Social Life in Queen Anne's Reign, Volume I.

Ashton, John



FROM the time of Dean
downwards to our own days, many Political Histories of the Reign of Queen Anne have been written, but its Social Life we have been left to gather mainly from the efforts of novelists, who have been more or less conscientious, according to their knowledge, in placing it before us.
No doubt the drudgery of the work, the wading through all the newspapers, and reading all the literature of the time, has deterred many from attempting what, in its execution, has proved a very pleasant task; for in doing it, one has got to be thoroughly identified with the age-its habits and customswhich, being taken from the very words of the people then living, writing for living people, who could contradict their statements, if false or exaggerated, a charm was lent to the task, which fully compensated for its labour.
All history, unless it is contemporary, must necessarily, if honest, be a compilation, and my idea is, that it should honestly be avowed as such, and the authorities given for all facts; and this I have done, even at the risk of proving wearisome.
In compiling it, my task has been similar to one who, having a necklace of old beads, finds it broken, and the beads scattered hither and thither. His business, naturally, is to gather them together, and string them so as to satisfy criticism. He may not pick them all up, and he may not please everyone's taste in his arrangement, but his course is clearhe should not add new beads of his own to supply deficiencies, but should confine himself to putting together all he can find in the best manner he possibly can.
The almost total absence of domestic news in the newspapers has compelled me to draw largely on the essays and descriptive books of the time, and in one or two instances I have ventured to transcribe (as in the case of Misson) from works published, or written, two or three years before Anne actually reigned-but the facts were precisely the same as then obtained, so that much has been gained thereby.
The Illustrations might, undoubtedly, have been made more artistic and unreal-but I have carefully taken them from contemporary prints, and prefer to present them in all their uncouthness and reality.