[Footnote 1: Essay on Criticism, lines 297, 298.]
[Footnote 2: For a list of the chief dramatists of the Restoration and their best work, see p. 626.]
[Footnote 3: For full titles, see p. 50.]
[Footnote 4: For full titles, see p. 6.]
The Colonial Expansion of England.—The most important movements in English history during the second forty years of the eighteenth century are connected with colonial expansion. In 1739 friction between England and Spain over colonial trade forced Robert Walpole, the prime minister, into a war which was not successfully prosecuted, and which compelled him to resign in 1742. The humorous statement that he “abdicated,” contains a large element of truth, for he had been a much more important ruler than the king. The contest with Spain was merged in the unprofitable war of the Austrian Succession (1740-1778), in which England participated.
The successors of Walpole were weak and inefficient; but in 1757 William Pitt, the Elder (1708-1778), although merely secretary of state, obtained the ascendancy in the government. Walpole had tried in vain to bribe Pitt, who was in politics the counterpart of Wesley in religious life. Pitt appealed to the patriotism and to the sense of honor of his countrymen, and his appeal was heard. His enthusiasm and integrity, coupled with good judgment of men, enabled him to lead England to become the foremost power of the world.
France had managed her colonial affairs in America and in India so well that it seemed as if she might in both places displace England. Pitt, however, selected good leaders and planned a comprehensive method of warfare against France, both in Europe and in the colonies. Between 1750 and 1760 Clive was making Great Britain mistress of the vast empire of India. The French and Indian War (1754-1760) in America resulted in favor of England. In 1759 Wolfe shattered the power of France in Canada, which has since remained an English colony. England was expanding to the eastward and the westward and taking her literature with her. As Wolfe advanced on Quebec, he was reading Gray’s Elegy.
At the beginning of this century England owned one half of the island of Great Britain and a few colonial settlements. Not until 1707 were England and Scotland united. In 1763 England had vast dominions in North America and India. She had become the greatest colonial power in the world.
The New Religious Influence.—England could not have taken such a commanding position unless the patriotism and morals of her citizens had improved since the beginning of the century. The church had become too lukewarm and respectable to bring in the masses, who saw more to attract them in taverns and places of public amusement.