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Early in the century, the Church of England shared in the prevailing coldness and unspirituality; the filling of its offices was tainted by political intrigue, and while its clergy were idle and often shamefully lax in manners and morals, their parishioners, too, were often indifferent. But with this condition of affairs many men came to be dissatisfied, especially John and CHARLES WESLEY and GEORGE WHITEFIELD. These men felt that religion should be a more real and personal experience, and, by appealing to man's conscience and heart rather than to his reason, should be a sincere motive in life. Stirred by their own intense convictions, they went among the masses and preached in the open air to crowds of mechanics and farmers. Their marvelous eloquence and sincerity struck deep into the souls of thousands. The preaching of Whitefield made the tears trickle down the grimy faces of the Bristol colliers. A ship-builder in the colonies, who once heard him preach, said, “Every Sunday that I go to my parish church, I can build a ship from stem to stern under the sermon; but were it to save my soul, under Mr. Whitefield I could not lay a single plank.” This new religious sincerity spread throughout England, and from the lower classes to society at large.
Deeper Sympathy with Man. -- With this revival of a more spiritual life in the midst of a jovial, unbelieving, and often coarse and brutal society, there came an increasing sense of human brotherhood and of the inherent dignity of manhood. English history contains few things more truly beautiful than the story of this awakening tenderness and compassion. The novel sense of pity became wide and heartfelt enough to embrace not men only, but all wantonly hurt and suffering creatures. Bull-baiting gradually fell into disfavor,
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the head of the government affairs. A great historian has observed that Pitt did a work for politics similar to that which John Wesley was, at the same time, accomplishing for religion. He believed in his countrymen, and England responded to his trust. Instead of debauching public morals by bribery, he made his passsionate appeal to patriotism.
The Expansion of England. - Under Pitt's enthusiasm and devotion, the interests of England, which before had seemingly been narrowed to insular limits, expanded before men's eyes, and about the middle of the century the nation entered upon that great duel with the rival power of France which was to raise her from an island monarchy to a world empire. In 1757 Robert Clive won a great victory at Plassey, and laid the foundation of England's supremacy in India. In 1759 Wolfe captured Quebec, and established her dominion in America. Two worlds, the rich civilization of the ancient East, and the vast and undeveloped resources of the new West, were almost at the same instant within England's grasp. “We are forced,” said Horace Walpole, “to ask every morning what victory there is, for fear of missing
Men's hearts were warm with a glow of patriotic pride and a sense of England's mighty destiny. Meanwhile, exploration as well as foreign war was directing the thoughts of Englishmen to distant and almost unknown lands. In 1770 Captain Cook explored the east coast of Australia, and took possession of it in the name of Great Britain. Eighteen years later the first permanent English settlement was made on the site of the present city of Sydney, and the British colonial empire was definitely extended to these far-off waters of the Pacific. The story of Cook's voyages, like those of the explorers of Elizabeth's time, brought home a
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of Terror, wreak on their rulers the accumulated vengeance of centuries. The finest spirits of England, though horrified at the bloody excesses in France, are thrilled and exalted by this flood of enthusiasm for the cause of man; the word “liberty” sounds as a talisman in men's ears, and the spirit of revolution for a time controls and inspires many of the best productions of literature.
LITERATURE AFTER THE DEATH OF POPE
Modern England, thus beginning to take shape even during the lifetime of Pope and Walpole, had a literature of its own; but the older literary methods and ideals by no means came to an end with the beginning of the new. Accordingly, after the rise of this new literature, or from about 1725, we find the literature of England flowing, as it were, in two separate streams; the one, marked by a mode or fashion of writing which began definitely with Dryden, may be traced from Dryden on through Pope, its most perfect representative, through Samuel Johnson, until its dissipation in the time of Wordsworth; the other, springing from a different source and inspired by a different spirit, flows with gathered force and volume, and with deepening channel, almost to our own time. Many of the features which had characterized the Restoration literature in the reign of Queen Anne were prolonged far into the century, and some writers modeled their style on Pope and Addison until toward the century's close. In poetry many works continued to be written in which the didactic element prevailed, and in prose we have the ponderous work of Samuel Johnson, which continues the reign of common sense in the realm of literature.