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Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them; there is spirits of the English from their natural reservedness; scarce a poet or historian among the Roman authors loosened them from their stiff forms of conversation, of those times whom he has not translated in 'Sejanus' and made them easy and pliant to each other in disand 'Catiline.' But he has done his robberies so openly, course. Thus, insensibly, our way of living became that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. more free; and the fire of the English wit, which was He invades authors like a monarch; and what would before stifled under a constrained melancholy way of be theft in other poets is only victory in him. With breeding, began first to display its force by mixing the spoils of these writers he so represented Rome to the solidity of our nation with the air and gaiety of us, in its rites, ceremonies, and customs, that if one our neighbours. This being granted to be true, it of their poets had written either of his tragedies, we would be a wonder if the poets, whose work is imitahad seen less of it than in him. If there was any tion, should be the only persons in three kingdoms fault in his language, 'twas that he weaved it too who should not receive advantage by it; or if they closely and laboriously, in his comedies especially : should not more easily imitate the wit and converse perhaps, too, he did a little too much Romanisetion of the present age than of the past. our tongue, leaving the words which he translated almost as much Latin as he found them; wherein,
[Translations of the Ancient Poets.] though he learnedly followed their language, he did not enough comply with the idiom of ours. If I would Translation is a kind of drawing after the life; compare him with Shakspeare, I must acknowledge where every one will acknowledge there is a double him the more correct poet, but Shakspeare the greater sort of likeness, a good one and a bad. It is one thing i wit. Shakspeare was the Homer, or father of our to draw the outlines true, the features like, the pro- i dramatic poets : Jonson was the Virgil, the pattern of portions exact, the colouring itself perhaps tolerable; elaborate writing; I admire him, but I love Shaks- and another thing to make all these graceful, by the 1 peare. To conclude of him; as he has given us the posture, the shadowings, and chiefly by the spirit most correct plays, so, in the precepts which he has which animates the whole. I cannot, without some laid down in his . Discoveries,' we have as many and indignation, look on an ill copy of an excellent ori. profitable rules for perfecting the stage, as any where- ginal : much less can I behold with patience Virgil, with the French can furnish us.
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. [Improved Style of Dramatic Dialogue after the
What English readers, unacquainted with Greek or Restoration.]
Latin, will believe me or any other man. when we I have always acknowledged the wit of our predecommend these authors, and confess we derive all that cessors with all the veneration which becomes me; is pardonable in us from their fountains, if they take but, I am sure, their wit was not that of gentlemen; those to be the same poets whom our Oglebies have there was ever somewhat that was ill-bred and translated ? But I dare assure them, that a good poet clownish in it, and which confessed the conversation is no more like himself in a dull translation, than his of the authors.
carcass would be to his living body. There are many And this leads me to the last and greatest advantage who understand Greek and Latin, and yet are ignoof our writing, which proceeds from conversation. In rant of their mother-tongue. The proprieties and de. the age wherein those poetsl lived, there was less of licacies of the English are known to few: it is imposgallantry than in ours; neither did they keep the best sible even for a good wit to understand and practise company of theirs. Their fortune has been much like them without the help of a liberal education, long that of Epicurus in the retirement of his gardens; to reading, and digesting of those few good authors we live almost unknown, and to be celebrated after their have amongst us; the knowledge of men and manners, decease. I cannot find that any of them had been the freedom of habitudes and conversation with the conversant in courts, except Ben Jonson; and his best company of both sexes; and, in short, without genius lay not so much that way, as to make an im- wearing off the rust which he contracted while he was provement by it. Greatness was not then so easy of laying in a stock of learning. Thus difficult it is to unaccess, nor conversation so free, as it now is. I cannot, derstand the purity of English, and critically to discern therefore, conceive it any insolence to affirin, that by not only good writers from bad, and a proper style from the knowledge and pattern of their wit who writ before a corrupt, but also to distinguish that which is pure us, and by the advantage of our own conversation, the in a good author, from that which is vicious and cordiscourse and raillery of our comedies excel what has rupt in him. And for want of all these requisites, or been written by them. And this will be denied by the greatest part of them, most of our ingenious young none, but some few old fellows who value themselves men take up some cried-up English poet for their on their acquaintance with the Black Friars; who, model ; adore him, and imitate him, as they think, because they saw their plays, would pretend a right to without knowing wherein he is defective, where he is judge ours.
boyish and trifling, wherein either his thoughts are Now, if they ask me whence it is that our conver improper to his subject, or his expressions unworthy sation is so much refined, I must freely, and without of his thoughts, or the turn of both is unharmonious. flattery, ascribe it to the court; and in it, particularly Thus it appears necessary that a man should be a to the king, whose example gives a law to it. His own nice critic in his mother-tongue before he attempts to misfortunes, and the nation's, afforded him an oppor
translate in a foreign language. Neither is it suffitunity which is rarely allowed to sovereign princes,
cient that he be able to judge of words and style, but I mean of travelling, and being conversant in the
he must be a master of them too: he must perfectly most polished courts of Europe ; and thereby of cul- understand his author's tongue, and absolutely comtivating a spirit which was formed by nature to re-inand his own: so that to be a thorough translator, ceive the impressions of a gallant and generous edu- he must be a thorough poet. Neither is it enough to cation. At his return, he found a nation lost as much give his author's sense, in good English, in poetical in barbarism as in rebellion : And, as the excellency expressions, and in musical numbers ; for, though all of his nature forgave the one, so the excellency of his these are exceeding difficult to perform, yet there remanners reformed the other. The desire of imitating mains a harder task; and it is a secret of which few 80 great a pattern first awakened the dull and heavy translators have sufficiently thought. I have already
hinted a word or two concerning it ; that is, the main1 Shakspearo, Jonson, &o | taining the character of an author, which distinguishes
him from all others, and makes him appear that in- verse, he commonly allows two lines for one of Virgil, dividual poet whom you would interpret. For ex and does not always hit his sense. Tasso tells us in ample, not only the thoughts but the style and versi- his letters that Sperone Speroni, a great Italian wit, fication of Virgil and Ovid are very different; yet I who was his contemporary, observed of Virgil and see, even in our best poets, who have translated some Tully, that the Latin orator endeavoured to imitate parts of them, that they have confounded their the copiousness of Homer, the Greek poet; and that several talents; and by endeavouring only at the the Latin poet made it his business to reach the consweetness and harmony of numbers, have made them ciseness of Demosthenes, the Greek orator. Virgil, both so much alike, that if I did not know the ori- therefore, being so very sparing of his words, and ginals, I should never be able to judge by the copies leaving so much to be imagined by the reader, can which was Virgil and which was Ovid. It was ob- never be translated as he ought, in any modern tongue. jected against a late noble painter, that he drew To make him copious, is to alter his character; and many graceful pictures, but few of them were like to translate him line for line, is impossible; because And this happened to him, because he always studied the Latin is naturally a more succinct language than himself more than those who sat to him. In such either the Italian, Spanish, French, or even than the translators I can easily distinguish the hand which English, which, by reason of its monosyllables, is far performed the work, but I cannot distinguish their the most compendious of them. Virgil is much the poet from another. Suppose two authors are equally closest of any Roman poet, and the Latin hexameter sweet ; yet there is as great distinction to be made in has more
bg sweetness, as in that of sugar, and that of honey. I Besides all this, an author has the choice of his own can make the difference more plain, by giving you (if thoughts and words, which a translator has not; he it be worth knowing) my own method of proceeding, is confined by the sense of the inventor to those exin my translations out of four several poets in this pressions which are the nearest to it; so that Virgil, volume-Virgil, Theocritus, Lucretius, and Horace. studying brevity, and having the command of his own In each of these, before I undertook them, I considered language, could bring those words into a narrow comthe genius and distinguishing character of my author. | pass, which a translator cannot render without cirI looked on Virgil as a succinct and grave majestic cumlocutions. In short, they who have called him writer ; one who weighed not only every thought, but the torture of the grammarians, might also have called every word and syllable; who was still aiming to him the plague of translators; for he seems to have crowd his sense into as narrow a compass as possibly studied not to be translated. I own that, endeavourhe could; for which reason he is so very figurative, ing to turn his “ Nisus and Euryalus' as close as I was that he requires (I may almost say) a grammar apartable, I have performed that episode too literally ; to construe him. His verse is everywhere sounding that giving more scope to Mezentius and Lausus,' the very thing in your ears, whose sense it bears; yet that version, which has more of the majesty of Virgil, the numbers are perpetually varied, to increase the has less of his conciseness; and all that I can prodelight of the reader, so that the same sounds are mise for myself, is only that I have done both better nerer repeated twice together. On the contrary, Ovid | than Ogleby, and perhaps as well as Caro; so that, and Claudian, though they write in styles differing methinks, I come like a malefactor, to make a from each other, yet have each of them but one sort speech upon the gallows, and to warn all other poets, of music in their verses. All the versification and by my sad example, from the sacrilege of translating little variety of Claudian is included within the com- Virgil. Yet, by considering him so carefully as I did pass of four or five lines, and then he begins again in before my attempt, I have made some faint resemthe same tenor, perpetually closing his sense at the blance of him; and, had I taken more time, might end of a verse, and that verse commonly which they possibly have succeeded better, but never so well as call golden, or two substantives and two adjectives, to have satisfied myself. 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 rung 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 gure 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 trilling tenderness of as a great part of his character; but must confese, to Ovid, and were printed before I had considered t 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 I 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 this sion can reach it in the same compass. Hannibal
When Lausus died, I was already slain. 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
bold; that Virgil would not have said it, though Ovid so absurd, that I cannot, if I would, believe them. I would. The reader may pardon it, if he please, for think a future state demonstrable even by natural the freeness of the confession; and instead of that, arguments; at least, to take away rewards and punishand the former, admit these two lines, which are morements is only a pleasing prospect to a man who reaccording to the author
solves beforehand not to live morally. But, on the Nor ask I life, nor fought with that design;
other side, the thought of being nothing after death
is a burden insupportable to a virtuous man, eren As I had used my fortune, use thou thine.
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 rice 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 Æneids. 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 va- ! But there are other arguments in this poem (which riation. If I am not mistaken, the distinguishing I have turned into English) not belonging to the morcharacter of Lucretius (I mean of his soul and genius) tality of the soul, which are strong enough to a reais a certain kind of noble pride, and positive assertion sonable man, to make him less in lore with life, and of his opinions. He is everywhere confident of his consequently in less apprehensions of death. Such as own reason, and assuming an absolute command, not are the natural satiety proceeding from a perpetual only over his vulgar reader, but even his patron Mem- enjoyment of the saine things; the inconveniences of mius ; for he is always bidding him attend, as if he old age, which make him incapable of corporeal pleahad the rod over him, and using a magisterial autho-sures; the decay of understanding and memory, which rity while he instructs him. From his time to ours, render him contemptible and useless to others. These, I know none so like him as our poet and philosopher and many other reasons, so pathetically urged, so of Malmesbury.* This is that perpetual dictatorship beautifully expressed, so adorned with examples, and which is exercised by Lucretius, who, though often in so admirably raised by the prosopopeia of nature, who the wrong, yet seems to deal bona fide with his reader, is brought in speaking to her children with so much and tells him nothing but what he thinks ; in which authority and vigour, deserve the pains I have taken plain sincerity, I believe, he differs from our Hobbes, with them, which I hope have not been unsuccessful, who could not but be convinced, or at least doubt, of or unworthy of my author: at least I must take the some eternal truths which he has opposed. But for liberty to own that I was pleased with my own endeaLucretius, he seems to disdain all manner of replies, rours, which but rarely happens to me; and that I and is so confident of his cause, that he is before-hand am not dissatisfied upon the review of anything I with his antagonists; urging for them whatever he have done in this author. imagined they could say, and leaving them, as he supposes, without an objection for the future: all this,
[Spenser and Milton.] too, with so much scorn and indignation, as if he were assured of the triumph before he entered into the [In epic poetry) the English have only to boast of lists. From this sublime and daring genius of his, it Spenser and Milton, who neither of them wanted must of necessity come to pass that his thoughts must either genius or learning to have been perfect poets, be masculine, full of argumentation, and that suffi- and yet both of them are liable to many censures. ciently warm. From the same fiery temper proceeds For there is no uniformity in the design of Spenser; the loftiness of his expressions, and the perpetual he aims at the accomplishment of no one action, he torrent of his verse, where the barrenness of his subject raises up a hero for every one of his adventures, and does not too much constrain the quickness of his fancy. endows each of them with some particular moral virFor there is no doubt to be made, but that he could tue, which renders them all equal, without subordinahave been everywhere as poetical as he is in his de- tion or preference. Every one is most valiant in his scriptions, and in the moral part of his philosophy, if own legend; only, we must do him that justice to obhe had not aimed more to instruct, in his system of serve, that magnanimity, which is the character of nature, than to delight. But he was bent upon mak- Prince Arthur, shines throughout the whole poem, and ing Memmius a materialist, and teaching him to defy succours the rest when they are in distress. The an invisible power: in short, he was so much an original of every knight was then living in the court atheist, that he forgot sometimes to be a poet. These of Queen Elizabeth; and he attributed to each of are the considerations which I had of that author, them that virtue which he thought was most conspibefore I attempted to translate some parts of him. cuous in them-an ingenious piece of flattery, though And accordingly I laid by my natural diffidence and it turned not much to his account. Had he lived to scepticism for a while, to take up that dogmatical finish his poem, in the six remaining legends, it had way of his which, as I said, is so much his character, certainly been more of a piece, but could not have as to make him that individual poet. As for his been perfect, because the model was not true. But opinions concerning the mortality of the soul, they are Prince Arthur, or his chief patron Sir Philip Sidney,
whom he intended to make happy by the marriage of * Hobbes, who died in 1679. | his Gloriana, dying before him, deprived the poet both
of means and spirit to accomplish his design. For the for vanity in me, for it is truth. More libels have rest, his obsolete language, and the ill choice of his been written against me than almost any man now stanza, are faults but of the second magnitude ; for, living; and I had reason on my side to have defended notwithstanding the first, he is still intelligible, at my own innocence. I speak not of my poetry, which least after a little practice; and for the last, he is the I have wholly given up to the critics : let them use more to be admired, that, labouring under such a it as they please : posterity, perhaps, may be more difficulty, his verses are so numerous, so various, and favourable to me; for interest and passion will lie so harmonious, that only Virgil, whorn he professedly buried in another age, and partiality and prejudice imitated, has surpassed him among the Romans, and be forgotten. I speak of my morals, which have been only Mr Waller among the English.
sufficiently aspersed: that only sort of reputation As for Mr Milton, whom we all admire with so much ought to be dear to every honest man, and is to me. justice, his subject is not that of a heroic poem, pro- But let the world witness for me, that I have been perly so called. His design is the losing of our happi- often wanting to myself in that particular: I have ness; his event is not prosperous, like that of all other seldoin answered any scurrilous lampoon, when it was epic works; his heavenly machines are many, and his in my power to have exposed my enemies : and, being human persons are but two. But I will not take Mr naturally vindictive, have suffered in silence, and Rymer's work out of his hands : he has promised the possessed my soul in quiet. world a critique on that author, wherein, though he | Anything, though never so little, which a man will not allow his poem for heroic, I hope he will speaks of himself, in my opinion, is still too much ; grant us that his thoughts are elevated, his words and therefore I will waive this subject, and proceed to sounding, and that no man has so happily copied the give the second reason which may justify a poet when manner of Homer, or so copiously translated his he writes against a particular person; and that is, Grecisms, and the Latin elegancies of Virgil. It is when he is become a public nuisance. All those, true he runs into a flat of thought sometimes for a whom Horace in his Satires, and Persius and Juvenal hundred lines together, but it is when he has got into have mentioned in theirs, with a brand of infamy, are a track of Scripture. His antiquated words were his wholly such. It is an action of virtue to make exchoice, not his necessity; for therein he imitated amples of vicious men. They may and ought to be Spenser, as Spenser did Chaucer. And though, per- upbraided with their crimes and follies; both for their haps, the love of their masters may have transported amendment, if they are not yet incorrigible, and for both too far, in the frequent use of them, yet, in my the terror of others, to hinder them from falling into opinion, obsolete words may then be laudably revived, those enormities, which they see are so severely when either they are more sounding or more signifi-punished in the persons of others. The first reason cant than those in practice; and when their obscu- was only an excuse for revenge ; but this second is rity is taken away, by joining other words to them absolutely of a poet's office to perform : but how few which clear the sense, according to the rule of Horace, lampooners are now living who are capable of this for the admission of new words. But in both cases a duty !* When they come in my way, it is impossible moderation is to be observed in the use of them; for sometimes to avoid reading them. But, good God ! unnecessary coinage, as well as unnecessary revival, how remote they are, in common justice, from the runs into affectation ; a fault to be avoided on either choice of such persons as are the proper subject of hand. Neither will I justify Milton for his blank satire! And how little wit they bring for the support verse, though I may excuse him, by the example of of their injustice! The weaker sex is their most orHannibal Caro, and other Italians, who have used it; dinary theme; and the best and fairest are sure to be for whatever causes he alleges for the abolishing of the most severely handled. Amongst men, those who rhyme (which I have not now the leisure to examine), are prosperously unjust are entitled to panegyric; but his own particular reason is plainly this, that rhyme afflicted virtue is insolently stabbed with all manner was not his talent; he had neither the ease of doing of reproaches; no decency is considered, no fulsome
nor the graces of it, which is manifest in his ness omitted; no venom is wanting, as far as dulness Jurenilia,' or verses written in his youth, where his can supply it ; for there is a perpetual dearth of wit ; rhyme is always constrained and forced, and comes a barrenness of good sense and entertainment. The hardly from him, at an age when the soul is most neglect of the readers will soon put an end to this pliant, and the passion of love makes almost every sort of scribbling. There can be no pleasantry where man a rhymer, though not a poet.
there is no wit: no impression can be made where
there is no truth for the foundation. To conclude: [Lampoon.]
they are like the fruits of the earth in this unnatural
season; the corn which held up its head is spoiled In a word, that former sort of satire, which is known with rankness; but the greater part of the harvest is in England by the name of lampoon, is a dangerous laid along, and little of good income and wholesome sort of weapon, and for the most part unlawful. We nourishment is received into the barns. This is alhave no moral right on the reputation of other men. most a digression, I confess to your lordship; but a It is taking from them what we cannot restore to just indignation forced it from me. 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
[Dryden's Translation of Virgil.] revenge, when we have been affronted in the same nature, or have been anyways notoriously abused, What Virgil wrote in the vigour of his age, in and can make ourselves no other reparation. And plenty and at ease, I have undertaken to translate in yet we know, that, in Christian charity, all offences my declining years; struggling with wants, oppressed are to be forgiven, as we expect the like pardon for with sickness, curbed in my genius, liable to be inisthose which we daily commit against Almighty God. construed in all I write ; and my judges, if they are And this consideration has often made me tremble not very equitable, already prejudiced against me, when I was saying our Saviour's prayer; for the plain condition of the forgiveness which we beg, is the par * The abuse of personal satires, or lampoons, as they were doning of others the offences which they have done to called, was carried to a prodigious extent in the days of Dryus; for which reason I have many times avoided the den, when eve
den, when every man of fashion was obliged to write verses ; commission of that fault, even when I have been and those who had neither poetry nor wit, had recourse to notoriously provoked. Let not this, my lord, pass ribaldry and libelling.-Sir Walter Scott.
by the lying character which has been given them of in the effects, if we have judgment enough but to my morals. Yet, steady to my principles, and not draw the parallel. dispirited with my afflictions, I have, by the blessing! God, it is true, with his divine providence overof God on my endeavours, overcome all difficulties, rules and guides all actions to the secret end he has and in some measure acquitted myself of the debt ordained them; but in the way of human causes, a which I owed the public when I undertook this work. wise man may easily discern that there is a natural In the first place, therefore, I thankfully acknowledge connection betwixt them; and though he cannot foreto the Almighty Power the assistance he has given me see accidents, or all things that possibly can come, he in the beginning, the prosecution, and conclusion or may apply examples, and by them foretell that from my present studies, which are more happily performed the like counsels will probably succeed the like events; than I could have promised to myself, when I laboured and thereby in all concernments, and all offices of life, under such discouragements. For what I have done, / be instructed in the two main points on which depend imperfect as it is for want of health and leisure to our happiness-that is, what to avoid, and what to correct it, will be judged in after ages, and possibly in choose. the present, to be no dishonour to my native country, The laws of history, in general, are truth of matter, whose language and poetry would be more esteemed | method, and clearness of expression. The first proabroad, if they were better understood. Somewhat priety is necessary, to keep our understanding from (give me leave to say) I have added to both of them the impositions of falsehood; for history is an arguin the choice of words and harmony of numbers, ment framed from many particular examples or inwhich were wanting (especially the last) in all our ductions ; if these examples are not true, then those poets, even in those who, being endued with genius, measures of life which we take from them will be yet have not cultivated their mother-tongue with | false, and deceive us in their consequence. The sufficient care; or, relying on the beauty of their second is grounded on the former; for if the method thoughts, have judged the ornament of words and be confused, if the words or expressions of thought sweetness of sound unnecessary. One is for raking in are any way obscure, then the ideas which we receive Chaucer (our English Ennius) for antiquated words, must be imperfect; and if such, we are not taught which are never to be revived, but when sound by them what to elect or what to shun. Truth, or significancy is wanting in the present language. therefore, is required as the foundation of history to But many of his deserve not this redemption, any inform us, disposition and perspicuity as the manner more than the crowds of men who daily die, or are to inform us plainly; one is the being, the other the slain for sixpence in a battle, merit to be restored to well being of it. life, if a wish could revive them. Others have no ear History is principally divided into these three spefor verse, nor choice of words, nor distinction of cies-commentaries, or annals; history, properly so thoughts. but mingle farthings with their gold to called ; and biographia, or the lives of particular men. make up the sum. Here is a field of satire opened to Commentaries, or annals, are (as I may so call me; but since the Revolution, I have wholly re- them) naked history, or the plain relation of matter of nounced that talent: for who would give physic to the fact, according to the succession of time, divested of all great when he is uncalled--to do his patient no good, other ornaments. The springs and motives of actions and endanger himself for his prescription ! Neither are not here sought, unless they offer themselves, and am I ignorant but I may justly be condemned for are open to every man's discernment. The method is many of those faults, of which I have too liberally the most natural that can be imagined, depending arraigned others.
only on the observation of months and years, and
drawing, in the order of them, whatsoever happened [History and Biography.]
worthy of relation. The style is easy, simple, unforced,
and unadorned with the pomp of figures; councils, It may now be expected that, having written the guesses, politic observations, sentences, and orations, life of a historian,* I should take occasion to write are avoided ; in few words, a bare narration is its busisomewhat concerning history itself. But I think to ness. Of this kind, the Commentaries of Cæsar' are commend it is unnecessary, for the profit and pleasure certainly the most admirable, and after him the . An. of that study are both so very obvious, that a quick nals of Tacitus' may have place; nay, even the prince reader will be beforehand with me, and imagine faster of Greek historians, Thucydides, may almost be adopted than I can write. Besides, that the post is taken up into the number. For, though he instructs everywhere already; and few authors have travelled this way, by sentences, though he gives the causes of actions, but who have strewed it with rhetoric as they passed the councils of both parties, and makes orations where For my own part, who must confess it to my shame, they are necessary, yet it is certain that he first dethat I never read anything but for pleasure, it has signed his work a commentary; every year writing always been the most delightful entertainment of my down, like an unconcerned spectator as he was, the life; but they who have employed the study of it, as particular occurrences of the time, in the order as they ought, for their instruction, for the regulation of they happened ; and his eighth book is wholly written their private manners, and the management of public after the way of annals; though, out-living the war, affairs, must agree with me that it is the most plea- | he inserted in his others those ornaments which render sant school of wisdom. It is a familiarity with past his work the most complete and most instructive now ages, and an acquaintance with all the heroes of extant. them; it is, if you will pardon the similitude, a pro- History, properly so called, may be described by spective glass, carrying your soul to a vast distance, the addition of those parts which are not required to and taking in the farthest objects of antiquity. It annals; and therefore there is little farther to be said informs the understanding by the memory; it helps concerning it; only, that the dignity and gravity of us to judge of what will happen, by showing us the style is here necessary. That the guesses of secret like revolutions of former times. For mankind being causes inducing to the actions, be drawn at least from the same in all ages, agitated by the same passions, the most probable circumstances, not perverted by the and mored to action by the same interests, nothing malignity of the author to sinister interpretations (of can come to pass but some precedent of the like which Tacitus is accused), but candidly laid down, Dature has already been produced; so that, having the and left to the judgment of the reader; that nothing causes before our eyes, we cannot easily be deceived of concernment be omitted; but things of trivial mo
ment are still to be neglected, as debasing the majesty * Plutarch. of the work ; that neither partiality nor prejudico