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English literature has received from Mr. Mill's History of British India. We are conscious that we are undertaking a task for which few, except Mr. Mill himself, are qualified, and which very unlike the duty we have to perform in judging of the generality of works that come under our survey. In productions of taste we have only to allow the imagery and the painting of passion to operate unchecked on our fancy and feelings; and the mode in which we are affected is our best criterion for determining their merit. When a new fact in nature is announced, the evidence is usually comprised within limits of no great extent; of that evidence we can easily make ourselves masters; and to conform our inferences to it requires only impartial attention. If a new process of reasoning is given to the world, the propositions of which it consists are never so numerous or so abstruse, but that a little patient thought will enable us fully to comprehend each of them, to examine their mutual connexions, and to determine whether or not they support the ultimate conclusion. In all these cases the materials necessary to enable us to come to a decision, are either to be found within ourselves, or are to be collected without much labour. But Mr. Mill's work presents us with an immense variety of details on matters of great moment; the manners which he has to delineate are very unlike what we are accustomed to contemplate; the transactions which he relates are often intricate, and involve the concerns of many different states; the plans of policy which he has to unfold are very various, and extend over so large a field of operation, that not even the strongest intellectual vision can assure itself, that it has comprehended the whole series of their results. The previous knowledge which such a work requires the patient minuteness of research indispensable in the execution of its several parts-the severe exertion of thought imposed by the necessity of watching the connexion of events, and weighing the importance of each-the numerous prejudices to be guarded againstthe wide grasp of intellect essential to the success of any attempt to distribute into groups the objects, personages, and transactions that fill so vast a scene: these qualities and attainments are of such rare occurrence, that to pass sentence on a work which calls for and displays the exercise of them all, must approach to presumption.

The history of the world affords nothing more striking than the British empire in India. From our insular position in a remote corner of the globe we hold in subjection the fairest regions of Asia, spreading to an extent, and teeming with a population, with which the size of our island, and the number of its inhabitants, cannot pretend to vie. Cities there acknowledge our power, with which none in Great Britain, the metropolis

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excepted, can be compared for magnitude, for trade, or for the multitude of inhabitants. We rule with uncontrouled sway, in spite apparently of every physical "obstacle; in spite of the immense distance which separates us from our Eastern dominions, and of the great superiority, so far as numbers are concerned, of the conquered to the conquerors. Strength of intellect, and energy of government, seem to compensate for every disadvantage. Before the disciplined courage of European troops, before the habits of civil prudence and firmness, which are the offspring of European education, the countless armies and extensive kingdoms of India crumble into ruin. So triumphant is force of mind when opposed by merely physical obstacles! So easy is it for a few to sport with the happiness of millions!

An account of the origin of our empire in the East, and of the steps by which it arrived at its present greatness, has long been a desideratum in English literature. That it should have been so, is by no means wonderful. Sixty years ago our connexions with Bengal, and the coasts of Coromandel and Malabar, were too inconsiderable to form a distinct portion of history: and even had they been of more consequence, it is seldom that important transactions are woven into a faithful, impartial, and enlightened narrative, within half a century from the date of their occurrence. When our exploits in India began to dazzle by their brilliance, there were many circumstances which contributed to render clear ideas of them very rare; and which, of course, were adverse to the early appearance of an accurate history. The scene of action lay in a remote country, which was distributed into a variety of states, in some respects independent, in others connected by ties not familiar to European conceptions, few were acquainted with the geography of these regions; few had any correct knowledge of their past history; the most vague and indefinite notions prevailed concerning their manners, their institutions, and their policy. A man might make himself master of the details of the warlike operations, or of the diplomatic proceedings, which, for the time being, affected our dominion in that quarter of the globe: but his information was insulated and detached; there was nothing previously rooted in the mind on which his freshly-acquired knowledge could be engrafted; it lay loose and unconnected, and was soon washed away into oblivion by the succeeding tide of events. The very names of the rivers and cities, of persons, and offices, and titles, sounded so uncouth in British ears, as to make the mind turu away with a degree of loathing from knowledge which exhibited so rough an outside. Some, no doubt, there always were, who laboured to wind themselves into the labyrinth of Indian affairs; but they were few in number, and were generally men occupied

with the business of active life; without the inclination and habits, or destitute of the leisure, that might have enabled them to enrich the literature of their country with a connected view of the progress of our Eastern empire. In addition to all this, the difficulty of the task must be taken into the account. The history of British India required a great accumulation of general knowledge; and a mind trained to minute research, as well as orderly comprehensive survey; to subtle disquisition, as well as the ready application of the great truths of political economy. This much was necessary before the work could be begun; and in prosecuting the work, there was need of the most unwearied industry and of the severest exercise of every intellectual power. Few could flatter themselves with possessing the necessary qualifications; and of the few who were qualified to attempt the task, the greater number would shrink back at the prospect of the Herculean labour which it demanded.

Mr. Mill's work bears ample testimony to the care and success, with which he has prepared himself for exploring the region through which he offers to conduct us. Wherever we have had opportunities of comparing his narrative with the documents from which it is drawn, we have uniformly found it correct; and that, even in cases where our prepossessions, derived from popular statements and effusions of parliamentary eloquence, leaned the contrary way. He has discriminated with a skilful eye, and weighed with a steady hand, the contradictory evidence with which his subject is often encumbered. Every page exhibits an understanding always on the alert, and richly stored with the treasures of ancient and modern learning. He is obviously fond of metaphysical inquiries, and deeply versed in metaphysical writers; and the intellectual habits which such pursuits impart have added much to the value of his work, both by the accuracy which they give to his general reasonings, and by keeping him constantly on his guard against the delusions which have led so many astray on the subject of India. Observers every where mix up their own feelings and opinions with what they behold; in a complex scene, what the eye actually surveys is often very different from what we honestly believe that we have seen; the conception of the reality is modified, as soon as it is formed, by a thousand secret associations which mingle with it ere we are aware, and by a multitude of hasty judgments that are adopted without examination, because they are mistaken for the immediate informations of sense. This source of delusion, which affects more or less every part of history, taints in a high degree all the materials from which information concerning Hindustan is to be acquired. European prejudices, or preconceived theories, have, with very few exceptions, interposed themselves between

the eyes of observers, and the country which was surveyed, so as to spread their own colour over the whole of India. Mr. Mill has, with great success, stripped from the objects the delusive tints with which they were thus disguised.

Patient investigation, and an acute discerning intellect, are not alone sufficient for the composition of history: impartiality is a qualification without which the talents of an historian are worse than useless. In historical impartiality two things are implied: first, that the writer have no intention to exhibit transactions in an untrue light; secondly, that his mind be not unconsciously drawn aside from the straight line of truth by inveterate and longcherished prejudices. So far as impartiality depends on the former of these ingredients, Mr. Mill possesses it in abundance; he writes with complete singleness of heart: far from entertaining any wish to seduce his readers into error, every paragraph of his work displays a bold and ardent, though frequently mistaken, love of truth. But on the second point we must praise him with some limitation; for his mind seems to be deeply imbued with a particular system of political opinions, which has led him into many extravagant observations, and infected his general reasonings on government very deeply with dangerous error. The worst effect of such prejudices, however, consists, not in the false arguments which they suggest, but in their tendency to induce the historian insensibly to dress his narrative in colours not quite agreeable to the real state of the case. This power they have not been able to exercise over Mr. Mill. Strong as his political biasses are, and extravagant as are some of the remarks which they produce, they have never drawn him into the slightest misrepresentation in his account of facts.

A prepossession may probably exist in the minds of many, that a good history of India cannot be expected from a man who has never visited that quarter of the globe; or at least that the production of such a writer cannot be equal to the works of those who have had a personal acquaintance with the scenes, the manners, and the people whom they describe. Mr. Mill, aware of the influence which this notion might exert, has devoted a considerable part of a very able preface to the exposition of its fallacy, and has effected his purpose with much acuteness, as well as soundness of reasoning. The general purport of his observations is, that a great variety of attainments are necessary to the historian of India; that he will doubtless derive some advantages from a residence in that country; but that these advantages are acquired at the expense of other habits of thought, and knowledge of another kind, still more essential to the proper accomplishment of his arduous task. We recommend, however, to our readers the careful perusal of Mr. Mill's own remarks,

which are drawn from profound views of the intellectual constitution of man, are ratified by experience, and are of an application much more extensive than the particular subject by which they were suggested. We recommend to their notice, in particular, the mass of high authorities by which he proves, that in general the servants of the East India Company neither acquire, nor have opportunities of acquiring, much local knowledge of the people among whom they live. One testimony, valuable for the distinctness and strength with which it is expressed, and still more valuable on account of the enlarged and varied experience of life possessed by the man from whom it comes, the testimony of Lord William Bentinck, we cannot but quote:

"The result of my own observation, during my residence in India, is, that the Europeans generally know little or nothing of the customs and manners of the Hindoos. We are all acquainted with some prominent marks and facts, which all who run may read: but their manner of thinking, their domestic habits and ceremonies, in which circumstances a knowledge of the people consists, is I fear in great part wanting to us. We understand very imperfectly their language. They, perhaps, know more of ours; but their knowledge is by no means sufficiently extensive to give a description of subjects not easily represented by the insulated words in daily use. We do not, we cannot, associate with the natives. We cannot see them in their houses, and with their families. We are necessarily very much confined to our houses by the heat. All our wants and business, which would create a greater intercourse with the natives, is done for us; and we are, in fact, strangers in the land."" (Vol. i. p. xxi.)

The merits of Mr. Mill's History are of a very high order. It is a work which contains a great accumulation of important knowledge, selected with judgment, stated with impartiality, distributed into general compartments with considerable skill, and every where animated by a very piercing understanding. No person can rise from the perusal of it without being conscious that his mind has been enriched with new views of human society, and that he has been enabled to take a clear survey of a region of history, of which he had before only partial and indistinct glimpses. We must add, however, (and the fault is to be charged upon the subject rather than upon the writer), that it is not enlivened by much historical interest. We read it as we would trace a process of reasoning; we are led on chiefly by a desire of instruction. There are few parts which excite any longing curiosity concerning the final result, or which kindle any sympathetic emotion. In this respect Mr. Mill is on a level with other modern historians, who all, with the exception of Dr. Robertson, address themselves exclusively to the understanding of their readers, and never seek to rouse any deep interest or


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