Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

happy and peaceful industry. For this form of evil, in town and country, private greed - frequently shown
by small proprietors, who have never learnt that property has duties as well as rights - is very largely

responsible; for how many other of the evils we have to deplore is not the greed of gain responsible?

The sins of the age are still much the same sins that the Laureate roughly arraigned when the Crimean
war broke our long peace; denouncing the race for riches which turned men into "pickpockets, each hand

lusting for all that is not its own;" denouncing the cruel selfishness of rich and poor as the vilest kind of

civil war, being "underhand, not openly bearing the sword." We had made the blessings of peace a curse,

he told us, in those days, "when only the ledger lived, and when only not all men lied; when the poor

were hovelled and hustled together, each sex, like swine; when chalk and alum and plaster were sold to

the poor for bread, and the spirit of murder worked in the very means of life." Yet those very days saw

the uprising of a whole generation of noble servants of humanity, resolute to tight and overcome the

rampant evils that surrounded them. And though we would avoid the error of praising our own epoch as

though it alone were humane, as though we only, "the latest seed of Time, have loved the people well,"

and shown our love by deeds; though we would not deny that to-day has its crying abuses as well as

yesterday; yet it is hardly possible to survey the broad course of our history during the past sixty years,

and not to perceive, amid all the cross-currents - false ambitions, false pretences, mammon-worship,

pitiless selfishness, sins of individuals, sins of society, sins of the nation - an ever-widening and

mastering stream of beneficent energy, which has already wonderfully changed for the better many of the

conditions of existence, and which, since its flow shows no signs of abating, we may hope to see

spreading more widely, and bearing down in its great flood the wrecks of many another oppression and

iniquity.

 

CHAPTER IX. INTELLECTUAL AND SPIRITUAL PROGRESS.

"Man doth not live by bread alone." The enormous material progress of this country during the last sixty
years - imperfectly indicated by the fact that during the last forty years the taxable income of the United

Kingdom has been considerably more than doubled - would be but a barren theme of rejoicing, if there

were signs among us of intellectual or spiritual degeneracy. The great periods of English history have

been always fruitful in great thinkers and great writers, in religious and mental activity. Endeavouring to

judge our own period by this standard, and making a swift survey of its achievements in literature, we do

not find it apparently inferior to the splendours of "great Elizabeth" or of the Augustan age of Anne. Our

fifth Queen-regnant, whose reign, longer than that of any of her four predecessors, is also happier than

that of the greatest among them, can reckon among her subjects an even larger number of men eminent in

all departments of knowledge, though perhaps we cannot boast one name quite equal to Newton in

science, and though assuredly neither this nor any modern nation has yet a second imaginative writer

whose throne may be set beside that of Shakespeare.

We excel in quantity, indeed; for while, owing to the spread of education, the number of readers has been
greatly increased, the number of writers has risen proportionately; the activity of the press has increased

tenfold. Journalism has become a far more formidable power in the land than in the earlier years when, as

our domestic annals plainly indicate, the Times ruled as the Napoleon of newspapers. This result

is largely due to the removal of the duties formerly imposed both on the journals themselves and on their

essential paper material; and it would indeed "dizzy the arithmetic of memory" should we try to

enumerate the varied periodicals that are far younger than Her Majesty's happy reign. Of these a great

number are excellent in both intention and execution, and must be numbered among the educating,

civilising, Christianising agencies of the day. They are something more and higher than the "savoury

 

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