Rob. Midgley.

THE Modest Critick: OR REMARKS Upon the most Eminent HISTORIANS, Antient and Modern. With Useful Cautions and Instructions, as well for Writing, as Reading HISTORY: Wherein the Sense of the Greatest Men on this Subject is faithfully Abridged.

By one of the Society of the Port-Royal.

LONDON: Printed for John Barnes, at the Sign of the Bear and Ragged Staff, in Green-Street, near Leicester-Square. 1689.


IT is as unusual for a Book to be Pub­lish'd without a Pre­face, as for a man to go abroad without a Cravat: Something therefore must be said, for Fashion sake: But, because I am no way addicted to Garb and [Page] Dress, what I say shall be plain and short.

I have liv'd long e­nough in the World, to know, that a man who ventures to make any Work of his own Publick, puts himself into Extream Danger of being attack'd on e­very side, and by all sort of People, as well Learned as Ignorant; and these are the worst of the two; for a rea­sonable man may be [Page] satisfied with Reason, when a Fool will ne­ver be convinc'd of his Error. This has al­ways made me unwil­ling to expose any thing of my own: But, having receiv'd, in the perusing of this little Book, both Plea­sure and Profit, I thought it would be but matter of Grati­tude in me, to com­municate it to the Pub­lick.

[Page] The Press having of late been prostituted to the Dull and Imperti­nent, it will be no great Credit for me to run in the Herd, much less to bring up the Rear of them that are in Print.

It is not therefore from Vanity, or the fond imagination of rai­sing a Character, that I send this little Treatise abroad; but meerly, that others, who have [Page] the same Notions with my self, may receive from it the same satisfa­ction that I have done.

It is not now, as heretofore, when he that could write, or read his Name, was thought therefore fit to be a Parish-Clerk: For­tunatus, and Valentine and Orson, &c. are no longer the Entertain­ment of Men. Nay, so ripe and pretending is the present Age, that [Page] Women pass their time in the best and solidest Histories.

But tho' many read, yet all do not read with Judgment and Observa­tion. Therefore they may learn in reading this Book, instructions how to read and write too.

Now to do my self some Right, I must in­geniously confess, there are some Passages, about which I am not fully sa­tisfied, as about the Spar­tiates [Page] and Lacedemonians, tho' the Author has Po­lybius on his side.

He has not done ju­stice to the World, in not mentioning some late Historians; I mean, amongst the rest, Thu­anus and Sleidan, who deserve not to be pass'd over in silence.

It is not to be won­dred, that one of the Romish Church should so sharply censure the incomparable Fra Pao­lo, [Page] whose Judgment and Learning carried him beyond their Argu­ments, and whose Ho­nesty was above their Calumny: But the Hi­story of the Council of Trent is sufficient to maintain that Author's Credit against all their Suggestions.

As for the King of France's busying him­self about the Transla­ting of Caesar's Commen­taries, I must beg the [Page] Author's Pardon, if I cannot believe him, That Monarch having business enough of his own, without medling with Books. And, I am confident, had He never done more than Transla­ting of that Book, He had never had the Name of Louis Le Grand.

But, for these, and other such Faults, I will leave every Reader to take the same Liberty towards him that he has [Page] taken with others. To say the Truth, He that sets up for a Critick, offers a Challenge to the whole World: Therefore, not to be remark'd upon, is the last Affront that can be put upon him. But I forget the Complaint I made of other People's scribling, while I thus far continue my own. Reader, accept this with the same Mind that I of­fer it; And so Farewel.


I Have neither so good an O­pinion of this Work, nor of my self, as to prefix my Name to it; it being but a rough Draught of the Manner of writing History; and that made upon a cursory reading of History. A Natural Diffi­dence I have of my self, makes me fear, lest Impatience or Precipitation has snatch'd [Page] out of my hands what could ne­ver remain too long with me, to render it self any way supporta­ble. But that I may not disgust the Publick too much, by repre­senting the Present I here make it, too mean and cheap: I shall ingenuously confess, That this Work is a kind of Abridg­ment of what has been written on that Subject, by the great­est Men of the first, and of the late Ages; That it is an Ex­tract of what is most reasonable in Dionysius Halycarnassae­us, in his Answer to Pompey, who ask'd his Opinion of the Greek Historians, and his Censure upon their different Characters: That it is a [Page] Copy of what Lucian has thought most judicious in that Admirable Treatise he made of the Manner of Writing HISTORY. In fine, That those Opinions I give in this Discourse, are not so much my own, as those of Francesco Patrici, in his Dialogues of Gyrolamo Marucci, Agostino Mas­cardi, of Paolo Beni, Lew­is Cabrera, and others, Spa­nish and Italian Moderns, which have handled this Argu­ment.

But, as perhaps, I have spoil'd their Thoughts by add­ing my own, I declare, That I do not make it a Point of [Page] Honour to my self, to per­swade my Readers of it. Cum judi­cium meum ostendere, su­am legentibus relinquam. Fab. l. 9. c. 4. I do not impose Laws upon them, having neither Jurisdiction nor Authority to do so; they are, at the most, but Advices, which every one may follow at his own Discretion: But, being far from pretending to instruct any body, by a Ti­tle which shall seem vain to Modest Persons, I would willingly have all the World believe, that I am proud of receiving any Instruction from others. For, if I have not Wit and Learning suffi­cient, to be as Exact as so Important a Design re­quires; I have Judgement [Page] enough to be fearful of my self. But, that I may not take a False Modesty upon me, by suppressing my Name, I confess, that, in a manner, I conceal my self out of Pride: For I am too proud to shew my self, being sensible, that in an Age so Learned, and so full of Criticks, as ours is, a Man humbles himself, whenever he takes up the Name of an Author. In effect, their Rigour is so great, that no Merit, how well soever established, can escape them; And it looks like a kind of Presumption in a Man, to commit himself o­penly to the Judgement of [Page] the Publick, which daily becomes more rigorous; and in an Age where Censure spares no body. It is also true, That there is so great a Wisdom in not endeavour­ing to seem capable; and that there is so much good Sense shew'd in being Mo­dest, that I could willingly have chosen to add, in those places where I give my Opi­nion, the May be of A­ristotle, and the It seems of Tully, to be less Affirma­tive, and to speak my Mind with more Modesty, could that have suited with the Simplicity I use to ex­plain my self. For, if a [Page] Man has any Measure of Sense, he will hardly give his Opinion, in an Age so over-run with Positiveness in all things, as ours is; and then, Wo be to him that offers to de­cide.

Therefore this Discourse upon History is no ways like that of Lucian's, who prai­ses good Writers only to de­tract from those that write ill; hiding, under the Ap­probation which he gives to Good Authors, a cunning Satyr, the more to involve the bad ones: That is not my Design, having no Grudge a­gainst any Man. I pretend on­ly to open sensible Author's [Page] Eyes, and shew them, that they ought to tremble when they go about writing Histo­ry, which is so hard a thing to do well; and that the Judg­ment of Dionysius Haly­carnassaeus alone upon Thu­cydides, ought to cast a Ter­ror in all Historian's Minds that are wise. In fine, to speak one Word about this Work, after I have spoken of the Workman, I declare, that good sense alone reigns more in those Instructions, than the Finesses of Policy; which is the thing curious men look most for in History, Policy be­ing the Vainest of all Scien­ces; and that, good Sense, [Page] is the most universal and solid ground thereof. The Truth is, That I do not pre­tend to say all upon that mat­ter, which no man can do: I shall, perhaps, say more an­other time, if this be kindly receiv'd.

THE Modest Critick: OR, REMARKS Upon the most Eminent HISTORIANS.

The Design of the Author. THE Palate of this Age, it seems, grows very exqui­site; for in all things, for the most part, we attain a good measure of Sense: We e­steem that which is Real and So­lid, and we can hardly now en­dure any thing that is false or fri­volous. This is the Sentiment of all reasonable People, who make the soundest part of them that pre­tend to judge, thô it be perhaps the lesser in number.

[Page 2] But nothing shews that ripe­ness of Judgment better than the Disgust People have now for Ro­mances, and any other thing that looks like them; so that this love of Truth and Reason, being a dis­position to love History, let us make use of so favourable a Conjun­cture, to serve the Publick accor­ding to their Genius; let us be­stow our pains in those things that can make us perfect in that Art; and comprehending the excellence thereof, let us make our selves ac­quainted with those things that are needful to attain it: For, what Spirit is not requisite for it? and what can we imagine finer than Pulchrum imprimis vide­tur, non pati occidere, qui­bus aeternitas debeatur. Pl. l. 5. Epist. History, which can do justice to Virtue, by perpetuating the Memo­ry of Noble Actions? This is, in my mind, what can contribute to the Perfection, of which this kind of writing is capable, which will carry it above all other (if that love for Sense which establishes it self can but continue) in despite of the variety of tasts, which fan­cy and vanity endeavour from time [Page 3] to time to introduce thrô false Ide­a's of fine wit.

I.How to write History.

There is nothing harder than to say very precisely which is the best way of writing History. Every one ought to follow that which he finds most in Use in the Age where­in he writes, and that which is most conformable to those Peoples taste to whom he writes. But, is this enough to please Posterity? It is a Judge strict, severe, incorrup­tible, who gives its approbation to true Merit only: let us see then what we shall do to obtain its suffrage. When a man writes Nobly, Sensibly, Purely, Natural­ly; he pleases always in what Language soever he writes. Those are the universal Principles, which alone can fit every People's palate: for there are no other general Rules in the World, than those of Reason and good Sense. That is the reason why Thucidides, Xeno­phon, [Page 4] Salust, Caesar, Livy, Buchanan, Mariana, and others like them, have always pleas'd, though they wrote in Ages, and to Nations of a different genius: a man is sure to please, if he writes as they have writ. For, what Grandeur, what Judgment, what Clearness, and a­bove all, what Integrity shines in those great men's Works!

II. What to write nobly is.

You must then resolve to write nobly, if you design to write Hi­story. For, Genus hoc scribendi inci­tatum atque elatum esle de­bere quis ig­norat? Cic. ad Famil. Epist. 7. l. 6. from the moment you speak to all the world, and to all Ages, you are endued with a Character which gives you au­thority to raise your voice, because then you speak to Kings, Prin­ces, and to the Grandees of all Coun­tries and of all Ages; and you be­come, in some manner, the Ma­ster and Instructer of all mankind: Addidit Historiae ma­jorem sonum vocis Antipa­ter, caeteri non exornatores rerum, sed tantummodo narratores suerunt. Cic. l. 2. de Orat. Nothing, then, is more essen­tial to History, than to adorn your [Page 5] discourse with a lofty strain, to speak as you ought. As an Hi­storian quits the low and common Language, that so by the digni­ty of his Expression, he may an­swer the merit of those things he has to say: let him use himself to think nobly, in every thing that passes through his mind: let him study to give good weight to his thoughts, and strength to his discourse, by seeking with care all that can elevate and en­noble it, to give a mark of great­ness to all that he says. The Pat­terns of that kind of writing, are, amongst the Greeks Thucydides, and Livy amongst the Latins. They are almost the only ones that have been able to keep up with an e­qual force and vigour, that great­ness of Style, without sinking in Mediocrity and Lowness: and in that they have had but few Imi­tators. Herodotus has, by imita­ting Homer too much, tryed to raise his Style in places that requir'd elevation, as Longinus has taken notice. Tacitus, who for the most [Page 6] part is only great, because he is short, is not a very good model to propose, for the greatness of his Style is not natural at all. In short, you must take great care to distinguish a false greatness from the true one. For, it is not in high terms, nor in lofty expres­sions; it is not in the puffing of words, nor haughtiness of the Dis­course, that that nobleness of Style which History requires, ought to consist; in which Ammianus Mar­cellinus, Lampridius, and most part of the Historians of the low Em­pire have been deceived: It is in a high, but modest Expression; in a Discourse capable of sustaining the greatest matters and raising the least; It is, in fine, in that tem­per of greatness, which Quintillian attributes to true Eloquence. It is not enough for you to have Wit, Magna, non nimia, sublimis non abrupta, sortis non temeraria, severa non tri­stis, gravis non tarda, lata non luxuriosa, ple­na non tumi­da. Fab. l. 12. c. 10. you must have a genius to write so, and to elevate what you say, by the choice of Expressions, and by the greatness of your thoughts. That gift is so rare, that if you separate from the number of Hi­storians, [Page 7] those that have not writ so, there will be but few true ones that will remain.

III. To write sen­sibly.

To write sensibly, is to hit di­rectly the thing you aim at, in what kind soever you write, with­out going from your Subject, or losing time by the way: It is to ex­press things with a kind of Wisdom and Modesty, not abandoning your self to the heat of your Imaginati­on, nor to the quickness of your Apprehension; that is, when you can suppress that which is super­fluous in the Expression, as those Adverbs and Epithets which dimi­nish things, as they express them; to let no idle, insipid, and useless thing remain in it: to cut off hand­somly, what is not fit to be said, how fine soever it appears; to al­low ever less to fineness, than to Solidity; not to shew Passion or Heat, where only cold Blood and Seriousness are requir'd; to exa­min [Page 8] all your thoughts, Delectus Verborum ha­bendus, & pondera sin­gulorum ex­aminanda. Fab. l. 10. c. 3. and mea­sure all your words, with that ex­actness of sense, and that exquisite Judgment, which nothing escapes, but what is exact and judicious. It is, in fine, to have Strength e­nough to resist the temptation Men have naturally to shew their Wit; Luc. de conser. Hist. as that Impertinent Hi­storian, who in the Parthian over­throw by the Emperour Severus, makes Osroes fly in a Den shaded with Lawrels and Myrtle, where­in he makes himself ridiculous, thinking to be more agreeable, which is the most slippery step an Author can fall upon. And that Spirit endued with Sense, that wise Character which History re­quires, is a kind of attendance up­on ones self, which allows it self no manner of Exaggeration, and which takes endless Precautions a­gainst those bold Imaginations; which those, whose Spirits are too quick or too fertile, are sub­ject to; that they may say few things in few words, as Salust does, who holds Councils, gives Battels, [Page 9] takes Towns, conquers Kingdomes, with a compendiousness of Dis­course, and an overflowing Expres­sion, which is understood at half Sentences. Tacitus has all the Sense necessary to be short; but he has not enough on't to be understood. The Readers grow sometimes im­patient in that Author's Precipita­tions, which loses much of his agreeableness, and trying to com­pact in too few words, that which should have been more extended, falls into Obscurity. The desire he has of being too short, angers me, because of the small Instructi­ons he gives me in things, which he does not unfold enough. Poly­bius and Appian sometimes say too much; there is a sort of judicious silence, which makes one com­prehend often the greatness of the things one speaks of, better than any words, when they are too weak. It is a Master-piece for one to suppress those things he cannot well say; and the great Discretion in an Historian, is to make a distinction of what must [Page 10] be extended, or made short, that so he may give to every thing the just measure it ought to have, to make it acceptable. For Livy, thô very large, is not tedious, be­cause he is a Man of Judgment, e­ven in his very Prolixity. But Thucydides, by sticking too close to Sense, sometimes falls in a kind of hardness and dryness, which one would hardly forgive him, was it not for the pureness and noble­ness of his Style. So difficult it is to write very sensibly, without lo­sing somewhat of the agreeableness which one might employ, if he had a lesser Wit. But let an Au­thor imprint well in his Mind, that the greatest Ornament of his Work, is always good Sense; all the rest wearies one, but Sense never tires. 'Twas the good Sense of Philip de Comines, made him just­ly deserve the esteem and appro­bation of our Age, in despight of the bad and ill-digested Language he wrote in. But of all Modern Historians, none has written more sensibly than Mariana in his Histo­ry [Page 11] of Spain. It is the Master-piece of the last Ages for that quality a­lone. In all that Work a Genius appears, which keeps him always from neglecting himself in choice Points, and from abandoning him­self in those that are not so. And this judicious equality, which that Author always observes, thô the matters he treats of be never so un­equal, is little known to our late Historians. But the Art of thinking sensibly of things, is not sufficient, unless he has also that of expres­sing them purely.

IV. To write purely.

An Historian, who thinks to com­mend his Book to future Ages, must think of Historico sermoni de­cus conciliet, perspicuitas, proprietasque verborum. Beni lib. 2. de Histor. writing pure­ly. Without that advantage, an Historian will be but short liv'd. For want of Quid tam necessarium quam recta lo­cutio? Fab. l. 1. purity of Style, so many Greek and Latin Historians, of whom Photius, and the other Library-keepers, have made men­tion, have perish'd in the gene­ral shipwrack of so many Books; [Page 12] and that, of a number almost in­finite, of whom Cura ma­gna sentiendi & loquendi, sed dissimula­tio curae prae­cipua. l. 9. c. 4. Vossius speaks, none remain, but those that have writ reasonably enough to deserve to be read. You must not then pretend to write History, unless you very well know the Lan­guage you intend to write in, and, except you write purely. For, as soon as your design is to instruct, you ought to think how to express your self neatly, that you may be understood; for when a man speaks well, every one is willing to hear him: besides, one that speaks ill, never speaks any thing right; Nihil est in Historia, pura & illustri brevitate dul­cius. Cic. in Brut. and that clearness, which is the greatest charm in History, can only be found in a pure Style. That purity consists chiefly in the propriety of words; in the natu­ral ordering of the phrases, and in the wise and moderate use of fi­gures. The style ought not to have any thing In Sen­tentia nihil absurdum, aut alienum, aut subinsulsum; in verbis nihil inquinatum, abjectum, non aptum, durum, longe petitum, Cic. de op. gen. orat. improper, strange, bold, hard, creeping nor obscure. Herodotus has that purity [Page 13] of style, and has excelled in it, above all other Grecians, as Caesar above all the Latins. The Wits of the following Ages grew rusty, and retain'd little of the purity of the Ancients. But Quintus Cur­tius, thinking to appear more po­lish'd, has lost somewhat of that great and majestick grace, which becomes Salust and Livy so well. It is true that he flourishes some places too much; as for example, the Description of the River Marsyas, in the beginning of the third Book; The Adventure of Abdolonymus, who, from a Gardi­ner, became King, in the fourth Book: Of the siege of Tyre, and of a great many others, where it appears an affectation of Eloquence little becomming the Gravity of History, which can bear nothing that is affected. Indeed, that puri­ty of Elocution so necessary to History, ought to be supported by a great deal of Sense. For, Non debet quisquam ubi maxima re­rum momenta versantur, sollicitus esse de verbis, Fab. l. 8. c. 3. Ut monilibus & margaritis quae sunt Or­namenta Foe­minarum, de­formantur Viri, nec ha­bitus trium­phalis quo ni­hil augustius, foeminas de­cer, Fab. l. 11. c. 1. Ornatus om­nis non tam sua, quam rei cui adhibetur conditione constat. ibid. nothing is more fulsome than E­loquence, when empty of things, and which says nothing. It hap­pens [Page 14] that, sometimes, purity of Discourse too much studied in great Subjects, diminishes its great­ness; as it appears in the History of the Indies by Maffaeus, and in the wars of Flanders by Cardinal Bentivoglio. The one and the o­ther have studied too much how to please by the Politeness of the discourse, not remembring, that Beautys that are sprucely attir'd smite least, and that the finest ornaments disguise a thing, when­soever they are excessive and dis­proportionate.

V. To write with Simplicity.

You are also obliged to write with simplicity, to avoid that Pom­pous and that affected Air, which are both so contrary to that Cha­racter which is requir'd in History: because, whatsoever is great, ceases to be so as soon as it is strip'd of that simplicity; and that which is pure and great too, receives an accession of greatness, and be­comes lofty. Si oratio perderet gra­tiam simplicis & inaffectati coloris, per­deret & fidem. Fab. l. 9. c. 4. Nothing also in­structs, [Page 15] and gets the publick ap­plause, more than that simplici­ty of Style, so beloved of the Ancients, and so little known by the Moderns. All that which is exaggerated, seems false; and Nature, which you ought to have for your object, delights not in impertinent flourishes. But that you may exactly understand that simplicity which is so necessary to a great Style; you must con­sider that there are three sorts of it; A simplicity in words, as that of Caesar; a simplicity in the Thoughts, as that of Salust, a simplicity in the Design, as that of Thucydides, so much valued by In judicio de Thucydide. Dionysius Halicarnassaeus.

The Moderns, which have come the nearest to that Character, are, amongst the French, Phillip de Com­mines; Guichardin amongst the Ita­lians, Buchanan in Scotland, Mariana amongst the Spaniards; the great­est part of the rest, seek only to maintain themselves by the Purity, Politeness, and other Or­naments of Discourse, when they [Page 16] have not a Spirit great enough to attain that simplicity; and they disguise the Truth, when they want strength to shew it naked. Happy is the Man that can attain it, when he makes writing his Business; those that are ignorant may understand it, at the same time that the intelligent are charm'd with it. But nothing is harder to get, than that plain and natural way, which makes the simplicity of the Style. A Genius extraor­dinary is requir'd to express things clearly, without dropping into a low and cold style. For at the same time that you endeavour af­ter simplicity, you ought to dread nothing more than flatness: What is then, that admirable simplici­ty, which is the highest perfecti­on of a great work, and wherein do's it consist? Homerus brevem qui­dem cum ani­mi jucundita­te, propriam, carentem su­perfluis elo­quentiam Menelao dedit, quae sunt virtutes generls primi. Fab. l. 12. c. 10. It is to make use only of the most common and fit­test words, but they must always be full of a great sense, as that Prince do's, to whom Homer gives [Page 17] a brief Eloquence, agreeable, pro­per, without superfluity. Exponere simpliciter [...] ­ne ulla Exor­natione Cic. l. 2. de Invent. It is to think and speak just what you have to say and to think, without giving too much quickness to your expression, as Strada do's; and with­out giving too great a brightness to your thoughts, as Grotius did. It is to have your Sentiments ordi­nary and natural, not making so many Arguments and Reflections, as Davila in his History of the Trou­bles: for as soon as you argue so much, it is no more Nature that speak's, 'tis Art and Study: and those discourses so labour'd, smell of the Schools. Non dice­re ornatius quam simplex ratio veritatis ferat. Cic. l. 1. de Orat. It is not to mix more Ornament in your discourse than the modesty of the truth can bear. It is to express that natural and free air of Xenophontis illam sucundi­tatem inaffec­tatam, quam nulla affectatio consequi pos­sit, upsae ser­monen Gratiae finxisse vide­antur. Fab. l. 10. c. i. Xenophon, which no imaginable affectation can at­tain. It is, in fine, to possess that marvellous talent of paring off the superfluous part of the Dis­course, of which Phocian was so excellent a master; of whom, sim­ple as he was, Demosthenes was wont to say, when he saw him ascend [Page 18] the Tribunal, as his Antagonist, Plutarch. Here's the sword which is going to cut off all the superfluity of my words. That you may well establish that Character, which, besides a great store of Wisdom and good Sense, requires much exercise and a great deal of Meditation; you must a­void the use of those Authors whose imagination is too full, that you may not fall in that torrent of false thoughts, boundless expres­sions, and those confusions which have but a glance of good sense, into which you will easily fall, if you have not an exact Sense, and an equal Spirit. You must propose to your self no other rule of that manner of writing, but the Ancients. And, among those, you must make choice of them which have most of this simplicity. [...]. Her­mogenes propounds Theocritus and Anacreon for great Patterns of it: and indeed nothing is opener and freer than what they have writ. Herodotus seems to Longinus too bold. Dionysius Halicarnassaeus finds, that Thucydides, thô a great Master [Page 19] of that Simplicity, loads some of his Relations with too much of the matter of fact. Xenophon and Polybius moralize too much, and often hinder the stream of History by their Reflections. Diodorus Si­culus mixes too much Learning in his Discourses. Plutarch may go for a great original of that simpli­city we look after: for every thing he says relishes of it. Livy seems not to me more agreeable by all his other great qualities than by that. The stream of his History is like that of a great River which floweth majestically, as that of Tacitus resembles a deep and swel­ling River, subject to overflow­ings: he never keeps a tenour in his thoughts, but often is immo­derate in his expressions for want of this simplicity. Mariana is one of the most accomplish't among the modern Historians, because he regards it most. For the simplicity of Style cannot be found in great Subjects, without being accompa­nied with greatness and noble­ness. Those are the qualities from [Page 20] whence that first ground which History requires arise, and which we may, in a manner, call the first Elements of that beauty which it must have, and which ought to reign more in the mind, and in all the Character of the Historian, than in his Style and in his Dis­course. Here are the other qua­lities which must be added to him to make him perfect, which I touch succinctly, without any other order, than that in which they present themselves to my mind. I begin with the Matter and the Form; that is to say, with that which is most essential to History.

VI. The Matter in History.

The Matter fit to exercise the Art of an Historian is a vast field, since it extends it self to all the Actions of men, viz. Peace, War, Councils, Negotiations, Ambassies, Intrigues, and all the several Ad­ventures which may happen in this life. In rebus magnis, me­moriaque dig­nis Historiam versari. Cic. de Orat. l. 2. Cicero requires two quali­ties [Page 21] in the matter of an History. Historiam afluetam dis­currere per negotiorum celsitudines non humilium minutias inda­gare causarum. Ammian. Marcel. l. 26. That they may be great things, and such as may be fit to be made publick. None has explain'd bet­ter what choice an Historian ought to make of his Subject, than Dio­nysius Halycarnassaeus, in the Pre­face of his History, and in his Judgment upon Thucydides, where he prefers the choice which Hero­dotus has made of his Subject to that of Thucydides, for the reasons which he brings. But, as false­hood often resembles Truth, it re­quires a great deal of discretion and sagacity, to make an exact distinction of it, to unriddle the true motives of important Acti­ons, from their colours and their pretexts, and to choose your Ar­gument wisely, which may become curious and fine by the circum­stances well lay'd together, and by the order wherein you must re­duce that which is too wide and far diffus'd, by restraining it with­in the natural extent of those li­mits it ought to have. When it is so reduc'd, let the Historian render [Page 22] himself Master of it by a deep Me­ditation upon his Subject, which he ought intirely to understand. Equidem non affirmare sustineo de quibus dubito, nec subducere quae accepi. Curt. l. 9. But let him also be so exact and religious, as never to abuse the Credit of the Publick, by giving his own Conjectures for truth, or certain things for doubtful ones. Let him ascend, as much as in him lies, to the Spring of the Instru­ctions he shall have given him, to make a just distinction of them. Let him never assure things upon common Reports, of which the Authors are always uncertain. Let him deliver them upon very sure Memoirs, and upon very faithful Relations. Let him not abandon himself too rashly to the Historians which have been before him, lest he should lose his way by follow­ing ill Guides. Let him make a great difference between those Re­lations that are interested, or sus­pected of Prejudice, and those that are not so. Let him always have a care of the Partialities of those which furnish him with Memoirs, because preoccupation can never [Page 23] make but false Histories. Herodotus, (whose History Apud He­rodotum sunt innumerabiles fabulae. l. 1. de Leg. Tully condemns as fabulous) wrote only upon ill Memoirs, as Josephus pretends. Marcellin. in vita Thucyd. Thucydides, who had a mind to mend himself by avoiding that fault, confines himself to the History of his Time, not trusting any body, in writing only what he had seen, or what he had learn'd from Peo­ple worthy to be believ'd, and from Memoirs, which he collect­ed with great expences, not only from the Athenians, but also from the Lacedemonians, that he might be inform'd of both Parties. Xeno­phon, Polybius and Procopius, have done almost the same thing. Dio Cassius confesses in his History, that he had been ten years in prepa­ring the materials. Salustius marca trans­gressus dicitur, ut oculis suis crederet de conditionibus locorum. Pe­trare. Petrarch as­sures us, that Salust went into Africa, that he himself might observe the Situation of the Places he was to speak of in his History of the War of Jugurtha, not being willing to trust any other than his own eyes. For it is very important to be well assur'd of the ground you [Page 24] write upon. Lucian makes the Historian of his Time pass for a fool, who wrote the War of Arme­nia upon common reports, hav­ing never seen any body who had been in Syria, where the Battel was fought: And Vopisc. in praefat. Hist. Vopiscus took the resolution to write the History of the Emperour Aurelian, only upon the assurance that Junius Tyberianus, Minister of State, gave him, to furnish him with good Records. But it is not enough to have had a share in the Transactions of affairs; there is also great need of an Excellent Spirit to deliver them well.

Hist. lib. [...]2. Polibius says, that Callisthenes was eye witness of the Action be­tween Darius and Alexander, when he gain'd the straits of Cilicia: yet for all that, there are a great many very gross errors in the Descrip­tion of that important Expedition, and all because he was ignorant of the Art of War, and of the or­der which was observ'd in Battels in those Days. You must then, above all things, be very sure of [Page 25] your Matter, which shall never be wanting to those that have Wit: but you may want assurance, if you do not well discern the things you relate. How many false Me­moirs are found, because they are spoil'd by People that were inter­ested? though nothing is more com­mon than Materials for History, by reason that every thing may serve to it: We may say also, that nothing is scarcer than a sufficient assurance of them to fit them for it: and it is hardly found, because Prejudice occurs every where. Boccal. in Raggual. di Parnasso. Boccaline upon that Subject de­serves your esteem, when he ad­vises you to write nothing but what you have seen, and not to make it publick before you dye. That way you'r sure of what you say, and there is no prejudice against it. But, take care above all things, to choose great Subjects, which can subsist upon their own stock: a great matter gives luster and weight to your words; and Art must play in small Subjects, and supply their weakness.

VII. The Form.

The Form, which ought to be given to History, is that which is most essential to it. It is that which makes it Great or Little, and it is that from whence you take the Author's genius. You must then have an exalted Spirit, capable of great Idea's, if you will write well; that so, becom­ing a Master of your Subject, you may give your Matter what Form you please. It is upon that Mo­del that Livy gives to his History a character of greatness, which is beyond all other Historians, by giving to all the Subjects he treats of, the colours their ground is ca­pable to receive. Thus he gives to the last Kings of Rome all the Pride that an absolute Authority inspir'd them with; He changes the Spirit of the Commonwealth, by the austere Virtue of the first Consuls, by the Populary Motions of the Tribunes, by the austerity of the Government of the Decemvirs; by the lazy Deli­cacy [Page 27] of the last Consuls; that he distinguishes each Age by the Geni­us which has been predominant in it, not confounding the different motions of that genius with the different circumstances of Times, which don't resemble one another, and that he sustains himself always by the great Images he gives of the things he treats of. Tacitus to the contrary, gives almost to all his Matters the same form: all is done there by Policy; the People he speaks of, have always a Spirit higher than others. It is not their Spirit which makes them move, 'tis that of the Historian, who hav­ing a spirit too compacted, gives always the same Air to his expres­sions, and the same turn to his thoughts: all things resemble one another. Policy is still made the cause and the result of all things. Tyberium ascitum. quod ejus arroganti­am introspe­xerit, & com­paratione de­terrima sibi gloriam quae­sivisse. Tacit. l. 1. Annal. If Augustus on his death-bed chose one to succeed him, he appoint­ed an Emperour worse than him­self, on purpose that he might be mourn'd for. If Dolabella in absurdam adulationem progressus. l. 3. Ann. Tyberius made Piso Governour of Syria, [Page 28] 'twas only to make him a Spy to Germanicus, by whom Egypt had been govern'd, and whose glory he did envy. Dolabella's flatteries displeas'd him, because they were too course. Suspecta­bat Syllam so­cors ejus inge­nium calli­dumque simu­latorem inter­pretando. l. 13. Annal. If he banishes Sylla, 'tis because he thinks his si­lence a wise dissimulation. That Emperour's modesty; is nothing but a hidden Ambition; his fa­vours are only snares; his mode­ration is nothing but pride, and his Religion is nothing but grimace. He reckons it a sign of the God's displeasure, that Sejanus should be­come Favorite of the Emperour, and be raised to be a Minister of State. Arruntius poisons himself out of Policy, that he might not fall into the hands of a master more brutish than Tyberius. He finds an agreeableness even in the Emperour Claudius's folly, and a great deal of Wit in the debauches and brutishness of Nero. Tempori­bus Neronis sa­pientia pro in­ertia fuit. ibid. Some of the Blockheads of that Age and Reign, he represents as men of re­fin'd Prudence. In fine, all the characters resemble one another; [Page 29] Nature has no share in any thing, her Sentiments are always forc'd, and every where it is the same genius, which reigns by the im­pression of the Historian's Wit, and which has no great variety. Mariana runs on with a fuller ca­reer. The Romans, the Carthagini­ans, the Christians, the Arabians, the Moors, the Mahometans, make every one their Figure. The Wit of the Author mingles it self only with the other Spirits, to distinguish them according to their characters, opening always some new way as different as the Subjects he treats of requires. We may say also, that among the Moderns, no Hi­story is greater for its form than that of Mariana.

VIII. The End of History.

Romance only pleases, History in­structs: This is the essential diffe­rence between them; this ha­ving no other end, than the in­structing [Page 30] of the Publick. Alias in Historia leges observandas, alias in Poe­mate; illa ad veritatem quaeque, in hoc ad dele­ctationem re­ferri pleraque. Cic. 1. de legib. For, as it is not compil'd only for the present; its aim ought not to be limited to the time, which pas­ses away, but to Posterity, which is Everlasting. What folly were it in a Man, that should think of nothing but diverting the People of the Age he lives in, when he may become useful to all Ages? Those are the Reasons O pulchra ista pars, quae actiones vi­tamque bene format ac di­rigit. Tacit. Ann. l. 3. Lucian uses, to oblige an Historian to think of nothing but of being useful, by ruling the Hearts and Minds of Men by the Instruction he gives them. They are deceiv'd, he says, who pretend that History can be divided into two parts, the Useful and Agreeable; for an Historian ought to have no other prospect, than the profit People draw from a sincere and true Narration. If he intermix some thing that is agreeable, he ought not to corrupt the Truth, but rather to embellish it, and make it the more accepta­ble. And, to justifie his Opinion, he shews the extravagant way of the Historians of his Age, which made [Page 31] themselves ridiculous by follow­ing other Principles. Graecis hi­storiis plerum­que poeticae similis est li­centia. Fab. l. 2. c. 4. Herodotus sought how to please those of the Age he wrote in, but his Sincerity was so run down in the following Ages, that it Et quic­quid Graecia mendax pec­cat in Historia. Juv. Sat. 10. made the Sincerity of the Greek Historians be suspected in Quintilian's Time. Photius makes mention of an Historian, which thought that his saying incredible things made him the more accep­table. And Quidam incredibilium relatu com­mendationem parant: & Lectorem ali­ud acturum, si per quotidia­na duceretur, miraculo exci­tant; & opus suum fieri po­pulare non putant, nisi mendacio a­sperserint, Sen. l. 7. quaest. Nat. Seneca complains, that in his Time there were Histo­rians who pretended to make them­selves famous by their fabulous Narrations. This was always plea­sant to the People who delight in Fictions; but not to Men of Sense and Honesty, who love Truth on­ly. In the following Ages, the Arabians stuff'd their Writings with so many Fables, that they spoil'd the greatest part of the Greek Histo­rians of their Age, by the fancy then in fashion, of mingling sur­prising Adventures in all their Re­lations: they thought the only way to please the People, was to say in­credible things. The same Spirit [Page 32] infected part of the Modern Graecians, which is the cause why the Account we have of those Times by the By­zantine History, is not the surest in the World, the Authors of it not seeming very exact; and when an Author writes by their Memoirs, he ought to take great Precautions against so false an Idea, to make People believe him, because the least falshood spoils all, and con­verts Truth into a Fable. Even the truest things ought not to be told, when they appear incredible or extraordinary, unless you give 'em an appearance, or, at least, a colour of Truth. It is what Thu­cydides does: and, though he saw Herodotus in so great an esteem, that the names of the Muses were given to his Books, he thought of nothing but of speaking the Truth, without minding to please the People. Lucian. de conser. Hist. I had rather, said he, please by telling Truth, than be plea­sant in telling Tales: because, if I be not pleasant, I may be useful; and per­haps, I might do hurt in being agreea­ble. Utilitatem juvandi prae­tulerunt gra­tiae placendi. Plin. praef. Hist. Nat. de Thucyd. & al. Hist. Be then strongly perswa­ded, [Page 33] that nothing is fine in History, but that which is real; and that, Truth being its greatest Ornament, an Historian that will please, ought to speak true.

IX. That Truth is the only mean through which History comes to its end: and how it is to be found.

Truth being the only mean by which History can surely instruct; Truth ought to make the chiefest Rule of History, as your History ought to be the ground of People's Belief. But where is it to be found? Is there any thing in the World more hidden than Truth? For, besides the Clouds she is common­ly encompass'd with, which ren­der her sometimes unaccessible, she is wrap'd up with all the Disguises men's imaginations are capable of. And if the ordinary ignorance of short-sighted Writers is an obstacle to the knowledge of Truth; their little sincerity, nay, their fabu­lous way, is a far greater. For how often do we give wrong Judg­ment, through false Idea's which arise from our Passion, Interest, or [Page 34] Prejudice, which Error or Opinion are wont to inspire Men's minds? In fine, Truth being of a nature so unknown to Men, either through her own obscurity, or through the weakness of their Understanding, or for want of application; there is nothing harder than to make her known to the Publick with­out defacing her. And, as she is continually corrupted, and even prophan'd, through the baseness of her Adorers, the most part of the Historians being commonly Pen­sioners of Courts: You ought to set your self above hope or fear, as soon as you meddle with writing, that you may always dare to say the Truth. But, it is not enough to have a mind to say it, you must also make your self able, by seek­ing it in its purest original, by searching the Closets of the Learn­ed and curious, and by consulting the Instructions of those who have had a share in businesses, to unra­vel what has been most mysterious in the most private intrigues.

[Page 35] You must, above all things, stu­dy Men in general; to discover their Spirit, to dive into their Se­crets, to know the greatest weak­ness of their hearts, to penetrate their very thoughts, that you may not impose false ones upon them; and to judge of them by those na­tural and unforeseen Motions, which slip from them without their notice. That way you may discover the true sentiments of the Soul; the heart having no spare time to observe it self and to put on a disguise: for as soon as it re­flects, it forces it self, as Agrippinae pavor & con­sternatio mentis emi­cuit, quam­vis vultu pre­meretur. Octa­via, quamvis rudibus annis, dolorem, cha­ritatem, affec­tus omnes ab­scondere didi­cerat. Ita post breve silenti­um repetita convivii laeti­tia. Tacit. l. 13. Ann. Tacitus observes in Agrippa, and in Octavia Sister to Britannicus. For, in the moment that the poison which Nero sent him at the Banquet at which he died, seis'd his Spirits; Octavia, as well as Agrippina shew'd Consternation in their faces: But, as Octavia thought to marry Nero, and Agrippina his Mother; a Wo­man naturally proud, had a mind to Reign, upon a politick Account they resum'd their Countenance; and that they might not anger the [Page 36] Emperour, who was making sure of his Rival to the Empire; they force their Sentiments, hide their Sorrows, and continue their Supper with the same mirth, (whilst the Prince was expiring in the Antichamber) as if nothing had pass'd of that kind. There is a great Spirit in that Author, whose design is, to give an exact knowledg of those whose History he writes. But, our late Authors think but little of that, and that is the reason why we have so few true Historians. Rerum ge­starum pro­nunciator sin­cerus Thucydi­des. Cic. de Clar. Orat. There is a Temper of mind, fit to say things as they are, which is not a common one. It is one of the properties of Thucydides, the most faithful and sincere of all Histori­ans: There is in his Works a Tast of Truth, and a discerning of Truth from Falshood, join'd to an exact Spirit, which acquir'd him the approbation and esteem of all people. Dionys Halyc. in Judi­cio de Thucyd. Dionysius Haly­carnassaeus praises him above all for his sticking to the Truth, pre­tending that he never said any thing against his Conscience; in [Page 37] which he has excell'd Herodotus, whose whole design was to please People: for Strabo says, that he mingles Fables with his Histories on purpose to render them agree­able. Scribe se­curus, dicas quod velis, ha­biturus men­daciorum co­mites quos hi­storiae elo­quentiae mira­mur authores. Vopisc. praefaet. Hist. The Historians of the Low Empire became so great Flaterers, that their want of Sincerity made Vopiscus change the mind he had of writing the History of his Time. But, the Governour of the Town, who was a Favorite of the Empe­rour, took off that Scruple, in a Discourse he had with him, as they were once walking together, by shewing him, that the greatest Historians had been deceiv'd in ma­ny things. Asin. Poll. apud Florid. Sab. Pollio tells us, that the same thing had happen'd to Caesar in his Commentarys, for not having review'd his writings. If the greatest men are subject to err, what will ordinary ones do? Neminem Scriptorum, quantum ad Historiam per­tinet, non ali­quid esle men­titum. Vopisc. ibid. And if Truth does not always shew it self in its purity to extraor­dinary Spirits, how will it make it self known to small ones, who, through the quality of their Genius, can say nothing without altering [Page 38] the Circumstances, by diminishing or inlarging the objects? for there is nothing scarcer than an exact temper, fit to say things as they are: we say them as we conceive 'em; and we conceive 'em good or bad, according as our Imaginati­on is: and, of many that have seen the same thing, there is not often above two that relates it alike, e­very one saying what he has seen, according to the Idea he has conceiv'd of it, and as his mind is turn'd. The quality then, I say, most requisite for an Historian, is a Spirit exact and faithful, in speak­ing the Truth in all its Circum­stances, so as to deserve the Peo­ple's belief. But it is not enough for an Historian to say what is true, he must give it also a fine turn: that turn is the Style; let us see which is the most Convenient for History.

X. The Style fit for History.

The Style is the Form of the Dis­course, and the manner you write in: the fittest for every body is that which is most comformable to his genius, which ought to be follow'd, without forcing it; so that a Style mixt is always vicious. It is a defect of Strada in his History of the Low Country's, who by the clearness of his Imagination, and by his great Lectures, had fill'd his mind with different characters; and that mixture which is found in his manner of writing, how a­greeable soever it is, diminishes its Perfection. Verum ip­sum inscriben­tis sinceritate candoreque elucet. Melch. Can. in loc. Theol. l. 11. c. 6. Mariana, who was of the same Society, has more strength, and is smoother in his Style. But the fittest Style for History is that which has most of the Character of Truth, and wherein that natural light of Sin­cerity, which commonly accom­panies the Truth, shines most: for, people easily believe things di­gested thus. Luc. de conser. Hist. The Style for [Page 40] History, as Lucian says, must be clean and natural, because that clearness is the Rule of what it ought to say, as Truth is a Rule of what it ought to think. Its Quanquam vincta sit, solu­ta videri debet oratio. Fab. l. 9. c. 4. Discourse must be free, though well compacted, and that it may have that freedom which makes it natural, it requires less number than Turn. Historia non tam fini­tos numeros, quam orbem contextum­que desiderat. ibid. But because an Historian ought to read ancient Authors, to make himself a Style according to his capacity, he shall find it necessary to make his Observations in that Study, and so form to himself a Method fit for his Design. In Herodoto omnia leniter fluunt: tum ipsa dialectus habet jucundi­tatem. Fab. l. 9. c. 4. Herodotus's Style is sweet, flowing, and agreea­ble. That of Thucydides praesractior, nec ita rotun­du [...]. In eo or­bem orationis desidero. Cic. in Bruto. Thucydides is nobler and greater, but not so natural; he has a rough way, which makes him obscure, and he has less num­ber and less turn than Herodotus. Obscurus [...]t quia pres­sus. ibid. Xenophon has a tender and sweet strain. His Discourse, which is not unlike to pure and clear Water, has no fellow in Antiquity, except Caesar's; for nothing was ever writ in Latin more clearly. Tribus li­bris de bello civili Caesari falso ascriptis nihil durius, nec candori Caesariano mi­nus conveniens Flor. Sabin. in calum. long. lat. A Mo­dern Crtick's observation (who re­marks [Page 41] some difference of Style in his Book of the Civil Wars, which he pretends to have not been written so purely as the Wars of the Gaules) goes beyond me: I have not knowledge enough to find that, and I am of Sueto­nius's Mind, who makes no dif­ference throughout. I confess I am delighted with the Eloquence and Simplicity of that Author, no body ever wrote more clear­ly; Genus ora­tion is fusum & cum lenitate quadam a qua­bili profluens, sine judiciali asperitate, & Sententiarum forentium acu­leis prosequen­dum. Cic. l. 2. de Orat. but the Nobleness of Li­vy's Discourse charm my Spirits. That Historian has been read with respect in all Nations, for almost now two thousand years, upon the score of that Majestick way of speaking, which has been ad­mir'd by all Ages. Nothing al­so fills my Fancy better than that admirable choice of Words al­ways fitted to his Sentiments, and that expressing of Sentiments al­ways conformable to the things he Speaks of. In a word, he is the Man of all, that has better attain'd to that Style Cicero ad­vises one to follow in History, [Page 42] And 'tis by that great Model that Mariana, Buchanan, Paulus Aemili­us, Paulus Jovius, and all those who carried any Vogue after their Age, have formed themselves in the way of Writing History. Taci­tus is not so fit; for that Lustre of his high flights is like Lightning, whose Brightness dazels, instead of making the Matter plain. Pa­terculus and Florus have given a small Air, flourish'd and delicate, which pleases their Readers. The Writers Augustae Historiae, as Ammi­anus Marcellinus, Lampridius, Spar­tianus, Julius Capitolius, Vopiscus, and the others, have degenerated in a cold and impure Style, which has nothing of that Noble Sim­plicity of former Ages. Salustius rerum Roma­norum floren­tissimus Au­thor. Tac. l. 3. Hist. Salust is great and elevate in his way of Writing, which causes Quin­tilian to compare him to Thucy­dides. Salustio vigente ampu­tatae Senten­tiae, & obscu­ra brevitas fu­ere pro cultu. Sen. l. 11. Epist. 114. Q. Curtius has a polish'd and bright Style. And by those two Methods, which are almost the only two fit to be used, you may examine which of the two is the fittest for History; and that [Page 43] Question is the most important that can be made upon that Sub­ject.

XI. Which is the properest for History, the Great or the flourish'd Style?

In a Question of so great a Consequence as this, which is not yet determined; 'tis enough for one to give the Reasons which may serve for the decision there­of, when a Man has not the Au­thority of determining it. Verba ex­cerpsit Salus­tius ex origini­bus Catonis. Suet. in Aug. Sa­lust has a Greatness in his Style; but some of his Expressions are harsh, which makes him look dry in some Places, because he had form'd himself by the rudeness Salustius Scriptor seriae et severae ora­tionis. Aulug. l. 17. c. 18. of the Remains of Cato; which gives to his Discourse a Gravity which looks like Severity. And contrariwise, none is more polish'd than Q. Curtius; It is an admirable Flower of Expression, which plea­ses Men of Wit, but the business is, that we must examin whe­ther the stiff Stile of Salust, hard as it is, be not wholsomer and fitter for History, giving as it does [Page 44] Weight, Strength, and Greatness to the Discourse. Is it not rich? and don't we find sometimes in that hard and severe Stile, that agreeableness of which Demetrius the Phalerian speaks; which Homer. Odyss. l. 9. Ho­mer has so well express'd in his Odyssaea, about the Adventures of Polyphemus; where Demetrius pre­tends, in his Book of Elocution, that he is the first Author of it; that is to say, those Graces which have nothing soft nor effeminate, and which are agreeable without being affected. The same Author quotes many Examples of it, ta­ken out of Xenophon, who has the Art of making things Pleasant, which of themselves are not at all so. Herein that severe Stile properly consists, which Hermogen. de Ideis, l. 1. c. 5. & l. 2. de invent. Her­mogenes prefers to a soft Stile, when he says, that a meer naked Nar­ration has often more Strength, than a Narration which is adorn'd and flourish'd; because a severe Style may have some Greatness, and a soft Style can only have a Mediocrity. That is also the Rea­son [Page 45] why he reckons good Sense, (tho' never so naked) amongst the qualities of the Noble and ele­vated Style. This was, says he, the Character of Pericles, upon which Demosthenes form'd himself to that strong and fierce Eloquence, wherein he has excell'd: Hiperides, says he, in another place, is great tho' careless: his Style is rough and dry, but it is noble and elevate; Austerus graeca consue­tudine Cornal. Fron. de differ­vocum. for, that Austerity of Stile, which was the true Character of the Greeks, is nothing but Artis se­verae si quis amat effectus, mentemque magnis appli­cat, prius mo­re frugalitatis lege polleat exacta. Pet. a true and exact Sense, and a just and correct Reason; which, with­out stopping at a shew of Bright­ness, pursues Solidity. Si juvenes verba atroci stylo effode­rent, jam illa grandis oratio haberet maie­statis suas pon­dus. Petr. It has nothing false in its Sentiments; all its Attention is bent towards a Sobriety of Discourse, which is nothing but Sense and Simplicity. Plutarch also attributes that Style to Demosthenes, which Dionysius Ha­lycarnassaeus does not distinguish from the great and elevate. It is, in fine, that strength of Ex­pression, which alone gives to our Discourse, Nobleness and Majesty, by [Page 46] which it becomes great and solid. Hence it is that Caesar, thô un­affected, has something Nobler in the Simplicity of his Discourse, than Tacitus with all the Pomp of his Words: and there appears a kind of Carelesness in the Anti­ents, which is worth all the Di­ligence of the Moderns. Historica locutio, ubi munditiem re­tinuerit, majo­ra ornamenta non requirat, simplex, pura, naturalis sit, nec Atticum siccitatem re­ferre possit. Beni. l. 1. de Hist. I don't say, but that a flourish'd Style may be of use in small Histories, which have not ground enough to support themselves without help. It is a small History in French. The Princess of Mont­pensier ought to be written with all the Eloquence Art can allow; but the History of the War of Paris, and of the Late Troubles, ought to be written with a great­er Air; Small Subjects require Fi­nery, great Ones Strength and Dignity. Let Paterculus be pretti­ly adorn'd in the Character he took; but Livy ought to be great and serious: small Beauties ought to be finely attir'd to shew them­selves; but great ones have no need of it, because they bear a good weight of themselves. Besides, [Page 47] Truth, which is the Soul of Hi­story, becomes suspicious, as soon as it is too much adorned; and Carelesness has more an Air of Sincerity. This is what was to be observed upon the Style in particular, after the general No­tions I have given thereof: but as it is of use only in Narration, we'll examine in what manner it ought to be.

XII. The Narration.

History being, properly speaking, nothing but a Historia est narratio rei gestae, per quam ea quae facta sunt dig­noscuntur. Isi­dor. l. 1. Orig. Rehearsal of things past, and in the same order as they came to pass, ought also to be a continued Narration. Expositio praeteritorum Temporum. Fab. l. 4. c. 2. There­fore, as it hath nothing more essen­tial than the knowing how to re­late well, so, nothing is more dif­ficult. Custodia fidelis rerum gestarum. Tit. Liv. l. 6. Annal. For it is a great Art to fix an unconstant and fickle Rea­der's mind. What wisdom does it not require to mannage every where those colours that are necessary to give the resemblance to things, and to mix constantly with them [Page 48] those features, those light touches, those graces, that warmth, that quickness, which hinders a Nar­ration from languishing? how dexterous must an Historian be, to use both Art and Wit, in what he says, yet not to seem to do so; Dare ora­tionis varios vultus. gau­dent enim res varietate. Fab. l. 9. c. 2. And by all the variety of Ex­pressions, Figures and Thoughts, to adorn every part of his History, without the least smatch of Osten­tation? what knowledg ought he to have, to discern what must be said, and what let alone, to speak and hold his Peace, to dwell no longer than is fit upon the Points he treats of; to explain things at large, or by degrees, as necessity or a good Decorum requires; to en­large or shorten them; to retrench, by a felicity of Expression, those Topicks, which otherwise would be insipid, and never to weary the Reader by too great an uniformi­ty? In fine, what a Judgment to separate carefully that which is be­comming from that which is not Decent? for upon that chiefly runs all the Beauty of a Narrati­on, [Page 49] and all the Grace of History. But a Narration is perfect when­ever it has nothing of Superflui­ty. This is, in a word, the ut­most perfection it is capable of be­ing brought to. The Rules lay'd down by Cicero and Circumcisa expositio rei quae superva­cuis caret. Fab. l. 4. c. 1. Quintilian say no more: after them I have nothing to say. For when once the Superfluities are cut off, the Circumlocutions which are not useful, the feigned Descriptions which are onely fit to make a shew, and all the vain Ornaments of the Discourse are suppress'd, every thing comes close to its point. Densus, brevis, semper instans sibi co­mitatis affecti­bus. Thucydi­des. Fab. l. 10. c. 1. The Vigour, the Strength and the Dignity, all support each other, without any Flatness. In that Thucydides verbis aptus & pressus. Cic. l. 2. de Orat. Thucydides out-did Horedotus, who is too big in some places, where he gives himself too much to the fineness of his Imagination. Immorta­lem illam Sa­lustis velocita­tem consequu­tus Livius. Fab. l. 10. c. 1. Salust is of a Character exact and short. He is properly commen­dable for the quickness and tor­rent of his Discourse. Illa Salusti­ana brevitas, qua nihil apud aures erudiras perfectius esse potest, captan­da. ibid. That is it which animates him, and makes him so lively. Caesar's Nar­ration [Page 50] is admirable for its Purity and Eloquence, but it is not quick enough; and he wants of that Strength which he found too abounding in Terence. Livius in narrando mi­ra jucundita­tis, clarissimi­que candoris, ita ducuntur omnia tum re­bus, tum per­sonis accom­modata. Fab. l. 10. c. 1. As for Livy, he has a way of rehersing that is very taking, by that Art he has of mixing in his Narration small things with great ones; be­cause great ones, when too much enlarg'd, tire the Reader by rea­son of the great Attention they require, and small ones refresh him: it is with that same Method that he varies his Adventures; that he interchanges sad things for de­lightful ones; that Mannages his Light and his Shade with a wise and judicious Temper, that so he may keep the Reader in tune by that Variety. For a Narration becomes insipid, as soon as it wants diversity of Accidents, Adventures, Figures, and Expressions. You must even allow some intervals to things, that your Reader may take breath, and not intermix your matter by too great a confusion of things. It is a fault that Dionysius Haly­carnassaeus [Page 51] judges Thucydides creber rerum frequentia. Cic. l. 2. de Orat. Thucydides guil­ty of, in the third Book of his Hi­story, where he so mixes the se­veral Interests Dionysius Halyc. tractat. de judic. Thu­cyd. of the Athenians, Lacedemonians, and of the other Peo­ple of Greece, that he confounds, in a manner, the very appearance of things, by a Narration too much loaded with Matter: and this fai­lure is incident to those of a copi­ous and fluent Invention. Tho' the Rerum ratio ordinem temporum de­siderat. Cic. l. 2. de Orat. order of Times be the most natural to a Narration, because it unfolds things pass'd; there is ne­vertheless an order of Reason in ranging Events, which ought par­ticularly to be the study of an Historian. It is only by that secret Order that you may endear your Reader, so as to imprint your own Sentiments on his Mind, when you shew him Men acting naturally as they ought: and when you shew him their Manners, their Thoughts, their Designs and their Motives, as they are in a kind of dependency upon each other in the same natural order, which joyns them well together, [Page 52] In rebus magnis, memo­riaque dignis, confilia pri­mum, deinde act [...], postea e­ventus expe­ctantur, Cic. l. 2. de Orat. An Historian that can well put those things together, is a great Man; that is the thing which plea­ses, and not those extraordinary Events which People run after for want for Judgment; for nothing is more taking than to see men act in that Order; that alone, when all comes to all, fixes the mind. Livy excell'd in that, because he fol­low'd closely that Order, by draw­ing the Thread of his History with a connexion of Discourse, and by weaving together always those A­ctions that are of an equal size. Longin. c. 18. Longinus has well observed, that Thucydides breaks the Order of things, to surprize the Reader by that disorder, by bringing in un­expected Occurrences in his Nar­ration: He tells even sometimes things past in the present time, shewing them as thô they were pas­sing actually, which makes the Reader more attentive, and affects him most. Tacitus is of a soaring Spirit, who does not say things in order. His great sense, shut up in the compass of a few words, has not [Page 53] an extent proportioned to his Rea­der's minds, who are often over­whelmed with it: and having not a natural strain in what he says, he scarce ever fits his words to mens Notions; he does not instruct well: For Example, when on the occasi­on of the Papian Law he explains the ground of the Laws; or in an­other place, he speaks of Asylums, he does not return to the origin of things; he shews nothing clearly, or he does it ill; as when he ex­plains the Religion of the Jews, l. 5. of his History; his very Style is not fir for it, which is a great fault in an Historian, whose chiefest Profes­sion is to instruct. After all, a Narration is good (which way so­ever it is digested) when it plea­ses.

XIII. Transitions.

The great Art of a Narration, and one of its chiefest Beauties, consists in the Transitions. In ef­fect, those fine and natural turns, [Page 54] those happy passages from one Subject to another, make the stream of a Discourse engaging: those insinuating ways lead the mind of a Reader from one Ob­ject to another, and shew him a great deal, without tiring him: In fine, all that admirable Oeco­nomy of the Transition, is that which is most delicate and spritely in the Narration, which seem al­ways constrain'd, and never easie or natural without that Art. It is not enough to speak well to attain it: you must be eloquent; you must be Master of your Subject, and to know the grounds and consequences well; for the fittest Transitions ought to be much more in things than in words. So that those Excursions from Kingdom to Kingdom, from Na­tion to Nation, from Age to Age, without Method, and without Management, are no way op­portune to a well digested Histo­ry, wherein all things ought to be well laid and compacted; as in a great Palace, where nothing [Page 55] ought to be scatter'd or irregu­lar; for the compactness, and the proportion of its Apartments, make one of its greatest Beau­ties: So History is like a Body, compos'd of its Members by the Natural Union; in which Saun­der's History of the Schism of Eng­land, is very defective, amongst Moderns, as that of Florus and Paterculus, amongst the Ancients. Xeno­phon fluens & fine salebris oratio, Cic. Xenophon's Language is very well knit, sweet and flowing, yet Livy still exceeds him, his Nar­ration being of one even conti­nued thread; his Transitions con­sist less in words than in things. Salust is not so well knit; Ta­citus is still less; his Connexions are forc'd, and the stréam of his Discourse much interrupted, which surprizes the Reader, who must sweat, if he will follow that Author. The most difficult Transitions are those which are found in the commonest things; for an Author ought to sustain himself with strong Expressions, where the matter is but small, [Page 56] and must find a way how to couple things that otherwise have no Union at all. It is in those places he ought to shew all his Skill. The Reader's mind is so tender, that an Historian cannot always turn it as he pleases. But he must be conducted from ad­venture to adventure, by Con­nexions well cover'd for Order's sake. For, in a word, he often has a foolish pride, and flights, which render him untractable. But there is need of a great deal of Art to vary those Tran­sitions, which never ought to be like one another, to give always new Ideas to the Reader, by not shewing him always the same Objects: It is in this an Historian must lay out his Industry; for herein the gracefulness of a Nar­ration consists, which alone can render it acceptable and delight­ful.

XIV. The Circum­stances of a Narration.

If a Narration becomes agree­able by the Transitions, it becomes credible by the Circum­stances. For nothing engages one more than a Fact cloath'd with good Circumstances, which thô dark and obscure of it self, by the particulars becomes palpable, clear, sensible and evident; and as the progress of great under­takings, and of Affairs of im­portance, is seen only by bring­ing them into a good order by the several degrees of their Cir­cumstances; so the Art of ex­plaining the Truth in all its De­pendencies, by unravelling what is particular, making one of the great Ornaments of History, a Writer ought to study it with all imaginable care. Here fol­lows the Observations one may make of it. The great Secret is, to know how to make a wise and judicious choice of the Cir­cumstances [Page 58] that are capable of giving a great Idea of things, to imprint in them that Colour which can give them credit, and so make way for them to pos­sess the mind. And this will be obtain'd by a concourse of great and small Circumstances mixt with Dexterity, when well cho­sen. Great Circumstances give some admiration, and small ones pleasure, provided they are well chosen, and not exaggerated. But thô an Action, which is not exactly reported, makes no im­pression, you must nevertheless shun those Expressions of low and frivolous Particulars, which make a Subject worse; for you become childish, and even ridiculous, by sticking too close to little things; As that impertinent Historian Luc. in Conser. Hist. Lucian speaks of, who gives a very particular Description of the Parthian's Veste, and of the Roman Emperour's Shield, when he describes the Fight. Others, adds he, not thinking of Essenti­al things, lose time in things not [Page 59] useful; as he, who after having spoke by the by, a word or two of the Battel, which made then the Subject of his Discourse, stops to relate the Adventures of a Moorish Knight, the most extra­vagant in the World. So Proco­pius, in his secret History, forgets the Circumstances necessary, and rehearses what is needless. You must then, in the recital of any Action of Consequence, know well how to lay the Circumstan­ces which are to make the thing plain, and to sustain it in its light, by distinguishing the Essen­tial from that which is not so. The most accomplisht pattern we have in History of a great Acti­on, told in all the Circumstances capable of giving it weight and splendor, is Hannibal's March in­to Italy, as it is written in the 21st Book of the Annals of Livy. It is, in my judgment, the most perfect part of his History; and there are few things of that strength in Antiquity. A greater design never enter'd into a more [Page 60] extraordinary mind; and no­thing was ever accomplish't more cleverly. The Argument was, Hannibal's coming out of Africa, marching through Spain, over the Pyrenean Hills; crossing the Rhone, at his very mouth, a Ri­ver vast and swift, whose Banks were cover'd with so many E­nemies; his opening himself a way through the Alpes, where no man had ever pass'd before; travelling upon Precipices; dispu­ting at every step with People that lay in Ambuscadoes, in continual Filings, amidst the Snow, Ice, Rain, Torrents, de­fying Storms and Thunder; ma­king War with Heaven, Earth, and all the Elements; drawing after him an Army of a hundred thousand Men of different Nati­ons, and all jealous of a General, whose Courage they were not able to imitate. The Souldiers Minds were possest with fear, Hannibal alone remains unshaken, the danger which encompasses him, abates the Courage of all [Page 61] the Army, but never disturbs his Mind. All is drawn in a Rela­tion of horrid Circumstances; in every word of that Historian dan­ger is exprest; never Picture was better finish'd in History, touch'd with livelier Colours, and with bolder strokes. Nothing also is better adorned with Circumstan­ces in Tacit. l. 2. Annal. Tacitus, than that Feast the Empress Messalina made to shew her Love to Silius, her Gal­lant. All the Ceremonies ap­pear'd as thô it had been Vintage-time, that Season favouring the Feast; Mirth, Pleasure, frolick and lascivious Debauchery, are all express'd with the fineness of an exquisite Eloquence; and the Re­lation thereof is particulariz'd suc­cinctly and sensibly, and made throughout in such a manner, as speaks Life and Spirit; and no­thing is more judiciously plac'd, rendring by this lively represen­tation Messalina's Death, which follows after more Tragical and full of Horror. In fine, there are happy Circumstances, which [Page 62] give an agreeableness every where, where they are apply'd; but you must understand them well, to know where they must be ap­ply'd. Things become often grea­ter by their Circumstances, than they do by themselves. Let us then look into those Circumstan­ces which can both instruct and please, and keep the Reader from doazing. Let us imitate Davila, who is so taking, by the Art he has duly to cloath what he says with proper Circumstances; yet great Relations weary the Spi­rits; so let us make a judicious distinction of the Circumstances Necessary, and of Importance, from those that are not so. Let us consult Lucian, and his Dis­course upon History; he is a great Master in that. But to make a compleat Narration, we must joyn to the Circumstances of its things, the Motives of its Actions; for Motives well touch'd make a Narration as curious, as the Cir­cumstances make it likely.

XV. The Motives.

To tell Men's Actions without speaking of their Motives, can­not properly be called to write History. It is just like a Gazette, where the Author contents him­self barely to report the Events of things, without going up to their Spring. As Caesar, who gives meerly his Marches, and his En­campings, without telling their Motives; every thing in his Nar­ration being too plain and open; thô 'tis true he writes only Memoirs. It is then that curious rehearsing of Motives which cause Men to Act, by which alone History it self becomes delicate, and sustains it self chiefly in important Affairs. To say things as they are pass'd, without going to their beginning, is properly to stop at the outward part of Things. Reason will have it, says Cicero, Rerum ra­tio vult, ut quoniam in rebus magnis confilia pri­mum, deinde acta, postea eventus ex­pectantur; in rebus gestis declarari, non solum quid actum, aut dictum sit, sed quomodo, & cum de eventu dicatur, ut causae explicentur omnes, &c. l. 2. de Orat. that as in Affairs, [Page 64] the Design precedes the Execution; The Historian gives an Account, not only of Events, but also of Causes; and that in relating what has been done, he explains how, and for what Reason it was done. Tacitus says al­most the same thing; that it is important for History, not only to tell the Events of things, but to discover the Ground and Princi­ples of them, and to touch up­on the Motives thereof; Ut non modo casus eventusque re­rum, sed ra­tio etiam, causaque noscantur. 14. Ann. by this an Historian distinguishes him­self, and makes himself conside­rable; and nothing is more plea­sing in a Narration, than the Ex­plication of what is secret, and of Importance in those Peoples De­signs and Intentions, whose Acti­ons it relates; and History having nothing more commendable than this, all the little Historians, even of the smallest Credit, have en­deavoured to excell in that way. For, nothing strikes more upon the Curiosity of men, than this, by which they are made to dis­cern what is more concealed in mens Minds; that is to say, the [Page 65] secret motions which make them act, even in their ordinary Un­dertakings. It is only by going up to the Cause, that you will see the minds of those you speak of; that you'll discover the Spi­rit which makes them act what they are capable of, and that you'll find the Truth by search­ing deeply into their Intentions. But with how many Falshoods are Histories fill'd upon this fair Pre­text? And, into how many Er­rors do unjust, false, and inter­rested Historians daily fall, which abandon themselves to their Con­jectures; distribute their own Ima­ginations to the Publick, to ex­press the Designs of those whom they speak of? As for Example; That Pericles caused the War in Peloponnesus, because he lov'd A­spasia: That Xerxes carry'd that dreadful Army, History tells us, only to eat Figs: That M. An­thony lost the Empire, meerly be­cause he would not part with Cleopatra: That Francis the First of France, carry'd his Armies over [Page 66] into Italy, only upon the account of the faire Lady named Cla­ricea. There is nothing more ticklish and difficult than to search into mens hearts, and thence to guess or discover what they think; for an Author will tell all he knows, and all that comes into his mind, rather than fail telling the Truth. It is one of the greatest failings in Davila, whose Discourses are o­therwise just enough; but his conjectures in the motives of the Actions he relates, do not prove very true, if we may take the Truth from their Fathers. Not but that, after all, an Action ve­ry well clear'd to its very Mo­tives, and a Secret well penetra­ted, might give a great Idea of the Historian's Ability, and make us judge, that he speaks like a man well inform'd, and looks ve­ry well in History.

But that an Author, Haud facile animus rerum provider, ubi officiunt odium, amicitia, ira, atque misericordia. Caesar. apud Salust. in Catil. who pretends to guess, be always up­on [Page 67] his Guards against prejudice; that he hearkens neither to his Af­fection nor his Hatred; to avoid Artifice, and those Colours men are prompt to give to things, in fa­vour of that side he is prejudic'd for; that he inserts no falshoods, to justifie his Conjectures, and to make things agree with that Air he is pleas'd to give them; that he neither diminish nor exagge­rate any thing, as Tacitus, who casts a Poison every where; or as Paterculus, who strows every thing with Flowers. Let him not shew men worse affected than they are, as Herodotus does, when he says, that the Persians were call'd into Greece by the Spartiates, because they could resist the Lacedemoni­ans no longer, nor suffer them, as Plutarch. de Herod. Malig. Plutarch reproaches him; let him not also cover an unjust dealing with a good intention, as Callias of Syracuse, who justi­fies all the Actions of Agathocles, because he did him some good, as Excerp [...] Const. ex Dio­doro. Diodorus takes notice; nor as Paulus Jovius, in respect of Cos­mus [Page 68] de Medicis, not long since. There are in all Historians mi­stakes of that kind, because they are few that have a mind steddy enough to resist their Prejudice. But thô the motives in great men ought regularly to be better and greater than their Actions; for the motives depend upon them, but the events do not: yet it is but a small mistake, as Noble men are, to mix in their Coun­sels, and in their Deliberations part of the pride and of the weak­ness they are subject to: for of­tentimes it is only through some impertinent and ridiculous mo­tives, that the most part of men are determind. There is an in­finite number of Examples there­of, which I leave, that I may not exceed bounds upon that mat­ter. You must, above all things, know well the Vanity, the Ma­lice, the Ignorance, and the Folly of mens minds, which always conforms to their Principles, to know well the bottom of their Intentions, and search his Weak­ness, [Page 69] which is the great Princi­ple of Malice; and above all things, not to be ignorant, that the Laziness of most great men, in examining the bottom of Af­fairs, and the impatience they have to judge of them upon what the Conduct most essential to their Affairs depends. It is them we must necessarily know, for being, as they are, the Great Actors upon the Stage of this World, all things, for the most part, are rul'd by their Extrava­gancies: But it does not follow, that if we have done once well in this way, by chance, we should be able to do it always. There are Historians in this Age, which have ruin'd their Reputation by too great an itch of mingling their Conjectures with all Events, and imposing their own Conceits upon the Publick instead of History; as Herrera, who says, that the Duke of Parma did not do the best he could against the Hollanders, to manage them with Policy. There is nothing more contrary to an [Page 70] Historian's mind, (who ought to be sincere and faithful) than those conjectures which are built in the Air, without any Foundation, and all Discourses grounded upon ma­ny conjectures, are either uncer­tain or frivolous. This is what must be observ'd in Transitions, in Circumstances, and in the Mo­tives wherein the chief Art of a Narration consists. This is also what must be regarded in its o­ther parts, which are the Figures, the Passions, the Descriptions, the Speeches, the Reflections, or the Sentences; the Characters of Per­sons, the Digressions, and all that can enter in the Oeconomy of the Discourse which History ought to be made of.

XVI. Figures.

History makes use of Figures only to animate it self: The Speaker, who has a mind to im­pose, speaks always by Figures, that the Springs of his Art may [Page 71] play the better: but the Historian, whose mind is only to instruct, ought to use them in another way. That very Simplicity which Truth requires in History, does not take that way of figu­rating, which would injure its Candor and Ingenuity. Luc. de conser. Hist. Lu­cian, who is admirable every where else, is not here so much as against those vain Ornaments of Eloquence, which are not con­venient for History. If, says he, you lay on too many of them, you'll make it like Hercules, drest with his Mistress's Cloathes; which is the greatest of all Ex­travagancies. It is yet less capable, continues he, of those clear marks Poetry uses, to cause those moti­ons in mens hearts, by moving the Passions. That History which is candid and sincere, and does not design to impose upon me, ought to leave my heart free, to judge the better of what it tells me. E­loquence, which by its Character, is an Art that imposes, may steal upon my Liberty, by striving to [Page 72] persuade me against my will. But an History which fixes it self pure­ly within the Limits of Instructi­on, cannot handsomely make use of Figures, no further than to take from the Discourse its natu­ral coldness, and to render it less tedious. It is only by these means that Herodotus, Thucydides and Xe­nophon, keep up the Reader's mind: And Saluji, Livy and Mariana, ne­ver use Figures to impose upon the Publick. Tacitus is not so scrupu­lous; he looks like a man who thinks of nothing but of dazling your Eyes: The boldness of his Metaphors, and of his other Fi­gures, make his Expressions trou­blesome and too high. Caesar scri­p [...] Commen­ [...] [...]. Cic. in B [...]t. Caesar is upon another Extream; It is a Discourse naked, without Figures, unprovided of all Attire. It is not but that a figur'd Expression, made on purpose, might please sometimes more than proper words, because it makes the I­mages livelier, and more agree­able to the mind, and gives strength and nobleness to the Dis­course; [Page 73] and there is a boldness of Style, provided it be wise and judicious, which is admitted in places that want Life. But for Figures, to be well applied, be sure they be modest and familiar, not taking the flights of Poetry, or high Eloquence; Let them not be, says Lucian, too bright, nor too elaborate, unless in the De­scription of a Battel, or in a Speech, where an Historian may spread the Sails of his Eloquence, without soaring too high.

XVII. The Passions.

The Passions also make one of the great Ornaments of the Nar­ration, when they are on purpose, and that they are touch't judici­ously. The Truth is, that they do not require that heat which ought to accompany the Stage: one must give them another Air; for they are not to be acted, but rehearsed. An Historian may make his Discourse passionate, [Page 74] but he ought not to be passionate himself. Therefore let him stu­dy men to the bottom, that he may lay open in his own mind the most private motions Passion is capable of raising there, that he may express its trouble and disorder; and that well applied, is very agreeable in a Narration. Thucydides has treated that part better than Herodotus; for he is more eloquent, and more pathe­tick, as Dionys. Halicar. Epist. ad Pompei. & de Virt. Serm. Dionysius Halycarnassaeus says, thô Herodotus has sometimes more life. Hermogenes propounds an admirable Model of a tender, affectionate, and passionate Nar­ration in the Death of Panthaea, Queen of Susiana, which is writ­ten in the Seventh Book of Xe­nophon's Cyropoedia. It is one of the finest places in that Author: All is said in a touching Strain. Photius assures us, that Josephus has a great Art in his Discourse, to move the Soul by the Passi­ons. Affectus eos praecipue, qui commendavit. Quintillian affirms, that dulciores sunt, nemo Historicorum Livio magis Fab. l. 10. c. 1. [Page 75] Livy, of all Historians, has most signaliz'd himself by those tender and delicate ways, whereby he has entertain'd the sweetest moti­ons of the Soul: Affectus eos prae­cipue, qui dulciores sunt, nemo Histo­ricorum Livio magis commendavit. Fabius, l. 10. c. 1. The Rape of the Sabins, those tender moti­ons they shew'd at that time to take the Arms out of the hands of the Romans, their Hus­bands, and of the Sabins, their Fathers; the Death of Lucretia; Her Body exposed to Publick View, to move the People to rebell against the Tarquins; Vet­turia at her Son Cariolanus's Feet, to appease his Fury, when he came to besiege Rome; Virginia stabb'd by her Father; the Con­sternation of Rome, after the Bat­tel of Cannae; and a thousand o­ther such things, touch't in his History by the most tender Ex­pressions imaginable, are fine Ex­amples thereof. And it is in that Historian you ought to study the way of treating Passions as they [Page 76] ought to be in History; for he a­nimates himself only in the pla­ces where heat is requisite. Ta­citus does not mind how to ma­nage his heat; he is always passi­onate; and even those Colours he uses, are always too strong: and because he is still too full in some things, and that he does not Copy after Nature, he does not move so much. I say no­thing of the other Historians, the greatest number of whom have not understood the Passions, nor the way they ought to be repre­sented in. It is a particular kind of Rhetorick, which requires a great Sense, and a very exact knowledge of Morality. But, if we intend to please, let us be­ware of those Dry Narrati­ons, which are void of the moving stroaks which Nature requires.

XVIII. The Descripti­ons.

That Affectation which appears in most Historians, in making De­scriptions, has, in a manner, run down its use amongst judicious people. Nothing indeed is more childish, than a Description too much polish'd in a serious Hi­story. Young Authors run head-long into it, without distincti­on: You cannot be too circum­spect in the use thereof. The Principle which is observable in it, is, That you must use it no more than is necessary to illu­strate those things, the know­ledge whereof is essential to what you write. Such is the Descrip­tion of the Isle of Capraea, lib. 4. Annal. Tacit. For it denotes the Reason Tyberius had to retire thi­ther toward the latter end of his life, which renders it necessary; and being short, eloquent, and polish'd, without any Superflui­ty, one may say, that it is as it [Page 78] ought to be. The Description Sal. in Bello Jugurt. Salust made of the place where Jugurtha was defeated by Metellus, serves to make one know the Fight better. You may see there the Vertue of the Roman, as well as the Experience of the Numidian King, by the advantage he had taken in possessing him­self of the Hills: and all the recital of the Battel, is better un­derstood, by that draught of the place which the Historian lays be­fore your Eyes, as well as the Picture of that place, where Hannibal fought Minucius, Book 22. Annal. Livii, which is a place well touch'd. Descriptions might again be allow'd in a great Hi­story, to make the Narration more pleasing, provided they be fitted well to the purpose, and free from that superfluity which com­monly accompanies them, when given by young Historians. The desire they have to shew their Parts that way, makes them fall in a pittiful childishness. Nay, Luc. de Hist. conser. Lucian finds fault with the [Page 79] too long Description which Thu­cidides makes of the Plague of Athens, in the Second Book of his History; and he is, perhaps, in the right: for that Author, thô wise, runs into a Narration of that Disease too particular: But that Critick has more rea­son, when he complains of that impertinent Historian of his Time, who took so much delight in ma­king great Descriptions of Moun­tains, of Cities, of Battels, which, he says, out-do in Coldness, all the Snows, and all the Ice of the North. And indeed, nothing is colder than a description which is too much studied. The Ma­chines of War us'd by Caesar, are describ'd in his Commentaries, with a way of Circumstances too great for so mecanick a mat­ter as that is. That Commander, whose Reputation in the know­ledge of War, is establish'd, seems to have a desire to be thought also a good Engineer; it looks too much affected for a man so judicious. The Descrip­tion [Page 80] of Africa, in the War of Jugurtha in Salust, is too full of Circumstances. There was no need of so many to mark the Limits of the Kingdoms of A­therbal and Jugurtha, which were then in dispute: What need was there to describe all that Coun­trey, and to make a distinction of the Manners of the People, with so much particularity? De­scriptions must then be useful, exact, short, elegant, never studi­ed, having no harshness in them, nor a vain desire of making your Wit appear more than your Sub­ject, that your Descriptions may look well, as those of Livy do: 'twere fit you should make him your Pattern.

XIX. Speeches.

I find the Masters Opinions very much divided in that Point. Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xeno­phon, have signaliz'd themselves chiefly by their Speeches: Thucy­dides [Page 81] did better than any of them; the Speeches of the chiefest Actors in his History, Pericles, Nicias, Alcibiades, Archidamus, and of all the Nations that speak by Depu­ties, are excellent Lessons for Speakers of all Ages; and De­mosthenes formed himself chiefly in that School. Polybius uses more Formalities: he doth not let Scipio speak so much, thô he has reason to do it, having al­ways been his Companion in War; In Sermo­nibus effingen­dis Herodotus, Thucydides, Xe­nophon, Salusti­us nimii vi­dentur: & cau­sa est cur Caesar Commentarios scripsit, ut id omitteret, in quo alii labo­rant. Bisciol. l. 7. hor. subcess. Caesar is still more spa­ring; for he makes hardly any Speeches at all, pretending they are against the Truth of History, and taking rather the part of writing bare Memories, that he may seem plainer in his Dis­course. Dionysius Halycarnassaeus causes Brutus to make a long Ex­hortation upon the Death of Lu­cretia, that so he might excite the People to Revenge; and that O­ration which he makes Valerius to speak upon the fittest form of Government in a State, Book 7. of his History, is very tedious. [Page 82] Josephus, Appian, Dio Cassius, and Procopius, are great Discoursers, as well as Thucydides and Xeno­phon, which took that Idea of speaking out of Homer: And in truth, if we examine the grounds of those Discourses, and, above all, of those that are made by Captains, to encourage the Soldi­ers to fight, we shall find but lit­tle likelihood in them. Trogus re­prehendit in Livio & Salu­stio, quod Con­ciones & Ora­tiones operi suo inserendo, historiae mo­dum excesse­rint. Just. l. 38. Tro­gus reproaches Salust and Livy, with a great deal of reason, for the immoderate excess of Speeches in their Histories: And indeed all those Discourses they attribute to great men, have but a false look: for out of what Memoires could they have taken them? Besides, a Warrier don't speak like one that makes it his business to speak in publick. Livius, Thucydides in­terserunt Con­ciones, quae nunquam abiis, quibus sunt at­tributae cogni­tae fuerunt. Scal. Poet. l. 1. So when Peri­cles, in Thucydides, made an Ora­tion in praise of his Soldiers that had been defeated and kill'd by the Boeotians: His Speech is feign­ed, as well as that which Cati­line, in Salust, makes to the Con­spirators, which, in all probability, [Page 83] was secret, and not much studi­ed. This is partly what Ben. l. 2. de Hist. Be­ny says, to improve that mistake. Thucydides, who was judicious, took care of that in his last Books, where he makes fewer Speeches than in the first. But it is a Natural Lesson; for we never write an History, but we bring in those that have a share in it, to make them speak; be­cause nothing gives more vigour to a Narration, which is apt to grow cold by a Discourse too much polished. There is then a medium to be taken: A small Discourse made on purpose in an History, by one that bears a Cha­racter fit to make it, being also well suited to the Person and Sub­ject under hand, may please, be­ing put in its due place. But those formal Speeches at the Head of an Army ready to engage, and those Deliberations of a te­dious prolixity, which are made upon those businesses that are spoken of, are almost out of fa­shion in good Histories: And the [Page 84] wisest chuse to make their Heroe speak things in few words, with­out engaging themselves to say set Speeches; as Livy, in the be­ginning of his History, has done by the Embassadors which Ro­mulus sent to his Neighbours. The most part of Salust's Speeches are very fine, but never to the purpose; for nothing is finer than Marius's Speech: It is the best Moral Lecture in the World upon Nobility; all is reasonable in it; and Antiquity has few of that Strength, to persuade People to embrace Vertue; but it is set in a wrong place; and the way that he makes Cato and Caesar give their Opinion in the Senate, how great soever it be, is not made proportionable to the rest of his History. Of that number is the long Discourse Dio makes in the 56th Book of his History, in praise of Marriage, and of a Batchelor's Life. But on the contrary, there is nothing firmer than Tyberius's Speech upon the Reformation of Luxury, Tacit. l. 3. Annal. No Hi­storian [Page 85] ever made a Prince speak with more Dignity. The Speeches of Agrippa and of Moecenas to Au­gustus, wherein the one advises him to quit the Empire, and the other to keep it, are extream fine in Dio Cassius; but they are so long, that they take up all the 52d Book. In fine, to finish this Article, I am for De Thucy­dide Orationes quas interpo­suit laudare so­leo: sed imitari neque possim si velim, neque velim si pos­sim. Cic. de­clar. Orat. Cicero's Ad­vice, who speaking of the Dis­courses of Thucidides, says wisely, I find them very fine, and I could not do so well if I would, nor would I do it if I could; which is all that can be well said upon that Subject; For, in fine, Speakers are always subject to be tedious: And Boccalinus is very pleasant, who condemns an Old Man to the Pennance of reading one of Guichardin's Speeches, because he had read a Madrigall, with his Spectacles, upon Mount Parnassus.

XX. The Characters of Persons.

Pictures are a great Embel­lishment in History, when well drawn; but Romances have spoil'd that way; for we make too ma­ny, and those such as do not well resemble: We lose time in de­scribing, after our own Fancy, the Air of the Person: but this is not the thing Explicen­tur hominum ipsorum non solum res ge­stae, sed vita ac natura. Cic. l. 2. de Orat. : For what does it signifie to me to know whether Hannibal had good Teeth, provided that his Historian shew me the greatness of his Genius; that he shew me a bold and an active Spirit, vast Thoughts, a stout Heart, and all that anima­ted by an extream Ambition, and supported too by a strong Constitution, as Libr. 21. Annal. Livy has de­scrib'd it? So Salust gives me a great Opinion of Catiline, by the Picture he makes of him at the beginning of his History: And when I see that desperate Soldier raise Armies in his Closet, go up [Page 87] to the Senate with a Silence that shews his Resolution to affront the Consul; to hear, unconcern'd, his Invectives; to put Rome in Allarm, to make Italy tremble; to dare at last what no Particu­lar ever durst; I am not sur­priz'd, after the Description the Historian has made me of him: I see a Man of Resolution, who stirs all things, without being seen, because he had taken well his measure. Pompey is far off with the best Troops of the Commonwealth; tied by a trouble­some, thô necessary War; Rome full of Factious People, the Pro­vinces full of Malecontents: there's a general Disorder in the Common­wealth, through a Deluge of Vice which overwhelm'd it; and eve­ry thing favours Catiline's Design, in the Conjuncture he found of putting it in execution. So one may guess what might happen of the War of Atherbal and Ju­gurtha, after Salust's Description of the Genius's of both; that I know to the bottom Sylla and [Page 88] Marius, according to the Idea he has given me of them, and that I take pleasure to see, issuing from their Spring which that Historian has discover'd unto me, the Sequel of Jugurtha's great A­ctions, who gave so great distur­bance to the Romans, after the Image he has drawn of that Cap­tain. It is in that manner that the Ancients have mix'd in their Histories those kind of Pictures of the Persons they design'd to re­present, to distinguish them from others; which is of great Orna­ment in a Piece, when done op­portunely: For after a Character is well establish'd by those Essen­tial Features, which make a di­stinction of it, all goes on a great deal better; all things are better understood in the Narration: But it is a Master-piece, to hit that Resemblance, which consists only in singular and impercepti­ble Features, which alone expres­ses Nature, and which one hard­ly meets with, unless he searches the hearts, and unwraps all their [Page 89] folds, that he may well know what is hidden. But what strength of Spirit, and what acuteness is requisite for that purpose? These things that follow are to be ob­serv'd in it: First, the Picture ought to be real; and this was Xenophon's miscarriage in the Pi­cture he made of Cyrus, where­in he gave nothing but the Idea of an Heroe. Secondly, it ought to resemble: in that Tacitus has not been exact enough, minding to follow rather his Genius, than to imitate Nature; seeking more to make a good Picture, than to give the resemblance, provided that his Pictures please; as that of Sejanus, lib. 4. Annal. He cares but little whether they resemble or not; for he makes him a great deal worse than he is, if we may believe Paterculus, who praises him much. Thirdly, an Author ought to make only the Pictures of Persons of Conse­quence: There Salust mistook in the Representation of Sempronia, who makes but an indifferent Fi­gure [Page 90] in Catiline's Conspiracy. But althô too much time ought not to be spent in painting the Ex­ternal Parts of the Person, yet he may do it in some cases, when that may serve to make the Ge­nius of those you speak of better understood. And indeed there are several ways of painting: Lucretiam nocte sera non in convivio luxuque sed deditam lanae inter Ancillas sedentem in­veniunt, l. 1. Annal. Li­vy, speaking of Lucretia, so fair to her Husband's Eyes, without mentioning any thing of her Face, paints only her Virtue, and gives in one word, the greatest Idea that can be given of an honest Woman. Tacitus paints Tyberius only by his Actions; that way he makes him to be known: Oppressit in Tricliniis Pa­rasytos suos violis & flori­bus, sicut ani­mam aliqui efflaverint, Lampr. in He­liog. Lampridius makes a right Pi­cture of the Emperour Heliogaba­lus, saying, that he stifl'd his Pa­rasites in heaps of Flowers, after he had drown'd them with Wine: Procopius paints the Em­press Theodora by her Gallantries: A drinking bout is sufficient to the Historian that writes Venceslaus's Life, to draw the Picture of that Emperour; who caus'd, says he, [Page 91] his Cook to be put upon the Spit, and roasted, because he had ill roasted a Pig which that Prince had a mind to eat. But the best way of painting, is to discover the secret motions of the heart, which makes the Person better known. It is from thence only that you ought to take those Features which make a distinction, that you may give a Character rais'd from its own ground. All the rest ought to be little ac­counted of in a serious History, which can endure nothing but what is judicious. I should not like also those Pictures which are copied, and taken here and there, as in Mariana; those he took out of Tacitus: Nor like that of Walstein, in A French Author, who wrote part of Walstein's Conspiracy. Sarrasin, which is made up, for the most part, of the finest Pictures in An­tiquity. You ought not to lose time in Copies, when you draw after the Life, and when you think of making an Original. After all is done, History is the faithfullest Picture of those you [Page 92] speak of; nothing shewing their Character better than the continu­ation of their Actions.

XXI. The Reflections and Sentences.

There is much to be said up­on that Article, which makes all the delight of History, when deli­cately done: but there are many mistakes to be avoided in this Point, where you can never use too much Simplicity. Xenophon, Polybius, and Tacitus, are full of Reflections; Thucydides, Salust, and Caesar, are more reserv'd. What Party must an Author chuse amongst so great Examples of so different a Conduct, and in so important a matter. And, in truth, the Beauty which Hi­story hopes for from that kind of Ornament, requires to be ma­nag'd with exact judgment: For, in fine, a man quits the Chara­cter of an Historian, who ought to tell naturally, what he has to say, without mingling, mal à pro­pos, [Page 93] his own Conceits with it, when he moralizes upon all sorts of things, turning, without di­stinction, the Adventures which offer themselves, great and small, into curious and Political Refle­ctions. Nothing also is more ca­pable of adulterating Truth, or, at least, of perplexing it, than those fine thoughts, which some Authors shuffle in out of their own brains, and which a Reader often has not Wit enough to di­stinguish from the ground of Hi­story. It is then Wisdom in an Author to have no srivolous Fan­cies of his own, to play the Phi­losopher's part indifferently upon every thing that presents it self before him; as Ammianus Marcel­linus, who acts too much like a Philosopher, by an Affectation of appearing Learned, which is but little understood. Livy goes on his way, stopping at nothing; he says what he knows of the things he speaks of, and leaves the Reader at liberty to make Reflections, without preventing [Page 94] him with his own: and when he does it, it is only with few words, but Noble and Great; Deos esse non negligere humana, su­perbiae & cru­delitati, & si se­ras, non leves poenas venire, l. 3. Annal. as what he says of the Crime and Punishment of Appius, who had stollen away Virginia. It is a great Gift in an Author, to know how to furnish his Rea­ders with Matters to apply their Minds to, to draw Consequences, and to give what Air he plea­ses to the things related. All Readers will have their liberty to think what they please upon what is presented to them, with­out being pre-engag'd; and the use of that liberty is one of the greatest delights he takes in rea­ding. Let us then retrench those deep and abstracted Reflections, if we mean to please; not labour­ing after much Spruceness in what we write: Let us be more natural and candid; Let us say the Truth, without commenting upon it, if our Wit be strong e­nough to bear it; Let us, above all things, forbear to moralize upon Fortune, and her Uncon­stancies, [Page 95] a thing so common in Books; Let us not affect those Sententious Expressions, which have too much Gayity and Or­nament; Let us renounce those Witticisms, and false Sentiments, which Authors of a small Geni­us jingle with. If we mix in our Discourse some Reflections, let them be as natural as may be, and such as arise from the Subject it self; let them never be too fine, nor too elaborate; let them be more solid, thô less ornamental; let them look more like the Arguments of a wise Politician, than the Affectation of an Orator; Curandum ne sententiaee­mineant extra corpus oratio­nis expressae, Petr. Let him be nei­ther too frequent, nor too loose, but woven, as one may say, in the Body of your Work: In fine, let them never have that lofty look of Reflections, which give an ill Opinion of him that makes them. It is in that that Tacitus, Machiavel, Paulus Jovius, Davila, and most part of the Ita­lians and Spaniards, are excessive. But let none adventure to make [Page 96] those curious Reflections of Poli­cy and Morality, unless he knows the Man entirely, the Illusions of his Spirit, and the Weakness of his Mind. It is only by that knowledge that good Historians are distinguish'd from those of a middle Rank, as Plutarch in his Lives. Salust, thô unaffected, preaches too much against the Corruptions and Ill Manners of his own Time; he is always an­gry with his Countrey, and al­ways dissatisfied with the Govern­ment: he gives too bad an Opi­nion of the Commonwealth, through his Invectives, and his Reflections upon the Luxury of Rome. In truth, thô there is nothing false in what he says, yet he runs out of his first thoughts. So Davila would make fewer Speeches, did he but remember that he is an Historian. It is necessary to un­derstand Morality well, to make just Reflections; For true Mora­lity is the ground of good Policy. Therefore Tacitus's Policy is of­ten false, because his Morality is [Page 97] not true: either he makes Men appear too much corrupted, or he is not candid enough him­self: There is nothing natural commonly in his Reflections, be­cause nothing is innocent in them; he envenoms, and gives an ill turn to every thing: He has by that means spoil'd many People, who imitate him in that Article, not being able to do it in any other. And this must be observ'd upon the use of Refle­ctions in History. A Sentence may be put in the Mouth of a Cha­racter fit to speak Sentences: Mariana, as well as Strada, do not seem to manage that well. People also have no great affe­ction for those stiff men which never yield to any thing, and who, to make what they say seem more important, multiply Sentences upon Sentences, Refle­ctions upon Reflections, and by a ridiculous Gravity, will seem Cato's in small trifles. The too great subtilty in those refinings of Conjecture, is apt to degene­rate [Page 98] in a false delicacy; and Re­flections are good only when they least appear to be so.

XXII. Digressions.

Digressions have also their a­greeableness, when they are made in fit times, and that they have nothing too wide, nor too loose, because it gives to a Narration a Variety so necessary to make it agreeable; but they ought to be wisely mixed. An Author is apt to err when he goes from his Subject; for one whose head is not strong enough changes easi­ly; and to quit your matter without precaution, to seek Ad­ventures, and carry your Rea­der abroad, does not belong so much to an Historian, as to a Writer of Adventures, who sticks upon every thing he finds to stuff up his Relation. He takes Ci­ties, he fights Battels, he finds Adventures every where; as Hero­dotus, who continually goes from [Page 99] his Text, by his too frequent, and often forc'd Digressions; thô he took Example by Homer, who is indeed a great Master; for thô he soars often, he goes ne­vertheless strait enough to his Mark, without losing time in things out of season. Thucydides has a better Order than Herodo­tus; he confines himself strictly to his Subject: The Conspiracy of Harmodius and Aristogyton, in the Sixth Book, is one of those Narrations wherein he has ex­cell'd most. Xenophon endeavours to imitate him: If he forgets himself sometimes, as he has done, lib. 5. of the History of Cyrus, in the Adventure concern­ing Panthaea, yet that Adventure has a natural Relation to the Bo­dy of his History; Panthaea ha­ving been taken by Cyrus, in the Overthrow of the Assyrians, and Abradatus, her Husband, by that means coming to Cyrus's side, and becoming one of the chiefest of his Army. The plain Truth is, I would not be responsible for [Page 94] [...] [Page 95] [...] [Page 96] [...] [Page 97] [...] [Page 98] [...] [Page 99] [...] [Page 100] the other Digressions of that Au­thor, which are not quite so well coupled to his Subject in his o­ther Works. Polybius & Salustius ita peccarunt, ut nullam un­quam veniam impetrarint dum digredi­untur, &c. Ex Sebast. Macr. Polybius has fre­quent Digressions upon Policy, knowledge of Arms, and upon the Laws of History, which do not appear very necessary: Sa­lust sometimes commits the same Fault, wherein a Modern Cri­tick blames them both. Photius praises much the Digression of Dionysius Halycarnassaeus, lib. 7. to describe the Consequence of A­ristodemus's Tyranny. The Que­stion about the Phoenix, lib. 6. Annal. Tacit. upon the news which came to Rome, of a Phoenix which had appear'd in Egypt, under the Reign of Tyberius, is according to the Rules of a just Digression: The Question is examin'd by the several Opinions of the Na­turalists upon that Bird; his Qua­lities, his Shape, all is describ'd there in few words. A Digressi­on of that kind set in a due place, is of great Ornament to a Narration, and that helps to [Page 101] spur the Curiosity of a Reader, and to rouze his Spirits. No­thing also in Mariana's History contributes so much to that Air of greatness which it has, as the Art which he has of bringing in­to it, by way of Digression, all that has happen'd considerable in the World, of admirable inefa­bulous Ages, of remarkables in Greece, in Sicily, in the Roman Empire; a pretty particular Ac­count of the Commonwealth of Car­thage, which is no where else better than it is there; the Sieges of Saguntus and Numancia, the Passage of Hannibal into Italy, the Series of Emperours, the Birth of Christianity, the Preach­ing of the Gospel, the Conquests of the Arabians, and many other things which look great. He has a Genius which is altogether for great matters, which hangs al­ways some way or other to the Spanish History. No Historian ever honour'd his Countrey so much by any Work; for he has given his Countrey the Honour of e­very [Page 102] great thing that was ever done in the World. But as there are but few Spirits strong enough to follow the Stream of an Hi­story, without taking breath, and tying themselves up to their Sub­ject, without going out of it; so there are few Historians but will sometimes forget themselves, by doing the contrary in their Digressions. I will not take the pains to mark them; they every where occur; nothing being scar­cer than that exact sense, which knows how to apply it self to its Subject: I shall only say, that Nihil mi­nus quaeritum à principio hujus operis, quam ut plus justo abrerum ordine decli­narem varieta­tibusque di­stinguendo o­pera, legenti­bus veluti di­verticula quae­rerem, l. 9. Annal. Livy has shunn'd nothing with more care than those by-ways which led him from his matter, as himself declares it, nothing being less judicious. But in our Historians, the same ridiculous hu­mour may still be found, which Luc. de Conser. Hist. Lucian met with in his time, in them that wrote the Parthian War, who mix'd in their Nar­rations the foolishest things in the World, to render them more di­verting, running from Countrey [Page 103] to Countrey, from Age to Age, from one Adventure to another, without any distinction. You must then lay it down as a cer­tain and indispensable Rule, That Digressions ought to be connect­ed always, by somewhat or other, to the Principal Subject in hand, as Statuit non attingere ex­terna, nisi qua Romanis co­haerent rebus, Luc. l. 39. An­nal. that Judicious Historian we spoke of just now has always done; And you ought to examine well, whether in the bottom they have no natural antipathy; for if they have, they are not fit to be us'd; for nothing is more essential to the Digression, than the Affinity it ought to have with the Subject: The great Secret is, to know ex­actly how far it ought to go; for it has its Natural Limits, which are not to be passed. That which renders the Proportion dif­ficult, is, that the Extent of them ought not always to be the same; for it must be great or small, more or less, according to the Relation it has to the chief part of History; and the making a right Judgment here, is the [Page 104] Rock upon which all Historians dash; for there are few which in their Digressions exceed not due bounds, it being the greatest dif­ficulty to keep them exactly, and to rule themselves. In that there is a great deal to be said against Mariana, who in the beginning of his History has taken many ways to arrive at his Point: He has need of an Apology up­on that, which I do not pre­tend to justifie him in. The only Model a Writer may pro­pose to himself in this, is Ut quae­rere libeat qui eventus Roma­nis Rebus, si cum Alexandro foret bellatum, futurus fuerit, Annal. l. 9. Li­vy, who would not have left the Roman History to tell his Mind up­on the Success of Alexander's Arms, had he come into Italy, without great precautions, and satisfying the Reader's mind with ample Ex­cuses: The Discourse he makes up­on it is very curious, and not at all out of season.

XXIII. Eloquence fit in History.

History ought to be Eloquent, and not tedious: In that only its Art consists; that is its com­mon Effect. But there is an ex­traordinary Effect, known but by few people, to say nothing, thô true, but what has the Air of Truth, to gain Credit in the most difficult things to be belie­ved. Eloquence, which knows how to give to things the Air which may render them accept­able, ought to be employ'd about it. And the setting of things in that admirable Order, which makes them probable, is its chiefest work; The Matter is gi­ven to the Historian in Memoires, which People furnish him with; but it is his business to lay them together, and to do it well: He must not think so much what he says, as to the manner of say­ing it; for in this, as in all other parts of Eloquence, the Method [Page 106] is all; That is properly the use the Historian ought to make of E­loquence, which alone sets every thing in its place. It is the great Artifice of Thucydides, says Thucydides omnes dicendi artificio vincit, Cic. l. 2. de Orat. Ci­cero, which has surpass'd all the other Historians by his Eloquence. Tito Li­vio mirae fa­cundiae viro, Fab. l. 8. c. 1. Quintillian speaks of that of Livy with admiration. It is only by that admirable Quality that those Two Great Men have di­stinguish'd themselves so much from the Commonalty of other Historians; for it is Eloquence which gives a man the way of explaining himself. He persuades best, who explains himself in the easiest manner; it is persuasion only which gives to things that colour of Truth, which they have by no other way but by that turn which is given them, and by the light they are set in. So nothing is more eloquent than the Picture Salust makes of the Condition which Rome was in, when Catiline took up the De­sign of making himself Master of it: And when that admirable [Page 107] Author represents the Common­wealth corrupted through Luxu­ry and Avarice, weakned under the weight of its own greatness; they are the finest Expressions which can be found in History: It is in those Images your Art must shew it self, if you have any; and the Historians of the first Rate are full of them. It is that Eloquence which ought to be mix'd with History, to a­nimate it with its flame and Spi­rit; for without it all is but languishing: and those several turns one ought to embellish a Narration with, to make it a­greeable; all the Art of Transi­tions, those so tender and passio­nate motions which go to the heart, that Connexion of the most Memorable Actions; that ordering of Circumstances, and those Embellishments which raise the Admiration, are nothing but the Effects of that singular Elo­quence which is proper to Hi­story, which ought sometimes to raise it self, and soar aloft, when [Page 108] occasion requires it. But it is the Effect of an Historian's Judgment, to distinguish those places. A kind of Eloquence did rule over the Greeks and the Romans too, in the Speeches of those which were to speak, which was only meer Ostentation, shewing the Wit of the Historian, rather than the Truth of History; and in that the Authors thought rather to amuse the people, than to instruct them. That Eloquence is out of fashion among the wise Moderns, be­cause it had an affected way; and those who have any Judg­ment, love only what is natu­ral. The Prefaces of Salustius in bello Jugur­thino & Catili­nario nihil ad Historiam per­tinentibus principiis usus est, Fab. l. 10. c. 8. Salust, which are great Discourses, full of Sense, and very Eloquent, seem to me of that kind; They are common places, without any reference to his History. That Author, perhaps, had some Re­serve, which he made use of in times of need; as Habeo Vo­lumen proemi­orum, ex eo e­ligere soleo cum aliquod [...] institui, ad At­ticum l. 16. ep 6. Tully did, according to his own Confession. I have always, says he, a Vo­lume of Prefaces ready against I [Page 109] have need of 'em. I would not have suspected him of so much precaution, had not he him­self bragg'd of it. That may be good for an Orator that speaks always publickly, and has not always leisure to prepare him­self; but it is not to be endur'd in History, where the Author is Master both of himself and his Time: For, to conclude, all those Discourses, thô never so fine of themselves, cease to be so, as soon as they are out of their places, and as soon as any Affectation appears: And this is what may be said upon the Elo­quence of History.

XXIV. The other Orna­ments which one may apply in History.

There may also be other Or­naments fit to be put in History, to make it more pleasant, ei­ther when it is dull, and when it is too plain, by over-long Nar­rations, which are too much like one another: but, of those Or­naments, [Page 110] the most apparent are not always the most essential: All is not Gold that glitters. A Mind that is bridled up does not take delight in too much finery; and that ought to en­gage a Learned Man to manage those Ornaments without Pro­digality, and accommodate him­self to mens Capacity, which too great a brightness dazles; besides that those Ornaments crowded one upon another, sur­prise more than they please. There are hidden ones, which give greater satisfaction to curious people; and thô they escape o­thers notice, they do not escape theirs; you may every moment discover new Charms which up­hold them, and which are la­sting, more than those which give but a glaunce, and die. Those kind of Ornaments con­sist sometimes of eloquent or wit­ty turns, which in a mann [...]r are surprising, and cast an un­look'd for Effect on the places they are put in; whereof here [Page 111] are some Examples: Porsenna, King of Clusium, besieges Rome: C. Mutius, mov'd with the dan­ger he sees his Countrey in by so close a Siege, goes into Por­senna's Camp, kills his Secretary close by him, thinking to have kill'd him: The Murtherer is seis'd; they order a Pan of fire to be brought, to force him to declare his Associates by the Tor­ment of the fire. That Young Man, full of Courage, in cold Blood, puts his hand in the fire, and without any alteration in his Countenance, let it be quite burnt upon the hot Embers; speaking in this manner to the King: Sentias quam vile cor­pus sit iis, quā magnam glori­am vident. Tit. Liv. l. 2. Annal. See how those that are possest with true Glory, despise their own Carcass. That spoken with a firm Countenance, alters the face of things; the Murtherer, thô abominable and odious, casts an admiration on the Spirits of them that were present; they look up­on him with Respect, and they send him home with Praises, in the same moment that they were [Page 110] [...] [Page 111] [...] [Page 112] preparing to make him end his Life in cruel Tortures. A reso­lute word only makes that change; and such a word well placd, is a great Ornament in a Narration, and has a marvel­lous Effect. So upon Fabius's re­taking Tarentum, Hannibal, thô vanquish'd, spoke this fine Say­ing, which look'd as thô he had still been victorious, praising him­self, to raise his Enemy the more: Et Romani suum habent Annibalem, l. 27. Annal. The Romans, said he, have also at last their Hannibal. That was a proud way of sub­mitting himself. Those sayings are frequent in that Historian. No­thing also gives more the Idea of those who speak so, when they speak well, nor of him that makes them speak, as when he does it on purpose. Here is one of another kind, taken out of Tacitus, in that famous Feast Massalina made to her Lover: In the heat of the rejoicing, and of the Debauchery of that Feast, they got an Idiot, whose Name was Valens, to climb up to the [Page 113] top of a Tree; and they asked him what he saw: A Tempest, said he, which gathers in the Air, and comes from Ostium. That word, spoken by a Fool, cast a coldness and sorrow upon the People's Spirits, which disturb'd all things, thô spoken without design; for it was a Prognostication of the Emperour's return, which happen'd a few days after, and caus'd the Empress to be stabb'd, tir'd with her infamous Life. Those mar­vellous sayings are very accepta­ble in History, being fit to rouze up the Reader's Mind by some­thing which is sharp. There are Thousands of others which an Historian employs to embellish his Work, and which have escap'd my Memory: and I do not pre­tend to say all that is good in this kind. It is enough to mark those which can give another face to Affairs; to search other Con­jectures, to give way to other I­dea's, and to other Sentiments: In a word, all those fine sayings, capable of causing some kind of [Page 114] revolution in the Reader's Mind, to give him Action, and Motion too, being always truly fine, are never out of use. The business is to place them so, that they may appear incorporated in a Narration, to play all their part in it; that is to say, to make the matter pleasant, when, of it self, it is barren and disagree­able.

XXV. The Sentiments which ought to be allow'd in History.

There are Sentiments which are fit for the Theatre, and are not so for History, because Poetry says things as they should be; History says them as they are. So those Historians, which give their Heroes such exquisite Senti­ments, are not always the most judicious; and whatever is not grounded upon good sense, be it never so fine, is not the best. So that Quintus Curtius is not always in the right, to represent Alex­ander so admirable. He does not [Page 115] make him act by the measure of Prudence, but always puts him upon difficult and perillous Ad­ventures: Danger charms him; He is not fond of Conquests, but of the Glory of Conquering: He might surprise Darius, by falling upon him in the Night­time, and that way hide his Weakness, the Enemies Army being twice in number bigger than his own: But that Great Man, who cares less to over­come, than to make People ad­mire his Bravery, attacks the King of Persia in the middle of the Day; resolved rather to lose his Life gloriously, than to over­come by surprisal. Darius, after his Overthrow, proffers to divide Asia with him, and offers him his Daughter in Marriage; A­lexander chuses rather to pursue his Honour through Perils, than to become Master with so much Tranquility: He does not hear­ken to those Proposals; he will accept of nothing but what is extraordinary. His Historian does [Page 116] him a great deal of Honour: sure, a little likelihood would have done well mixt with so much Glory: Does not he make his Heroe more Fool-hardy than wise, and more adventurous than ambitious? Without doubt he sound that way finer; but with­all, he has given us reason to doubt, whether it is a Romance, or an History, which he has left us; for he pushes things too far. So important it is for an Author in all things to make Reason his Standard, and to follow rather the Nature of things, than the fine Imaginations of his own Wit. Let not History then au­thorize the ridiculous Conceits of false Glory, which causes vain People to commit so many Er­rors, the most part of which con­tributes little to true Honour, be­cause they have no sense of it. Let it not attribute to a Mounte-bank the Sentiments of a solid man, nor the Vertues of a Ro­mantick Heroe to a true Knight. Great men are subject to form [Page 117] to themselves Idea's of Glory, af­ter their own fancy, and ac­cording to the failing of their Vanity. But the Publick Interest ought to be dearer to him who governs, than his own Glory: And the true Honour of a great Prince, is to gain the People's Hearts rather than their Fears. Those are the Sentiments which ought to reign most in History, that it may become a Lesson of Clemency to Princes, and a Pat­tern of Reason and good Sense to all People. Let not an Histo­rian therefore be mistaken; let him first distinguish true Honour from false, and in the Maxims of this Life praise only what is good; Let him clear the Peo­ples Errors, without becoming himself a Slave to Popular Sen­timents: Let him never suffer himself to judge of things by their Events, without running up to their Spring; but let him open their very Principles: Let him be careful of doing Justice to the true and pretended Merit, that [Page 118] he may not impose on Posterity, which gives Credit to what is said, without any examination, and sticks to the Litteral Sense: Let him never shew great E­vents, without giving notice of Causes, and without discovering their true Motives. Sometimes it is nothing, or at least, but little; but People lack to see great things come from small Principles, as Dionysius Halicarnassaeus teaches in the Fifth Book of his History, on the occasion of the Revolution of Government from the Kings of Rome, which happen'd through the Insolence of Young T. Liv. l. 1. Ann. Tar­quin, and the Pride of his Fa­ther. That is the Spirit which ought to reign in History, and the Maxim which must be ob­serv'd therein. Let us see its Ge­nius.

XXVI. How the Genius of an Historian must be.

Nothing can be writ consider­able in History, without a Geni­us; that makes all in that Art, as well as in others; and it is only that way that Historians distin­guish themselves from one an­other. A small Genius will make but little of a great Subject; and he that has a great Genius, will make a small Subject appear great. Arduum vi­deturres gestas scribere, quod facta dictis ex­aequanda sunt, Salust. proem. Bell. Catil. To write History well therefore, a man must have an universal Genius, capable of great Idea's, to form to himself a great Model, and great Designs. Hi­story is a thing of importance Magnum quid Histori­am recte scri­bere, & summis Oratoris pro­prium, Cic. l. 2. de Orat., says Cicero, and the business of a Man above the Common Level. And when Lucian, who was one of the finest Wits of his Age, which produc'd so many great men, confesses, that his Genius was too weak for History, and to attain to that Perfection which it requires. He frights me, by cre­ating [Page 120] in me a just apprehension of the difficulty which attends it: For if that Author, which has written nothing but what is admirable, and gives Rules so full of good sense for the wri­ting of History, acknowledges that he is not capable of sustaining the weight of so great a work, what will become of those that in one day set up for Historians, without any knowledge of what is Essential in History, as he says it happen'd in that War in Ar­menia, which produc'd so many Authors, through an Itch of writing, which at that time was a common Disease? But the Times are chang'd, says he; no­thing is more difficult than for a man to compile a Work which all future Ages may esteem, as Thucydides has done. For what strength of Spirit is requisite to speak the Truth, without ma­king Paraphrases, as those do, who have not Souls great enough to be clear and candid, and to speak things as they are? What [Page 121] firmness to unmask Vice, natu­rally disguis'd with Dissimulati­on? What Sagacity to discover the bottom of the Genius of them we speak of, without stick­ing to the exterior part of the Person, which seldom signifies a­ny thing? But when the business is to distinguish People and Times by what is essential in their Cha­racters, how necessary is a clear and distinguishing head? As for Example, in relating the Civil Wars of Rome, not to confound the Spirit of the Commonwealth with that of Monarchy; the abso­luteness of the one with the De­pendency of the other; not to write the Reign of Lewis the Fourteenth, which is no way ad­dicted to Superstition, like that of Lewis the Eleventh, whose Character was Superstition it self; not to represent Charles the Great, like Henry the Third, but to mark the Times and the Per­sons by the difference there is between them. What integrity, exactly to do Justice to Vice and [Page 122] Virtue, to distinguish the true from the pretended Merit, and to use ones self to weigh the A­ctions, without any regard to the Persons? What Judgment, to take always the right side, to turn things to the right sense, to chuse always what is most so­lid; to interpose your Judgement upon the matter in agitation, without forcing the Reader, by any prejudices, to touch tender Points with that niceness of Wit which can only be the Effect of an exquisite sense; not to load your Discourse with too much Matter, which might chance to spoil the Spirit of it, without gi­ving way to any Reflection what­soever, made either by you, or any other Reader; to know how to find the true knot in every business, without mistaking your self in its explanation; not to deliver great Actions upon frivo­lous Motives; not to hide false Thoughts under a florid Expres­sion; to avoid any thing which seems studied and forc'd, and to [Page 123] follow in all things that beam of light and understanding which gives an Idea of the discerning Faculty of the Historian, by gi­ving a good Opinion of his Ca­pacities. So that the most neces­sary part in History is Judgment. An Orator may forget himself in the flights of his Eloquence, and venture bold stroaks, which may pass upon a multitude of People, who are pleas'd with nothing more than boldness. A Poet may ramble from his Text, and has no great necessity to be always wise. The Historian, who speaks only in cold Blood, ought al­ways to be Master of himself, and to say nothing but what is just nothing, in fine, requires so much Sense, so much Reason, so much Wit and Judgment, and so many other Qualities, to at­tain to perfection, as History; and after all is done, an happy Un­derstanding, endued with all those Perfections, is not sufficient, with­out a great knowledge of the World. It was only the Con­versation [Page 124] Polybius had with Sci­pio and Lelius, that made him so able an Historian. We have in Thucydides and Livy accomplish'd Patterns of that Genius requir'd in History. Antiquity has nothing more finish'd in that kind. There is hardly any thing wanting in the one, or in the other, but that Thucydides is yet more sin­cere than Livy, and the last more natural than the first. Tacitus is admirable in his way; Lipsius prefers him before all others: Every body is not of his Opini­on. One may say in general, That he is an Historian of a par­ticular Rank, who has a great deal of agreeableness amongst great failings; but his defects are somewhat hidden under a great­ness of Genius which shines in all he says, and under a loftiness not well to be describ'd, which raise him above many Authors more exact, and more natural than himself. He has his Party and his Admirers. It is true, that he pleases men of Fancy and Ima­gination, [Page 125] but not those that have most Judgment, nor those that love good Sense rather than Flou­rishes. Among Moderns, I find Mariana, Davila, Fra Paolo, have an admirable Genius for History. Mariana has the gift of thinking, and of saying nobly what he thinks and speaks, and of giving a Character of greatness to what runs in his Mind. Davila brings good Circumstances of things, discourses justly enough upon the Subjects he treats of, and carries on his Discourse in a continued Strain, which gives him that obliging Air which he has a­bove others. Fra Paolo, in his History of the Council of Trent, gives what Colours he pleases to what he says: No body ever had that Art in a more eminent degree. He shews also a great Capacity, in searching to the bottom the Matters of Learning which he has in hand, to give his Readers a perfect know­ledge thereof: No body ever writ with more Skill, nor with [Page 126] more Wit, and never with less Justice and Truth. He is a pas­sionate man, who employ'd all his Art in hiding his Passion: He made a jest in every thing, that he might not be thought to be angry; but he falls into another Defect: He raileth too much, in a Subject so serious as his is; for his Passion is seen in every thing he speaks. So that Historian, with his great Genius, has the most Vicious Character that can be in the way of writing History, where nothing is less pardonable than Enmity. An Historian is no longer believ'd, when once he is thought too passionate; which gives occasion of examining the Honesty which is necessary for him that pretends to write.

XXVII. The Historians Morality.

As every one ought to lay down to himself a Rule of Mo­rality, according to his Genius, the Historian's Mind is known by his Principles. You must first of all take it for granted, that there are but few who have hearts noble enough, neither to fear nor hope for any thing; and who will value Truth a­bove Interest, which is the most general Spring of all the wrong Judgments men make in things they speak of. This is what you ought to think upon first, when you take upon you to instruct the Publick; and it is the chiefest Maxim an Historian ought to pro­pose to himself. That being well establish'd, he ought to think on­ly to get Credit in People's good Opinion, and to give a Colour of Truth to all he says. It is that chiefly to which all his en­deavours ought to tend; which [Page 128] he will never effect, but by esta­blishing his Reputation: And it is not by Protestations of being sincere, that he shall demonstrate his Integrity: It is by making appear in all his words, the up­rightness of his heart, and the honesty of his mind. Therefore nothing ought to come from him but what has the stamp of Equi­ty and Reason. The Love he ought to have for Truth, ought to be the Rules of all his Expres­sions, and of all his Idea's. Ne qua sus­picio gratiae sit, ne qua si­multatis, Cic. de Orat. Let him always speak like an ho­nest man; let him never speak any thing that can injure Cha­stity or Integrity; let him keep close to the Sentiments which the severest Honour can inspire; and let nothing ever appear in his words that may raise a question of his Probity and Truth; let him speak so that People may believe him to speak true as of­ten as he speaks, through an as­surance, that he is not capable of imposing. No man can ever err with so good Principles. It [Page 129] is by so pure a Method that Thu­cydides did set up the Reputation of his sincerity through all fol­lowing Ages, and that he has de­serv'd the Credit of all People. It is his Zeal for Religion, and Respect for the Gods, which ap­pears in all Xenophon's Books, that engages People not to question what he says, being persuaded, that a man, who has the Love of Piety so deeply engraven in his heart, cannot lye. Polybius takes more liberty: He relates, as Fables, the Sentiments People had of the Gods, and of Hell; thinking, that way, to destroy them. And it is rather by his Honesty that Livy persuades, than by his great Capacity: through all the Intrigues, Interests, Passions, and other Extravagancies of those men he speaks of, there appears a Probity, which shews him as well honest as a good Historian, One may perceive in the most hidden parts of the Hearts of those he describes, the bottom of his own; and amongst the false [Page 130] lights he discovers in their Con­duct, he never has any false aims; he judges of all things rightly, his Judgment being as true as his Intentions are just. Tacitus is not of that Character; he is a great shuffler, who hides a very bad Mind under a very great Wit: he mistakes always true Merit, because he hardly knows any other than that of Ability; and it is Policy more than Truth, makes him speak, besides his want of Charity to­wards his Neighbour: When he speaks of the Gods, he shews nei­ther Piety nor Religion, as is seen in his Discourse upon Fate against Providence, lib. 6. Annal. and imputes all things to For­tune, and the Stars, concerning Trasullus, Astrologer to Tyberius, who was become his Secretary at Capraea. So difficult it is for an ill man to be a good Historian; for they are almost the same Principles of the one and of the other. So when an Author takes his Pen, he takes upon himself [Page 131] the Character of a Publick Man; and he strips himself of that Ho­nour, whensoever he takes up the Sentiments of a Private Person, to regard himself, and to re­venge his own quarrels; as Pro­copius, who being dissatisfied with the Emperour Justinian, and the Empress Theodora, gives way to his own Passion, and corrupts Truth: Or, to follow private prejudices, as Eusebius and Theo­dorite, which made use of their Histories to establish their own Errors: Or, to flatter those whom you mean to please, as Buchanan, who in his History of Scotland, blemishes the Honour of Mary, to gratifie Queen Elizabeth; and as Fra Paolo, who makes his Hi­story of the Council of Trent a Sa­tyr against the Church of Rome, and Religion; where he shews a Chain of Invectives upon Inve­ctives, to revenge himself upon the Pope, because he had not made him a Cardinal, after the hopes he had given him of it. Paulus Jovius was a man that [Page 132] pursued his Interests, Pensioner to Charles the Fifth, unjust, ma­licious, a great Flatterer: The Pictures he made of the most considerable Persons in his Histo­ry, are Pieces which he pick'd up to compose the Lives of Il­lustrious Men, on purpose to get Money; they are done according as he was pay'd for them. Gui­chardin is angry with France; San­doval makes Charles the Fifth a most Catholick Prince, whilst that Monarch foments Heresie in Germany: all this because Paulus the Third had vex'd him. Ca­brera praises Philip the Second for his Piety, who favour'd Eliza­beth against Mary of Scotland, which he hindred from being Queen, because she favour'd the French; and so overthrew the Catholick Religion in England. Herrera is a Fansaroon, and is par­tial to his Nation. In fine, there are hardly any Historians, but have their own Inclinations and A versions: It goes hard with them to alter their Sentiments, [Page 133] and they make Elogiums by Dire­ctions, or Satyrs, as their own Minds are disposed. Marcellin. in ejus Vita. There are but few like Thucydides, who by a Principle of Right and Equity, praises Pericles, as he deserves, thô he had us'd him very ill; and does always Justice to the A­thenians, who banished him to Thracia, where he died. It is a man without Passions, who pro­poses to himself only the Judg­ment of Posterity, for the Mark he aims at, and his Work, and who has no other desire than that of Truth; wherein he is an honester man than all others; for he never renounces his Pro­bity. Livy favours Pompey more than Caesar, Dio favours Caesar more than Pompey. Ammianus Marcellinus is an everlasting Wor­shipper of Julian the Apostate, but cries out always against Valenti­nian, his Successor, because he was a Christian. Eusebius never shews Constantine but on the right side; Zozimus shews him always the other way. Procopius made [Page 134] his Idol of Bellizary, Egynhart of Charles the Great, Sandoval of Charles the Fifth, Strada of Alex­ander Farneze: In a word, each Historian makes himself an He­roe after his own palate, whom he looks upon as his Creature; and that he might make him ap­pear the better, he studies to make him more admirable. It is this which renders most Histo­aies suspicious, all Historians be­ing passionate; and there being hardly any sincere ones, because there are few disinterested. Those that are above Interest, let them­selves be blinded with the desire of pleasing; and the care they have of their Reputation, leads them into other Extreams. Josephus non tam studebat vera scribere, quam credibi­lia: hac causa fuit cur praete­rierit miracu­la, quod apud Infideles fi­dem non erant habitum, & narravit fabulas, quas putavit iis magis probabiles futuras. Leo Cass. disp. de transl. sacr. leg. c. 36. Jo­sephus in the History of the Jews, suppresses true Miracles, to ma­nage the Gentiles, who would not have believ'd them; and supposes things less true, because he thought them fitter for the palates, and according to their [Page 135] apprehension. An Historian ru­ins himself, if he thinks to be establish'd that way: you must say things as they are; woe to the unbelievers: For nothing is worse in a man who professes to give an account of Truth to the Publick, than to profane it thus. In fine, let nothing slavish ap­pear, nor of Cowardice, in the Sentiments or Inclinations of the Historian; for nothing gives a worse Opinion of his Probity. But thô I do not approve the Flatterers of Great men, as Eu­sebius, who shews nothing in Constantine but what deserves prai­ses, who nevertheless had great failings; my Opinion is, that they ought to be forgiven in some things: For thô one ought to speak nothing but what is true, yet he ought not to say all the Truth. Quintus Curtius might have let alone the Infa­mies he related of Alexander. There are some priviledg'd Heads which a body ought to respect; let us speak of them handsom­ly, [Page 136] and not irreverently: We may expose their Faults, but it must be in a way that does not scandalize their Dignity, nor hurt the Respect due to their Grandeur. Tacitus says so ma­ny dirty things of Tyberius, that Boccalinus cannot suffer him. That which Lampridius tells of the Emperours Heliogabalus and Caracalla, makes his History con­temptible; and Platina shews but little judgment in his manner of treating the Popes. All the World will not be of my side, but wise men will; and I am persuaded, that what Merit so­ever there is in being sincere, a man would render himself ri­diculous to be so in all things. But, as an Author never praises well, unless he does it nicely, so he that bestows his Commenda­tion upon meaner Actions, and not upon those which are essen­tial, and which appear praise­worthy, shall always find the Publick out of humour, because it will never endure those prai­ses [Page 137] which it does not find justly bestow'd: Therefore good Sense advises never to praise, but by a sincere account of praisable A­ctions. Luc. de Conser. Hist. All the World knows the Adventure of Aristobulus, one of the Captains of Alexan­der, who read to him the Hi­story of the Battel which that Prince fought against Porus. A­lexander, who was then in his Barge upon Hydaspus, enrag'd with the Flatteries of that Hi­storian, snatch'd the Book out of his hands, and threw it into the River; adding, that he de­serv'd to be serv'd so too, for be­ing so impudent as to praise him so ill, by attributing to him false Conquests, as if there had been want of true ones. This is very near the Morality I could wish in an Historian; or, at least, it would be my Prin­ciple, in case I had the Fancy to write History, and that I were of a Genius good enough for it. I would, in fine, be so modest, that there might ap­pear [Page 138] Honesty, and never Vani­ty in my Sentiments; which makes me to have no patience with the Extravagancy of that Historian Photius speaks of, who preparing himself to write the History of Alexander, promises, that his Style shall not be worse than the Actions of his Heroe. After all is done, it makes a man lose almost the Fancy of writing, if he has any Sense, when he sees the judgment Dionysius Halicarnassae­us made of Thucydides's History; for there is no judicious Author, but that Critick will make him tremble. These are the Notions I got to my self in reading Histories. I am not so vain as to pretend to give them for Maxims: They are only thoughts, and perhaps but ill digested, which may become good by the good use that may be made of them. Here follow the Senti­ments one may have upon the most considerable Historians.

XXVIII. Judgment of Historians.

Herodotus is the first who has given a reasonable form to Histo­ry; and his merit is, to have led the way to others. His Style is pure and eloquent. Dulcis, can­didus, fusus Herodotus. Fab. l. 10. c. 1. A­then. 1. 3. Athenaeus praises him for the Charms of his Discourse. His Subject is great and vast; for it compasses Nati­ons, Kingdoms, Empires; the Affairs of Europe and Asia. He is not very exact in what he says, because he contains too much matter; but I find in him a sincerity which is not very common, because he uses Greeks and Barbarians, his own Coun­treymen and Strangers, without any shew of Partiality. Platarch. de malign. Herod. I find Plutarch deals with him too ri­gorously, when he makes him to have an ill meaning in most part of his Conjectures; but it is only Envy and Revenge makes him use him so, because he u­sed ill his Countrey of Boeotia, in [Page 140] his History. Laudatur ab omnibus ut re­rum explica­tor sincerus & gravis; hujus nemo neque verborum, ne­que sententia­rum gravita­tem imitatur. Cic. de opt. Orar. Thucydides is ex­act in his way of writing, faith­ful in things he relates, sincere, and not sway'd by Interest: he has Greatness, Nobleness, Maje­sty in his Style; he is always strict, but his strictness has no­thing but what is great in it: The Truth is, that his Subject is lesser, and more limited than that of Herodotus. It is only through a Spirit of Partiality, that Dionysius Halicarnassaeus pre­fers Herodotus before Thucydides, the first being his Countreyman: For my own part, I find him the most accomplish'd Historian a­mong the Greeks. Xenophon is pure in his Language, Natural, agreeable in his Composition; his Mind is easie, rich, full of a deep knowledge, a clear imagination, a just turn; but he is neither great nor elevated. Good Man­ners are not always well ob­serv'd in his History, where he makes ignorant and brutish Peo­ple speak like Philosophers. Ci­cero tells us, that Scipio could not [Page 141] part with him, when once he had him in his hands: Longinus gives it as his Character, That he conceiv'd things happily. Af­ter all is done, he is a well-ac­complished Historian; and it was by the reading of his History, that Scipio and Lucullus became so great Captains. Polybius discour­ses well; he is provided with good and fine Materials, but he does not manage them so well as the others I spoke of but now: He ought, for all that, to be prais'd for the I­dea Brutus had of him, who at the height of his Misfortunes, did pass whole Nights in the reading and studying of them. His De­sign is not so much to write an History, as an Instruction how to govern a Countrey, as he him­self says at the end of his First Book; and he leaves there, in a manner, the Character of an Hi­storian, which obliges him to make a kind of an Apology in the be­ginning of the Ninth Book, about his way of writing History: his Style is much neglected. Dionysi­us [Page 142] Halycarnassaeus shews, in his Book of Roman Antiquities, a deep Sense, Learning and Conduct, which is not common; he is exact, dili­gent and judicious, truer than Li­vy, and of great weight: But, to conclude, he is very tedious in his Speeches. Diodorus Siculus is a man of great Character; but he con­tains too many things, pretending to make an Abridgement of Phili­stus, of Timaeus, of Callisthenes, of Theopompus, and others. Philo and Josephus are Authors of an extra­ordinary Eloquence: They were both Jews, who had too great a desire to please Pagans, by accom­modating themselves like Slaves to their Humour and Taste. Arrian does but Copy Xenophon, and is an affected Imitator of his ways: he has made Seven Books of the Conquests of Alexander, as Xenophon did of Cyrus's: Appianus dabbl'd in all the Greek Historians, and with that hodge-podge has made to himself a Style which resembles no bodies. Scaliger calls him the Thief of Histories; he [Page 143] took the best of his Book out of Plutarch's: but, after all, there is in him a vast deal of matter. Dio Cassius crack'd his Credit with almost every body, because of the extraordinary things which he writes without any distincti­on: for instead of cleaving strict­ly to the Truth, he runs from the very appearance of it, in that place of the 66th Book of his Hi­story, where he says, That Vespasi­an cur'd a blind man by spitting upon his Eyes. Procopius is ex­act in what he says, because he accompanied Bellisarius in the Wars, and was an Eye-witness of his great Actions: but he is too dry in his History of Persia, which looks more like a Journal than History. He satisfied his own Fancy by writing that private Hi­story; but his Modesty was great in his suppressing it: for the thing which he took pains to hide du­ring his Life, was made publick after his Death; wherein he is not altogether inexcusable. Most part of those who have written the Hi­stary [Page 144] of Byzantium, either took Copies one by another, as Agathi­as, Cedrenus, John Curopalatus; or are not very exact; and they come nothing near the Dignity, the Nobleness, the Distinguishing, and the Faithfulness of the An­cient Greeks. Subtilissimus brevitatis arti­fex Salustius, proprietatum in verbis reti­nentissimus. Gell. Amongst the La­tins, Salust looks great, exact, of an admirable Judgment. No bo­dy ever express'd the sensible, ex­act, severe Style of Thucydides, better than he. Salustius ho­mo nequam, sed gravissimus alienae [...]uxu­riae objurgator. Lact. l. 2. de fals. Rel. He is stiff some­times in his Expressions, but not insipid: his being so short, makes him less clear: His Method is good, and he gives weight to eve­ry thing he says: His Thoughts are always fine, thô his Manners be bad; declaring always in Com­mendation of Virtue, and Dete­station of Vice. I find him a little too peevish with his Countrey, and ill affected to his Neighbour; but, for all that, he is a very great man. Caesar had the finest way of expressing himself that ever was. Pedants are in the right in admi­ring him, for the inimitable pu­rity [Page 145] of his Style; but I still ad­mire him the more, for the ex­actness of his Sense, no body ha­ving ever written better. He is almost the only Author that is free from Impertinencies. He speaks of himself but as an indif­ferent body, and nothing disagrees in the wise Character he has ta­ken. It is true, that he is not al­together an Historian, but it is true too, that he is a fine Model to write History by. It is a great Honour for that incomparable Author, that Henry the Fourth of France, and Lewis the Fourteenth have busied themselves in the translating of his History of the Gaules. Livy is the most accom­plish'd of all, because he has all the great Parts of an Historian; the Imagination fine, the Expres­sion noble, an exact Sense, with an admirable Eloquence. None but great Idea's come in his Mind; he fills the Imagination of his Readers with what he says: that way he gains People's Hearts, and moves their Souls; [Page 146] and he has the greatest Genius for History, and is one of the greatest Masters of Eloquence that ever was. In Tito Livio putat inesse Pollio quan­dam Patavini­tatem. Fab. l. 8. c. 1. I do not apprehend Asinius Pollia's meaning, who at­tributes him a Countrey Air, which smells of Lombardy. His great strength is, to make Peo­ple taste what he says, by draw­ing his Readers to his own Sen­timents, by infusing into their Minds his Fears and his Hopes, giving them all his Passion by the Art he has of moving the most hidden Springs of Hearts. Tacitus describes things in a way quite dif­ferent from others; but he sticks too close to great things, to avoid falling into small ones, which ought not to be neglected. His thoughts are good, but he is not always happy enough to express himself neatly. He is too much a Philosopher. He speaks high­ly of every thing: If means Desti­ny was in his hands, he could not speak otherwise: and he morali­zes always upon other People's foo­lishness: and that he may spare no [Page 147] body, he detracts from all Man­kind. How many Spirits has he spoil'd by the desire of studying Politicks, which he inspir'd so ma­ny People with, and which is the vainest of all Studies: 'Tis that ruin'd so many Spaniards, as Anto­nio Perez, and so many Italians, as Machiavel, Ammirato, and others. It is only by the fineness of his Style, that this last pleases so much those of strong minds, and so lit­tle those that are not so; for he gives distasts by the subtilty of his Discourses and Reflections. He is so obscure in his Expressions, that a man must be extreamly vers'd in his Style, to know how to unwrap his Thoughts. Evenit non­nunquam & a­liquid granda inveniat, qui semper quaerit quod nimium est. Fab. l. 2. c. 13. His manner of Criticising is fine of it self; but his constant censuring of all things makes it become course. He is elevated, because his thoughts are always high mounted: It is only that way that he imposes; and it is not so much to please, and to instruct, that he writes, as to make himself be admir'd: he has some­thing extraordinary, which causes [Page 148] People to excuse most part of his failings. But there are so many things to be said of that Author, good and bad, that there is no end in speaking of him. It is a kind of Wit, which is of use on­ly for a shew; that does not fit the ordinary Commerce of men. Quin­tus Curtius deserves praises for his being sincere: he says what is good and bad in Alexander, and never suffers the Merits of his He­roes to prevent him. If there be any thing to be found fault with in his History, it is, that it is too nicely finish't. But for all that, he did ex­cell in the Descriptions of Manners, which he has done with an Air a­greeable and natural. That Cha­racter of Perfections which is found in those great Men, was lost in the following Ages. Justin, who be­came a Compiler, thinking to e­rect himself to an Historian, does only touch things as he passes by. He knows a great deal; he says things sensibly; and he collected many Actions, which otherwise might have been lost. Most part [Page 149] of the Authors; Historiae Augustae, fix'd their Minds to write Lives; as Plutarch and Herodian amongst the Greeks, Suetonius and Cornelius Nepos among the Latins; and so lost the Character of Historians. There came nothing after that, but single Chroniclers, Copiers, Compilers, and such whose Names were known by a course knowledge they gave of their Ages, to whom the Planet of History was not very favourable, ha­ving nothing fine nor reasonable in them. There was but little Truth found in the Modern Greeks, who became Visionaries, and related ex­traordinary Adventures, to please their own Fancies. The Love of Study, which flourish'd again in the late Ages, reviv'd again a number of good and sensible Historians, who by studying Ancient Authors, and ruling themselves by them, gain'd more Reputation than their Prede­cessors Among those that excell'd then, that which is peculiar to Com­mines, is, that he wrote with good sense and sincerity. Paulus Aemili­us speaks purely, but is superficial: [Page 150] Paulus Jovius follows only his Passi­on and his Interest: Machiavel is ex­act enough in his History of Florence; his Wit carries it above his Judg­ment in the rest. He does not do Justice entirely to Castruccio Castrucci, whom he treats as an Enemy of his Countrey. Mariana, in his History of Spain, was out-done by no Mo­dern, neither for the Greatness of the Design, nor for the Nobleness of the Style. Buchanan is a little too much like a Slave in his imita­ting of Livy. He stole from the Ancients what he has that is good. He writes very sensibly, yet has not his thoughts elevated. His long Quotations in the Third Book, do not please every body, no more than the large account he gives in the Second Book of the Notion of the Countrey he speaks of. The Germans have vast Projects about their Histories, and nothing reduc'd into the Natural Order, which an exact Design requires. One may find in most part of the Spaniards a Spirit of Partiality for their Coun­trey, which renders them much sus­pected. [Page 151] The Italians are rich in particular Histories of the several States which compose Italy; but they have no compleat Body of Hi­story. There begins to appear a­mongst us some beams of hopes to have some accomplished Historian, by the approbation the Publick gives to those that write now.


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