Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

hour, was, a hundred and sixty years ago, a day's journey from him. The street, which now affords to the artisan, during the whole night, a secure, a convenient, and a brilliantly-lighted walk, was, a hundred and sixty years ago, so dark after sunset that he would not have been able to see his hand, so ill paved that he would have run constant risk of breaking his neck, and so ill watched that he would have been in imminent danger of being knocked down and plundered of his small earnings.

2. Every bricklayer who falls from a scaffold, every sweeper of a crossing who is run over by a carriage, now may have his wounds dressed and his limbs set with a skill such as, a hundred and sixty years ago, all the wealth of a great lord, or of a merchant-prince, could not have purchased.

3. Some frightful diseases have been extirpated by science, and some have been banished by police. The term of human life has been lengthened over the whole kingdom, and especially in the towns. The year 1685 was not accounted sickly; yet in the year 1685 more than one in twenty-three of the inhabitants of the capital died. At present only one inhabitant of the capital in forty dies annually. The difference in salubrity between the London of the nineteenth century and the London of the seventeenth century is very far greater than the difference between London in an ordinary season and London in the cholera.

4. Still more important is the benefit which all orders of society, and especially the lower orders, have derived from the mollifying influence of civilisation on the national character. The groundwork of that character has indeed been the same through many generations, in the sense in which the groundwork of the character of an individual may be said to be the same, when he is a rude and thoughtless schoolboy and when he is a refined and accomplished man. It is pleasing to reflect that the public mind of England has softened while it has ripened, and that we have, in the course of ages, become, not only a wiser, but also a kinder people. There is scarcely a page of the history or lighter literature of the seventeenth century which does not contain some proof that our ancestors were less humane than their posterity.

5. The discipline of workshops, of schools, of private families, though not more efficient than at present, was infinitely harsher. Masters, well born and bred, were in the habit of beating their servants.

6. A man pressed to death for refusing to plead, a woman burned for coining, excited less sympathy than is now felt for a galled horse or an overdriven ox. Fights, compared with which a boxing-match is a refined and humane spectacle, were among the favourite diversions of a large part of the town. Multitudes assembled to see gladiators hack each other to pieces with deadly weapons, and shouted with delight when one of the combatants lost a finger or an eye.

7. The prisons were seminaries of every crime and of every disease. At the assizes, the lean and yellow culprits brought with them from their cells to the dock an atmosphere of stench and pestilence which sometimes avenged them signally on bench, bar, and jury. But on all this misery society looked with profound indifference.

8. Nowhere could be found that sensitive and restless compassion which, in our time, pries into the stores and water-casks of every emigrant ship, which winces at every lash laid on the back of a drunken

[ocr errors]

soldier, which will not suffer the thief in the hulks to be ill-fed or overworked, and which has repeatedly endeavoured to save the life even of the murderer.

9. It is true that compassion ought, like all other feelings, to be under the government of reason, and has, for want of such government, produced some ridiculous and some deplorable effects. But the more we study the annals of the past, the more shall we rejoice that we live in a merciful age, in an age in which cruelty is abhorred, and in which pain, even when deserved, is inflicted reluctantly and from a sense of duty. Every class, doubtless, has gained largely by this great moral change; but the class which has gained most is the poorest, the most dependent, and the most defenceless.

Macaulay. pro-por-tion dis-eas'-es chol'-er-a en-deav'-oured la'-bour-er sci'-ence so-ci'-e-ty mur'-der-er brill-iant-ly ac-count'-ed char'-ac-ter gov'-ern-ment earn'-ings ann'-u-al-ly gen-er-a’-tions in-flict'-ed scaf'-fold cen'-tu-ry re-flect

doubt'-less pur'-chased or-din'-ar-y at-mos-phere de-fence'-less civ-11-18-a'-tion, progress in arts and dis'-ci-pline, order ; regulations. refinement.

ef-fi'-cient, thorough. phil-os'-o-phy, knowledge of the in'-fin-ite-ly, very greatly. causes of things.

coin'-ing, making false money. peer, a nobleman.

sym'-pa-thy, feeling for. rus’-tic, countryman.

galled horse, a horse with a sore on ar'-ti-san, workman.

its skin caused by rubbing. con-ven'-lent, suitable.

spec'-ta-cle, sight. im'-min-ent, near; threatening. di-ver'-sions, amusements. ex-tir'-pat-ed, rooted out.

glad'-1-a-tors, men who fight for sa-lu'-bri-ty, healthiness.

show. mol-li-fy-ing, softening and refining. com'-bat-ants, fighters. in-di-vid'-u-al, person.

sem'-in-ar-ies, schools, or places ac-com'-plished

and

where something is taught. clever man.

as-siz'-es, the sittings of a court in lit'-er-a-ture, books.

counties twice a year. an'-ces-tors, forefathers.

cul’-prits, criminals. hu-mane', tender or merciful.

dock, the box in a court in which pos-ter'-i-ty, descendants, children.

the accused person stands.

man, wise

own

ju'-ry, a body of not less than twelve hulks, old ships, which were once men met to declare the truth

used as prisons. on evidence before them.

ri-dic'-u-lous, foolish, absurd. com-pas'-sion, pity.

de-plor'-a-ble, bad, evil. pries, looks carefully into.

ann'-als, story of past events. em'-i-grant ship, a ship containing ab-horred', strongly disliked. people leaving their

re-luc'-tant-ly, unwillingly. country to settle in another. de-pend'-ent, relying upon the help win'-ces, shrinks back.

of others. EXERCISES.--1. The Greek prefix (1) epi- means upon ; as epitaph, a writing upon a tombstone (tomb). (2) Eu- means well ; as euphony, an agreeable sound; eulogy, a speaking well of.

2. Analyse and parse the following: 'It is pleasing to reflect that the public mind of England has softened while it has ripened.'

3. Make sentences of your own, and use in each one or more of the following words : Convenient, spectacle, reluctantly, abhor.

:

WINTER EVENING IN THE COUNTRY. [In this extract from the Task, William Cowper describes a winter evening in the country, when surrounded by domestic comfort. ] 1. Hark! 'tis the twanging horn o'er yonder bridge,

That with its wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the wintry flood, on which the moon
Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright:
He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spattered boots, strapped waist, and frozen

locks,
News from all nations lumbering at his back.
True to his charge, the close-packed load behind,
Yet careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destined inn,
And, having dropped the expected bag, pass on.

2. He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,

Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief

Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some,
To him indifferent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears, that trickled down the writer's cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.

[ocr errors]

3. But, oh, the important budget! ushered in

With such heart-shaking music, who can say
What are its tidings? Have our troops awaked ?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugged,
Snore to the murmurs of the Atlantic wave ?
Is India free? and does she wear her plumed
And jewelled turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still ? The grand debate,
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logic, and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh-I long to know them all ;
I burn to set the imprisoned wranglers free,

And give them voice and utterance once again. 4. Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,

Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
Not such his evening who, with shining face,
Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeezed
And bored with elbow-points through both his sides,
Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage.

M

« ZurückWeiter »