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related in such a manner as to furnish not only allusions to schoolboys, but important lessons to statesmen. From that love of theatrical effect and high flown sentiment which had poisoned almost every other work on the same subject, his book is perfectly free. But his passion for a theory as false, and far more ungenerous, led him substantially to violate truth in every page. Statements unfavourable to democracy are made with unhesitating confidence, and with the utmost bitterness of language. Every charge brought against a monarch, or an aristocracy, is sifted with the utmost care. If it cannot be denied, some palliating supposition is suggested, or we are at least reminded that some circumstances now unknown may have justified what at present appears unjustifiable. Two events are reported by the same author in the same sentence; their truth rests on the same testimony; but the one supports the darling hypothesis, and the other seems inconsistent with it. The cre is taken and the other is left.
The practice of distorting narrative into a conformity with theory, is a vice not so unfavourable, as at first sight it may appear, to the interest of political science. We have compared the writers who indulge in it to advocates; and we may add, that their conflicting fallacies, like those of advocates, correct each other. It has always been held, in the most enlightened nations, that a tribunal will decide a judicial question most fairly, when it has heard two able men argue, as unfairly as possible, on the two opposite sides of it; and we are inclined to think that this opinion is just. Sometimes, it is true, superior eloquence and dexterity will make the worse appear the better reason; but it is at least certain that the judge will be compelled to contemplate the case under two different aspects. It is certain that no important consideration will altogether escape notice.
This is at present the state of history. The poet laureate appears for the Church of England, Lingard for the Church of Rome. Brodie has moved to set aside the verdicts obtained by Hume; and the cause in which Mitford succeeded is, we understand, about to be reheard. In the midst of these disputes, however, history proper, if we may use the term, is disappearing. The high, grave, impartial summing up of Thucydides is nowhere to be ound.
While our historians are practising all the arts of controversy, they miserably neglect the art of narration, the art of interesting the affections, and presenting pictures to the imagination. That a writer may produce these effects without violating truth is sufficiently proved by many excellent biographical works. The immense popularity which well-written books of this kind have acquired, deserves the serious consideration of historians. Voltaire's Charles the Twelfth, Marmontel's Memoirs, Boswell's Life of Johnson, Southey's account of Nelson, are perused with delight by the most frivolous and indolent. Whenever any tolerable book of the saine description makes its appearance, the circulating libraries are mobbed; the book societies are in commotion the new novel lies
uncut; the magazines and newspapers fill their columns with extracts. In the mean time histories of great empires, written by men of eminent ability, lie unread on the shelves of ostentatious libraries.
The writers of history seem to entertain an aristocratical contempt for the writers of memoirs. They think it beneath the dignity of men who describe the revolutions of nations, to dwell on the details which constitute the charm of biography. They have imposed on themselves a code of conventional decencies as absurd as that which has been the bane of the French drama. The most characteristic and interesting circumstances are omitted or softened down, because, as we are told, they are too trivial for the majesty of history. The majesty of history seems to resemble the majesty of the poor King of Spain, who died a martyr to ceremony, because the proper dignitaries were not at hand to render him assistance.
That history would be more amusing if this etiquette were relaxed, will, we suppose, be acknowledged. But would it be less dignified, or less useful? What do we mean, when we say that one past event is important, and another insignificant? No past event has any intrinsic importance. The knowledge of it is valuable only as it leads us to form just cal culations with respect to the future. A history which does not serve this purpose, though it may be filled with battles, treaties, and commotions, is as useless as the series of turnpike-tickets collected by Sir Mathew Mite.
Let us suppose that Lord Clarendon, instead of filling hundreds of folio pages with copies of state papers, in which the same assertions and contradictions are repeated, till the reader is overpowered with weariness, had condescended to be the Boswell of the Long Parlia ment. Let us suppose that he had exhibited to us the wise and lofty self-government of Hampden, leading while he seemed to follow, and propounding unanswerable arguments in the strongest forms, with the modest air of an inquirer anxious for information; the delu sions which misled the noble spirit of Vane; the coarse fanaticism which concealed the yet loftier genius of Cromwell, destined to control a mutinous army and a factious people, to abase the flag of Holland, to arrest the victorious arms of Sweden, and to hold the balance firm between the rival monarchies of France and Spain. Let us suppose that he had made his Cavaliers and Roundheads talk in their own style, that he had reported some of the ribaldry of Rupert's pages, and some of the cant of Harrison and Fleetwood. Would not his work in that case have been more interesting? Would it not have been more accurate?
A history in which every particular incident may be true, may on the whole be false. The circumstances which have most influence on the happiness of mankind, the changes of manners and morals, the transition of communities from poverty to wealth, from knowledge to ignorance, from ferocity to humanity -these are, for the most part, noiseless revo lutions. Their progress is rarely indicated by what historians are pleased to cal! important
its dimensions, and has then departed, think. ing that he has seen England. He has, in fact, seen a few public buildings, public men, and public ceremonies. But of the vast and complex system of society, of the fine shades of national character, of the practical operation of government and laws, he knows nothing. He who would understand these things rightly must not confine his observations to palaces and solemn days. He must see ordinary men as they appear in their ordinary business and in their ordinary pleasures. He must mingle in the crowds of the exchange and the coffeehouse. He must obtain admittance to the convivial table and the domestic hearth. He must bear with vulgar expressions. He must not shrink from exploring even the 'etreats of misery. He who wishes to understand the condition of mankind in former ages, must proceed on the same principle. If he attends only to public transactions, to wars, congresses, and debates, his studies will be as unhis-profitable as the travels of those imperial, royal, and serene sovereigns, who form their judgment of our island from having gone in state to a few fine sights, and from having held formal conferences with a few great officers.
events. They are not achieved by armies, or enacted by senates. They are sanctioned by no treaties, and recorded in no archives. They are carried on in every school, in every church, behind ten thousand counters, at ten thousand firesides. The upper current of society presents no certain criterion by which we can judge of the direction in which the under current flows. We read of defeats and victories. But we know that nations may be miserable amidst victories, and prosperous amidst defeats. We read of the fall of wise ministers, and of the rise of profligate favourites. But we must remember how small a proportion the good or evil effected by a single statesman can bear to the good or evil of a great social system.
Bishop Watson compares a geologist to a gnat mounted on an elephant, and laying down theories as to the whole internal structure of the vast animal, from the phenomena of the hide. The comparison is unjust to the geologists; but it is very applicable to those torians who write as if the body politic were homogeneous, who look only on the surface of affairs, and never think of the mighty and various organization which lies deep below.
In the works of such writers as these, Eng- The perfect historian is he in whose work land, at the close of the Seven Years' War, is the character and spirit of an age is exhibited in the highest state of prosperity. At the in miniature. He relates no fact, he attributes close of the American War, she is in a mise- no expression to his characters, which is not rable and degraded condition; as if the people authenticated by sufficient testimony. But by were not on the whole as rich, as well go-judicious selection, rejection, and arrangeverned, and as well educated, at the latter ment, he gives to truth those attractions which period as at the former. We have read have been usurped by fiction. In his narrabooks called Histories of England, under the tive, a due subordination is observed; some reign of George the Second, in which the rise transactions are prominent, others retire. But of Methodism is not even mentioned. A hun- the scale on which he represents them is indred years hence this breed of authors will, we creased or diminished, not according to the hope, be extinct. If it should still exist, the dignity of the persons concerned in them, but late ministerial interregnum will be described according to the degree in which they eluciin terms which will seem to imply that all go-date the condition of society and the nature of vernment was at an end; that the social con- man. He shows us the court, the camp, and tract was annulled, and that the hand of every the senate. But he shows us also the nation man was against his neighbour, until the wis- He considers no anecdote, no peculiarity of dom and virtue of the new cabinet educed manner, no familiar saying, as too insignifi. order out of the chaos of anarchy. We are cant for his notice, which is not too insigniquite certain that misconceptions as gross ficant to illustrate the operation of laws, of prevail at this moment, respecting many im- religion, and of education, and to mark the portant parts of our annals. progress of the human mind. Men will not merely be described, but will be made intimately known to us. The changes of manners will be indicated, not merely by a few general phrases, or a few extracts from staex-tistical documents, but by appropriate images presented in every line.
The effect of historical reading is analogous, in many respects, to that produced by foreign travel. The student, like the tourist, is transported into a new state of society. He sees new fashions. He hears new modes of pression. His mind is enlarged by contemplating the wide diversities of laws, of morals, and of manners. But men may travel far, and return with minds as contracted as if they nad never stirred from their own market-town. In the same manner, men may know the dates of many battles, and the genealogies of many the details which are the charm of historical royal houses, and yet be no wiser. Most peo-romances. At Lincoln Cathedral there is a ple look at past times, as princes look at beautiful painted window, which was made by foreign countries. More than one illustrious an apprentice out of the pieces of glass which stranger has landed on our island amidst the had been rejected by his master. It is so far shouts of a mob, has dined with the King, has superior to every other in the church, that, hunted with the master of the stag-hounds, has according to the 'radition, the vanquished seen the Guards reviewed, and a knight of the artist killed himselt from mortification. Sir garter installed; has cantered along Regent Walter Scott, in the same manner, has used street; has visited St. Paul's, and noted down those fragments of truth which historians have VOL. L-9 I 2
If a man, such as we are supposing, should write the history of England, he would assuredly not omit the battles, the sieges, the negotiations, the seditions, the ministerial changes. But with these he would intersperse
scornfully thrown behind them, in a manner | a great artist might produce a portrait of this which may well excite their envy. He has remarkable woman, at least as striking as that constructed out of their gleanings works in the novel of Kenilworth, without employing which, even considered as histories, are scarce- a single trait not authenticated by ample tesly less valuable than theirs. But a truly great timony. In the mean time, we should see historian would reclaim those materials which arts cultivated, wealth accumulated, the convethe novelist has appropriated. The history niences of life improved. We should see the of the government and the history of the peo- keeps, where nobles, insecure themselves, ple would be exhibited in that mode in which spread insecurity around them, gradually alone they can be exhibited justly, in insepa- giving place to the halls of peaceful opulence, rable conjunction and intermixture. We should to the oriels of Longleat, and the stately pinnot then have to look for the wars and votes nacles of Burleigh. We should see towns exof the Puritans in Clarendon, and for their tended, deserts cultivated, the hamlets of fishphraseology in Old Mortality; for one half of ermen turned into wealthy havens, the meal King James in Hume, and for the other half of the peasant improved, and his hut more in the Fortunes of Nigel. commodiously furnished. We should see those opinions and feelings which produced the great struggle against the house of Stuart,
The early part of our imaginary history would be rich with colouring from romance, ballad, and chronicle. We should find our-slowly growing up in the bosom of private selves in the company of knights such as families, before they manifested themselves in those of Froissart, and of pilgrims such as Parliamentary debates. Then would come those who rode with Chaucer from the Tabard. the Civil War. Those skirmishes, on which Society would be shown from the highest to Clarendon dwells so minutely, would be told, the lowest-from the royal cloth of state to the as Thucydides would have told them, with den of the outlaw; from the throne of the le- perspicuous conciseness. They are merely gate to the chimney-corner where the begging connecting links. But the great characterfriar regaled himself. Palmers, minstrels, istics of the age, the loyal enthusiasm of the the stately monastery, with the brave English gentry, the fierce licentiousness good cheer in its refectory, and the high-mass of the swearing, dicing, drunken reprobates, in its chapel-the manor-house, with its hunt- whose excesses disgraced the royal causeing and hawking-the tournament, with the the austerity of the Presbyterian Sabbaths in heralds and ladies, the trumpets and the cloth the city, the extravagance of the Independent of gold-would give truth and life to the re- preachers in the camp, the precise garb, the presentation. We should perceive, in a thou-severe countenance, the petty scruples, the sand slight touches, the importance of the pri- affected accent, the absurd names and phrases vileged burgher, and the fierce and haughty which marked the Puritans-the valour, the spirit which swelled under the collar of the policy, the public spirit, which lurked beneath degraded villain. The revival of letters would these ungraceful disguises, the dreams of the not merely be described in a few magnificent raving Fifth Monarchyman, the dreams, scarce periods. We should discern, in innumerable ly less wild, of the philosophic republican-all particulars, the fermentation of mind, the eager these would enter into the representation, and appetite for knowledge, which distinguished render it at once more exact and more strikthe sixteenth from the fifteenth century. In ing. the Reformation we should see, not merely a The instruction derived from history thus .schism which changed the ecclesiastical con- written would be of a vivid and practical chastitution of England, and the mutual relations racter. It would be received by the imaginaof the European powers, but a moral war tion as well as by the reason. It would be not which raged in every family, which set the merely traced on the mind, but branded into father against the son, and the son against the it. Many truths, too, would be learned, which father, the mother against the daughter, and can be learned in no other manner. As the the daughter against the mother. Henry history of states is generally written, the greatwould be painted with the skill of Tacitus. est and most momentous revolutions seem to We should have the change of his character come upon them like supernatural inflictions, from his profuse and joyous youth to his without warning or cause. But the fact is, that savage and imperious old age. We should such revolutions are almost always the conseperceive the gradual progress of selfish and quences of moral changes, which have gra tyrannical passions, in a mind not naturally dually passed on the mass of the community, insensible or ungenerous; and to the last we and which ordinarily proceed far, before their should detect some remains of that open and progress is indicated by any public measure. noble temper which endeared him to a people An intimate knowledge of the domestic history whom he oppressed, struggling with the hard-of nations is therefore absolutely necessary to ness of despotism and the irritability of dis- the prognosis of political events. A narrative, ease. We should see Elizabeth in all her defective in this respect, is as useless as a me weakness, and in all her strength, surrounded dical treatise which should pass by all the by the handsome favourites whom she never symptoms attendant on the early stage of a trusted, and the wise old statesmen, whom she disease, and mention only what occurs when never dismissed, uniting in herself the most the patient is beyond the reach of remedies. contradictory qualities of both her parentsthe coquetry, the caprice, the petty malice of Anne-the haughty and resolute spirit of Uenry. We have no hesitation in saying, that
An historian, such as we have been attempt ing to describe, would indeed be an intellectual prodigy. In his mind, powers, scarcely compatible with each other, must be tempered into
an exquisite harmony. We shall sooner see another Shakspeare or another Homer. The highest excellence, to which any single faculty can be brought, would be less surprising than such a happy and delicate combination of qualities. Yet the contemplation of imaginary models is not an unpleasant or useless employ
HALLAM'S CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY.*
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1828.]
ment of the mind. It cannot indeed produce perfection, but it produces improvement, and nourishes that generous and liberal fastidious ness, which is not inconsistent with the strong est sensibility to merit, and which, while it ex alts our conceptions of the art, does not ren ler us unjust to the artist.
HISTORY, at least in its state of imaginary perfection, is a compound of poetry and philosophy. It impresses general truths on the mind by a vivid representation of particular characters and incidents. But, in fact, the two hostile elements of which it consists have never been known to form a perfect amalgama-ing tion; and at length, in our own time, they have been completely and professedly separated. Good histories, in the proper sense of the word, we have not. But we have good historical romances and good historical essays. The imagination and the reason, if we may use a legal metaphor, have made partition of a province of literature of which they were formerly seised per my et pour tout; and now they hold their respective portions in severalty, instead of holding the whole in common.
companion to the traveller or the general than the painting could be, though it were the grandest that ever Rosa peopled with outlaws, or the sweetest over which Claude ever poured the mellow effulgence of a setting sun.
It is remarkable that the practice of separat
the two ingredients of which history is composed has become prevalent on the Continent as well as in this country. Italy has already produced an historical novel, of high merit and of still higher promise. In France, the practice has been carried to a length somewhat whimsical. M. Sismondi publishes a grave and stately history, very valuable, and a little tedious. He then sends forth as a companion to it a novel, in which he attempts to give a lively representation of characters and manners. This course, as it seems to us, has To make the past present, to bring the dis- all the disadvantages of a division of labour, tant near, to place us in the society of a great and none of its advantages. We understand man, or on the eminence which overlooks the the expediency of keeping the functions of field of a mighty battle, to invest with the reali-cook and coachman distinct--the dinner will ty of human flesh and blood beings whom we be better dressed, and the horses better maare too much inclined to consider as personi-naged. But where the two situations are united, fied qualities in an allegory, to call up our ances- as in the Maitre Jaques of Molière, we do not tors before us with all their peculiarities of see that the matter is much mended by the solanguage, manners, and garb, to show us over lemn form with which the pluralist passes from their houses, to seat us at their tables, to rum- one of his employments to the other. mage their old-fashioned wardrobes, to explain the uses of their ponderous furniture-these parts of the duty which properly belongs to the historian have been appropriated by the historical novelist. On the other hand, to extract the philosophy of history—to direct our judg-intention is to give an express and lively ment of, events and men-to trace the connec-image of its external form. The latter is an tion of causes and effects, and to draw from the anatomist. His task is to dissect the subject to occurrences of former times general lessons of its inmost recesses, and to lay bare before us all moral and political wisdom, has become the the springs of motion and all the causes of de business of a distinct class of writers. cay.
We manage these things better in England. Sir Walter Scott gives us a novel; Mr. Hallam a critical and argumentative history. Both are occupied with the same matter. But the former looks at it with the eye of a sculptor. His
Of the two kinds of composition into which history has been thus divided, the one may be compared to a map, the other to a painted landscape. The picture, though it places the object before us, does not enable us to ascertain with accuracy the form and dimensions of its component parts, the distances, and the angles. The map is not a work of imitative art. It presents no scene to the imagination; but it gives us exact information as to the bearings of the various points, and is a more useful
The Constitutional History of England, from the Actesston of Henry VII. to the Death of George II. HENRY HALLAM. In 2 vols. 1827.
Mr. Hallam is, on the whole, far better qualfied than any other writer of our time for the office which he has undertaken. He has great industry and great acuteness. His knowledg is extensive, various, and profound. His mind is equally distinguished by the amplitude of its grasp and by the delicacy of its tact. His speculations have none of that vagueness which is the common fault of political philoso phy. On the contrary, they are strikingly practical. They teach us not only the general rule, but the mode of applying it to solve par ticular cases. In this respect they often re mind us of the Discourses of Machiaveli
in conjunction, is
trol of the will.
The style is sometimes harsh, and sometimes | hend the meaning latent under the emblems of obscure. We have also here and there remark- their faith, can resist the contagion of the ed a little of that unpleasant trick which Gib- popular superstition. Often, when they flatter bon brought into fashion-the trick, we mean, themselves that they are merely feigning a of narrating by implication and allusion. Mr. compliance with the prejudices of the vulgar, Hallam, however, has an excuse which Gib- they are themselves under the influence of bon had not. His work is designed for readers those very prejudices. It probably was not who are already acquainted with the ordinary altogether on grounds of expediency, that Sobooks on English history, and who can there- crates taught his followers to honour the gods fore unriddle these little enigmas without dif- whom the state honoured, and bequeathed a ficulty. The manner of the book is, on the cock to Esculapius with his dying breath. So whole, not unworthy of the matter. The lan- there is often a portion of willing credulity and guage, even where most faulty, is weighty and enthusiasm in the veneration which the most massive, and indicates strong sense in every discerning men pay to their political idols. line. It often rises to an eloquence, not florid From the very nature of man it must be so. or impassioned, but high, grave, and sober; The faculty by which we inseparably associate such as would become a state paper, or a judg-ideas which have often been presented to us ment delivered by a great magistrate, a Somers, not under the absolute conor a D'Aguesseau. It may be quickened into morbid activity. It may be reasoned into sluggishness. But in a certain degree it will always exist. The almost absolute mastery which Mr. Hallam has obtained over feelings of this class, is perfectly astonishing to us; and will, we believe, be not only astonishing, but offensive to many of his readers. It must particularly disgust those people who, in their speculations on politics, are not reasoners, but fanciers; whose opinions, even when sincere, are not produced, according to the ordinary law of intellectual births, by induction and inference, but are equivocally generated by the heat of fervid tempers out of the overflowings of tumid imaginations. A man of this class is always in extremes. He cannot be a friend to liberty without calling for a community of goods, or a friend to order without taking under his protection the foulest excesses of tyranny. His admiration oscillates between the most worthless of rebels and the most worthless of oppressors; between Marten, the scandal of the High Court of Justice, and Laud, the scandal of the Star-Chamber. He can forgive any thing but temperance and impartiality. He has a certain sympathy with the violence of his opponents, as well as with that of his associates. In every furious partisan he sees either his present self or his former self, the pensioner that is or the Jacobin that has been. But he is unable to comprehend a writer who, steadily attached to principles, is indifferent about names and badges; who judges of characters with equable severity, not altogether untinctured with cynicism, but free from the slightest touch of passion, party spirit, or caprice.
In this respect the character of Mr. Hallam's mind corresponds strikingly with that of his style. His work is eminently judicial. Its whole spirit is that of the bench, not of the bar. He sums up with a calm, steady impartiality, turning neither to the right nor to the left, glossing over nothing, exaggerating nothing, while the advocates on both sides are alternately biting their lips to hear their conflicting mis-statements and sophisms exposed. On a general survey, we do not scruple to pronounce the Constitutional History the most impartial book that we ever read. We think it the more incumbent on us to bear this testimony strongly at first setting out, because, in the course of our remarks, we shall think it right to dwell principally on those parts of it from which we dissent.
There is one peculiarity about Mr. Hallam, which, while it adds to the value of his writings, will, we fear, take away something from their popularity. He is less of a worshipper than any historian whom we can call to mind. Every political sect has its esoteric and its exoteric school; its abstract doctrines for the initiated, its visible symbols, its imposing forms, its mythological fables for the vulgar. It assists the devotion of those who are unable to raise themselves to the contemplation of pure truths, by all the devices of Pagan or Papal superstition. It has its altars and its deified heroes, its relics and pilgrimages, its canonized martyrs and confessors, its festivals and its legendary miracles. Our pious ancestors, we are told, deserted the High Altar of Canterbury, to lay all their oblations on the shrine of St. Thomas. In the same manner the great and comfortable doctrines of the Tory creed, those particularly which relate to restrictions on worship and on trade, are adored by squires and rectors, in Pitt Clubs, under the name of a minister, who was as bad a representative of the system which has been chrisned after him, as Becket of the spirit of the Gospel. And, on the other hand, the cause for which Hampden bled on the field, and Sidney on the scaffold, is enthusiastically toasted by many an honest radical, who would be puzzled to explain the difference between Ship-money and the Habeas Corpus act. It may be added, that, as in religion, so in politics, few, even of who are enlightened enough to compre
We should probably like Mr. Hallam's book more, if instead of pointing out, with strict fidelity, the bright points and the dark spots of both parties, he had exerted himself to whitewash the one and to blacken the other. But we should certainly prize it far less. Eulogy and invective may be had for the asking. But for cold rigid justice-the one weight and the one measure-we know not where else we can look.
No portion of our annals has been more per plexed and misrepresented by writers of dif ferent parties, than the history of the Reforma tion. In this labyrinth of falsehood and so phistry, the guidance of Mr. Hallam is pecu