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 prisons, damp, loathsome, infected with disease, and swarming with vermin,--we are filled with wonder at the contrast which it presents to the England of our day. We no longer sigh for ‘the good old days.’ The most confirmed grumbler is compelled to admit that, bad as things now are. they were far worse a few generations back. Macaulay, in this elaborate and carefully prepared chapter, has done a good service to humanity in disabusing well-intentioned ignorance of the melancholy notion that the world is growing worse, and in putting to silence the cant of blind, unreasoning conservatism. In 1685 the entire population of England our author estimates at from five millions to five millions five hundred thousand. Of the eight hundred thousand families at that period, one half had animal food twice a week. The other half ate it not at all, or at most not oftener than once a week. Wheaten loaves were only seen at the tables of the comparatively wealthy. Rye, barley, and oats were the food of the vast majority. The average wages of workingmen was at least one half less than is paid in England for the same service at the present day. One fifth of the people were paupers, or recipients of parish relief. Clothing and bedding were scarce and dear. Education was almost unknown to the vast majority. The houses and shops were not numbered in the cities, for porters, coachmen, and errand-runners could not read. The shopkeeper distinguished his place of business by painted signs and graven images. Oxford and Cambridge Universities were little better than a
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