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Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them; there is scarce a poet or historian among the Roman authors of those times whom he has not translated in ‘Sejanus' and 'Catiline.' But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch; and what would be theft in other poets is only victory in him. With the spoils of these writers he so represented Rome to us, in its rites, ceremonies, and customs, that if one of their poets had written either of his tragedies, we had seen less of it than in him. If there was any fault in his language, 'twas that he weaved it too closely and laboriously, in his comedies especially: perhaps, too, he did a little too much Romanise our tongue, leaving the words which he translated almost as much Latin as he found them; wherein, though he learnedly followed their language, he did not enough comply with the idiom of ours. If I would compare him with Shakspeare, I must acknowledge him the more correct poet, but Shakspeare the greater wit. Shakspeare was the Homer, or father of our dramatic poets: Jonson was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate writing; I admire him, but I love Shakspeare. To conclude of him: as he has given us the most correct plays, so, in the precepts which he has laid down in his 'Discoveries,' we have as many and profitable rules for perfecting the stage, as any wherewith the French can furnish us.
[Improved Style of Dramatic Dialogue after the Restoration.]
I have always acknowledged the wit of our predecessors with all the veneration which becomes me; but, I am sure, their wit was not that of gentlemen; there was ever somewhat that was ill-bred and clownish in it, and which confessed the conversation of the authors.
And this leads me to the last and greatest advantage of our writing, which proceeds from conversation. In the age wherein those poets! lived, there was less of gallantry than in ours; neither did they keep the best company of theirs. Their fortune has been much like that of Epicurus in the retirement of his gardens; to live almost unknown, and to be celebrated after their decease. I cannot find that any of them had been conversant in courts, except Ben Jonson; and his genius lay not so much that way, as to make an improvement by it. Greatness was not then so easy of access, nor conversation so free, as it now is. I cannot, therefore, conceive it any insolence to affirm, that by the knowledge and pattern of their wit who writ before us, and by the advantage of our own conversation, the discourse and raillery of our comedies excel what has been written by them. And this will be denied by none, but some few old fellows who value themselves on their acquaintance with the Black Friars; who, because they saw their plays, would pretend a right to judge ours.
Now, if they ask me whence it is that our conversation is so much refined, I must freely, and without flattery, ascribe it to the court; and in it, particularly to the king, whose example gives a law to it. His own misfortunes, and the nation's, afforded him an opportunity which is rarely allowed to sovereign princes, I mean of travelling, and being conversant in the most polished courts of Europe; and thereby of cultivating a spirit which was formed by nature to receive the impressions of a gallant and generous education. At his return, he found a nation lost as much in barbarism as in rebellion: And, as the excellency of his nature forgave the one, so the excellency of his manners reformed the other. The desire of imitating so great a pattern first awakened the dull and heavy 1 Shakspeare, Jonson, &c.
spirits of the English from their natural reservedness; loosened them from their stiff forms of conversation, and made them easy and pliant to each other in discourse. Thus, insensibly, our way of living became more free; and the fire of the English wit, which was before stifled under a constrained melancholy way of breeding, began first to display its force by mixing the solidity of our nation with the air and gaiety of our neighbours. This being granted to be true, it would be a wonder if the poets, whose work is imitation, should be the only persons in three kingdoms who should not receive advantage by it; or if they should not more easily imitate the wit and conversation of the present age than of the past.
[Translations of the Ancient Poets.]
Translation is a kind of drawing after the life; where every one will acknowledge there is a double sort of likeness, a good one and a bad. It is one thing to draw the outlines true, the features like, the proportions exact, the colouring itself perhaps tolerable; and another thing to make all these graceful, by the posture, the shadowings, and chiefly by the spirit which animates the whole. I cannot, without some. indignation, look on an ill copy of an excellent original: much less can I behold with patience Virgil, Homer, and some others, whose beauties I have been endeavouring all my life to imitate, so abused, as I may say, to their faces by a botching interpreter. What English readers, unacquainted with Greek or Latin, will believe me or any other man, when we commend these authors, and confess we derive all that is pardonable in us from their fountains, if they take those to be the same poets whom our Oglebies have translated? But I dare assure them, that a good poet is no more like himself in a dull translation, than his carcass would be to his living body. There are many who understand Greek and Latin, and yet are ignorant of their mother-tongue. The proprieties and delicacies of the English are known to few: it is impossible even for a good wit to understand and practise them without the help of a liberal education, long reading, and digesting of those few good authors we have amongst us; the knowledge of men and manners, the freedom of habitudes and conversation with the best company of both sexes; and, in short, without wearing off the rust which he contracted while he was laying in a stock of learning. Thus difficult it is to understand the purity of English, and critically to discern not only good writers from bad, and a proper style from a corrupt, but also to distinguish that which is pure in a good author, from that which is vicious and corrupt in him. And for want of all these requisites, or the greatest part of them, most of our ingenious young men take up some cried-up English poet for their model; adore him, and imitate him, as they think, without knowing wherein he is defective, where he is boyish and trifling, wherein either his thoughts are improper to his subject, or his expressions unworthy of his thoughts, or the turn of both is unharmonious. Thus it appears necessary that a man should be a nice critic in his mother-tongue before he attempts to translate in a foreign language. Neither is it sufficient that he be able to judge of words and style, but he must be a master of them too: he must perfectly understand his author's tongue, and absolutely command his own: so that to be a thorough translator, he must be a thorough poet. Neither is it enough to give his author's sense, in good English, in poetical expressions, and in musical numbers; for, though all these are exceeding difficult to perform, yet there remains a harder task; and it is a secret of which few translators have sufficiently thought. I have already hinted a word or two concerning it; that is, the maintaining the character of an author, which distinguishes
verse, he commonly allows two lines for one of Virgil, and does not always hit his sense. Tasso tells us in his letters that Sperone Speroni, a great Italian wit, who was his contemporary, observed of Virgil and Tully, that the Latin orator endeavoured to imitate the copiousness of Homer, the Greek poet; and that the Latin poet made it his business to reach the conciseness of Demosthenes, the Greek orator. Virgil, therefore, being so very sparing of his words, and leaving so much to be imagined by the reader, can never be translated as he ought, in any modern tongue. To make him copious, is to alter his character; and to translate him line for line, is impossible; because the Latin is naturally a more succinct language than either the Italian, Spanish, French, or even than the English, which, by reason of its monosyllables, is far the most compendious of them. Virgil is much the closest of any Roman poet, and the Latin hexameter has more feet than the English heroic.
him from all others, and makes him appear that individual poet whom you would interpret. For example, not only the thoughts but the style and versification of Virgil and Ovid are very different; yet I see, even in our best poets, who have translated some parts of them, that they have confounded their several talents; and by endeavouring only at the sweetness and harmony of numbers, have made them both so much alike, that if I did not know the originals, I should never be able to judge by the copies which was Virgil and which was Ovid. It was objected against a late noble painter, that he drew many graceful pictures, but few of them were like. And this happened to him, because he always studied himself more than those who sat to him. In such translators I can easily distinguish the hand which performed the work, but I cannot distinguish their poet from another. Suppose two authors are equally sweet; yet there is as great distinction to be made in sweetness, as in that of sugar, and that of honey. I can make the difference more plain, by giving you (if it be worth knowing) my own method of proceeding, in my translations out of four several poets in this volume-Virgil, Theocritus, Lucretius, and Horace. In each of these, before I undertook them, I considered the genius and distinguishing character of my author. I looked on Virgil as a succinct and grave majestic writer; one who weighed not only every thought, but every word and syllable; who was still aiming to crowd his sense into as narrow a compass as possibly he could; for which reason he is so very figurative, that he requires (I may almost say) a grammar apart to construe him. His verse is everywhere sounding the very thing in your ears, whose sense it bears; yet the numbers are perpetually varied, to increase the delight of the reader, so that the same sounds are never repeated twice together. On the contrary, Ovid and Claudian, though they write in styles differing from each other, yet have each of them but one sort of music in their verses. All the versification and little variety of Claudian is included within the compass of four or five lines, and then he begins again in the same tenor, perpetually closing his sense at the end of a verse, and that verse commonly which they call golden, or two substantives and two adjectives, with a verb betwixt them to keep the peace. Ovid, He who excels all other poets in his own language, with all his sweetness, has as little variety of numbers were it possible to do him right, must appear above and sound as he; he is always, as it were, upon the them in our tongue, which, as my Lord Roscommon hand-gallop, and his verse runs upon carpet-ground.justly observes, approaches nearest to the Roman in He avoids, like the other, all synalæphas, or cutting its majesty; nearest, indeed, but with a vast interval off one vowel when it comes before another in the betwixt them. There is an inimitable grace in Virfollowing word; so that, minding only smoothness, gil's words, and in them principally consists that he wants both variety and majesty. But to return to beauty which gives so inexpressible a pleasure to him Virgil: though he is smooth where smoothness is re- who best understands their force. This diction of his quired, yet he is so far from affecting it, that he seems (I must once again say) is never to be copied; and, rather to disdain it; frequently makes use of syna- since it cannot, he will appear but lame in the best læphas, and concludes his sense in the middle of his translation. The turns of his verse, his breakings, his verse. He is everywhere above conceits of epigram- propriety, his numbers, and his gravity, I have as matic wit and gross hyperboles; he maintains majesty far imitated as the poverty of our language and the in the midst of plainness; he shines, but glares not; hastiness of my performance would allow. I may and is stately without ambition, which is the vice of seem sometimes to have varied from his sense; but I Lucan. I drew my definition of poetical wit from my think the greatest variations may be fairly deduced particular consideration of him; for propriety of from him; and where I leave his commentators, it may thoughts and words are only to be found in him; and, be I understand him better; at least I writ without where they are proper, they will be delightful. Plea- consulting them in many places. But two particular sure follows of necessity, as the effect does the cause, lines in Mezentius and Lausus' I cannot so easily exand therefore is not to be put into the definition. cuse. They are, indeed, remotely allied to Virgil's This exact propriety of Virgil I particularly regarded sense; but they are too like the trifling tenderness of as a great part of his character; but must confess, to Ovid, and were printed before I had considered them my shame, that I have not been able to translate any enough to alter them. The first of them I have forpart of him so well, as to make him appear wholly gotten, and cannot easily retrieve, because the copy is like himself; for, where the original is close, no ver- at the press. The second is thission can reach it in the same compass. Hannibal Caro's, in the Italian, is the nearest, the most poetical, and the most sonorous, of any translation of the This appears pretty enough at first sight; but I am Æneids; yet, though he takes the advantage of blank | convinced, for many reasons, that the expression is too
Besides all this, an author has the choice of his own thoughts and words, which a translator has not; he is confined by the sense of the inventor to those expressions which are the nearest to it; so that Virgil, studying brevity, and having the command of his own language, could bring those words into a narrow compass, which a translator cannot render without circumlocutions. In short, they who have called him the torture of the grammarians, might also have called him the plague of translators; for he seems to have studied not to be translated. I own that, endeavouring to turn his 'Nisus and Euryalus' as close as I was able, I have performed that episode too literally; that giving more scope to Mezentius and Lausus,' that version, which has more of the majesty of Virgil, has less of his conciseness; and all that I can promise for myself, is only that I have done both better than Ogleby, and perhaps as well as Caro; so that, methinks, I come like a malefactor, to make a speech upon the gallows, and to warn all other poets, by my sad example, from the sacrilege of translating Virgil. Yet, by considering him so carefully as I did before my attempt, I have made some faint resemblance of him; and, had I taken more time, might possibly have succeeded better, but never so well as to have satisfied myself.
When Lausus died, I was already slain.
bold; that Virgil would not have said it, though Ovid would. The reader may pardon it, if he please, for the freeness of the confession; and instead of that, and the former, admit these two lines, which are more according to the author
so absurd, that I cannot, if I would, believe them. I think a future state demonstrable even by natural arguments; at least, to take away rewards and punishments is only a pleasing prospect to a man who resolves beforehand not to live morally. But, on the other side, the thought of being nothing after death is a burden insupportable to a virtuous man, even though a heathen. We naturally aim at happiness, Having with much ado got clear of Virgil, I have, and cannot bear to have it confined to the shortness of in the next place, to consider the genius of Lucretius, our present being; especially when we consider that whom I have translated more happily in those parts virtue is generally unhappy in this world, and vice of him which I undertook. If he was not of the best fortunate: so that it is hope of futurity alone that age of Roman poetry, he was at least of that which makes this life tolerable, in expectation of a better. preceded it; and he himself refined it to that degree Who would not commit all the excesses to which he of perfection, both in the language and the thoughts, is prompted by his natural inclinations, if he may do that he left an easy task to Virgil, who, as he suc- them with security while he is alive, and be incapable ceeded him in time, so he copied his excellences; for of punishment after he is dead? If he be cunning the method of the Georgics is plainly derived from and secret enough to avoid the laws, there is no band him. Lucretius had chosen a subject naturally crab- of morality to restrain him; for fame and reputation bed; he therefore adorned it with poetical descrip- are weak ties: many men have not the least sense of tions, and precepts of morality, in the beginning and them. Powerful men are only awed by them as they ending of his books, which you see Virgil has imitated conduce to their interest, and that not always when a with great success in those four books, which, in my passion is predominant; and no man will be contained opinion, are more perfect in their kind than even his within the bounds of duty, when he may safely transdivine Eneids. The turn of his verses he has like-gress them. These are my thoughts abstractedly, and wise followed in those places which Lucretius has without entering into the notions of our Christian most laboured, and some of his very lines he has faith, which is the proper business of divines. transplanted into his own works, without much variation. If I am not mistaken, the distinguishing character of Lucretius (I mean of his soul and genius) is a certain kind of noble pride, and positive assertion of his opinions. He is everywhere confident of his own reason, and assuming an absolute command, not only over his vulgar reader, but even his patron Memmius; for he is always bidding him attend, as if he had the rod over him, and using a magisterial authority while he instructs him. From his time to ours, I know none so like him as our poet and philosopher of Malmesbury. This is that perpetual dictatorship which is exercised by Lucretius, who, though often in the wrong, yet seems to deal bona fide with his reader, and tells him nothing but what he thinks; in which plain sincerity, I believe, he differs from our Hobbes, who could not but be convinced, or at least doubt, of some eternal truths which he has opposed. But for Lucretius, he seems to disdain all manner of replies, and is so confident of his cause, that he is before-hand with his antagonists; urging for them whatever he imagined they could say, and leaving them, as he supposes, without an objection for the future: all this, too, with so much scorn and indignation, as if he were assured of the triumph before he entered into the lists. From this sublime and daring genius of his, it must of necessity come to pass that his thoughts must be masculine, full of argumentation, and that sufficiently warm. From the same fiery temper proceeds the loftiness of his expressions, and the perpetual torrent of his verse, where the barrenness of his subject does not too much constrain the quickness of his fancy. For there is no doubt to be made, but that he could have been everywhere as poetical as he is in his deEcriptions, and in the moral part of his philosophy, if he had not aimed more to instruct, in his system of nature, than to delight. But he was bent upon making Memmius a materialist, and teaching him to defy an invisible power: in short, he was so much an atheist, that he forgot sometimes to be a poet. These are the considerations which I had of that author, before I attempted to translate some parts of him. And accordingly I laid by my natural diffidence and scepticism for a while, to take up that dogmatical way of his which, as I said, is so much his character, as to make him that individual poet. As for his opinions concerning the mortality of the soul, they are
* Hobbes, who died in 1679.
Nor ask I life, nor fought with that design;
But there are other arguments in this poem (which I have turned into English) not belonging to the mortality of the soul, which are strong enough to a rea sonable man, to make him less in love with life, and consequently in less apprehensions of death. Such as are the natural satiety proceeding from a perpetual enjoyment of the same things; the inconveniences of old age, which make him incapable of corporeal pleasures; the decay of understanding and memory, which render him contemptible and useless to others. These, and many other reasons, so pathetically urged, so beautifully expressed, so adorned with examples, and so admirably raised by the prosopopeia of nature, who is brought in speaking to her children with so much authority and vigour, deserve the pains I have taken with them, which I hope have not been unsuccessful, or unworthy of my author: at least I must take the liberty to own that I was pleased with my own endea vours, which but rarely happens to me; and that I am not dissatisfied upon the review of anything I have done in this author.
[Spenser and Milton.]
[In epic poetry] the English have only to boast of Spenser and Milton, who neither of them wanted either genius or learning to have been perfect poets, and yet both of them are liable to many censures. For there is no uniformity in the design of Spenser; he aims at the accomplishment of no one action, he raises up a hero for every one of his adventures, and endows each of them with some particular moral virtue, which renders them all equal, without subordination or preference. Every one is most valiant in his own legend; only, we must do him that justice to ob serve, that magnanimity, which is the character of Prince Arthur, shines throughout the whole poem, and succours the rest when they are in distress. The original of every knight was then living in the court of Queen Elizabeth; and he attributed to each of them that virtue which he thought was most conspi cuous in them-an ingenious piece of flattery, though it turned not much to his account. Had he lived to finish his poem, in the six remaining legends, it had certainly been more of a piece, but could not have been perfect, because the model was not true. But Prince Arthur, or his chief patron Sir Philip Sidney, whom he intended to make happy by the marriage of his Gloriana, dying before him, deprived the poet both
of means and spirit to accomplish his design. For the rest, his obsolete language, and the ill choice of his stanza, are faults but of the second magnitude; for, notwithstanding the first, he is still intelligible, at least after a little practice; and for the last, he is the more to be admired, that, labouring under such a difficulty, his verses are so numerous, so various, and so harmonious, that only Virgil, whom he professedly imitated, has surpassed him among the Romans, and only Mr Waller among the English.
As for Mr Milton, whom we all admire with so much justice, his subject is not that of a heroic poem, properly so called. His design is the losing of our happiness; his event is not prosperous, like that of all other epic works; his heavenly machines are many, and his human persons are but two. But I will not take Mr Rymer's work out of his hands: he has promised the world a critique on that author, wherein, though he will not allow his poem for heroic, I hope he will grant us that his thoughts are elevated, his words sounding, and that no man has so happily copied the manner of Homer, or so copiously translated his Grecisms, and the Latin elegancies of Virgil. It is true he runs into a flat of thought sometimes for a hundred lines together, but it is when he has got into a track of Scripture. His antiquated words were his choice, not his necessity; for therein he imitated Spenser, as Spenser did Chaucer. And though, perhaps, the love of their masters may have transported both too far, in the frequent use of them, yet, in my opinion, obsolete words may then be laudably revived, when either they are more sounding or more significant than those in practice; and when their obscurity is taken away, by joining other words to them which clear the sense, according to the rule of Horace, for the admission of new words. But in both cases a moderation is to be observed in the use of them; for unnecessary coinage, as well as unnecessary revival, runs into affectation; a fault to be avoided on either hand. Neither will I justify Milton for his blank verse, though I may excuse him, by the example of Hannibal Caro, and other Italians, who have used it; for whatever causes he alleges for the abolishing of rhyme (which I have not now the leisure to examine), his own particular reason is plainly this, that rhyme was not his talent; he had neither the ease of doing it, nor the graces of it, which is manifest in his 'Juvenilia,' or verses written in his youth, where his rhyme is always constrained and forced, and comes hardly from him, at an age when the soul is most pliant, and the passion of love makes almost every man a rhymer, though not a poet.
In a word, that former sort of satire, which is known in England by the name of lampoon, is a dangerous sort of weapon, and for the most part unlawful. We have no moral right on the reputation of other men. It is taking from them what we cannot restore to them. There are only two reasons for which we may be permitted to write lampoons; and I will not promise that they can always justify us. The first is revenge, when we have been affronted in the same nature, or have been anyways notoriously abused, and can make ourselves no other reparation. And yet we know, that, in Christian charity, all offences are to be forgiven, as we expect the like pardon for those which we daily commit against Almighty God. And this consideration has often made me tremble when I was saying our Saviour's prayer; for the plain condition of the forgiveness which we beg, is the pardoning of others the offences which they have done to us; for which reason I have many times avoided the commission of that fault, even when I have been notoriously provoked. Let not this, my lord, pass
for vanity in me, for it is truth. More libels have been written against me than almost any man now living; and I had reason on my side to have defended my own innocence. I speak not of my poetry, which I have wholly given up to the critics: let them use it as they please: posterity, perhaps, may be more favourable to me; for interest and passion will lie buried in another age, and partiality and prejudice be forgotten. I speak of my morals, which have been sufficiently aspersed: that only sort of reputation ought to be dear to every honest man, and is to me. But let the world witness for me, that I have been often wanting to myself in that particular: I have seldom answered any scurrilous lampoon, when it was in my power to have exposed my enemies: and, being naturally vindictive, have suffered in silence, and possessed my soul in quiet.
Anything, though never so little, which a man speaks of himself, in my opinion, is still too much; and therefore I will waive this subject, and proceed to give the second reason which may justify a poet when he writes against a particular person; and that is, when he is become a public nuisance. All those, whom Horace in his Satires, and Persius and Juvenal have mentioned in theirs, with a brand of infamy, are wholly such. It is an action of virtue to make examples of vicious men. They may and ought to be upbraided with their crimes and follies; both for their amendment, if they are not yet incorrigible, and for the terror of others, to hinder them from falling into those enormities, which they see are so severely punished in the persons of others. The first reason was only an excuse for revenge; but this second is absolutely of a poet's office to perform: but how few lampooners are now living who are capable of this duty! When they come in my way, it is impossible sometimes to avoid reading them. But, good God! how remote they are, in common justice, from the choice of such persons as are the proper subject of satire! And how little wit they bring for the support of their injustice! The weaker sex is their most ordinary theme; and the best and fairest are sure to be the most severely handled. Amongst men, those who are prosperously unjust are entitled to panegyric; but afflicted virtue is insolently stabbed with all manner of reproaches; no decency is considered, no fulsomeness omitted; no venom is wanting, as far as dulness can supply it; for there is a perpetual dearth of wit; a barrenness of good sense and entertainment. The neglect of the readers will soon put an end to this sort of scribbling. There can be no pleasantry where there is no wit; no impression can be made where there is no truth for the foundation. To conclude: they are like the fruits of the earth in this unnatural season; the corn which held up its head is spoiled with rankness; but the greater part of the harvest is laid along, and little of good income and wholesome nourishment is received into the barns. This is almost a digression, I confess to your lordship; but a just indignation forced it from me.
[Dryden's Translation of Virgil.]
What Virgil wrote in the vigour of his age, in plenty and at ease, I have undertaken to translate in my declining years; struggling with wants, oppressed with sickness, curbed in my genius, liable to be misconstrued in all I write; and my judges, if they are not very equitable, already prejudiced against me,
* The abuse of personal satires, or lampoons, as they were called, was carried to a prodigious extent in the days of Dryden, when every man of fashion was obliged to write verses; and those who had neither poetry nor wit, had recourse to ribaldry and libelling.-Sir Walter Scott.
by the lying character which has been given them of my morals. Yet, steady to my principles, and not dispirited with my afflictions, I have, by the blessing of God on my endeavours, overcome all difficulties, and in some measure acquitted myself of the debt which I owed the public when I undertook this work. In the first place, therefore, I thankfully acknowledge to the Almighty Power the assistance he has given me in the beginning, the prosecution, and conclusion of my present studies, which are more happily performed than I could have promised to myself, when I laboured under such discouragements. For what I have done, imperfect as it is for want of health and leisure to correct it, will be judged in after ages, and possibly in the present, to be no dishonour to my native country, whose language and poetry would be more esteemed abroad, if they were better understood. Somewhat (give me leave to say) I have added to both of them in the choice of words and harmony of numbers, which were wanting (especially the last) in all our poets, even in those who, being endued with genius, yet have not cultivated their mother-tongue with sufficient care; or, relying on the beauty of their thoughts, have judged the ornament of words and sweetness of sound unnecessary. One is for raking in Chaucer (our English Ennius) for antiquated words, which are never to be revived, but when sound or significancy is wanting in the present language. But many of his deserve not this redemption, any more than the crowds of men who daily die, or are slain for sixpence in a battle, merit to be restored to life, if a wish could revive them. Others have no ear for verse, nor choice of words, nor distinction of thoughts, but mingle farthings with their gold to make up the sum. Here is a field of satire opened to me; but since the Revolution, I have wholly renounced that talent: for who would give physic to the great when he is uncalled-to do his patient no good, and endanger himself for his prescription? Neither am I ignorant but I may justly be condemned for many of those faults, of which I have too liberally arraigned others.
[History and Biography.]
It may now be expected that, having written the life of a historian,* I should take occasion to write somewhat concerning history itself. But I think to commend it is unnecessary, for the profit and pleasure of that study are both so very obvious, that a quick reader will be beforehand with me, and imagine faster than I can write. Besides, that the post is taken up already; and few authors have travelled this way, but who have strewed it with rhetoric as they passed. For my own part, who must confess it to my shame, that I never read anything but for pleasure, it has always been the most delightful entertainment of my life; but they who have employed the study of it, as they ought, for their instruction, for the regulation of their private manners, and the management of public affairs, must agree with me that it is the most pleasant school of wisdom. It is a familiarity with past ages, and an acquaintance with all the heroes of them; it is, if you will pardon the similitude, a prospective glass, carrying your soul to a vast distance, and taking in the farthest objects of antiquity. It informs the understanding by the memory; it helps us to judge of what will happen, by showing us the like revolutions of former times. For mankind being the same in all ages, agitated by the same passions, and moved to action by the same interests, nothing can come to pass but some precedent of the like nature has already been produced; so that, having the causes before our eyes, we cannot easily be deceived
in the effects, if we have judgment enough but to draw the parallel.
God, it is true, with his divine providence overrules and guides all actions to the secret end he has ordained them; but in the way of human causes, a wise man may easily discern that there is a natural connection betwixt them; and though he cannot foresee accidents, or all things that possibly can come, he may apply examples, and by them foretell that from the like counsels will probably succeed the like events; and thereby in all concernments, and all offices of life, be instructed in the two main points on which depend our happiness-that is, what to avoid, and what to choose.
The laws of history, in general, are truth of matter, method, and clearness of expression. The first propriety is necessary, to keep our understanding from the impositions of falsehood; for history is an argument framed from many particular examples or inductions; if these examples are not true, then those measures of life which we take from them will be false, and deceive us in their consequence. The second is grounded on the former; for if the method be confused, if the words or expressions of thought are any way obscure, then the ideas which we receive must be imperfect; and if such, we are not taught by them what to elect or what to shun. Truth, therefore, is required as the foundation of history to inform us, disposition and perspicuity as the manner to inform us plainly; one is the being, the other the well being of it.
History is principally divided into these three species-commentaries, or annals; history, properly so called; and biographia, or the lives of particular men.
Commentaries, or annals, are (as I may so call them) naked history, or the plain relation of matter of fact, according to the succession of time, divested of all other ornaments. The springs and motives of actions are not here sought, unless they offer themselves, and are open to every man's discernment. The method is the most natural that can be imagined, depending only on the observation of months and years, and drawing, in the order of them, whatsoever happened worthy of relation. The style is easy, simple, unforced, and unadorned with the pomp of figures; councils, guesses, politic observations, sentences, and orations, are avoided; in few words, a bare narration is its business. Of this kind, the Commentaries of Cæsar' are certainly the most admirable, and after him the 'Annals of Tacitus' may have place; nay, even the prince of Greek historians, Thucydides, may almost be adopted into the number. For, though he instructs everywhere by sentences, though he gives the causes of actions, the councils of both parties, and makes orations where they are necessary, yet it is certain that he first designed his work a commentary; every year writing down, like an unconcerned spectator as he was, the particular occurrences of the time, in the order as they happened; and his eighth book is wholly written after the way of annals; though, out-living the war, he inserted in his others those ornaments which render his work the most complete and most instructive now extant.
History, properly so called, may be described by the addition of those parts which are not required to annals; and therefore there is little farther to be said concerning it; only, that the dignity and gravity of style is here necessary. That the guesses of secret causes inducing to the actions, be drawn at least from the most probable circumstances, not perverted by the malignity of the author to sinister interpretations (of which Tacitus is accused), but candidly laid down, and left to the judgment of the reader; that nothing of concernment be omitted; but things of trivial moment are still to be neglected, as debasing the majesty of the work; that neither partiality nor prejudice