Imágenes de páginas

negligence, we are not informed that Mason the poet invented the Piano-forte; or that Lord Napier, the inventor of logarithms, was also the modern inventor of burning-mirrors.

Priestley, as might be expected, gives Dr. Lempriere ano. ther opportunity of shewing his “ impartiality," and his wisdom.

• Had he confined his studies merely to philosophical pursuits his name would have descended to posterity with greater lustre ; but he who at: tempts innovations in government and religion, for singularity, and to exzite popular prejudices, must be little entitled to the applauses of the world !!!

Robinson, Robert, the baptist minister, according to Dr. L., by “his Plea of the Divinity of Jesus Christ proved to the world that he was not destitute of Talents." We are also fur. nished with strange proofs of his versatility: for he relinquished " shaving and combing of wigs” for “methodism;" the reader will of course recollect that it is notorious no methodist can shave. But farther ; .66With enthusiasm he embraced the te. pets of Calvin, which he suon after exchanged for those of the baptists;" that is, he exchanged Calvinism for Calvinism, (for he joined the particular baptists,) and must therefore be tond of change indeed. But indeed Dr. L. could not be expected to understand what was so totally out of his province, as the peculiar sentiments of religious sects.

We had intended to notice the way in which our author bas treated the memoirs of R. Simpson, of T. Simpson, of M. Stewart, of the elder and younger Socinus, of Voltaire, of Wildbore, of Wakefield, of Waring, of Wren, &c.; to specify the unjustifiable brevity of some of these articles, the mistakes and contradictions in others, the paucity of information in others, the puerility of remark in others: but we begin to tire of our task; and we conjecture that our readers will already be able to form a correct" judgement of the work before us from our strictures. To say it contains nothing useful or important, would be utterly absurd ; it undoubtedly comprises a large quantity of amusing and valuable mat, ter, and some of the articles are drawn up with tolerable propriety. But a book which assumes the shape of a Dice tionary, and especially which arrogates the title of “Universal" and professes to be “copious," is less to be commended for what it performs, than blamed for what it neglects; and we certainly think that a volume of equal size might be made more than doubly as valuable as the present work, by a judicious and diligent endeavour to accomplish those objects which we particularized in opening the present critique. The failure of Dr. Li's performance in every one of those respects is strikingly obvious; we could produce hundreds of instances, some indeed from almost every page, of his want of knowledge, want of liberality, or want of judgement. If we had been so fortunate as to discover more of the divine in his moral comments, of the Englishman in his politics, or of the scholar in his style; if we had even found one depart. ment of science or literature in which his work was marked with precision, and free from gross blemishes, we should have alluded to his defects in the way of advice rather than of condemnation. But instead of exercising the diligence, the caution, the impartiality, the acuteness, and the skilt of a bingrapher, he seems to have been satisfied with the subordinate character of a compiler, and to have chiefly studied to make his task easy and his work entertaining. We sincerely lament the necessity we have felt, of forming so unfavourable an opinion of the performance; and the length, to which the importance of the volume and the respectability of the author's name have compelled us to extenu our proofs, in order to protect ourselves from the charge of illiberal and unjust severity. Art. II. Coxe's History of the House of Austria, from the Foundation the Monarchy by Rhodolph of Hapslurgh, to the Death of Leojold II.

(Concluded from po 964). FROM the exaltation of Rhodolph of Hapsburgh to the

commencement of the reign of the Emperor Charles' the Fifth, the German empire had been making a gradual, but an interrupted and very difficult progress, from that chaotic state into which the rudeness of the feudal institutions had plunged all the nations of Europe ; institutions which, from the magnitude of the empire, and the consequent power of the great feudatories, bad involved Germany in greater and more lasting disorders than any other of the Gothic sovereignties. The field over which Mr. Coxe had to travel, afforded peculiar advantages for a display of the natural workings of society, under that violent, and in so many respects unnatural, system. The circumstances which led to its introduction had already been pretty sufficiently explained, by analysing the plans for defence which a very rude people, becoming suddenly masters of a vast extent of territory and a great hostile population, would naturally be led to adopt. But the disorders to which it gave rise, as soon as the arrangements for defence in a new country and against a hostile population ceased to be requisite, had not yet been satisfactorily delineated ; and the history of Germany would afford by far the most complete and instructive illustration of this interest ing subject. In fact, without sach a philosophical developement as we here describe, the bistory of Germany, to the

from a

hour when Bonaparte dissolved the Germanic constitution, remains a perfect chaos, a mass of absurd struggles, changes, and confusion. The mind cannot connect the facts by any rational chain: it is distracted by their multiplicity and incoherence ; no memory can retain them, and none but the most superficial conclusions can be drawn from the combinations which they present. The illustration, too, of the gradual emancipation of society from the chains of the feudal system, by means almost solely of the intolerable evils which it produced, peculiarly belonged to the history of that' central part of Europe, which so much influenced the condition of all ihe rest, and from which the application to the other kingdoms would prove so easy and instructive. In truth the history of Germany, on the philosophical plan, forms the introduction to the history of Europe. When this is well explained and understood, all the rest is perspicuous and easy. In a systein of kingdoms, so intimately connected as the kingdoms of modern Europe have always been, all sprung similar origin, and founded upon similar principles, the history of the empire which so long beld the supremacy among them all, by which they were surrounded, and whose movements they all felt, forms the central point, which, duly illuminated, would diffuse the beams reflected upon it to every point of the circumference. Such is the important object to which the history of Germany might be rendered subservient.

Mr. Coxe, however, has chosen a much humbler department, He contents himself with the details of the vulgar historian, and below that surface he never attempts to penetrate. He is a chronicler, of considerable industry and fidelity. His volumes will not be without their use, in presenting a chronological chain of the great facts in the general history of Europe, which however, unless during the last fifty years, were in various publications fully as well presented before; but in regard to those important developements which can only be drawn from the profound study of society and government, Mr. Coxe is so far from having performed the duty of a historian, that he hardly seems to have been aware of the rich mines concealed under the surface over which he was treading.

We should have expected that the archdeacon of Wilts would have exerted himself to draw an animated picture of the Reformation, and would have traced, with zeal and delight, the causes and consequences of that extraordinary revolution. He had so many helps, tóo, for this engaging task, that he might have performed it well by merely giving us the results of other men's inquiries. But to the level even of this enterprise, the mind of Mr, C. did not rise, A nar., rative of the common and obvious circumstances, which strike any observer, with some correction of dates and syllables, for which he thinks the world, as well as himself, are greatly indebted to Mr. Roscoe, is the height of his aspiring Accordingly, no part of the book is more lame and uninteresting than that which relates to the reformation. In fact, Mr. Coxe is so much in love with his emperors, and so much engrossed with those circumstances which engrossed them, the struggles of their military force in gaining or losing of domiuions and influence, that he has no time to think of those meaner circumstances and events which concern chiefly the good of mankind in general. We are far from intending to insinuate that Mr. Coxe is destitute of all regard for those of his kind who are below the rank of emperors and princes. But it certainly is the house of Austria with the distinguished people their equals and competitors, that forms the subject of Mr. C.'s history, to the almost total neglect of the race whose interests they were bound to promote, and the progress of society on which they exerted so vast an influence.

From the time of the resignation of the emperor Charles the Fifth, to the great crisis between the protestant and catholic interests in the empire, during the reign of Ferdinand the Second, the interval was consumed in a succession of minor troubles, occasioned by the perpetual struggle between the contending parties, not less political because they were ostensibly religious. Mr. C. records the circumstances of the separation of the house of Austria, upon the death of Charles the Fifth, into two

great branches; one of which retained the sovereignty of Spain), the Netherlands, and a great part of Italy, the other succeeded to the states of Austria, the ancient patrimony of the family, to the sovereignty of Hungary, and Bohemia, and to that influence in the empire which appeared to ensure to them the perpetuity of the imperial crown. The Spanish branch of the family Mr. C. resigns, and proposes to confine his history to the Austrian. He informs us in what manner Ferdinand, the brother and successor of Charles the Fifth, obtained his appointment to the crown of Bohemia, which till that period continued elective. Bohemia was one of the first countries in which the light of the reformation burst forth, and its doctrines had taken possession of the principal part of the people. One of the first attempts of Ferdinand was to destroy their free constitution ; an enterprize in which his, great power enabled him too: fully to succeed, and in which Mr. Coxe traces his steps with very great complacency. The usurpations of sovereigns upon their people appear to Mr. c., to be balanced by so many happy circumstances, that he can hardly ever regret them. The usurpations, however,

of people upon their sovereigns Never fail to strike him as eminently atrocious. In a short time, the poor Bohemians felt ail the rage of persecution; and the reformation among them was rooted out by the power of the fire and the sword. But what then ? the great, the imperial house of Austria was aggrandized and made happy.

The Austrian sovereigns ranged themselves as heads of the Catholic party, bent and impatient to put an end to the beresy and impiety of the Protestant body. By an anomaly, somewhat extraordinary, in the fainily which has almost uniforinly been distinguished for an obstinate and restless bigotry, Ferdinand and his successor Maximilian were rather of a tolerant disposition. Rodolph, bowever, the third in order, directed the strength of his policy to destroy the odious reformation both in his own states, and in the rest of the empire. It is astonishing what progress the Protestant doctrines had made even in Vienna, and in every part of the Austrian dominions; and what violent and odious speasures were requisite for their extirpation. At last, in the bands of the emperor Ferdinand the Second the Catholic interest became consolidated, the leaders among the Protestants were weak and divided, and the reformation in Germany scemed to be verging toward that violent and disastrous termination which it had experienced in France. The war which, from its dreadful prolongation, has received the memorable name of the thirty years war, was kindled, and appeared likely to be extinguished in the blood of the Protestants; when a hero was induced to engage in it, who by his wonderful activity, his military talents, and the ascendancy of his fortune and character, combined the Protestant princes, drew forth their energies, and in a inost remarkable maruer turned the tide of success. The hero we mean was Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden. His share in the German contests forms one of the most interesting passages in the history of Europe; and the 'account which Mr. Coxe has rendered of it, is, to do him justice, worthy of considerable praise. It is perhaps the finest part of the book ; and we shall render an acceptable service to our readers, by affording them a copious specimen of it. The interesting nature of the subject will add to the pleasure of inspecting a favourable sample of the author's style and manner of composition. The character and virtues of Gustavus are thus described.

As a zealous protestant Gustavus considered it a sacred duty to pre. vent the depression of his religion; as a sovereign he was interested to check the overgrown power of the house.of Austria. These motives were strengthened by the personal resentment which he felt for the support afforded by Ferdinand to the king of Poland, for his refusal to grant him

« AnteriorContinuar »