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with Popery, from their tendency to unmask its impostures; and it was, doubtless, from this cause that the priesthood waged the relentless war it is known to have done against the surviving remains of ancient learning ; that innumerable MSS., which had escaped Vandal rage, were unsparingly destroyed, or the writings on them obliterated to make way for saintly legends and monkish superstitions. In this war against ancient literature many of the books of Tacitus, Livy, and Polybius are conjectured to have been lost; and the Western states of Europe became leavened into one inert mass of ignorance and slavery, and so continued for centuries, during the dreary interval extending from the eleventh to the close of the fifteenth century, and aptly termed the Dark Ages.
Under such mephitic cloud everything tending to freedom, elevation, or secular enjoyment, was rigorously proscribed. Misery, credulity, and abasement were the accepted faith and esteemed excellence of nations. Mentally in bondage, and physically suffering great privations, it is hardly possible to form a comparative idea of the depth of human wretchedness. But proximately perhaps some vague conception may be reached, merely of the distressing terrors in which men lived in an age in which the entire knowledge in repute consisted of nursery frights, of lying stories of saints, devils, ghosts, and witches; blended in England with Scandinavian ogres, or the traditional mythology of Pucks, fairies, elves, and evil spirits, inherited from the aboriginal Britons. From this supernatural region there was no escape ; nor could any class be exempt from its orthodox belief. For none was there either truth or science ; since all that was not orally known was wrapped in the mysteries of an unknown tongue. Latin was the sole language of books, the Scriptures, and religious services,
PAPAL OBSTRUCTIONS TO CIVILISATION.
of law proceedings and the laws themselves (Magna Charta to wit): even plays and dramatic entertainments were in Latin ; and with this Latin not only were the mass of the people unacquainted, but the mass of the people's teachers — the monks and lay clergy.
The blind led the blind, and the inevitable result followed. The physical condition was in keeping with the intellectual. Church lands there were in great plenty; cathedrals and castles in abundance, built or building : but what of the mansions of the people, their household comforts, or even ordinary diet? It is unnecessary to cite familiar history; suffice it to say, that in these times of meridian Popery, men could not, even in the more favoured classes, eat fresh meat the year round. In these rain pant days of the Breakspeares, Hildebrands, and Thomas-à-Beckets artificial winter. food for cattle had not been discovered, and of course they would be much too lean for slaughter and food, till vernal warmth and rains had renewed the herbage. Neither were there chimneys, glazed windows, Brussels or Kidderminster for queen, noble, or prelate. What Gurth or Gawain had for pillow, couch, clothing, or sustenance Erasmus has afforded us some intimations, and of which living examples may perhaps be found among the Bushmen, Cherokees, or Fuegians.
It would, however, be unfair to affiliate all those middle-age privations and hardships on Popery : partly they were transmitted barbarisms; but of this Popery stands justly impeached in the fact that had it held on in its unmitigated sway, mankind would have slowly escaped from them; that by force, fraud, and astute combination, it did all in its power to perpetuate them by the cruel persecution of impugners, and the vigilant suppression of every inquiry tending to supersede the estublished regimen and domination. Therefore, with little qualification, it may be safely affirmed, that if society is not now in mediæval depression, no thanks to the Gregories, Urbans, Leos, or their satellites : knowledge was their foe, and they did their utmost to stop its diffusion. Even when the primal art of printing — the mother and promulgator of all other arts was discovered, what did they do? exclaimed, “That's a light ! if that light is not put out, we shall be put out." And so it was—at least they were greatly curtailed in influence and dimmed in lustre.
Whatever touched the network in which the Papacy had entangled the world, though in its most distant meshes, was nervously felt. So astronomy was anathematised - held to be demoniacal -- and Galileo dungeoned and tortured, because he had found that the earth moved; and the poor old man after his liberation, under the semblance of recantation, still persisted, and said aside to his friends, “It does move notwithstanding." Astronomy has greatly advanced since, despite the interdict of the Vatican; but it was the blessed Reformation which opened the broad pathway of science. Progress it guaranteed by securing for philosophy, morals, and lite. rature the same freedom of research it won for Gospel truth. Intellect has been thus emancipated and genius left free. For England special graces have been to the present successively gained — for persecution a generous toleration - for asceticism, gloom, and bigotry, a genial and temperate social life — for narrow and prejudiced national exclusions a cosmopolitan freedom of intercourse - and for those in bonds or suffering everywhere, a noble sympathy if not relief.
AGE OF THE TUDORS.
Characteristics of the Tudor Era. – Decline of the Feudal Nobility. - Abolition of Slavery and Vassalage. – Dismemberment of the Great Estates. — Influence of Trade and Manufactures. — Decay of Cities and Touns from Corporate Privileges ; the Rise of Free Towns. — Insurrections of the People. — Origin of Pauperism. — Gradual Evolution of the Poor Laws. Great Act of Queen Elizabeth. Arbitrary Powers of the Tudors. Courts of Star Chamber and High Commission. — Martial Law. Social Life under Elizabeth. — Architecture. – Diet and Manners.
THE pacific era which commenced with the Tudors by the accession of Henry VII. served as a nursery for the undisturbed growth of the germs of public prosperity, that, despite of antecedent storms, had taken root. The ambitious wars of the Plantagenets, and not less destructive feuds of the barons, had rendered peace an essential requisite to national progress. It continued with little interruption for a century and a half; and in this long term tranquillity the condition of the community in its internal relations - political, religious, and social - underwent signal advances. Exhausting, however, as the continental struggles had been, it is not impossible they may have had issues more favourable to development than absolute quietude during an equal period. For, even that peace may be beneficial, the stimuli of active pursuits and occupations are as essential to the maintenance of the energies of a nation as to the powers of an individual. Mere stagnation is certainly the most detrimental phase a community can assume ; and it may therefore be held to have been highly conducive to advancement that, on the cessation of strife, the people were not left vacant of purpose, but opened for themselves a new sphere of activities, to which it is not improbable past trials and difficulties gave impulse and vivacity.
Two of the prominent characteristics of the Tudor period consisted in the fixed and more independent positions acquired by the extremes of society. The rise of the Commons on the one hand, and the more unchallenged power of the crown on the other, had both their origin in the decline of the feudal and ecclesiastical orders; what these lost in possessions and influence, the people and the sovereign gained. As is not unusual with overruling ascendencies, each order had been mainly contributory to its own degradation, – the Church, by its arrogance and insatiable cupidity; while the barons, by their furious private quarrels, had been literally self-destructive, and, like the anarchists of revolutionary France, from mutual jealousy and hatred, had almost effected their own entire extermination. The diminution in their number lessened their weight in the scale of government, and they were no longer able to prescribe with the same frequency and absoluteness limits to regal authority. At the same time, though the power of the crown had increased by the decline of the peerage, its exercise had become more amenable to legal sanctions than under the Norman princes. The despotism of the Tudors was equally unlimited with the forms of government that had for centuries preceded them, and less checked by competing claims; yet their arbitrary rule had begun to be exercised, not wholly according to the dictates of royal caprice, but subject to admitted laws and institutions. Consequently, under the pretension of prerogative