Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/325

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



smaller proportion to the number of the queen's subjects than in any former reign.

In William III.'s time the House of Lords counted little less than two hundred peers to a population of some five millions. It now counts about five hundred lords temporal to a population for England alone of about twenty-four million.

The earls are less than a third of the Upper House; and rarely indeed is the title attained by any one who has begun life as a commoner. Since the Revolution, however, three prime ministers have crowned their careers by the acceptance of earldoms. History, nevertheless, has obstinately refused to change Walpole's name into Orford, though the elder Pitt is frequently known as Chatham. Earldoms won by lawyers during the same period have been more numerous, as the titles borne by Lord Aylesford, Cowper, Macclesfield, Hardwicke, Mansfield, Eldon, and Cottenham bear witness. Lord Aylesford was himself the son of a chancellor and an earl (of Nottingham). Mansfield was a son of the Scottish Viscount Stormont. The rise of the first Earl of Hardwicke is perhaps the most extraordinary in our legal annals. Philip Yorke, the son of "a solicitor of respectability at Dover," was called to the bar in 1715 at the age of twenty-four, and in 1720 was was made solicitor-general. Four years later he became attorney-general, and in 1733, before he had completed the forty-third year of his age, lord chief justice of England and a peer of the realm as Lord Hardwicke. A little more than three years placed him on the woolsack, where he sat comfortably for some nineteen years, being further raised during his tenure of office to an earldom. It must be remembered, too, that the office of chancellor meant a good deal more in those days than at present; both the power and patronage enjoyed by the keeper of the great seal were greater, while the authority of the first lord of the treasury was not so great.

Most of the counties in the two islands give titles to earls, marquises, or dukes, but there are a few still left for aspirants to these honors. Monmouth and Dorset are at present unoccupied; though if the Duke of Buccleuch should ever succeed in getting the attainder of his famous ancestor completely reversed he would become Duke of Monmouth in the peerage of England as the lineal descendant of Charles II.'s son by Mrs. Lucy Walters. Earl of Monmouth was the title borne by Charles Lord Mordaunt, who was so created by William III. for his share in the Revolution, and who is better known by the title of Earl of Peterborough, in which he succeeded his uncle. Another county is awaiting a peer who shall have the courage to accept the style and designation of Earl of Flintshire. Oxford, again, is not likely now to be claimed by any descendant of the De Veres or even Harleys. York and Gloucester are held to be more or less titles for members of the royal family; though it should be added that every earl is conventionally of kin with the sovereign, and is officially addressed by her Majesty as "our right trusty and well-beloved cousin."

From Chambers' Journal.


The Nile, as is well known, annually overflows its banks, and deluges a considerable part of Lower Egypt, such overflowings giving periodical fertility to the soil. These floodings, however, are by no means uniform in character. Sometimes the floodings are large, sometimes disappointingly small. Nor do they always take place at the same period in the year. Occasionally they are late and tardy in their rising and falling. When the river rises well, it is called "a good Nile;" when insufficient in volume, it is called "a bad Nile;" just as we speak of a good and a bad season.

These caprices in the rise of the Nile have appeared to be so mysterious that certain astronomers are inclined to trace some connection between them and the absence or return of solar spots. But on this theory there are differences of opinion. While one astronomer thinks that spots in the sun lead to a heavy rainfall, others just think the reverse. Obviously, the sun-spot theory is somewhat visionary. The rise of the Nile depends on meteorological conditions near the sources of the river in central Africa, of which we possess but imperfect-information. A correspondent of the Times (October 31), who, writing from Alexandria, gives a variety of curious particulars regarding the Nile, comes to the conclusion that the solar-spot theory is untenable. He says, that "so far as can be seen in Egypt, there does not appear to be any periodicity of high Niles agreeing absolutely with the acknowledged periodicity