Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

ENTERED IN STATIONERS' HALL.

Printed by Oliver & Boyd, Tweeddale Court, High Street, Edinburghi.

PREFACE.

The following pages are intended for the instruction of those whose time at school is limited, or who have not the means of purchasing larger works containing the histories of the three kingdoms which compose the British Empire. The best and most recent authorities have been followed, and the narrative of events has been carefully brought down to the present period.

The questions appended to each division should be answered orally after every lesson, and from time to time the more important ones may form the subject of a written exercise. In neither case is it desirable that the reply should be given in the very words of the text, such examinations being designed, not to test the memory, but the understanding of the youthful student.

Too much stress cannot be laid upon the study of Chronology and Geography,—the two eyes of History. For the former some technical chronology should be selected; and from the benefit my pupils have received from Mrs Slater's Sententiæ Chronologica, I cannot forbear recommending her unassuming little work. Should it be too expensive, the intelligent teacher will find no difficulty in adapting her system to such dates as he wishes to fix in the memory of his pupils.

For all purposes of geographical reference, the Map of the British Isles, prefixed to this volume, will be amply sufficient. The pupil will form, however, a very imperfect

notion of the geography of his native land, and of the influence of locality upon habits, language, and national character, if he carries his studies no farther. The physical geography of the United Kingdom is of more importance than its political geography; and the directions of its hills and mountains, of its rivers, the position of its mineral beds, the shape of its coast-line, its situation with respect to other countries, &c., alone furnish the key to many of the anomalies in our history.

Much miscellaneous information has been given in this volume, which, it is hoped, will not only render it acceptable to learners, but present to them a faithful picture of our country in times past. It is more important to know how the people lived and what they thought, than to be familiar with the secrets of cabinets or the marches and countermarches of armies. The one concerns us all, in our homes and in our markets; the influence of the other is transitory, fading away almost before the grass covers the graves of the slaughtered soldiery.

OCTOBER 1849.

HISTORY

OF

GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND.

INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER.

THE FABULOUS HISTORIANS.

1. The history of a nation, to be really instructive, should contain nothing but the truth. We are naturally inclined to believe what we read in books without questioning its accuracy; and historians, taking advantage of this disposition, have sought to gratify their own prejudices and the national vanity by misrepresenting facts, or by exaggerating the antiquity and warlike achievements of their ancestors. Thus succeeding writers, adopting without examination the tales recorded by their predecessors, and even adding to them, have in many cases either entirely obscured the truth, or supplied its place by fable and falsehood. As very little is known of the early inhabitants of this island for nearly a thousand years after the birth of Christ, most readers, and the young especially, take little interest in a narrative which does not enlist their sympathies by the heroic exploits of great men and the triumphs or reverses of the nation. Encouraged by this feeling, our earlier historians have sought to relieve the dryness of a general account by the invention of particulars that have little or no foundation in fact. Although this volume will contain

nothing but what the author has good grounds for believing to be true, it may afford the learner some amusement as well as instruction, to be told the kind of fables which were related about the early history of England, Scotland, and Ireland. And it must be remembered that a belief in these fables was not confined to ignorant people, or silly old nurses, but was entertained by clergymen, lawyers, and other educated men, who wrote them in large books, and generally in the Latin language.

2. ENGLAND.—A monk, named Geoffrey of Monmouth, wrote a history of Britain about the middle of the twelfth century. He gives a list of seventy kings who flourished before the landing of Julius Cæsar,—the earliest fact concerning Britain which we know on good authority. When you read the history of Greece, you will become acquainted with the siege of Troy. It occurred in the early infancy of the Greeks, and the real facts connected with it were not well known even to themselves. You would not expect to find this event connected with the history of England ; but, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, it had nearly as much to do with this country as the battle of Bannockburn or of Waterloo. He tells us, that young Ascanius, who fled with his father Æneas from Troy, had a son called Brute, from whose name this island was called Brutain or Britain. After having wandered over the world with an army of Trojans, it seems that he came to an island beyond Gaul, inhabited by giants. Brute and his army are said to have performed great feats of valour; and one of his followers had the credit of slaying a hundred men with his own hand in one battle. They slew all the giants in the island, and built London, which they called Troy Novant, or New Troy, after their native city. The chroniclers tell us that Brute had three sons, called Locrinus, Albanactus, and Kamber. To the first he left the kingdom of England, to the second that of Scotland, and to the third that of Wales. Geoffrey and the others who adopt his narrative give an account of a succession of kings from Brute downwards; and to show how preposterously fictitious his narrative is, it may be sufficient to

say, that he gives a minute history of King Lear as the contemporary of Solomon, king of Israel. Of this King Lear a pleasant and instructive story is told. It is said,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »