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[19] But a taste for reading and a love of knowledge were generally diffused, and there were few homes of those in comfortable circumstances where there was not at least a closetful of good books. These were carefully, almost reverently, read; and such reading was productive of sound intellectual growth. Johnson was the favorite author in prose, and Pope in verse. Hervey's Meditations and Zimmerman on Solitude were popular books, and the glittering monotony of Darwin found admirers and imitators.

Few were rich, and none were very poor. The largest estates were not more than what would now be deemed a modest competence. Political independence and popular government were of too recent a date to have wholly effaced the social customs of a colonial period. A certain line of distinction was drawn between men, according to their wealth and station. Magistrates, men in authority, the learned professions, were treated with peculiar deference and consideration. Clergymen, especially, enjoyed from their office simply an influence now given to personal superiority alone.

Friends and acquaintances saw much of each other in a simple and unostentatious way. Those in easy circumstances exercised a frequent, cordial, and not expensive hospitality. Time was not so precious, and life was not so crowded, then as now, and men and women could afford to give a larger portion of the day to social pleasures. The traditions of the fathers did not forbid a certain measure of conviviality. Excellent Madeira flowed generously at rich men's tables, and punch was a liquor that held up its head in good society. It was a pleasant life they led, in spite of the Puritan frost that yet lingered in the air.

The resources of wealth and the refinements of luxury, however, fail of their end if they do not awaken the faculty of discourse, and make conversation finer and brighter. This result of society was secured in those days in measure not less ample than in our own. The women of that day were, in beauty of person, in grace of manner, in a high sense of duty, in the power of quiet self-sacrifice, and in clearness of thought, not inferior to those of later times. The contrasts of life were not so marked:

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