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THE following work carries with it too
great a degree of internal evidence to require the aid of argument to demonstrate its genuineness, or to remove any doubts of its authenticity. It abounds with information far beyond the reach or researches of any writer, who had not a considerable share in the events which he relates; and who was not admitted, as it were, behind the scenes, to view the machinery of court intrigues, to examine the springs of each political measure, and to assist in managing the wires, that put every state-puppet in motion. Here alone the materials of history are to be collected. Without an eafy access to the secrets of government the most attentive observer is liable to be dazzled and deceived by the false glare of outward appearances.
An artificial splendor surrounds the actions, as well as the
thrones of princes, while their cabinets and their councils are hid in almost impenetrable darkness.
It is much to be lamented that those, who enjoyed in the fullest extent such opportunities of accurate knowledge, have seldom taken up the pen
to transmit a faithful record of their own times to posterity. Some may have been prevented by the want of leisure ; others by the want of talents; but the disinclination of far the greater number may
be ascribed to the want of that pure and exalted patriotism, which alone could raise them above every
selfish confideration, and prompt them to sacrifice their friendships, their enmities, their imaginary consequence and false glory to the public good. Even the writer of the work before us, though perhaps it approaches nearer to perfection than any thing of the kind which has ever yet appeared, was not wholly uninfluenced by private views and private attachments. We often find him relating facts with aukward reluctance, and endeavouring to foften the most odious features in the character of a king, whom he could not but censure and despise. When
we also consider, that he wrote this history, not for the information of his country, but for the use of his own family, out of whose hands he declares that it should never pass by his consent*, we cannot compliment him on the score of public spirit, nor can we feel ourselves under any obligations for a favour, which he so selfilhly intended to withhold
But happily those very faults, which lessen our gratitude for the author, tend considerably to increase the value of his performance. It is a series of the most interesting truths, extorted, as it were, from the lips of an unwilling evidence: it is an undesigned, yet unanswerable satire on the folly of trusting to the professions of kings : it is a royalists dreadful warning to the people of England never to be betrayed by their affection for any family into a surrender of their inestimable privileges : it is, in short, a full and convincing refutation of all the falsehoods which have been invented, and of all the sophistry which has been devised by prostituted genius in defence of arbitrary power.
No part of our annals has been more dis, figured by the ignorance, prejudices, and misrepresentations of party-writers than the reigns of the Stewarts. By some those princes have been raised to the rank of gods, and by others degraded to a level with dæmons. The hirelings of despotism and the advocates for the rights of men were likely to exhaust upon such a subject their ingenuity and their eloquence. Mr. Hume has given the name of a history to his funeral oration on the death of Charles I. and to his artful apology for the misconduct of that king's successors. Mrs. Macauley thought the like title due to her beautiful, but rhapsodical effusions on the same events.
But no man of common sense will place an implicit confidence in either. He knows that the best minds are liable to be warped by the heat of political controversy. He wishes therefore for a dispassionate statement of facts, which may lead to the discovery of truth, and afford just grounds of rational conviction.
Such is the narrative we are now in pofsession of. The author expresses himself with the greater candour, from a persuasion that
his sentiments would never be made known to the world, and that he was intrusting the secrets of his heart to those only, whose interest it would be not to divulge them. Sometimes, indeed, as we before hinted, he seems ashamed to tell the whole truth; but his weak suppressions serve only to give a greater degree of credit to the other parts of his testimony. It is very evident, that he attempts to conceal nothing from his children, which he did not wish, if it were possible, to conceal even from himself. In many of the details he must have felt the sentiment of the Trojan exile, when relating the ruin of his country;
"Animus meminiffe horret, luctuque refugit."
There are, however, a few defects, which arose from the nature of the plan itself, or rather, from the confined views of the writer. The sole end, he says*, of this relation being to serve for a private memorial, and not for a public record of the transactions of the times, he means to take notice of such
particulars only as furnished matter for important reflection. A work executed according
* See the second and fixth pages.