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[352]

The term of human life throughout the kingdom was much shorter than it is at the present time. The year 1685 was not a sickly year; yet one in twenty-three of the entire population of London died. The present annual mortality of London is only one in forty. Filth was allowed to accumulate in the streets of the capital to a degree which would be intolerable to modern sensitiveness. The dwellings of the peasantry were loathsome as stys. Personal cleanliness was little attended to. Foul infectious diseases, now almost unknown, were common. Fleas and other detestable vermin abounded. The sense of misery was stupefied by enormous draughts of beer, almost the only article of consumption which was cheaper than at present.

Sectarian bigotry and persecution, for opinions on matters about which often neither persecutor nor persecuted could be certain, added to the evils of the times. Neighbor acted as spy upon neighbor; swearing and drunken Cavaliers avenged the persecution and plunder of their fathers in Cromwell's time by packing the jail with the inheritors of the faith and names of the old Puritan zealots. When the corpse of some Independent preacher or Anabaptist interpreter of prophecies was brought out from the jail where heresy expiated its offences, the rabble followed it with scoffing and derision, encouraged thereto by magistrates and clergy. The temper of the time was hard and cruel. Macaulay has two or three pages crowded with terrible facts touching this point. The gospel of humanity seems neither to have been preached nor felt.

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