We may satisfy ourselves as to William's appreciation of poetry by the fact that Shadwell was his first poet-laureate and Nahum Tate the next. Dr. Nicholas Brady and Nahum Tate made the version of the Psalms which long disgraced the Church Service. Sir William Temple, Baxter, Sir George Mackenzie, Stillingfleet, and Evelyn, as well as some others flourishing at the end of the last period, still remained.

Henry Purcell (b. 1658; d. 1695) produced the bulk of his works in William's reign. He composed the music to "The Tempest," "Dioclesian," "King Arthur," "Don Quixote," "Bonduca," and "Orpheus Britannicus." Many parts of these, and his sonatas, anthems, catches, rounds, glees, etc., are as much enjoyed now as in his own day. The music to Davenant's "Circe," by Banister, of Shadwell's "Psyche," by Lock, and of Dryden's "Albion and Albanius," by Grabut, had increased in England the liking for the lyrical drama; but Purcell's compositions wonderfully strengthened it, and from "King Arthur" may properly be dated the introduction of the English opera. Gay's "Beggar's Opera," six-and-thirty years after, however, was the first complete and avowed opera, and this did not establish that kind of entertainment in England. The wonderful success of this production, which was performed for sixty-two nights (not consecutive), was chiefly derived from the wit and satire of the composition itself, the abundance of popular airs introduced, and the party feeling which it gratified. The airs were selected and adapted by Dr. Pepusch, a German, who settled in London, and became celebrated there. He also furnished the overture, and wrote accompaniments to the airs. Eleven years after, Milton's "Comus" was adapted to the stage by the Rev. Dr. Dalton, with music by Dr. Arne, who afterwards composed the music for "Artaxerxes," and thence derived a high reputation.

This proposal, which, at an earlier stage of the dispute, might have been listened to, was one at this stage which was sure to be rejected, and was only one of those miserable half measures which commonplace minds so frequently put forth only to demonstrate their inability to grasp the amplitude of the occasion. It was supposed that the measure had been intended to be larger, but that the Bedford party had fallen on it in Council, and reduced it to these pitiable dimensions. Yet when it was introduced into the Commons by Lord North, the Bedford party looked at each other in consternation, and soon the tempest broke loose on the Treasury benches.

DUBLIN CASTLE. (From a Photograph by W. Lawrence, Dublin.)

The minute subdivision of land which placed the population in a state of such complete dependence upon the potato was first encouraged by the landlords, in order to multiply the number of voters, and increase their Parliamentary interest; but subsequently, as the population increased, it became in a great measure the work of the people themselves. The possession of land afforded the only certain means of subsistence, and a farm was therefore divided among the sons of the family, each one, as he was marriedwhich happened earlyreceiving some share, and each daughter also often getting a slice as her marriage-portion. In vain were clauses against subletting inserted in leases; in vain was the erection of new houses prohibited; in vain did the landlord threaten the tenant. The latter relied upon the sympathy of his class to prevent ejectment, and on his own ingenuity to defeat the other impediments to his favourite mode of providing for his family. This process was at length carried to an extreme that became perfectly ludicrous. Instead of each sub-tenant or assignee of a portion of the farm receiving his holding in one compact lot, he obtained a part of each particular quality of land, so that his tenement consisted of a number of scattered patches, each too small to be separately fenced, and exposed to the constant depredations of his neighbours' cattle, thus affording a fruitful source of quarrels, and utterly preventing the possibility of any improved system of husbandry. These small patches, however, were not numerous enough to afford "potato gardens" for the still increasing population, and hence arose the conacre system, by which those who occupied no land were enabled to grow potatoes for themselves. Tempted by the high rent, which varied from 8 to 14 an acre without manure, the farmers gave to the cottiers in their neighbourhood the use of their land merely for the potato crop, generally a quarter of an Irish acre to each. On this the cottier put all the manure he could make by his pig, or the children could scrape off the road during the year, and "planted" his crop of potatoes, which he relied upon as almost the sole support of his family. On it he also fed the pig, which paid the rent, or procured clothes and other necessaries if he had been permitted to pay the rent with his own labour. The labourer thus became a commercial speculator in potatoes. He mortgaged his labour for part of the ensuing year for the rent of his field. If his speculation proved successful, he was able to replace his capital, to fatten his pig, and to support himself and his family, while he cleared off his debt to the farmer. If it failed, his former savings were gone, his heap of manure had been expended to no purpose, and he had lost the means of rendering his pig fit for the market. But his debt to the farmer still remained, and the scanty wages which he could earn at some periods of the year were reduced, not only by the increased number of persons looking for work, but also by the diminished ability of the farmers to employ them. Speculation in potatoes, whether on a large or small scale, had always been hazardous in the southern and westerly portions of Ireland. There had been famines from the failure of that crop at various times, and a remarkably severe one in 1822, when Parliament voted 300,000 for public works and other relief purposes, and subscriptions were raised to the amount of 310,000, of which 44,000 was collected in Ireland. In 1831 violent storms and continual rain brought on another failure of the potato crop in the west of Ireland, particularly along the coast of Galway, Mayo, and Donegal. On this occasion the English public, with ready sympathy, again came forward, and subscriptions were raised, amounting to about[537] 75,000. On several other occasions subsequently, the Government found it necessary to advance money for the relief of Irish misery, invariably occasioned by the failure of the potatoes, and followed by distress and disease. The public and the Legislature had therefore repeated warnings of the danger of having millions of people dependent for existence upon so precarious a crop.

At length, on the 22nd of September, Lord John Russell, attended by Lord Althorp, and a great body of the most distinguished Reformers, appeared at the bar of the House of Lords, and handed the English Reform Bill to the Lord Chancellor, praying the concurrence of their Lordships. This scene has been made the subject of a great historical painting. The Bill, without any opposition or remark from any Conservative peer, was read a first time on the motion of Earl Grey, and ordered to be read a second time on Monday week. The debate on the second reading commenced on the 3rd of October, with a speech from Lord Greygrave, elaborate, earnest, and impressive; simple, yet dignified. He described his own efforts in regard to Parliamentary Reform, spoke of the changes which had of necessity attended his opinions on the subject, and of the circumstances which, at the close of his long career, when the conservative spirit is naturally strongest in every man, had led him to endeavour to put in practice the theories and speculations of his youth and manhood. Lord Eldon described the progress of the debate from day to day in letters to members of his family. Lord Dudley and Lord Haddington quite surprised and delighted the zealous old manthey spoke so admirably against the Bill. Lord Carnarvon delivered a most excellent speech; but Lord Plunket's speaking[339] disappointed him. The fifth night of the debate was occupied by the lawyers. Lord Eldonfollowing Lord Wynford and Lord Plunketsolemnly delivered his conscience on this momentous occasion. He was ill and weak, and being an octogenarian, he might be said to be speaking on the edge of the grave. He expressed his horror of the new doctrines which had been laid down with respect to the law of the country and its institutions. He could not consent to have all rights arising out of Charters, and all the rights of close boroughs, swept away. Boroughs, he contended, were both property and trust. Close corporations had as good a right to hold their charters under the Great Seal as any of their lordships had to their titles and their peerages. He said that he was a freeman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; he had received his education in the corporation school of that town on cheap terms, as the son of a freeman; he had a right to it; and he had hoped that, when his ashes were laid in the grave, he might have given some memorandum that the boys there, situated as he was, might rise to be Lord Chancellors of England, if, having the advantage of that education, they were honest, faithful, and industrious. The closing night of the debate brought out the two most illustrious law lords in the House, who had long been rivals and competitors in the arenas of professional and political lifeLord Brougham and Lord Lyndhurst. Each was holding back in order to have the opportunity of replying to the other; but Lord Lyndhurst managed to have the last word, the more excitable Lord Chancellor having lost patience, and flung himself into the debate. He implored the House on his knees to pass the Bill. But the coup de thatre miscarried, owing to the obvious anxiety of his friends lest he should be thought to be suffering from too much mulled port.


The Ministerial statement was anticipated with great interest. It was delivered by the new Premier, on the evening of the 22nd, Brougham presiding as Lord Chancellor. Foremost and most conspicuous in his programme was the question of Parliamentary Reform; next, economy and peace. Having gone in detail through the principles of[325] his policy, and the reforms he proposed to introduce, the noble lord summed up all in the following words:"The principles on which I now stand, and upon which the Administration is prepared to act, arethe amelioration of existing abuses; the promotion of the most rigid economy in every branch of the public expenditure; and lastly, every endeavour that can be made by Government to preserve peace, consistent with the honour and character of the country. Upon these principles I have undertaken an office to which I have neither the affectation nor presumption to state that I am equal. I have arrived at a period of life when retirement is more to be desired than active employment; and I can assure your lordships that I should not have emerged from it had I not foundmay I be permitted to say thus much without incurring the charge of vanity or arrogance?had I not found myself, owing to accidental circumstances, certainly not to any merit of my own, placed in a situation in which, if I had declined the task, I had every reason to believe that any attempt to form a new Government on principles which I could support would have been unsuccessful. Urged by these considerations, being at the same time aware of my own inability, but acting in accordance with my sense of public duty, I have undertaken the Government of the country at the present momentous crisis."