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CHAPTER VIII

THE GEORGIAN PERIOD (1744 to 1800)

Historical References

AUBREY, LECKY, and KNIGHT as for previous chapter.
ADOLPHUS, J. History of England, 1760-1820. 7 v.
HUGHES, T. S. History of England, 1760-1837. 7 v.
MASSEY, W. History of England during the Reign of George III.
4 v.

PHILLIMORE, J. G. History of England during the Reign of George
III.

STANHOPE, P. H. (Viscount Mahon, 5th Earl Stanhope.) History of England, 1713-1783. 7 v.

WRIGHT, T. England under the House of Hanover.

2 v.

MORRIS, E. E. Early Hanoverians. (Epochs of Modern History.) ROWLEY, J. Settlement of the Constitution, 1689–1784.

MORLEY, J. Life of Edmund Burke.

TREVELYAN, G. O.

Early History of Charles James Fox.

The Four Georges.

THACKERAY, W. M.

MACAULAY, T. B. Essays on "Warren Hastings," "William Pitt," and "Boswell's Johnson."

Letters of Junius.

Historical
Sketch.

THE second half of the eighteenth century is marked by very important advances in national industry and wealth, and by a broadening of the sentiments of philanthropy and sympathy with the oppressed. Canada and India were won for England, and though the colonies of America established their independence, Great Britain became a great world power. George III., a narrow-minded and reactionary king, attempted to reassert

the principles of absolutism, with the effect that constitutional liberty was established more firmly than ever. The liberty of the press was affirmed by judicial decisions which are its foundations to-day. The right to publish the debates in the House of Commons was won. The cynical tone of the men of the former period gave way to a more enthusiastic patriotism. It was an age of great orators and debaters, and though the basis of representation was absurdly unjust, the principles of constitutional law and constitutional freedom were eloquently expounded in the House of Commons. The rise of Methodism democratized religion and reacted to awaken the Established Church from its lethargy. John Howard visited the prisons and aroused public indignation and pity by his accounts of the barbarous treatment of prisoners. William Wilberforce began the agitation against the slave trade which resulted in the next century in the abolishment of the system in all the English colonies. It was, however, in the industrial world that the change from the ancient to the modern is most striking.

The steam engine was invented by James Watt in 1769. It released the immense store of energy in the English coal fields. The making of cast iron by the use of coke was first successfully accomplished in 1735. The puddling furnace was invented in 1784, grooved rolls for the manufacture of wrought iron in 1783, and cast steel in 1740. Mechanical spinning and weaving were invented by Arkwright and Hargreaves in 1763 and 1769. The basic inventions of all the great modern industries, except the applications of electricity, were made in the eighteenth century. Pure mathematics dates from Sir Isaac Newton in 1687, but applied science, which underlies our modern civilization, was developed later. The great, rich, manu

facturing, and commercial England that we know entered upon its career in the eighteenth century.

As we shall see, the Georgian era did not witness the advent of any poet of the first rank. Imaginative interpretation was timid and confined itself largely to conventional channels. Pope was regarded as the poetic model. There was little rebellion against settled modes of thinking, but a general acquiescence in conventional opinion. Toward the close of the century, however, the French Revolution aroused men to criticise the foundations of things, and Robert Burns expressed in his songs some of the instincts of the democracy which in the next century were to revolutionize men's ways of looking at social rights and duties, and showed them that the lyric was the most natural and charming form of poetry.

Of the Georgian period, or latter half of the eighteenth century, Dr. Samuel Johnson is the representative figure.

Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784.

His father was a bookseller and bookbinder at the cathedral town of Lichfield, and on market days opened a stall in the neighboring town of Birmingham. The son received his early education from a schoolmaster named Hunter, of whom he said in later years, "Sir, he beat me well, without that I should have done nothing." Vigorous corporal punishment was so general in the eighteenth century as a means of stimulating the minds of the young that Johnson's experience was by no means exceptional. He was regarded as a prodigy, especially in his knowledge of Latin, and was sent to Oxford in 1728, where he remained three years and a half without taking a degree. This was no doubt an unhappy period of his life, as he was poor and proud and was worried by debts and tormented by religious

doubts. At the death of his father in the winter of 17311732, he succeeded to an inheritance of but twenty pounds. He attempted teaching, but as he was of an ungainly figure and extremely near-sighted, indeed nearly blind in one eye, he was little suited to the employment. He was, like Ben Jonson, a very large and muscular man and a great Latinist, but his face was seamed and scarred by an inherited scrofulous disorder, and he suffered from a peculiar nervous affection which caused involuntary spasmodic twitchings of the face and peculiarities of gait and manner. He was obliged to give up teaching, and went to London with the manuscript of a tragedy, "Irene," in his pocket to seek his fortune as a literary hack. He was accompanied by one of his pupils, David Garrick, who afterward. became a famous actor, indeed one of the greatest England has ever produced. Johnson was then twenty-eight years old (1736).

Before going to London he married a widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Porter, who had children nearly as old as he, and was apparently the last person to inspire romantic devotion. But he remained tenderly attached to her all his life and mourned sincerely for her; for, under all his roughness and uncouthness, Johnson was a man, and when he passed his word it was given once for all. For some twenty years his life was laborious and obscure. He published two poems, "London" and the "Vanity of Human Wishes," satires in imitation of Juvenal, which attracted the attention of the best judges. He reported the debates in the House for a publisher, under the assumed title of the "Senate of Lilliput," and most of what passes with us as the oratory of the elder Pitt and his contemporaries is the composition of Samuel Johnson based on a few notes. Reporting the transactions in Par

liament was not allowed at the time, and the prohibition was evaded by some transparent device like that mentioned above. He wrote a life of the Bohemian poet, Savage, with whom he had often walked the streets of London, too poor to pay for a lodging. In 1741 David Garrick, who had now risen to an important position as a theater manager, brought out "Irene," and although it was not a dramatic success, Johnson received what to him was the large sum of £300. From 1750 to 1752 he conducted the Rambler, a biweekly paper on the plan of Addison and Steele's Spectator, which, though not very successful as a periodical, had a large sale in the bound volumes. In 1758 he put forth a weekly journal, called the Idler, which ran for two years. Before this, in 1747, he began the great work of a dictionary of the Johnson's English language which was completed in 1755. Dictionary. This, though valueless for etymologies, since Johnson was ignorant of the Teutonic languages, is excellent in citations, and when we consider that the author had little aid and almost no models to copy, must be regarded as a wonderful performance. Johnson had now after years of hard work attained a recognized position. From that date to his death he was the man of the largest literary accomplishment and most solid literary reputation in England. Soon after the accession of George III. a pension of £300 a year was offered him, and, after some hesitation, accepted. His circumstances were now comparatively easy. He gathered about him the famous Literary Club-Burke, Garrick, Goldsmith, Boswell, Joshua Reynolds, Langton, Beauclerk, and other men of wit and culture. He brought out after considerable delay an edition of Shakespeare, a task for which he was not well fitted, and the accomplishment of which added

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