Preface
 

We are accustomed to regard the Reign of Charles II. as one of the most inglorious periods of English History; but this was far from being the case. It is true that the extravagance and profligacy of the Court were carried to a point unknown before or since, forming,--by the indignation they excited among the people at large,--the main cause of the overthrow of the House of Stuart. But, on the other hand, the nation made extraordinary advances in commerce and wealth, while the valour of our sailors was as conspicuous under the Dukes of York and Albemarle, Prince Rupert and the Earl of Sandwich, as it had been under Blake himself, and their victories resulted in transferring the commercial as well as the naval supremacy of Holland to this country. In spite of the cruel blows inflicted on the well-being of the country, alike by the extravagance of the Court, the badness of the Government, the Great Plague, and the destruction of London by fire, an extraordinary extension of our trade occurred during the reign of Charles II. Such a period, therefore, although its brilliancy was marred by dark shadows, cannot be considered as an inglorious epoch. It was ennobled by the bravery of our sailors, by the fearlessness with which the coalition of France with Holland was faced, and by the spirit of enterprise with which our merchants and traders seized the opportunity, and, in spite of national misfortunes, raised England in the course of a few years to the rank of the greatest commercial power in the world.

G. A. HENTY.