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OCTOBER, 1842.


ART. I.-History of Europe, from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789, to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815. By ARCHIBALD ALISON, Esq., F.R.S.E., Advocate. 10 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh and London: 1839-1842.


HERE is much in Mr Alison's History of the French Revolution against which we intend to record our decided protest; and there are some parts of it which we shall feel compelled to notice with strong disapprobation. We therefore hasten to preface our less favourable remarks by freely acknowledging that the present work is, upon the whole, a valuable addition to European literature, that it is evidently compiled with the utmost care, and that its narration, so far as we can judge, is not perverted by the slightest partiality.

A complete history, by an English author, of all the great events which took place in Europe from 1789 to 1815, has long been a desideratum; and whatever may be the imperfections of Mr Alison's work, we cannot say that it does not supply the vacancy. Its defects, or what we deem such, are matter partly of taste, and partly of political opinion. Some readers may consider them as beauties-many will overlook them; and even the most fastidious must acknowledge that they are not such as materially to interfere with the great plan of the work. Its merits



are minuteness and honesty-qualities which may well excuse a faulty style, gross political prejudices, and a fondness for exaggerated and frothy declamation.

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We cannot better illustrate the fulness and authenticity of Mr Alison's history, than by quoting his own statement of the admirable plan on which he has selected and applied his authorities. His invariable rule, we are informed by his Preface, has been 'to give, on every occasion, the authorities by volume and page 'from which the statement in the text was taken. Not only are the authorities for every paragraph invariably given, but in many instances also those for every sentence have been accumulated in the margin. Care has been taken 'to quote a preponderance of authority, in every instance where it was possible, from writers on the opposite side to that which an English historian may be supposed to adopt; and the reader 'will find almost every fact in the internal history of the Revolution, supported by two Republican and one Royalist authority; and every event in the military narrative drawn from at 'least two writers on the part of the French, and one on that of their opponents.' We feel convinced that Mr Alison has acted up to the spirit of this candid and judicious system throughout his whole work. We cannot, of course, pretend to have verified his statements by constant reference to the writers from whom he has drawn his information. The events which he records are of such recent occurrence, and such deep interest, that the enormous mass of details published respecting them may well defy the curiosity of an ordinary reader. But we are bound to remark, that whenever we have been led to compare the conflicting accounts of any important event in Mr Alison's history, we have almost invariably found that his narrative steers judiciously between them, and combines the most probable and consistent particulars contained in each. We apply this remark more especially to his narration of the intestine commotions of the French Revolution, and of the military conflicts of the Empire-particularly those which occurred in Spain. No one, we think, can read the various accounts of the troubles which led to the Reign of Terror, as collected in the able work of Professor Smyth, or the histories of the Peninsular war by Napier, Foy, and others, without feeling satisfied of the care and judgment which Mr Alison has shown in constantly selecting, where authorities differ, the most probable and most authoritative state


We have already hinted our opinion, that Mr Alison's general style is not attractive. It is not, however, at least in the narrative part of his work, either feeble or displeasing. Its principal

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