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history must derive their knowledge of the facts which they record, and of the persons whose characters they delineate. The credit, therefore, to which it is entitled, is a point which every reader who values correct information must be anxious to have determined. What then is the authority which the work may justly challenge? Is Burnet to be trusted as an historian on whose veracity we may depend? No writer has been opposed with more pertinacity of zeal, nor have any memoirs been more frequently charged with being unfair and erroneous than his. His work has been criticised with un sparing severity, and the wish to detect in his accounts such misrepresentations as might support the charge of wilful deviation from truth, has not always been successfully attempted to be concealed. The eagerness of one reviewer of Burnet's History to destroy its authority, may be fresh in the recollection of some of our readers; and they who remember the manner in which the " Observations" of Mr. Rose, were examined and exposed by Serjeant Heywood, in his Vindication of Fox's Historical Work, cannot have forgotten how effectually the authority of Burnet was supported against a host of presumptive arguments, the materials for which had been hunted out with the utmost industry of research, and put together with so much art as apparently to force the conclusion which the writer wished to establish. Other instances have occurred, in which the truth of Burnet's narration has been confirmed by the production of evidence which was inaccessible to his earliest examiners; and facts which rested on his sole authority, have been established by other and independent testimony.
We see, then, no reason for withholding from Burnet the credit due to a writer of memoirs and annals, whose design was more extensive than to describe only the transactions in which he was personally concerned. In some cases, his errors have been successfully detected ; but a supposed refutation of his opinions has often, with little propriety, been held out as a demonstration of his forgetfulness of truth. He appears to have been inquisitive, and not always discreet in his inquiries, nor always judicious in the selection of the information which his inquiries procured him. But his penetration, if not so profound as always to conduct him to the knowledge which would have enabled him to reach the excellence of a philosophical historian, was not so superficial as some of his adversaries have represented. To what extent he had charged his memory with the information which he had obtained, and what were the precautions which he used to secure the fidelity of his recollections, we are unable to ascertain; but, with the greatest attention to such varied and extensive materials as were requisite in the composition of his History, and which had been accumulating for many years, the avoidance of error was not in every instance practicable. His prejudices might sometimes mislead him, if not in the substantial parts of his relation, yet, in respect to the minuter details which his accounts comprise. But, whatever might have been the strength and influence of his party bias, there is unquestionable evidence, that he was uncontrolled by such a principle in some of the most important of his statements. No reader of his work can go through the accounts which he has given of the discoveries of Oates and the Popish plot, without the conviction of his probity, nor finish his perusal of them without admiring the dignified character of his reflections. He could both censure his friends, where censure was incurred by them; and bestow commendation where it was deserved, upon his opponents and others, for whom he could not be supposed to entertain affection. In times more critical and perilous to public men than any other in our national history, and when so many in the service of the sovereigus whom the revolution had placed upon the throne, were in correspondence with the dethroned monarch, Burnet never compromised his allegiance. He was evidently sincere in his attachment to the new order of things, and his conviction of the truth and value of the great principles of public liberty, was, we believe, not only honest, but carried him forward, with more activity, perhaps, than quite accorded with his clerical character and station, into the political agitations of the times.
In the attainder of Sir John Fenwick, and in some other measures, Burnet had, to use his own words in reference to lhe former transaction, a much larger share than might seem
to become a man of his profession. But the secular constitution of the church to which he belonged, which allows her Bishops to lift their mitred fronts in courts and parliaments," is in part answerable for the hazards to which such a man's virtue may be exposed when he is committed to the influence of impassioned debate.
One of the most remarkable circumstances which the readers of Burnet's History will be concerned to notice, is his neglect of Locke, whose name and merits were well deserving of record by a writer who had undertaken to describe the progress of a revolution in which the services of that distinguished person were so eminent. It is surprising, that Burnet, who commends Hoadley for his exposure of Filmer, in vindication of the Revolution, should have omitted to notice Locke's work on Government, which was written with the same design, and which so effectively established the principles for which Hoadley is lauded by the Bishop. There is a note on this subject by Speaker Onslow, Vol. IV. p. 282, who attributes the omission to the prejudices of Burnet.
If Burnet's prejudices operated in this instance, they might operate in other cases. He might also be careless and credulous, as some of his defenders have admitted. But that he wilfully falsified his narrative, and was guilty of deliberate perversion of truth, is altogether improbable. His religious character is above suspicion, and the solemn profession and appeal which he has prefixed to his History, are vouchers for his integrity, that he tells the truth on all occasions, as fully and freely as • upon' his best inquiry' he had been able to find it out;' though they could not protect his pages against the intrusion of error. The substantial credit of his work is not only unimpaired, but it has received so many extraordinary confirmations from documents which have been published in very modern tiines, that it will descend to future ages as one of the most interesting and valuable historical compositions which illustrate the affairs of this country and of Europe, during a period of great change, and of great political improvement.
The first of Lord Dartmouth's notes contains the following character of Burnet.
Bishop Burnet was a man of the most extensive knowledge I ever met with; had read and seen a great deal, with a prodigious menory, and a very indifferent judgement : he was extremely partial, and readily took every thing for granted that he heard to the prejudice of those that he did not like : which made him pass for a man of less truthi than he really was. I do not think he designedly published any thing he believed to be false. He had a boisterous vehement manner of expressing himself, which often made him ridiculous, especially in the house of lords, when what he said would not have been thought so, delivered in a lower voice, and a calmer behaviour. His vast knowledge occasioned his frequent rambling from the point he was speaking to, which ran him into discourses of so universal a nature, that there was no end to be expected but from a failure of his strength and spirits, of both which he had a larger share than most men; which were accompanied with a most invincible assurance.' DARTMOUTH.
Burnet, however, is not permitted by this Tory nobleman to retain the benefit which the preceding testimony to his uprightness confers. He declares himself fully satisfied that the Bishop ' published many things that he knew to be false;' (Vol. IV.p.1.) —and represents his vanity as · being very apt to get the better • of his modesty, and sometimes of his truth, of which,' his lordship adds, there are many instances in this history that I did not
expect.' (Vol. III. p. 254.) The remarks of the presenta Editors in their preface, in reference to this recantation of the noble Adnotator, are so appropriate and satisfactory that we shall offer them to our readers.
• Lord Dartmouth uses strong, and Swift much ill language, on Burnet's supposed want of veracity ; and the excellent Latin verses of Dean Moss on the same subject are now, we understand, in print. Yet, the bishop's friends need not be apprehensive of a verdict of wilful falsehood against him in consequence of the corrections of his narrative in the subsequent annotations. Lord Dartmouth, indeed, a man of honour, asserts, that this author has published many things which he knew to be untrue. See his note at the beginning of vol. iv. His lordship, it must be allowed, had better opportunities than we have for determining what Burnet knew ; but, as he has adduced little or nothing in support of this charge, we may be permitted to think, that strong prejudice, not wilful falsehood, occasioned the bishop's erroneous statements.' p. xi.
The prejudices of this Earl were quite as strong as those of the Bishop; only, their direction was entirely different. Neither the religious principles nor the political tenets of the latter were agreeable to the former personage, who betrays throughout his remarks, the most determined personal dislike to the author on whose work he comments. They belonged to parties in the State who were opposed to each other, and the animosities which those parties mutually cherished, could not give the Earl greater advantages in respect of temper, than his rivals might fairly claim. Whatever might be his Lordship's knowledge of Burnet, he has given proof that it was less correct than was required sometimes to justify his censures. Burnet was no dishonour to the see of Salisbury, and therefore, there could be no liberality in reflecting upon his previous circumstances, as this Lord has done (Vol. VI. p. 151); but he should have known, that Burnet had never been a Scotch presbyterian
minister.' Burnet is described by Lord Dartmouth, in several of his notes, as an ambitious man, eager in his desires of preferment, and ill able to conceal his disappointment when they were not gratified. Advancement in office might, perhaps, he an object of Burnet's wishes; and he might not always be pleased with the exaltation of persons who were raised to fill the first stations in the church. But that Burnet was an illustrious and exemplary bishop, there can be no doubt. He was not only attentive to the decorum of the character which he sustained, but was entirely devoted to the duties of his office, and laboured most assiduously to promote the interests of true religion. He was vigilant in the inspection of his diocese, and liberal as a patron of his clergy. He was munificent in his charities, and was earnest in doing good of every kind. His
offering to resign his see on receiving the appointment of preceptor to the Duke of Glocester, and his appropriating the emoluments of the latter office to charitable purposes, are testimonies to the purity of his principles, which prove that he could practise the lessons of self-denial which he taught. And probably, if Burnet had been different as a Bishop from what he was, he had been less disliked by this Earl of Dartmouth.
The Dartmouth notes are of frequent occurrence in these volumes: they comprise a fund of interesting information on the court intrigues and political transactions of the times, and abound with interesting and well-told anecdotes. We shall transcribe a few of them as specimens.
Mary, daughter of Cromwell. • She outlived the earl of Falconbridge, who, by her prudent management, (as it was generally thought,) was a privy counsellor to Oliver, Richard, King Charles the Second, King James the Second, and King William the Third. After liis death, she desired Sir Harry Sheers to write an inscription for his monument, and would liave it inserted, that in such a year be married his highness the then lord protector of England's daughter ; which, Sir Harry told her, he feared might give offence : she answered, that nobody could dispute matters of fact, therefore insisted that it should be inserted. I do not know if it were ever erected, but Sir Harry told me the story, with some encomiums upon the spirit of the lady. D.' Vol. I. p. 142.
Burnet. It is a little surprising that a youth of nineteen should have been let into the secret of all affairs. No doubt, the great moderation, and zeal for episcopacy, which he mentions with a singu. lar degree of morlesty, which appeared early in him, and continued to his dying day, must have been the inducements : besides a notable faculty he had in keeping a secret ; which I gave queen Ann a proof of, by telling her before hand, I would tell the bishop of Salisbury a particular story, and enjoin him secrecy, which he readily promised, but came two days after from London to Windsor, to tell it her, which made ber laugh very heartily. D.' p. 263.
Precedent. • I never could understand, why a precedent, unless in ceremonial matters, should ever be thought a warrant for the like proceedings. If the thing in itself be right, it ought to be done, though it were never done before: if it be wrong, its having been dope a thousand times can never justify its being done any more. D.'
Vol. IV. p. 331. Church property. We hear much of the poverty of some of the clergy), but nothing of the wealth of others; but take it in the whole, and no Christian church has a better provision. If the lands belonging to deans and chapters, who are of no more use either to the church or state, than abbots and monks, were divided amongst the poor clergy in every diocese, there would be no just cause of complaint ; unless that' bishops' daughters would not go off so well as they do now with a good sinecure. And if bishops themselves were