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But at their darkest hour they gained their most famous recruit. George Whitefield, the future orator of the movement, was of humble origin: his mother kept an inn at Gloucester, and he himself had worn the blue apron behind the bar now he was earning his education as a servitor at Pembroke. A shy, retiring, shabbilydressed lad with dark blue eyes and a singularly beautiful face, he had for some time secretly admired the Methodists, and at last an opportunity came of making their acquaintance. An old woman in one of the workhouses tried to commit suicide, and, knowing how eager the Wesleys were to help all in distress, Whitefield sent a message to Charles informing him of the fact. In return there came an invitation to breakfast, and in a few days Whitefield was enrolled as a full member of the Club.


The number was now complete. In less than a year the Club dissolved, as all groups of Oxford friends must. The two Wesleys and Ingham crossed the Atlantic as S.P.G. chaplains. Whitefield took a curacy, and twelve months later followed his friends to Georgia. Clayton went to Manchester, Gambold and Hervey to country parishes. The first stage of the movement was over, a stage which in spite of its high aspiration and strenuous self-denial was obviously imperfect. As we watch all their physical austerities-Whitefield kneeling for hours in the snow, and Wesley maltreating his body till he brings on hæmorrhage of the lungs-the relentless treadmill of carefully timed



duties, the morbid system of self-scrutiny, which kept every movement of the soul perpetually under the microscope, we can only agree with the verdict which Wesley passed at a later day:1 this may have been the faith of servants, but it was very far removed from the faith of sons.

FOR FURTHER STUDY. For Eighteenth-Century Oxford, J. R. Green's Studies in Oxford History. For the Holy Club, Tyerman's Oxford Methodists. Lives of Wesley and Whitefield (see note at end of chap. iii). Dictionary of National Biography-Articles: T. Broughton, J. Clayton, J. Gambold, J. Hervey, W. Hall, B. Ingham, C. and J. Wesley, Whitefield.

1 Note added in 1771 to entry in Journal of February 29, 1738.



"While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares.”


WHILE Wesley is absent, let us look at the condition of the country. It was the England of Sir Robert Walpole. The great Peace Minister's rule had brought much outward prosperity. Wages were good, taxes light, and trade extending daily. The sleek fat faces in the portraits of the period speak of abundance of beef and beer and good plum porridge. But with prosperity there had come a feeling of well-fed somnolence; the spirit was subdued to the flesh; there was only too much to justify Carlyle's bitter phrase, "Soul extinct: stomach well alive."


The drunkenness of the age is proverbial. Not a single class in the country seemed to be free from this vice. Walpole was a drunkard, so Intemper- was his great opponent Bolingbroke, so were Carteret, and Pulteney, and even the gentle Oxford. The country squires were sodden with alcohol; they were most of them "six-bottle men." Is there any one now who could drink six bottles of port at a sitting? All business was transacted in taverns, and the typical merchant of the



period constantly enters in his diary:1 "got very drunk," "undoubtedly the worse for drinking," "cannot say I came home sober." Among the poorer classes the action of the Government had caused a perfect pandemonium. There was a dispute with France, and the ministers decided to retaliate by trying to check the trade in French brandy. To do this they took off all restrictions from the sale of English spirits. To sell beer required a licence, but any one who liked might make and sell gin. In a few weeks, six thousand gin shops were opened in London and Westminster; gin was sold in the streets from barrows, and hawked from door to door. "Drunk for Id., dead drunk for 2d., clean straw for nothing!"— so ran the tempting sign. When the straw was full, the pavement outside was covered with senseless forms. "Should the drinking of this poison," wrote Fielding,2 2 "be continued at its present height during the next twenty years, there will by that time be very few of the common people left to drink it."

Another characteristic of the age was its extraordinary coarseness. In fashionable circles filth was regarded as the choicest form of wit, and Immorality. few could rival the Queen in this, when she chose to jest with the ministers. The stage seemed to exist for nothing but to preach and propagate vice, and almost all the literature of the time was stamped with the mark of the Beast. From the

1 See Diary of Thomas Turner quoted in Besant's London in the Eighteenth Century, p. 241.

2 Pamphlet On the late Increase of Robbers, 1751.


gross obscenity of Fielding to the sniggering nastiness of Sterne, it is impossible to get away from this all-pervading taint; even the moralist Addison cannot keep his pages clean, while the smaller fry are quite unreadable. This is a point to be remembered, when we find the early Evangelicals denouncing novel-reading. Before Sir Walter Scott there were very few clean novels in existence. Goldsmith confessed1 that most novels were no better than instruments of debauchery." Sheridan made Sir Anthony Absolute say, "A circulating library is an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge"; while George Colman, the dramatist, declared,3 "A man might as well turn his daughter loose in Covent Garden as trust the cultivation of her mind to a circulating library." And in this respect literature was only a mirror of contemporary life. The King, the Prime Minister, and the Prince of Wales were all living in open adultery. In Society, Lady Montagu wrote, "the appellation of rake is as genteel in a woman as in a man of quality." Labourers sold their wives by auction in the cattle market, and the Baptism registers show how rampant immorality was in the villages.

Side by side with this uncleanness went a passion for cruelty. Bulls were baited in every village, and even on cathedral greens. "A mad bull to be dressed up with fireworks," so runs one advertisement in a 1730 newspaper,5 "a dog to


1 Citizen of the World. Letter LXXXIII.

3 Polly Honeycombe. Closing words.


Rivals, I, 2.


Quoted by Lecky, History of England in Eighteenth Century,1,552.

4 Letter to Countess of Mar, October, 1723.

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