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SECTION III.

Continuation of the same Subject--History of America.

AFTER an interval of eight years from the publication of Charles V., Dr. Robertson produced the History of America; a work which, by the variety of research and of speculation that it exhibits, enables us to form a sufficient idea of the manner in which he had employed the intervening period.

In undertaking this task, the author's original intention was only to complete his account of the great events connected with the reign of Charles V.; but perceiving, as he advanced, that a History of America, confined solely to the operations and concerns of the Spaniards, would not be likely to excite a very general interest, he resolved to include in his plan the transactions of all the European nations in the New World. The origin and progress of the British empire there, he destined for the subject of one entire volume; but afterwards abandoned, or rather suspended the execution of this part of his design, for reasons mentioned in his preface.

In the view which I have hitherto given of Dr. Robertson's literary pursuits, I have endeavoured not only to glean all the scanty information which his papers supply, concerning the progress of his studies, but to collect whatever memorials they afford of his intercourse with those, to whom he appears to have been more peculiarly attached by sentiments of esteem or of friendship. In following this plan, while I have attempted (in conformity to the precept of an eloquent critic *) to add to the interest of my narrative “by surrounding the subject of it with his contemporaries,” I have aimed also to select such passages from the letters of his correspondents, as were at once calculated to illustrate the characters of the writers, and to reflect some light on that of the person to whom they are addressed. It ap

* Abbé Maury.

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peared to me to be possible to convey in this manner a livelier and juster idea of the more delicate features of their minds, than by any description however circumstantial; and at the same time, to avoid, by a proper discrimination in the selection of materials, those frivolous or degrading details, which, in the present times, are so frequently presented to the public by the indiscretion of editors. The epistolary fragments, accordingly, interwoven with my own composition, have all a reference to the peculiar object of this memoir; and I cannot help indulging a hope, that they will amply compensate, by the value they possess as authentic relics of the individuals whose friendships they record, for the trespasses they have occasioned against that unity of' style which the rules of criticism enjoin.

In the farther prosecution of this subject, I shall adhere to the same general plan; without, however, affecting that minuteness of illustration which I was anxious to bestow on the first steps of Dr. Robertson's literary progress. The circle of his acquaintance, besides, was now so extended, and the congratulations which his works drew to him so multiplied, that my choice must necessarily be limited to the letters of those whose names render their judgments of men and books objects of public curiosity. The society will regret with me, that among these correspondents the name of Mr. Hume is not to be found. He died in the year 1776 ; the

year immediately preceding that in which the History of America was published.*

* The following letters have no immediate connexion with the history of Dr. Robertson's Life; but, I trust, that no apology is necessary for their insertion here.

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FROM MR. HUME TO DR. ROBERTSON. « Dear Robertson,

Paris, 1st December, 1763. Among other agreeable circumstances, which attend me at Paris, I must mention that of having a lady for a translator, a woman of merit, the widow of an advocate. She was before very poor, and known but to few; but this work has got her reputation, and procured her a pension from the court, which sets her at her ease. She tells me, that she has got a habit of industry; and would continue, if I could point out to her any other English book she could undertake, without running the risque of being anticipated by any other translator. Your History of Scotland is translated, and is in the press : but I recommended to her your History of Charles V. and 'promised to write to you, in order to know when it would be printed, and to desire you to send over the sheets from London as they came from the press : I should put them into her hands, and she would by that means have the start of

Mr. Gibbon made his first appearance as an historian a few months before Mr. Hume's death, and began a correspondence with Dr. Robertson the year following.

*

every other translator. My two volumes last published are at present in the press. She has a very easy natural style : sometimes she mistakes the sense ; but I now correct her manuscript; and should be happy to render you the same service, if my leisure permit me, as I hope it will. Do you ask me about my course of life? I can only say, that I eat nothing but ambrosia, drink nothing but nectar, breathe nothing but incense, and tread on nothing but flowers. Every man I meet, and still more every lady, would think they were wanting in the most indispensable duty, if they did not make to me a long and elaborate harangue in my praise. What happened last week, when I had the honor of being presented to the D-n's children at Versailles, is one of the most curious scenes I have yet passed through. The Duc de B., the eldest, a boy of ten years old, stepped forth, and told me how many friends and admirers I had in this country, and that he reckoned himself in the number, from the pleasure he had received from the reading of many passages in my works. When he had finished, his brother, the Count de P., who is two years younger, began his discourse, and informed me, that I had been long and impatiently expected in France; and that he himself expected soon to have great satisfaction from the reading of my fine history. But what is more curious; when I was carried thence to the Count d'A., who is but four years of age, I heard him mumble something, which, though he had forgot it in the way, I conjectured from some scattered words, to have been also a panegyric dictated to him. Nothing could more surprise my friends, the Parisian philosophers, than this incident. It is conjectured that this honor was paid me by express order from the D. who, indeed, is not, on any occasion, sparing in my praise.

“ All this attention and panegyric was at first oppressive to me; but now it sits more easy. I have recovered, in some measure, the use of the language, and am falling into friendships, which are very agreeable ; much more so than silly, distant, admiration. They now begin to banter me, and tell droll stories of me, which they have either observed themselves, or have heard from others; so that you see I am beginning to be at home. It is probable, that this place will be long my home. I feel Jitile inclination to the factious barbarians of London ; and have ever desired to remain in the place where I am planted. How much more so, when it is the best place in the world? I could here live in great abundance on the half of my income; for there is no place where money is so little requisite to a man who is distinguished either by his birth or by personal qualities. I could run out, you see, in a panegyric on the people; but you would suspect, that this was a mutual convention between us. However, I cannot forbear observing, on what a different footing learning and the learned are here, from what they are among the factious barbarians above mentioned.

“ I have here met with a prodigious historical curiosity, the Memoirs of King James II., in fourteen volumes, all wrote with his own hand, and kept in the Scots' college. I have looked into it, and have made great discoveries. It will be all communicated to me; and I have had an offer of access to the secretary of state's office, if I want to know the despatches of any French minister that resided in London. But these matters are much out of my head. I beg of you to visit Lord Marischal, who will be pleased with your company. I have little paper remaining, and less time; and therefore conclude abruptly, by assuring you that I am, dear doctor, Yours sincerely.”

FROM MR. HUME TO DR. ROBERTSON.

“My dear sir,

London, 19th March, 1767. “ You do extremely right in applying to me wherever it is the least likely I can serve you or any of your friends. I consulted immediately with General Conway, who told me, as I suspected, that the chaplains to forts and garrisons were appointed by the war office, and did not belong to his department. Unhappily I have but a slight acquaintance with Lord Barrington, and cannot venture to ask him any favor: But I shall call on Pryce Campbell, though not of my acquaintance, and shall in

A letter dated from Paris, 14th July, 1777, in acknowledgment of a present of Dr. Robertson's book, appears plainly from the contents to have been one of the first that passed between them.

“When I ventured to assume the character of historian, the first, the most natural, but at the same time the most ambitious wish which I entertained was to deserve

quire of him the canals through which this affair may be conducted: perhaps it may lie in my power to facilitate it by some means or other.

" I shall endeavour to find out the unhappy philosopher you mentioned, though it will be difficult for me to do him any service. He is an ingenious man, but unfortunate in his conduct, particularly in the early part of his life. The world is so cruel as never to overlook those flaws; and nothing but hypocrisy can fully cover them from observation. There is not so effectual a scoure of reputations in the world. I wish that I had never parted with that Lixivium, in case I should at any future time have occasion for it.”

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A few days before my arrival in London, Mr. Davenport had carried to Mr. Conway a letter of Rousseau, in which that philosopher says, that he had never meant to refuse the king's bounty, that he would be proud of accepting it; but that he would owe it entirely to his majesty's generosity and that of his ministers, and would refuse it if it came through any other canal whatsoever, even that of Mr. Davenport. Mr. Davenport then addressed himself to Mr. Conway, and asked whether it was not possible to recover what this man's madness had thrown away ? The secretary replied, that I should be in London in a few days, and that he would take no steps in the affair but at my desire and with my approbation. When the matter was proposed to me, I exhorted the general to do this act of charity to a man of genius, however wild and extravagant. The king, when applied to, said, that since the pension had once been promised, it should be granted notwithstanding all that had passed in the interval. And thus the affair is happily finished, unless some new extravagance come across the philosopher, and engage him to reject what he has anew applied for. If he knew my situation with General Conway he probably would : for he must then conjecture that the asfạir could not be done without my consent.

Fergusson's book goes on here with great success. A few days ago I saw Mrs. Montague, who had just finished it with great pleasure. I mean, she was sorry to finish it, but had read it with great pleasure. I asked her, whether she was satisfied with the style? Whether it did not savour somewhat of the country? O yes, said she, a great deal : it seems almost impossible that any one could write such a style except a Scotsman.

“I find you prognosticate a very short date to my administration : I really believe that few, but not evil, will be my days. My absence will not probably allow my claret time to ripen, much less to sour. However that may be, I hope to drink out the remainder of it with you in mirth and jollity. I am sincerely yours usque ad aras.

In comparing the amiable qualities displayed in Mr. Hume's familiar letters, and (according to the universal testimony of his friends) exhibited in the whole tenor of his private conduct, with those passages in his metaphysical writings which strike at the root of the moral and religious principles of our nature, I have sometimes pleased myself with recollecting the ingenious argument against the theories of Epicurus, which Cicero deduces from the history of that philosopher's life. mihi quidem, quod et ipse vir bonus fuit, et multi Epicurei fuerunt et hodie sunt et in amicitiâ fideles, et in omni vitâ constantes et graves, nec voluptate sed officio consilia moderantes, hoc videtur major vis honestatis et minor voluptatis. Ita enim vivunt quidam, ut eorum vitâ refellatur oratio. Atque ut cæteri existimantur dicere melius quam facere, sic hi mihi videntur facere melius quam dicere.”

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the approbation of Dr. Robertson and Mr. Hume, two names which friendship united, and which posterity will never separate. I shall not therefore attempt to dissemble, though I cannot easily express, the honest pleasure which I received from your obliging letter, as well as from the intelligence of your most valuable present. The satisfaction which I should otherwise have enjoyed in common with the public, will now be heightened by a sentiment of a more personal and flattering nature; and I shall often whisper to myself, that I have in some degree obtained the esteem of the writer whom I admire.

“A short excursion which I have made to this place during the summer months, has occasioned some delay in my receiving your letter, and will prevent me from possessing, till my return, the copy of your history, which you so politely desired Mr. Strahan to send me. But I have already gratified the eagerness of my curiosity and impatience; and though I was obliged to return the book much sooner than I could have wished, I have seen enough to convince me that the present publication will support, and, if possible, extend the fame of the author; that the materials are collected with care, and arranged

, with skill; that the progress of discovery is displayed with learning and perspicuity ; that the dangers, the achievements, and the views of the Spanish adventurers, are related with a temperate spirit; and that the most original, perhaps the most curious portion of human manners, is at length rescued from the hands of sophists and declaimers. Lord Stormont, and the few in this capital who have had an opportunity of perusing the History of America, unanimously concur in the same sentiments; your work is already become a favorite subject of conversation, and M. Suard is repeatedly pressed, in my hearing, to fix the time when his translation will ap

*

pear.” *

* The letter from which the foregoing passage is extracted has been already published by Lord Sheffield in the posthumous works of Mr. Gibbon. As the copy found among Dr. Robertson's papers corresponds verbatim with that which Mr. Gibbon appears to have retained in his own possession, it affords a proof of the care which he bestowed on his epistolary compositions.

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