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PICTURES OF COUNTRY LIFE.
BY THOMAS MILLER,
BEAUTIES OF THE COUNTRY,"
, “ RURAL SKETCHES,
WARD & LOCK, 158, FLEET STREET.
WHETHER or not this book will be remembered a quarter of a century hence, will be a matter of no moment to the Author; if it has so long an existence, it will serve to point out the many great changes England has undergone since the work was written.
Surely that man has lived in an age worth recording, who, from travelling three miles an hour in the old ponderous stage-waggon, or snail-paced market boat, has been whirled fifty miles in the same space of time by a railway engine; who has sent a letter hundreds of miles for a penny, and seen her Majesty “black-balled” by her own paid postmaster, after she had been kind enough to countenance the transmission; and when there are grave men who believe with Wilkes, that hanging a man is the very worst use you can make of him; and others who think that it would be no sin to erect a statue to Oliver Cromwel]—that the stern Protector did not govern England so badly after all, and that had not King Charles been a knave, he would never have been a martyr. These are bold thoughts to utter, yet we hear them every day, and no one now seems to make them a matter of wonderment.
Many of the scenes in the present work are laid amongst a simple and old-fashioned race of people, who, half a century ago, bowed down at the name of King, and believed that to respect his “divine right” was next to, if not before, their duty to Heaven ; when to honour God and the King was supposed to be one and the same thing. Since those days, a
new rank has arisen, and intellect claims a right to be heard, although its owner may not possess a rood of land. Punch has, since that period, been transformed from the old street blackguard on the green-baize forum, into a wise, staid gentleman, respectable to his very hump, and wielding a truncheon more dreaded by evil-doers than the baton of
our bravest field-marshal ever was by the enemy. The sun himself has turned portrait-painter, and our likenesses are now drawn by the light of Heaven; while a man, having a week's holiday, sets out to have a peep at the Pyramids, and just makes as much preparation for leaving Cornhill for Grand Cairo, as our forefathers did when they journeyed from Cheapside to Clapham. If these are not changes enough, let us glance at the days when Dryden was paid sixpence a line for his poetry, to our own, when five hundred pounds have been offered for the best play, and no first-rate author thought it worth while to compete for the prize.
Surely, amid such daring changes as these, the Writer is "doing the state some service," by drawing the thoughts of his Readers into the green solitudes of the country, that they may have a brief breathing space, before they proceed further; and although he has ventured to give an opinion on a few matters, they will be better able to weigh them more calmly while traversing in fancy the yet unenclosed footpaths of Old England ; that if, at times, he has expressed his sentiments in strong language, he would have them remember that he has also felt deeply,