POLYBIUS, Lib. ii.



Introduction.—Relation between History and Poetry—Decline of the latter.—Subject of the present Poem slightly touched by the Ancients.—DIONYSIUS—LU­CIAN.—Importance and advantage of History—its origin—subsequent to that of Poetry—disguised in its infancy by Priestcraft and Superstition—brought from EGYPT into GREECE.—Scarcity of great Historians—Perfect composition not to be expected.—Address to History, and Characters of many ancient Historians—HERODOTUS—THUCYDIDES—XENOPHON—POLYBIUS—SALLUST—LIVY—TACITUS.—Bio­graphy—PLUTARCH.—Baleful influence of despo­tic power—AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS—ANNA COMNENA.

HIGH in the world of Letters, and of Wit,
Enthron'd like JOVE, behold Opinion fit!
As symbols of her sway, on either hand
Th' unfailing urns of Praise and Censure stand;*
Their mingled streams her motley servants shed
On each bold Author's self-devoted head.
On thee, O GIBBON! in whose splendid page
ROME shines majestic 'mid the woes of age,
Mistaken Zeal, wrapt in a priestly pall,
Has from the baser urn pour'd darkest gall:
These stains to Learning would a Bard efface
With tides of glory from the golden vase,
But that he feels this nobler task require
A spirit glowing with cogenial fire—
A VIRGIL only may uncensur'd aim
To sing in equal verse a LIVY's fame:
Yet while Polemics, in fierce league combin'd,
With savage discord vex thy feeling mind;
And rashly stain Religion's just defence,
By gross detraction and perverted sense;
Thy wounded ear may haply not refuse
The soothing accents of an humbler Muse.
The lovely Science, whose attractive air
Derives new charms from thy devoted care,
Is near ally'd to that enchanting Art,
Which reigns the idol of the Poet's heart.
[Page 5] Tho' sister Goddesses, thy guardian maid
Shines in the robe of fresher youth array'd,
Like PALLAS recent from the brain of JOVE,
When Strength with Beauty in her features strove;
While elder Poesy, in every clime
The flower of earliest fall, has past her prime:
The bloom, which her autumnal cheeks supply,
Palls on the Public's philosophic eye.
What! tho' no more with Fancy's strong controul
Her Epic wonders fascinate the soul;
With humbler hopes, she wishes still to please
By moral elegance, and labour'd ease:
Like other Prudes, leaves Beauty's lost pretence,
And strives to charm by Sentiment and Sense.
Yet deaf to Envy's voice, and Pride's alarms,
She loves the rival, who eclips'd her charms;
Safe in thy favour, she would fondly stray
Round the wide realm, which owns that Sister's sway,
Sing the just fav'rites of historic fame,
And mark their purest laws and noblest aim.
My eyes with joy this pathless field explore,
Cross'd by no ROMAN Bard, no GREEKS of yore.
Those mighty Lords of literary sway
Have pass'd this province with a slight survey:
E'en He, whose bold and comprehensive mind
Immortal rules to Poesy assign'd,
High Priest of Learning! has not fix'd apart
The laws and limits of historic Art:
Yet one excelling * GREEK in later days,
The happy teacher of harmonious phrase,
Whose patient fingers all the threads untwine,
Which in the mystic chain of Music join;
Strict DIONYSIUS, of severest Taste,
Has justly some historic duties trac'd,
And some pure precepts into practice brought,
Th' Historian proving what the Critic taught.
And LUCIAN! thou, of Humour's sons supreme!
Hast touch'd with liveliest art this tempting theme.
[Page 7] When in the Roman world, corrupt and vain,
Historic Fury madden'd every brain;
When each base GREEK indulg'd his frantic dream,
And rose a * XENOPHON in self-esteem;
Thy Genius satyriz'd the scribbling slave,
And to the liberal pen just lessons gave:
O skill'd to season, in proportion fit,
Severer wisdom with thy sportive wit!
Breathe thy strong power! thy sprightly grace infuse
In the bold efforts of no servile Muse,
If she transplant some lively flower, that throws
Immortal sweetness o'er thy Attic Prose!
In Egypt once a dread tribunal stood;
Offspring of Wisdom! source of Public Good!
Before this Seat, by holy Justice rear'd,
The mighty Dead, in solemn pomp, appear'd;
For till its sentence had their rights expos'd,
The hallow'd portals of the tomb were clos'd;
[Page 8] A sculptur'd form of Truth the Judges wore,
A sacred emblem of the charge they bore!
The claims of Virtue their pure voice exprest,
And bade the opening grave receive its honor'd guest.
Thus awefully array'd in Judgment's robe,
With powers extensive as the peopled Globe;
To her just bar impartial Hist'ry brings
The gorgeous group of Statesmen, Heroes, Kings;
With all whose minds, outshining splendid birth,
Attract the notice of th' enlighten'd earth.
From artful Pomp she strips the proud disguise
That flash'd delusion in admiring eyes;
To injur'd Worth gives Glory's wish'd reward,
And blazons Virtue in her bright record:
Nature's clear Mirror! Life's instructive Guide!
Her wisdom sour'd by no preceptive Pride!
Age from her lesson forms its wisest aim,
And youthful Emulation springs to Fame.
Yet thus adorn'd with noblest powers, design'd
To charm, correct, and elevate mankind,
[Page 9] From darkest Time her humble Birth she drew,
And slowly into Strength and Beauty grew;
As mighty streams, that roll with gather'd force,
Spring feebly forth from some sequester'd source.
The fond desire to pass the nameless crowd,
Swept from the earth in dark Oblivion's cloud;
Of transient life to leave some little trace,
And win remembrance from the rising race,
Led early Chiefs to make their prowess known
By the rude symbol on the artless stone:
And, long ere man the wondrous secret found,
To paint the voice, and fix the fleeting sound,
The infant Muse, ambitious at her birth,*
Rose the young herald of heroic worth.
The tuneful record of her oral praise,
The Sire's atchievements to the Son conveys:
Keen Emulation, wrapt in trance sublime,
Drinks with retentive ear the potent rhyme;
[Page 10] And faithful Memory, from affection strong,
Spreads the rich torrent of her martial song.
Letters at length arise; but envious Night
Conceals their blest Inventor from our sight.
O'er the wide earth his spreading bounty flew,
And swift those precious seeds of Science grew;
Thence quickly sprung the Annal's artless frame,
Time its chief boast! and brevity its aim!
The Temple-wall preserv'd a simple date,
And mark'd in plainest form the Monarch's fate.
But in the center of those vast abodes,*
Whose mighty mass the land of Egypt loads;
Where, in rude triumph over years unknown,
Gigantic Grandeur, from his spiry throne,
Seems to look down disdainful, and deride
The poor, the pigmy toils of modern Pride;
In the close covert of those gloomy cells,
Where early Magic fram'd her venal spells,
[Page 11] Combining priests, from many an ancient tale,
Wove for their hallow'd use Religion's veil;
A wondrous texture! supple, rich, and broad,
To dazzle Folly, and to shelter Fraud!
This, as her caestus, Superstition wore;
And saw th' enchanted world its powers adore:
For in the mystic web was every charm
To lure the timid, and the bold disarm;
To win from easy Faith a blind esteem,
And lull Devotion in a lasting dream.
The Sorceress, to spread her empire, drest
History's young form in this illusive vest,
Whose infant voice repeated, as she taught,
The motley fables on her mantle wrought;
Till Attic Freedom brought the Foundling home
From the dark cells of her Egyptian dome;
Drew by degrees th' oppressive veil aside,
And, shewing the fair Nymph in nature's pride,
Taught her to speak, with all the fire of youth,
The words of Wisdom in the tone of Truth;
[Page 12] To catch the passing shew of public life,
And paint immortal scenes of Grecian strife.
Inchanting Athens! oft as Learning calls
Our fond attention to thy fost'ring walls,
Still with fresh joy thy glories we explore,
With new idolatry thy charms adore.
Bred in thy bosom, the Historian caught
The warmest glow of elevated thought.
Yet while thy triumphs to his eye display,
The noblest scene his pencil can portray;
While thy rich language, grac'd by every Muse,
Supplies the brightest tints, his hand can use;
How small their band, who, in thy happier days,
Reach the bright summit of historic praise!
'Tis thus with every Art, in every age,
From the mechanic to the moral sage:
Excelling merit is by nature rare:
Millions contend for crowns they cannot wear.
Coy Science, in her scene of wide command,
Bestows her honours with a sparing hand;
[Page 13] Like CHARLEMAIN's proud host, her vassal crew
No tongue can count—Her paladins are few.
Pure, faultless writing, like transmuted gold,
Mortals may wish, but never shall behold:
Let Genius still this glorious object own,
And seek Perfection's philosophic stone!
For while the mind, in study's toilsome hours,
Tries on the long research her latent powers,
New wonders rise, to pay her patient thought,
Inferior only to the prize she sought.
But idle Pride no arduous labor sees,
And deems th' Historian's toil a task of ease:
Yet, if survey'd by Judgment's steady lamp,
How few are justly grac'd with Glory's stamp!
Tho' more these volumes, than the ruthless mind
Of the fierce OMAR to the flames consign'd,*
When Learning saw the savage with a smile
Devote her offspring to the blazing pile!
O History! whose pregnant mines impart
Unfailing treasures to poetic art;
The Epic gem, and those of darker hues,
Whose trembling lustre decks the tragic Muse;
If, justly conscious of thy powers, I raise
A votive tablet to record thy praise,
That ancient temple to my view unfold,
Where thy first Sons, on Glory's list enroll'd,
To Fancy's eye, in living forms, appear,
And fill with Freedom's notes the raptur'd ear!—
The dome expands!—Behold th' Historic Sire!*
Ionic roses mark his soft attire;
Bold in his air, but graceful in his mien
As the fair figure of his favour'd Queen,
When her proud galley sham'd the Persian van,
And grateful XERXES own'd her more than man!
Soft as the stream, whose dimpling waters play,
And wind in lucid lapse their pleasing way,
[Page 15] His rich, Homeric elocution flows,
For all the Muses modulate his prose:
Tho' blind Credulity his step misleads
Thro' the dark mist of her Egyptian meads,
Yet when return'd, with patriot passions warm,
He paints the progress of the Persian storm,
In Truth's illumin'd field, his labours rear
A trophy worthy of the Spartan spear:
His eager country, in th' Olympic vale,
Throngs with proud joy to catch the martial tale.
Behold! where Valour, resting on his lance,
Drinks the sweet sound in rapture's silent trance,
Then, with a grateful shout of fond acclaim,
Hails the just herald of his country's fame!—
But mark the Youth, in dumb delight immers'd!*
See the proud tear of emulation burst!
O faithful sign of a superior foul!
Thy prayer is heard:—'tis thine to reach the goal.
[Page 16] See! blest OLORUS! see the palm is won!
Sublimity and Wisdom crown thy Son:
His the rich prize, that caught his early gaze,
Th' eternal treasure of increasing praise!
Pure from the stain of favor, or of hate,
His nervous line unfolds the deep Debate;
Explores the seeds of War; with matchless force
Draws Discord, springing from Ambition's source,
With all her Demagogues, who murder Peace,
In the fierce struggles of contentious Greece.
Stript by Ingratitude of just command—
Above resentment to a thankless land,
Above all envy, rancour, pride, and spleen,
In exile patient, in disgrace serene,
And proud to celebrate, as Truth inspires,
Each patriot Hero, that his soul admires—
The deep-ton'd trumpet of renown he blows,
In sage retirement 'mid the Thracian snows.
But to untimely silence Fate devotes
Those lips, yet trembling with imperfect notes,
[Page 17] And base Oblivion threatens to devour
E'en this first offspring of historic power.
A generous guardian of a rival's fame,*
Mars the dark Fiend in this malignant aim:
Accomplish'd XENOPHON! thy truth has shewn
A brother's glory sacred as thy own:
O rich in all the blended gifts, that grace
Minerva's darling sons of Attic race!
The Sage's olive, the Historian's palm,
The Victor's laurel, all thy name embalm!
Thy simple diction, free from glaring art,
With sweet allurement steals upon the heart;
Pure, as the rill, that Nature's hand refines,
A cloudless mirror of thy soul it shines.
Two passions there by foft contention please,
The love of martial Fame, and learned Ease:
These friendly colours, exquisitely join'd,
Form the enchanting picture of thy mind.
[Page 18] Thine was the praise, bright models to afford
To CAESAR's rival pen, and rival sword:
Blest, had Ambition not destroy'd his claim
To the mild lustre of thy purer fame!
Thou pride of Greece! in thee her triumphs end:
And Roman chiefs in borrow'd pomp ascend.
Rome's haughty genius, who enslav'd the Greek,*
In Grecian language deigns at first to speak:
By slow degrees her ruder tongue she taught
To tell the wonders that her valour wrought;
And her historic host, with envious eye,
View in their glittering van a Greek ally.
Thou Friend of SCIPIO! vers'd in War's alarms!
Torn from thy wounded country's struggling arms!
And doom'd in Latian bosoms to instill
Thy moral virtue, and thy martial skill!
Pleas'd, in researches of elaborate length,
To trace the fibres of the Roman strength!
[Page 19] O highly perfect in each nobler part,
The Sage's wisdom, and the Soldier's art!
This richer half of Grecian praise is thine:
But o'er thy style the slighted Graces pine,
And tir'd Attention toils thro' many a maze,
To reach the purport of thy doubtful phrase:
Yet large are his rewards, whose toils engage
To clear the spirit of thy cloudy page;
Like Indian fruit, its rugged rind contains
Those milky sweets that pay the searcher's pains.
Rome's haughty Genius, with exulting claim,
Points to her rivals of the Grecian name!
Sententious SALLUST leads her lofty train;*
Clear, tho' concise, elaborately plain,
Poising his scale of words with frugal care,
Nor leaving one superfluous atom there!
Yet well displaying, in a narrow space,
Truth's native strength, and Nature's easy grace;
[Page 20] Skill'd to detect, in tracing Action's course,
The hidden motive, and the human source.
His lucid brevity the palm has won,
By Rome's decision, from OLORUS' Son.
Of mightier spirit, of majestic frame,
With powers proportion'd to the Roman fame,
When Rome's fierce Eagle his broad wings unfurl'd,
And shadow'd with his plumes the subject world,
In bright pre-eminence, that Greece might own,
Sublimer LIVY claims th' Historic throne;*
With that rich Eloquence, whose golden light
Brings the full scene distinctly to the sight;
That Zeal for Truth, which Interest cannot bend,
That Fire, which Freedom ever gives her friend.
Immortal artist of a work supreme!
Delighted Rome beheld, with proud esteem,
Her own bright image, of Colossal size,
From thy long toils in purest marble rise.
[Page 21] But envious Time, with a malignant stroke,
This sacred statue into fragments broke;
In Lethe's stream its nobler portions sunk,
And left Futurity the wounded trunk.
Yet, like the matchless, mutilated frame,*
To which great ANGELO bequeath'd his name,
This glorious ruin, in whose strength we find
The splendid vigour of the Sculptor's mind,
In the fond eye of Admiration still
Rivals the finish'd forms of modern skill.
Next, but, O LIVY! as unlike to thee,
As the pent river to th' expanding sea,
Sarcastic TACITUS, abrupt and dark,
In moral anger forms the keen remark;
Searching the soul with microscopic power,
To mark the latent worm that mars the flower.
His Roman voice, in base degenerate days,
Spoke to Imperial Pride in Freedom's praise;
[Page 22] And with indignant hate, severely warm,
Shew'd to gigantic Guilt his ghastly form!
There are, whose censures to his Style assign
A subtle spirit, rigid and malign;
Which magnified each monster that he drew,
And gave to darkest vice a deeper hue:
Yet his strong pencil shews the gentlest heart,
In one sweet sketch of Biographic art,
Whose softest tints, by filial love combin'd,
Form the pure image of his Father's mind.
O blest Biography! thy charms of yore
Historic Truth to strong Affection bore;
And fost'ring Virtue gave thee, as thy dower,
Of both thy Parents the attractive power
To win the heart, the wavering thought to fix,
And fond delight with wise instruction mix.
First of thy votaries, peerless, and alone,
Thy PLUTARCH shines, by moral beauty known:*
[Page 23] Enchanting Sage! whose living lessons teach,
What heights of Virtue human efforts reach.
Tho' oft thy Pen, eccentrically wild,
Ramble, in Learning's various maze beguil'd;
Tho' in thy Style no brilliant graces shine,
Nor the clear conduct of correct Design,
Thy every page is uniformly bright
With mild Philanthropy's diviner light.
Of gentlest manners, as of mind elate,
Thy happy Genius had the glorious fate
To regulate, with Wisdom's soft controul,
The strong ambition of a TRAJAN's soul.
But O! how rare benignant Virtue springs,
In the blank bosom of despotic kings!
Thou bane of liberal knowledge! Nature's curse!
Parent of Misery! pamper'd Vice's nurse!
Thou who canst bind, by thy petrific breath,
The soul of Genius in the trance of death!
Unbounded Power! beneath thy baleful sway,
The voice of Hist'ry sinks in dumb decay.
Still in thy gloomy reign one martial Greek,
In Rome's corrupted language dares to speak;
Mild MARCELLINUS! free from servile awe!*
A faithful painter of the woes he saw;
Forc'd by the meanness of his age to join
Adulterate Colours with his just Design!
The slighted Attic Muse no more supplies
Her pencil, dipt in Nature's purest dies;
And Roman Emulation, at a stand,
Drops the blurr'd pallet from her palsy'd hand.
But while monastic Night, with gathering shades,
The ruin'd realm of History invades;
While, pent in CONSTANTINE's ill-fated walls,
The mangled form of Roman Grandeur falls,
And, like a Gladiator on the sand,
Props his faint body with a dying hand;
While savage Turks, or the fierce Sons of Thor,
Wage on the Arts a wild Titanian war;
[Page 25] While manly Knowledge hides his radiant head,
As Jove in terror from the Titans fled;
See! in the lovely charms of female youth,
A second Pallas guards the throne of Truth!
And, with COMNENA's royal name imprest,*
The zone of Beauty binds her Attic vest!
Fair star of Wisdom! whose unrival'd light
Breaks thro' the stormy cloud of thickest night;
Tho' in the purple of proud misery nurst,
From those oppressive bands thy spirit burst;
Pleas'd, in thy public labours, to forget
The keen domestic pangs of fond regret!
Pleas'd to preserve, from Time's destructive rage,
A Father's virtues in thy faithful page!
Too pure of soul to violate, or hide
Th' Historian's duty in the Daughter's pride!
Tho' base Oblivion long with envious hand
Hid the fair volume which thy virtue plann'd,
[Page 26] It shines, redeem'd from Ruin's darkest hour,
A wond'rous monument of Female power;
While conscious Hist'ry, careful of thy fame,
Ranks in her Attic band thy filial name,
And sees, on Glory's stage, thy graceful mien
Close the long triumph of her ancient scene!


‘Sunt et alii Scriptores boni: sed nos genera degustamus, non bibliothecas excutimus. QUINTIL. Lib. x.

Defects of the Monkish Historians—our obligations to the best of them.—Contrast between two of the most fa­bulous, and two of the most rational.—Indulgence due to Writers of the dark Ages.—Arabians—ABULFEDA—BOHADDIN.—Slow Progress of the human Mind.—Chivalry.—FROISSART.—Revival of ancient Learn­ing under LEO X.—Historians in Italy, MACHIA­VEL, GUICCIARDIN, DAVILA, and Father PAUL—in Portugal, OSORIUS—in Spain, MARIANA—in Holland, GROTIUS—in France, THUANUS.—Praise of Toleration.—VOLTAIRE.—Address to Eng­land.—CLARENDON—BURNET—RAPIN—HUME LYTTELTON.—Reason for not attempting to de­scribe any living Historian.

AS eager Fossilists with ardour pore
On the flat margin of the pebbled shore,
Hoping some curious Shell, or Coral-root,
Will pay the labours of their long pursuit;
And yield their hand the pleasure to display
Nature's neglected Gems in nice array:
So, GIBBON! toils the mind, whose labour wades
Thro' the dull Chronicle's monastic shades,
[Page 30] To pick from that drear coast, with learned care,
New shells of Knowledge, thinly scatter'd there;
Who patient hears, while cloister'd Dullness tells
The lying legend of her murky cells;
Or strangely mingles, in her phrase uncouth,
Disgusting Lies with unimportant Truth:
How Bishops give (each tort'ring Fiend o'ercome)
Life to the faint, and language to the dumb:
How sainted Kings renounce, with holy dread,*
The chaste endearments of their marriage-bed:
How Nuns, entranc'd, to joys celestial mount,
Frantic with rapture from a sacred fount:
How cunning Priests their dying Lord cajole,
And take his riches to ensure his soul:
While he endows them, in his pious will,
With those choice gifts, the Meadow and the Mill,
They wisely chronicle his Spirit's health,
And give him Virtue in return for Weath.
[Page 31] So Hist'ry sinks, by Hypocrites deprest,
In the coarse habit of the cloister drest;
When her weak Sons that noxious air imbibe,
Such are the tales of their monastic tribe!
But let not Pride, with blind contempt, arraign
Each early Writer in that humble train!
No! let the Muse, a friend to every claim,
That marks the Candidate for honest fame,
Be just to patient Worth, severely sunk,
And paint the merits of the modest Monk!
Ye purer minds! who stopt, with native force,
Blind Ignorance in his barbarian course;
Who, in the field of Hist'ry, dark and waste,
Your simple path with steady patience trac'd;
Blest be your labours! and your virtues blest!
Tho' paid with insult, and with scorn opprest,
Ye rescu'd Learning's lamp from total night,
And sav'd with anxious toil the trembling light,
In the wild storm of that tempestuous time,
When Superstition cherish'd every crime;
[Page 32] When meaner Priests pronounc'd with falt'ring tongue,
Nor knew to read the jargon which they sung;
When Nobles, train'd like blood-hounds to destroy,
In ruthless rapine plac'd their savage joy;
And Monarchs wanted ev'n the skill to frame
The letters that compos'd their mighty name.
How strong the mind, that, try'd by ills like these,
Could write untainted with the Time's disease!
That, free from Folly's lie, and Fraud's pretence,
Could rise to simple Truth, and sober Sense!
Such minds existed in the darkest hour
Of blind Barbarity's debasing power.
If mitred TURPIN told, in wildest strain,*
Of giant-feats atchiev'd by CHARLEMAIN;
Of spears, that blossom'd like the flowery thorn,
Of ROLAND's magic sword, and ivory horn,
Whose sound was wafted by an angel's wing,
In notes of anguish, to his distant king;
[Page 33] Yet modest AEGINHARD, with grateful care,*
In purer colours, and with Nature's air,
Has drawn distinctly, in his clear record,
A juster portrait of this mighty Lord,
Whose forceful lance, against the Pagan hurl'd,
Shone the bright terror of a barbarous world.
Nor on his master does he idly shower
The priestly gifts of supernat'ral Power:
This candid Scribe of Gratitude and Truth,
Correctly paints the Patron of his youth,
Th' imperial Savage, whose unletter'd mind
Was active, strong, beneficent, and kind;
Who, tho' he lov'd the Learned to requite,
Knew not that simplest art, the art to write.
If British GEFFREY fill'd his motley page
With MERLIN's spells, and UTHER's amorous rage;
With fables from the field of Magic glean'd,
Giant and Dragon, Incubus and Fiend;
[Page 34] Yet Life's great drama, and the Deeds of men,
Sage Monk of Malm'sbury! engag'd thy pen.*
Nor vainly dost thou plead, in modest phrase,
Thy manly passion for ingenuous praise:
'Twas thine the labours of thy Sires to clear
From Fiction's harden'd spots, with toil severe;
To form, with eyes intent on public life,
Thy bolder sketches of internal strife;
And warmly celebrate, with love refin'd,
The rich endowments of thy GLO'STER's mind;
May this, thy Praise, the Monkish pen exempt
From the ungenerous blame of blind Contempt!
Tho' Truth appear to make thy works her care,
The lurking Prodigy still lingers there:
But let not censure on thy name be thrown
For errors, springing from thy Age alone!
Shame on the Critic! who, with idle scorn,
Depreciates Authors, in dark periods born,
[Page 35] Who chance to want, irregularly bright,
That equal Knowledge, and that steadier Light,
Which Learning, in its full meridian power,
Has richly lavish'd on his happier hour!
Where martial tribes a warlike Despot own,
And civil Freedom is a bliss unknown,
In casual fits of intermitted strife,
The Arts are summon'd into transient life:
The royal mind supplies the quick'ning ray,
And Science seems the insect of a day.
Mark the fierce sons of many a savage horde,
That from her fertile wilds Arabia pour'd!
Behold them, as they range the subject earth,
Now stifle Knowledge, and now give it birth!
In Syrian Hamah, lo! a Prince presides,
Whose faithful hand the pen of Hist'ry guides:
Mild ABULFEDA! whose rich merits claim*
No single wreath of literary Fame:
[Page 36] The regions he describ'd, his talents boast,
And Eastern Poets rank him in their host.
In different climes behold an Arab Lord
Crush the fair Art his brutal soul abhorr'd!
And with that victim's blood his sabre stain,*
Who dar'd to write the annals of his reign!
Yet in the land, that saw this savage deed,
Arabian Science gain'd her richest meed:
There Corduba, in hours of happier fate,
Sublimely rose in academic state,
Alike for Gallantry and Learning known,
Asylum of the Arts, and Valour's throne!
Ye turrets crescent-crown'd! the prey of Time!
Bright scenes! that echoed with Arabian rhyme;
Ere yet Oblivion's hateful curtain falls
On the faint splendor of your prostrate walls,
May some just hand your hidden wealth explore,
The laurel to your letter'd Chiefs restore,
[Page 37] To all your pomp a new existence give,
And bid your glories in description live!
The daring Moor, tho' robb'd of Freedom's rays,
Glow'd with the noble avarice of praise;
Keen as an Attic mind in Fame's pursuit,
He shook, from Labour's tree, that golden fruit.
Of all the heroes of the Moslem line,
Triumphant SALADIN! 'twas chiefly thine
To cherish, in thy scenes of bloody strife,
A just Encomiast of thy splendid life;
Thy warm BOHADDIN, with that generous zeal,*
Which no base sons of Adulation feel,
At large delineates, with historic Art,
Thy bold, intrepid mind, thy gentle heart.
Tho' in his portrait, which reveals the Friend,
The tints of Truth with those of Fondness blend,
The picture, finish'd on no servile plan,
Gives to our view the hero, and the man.
[Page 38] Affliction speaks, all abject aims above,
The tender Servant in the Scribe we love;
Who shrinks, disabled by the gushing tear,
From his last duty to a Lord so dear.
Yet, tho' his bosom, touch'd with manly grief,
Shar'd the mild virtue of his feeling Chief,
His page betrays the bigot of the East,
And lavish execrations mark the Priest.
In all its various paths, the human Mind
Feels the first efforts of its strength confin'd;
And in the field, where History's laurels grow,
Winds its long march with lingering step and slow:
Like Fruit, whose taste to sweet luxuriance runs
By constant succour from autumnal suns,
This lovely Science ripens by degrees,
And late is fashion'd into graceful ease.
In those enlivening days, when Europe rose
From the long pressure of lethargic woes;
[Page 39] When the Provençal lyre, with roses drest,
By ardent Love's extatic fingers prest,
Wak'd into life the genius of the West;
When Chivalry, her banners all unfurl'd,
Fill'd with heroic fire the splendid world;
In high-plum'd grandeur held her gorgeous reign,
And rank'd each brilliant Virtue in her train;
When she imparted, by her magic glove,
To Honour strength, and purity to Love;
New-moulded Nature on her noblest plan,
And gave fresh sinews to the soul of man:
When the chief model of her forming hand,
Our sable EDWARD, on the Gallic strand,
Display'd that spirit which her laws bestow,
And shone the idol of his captive foe:
Unblest with Arts, th' unletter'd age could yield
No skilful hand, to paint from Glory's field
Scenes, that Humanity with pride must hear,
And Admiration honour with a tear.
Yet Courtesy, with generous Valour join'd,
Fair Twins of Chivalry! rejoic'd to find
A faithful Chronicler in plain FROISSART;*
More rich in honesty than void of art.
As the young Peasant, led by spirits keen
To some great city's gay and gorgeous scene,
Returning, with increase of proud delight,
Dwells on the various splendor of the sight;
And gives his tale, tho' told in terms uncouth,
The charm of Nature, and the force of Truth,
Tho' rude engaging; such thy simple page
Seems, O FROISSART! to this enlighten'd age.
Proud of their spirit, in thy writings shewn,
Fair Faith and Honour mark thee for their own;
Tho' oft the dupe of those delusive times,
Thy Genius, foster'd with romantic rhymes,
Appears to play the legendary Bard,
And trespass on the Truth it meant to guard.
[Page 41] Still shall thy Name, with lasting glory, stand
High on the list of that advent'rous band,
Who, bidding History speak a modern tongue,
From her cramp'd hand the Monkish fetters flung,
While yet depress'd in Gothic night she lay,
Nor saw th' approaching dawn of Attic day.
On the blest banks of Tiber's honour'd stream
Shone the first glance of that reviving beam;
Enlighten'd Pontiffs, on the signal spot
Where Science was proscrib'd, and Sense forgot,
Bade Learning start from out her mould'ring tomb,
And taught new laurels on her brow to bloom;
Their Magic voice invok'd all Arts, and all
Sprung into glory at the potent call.
As in Arabia's waste, where Horror reigns,
Gigantic tyrant of the burning plains!
The glorious bounty of some Royal mind,
By Heaven inspir'd, and friend to human kind,
Bids the rich Structure of refreshment rise,
To chear the Traveller's despairing eyes;
[Page 42] Who sees with rapture the new fountains burst,
And, as he slakes his soul-subduing thirst,
Blesses the hand which all his pains beguil'd,
And rais'd an Eden in the dreary wild:
Such praises, LEO! to thy name are due,
From all who Learning's cultur'd field review,
And to its Fountain, in thy liberal heart,
Trace the diffusive Stream of modern Art.
'Twas not thy praise to animate alone
The speaking Canvass, and the breathing Stone,
Or tides of Bounty round Parnassus roll,
To quicken Genius in the Poet's soul;
Thy Favour, like the Sun's prolific ray,
Brought the keen SCRIBE OF FLORENCE into Day;*
Whose subtle Wit discharg'd a dubious shaft,
At once the Friend and Foe of Kingly Craft.
Tho', in his maze of Politics perplext,
Great Names have differ'd on that doubtful text;
[Page 43] Here crown'd with praise, as true to Virtue's side,
There view'd with horror, as th' Assassin's guide;
High in a purer sphere, he shines afar,
And Hist'ry hails him as her Morning-star.
Nor less, O LEO! was it thine to raise
The great Historic Chief of modern days,*
The solemn GUICCIARDIN, whose pen severe,
Unsway'd by favour, nor restrain'd by fear,
Mark'd in his close of life, with keen disdain,
Each fatal blemish in thy motley reign;
Who, like OLORUS' Son, of spirit chaste,
And form'd to martial toils, minutely trac'd
The woes he saw his bleeding country bear,
And wars, in which he claim'd no trivial share.
With equal wreaths let DAVILA be crown'd,
Alike in letters and in arms renown'd!
Who, from his country driv'n by dire mischance,
Plung'd in the civil broils of bleeding France,
[Page 44] Maintaining still, in Party's raging sea,
His judgment steady, and his spirit free;
Save when the fierce religion of his Sires
Drown'd the soft zeal Humanity inspires:
Who boldly wrote, with such a faithful hand,
The tragic story of that foreign land,
The hoary Gallic Chief, whose tranquil age
Listen'd with joy to his recording page,
Tracing the scenes familiar to his youth,
Gave his strong sanction to th' Historian's truth.
Oh Italy! tho' drench'd with civil blood,
Tho' drown'd in Bigotry's soul-quenching flood,
Historic Genius, in thy troubles nurst,
Ev'n from the darkness of the Convent burst.
Venice may boast eternal Honour, won
By the bright labours of her dauntless Son,
Whose hand the curtains of the Conclave drew,
And gave each priestly art to public view.
SARPI, blest name! from every foible clear,*
Not more to Science than to Virtue dear.
Thy pen, thy life, of equal praise secure!
Both wisely bold, and both sublimely pure!
That Freedom bids me on thy merits dwell,
Whose radiant form illum'd thy letter'd cell;
Who to thy hand the noblest task assign'd,
That earth can offer to a heavenly mind:
With Reason's arms to guard invaded laws,
And guide the pen of Truth in Freedom's cause.
Too firm of heart at Danger's cry to stoop,
Nor Lucre's slave, nor vain Ambition's dupe,
Thro' length of days invariably the same,
Thy Country's liberty thy constant aim!
For this thy spirit dar'd th' Assassin's knife,
That with repeated guilt pursu'd thy life;
For this thy fervent and unweary'd care
Form'd, ev'n in death, thy patriotic prayer,
[Page 46] And, while his shadows on thine eye-lids hung,
"Be it immortal!" trembled on thy tongue.
But not restricted, by the partial Fates,
To the bright cluster of Italian States,
The light of Learning, and of liberal Taste,
Diffusely shone o'er Europe's Gothic waste.
On Tagus' shore, from whose admiring strand
Great GAMA sail'd, when his advent'rous hand
The flag of glorious enterprize unfurl'd,
To purchase with his toils the Eastern world,
The clear OSORIUS, in his classic phrase,*
Portray'd the Heroes of those happier days,
When Lusitania, once a mighty name,
Outstripp'd each rival in the chace of Fame:
Mild and majestic, her Historian's page
Shares in the glory of her brightest age.
Iberia's Genius bids just Fame allow
As bright a wreath to MARIANA's brow:
[Page 47] Skill'd to illuminate the distant scene,
In diction graceful, and of spirit keen,
His labour, by his country's love endear'd,
The gloomy chaos of her Story clear'd.
He first aspir'd its scatter'd parts to class,
And bring to juster form the mighty mass;
As the nice hand of Geographic art
Draws the vast globe on a contracted chart,
Where Truth uninjur'd sees, with glad surprize,
Her shape still perfect, tho' of smaller size.
Exalted Mind! who felt the People's right,
In climes, where souls are crush'd by Kingly might;
And dar'd, unaw'd before a tyrant's throne,
To make the sanctity of Freedom known!
But short, O Genius! is thy transient hour,
In the dark regions of despotic Power.
As the faint struggle of the solar beam,
When vapours intercept the golden stream,
Pouring thro' parted clouds a glancing fire,
Plays, in short triumph, on some glittering spire;
[Page 48] But while the eye admires the partial ray,
The pale and watery lustre melts away:
Thus gleams of literary splendor play'd,
And thus on Spain's o'erclouded realm decay'd:
While Holland, Liberty's immediate care,
Defy'd the pressure of Boeotian air,
Burst the oppressive gloom around her hurl'd,
And drew attention from th' admiring world.
When, by long toils, her dauntless warriors broke
Their Spanish bonds, and spurn'd a bloody yoke,
In the bright moments of that blessed hour,
With talents equal to his Country's power,
The fervid GROTIUS to her glory rais'd*
A column, splendid as the feats he prais'd;
Stifled his just resentment, to bestow
A clear encomium on his private foe,
And honour'd in the Chief, who sav'd the State,
The rash oppressor, who provok'd his hate.
Thou all-accomplish'd Youth! whose early page
Charm'd the astonish'd eye of learned Age,
Let admiration of thy worth inspire
Such liberal praise, as echoed from thy lyre,
When Honour crown'd, by thy poetic hand,
The far-fam'd Scholar of thy native land!
Learning ne'er saw, in all her numerous race,
A son more worthy of her fond embrace:
Thy mind expanded to her empire's bound;
There every Science a firm station found;
There gay and grave, in rare assemblage, shone;
A wonder, equall'd by thy heart alone!
For, by enlighten'd Faith's presiding care,
The rival Virtues were all marshall'd there.
Worth so transcendent, Heaven with smiles survey'd,
And with the choicest of its gifts repaid;
Gave thee a Partner of thy chequer'd fate,
Pure as thy Genius, and as firmly great;
With equal love, with equal courage warm,
A kindred Spirit in a softer form:
[Page 50] Thy dear MARIA shar'd thy captive hour,
She brav'd the vengeance of offended power;
And, with the fondness of Admetus' wife,
Restor'd thy freedom at the risk of life:
Her days were guarded by the Powers above;
And thy just lyre immortaliz'd her love.
Ye peerless Couple! tho' with wrongs opprest,
In virtue happy, and by union blest,
From Fame's fond lips your blended praise shall flow,
While Excellence can find a friend below;
While Love's chaste fires thro' human bosoms roll;
While Liberty and Truth delight the soul!
Your names, applauded by the spacious earth,
Still dignify the land that boasts your birth;
Tho' her tame Genius, Wealth's more willing slave,
Soon lost that mental fire, which Freedom gave,
Whose brilliant flame in sickly languor dies,
Where'er the damps of Avarice arise:
Hence, tho' less free, yet true to Honour's aim,
France is more opulent in letter'd fame.
There, in the dignity of virtuous Pride,
Thro' painful scenes of public service try'd,
And keenly conscious of his Country's woes,
The liberal spirit of THUANUS rose:*
O'er Earth's wide stage a curious eye he cast,
And caught the living pageant as it past:
With patriot care most eager to advance
The rights of Nature, and the weal of France!
His language noble, as his temper clear
From Faction's rage, and Superstition's fear!
In Wealth laborious! amid Wrongs sedate!
His Virtue lovely, as his Genius great!
Ting'd with some marks, that from his climate spring,
He priz'd his Country, but ador'd his King;
Yet with a zeal from slavish awe refin'd,
Shone the clear model of a Gallic mind.
Thou friend of Science! 'twas thy signal praise,
A just memorial of her Sons to raise;
[Page 52] To blazon first, on Hist'ry's brighter leaf,
The laurel'd Writer with the laurel'd Chief!
But O! pure Spirit! what a fate was thine!
How Truth and Reason at thy wrongs repine!
How blame thy King, tho' rob'd in Honour's ray,
Who left thy Fame to subtle Priests a prey,
And tamely saw their murky wiles o'erwhelm
Thy works, the light of his reviving realm!
Tho' Pontiffs execrate, and Kings betray,
Let not this fate your generous warmth allay,
Ye kindred Worthies! who still dare to wield
Reason's keen sword, and Toleration's shield,
In climes where Persecution's iron mace
Is rais'd to massacre the human race!
The heart of Nature will your virtue feel,
And her immortal voice reward your zeal:
First in her praise her fearless champions live,
Crown'd with the noblest palms that earth can give.
Firm in this band, who to her aid advance,
And high amid th' Historic sons of France,
[Page 53] Delighted Nature saw, with partial care,
The lively vigour of the gay VOLTAIRE;
And fondly gave him, with ANACREON's fire,
To throw the hand of Age across the lyre:
But mute that vary'd voice, which pleas'd so long!
Th' Historian's tale is clos'd; the Poet's song!
Within the narrow tomb behold him lie,
Who fill'd so large a space in Learning's eye!
Thou Mind unweary'd! thy long toils are o'er;
Censure and Praise can touch thy ear no more:
Still let me breathe with just regret thy name,
Lament thy foibles, and thy powers proclaim!
On the wide sea of Letters 'twas thy boast
To croud each sail, and touch at every coast:
From that rich deep how often hast thou brought
The pure and precious pearls of splendid Thought!
How didst thou triumph on that subject-tide,
Till Vanity's wild gust, and stormy Pride,
Drove thy strong bark, in evil hour, to split
Upon the fatal rock of impious Wit!
[Page 54] But be thy failings cover'd by thy tomb!
And guardian laurels o'er thy ashes bloom!
From the long annals of the world thy art,
With chemic process, drew the richer part;
To Hist'ry gave a philosophic air,
And made the interest of mankind her care;
Pleas'd her grave brow with garlands to adorn,
And from the rose of Knowledge strip the thorn.
Thy lively Eloquence, in prose, in verse,
Still keenly bright, and elegantly terse,
Flames with bold spirit; yet is idly rash:
Thy promis'd light is oft a dazzling flash;
Thy Wisdom verges to sarcastic sport,
Satire thy joy! and ridicule thy fort!
But the gay Genius of the Gallic soil,
Shrinking from solemn tasks of serious toil,
Thro' every scene his playful air maintains,
And in the light Memoir unrival'd reigns.
[Page 55] Thy Wits, O France! (as e'en thy Critics own)*
Support not History's majestic tone;
They, like thy Soldiers, want, in feats of length,
The persevering soul of British strength.
Hail to thee, Britain! hail! delightful land!
I spring with filial joy to reach thy strand:
And thou! blest nourisher of Souls, sublime
As e'er immortaliz'd their native clime,
Rich in Poetic treasures, yet excuse
The trivial offering of an humble Muse,
Who pants to add, with fears by love o'ercome,
Her mite of Glory to thy countless sum!
With vary'd colours, of the richest dye,
Fame's brilliant banners o'er thy Offspring fly:
In native Vigour bold, by Freedom led,
No path of Honour have they fail'd to tread:
But while they wisely plan, and bravely dare,
Their own atchievements are their latest care.
[Page 56] Tho' CAMDEN, rich in Learning's various store,
Sought in Tradition's mine Truth's genuine ore,
The waste of Hist'ry lay in lifeless shade,
Tho' RAWLEIGH's piercing eye that world survey'd.
Tho' mightier Names there cast a casual glance,
They seem'd to saunter round the field by chance,
Till CLARENDON arose, and in the hour
When civil Discord wak'd each mental Power,
With brave desire to reach this distant Goal,
Strain'd all the vigour of his manly soul.
Nor Truth, nor Freedom's injur'd Powers, allow
A wreath unspotted to his haughty brow:
Friendship's firm spirit still his fame exalts,
With sweet atonement for his lesser faults.
His Pomp of Phrase, his Period of a mile,
And all the maze of his bewilder'd Style,
Illum'd by Warmth of Heart, no more offend:
What cannot Taste forgive, in FALKLAND's friend?
Nor flow his praises from this single source;
One province of his art displays his force:
[Page 57] His Portraits boast, with features strongly like,
The soft precision of the clear VANDYKE:
Tho', like the Painter, his faint talents yield,
And sink embarrass'd in the Epic field.
Yet shall his labours long adorn our Isle,
Like the proud glories of some Gothic pile:
They, tho' constructed by a Bigot's hand,
Nor nicely finish'd, nor correctly plann'd,
With solemn Majesty, and pious Gloom,
An awful influence o'er the mind assume;
And from the alien eyes of every Sect
Attract observance, and command respect.
In following years, when thy great name, NASSAU!
Stampt the blest deed of Liberty and Law;
When clear, and guiltless of Oppression's rage,
There rose in Britain an Augustan age,
And cluster'd Wits, by emulation bright,
Diffus'd o'er ANNA's reign their mental light;
That Constellation seem'd, tho' strong its flame,
To want the splendor of Historic fame:
[Page 58] Yet BURNET's page may lasting glory hope,
Howe'er insulted by the spleen of POPE.
Tho' his rough Language haste and warmth denote,
With ardent Honesty of Soul he wrote;
Tho' critic censures on his work may shower,
Like Faith, his Freedom has a saving power.
Nor shalt thou want, RAPIN! thy well-earn'd praise;
The sage POLYBIUS thou of modern days!
Thy Sword, thy Pen, have both thy name endear'd;
This join'd our Arms, and that our Story clear'd:
Thy foreign hand discharg'd th' Historian's trust,
Unsway'd by Party, and to Freedom just.
To letter'd fame we own thy fair pretence,
From patient Labour, and from candid Sense.
Yet Public Favour, ever hard to fix,
Flew from thy page, as heavy and prolix.
For soon, emerging from the Sophists' school,
With Spirit eager, yet with Judgment cool,
With subtle skill to steal upon applause,
And give false vigour to the weaker cause;
[Page 59] To paint a specious scene with nicest art,
Retouch the whole, and varnish every part;
Graceful in Style, in Argument acute;
Master of every trick in keen Dispute!
With these strong powers to form a winning tale,
And hide Deceit in Moderation's veil,
High on the pinnacle of Fashion plac'd,
HUME shone the idol of Historic Taste.
Already, pierc'd by Freedom's searching rays,
The waxen fabric of his fame decays.—
Think not, keen Spirit! that these hands presume
To tear each leaf of laurel from thy tomb!
These hands! which, if a heart of human frame
Could stoop to harbour that ungenerous aim,
Would shield thy Grave, and give, with guardian care,
Each type of Eloquence to flourish there!
But Public Love commands the painful task,
From the pretended Sage to strip the mask,
When his false tongue, averse to Freedom's cause,
Profanes the spirit of her antient laws.
[Page 60] As Asia's soothing opiate Drugs, by stealth,
Shake every slacken'd nerve, and sap the health;
Thy Writings thus, with noxious charms refin'd.
Seeming to soothe its ills, unnerve the Mind.
While the keen cunning of thy hand pretends
To strike alone at Party's abject ends,
Our hearts more free from Faction's Weeds we feel,
But they have lost the Flower of Patriot Zeal.
Wild as thy feeble Metaphysic page,
Thy Hist'ry rambles into Sceptic rage;
Whose giddy and fantastic dreams abuse
A HAMPDEN's Virtue, and a SHAKESPEAR's Muse.
With purer Spirit, free from Party strife,
To soothe his evening hour of honour'd life,
See candid LYTTELTON at length unfold
The deeds of Liberty in days of old!
Fond of the theme, and narrative with age,
He winds the lengthen'd tale thro' many a page;
But there the beams of Patriot Virtue shine;
There Truth and Freedom sanctify the line,
[Page 61] And laurels, due to Civil Wisdom, shield
This noble Nestor of th' Historic field.
The living Names, who there display their power,
And give its glory to the present hour,
I pass with mute regard; in fear to fail,
Weighing their worth in a suspected scale:
Thy right, Posterity! I sacred hold,
To fix the stamp on literary Gold;
Blest! if this lighter Ore, which I prepare
For thy supreme Assay, with anxious care,
Thy current sanction unimpeach'd enjoy,
As only tinctur'd with a slight alloy!


‘Ventum est ad partem operis destinati longe gravissimam—nunc quoque, licet major quam unquam moles premat, tamen prospicienti finem mihi constitutum est vel deficere potius, quam desperare—nostra temeritas etiam mores ei cona­bitur dare, et assignabit officia. QUINTIL. Lib. xii.

The sources of the chief defects in History—Vanity, na­tional and private—Flattery, and her various arts—Party-spirit—Superstition—and false Philosophy.—Character of the accomplish'd Historian.—The Laws of History.—Style.—Importance of the subject.—Fai­lure of KNOLLES from a subject ill chosen.—Danger of dwelling on the distant and minute parts of a sub­ject really interesting—Failure of MILTON in this particular.—The worst defect of an Historian, a system of Tyranny—Instance in BRADY.—Want of a General History of England: Wish for its accom­plishment.—Use and Delight of other Histories—of Rome.—Labour of the Historian—Cavils against him.—Concern for GIBBON's irreligious spirit—The idle censure of his passion for Fame—Defence of that passion.—Conclusion.

SAY thou! whose eye has, like the Lynx's beam,
Pierc'd the deep windings of this mazy stream,
Say, from what source the various Poisons glide,
That darken History's discolour'd tide;
Whose purer waters to the mind dispense
The wealth of Virtue, and the fruits of Sense!—
These Poisons flow, collective and apart,
From Public Vanity, and Private Art.
[Page 66] At first Delusion built her safe retreat
On the broad base of National Conceit:
Nations, like Men, in Flattery confide,
The slaves of Fancy, and the dupes of Pride.
Each petty region of the peopled earth,
Howe'er debas'd by intellectual dearth,
Still proudly boasted of her claims to share
The richest portion of celestial care:
For her she saw the rival Gods engage,
And Heaven convuls'd with elemental rage.
To her the thunder's roar, the lightning's fire,
Confirm'd their favour, or denounc'd their ire.
To seize this foible, daring Hist'ry threw
Illusive terrors o'er each scene she drew;
Nor would her spirit, in the heat of youth,
Watch, with a Vestal's care, the lamp of Truth;
But, wildly mounting in a Witch's form,
Her voice delighted to condense the storm;
With showers of blood th' astonish'd earth to drench,
The frame of Nature from its base to wrench;
[Page 67] In Horror's veil involve her plain events,
And shake th' affrighted world with dire portents.*
Still softer arts her subtle spirit try'd,
To win the easy faith of Public Pride:
She told what Powers, in times of early date,
Gave consecration to the infant State;
Mark'd the blest spot by sacred Founders trod,
And all th' atchievements of the guardian God.
Thus while, like Fame, she rests upon the land,
Her figure grows; her magic limbs expand;
Her tow'ring head, to high Olympus tost,
Pierces the sky, and in that blaze is lost.
Yet bold Philosophy at length destroy'd
The brilliant phantoms of th' Historic void;
Her scrutinizing eye, whose search severe
Rivals the pressure of Ithuriel's spear,
Permits no fraudful semblance to escape,
But turns each Marvel to its real shape.
[Page 68] The blazing meteors fall from Hist'ry's sphere;
Her darling Demi-gods no more appear;
No more the Nations, with heroic joy,
Boast their descent from Heaven-descended Troy:
On FRANCIO now the Gallic page is mute,*
And British Story drops the name of BRUTE.
What other failings from this fountain flow'd,
Ill-measur'd fame on martial feats bestow'd,
And heaps, enlarg'd to mountains of the slain,
The miracles of valour, still remain.
But of all faults, that injur'd Truth may blame,
Those proud mistakes the first indulgence claim,
Where Public Zeal the ardent Pen betrays,
And Patriot Passions swell the partial praise.
Ev'n private Vanity may pardon find,
When built on Worth, and with Instruction join'd:
In British Annalists more rarely found,
This venial foible springs on foreign ground;
[Page 69] 'Tis theirs, who scribble near the Seine or Loire,
Those lively Heroes of the light Memoir!
Defects more hateful to ingenuous eyes,
In Adulation's servile arts arise:
Mean Child of Int'rest! as her Parent base!
Her charms Deformity! her wealth Disgrace!
Dimm'd by her breath, the light of Learning fades;
Her breath the wisest of mankind degrades,
And BACON's self, for mental glory born,*
Meets, as her slave, our pity, or our scorn.
Unhappy Genius! in whose wond'rous mind
The sordid Reptile and the Seraph join'd;
Now traversing the world on Wisdom's wings,
Now basely crouching to the last of Kings:
Thy fault, which Freedom with regret surveys,
This useful Truth, in strongest light, displays;
That not sufficient are those shining parts,
Which shed new radiance o'er concenter'd arts;
[Page 70] To reach with glory the Historic goal
Demands a firm, an independent soul,
An eagle-eye, that with undazzled gaze
Can look on Majesty's meridian blaze.
But Adulation, in the worst of times,
Throws her broad mantle o'er imperial crimes;
In Hist'ry's field, her abject toils delight
To shut the scenes of Nature from our sight,
Each human Virtue in one mass to fling,
And of that mountain make the statue of a King.*
Yet oft her labours, slighted or abhorr'd,
Receive in present scorn their just reward;
Scorn from that Idol, at whose feet she lays
The sordid offering of her venal praise.
As crown'd with Indian laurels, nobly won,
His conquest ended, Philip's warlike Son
Sail'd down th' Hydaspes in a voyage of sport,
The chief Historian of his sumptuous court
[Page 71] Read his description of the single fight,
Where Porus yielded to young Ammon's might;
And, like a Scribe in courtly arts adroit,
Most largely magnify'd his Lord's exploit:
Tho' ever on the stretch to Glory's goal,
Fame the first passion of his fiery soul!
Fierce from his seat the indignant Hero sprung,
And o'er the vessel's side the volume flung;
Then, as he saw the fawning Scribler shrink,
"Thus should the Author with his Writing sink,
"Who stifles Truth in Flattery's disguise,
"And buries honest Fame beneath a load of Lies."
But modern Princes, having less to lose,
Rarely these insults on their name accuse:
In Dedications quietly inurn'd,*
They take more lying Praise than Ammon spurn'd;
And Learning's pliant Sons, to flattery prone,
Bend with such blind obeisance to the throne,
[Page 72] The basest King that ever curst the earth,
Finds many a witness to attest his worth:
Tho' dead, still flatter'd by some abject slave,
He spreads contagious poison from his grave,
While sordid hopes th' Historian's hand entice
To varnish ev'n the tomb of Royal Vice.
Tho' Nature wept with desolated Spain,
In tears of blood, the second Philip's reign;
Tho' such deep sins deform'd his sullen mind,
As merit execration from mankind:
A mighty empire by his crimes undone;
A people massacred; a murder'd son:
Tho' Heaven's displeasure stopt his parting breath,
To bear long loathsome pangs of hideous death;
Flattery can still the Ruffian's praise repeat,
And call this Waster of the earth discreet:
Still can HERRERA, mourning o'er his urn,*
His dying pangs to blissful rapture turn,
[Page 73] And paint the King, from earth by curses driven,
A Saint, accepted by approving Heaven!
But arts of deeper guile, and baser wrong,
To Adulation's subtle Scribes belong:
They oft, their present idols to exalt,
Profanely burst the consecrated vault;
Steal from the buried Chief bright Honour's plume,
Or stain with Slander's gall the Statesman's tomb:
Stay, sacrilegious slaves! with reverence tread
O'er the blest ashes of the worthy dead!
See! where, uninjur'd by the charnel's damp,
The Vestal, Virtue, with undying lamp,
Fond of her toil, and jealous of her trust,
Sits the keen Guardian of their sacred dust,
And thus indignant, from the depth of earth,
Checks your vile aim, and vindicates their worth:
"Hence ye! who buried excellence belied,
"To sooth the sordid spleen of living Pride;
"Go! gild with Adulation's feeble ray
"Th' imperial pageant of your passing day!
[Page 74] "Nor hope to stain, on base Detraction's scroll,
"A TULLY's morals, or a SIDNEY's soul!"—*
Just Nature will abhor, and Virtue scorn,
That Pen, tho' eloquence its page adorn,
Which, brib'd by Interest, or from vain pretence
To subtler Wit, and deep-discerning Sense,
Would blot the praise on public toils bestow'd,
And Patriot passions, as a jest, explode.
Less abject failings spring from Party-rage,
The pest most frequent in th' Historic page;
That common jaundice of the turbid brain,
Which leaves the heart unconscious of a stain,
Yet suffers not the clouded mind to view
Or men, or actions, in their native hue:
For Party mingles, in her feverish dreams,
Credulity and Doubt's most wild extremes:
She gazes thro' a glass, whose different ends
Reduce her foes, and magnify her friends:
[Page 75] Delusion ever on her spirit dwells;
And to the worst excess its fury swells,
When Superstition's raging passions roll
Their savage frenzy thro' the Bigot's soul.
Nor less the blemish, tho' of different kind,*
From false Philosophy's conceits refin'd!
Her subtle influence, on History shed,
Strikes the fine nerve of Admiration dead,
(That nerve despis'd by sceptic sons of earth,
Yet still a vital spring of human worth.)
This artful juggler, with a skill so nice,
Shifts the light forms of Virtue and of Vice,
That, ere they wake abhorrence or delight,
Behold! they both are vanish'd from the sight;
And Nature's warm affections, thus destroy'd,
Leave in the puzzled mind a lifeless void.
Far other views the liberal Genius fire,
Whose toils to pure Historic praise aspire;
[Page 76] Nor Moderation's dupe, nor Faction's brave,
Nor Guilt's apologist, nor Flattery's slave:
Wise, but not cunning; temperate, not cold;
Servant of Truth, and in that service bold;
Free from all bias, save that just controul
By which mild Nature sways the manly soul,
And Reason's philanthropic spirit draws
To Virtue's interest, and Freedom's cause;
Those great ennoblers of the human name,
Pure springs of Power, of Happiness, and Fame!
To teach their influence, and spread their sway,
The just Historian winds his toilsome way;
From silent darkness, creeping o'er the earth,
Redeems the sinking trace of useful worth;
In Vice's bosom marks the latent thorn,
And brands that public pest with public scorn.
A lively teacher in a moral school!
In that great office steady, clear, and cool!
Pleas'd to promote the welfare of mankind,
And by informing meliorate the mind!
[Page 77] Such the bright task committed to his care!
Boundless its use; but its completion rare.
Critics have said "Tho' high th' Historian's charge,
His Laws are simple tho' his Province large;
Two obvious rules ensure his full success—
To speak no Falsehood; and no Truth suppress:*
Art must to other works a lustre lend,
But History pleases, howsoe'er it's penn'd."
Perchance in ruder periods; but in those,
Where all the luxury of Learning flows,
To Truth's plain fare no palate will submit,
Each reader grows an Epicure in Wit;
And Knowledge must his nicer taste beguile
With all the poignant charms of Attic style.
The curious Scholar, in his judgment choice,
Expects no common Notes from History's voice;
But all the tones, that all the passions suit,
From the bold Trumpet to the tender Lute:
[Page 78] Yet if thro' Music's scale her voice should range,
Now high, now low, with many a pleasing change,
Grace must thro' every variation glide,
In every movement Majesty preside:
With ease not careless, tho' correct not cold;
Soft without languor, without harshness bold.
Tho' Affectation can all works debase,
In Language, as in Life, the bane of Grace!
Regarded ever with a scornful smile,
She most is censur'd in th' Historic style:
Yet her insinuating power is such,
Not ev'n the Greeks escap'd her baleful touch;
Hence the fictitious Speech, and long Harangue,
Too oft, like weights, on ancient Story hang.
Less fond of labour, modern Pens devise
Affected beauties of inferior size:
They in a narrower compass boldly strike
The fancied Portrait, with no feature like;
And Nature's simple colouring vainly quit,
To boast the brilliant glare of fading Wit.
[Page 79] Those works alone may that blest fate expect
To live thro' time, unconscious of neglect,
That catch, in springing from no sordid source,
The ease of Nature, and of Truth the force.
But not ev'n Truth, with bright expression grac'd,
Nor all Description's powers, in lucid order plac'd,
Not even these a fond regard engage,
Or bind attention to th' Historic page,
If distant tribes compose th' ill-chosen Theme,
Whose savage virtues wake no warm esteem;
Where Faith and Valour spring from Honour's grave,
Only to form th' Assassin and the Slave.
From Turkish tyrants, stain'd with servile gore,
Enquiry turns; and Learning's sighs deplore,
While o'er his name Neglect's cold shadow rolls,
A waste of Genius in the toil of KNOLLES.*
There are, we own, whose magic power is such,
Their hands embellish whatsoe'er they touch:
[Page 80] Their bright Mosaic so enchants our eyes,
By nice Arrangement, and contrasted Dies,
What mean materials in the texture lurk,
Serve but to raise the wonder of the work.
Yet from th' Historian (as such power is rare)
The choice of Matter claims no trifling care.
'Tis not alone collected Wealth's display,
Nor the proud fabric of extended Sway,
That mark (tho' both the eye of Wonder fill)
The happy Subject for Historic skill:
Wherever Nature, tho' in narrow space,
Fosters, by Freedom's aid, a liberal race;
Sees Virtue save them from Oppression's den,
And cries with exultation, "These are Men;"
Tho' in Boeotia or Batavia born,
Their deeds the Story of the World adorn.
The Subject fix'd, with force and beauty fraught,
Just Disposition claims yet deeper thought;
To cast enlivening Order's lucid grace
O'er all the crouded fields of Time and Space;
[Page 81] To shew each wheel of Power in all its force,
And trace the streams of Action from their source;
To catch, with spirit and precision join'd,
The varying features of the human Mind;
The Grace, the Strength, that Nature's children draw
From Arts, from Science, Policy, and Law;
Opinion's fashion, Wisdom's firmer plan,
And all that marks the character of Man.
Of all the parts, that History's volume fill,
The just Digression claims the nicest skill;
As the swift Hero, in the Olympic race,
Ran with less toil along the open space;
But round the Goal to form the narrow curve,
Call'd forth his utmost strength from every nerve.
The Subject's various powers let Study tell!
And teach th' Historian on what points to dwell!
How in due shades to sink each meaner part,
And pour on nobler forms the radiance of his art!
Tho' Patriot Love the curious spirit fires
With thirst to hear th' atchievements of his Sires;
[Page 82] And British story wins the British mind
With all the charms that fond attention bind;
Its early periods, barbarous and remote,
Please not, tho' drawn by Pens of noblest note:
O'er those rude scenes Confusion's shadows dwell,
Beyond the power of Genius to dispell;
Mists! which ev'n MILTON's splendid mind enshroud;
Lost in the darkness of the Saxon cloud!
Neglect alone repays their slight offence,
Whose wand'ring wearies our bewilder'd sense:
But just Abhorrence brands his guilty name,
Who dares to vilify his Country's fame;
With Slander's rage the pen of History grasp,
And pour from thence the poison of the Asp;
The murd'rous falsehood, stifling Honour's breath!
The slavish tenet, Public Virtue's death!
With all that undermines a Nation's health,
And robs the People of their richest wealth!
Ye tools of Tyranny! whose servile guile
Would thus pollute the records of our isle,
[Page 83] Behold your Leader curst with public hate,
And read your just reward in BRADY's fate!*
O sacred Liberty! shall Faction's train
Pervert the reverend archives of thy reign?
Shall slaves traduce the blood thy votaries spilt,
Blaspheming Glory with the name of Guilt?
And shall no Son of thine their wiles o'erwhelm,
And clear the story of thy injur'd realm?
To this bright task some British spirit raise,
With powers surpassing ev'n a LIVY's praise!
Thro' this long wilderness his march inspire,
And make thy temperate flame his leading fire!
Teach his keen eye, and comprehensive soul,
To pierce each darker part, and grasp the whole!
Let Truth's undoubted signet seal his page,
And Glory guard the work from age to age!
That British minds from this pure source may draw
Sense of thy Rights, and passion for thy Law,
[Page 84] Wisdom to prize, and Honour, that aspires
To reach that virtue which adorn'd our Sires!
But not alone our native land attracts;
Far different Nations boast their splendid facts:
In ancient Story the rich fruits unite
Of civil Wisdom and sublime Delight:
At Rome's proud name Attention's spirits rise,
Rome, the first idol of our infant eyes!
Use and Importance mark the vast design,
Clearly to trace her periods of Decline.
Yet here, O GIBBON! what long toils ensue?
How winds the labyrinth? how fails the clue?
Tho' rude materials Time's deep trenches fill,
A radiant structure rises from thy skill;
Whose splendor, springing from a dreary waste,
Enchants the wondering eye of Public Taste.
Thus to the ancient traveller, whose way
Across the hideous sands of Syria lay,
The Desart blaz'd with sudden glory bright;
And rich Palmyra rush'd upon his sight.
But O! what foes beset each honour'd Name,
Advancing in the path of letter'd fame!
To stop thy progress, and insult thy pen,
The fierce Polemic issues from his den.
Think not my Verse means blindly to engage
In rash defence of thy profaner page!
Tho' keen her spirit, her attachment fond,
Base service cannot suit with Friendship's bond;
Too firm from Duty's sacred path to turn,
She breathes an honest sigh of deep concern,
And pities Genius, when his wild career
Gives Faith a wound, or Innocence a fear.
Humility herself, divinely mild,
Sublime Religion's meek and modest child,
Like the dumb Son of CROESUS, in the strife,*
Where Force assail'd his Father's sacred life,
Breaks silence, and, with filial duty warm,
Bids thee revere her Parent's hallow'd form!
Far other sounds the ear of Learning stun,
From proud Theology's contentious Son;
Less eager to correct, than to revile,*
Rage in his voice! and Rancour in his style!
His idle scoffs with coarse reproof deride
Thy generous thirst of Praise, and liberal Pride;
Since thy frank spirit dares that wish avow,
Which Nature owns, and Wisdom must allow!
The noble Instinct, Love of lasting Fame,
Was wisely planted in the human frame:
From hence the brightest rays of History flow;
To this their Vigour and their Use they owe.
Nor scorns fair Virtue this untainted source,
From hence she often draws her lovely force:
For Heaven this passion with our life combin'd,
Which, like a central power, impels the languid mind.
When, clear from Envy's cloud, that general pest!
It burns most brightly in the Author's breast,
[Page 87] Its soothing hopes his various pains beguile,
And give to Learning's face her sweetest smile:
What joy, to think his Genius may create
Existence far beyond the common date!
His Wealth of Mind to latest ages give,
And in Futurity's affection live!
From unborn beauty, still to Fancy dear,
Draw with soft magic the delightful tear;
Or thro' the bosom of far distant Youth,
Spread the warm glow of Liberty and Truth!
O GIBBON! by thy frank ambition taught,
Let me like thee maintain th' enlivening thought,
That, from Oblivion's killing cloud secure,
My Hope may prosper and my Verse endure:
While thy bright Name, on History's car sublime,
Rolls in just triumph o'er the field of Time,
May I, unfaltering, thy long march attend,
No flattering Slave! but an applauding Friend!
[Page 88] Display th' imperfect sketch I fondly drew,
Of that wide province, where thy laurels grew;
And, honour'd with a wreath of humbler bays,
Join the loud Paean of thy lasting praise!


‘Indocti discant et ament meminisse periti.’



TH' unfailing urns of Praise and Censure stand.]
Two urns by Jove's high throne have ever stood,
The source of evil one, and one of good.
POPE's Iliad xxiv. v. 663.


Yet one excelling Greek, &c.]

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the celebrated historian and critic of the Augustan age, who settled in Italy, as he himself informs us, on the close of the civil war. He has addressed a little treatise, contain­ing a critique on the elder historians, to his friend Cnaeus Pompeius, whom the French cri­tics suppose to be Pompey the Great; but Reiske, the last editor of Dionysius, has sunk him into a petty Greek grammarian, the client or freed­man of that illustrious Roman.

In this treatise of Dionysius, and in one still longer, on the character of Thucydides, there are some excellent historical precepts, which Mr. Spelman has judiciously thrown together in the preface to his admirable translation of the Roman Antiquities.—He introduces them by the fol­lowing observation, which may serve perhaps to recommend the subject of the present poem.—‘"So much has been said, both by the antients [Page 93] and the moderns, in praise of the advantages re­sulting from the study of History, particularly by Diodorus Siculus among the former, in the noble preface to his Historical Collections; and by the late Lord Bolingbroke, among the mo­derns, in his admirable letter on that subject; that I am astonished no treatise has ever yet ap­peared in any age, or any language, professedly written to prescribe rules for writing History; a work allowed to be of the greatest advan­tage of all others to mankind, the repository of truth, fraught with lessons both of public and private virtue, and enforced by stronger motives than precepts—by examples. Rules for Poetry and Rhetoric have been written by many au­thors, both antient and modern, as if delight and eloquence were of greater consequence than instruction: however, Rhetoric was a part of History, as treated by the antients; not the principal part indeed, but subservient to the prin­cipal; and calculated to apply the facts exhibited by the narration. I know it may be said, that many antient histories are still preserved, and [Page 94] that these models are sufficient guides for mo­dern Historians, without particular rules: so had the Greeks Poets of all denominations in their hands, and yet Aristotle thought it necessary to prescribe particular rules to his countrymen for applying those examples to every branch of Poetry: I wish he had done the same in History; if he had, it is very probable that his precepts would have rendered the best of our modern Histories more perfect, and the worst, less abo­minable.—Since the resurrection of letters, the want of such a guide has been complained of by many authors, and particularly by Rapin, in the preface to his History of England."’ —Spelman, page 15.—But this ingenious and learned wri­ter speaks a little too strongly, in saying no treatise has ever appeared in any age or language, con­taining rules for History. There is one in Latin by the celebrated Vossius, entitled Ars Histori­ca; another by Hubertus Folieta, an elegant Latin writer, of the 16th century, on whom Thuanus bestows the highest commendation; and Mascardi, an Italian critic, patronised by [Page 95] Cardinal Mazarine, has written also dell Arte Historica. The curious reader may find a sin­gular anecdote relating to the publication of this work in Bayle, under the article Mascardi.—But to return to Dionysius. In comparing Hero­dotus and Thucydides, he censures the latter with a degree of severity unwarranted by truth and reason: indeed this severity appeared so striking to the learned Fabricius, that he seems to consider it as a kind of proof, that the cri­tical works of Dionysius were composed in the hasty fervor of youth. They are however in general, to use the words of the same ingenious author, eximia & lectu digna; and a valuable critic of our own country, who resembles Diony­sius in elegance of composition, and perhaps in severity of judgment, has spoken yet more warm­ly in their favour.—See Warton's Essay on Pope, 3d edit. page 175.


And Lucian! thou, of Humour's sons supreme!]

The little treatise of Lucian "How History should be written," may be considered as one of the most valuable productions of that lively au­thor; it is not only written with great vivacity and wit, but is entitled to the superior praise of breathing most exalted sentiments of liberty and virtue. There is a peculiar kind of sublimity in his description of an accomplished Historian.


[Page 97] It is a piece of justice due to our own country to remark, that in the 3d volume of the World, there is a ludicrous essay on History by Mr. Cambridge, which is written with all the spirit and all the humour of Lucian.


And rose a Xenophon in self-esteem.]


LUCIAN. edit. Riollay, p. 6.


In Egypt once a dread tribunal stood.]

This singular institution, which is alluded to by many of our late authors, is related at large in the First Book of Diodorus Siculus; and as the passage is curious, the following free translation of it may afford entertainment to the English reader—‘"Those who prepare to bury a relation, give notice of the day intended for the ceremony to the judges, and to all the friends of the deceased; informing them, that the body will pass over the [Page 98] lake of that district to which the dead belonged: when, on the judges being assembled, to the num­ber of more than forty, and ranging themselves in a semicircle on the farther side of the lake, the vessel is set afloat, which those who superin­tend the funeral have prepared for this purpose. This vessel is managed by a pilot, called in the Egyptian language Charon; and hence they say, that Orpheus, travelling in old times into Egypt, and seeing this ceremony, formed his fable of the infernal regions, partly from what he saw, and partly from invention. The vessel being launch­ed on the lake, before the coffin which contains the body is put on board, the law permits all, who are so inclined, to produce an accusation against it.—If any one steps forth, and proves that the deceased has led an evil life, the judges pronounce sentence, and the body is precluded from burial; but if the accuser is convicted of injustice in his charge, he falls himself under a considerable pe­nalty. When no accuser appears, or when the accuser is proved to be an unfair one, the rela­tions, who are assembled, change their expressions [Page 99] of sorrow into encomiums on the dead: yet they do not, like the Greeks, speak in honour of his family, because they consider all Egyptians as equally well-born; but they set forth the educa­tion and manners of his youth, his piety and jus­tice in maturer life, his moderation, and every virtue by which he was distinguished; and they supplicate the infernal Deities to receive him as an associate among the blest. The multitude join their acclamations of applause in this cele­bration of the dead, whom they consider as going to pass an eternity among the just be­low*."’—Such is the description which Dio­dorus gives of this funereal judicature, to which even the kings of Egypt were subject. The same author asserts, that many sovereigns had been thus judicially deprived of the honours of burial by the indignation of their people: and that the terrors of such a fate had a most salutary influence on the virtue of their kings.

The Abbè Terrasson has drawn a sublime pic­ture of this sepulchral process, and indeed of ma­ny [Page 100] Egyptian Mysteries, in his very learned and ingenious romance, The Life of Sethos.


The infant Muse, ambitious at her birth,
Rose the young herald of heroic worth.]

‘"Not only the Greek writers give a concurrent testi­mony concerning the priority of historical Verse to Prose; but the records of all nations unite in confirming it. The oldest compositions among the Arabs are in Rythm or rude Verse; and are often cited as proofs of the truth of their sub­sequent History. The accounts we have of the Peruvian story confirm the same fact; for Gar­cilasso tells us, that he compiled a part of his Commentaries from the antient songs of the country—Nay all the American tribes, who have any compositions, are found to establish the same truth—Northern Europe contributes its share of testimony: for there too we find the Scythian or Runic songs (many of them historical) to be the oldest compositions among these barbarous na­tions."’ BROWNE's Dissertation on Poetry, &c. Page 50.


But in the center of those vast abodes,
Whose mighty mass the land of Egypt loads.]

This account of the Pyramids I have adopted from the very learned Mr. Bryant, part of whose inge­nious observation upon them I shall here present to the reader.—

One great purpose in all eminent and expensive structures is to please the stranger and traveller, and to win their admiration. This is effected sometimes by a mixture of magnificence and beauty: at other times solely by immensity and grandeur. The latter seems to have been the object in the erecting of those celebrated build­ings in Egypt: and they certainly have answered the design. For not only the vastness of their structure, and the area which they occupy, but the ages they have endured, and the very uncer­tainty of their history, which runs so far back into the depths of antiquity, produce all together a wonderful veneration; to which buildings more [Page 102] exquisite and embellished are seldom entitled. Many have supposed, that they were designed for places of sepulture: and it has been affirmed by Herodotus, and other antient writers. But they spoke by guess: and I have shewn by many instances, how usual it was for the Gre­cians to mistake temples for tombs. If the chief Pyramid were designed for a place of burial, what occasion was there for a well, and for pas­sages of communication which led to other build­ings? Near the Pyramids are apartments of a wonderful fabric, which extend in length one thousand four hundred feet, and about thirty in depth. They have been cut out of the hard rock, and brought to a perpendicular by the artist's chizel; and through dint of labour fashioned as they now appear. They were undoubtedly de­signed for the reception of priests; and conse­quently were not appendages to a tomb, but to a temple of the Deity . . . . . . The priests of Egypt delighted in obscurity; and they probably came by the subterraneous passages of the build­ing to the dark chambers within; where they per­formed [Page 103] their lustrations, and other nocturnal rites. Many of the antient temples in this country were caverns in the rock, enlarged by art, and cut out into numberless dreary apartments: for no nation upon earth was so addicted to gloom and melancholy as the Egyptians.—

BRYANT's Analysis, Vol. III. Page 529.

The royal geographer Abulfeda seems to con­firm the idea of this ingenious author; or at least to have been equally persuaded, that the Pyramids were not places of burial; for, speaking of them, in his description of Egypt, he says: ‘"sunt autem, ut narratur, sepulcra veterum: ohe vero quam narrantur multa, quorum non certa fides!"’ ABUL. Egypt. Edit. Michaelis, Page 10.


Of the fierce Omar, &c.]

The number of vo­lumes destroyed in the plunder of Alexandria is said to have been so great, that although they were distributed to heat four thousand baths in that city, it was six months before they were consumed. When a petition was sent to the Chaliph Omar [Page 104] for the preservation of this magnificent library, he replied, in the true spirit of bigotry, ‘"What is contained in these books you mention, is either agreeable to what is written in the book of God (meaning the Alcoran) or it is not: if it be, then the Alcoran is sufficient without them: if other­wise, 'tis fit they should be destroyed."’ OCKLEY's History of the Sara­cens, Vol. I. Page 313.


The dome expands!—Behold th' Historic Sire!]

Herodotus, to whom Cicero has given the honour­able appellation of The Father of History, was born in Halicarnassus, a city of Caria, four years before the invasion of Xerxes, in the year 484 before Christ. The time and place of his death are uncertain; but his countryman Dionysius informs us, that he lived to the beginning of the Peloponnesian war; and Marcellinus, the Greek author who wrote a life of Thucydides, affirms there was a monument erected to these two great [Page 105] Historians in a burial-place belonging to the fa­mily of Miltiades.

There is hardly any author, antient or mo­dern, who has been more warmly commended, or more vehemently censured, than this eminent Historian. But even the severe Dionysius de­clares, he is one of those enchanting writers, whom you peruse to the last syllable with plea­sure, and still wish for more.—Plutarch himself, who has made the most violent attack on his veracity, allows him all the merit of beautiful composition. From the heavy charges brought against him by the antients, the famous Henry Stephens, and his learned friend Camerarius, have defended their favourite Historian with great spi­rit. But Herodotus has found a more formidable antagonist in a learned and animated writer of our own times, to whom the public have been lately indebted for his having opened to them new mines of Oriental learning.—If the ingeni­ous Mr. Richardson could effectually support his Persian system, the great Father of the Gre­cian story must sink into a fabulist as low in point [Page 106] of veracity as Geoffrey of Monmouth. It must be owned, that several eminent Writers of our country have treated him as such. Another Ori­entalist, who, in his elegant Preface to the Life of Nader Shaw, has drawn a spirited and judi­cious sketch of many capital Historians, declares, in passing judgment on Herodotus, that ‘"his accounts of the Persian affairs are at least doubt­ful, if not fabulous."’—Hume, I think, goes still farther, and says, in one of his essays—‘"The first page of Thucydides is, in my opinion, the commencement of real History."’ For my own part, I confess myself more credulous: the rela­tion, which Herodotus has given of the repulse of Xerxes from Greece, is so delightful to the mind, and so animating to public virtue, that I should be sorry to number it among the Grecian fables.

—Et madidis cantat quae Sostratus alis.


As the fair figure of his favour'd Queen.]

Ar­temisia of Halicarnassus, who commanded in [Page 107] person the five vessels, which she contributed to the expedition of Xerxes. On hearing that she had sunk a Grecian galley in the sea-fight at Sa­lamis, he exclaimed, that his men had proved women, and his women men. HEROD. Lib. VIII. p. 660. Edit. Wess.


Soft as the stream, whose dimpling waters play.]

‘Sine ullis salebris quasi sedatus amnis fluit.’ CICERO in Oratore.


But mark the Youth, in dumb delight immers'd!]

Thucydides, the son of Olorus, was born at Athens in the year 471 before Christ, and is said, at the age of 15, to have heard Herodotus recite his History at the Olympic games.—The generous youth was charmed even to tears, and the Historian congratulated Olorus on these marks of genius, which he discovered in his son.—Being invested with a military command, he [Page 108] was banished from Athens at the age of 48, by the injustice of faction, because he had unfortu­nately failed in the defence of Amphipolis.—He retired into Thrace, and is reported to have married a Thracian lady possessed of valuable mines in that country.—At the end of 20 years his sentence of banishment was revoked. Some authors affirm that he returned into Athens, and was treacherously killed in that city. But others assert that he died in Thrace, at the ad­vanced age of 80, leaving his History unfinished. MARCELLINUS; and DODWELL. Annales Thucydid.


A generous guardian of a rival's fame.]

It is said by Diogenes Laertius, that Xenophon first brought the History of Thucydides into public reputation, though he had it in his power to as­sume to himself all the glory of that work. This amiable Philosopher and Historian was born at Athens, and became early a disciple of Socrates, [Page 109] who is said by Strabo to have saved his life in battle. About the 50th year of his age, accord­ing to the conjecture of his admirable translator Mr. Spelman, he engaged in the expedition of Cyrus, and accomplished his immortal retreat in the space of 15 months.—The jealousy of the Athenians banished him from his native city, for engaging in the service of Sparta and of Cyrus.—On his return therefore he retired to Scillus, a town of Elis, where he built a temple to Diana, which he mentions in his Epistles, and devoted his leisure to philosophy and rural sports.—But commotions arising in that country, he removed to Corinth, where he is supposed to have written his Grecian History, and to have died at the age of ninety, in the year 360 before Christ. By his wife Philesia he had two sons, Diodorus and Gryllus. The latter rendered himself im­mortal by killing Epaminondas in the famous battle of Mantinea, but perished in that exploit, which his father lived to record.


Rome's haughty genius, who enslav'd the Greek,
In Grecian language deigns at first to speak.]

Some of the most illustrious Romans are known to have written Histories in Greek. The luxuriant Lucullus, when he was very young, composed in that language a History of the Marsi, which, Plu­tarch says, was extant in his time—Cicero wrote a Greek Commentary on his own consulship—and the elegant Atticus produced a similar work on the same subject, that did not perfectly satisfy the nice ear of his friend, as we learn from the fol­lowing curious passage in a letter concerning the History in question:—‘"Quanquam tua illa (legi enim libenter) horridula mihi atque incompta visa sunt: sed tamen erant ornata hoc ipso, quod or­namenta neglexerant, et ut mulieres, ideo bene olere, quia nihil olebant, videbantur."’ Epist. ad ATTICUM. Lib. II. Ep. 1.


Thou friend of Scipio! vers'd in War's alarms.]

Polybius, born at Megalopolis in Arcadia, 205 years before Christ.—He was trained to arms un­der the celebrated Philopoemen, and is described by Plutarch carrying the urn of that great but un­fortunate General in his funeral procession. He rose to considerable honours in his own country, but was compelled to visit Rome with other principal Achaeans, who were detained there as pledges for the submission of their state.—From hence he became intimate with the second Scipio Africanus, and was present with him at the demo­lition of Carthage.—He saw Corinth also plun­dered by Mummius, and thence passing through the cities of Acharia, reconciled them to Rome.—He extended his travels into Egypt, France, and Spain, that he might avoid such geographical er­rors as he has censured in other writers of History. He lived to the age of 82, and died of an illness occasioned by a fall from his horse. FABRICIUS, Bibliotheca Graeca.

[Page 112] In closing this concise account of the capital Greek Historians, I cannot help observing, that our language has been greatly enriched in the course of the present century, by such translations of these Authors as do great honour to our coun­try, and are at least equal to any which other na­tions have produced.

In the chief Roman Historians we seem to have been less fortunate; but from the specimen which Mr. Aikin has lately given the public in the smaller pieces of Tacitus, we may hope to see an excellent version of that valuable author, who has been hitherto ill treated in our language, and among all the antients there is none perhaps whom it is more difficult to translate with fidelity and spirit.


Sententious Sallust leads her lofty train.]

This celebrated Historian, who from the irregularity of his life, and the beauty of his writings, has been called, not unhappily, the Bolingbroke of Rome, [Page 113] was born at Amiternum, a town of the Sabines.—For the profligacy of his early life he was expelled the senate, but restored by the interest of Julius Caesar, who gave him the command of Numidia, which province he is said to have plundered by the most infamous extortion, purchasing with part of this treasure those rich and extensive possessions on the Quirinal Hill, so celebrated by the name of the Horti Sallustiani.—He died in the 70th year of his age, four years before the battle of Actium, and 35 before the Christian aera. His enmity to Cicero is well known, and perhaps it had some influence on the peculiarity of his diction—per­sonal animosity might make him endeavour to form a style as remote as possible from the redun­dant language of the immortal Orator, whose tur­bulent wife, Terentia, he is said to have married after her divorce. This extraordinary woman is reported to have lived to the age of 103, to have married Messala, her third husband, and Vibius Rufus her fourth.—The latter boasted, with the joy of an Antiquarian, that he possessed two of the greatest curiosities in the world, namely Terentia, [Page 114] who had been Cicero's wife, and the chair in which Caesar was killed.—St. JEROM; and DIO CASSIUS, quoted by Middleton in his life of Ci­cero.—But to return to Sallust.—His Roman History, in six books, from the death of Sylla to the conspiracy of Catiline, the great work from which he chiefly derived his glory among the An­tients, is unfortunately lost, excepting a few frag­ments;—but his two detached pieces of History, which happily remain entire, are sufficient to jus­tify the great encomiums he has received as a wri­ter.—He has had the singular honour to be twice translated by a royal hand—first by our Elizabeth, according to Camden; and secondly by the Infant Don Gabriel, whose Spanish version of this ele­gant Historian, lately printed in folio, is one of the most beautiful books that any country has produced since the invention of printing.


In bright pre-eminence, that Greece might own,
Sublimer Livy claims th' Historic throne.]

All the little personal account, that can be collected [Page 115] of Livy, amounts only to this—that he was born at Patavium, the modern Padua; that he was chosen by Augustus to superintend the education of the stupid Claudius; that he was rallied by the Emperor for his attachment to the cause of the Republic; and that he died in his own country in the 4th year of Tiberius, at the age of 76.—There is a passage in one of Pliny's letters, which, as it shews the high and extensive reputation of our Historian during his life, I shall present to the reader in the words of Pliny's most elegant trans­lator.—‘"Do you remember to have read of a certain inhabitant of the city of Cadiz, who was so struck with the illustrious character of Livy, that he travelled to Rome on purpose to see that great Genius; and as soon as he had satisfied his curiosity, returned home again?"’ —MELMOTH's Pliny, Vol. I. Page 71.—A veneration still more extraordinary was paid to this great author by Alphonso King of Naples, who in 1451 sent Panormita as his Ambassador to the Venetians, in whose dominion the bones of Livy had been lately discovered, to beg a relic of this celebrated Histo­rian—They [Page 116] presented him with an arm-bone, and the present is recorded in an inscription pre­served at Padua, which the curious reader may find in Vossius de Historicis Latinis. This sin­gular anecdote is also related in Bayle, under the article Panormita.—Learning perhaps ne­ver sustained a greater loss, in any single author, than by the destruction of the latter and more in­teresting part of Livy.—Several eminent moderns have indulged the pleasing expectation that the entire work of this noble Historian might yet be recovered.—It has been said to exist in an Arabic version: and even a compleat copy of the original is supposed to have been extant as late as the year 1631, and to have perished at that time in the plunder of Magdeburgh.—That munificent pa­tron of learning, Leo the Xth, exerted the most generous zeal to rescue from oblivion the valuable treasure, which one of his most bigotted predeces­sors, Gregory the Great, had expelled from every Christian library.—Bayle has preserved, under the article Leo, two curious original letters of that Pontiff, concerning his hopes of recovering Livy; [Page 117] which afford most honourable proofs of his libe­rality in the cause of letters.


Yet, like the matchless, mutilated frame,
To which great Angelo bequeath'd his name.]

The trunk of a statue of Hercules by Apollonius the Athenian, universally called the Torso of Michael Angelo, from its having been the fa­vourite study of that divine Artist.—He is said to have made out the compleat figure in a little model of wax, still preserved at Florence, and representing Hercules reposing after his labours.—The figure is sitting in a pensive posture, with an elbow resting on the knee.


Sarcastic Tacitus, abrupt and dark.]

Tacitus was born, according to the conjecture of Lipsius, in the close of the reign of Claudius: passing through various public honours, he rose at length to the consular dignity, under Nerva, in the year of Christ 97. The date of his death is unknown, [Page 118] but he is said to have lived happily to an ad­vanced age with his wife, the amiable daughter of the virtuous Agricola, whose life he has so beautifully written. By this lady he is supposed to have left children; and the emperor Tacitus is conjectured to have been a remote descendant from the Historian, to whose works and memo­ry he paid the highest regard.—It is reported by Sidonius Apollinaris, that Tacitus recommended the province of writing History to Pliny the Younger, and that he did not himself engage in that employment, till his friend had declined it. This is not mentioned, indeed, in any of the beautiful letters still remaining from Pliny to Ta­citus; but it is an instance of delicacy not unpa­rallel'd among the Antients, as will appear from the following remark by one of the most elegant and liberal of modern critics.—‘"The Roman Poet, who was not more eminent by his genius than amiable in his moral character, affords per­haps the most remarkable instance that any where occurs, of the concessions which a mind strongly impregnated with sentiments of genuine [Page 119] amity, is capable of making. Virgil's superior ta­lents rendered him qualified to excel in all the no­bler species of poetical composition: nevertheless, from the most uncommon delicacy of friendship, he sacrificed to his intimacy with Horace, the unrivall'd reputation he might have acquired by indulging his lyric vein; as from the same refined motive he forbore to exercise his dramatic pow­ers, that he might not obscure the glory of his friend Varius.Aurum et opes et rura, frequens donabit amicus: Qui velit ingenio cedere, rarus erit." MART. VIII. 18. MELMOTH's Remarks on LAELIUS, Page 292.

As to Tacitus, it is clear, I think, from the Letters of Pliny, as well as from his own most pleasing Life of Agricola, that he possessed all the refined and affectionate feelings of the heart in a very high degree, though the general cast of his historical works might lead us to imagine that austerity was his chief characteristic.—It would be easy to fill a volume in transcribing the great [Page 120] encomiums, and the violent censures, which have been lavished by modern writers of almost every country on this profound Historian.—The last critic of eminence, who has written against him, in Britain, is, I believe, the learned Author of The Origin and Progress of Language; who, in his 3d volume of that work, has made many cu­rious remarks on the composition of the antient Historians, and is particularly severe on the dic­tion of Tacitus. He represents him as the defec­tive model, from which modern writers have co­pied, what he is pleased to call, ‘"the short and priggish cut of style so much in use now."’


Thy Plutarch shines, by moral beauty known.]

It is to be wished, that this most amiable Mora­list and Biographer had added a Life of himself, to those which he has given to the world: as the particulars, which other Writers have preserved of his personal History, are very doubtful and imperfect. According to the learned Fabricius, [Page 121] he was born under Claudius, 50 years after the Christian aera, raised to the consular dignity under Trajan, whose preceptor he is said to have been, and made Procurator of Greece in his old age by the Emperor Adrian—in the 5th year of whose reign he is supposed to have died, at the age of 70. He was married to a most amiable woman of his own native town Chaeronea, whose name was Timoxena, and to whose sense and virtue he has borne the most affectionate testimo­ny in his moral works; of which it may be re­gretted that we have no elegant translation. In­deed even the Lives of Plutarch, the most popu­lar of all the antient historical compositions, were chiefly known to the English reader by a mot­ley and miserable version, till a new one, exe­cuted with fidelity and spirit, was presented to the public by the Langhornes in 1770.


Mild Marcellinus! free from servile awe!]

Ammianus Marcellinus, a Grecian and a Soldier, [Page 122] as he calls himself, flourished under Constan­tius and the succeeding emperors, as late as Theodosius. He served under Julian in the East, and wrote a History from the reign of Nerva to the death of Valens, in 31 books, of which 18 only remain.—The time and circumstances of his own death are unknown.—Bayle has an article on Marcellinus, in which he observes, that he has introduced a most bitter invective against the Practitioners of Law into his History.—He should have added, that the Historian be­stows great encomiums on some illustrious cha­racters of that profession, and even mentions the peculiar hardship to which Advocates are them­selves exposed.—The curious reader may find this passage, Lib. xxx. Cap. 4.


And, with Comnena's royal name imprest.]

Anna Comnena was the eldest daughter of the emperor Alexius Comnenus, and the empress Irene, born 1083.—She wrote the History of her father, [Page 123] in 15 books, first published, very imperfectly, by Haeschelius, in 1610, and since printed in the collection of the Byzantine Historians, with a diffuse and incorrect Latin version by the Jesuit Possinus, but with excellent notes by the learned Du Fresne.

Considering the miseries of the time in which she lived, and the merits of her work—which some Critics have declared superior to every other in that voluminous collection—this Lady may be justly regarded as a singular phaenomenon in the literary world; and, as this mention of her may possibly excite the curiosity of my fair Readers, I shall close the Notes to this Epistle with presenting to them a Translation of the Preface to her History, as I believe no part of her Works have yet appeared in any modern language. I found that I could not abridge it without injuring its beauty, and though long, I flatter myself it will escape the censure of be­ing tedious, as she feelingly displays in it the misfortunes of her life, and the character of her mind.

[Page 124]

Prefixed to her ALEXIAD, or History of her Fa­ther the Emperor ALEXIUS.

TIME, which flows irresistibly, ever encroach­ing, and stealing something from human life, seems to bear away all that is mortal into a gulph of darkness; sometimes destroying such things as deserve not utterly to be forgotten, and sometimes, such as are most noble, and most worthy of re­membrance. Now (to use the words of the tragic poet*)

Discovering things invisible; and now
Sweeping each present object from our sight.

But History forms the strongest barrier against this tide of Time: it withstands, in some measure, the violence of the torrent, and, by collecting and ce­menting such things as appear worthy of preserva­tion, [Page 125] while they are hurried along the stream, it al­lows them not to sink into the abyss of oblivion.

On this consideration, I Anna, the daughter of the emperor Alexius, and his consort Irene, born and educated in imperial splendor—not utterly void of literature, and solicitous to distinguish myself by that Grecian characteristic—as I have already ap­plied myself to Rhetoric, and having thoroughly studied the Principles of Aristotle and the Dia­logues of Plato, have endeavoured to adorn my mind with the *four usual branches of education (for I think it incumbent on me, even at the risque of appearing vain, to declare what qualifications for the present task I have received from nature, or gained by application; what Providence has bestowed upon me, or time and opportunity sup­plied.) On these accounts, I am desirous of com­memorating, in my present work, the actions of my father, as they deserve not to be buried in si­lence, or to be plunged, as it were, by the tide of Time, into the ocean of Oblivion: both those ac­tions [Page 126] which he performed after he obtained the di­adem, and those before that period, while he was himself a subject of other Princes. I engage in this narration, not so much to display any little ta­lent for composition, as to prevent transactions of such importance from perishing unrecorded: since even the brightest of human atchievements, if not consigned to memory under the guard of writing, are extinguished, as it were, by the Darkness of Silence.

My father was a man, who knew both how to govern, and to pay to governors a becoming obe­dience: but in chusing his actions for my subject, I am apprehensive, in the very outset of my work, lest I may be censured as the Panegyrist of my own family for writing of my father; that if I speak of him with admiration, my whole History will be considered as a false and flattering encomium; and if any circumstance, I may have occasion to mention, leads me, as it were by force, to disap­prove some part even of his conduct, I am appre­hensive, on the other hand, not from the cha­racter [Page 127] of my father, but from the very nature of things, that some malignant censurers may com­pare me to Cham, the son of Noah; since there are many, whom envy and malevolence will not suffer to form a fair judgment, and who, to speak in the words of Homer,

Are keen to censure, where no blame is due.

For whoever engages in the province of History, is bound to forget all sentiments both of favour and aversion; and often to adorn his enemies with the highest commendations, when their actions are entitled to such reward; and often to censure his most intimate friends, when the failings of their life and manners require it.—These are duties equally incumbent on the Historian, which he cannot decline. As to myself, with regard to those who may be affected either by my censure or my praise, I would wish to assure them, that I speak both of them, and their conduct, according to the evidence of their actions themselves, or the report of those who beheld them; for either the fathers, or the grandfathers, of many persons now living [Page 128] were ocular witnesses of what I shall record. I have been chiefly led to engage in this History of my father by the following circumstance:—It was my fortune to marry Caesar Nicephorus, of the Bryennian family, a man far superior to all his cotemporaries, not only in personal beauty, but in sublimity of understanding, and all the charms of eloquence! for he was equally the ad­miration of those who saw, and those who heard him. But that my discourse may not wander from its present purpose, let me proceed in my narration!—He was then, among all men, the most distin­guished; and when he marched with the emperor John Comnenus, my brother, on his expedition against Antioch, and other places in possession of the Barbarians, still unable to abstain from litera­ry pursuits, even in those scenes of labour and fatigue, he wrote various compositions worthy of remembrance and of honour. But he chiefly ap­plied himself to the writing an account of what re­lated to my father Alexius, emperor of the Ro­mans, at the request of the empress; reducing in­to [Page 129] proper form the transactions of his reign, whenever the times would allow him to devote short intervals of leisure from arms and battle to works of literature, and the labour of composi­tion. In forming this History, he deduced his ac­counts from an early period, being directed in this point also by the instruction of our royal mis­tress; beginning from the emperor Diogenes, and descending to the person, whom he had chosen for the Hero of his Drama—for this season first shew­ed my father to be a youth of expectation. Be­fore this period he was a mere infant; and of course performed nothing worthy of being recor­ded: unless even the occurrences of his childhood should be thought a fit subject for History. Such then was the design and scope of Caesar's compo­sition: but he failed in the hope he had entertain­ed, of bringing his History to its conclusion: for having brought it to the times of the emperor Nicephorus Botoniates, he there broke off, ha­ving no future opportunity allowed him of conti­nuing his narration: a circumstance which has [Page 130] proved a severe loss to Literature, and robbed his readers of delight!—On this account I have un­dertaken to record the actions of my father, that such atchievements may not escape posterity. What degree of harmony and grace the writings of Caesar possessed, all persons know who have been fortunate enough to see his compositions. But having executed his work to the period I have mentioned, in the midst of hurry and fa­tigue, and bringing it to us half finished from his expedition, he brought home, alas! at the same time, a disorder that proved mortal, contracted perhaps from the hardships of his passage, or per­haps from that harrassing scene of perpetual ac­tion, and possibly indeed from his infinite anxiety on my account; for anxiety was natural to his affectionate heart, and his labours were without intermission. Moreover, the change and badness of climates might prepare for him this draught of death. For notwithstanding the dreadful state of his health, he persevered in the campaign against the Syrians and Cilicians, till at length he was [Page 131] conveyed out of Syria in a most infirm state, and was brought through Cilicia, Pamphilia, Lydia, and Bithynia, home to the metropolis of the em­pire, and to his family. But his vitals were now affected by his infinite fatigue.—Even in this state of weakness he was desirous of displaying the events of his expedition: but this his disorder rendered him unable to execute, and indeed we enjoined him not to attempt it, lest by the effort of such a narration he should burst open his wound.—But in the recollection of these things, my whole soul is darkened, and my eyes are co­vered with a flood of tears.—O what a director of the Roman counsels was then torn from us! O what an end was there to all the treasures of clear, of various, and of useful knowledge, which he had collected from observation and experi­ence, both in regard to foreign affairs, and the internal business of the empire!—O what a form was then destroyed!—Beauty, that seemed not only entitled to dominion, but bearing even the semblance of divinity!—I indeed have been con­versant [Page 132] with every calamity; and have found, even from the imperial cradle, an unpropitious fortune: some perhaps might esteem that fortune not unpropitious, which seemed to smile upon my birth, in giving me sovereigns for my parents, and nursing me in the imperial purple: but for the other circumstances of my life, alas, what tempests! alas, what perturbations! The melody of Orpheus affected even inanimate nature; and Timotheus, in playing the Orthic song to Alexan­der, made the Macedon start to arms.

The relation of my miseries would not, indeed, produce such effects; but it would move every auditor to tears; it would force not only beings endued with sensibility, but even inanimate nature to sympathize in my sorrow.—This remembrance of Caesar, and his unexpected death, tears open the deepest wound of my soul: indeed I consider all my former misfortunes, if compared to this immea­sureable calamity, but as a drop of water to the Atlantic sea; or rather my earlier afflictions were a kind of prelude to this: they first involved [Page 133] me, as it were, like a smoke preceding this raging fire; they were a kind of heat, that portended a conflagration, which no words can describe. O thou fire, that blazest without fuel, preying on my heart without destroying its existence; piercing through my very bones, and shrinking up my soul!—But I perceive myself hurried away from my subject: this mention of Caesar, and what I suffer in his loss, has led me into the prolixity of grief: wiping therefore the tear from my eyes, and restraining myself from this indul­gence of sorrow, I will proceed in order; yet, as the tragic Poet*


Still adding tear to tear,

as recollecting misfortune after misfortune: for the entering on the History of such a king, so eminent for his virtues, revives in my mind all the wonders he performed, which move me to fresh tears; and these I share in common with all the world: for the remembrance of him, and the [Page 134] recital of his reign, supplies to me a new subject of lamentation, and must remind others of the loss they have sustained.

But let me at length begin the History of my father, from the period most proper:—now the most proper period is that, which will give to my narration the clearest and most historical ap­pearance.—

Astrology, Geometry, Arithmetic, and Music.
End of the Notes to the First Epistle.



HOW sainted Kings renounce, with holy dread,
The chaste endearments of their marriage-bed.]

It is well known how Edward the Confessor is celebrated for his inviolable chastity by the Mon­kish Historians—one of them, in particular, is so solicitous to vindicate the piety of Edward in this article, that he passes a severe censure on those, who had imputed his singular continence to a prin­ciple [Page 136] of resentment against the father of his queen—‘Hanc quoque Rex ut conjugem tali arte trac­tavit, quod nec thoro removit, nec eam virili more carnaliter cognovit; quod utrum patris illius, qui proditor convictus erat, et familiae ejus odio, quod prudenter pro tempore dissimulabat, an amore castitatis id fecerit, incertum est aliquibus, qui in dubiis sinistra interpretantur. Veruntamen non benevoli, et veritati, ut videtur, dissoni, dicere praesumunt, quod Rex, charitatis et pacis mune­re ditatus, de genere proditoris haeredes, qui sibi succederent, corrupto semine noluerit procreare. Sciebat enim Rex pacificus quod filia nihil criminis commifit cum patre proditore, & ideò non respuit thorum virginis; sed ambo unanimi assensu casti­tatem voverunt, parilique voluntate.’ THOMAE RUDBORNE Hist. major. in Anglia Sacra. Tom. I. p. 241.

The very high degree of merit which the wri­ters of the dark ages attributed to this matrimo­nial mortification, is still more forcibly displayed in a miraculous story related by Gregory of [Page 137] Tours, which the curious reader may find in the First Book and 42d chapter of that celebra­ted Historian.


How Nuns, entranc'd, to joys celestial mount,
Frantic with rapture from a sacred fount.]

The Monkish Historians seem to have consi­dered a vision as the most engaging embellish­ment that History could receive—Even the sage Matthew Paris delights in these heavenly digres­sions. But the visions, to which the preceding verses particularly allude, are those of the Virgin Flotilda, printed in the 2d volume of the Histo­riae Francorum Scriptores, by the learned Du­chesne: a very short specimen may satisfy the curiosity of the Reader—‘Videbatur Canis can­didus eidem adgaudere, quam tamen illa timens pertransiit, & ad quendam locum in medium de­centium clericorum pervenit, qui eam gratanter excipiebant, et potum ei in vase pulcherrimo, quasi aquam clarissimam, offerebant.’—P. 624.


With those choice gifts, the Meadow and the Mill.]

The usual legacy of the old Barons to their mo­nastic dependants.


If mitred Turpin told, in wildest strain.]

It is now generally agreed, that the History which bears the name of Turpin, Archbishop of Rheims, was the forgery of a Monk, at the time of the Crusades; though Pope Calixtus the Second de­clared it to be authentic.—But, as it was cer­tainly intended to pass as genuine History, when­ever it was composed, and actually did so for some ages, this poetical mention of it appeared not improper. For the entertainment of the curious reader, I shall transcribe the two mira­culous passages alluded to in the poem:—‘Ante diem belli, castris et arietibus et turmis praepa­ratis in pratis, scilicet quae sunt inter castrum, [Page 139] quod dicitur Talaburgum, et urbem, juxta fluvi­um Caranta, infixerunt Christiani quidam hastas suas erectas in terra ante castra; crastina verò die hastas suas corticibus & frondibus decoratas in­venerunt, hi scilicet qui in bello praesenti accep­turi erant martyrii palmam pro Christi fide. Qui etiam tanto miraculo Dei gavisi, abscissis hastis suis de terra, simul coaduniti primitùs in bello perierunt, et multos Saracenos occiderunt, sed tandem martyrio coronantur.’—Cap. X.

After the soliloquy of Roland, addressed to his sword, which most readers have seen quoted in Mr. Warton's excellent Observations on Spen­ser, the Historian proceeds thus:—‘Timens ne in manus Saracenorum deveniret, percussit spatâ lapidem marmoreum trino ictu; a summo usque deorsum lapis dividitur, & gladius biceps illaesus educitur.—Deinde tubâ suâ coepit altisonâ to­nitruare, si fortè aliqui ex Christianis, qui per nemora Saracenorum timore latitabant, ad se venirent; vel si illi, qui portus jam transierant, [Page 140] fortè ad se redirent, suoque funeri adessent, spa­tamque suam & equum acciperent, et Saracenos persequerentur. Tunc tanta virtute tuba sua eburnea insonuit, quod flatu omnis ejus tuba per medium scissa, & venae colli ejus & nervi rupti fuisse feruntur; cujus vox ad aures Caroli, qui in valle quae Caroli dicitur cum exercitu suo tento­ria fixerat, loco scilicet qui distabat a Carolo octo milliaribus versus Gasconiam, Angelico ductu pervenit.’—Cap. XXII. & XXIII.


Yet modest Aeginhard, with grateful care.]

The celebrated Secretary and supposed Son-in-law of Charlemain; who is said to have been carried through the snow on the shoulders of the affec­tionate and ingenious Imma, to prevent his being tracked from her apartment by the Emperor her father: a story which the elegant pen of Addison has copied and embellished from an old German Chronicle, and inserted in the 3d volume of the [Page 141] Spectator.—This happy lover (supposing the story to be true) seems to have possessed a heart not unworthy of so enchanting a mistress, and to have returned her affection with the most faith­ful attachment; for there is a letter of Aegin­hard's still extant, lamenting the death of his wife, which is written in the tenderest strain of connu­bial affliction—it does not however express that this lady was the affectionate Princess; and in­deed some late critics have proved, that Imma was not the daughter of Charlemain.—But to return to our Historian.—He was a native of Germany, and educated by the munificence of his imperial master; of which he has left the most grateful testimony in his Preface to the Life of that Monarch—the passage may serve to shew both the amiable mind of the Historian, and the elegance of his style, considering the age in which he wrote:—‘Suberat & alia non irrationabilis, ut opinor, causa, quae vel sola sufficere posset ut me ad haec scribenda compelleret; nutrimentum vide­licet in me impensum, & perpetua, postquam in [Page 142] aula ejus conversari coepi, cum ipso ac liberis ejus amicitia; quâ me ita sibi devinxit, debi­toremque tam vivo quam mortuo constituit, ut meritò ingratus videri & judicari possem, si, tot beneficiorum in me collatorum immemor, claris­sima & illustrissima hominis optimè de me meriti gesta silentio praeterirem, patererque vitam ejus, quasi qui nunquam vixerit, sine literis ac debita laude manere; cui scribendae atque explicandae non meum ingeniolum, quod exile & parvum, imo nullum penè est, sed Tullianam par erat desudare facundiam.’—The terms in which he speaks of Charlemain's being unable to write, are as fol­low:—‘Tentabat & scribere, fabulasque & codi­cellos ad hoc in lectulo sub cervicalibus circum­ferre solebat; ut cum vacuum tempus esset, ma­num effigiundis literis assuefaceret. Sed parum prosperè successit labor praeposterus, ac serò in­choatus.’—Aeginhard, after the loss of his lament­ed wife, is supposed to have passed the remain­der of his days in religious retirement, and to have died soon after the year 840.—His Life of Char­lemain, [Page 143] his Annals from 741 to 829, and his Letters, are all inserted in the 2d volume of Duchesne's Scriptores Francorum. But there is an improved edition of this valuable Historian, with the Annotations of Hermann Schmincke, in Quarto, 1711.


If British Geoffrey fill'd his motley page
With Merlin's spells and Uther's amorous rage.]

The first of the two excellent dissertations pre­fixed to Mr. Warton's History of English Poe­try, gives the most perfect account of this famous old Chronicler, and his whimsical performance.—‘"About the year 1100, Gualter, Archdeacon of Oxford, a learned man, and a diligent collec­tor of Histories, travelling through France, pro­cured in Armorica an antient Chronicle, written in the British or Armorican language, intitled, Brut-y-Brenhined, or the History of the Kings of Britain. This book he brought into England, and communicated it to Geoffrey of Monmouth, [Page 144] a Welsh Benedictine Monk, an elegant writer of Latin, and admirably skilled in the British tongue. Geoffrey, at the request and recommendation of Gualter the Archdeacon, translated this British Chronicle into Latin, executing the Translation with a tolerable degree of purity, and great fide­lity, yet not without some interpolations.—It was probably finished after the year 1138."’‘"The simple subject of this Chronicle, divested of its romantic embellishments, is a deduction of the Welsh Princes from the Trojan Brutus to Cad­wallader, who reigned in the seventh century."’ To this extract from Mr. Warton, it may be proper to add a concise account of that romantic embellishment, to which I have particularly al­luded:—Uther Pendragon, at the festival of his coronation, falls in love with Igerna, the wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall; and being prevented from pursuing his addresses by the vigilance of the husband, he applies to the magical power of Mer­lin for the completion of his desire.—This he ob­tains, by being transformed into the person of [Page 145] Gorlois; and thus introducing himself to the de­luded Igerna, as Jupiter visited Alcmena, he gives birth to the celebrated Arthur.—‘Mansit itaque rex ea nocte cum Igerna, & sese desiderata venere refecit. Deceperat namque illam falsa species quam assumpserat; deceperat etiam fictitiis ser­monibus, quos ornatè componebat . . . unde ipsa credula nihil quod poscebatur abnegavit. Con­cepit itaque eadem nocte celeberrimum illum Arthurum, qui postmodùm ut celebris esset, mira probitate promeruit.’ GALFRIDUS Mon. Lib. vi. cap. 2.


Yet Life's great drama, and the Deeds of men,
Sage Monk of Malm'sbury! engag'd thy pen.]

William, surnamed of Malmesbury from being a member of that church, was a native of Somerset­shire, and is supposed to have received his educa­tion at Oxford. He is justly called, by almost every writer on English History, the most liberal and judicious of all our monastic Historians. His [Page 146] principal work is a History of our Kings, from the arrival of the Saxons to the 20th year of Henry the First. This was followed by two books of later History, which close with the cele­brated escape of the Empress Matilda from the Castle of Oxford, 1142. These works are both addressed to that munificent patron of merit, Ro­bert Earl of Gloucester, natural son of Henry the First; who was perhaps the most exalted and accomplished character that ever flourished in so barbarous an age. The Historian speaks of his noble friend with all the simplicity of truth, and all the warmth of virtuous admiration. He died, according to Pitts, in 1143, three years before his generous patron; and this is probable, from his not pursuing his History, which he intimates a design of resuming.—Yet there is a passage preserved in Tanner, from the Preface to his Comments on Jeremiah, which seems to prove, that he lived to a later period; since he mentions his historical works as the production of his younger days, and speaks of his age as devoted to [Page 147] religious composition. Besides his four books De gestis Pontificum Anglorum, he wrote many works of the same pious turn, which the curious reader may see enumerated in Tanner's Biblio­theca.


Mild Abulfeda! whose rich merits claim
No single wreath of literary fame.]

Ismael Abul­feda, descended from a brother of the great Sala­din, and Prince of Hamah, a city of Syria, was born at Damascus, in the year of the Hegira 672, or according to the Christian aera 1273. His youth was devoted to the toils of martial life, and he seems to have been a brave and accomplished soldier; though his literary fame has eclipsed his military reputation.—The turbulent state of his country prevented his establishment in his here­ditary dominion till the year 710, when the pos­session of it was secured to him by the assistance of Al Malec Al Naser, sultan of Aegypt, from whom he afterwards received the highest ho­nours; [Page 148] of which his gratitude has left the follow­ing particular description, inserted by the learned Schultens in his Preface to the Life of Saladin, as it gives great lustre to the character of our royal Historian.

‘"Hamata degressum equis veredariis, sine ullo jumento instrumentove itineris, prolixissimâ gra­tiâ cumulavit Sultanus, atque munificentiam suam summo gradu erga me explicuit, mittendis variis vestibus, equis, vectabulis, eduliis; mihique pecu­liare tabernaculum statuendo, quod copiosè ador­natum erat veste stragula, tapetibusque ad som­num, ad cibum capiendum; servorumque peculi­ari turbâ mihi assignatâ. Cum hisce omnibus haud cessabant magnifica vestimenta, diversissimi generis, ad me missitata, ut iis publicè condeco­rarem quos collibuisset. Sultanus intereà longum in redeundo domum iter fallebat venatione dorca­dum per accipitres; me quoque suaviter animum oblectante inter effusas ejus in me gratias; dum ad me identidem de captura sua capreolos submit­tebat. Directum quoque ad me, dum iter face­remus, [Page 149] diploma ejus; quo significabat, Te ego sultanum constituam, statim ac in Aegyptum per­venero; atque ad regionem tuam remeabis hoc titulo praefulgens. Ego verò excusationem petere tanti honoris, eumque deprecari, quin et dolorem inde percipere, memet ipsum abjiciendo, splen­didiusque praedicando nomen ejus celsum, quam ut illius quisquam consors ac particeps reddere­tur. Pro incerto itaque relictum illud negotium, donec sedem regni sui attigisset . . . . . . . . . . Ibi dum commoror, sultani mandato ad me per­veniunt insignia sultanatûs, principesque minis­trorum viginti circiter, apportantes regalem vestem sericam consummatissimam auro inter­textam, et acinacem sultanicum, et imperiale ephippium auro illusum Aegyptio; diploma item, sultanatûs dignitatem mihi deferens, una cum stipatoribus sultanicis ad fraenum tenendum; se­lichdarioque (armigero) cujus ex humeris duo gladii dependebant; apparitoribusque sultanicis, qui equum generosum adducebant apparatissimè ornatum. Eum ego conscendi mane diei Jovis, [Page 150] decimo et septimo Muharremi, praecedentibus ad dimidium viae principibus: vecti dein, omnes iterum ad pedes descenderunt quum propinquassem arci montis (palatio regis Aegypti); ego verò in equo perrexi, donec perveherer prope portam arcis, ubi ad pedes degressus, terram in honorem sultani deosculatus sum, arcem versus, atque diplomati quoque celsissimo osculum fixi. Terram deinde iterum iterumque deosculatus, ascendi in arcem atque praesentem me stiti sultano, illustri jam ac provecto die, ubi denuò terram osculatus sum. At ille me eâ cumulavit gratiâ, quam ne pater quidem filio suo exhibet, mihique inter haec Hamatam remeare mandavit; Heus tu, inquiens, longùm jam absens revertere ad regionem tuam."’ Thus invested with the title of Sultan, Abulfeda returned, in all his splendor, to his paternal do­minion; where he closed an honourable life at the age of sixty, in 733, thirteen years after this mag­nificent ceremony.—He is said to have been highly skilled in medicine, philosophy, and poetry: but his fame as an author is chiefly founded on [Page 151] his historical and geographical productions; and these, notwithstanding their acknowledged merit, have appeared only in selected fragments. So piti­ful and precarious has been the encouragement which the most liberal nations of Europe have bestowed on oriental literature, that designs of publishing a complete edition of Abulfeda's geo­graphy have been suffered to fail both in France and England. The honour of doing justice to this illustrious author seems to be reserved for Germany; where the learned Michaelis has lately published his description of Egypt, and intimates an intention of printing the other parts of this au­thor. Of his general History, which he brought down to the latter years of his own life, different portions have been given to the public by different editors—his account of Mahomet, by Gagnier, printed at Oxford, in folio, 1723; his History of the Arabian Caliphs, to the year of the Hegira 406, by Reiske, printed at Leipsic 1754—and his narrative of all the circumstances relating to the great Saladin has been very properly annexed by [Page 152] Schultens to Bohaddin's Life of that monarch. Abulfeda, in this portion of his History, seems to dwell on the great character of Saladin with that ingenuous pride, which a generous mind must naturally feel in speaking of so noble an ances­tor. He relates some anecdotes of that prince, not mentioned by his Biographer, highly expres­sive of his animated and affectionate spirit; par­ticularly a letter written immediately after the severe defeat which obliged him to fly from As­calon into the deserts of Egypt: it was addressed to his brother, who commanded at Damascus, and opened with a quotation from an Arabian poet to this effect:

My soul remembers thee with fond delight,
Amidst the horrors of the adverse fight,
When hostile Larces drink the gory flood,
And satiate in our veins their thirst of blood.

In his account of the gentle disposition and refin­ed manners of Saladin, he perfectly agrees with the Biographer of that monarch.—The gene­rous [Page 153] Abulfeda, so liberal in commemorating the merit of others, has not himself wanted an enco­miast; for, according to Herbelot, his eulogy is contained in the works of an oriental Poet, whose name is Nobatah, and whose compositions may be found in the king of France's library.


And with that victim's blood his sabre stain,
Who dar'd to write the annals of his reign!]

I am unable to discover the name of this inhuman Prince, or that of his unfortunate Historian; but the fact is related on the authority of an Arabic writer, named Nouari, by M. Cardonne, in the Preface to his Histoire de l'Afrique et de l'Espagne sous la Domination des Arabes. His words are—‘"Nouari rapporte, que les Sultans de la dynastie des Almohades defendirent, sous peine de la vie, d' ecrire les Annales de leur régne; et qu'un Prince de cette maison fit périr un Auteur, pour avoir enfraint cette loi."’ As the Princes of this dynasty exerted their power both in Africa and Spain, this singular execution might happen [Page 154] in either country.—I have ventured to suppose it in Spain, for poetical reasons, which will occur to the Reader.


There Corduba, in hours of happier fate,
Sublimely rose in academic state.]

The Univer­sity of Corduba was founded by Al Hakem the Second, who died in the 336th year of the Hegira, after a reign of fifteen years and five months. He was the son and successor of the magnifi­cent Abdelrahman the Third, who in a long and prosperous life had given stability and splendor to the Moorish empire in Spain. It is remark­able, that many of these Arab Princes were not only protectors of literature, but often distinguish­ed themselves by poetical composition. Nor were the Moorish Ladies less eager to cultivate the most elegant of mental accomplishments: Vala­da, or Valadata, the daughter of the Prince who founded the University, was no less celebrated for her poetical talents, than for her singular beauty and exalted birth. She bestowed her protection [Page 155] on that seat of learning, which owed its rise to the liberality of her father; and the principal poets of the time are said to have formed her favourite society.

The Bibliotheca Arabico-Hispana of Casiri, from whence I have drawn these particulars, con­tains also a list of many female poets, who reflect­ed honour on their native city of Corduba. One of the most eminent among these, was a Lady distinguished by the name of Aischa Bent, whose compositions, both in prose and verse, were pub­licly recited in the Academy with universal ap­plause; and who closed (says my Author) a single and chaste life, in the year of the Hegira 400, leaving many monuments of her own genius, as well as a rich and well-chosen library.


Thy warm Bohaddin, with that generous zeal,
Which no base sons of Adulation feel.]

Bohaddin, or Bohadin (for his name is variously written), is conjectured by Schultens, his learned Translator, to have been an Assyrian by birth, and a native of [Page 156] Mosula, the metropolis of Mesopotamia; from whence, before he entered into the service of Sala­din, he was sent embassador, as he himself relates, to the Caliph of Bagdad.—He seems to have been principally indebted to his talents as an Historian, for the protection and favour of that engaging hero, whose confidence he afterwards obtained, and whose splendid character he has so warmly celebrated. For as he was returning from Mecca to Mosula, he embraced an opportunity of present­ing to Saladin an account of the holy war, as he terms it, which he had drawn up as he stopt at Damascus in the course of his pilgrimage, and in which he had described the administration and dis­cipline of that monarch. He affirms that the Sultan perused his work with infinite satisfaction, and expressed the most eager desire to engage him in his service. The grateful Historian was no less inclined to devote himself to his generous and en­thusiastic patron.—From this period he seems to have been a favourite companion of his warlike master; to have shared many of his dangers, as [Page 157] well as his most secret counsels; and to have served him, with a most zealous and affectionate attachment, to the hour of his death—an event of which he speaks with the affecting simplicity of real sorrow. In mentioning the oriental custom of washing the body of the deceased, he records the name of the minister who performed the ceremo­ny; and adds, that he had himself engaged in this mournful office, but was obliged to retire, on feel­ing himself unequal to so painful a scene.—The work of this interesting Biographer is divided in­to two parts: the first exhibits a general charac­ter of the hero, with particular examples of his va­rious virtues and endowments; the second gives a chronological account of his adventures, from his first expedition into Egypt to the close of his life; but passing lightly over his other exploits, dwells chiefly on the transactions of the holy war; and discovers such marks of religious zeal, that Schul­tens very shrewdly supposes the author to have been a priest, from the manner in which he lavishes his maledictions. It is just, however, to observe, that [Page 158] he speaks very liberally on the martial merit of his Christian enemies; and there is one passage in his history, in which he pays a very pleasing and pa­thetic compliment to the universal philanthropy of the Sultan: it is in relating an anecdote which affords so interesting a picture, that I cannot help presenting it to my reader:

In the army of Saladin there were some dexte­rous robbers, who used to penetrate by night into the camp of the Christians, and present to the Sul­tan, on their return, such booty as they had been able to bring off; which he bestowed upon them, as a reward of their valour. In one of their nightly excursions they happened to seize an in­fant of three months: the mother, robbed of her little one, spent the night in the most bitter lamen­tations, and related her misfortune to the Christian leaders. They answered, The Sultan is com­passionate, and we therefore give you permission to depart, and petition him for your child, which he will certainly restore.—Approaching our guard, she relates her story, and implores their assistance. They give her access to the Sultan, to whom, as [Page 159] he was riding, attended by myself and others, she presented herself bathed in tears, and prostrate in the dust. He enquires the cause of her affliction:—she repeats her story:—the Sultan is moved even to tears, and orders the child to be produced. On finding that it had been publicly sold, he commands it to be redeemed; and rested not till he saw the infant delivered to its mother. Receiv­ing it with a profusion of tears, she prest it to her bosom—the surrounding spectators (and I hap­pened to be among them) wept with her—she then gave her breast to the infant; after which the Sultan directed her to be seated on horseback with her little one, and safely escorted to her own quar­ters. Consider (exclaims the affectionate and re­ligious Historian) this example of universal bene­volence! Such, O God! hast thou created this merciful sovereign, to appear most worthy of thy own infinite mercy.—Consider this testimony, which even his enemies have borne of his com­passionate and generous disposition! BOHAD. SCHULTENS, Page 162.


A faithful Chronicler in plain Froissart.]

John Froissart, Canon and Treasurer of the collegiate church of Chimay, in Henault, was born at Va­lenciennes, a city of that province, in 1337, ac­cording to the conjecture of that elaborate and in­genious antiquarian Mr. de St. Palaye; who has amply illustrated the Life and Writings of this engaging Historian, in a series of dissertations among the Memoirs of the French Academy, Vol. X. XIII. XIV.—St. Palaye imagines, from a passage in the MS Poems of Froissart, that his father was a painter of Armories—and it is certain the Historian discovers a passion for all the pomp and all the minutiae of heraldry: it was indeed the favourite study of that martial age; and Froissart, more the priest of gallantry than of reli­gion, devoted himself entirely to the celebration of love and war.—At the age of 20, he began to write History, at the request de son cher Seigneur & Maitre Messire Robert de Namur, Chevalier Seigneur de Beaufort.—The anguish of unsuc­cessful [Page 161] love drove him early into England, and his first voyage seems a kind of emblem of his future life; for he sailed hither in a storm, yet continued writing a rondeau in spite of the tem­pest, till he found himself on that coast, ou l'on aime mieux la guerre, que la paix, & ou les es­trangers sont très bien venus, as he said of our country in his verses, and happily experienced in his kind reception at court, where Philippa of He­nault, the Queen of Edward the Third, and a Pa­troness of learning, distinguished the young His­torian, her countryman, by the kindest protec­tion; and, finding that love had rendered him un­happy, supplied him with money and with horses, that he might present himself with every advan­tage before the object of his passion.—Love soon escorted him to his mistress—but his addresses were again unsuccessful; and, taking a second voyage to England, he became Secretary to his royal patroness Philippa, in 1361, after having pre­sented to her some portion of his History.—He continued five years in her service, entertaining [Page 162] her majesty de beaux dictiez & traictez amoureux: in this period he paid a visit to Scotland, and was entertained 15 days by William earl Douglas.—In 1366, when Edward the Black Prince was preparing for the war in Spain, Froissart was with him in Gascony, and hoped to attend him during the whole course of that important expedition:—but the Prince sent him back to the Queen his mother.—He continued not long in England, as he visited many of the Italian courts in the follow­ing year; and during his travels sustained the irre­parable loss of that patroness, to whose bounty he had been so much indebted.—Philippa died 1369, and Froissart is reported to have written the life of his amiable protectress; but of this performance the researches of St. Palaye could discover no trace.

After this event, he retired to his own country, and obtained the benefice of Lestines, in the dio­cese of Cambray.—But the cure of souls was an office little suited to the gay and gallant Froissart.—His genius led him still to travel from castle to [Page 163] castle, and from court to court, to use the words of Mr. Warton, who has made occasional mention of our author, in his elegant History of English Poetry.—Froissart now entered into the service of the Duke of Brabant; and, as that Prince was himself a poet, Froissart collected all the composi­tions of his master, and adding some of his own, formed a kind of romance, which he calls

Un Livre de Meliador
Le Chevalier au soleil d'or,

and of which, in one of his later poems, he gives the following account:

Dedans ce Romant sont encloses
Toutes les chançons que jadis,
Dont l'ame soit en paradis,
Que fit le bon Duc de Braibant,
Wincelaus, dont on parla tant;
Car un prince fu amorous,
Gracious & chevalerous,
Et le livre me fit ja faire,
Par très grant amoureus à faire,
Coment qu'il ne le veist oncques.

[Page 164] The Duke died in 1384, before this work was completed; and Froissart soon found a new patron in Guy earl of Blois, on the marriage of whose Son he wrote a Pastoral, entitled Le Tem­ple d'Honneur.—The Earl having requested him to resume his History, he travelled for that pur­pose to the celebrated court of Gaston earl of Foix, whose high reputation for every knightly virtue attracted to his residence, at Orlaix, those martial adventurers, from whose mouth it was the delight of Froissart to collect the materials of his History.—The courteous Gaston gave him the most flat­tering reception: he said to him with a smile (& en bon François) ‘"qu'il le connoissoit bien, quoyqu'il ne l'eust jamais veu, mais qu'il avoit bien oui parler de luy, & le retint de son hostel."’—It became a favourite amusement of the Earl, to hear Froissart read his Romance of Meliador after supper.—He attended in the castle every night at 12, when the Earl sate down to table, listened to him with extreme attention, and never dismissed him, till he had made him vuider tout ce [Page 165] qui estoit resté du vin de sa bouche.—Froissart gained much information here, not only from his patron, who was himself very communicative, but from various Knights of Arragon and Eng­land, in the retinue of the Duke of Lancaster, who then resided at Bourdeaux.—After a long residence in this brilliant court, and after receiv­ing a present from the liberal Gaston, which he mentions in the following verses—

Je pris congé & li bons Contes
Me fit par sa chambre des comptes
Delivrer quatrevins florins
D'Arragon, tous pesans & fins
Et mon livre, qu'il m'ot laissé—

Froissart departed in the train of the Countess of Boulogne, related to the [...]arl of Foix, and just leaving him, to join her new husband the Duke of Berry.—In this expedition our Historian was robbed near Avignon, and laments the unlucky adventure in a very long poem, from which Mr. de St Palaye has drawn many particu­lars [Page 166] of his life. The ground-work of this poem (which is not in the list of our Author's poetical pieces, that Mr. Warton has given us from Pas­quier) seems to have a strong vein of humour.—It is a dialogue between the Poet and the sin­gle Florin that he has left, out of the many which he had either spent, or been obliged to surrender to the robbers.—He represents himself as a man of the most expensive turn: in 25 years he had squandered two thousand franks, besides his eccle­siastical revenues. The composition of his works had cost him 700; but he regretted not this sum, as he expected to be amply repaid for it by the praise of posterity.

After having attended all the festivals on the marriage of the Duke of Berry, having traversed many parts of France, and paid a visit to Zeland, he returned to his own country in 1390, to con­tinue his History from the various materials he had collected.—But not satisfied with the relations he had heard of the war in Spain, he went to Middlebourgh in Zeland, in pursuit of a Portu­guese [Page 167] Knight, Jean Ferrand Portelet, vaillant homme & sage, & du Conseil du Roy de Portu­gal. From this accomplished soldier Froissart expected the most perfect information, as an ocu­lar witness of those scenes which he now wished to record.—The courteous Portelet received our indefatigable Historian with all the kindness which his enthusiasm deserved; and in six days, which they passed together, gave him all the intelligence he desired.—Froissart now returned home, and finished the third book of his History.—Many years had past since he had bid adieu to Eng­land. Taking advantage of the truce then esta­blished between France and that country, he paid it another visit in 1395, with letters of re­commendation to the King and his uncles.—From Dover he proceeded to Canterbury, to pay his devoirs at the shrine of Thomas of Becket, and to the memory of the Black Prince.—Here he happened to find the son of that hero, the young King Richard, whom devotion had also brought to make his offerings to the fashionable Saint, [Page 168] and return thanks to Heaven for his successes in Ireland.—Froissart speaks of this adventure, and his own feelings on the great change of scene that had taken place since his last visit to England, in the following natural and lively terms:‘—Le Roy . . . vint . . a trez grant arroy, et bien accompaigne de seigneurs, de dames, et demoi­selles, et me mis entre eulx, & entre elles, et tout me sembla nouvel, ne je ny congnoissoye per­sonne; car le tems estoit bien change en Angle­terre depuis le tems de vingt & huyt ans: et en la compagnie du roy n'avoit nuls de ses oncles . . . . si fus du premier ainsi que tout esbahy . . .’ Tho' Froissart was thus embarrassed in not finding one of his old friends in the reti­nue of the King, he soon gained a new Patron in Thomas Percy, Master of the Household, who offered to present him and his letters to Richard; but this offer happening on the eve of the King's departure, it proved too late for the ceremony—‘Le Roy estoit retrait pour aller dormir.’—And on the morrow, when the impatient Historian at­tended [Page 169] early at the Archbishop's palace, where the King slept, his friend Percy advised him to wait a more convenient season for being intro­duced to Richard.—Froissart acquiesced in this advice, and was consoled for his disappointment by falling into company with an English Knight, who had attended the King in Ireland, and was very willing to gratify the curiosity of the Histo­rian by a relation of his adventures.—This was William de Lisle, who entertained him, as they rode along together, with the marvels of St. Pa­trick's Cave, in which he assured him he had passed a night, and seen wonderful visions.—Though our honest Chronicler is commonly ac­cused of a passion for the marvellous, with an ex­cess of credulity, he says very sensibly on this oc­casion, ‘de cette matiere je ne luy parlay plus avant, et m'en cessay, car voulentiers je luy eusse demande du voyage d'Irlande, et luy eu voulaye parler, et mettre en voye.’—It appears plainly from this passage, that our Historian was more anxious to gain information concerning [Page 170] the scenes of real action, than to listen to the ex­travagant fictions of a popular legend.—But here he was again disappointed.—New companions joined them on the road, and their historical con­ference was thus interrupted.—These mortifica­tions were soon repaid by the kind reception he met with from the Duke of York, who said to him, when he received the recommendatory let­ter from the Earl of Henault, ‘"Maistre Jehan tenez vous toujours deles nous, & nos gens, nous vous ferons tout amour & courtoisie, nous y sommes tenus pour l'amour du tems passé & de notre dame de mere à qui vous futes; nous en avons bien la souvenance."’—With these flatter­ing marks of remembrance and favour, the Duke presented him to the ‘King, lequel me receut joyeusement et doulcement (continues Frois­sart) . . et ne dist que je fusse le bien venus et si j'avoye este de l'hostel du Roy son Ayeul & de Madame son Ayeule encores estoys je de l'hostel d'Angleterre.’—Some time however elapsed, before he had an opportunity of presenting his [Page 171] romance of Meliador, which he had prepared for the King.—The Duke of York and his other friends at length obtained for him this honour. He gives the following curious and particular account of the ceremony: ‘Et voulut veoir le Roy mon livre, que je luy avoye apporte. Si le vit en sa chambre: car tout pourveu je l'avoye, et luy mis fur son lict. Et lors il l'ouvrit et regarda dedans, et luy pleut tres grandement. Et plaire bien luy devoit: car il estoit enlumine, escrit et Historie, & couvert de vermeil veloux a dix cloux d'argent dorez d'or et roses d'or ou meillieu a deux gros fermaulx dorez et richement ouvrez ou meillieu rosiers d'or. Adonc me de­manda le Roy de quoy il traictoit: et je luy dis d'amours. De ceste responce fut tout resjouy, et regarda dedans le livre en plusieurs lieux, et y lysit, car moult bien parloit et lysoit Françoys, et puis le fist prendre par ung sien Chevalier, qui se nomme Messire Richard Credon, et porter en sa chambre de retrait dont il me fist bonne chere.’

[Page 172] After passing three months in this court, Froissart took his leave of the munificent but ill­fated Richard. In the last chapter of his His­tory, where he mentions the unfortunate end of this Monarch, he speaks with an honest and af­fecting gratitude of the liberal present he received from him on his departure from England.—It was a goblet of silver gilt, weighing two marks, and filled with a hundred nobles.

On leaving England, he retired to his own country, and is supposed to have ended his days at his benefice of Chimay; but the year of his death is uncertain.—There is an ancient tradi­tion in the country, says Mr. de Saint Palaye, that he was buried in the chapel of St. Anne, be­longing to his own church.—That ingenious antiquarian produces an extract from its archives, in which the death of Froissart is recorded, but without naming the year, in the most honour­able terms.—His obit bears the date of Oc­tober, and is followed by 20 Latin verses, [Page 173] from which I select such as appear to me the most worth transcribing.

Gallorum sublimis honos, & fama tuorum,
Hìc, Froissarde, jaces, si modò sorte jaces.
Historiae vivus studuisti reddere vitam,
Defuncto vitam reddet at illa tibi.
Proxima dum propriis florebit Francia scriptis,
*Famia dum ramos, *Blancaque fundet aquas,
Urbis ut hujus honos, templi sic fama vigebis,
Teque ducem Historiae Gallia tota colet,
Belgica tota colet, Cymeaque vallis amabit,
Dum rapidus proprios Scaldis obibit agros.

As I have never met with any satisfactory ac­count of Froissart's life in our language, I have been tempted to swell this Note to an inordinate length; yet it seems to me still necessary to add a few lines more concerning the character both of the Historian and the Poet.—A long series of French Critics, to whom even the judicious Bayle [Page 174] has been tempted to give credit, have severely censured Froissart, as the venal partizan of the English; and they have accused his last Editor, Sauvage, of mutilating his author, because they could find in his edition no proofs of their charge.—The amiable St. Palaye has defended le bon Froissart, as he is called by honest Montaigne, from this unjust accusation; and done full justice, at the same time, to the injured reputation of his exact and laborious editor.

It may serve as a kind of memento mori to poe­tical vanity, to reflect that Froissart is hardly known as a Poet, though his fertile pen produced 30,000 verses, which were once the delight of Princes, and the favourite study of the gallant and the fair.—How far he deserved the oblivion into which his poetical compositions have fallen, the reader may conceive from the following judgment of his French Critic; with whose ingenious re­flection on the imperfections attending the early state both of Poetry and Painting, I shall termi­nate this Note.

[Page 175] ‘On peut dire en général au sujet des Poesies de Froissart, que l'invention pour les sujets lui manquoit autant que l'imagination pour les or­nemens; du reste le style qu'il employe, moins abondant que diffus, offre souvent la répétition ennuyeuse des mêmes tours, & des mêmes phrases, pour rendre des idées assez communes: cependant la simplicité et la liberté de sa versification ne sont pas toûjours dépourvûes de graces, on y rencontre de tems en tems quelques images & plusieurs vers de suite dont l'expression est assez heureuse.’

‘Tel étoit alors l'état de notre Poesie Françoise, et le sort de la Peinture étoit à peu près le meme. Ces deux arts que l'on a toujours comparez ensem­ble paroissent avoir eu une marche presqu' uni­forme dans leur progrès. Les Peintres au sortir de la plus grossiére barbarie, saisissant d'abord en détail tous les petits objets que la nature leur pre­sentoit, s'attachérent aux insectes, aux fieurs, aux oiseaux, les parérent des couleurs les plus vives, les dessinérent avec une exactitude que nous ad­mirons encore dans les vignettes & dans les mi­niatures [Page 176] des manuscrits; lorsqu'ils vinrent à représenter des figures humaines, ils s'étudiérent bien plus à terminer les contours & à exprimer jusqu' aux cheveux les plus fins, qu' à donner de l'ame aux visages & du mouvement aux corps; et ces figures dont la nature la plus commune four­nissoit toujours les modelles, étoient jettées en­semble au hazard, sans choix, sans ordonnance, sans aucun goût de composition.’

‘Les Poetes aussi stériles que les Peintres, bornoient toute leur industrie à scavoir amener des descriptions proportionnées à leur talens, et ils ne les quittoient qu'après les avoir épuisées; ils ne sçavent guéres parler que d'un beau printems, de la verdure des campagnes, de l'émail des prairies, du ramage de mille especes d'oi­seaux, de la clarté et de la vivacité d'une belle fontaine ou d'un ruisseau qui murmure; quelque­fois cependant ils rendent avec naïveté les amuse­mens enfantins des amans, leurs ris, leurs jeux, les palpitations ou la joie d'un coeur amoreux; ils n'imaginent rien au delà, incapable d'ailleurs [Page 177] de donner de la suite et de la liaison à leurs idées.’ Notice des Poesies de Froissart; Memoires de l'Academie, tom. xiv. p. 225.


Thy Favour, like the Sun's prolific ray,
Brought the keen Scribe of Florence into Day.]

Nicholas Machiavel, the celebrated Florentine, was first patronized by Leo, who caused one of his comedies to be acted with great magnificence at Rome, and engaged him to write a private Treatise de Reformatione Reipublicae Floren­tinae. His famous political Essay, intitled, "The Prince," was published in 1515, and dedicated to the Nephew of that Pontiff. The various judg­ments that have been passed on this singular per­formance, are a striking proof of the incertitude of human opinion.—In England it has received applause from the great names of Bacon and Clarendon, who suppose it intended to promote [Page 178] the interest of liberty and virtue. In Italy, after many years of approbation, it was publicly con­demned by Clement the VIIIth, at the instiga­tion of a Jesuit, who had not read the book. In France it has even been supposed instrumental to the horrid massacre of St. Bartholomew, as the favourite study of Catherine of Medicis and her Sons, and as teaching the bloody lessons of ex­tirpation which they so fatally put in practice. Yet one of his French Translators has gone so far as to say, that ‘"Machiavel, who passes among all the world for a teacher of Tyranny, detested it more than any man of the age in which he lived."’ It must however be owned, that there is a great mixture of good and evil in his poli­tical precepts. For the latter many plausible apologies have been made: and it should be re­membered to his honour, that his great aim was to promote the welfare of his country, in ex­citing the House of Medicis to deliver Italy from the invasion of foreigners.

He is said to have been made Historiographer [Page 179] of Florence, as a reward for having suffered the torture on suspicion of conspiring against the go­vernment of that city, having supported the severe trial with unfailing resolution. His History of that republic he wrote at the request of Clement the VIIth, as we are informed in his Dedication of it to that Pontiff. The style of this work is much celebrated, and the first Book may be re­garded as a model of Historical abridgment.—He died, according to Paul Jovius, in 1530.


Nor less, O Leo! was it thine to raise
The great Historic Chief of modern days.]

Francis Guicciardin, born at Florence 1482, of an antient and noble family, was appointed a Professor of Civil Law in that city at the age of 23. In 1512 he was sent Ambassador to Ferdi­nand King of Arragon; and soon after his re­turn, deputed by the Republic to meet Leo the Xth at Cortona, and attend him on his public [Page 180] entry into Florence.—That discerning Pontiff immediately became his Patron, and raised him to the government of Modena and Reggio. He succeeded to that of Parma, which he defended with great spirit against the French, on the death of Leo.—He rose to the highest honours under Clement the VIIth, having the command of all the ecclesiastical forces, and being Go­vernor of Romagna, and lastly of Bologna, in which city he is said to have received the most flattering compliments from the Emperor Charles V.—Having gained much reputation, both civil and military, in various scenes of ac­tive life, he passed his latter days in retirement, at his villa near Florence; where he died soon after completing his History, in the 59th year of his age, 1540. Notwithstanding the high re­putation of Guicciardin, his History has been violently attacked, both as to matter and style.—The honest Montaigne inveighs with great warmth against the malignant turn of its author; and his own countryman Boccalini, in whose [Page 181] whimsical but lively work there are many ex­cellent remarks on History and Historians, sup­poses a Lacedaemonian thrown into agonies by a single page of Guicciardin, whom he is con­demned to read, for having himself been guilty of using three words instead of two. The poor Spartan cries for mercy, and declares that any tortures are preferable to the prolixity of such a Writer.—This celebrated Historian was also a Poet. The three following verses are the begin­ning of an Epistle, which he entitled Suppli­cazione d'Italia al Christianissimo Rè Fran­cesco I.

Italia afflitta, nuda, e miseranda,
Ch' or de Principi suoi stanca si lagna
A Te, Francesco, questa Carta manda.

They are preserved in Crescimbeni della volgar Poesia. Vol. v. p. 132.

Among the letters of the elder Tasso, there is a curious one addressed to Guicciardin, concern­ing the Doge of Genoa: and the Amori of the [Page 182] same Poet contain the following compliment to the Historian:

Arno, ben poi il tuo natio soggiorno
Lasciar nel Appennino, e co cristalli
Scendendo per l'alpestre horride valli
Far il Tirrheno mar ricco, ed adorno;
Ben poi di fronde l'uno, e l'altro corno
Cinger contento, e di fior bianchi e gialli;
E guidar care, ed amorose balli
Con le tue nimphe al verde fondo intorno;
Che tra quanti intelletti humano velo
Chiude ne l'alme al mondo chiare, e conte,
Un tuo figlio è maggiore, e piu perfetto.
Intaglia il nome suo nel tuo bel monte
Si, che per molti secoli sia letto
Guicciardin poi, ch'ei sia salito in Cielo.
Amori di BERNARDO TASSO, Vinegia 1531, page 52.


With equal wreaths let Davila be crown'd.]

Henry Catherine Davila was the youngest son of Antonio Davila, Grand Constable of Cyprus, who had been obliged to retire into Spain on the tak­ing of that island by the Turks, in 1570. From Spain Antonio repaired to the court of France, and settled his son Lewis and two daughters un­der the patronage of Catherine of Medicis, whose name he afterwards gave to the young Historian, born 1576, at an antient castle in the territories of Padua, though generally called a native of Cyprus. The little Davila was brought early into France:—at the age of 18 he signalized himself in the military scenes of that country His last exploit there was at the siege of Amiens, where he fought under Henry IV. and received a wound in the knee, as he relates himself in his History.—After peace was established in France, he withdrew into Italy, and served the Republic [Page 184] of Venice with great reputation, till a most unfor­tunate adventure put an end to his life in 1631.—Passing through Verona with his wife and family, on his way to Crema, which he was appointed to defend, and demanding, according to the usual custom of persons in his station, a supply of horses and carriages for his retinue, a brutal Veronese, called Il Turco, entered the room where he and his family were at supper; and being mildly reprimanded for his intrusion by Davila, discharged a pistol at the Historian, and shot him dead on the instant. His accom­plices also killed the Chaplain of Davila, and wounded many of his attendants.—But his eldest son Antonio, a noble youth of eighteen, revenged the death of his father by killing his murderer on the spot. All the confederates were secured the next morning, and publicly executed at Verona.—Memoire Istoriche, prefixed to the London edition of Davila, 4to. 1755.—It is very remarkable, that Davila passes no censure on the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.—His cha­racter [Page 185] of the Queen Mother has that partiality, which it was natural for him to shew to the Patroness of his family; but his general veracity is confirmed by the great authority of the first Duke of Epernon, who (to use the words of Lord Bolingbroke) ‘"had been an actor, and a principal actor too, in many of the scenes that Davila recites."’ Girard, Secretary to this Duke, and no contemptible Biographer, relates, that this History came down to the place where the old man resided, in Gascony, a little before his death; that he read it to him; that the Duke confirmed the truth of the narrations in it; and seemed only surprised by what means the author could be so well informed of the most secret councils and measures of those times."—Letters on History.


Sarpi, blest name! from every foible clear.]

Father Paul, the most amiable and exalted cha­racter that was ever formed in monastic retire­ment, was the son of Francesco Sarpi, a mer­chant [Page 186] of Venice, and born in that city, 1552. He took the religious habit, in the monastery of the Servites, 1565. After receiving priest's orders in 1574, he passed four years in Man­tua, being appointed to read Lectures on Di­vinity and Canon Law, by the Bishop of that diocese: and in this early part of his life, he is conjectured to have conceived the first idea of writing his celebrated History; as he formed an intimate friendship, during his residence in Man­tua, with Camillo d'Oliva, who had been Secre­tary to Cardinal Gonzaga at the Council of Trent; and excited the learned Venetian to the arduous task, which he so happily accomplished in a future period. He was recalled from Man­tua, to read Lectures on Philosophy in his own convent at Venice; which he did with great repu­tation, during the years 1575, 1576, and 1577.—He went to Rome, as Procurator General, in 1585.—Passing from thence to Naples, he there formed an acquaintance with the famous Baptista Porta, who has left this honourable testimony of his universal knowledge:—‘Eo doctiorem, sub­tiliorem, [Page 187] quotquot adhuc videre contigerit, ne­minem cognovimus; natum ad Encyclopediam, &c.’ Nor is this an exaggerated compliment, as there is hardly any science which escaped his active mind. His discoveries in Optics and Ana­tomy would be alone sufficient to immortalize his name, had he not gained immortality by a still nobler exertion of his mental powers, in de­fending the liberties of his country against the tyranny of Rome. On the first attack of Pope Paul V. on two laws of Venice, very wisely framed to correct the abuses of the clergy, Fa­ther Paul arose as the literary champion of the Republic, and defended its cause with great spirit and temper, in various compositions; though he is said not to be Author of the Treatise generally ascribed to him on the occasion, and intitled, The Rights of Sovereigns, &c.—His chief per­formance on the subject was, Considerazioni sopra le Censure di Paolo V.—The Venetians shewed a just admiration of the sublime virtue of a Monk, who defended so nobly the civil rights of his [Page 188] country against the separate interest of the church. In 1606 the Council passed a decree in his fa­vour; which I shall transcribe in this note, be­cause it is not found in the common Lives of Father Paul, and because there is hardly any ob­ject more pleasing to the mind, than the con­templation of a free state rewarding one of its most virtuous servants with liberality and esteem.—‘Continuando il R. P. M. Paolo da Venezia dell ordine de Serviti a prestare alla Signoria Nostra con singolar Valore quell ottimo servigio, ch' è ben conosciuto, potendosi dire, ch' egli fra tutti con le sue scritture piene di profonda dottrina sostenti con validissimi fondamenti le potentissime e validissime ragioni nostre nella causa, che ha di presente la Repubblica con la corte di Roma, anteponendo il servigio e la sod­disfazione nostra a qualsivoglia suo particolare ed importante rispetto. E perciò cosa giusta e ragionevole, e degna dell ordinaria munificenza di questo Configlio, il dargli modo, con che possa assicurare la sua Vita da ogni pericolo, che [Page 189] gli potesse soprastare, e sovvenire insieme alli suoi bisogni, bench, egli non ne faccia alcuna istanza, ma piutosto si mostri alieno da qualsi­voglia ricognizione, che si abbia intenzione di usargli. Tal è la sua modestia, e cosi grande il desiderio, che ha di far conoscere, che nessuna pretensione di premio, ma la sola divozione sua verso la Repubblica, e la giustizia della Causa lo muovano adoperarsi con tanto studio e con tante fatiche alli servizi nostri. Percio anderà parte, che allo stipendio, il quale a' 28 del Mese di Gen­naio passato fu assegnato al sopradetto R. P. M. Paolo da Venezia di Ducati duecento all anno, siano accresciuti altri ducati duecento, sicchè in avvenire abbia ducati quattrocento acciòchè res­tando consolato per questa spontanea e benigna dimostrazione pubblica, con maggior ardore abbia a continuare nel suo buono e divoto servizio, e possa con questo assequamento provvedere mag­giormente alla sicurezza della sua Vita.’—The generous care of the Republic to reward and pre­serve so valuable a servant, could not secure him [Page 190] from the base attempts of that enemy, whom his virtue had provoked. In 1607, after Venice had adjusted her disputes with Rome, by the me­diation of France, the first attack was made on the life of Father Paul. He was beset near his convent, in the evening, by five assassins, who stabbed him in many places, and left him for dead. He recovered, under the care of the cele­brated Acquapendente, appointed to attend him at the public charge; to whom, as he was speaking on the depth of the principal wound, his patient said pleasantly, that the world im­puted it stylo Romanae Curiae.—The crime is generally supposed to have proceeded from the Jesuits; but the secret authors of it were never clearly discovered, though the five ruffians were traced by the Venetian Ambassador in Rome; where they are said to have been well received at first, but failing afterwards in their expected re­ward, to have perished in misery and want. The Senate of Venice paid such attention to Father Paul, as expressed the highest sense of his merit, [Page 191] and the most affectionate solicitude for his safety. They not only doubled his stipend a second time, but entreated him to chuse a public residence, for the greater security of his person. The munifi­cence and care of the Republic was equalled by the modesty and fortitude of their servant. He chose not to relinquish his cell: and, though warned of various machinations against his life, he continued to serve his country with unabating zeal; discovering, in his private letters to his friends, the most heroic calmness of mind; and saying, in answer to their admonitions, that ‘"no man lives well, who is too anxious for the pre­servation of life."’—Yet the apprehensions of his friends had too just a foundation. In 1609 another conspiracy was formed, to murder him in his sleep, by some persons of his own convent; but their treachery was happily discovered.—From this time he lived in more cautious retire­ment, still devoting himself to the service of the Republic on various occasions, and acquiring [Page 192] new reputation by many compositions. At length the world was surprised by his History of the Council of Trent, first published at London, 1619, with the fictitious name of Pietro Soave Polano; and dedicated to James the Ist by Antonio de Dominis, the celebrated Archbishop of Spalatro, who speaks of the concealed Author as his intimate friend, who had entrusted him with a manuscript, on which his modesty set a trifling value, but which it seemed proper to bestow upon the world even without his consent.—The mystery concerning the publication of this noble work, has never been thoroughly cleared up; and various falsities concerning it have been reported by authors of considerable reputation.—It has even been said that James the Ist had some share in the composition of the book: if he had, it was probably in forming the name Pietro Soave Polano, which is an anagram of Paolo Sarpi Veneziano, and the only part of the book which bears any relation to the style or [Page 193] taste of that Monarch.—Father Paul was soon supposed to be the real Author of the work in question. The Prince of Condé, on a visit to his cloyster, expressly asked him, if he was so—to which he modestly replied, that at Rome it was well known who had written it.—He enjoyed not many years the reputation arising from this masterly production—in 1623 a fever occasioned his death, which was even more exemplary and sublime than his life itself.—He prepared himself for approaching dissolu­tion with the most devout composure; and, as the liberty of his country was the darling object of his exalted mind, he prayed for its pre­servation with his last breath, in the two cele­brated words Esto Perpetua.

There is a singular beauty in the character of Father Paul, which is not only uncommon in his profession, but is rarely found in human nature.—Though he passed a long life in con­troversy of the most exasperating kind, and was continually attacked in every manner that [Page 194] malignity could suggest, both his writings and his heart appeared perfectly free from a vindic­tive spirit. Devoting all the powers of his mind to the defence of the public cause, he seemed entirely to forget the injuries that were per­petually offered to his own person and re­putation.

His constitution was extremely delicate, and his intense application exposed him to very frequent and violent disorders: these he greatly remedied by his singular temperance, living chiefly on bread, fruits, and water.—This imperfect account of a character deserving the noblest elogium, is princi­pally extracted from an octavo volume, intitled, Memoire Anedote spettanti a F. Paolo da Fran­cesco Griselini Veneziano, &c. edit. 2d, 1760. The author of this elaborate work has pointed out several mistakes in the French and English accounts of Father Paul; particularly in the anecdotes related of him by Burnet, in his Life of Bishop Bedell; and by Mr. Brent, the son of his English Translator.—Some of these had in­deed [Page 195] been observed before by writers of our own.—See the General Dictionary, under the article Father Paul.—For the length and for the defi­ciencies of this Note, I am tempted to apologize with a sentence borrowed from the great Historian who is the subject of it:—‘Chi mi osserverà in al­cuni tempi abondare, in altri andar ristretto, si ri­cordi che non tutti i campi sono di ugnal fertilità, ne tutti li grani merltano d'esser conservati, e di quel­li che il mietitore vorrebbe tenerne conto, qual­che spica anco sfugge la presa della mano, o il filo della falce, cosi comportando la conditione d'ogni mietitura che resti anco parte per rispigolare.’


The clear Osorius, in his classic phrase.]

Jerom Osorius was born of a noble family at Lisbon, 1506. He was educated at the university of Sala­manca, and afterwards studied at Paris and Bo­logna. On his return to Portugal, he gradually rose to the Bishopric of Sylves, to which he was [Page 196] appointed by Catherine of Austria, Regent of the kingdom in the minority of Sebastian. At the request of Cardinal Henry of Portugal, he wrote his History of King Emanuel, and the expedition of Gama—which his great contemporary Ca­moens made at the same time the subject of his immortal Lusiad; a poem which has at length appeared with due lustre in our language, being translated with great spirit and elegance by Mr. Mickle. It is remarkable, that the History of Osorius, and the Epic Poem of Camoens, were published in the same year, 1572: but the fate of these two great Authors was very different; the Poet was suffered to perish in poverty, under the reign of that Henry who patronized the Histori­an: yet, allowing for the difference of their pro­fessions, I am inclined to think they possessed a simi­larity of mind. There appear many traces of that high heroic spirit, even in the Priest Osorius, which animated the Soldier Camoens; particularly in the pleasure with which he seems to describe the martial manners of his countrymen, under the [Page 197] of Emanuel.—‘Illius aetate (says the Histo­rian, in the close of his manly work) inopia in ex­ilium pulsa videbatur: moestitiae locus non erat: querimoniae silebant: omnia choreis & cantibus per­sonabant: ejusmodi ludis aula regia frequenter ob­lectabatur. Nobiles adolescentes cum virginibus regiis in aula sine ulla libidinis significatione sal­tabant; et quamvis honestissimis amoribus indul­gerent, virginibus erat insitum, neminem ad fa­miliaritatem admitterre, nisi illum qui aliquid for­titer & animosè bellicis in rebus effecisset. Pueris enim nobilibus, qui in aula regia versabantur, non erat licitum pallium virile sumere, antequam in Africam trajicerent, & aliquod inde decus egre­gium reportarent. Et his quidem moribus erat illius temporis nobilitas instituta, ut multi ex illius domo viri omni laude cumulati prodirent.’—This is a striking picture of the manners of chivalry, to which Portugal owed much of its glory in that splendid period. There is one particular in the character of Osorius, which, considering his age and country, deserves the highest encomium: I [Page 198] mean his tolerating spirit. In the first book of his History, he speaks of Emanuel's cruel perse­cution of the Jews in the following generous and exalted language:—‘Fuit quidem hoc nec ex lege nec ex religione factum. Quid enim? Tu re­belles animos, nullaque ad id suscepta religione constrictos, adigas ad credendum ea, quae summa contentione aspernantur & respuunt? Idque tibi assumas, ut libertatem voluntatis impedias, & vin­cula mentibus effraenatis injicias? At id neque fieri potest, neque Christi sanctissimum numen approbat. Voluntarium enim sacrificium, non vi et malo coactum, ab hominibus expetit; neque vim mentibus inferri, sed voluntates ad studium verae religionis allici & invitari jubet. . . . . Postremò quis non videt . . . . . et ita religionem per re­ligionis simulationem indignissimè violari?’—Oso­rius is said to have used many arguments to dis­suade Sebastian from his unfortunate expedition into Africa; and to have felt so deeply the mise­ries which befel the Portuguese after that fatal event, that his grief was supposed to accelerate his [Page 199] death.—He expired in 1580, happy, says De Thou (who celebrates him as a model of Chris­tian virtue), that he died just before the Spanish army entered Portugal, and thus escaped being a witness to the desolation of his country.—His va­rious works were published at Rome in 1592, by his nephew Osorius, in four volumes folio, with a Life of their Author. Among these are two re­markable productions: the first, an admonition to our Queen Elizabeth, exhorting her to return in­to the church of Rome; the second, an Essay on Glory, written with such classical purity, as to give birth to a report, that it was not the composi­tion of Osorius, but the lost work of Cicero on that subject.

In the Lucubrationes of Walter Haddon, the curious reader may find a very spirited answer to the invective against the Reformation, which the zeal of the Portuguese Bishop led him to address to Elizabeth.—The English Civilian defends the cause of his nation and his Queen with great ener­gy.—He justifies the dissolution of the monasteries, [Page 200] by representing their abuses in the most glowing colours; and he ventures to affirm, in vindicating the character of his royal Mistress, that her Ma­jesty of England was as great a Theologian as the Bishop of Sylves himself:—‘Sacras Scripturas mul­tùm lectitat, interpretes optimos inter se comparat, doctissimorum theologorum undique sententias colligit, scientia linguarum per se ipsa excellit, in­genio est prompto et acri; sapientiae tantum ad haec adhibet, quantum vix est in illo sexu credi­bile: denique nostrorum ad consciones ventitat, et sensus in his rebus habet partim legendo, par­tim audiendo, tam exercitatos, ut non minus te docere possit, quam ex te discere. HADDON, Lucubrat. Pag. 259.


Iberia's Genius bids just Fame allow
As bright a wreath to Mariana's brow.]

John Mariana was born 1537, at Talavera (a town in the diocese of Toledo), as he himself informs us [Page 201] in his famous Essay de Rege, which opens with a beautiful romantic description of a sequestered spot in that neighbourhood, where he enjoyed the pleasures of literary retirement with his friend Cal­deron, a Minister of Toledo; whose death he mentions in the same Essay, commemorating his learning and his virtues in the most pleasing terms of affectionate admiration.—Mariana was admit­ted into the order of Jesuits at the age of 17. He travelled afterwards into Italy and France; and returning into Spain in 1574, settled at Toledo, and died there in the 87th year of his age, 1624.—Hearing it frequently regretted, in the course of his travels, that there was no General History of his country, he engaged in that great work on his return; and published it in Latin at Toledo, 1592, with a dedication to Philip the IId: where he speaks of his own performance with modesty and manly freedom, and perhaps with as little flattery as ever appeared in any address of that nature, to a Monarch continually fed with the grossest adulation.—This elaborate work he [Page 202] translated into Spanish, but, as he himself declares, with all the freedom of an original author. He published his Version in 1601, with an address to Philip the IIId, in which he laments the decline of Learning in his country; and declares he had himself executed that work, from his apprehension of its being mangled by an ignorant Translator. He had closed his History (which begins with the first peopling of Spain) with the death of Ferdi­nand, in 1516; but in a subsequent edition, in 1617, he added to it a short summary of events to the year 1612. But in the year before he first published the Spanish Version of his History, he addressed also to the young Monarch Philip the IIId, his famous Essay which I have mentioned, and which was publicly burnt at Paris, about 20 years after its publication, on the supposition that it had excited Ravaillac to the murder of Henry the IVth: though it was asserted, with great proba­bility, by the Jesuits, that the Assassin had never seen the book. It is true, indeed, that Mariana in this Essay occasionally defends Clement the [Page 203] Monk, who stabbed Henry the IIId; and it is very remarkable, that he grounds this defence, not on the bigotted tenets of a Priest, who thinks every thing lawful for the interest of his church, but on those sublime principles of civil liberty, with which an antient Roman would have vindi­cated the dagger of Brutus. Indeed this Essay contains some passages on Government, which would not have dishonoured even Cicero himself; but, it must be owned, they are grievously dis­graced by the last chapter of the Work, which breathes a furious spirit of ecclesiastical intole­rance, and yet closes with these mild and modest expressions:—‘Nostrum de regno et Regis institu­tione judicium fortassè non omnibus placeat: qui volet sequatur; aut suo potiùs stet, si potioribus argumentis nitatur: de quibus rebus tantoperè as­severavi in his libris, eas nunquam veriores quam alienam sententiam affirmabo. Potest enim non solum mihi aliud, aliud aliis videri, sed et mihi ipsi alio tempore. Suam quisque sententiam per me sequatur . . . et . . qui nostra leget . . . [Page 204] memor conditionis humanae, si quid erratum est, pio studio rempublicam juvandi veniam benignus concedat et facilis.’—This is not the only work of Mariana which fell under a public proscription; he was himself persecuted, and suffered a year's imprisonment, for a treatise which seems to have been dictated by the purest love to his country. It was against the pernicious practice of debasing the public coin; and as it was supposed to reflect on the Duke of Lerma, called the Sejanus of Spain, it exposed the Author, about the year 1609, to the persecution of that vindictive Minister, from which it does not appear how he escaped.—In­deed the accounts of Mariana's life are very im­perfect. Bayle, whom I have chiefly followed, mentions a life of him by De Vargas, which he could not procure. I have sought after this Bio­grapher with the same ill success; as I wished to give a more perfect account of this great Author, whose personal History is little known among us, though it is far from being unworthy of atten­tion.


The fervid Grotius to her glory rais'd
A column, splendid as the feats he prais'd.]

Hugo Grotius was the eldest child of John de Groot, curator in the university of Leyden, and born at Delft on the 10th of April 1583.—His infancy gave the fairest promise of those great and universal talents, which were so amply un­folded in his subsequent life. At the age of eleven he was celebrated as a prodigy of learning.—When Barnevelt was sent Ambassador to Henry the IVth of France, in 1598, he took the young Grotius in his train, and presented him to that Monarch; who honoured the little scholar by graciously giving him his picture and a chain of gold. One circumstance was yet wanting to complete the joy of Grotius in this expedition; and he was obliged to quit France without obtaining the great object of his wishes, a per­sonal acquaintance with the President de Thou.— [Page 206] He afterwards expressed his mortification on this subject in a letter to that great man, which gave rise to a friendly correspondence between these congenial characters, highly honourable to both.—On his return to Holland, Grotius devoted himself to the practice of the law, and in 1599 pleaded his first cause at Delft. In the exercise of this laborious profession, he found sufficient time to cultivate polite literature. In 1599 he published his edition of Martianus Capella, at the request of Scaliger: it was followed, in the succeeding year, by the Phaenomena of Ara­tus: and in 1601 he printed his first tragedy of Adamus Exful, a composition which might pos­sibly give birth to the divine performance of Mil­ton; though its author esteemed it so little, as to exclude it from a collection of his poems. Gro­tius, indeed, was remarkably modest in estima­ting his own poetical talents:—few persons have written so many verses, and thought so humbly of their merit.—The public proofs which he had now given of his various erudition, procured [Page 207] him an honour from his country, the more flat­tering as it was unsolicited. The United Pro­vinces, justly proud of having vindicated their liberty against the tyranny of Spain, and desirous of commemorating so noble an event, appointed Grotius their Historiographer. A nomination so honourable to a youth, for such he was, led him to collect materials for that History; which many accidents conspired to prevent his publishing, during the whole course of his busy and vexa­tious life.—From his success at the bar, he was promoted to the post of Advocate General; and in 1608 he married Maria Reigesberg, a lady of a respectable family in Zealand, and a wife, as his Biographer observes, truly worthy of such a husband. In 1613 he became Pensionary of Rotterdam, an office which gave him a seat in the Assembly of the States. He was soon after­wards employed in a commission to England, to settle some national disputes concerning the Greenland Fishery.—The greatest pleasure and advantage which he derived from this expedition, [Page 208] was the intimacy which he contracted in Eng­land with the celebrated Casaubon. Soon after his return to Holland, the fatal spirit of religious controversy produced those unfortunate and well­known distractions in his country, which led to the infamous execution of the great and virtuous Barnevelt. Grotius, who was affectionately at­tached to that upright Minister, and joined with him in every measure to counteract the usurping ambition of Prince Maurice, was thus exposed to the oppression of that vindictive hero.—After the vain ceremony of an iniquitous trial, he was con­demned to perpetual imprisonment; and con­ducted, on the 6th of June 1619, to the fortress of Louvestein, in South Holland, at the point of the island formed by the Vahal and the Meuse.—His tender and faithful wife, who had been cruelly debarred from attending him, even in sickness, during his confinement at the Hague, was now admitted to share his prison; on the hard condition of forfeiting that privilege, if she ever ventured from Louvestein: she afterwards ob­tained [Page 209] leave to come abroad twice a week.—With the spirit of a Roman Matron she refused the al­lowance which the government had assigned for the maintenance of her husband—continued for almost two years the constant attendant on his captivity—and at length became the glorious in­strument of his deliverance. Grotius, who hap­pily experienced that love and literature are un­failing resources under the most galling calamity of human life, had pursued his studies in prison with his usual ardour. He composed there, among other works, the first sketch of his Essay on the Truth of Christianity, in a poetical form, and in his native language.—Reports were spread by his enemies that he had formed a plan for his escape, and his prison was rigorously examined. But notwithstanding the vigilance of his oppres­sors, the affectionate ingenuity of his wife resto­red him to freedom by the following expedient:—He had been allowed to borrow books from his friends; and it was usual with him to send such as he had read in a chest, that went regu­larly [Page 210] with his linen to the neighbouring town of Gorcum. The guards were at first very scrupu­lous in their examination of this chest; but hav­ing long found in it only books and linen, they were now accustomed to let it pass unopened.—The circumstance suggested to the attentive wife of Grotius the possibility of her husband's escape, and she persuaded him to attempt it by this sin­gular conveyance. The incidents attending the adventure were highly calculated to increase the agitation of her heart; and must indeed have oc­casioned the failure of her design, had she not taken the most ingenious precautions to en­sure its success:—The soldiers, who carried the chest in which Grotius was inclosed, were alarmed by its weight; and cried out, in the pro­verbial language of their country, that it must contain an Arminian;—she replied with great presence of mind, that it was indeed loaded with Arminian books. The soldiers were still un­satisfied, and went to the wife of their command­ing officer, who was absent, to express their sus­picion; [Page 211] —she replied, that she had been assured it contained only books, and bade them carry it to the boat: a female servant in the secret attended the chest, and saw it safely conveyed to the house of Dazelaer, a friend of Grotius, in Gorcum, from whence he passed in disguise into Brabant. The generous contriver of his escape now tri­umphed in the success of her project. Being as­sured that her husband was safe, by the return of her servant, she avowed what she had done, and was more closely confined by the offended com­mandant of Louvestein. But she soon ob­tained her liberty, on presenting a petition to the States-General; though some wretches were found in that assembly, brutal enough to express a desire of punishing a woman for an act of he­roism, which, in Athens or in Rome, would have almost rendered her an object of idolatry.—Her merit, however, has been justly celebrated by the poets of her country; but the most pleasing me­morial of it appears in a poem of Grotius, ad­dressed to the unfortunate son of the President De [Page 212] Thou. The passage does honour both to the gratitude and the genius of our Author; and I shall therefore insert it, as an advantageous spe­cimen of his Latin poetry.—In addressing his young friend on the virtues of his venerable fa­ther, he breaks out into the following encomium on connubial affection:

Ah quantum placido mitique in pectore regnat
Illa Venus, quam junxit Hymen; seu conditor orbis,
Atque homines sancte genituri foederis auctor
Hunc, quo disposuit volventem sidera mundum,
Quoque elementa ligat, thalamis aspirat amorem;
Seu nosci fugiens penitus vis insita rebus,
Qualis quae chalybi secreta potentia gemmam
Conciliat Getici spectantem Verticis ignes,
Diversos propriore jugat sub foedere sexus;
Seu virtutis idem studium, cognataque morum
Temperies animas imo sub pectore miscet.
Hoc tuus ille docet genitor: mens, lubrica vitae
Egressa, et quicquid potuit fortuna minari,
In quam nil habuit juris vel blanda voluptas,
[Page 213] Vel metus, erepta miserandum conjuge vulnus
Sensit, et hoc solo minor est inventa dolore.
Ipsa domus, torus ipse, et quicquid cernere gratum
Quondam erat, accendit luctum moerentis; ubique
Uxor, et in vultu dulcis pudor, et simul alta
Majestas, sermo distillans melle, virilis
Auxilium curae, prudentia rara, suoque
Semet fine tenens, sed par majoribus actis.
* * * * * *
* * * * * *
* * * * * * *
Nos quoque, si quisquam, multum debere fatemur
Conjugio. Memini post tot tua vota precesque,
Cynthia cum nonum capto mihi volveret orbem,
Qualem te primum, conjunx fidissima, vidi
Carceris in tenebris: lacrymas absorbserat ingens
Vis animi, neque vel gemitu te luctus adegit
Consentire malis: rursus nova vincula, sed quae
Te socia leviora tuli, dum milite clausos
Nos Mosa, et tristi Vahalis circumstrepit unda.
Hìc patriam toties et inania jura vocanti,
Et proculcatas in nostro corpore leges,
[Page 214] Tu solamen eras. Hìc jam te viderat alter
Et post se media plus parte reliquerat annus,
Cum mihi jura mei per te, solerte reperto,
Reddita. Tu postquam jam caeca acceperat alvus
Dulce onus, oppositis libabas oscula claustris,
Atque ita semoto foribus custode locuta es:
Summe Pater, rigido si non adamante futurum
Stat tibi, sed precibus potis es gaudesque moveri,
Hoc quod nostra fides lucem servavit in istam
Accipe depositum, tantisque exsolve periclis.
Conjugii testor sanctissima jura, meaeque
Spem sobolis, non huc venio pertaesa malorum,
Sed miserata virum; possum, sine conjuge possum,
Quamvis dura pati. Si post exempla ferocis
Ultima saevitiae nondum deferbuit ira,
In me tota ruat; vivam crudele sepulchrum;
Me premat et triplicis cingat custodia Valli,
Dum meus aethereae satiatur pastibus aurae
Grotius, et casus narret patriaeque suosque:
Addit, Abi conjunx, neque te nisi libera cernam.
Quod mea si auderet famam spondere Camoena,
Acciperet quantis virtutem laudibus istam
[Page 215] Posteritas! Nomen non clarius illa teneret
Admeto regina suos quae tradidit annos,
Quaeque super cineres jecit se arsura mariti;
Dignaque tam Bruti thalamis quam patre Catone
Porcia, et in letum magno comes Arria Paeto.
Sed mea Cyrrhaeos tam longa adversa recessus
Praeclusêre mihi. Nullis sordentia curis
Pectora Phoebus amat.—

It was not without reason that Grotius la­mented, in the close of this passage, his continued adversity. Few literary characters have been so repeatedly exposed to all the various and mortify­ing anxieties of public life.—After his escape from prison in 1621, he took refuge in France. He received, indeed, the most flattering marks of regard from many eminent characters of that kingdom, and a pension of three thousand livres from Lewis the XIIIth; but the payment of this gratuity, so honourable to the Monarch who bestowed it, was soon rendered irregular and pre­carious by the artifices of Richelieu; and Gro­tius [Page 216] was at length obliged to seek a more inde­pendent asylum, merely because he was of too firm and noble a character to become the servile instrument of that imperious minister.—He had passed however ten years, and composed one of his most celebrated works in that country—his Treatise de Jure Belli & Pacis was begun in 1623 at Balagui, a seat of the President De Meme, in the neighbourhood of Senlis, and he published it at Paris in 1625. The great and ex­tensive reputation which his writings had ob­tained, did not induce Holland to atone for the injustice which she had exercised against one of the most eminent and virtuous of her citizens. The death of his enemy Prince Maurice had tempted Grotius to hope, that he might return with safety and honour to his native country; but on making the experiment in 1631, he met with much more ingratitude than he expected, and retired in the next year to Hamburgh—he there contracted an intimacy with Salvius, the Vice-Chancellor of Sweden, who sent a favour­able [Page 217] account of his new friend to Oxenstiern, the great minister, who so well supplied the loss of his heroic master Gustavus. Grotius was soon invited to Franckfort by that penetrating genius, who introduced him into the council of the young Christina, and appointed him her Am­bassador to the court of France:—it is said, how­ever, that Grotius owed his connection with Sweden to the high sentiments which Gustavus himself had entertained of his merit, and to or­ders given by that Monarch for the employment of the celebrated exile, whose Treatise de Jure Belli was found in his tent after the fatal victory of Lutzen, which he purchased with his life. However this may be, Grotius appeared at Paris in the character of Ambassador from Sweden 1635, and continued no less than ten years in a situation equally splendid and vexatious—en­gaged in the delicate business of negotiating sub­sidies, which were paid with reluctance; har­rassed by the hostile intrigues of his ungrateful [Page 218] country, and alternately insulted and flattered by the ministers of France, he maintained himself with integrity and honour in a difficult and im­portant station, from which his various and pow­erful enemies were perpetually endeavouring to effect his removal.—After a series of public mor­tifications, he at length solicited his own recall. He obtained a passport through Holland, was treated with great honour at Amsterdam, and ar­riving at Stockholm was flattered with great pro­mises by the Queen Christina, who pressed him to settle with his family in Sweden. From this however he excused himself, and pleaded the ten­der health of his wife as unequal to so cold a climate. Having obtained, after some delays, the Queen's permission to retire, and a vessel to carry him to Lubeck, he was unfortunately ship­wrecked on the coast of Pomerania, from whence he travelled sixty miles in an open waggon, to the town of Rostock, where, after languishing a few days, he expired on the 19th of August 1645.— [Page 219] For my very imperfect account of this great and amiable man, I am chiefly indebted to Mr. Bu­rigny, whose life of Grotius deserves a distin­guished rank among biographical writings, as it contains a very luminous display of much intri­cate matter, and a just delineation of a character which deserves to be minutely studied: for what nation can produce a more singular and excelling compound of science and virtue, of genius and piety?—As an Historian, he shares with Thu­cydides the uncommon merit of celebrating the splendid actions of his personal enemies, and of a country which treated him with the most unge­nerous ingratitude. It appears from one of his letters to De Thou, that he had made some ad­vances in the plan at least of his History, at so early a period as 1614; for, after complimenting the great Historian of France on his immortal work, he adds, ‘Ego quoque impar sanè oneri, sed magno patriae amore accensus, simile opus molior; tantò autem minus tuo, quantò minor est Batavia, non dicam Galliâ vestrâ, sed toto orbe. [Page 220] Sed nec adhuc Varo videor neque dicere Cinna digna: prematur itaque immaturus labor donec aetas cum judicio tempus quoque emendandi dederit; aut potiùs exurgat alius, qui res scitu per se non indignas dictione commendet, ut eo liben­tiùs discant posteri quid Batavi fecerint.’—We learn also from a letter to his brother, in 1637, that the work was then finished, and that he thought proper to delay its publication. Though it seems to have been his favourite performance, he had never the satisfaction of seeing it in print:—it did not appear till twelve years after his death, when his sons Cornelius and Peter ad­dressed it to the States of Holland and West Friesland, in a Dedication that does honour both to their father and themselves.—The work it­self, under the double name of Annals and His­tory, gives a complete account of the most in­teresting period, from the year 1566 to the truce with Spain in 1609.—The Letters of Grotius are not less valuable than his History, as they con­tain much miscellaneous intelligence, and abound [Page 221] with literary anecdotes.—His amiable wife sur­vived him, and died at the Hague.—Of their six children, Peter became the most eminent—he was sent by his country as her Ambassador to France; and seems to have inherited both the talents and the virtues of his father.—It may yet be proper to add to this long Note the noble en­comium of Grotius on Scaliger, to which I have alluded, and which, as Dr. Johnson observes, seems to have been imitated by Cowley, in the close of his Elegy on Sir Henry Wooton.

In Mortem Scaligeri.
Unica lux saecli, genitoris gloria, nemo
Quem puerum, nemo credidit esse senem;
Tam sibi par semper, quam cunctis celsior unus,
Et qui se totum debuit ipse sibi:
Exsuperans famâ, quos aequat sanguine, reges,
Sceptrigeris majus nomen adeptus avis:
Hic jacet ille capax immensi Scaliger aevi,
Nec sibi mors unquam plus licuisse putet.
Quid querimur raptum? mens est quâ vivitur: annos
[Page 222] Ille tot exegit mente quot orbis habet.
Omnia dum retrò mundi vestigia quaerit,
Quaerentem retrò destituêre dies.
Emensus populos & dissona gentibus ora
Ambierat, quantùm lumine Phoebus obit.
Testamur, Natura, tibi non defuit ille;
Tu gentes alias, saecula plura dares,
Ultra Scaligerum nihil est, nec Scaliger ultra.
Ille tui finem reperit, ille sui.
GROTII Poemata, Pag. 261.


The liberal spirit of Thuanus rose.]

James Au­gustus De Thou was the youngest son of Christo­pher De Thou, First President of the Parliament of Paris, and born in that city 1553. His own Memoirs give a pleasing account of the early activity of his mind.—As his health, dur­ing his childhood, was so tender and infirm, that his parents rather restrained him from the usual studies of his age, he devoted much of his time to drawing, and copied with a pen the engrav­ings [Page 223] of Albert Durer, before he was ten years old. At that age, he was settled in the college of Burgundy; but this plan of his education was soon interrupted by a fever, in which his life was despaired of, and in which the mother of his fu­ture friend, the Duke of Montpensier, watched him with an attention singularly happy, after his physicians and his parents had considered him as dead. In a few years after his recovery, he re­paired to Orleans to study the civil law; from thence he was drawn to Valence in Dauphiny, by the reputation of Cujacius, who was then reading lectures there: on his road he embraced an opportunity of hearing Hotoman, the cele­brated author of Franco-Gallia, who was read­ing lectures also at Bourges.—During his residence at Valence, he contracted a friend­ship with Joseph Scaliger, which he cultivated through life.—In 1572, his father recalled him to Paris, just before the massacre of St. Bar­tholomew.—He mentions in his Memoirs the horrors which he felt in seeing a very small part [Page 224] of that bloody scene.—He resided in the house of his uncle Nicholas De Thou, promoted to the bishopric of Chartres: he was then designed himself for the church; and, beginning to collect his celebrated library, applied himself particu­larly to the Civil Law, and to Grecian litera­ture.

He travelled into Italy in 1573, with Paul De Foix, going on an embassy to the Pope and the Italian Princes. Of De Foix he gives the most engaging character, and speaks with great plea­sure of the literary entertainment and advantages which he derived from this expedition. He return­ed to Paris, and devoted himself again to his stu­dies, in the following year.—On the dissentions in the court of France, in 1576, he was employed to negociate with the Mareschal Montmorency, and engage him to interpose his good offices to prevent the civil war; which he for some time ef­fected.—The same year he visited the Low Countries, and on his return was appointed to a public office; on which he entered with that ex­treme [Page 225] diffidence which is so natural to a delicate mind.

In 1579 he travelled again with his elder bro­ther, who was sent by his physicians to the baths of Plombieres in Lorrain: from hence he made a short excursion into Germany, and was received there with the jovial hospitality of that country, which he describes in a very lively manner.—But affection soon recalled him to Plombieres, to at­tend his infirm brother to Paris, who died there in a few months after their return.

In 1580, on the plague's appearing in the ca­pital, our Historian retired into Touraine; and after visiting the principal places in Nor­mandy, returned to Paris in the winter. In the following year, he was of the number chosen from the Parliament of Paris to administer justice in Guienne, as two ecclesiastics were included in that commission.—In this expedition he embraced every opportunity of preparing the materials of his History; seeking, as he ever did, the society of all persons eminent for their talents, or capable of giv­ing [Page 226] him any useful information. He speaks with great pleasure of a visit which he paid at this time to the celebrated Montaigne, whom he calls a man of a most liberal mind, and totally uninfected with the spirit of party.—After various excursions he was now returning to Paris, when he recei­ved the unexpected news of his father's death; an event which affected him most deeply, as filial affection was one of the striking characteristics of his amiable mind. He consoled himself under the affliction of having been unable to pay his duty to his dying parent, by erecting a magnificent mo­nument to his memory, expressive of the high ve­neration in which he ever held his virtues.—He engaged again in public business, devoting his in­tervals of leisure to mathematical studies, and to the composition of Latin verse, which seems to have been his favourite amusement.—In 1584 he pub­lished his Poem, De Re Accipitraria; which, tho' much celebrated by the critics of his age, has fallen, like the subject of which it treats, into universal neglect.—In 1585 he bid adieu to the [Page 227] Court, on finding himself treated with such a de­gree of coldness, as his ingenuous nature could not submit to; and being eager to advance in his great work, which he had already brought down to the reign of Francis II.—In 1587, having been often pressed to marry by his family, and being absolved from his ecclesiastical engagements for that pur­pose, he made choice of Marie Barbanson, of an antient and noble family; but as her parents were suspected of a secret inclination to the re­formed religion, it was thought proper that the lady should undergo a kind of expiation, in a private conference with two Catholic Divines; a circumstance of which the great Historian speaks with an air of triumph in his Memoirs, as a proof of his own inviolable attachment to the faith of his fathers. In 1588 he lost his affectionate mother; who is described, by her son, as meeting death with the same gentleness and tranquillity of mind, by which her life was distinguished.—When the violence of the League had reduced Henry the IIId to abandon Paris, our Historian was sent into Nor­mandy, [Page 228] to confirm the magistrates of that province in their adherence to the King. He afterwards met Henry at Blois; and while he was receiving from him in private some commissions to execute at Paris, the King pressed his hand, and seemed preparing to impart to him some important secret; but after a long pause dismissed him without re­vealing it. This secret was afterwards supposed to have been the projected assassination of the Duke of Guise: the supposition is probable; and it is also probable that if Henry had then revealed his design, the manly virtue and eloquence of De Thou might have led him to relinquish that infa­mous and fatal measure.—He was, however, so far from suspecting the intended crime of the King, that when he first heard at Paris that Guise was assassinated, he believed it a false rumour, only spread by that faction to introduce, what he sup­posed had really happened, the murder of the King.—In the commotions which the death of Guise produced in Paris, many insults were offered to the family of De Thou: his wife was imprisoned [Page 229] for a day in the Bastile; but obtaining her liberty, she escaped from the city in a mean habit, atten­ded by her husband, disguised also in the dress of a soldier.—Having sent his wife in safety into Pi­cardy, he repaired to the King, who was almost deserted, at Blois; and was greatly instrumental in persuading his master to his coalition with Henry of Navarre.—The King determined to establish a Parliament at Tours, and De Thou was considered as the most proper person to be the President of this assembly; but with his usual modesty he declined this honour, and chose rather to engage with his friend Mr. de Schomberg, in an expedition to Germany for the service of the King.—He was at first designed for the embassy to Elizabeth; but at the request of Schomberg declined the appointment, and accompanied his friend.

He first received intelligence of the King's death at Venice, where he had formed an intima­cy with the celebrated Arnauld d'Ossat, at that time Secretary to the Cardinal Joyeuse.—In con­sequence [Page 230] of their conversation on this event, and the calamities of France, De Thou addressed a Latin Poem to his friend, which he afterwards printed at Tours.

In leaving Italy, he passed a few days at Padua with his friend Vicenzio Pinelli; from whom he collected many particulars concerning the most eminent Italian and Spanish Authors, whom he determined to celebrate in his History; in the hope, as he honestly confesses, that his liberal at­tention to foreign merit might entitle his own Works to the favour both of Italy and Spain. But he was disappointed in this fair expectation, and laments the ingratitude which he experienced from both.

On his return to France, he was graciously received by Henry the IVth; and in giving that Prince an account of Italy, suggested to him the idea of a connection with Mary of Medicis. After the battle of Ivry, he complimented the King in a short Poem, which closes with the following lines:

[Page 231]
Auspiciis vulgò peraguntur praelia regum,
Perque duces illis gloria multa venit:
Tu vincis virtute tua, nec militis haec est;
Ista tibi propriâ laurea parta manu.

As he was travelling, soon afterwards, with his wife and family, which he designed to settle at Tours, his party was intercepted by the enemy, and he was obliged to abandon his wife and her attendants; being prevailed on by their entrea­ties to secure his own escape by the swiftness of his horse.—He repaired to the King at Gisors, and soon obtained the restitution of his family.—On the death of Amyot, Bishop of Auxerre, well known by his various Translations from the Greek language, the King appointed De Thou his Principal Librarian. In 1592, our Historian was very near falling a victim to the plague; but happily struggled through that dangerous distem­per, by the assistance of two skilful physicians, who attended him at Tours.—In 1593, he began the most important part of his History; and under this year he introduces in his Memoirs a long and spi­rited [Page 232] Poem, addressed to Posterity; in which he enters into a justification of himself against the malignant attacks which the manly and vir­tuous freedom of his writings had drawn upon him. It concludes with the following animated appeal to the spirit of his father:

Vos, O majorum Cineres, teque optime longis
Soliciti genitor defuncte laboribus aevi,
Testor, pro patria nullas regnique salute
Vitavisse vices; vestra virtute meaque
Indignum nil fecisse; et si fata tulissent,
Prodessem ut patriae, patriae succurrere, livor
Absistat, pietate mea meruisse petenti.
Pura ad vos anima atque hodiernae nescia culpae
Descendam; quandòque novissima venerit hora,
Nostraque sub tacitos ibit fama integra manes.

In 1594 he succeeded his uncle Augustin, as President a Mortier.—In 1596 he lost his valu­able and learned friend Pithou, who first solicited him to undertake his History, and had greatly [Page 233] assisted him in the prosecution of that laborious work. How deeply the affectionate mind of De Thou was wounded by this event, appears from his long letter to Casaubon on the occasion.—In 1597 he began to be engaged in those negotia­tions, which happily terminated in the famous edict of Nantes.—It may be proper to observe here, that De Thou was accused of being a Cal­vinist, in consequence of the part he acted in this business, as well as from the moderate tenor of his History; and it is remarkable, that Sully seems in his Memoirs to countenance the accusation.

In 1601 our Historian suffered a severe do­mestic affliction in the loss of his wife. He cele­brated her virtues, and his own connubial affec­tion, in a Latin Poem: with this, and a Greek epitaph on the same lady, written by Casaubon, he terminates the Commentary of his own Life, of which the preceding account is an imperfect abridgment.—His first wife leaving him no children, he married, in 1603, Gasparde de la Chastre, an accomplished lady of a noble family; [Page 234] who having brought him three sons and three daughters, died at the age of 39, 1616.—There is a fine letter of Daniel Heinsius addressed to our author on this occasion, exhorting him to fortitude: but this unexpected domestic calamity, and the miseries which befel his country on the murder of Henry the Great, are said to have wounded his feeling mind so deeply, as to occa­sion his death, which happened in May 1617.—Under the regency of Mary of Medicis, he had been one of the Directors General of the finances; maintaining the same reputation for integrity in that department, which he had ever preserved in his judicial capacity.

The first part of his History appeared in 1604, with a Preface addressed to Henry IV. justly ce­lebrated for its liberal and manly spirit. But I must observe, that the following compliment to the King—‘Quicquid de ea statueris jusserisve, pro divinae vocis oraeulo mihi erit’—was more than even that most amiable of Monarchs deserved; as he ungratefully deserted the cause of our Histo­rian, [Page 235] in suffering his Work to be proscribed by the public censure of Rome, in 1609; as De Thou plainly intimates in the following passage from one of his letters, written in 1611:—‘Pub­licata prima parte [Historiae meae], immanè quam commoti sunt plerique, sive invidi, sive factiosi, qui mox proceres quosdam, qui per se in talibus rebus nihil vident, per calumnias artificiosè con­fictas, ut scis, in me concitaverunt, remque e vestigio Roman detulerunt; et auctore malignè exagitato, facilè pervicerunt, ut morosi illi cen­sores omnia mea sinistrè interpretarentur; et, praejudicio personae, opus integrum, cujus ne tertiam quidem partem legerant, praecipitato ordine damnarent. Rex causam meam initio quidem tuebatur, quamdiu proceres in aula in­festos habui. Sed paulatim ipse eorundem astu infractus est; cognitoque Romae per emissarios labare regem, post Ossati et Serafini, Cardina­lium mihi amicissimorum, obitum, et illustrissimi Perronii ex urbe discessum, ictus postremò in me directus est; qui facilè vitari potuit, si qui circa [Page 236] regem erant, tantae injuriae sensum ad se ac regni dignitatem pertinere vel minima significatione prae se tulissent. Ita in aula omni ope destitutus, facilè Romae oppressus sum.’—De Thou was preparing a new edition of his History at the time of his death.—His passion for Latin verse appears never to have forsaken him; as the latest effusion of his pen was a little poem descriptive of his last illness, and an epitaph, in which he draws the following just character of himself:

Mihi veritatis cura vitae commodis
Antiquiorque charitatibus fuit;
Nullique facto, voce nulli injurius,
Injurias patienter aliorum tuli.
Tu quisquis es, qualisque, quantusque, O bone,
Si cura veri est ulla, si pietas movet,
A me meisque injuriam, quaeso, abstine.

The pious paternal prayer in the last line was very far from being crowned with success. Francis, the eldest son of De Thou, fell a victim [Page 237] to the resentment which Cardinal Richelieu is said to have conceived against him, from a passage in the great Historian reflecting on the Richelieu family. He was beheaded at Lyons, 1642, for having been privy to a conspiracy against the Cardinal.—Voltaire, with his usual philanthropy and spirit, inveighs against the ini­quity of this execution, in his Melanges, tom. iii.—The curious reader may find a particular account of this tragical event in the last volume of that noble edition of Thuanus, which was published under the auspices of Dr. Mead, and does great honour to our country.—I shall close this Note by transcribing from it the fol­lowing spirited epitaph on the unfortunate vic­tim:

Historiam quisquis vult scribere, scribere veram
Nunc vetat exitium, magne Thuane, tuum.
Richeliae stirpis proavos laesisse, paterni
Crimen erat calami, quo tibi vita perit.
[Page 238] Sanguine delentur nati monumenta parentis:
Quae nomen dederant scripta, dedêre necem.
Tanti morte viri sic est sancita Tyrannis:
Vera loqui si vis, disce cruenta pati.


Thy Wits, O France! (as ev'n thy Critics own)
Support not History's majestic tone.]

To avoid every appearance of national prejudice, I shall quote on this occasion some passages from a very liberal French Critic, who has passed the same judgment on the Historians of his country. The Marquis d'Argenson, in a memoir read before the French Academy 1755, not only confesses that the French Writers have failed in History, but even ventures to explain the cause of their ill success.

Nous avons, says he, quelques morceaux, ou l'on trouve tout à la fois la fidelité, le gout, et le vrai ton de l'Histoire; mais outre qu'ils sont en [Page 239] petit nombre, et tres-courts, les auteurs, à qui nous en sommes redevables, se sont defié de leurs forces; ils ont craint de manquer d'haleine dans des ouvrages de plus longue étendue.

Pourquoi les anciens ont-ils eu des Thucy­dides, des Xenophons, des Polybes, & des Tacites? pourquoi ne pouvons nous leur com­parer que des St. Réals, des Vertots, des Sarra­sins? nous ne devons point attribuer cette disette à la decadence de l'Esprit humain. Il faut en chercher, si j'ose m'exprimer ainsi, quelque raison nationale, quelque cause, qui soit particuliere aux François . . . . .

Quatre qualités principales sont nécessaires aux Historiens:

1. Une critique exacte & savante, fondée sur des recherches laborieuses, pour la collection des faits.

2. Une grande profondeur en morale & en politique.

3. Une imagination sage & fleurie, qui peigne les actions, qui deduise les causes, & qui presente [Page 240] les reflexions avec clarté & simplicité; quelque­fois avec feu, mais toujours avec gout & élé­gance.

4. Il faut de plus la constance dans le travail, un style égal & soutenu, & une exactitude infa­tigable, qui ne montre jamais l'impatience d'a­vancer, ni de lassitude pendant le cours d'une longue carrière,

Qu'on separe ces qualités, on trouvera des chef-d'oeuvres parmi nous, des Critiques, des Moralistes, des Politiques, des Peintres, & des literateurs laborieux, dont le produit nous sur­prend. Mais qu'on cherche ces qualités ras­semblées, on manquera d'exemples à citer entre nos auteurs.—The Critic then takes a rapid review of the French Historians, and proceeds to make the following lively remarks on the dif­ficulty of writing History in France, and the volatile character of his countrymen:—J'ai dejà prévenu l'une des plus grandes difficultés pour les auteurs; ils devroient etre en meme tems hommes de cabinet & hommes du monde. Par [Page 241] l'etude on ne connoit que les anciens, & les moeurs bourgeoises; & dans la bonne com­pagnie, on perd son tems, l'on ecrit peu, et l'on pense encore moins. . . . . .

L'haleine manque à un écrivain François faute de constance; il entrepend légèrement de grands ouvrages, il les continue avec nonchalance, il les finit avec dégôut: s'il les abandonne quelque tems, il ne les reprend plus, & nous voyons que tous nos continuateurs ont échoué. La lassitude du soir se ressent de l'ardeur du matin. C'est delà qu'il nous arrive de n'avoir de bon, que de petits morceaux, soit en poesie, soit en prose . . . . . nous n'avons que . . . . . des morceaux Histo­riques, & presque pas une Histoire générale digne de louange.

Choix des Memoires de l'Academie, &c. Londres, 1777, tom. iii. p. 627.
End of the Notes to the Second Epistle.



AND shake th' affrighted world with dire por­tents.]

There is a curious treatise of Dr. Warburton's on this subject, which is become very scarce; it is intitled, ‘"A critical and phi­losophical Enquiry into the causes of prodi­gies and miracles, as related by Historians; with an Essay towards restoring a method and purity in History."’ It contains, like most of [Page 243] the compositions of this dogmatical Writer, a strange mixture of judicious criticism and enter­taining absurdity, in a style so extraordinary, that I think the following specimens of it may amuse a reader, who has not happened to meet with this singular book.—Having celebrated Rawleigh and Hyde, as writers of true historic genius, he adds: ‘"Almost all the rest of our Histories want Life, Soul, Shape, and Body: a mere hodgepodge of abortive embryos and rotten carcases, kept in an unnatural ferment (which the vulgar mistake for real life) by the rank leven of prodigies and portents: which can't but afford good diversion to the Critic, while he observes how naturally one of their own fables is here mythologiz'd and explain'd, of a church­yard carcase, raised and set a strutting by the in­flation of some hellish succubus within."’ He then passes a heavy censure on the antiquarian publi­cations of Thomas Hearne; in the close of which he exclaims—‘"Wonder not, Reader, at the view of these extravagancies. The Historic [Page 244] Muse, after much vain longing for a vigorous adorer, is now fallen under that indisposition of her sex, so well known by a depraved appetite for trash and cinders."’—Having quoted two pas­sages from this singular Critic, in which his metaphorical language is exceedingly gross, can­dour obliges me to transcribe another, which is no less remarkable for elegance and beauty of expression. In describing Sallust, at one time the loud advocate of public spirit, and afterwards sharing in the robberies of Caesar, he expresses this variation of character by the following ima­gery:—‘"No sooner did the warm aspect of good fortune shine out again, but all those ex­alted ideas of virtue and honour, raised like a beautiful kind of frost-work in the cold season of adversity, dissolved and disappeared."’ Enquiry, &c. London, 1727, p. 17.


On Francio now the Gallic page is mute,
And British Story drops the name of Brute.]

The origin of the French nation was ascribed by one of the Monkish Historians to Francio, a son of Priam: Mr. Warton, who mentions this circum­stance in his Dissertation on the origin of roman­tic fiction in Europe, supposes that the revival of Virgil's Aeneid, about the sixth or seventh cen­tury, inspired many nations with this chimerical idea of tracing their descent from the family of Priam. There is a very remarkable proof in the Historian Matthew of Westminster, how fond the English were of considering themselves as the descendants of the Trojan Brutus. In a let­ter from Edward the First to Pope Boniface, concerning the affairs of Scotland, the King boasts of his Trojan predecessor in the following terms:—‘Sub temporibus itaque Ely & Samuelis prophetarum, vir quidam strenuus et insignis, [Page 246] Brutus nomine, de genere Trojanorum, post excidium urbis Trojanae, cum multis nobilibus Trojanorum applicuit in quandam insulam tunc Albion vocatam, a gigantibus inhabitatam; qui­bus suâ et suorum seductis potentiâ et occisis, eam nomine suo Britanniam, sociosque suos Bri­tannos, appellavit; & aedificavit civitatem quam Trinovantum nuncupavit, quae modò Londinum nuncupatur.’ MATT. WESTMON. p. 439.


And Bacon's self, for mental glory born,
Meets, as her slave, our pity, or our scorn.]

I wish not to dwell invidiously on the failings of this immortal Genius; but it may be useful to remark, that no Historical work, though executed by a man of the highest mental abilities, can obtain a lasting reputation, if it be planned and written with a servility of spirit.—This was evidently the case in Bacon's History of Henry the VIIth. [Page 247] It was the first work he engaged in after his disgrace, and laid as a peace-offering at the feet of his master, the despicable James; who affected to consider his great grandfather, the abject and avaricious Henry, as the model of a King. It was therefore the aim of the unfortunate Historian to flatter this phantasy of the royal pedant, for whom he wrote; and he accordingly formed a colossal statue to represent a pigmy.—It is matter of astonishment that Lord Bolingbroke, who in his political works has written on the vices of this very King, with a force and beauty so superior to the History in question, should speak of it as a work possessing merit sufficient to bear a comparison with the ancients. On the contrary, the extreme awkwardness of the task which the Historian imposed upon himself, gave a weakness and embarrassment to his style, which in his nobler works is clear, nervous, and manly. This will particularly appear from a few lines in his character of Henry:—‘"This King, to speak of him in terms equal to his deserving, was [Page 248] one of the best sort of wonders, a wonder for wise men. He had parts, both in his virtues and his fortune, not so fit for a common-place as for observation . . . . His worth may bear a tale or two, that may put upon him somewhat that may seem divine."’—He then relates a dream of Henry's mother, the Lady Margaret: but the quotations I have made may be sufficient to justi­fy my remark; and, as Dr. Johnson says hap­pily of Milton, ‘"What Englishman can take delight in transcribing passages, which, if they lessen the reputation of Bacon, diminish in some degree the honour of our country?"’


And of that mountain make the statue of a King.]

An allusion to the Architect Dinocrates, who of­fered to cut Mount Athos into a statue of Alex­ander the Great.


As crown'd with Indian laurels, nobly won, &c.]

This story is told on a similar occasion by Lu­cian. Having asserted that historical flatterers often meet with the indignation they deserve, he proceeds to this example: [...]."’ LUCIAN, Edit. Riollay, p. 28.

The Critics are much divided on this passage. I have followed an interpretation very different from that adopted by a learned and judicious au­thor, [Page 250] who has lately entered into a thorough dis­cussion of all the anecdotes relating to this cele­brated Conqueror, in a very elaborate and spirited dissertation, intitled, "Examen critique des His­toriens d'Alexandre." Paris, 4to, 1775. But there is great probability in his conjecture, that the name of Aristobulus has slipt into the story by some mistake; and that the sycophant so justly reprimanded was Onesicritus, who attended the Hero of Macedon in quality of Historiographer, and is censured by the judicious Strabo, as the most fabulous of all the Writers who have en­gaged in his History. For the reasons which support this conjecture, see the book I have men­tioned, page 19.


In Dedications quietly inurn'd,
They take more lying Praise than Ammon spurn'd.]

As History is the composition most frequently addressed to Princes, modern Historians have been peculiarly tempted to this kind of adulation. [Page 251] Indeed Dedications in general are but too com­monly a disgrace to letters.—Perhaps a concise History of this species of writing, and the fate of some remarkable Dedicators, might have a good influence towards correcting that prostitution of talents, which is so often observed in productions of this nature: and such a work might be very amusing to the lovers of literary anecdote.—The two most unfortunate Dedications that occur to my remembrance, were written by Joshua Barnes, and Dr. Pearce, late Bishop of Roches­ter: The first dedicated his History of Edward the IIId to James the IId, and unluckily com­pared that Monarch to the most valiant of his predecessors, just before his timidity led him to abdicate the throne: the second dedicated his edition of Tully de Oratore to Lord Macclesfield, and as unluckily celebrated his patron as a model of public virtue, not many years before he was impeached in parliament, and fined £.30,000, for the iniquity of his conduct in the office of Chancellor.


Still can Herrera, mourning o'er his urn,
His dying pangs to blissful rapture turn.]

An­tonio de Herrera, a Spanish Historian of great reputation, describes the death of Philip II. in the following terms:—‘"Y fue cosa de notar, que aviendo dos, o tres horas antes que espirasse, tenido un paraxismo tan violento, que le tuvieron por acabado, cubriendole el rostro con un panno, abrio los ojos con gran espiritu, y tomò el cruci­fixo de mano de Don Hernando de Toledo, y con gran devocion, y ternura le besò muchas vozes, y a la imagen de nuestra Sennora de Monserrate, que estava en la candela. Pareciò al Arçobispo de Toledo, a los confessores, y a quantos se hallaron presentes, que era impossible, que naturalmente haviesse podido bolver tan presto, y con tan vivo espiritu, sino que devio de tener en aquel punto alguna vision y favor del cielo, y que mas fue rapto que paraxismo: luego bolviô al agonia, y [Page 253] se fue acabando poco a poco, y con pequenno movimiento se le arrancò el alma, domingo a treze de Setiembre a las cinco horas de la mannana, siendo sus ultimas palabras, que moria como Catolico en la Fê y obediencia de la santa Iglesia Romana; y assi acabò este gran Monarca con la misma prudencia con que vivio: por lo qual (meritamente) se le dio el atributo de pru­dente.’ Hist. General del Mundo, por Ant. Herrera, Madrid 1612. Tom. iii. f. 777.

After speaking so freely on the vices of this Monarch, it is but just to observe, that Philip, who possessed all the sedate cruelty of the cold­blooded Octavius, resembled him also in one ami­able quality, and was so much a friend to letters, that his reign may be considered as the Augustan age of Spanish literature.—His most bloody mi­nister, the merciless Alva, was the Maecenas of that wonderful and voluminous Poet, Lope de Vega. I cannot help regretting that the two eminent Writers, who have lately delineated the [Page 254] reigns of Charles the Vth. and his Son Philip, so happily in our language, have entered so little into the literary History of those times.


Nor hope to stain, on base Detraction's scroll,
A Tully's morals, or a Sidney's soul!]

Dion Cassius, the sordid advocate of despotism, endea­voured to depreciate the character of Cicero, by inserting in his History the most indecent Ora­tion that ever disgraced the page of an Historian. In the opening of his 46th book, he introduces Q. Fusius Calenus haranguing the Roman senate against the great ornament of that assembly, calling Cicero a magician, and accusing him of prostituting his wife, and committing incest with his daughter. Some late historical attempts to sink the reputation of the great Algernon Sidney, are so recent, that they will occur to the remem­brance of almost every Reader.


Nor less the blemish, tho' of different kind,
From false Philosophy's conceits refin'd! &c.]

The ideas in this passage are chiefly borrowed from the excellent observations on History in Dr. Gregory's Comparative View. As that engaging little volume is so generally known, I shall not lengthen these Notes by transcribing any part of it; but I thought it just to acknowledge my obli­gations to an Author, whose sentiments I am proud to adopt; as he united the noblest affections of the heart to great elegance of mind, and is justly ranked among the most amiable of moral writers.


To speak no Falsehood, and no Truth suppress.]

‘Quis nescit primam esse Historiae legem, ne quid falsi dicere audeat? deinde, ne quid veri non audeat.’ —De Oratore, Lib. ii.

[Page 256] Voltaire has made a few just remarks on the second part of this famous Historical maxim; and it certainly is to be understood with some degree of limitation. The sentence of the amiable Pliny, so often quoted—‘Historia quoquo modo scripta delectat’—is liable, I apprehend, to still more ob­jections.


A waste of Genius in the toil of Knolles.]

Ri­chard Knolles, a native of Northamptonshire, educated at Oxford, published in 1610 a Histo­ry of the Turks. An Author of our age, to whom both criticism and morality have very high obligations, has bestowed a liberal encomium on this neglected Historian; whose character he closes with the following just observation:

‘"Nothing could have sunk this Author in obscurity, but the remoteness and barbarity of the people whose story he relates. It seldom happens, that all circumstances concur to happiness or [Page 257] fame. The nation which produced this great Historian, has the grief of seeing his genius em­ployed upon a foreign and uninteresting subject; and that Writer, who might have secured per­petuity to his name by a History of his own country, has exposed himself to the danger of oblivion, by recounting enterprizes and revolu­tions of which none desire to be informed."’ RAMBLER, Vol. III. No 122.


And read your just reward in Brady's fate.]

Ro­bert Brady, born in Norfolk, was Professor of Physic in the University of Cambridge, which he represented in Parliament.—He was Master of Caius College, and Physician in Ordinary to James II. He published, in 1684, a History of England, from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the death of Richard the Second, in three volumes folio: and died in 1700.—His character cannot [Page 258] be more justly or more forcibly expressed, than in the words of a living Author, who has lately vin­dicated the antient constitution of our country with great depth of learning, and with all the energy of genius inspirited by freedom.

‘"Of Dr. Brady it ought to be remembered, that he was the slave of a faction, and that he meanly prostituted an excellent understanding, and admirable quickness, to vindicate tyranny, and to destroy the rights of his nation."’ STUART's View of Society in Europe. Notes, page 327.


Like the dumb Son of Croesus, in the strife.]

Herodotus relates, that a Persian soldier, in the storming of Sardis, was preparing to kill Croesus, whose person he did not know, and who, giving up all as lost, neglected to defend his own life. A son of the unfortunate Monarch, who had been dumb from his infancy, and who never spake [Page 259] afterwards, found utterance in that trying mo­ment, and preserved his father, by exclaiming ‘"O kill not Croesus!"’


Less eager to correct, than to revile.]

This is perhaps a just description of The polemical Divine, as a general character: but there are some authors of that class, to whom it can never be applied.—Dr. Watson, in particular, will be ever mentioned with honour, as one of the happy few, who have preserved the purity of justice and good manners in a zealous defence of religion; who have given elegance and spirit to controversial writing, by that liberal elevation of mind, which is equally removed from the meanness of flattery, and the insolence of detraction.


The noble instinct, Love of lasting Fame.]

There is a most animated and judicious defence of this passion in Fitzosborne's Letters.—But I [Page 260] must content myself with barely referring my Reader to that amiable Moralist, as I fear I have already extended these Notes to such a length, as will expose me to the severity of criti­cism. I shall close them with a list of modern treatises on the composition of History.—The earliest work of this kind, which has fallen under my observation, is the Methodus ad facilem His­toriarum Cognitionem, published at Paris, in 1566, by Jean Bodin, a lawyer of eminence; from whom Montesquieu is supposed to have borrowed his fanciful and fallacious system on the Influence of Climate.—Italy, the parent of many great Historians, produced also, about the same period, an elegant Latin dissertation, De Scriben­da Historia. The author, John Antony Vipe­rani, was Bishop of Giovenazzo in 1588, and died 1610.—A Spanish essay, on the same subject, was printed in 1611, by Luis Cabrera de Cordo­ [...]a; but his performance has been eclipsed by the ater production of his celebrated countryman [Page 261] Feyjoo, whose entertaining Essays on History were translated into English in 1779.—Holland produced, in 1623, the Ars Historica of Vos­sius, and soon afterwards his more voluminous and valuable work on the Greek and Roman Historians.—The French language, so fertile in miscellaneous criticism, affords us many works that relate to Historical composition: the most extraordinary of these, is a very late publication by the Abbé Mably, "De la Maniere d'ecrire l' Histoire." As this insolent and dogmatical Author has grossly insulted our country, by vili­fying our most eminent writers of History, I had thoughts of chastising his presumption by a full display of his various absurdities; but as this unpleasant office has been in some measure per­formed by one of his own countrymen, under the title of a Supplement to his Work, I shall only make a few remarks on the illiberal terms in which he speaks of my friend Mr. Gibbon.

[Page 262] As the Abbé had only read a translated extract from the accomplished Historian, he certainly could not be a competent judge of the spirit and beauty of his immortal work. No matter: he had a private pique against the Author, and was therefore determined to decry his composition. In the blindness and precipitancy that usually belong to base anger, he attributes the defect of dullness to a Book, more universally read than any modern performance of equal magnitude.

The Abbé talks loudly of the literary virtues that become an Historian: but he seems to have forgot that there are literary vices, which may render even a learned and ingenious critic con­temptible. No productions of the press are more disgraceful to literature, than those in which a dissertation on any art is made the vehicle of personal malignity: yet, as this is the most plausible and insinuating method of giving vent to malice, it is, perhaps, the most common. In the end, however, this species of [Page 263] literary slander defeats its own purpose; for, if the envious are pleased to echo it for a time, to more candid and generous readers it endears the merit it traduces. They lament the hard destiny of superior talents; and recollect, with a sigh of affectionate indignation, the just and spirited remark of Monsieur D' Alembert, ‘"Que les grands Genies sont toujours de chirés par des gens, qui ne sont pas dignes de les lire!"’


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