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SOLEMNITIES AND MERRY-MAKINGS,
ANTIQUITIES AND NOVELTIES,
ON THE PLAN OF THE
EVERY DAY BOOK AND TABLE BOOK,
EVERLASTING CALENDAR OF POPULAR AMUSEMENTS, SPORTS, PASTIMES,
IN PAST AND PRESENT TIMES ;
Alfred the Great was twelve years old before he could read. He had admired a beautifully illuminated book of Saxon poetry in his mother's hands, and she allured him to learn by promising him the splendid volume as a reward. From that hour he diligently improved himself; and, in the end, built up his mind so strongly, and so high, and applied its powers so beneficially to his kingdom, that no monarch of the thousand years since his rule attained to be reputed, and called, like Alfred, the great. He always carried a book in his bosom, and amidst the great business and hurries of government, snatched moments of leisure to read. In the early part of his reign, he was
Cast from the pedestal of pride by shocks,
Which Nature gently gave, in woods and fields, Invaded, overwhelmed, and vanquished by foreign enemies, he was compelled to fly, for personal safety, and to retreat alone, into remote wastes and forests :— learning policy from adversity, and gathering courage from
Where living things, and things inanimate,
-For the man
-Contemplating these forms,
Wordsworth. Alfred became our greatest legislator, and pre-eminently our patriot king, for when he had secured the independence of the nation, he rigidly enforced an impartial administration of justice ; renovated the energies of his subjects by popular institutions for the preservation of life, property and order ; secured public liberty upon the basis of law; lived to see the prosperity of the people, and to experience their affection for the commonwealth of the
kingdom ; and died so convinced of their loyalty, that he wrote in his last will, “ The English have an undoubted right to remain free as their own thoughts.” It was one of his laws that freemen should train their sons know God, to be men of understanding, and to live happily." The whole policy of his government was founded upon “ the beginning of Wisdom. The age was simple, and the nation poor; but the people were happy. Little was known of the arts, and of science less. A monarch's state-carriage was like a farmer's waggon, and his majesty sat in it holding in his hand a long stick, having a bit of pointed iron at the top, with which be goaded a team of oxen yoked to the vehicle.
Ours is an age of civilization and refinement, in which art has arrived to excellence, and science has erected England into a great work-house for the whole world. The nation is richer than all the other nations of Europe, and distinguished from them by Mammon-worship, and abject subserviency to Mammon-worshippers , the enormous heaps of wealth accumulated by unblest means; the enlarging radius of indigence around every Upas-heap ; the sudden and fierce outbreakings of the hungry and ignorant; and, more than all, a simultaneous growth of selfishness with knowledge ; are awful signs of an amalgamation of depravity with the national character. Luxury prevails in all classes : private gentlemen live “like lords,” tradesmen and farmers like gentlemen, and there is a universal desire to“ keep up appearances,” which situations in life do not require, and means cannot afford. The getters and keepers of money want more and get more ; want more of more, and want and get, and get and want, and live and die—wanting happiness. Thoughtless alike of their uses as human beings, and their final destiny, many of them exhibit a cultivated intellect of a high order, eagerly and heartlessly engaged in a misery-making craft. Are these “ the English" contemplated by Alfred ?
Life's Autumn past, I stand on Winter's verge,
than see and hear
Wordsworth. Most of us may find, that we have much to unlearn : yet evil indeed must we be, if we do not desire that our children may not be worse for what they learn from us, and what they gather from their miscellaneous reading. In selecting materials for the Every Day Book, and Table Book, I aimed to avoid what might injure the youthful mind; and in the Year Book there is something more, than in those works, of what seemed suitable to ingenuous thought. For the rest, I have endeavoured to supply omissions upon subjects which the Every-Day Book and the Table Dook were designed to include ; and, in that, I have been greatly assisted by very kind correspondents.
\*. HONT. 13, Gracechurch-street, January, 1832.