LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Fifty Years’ Recollections, Literary and Personal

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Vol. III Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
‣ Chapter X.
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I have observed continued efforts to attain notoriety, made on every side, not seen formerly. The art of making their wares known by shopkeepers, is not more striking and ingenious than that of individuals to acquire a little fame by these methods. A short time ago, I remember, there was no mode for this end, exceeded the championship of a political grievance. The scouring out of sewers under the alarm raised by the medical profession, has become a prominent theme for doctors, engineers, and architects to sound the trumpet upon. The cause of the poor is a standing resource for talk rather than action, and goes a great way. The chairmanship at a charity collection is a thing to be coveted by none less than a peer. Pieces of plate for presentations are not to be despised in the dignity, and the presidentship of a ragged school is a thing to be desired by a prelate. This is all very little in its way, though good may come out of a small vanity. It is better than Mr. Hunt passing down the Strand in a chariot and four to take the chair at a meeting in behalf of the Chartists of his day, to
the fear of our rulers, and the trouble of handing out ball cartridge to the Guards.

I merely recur to these amiable vanities as features in my time, which have made for the poor in certain positions so many ‘disinterested’ patrons. I have seen the prospects of society continually improve on the whole, though in some things society has retrograded. I have seen it become more matter-of-fact than it once was; I can scarcely say it is more reasonable through reflection. Where it is more so, chance has operated in creating a habit in the right direction. But on the other hand, let not people talk of King James, his witches and warlocks, when men affecting to be forward in progress are as indifferent to the acquirement of falsehood as of truth, and will swallow spiritualism, Mormonism, and fifty bare-faced impositions on human credulity.

Croker has followed Jerrold, I hear, one much longer before the world. Bitterness of feeling, and audacity were leading features in his character. He began to write in the early days of the “Quarterly Review,” and under the anonymous of the publication, aided in making political feeling the standard of literary merit. Youth, age, genius, if of the wrong political colour, were objects of his unsparing vituperation. Without depth, he possessed a species of cleverness which served his purpose better. If he failed in argument, he never failed to wound, which was more congenial to his temperament. It is true he was not so vulgar as Gifford, but he was as good a hater. He catered for number one with indefatigable perseverance in early life. He spared nobody, and I should imagine never had a real friend. With Hook, for example, he affected friend-
ship, and I presume, but do not know it, was the author of the
paper in the “Quarterly” upon him. Croker affected distaste of Hook’s unmarried state as immoral. The mode of life of the late Marquis of Hertford was well known; Croker pretended that an apology was necessary for riding in the carriage with the Marquis and a certain lady. Perhaps he remembered how small Mrs. Clarke had made him look at the outset of his career, when examined before a committee of the House of Commons, and had an antipathy to ladies not outrageously virtuous in consequence. Perhaps, it was a real sense of religion, a feeling of scrupulous morality, and therefore not to be blamed.

It was true Croker wrote papers full of zeal for religion, and as far as they went, his faith was unimpeachable, he being then, the most devotional of Christians. Now, there is a species of hypocrisy too prevalent exhibited in writing one thing for the public, and saying the reverse in company. Croker was one of this complexion. A friend of mine said to me, “Does not Croker’s mockings of religion at table annoy you?” I replied, “they are in bad taste.” He said, “I am greatly annoyed by it. Croker is a high church writer. No man of capacity can think and not have some feeling of religion. My ideas are my own. I believe in God, in his wisdom and goodness; I act to the best of my reason. I go at times to church, my wife and family go regularly. If hereafter, they see it necessary to change their faith, that is not my affair; they have had the institutes of religion as their parents had before them; I attempt not to make them converts to my ideas—I have some peculiar
ones on religion. When Croker dines with me, I am pained at the levity of his conversation with such professions, before young people too. I cannot away with it. My feelings will not let me jest, even with the religious creeds I do not believe; he jests with those he upholds with his pen.”

The inconsistency of such a line of conduct had long fixed my opinion of the man. His splenetic attacks upon many deserving authors were of less moment, because, as I have already stated, politics ruled the “Quarterly Review” on one side, and the “Edinburgh” on the other. For my own part, I believe that put Croker behind a screen, he was equal to anything in the foregoing way. As to his political life, the less said about it the better. Poor Sir Robert Peel had he lived, could have written the political character of Croker with a fidelity that, perhaps, no one now living could do so well, particularly in illustrating the art of playing double to the best advantage. Well might Sir Robert have exclaimed, “Et tu Brute!”

Croker has left nothing literary behind him that will endure, unless it be one or two works he edited; his painstaking was not great. He was one of the most authoritative and inaccurate of writers as to facts and dates, even in the face of his own articles. He alone ruled the “Quarterly;” Gifford he kept under his thumb. Of this Southey has left an evidence in his own case, and the laureate vindicated himself with a right spirit, Croker having taken one of Southey’s papers to be cut up agreeably to the views of the Duke of Wellington. What right had Croker doing Gifford’s duty? The truth was, that Murray feared him. I
speak on the authority of
Lockhart when I say that while he was editor, Croker would threaten Murray with a new “Quarterly” when he wished to carry some point in the review in regard to his articles, and Lockhart was at times placed between two fires.

Lockhart, at the commencement, had trouble with Southey, who, I imagine, had beforehand an eye upon the editorship of the “Quarterly” himself. Murray knew that Southey in such a post would out-Herod Herod. Southey declared afterwards, that if he wrote longer for the “Quarterly,” his papers should not be cut up or altered by Lockhart. The result was, that what Southey wrote, Lockhart would not read in any shape, and the proof went to Southey. If I recollect rightly, the first paper of Southey’s after this was upon a work relative to South America—but I have done with the ex-secretary of the navy. I might have said much more, but to what end? We all pass away fast enough, it is only right that truth should not be suppressed as regards those who have done with the world for ever, because survivors and posterity have to profit by example, and therefore, the motto must be, “de mortuis nil nisi verum.”

For my own part, I have ever felt a great distaste for that inconsistency which can prompt a man to write one thing, and profess an opposite opinion in society, a species of hypocrisy but too rife in the world. Where there is no heart, there is no truth. Expressions in parliament before the nation, the reverse of those avowed in private, come under the same category, insincerity. It recalls the excuse of a distinguished living man who, when upbraided with it, said, in a half jocular tone, “It is
true I did say so in the House, where we keep to our party, but we know better here!”

There was no wit in Croker’s writings. His smart things were bitternesses, not remarkable for more than being a retort from one, who wishes to make an opponent feel that he is repaid with somewhat of interest, though not as much as the writer desired, if he could have mastered resources to go farther. He had a certain ill-natured readiness, though he was not scrupulous upon whom he directed his shafts. I consider that what some people denominate wit is no such thing. A play upon words or a pun is not wit. One says it lies most in putting together quickly a varied assemblage of ideas, in which there is resemblance and congruity to present pleasant unions to the fancy. Not every resemblance in ideas is wit, unless it gives delight and surprise. To say a woman’s bosom is as white as snow is not wit, but it is wit to add it is as cold too. Another says, when there is an obvious resemblance between the ideas, some further congruity must be found to make them wit or to delight and surprise. It is false wit that consists in the resemblance of, and congruity of letters, words, syllables, and sentences. Mixed wit, a distinguished author says, abounds in Cowley more than any other author.

Italian writers have much of it; some of the French critics scorn it altogether. It is found among the Greeks almost wholly in their epigrammatists. There is little observable in the higher Latin writers except Ovid and Martial. It is more or less perfect as it lies in ideas or words. The best display of it is the modern epigram. It would seem to be essential that
wit should have its foundation in the nature of things—in truth. I am afraid, therefore, that what is taken for wit in the present day is often very far below the mark.

The movings off the stage of life, of men like Croker, and others of long standing, who were remarkable in their day, produces the conviction of their own doom strongly upon those with whom they were cotemporaries. The hiatus thus caused cannot be filled up. Worthier or more gifted men may exist, but they do not exist in the same manner for us. They are strangers, and not of our kith and kin. We have not trodden the same footpath in company. They are not familiar names. Time has not linked them to our own being, nor accustomed us to their habits, persons, and reputation. We know the virtues and defects of those we have lost, but the appurtenances of the strangers are not yet within our ken. We have not gauged, and we looked shy upon them. We want to prove their weight and value. The veil of death, the obscurity of the grave would be over us long before we could obtain the same knowledge of strangers; and finding nothing to fill the blank thus caused, we feel a saddened insulation which leaves us a prey to the past and future. This adds to the distaste of changes as we grow old. We are humbled at the thought of soon not being seen by, and of seeing the world no more. We doubt the philosophy of those who pretend a perfect resignation “to quit this insubstantial being: those thoughts that wander through eternity.” Such a resignation is too often a shuffle—the chaplain at the gallows when the halter is already attached to the drop. “To lie in
cold obstruction and to rot” is nothing. It is the exclusion from the cheerful heaven, from the rich fields and verdure, from the blue sky and the sublime ocean: it is to be cut off from human ties, from the delights of life, however scanty, yet more precious, more deeply engraven in our minds than the severest pain; it is to lose all our past acquirements, and no more see the advances of mankind towards the far distant unknown point to which the human race is advancing from the state of wild nature under Adam, to that which may make the intellect of some future middle-class race that of a
Newton, and the superior soul of a coming genius, as far in advance of what Newton was “as thrice to the utmost pole.” I would rather live—live for ages more if I could. I have no idea of palliating, by excuses, the desire even of an earthly interminable existence, rather than non-existence, which wish, disguise it as we may, is common to us all. Time grows dearer in age, for we only know its true value when the world becomes flat to us. I cannot bear to be threescore years and ten, acquiring knowledge, continually toiling over the midnight oil, and all in vain. As my minutes diminish I become more covetous of knowledge. It is true I make way for others—why am I so selfish?—other races are to follow me. I came from darkness and I return to it, but may I not hope to break into sunshine again from black night? I reconcile myself to it by none of the cold comforts many proffer. I know I am the creature of the Being that called me into existence for His own pleasure, and He has the right to do with me as He pleases, but the feelings of my nature are still a part of my reasoning.


Of the desire of some to live for ages in human memory only, of which we well know the Vanity—that unconquerable wish that we should not “all” die, is to me unaccountable, if there be no undying principle in our nature. If no power be “above us that hath instructed in the minds of all men an ardent appetition of a lasting fame,” when nothing we clearly see has been made in vain, whence this prominent wish engrafted in our nature, and for what end? The desire of offspring ceases when the end is attained, even the parental affection diminishes in a great degree with the departure of infantine helplessness in the object protected. In age, the faculties become more obtuse; the end of existence seeming answered, there is no longer any necessity for their pristine perfection. But the idea of utter extinction is as abhorrent as ever to the most senile mind, and while no thinking being would live the same life he had led over again, the desire to live in human memory, if we do not corporeally exist, loses none of its force. This it would most assuredly do, had it no latent end, no further use under the law of our mortality. Judging, therefore, that as this wish does not abate with our other functions, even where extreme age has left but faint outlines of others, while this thirst for the life, if it be only of a name, is still as vigorous as ever, I infer that we do not all die from the circumstance alone of that perennial desire.

I once met a man upon the continent, who told me he was happy to be for ever, as he was living perfectly content. He had seen much of life, had good health, was not of a very enlarged mind, perhaps about the average. He amused himself with drawing and garden-
ing. He told me he desired no more than he had, and thanked God for that limited desire. Can there be any standard of happiness after this?—he was a lieutenant in the navy on half-pay! Must not every man’s cup, large or small, be filled according to his capacity for enjoyment, if he will be content with his allowance j the passions being in repose, and the heart right. I never found a tendency to such a state in a man who had not seen the world to satiety, never in stolid ignorance, though some may think the contrary. A love of simple pleasures, and certain resources in oneself, are needful, with the conviction of knowing all useful for self-satisfaction. Ambition and ignorance are alike discontented. Vulgar, low, worldly ambition is most so, because it has no high gratification in success, and it therefore dies out still the same in its mole-hill gropings. Yet age turns to youth in some things, as in the desire to die in its old haunts, for example. A tacit confession that life has nothing more dear with all its experiences than the footprints of its earlier years, and that its leave-taking should be in their traces.

I was used in early life to enjoy my sensations alone, a solitary, not from sullenness of temper, but from the want of any to whom I could impart my thoughts. I could not make my companions comprehend them. I was, therefore, a solitary in my thinking moods, and social in my joyous ones. I hoarded my thoughts—the habit grew with me. The climate of the south-west of England, liable to showers frequently, though I have known many weeks together as dry as Egypt, receives not much more rain in quantity than falls in London. The porous hilly ground dries rapidly in summer. The
mildness of the temperature day and night, during that season, is remarkable. In June, July and August, day and night do not differ more than one or two degrees of temperature. I have longed to stretch myself, when a boy, on the rich heath, and sleep there, in place of going home to my bed, so warm and genial has been the midnight hour. Stealing out of doors when all the world was buried in sleep, I have wandered by the clear stream, or on the ocean sands, weaving wild youthful visions. It was always on bright moonlight nights I thus rambled, when the silent and serene splendour of earth’s melancholy satellite steeped nature in sympathetic repose, as it walked in brightness up the midnight heaven. The waves of the restless Atlantic alone partook not in the silence and tranquil beauty around. They confessed, indeed, the luminous impress of the silvery light, flickering over their ridges before they broke upon the rocks, like distant thunder; but that only increased the interest of the scene to my young vision. Under the frowning cliff, in deep shadow, I used to sit, if by the sea, or in a deep valley, under spreading trees, if nearer home, and there weave the most nonsensical visions, compared with life’s realities, which ever entered a mortal cranium. Still, there was something not connected with every-day life, which even now makes the recollections of that time precious. The mind dwelt on nothing profound, and, on the other hand, upon nothing of daily occurrence. As I looked at the full-orbed moon, and the stars appeared to minister to her beauty, I felt a consciousness, so I fancied, of some great latent principle, in a way no lesson could ever impress me. It must be added, that though young, I was well acquainted with the theory of
astronomy. I deemed every orb an inhabited world, to which my own was scarcely worth a comparison in importance, judging from magnitudes. My grandmother had presented me with
Fontenelle’sPlurality of Worlds,” at twelve years of age, and my active imagination had not been idle over it. The tranquillity of the solitary hours I then stole away from sleep had something exceedingly attractive, though I do not deny that now and then my courage was tried by interrupting ideas of ghostly visitations, which I easily shook off. In the midst of large communities, this influence of self on self is little known as it is prompted by solitude in the bosom of nature.

The sentiment of religion presses upon the mind at such times as those to which I allude, the sentiment of a ruling deity, not that of pulpit-taught creed and sect, but of instinct or immatured thought. There is a consciousness of the presence somewhere, of an infinity of power and wisdom, which we cannot by any means comprehend in essence, pervading all things, to whom a past non-existence is impossible, but even if supposed possible, still, a being that has no relation to time or place, and, therefore, beyond the scope of all human comprehension.

I have often recalled something of the solitary feelings thus alluded to, but in a scene very differently pictured, when, in a moonlight morning, at two or three o’clock, I traversed the streets of London. There was no murmuring of the waves, no brilliant scenery of nature to be observed, it is true, but I imagined myself in a city of the dead, in streets of catacombs, where all before had been noisy and animated. How
came the change? Had another destroying angel been busy, not upon an Assyrian army, but upon the more persevering sons of Plutus? Had he swept away two millions from the ant-hill, so busy in the daytime? Under the old regime of watchmen, who were generally in comfort asleep in their boxes, as the pedestrian paced homewards, the silence and the similitude were perfect. Now the “poetry of life,” as
Talfourd would once have applied the phrase, is destroyed at such seasons, too often by some solitary policeman walking his nocturnal rounds. Still, there are few things more impressive, except it be the same city at sun-rise, from the top of St. Paul’s; but that is more of a vision than a deceptive reality, for we seem beyond all connection with the things below—but enough of this return to departed imaginings.

It is impossible to pass unrecapitulated some of the acts and changes which have come under my observation in the shifting scenes of life, nor sometimes to review the past. Those whose years have run a parallel course with mine, lived in a succession pregnant with the most remarkable events that had occurred for centuries before. The disgraces inflicted upon England by the wars of George III. in America were still fresh. The discoveries of Captain Cook were novelties on every tongue, and criminal transportation to a terra incognita, as to some spot inaccessible to escape, had not begun. Little progress in the population of remote lands had been made. The savage had trodden the wilds of Australia alone. Bass’s Straits were not discovered; flourishing cities now exist where the leap of the kangaroo, and the wings of the black swan were
regarded as wonders, being the sole denizens where now there are the fine streets and edifices of a civilized people. New Zealand was inhabited by cannibals building miserable canoes, a race now building their own vessels on the largest ocean of the globe, and towns, the abode of twelve thousand Europeans, stand on the site of native pas or forts a little time ago. Upper Canada was no more than a wild, now it has nearly three millions of inhabitants. The vast regions we have acquired in Africa were in the hands of the Caffre and Hottentot; and the fine colony of the Cape in those of the Dutch, to whom also Ceylon belonged, as the Mauritius did to the French, and Malta to the “Order.” The increase of our India confines, Islands in the Mediterranean, and the West Indies, in short, an accession of territory and inhabitants abroad of vast amount were acquired within that term.

At home, the population increased for England, Wales, and Scotland, from under ten to twenty-one millions, and Ireland from two and a half millions to seven. London, which numbered hardly eight hundred thousand souls, reached two and a half millions. France, notwithstanding wars and revolutions, saw an access of population from twenty-six to thirty-three millions and a half, and the United States of America from five to twenty-five millions; thus giving proof of the more rapid increase since of civilized nations, and of the more advantageous culture of the earth’s surface over which it has been spreading.

Equally as important has been the progress in Christian philanthropy. Howard kindled the flame of true benevolence, that bestowed on the prisoner and the
criminal a degree of treatment more reconcileable with Christianity than before. He plunged into the noisome dungeon, exhaled the atmosphere of the Eastern pestilence, administered to the wants of the suffering, and called the attention of crowned heads to the humanity they had neglected, until at Cherson he became the victim of his own virtues. In this same eventful period
Jenner, in the face of great opposition, introduced vaccination, and robbed the King of Terrors to a great extent of a premature prey. In this period, too, England broke asunder, first, the shameful traffic in human flesh, and then the chains of slavery, and proclaimed all freemen over whom her banner waves, the noblest tribute to humanity ever paid by any people. The freedom of trade, and removal of the monopoly of the food of the people, was another great work, equally beneficial to all. Nor must the removal of the intolerant enactments against freedom of religious opinion be forgotten. The natural corollary of liberty in action. The instruction of the poor, long opposed by the clergy and wealthy to the utmost, we now find upheld by those who were then inimical to it, and popular representation has been reformed.

Steam has been made the medium of motion on land and sea, or rather, navigation has been indebted to fire for a motive power unlimited in energy. It has also received immense advantages from the observation of currents, the direction of the winds, and the recorded dip of the needle. The Arctic seas have been explored with marvellous intrepidity, and the magnetic poles discovered. Electricity, voltaism and magnetism, have been found identical, and by the electric telegraph, man has proved the nihility of time, as being no more than a
succession of events. Mail vessels, which in my boyhood consumed three months to reach America and return, and five only to reach Bengal, now achieve the same distance in less than one in the first case, and three the second. Much more work is thus gained by the economy of time. Ships are built which would astonish the great early circumnavigators of
Elizabeth’s time to behold. Every petty merchantman achieves now as much as Drake and Raleigh could perform. Chemistry has overturned past theories, opened new day upon the previous darkness, defined the bases of all existing substances, detected new, and shown in photography, the effect of light on delicate mediums. In the one case, all the old theories in relation to matter, or rather to existing substances, have been overturned, and combinations without number have laid open simple principles, every combination displaying order, and the logos or wisdom that formed them. Astronomy has disclosed wonders not before dreamed of. In the other instance, two planets, and no less than fifteen asteroids or small planets have been added to the system. While only seven in all had been discovered for two thousand years before. Binary systems of stars have been observed, and nebulae, or the clouds of light, apparently seen in the heavens, have been resolved into thousands of brilliant orbs. The diving-bell has enabled us to penetrate into the ocean depths, and the balloon to pass the region of the clouds, within the same term.

Geology, a new science, has arisen, completely changing the preconceived traditions regarding the component parts of the earth’s formation, and their ages, no way deceptive, unless the evidences of the visual organ and of reason be utterly abandoned. This same geology
has shewn us new wonders in the all-creative skill, the sustaining power of the eternal logos. Our roads, always of the utmost importance in countries far advanced in civilization, have come to be constructed like the walks in the pleasure grounds of a great landed proprietor, and the invention of mail coaches for the conveyance of letters, coming within the term to which I am alluding, were quickened upon them, until in a great measure superseded by the rail carriage, which accelerated the rapidity of epistolary communication, to twenty-five and thirty miles an hour, increasing the letter communication from seventy-six millions to three hundred and seventy-nine.

The railroads and their construction would be wonders in themselves for a whole generation, did we not live in a period of accumulating marvels, our operations in the main meeting success in a degree of proportion to our faithful reliance upon experiment in place of theory in testing them. We now disregard those impossibilities of the past, which were a part of the creed of those who went before us, arising from the fetters of a narrow religion which subjected every measure for fourteen centuries to the confined views of an ignorant and usurping priesthood, cramping mental exertion to retain a slavish dominion over the mind. Thus but for the invention of printing, and the boldness of Luther, we should have been kept in the same state as our fathers to this hour. The history of Gallileo proves this, whose theory of the world’s motion the pope has just announced his permission to those of his faith to believe, two hundred years after everybody else had been so premature as to credit it.


The progress in the mechanical arts kept an equal pace with everything besides, during the period of which I am speaking—the threescore years and ten of a life. Watt, and other engineers, who well knew the power of high steam, would not use it. To do so with safety, required an accurate computation of the strength of metals, and a degree of nice workmanship, to which the men of his time were unequal. All this has been overcome. The terrible force of steam is now used at high pressure with perfect ease and safety, and the atmosperical engine of Newcomen, from being less complex, has been restored to use in many cases. Such are the revolutions in scientific art, that even water has been daringly heated to redness, without an explosion, by being subjected to enormous pressure. Then the art of watch and chronometer making, so essential to navigation and astronomy, have been brought to such a degree of perfection, that a vessel may sail by the instrument to within a league or two of any given point in longitude with perfect facility.

Since I saw the light, the revenue has risen from fifteen to seventy millions sterling, and the interest of the debt from nine to twenty-nine millions. In our manufactories the same progress has occurred as in everything else. In the year 1785, we manufactured eleven millions and a half pounds of cotton, valued at five millions of pounds sterling; we now export to the value of twenty-nine millions sterling, and manufacture eight hundred millions of pounds of raw cotton. Nineteen millions of yards of linen, valued at nearly a million sterling were manufactured; and recently the value of three and a half millions were actually exported. A proportional
increase appears in silk, goods, in mining, and other products of these islands. In shipping, the tonnage is between four and five millions from one quarter of that amount, and the commercial vessels reach thirty-four thousand in number under the British flag, irrespective of the royal navy, which has proportionably improved and increased. For seventeen centuries preceding, mind had been repressed, and new ideas scouted, if not made passports to persecution. France, catching the flame of freedom from America, her people harassed and weighed down by despotism and taxation, felt the spirit of freedom glow within her borders. Her tremendous revolution developed, not merely her physical, but her mental, energies. The tender of portions of the French territory to the surrounding despots of Europe, by the French princes, if they would invade France, and replace the weak monarch, tottering on his throne, roused the spirit of the people. Greedy for prey, combined Europe attacked that people, and were discomfited.
George III. took the alarm; and, with his minister, joined in the common effort to force a Bourbon prince on the French nation. The unfortunate and feeble-minded king of France fell a victim to the faults of his predecessor, combined with those of his existing family. The feeling of alarm it produced here, though I was a mere child, I well recollect. The doctrine of divine right was then largely credited. The sacrilege, for it was styled no less, practised on a monarch’s person, in the revolution, was declared something indescribably horrible, but that did not prevent the last partition of Poland by three grasping despotisms, at the very time their complaints of France were so loudly raised. The sale of the church
plate, a year or two before, was said to be alone enough to provoke heaven’s judgment against the French. Then came the violent proceedings of the factions, and, above all, their word “equality “which, in England, did their cause an enormous mischief. The congratulations on the success of
General Dumourier, when he so signally punished the insolence of Prussia and Austria, with half-disciplined troops, in the first coalition against France, were considered more alarming. England joined the second coalition openly with five other powers she had subsidized. Bonaparte, who had won fifteen battles against Austria, and made her sign the treaties of Leoben and Campo Formio, had set sail for Egypt. There some youths, three or four years older than myself, once my companions, embarked to serve under Abercrombie. Bonaparte, after conquering Egypt from the Turks, returned; and, being made first consul of France, beat the Austrians finally at Marengo, and shattered the second coalition. The third, which broke Pitt’s heart by its failure at Austerlitz, I well remember, and that the battle of Trafalgar could not salve the wound. In fact, that minister, without experience, was unfortunate in all his operations. All the subsequent events are fresh in memory; and what mighty events they were down to the time when Europe was at the feet of a victor, finally vanquished by the snows of Russia, rather than by the arms of his foes! The dream of the European kings was verified for a moment, only to be dissipated for ever. What battles took place, and what torrents of blood were shed before France ceased to dictate to Europe! The coalesced sovereigns, grown wiser in 1830, left France to enjoy the benefit of her revolution, or
whatever evil it might inflict, as George III. and his minister would have acted more wisely and justly to let her do before. What calamities and conflicts have happened within my term of existence, and of what stupendous magnitude! The very art of war was changed. The soldier, of interest on the continent, a colonel in the cradle, and boys with regiments, who know nothing, and could do nothing, were set aside under the new system of things. Wonderful have been the changes wrought in old court vices and corruptions. All those changes and events were the effects of the French revolution, which brought out men and things after the necessities of the time, and made sovereigns see they could no more boast of reigning only for their own pleasure. The world was flung forward by that revolution many centuries in advance of what it would otherwise have been, and the universe became indebted to the events of a period, during which, as I have before observed, the aspect was so lowering, and the conflict of opinions, as well as of arms, so obstinate and prolonged. The triumph, too, has been that of the people.

But I have not lived to see a peace alone after the foregoing conflicts. I have seen another war against an aggressive power triumphantly concluded. I have seen mightier efforts than England ever put forth before, exerted against Russia, without any pressure, compared to that of the past time. This has been done under a reformed government—a government that would have been proclaimed revolutionary in the days of Pitt and George III., and under a minister who supported that reform, for which he would have been consigned to the Tower, had he ventured to uphold the measure in his
own youth. What an alteration of circumstances! What a mighty power
Lord Palmerston has derived from that which was pronounced the first step to national ruin by the ministry of the earlier time, wielding, as he does, energies to which those of the past were as childhood to the full-grown man. The politics of George III. and Pitt could not now rule England for a month. Principles do not change, if they are right principles. It is clear, from the conduct of Fox and Lord Grey, that the principles which now rule were perfectly well understood in their time; but then they were principles for the benefit of the many, not of the few. Their action was stopped. From the peace to the death of Lord Londonderry there were continued tumults. The Earl of Liverpool, a nobleman of great integrity, was at the head of the ministry, one who understood free-trade principles, and used to say that trade had flourished in spite of acts of parliament to cripple it, but he would not remedy such a state of affairs. He had neither the inclination nor capacity; and Lord Castlereagh, who was for the time pre-eminent in the cabinet, would have no progress, though he had set out in life as a thoroughgoing reformer. He would not even amend the criminal law. On his death, and under Canning’s ministry, began that progress which ministers, favourable or unfavourable to it, were obliged to carry out. The gratifying results I have lived to see, adding yet more to the amazing mass of change for good and evil, I trust the former predominant, which passed before my vision, like the shapes in Banquo’s glass.

Greece freed, Egypt became comparatively enlightened, and a highway to India for tender infants and
British nursery-maids now travelling for peaceful embarkation, that brief journey, to modern eyes, across the Isthmus, where Moses and his followers found in their feeble appliances, that only supernatural aid could save them. Ladies may ride on horseback to Jerusalem in safety from the coast, that interesting city, which, in my boyhood, it was dangerous for the most adventurous traveller to visit. South America emancipated from the Spanish yoke, and the once proud kingdom of Spain become insignificant in the European scale—the refuge of the bigot and the imbecile.

What a galaxy of great names flourished and departed since I first breathed. Frederick the Great, Catherine of Russia, Washington, Franklin, Paoli, Napoleon, Nelson, Howard, Pitt, Fox, Sheridan, Gibbon, Burke, Moreau, Massena, Wellington, Mehemet Ali, La Fayette, Watt, Bolivar, Herschel, Davy, Cowper, Darwin, Burns, Byron, and others—but I must not enumerate, the names will readily occur to any one conversant with the history of the unparellelled era to which allusion is making, and to belong to which is a matter of some pride for denizens of the eighteenth century. The world has not been sparing of its eulogies upon men surpassed in no equal terms of years, any more than in the vast importance of the events in which they were concerned. Europe subjugated at the feet of France, freed by the elements. The conqueror in a hundred battles expiring on a miserable rock in the ocean, his enemies seeking to obliterate his very image from public memory among the people he ruled. Those enemies themselves expelled France, which received back the ashes of the victim of the ambition which had over-leaped itself.


What healing remedies, sometimes tardily applied, have amended usages, swept away prejudices, and repealed laws enacted in barbarous times. The present generation has no idea of the extent of these emendations. Let us take, for example, our Draconic laws, which seemed written by demons whose drink was blood. The day that saw me brought into existence, sent twenty human beings out of the world at the Old Bailey, in one morning, some for comparatively trivial offences. From eighty to a hundred were executed in London alone every year. Is there no advance, no merit in the government that swept away laws for sanctioning such murders? The pillory, too, where I had seen men of merit exposed, as well as the basest wretches, leaving the office of the executioner to the mob, who, if the criminal were obnoxious for his offences, nearly took his life by their ill-usage, and, if he had their sympathy, pelted the officers of justice; such, and many more, were signs of times now happily passed away for ever. Judges can no longer gratify political vindictiveness under the excuse of justice.

Our social state, the conduct of man towards man, a more generous way of judging each other, more amenity, and more real charity now exist; but to particularize the differences of the modes of thinking, of the manners and the times, would occupy an elaborate essay. I might enumerate, too, where we have not improved, and how much farther the encroaching hand of a mercenary disposition has gained on us, and been made the gauge of thought and action—how all resolves itself into the most soul-narrowing of human pursuits. The trade which may for a time uphold the national power by the creation of
wealth, will have a continual tendency to lower the standard of high thought, and to narrow that perception which sustains the lofty spirit of freedom in great nations.

Literature of the better order has, perhaps, seen its best days, as well as the fine arts. If the latter are at a low ebb, marked alone by a respectable mediocrity, we find nothing so bad, nor anything so good, as during the time to which I allude. We furnish no longer great examples for aspiration in art. Our streets have been improved, as well as our highways, and that in a wonderful degree, though the houses of brick and plaster are only calculated to last their leases; I remember the improvements began near St. Clement’s Church, Strand. We have amid our improvements not a single building displaying originality and a pure taste in architecture, beyond the class of a mansion. A noble opportunity was offered in the new Houses of Parliament. These are mere fragments of monastical and other buildings clubbed together at a vast expense, to do no honour to British taste in the eyes of foreigners. The new churches of the metropolis are, for the most part, execrable edifices; copies from the darkest and most gloomy period of the Roman creed, perhaps designed to aid its return. Our finest architectural works are our bridges, erected by engineers, the same class of men who have outshone all competition in their public undertakings, and imparted their lessons to the other European nations. They have also constructed metallic vessels of vast magnitude to be found on all the seas of the globe, grasping the reins of the ocean with gauntlets of iron.

In poetry a great diversity existed, from Cowper to
Rogers, not only good in itself, but varied in style and merit to an extraordinary degree. There will be no denial of the excellency of our writers during the last threescore years, nor of the sensible decline of our better literature at their close.

In matters of government the gloomy period of exclusive aristocratic rule has disappeared. The government and people move together, in place of being in opposition to each other. Penal acts to keep a ministry in office under other but invalid excuses, have vanished for ever. The borough system of rule by the great landowners has been changed. The people have their share in the government, of which, if they are careless, or use it unwisely, it is their own fault. No people are more wisely free. No minister with the old policy of Perceval, or Castlereagh, could hold office in England without violating the principles since made a textbook for all time. Here is a mighty change. The policy of England, not the interest of Hanover, dictates now in our continental measures. We have a sovereign English born, and educated with English ideas, a lady of whom none but the disappointed partizans of a faction ever breathed a whisper of disrespect. We have seen the disturbing policy so long persevered in, put down by the united feeling of the people. A minister called to office by the popular voice, having a genuine sense of the true position of his country, successful in a war of great magnitude, and regarded with that respect which secures unvaried attention from the more arbitrary powers on the continent. Even a revolt in India has been dealt with successfully, under one whom the people of England sent back for the sovereign’s re-
approbation, and the sovereign saw the wisdom of her people’s recommendation.

I am sensible of the brief and feeble nature of this recapitulation of a few things unexampled in importance noticeable in the course of a single life—it will serve to call attention to them more at large. It is gratifying to have been favoured by being one of those, of whom men in future time, and in a less stirring age will say, “What mighty events must they have witnessed who lived during such an activity, when the social world, from a fierce convulsion, leaped forward a distance in advance, that surpassed the progress of any thousand preceding years, from the fall of the empire of the city of the seven hills,” It is, at least, a harmless vanity to anticipate in this mode the reflections of the unborn.

Over the drama and its advance a veil must be drawn:—it has fallen. Shakespeare, in my time, illustrated on the stage in a manner worthy of his country, and of his own glorious renown, is now a sealed book to the foreigner who visits our shores, as far as the stage is concerned. His truth and nature by no means suit the false modern ideal of those virtues. He is become the poet of the closet, the age, in its own opinion, having advanced beyond him; by the age I mean the majority, which is at present admitted to decide everything it knows and does not know, with an admitted pretension to infallibility that must not be impugned. The most wretched burlesques of the great poet, foreign frivolities, and entertainments that seem to rival each other in the descent of wit, and in their guiltlessness of merit, are all we can exhibit. This state of things has become a subject of lamentation
to such as those who, like myself, saw the stage in its better days. “We are occupied with greater things,” exclaims the man of the hour; “we are playing at the hazard game of pounds, shillings and pence, and have no leisure to attend to philosophers and poets.” One can only reply in the lines of
“And such is ignorance! Even in the sight
Of knowledge self, it draws no profit from it.”

Music now takes the public regard in the place of the drama. It has the advantage, as at present exhibited, over every other art of pleasing. It excites no lofty views, and gives no trouble to the understanding. It is, therefore, adapted for popularity. In fact, the present music requires none of the feelings to be touched; for it is eminently artificial. A whole army of performers is got together, making tremendous noises,—now yelpings are heard, like those issuing from a dog-kennel, then we have the cawing of rooks, the croaking of frogs, and imitations of everything, only they must be subscribed like the painter’s lion, with the name of the animal under them. Now we have a calm, then a storm, drums rolling and fiddles squeaking, sunshine and moonshine, all played instrumentally, or sung secundem artem; such an exhibition is called an Opera. The cleverest singers in extent of lungs are obtained, to startle by rapid changes, till even the musicians are exhausted. The complications, and the more difficult execution of the different parts, constitute the greater or less musical excellence in the present sense. The more noise and crashing resound, the more the audience applauds, utterly without judgment.


A great Italian singer who, from nervousness about making his debut at our Opera, having heard much of the taste of the English opera-goers, and previously taken his place in the house to discover its critical judgment, had, he said, no fear upon the subject afterwards! The German taste rules, and as in its metaphysics so in music, it regards obscurity and complication, provided it be deeply scientific, as the Alpha and Omega. The ancients and the moderns, until recently, imagined that music should speak to the passions, and move the soul, not by mere sounds, scientifically arranged, but by the impression created, simple, melodious, and natural. We now hear none of those airs, and short pieces, Italian or English, which were heard in past time. The rage in this respect is just for the reverse of what it should be, and by no means an advance, except in executing difficulties. There is a great falling off of late years in the character of our own music.

A word on a different subject; among the modern fashions in dress, I observe some which have recently returned again, completing the cycle accident or caprice may have induced the fantasy of the fair sex to complete. The repetition of dresses worn when I was a child, I see continually. I cut up cane from my mother’s hoops to make childish bows to shoot across the dining-room. The monstrous deformities called crinolines are but another version of the same disfigurements. The carmelite, I remember, which has recently returned again, but hair powder, pomatum, stiff curls and gold dust, cushions on the top of the head like bee-hives, with streamers attached, and high-heeled shoes and buckles have not yet re-appeared.
The plagiarisms from the past are too remote to be perceived. The treaty of Amiens, by throwing open the good city of Paris for a brief period, introduced the changed costumes of the Parisian capital, which none could well resist. The cry of Jacobinism, and all the artillery of the Pitt school had been exerted to keep out revolutionary fashions. The monthly doll sent from Paris in former years, was now banned, lest its petticoats might have a tendency to bring in the savour of republicanism. It was brought round by Holland for a short time, but France having occupied that country, the milliners of England were thrown upon their own resources, and singular shapes they invented. At the Peace of Amiens came in the Gallic mode again, after the Grecian taste; powder banished; the natural hair worn with a few flowers. It was visible too in naked arms, short waists, and flowing dresses. Most of the old ladies were too patriotic to adopt the new taste at once. The old men still wore their powdered clubs and pig-tails, but the youths cut their hair short, and adopted the new fashion except the stiffly loyal. The army was kept to its long coats and black gaiters up to the knee, the ponderous firelock unlightened, and the hair above the long leather-cased queue pipe-clayed, and the cocked hat over all for the battalion companies at least, keeping up the Hanoverian clumsiness of the military appearance, until a comparative recent date. The Blues wore cocked hats and long blue coats faced with buff, and carried a musket slung at their sides on horseback, in place of a carbine. The two regiments of Life Guards wore red and white, but were in other respects accoutred the
George III., at court, wore a suit of white velvet and a rose-coloured satin waistcoat, little becoming his florid complexion. The Prince of Wales, in the height of dissipation, wore green velvet striped coats, embroidered with silver flowers, or deep brown velvet ones silver embroidered, with cut steel buttons, and a gold net thrown over all. Pea-green coats were common. I remember wearing a coat of that colour, with buttons half way up the arm on the outside. Blue and red marked the Tory wearer, and blue and buff the Whig. The Radicals were then in the shell, for if any one of a more liberal feeling called out “reform” too loudly, he had a good chance of a long incarceration, for the judges were quite subservient, in those days, to the crown.

From the ladies, nothing was heard, but the most extraordinary descriptions of the colours and stuffs they wore.

“Pray, my dear mother, what is ‘bullet rouge ribbon?’”

“A peculiar red, my dear, this in my bonnet. It was worn before you were born, and was so named from the red hot balls fired by General Elliot at the siege of Gibraltar.”

There were soufflé gauzes, cloaks à la d’Artois, like men’s box coats, with a tassel at the back, and the colour Boue de Paris. There was a colour called the Emperor’s Eye, Ninon feathers, huge chip hats, the crowns surrounded with crinkled gauze, while over all, black or white ostrich feathers nodded like the plumes on a hearse. Paint continued to be used, at a late period, down to the winter of 1805. I refer not to a little
hare’s-foot rouge, but to well caked white paint, which would fall off in scales, as I once witnessed from an old duchess of renown, at a city ball, in the year after that above mentioned. Cosmetics were in plenty, too, at that time, but I do not see one now, the name of which has survived. There was a poudre d’Artois, a milk of Circassia, and a balm of lillies, but the renowned Macassar belongs to a later era.

The equipages of that time were as fantastical as the dresses. There was a carriage that went upon three wheels. Another was called a tim-whiskey, for stanhope and tilbury were as yet unborn. The ladies went to court in chairs decorated externally with not a few ornaments. The intermediate vehicles up to a coach-and-six, which several gentlemen of the old school still used at county meetings and race-courses, were numerous.

The late Sir John St. Aubyn used to tell a story when he was a county member, of his canvass in a coach and six, and having got out of his equipage to pay his compliments to the worthy freeholder, hearing the wife say to her husband, “Jan, Jan, turn the pigs out of the parlour, Sir John St. Aubyn is coming.”

There was a vis-à-vis for two, generally used by gentlemen going to court, superbly ornamented, and the horse richly caparisoned, with two or three footmen behind in gay liveries. There was the lofty phaeton, generally used with four horses, high enough to look into a first floor window. Some of these carriages had silver pannellings. The Prince of Wales launched the most extravagant equipages, crowned with coronets and plumes. The panels fitted with paintings of squabby Cupids and rustic nymphs. The latest and most tasteful vehicle of
the old time was the curricle, but it required two mounted servants. The cheapness of the brougham with one horse, lugging a half dozen family to a dinner, would, in those days, have caused a sneer at the derangement of the dresses, if not at the shabby economy.

Thus much for the difference of the fashions, which it is easy to compare with those of the passing hour.

Nothing will better display the caprices of the Protean lady, than the contrast of the two periods. Their extent of difference is scarcely to be imagined.

To sum up in the way of retrospect—in a free country with an overflowing population, ever energetic and active, each short succession of time must exhibit sensible changes in manners and fashions, but half a century is no short term of itself, without reference to life. Political sentiments, and even those of morality greatly fluctuated during that period. The differences are only discoverable by a comparison of the past with the present. Classes have blended, the artificial has assumed new phases, and profitable memorials become lost in oblivion, much more than might be supposed. The changes occurring in a single life pass by loosely noted, or the pages of history would be far more attractive in conjunction with that which comes home to every human heart, by adding to them comparative pictures of social life in place of confining them to conjecture, court intrigue, political chicanery, and sanguinary warfare. History might have its social as well as political chronicles, the economy of society as well as the disposition of rulers. Thus the advantage of a more extended comparison might be obtained between the merits, defects, retrogradation and advance of a people.


There is difficulty in making out an account of this kind from its voluminous nature. The manners and fashions of the passing hour may be caught partially, in the details of novel writers. The truth must not be literally told in its day. Amplitude of laudation is expected when the existing hour enters into the comparison. It is not easy to overcome the bias and prejudice current from the habit of seeing virtues and follies treated indiscriminately. Yet there are sufficient grounds in our present superiority of position for administering nutriment to self-love, without violating propriety by exaggeration in regard to the inferiority of the past.

If the aspect of the social body during the existence of a living individual extended into age, has undergone greater changes than ever happened before in a similar space of time, the same may be remarked in regard to all connected with opinion, and prejudices the growth of centuries. Yet in the promulgation of truth great obstacles exist, not so much out of the nature of truth itself as from the fear of putting in vogue, what may be held in discredit by those whose ideas being in arrear, are upon every ground unworthy of attention. Modern manners are upon this account a hazardous topic, while those of half a century ago are safe ground. Principles do more for men now than they ever did, while men never did so little for principles. Hence moral courage is no trait of the time, while animal courage was never more abundant, though this truth will be questioned by existing vanity. Freedom of opinion, too, was never more enjoyed, nor its value worse estimated. Self-interest, the most sincere of anomalous
virtues, is not seldom mistaken about what is honourable and dignified, and yet its rule was never more extended.

With all this, the advantage is with the youth rather than the aged among the living. We stand upon higher ground than our parents stood, deny it who may, for our views are more extended. For want of this reflection false reasoning is continual. Even our statesmen are apt to legislate after the manner of half a century ago, or as if they were the municipal council of a petty borough, and treat a mighty empire, as such sage people treat narrow questions, niggling and half performing their work, from the dread of opening their eyes wider. Yet no one will dispute the superior wisdom displayed in the conduct of our existing statesmen, their more liberal measures, sounder judgment, juster views, and wider development of political knowledge. What we now denominate “narrow views,” would have made the world declare us, half a century back, worthy of the pillory for our revolutionary doctrines. We move in vaster circles than the world did then. We dare unpardonable things for that epoch. Its rarities are our commonplaces; its giants our dwarfs. Our lungs require a more extended space to breathe freely. Our railways at fifty miles an hour, would, if proposed to them, have been treated like the fiction of Aladin’s lamp, and yet we want to double our marvels. The vision now takes in half the world, though once it went not beyond the sensible horizon, and although it may not impart lofty aspirations, nor enlarge the heart, nor oppress the imagination with its boundlessness, but turning to self-interest, see in all but a larger mart for
traffic, and extend its views to new worlds for no other end but to play Alexander in huckstering.

But with the masses, this perversion of vision is the indirect source of usefulness. The many can scarcely be better employed than we find them, they can neither be of the wiser order of their species, nor live out of the vulgar circle like philosophers. The bulk of the community is of one idea, and the lapse of time shows more strongly than ever, that improvement operates only through the impulse given by a few superior minds, and that but for such minds, all must have stood still. How much more our mighty advance will contribute to the general welfare than the past has done, posterity will be best able to ascertain. That the labour of the multitude is increased cannot be doubted, body and soul chained to toil in trying to avoid the criminal imputation of poverty. There is a staid, laborious aspect over the land, which belongs to the later period, the population seeming under an incubus, from the cradle to the grave. The history of individual existence appears more humiliating to our nature than in my youth. Nine tenths of the population seem born only to contribute to the redemption of its fear of self-immolation, at no small cost to the virtues of the heart with some, and with others, to the destruction of all spirit-cheering intercourse.

Such is the general appearance of things, but has the advanced state of the empire no relieving lights—is it possible to look over the surface of the country, and seeing the magnitude of labour, the prodigality of wealth, the unwearied industry, the comfort and increased intelligence on all sides, and not be sensible that
existing evils have their counterpoises! That the present good has not compensated for past ills! England, that ocean of existences ever heaving and fluctuating, carries at present upon its bosom latent freights for the coming time to unlade—freights more vast and important than the living dream about. These may be purchased at some expense of social happiness, and may, or may not be worth the cost. We know where the accumulation of power and wealth began, but we know not where it will determine, and hence we cannot estimate its value.

Social comforts with the multitude, are in accordance in a considerable degree with the manners and fashions of the hour, if not dependent upon them, as novels are sometimes coloured by them. Indeed, at one period in the last century, it was attempted to regulate manners by a society for the purpose. This attempt is upon record as a singular instance of the futility of such intermeddlings. Virtue cannot be inculcated by force, it is the offspring of persuasion alone. There is a better understanding now. Manners and morals are kept more distinct, even under the verbal niceties of the law, thanks to the increased intelligence of the time. Societies for penal purposes are nearly extinct, although the present century has seen many, which, with an affected religious or moral object, held political animosity for their moving principle. The Society for the Suppression of Vice is the only one left of this class, valorous against small offenders, but, like an alguazil of Spain, lame of a leg, or blind of an eye, when there is magnitude of station with which to contend. The new police have done such societies a considerable
injury, with much more regard to the principles of justice.

England was never seen by any living individual, physically and morally stronger than at present, a matter of importance where to be weak is to be miserable. As neither virtue nor inoffensiveness is a barrier against individual attack, so with nations the feeble are always outraged by the powerful. The eagle fallen at the last peace, the congregated vultures paid no respect to promises nor treaties with the talonless inhabitants of the air, when they come to divide their prey. The strength of England is not only a greater security to herself now than it ever was, but also to feeble nations against the strong. As Henry IV. of France observed of his child, “He lives for all the world.” Just so England has reached a point where she seems necessary for all the world. She overawes, balances, or unites other lands, and preserves general tranquillity. Her bold commercial policy, not yet fully developed, connects the interests of other empires with hers, and they feel that in this respect she is a part of themselves. There is oftentimes a common interest stronger than any alliance effected by diplomacy, a bond of more worth than the words of kings, in the mutual benefit of a gainful popular intercourse. The last century could not say this with such soundness of justice.

In the grand state of the empire at present, the obliquitous tendencies of a few weak minds can hardly seem worthy to provoke a remark. The glories of Saxon and Norman rule, interminable Jeremiads at the degeneracy of existing things compared to departed barbarisms, the loss of relic and monkery, of mail-clad
lords, feudal crime, and serfship are heard from those who dream in their sleep of ignorance about the past. The men in steel of the days of the Plantagenets, with the monks who read and wrote at their sides, would now feel sadly out of place. A lodging in Newgate for the exercise of some manorial act, innocent in past times, but now denominated murder or rape, would put an end to their assumptions. The mind that reasons can hardly come to the conclusion of some “brotherless hermits,” that to have such ruffians back, to recal the Nevils and Plantagenets, we should give up our arts and learning! our commerce and the brotherhood of nations. The puerilities of mediæval superstition, with fire and faggot argument, can have no hold, but upon feeble minds lusting after ecclesiastical power, or upon human fears cultivated by ignorance. With our scientific improvements, individual comfort, and great national strength, let us ask even insanity itself whether it would not exceed all dementation to exchange our commodious dwellings and streets for those corroded with filth, and plague and leprosy; the sanguinary quarrels of the ignorant chiefs of feudal times for our tranquillity; the conflicts between the houses of York and Lancaster, or even the law-breaking hypocrisy of the Stuarts, for our peaceful senatorial arrangements under a constitutional government; arbitrary rule, and inglorious deeds, and savage laws, as an apology for lawlessness, in place of our pure judicial administration, the latter more advanced in the last half century than for ages before. The Percies and Douglasses of the past were little better than border bandits, leading their unhappy slaves to bloodshed,
kith and kin distinguished for their furtive propensities. It is true, they were good enough to be the best in a bad day, but to have them back again, with their manners and superstitions, it would be similar to uttering prayers for the calamity anew, which
De Foe has so well depicted as having nearly destroyed the metropolis.

The prowess of Englishmen in modern battle-fields has equalled anything displayed in the undisciplined forays of the past time. The navy of England now is equal to that which Edward III. took to Calais, when he required seven hundred and fifty-eight vessels to convey fifteen thousand soldiers and seamen! It is to the credit of our more ignorant ancestors, that they wielded their ignorance to the best advantage, but that man must be no better than an idiot who can desire it now. There are some may do so in faith, who would illuminate the shrine of Thomas à Beckett again, but such are exceptions to the great body of the people.

The men of the present time are not to be undervalued compared with their sires, for with all their faults, they exhibit some countervailing good. Their perseverance in action is worthy of admiration, far excelling their fathers threescore years ago. They may not claim more than intellectual mediocrity, but this mediocrity is far above the standard of that which preceded them. If life by the philosopher be deemed a purposeless employment with the many, still to be subordinate agents in indirect good is sufficient for ordinary people. The entire of a community cannot be that which saints and philosophers desire. The love of acquirement may
generate covetousness, and diminish love of kind and generous emotions, in the individual acting alone, but this may be balanced by the aggregate action. Evil produces good so unexpectedly sometimes in the common course of things, that we must wait results, not venturing to predicate them now, any more than in preceding times. The law of the past is the same here. The labourers of the hive are the most numerous class. Though their duties are circumscribed, they are the most useful of its inhabitants, and their utility to themselves and the community has doubled. They may set little store upon innate things, their virtue being extrinsic. If they are more purely conventional in faith and works than other Christians, it helps their worldly object. Why so many must spend life in “low pursuits,” we can only suppose to be a part of the great scheme of nature for the ultimate, and no doubt wise, object towards which humanity is ascending in a world not yet a tithe peopled. It may chance a hundred ages hence, that others will be able to hazard more valid conjectures on the subject than we can do.

In every pursuit the modern view is wider. In the nineteenth century, trade and manufactures have their aristocracy and democracy. The aristocracy of commerce comprises the merchants, bankers, and manufacturers of capital; the democracy includes the mechanics and workmen. The merchant operates now over the entire globe, and his knowledge of the countries with which he corresponds is frequently personal. Fifty years ago, the sphere of his present traffic was, in many cases, a savage desert, almost unknown. His correspondence is
now as extensive as the field of his operations; and in the last half century it is astonishing how familiar to him have those countries become, that were then wholly strange, or only read of in voyages of discovery. The mind insensibly partakes of the extension to which its occupations hear relation, though it may not be required for its own ends; hence arise a magnitude of operations in the natural course of things, unknown in the last age. Boldness, decision, judgment, and experience, proportionably demanded to ensure success, have proportionably increased. The retail dealer, remaining in nearly the same limited sphere as before, has by no means made the same mental progress. Compared to the merchant, both the mechanic and manufacturer may, as a general rule, be deemed somewhat more confined in their operations. The British merchant is the animating spirit of the popular frame, skilful in adventure, extensive in means, and unrivalled in probity. The hanker and manufacturer are linked to him, the union animates the masses around and beneath, forming the wheels that bear along the stupendous machine of natural prosperity. When untoward seasons create a famine, it is to the merchant the country looks to escape annihilation. By his agency, England has now become the deposit of the treasures of the east and west. With him are to he found records of all the monetary transactions going forward throughout the globe. We now confess what but a few years since was denied on the authority of Parliament, that coin is a mere commodity, like any other in the market, and that a depreciated bank-note possesses not its nominal value in gold, although Parliament did in its omnipotence declare the
contrary to be a solemn truth.
King Canute, when he ordered the waves to retire, was a faithful type of the Commons of England some time ago, on that memorable occasion. Our legislators are at present much wiser. The merchant was wiser in those days, but his voice was not heard; it would be heard and respected now, even by the “country gentlemen,” who then thought to make nothing of a verity. The influence of the English merchant is known, and that influence is a regulating principle everywhere. It penetrates through the ice to Archangel; it opens the coffers of the Siberian miner, extracts the diamond from the Brazilian washings, and gold from the Australian and Californian digger; it is acknowledged in Pekin; and, making a highway of Egypt, governs the capital of the Mogul.

A few years ago the pursuits of Englishmen, though of a limited character, were concentrated upon a fixed end. They were generally governed by one idea, and that obtained second-hand. Then, as now, they scrambled over obstacles, leaped barriers, and braved danger to attain the desired object. But, their judgment was only accurate upon what they made their main pursuit; and this is the case still. They are incapable of application to unaccustomed things, and liable to imposition. The plain, tangible object was that about which they showed an interest deficient at all times in foreseeing remoter consequences. It is only what concerns the interest that rules the decision, thus if the relations are with people of rank, in the way of patronage, they exhibit a thorough contempt for the vulgar. If the reverse be the case, people of rank become the objects of their censure; just so it was in times past. In politics, an
attack upon a foreign interest, or the freedom of a colony, passes unnoticed. The lion must be roused from his lair by something that affects himself or his party, and those of his own side must reiterate alarms about his own wrong or disadvantage, which he cleverly mixes up with the public question. He then vapours in right earnest, shakes his grim front, alarms the government, gains his end, retires to his shop flushed with success, and egotistic about his patriotism. Let India perish, or the Cape sink into the sea, it is of no moment; but an additional threepence added to the income-tax will convert him into a flaming patriot, while his electoral duties tell a very different tale. He selects his parliamentary representative not as anciently from the burghers of his own town, for he will not aid to make his neighbour a greater man than himself, but he will listen as before the Reform Act, to some adventurer’s story of his own political virtues, and give him his support in place of supporting that of the public at large, and then withdraw full of complacency, to his customary avocation. He has not much cleaner hands than of yore, as to a bribe discreetly tendered. He no longer gives his vote at the peer’s dictation, or the squire’s order, to secure to a portion the return from the Treasury. He bargains directly in place of through an agent; and, on the conclusion of the affair, smiles approbation at his own integrity and independence. Such seems to be the difference half a century has made in his exercise of the elective franchise, on his being placed upon a footing of independence in executing a public duty.

This exclusive attention to his own interests makes
him adverse to the receipt of new truths, his opinions being based upon what is of a good familiar standing; an improbable truth is a positive falsehood in his eyes. Here there is not much change. In the credit given to what was once believed, second only to holy writ, old ideas in some things are not quite as exclusive as before. Truth makes its way though slowly, and now that which was deemed worthy of cremation in 1800, is hospitably entertained. A few more can discern truth at the bottom of her well; but there she remains still seeing the stars which they cannot discover. In fact, the ascent gained by the many now in place of a less number formerly, approaches to a more decent mediocrity. There are none who rise to the splendour of a few in the past time, because diffusion, in place of concentration, has become the order of the day. Many things admitted half a century ago by a few gifted persons have not yet been rendered current coin, while some have been lately repeated as novelties. There are social paradoxes yet unexplained, but there is a vast deal of past crookedness made straight, and no small degree of wisdom has been attained from experience. A minister ambitious of power could not now run the nation eight hundred millions in debt to place a monarch on a throne against the consent of the people he governed. The few are now seen to have been right on that point, as they always are in what depends upon reason and principle. How much more worthily are the British people employed in the arts of peace, in making industrial exhibitions, and promoting a common brotherhood among nations.

The Englishman of the present day is master of more expedients than he was fifty years ago. His
incessant action would bewilder his parents. These were a more enjoying race, simple in their pleasures, and less under the influence of a superficial propriety and affectation of moral feeling. There was less hypocrisy, more heartiness, and less calculation in their actions. If there are fewer now who would champion for a principle to the outrance against interest, happily there are sounder principles current than there ever were before.

Social clubs were a past institution. They were few in the number of members, and linked in mutual kindliness, bore no resemblance to the unsocial, cumbersome, anti-domestic establishments of the present day. A peculiar mark of the time is the pushing to excess everything that suits the fashion, until it loses its original character in discomfort or extravagance. The friendly intercourse of the old clubs does not exist in the new. Nothing can be more vapid than the conversation in modern club-houses. Not that men of ability are not members of them, but that for one member able to support a conversation, there are ten without an idea of anything but themselves or their professional avocations. All must be lowered to their tone. The old clubs consisted of a few persons, who were more equal in regard to talents, or nearer upon an equality in mind, and attached to the end of the institution, if it were of any peculiar character. Thus mutual information was imparted, and men drawn more towards each other by congenial pursuits, formed friendships that lasted through life. Even as to exclusiveness little is now gained, notwithstanding the black-ball system. The truth is, the ballot goes much by interest.
In a well-known club which has many candidates and few vacancies, it is quite common to black-ball all down to a particular name, which the members feel desirous should be among them, and interest is made for the particular candidate accordingly. They have no scruple about rejecting men of high honour and unimpeachable character, to whom they have no objection except that they prefer or are pressed to admit another, who stands perhaps forty down upon the list in order of application. Justice and the principle of honour have no hold here. Nor is the ballot at any time a security against obnoxious persons, unless they are publicly and notoriously known to be so. Even common honesty and decent manners are not guaranteed by it. In one club a member may be discovered walking away with a purloined quire of paper, and a stick of sealing-wax in his pocket; in another, acts happen which rigid committees endeavour to prevent, that would hardly have occurred in the most uneducated and vulgar classes of society. Compared to the old club, the resemblance, therefore, is but small. The multitudinous, sullen, ostentatious, modern establishments, without friendly intercourse, are but reflections of the fashion of the day:—aimless, heartless, but superficially imposing. There is nothing gained in these social bodies by the lapse of half a century.

The attachment to a country life is more lessened than it was; this is a growing evil. There are numbers who, out of restlessness of temper, talk of the country, and pay it brief visits from the pure love of change, but in reality know not what it is. They must carry their town luxuries with them to the letter, and all
is well. So the young guardsman said he did not mind hard service, let him but have a tender steak, a silver fork, and a plate rubbed with a shallot. The enormous extension of our principal towns, continually adds to the number of those whose earliest years pass between four brick walls, receiving a dingy light through smoke-blinded casements. Youthful associations, or those most vivid and permanent, are not with green fields, or the beauty of the heavens. The sentiment and feeling must be differently allied. Smoky streets, and shops decorated with splendid wares, all that human ingenuity can execute, imprint their images on the young retina, but mountain, vale and woodland are foreign. The more gorgeous landscapes are the perspective of broad streets and glittering equipages, plastered brick, and plate glass,—the hollow and extrinsic. The healthful, serene, and simple character of natural beauty, or the sublimer objects which present themselves in romantic scenery, have only a passing interest for them to what they had formerly.

A lady of the civic stamp visiting Wales, was prevailed upon to ascend a high mountain, one side of which, from the summit downwards, was an awful precipice. The view, far and near, was magnificent. The party were silent with admiration, and even apprehension, for they stood on the thrilling verge of a perpendicular descent, and one step would have plunged them into eternity. Insensible to the beauty of the scenery, as to the consequence of a slight movement of position, she broke the general silence by the exclamation: “I forgot to order a pudding to be added to the dinner at the inn.”


What vast congregations of men now live strange to any world but that which man has made; it was different in my boyhood. With such, the tasteless uniformity of the dingiest street is now the dearest association of early life. Within its habitations exist, or had existed, those whose memory is dear to them, and who in earlier days watched over and trained them into maturity. In them remain the hearths at which, side by side, they once sat with some visitor of their sire’s, haply of no mean renown, or what was more common, heard the same tale of stocks and bargains reiterated day by day, and year by year, between the same order of visitors, at the same hour, and in the same language, until they quitted the paternal roof. How vast the increase of those with the enormous enlargement of capital, to whom woodland, mountain, or ocean shore can impart none of the feelings that are inherent to those born in the country. They may have their villa, and make its coach-house a palace, but they will be citizens still, precise, laborious, confined to a narrow mental circle, beyond which they never expatiate. They never can feel in the presence of nature, as they feel who have been born in its bosom. Hence the growing unimaginativeness of the age, and the decline of poetry; hence the decrease of reflective reading, the mediocrity in art, the unsound critical judgment prevalent, and the inconsistent character of our fictions with nature. Hence Roman characters are drawn from modern beaux, and heroines neither virtuous enough for praise, nor sufficiently vicious to be stigmatized as notoriously bad examples. All comes from our over artificial state in which the factitious makes up the
mass in everything. Greatness, simplicity, purity, fidelity in character are wanting. Everything is minute, nothing broad and ample, all in petty detail. The very hairs of our heads are numbered now.

Many of the inhabitants of the country, and some of contracted or shaken fortunes, on the other band, help to aid in the increase of crowded communities. They find advantages of which their fathers would never have dreamed, or which they would have reprobated, in changing their ancient residences, and leaving their ample mansions desolate. They have partaken in the prevalent love of ostentation, or they can live in the capital as insulated and unsocial as they please. They can substitute for their former country hospitality, a crust of bread and solitude in town. They may live in an oblivion only second to death, economical in their obscurity, and none be the wiser. The metropolis is the darkest of living graves for those who desire retirement there, although it is the depositary of high intellect. On the other hand, they may squander the rent of their country estates in the most refined luxuries all the year round, away from the troublesome solicitations of poor cottagers, or the requests of the curate for alms to sustain his pensioners. They may save the chaldron and half of coals, and the dozen of blankets, once annually doled out to the indigent, that their charitable virtues may be recorded in the local newspaper, and they may spend five, ten, or fifteen thousand per annum in a round of frivolities, their ears no longer insulted by the impertinent axiom, “that property has its duties.”


Fifty years ago, the attachment to the country was carried to the opposite extreme by many who had no real feeling for its attractions. Education made its claims extravagant, and gave it attributes to which it had no right. Pastoral love, and the heathen mythology were then declared vernacular. Every boarding school girl was a Pastorella, or a Phyllis: now she is a strummer on the piano of barbarous polkas. The school-boy of fourteen was addressed as Damon or Corydon, as shy then as he is now a forward puppy. Conversation, reading, study, were all interlarded with Grecian or Roman phraseology, Love was the burthen of every song, and the courtship of our parents was amid dove cooing in green woods, or set to the warbling of nightingales. It seemed never to have been thought that nymphs and dryads could be made too cheap, and were impersonated in my youth, by hay-makers and Welsh milk-maids. Harrys and Marys were all Sylvias and Floras, modifications of heathenism in Christian guise. It is true the hallucination was harmless, however ridiculous in poetry or prose. It was a part of education, too. The gravest divines sanctioned the combination of modern females with the nymphs of the golden age; and who, in those days, dared to dispute the taste of a bewigged doctor in divinity, who made learning attractive, and settled all argument with the rod, in place of the reasoning of Locke. Coleridge said that his master was an exception to others, for even at the close of the century he ridiculed the abuse of classic terms in modern learning. “Pierian spring, boy! you mean the cloister pump.”

The advantages derived from intercourse in great
communities of men are undeniable, but they have their counterbalance. The extinction of country attachment proceeds too fast. The untenanted houses of old families in the rural districts are too numerous. The parson, doctor, and attorney, ill replace the old head of the village. The new squire, who has purchased an estate in the vicinity from the proceeds of trade, has little comparative weight, he carries the mark of an upstart. His money may conquer that objection, especially as he can talk largely of the world elsewhere, but his manners will not do. The ancient predecessor, of old family, small fortune, and a mind of proportionate dimensions, finds himself outshone, and that those around him are less regardful of his exclusiveness than the gentry of a Bury St. Edmund would be. He is not reverenced as his sire was, and so he also betakes himself to the capital, where princes and squires are undistinguishable alike, and where he can hide his chagrin in the thought that he is no worse off than better men. In these changes we discern only one good in the rapid extinction of feudal notions.

Men are loosening their attachment to localities in general much more of late years. The rapidity and cheapness of conveyance spreads the kingdom like a map before all, from which curiosity may select its sight-seeing. The railroad is the true leveller, Pitt would have instructed the diabolis regis to inform against it on that score. The extension of trade renders travelling more necessary than of old, time is so economised by speed, that it is often worth while to transact business personally, when in past days, a tedious correspondence must have been the result, but it is an enemy to exclusive-
ness, it breeds too much familiarity between Durham and Devon. The sphere of observation becomes much enlarged, and the existing generation more universal in its views. Residents at a distance continually meet, and if courtesy be more extended, knowledge is also increased, the foe of the mediaeval monk and arbitrary ideas. By accelerated motion we receive an addition to the term of life of which we had been six thousand years in ignorance, discovering that the duration of action does not depend alone, as heretofore imagined, upon that of integument.

The natives of our cities become more visitors to other lands. They glide along green fields, and amid mountain valleys, to which their fathers were strangers, and seeing foreign lands at thirty miles an hour, talk of having acquired a knowledge of nations, in which their fathers sojourned, for that purpose.

Being a more practical people now, we do not live so much upon wise sayings that continually break their own necks. “Wise saws and instances” made half the old instruction of youth, while the meaning was beyond youthful comprehension, where there was any meaning at all to be gathered. The mode of inculcating moral principles, as in the case of Brown, Jones, and Robinson, in the most venerated and popular of all spelling books, was no doubt of service to educate Jesuits, ministers of state, and ambassadors, if one may judge the trees by their fruit; but we have found a better scheme of morality than fear and chicanery can lay down. We no longer practice this double-faced conduct in our instruction, however much modern practice in after life may engraft its utility in our hearts, upon
taking our share in social corruptions. The strictness once observed, made youth all obedience and submission where the rod was only present, giving greater latitude when parents or instructors were out of hearing. Learning is no longer a burthen or a plague to the callow mind. We have banished such impolitic managements from all but our grammar schools, where the scholar is still taught to love learning by the repulsive means the rest of the world would use to excite a hatred of it.

Perhaps filial attachment is not so strong as it was half a century ago; it is certain that in England it does not equal the parental in the majority of cases. Children are sent away very young from the parental home, before there is permanence of attachment, before the heart is linked from association, to an affection for absent objects. Hence filial regard is weakened. It is wonderful on the other hand, how cooly some parents will part with their children, sending them to foreign climates at a tender age, seemingly without a painful feeling, and with the chances ten to one against their ever meeting more. The hazards of torrid climes, of pestilence or sword, go for nothing. “Thank God Tom or Harry,” as the case may be, “is provided for—he is off my hands.” So closes the scene of filial departure. Perhaps it arises in our artificial state, from the difficulty of living, and explains how doubly our lives are lives of care. It may be well, too, with our taxed and dense population, that parental affection should be so accommodating to the exigency of the time, and universality of feeling exist among a people who must be citizens of the world. The African, or yellow fever, the
cholera, or sword of the enemy, relieve parental anxiety by a short route, and Tom or Harry somewhat prematurely pass the way of all the earth. In the lower classes there is much of the same spirit exhibited, perhaps from the same cause. The feeling is somewhat animal, for dumb creatures drive off their offspring when they can no longer take care of them themselves—man alone is patriarchal.

Thus the cosmopolitan character of England requires that its social state should be more accommodating now than in the last century. The scions of her families must be dispersed in all climes. It was impossible that, with the rapid progress of knowledge, the march of discovery, and revelations of science, we should not in some degree merge individual in general feeling, and, looking at both the old and new world, exclaim, “Creation’s tenant, all the world is ours!”

Some who hanker after the barbarisms of the past tell us we are retrograding. England retrograding! We ask for the signs, and we are referred to some disadvantage a class may have sustained for the benefit of all; to some snug monopoly in decay, or time-honoured abuse rectified; some feudal barbarism extinguished, or aristocratical assumption lowered. When, in 1838, the population of the great city of New York assembled on the shores of its vast harbour to behold the first steamboat from England; when bank and wharf, mast and house-top, were covered with myriads of admiring spectators, the descendants of Englishmen, to welcome the conquest of the ocean by steam; when the Manchester and Birmingham railway opened, and the towns and villages along the entire route lined the sides, and
the shouts of the assembled myriads rent the air as the fire-fraught traveller passed with the speed of the tempest—those things did not exhibit retrogradation. To the philosophic mind, they were heralds of yet greater things to come—stars in the east, directed to some remote unknown end; when we have brought India and America so much nearer to Europe; when we communicate by the electric telegraph; when the waves of the mysterious Red Sea, the avengers of the Jews upon the host of Pharoah, convey our wives and infants to India, subdued by modern science into a quiet oceanic highway, we smile at the magnitude of the difficulty in past descriptions; when our population has doubled in the space of one human life, and our revenue tripled, England cannot have retrograded. In place of this, it has pleased the Supreme Being through England to develope a course of unparallelled action, in the same space of time, and to keep her in continual progression, as if she were destined to become to the world in the useful, what Greece became in the fine arts. Thus England promises to become an agent in contributing to the comfort and happiness of mankind, in a mode of the ultimate extent of which the present generation can form no conjecture. So far from retrograding, we marvel at our past dilatoriness, and are restless and feverish at the idea of standing still. Ideas expand with the field of bodily action, and morals share in the benefit. Men hate each other no longer for their political opinions, an equal right to judge for themselves being admitted for all. In religion the same moderation has superseded past bigotry, except among those who profess the faith they do not practise. Even
the asperity of ecclesiastical enmity is a little softened, and the gloom of seventeen hundred years of disputes and persecutions has changed into the hope of a brighter future. I could bear personal witness to social changes almost incredible, did I not recollect that there is a second generation at present from that to which I refer.

It is cheering to observe, in our advancing years, the morn of a better day give birth to fresh hope, to mark its brightness in the direction of the meridian, raising visions of splendour to come, which neither the Athenian before the day of Pericles, nor the Jew before the consummation of his temple, could have equalled in anticipation. We look around, and scarcely doubt of what hope thus sanctifies in regard to the destiny of this great country, and of mankind. We read of the decadence of empires, from Egypt to Assyria, Assyria to Greece, Greece to imperial Rome, and of the fall of other states, repetitions of the same melancholy tale. But, even if England had commenced her “age of merchandize,” she could never return to her original incivilization. As yet we see nothing save the forward march. Our spirits are unbroken by the tyranny of rulers, by capricious luxury, or moral degradation. We do not find the means of existence so easy as to be able to recline in idleness at our hearths, leaving the morrow to its fortunes. We are a laborious, diligent people, and must be so for a long time to come. When we cease to be so, we shall find the social edifice crumble away, like some ancient building, dropping piece by piece; the hoary tints of age sullying the original hue; the lichen speckling the walls, and the storm scattering them, until large fragments fall, and we find under our feet the
mouldings and sharp carvings that so lately enriched the architecture. But that day is not to be seen by the present generation. From our past history, marked in the rude stones of Avebury and Stonehenge, to the massy Norman temple, and the florid Anglo-Gothic, we have continually moved towards what was better. We feel and know that we are not yet descending from our elevated site, and that the enlargement of the national mind and our advance are correspondent. The evidence of the truth of this observation is found in our statistics, in the streets, in the roads and rivers, in our colossal railways, our mastership of the ocean by steam—in short, everywhere. For our motive skill alone hypothetically stated, we should have been held madmen by our fathers.


To conclude.—The mind frequently glances back through the long-drawn vale of perished events, where we commonly find things arrange themselves, not according to the order of dates, but of impressions. The wheels of time roll irresistibly on, and hurry us over the vanquished years towards the inevitable goal. Hope begins to be more fitful than formerly. The sunshine that once irradiated the footsteps “from morn to dewy eve,” clouds more frequently intercept. By this, it is true, we are less often deceived, than we are in the prime and vigour of existence. But if the light shine fainter still, as with a borrowed radiance, we are enabled to compensate for the difference by recalling, amid its pale lustre, the spirits of the past. We find no inconsiderable consolation in the power of having, in recourse to that which was our own, something like a re-possession. We learn to estimate things more at their real value, are less the victims of delusion, and more the scholars of experience. We turn to what is permanent. We no longer evade great truths, but see them in all upon which time has set his seal,
and can at least boast of having witnessed mighty doings in our day. The past is unchangeably ours, and in the pleasing sadness of our retrospections, we here find sombre enjoyments, it is true, but such as we cannot expect our ever diminishing future will outrival. We look to yesterday in place of to-morrow, and deal with past realities in place of idle anticipations. We are led by memory into the bowers haunted by our earlier footsteps, and meet again our youthful loves. We see ourselves once more amid the flowers and graces of a young existence greatly withered, no more glittering with the early dew, but still redolent of a fragrance grateful to us, since the world has become a twice told tale. We thus glide back from a’ state of wearying and profitless expectation to the period when the days of evil had not been encountered, and we feast upon the sober fare of our acquired wisdom. Pitiable is he who has no food of this nature to nourish his latter days—a Crusoe in the desolation of his own solitude. Yet how great is the number of those who taste the dregs of existence to the glimmering of vitality, with minds preying upon their own vacancy!

For myself, I endeavour to meet the evils of my allotment with firmness. I fall back upon my own consolations, and do not look to others for supplying them. I have been permitted to enjoy pleasure, and have sustained much less bodily than mental pain. None of my faculties have failed me. I have had enough to bear, and have borne it by and within myself, in a proud silence. I have seen much of this distempered life, and have well weighed the small value of things considered its best by the majority of mankind. I have
the clearest conviction that while there is much good in the world, evil predominates, a proof, so I esteem it, of man’s immortal progression.

I have fared better than I merited, but nothing near as well as the proportion of my actual toils entitled me to expect. It is true I have had the unfortunate propensity of regarding the object of my immediate labours as the principal in place of the secondary motive. I did not here tread the beaten track. But for this I am the sole sufferer in my advancing years. I never coaxed, nor flattered, nor lied, nor persevered in pestering those who have in their hands the good things of this life—my services were rendered too sincerely and too independently. I have been behind the scenes in the play of life. I have not been dazzled by the lights, the glare of which the spectators take for unborrowed radiance. I have marked the tinsel and rouge upon the performers, and watched the actions and motives of the players from the back of the stage, as well as from the front of the house. I have observed how spangle and alloy pass for rich embroidery and sterling gold, and have been at war with what the audience esteemed admirable and resplendent. I have seen the tawdry robes placed upon the shoulders of the actors, and the working of the foul ropes and pullies that set the stage machinery in motion. Perhaps it was a misfortune that I escaped this admiring contagion, and that I did not, in matters of opinion, feel the admiration of the superficial many in place of depending upon reflection, and the unbiassed judgment of the few, while loathing injustice, and rejoicing in truth.

But I have said enough upon a point which cannot
affect my charity towards mankind. After all, in the game of life, men are like schoolboys, ever bickering about their marbles, tops, and things of small moment, while they should acquire those of higher import, and be learning lessons of great pith and moment;—but I must close my “Recollections,” which, I regret, lapses in memory have not permitted to be more worthy of record.*

* I did not see Raikes’ Journal until these volumes were completed. I was pleased to find the distaste of the Bourbons for us, as I had judged it at the time, borne out by the Duke of Wellington’s high authority. The Duke stated that Ney’s trial in no way came under his cognizance, and besides:—“even at that early period, the Bourbons though so newly established in France through our means, began to be jealous of our interference in their affairs, and we (foreigners) began to be cautious of intruding our opinions, when not absolutely called for. The execution of Ney was the unbiassed act of the Bourbons.” I believed, and do still, that the reported attempt on the life of the Duke of Wellington, was a thing got up by the emigrants and police. The Duke was on good terms with several of the French marshals, who used to visit him. Marshal Suchet, the last time I saw him, had just come from calling upon the Duke. The Bourbons did not like his reception of the Emperor’s officers, and I believe the plot originated in order to make the world believe the attempt was at the instigation of the Napoleonists, and thus to cast odium upon them. The Duke offered an opportunity every day in the week for the blow of an assassin, better than at entering his own house, which had always sentries, and a captain’s guard at the door. I was living in Paris at the time. I had peculiar opportunities for every kind of information. I thought then as I think now.—(See pages 63 and 104, Vol. II. of the present work.)

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