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Letitia Elizabeth Landon, known as one of the most eminent female poets of her time, by the signature "L. E. L." which she appended to her numerous contributions in the magazines, was born at Hans Place, Chelsea, in 1802. Her "Poetical Sketches" were published first in the Literary Gazette. In 1824 appeared her "Improvisatrice." She was the author of two other volumes of poetry, and of a successful novel. A spirit of melancholy pervades her writings; but it is stated by Mr. L. Blanchard, in the "Life and Literary Remains," which he published, that she was remarkable for the vivacity and playfulness of her disposition. Her poetry ranked very high in public estimation for its lyric beauty and touching pathos; but the circumstances of her early death, which was the subject of much controversy, invested her name with a tragic and romantic interest. In 1838 she was married to Mr. George Maclean, Governor of Cape Coast Castle, but the marriage was unhappy, and she died, shortly afterwards, from an overdose of laudanum.Amongst these, or in the period immediately succeeding them, some individuals demand a particular notice. Benjamin Franklin, though an American citizen, ought perhaps to be mentioned, as so immensely influencing science by his discoveries in electricity; and Sir William Jones, for his great additions to our knowledge of Indian and Persian literature and theology. There was a large number of translations made by Pye, Twining, Gillies, Francis, Murphy, Parr, Tyrwhitt, Wakefield, etc. By one or other of these the works of Aristotle, Tacitus, Horace, C?sar, Virgil, Lucretius, etc., were wholly or partly introduced to us. Monboddo's "Origin and Progress of Language," and Horne Tooke's "Diversions of Purley" made a great sensation; Paine's "Rights of Man" and "Age of Reason" a still greater, and called out elaborate answers. Richard Porson was equally distinguished for his classical knowledge and his drunkenness. Mary Wollstonecraft published her "Rights of Woman," as a necessary addendum to Paine's "Rights of Man." There were also editions of Shakespeare issued by Dr. Johnson, Steevens, Capell, Hanmer, Malone, and Reed. Warton, Ritson, Pinkerton, Macpherson, and Ellis revived our older poetry by new editions. The controversy on the poetry of Ossian ran high during this period. In theology and morals, the works of Dr. Paley and Bishops Watson, Horsley, and Porteus, were most prominent. In speculative philosophy, Malthus, by his "Essay on the Principle of Population," carried to greater lengths the notions of Wallace on the numbers of mankind.
In the early portion of the reign the manners and customs differed little from those described in the preceding one. There was great dissipation, and even coarseness of manners, amongst the nobility and gentry. It was the custom to drink to intoxication at dinners, and swearing still garnished the language of the wealthy as well as of the low. Balls, routs, the opera, the theatre, with Vauxhall and Ranelagh, filled up the time of the fashionable, and gaming was carried to an extraordinary extent. Amongst our leading statesmen Charles Fox was famous for this habit. Duelling was equally common, and infidelity amongst fashionable people was of notorious prevalence. George III. and his queen did what they could to discourage this looseness of morals, and to set a different example; but the decorum of the Court was long in passing into the wealthy classes around it. An affluent middle class was fast mingling with the old nobility, and this brought some degree of sobriety and public decency with it. Amongst the lower classes dog-, cock-, and bull-fights were, during a great part of the reign, the chief amusements, and the rudest manners continued to prevail, because there was next to no education. Wesley, Whitefield, and their followers, were the first to break into this condition of heathenism. Robberies and murders abounded both in town and country, and the police was of a very defective character. For the most part there was none but the parish constable. The novels of Fielding and Smollett are pictures of the rudeness and profligacy of these times. The resources in the country of books and newspapers were few, and the pot-house supplied the necessary excitement. The clergy were of a very low tone, or were non-resident, and the farmers, getting rich, aped the gentlemen, followed the hounds, and ended the day with a carouse.
She moved away from him and out of the ray of moonlight, into the shadow of the other side of the window, and spoke thoughtfully, with more depth to her voice than usual. "So few people have been as happy as we have. If we went hunting for more happiness somewhere else, we should be throwing away the gifts of the gods, I think."
"Where is the use of the lip's red charm,