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    Sunday Under Three Heads

    by Charles Dickens
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    To The Right Reverend

    MY LORD,

    You were among the first, some years ago, to expatiate on the
    vicious addiction of the lower classes of society to Sunday
    excursions; and were thus instrumental in calling forth occasional
    demonstrations of those extreme opinions on the subject, which are
    very generally received with derision, if not with contempt.

    Your elevated station, my Lord, affords you countless opportunities
    of increasing the comforts and pleasures of the humbler classes of
    society--not by the expenditure of the smallest portion of your
    princely income, but by merely sanctioning with the influence of
    your example, their harmless pastimes, and innocent recreations.

    That your Lordship would ever have contemplated Sunday recreations
    with so much horror, if you had been at all acquainted with the
    wants and necessities of the people who indulged in them, I cannot
    imagine possible. That a Prelate of your elevated rank has the
    faintest conception of the extent of those wants, and the nature of
    those necessities, I do not believe.

    For these reasons, I venture to address this little Pamphlet to
    your Lordship's consideration. I am quite conscious that the
    outlines I have drawn, afford but a very imperfect description of
    the feelings they are intended to illustrate; but I claim for them
    one merit--their truth and freedom from exaggeration. I may have
    fallen short of the mark, but I have never overshot it: and while
    I have pointed out what appears to me, to be injustice on the part
    of others, I hope I have carefully abstained from committing it

    I am,
    My Lord,
    Your Lordship's most obedient,
    Humble Servant,
    June, 1836.


    There are few things from which I derive greater pleasure, than
    walking through some of the principal streets of London on a fine
    Sunday, in summer, and watching the cheerful faces of the lively
    groups with which they are thronged. There is something, to my
    eyes at least, exceedingly pleasing in the general desire evinced
    by the humbler classes of society, to appear neat and clean on this
    their only holiday. There are many grave old persons, I know, who
    shake their heads with an air of profound wisdom, and tell you that
    poor people dress too well now-a-days; that when they were
    children, folks knew their stations in life better; that you may
    depend upon it, no good will come of this sort of thing in the
    end,--and so forth: but I fancy I can discern in the fine bonnet
    of the working-man's wife, or the feather-bedizened hat of his
    child, no inconsiderable evidence of good feeling on the part of
    the man himself, and an affectionate desire to expend the few
    shillings he can spare from his week's wages, in improving the
    appearance and adding to the happiness of those who are nearest and
    dearest to him. This may be a very heinous and unbecoming degree
    of vanity, perhaps, and the money might possibly be applied to
    better uses; it must not be forgotten, however, that it might very
    easily be devoted to worse: and if two or three faces can be
    rendered happy and contented, by a trifling improvement of outward
    appearance, I cannot help thinking that the object is very cheaply
    purchased, even at the expense of a smart gown, or a gaudy riband.
    There is a great deal of very unnecessary cant about the over-
    dressing of the common people. There is not a manufacturer or
    tradesman in existence, who would not employ a man who takes a
    reasonable degree of pride in the appearance of himself and those
    about him, in preference to a sullen, slovenly fellow, who works
    doggedly on, regardless of his own clothing and that of his wife
    and children, and seeming to take pleasure or pride in nothing.

    The pampered aristocrat, whose life is one continued round of
    licentious pleasures and sensual gratifications; or the gloomy
    enthusiast, who detests the cheerful amusements he can never enjoy,
    and envies the healthy feelings he can never know, and who would
    put down the one and suppress the other, until he made the minds of
    his fellow-beings as besotted and distorted as his own;--neither of
    these men can by possibility form an adequate notion of what Sunday
    really is to those whose lives are spent in sedentary or laborious
    occupations, and who are accustomed to look forward to it through
    their whole existence, as their only day of rest from toil, and
    innocent enjoyment.

    The sun that rises over the quiet streets of London on a bright
    Sunday morning, shines till his setting, on gay and happy faces.
    Here and there, so early as six o'clock, a young man and woman in
    their best attire, may be seen hurrying along on their way to the
    house of some acquaintance, who is included in their scheme of
    pleasure for the day; from whence, after stopping to take "a bit of
    breakfast," they sally forth, accompanied by several old people,
    and a whole crowd of young ones, bearing large hand-baskets full of
    provisions, and Belcher handkerchiefs done up in bundles, with the
    neck of a bottle sticking out at the top, and closely-packed apples
    bulging out at the sides,--and away they hurry along the streets
    leading to the steam-packet wharfs, which are already plentifully
    sprinkled with parties bound for the same destination. Their good
    humour and delight know no bounds--for it is a delightful morning,
    all blue over head, and nothing like a cloud in the whole sky; and
    even the air of the river at London Bridge is something to them,
    shut up as they have been, all the week, in close streets and
    heated rooms. There are dozens of steamers to all sorts of places-
    -Gravesend, Greenwich, and Richmond; and such numbers of people,
    that when you have once sat down on the deck, it is all but a moral
    impossibility to get up again--to say nothing of walking about,
    which is entirely out of the question. Away they go, joking and
    laughing, and eating and drinking, and admiring everything they
    see, and pleased with everything they hear, to climb Windmill Hill,
    and catch a glimpse of the rich corn-fields and beautiful orchards
    of Kent; or to stroll among the fine old trees of Greenwich Park,
    and survey the wonders of Shooter's Hill and Lady James's Folly; or
    to glide past the beautiful meadows of Twickenham and Richmond, and
    to gaze with a delight which only people like them can know, on
    every lovely object in the fair prospect around. Boat follows
    boat, and coach succeeds coach, for the next three hours; but all
    are filled, and all with the same kind of people--neat and clean,
    cheerful and contented.

    They reach their places of destination, and the taverns are
    crowded; but there is no drunkenness or brawling, for the class of
    men who commit the enormity of making Sunday excursions, take their
    families with them: and this in itself would be a check upon them,
    even if they were inclined to dissipation, which they really are
    not. Boisterous their mirth may be, for they have all the
    excitement of feeling that fresh air and green fields can impart to
    the dwellers in crowded cities, but it is innocent and harmless.
    The glass is circulated, and the joke goes round; but the one is
    free from excess, and the other from offence; and nothing but good
    humour and hilarity prevail.

    In streets like Holborn and Tottenham Court Road, which form the
    central market of a large neighbourhood, inhabited by a vast number
    of mechanics and poor people, a few shops are open at an early hour
    of the morning; and a very poor man, with a thin and sickly woman
    by his side, may be seen with their little basket in hand,
    purchasing the scanty quantity of necessaries they can afford,
    which the time at which the man receives his wages, or his having a
    good deal of work to do, or the woman's having been out charing
    till a late hour, prevented their procuring over-night. The
    coffee-shops too, at which clerks and young men employed in
    counting-houses can procure their breakfasts, are also open. This
    class comprises, in a place like London, an enormous number of
    people, whose limited means prevent their engaging for their
    lodgings any other apartment than a bedroom, and who have
    consequently no alternative but to take their breakfasts at a
    coffee-shop, or go without it altogether. All these places,
    however, are quickly closed; and by the time the church bells begin
    to ring, all appearance of traffic has ceased. And then, what are
    the signs of immorality that meet the eye? Churches are well
    filled, and Dissenters' chapels are crowded to suffocation. There
    is no preaching to empty benches, while the drunken and dissolute
    populace run riot in the streets.

    Here is a fashionable church, where the service commences at a late
    hour, for the accommodation of such members of the congregation--
    and they are not a few--as may happen to have lingered at the Opera
    far into the morning of the Sabbath; an excellent contrivance for
    poising the balance between God and Mammon, and illustrating the
    ease with which a man's duties to both, may be accommodated and
    adjusted. How the carriages rattle up, and deposit their richly-
    dressed burdens beneath the lofty portico! The powdered footmen
    glide along the aisle, place the richly-bound prayer-books on the
    pew desks, slam the doors, and hurry away, leaving the fashionable
    members of the congregation to inspect each other through their
    glasses, and to dazzle and glitter in the eyes of the few shabby
    people in the free seats. The organ peals forth, the hired singers
    commence a short hymn, and the congregation condescendingly rise,
    stare about them, and converse in whispers. The clergyman enters
    the reading-desk,--a young man of noble family and elegant
    demeanour, notorious at Cambridge for his knowledge of horse-flesh
    and dancers, and celebrated at Eton for his hopeless stupidity.
    The service commences. Mark the soft voice in which he reads, and
    the impressive manner in which he applies his white hand, studded
    with brilliants, to his perfumed hair. Observe the graceful
    emphasis with which he offers up the prayers for the King, the
    Royal Family, and all the Nobility; and the nonchalance with which
    he hurries over the more uncomfortable portions of the service, the
    seventh commandment for instance, with a studied regard for the
    taste and feeling of his auditors, only to be equalled by that
    displayed by the sleek divine who succeeds him, who murmurs, in a
    voice kept down by rich feeding, most comfortable doctrines for
    exactly twelve minutes, and then arrives at the anxiously expected
    'Now to God,' which is the signal for the dismissal of the
    congregation. The organ is again heard; those who have been asleep
    wake up, and those who have kept awake, smile and seem greatly
    relieved; bows and congratulations are exchanged, the livery
    servants are all bustle and commotion, bang go the steps, up jump
    the footmen, and off rattle the carriages: the inmates discoursing
    on the dresses of the congregation, and congratulating themselves
    on having set so excellent an example to the community in general,
    and Sunday-pleasurers in particular.

    Enter a less orthodox place of religious worship, and observe the
    contrast. A small close chapel with a white-washed wall, and plain
    deal pews and pulpit, contains a closely-packed congregation, as
    different in dress, as they are opposed in manner, to that we have
    just quitted. The hymn is sung--not by paid singers, but by the
    whole assembly at the loudest pitch of their voices, unaccompanied
    by any musical instrument, the words being given out, two lines at
    a time, by the clerk. There is something in the sonorous quavering
    of the harsh voices, in the lank and hollow faces of the men, and
    the sour solemnity of the women, which bespeaks this a strong-hold
    of intolerant zeal and ignorant enthusiasm. The preacher enters
    the pulpit. He is a coarse, hard-faced man of forbidding aspect,
    clad in rusty black, and bearing in his hand a small plain Bible
    from which he selects some passage for his text, while the hymn is
    concluding. The congregation fall upon their knees, and are hushed
    into profound stillness as he delivers an extempore prayer, in
    which he calls upon the Sacred Founder of the Christian faith to
    bless his ministry, in terms of disgusting and impious familiarity
    not to be described. He begins his oration in a drawling tone, and
    his hearers listen with silent attention. He grows warmer as he
    proceeds with his subject, and his gesticulation becomes
    proportionately violent. He clenches his fists, beats the book
    upon the desk before him, and swings his arms wildly about his
    head. The congregation murmur their acquiescence in his doctrines:
    and a short groan, occasionally bears testimony to the moving
    nature of his eloquence. Encouraged by these symptoms of approval,
    and working himself up to a pitch of enthusiasm amounting almost to
    frenzy, he denounces sabbath-breakers with the direst vengeance of
    offended Heaven. He stretches his body half out of the pulpit,
    thrusts forth his arms with frantic gestures, and blasphemously
    calls upon The Deity to visit with eternal torments, those who turn
    aside from the word, as interpreted and preached by--himself. A
    low moaning is heard, the women rock their bodies to and fro, and
    wring their hands; the preacher's fervour increases, the
    perspiration starts upon his brow, his face is flushed, and he
    clenches his hands convulsively, as he draws a hideous and
    appalling picture of the horrors preparing for the wicked in a
    future state. A great excitement is visible among his hearers, a
    scream is heard, and some young girl falls senseless on the floor.
    There is a momentary rustle, but it is only for a moment--all eyes
    are turned towards the preacher. He pauses, passes his
    handkerchief across his face, and looks complacently round. His
    voice resumes its natural tone, as with mock humility he offers up
    a thanksgiving for having been successful in his efforts, and
    having been permitted to rescue one sinner from the path of evil.
    He sinks back into his seat, exhausted with the violence of his
    ravings; the girl is removed, a hymn is sung, a petition for some
    measure for securing the better observance of the Sabbath, which
    has been prepared by the good man, is read; and his worshipping
    admirers struggle who shall be the first to sign it.

    But the morning service has concluded, and the streets are again
    crowded with people. Long rows of cleanly-dressed charity
    children, preceded by a portly beadle and a withered schoolmaster,
    are returning to their welcome dinner; and it is evident, from the
    number of men with beer-trays who are running from house to house,
    that no inconsiderable portion of the population are about to take
    theirs at this early hour. The bakers' shops in the humbler
    suburbs especially, are filled with men, women, and children, each
    anxiously waiting for the Sunday dinner. Look at the group of
    children who surround that working man who has just emerged from
    the baker's shop at the corner of the street, with the reeking
    dish, in which a diminutive joint of mutton simmers above a vast
    heap of half-browned potatoes. How the young rogues clap their
    hands, and dance round their father, for very joy at the prospect
    of the feast: and how anxiously the youngest and chubbiest of the
    lot, lingers on tiptoe by his side, trying to get a peep into the
    interior of the dish. They turn up the street, and the chubby-
    faced boy trots on as fast as his little legs will carry him, to
    herald the approach of the dinner to 'Mother' who is standing with
    a baby in her arms on the doorstep, and who seems almost as pleased
    with the whole scene as the children themselves; whereupon 'baby'
    not precisely understanding the importance of the business in hand,
    but clearly perceiving that it is something unusually lively, kicks
    and crows most lustily, to the unspeakable delight of all the
    children and both the parents: and the dinner is borne into the
    house amidst a shouting of small voices, and jumping of fat legs,
    which would fill Sir Andrew Agnew with astonishment; as well it
    might, seeing that Baronets, generally speaking, eat pretty
    comfortable dinners all the week through, and cannot be expected to
    understand what people feel, who only have a meat dinner on one day
    out of every seven.

    The bakings being all duly consigned to their respective owners,
    and the beer-man having gone his rounds, the church bells ring for
    afternoon service, the shops are again closed, and the streets are
    more than ever thronged with people; some who have not been to
    church in the morning, going to it now; others who have been to
    church, going out for a walk; and others--let us admit the full
    measure of their guilt--going for a walk, who have not been to
    church at all. I am afraid the smart servant of all work, who has
    been loitering at the corner of the square for the last ten
    minutes, is one of the latter class. She is evidently waiting for
    somebody, and though she may have made up her mind to go to church
    with him one of these mornings, I don't think they have any such
    intention on this particular afternoon. Here he is, at last. The
    white trousers, blue coat, and yellow waistcoat--and more
    especially that cock of the hat--indicate, as surely as inanimate
    objects can, that Chalk Farm and not the parish church, is their
    destination. The girl colours up, and puts out her hand with a
    very awkward affectation of indifference. He gives it a gallant
    squeeze, and away they walk, arm in arm, the girl just looking back
    towards her 'place' with an air of conscious self-importance, and
    nodding to her fellow-servant who has gone up to the two-pair-of-
    stairs window, to take a full view of 'Mary's young man,' which
    being communicated to William, he takes off his hat to the fellow-
    servant: a proceeding which affords unmitigated satisfaction to
    all parties, and impels the fellow-servant to inform Miss Emily
    confidentially, in the course of the evening, 'that the young man
    as Mary keeps company with, is one of the most genteelest young men
    as ever she see.'

    The two young people who have just crossed the road, and are
    following this happy couple down the street, are a fair specimen of
    another class of Sunday--pleasurers. There is a dapper smartness,
    struggling through very limited means, about the young man, which
    induces one to set him down at once as a junior clerk to a
    tradesman or attorney. The girl no one could possibly mistake.
    You may tell a young woman in the employment of a large dress-
    maker, at any time, by a certain neatness of cheap finery and
    humble following of fashion, which pervade her whole attire; but
    unfortunately there are other tokens not to be misunderstood--the
    pale face with its hectic bloom, the slight distortion of form
    which no artifice of dress can wholly conceal, the unhealthy stoop,
    and the short cough--the effects of hard work and close application
    to a sedentary employment, upon a tender frame. They turn towards
    the fields. The girl's countenance brightens, and an unwonted glow
    rises in her face. They are going to Hampstead or Highgate, to
    spend their holiday afternoon in some place where they can see the
    sky, the fields, and trees, and breathe for an hour or two the pure
    air, which so seldom plays upon that poor girl's form, or
    exhilarates her spirits.

    I would to God, that the iron-hearted man who would deprive such
    people as these of their only pleasures, could feel the sinking of
    heart and soul, the wasting exhaustion of mind and body, the utter
    prostration of present strength and future hope, attendant upon
    that incessant toil which lasts from day to day, and from month to
    month; that toil which is too often protracted until the silence of
    midnight, and resumed with the first stir of morning. How
    marvellously would his ardent zeal for other men's souls, diminish
    after a short probation, and how enlightened and comprehensive
    would his views of the real object and meaning of the institution
    of the Sabbath become!

    The afternoon is far advanced--the parks and public drives are
    crowded. Carriages, gigs, phaetons, stanhopes, and vehicles of
    every description, glide smoothly on. The promenades are filled
    with loungers on foot, and the road is thronged with loungers on
    horseback. Persons of every class are crowded together, here, in
    one dense mass. The plebeian, who takes his pleasure on no day but
    Sunday, jostles the patrician, who takes his, from year's end to
    year's end. You look in vain for any outward signs of profligacy
    or debauchery. You see nothing before you but a vast number of
    people, the denizens of a large and crowded city, in the needful
    and rational enjoyment of air and exercise.

    It grows dusk. The roads leading from the different places of
    suburban resort, are crowded with people on their return home, and
    the sound of merry voices rings through the gradually darkening
    fields. The evening is hot and sultry. The rich man throws open
    the sashes of his spacious dining-room, and quaffs his iced wine in
    splendid luxury. The poor man, who has no room to take his meals
    in, but the close apartment to which he and his family have been
    confined throughout the week, sits in the tea-garden of some famous
    tavern, and drinks his beer in content and comfort. The fields and
    roads are gradually deserted, the crowd once more pour into the
    streets, and disperse to their several homes; and by midnight all
    is silent and quiet, save where a few stragglers linger beneath the
    window of some great man's house, to listen to the strains of music
    from within: or stop to gaze upon the splendid carriages which are
    waiting to convey the guests from the dinner-party of an Earl.

    There is a darker side to this picture, on which, so far from its
    being any part of my purpose to conceal it, I wish to lay
    particular stress. In some parts of London, and in many of the
    manufacturing towns of England, drunkenness and profligacy in their
    most disgusting forms, exhibit in the open streets on Sunday, a sad
    and a degrading spectacle. We need go no farther than St. Giles's,
    or Drury Lane, for sights and scenes of a most repulsive nature.
    Women with scarcely the articles of apparel which common decency
    requires, with forms bloated by disease, and faces rendered hideous
    by habitual drunkenness--men reeling and staggering along--children
    in rags and filth--whole streets of squalid and miserable
    appearance, whose inhabitants are lounging in the public road,
    fighting, screaming, and swearing--these are the common objects
    which present themselves in, these are the well-known
    characteristics of, that portion of London to which I have just

    And why is it, that all well-disposed persons are shocked, and
    public decency scandalised, by such exhibitions?

    These people are poor--that is notorious. It may be said that they
    spend in liquor, money with which they might purchase necessaries,
    and there is no denying the fact; but let it be remembered that
    even if they applied every farthing of their earnings in the best
    possible way, they would still be very--very poor. Their dwellings
    are necessarily uncomfortable, and to a certain degree unhealthy.
    Cleanliness might do much, but they are too crowded together, the
    streets are too narrow, and the rooms too small, to admit of their
    ever being rendered desirable habitations. They work very hard all
    the week. We know that the effect of prolonged and arduous labour,
    is to produce, when a period of rest does arrive, a sensation of
    lassitude which it requires the application of some stimulus to
    overcome. What stimulus have they? Sunday comes, and with it a
    cessation of labour. How are they to employ the day, or what
    inducement have they to employ it, in recruiting their stock of
    health? They see little parties, on pleasure excursions, passing
    through the streets; but they cannot imitate their example, for
    they have not the means. They may walk, to be sure, but it is
    exactly the inducement to walk that they require. If every one of
    these men knew, that by taking the trouble to walk two or three
    miles he would be enabled to share in a good game of cricket, or
    some athletic sport, I very much question whether any of them would
    remain at home.

    But you hold out no inducement, you offer no relief from
    listlessness, you provide nothing to amuse his mind, you afford him
    no means of exercising his body. Unwashed and unshaven, he
    saunters moodily about, weary and dejected. In lieu of the
    wholesome stimulus he might derive from nature, you drive him to
    the pernicious excitement to be gained from art. He flies to the
    gin-shop as his only resource; and when, reduced to a worse level
    than the lowest brute in the scale of creation, he lies wallowing
    in the kennel, your saintly lawgivers lift up their hands to
    heaven, and exclaim for a law which shall convert the day intended
    for rest and cheerfulness, into one of universal gloom, bigotry,
    and persecution.


    The provisions of the bill introduced into the House of Commons by
    Sir Andrew Agnew, and thrown out by that House on the motion for
    the second reading, on the 18th of May in the present year, by a
    majority of 32, may very fairly be taken as a test of the length to
    which the fanatics, of which the honourable Baronet is the
    distinguished leader, are prepared to go. No test can be fairer;
    because while on the one hand this measure may be supposed to
    exhibit all that improvement which mature reflection and long
    deliberation may have suggested, so on the other it may very
    reasonably be inferred, that if it be quite as severe in its
    provisions, and to the full as partial in its operation, as those
    which have preceded it and experienced a similar fate, the disease
    under which the honourable Baronet and his friends labour, is
    perfectly hopeless, and beyond the reach of cure.

    The proposed enactments of the bill are briefly these:- All work is
    prohibited on the Lord's day, under heavy penalties, increasing
    with every repetition of the offence. There are penalties for
    keeping shops open--penalties for drunkenness--penalties for
    keeping open houses of entertainment--penalties for being present
    at any public meeting or assembly--penalties for letting carriages,
    and penalties for hiring them--penalties for travelling in steam-
    boats, and penalties for taking passengers--penalties on vessels
    commencing their voyage on Sunday--penalties on the owners of
    cattle who suffer them to be driven on the Lord's day--penalties on
    constables who refuse to act, and penalties for resisting them when
    they do. In addition to these trifles, the constables are invested
    with arbitrary, vexatious, and most extensive powers; and all this
    in a bill which sets out with a hypocritical and canting
    declaration that 'nothing is more acceptable to God than the TRUE
    AND SINCERE worship of Him according to His holy will, and that it
    is the bounden duty of Parliament to promote the observance of the
    Lord's day, by protecting every class of society against being
    required to sacrifice their comfort, health, religious privileges,
    and conscience, for the convenience, enjoyment, or supposed
    advantage of any other class on the Lord's day'! The idea of
    making a man truly moral through the ministry of constables, and
    sincerely religious under the influence of penalties, is worthy of
    the mind which could form such a mass of monstrous absurdity as
    this bill is composed of.

    The House of Commons threw the measure out certainly, and by so
    doing retrieved the disgrace--so far as it could be retrieved--of
    placing among the printed papers of Parliament, such an egregious
    specimen of legislative folly; but there was a degree of delicacy
    and forbearance about the debate that took place, which I cannot
    help thinking as unnecessary and uncalled for, as it is unusual in
    Parliamentary discussions. If it had been the first time of Sir
    Andrew Agnew's attempting to palm such a measure upon the country,
    we might well understand, and duly appreciate, the delicate and
    compassionate feeling due to the supposed weakness and imbecility
    of the man, which prevented his proposition being exposed in its
    true colours, and induced this Hon. Member to bear testimony to his
    excellent motives, and that Noble Lord to regret that he could not-
    -although he had tried to do so--adopt any portion of the bill.
    But when these attempts have been repeated, again and again; when
    Sir Andrew Agnew has renewed them session after session, and when
    it has become palpably evident to the whole House that

    His impudence of proof in every trial,
    Kens no polite, and heeds no plain denial -

    it really becomes high time to speak of him and his legislation, as
    they appear to deserve, without that gloss of politeness, which is
    all very well in an ordinary case, but rather out of place when the
    liberties and comforts of a whole people are at stake.

    In the first place, it is by no means the worst characteristic of
    this bill, that it is a bill of blunders: it is, from beginning to
    end, a piece of deliberate cruelty, and crafty injustice. If the
    rich composed the whole population of this country, not a single
    comfort of one single man would be affected by it. It is directed
    exclusively, and without the exception of a solitary instance,
    against the amusements and recreations of the poor. This was the
    bait held out by the Hon. Baronet to a body of men, who cannot be
    supposed to have any very strong sympathies in common with the
    poor, because they cannot understand their sufferings or their
    struggles. This is the bait, which will in time prevail, unless
    public attention is awakened, and public feeling exerted, to
    prevent it.

    Take the very first clause, the provision that no man shall be
    allowed to work on Sunday--'That no person, upon the Lord's day,
    shall do, or hire, or employ any person to do any manner of labour,
    or any work of his or her ordinary calling.' What class of persons
    does this affect? The rich man? No. Menial servants, both male
    and female, are specially exempted from the operation of the bill.
    'Menial servants' are among the poor people. The bill has no
    regard for them. The Baronet's dinner must be cooked on Sunday,
    the Bishop's horses must be groomed, and the Peer's carriage must
    be driven. So the menial servants are put utterly beyond the pale
    of grace;--unless indeed, they are to go to heaven through the
    sanctity of their masters, and possibly they might think even that,
    rather an uncertain passport.

    There is a penalty for keeping open, houses of entertainment. Now,
    suppose the bill had passed, and that half-a-dozen adventurous
    licensed victuallers, relying upon the excitement of public feeling
    on the subject, and the consequent difficulty of conviction (this
    is by no means an improbable supposition), had determined to keep
    their houses and gardens open, through the whole Sunday afternoon,
    in defiance of the law. Every act of hiring or working, every act
    of buying or selling, or delivering, or causing anything to be
    bought or sold, is specifically made a separate offence--mark the
    effect. A party, a man and his wife and children, enter a tea-
    garden, and the informer stations himself in the next box, from
    whence he can see and hear everything that passes. 'Waiter!' says
    the father. 'Yes. Sir.' 'Pint of the best ale!' 'Yes, Sir.'
    Away runs the waiter to the bar, and gets the ale from the
    landlord. Out comes the informer's note-book--penalty on the
    father for hiring, on the waiter for delivering, and on the
    landlord for selling, on the Lord's day. But it does not stop
    here. The waiter delivers the ale, and darts off, little
    suspecting the penalties in store for him. 'Hollo,' cries the
    father, 'waiter!' 'Yes, Sir.' 'Just get this little boy a
    biscuit, will you?' 'Yes, Sir.' Off runs the waiter again, and
    down goes another case of hiring, another case of delivering, and
    another case of selling; and so it would go on ad infinitum, the
    sum and substance of the matter being, that every time a man or
    woman cried 'Waiter!' on Sunday, he or she would be fined not less
    than forty shillings, nor more than a hundred; and every time a
    waiter replied, 'Yes, Sir,' he and his master would be fined in the
    same amount: with the addition of a new sort of window duty on the
    landlord, to wit, a tax of twenty shillings an hour for every hour
    beyond the first one, during which he should have his shutters down
    on the Sabbath.

    With one exception, there are perhaps no clauses in the whole bill,
    so strongly illustrative of its partial operation, and the
    intention of its framer, as those which relate to travelling on
    Sunday. Penalties of ten, twenty, and thirty pounds, are
    mercilessly imposed upon coach proprietors who shall run their
    coaches on the Sabbath; one, two, and ten pounds upon those who
    hire, or let to hire, horses and carriages upon the Lord's day, but
    not one syllable about those who have no necessity to hire, because
    they have carriages and horses of their own; not one word of a
    penalty on liveried coachmen and footmen. The whole of the saintly
    venom is directed against the hired cabriolet, the humble fly, or
    the rumbling hackney-coach, which enables a man of the poorer class
    to escape for a few hours from the smoke and dirt, in the midst of
    which he has been confined throughout the week: while the
    escutcheoned carriage and the dashing cab, may whirl their wealthy
    owners to Sunday feasts and private oratorios, setting constables,
    informers, and penalties, at defiance. Again, in the description
    of the places of public resort which it is rendered criminal to
    attend on Sunday, there are no words comprising a very fashionable
    promenade. Public discussions, public debates, public lectures and
    speeches, are cautiously guarded against; for it is by their means
    that the people become enlightened enough to deride the last
    efforts of bigotry and superstition. There is a stringent
    provision for punishing the poor man who spends an hour in a news-
    room, but there is nothing to prevent the rich one from lounging
    away the day in the Zoological Gardens.

    There is, in four words, a mock proviso, which affects to forbid
    travelling 'with any animal' on the Lord's day. This, however, is
    revoked, as relates to the rich man, by a subsequent provision. We
    have then a penalty of not less than fifty, nor more than one
    hundred pounds, upon any person participating in the control, or
    having the command of any vessel which shall commence her voyage on
    the Lord's day, should the wind prove favourable. The next time
    this bill is brought forward (which will no doubt be at an early
    period of the next session of Parliament) perhaps it will be better
    to amend this clause by declaring, that from and after the passing
    of the act, it shall be deemed unlawful for the wind to blow at all
    upon the Sabbath. It would remove a great deal of temptation from
    the owners and captains of vessels.

    The reader is now in possession of the principal enacting clauses
    of Sir Andrew Agnew's bill, with the exception of one, for
    preventing the killing or taking of 'FISH, OR OTHER WILD ANIMALS,'
    and the ordinary provisions which are inserted for form's sake in
    all acts of Parliament. I now beg his attention to the clauses of

    They are two in number. The first exempts menial servants from any
    rest, and all poor men from any recreation: outlaws a milkman
    after nine o'clock in the morning, and makes eating-houses lawful
    for only two hours in the afternoon; permits a medical man to use
    his carriage on Sunday, and declares that a clergyman may either
    use his own, or hire one.

    The second is artful, cunning, and designing; shielding the rich
    man from the possibility of being entrapped, and affecting at the
    same time, to have a tender and scrupulous regard, for the
    interests of the whole community. It declares, 'that nothing in
    this act contained, shall extend to works of piety, charity, or

    What is meant by the word 'necessity' in this clause? Simply this-
    -that the rich man shall be at liberty to make use of all the
    splendid luxuries he has collected around him, on any day in the
    week, because habit and custom have rendered them 'necessary' to
    his easy existence; but that the poor man who saves his money to
    provide some little pleasure for himself and family at lengthened
    intervals, shall not be permitted to enjoy it. It is not
    'necessary' to him:- Heaven knows, he very often goes long enough
    without it. This is the plain English of the clause. The carriage
    and pair of horses, the coachman, the footman, the helper, and the
    groom, are 'necessary' on Sundays, as on other days, to the bishop
    and the nobleman; but the hackney-coach, the hired gig, or the
    taxed cart, cannot possibly be 'necessary' to the working-man on
    Sunday, for he has it not at other times. The sumptuous dinner and
    the rich wines, are 'necessaries' to a great man in his own
    mansion: but the pint of beer and the plate of meat, degrade the
    national character in an eating-house.

    Such is the bill for promoting the true and sincere worship of God
    according to his Holy Will, and for protecting every class of
    society against being required to sacrifice their health and
    comfort on the Sabbath. Instances in which its operation would be
    as unjust as it would be absurd, might be multiplied to an endless
    amount; but it is sufficient to place its leading provisions before
    the reader. In doing so, I have purposely abstained from drawing
    upon the imagination for possible cases; the provisions to which I
    have referred, stand in so many words upon the bill as printed by
    order of the House of Commons; and they can neither be disowned,
    nor explained away.

    Let us suppose such a bill as this, to have actually passed both
    branches of the legislature; to have received the royal assent; and
    to have come into operation. Imagine its effect in a great city
    like London.

    Sunday comes, and brings with it a day of general gloom and
    austerity. The man who has been toiling hard all the week, has
    been looking towards the Sabbath, not as to a day of rest from
    labour, and healthy recreation, but as one of grievous tyranny and
    grinding oppression. The day which his Maker intended as a
    blessing, man has converted into a curse. Instead of being hailed
    by him as his period of relaxation, he finds it remarkable only as
    depriving him of every comfort and enjoyment. He has many children
    about him, all sent into the world at an early age, to struggle for
    a livelihood; one is kept in a warehouse all day, with an interval
    of rest too short to enable him to reach home, another walks four
    or five miles to his employment at the docks, a third earns a few
    shillings weekly, as an errand boy, or office messenger; and the
    employment of the man himself, detains him at some distance from
    his home from morning till night. Sunday is the only day on which
    they could all meet together, and enjoy a homely meal in social
    comfort; and now they sit down to a cold and cheerless dinner: the
    pious guardians of the man's salvation having, in their regard for
    the welfare of his precious soul, shut up the bakers' shops. The
    fire blazes high in the kitchen chimney of these well-fed
    hypocrites, and the rich steams of the savoury dinner scent the
    air. What care they to be told that this class of men have neither
    a place to cook in--nor means to bear the expense, if they had?

    Look into your churches--diminished congregations, and scanty
    attendance. People have grown sullen and obstinate, and are
    becoming disgusted with the faith which condemns them to such a day
    as this, once in every seven. And as you cannot make people
    religious by Act of Parliament, or force them to church by
    constables, they display their feeling by staying away.

    Turn into the streets, and mark the rigid gloom that reigns over
    everything around. The roads are empty, the fields are deserted,
    the houses of entertainment are closed. Groups of filthy and
    discontented-looking men, are idling about at the street corners,
    or sleeping in the sun; but there are no decently-dressed people of
    the poorer class, passing to and fro. Where should they walk to?
    It would take them an hour, at least, to get into the fields, and
    when they reached them, they could procure neither bite nor sup,
    without the informer and the penalty. Now and then, a carriage
    rolls smoothly on, or a well-mounted horseman, followed by a
    liveried attendant, canters by; but with these exceptions, all is
    as melancholy and quiet as if a pestilence had fallen on the city.

    Bend your steps through the narrow and thickly-inhabited streets,
    and observe the sallow faces of the men and women who are lounging
    at the doors, or lolling from the windows. Regard well the
    closeness of these crowded rooms, and the noisome exhalations that
    rise from the drains and kennels; and then laud the triumph of
    religion and morality, which condemns people to drag their lives
    out in such stews as these, and makes it criminal for them to eat
    or drink in the fresh air, or under the clear sky. Here and there,
    from some half-opened window, the loud shout of drunken revelry
    strikes upon the ear, and the noise of oaths and quarrelling--the
    effect of the close and heated atmosphere--is heard on all sides.
    See how the men all rush to join the crowd that are making their
    way down the street, and how loud the execrations of the mob become
    as they draw nearer. They have assembled round a little knot of
    constables, who have seized the stock-in-trade, heinously exposed
    on Sunday, of some miserable walking-stick seller, who follows
    clamouring for his property. The dispute grows warmer and fiercer,
    until at last some of the more furious among the crowd, rush
    forward to restore the goods to their owner. A general conflict
    takes place; the sticks of the constables are exercised in all
    directions; fresh assistance is procured; and half a dozen of the
    assailants are conveyed to the station-house, struggling, bleeding,
    and cursing. The case is taken to the police-office on the
    following morning; and after a frightful amount of perjury on both
    sides, the men are sent to prison for resisting the officers, their
    families to the workhouse to keep them from starving: and there
    they both remain for a month afterwards, glorious trophies of the
    sanctified enforcement of the Christian Sabbath. Add to such
    scenes as these, the profligacy, idleness, drunkenness, and vice,
    that will be committed to an extent which no man can foresee, on
    Monday, as an atonement for the restraint of the preceding day; and
    you have a very faint and imperfect picture of the religious
    effects of this Sunday legislation, supposing it could ever be
    forced upon the people.

    But let those who advocate the cause of fanaticism, reflect well
    upon the probable issue of their endeavours. They may by
    perseverance, succeed with Parliament. Let them ponder on the
    probability of succeeding with the people. You may deny the
    concession of a political question for a time, and a nation will
    bear it patiently. Strike home to the comforts of every man's
    fireside--tamper with every man's freedom and liberty--and one
    month, one week, may rouse a feeling abroad, which a king would
    gladly yield his crown to quell, and a peer would resign his
    coronet to allay.

    It is the custom to affect a deference for the motives of those who
    advocate these measures, and a respect for the feelings by which
    they are actuated. They do not deserve it. If they legislate in
    ignorance, they are criminal and dishonest; if they do so with
    their eyes open, they commit wilful injustice; in either case, they
    bring religion into contempt. But they do NOT legislate in
    ignorance. Public prints, and public men, have pointed out to them
    again and again, the consequences of their proceedings. If they
    persist in thrusting themselves forward, let those consequences
    rest upon their own heads, and let them be content to stand upon
    their own merits.

    It may be asked, what motives can actuate a man who has so little
    regard for the comfort of his fellow-beings, so little respect for
    their wants and necessities, and so distorted a notion of the
    beneficence of his Creator. I reply, an envious, heartless, ill-
    conditioned dislike to seeing those whom fortune has placed below
    him, cheerful and happy--an intolerant confidence in his own high
    worthiness before God, and a lofty impression of the demerits of
    others--pride, selfish pride, as inconsistent with the spirit of
    Christianity itself, as opposed to the example of its Founder upon

    To these may be added another class of men--the stern and gloomy
    enthusiasts, who would make earth a hell, and religion a torment:
    men who, having wasted the earlier part of their lives in
    dissipation and depravity, find themselves when scarcely past its
    meridian, steeped to the neck in vice, and shunned like a loathsome
    disease. Abandoned by the world, having nothing to fall back upon,
    nothing to remember but time mis-spent, and energies misdirected,
    they turn their eyes and not their thoughts to Heaven, and delude
    themselves into the impious belief, that in denouncing the
    lightness of heart of which they cannot partake, and the rational
    pleasures from which they never derived enjoyment, they are more
    than remedying the sins of their old career, and--like the founders
    of monasteries and builders of churches, in ruder days--
    establishing a good set claim upon their Maker.


    The supporters of Sabbath Bills, and more especially the extreme
    class of Dissenters, lay great stress upon the declarations
    occasionally made by criminals from the condemned cell or the
    scaffold, that to Sabbath-breaking they attribute their first
    deviation from the path of rectitude; and they point to these
    statements, as an incontestable proof of the evil consequences
    which await a departure from that strict and rigid observance of
    the Sabbath, which they uphold. I cannot help thinking that in
    this, as in almost every other respect connected with the subject,
    there is a considerable degree of cant, and a very great deal of
    wilful blindness. If a man be viciously disposed--and with very
    few exceptions, not a man dies by the executioner's hands, who has
    not been in one way or other a most abandoned and profligate
    character for many years--if a man be viciously disposed, there is
    no doubt that he will turn his Sunday to bad account, that he will
    take advantage of it, to dissipate with other bad characters as
    vile as himself; and that in this way, he may trace his first
    yielding to temptation, possibly his first commission of crime, to
    an infringement of the Sabbath. But this would be an argument
    against any holiday at all. If his holiday had been Wednesday
    instead of Sunday, and he had devoted it to the same improper uses,
    it would have been productive of the same results. It is too much
    to judge of the character of a whole people, by the confessions of
    the very worst members of society. It is not fair, to cry down
    things which are harmless in themselves, because evil-disposed men
    may turn them to bad account. Who ever thought of deprecating the
    teaching poor people to write, because some porter in a warehouse
    had committed forgery? Or into what man's head did it ever enter,
    to prevent the crowding of churches, because it afforded a
    temptation for the picking of pockets?

    When the Book of Sports, for allowing the peasantry of England to
    divert themselves with certain games in the open air, on Sundays,
    after evening service, was published by Charles the First, it is
    needless to say the English people were comparatively rude and
    uncivilised. And yet it is extraordinary to how few excesses it
    gave rise, even in that day, when men's minds were not enlightened,
    or their passions moderated, by the influence of education and
    refinement. That some excesses were committed through its means,
    in the remoter parts of the country, and that it was discontinued
    in those places, in consequence, cannot be denied: but generally
    speaking, there is no proof whatever on record, of its having had
    any tendency to increase crime, or to lower the character of the

    The Puritans of that time, were as much opposed to harmless
    recreations and healthful amusements as those of the present day,
    and it is amusing to observe that each in their generation, advance
    precisely the same description of arguments. In the British
    Museum, there is a curious pamphlet got up by the Agnews of
    Charles's time, entitled 'A Divine Tragedie lately acted, or a
    Collection of sundry memorable examples of God's Judgements upon
    Sabbath Breakers, and other like Libertines in their unlawful
    Sports, happening within the realme of England, in the compass only
    of two yeares last past, since the Booke (of Sports) was published,
    worthy to be knowne and considered of all men, especially such who
    are guilty of the sinne, or archpatrons thereof.' This amusing
    document, contains some fifty or sixty veritable accounts of balls
    of fire that fell into churchyards and upset the sporters, and
    sporters that quarrelled, and upset one another, and so forth: and
    among them is one anecdote containing an example of a rather
    different kind, which I cannot resist the temptation of quoting, as
    strongly illustrative of the fact, that this blinking of the
    question has not even the recommendation of novelty.

    'A woman about Northampton, the same day that she heard the booke
    for sports read, went immediately, and having 3. pence in her
    purse, hired a fellow to goe to the next towne to fetch a
    Minstrell, who coming, she with others fell a dauncing, which
    continued within night; at which time shee was got with child,
    which at the birth shee murthering, was detected and apprehended,
    and being converted before the justice, shee confessed it, and
    withal told the occasion of it, saying it was her falling to sport
    on the Sabbath, upon the reading of the Booke, so as for this
    treble sinfull act, her presumptuous profaning of the Sabbath, wh.
    brought her adultory and that murther. Shee was according to the
    Law both of God and man, put to death. Much sinne and misery
    followeth upon Sabbath-breaking.'

    It is needless to say, that if the young lady near Northampton had
    'fallen to sport' of such a dangerous description, on any other day
    but Sunday, the first result would probably have been the same: it
    never having been distinctly shown that Sunday is more favourable
    to the propagation of the human race than any other day in the
    week. The second result--the murder of the child--does not speak
    very highly for the amiability of her natural disposition; and the
    whole story, supposing it to have had any foundation at all, is
    about as much chargeable upon the Book of Sports, as upon the Book
    of Kings. Such 'sports' have taken place in Dissenting Chapels
    before now; but religion has never been blamed in consequence; nor
    has it been proposed to shut up the chapels on that account.

    The question, then, very fairly arises, whether we have any reason
    to suppose that allowing games in the open air on Sundays, or even
    providing the means of amusement for the humbler classes of society
    on that day, would be hurtful and injurious to the character and
    morals of the people.

    I was travelling in the west of England a summer or two back, and
    was induced by the beauty of the scenery, and the seclusion of the
    spot, to remain for the night in a small village, distant about
    seventy miles from London. The next morning was Sunday; and I
    walked out, towards the church. Groups of people--the whole
    population of the little hamlet apparently--were hastening in the
    same direction. Cheerful and good-humoured congratulations were
    heard on all sides, as neighbours overtook each other, and walked
    on in company. Occasionally I passed an aged couple, whose married
    daughter and her husband were loitering by the side of the old
    people, accommodating their rate of walking to their feeble pace,
    while a little knot of children hurried on before; stout young
    labourers in clean round frocks; and buxom girls with healthy,
    laughing faces, were plentifully sprinkled about in couples, and
    the whole scene was one of quiet and tranquil contentment,
    irresistibly captivating. The morning was bright and pleasant, the
    hedges were green and blooming, and a thousand delicious scents
    were wafted on the air, from the wild flowers which blossomed on
    either side of the footpath. The little church was one of those
    venerable simple buildings which abound in the English counties;
    half overgrown with moss and ivy, and standing in the centre of a
    little plot of ground, which, but for the green mounds with which
    it was studded, might have passed for a lovely meadow. I fancied
    that the old clanking bell which was now summoning the congregation
    together, would seem less terrible when it rung out the knell of a
    departed soul, than I had ever deemed possible before--that the
    sound would tell only of a welcome to calmness and rest, amidst the
    most peaceful and tranquil scene in nature.

    I followed into the church--a low-roofed building with small arched
    windows, through which the sun's rays streamed upon a plain tablet
    on the opposite wall, which had once recorded names, now as
    undistinguishable on its worn surface, as were the bones beneath,
    from the dust into which they had resolved. The impressive service
    of the Church of England was spoken--not merely READ--by a grey-
    headed minister, and the responses delivered by his auditors, with
    an air of sincere devotion as far removed from affectation or
    display, as from coldness or indifference. The psalms were
    accompanied by a few instrumental performers, who were stationed in
    a small gallery extending across the church at the lower end, over
    the door: and the voices were led by the clerk, who, it was
    evident, derived no slight pride and gratification from this
    portion of the service. The discourse was plain, unpretending, and
    well adapted to the comprehension of the hearers. At the
    conclusion of the service, the villagers waited in the churchyard,
    to salute the clergyman as he passed; and two or three, I observed,
    stepped aside, as if communicating some little difficulty, and
    asking his advice. This, to guess from the homely bows, and other
    rustic expressions of gratitude, the old gentleman readily
    conceded. He seemed intimately acquainted with the circumstances
    of all his parishioners; for I heard him inquire after one man's
    youngest child, another man's wife, and so forth; and that he was
    fond of his joke, I discovered from overhearing him ask a stout,
    fresh-coloured young fellow, with a very pretty bashful-looking
    girl on his arm, 'when those banns were to be put up?'--an inquiry
    which made the young fellow more fresh-coloured, and the girl more
    bashful, and which, strange to say, caused a great many other girls
    who were standing round, to colour up also, and look anywhere but
    in the faces of their male companions.

    As I approached this spot in the evening about half an hour before
    sunset, I was surprised to hear the hum of voices, and occasionally
    a shout of merriment from the meadow beyond the churchyard; which I
    found, when I reached the stile, to be occasioned by a very
    animated game of cricket, in which the boys and young men of the
    place were engaged, while the females and old people were scattered
    about: some seated on the grass watching the progress of the game,
    and others sauntering about in groups of two or three, gathering
    little nosegays of wild roses and hedge flowers. I could not but
    take notice of one old man in particular, with a bright-eyed grand-
    daughter by his side, who was giving a sunburnt young fellow some
    instructions in the game, which he received with an air of profound
    deference, but with an occasional glance at the girl, which induced
    me to think that his attention was rather distracted from the old
    gentleman's narration of the fruits of his experience. When it was
    his turn at the wicket, too, there was a glance towards the pair
    every now and then, which the old grandfather very complacently
    considered as an appeal to his judgment of a particular hit, but
    which a certain blush in the girl's face, and a downcast look of
    the bright eye, led me to believe was intended for somebody else
    than the old man,--and understood by somebody else, too, or I am
    much mistaken.

    I was in the very height of the pleasure which the contemplation of
    this scene afforded me, when I saw the old clergyman making his way
    towards us. I trembled for an angry interruption to the sport, and
    was almost on the point of crying out, to warn the cricketers of
    his approach; he was so close upon me, however, that I could do
    nothing but remain still, and anticipate the reproof that was
    preparing. What was my agreeable surprise to see the old gentleman
    standing at the stile, with his hands in his pockets, surveying the
    whole scene with evident satisfaction! And how dull I must have
    been, not to have known till my friend the grandfather (who, by-
    the-bye, said he had been a wonderful cricketer in his time) told
    me, that it was the clergyman himself who had established the whole
    thing: that it was his field they played in; and that it was he
    who had purchased stumps, bats, ball, and all!

    It is such scenes as this, I would see near London, on a Sunday
    evening. It is such men as this, who would do more in one year to
    make people properly religious, cheerful, and contented, than all
    the legislation of a century could ever accomplish.

    It will be said--it has been very often--that it would be matter of
    perfect impossibility to make amusements and exercises succeed in
    large towns, which may be very well adapted to a country
    population. Here, again, we are called upon to yield to bare
    assertions on matters of belief and opinion, as if they were
    established and undoubted facts. That there is a wide difference
    between the two cases, no one will be prepared to dispute; that the
    difference is such as to prevent the application of the same
    principle to both, no reasonable man, I think, will be disposed to
    maintain. The great majority of the people who make holiday on
    Sunday now, are industrious, orderly, and well-behaved persons. It
    is not unreasonable to suppose that they would be no more inclined
    to an abuse of pleasures provided for them, than they are to an
    abuse of the pleasures they provide for themselves; and if any
    people, for want of something better to do, resort to criminal
    practices on the Sabbath as at present observed, no better remedy
    for the evil can be imagined, than giving them the opportunity of
    doing something which will amuse them, and hurt nobody else.

    The propriety of opening the British Museum to respectable people
    on Sunday, has lately been the subject of some discussion. I think
    it would puzzle the most austere of the Sunday legislators to
    assign any valid reason for opposing so sensible a proposition.
    The Museum contains rich specimens from all the vast museums and
    repositories of Nature, and rare and curious fragments of the
    mighty works of art, in bygone ages: all calculated to awaken
    contemplation and inquiry, and to tend to the enlightenment and
    improvement of the people. But attendants would be necessary, and
    a few men would be employed upon the Sabbath. They certainly
    would; but how many? Why, if the British Museum, and the National
    Gallery, and the Gallery of Practical Science, and every other
    exhibition in London, from which knowledge is to be derived and
    information gained, were to be thrown open on a Sunday afternoon,
    not fifty people would be required to preside over the whole: and
    it would take treble the number to enforce a Sabbath bill in any
    three populous parishes.

    I should like to see some large field, or open piece of ground, in
    every outskirt of London, exhibiting each Sunday evening on a
    larger scale, the scene of the little country meadow. I should
    like to see the time arrive, when a man's attendance to his
    religious duties might be left to that religious feeling which most
    men possess in a greater or less degree, but which was never forced
    into the breast of any man by menace or restraint. I should like
    to see the time when Sunday might be looked forward to, as a
    recognised day of relaxation and enjoyment, and when every man
    might feel, what few men do now, that religion is not incompatible
    with rational pleasure and needful recreation.

    How different a picture would the streets and public places then
    present! The museums, and repositories of scientific and useful
    inventions, would be crowded with ingenious mechanics and
    industrious artisans, all anxious for information, and all unable
    to procure it at any other time. The spacious saloons would be
    swarming with practical men: humble in appearance, but destined,
    perhaps, to become the greatest inventors and philosophers of their
    age. The labourers who now lounge away the day in idleness and
    intoxication, would be seen hurrying along, with cheerful faces and
    clean attire, not to the close and smoky atmosphere of the public-
    house but to the fresh and airy fields. Fancy the pleasant scene.
    Throngs of people, pouring out from the lanes and alleys of the
    metropolis, to various places of common resort at some short
    distance from the town, to join in the refreshing sports and
    exercises of the day--the children gambolling in crowds upon the
    grass, the mothers looking on, and enjoying themselves the little
    game they seem only to direct; other parties strolling along some
    pleasant walks, or reposing in the shade of the stately trees;
    others again intent upon their different amusements. Nothing
    should be heard on all sides, but the sharp stroke of the bat as it
    sent the ball skimming along the ground, the clear ring of the
    quoit, as it struck upon the iron peg: the noisy murmur of many
    voices, and the loud shout of mirth and delight, which would awaken
    the echoes far and wide, till the fields rung with it. The day
    would pass away, in a series of enjoyments which would awaken no
    painful reflections when night arrived; for they would be
    calculated to bring with them, only health and contentment. The
    young would lose that dread of religion, which the sour austerity
    of its professors too often inculcates in youthful bosoms; and the
    old would find less difficulty in persuading them to respect its
    observances. The drunken and dissipated, deprived of any excuse
    for their misconduct, would no longer excite pity but disgust.
    Above all, the more ignorant and humble class of men, who now
    partake of many of the bitters of life, and taste but few of its
    sweets, would naturally feel attachment and respect for that code
    of morality, which, regarding the many hardships of their station,
    strove to alleviate its rigours, and endeavoured to soften its

    This is what Sunday might be made, and what it might be made
    without impiety or profanation. The wise and beneficent Creator
    who places men upon earth, requires that they shall perform the
    duties of that station of life to which they are called, and He can
    never intend that the more a man strives to discharge those duties,
    the more he shall be debarred from happiness and enjoyment. Let
    those who have six days in the week for all the world's pleasures,
    appropriate the seventh to fasting and gloom, either for their own
    sins or those of other people, if they like to bewail them; but let
    those who employ their six days in a worthier manner, devote their
    seventh to a different purpose. Let divines set the example of
    true morality: preach it to their flocks in the morning, and
    dismiss them to enjoy true rest in the afternoon; and let them
    select for their text, and let Sunday legislators take for their
    motto, the words which fell from the lips of that Master, whose
    precepts they misconstrue, and whose lessons they pervert--'The
    Sabbath was made for man, and not man to serve the Sabbath.'
    If you're writing a Sunday Under Three Heads essay and need some advice, post your Charles Dickens essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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