Page:Books Condemned to be Burnt - James Anson Farrer.djvu/203

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187
Our Last Book-Fires.

our two august chambers and the monarchy he compared to that between goodly branches and the tree itself: they were only branches, deriving their origin and nutriment from their common parent; but though they might be lopped off, the tree would remain a tree still. The Houses could give advice and consent, but the Government and its administration in all its parts rested wholly and solely with the King and his nominees. That a book of such sentiments should have escaped burning is doubtless partly due to the panic of Republicanism then raging in England; but it also shows the gradual growth of a sensible indifference to the power of the pen.

And when we think of the freedom, almost unchecked, of the literature of the century now closing, of the impunity with which speculation attacks the very roots of all our political and theological traditions, and compare this state of liberty with the servitude of literature in the three preceding centuries, when it rested with archbishop or Commons or Lords not only to commit writings to the flames but to inflict cruelties and indignities on the writers, we cannot but recognise how proportionate to the advance we have made in toleration have been the benefits we