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Queen Victoria by E. Gordon Browne

In the old legend of Rip Van Winkle with which the American writer Washington Irving has made us so familiar, the ne’er-do-weel Rip wanders off into the Kaatskill Mountains with his dog and gun in order to escape from his wife’s scolding tongue. Here he meets the spectre crew of Captain Hudson, and, after partaking of their hospitality, falls into a deep sleep which lasts for twenty years. The latter part of the story describes the changes which he finds on his return to his native village: nearly all the old, familiar faces are gone; manners, dress, and speech are all changed. He feels like a stranger in a strange land.

Now, it is a good thing sometimes to take a look back, to try to count over the changes for good or for evil which have taken place in this country of ours; to try to understand clearly why the reign of a great Queen should have left its mark upon our history in such a way that men speak of the Victorian Age as one of the greatest ages that have ever been.

If an Elizabethan had been asked whether he considered the Queen of England a great woman or not, he would undoubtedly have answered “Yes,” and given very good reasons for his answer. It was not for nothing that the English almost worshipped their Queen in “those spacious times of great Elizabeth.” Edmund Spenser, one of the world’s great poets, hymned her as “fayre Elisa” and “the flower of Virgins”