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As for the poems of Ossian, he made a violent attack upon them in his "Tour to the Western Isles." For more than four months the invincible Massena continued to watch the lines of Torres Vedras without striking a single effective blow. In fact, instead of attacking Wellington, Wellington attacked his advanced posts near Sobral on the 14th, and drove them in with the bayonet. The French then showed themselves in some force near Villa Franca, close to the Tagus; but there the gunboats reached them, causing them rapidly to retreat, and killing General St. Croix. After this, the French made no further attempt on those mountain lines which struck Massena with despair. After occupying his position for a month he fell back to the town of Santarem, and there and in the neighbouring villages quartered his troops for the winter. His great business was to collect provisions, for he had brought none with him; and had the people obeyed strictly the proclamation of Wellington and the Junta, he would have found none at all, and must have instantly retreated. But the Portuguese thought it hard to quit their homesteads and carry all their provisions to Lisbon or into the mountains, and the miserable Junta threw all the blame of the order on the British general. Not only, therefore, was a considerable amount of provisions left in the country, but boats were left at Santarem, on the Tagus, contrary to Wellington's orders, by which provisions were brought over by the French from Spain.

During the year 1796 strong forces were sent to the West Indies, and the Island of Grenada was recovered by General Nichols; St. Lucia, by General Abercromby, whilst General Whyte conquered the Dutch settlements of Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo; but some of these possessions were dearly purchased by the number of the troops who perished from the unhealthiness of their climate. The Dutch made an effort to recover the Cape of Good Hope. They were to have been assisted by the French in this enterprise, but their allies not keeping their engagement, they sailed alone, and reached Saldanha Bay on the 3rd of August, when Rear-Admiral Sir George Elphinstone surprised and captured the whole of their vessels, consisting of two sixty-four-gun ships, one fifty-four, five frigates and sloops, and a store-ship. A squadron then proceeded from the Cape to Madagascar, and destroyed a French settlement there, seizing five merchant vessels. The General ElectionCrime in IrelandIncreased Powers granted to the ExecutiveIreland on the Verge of RebellionDeath of O'ConnellViceroyalty of Lord ClarendonSpecial Commission in Clare, Limerick, and TipperaryThe Commission at ClonmelRise of the Young Ireland PartyThe NationMeagher and Smith O'BrienThey try to dispense with the ChurchThe Irish ConfederationThe United IrishmanNews of the French RevolutionPanic in DublinLord Clarendon and Mr. BirchThe Deputation to ParisSmith O'Brien in ParliamentPreparations for Civil WarYoung and Old Ireland at blowsArrest and Trial of Mitchel, Smith O'Brien, and MeagherTransportation of MitchelLord Clarendon's Extraordinary PowersSmith O'Brien in the SouthCommencement of the InsurrectionBattle of BallingarryArrest of Smith O'BrienCollapse of the RebellionTrial of the ConspiratorsTrials and SentencesThe Rate in AidThe Encumbered Estates ActThe Queen's Visit to IrelandCove becomes QueenstownA Visit to CorkKingstown and DublinDeparture from DublinAn Affecting IncidentBelfast. But, gloomy as was the aspect of affairs at home, they were far more so in America. There, the insane conduct of the Government had gone on exasperating and alienating the colonists. True, the Cabinet, on the close of Parliament, held a meeting to consider what should be done regarding America. Grafton proposed to repeal the obnoxious duties at the commencement of the next session, but he was overruled on the motion of Lord North, and it was agreed to repeal all but the tea duties. Within a few days after the close of the session, therefore, Lord Hillsborough wrote this news in a circular to the governors of the American colonies. As was certain, the partial concession produced no effect, the principle being still retained in the continued tea duty. Moreover, Hillsborough's circular was composed in such harsh and uncourteous terms, that it rather augmented than assuaged the excitement.

Whilst these indignant sentiments were uttering, the petitions for economical reform were pouring in from all parts of the country in such numbers that the table of the House appeared buried under them. The House went into committee upon the subject, and then Dunning rose and introduced his famous motion for a resolution in these words:"That it is the opinion of this committee that the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished." Dunning declaimed in language bold and unsparing, and expatiated at great length on the alarming influence of the Crown, purchased by the lavish expenditure of the people's money, the people thus being made the instruments of their own slavery. He censured in stinging terms the treatment of the economical plans of Burke, the treacherous terms of approbation with which Ministers had received them, and then had trodden on them piecemeal till they[265] had left of them the merest shred. He trusted the nation would still resent this audacious mockery of reformthis insult to the most distinguished patriots. This was the way, he contended, that this Administration had again and again actedadding ridicule to oppression. Dunning's motion was carried, at a late hour of the night, by two hundred and thirty-three votes against two hundred and fifteen. The coarse manners of the gentlemen were gradually yielding to refining influences, but the society of ladies amongst the upper classes was generally neglected. Husbands spent their days in hunting or other masculine occupations, and their evenings in dining and drinking; the dinner party, which commenced at seven, not breaking up before one in the morning. Four- or five-, or even six-bottle men were not uncommon among the nobility. Lord Eldon and his brother Lord Stowell used to say that they had drunk more bad port than any two men in England. The Italian Opera was then the greatest attraction. It became[441] less exclusive in its arrangements when the Opera House was under the management of Mr. Waters; but the strictest etiquette was still kept up with regard to the dress of gentlemen, who were only admitted with knee-buckles, ruffles, and chapeaux bras. If there happened to be a Drawing Room, the ladies as well as the gentlemen would come to the opera in their Court dresses.

Robert Pollok was a young Scottish minister, who rose suddenly to popularity by the publication of a poem in blank verse, entitled "The Course of Time." It was long and discursive, extending to ten books. The style was very unequal, sometimes rising to a high level, and often sinking to tame prose. The author had a wonderful command of words for one so young, and time would, no doubt, have mellowed what was crude and refined what was coarse, if he had not been prematurely cut off, just when his genius and his goodness had gathered round him a host of warm friends. He died of consumption, on the 15th of September, 1827. His early death contributed to the popularity of the poem, which ran through many editions.

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Whilst these transactions had been taking place on the Continent, our fleets, which should have kept the French and Spaniards in check, had done worse than nothing. France had subtly delayed to declare war against us, so that, although she joined her fleets and armies to the enemy, we could not attack her without being the first to declare war, or to commence it by direct breach of the peace. Admiral Haddock, who was on the watch in the Mediterranean to harass the Spaniards, was thus baffled. The Spanish fleet was joined by twelve French men-of-war from Toulon, the admiral of which declared that he had orders to defend the Spaniards if they were attacked. As the combined fleet, moreover, doubled his own, Haddock was compelled to fall off and leave them.

The Government was paralysed by the greatness of the evil. While the House of Commons had[268] been sitting, the mob had attacked Lord North's house, in Downing Street, close by; but a party of soldiers had succeeded in interposing themselves between the mansion and its assailants. The house of the Minister was saved; but the gigantic mass of rioters then rolled towards the City, vowing that they would sack Newgate, and release their comrades, who had been sent there on Friday. On the 6th they appeared in vast numbers before that prison, and demanded of Mr. Akerman, the keeper, the delivery of their associates. Their cry was still "No Popery!" though their object was havoc: they were armed with heavy sledge-hammers, crowbars, and pick-axes; and on the keeper refusing to liberate the prisoners, they commenced a desperate attack on his doors and windows, and, collecting combustibles, flung them into the dwelling. It was speedily in flames, and, whilst it burned, the mob thundered on the iron-studded doors of the prison with their tools. But, as they made no impression, they formed heaps of the keeper's furniture, and made a fire against the doors. The fires spread from the keeper's house to the prison chapel, and thence to some of the doors and passages leading into the wards. The mob raised terrible yells of rage and triumph, which were as wildly echoed by the prisoners within, some of whom were exulting in the expectation of rescue, and others shrieking, afraid of perishing in the conflagration. The crowd, now more furious than ever, from greedily drinking the wine and spirits in the keepers cellar, rushed through the gaps made by the flames, and were masters of the prison. They were led on by ferocious fellows, who were but too familiar with the interior of the place. The different cells were forced open, and the now half-maddened prisoners were either rudely dragged out, or they rushed forth in maniacal delight. Three hundred of these criminals, some of them stained with the foulest offences, and four of them under sentence of execution on the following Thursday, were let out, to add to the horrors of the lawless tumult. They came out into the surging, roaring multitude to raise their shouts at the sight of the great prison, which had lately been rebuilt at a cost of one hundred and forty thousand pounds, in one vast conflagration. Nothing was left of it the next morning but a huge skeleton of blackened and frowning walls.