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the community some of the most considerable advantages of it.
The constitution of the English government, ever since the invasion of this island by the Saxons, may boast of this pre-eminence, that in no age the will of the monarch was ever entirely absolute and uncontrolled: but in other respects the balance of power has extremely shifted among the several orders of the state; and this fabric has experienced the same mutability that has attended all human institutions.
The ancient Saxons, like the other German nations, where each individual was inured to arms, and where the independence of men was secured by a great equality of possessions, seem to have admitted a considerable mixture of democracy into their form of government, and to have been one of the freest nations, of which there remains any account in the records of history. After this tribe was settled in England, especially after the dissolution of the Heptarchy, the great extent of the kingdom produced a great inequality in property; and the balance seems to have inclined to the side of aristocracy. The Norman conquest threw more authority into the hands of the sovereign, which, however, admitted of great control; though derived less from the general forms of the constitution, which were inaccurate and irregular, than from the independent power enjoyed by each baron in his particular district or province. The establishment of the Great Charter exalted still higher the Aristocracy, imposed regular limits on royal power, and gradually introduced some mixture of Democracy into the constitution. But even during this period, from the accession of Edward I to the death of Richard III, the condition of the commons was nowise eligible; a kind of Polish Aristocracy prevailed; and though the kings were
limited, the people were as yet far from being free. It required the authority almost absolute of the sovereigns, which took place in the subsequent period, to pull down those disorderly and licentious tyrants, who were equally averse from peace and from freedom, and to establish that regular execution of the laws, which, in a following age, enabled the people to erect a regular and equitable plan of liberty.
In each of these successive alterations, the only rule of government, which is intelligible or carries any authority with it, is the established practice of the age, and the maxims of administration, which are at that time prevalent, and universally assented to. Those who, from a pretended respect to antiquity, appeal at every turn to an original plan of the constitution, only cover their turbulent spirit and their private ambition under the appearance of venerable forms; and whatever period they pitch on for their model, they may still be carried back to a more ancient period, where they will find the measures of power entirely different, and where every circumstance, by reason of the greater barbarity of the times, will appear still less worthy of imitation. Above all, a civilized nation, like the English, who have happily established the most perfect and most accurate system of liberty that was ever found compatible with government, ought to be cautious in appealing to the practice of their ancestors, or regarding the maxims of uncultivated ages as certain rules for their present conduct. An acquaintance with the ancient periods of their government is chiefly useful by instructing them to cherish their present constitution, from a comparison or contrast with the condition of those distant times. And it is also curious, by shewing them the remote, and commonly faint and disfigured originals of the most finished and most noble
institutions, and by instructing them in the great mixture of accident, which commonly concurs with a small ingredient of wisdom and foresight, in erecting the complicated fabric of the most perfect government.-History of England.
LAURENCE STERNE was born, in 1713, at Clonmel in Ireland, where his father, who had served as a subaltern officer in Marlborough's wars, happened to be quartered. His brothers and sisters, with one exception, died either in infancy or in early life, and Laurence himself was of a weakly constitution. Till he was ten years old he followed with his mother the shifting quarters of his father. Then he was put to a good school at Halifax, and finally sent by an uncle to Jesus College, Cambridge, whence he took the degree of B.A. in 1736. This uncle had valuable preferment and good interest in the Diocese of York, of which . Laurence's great-grandfather had been Archbishop. It was this probably that led the nephew to the clerical profession, which can scarcely have sate easily upon him. His uncle soon obtained for him the living of Sutton in the East Riding, and a prebendal stall at York. This preferment enabled him to marry (after two years' courtship) in 1741. For nearly twenty years he remained unknown to the world. Except during the period of his residence at York, he lived at the remote village of Sutton, doing the duty of that benefice as well as of a second which he held at Stillington. His friends seem chiefly to have been among the Yorkshire gentry, who commonly then lived for some part of the year in the county-town. In 1759, Lord Falconbridge gave him the living of Coxwold, a pleasant village in a valley under the Hambledon Hills, which was his home-when he was at homefor the rest of his life. In the same year he became suddenly famous by the publication of the first part of 'Tristram Shandy.' It was finished at intervals during the next six years. The
money which he made by it enabled him to live a good deal in London, where he was made a fashionable 'lion,' and to spend more than two years in France and Italy. This sojourn abroad suggested the 'Sentimental Journey,' published at the beginning of 1768, in which year he died.
Of these two exquisite works of humour, as no extracts are given from them, nothing need be said, except so far as they explain the affected style of his Sermons, from which the following passages are taken. These, it must be noticed, were preached to fashionable congregations, after he had become famous as a sentimental humourist. Thus in matter they represent an accommodation of Christian morals and religion to the requirements of an audience who expected from him laughter or the luxury of tears, and the awkwardness of this compromise appears also in the manner, which lacks the charm of his more spontaneous writing.
1. The House of Mourning and the House of Feasting.
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting.
That I deny-but-let us hear the wise man's reasoning upon it,' for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart; sorrow is better than laughter:'-for a crack-brained order of Carthusian monks, I grant, but not for men of the world. For what purpose, do you imagine, has God made us? for the social sweets of the well-watered valleys, where he has planted us; or for the dry and dismal desert of a Sierra Morena? Are the sad accidents of life, and the uncheery hours which perpetually overtake us, are they not enough, but we must sally forth in quest of them,—belie our own hearts, and say, as our text would have us, that they are better than those of joy? Did the best of Beings send us into the world for this end,—to go weeping through it,—