The entry of Charles the Second into Whitehall marked a deep and lasting change in the temper of the English people. With it modern England began. The influences which had up to this time moulded our history, the theological influence of the Reformation, the monarchical influence of the new kingship, the feudal influence of the Middle Ages, the yet earlier influence of tradition and custom, suddenly lost power over the minds of men. From the moment of the Restoration we find ourselves all at once among the great currents of thought and activity which have gone on widening and deepening from that time to this. The England around us becomes our own England, an England whose chief forces are industry and science, the love of popular freedom and of law, an England which presses steadily forward to a larger social justice and equality, and which tends more and more to bring every custom and tradition, religious, intellectual, and political, to the test of pure reason. Between modern thought, on some at least of its more important sides, and the thought of men before the Restoration there is a great gulf fixed.
A political thinker in the present day would find it equally hard to discuss any point of statesmanship with Lord Burleigh or with Oliver Cromwell. He would find no point of contact between their ideas of national life or national welfare, their conception of government or the ends of government, their mode of regarding economical and social questions, and his own. But no gulf of this sort parts us from the men who followed the Restoration. From that time to this, whatever differences there may have been as to practical conclusions drawn from them, there has been a substantial agreement as to the grounds of our political, our social, our intellectual and religious life. Paley would have found no difficulty in understanding Tillotson: Newton and Sir Humphry Davy could have talked without a sense of severance. There would have been nothing to hinder a perfectly clear discussion on government or law between John Locke and Jeremy Bentham.
[Authorities. - For the social change see Memoirs of Pepys and Evelyn, the dramatic works of Wycherly and Etherege, and Lord Macaulay's " Essay on the Dramatists of the Restoration." For the earlier history of English Science see Hallam's sketch (" Literary History," vol. iv.); the histories of the Royal Society by Thompson or Wade; and Sir D. Brewster's biography of Newton. Sir W. Molesworth has edited the works of Hobbes].
The change from the old England to the new is so startling that we are apt to look on it as a more sudden change than it really was, and the outer aspect of the Restoration does much to strengthen this impression of suddenness. The aim of the Puritan had been to set up a visible Kingdom of God upon earth. He had wrought out his aim by reversing the policy of the Stuarts and the Tudors. From the time of Henry the Eighth to the time of Charles the First, the Church had been looked upon primarily as an instrument for securing, by moral and religious influences, the social and political ends of the State. Under the Commonwealth, the State, in its turn, was regarded primarily as an instrument for securing through its political and social influences the moral and religious ends of the Church. In the Puritan theory, Englishmen were "the Lord's people; "a people dedicated to Him by a solemn Covenant, and whose end as a nation was to carry out His will. For such an end it was needful that rulers, as well as people, should be "godly men." Godliness became necessarily the chief qualification for public employment.
The new modelling of the army filled its ranks with "saints." Parliament resolved to employ no man "but such as the House shall be satisfied of his real godliness." The Covenant which bound the nation to God bound it to enforce God's laws even more earnestly than its own. The Bible lay on the table of the House of Commons; and its prohibition of swearing, of drunkenness, of fornication became part of the law of the land. Adultery was made felony without the benefit of clergy. Pictures whose subjects jarred with the new decorum were ordered to be burnt, and statues were chipped ruthlessly into decency. It was in the same temper that Puritanism turned from public life to private. The Covenant bound not the whole nation only, but every individual member of the nation, to " a jealous God," a God jealous of any superstition that robbed him of the worship which was exclusively his due, jealous of the distraction and frivolity which robbed him of the entire devotion of man to his service. The want of poetry, of fancy, in the common Puritan temper condemned half the popular observances of England as superstitions. It was superstitious to keep Christmas, or to deck the house with holly and ivy.
It was superstitious to dance round the village May-pole. It was flat Popery to eat a mince-pie. The rough sport, the mirth and fun of " merry England," were out of place in an England called with so great a calling. Bull-baiting, bear-baiting, horse-racing, cock-fighting, the village revel, the dance under the May-pole, were put down with the same indiscrim-inating severity. The long struggle between the Puritans and the play-wrights ended in the closing of every theatre.
The Restoration brought Charles to Whitehall: and in an instant the whole face of England was changed. All that was noblest and best in Puritanism was whirled away with its pettiness and its tyranny in the current of the nation's hate. Religion had been turned into a system of political and social oppression, and it fell with their fall. Godliness became a by-word of scorn; sobriety in dress, in speech, in manners was flouted as a mark of the detested Puritanism. Butler in his "Hudibras" poured insult on the past with a pedantic buffoonery for which the general hatred, far more than its humour, secured a hearing. Archbishop Sheldon listened to the mock sermon of a Cavalier who held up the Puritan phrase and the Puritan twang to ridicule in his hall at Lambeth. Duelling and raking became the marks of a fine gentleman; and grave divines winked at the follies of "honest fellows," who fought, gambled, swore, drank, and ended a day of debauchery by a night in the gutter. Life among men of fashion vibrated between frivolity and excess.