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To which Jones answered: That it was one of the most famous burial-places about town.'
‘No wonder, then,' cries Partridge, that the place is haunted. But I never saw in my life a worse grave-digger. I had a sexton when I was clerk that should have dug three graves while he is digging one. The fellow handles a spade as if it was the first time he had ever had one in his hand. Ay, ay, you may sing. You had rather sing than work, I believe. Upon Hamlet's taking up the skull, he cried out : Well ! it is strange to see how fearless some men are ; I never could bring myself to touch anything belonging to a dead man on any account. He seemed frightened enough too at the ghost, I thought.
Little more worth remembering occurred during the play; at the end of which Jones asked him, “Which of the players he had liked best.
To this he answered, with some appearance of indignation at the question : "The king, without doubt.'
'Indeed, Mr Partridge,' says Mrs Miller, you are not of the same opinion with the town; for they are all agreed that Hamlet is acted by the best player who ever was on the stage.'
* He the best player!' cries Partridge, with a contemptuous sneer; 'why, I could act as well as he myself. I am sure if I had seen a ghost, I should have looked in the very same manner, and done just as he did. And then, to be sure, in that scene, as you called it, between him and his mother, where you told me he acted so fine, why, Lord help me, any man, that is any good man, that had such a mother, would have done exactly the same. I know you are only joking with me; but, indeed, madam, though I was never at a play in London, yet I have seen acting before in the country; and the king for my money; he speaks all his words distinctly, half as loud again as the other. Anybody may see he is an actor.
Thus ended the adventure at the playhouse, where Partridge had afforded great mirth, not only to Jones and Mrs Miller, but to all who sat within hearing, who were more attentive to what he said than to anything that passed on the stage. He durst not go to bed all that night for fear of the ghost; and for many nights after sweated two or three hours before he went to sleep with the same apprehensions, and waked several times in great horrors, crying out: 'Lord have mercy upon us ! there it is.'
DAVID HUME: 1711-1776.
David Hume, the younger son of a Scottish country gentleman, spent the
greater part of his life in literary retirement. After distinguishing himself by several philosophical works remarkable for research and for elegance of style—Treatise on Human Nature; Essays, Moral and Philosophical ; and Political Discourses—he commenced his History of England, which appeared from 1754 to 1762. It was the first example of the highest kind of historical composition which appeared in English literature, and is one of the most easy, elegant, and interesting narratives in the language.
THE MIDDLE AGES-PROGRESS OF FREEDOM.
From The History of England. Those who cast their eye on the general revolutions of society, will find that, as almost all improvements of the human mind had reached nearly to their state of perfection about the age of Augustus, there was a sensible decline from that point or period ; and men thenceforth gradually relapsed into ignorance and barbarism. The unlimited extent of the Roman Empire, and the consequent despotism of its monarchs, extinguished all emulation, debased the generous spirits of men, and depressed the noble flame by wþich all the refined arts must be cherished and enlivened. The military government which soon succeeded, rendered even the lives and properties of men insecure and precarious; and proved destructive to those vulgar and more necessary arts of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce ; and in the end, to the military art and genius itself, by which alone the immense fabric of the empire could be supported. The irruption of the barbarous nations which soon followed, overwhelmed all human knowledge, which was already far in its decline ; and men sunk every age deeper into ignorance, stupidity, and superstition ; till the light of ancient science and history had very nearly suffered a total extinction in all the European nations.
But there is a point of depression as well as of exaltation, from which human affairs naturally return in a contrary direction, and beyond which they seldom pass, either in their advancement or decline. The period in which the people of Christendom were the lowest sunk in ignorance, and consequently in disorders of every kind, may justly be fixed at the eleventh century, about the age of William the Conqueror; and from that era the sun of science, beginning to reascend, threw out many gleams of light, which preceded the full morning when letters were revived in the fifteenth century. The Danes and other northern people who had so long infested all the coasts, and even the inland parts of Europe, by their depredations, having now learned the arts of tillage and agriculture, found a certain subsistence at home, and were no longer tempted to desert their industry in order to seek a precarious livelihood by rapine and by the plunder of their neighbours. The feudal governments also, among the more southern nations, were reduced to a kind of system ; and though that strange species of civil polity was ill fitted to insure either liberty or tranquillity, it was preferable to the universal licenoe and disorder which had everywhere preceded it.
It may appear strange that the progress of the arts, which seems, among the Greeks and Romans, to have daily increased the number of slaves, should in later times have proved so general a source of liberty ; but this difference in the events proceeded from a great difference in the circumstances which attended those institutions. The ancient barons, obliged to maintain themselves continually in a military posture, and little emulous of eloquence or splendour, employed not their villeins as domestic servants, much less as manufacturers ; but composed their retinue of freemen, whose military spirit rendered the chieftain formidable to his neighbours, and who were ready to attend him in every warlike enterprise. The villeins were entirely occupied in the cultivation of their master's land, and paid their rents either in corn and cattle, and other produce of the farm, or in servile offices, which they performed about the baron's family, and upon the farms which he retained in his own possession. In proportion as agriculture improved and money increased, it was found that these services, though extremely burdensome to the villein, were of little advantage to the master; and that the produce of a large estate could he much more conveniently disposed of by the peasants themselves, who raised it, than by the landlord or his bailiff, who were formerly accustomed to receive it. A commutation was therefore made of rents for services, and of money-rents for those in kind; and as men, in a subsequent age, discovered that farms were better cultivated where the farmer enjoyed a security in his possession, the practice of granting leases to the peasant began to prevail, which entirely broke the bonds of servitude, already much relaxed from the former practices. After this manner villenage went gradually into disuse throughout the more civilised parts of Europe ; the interest of the master as well as that of the slave concurred in this alteration. The latest laws which we find in England for enforcing or regulating this species of servitude, were enacted in the reign of Henry VII. And though the ancient statutes on this head remain unrepealed by parliament, it appears that, before the end of Elizabeth, the distinction of villein and freeman was totally though insensibly abolished, and that no person remained in the state to whom the former laws could be applied.
Thus personal freedom became almost general in Europe ; an advantage which paved the way for the increase of political or civil liberty.
CHARACTER OF QUEEN ELIZABETH.
There are few great personages in history who have been more exposed to the calumny of enemies, and the adulation of friends, than Queen Elizabeth ; and yet there scarcely is any whose reputation has been more certainly determined by the unanimous consent of posterity. The unusual length of her administration, and the strong features of her character, were able to overcome all prejudices; and obliging her detractors to abate much of their invectives, and her admirers somewhat of their panegyrics, have at last, in spite of political factions, and, what is more, of religious animosities, produced a uniform judgment with regard to her conduct. Her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, address, are allowed to merit the highest praises, and appear not to have been surpassed by any person that ever filled a throne. A conduct less rigorous, less imperious, more sincere, more indulgent to her people, would have been requisite to form a perfect character. By the force of her mind, she controlled all her more active and stronger qualities, and prevented them from running into excess. Her heroism was exempt from temerity, her frugality from avarice, her friendship from partiality, her active temper from turbulency and a vain ambition. She guarded not herself with equal care or equal success from lesser nfirmities the rivalship of beauty, the desire of admiration, the jealousy of love, and the sallies of anger.
Her singular talents for government were founded equally on her temper and on her capacity. Endowed with a great command over herself, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendant over her people ; and while she merited all their esteem by her real virtues, she also engaged their affection by her pretended ones. Few sovereigns of England succeeded to the throne in more difficult circumstances ; and none ever conducted the government with such uniform success and felicity. Though unacquainted with the practice of toleration, the true secret for managing religious factions, she preserved her people, by her superior prudence, from those confusions in which theological controversy had involved all the neighbouring nations. And though her enemies were the most powerful princes of Europe—the most active, the most enterprising, the least scrupulous—she was able, by her vigour, to make deep impressions on their state ; her own greatness, meanwhile, remained untouched and unimpaired.
The wise ministers and brave warriors who flourished under her reign share the praise of her success; but instead of lessening the applause due to her, they make great addition to it. They owed, all of them, their advancement to her choice; they were supported by her constancy; and, with all their ability, they were never able to acquire any undue ascendant over her. In her family, in her court, in her kingdom, she remained equally mistress. The force of the tender passions was great over her, but the force of her mind was still superior; and the combat, which her victory visibly cost her, serves only to display the firmness of her resolution, and the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments.
The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted the prejudices both of faction and bigotry, yet lies still exposed to another prejudice, which is more durable because more natural, and which, according to the different views in which we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure, or diminishing the lustre of her character. This prejudice is founded on the consideration of her
When we contemplate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with the highest admiration of her great qualities and extensive capacity ; but we are also apt to require some more softness of disposition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the true method of estimating her merit is to lay aside all these considerations, and consider her merely as a rational being placed in authority, and intrusted with the government of mankind. We may find it difficult to reconcile our fancy to her as a wife ; but her qualities as a sovereign, though with some considerable exceptions, are the object of undisputed applause and approbation.