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learning; and the French nobility affected that arrogant and supercilious demeanour which demands respect from the consideration of birth or fortune, without the possession of a single laudable or valuable quality. The keen but delicate satire of Molière produced a very sensible reformation; and the latter part of the reign of Lewis XIV. was as entirely free from the quackery of physic, the pedantry of the ladies, and the absurd pride of the nobility, as the commencement of it was marked by those characteristics.
The last eminent dramatic writer among the French who distinguished the seventeenth century was Crebillon, who is the only one of the French poets of the stage, if we except Voltaire, who has drawn his images of the sublime from the source of terror. In tragedy he had before him the models of Corneille and Racine, but his genius was original, and he disdained to imitate. His pieces are, therefore, deficient in that correctness, or that polish in the structure of the verses, which is the fruit of study and of imitation; but he must be a tasteless critic, who, in reading the tragedy of Radamiste et Zénobie, or of Atrée et Thyeste, feels his passions so disengaged as to attend to the irregularity of a verse. or the harshness of a cadence. Let us observe too, to the honour of Crebillon, that in all his pieces virtue and morality are powerfully inculcated-a characteristic to distinguish him from a worthless son, the younger Crebillon, who, in a variety of licentious novels, has prostituted excellent talents in the service of vice.
With the mention of the principal historians.
who adorned the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, I close this hasty sketch of European liter
In France we find, as historians of that period, De Thou and Davila. The History of the president De Thou, comprehending the annals of his own time, from 1545 to 1607, is written with great judgment and impartiality. He wrote in Latin, and his style, with considerable purity, has an uncommon degree of force and elevation. Davila, an Italian, has no other title to be classed among the French historians than having long resided in France, and written of the affairs of that kingdom. His history of the civil wars of France, from the death of Henry II. to the peace of Vervins, in 1598, and the establishment of Henry IV. upon the throne, is written in excellent Italian, and, if considered as the composition of a partisan, is marked by no common degree of candour and impartiality.
In Italy, Machiavel, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, composed his History of Florence, a work classical in point of style, though not always to be depended on in point of fact. Bentivoglio, in his History of the Civil Wars of Flanders, has united great political knowledge with perspicuity of narration and force of language. He is often wonderfully eloquent. As a model of the perfect historical style, we cannot recommend a finer example than Bentivoglio's introduction to the work we have mentioned.
Among the English historians, Sir Walter Raleigh possesses a purity of language remarkable for the times in which he lived: for the age of James I. was distinguished by a false and vicious
taste in writing. But his chief excellence is his judicious selection of facts. His History of the World, though a work of great judgment and perspicuity, is yet in point of style rather beneath that dignity of expression which is required in historical composition.
Clarendon has great natural powers; no author possessed more acuteness in discerning characters, or a happier talent in delineating them. He is an author who is looked upon as a party writer, as every writer must be who gives the history of a period distinguished by the violence of party, and who relates transactions in which he himself was actively concerned. But Clarendon was a man of virtue and probity: he never wilfully misleads ; and, if we cannot implicitly assent to his political creed, we respect his talents and revere his integrity.
At this period of the history of the world, the department of Universal History may be said to terminate. It would certainly be desirable that any work on so comprehensive a subject should include the widest range in point of time, and even embrace the events of the present age; but many circumstances conspire to render this difficult in a work on general history, and almost impossible in the form and for the purpose for which this work was composed, viz., as a course of lectures delivered from an academical chair in the University of Edinburgh. The quantity of important matter which accumulates as we reach the more recent periodsthe interest which attaches itself to innumerable events, less from their actual importance, than from their connexion with the feelings and passions
of the present day, conspire to render the materials of recent history of a magnitude so disproportioned to those which form the narrative of more distant periods, that no discrimination could suffice to condense them within the requisite compass. It is the lapse of time alone that settles the relative importance of such materials; that throws into the shade, or blots out from the canvass, those details which, however interesting they may seem to the actors, are of no real value to posterity; and leaves the great picture of human affairs charged with such features only as deserve a lasting memorial, and preserve their importance long after their immediate interest has ceased to enhance it.
It is not, therefore, in a work on General History that the student must expect to obtain a knowledge of his own times, or of those which immediately precede them; but the general views which he may here receive of the history of former ages, and that method and arrangement which he will here find pursued, will enable him to prosecute his historical studies with more real benefit to himself, and with less risk of being led astray by the partial and often contradictory statements of contemporary annalists
*[It is probable, however, that the reader of The Family Library may ere long be furnished with an attempt to continue the view of Universal History, upon the plan of our Author, down to the settlement of European affairs consequent on the battle of Waterloo, in 1815.-EDITOR.]