Imágenes de páginas

come into the possession of the first Marquis of Lansdowne, and afterwards into that of Henry James Brooke, Esq. F.R.S. It has since perished by fire. Of these several sets of notes, only a few had been communicated to the public. Sir John Dalrymple, in his Memoirs, and Mr. Rose, in his Observations on Fox's History, have published seven or eight only of the Dartmouth notes; and twenty of the Onslow collection were inserted in the twenty-seventh Volume of the European Magazine, in which work more than the half of Swift's remarks have also been printed. These remarks, we may add, were inserted by Dr. Barrett in his Essay on the Life of Swift, and they have, we believe, appeared also in some other publications.

Bishop Burnet died in 1715, having finished his History of the reigns of Charles II. and James II. about the beginning of the eighteenth century, that of William and the former part of Queen Anne's reign in 1710, and the continuation of the work in 1713, only two years before his death. The first volume of the work was published, in folio, in 1723, and the second in 1734. In his preface, the Bishop states, that he had shewed his history to several of his friends; and in a note to this passage, Lord Dartmouth relates, that he was offered the perusal of it, which he declined, knowing that he had granted it to several others, and that he might avoid the imputation of unfair proceeding if any part of it had been surreptitiously published Soon after the publication of the bistory, suspicions were entertained, that many passages of the original work were omitted by the Editors; and even positive testimony was adduced, in confirmation of the exclusion. In 1795, the person who communicated the Notes of Onslow and the remarks of Swift to the European Magazine, furnished twelve passages, which, among numerous others, had been omitted by the Editors of the first volume, and which he had probably copied from either the Onslow or the Hardwicke copy of Burnet. The Editors of the History had promised to deposit the copy from which they printed in some public library; and in the preface to the second volume, a paragraph, to which the signature of the Bishop's youngest son appeared, announced, that the original manuscript of both volumes would be deposited in the Cotton library. The Cotton library was transferred to the British Museum ; and as the fire which destroyed so many of the Cottonian MSS. happened in 1731, four years before the promise was publicly declared of depositing there the manuscript of Burnet, it could not be injured by that destructive accident. The Editors of the present edition had recourse to the British Museum for the purpose of discovering the MS. of Burnet; but it did not appear, after the most accurate examination, that it had ever been deposited in the library. The Editors, therefore, very naturally infer, that the same reasons which induced the original Editors of Burnet to suppress passages of the work, determined them also to relinquish their purpose of placing the MS. in an accessible library. The omission of the passages was contrary to the Author's express injunctions in his last will, and was therefore wrong. The Oxford Editors impute this proceeding, not to the political prejudices of the former Editors, but to the desire which they felt of abating the displeasure which they knew must be excited against their father, in the friends or relations of those who suffered by the severity of his censure.

On examining the suppressed passages as restored in the volumes before us, we are inclined, in some instances, to entertain an opinion different from that which the present Editors avow, as the reasons which they suggest do not seem to us sufficient to account for the omission of many passages. Not a few of the omissions, we should ascribe to Burnet himself. The original Editors are represented, in the preface to the present edition, as having consulted their own feelings in the omission of several traits in the character given by Burnet of his uncle Warristoun. In the History, (Vol. I. p. 48.) Warristoun is said to have looked on the covenant as the setting Christ on his • throne, and so was out of measure zealous in it; (and he * had an unrelenting severity of temper against all that op• posed it.'] The laiter part of this sentence included between brackets, is a restored passage ; but it would seem questionable whether the original Editors had omitted it from family feeling, since we find in Burnet's life, written by his son, who was one of the Editors, the following passage, not more favourable to Warristoun than the preceding. • He (Lord War• ristoun) was so zealous in the interests of his party, that • neither friendship nor alliance could dispose him to shew • favour to tliose who refused the solemn league and covenant.' (Vol. VI. p. 235.) Now, if the original Editors had removed from the text which they were carrying through the press, the passage which describes Warristoun as unrelenting in his severity of temper against such persons as opposed the solemn league and covenant, it is not probable, that they would, in the life of the Bishop, have represented Warristeun as so determined and zealous in the interests of his party, as to have resisted all influence of friendship and connexion that might have disposed him to shew favour to the opponents of the solemn league and covenant. There are other instances, which might be adduced, wherein it appears to be equally questionable, whether the suppression is chargeable on the Editors. At the same time, we cannot doubt that the manner in which the omissions are accounted for in the preface to this new edition, is, in most cases, the true one. Many individuals were living at the date of the publication of Burnet's History, to whom the freedom of his writing could not but be offensive, as he was little solicitous to withhold such remarks as their conduct seemed to him to justify; and of others against whom his animadversions were pointed, there were numerous survivors and connexions whom the Editors might not wish to provoke. But to what extent their omissions went, and in what measure they fulfilled, or disregarded, the injunctions of the Bishop's will, it is impossible to determine. The only means of settling that question, would be, the comparing of the original manuscript with the printed copies; but that measure is now impracticable, the loss of the manuscript being more than doubtful. Among the restored passages, one of the most important is a paragraph containing the character of Charles the First, which we shall transcribe.

2 Ꭱ 2

• [And this I owe to truth to say, that by many indications, that lay before me in those letters, (letters of Charles to the Duke of Hamilton,) I could not admire either the judgement, the understanding, or the temper of that unfortunate prince. He had little regard to law, and seemed to think he was not bound to observe promises or concessions, that were extorted from him by the necessity of his affairs. He had little tenderness in his nature ; and probably his government would have been severe, if he had got the better in the war: his ministers had a hard time under him. He loved violent counsels, but conducted them so ill, that they saw they must all perish under him. Those who observed this, and advised him to make up matters with his parliament by concessions, rather than venture on a war, were hated by him, even when the extremities to which he was driven made him follow their advices, though generally too late, and with 80 ill a grace, that he lost the merit of his concessions in the awkward way of granting them. This was truly Duke Hamilton's fate, who, in the beginning of the troubles, went in warmly enough into acceptable counsels ; but when he saw how unhappy the king was in his conduct, he was ever after that against the king's venturing on a war, which he always believed would be fatal to him in the conclusion.]' Vol. I, p. 517.

In the preface to the present edition of Burnet, the preceding passage is particularly noticed as containing a severe • attack on the character of King Charles I., chiefly founded

on that prince's letters to the first Duke of Hamilton, and on • Bishop Burnet's acquaintance with the Hamilton papers ;' and the Editors have taken some pains to invalidate the authorities on which the character of Charles the First is given in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


the restored passage. It is, however, only necessary to compare with that paragraph other passages in Burnet, to be convinced of its perfect consistency with the representations which the printed volumes of the History have uniformly exhibited of the principles and conduct of that arbitrary sovereign. • To the king's own temper, the sequel of all his misfortunes was owing. - His reign, both in peace and war, was a continual series of errors : so that it does not appear

that • he had a true judgement of things. He was out of measure • set on following his humour.'— He had too high a notion of the regal power, and thought that every opposition to it was * rebellion.'_ He loved high and rough methods, but had • neither the skill to conduct them, nor the height of genius to manage thein. He hated all that offered prudent and moderate counsels : he thought it flowed from a meanness of spirit, and a care to preserve themselves by sacrificing his au'thority, or from republican principles: and even when he saw 'it necessary to follow such advices, yet, he hated those that gave them.'— But if he had not made great concessions, he had sunk without being able to make a struggle for it.'— The truth was, the king did not come into those concessions seasonably, nor with a good grace : all appeared to be extorted from him*.'

Now the amount of the several particulars which we have brought together, and which are all to be found, at no great distance from each other, in the printed copies of Burnet, is so perfectly in agreement with the above character of Charles I., that the most critical examiner would be puzzled to set down the difference between them; and therefore, no severe attack on the character of King Charles I. is chargeable on Burnet, from the evidence of the restored passage, which has not always existed in and been supported by the printed copies of the History. Burnet, however, is not invulnerable in respect to the consistency of his representations of the king's character. There is a note subjoined to the passage (p: 517 of the present edition) which we have extracted, containing a reference, by Speaker Onslow, to Burnet's Memoirs of the Dukes of Hamilton, in which occur the following words :—Having proposed

to myself nothing more in this whole work, than to let the world see the great piety and strictness of conscience that blessed prince carried along with him in all his affairs.' These expressions but ill accord with the preceding strictures, which are still more strongly in opposition to the sentiments

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

See Burnet's History, pp. 51, 53, and 81. of this Edition.



Burnet's History, with Notes. delivered by the Bishop in “ The Royal Martyr lamented; a " sermon preached at the Savoy, 30th Jan. 1673," in which he speaks of the endless virtues of that murdered prince,' and offers divers passages drawn out of papers under his own

royal pen, that will give some characters of his great soul.' This sermon is included in the catalogue of the Bishop's works, in the edition before us, but is not noticed in the Onslow Annotations. It would have amply supplied the Annotator with materials of censure and reproach, as would some other parts of Burnet's works, which shew that he was not always so indisposed towards arbitrary principles of government, as he appears to have become after he had accepted of place from a revolutionary Sovereign. When be published his “ Royal Martyr " lamented," in 1675, and his * Memoirs of the Hamiltons." in 1676, he could not foresee the events of 1688, which for ever abolished the doctrines of the passive obedience and • non-resistance' school in which he had been educated. In the monitory paragraphs which form the conclusion of the Bishop's work, there is a passage to which, in this edition, is appended the following note. He is complaining of the superior classes of society, as being formed, by the education which they receive in the Universities, to love arbitrary go'vernment, and to become slaves to absolute monarchy.'

• To what did this instructor form his disciples, when he asserted, that the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, Chap. xiij., “ being designed by the Holy Ghost to be a part of the rule of all “ Christians, do prove, that whoever hath the supreme power is to be “ submitted to, and never resisted ?"-Burnet's Vindication of the Church of Scotland, p. 41.-See also his Royal Martyr,

If Burnet's later principles and practice were better than his early opinions, his is not a solitary example of such a change ; and we may be glad, if the folly of demanding submission to the sole authority of rulers who exercise a capricious and oppressive despotism, destructive to the liberties and happiness of mankind, has been so manifest, as to work out its own correction.

Burnet's History of his Own Time has long maintained its place among the most important works which relate to the atfairs of this country. It includes a survey of the events which preceded the Author's entrance upon public life, com mencing with the accession of the Stuarts to the crown of England ; and is carried down to the year preceding the death of Queen Anne. Copious both in narration and remark, it is one of the original sources from which subsequent writers of

« AnteriorContinuar »