Page:The Post Office of Fifty Years Ago.djvu/14

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pamphlet, giving at the same time a brief description of the older state of things, so that our readers may the more readily judge of the magnitude of the change which has been effected.

In these days, when postal facilities have so enormously extended, and cheap and rapid communication by letter has become so completely a part of our everyday life, like the air we breathe or the water we drink, few persons ever trouble themselves to think how it would be possible to exist without them; and those who are not old enough to remember the former state of things, under a postal system which the authorities at St. Martin's-le-Grand of that day regarded as almost a marvel of perfection, can hardly picture to themselves the inconvenience to which the public had then to submit.

As Miss Martineau points out in her History of the Thirty Years' Peace (1815—1845), we look back now with a sort of amazed compassion to the old Crusading times, when warrior-husbands and their wives, grey-headed parents and their brave sons, parted with the knowledge that it must be months or years before they could hear even of one another's existence. We wonder how they bore the depth of silence, and we feel the same now about the families of polar voyagers, but, till the commencement of Her Majesty's reign, it did not occur to many of us how like this was the fate of the largest classes in our own country. The fact is,