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of the human race, is a much more considerable object of interest than the mere names, characters, and proceedings, of about as many men as might be conveyed in a common stagewaggon; and that the writer, who is making records of that nation, should be much more anxious, both to illustrate whatever in its condition and qualities was quite independent of these chief persons, and to elucidate the effect, on the popular condition, of the actions of these persons, than just to’relate that these particular persons acted in that particular manner, and then call this a history of the nation. Bitt this latter is obviously the mode, in almost all the works professing to be national histories. Throughout the work, the nation appears as a large mass of material, which a very few persons in succession have inherited, or bought, or stolen, and on which they have amused themselves with all iñanner of experiments. Some of them have chosen to cast it into one kind of polity, and others into another ;, and sometimes rival proprietors have quarrelled about it, and between them dashed and battered 50 out of every regular form, wasting and destroying it, as well will often do in quarrelling about what each of them professeg to deem very valuable,, by tossing large pieces of it at each other's heads. And all the while the relator of the fray views this material in no other light, than that of the question which of the two has the most right to it, and which of them shews the most strength, dexterity, or determination, in employing it in the battle. If it is at one time moulded into a fair and majestic form, it is regarded purely as shewing the hand of the artist; if at the next turn it is again reduced to a mass, and thrown into some loathsome shape, it is no further a matter of concern than to marvel at the strange taste of the sovereign political potter. In plain terms, history takes no further account of the great mass of a nation or of mankind, 'than as a mere appendage to a few individuals, and serving them in the capacity of a mechanical implement for labour, the passive subject of experiments in legislation, the deluded partisan of faction, and the general's disposable, that is, consumable force for

The story of this great mass is briefly told, not for its own sake, but merely as a part of the story of the chiefs, and in a manner which indicates, that the interests of the million were quite of secondary account, in the historian's view, to those of the individual. The histories of nations therefore are not what they pretend, and are commonly taken, to be : history, pretends to be the same thing to the time of a nation, that geography is to the local space that it inhabits; but a traveller that has just gone along a few of the great roads of a country, and visited its chief towns, might just as properly call a sketch and a map of this journey a geographical survey of the country, as any of VOL. IV.

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our national histories can pretend to be a satisfactory view of the state of a people through a course of ages. It may indeed be alledged that the grand defect in question is in a great degrce the inevitable misfortune of history, from the very nature of things, which makes it inipossible for the historian to do more than record tlie actions of a few conspicuous men. We acknowledge this to be partly true; and have only to observe that history therefore, from the narrowness of its scope, is, of vastly less value as a revealer of human nature, and a teacher of moral principles, than it has been commonly and pompously represented to be. Exclusive of mere facts, the only truths that history peculiarly illustrates are few and obvious. It were needless to mention the most conspicuous of its demonstrations, the stupendous depravity of our nature; the whole of the interesting fragment before us, for instance, contains absolutely nothing but an account of follies and crimes, except indeed the heroic conduct of some persons who perished for opposing them. The more specific truths illustrated appear to be these; the invariable tendency of governments to become despotic, the universal disposition of nations to allow them to become so, the extreme hazard to liberty when sought by revolutions, effected by arms, and the infinite mischief of religious intolerance, and of all such ineasures of the state as naturally tend to create it, and give it an organised force and operation.

A rigid adherence to Mr. Fox's theory (it is not so much his practice of historical composition, would still more contract its scope and"dimạnish its value. Lord Holland has explained this theory. 16. It is indeed probable, that his difficulties on this occasion were greater than any other modern historian would have had to encounter. I haye mentioned then nore partigularly, because they in some measure ease from bis scrupulous attention to certain notions he entertained on the nature of an historical composition, If indeed the work were finished, of his design would be best collected from the execution of it; but as it is unfortunately in an incomplete and unfinished state, his conception of the duties of an historian may very possibly be misunderstood. The consequence would be, that some passages, which, according to modern taste, nust be called peculiarities, might, with superficial critics, pass for defects which he had overlooked, or imper. fections which he intended to correct. It is therefore necessary to observe, that he had formed his plan so exclusively on the model of ancient writers, that, he not only felt some repugnance to the modern practice of notes, but he thought tha: all which an historian wished to say, should be introduced as part of a continued narration, and never áşsume the appearance of a digression, much less of a dissertation annexed to it. From the period 'herefore that he closed his introductorý chapter, he defined his duty as an author, to consișt in recounting the facts as they arose, or in his simple and forcible language, in telling the story of those times. A conversation which passed on the subject of the literature of the age of

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James the Second proves his rigid adherence to these ideas, and perhaps the substance of it may serve to illustrate and explain them. In.speaking of the writers of that period, he lamented that he had not devised a method of interweaving any account of them or their works, much less any. criticism on their style, into his history. On my suggesting the example of Hume and Voltaire, who had discussed such topics at some length, either at the end of each reign, or in a separate chapter, he observed, with much commendation of the execution of it, that such a contrivancé inight be a good mode of writing critical essays, but that it was in his opinion incompatible with the nature of his undertaking, which, if it ceased to be a narration, ceased to be a history. Such restraints as-> suredly operated as taxes upon his ingenuity, and added to that labour, which the observance of his general laws of composition rendered sufficiently great. On the rules of writing he had reflected much and deeply. His own habits naturally led him to compare them with those of publick speaking, and the different and even opposite principles upon which excellence is to be attained in these two great arts, were no unusual topics of his conversation. Preface, pp. 35-38.

The obvious question here is, how history could ever come to have such a specific nature. According to this representation, history might be a thing as defined as a species of animal or vegetable, which inust absolutely have always a certain number of precise attributes, and could not have more or less without becoming a monster. But by what sovereign authority was its organization thus definitively fixed, and where are we to look for its pure original type? And even if there were such an original definition and type, and if according to that authority nothing but a continuous narration should be intitled to the denomination of history; of whạt trifing consequence it would be that this name should be refused to a work, that luminously nar, rated events, that' made intervals in this narration, and filled them with eloquentappropriate reflections and profound reasonings, adapted to make the narration of facts both more striking and more instructive. The writer of such a work might say, I do not care whether you allow my work to be called a history or not; even keep the insignificant term, if you will, sacred to the dry narratar, who has not understanding enough to make import ant reflections as he goes on; if it is on account of the eloquence and reasoning in my work that the name of history is denied it, I have only to say that I have then written something better than history.

History, as an art, is no more bound up by technical and exclusive laws than oratory or poetry. It is just any mode of nar. ration in which apy man chuses to relate to other men a series of facts. It may be written as a mere chronicle, or in a continuous and artfully arranged relation without reflections, or in a narration moderately interspersed with short observations, which cause but a momentary interruption of the story, or in a form admitting such frequent and large dissertations, as to be come, in some sense, a course of historical lectures. These various methods of bringing back the past to view, are adapted to the various kinds of inquisitiveness with which men seek a knowledge of the past. A few may be content with the bare knowledge that certain things happened at certain times; many wish to have the events adjusted into an order which shall exhibit their connection from the beginning to the end; some wish to comprehend the causes and tendencies of events, as well as to be apprised of any remarkable contemporary circumstances, or distinguished men, that without being directly involved in the train of events, bad

any relation with any stage of them; and a few are even desirous of formal deductions of moral and political doctrines. Excepting perhaps the first of these '

modes, it would be idle exclusively to appropriate or refuse the dehomi. nation of history to any one of them; and especially to refuse the title, if it is deemed a title of dignified import, to such a mode of recording the events of past ages as should tend to explain the causes and various relations, and to enforce what ever important instructions they are capable of being made to yield to the readers; for surely the highest office that history can pretend to execute, is that of raising on ages of the dead a tribute of instruction for the living. We have already said that the wisdom derivable from history is not very copious; but as far as may be, it should seem to be the business of history, to collect ali the little streams of valuable instruction in the distant regions of time, (as the rills and rivulets among the remote mountains of Africa are drawn by successive confluence to form the Nile) and bring them down in one fertilizing current on the

lower ages

To say that the ancient historians confined themselves to a straight forward unbroken course of narration, is just the same thing, with respect to its authority in directing our practice, as to say they built their houses, or shaped their cloaths, in this or that particalar way: we have always an appeal to the natare and reason of the thing. And we have also an appeal to universal colloquial practice, which may be assumed to be substantially the model for all communications that are to be made from one human being to another by written words. If a man were relating to us any interesting train of actions or events, of which he had been a witness, or had received his information from witnesses, we should expect him often to interrupt his narration with explanatory remarks at least; and if he were a very intel" ligent man, we should be delighted to hear him make observations, tending to establish important general truths from the facts relatert. We should positively compel him to do some shing of this; for we should just as much think of giving the lie


to all he said, as of suffering him to go on an hour without raising some questions, both of fact and of general speculation. And we do not comprehend how written history can be under any law, unless some dictum of pedantry, to forbid it to imitate, in a moderate degree, what is so natural and so rational in a narration made personally by a judicious man to intelligent companions.

Beside the information of the distinguished statesman's opinions on historical composition, the preface contains various interesting particulars of his habits and studies. It appears that his feelings were so far from being totally absorbed by ambition, that his mental resources were so great, and his susceptibility of interest so lively and versatile, that in the intervals of bis most vehement public exertions, and during the season in which he seceded in a great measure from the political warfare, he enjoyed exquisitely the pleasures of elegant literature and rural nature. It is no less pleasing than it is unustial and wonderful, to see the simple and cordial feelings of the human being, and the taste of the man of letters, thus preserving their existence amidst the artificial interests and the tumults of a statestnan's life, and unfolding themselves with energy in every season of retreat from the political sphere. With a true philanthropist, however, it will be a question of-conscience, how far he may innecently surrender himself even to the refined gratifications of imagination and taste, while sensible that very important interests may be depending on his more or Jess continued prosecution of the rougher exercises of political argument. There is no preserving patience, to hear a man like Mr. Fox, and in such a period as that he lived in, talk of em. ploying bimself in preparing an edition of Dryden's works; an occupation in which he might consume, in settling the propriety of some couple of poetical epithets, just as much time as would have sufficed for preparing the outlines of a speech on the subject of parliamentary reform. It would be a fine thing indeed, to see the great statesman solemnly weighing the merits or the meaning of some awkward line, which the poet perhaps wrote half asleep, when driven to finish the tale' of. verses wbich some Pharao of a bookseller had two or three times sent his imps to demand, for money paid, and perhaps spent in the wipe that had imparted the cast of sonnolency to, the verse in question. Nor is it solely on the ground of his possible public usefulness, that we feel some want of complacency in hearing him exclaim, Oh how I wish that I could make up my mind to think it right, to devote all the remaining part of my life to such subjects

, and such only! It will suggest itself that toward the close of his life, there might be, setting out of the question too any labours due to the public

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