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SUCCESSORS TO NEWBERY AND HARRIS,
SHE Ancestral Histories of the Great Families of
England are rich beyond compare in Episodes
of Thought and Action, such as are the mastersprings by which the world is moved. It has been said :
• The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.' Such is the dictum of the Dramatist; but in actual life the proportion of good is more equitably adjusted.
The gravity of History has been estimated as Philosophy teaching by example.' In this long lesson, how intricate is the chequer-work of success and defeat, of light and shade; yet how interesting to those who delight to seek out the motives of human action in the lives of masterminds, their rise and fall !
In the Histories of Great Families, which are the nooks and byeways of History proper, are to be found garnered many records of vicissitudes, which sometimes make men giddy by looking too long upon their wheels. In the
present volume an attempt is made to focus some of these Scenes and Stories from English History, and the parts which the leaders of Great Families have played in the great drama of our country's fame : in its Monastic and Castle Life; its Traditions and Legends ; its Domestic Tragedies ; its Battles and Sieges; as well as its “trivial fond records' of Private Life, and its abodes of quiet contentment; for we do not share the opinion of those historians who seem to think the whole world consists of some 150 persons, dignified as emperors, kings, popes, generals, and ministers. On the other hand, the inner life of the people, as well as of their rulers, has been here glanced at, with their habits and modes of living, as well as the great changes by which they have been influenced.
In the preparation of this volume we have not been content with merely breaking up and re-arranging the stereotype blocks of History, but have sought rather by the evidence of contemporaneous neglected documents to correct the verdict or modify the opinion of past centuries. The general aim has been to present such a book as, by seizing salient points in our History, should supplement narratives of striking events of domestic interest, which are already popular, and thus add to their attractiveness as well as completeness. Localities and love of country have not been overlooked, but studied for the charming character with which they invest scenes and circumstances, and people the historic page with actual life.