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INFLUENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS.

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INFLUENCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS. In his historical study—"The English Middle Class" (G. Bell and Sons)—Mr. R. H. Gretton de-fines the middle class as that portion of the community to which money is the primary condition and the primary instru- ment of life"; and declares that at the pre- sent day the phrase middle class' has almost ceased to be a true distinction of rank and has become virtually a description of character." He admits that the glory of the Elizabethan age "rested in the main upon the development of the middle class" as a link between Crown and people, but goes on in the following strain: "To proceed from such recognition of the influence of the Middle Class upon the age of Elizabeth to remarking that in the expression of the glory of that age, in the representation of it to the world at large, they had very little share, may seem to be passing from the vitally important to the comparatively superficial. Docs it really matter, it may be asked, that Algernon Sidney and Raleigh and Drake, Shakespeare and Surrey and Pembroke, were not men of the Middle Class—that Knole, Penshurst, Hatfield, and their like were not built for men of the Middle Class-so long as the material foundations of national well- being which alone provides the freedom of spirit necessary for the highest artistic ex- pression were laid by the Middle Class? The answer is that it does matter because in the fact of this difference, between the sourcp of the material, and the source of the expression of the magnificence, of the Elizabethan age, we have the light in which the subsequent de- velopment of the Middle Class must be con- stantly regarded. In a word, the incursion of that class into national affairs produced a separation between true nr>nional conscious- ness and the instinct of a stake in the country'—a separation of which far too little account has yet taken. Broadly speak- ing, the merit of the Norman* and Plantagenet system was that it "elded together the two instincts. This was the spiritual secret of th* j holding of possessions by service. It created a unity of consciousness which was_ able te survive the translation of services into rent and taxation. Now. as wc have seen, it was a deenlv ingrained instinct cf the Middle Class to hold itself aloof from any such concep- tion. National consciousness is from this time onwards in national history a OUfllitv to which individual members of the Middle Class miabt attain, after several generations of assimilation to the survivals of an old tradition, and for the rest a quality in- herent in the remnants of an old landed class and in the mass of the people, among whom it was in time to be regarded by the cultured p. insular prejudice. But the bulk of the Middle Class has never "in" nearer to it than n sense of the correlation and interdepen- dence of their individual stakes fa the coun- try. And that is a totally different thing."

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