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The age was remarkably prolific in female poets and novelists, some of whom have taken as high a rank in literature as their sex have done in any age. Lady Blessington and Lady Morgan were not young at the death of George III., but many[438] of their most celebrated works were published during the two subsequent reigns. The former, soon after the death of Lord Blessington in 1829, fixed her residence in London at Gore House, which became the centre of attraction for men of talent and distinction in every department. Even great statesmen and Ministers of the Crown sometimes spent their evenings in her circle, which was then unrivalled in London for the combined charms of beauty, wit, and brilliant conversation; and besides, all the celebrities and lions of London were sure to be met there. The ambiguous attachment that so long subsisted between her and Count D'Orsay, one of the most accomplished men of the age, however, excluded Lady Blessington from the best society. The heavy expenses of her establishment compelled her to work hard with her pen, and she produced a number of works, which were in great demand in the circulating libraries of the day. They are no longer read. Debt at length broke up the establishment at Gore House, and all its precious collections passed under the hammer of the auctioneer, to satisfy inexorable creditors. Lady Blessington removed to Paris, where she lived in retirement for some years, and died in 1849. Lady Morgan (Sydney Owenson) was before the country as an author for nearly half a century. She was born in Dublin, in 1783, and died in 1859. Before she was sixteen years of age she was the author of two novels. Her third work, "The Wild Irish Girl," brought to her the fame for which she longed, and made her a celebrity. In 1811 she married Sir Charles Morgan, a Dublin physician. Her principal works as a novelist were "Patriotic Sketches," "O'Donnell," "Florence M'Carthy," and "The O'Briens and O'Flahertys," which was published in 1827. In Ireland there was severe distress prevailing over an extensive district along the western coastno unusual visitation, for the peasantry depended altogether on the potato, a precarious crop, which sometimes failed wholly, and was hardly ever sufficient to last till the new crop came in. The old potatoes generally disappeared or became unfit for human food in June, and from that time till September the destitution was very great, sometimes amounting to actual famine. There was a partial failure of the crop in 1830, which, coupled with the rack-rents extorted by middlemen, gave to agitators topics which they used with effect in disquieting the minds of the peasantry.

Napoleon's saying about French revolutions was verified in 1830. The shock of the political earthquake was felt throughout the Continent, and severed Belgium from Holland. The inhabitants of Brussels began their revolt by resistance to local taxes, and ended by driving the[320] Dutch garrison out of the city, and proclaiming the independence of Belgium. The Duke of Wellington had no difficulty about the prompt recognition of the de facto Government of France. The change of dynasty had not been officially communicated to him many hours when he sent instructions to the British ambassador to enter into friendly relations with the new Government. He had not, however, the same facility in recognising the independence of Belgium. He had been instrumental in establishing the kingdom of the Netherlands; and he regarded the union as being a portion of the great European settlement of 1815, which ought not to be disturbed without the concurrence of the Great Powers by which it was effected. This hesitation on his part to hail the results of successful revolution added to his unpopularity. In the meantime a dangerous spirit of disaffection and disorder began to manifest itself in the south of England. Incendiary fires had preceded the Revolution in France, especially in Normandy, and they were supposed to have had a political object. Similar preludes of menaced revolution occurred during the autumn in some of the English counties nearest the French coast, in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire. Night after night, in the most fertile districts, the sky was reddened with the blaze of burning stack-yards. Crowds of the working classes, complaining of want of employment, went about throughout the country, breaking the threshing-machines, which had then come into extensive use. The Government were compelled to employ force to put down these disturbancesa fact which supplied inflammatory arguments to agitators, who denounced the Duke of Wellington as the chief cause of the distress of the working classes. Such was the state of things when the new Parliament met on the 26th of October. In Canada the management of the war was more successful. To maintain the war in that quarter, Congress had ordered nine regiments to be raised. One of these was to be raised in Canada itself, and for this purpose a commission was given to Moses Hazen, who had formerly been a captain of rangers, under Wolfe. He was not, however, very successful. The Canadians were not to any extent disaffected to the British Government, and by no means well affected to the New Englanders, who were bitterly bigoted against Catholics, which the Canadians chiefly were. When Hazen and Arnold saw that the Canadians would neither enlist nor bring provisions to their camps, without cash payment, they commenced plundering for all that they wanted, and thus confirmed that people in their hatred of the Americans. They, moreover, insulted the Canadians by ridiculing their rites of worship.

No sooner did Howe return to port than he had orders to sail in aid of Gibraltar, which was not only greatly in need of stores and provisions, but was menaced by the combined armies and fleets of France and Spain with one great and overwhelming attack. The evil fortune of England did not yet, however, seem to have disappeared, for the Royal George, the finest vessel in the service, went down in a sudden squall. But this awful catastrophe did not hinder the sailing of Lord Howe. He had by great exertion mustered a fleet of thirty-four sail-of-the-line, and on the 11th of September steered out for Gibraltar. For upwards of three years this famous rock had now been beleaguered. After the relief thrown in by Admiral Darby, the Spaniards, despairing of reducing the garrison by blockade, determined to destroy the town and works by a terrific bombardment. This bombardment was, accordingly, opened with unexampled fury, and continued incessantly for days and weeks. The town was set on fire, and numbers of houses consumed; the damage done to the ramparts and public buildings was appalling. General Elliot displayed the utmost temper and skill during this bombardment, as he did throughout the whole siege. He continued by night, and at other opportunities, to repair actively the damages done; and, reserving his fire for occasions when he saw a chance of doing particular damage, he caused the enemy to wonder at the little impression that they made.

CHAPTER IV. PROGRESS OF THE NATION DURING THE REIGN OF GEORGE III. THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, JULY 4th, 1776.

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No sooner was this treaty signed than Junot was ordered to cross the Bidassoa with thirty thousand men, and march through Spain for the Portuguese frontier. Two additional armies, partly of French and partly of Spaniards, supported him, and another army of forty thousand was stationed at Bayonne, intended, it was said, to act as an army of reserve, in case the British should land and attempt to defend Portugal, but in reality it was intended for the subjugation of Spain itself. Junot, who had formerly been Buonaparte's ambassador at the Court of Lisbon, made rapid marches through Spain. The Prince Regent of Portugal, knowing that resistance was in vain, sent the Marquis of Marialva to state to the Courts of France and Spain that he had complied with the whole of their demands, as regarded the admission of British goods, and demanded the arrest of the march of the invading army. But no notice was taken of this, and Junot pushed on with such speed as to exhaust his troops with fatigue. He was anxious to seize the persons of the royal family, and therefore this haste, accompanied by the most solemn professions of his coming as the friend and ally of Portugalas the protector of the people from the yoke of the British, the maritime tyrants of Europe.

In the West Indies it was decided that Great Britain should, of the French islands that she had taken, retain Tobago, Dominica, St. Vincent, and[175] Grenada, but restore to France Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Lucia.