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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 157 pages of information about Great Britain and Her Queen.
past sixty years, and not to perceive, amid all the cross-currents—­false ambitions, false pretences, mammon-worship, pitiless selfishness, sins of individuals, sins of society, sins of the nation—­an ever-widening and mastering stream of beneficent energy, which has already wonderfully changed for the better many of the conditions of existence, and which, since its flow shows no signs of abating, we may hope to see spreading more widely, and bearing down in its great flood the wrecks of many another oppression and iniquity.

CHAPTER IX.

INTELLECTUAL AND SPIRITUAL PROGRESS.

[Illustration:  Robert Southey.]

“Man doth not live by bread alone.”  The enormous material progress of this country during the last sixty years—­imperfectly indicated by the fact that during the last forty years the taxable income of the United Kingdom has been considerably more than doubled—­would be but a barren theme of rejoicing, if there were signs among us of intellectual or spiritual degeneracy.  The great periods of English history have been always fruitful in great thinkers and great writers, in religious and mental activity.  Endeavouring to judge our own period by this standard, and making a swift survey of its achievements in literature, we do not find it apparently inferior to the splendours of “great Elizabeth” or of the Augustan age of Anne.  Our fifth Queen-regnant, whose reign, longer than that of any of her four predecessors, is also happier than that of the greatest among them, can reckon among her subjects an even larger number of men eminent in all departments of knowledge, though perhaps we cannot boast one name quite equal to Newton in science, and though assuredly neither this nor any modern nation has yet a second imaginative writer whose throne may be set beside that of Shakespeare.

[Illustration:  William Wordsworth.]

[Illustration:  Alfred Tennyson. From a Photograph by Elliott & Fry]

We excel in quantity, indeed; for while, owing to the spread of education, the number of readers has been greatly increased, the number of writers has risen proportionately; the activity of the press has increased tenfold.  Journalism has become a far more formidable power in the land than in the earlier years when, as our domestic annals plainly indicate, the Times ruled as the Napoleon of newspapers.  This result is largely due to the removal of the duties formerly imposed both on the journals themselves and on their essential paper material; and it would indeed “dizzy the arithmetic of memory” should we try to enumerate the varied periodicals that are far younger than Her Majesty’s happy reign.  Of these a great number are excellent in both intention and execution, and must be numbered among the educating, civilising, Christianising agencies of the day.  They are something more and higher than the “savoury literary entremets” designed to please

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