, M.A.— Fountain of Arethusa. “For in very truth it is a new era' a new practice has become indispensable in it. One has heard so often of new eras, new and newest eras, that the word has grown rather empty of late. Yet new eras do come ; there is no fact surer than that they have come more than once. And always with a change of era, with a change of intrinsic conditions, there had to be a change of practice and outward relations brought about, if not peaceably, then by violence, for brought about it had to be; there could be no rest come till then. How many eras and epochs not noted at the moment, which, indeed, is the blessedest condition of epochs, that they come quietly, making no proclamation of themselves, and are only visible long after. A Cromwell Rebellion a French Revolution, 'striking on the horologe of time,' to tell all mortals what a clock it has become, are too expensive, if one could help it.”

THOMAS CARLYLE.-Chartism.

« ZurückWeiter »