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WHETHER or not this book will be remembered a quarter of a century hence, will be a matter of no moment to the Author; if it has so long an existence, it will serve to point out the many great changes England has undergone since the work was first
Surely that man has lived in an age worth recording, who, from travelling three miles an hour in the old ponderous stage-wagon, or snail-paced marketboat, has been whirled fifty miles in the same space
of time by a railway engine; who has sent a letter three hundred miles for a penny, and seen her Majesty “black-balled” by her own paid postmaster, after she had been kind enough to countenance the transmission; and when there are grave men who
believe with Wilkes, that hanging a man is the very
worst use you can make of him; and others who
think that it would be no sin to erect a statue to
Oliver Cromwell—that the stern Protector did not govern England so badly after all, and that had not King Charles been a knave, he would never have
These are bold thoughts to utter, yet we hear them every day, and no one now seems to make them a matter of wonderment
been a martyr.
Many of the scenes in the present work are laid amongst a simple and old-fashioned race of people, who, half a century ago, bowed down at the name of King, and believed that to respect his “divine right” was next to, if not before, their duty to Heaven ; when to honour God and the King was supposed to be one and the same thing. Since those days, a new rank has arisen, and intellect claims a right to be heard, although its owner may not possess a rood of land. Punch has, since that period, been transformed from the old street blackguard on the green-baize forum, into a wise staid gentleman, respectable to his very hump, and wielding a truncheon more dreaded
by evil doers, than the baton of our brave fieldmarshal ever was by the enemy. The sun himself has turned portrait-painter, and our likenesses are now drawn by the light of Heaven; while Titmarsh, having a week's holiday, sets out to have a peep at the Pyramids, and just makes as much preparation for leaving Cornhill for Grand Cairo, as our forefathers did when they journeyed from Cheapside to Clapham. If these are not changes enough, let us glance at the days when Dryden was paid sixpence a line for his poetry, to our own, when five hundred pounds are offered for the best play, the finest picture, and the choicest statue, and neither a first-rate author, artist, nor sculptor, thinks it worth his while to become a competitor for any of the prizes.
Surely, amid such daring changes as these, the Author is " doing the state some service," by drawing the thoughts of his Readers into the green solitudes of the country, that they may have a brief breathing space, before they proceed further; and although he has ventured to give an opinion on a few matters, they will be better able to weigh them more calmly
while traversing in fancy the yet unenclosed footpaths of Old England; that if, at times, he has expressed his sentiments in strong language, he would have them remember that he has also felt deeply, and that the subject so handled was then the one in which his whole soul felt most interested; and that he has ever borne in mind the holy text which says,—“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”