One May Fancy What A Stir This Would Have Made In The Courtly
Circles Of The Reign Of George II.
Fashionable literature now arrays
itself on the side of the working classes.
The current of novel
writing is reversed. Instead of milliners and chambermaids being
bewitched with the adventures of countesses and dukes, we now have
fine lords and ladies hanging enchanted over the history of John the
Carrier, with his little Dot, dropping sympathetic tears into little
Charlie's wash tub, and pursuing the fortunes of a dressmaker's
apprentice, in company with poor Smike, and honest John Brodie and his
little Yorkshire wife. Punch laughs at every body but the work people;
and if, occasionally, he laughs at them, it is rather in a kindly way
than with any air of contempt. Then, Prince Albert visits model
lodging houses, and commands all the ingenuity of the kingdom to
expend itself in completing the ideal of a workman's cottage for the
great World's Fair. Lords deliver lydeum lectures; ladies patronize
ragged schools; committees of duchesses meliorate the condition of
needlewomen. In short, the great ship of the world has tacked, and
stands on another course.
The beginning of this great humanitarian movement in England was
undoubtedly the struggle of Clarkson, Wilberforce, and their
associates, for the overthrow of the slave trade. In that struggle the
religious democratic element was brought to bear for years upon the
mind of Parliament. The negro, most degraded of men, was taken up, and
for years made to agitate British society on the simple ground that he
had a human soul.
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