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beggary. The South Sea Bubble and the Mississippi scheme of Law which burst in the same year and ruined tens of thousands of French families, afford illustrations on a gigantic scale of the prevailing passion for speculation and for gambling.
The Duke of Devonshire lost an estate at a game of basset. The fine intellect of Chesterfield was thoroughly enslaved by the vice. At Bath, which was then the centre of English fashion, it reigned supreme; and the physicians even recommended it to their patients as a form of distraction. In the green-rooms of the theatres, as Mrs. Bellamy assures us, thousands were often lost and won in a single night. Among fashionable ladies the passion was quite as strong as among men, and the professor of whist and quadrille became a regular attendant at their levees. Miss Pelham, the daughter of the prime minister, was one of the most notorious gamblers of her time, and Lady Cowper speaks in her Diary of sittings at Court, of which the lowest stake was 200 guineas. The public lotteries contributed very powerfully to diffuse the taste for gambling among
all classes.' One of the most powerful exponents of the dark side of the century is Hogarth, who makes some of its worst features live before our eyes. So also do the novels of Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett. Differing as their works do in character, they have the common merit of presenting in indelible lines a picture of the time in its social aspects. It may have been, as Stuart Mill asserts, an age of strong men, but it was an age of coarse vices, an age wanting in the refinements and graces of life;
of cruel punishments, cruel sports, and of a political corruption extending through all the departments of the State.
But it would be a narrow view of the age to dwell wholly on its gloomier features, which are always the easiest to detect. If the period under consideration had prominent vices, it had also distinguished merits. Under Queen Anne and her immediate successors, home-keeping Englishmen had more space to breathe in than
hey have now, and trade was not demoralized by excessive competition. No attempt was made to separate class from class, and population was not large enough to make the battle of life almost hopeless in the lowest section of the community. If there was less refinement than among ourselves, there was far less of nervous susceptibility, and the country was free from the half-educated class of men and women who know enough to make them dissatisfied, without attaining to the larger knowledge which yields wisdom and content. To say that the age was better than our own would be to deny a thousand signs of material and intellectual progress, but it had fewer dangers to contend with, and if there was far less of wealth in the country the people were probably more satisfied with their lot."
To glance at the century as a whole does not fall within my province, but I may be permitted to observe that in the course of it science and invention made rapid strides; that under the inspiring sway of Handel the power of music was felt as it was never felt before; that in the latter half of the period the Novel, destined to be one of the noblest fruits of our imaginative literature, attained a robust life in the hands of Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett; and that, with Reynolds and Gainsborough, with Romney and Wilson, a glorious school of landscape and portrait painters arose, which is still the pride of England. It will
According to Hallam the thirty years which followed the Treaty of Utrecht was the most prosperous season that England had ever experienced.'—Const. Hist. ii. 464.
be remembered, too, that many of the great charitable institutions which make our own age illustrious, had their birth in the last. The military genius of England was displayed in Marlborough and in Clive, her mercy in John Howard, her spirit of enterprise in Cook, her self-sacrifice in Wesley and Whitefield, her statesmanship in Walpole, in Chatham, and in William Pitt. In oratory as everyone knows, the eighteenth century was surpassingly great, and never before or since has the country produced a political philosopher of the calibre of Burke. What England reaped in literature during the period of which Pope has been selected as the most striking figure, it will be my endeavour to show in the course of these pages.