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      [See larger version]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.

      Cairness and Landor and a detachment of troops that had ridden hard all through the night, following an[Pg 132] appalling trail, but coming too late after all, found them so in the early dawn.[See larger version]

      The year 1743 opened with a mighty struggle on the subject of gin. In 1736, as we have seen, the awful increase of drunkenness, which was attributed to the cheapness of gin, induced a majority of the House of Commons to pass an Act levying twenty shillings a gallon duty upon the liquor, and charging every vendor of it fifty pounds per annum for a licence. Walpole at the time declared that such an attempt to place gin beyond the reach of the poor consumers would fail; that it would fail equally as a source of revenue, for it would lead to wholesale smuggling and every possible evasion of the law. The event had proved Walpole only too correct in his prognostications. So far from checking the use of gin, the Act had stimulated it enormously. The licences, so preposterously high, were wholly neglected; no duty was paid, yet the destructive liquid was sold at every street corner. Ministers now saw that, by attempting too much, every thing in this case had been lost. They were sacrificing the revenues only to sacrifice the well-being of the people. They determined, therefore, to reduce the licences from fifty pounds to one pound per annum, and at the same time to retain a moderate duty on the liquor. By this means the fatal compound would remain much at the same price, but the vendors would be induced to take out licences, and the revenues would be greatly improved, whilst the whole sale of the article would be more under the restraints of law and police. A Bill was framed on these principles, and passed rapidly through the Commons; but in the Lords it encountered a determined opposition. It was, however, carried entire, and, says Smollett, "we cannot help averring that it has not been attended with those dismal consequences which the Lords in the Opposition foretold."

      "Yes?" said Landor. He knew the citizens of the district, and attached no particular sacredness to the person of their envoy.




      "I hear you got Jack Landor up there?"