Imagens das páginas


P. 6. l. 14. for cæli read Cæli.
P. 8. 1. 14. for quidam read quidem.

1. 24. for in adsueto read in-adsueto,
P. 18. 1. 21. for lives read loves.
P. 23. 1. 21. for free read fresh.
P. 34. 1. 27. for known read had.
P. 111. 1. 25. for and is about read and about
P. 112. 1. 2. for Tacob read Jacob.
P. 115. l. 18. for its read his.
P. 181. 1. 11. for vinea read vineas.

Note, 1. 2. for ad read and.
P. 191. 1. 22.. for upon read up in.
P. 218. 1. 23. for of read to.
P. 249. 1. last. for Strange digression read strange system of digresion.

"TO THE BINDER. Paste this at the back of the Advertisement, to face page 1.

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Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman

Empire, in Volumes IVtb, Vth, and VIth, Quarto.


N the first rude state of historical composition,

it is a mere intimation of the greater facts. It notes the battles of contending nations; but it goes no farther. It points out no political causes, that led to this decision by the sword. It indicates no political confequences, that resulted from the victory or the defeat. And it even gives no other circumstances of facts, than to tell which of the parties won the day. This is the very skeleton of history; appearing at present in the Saxon Chronicle among ourselves, and once appearing probably in those first chroniclers of Rome, Fabius Pictor and others, who have since sunk away in the meagerness of their own wretched annals, and in the plenitude of the succeeding histories. B


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The next grand stage of improvement, is to dwell upon all the principal events of history; to draw out the train of causes preceding; and to link together the chain of consequences following. It particularly loves to rest upon those splendid incidents of history, battles. It describes them with a fulness and a circumstantiality, that fasten upon the mind, and give it a kind of fanguinary satisfaction. Such was the work of Cælius among the Romans, we suppose ; a writer, to whom Livy occasionally refers, and one of the later chroniclers, from whom he compiled his hiltory. And such is Baker's Chronicle among ourselves; that standing mirror of history to our fathers, and now remembered with fondness by us as the delight of our childhood. This is the skeleton clothed with muscles, supported by sinews, and exhibiting the form and figure of history to the eye.

But this species of writing, by a regular gradation of improvement, afterwards affunes a higher port. It takes the incidents of the first stage, and the circumstances of the second. It combines causes, facts, and consequences, in one regular order of succession. It throws an illumination over the whole, by the clearness of its narration, the judiciousness of its arrangement, and the elegance

of its language. And it gives the reader an interest in the scenes before him, by the liveliness with which it presents them to his mind, and by the reflections with which it points them to his heart. Such is the history of Livy among the Romans, and such are some of our best histories written

by by the last generation. This is the skeleton not merely clothed with flesh, but actuated with nerves, animated with blood, and bearing the bloom of health upon its cheek.

Here had historical composition rested, it would have answered all the useful, and all the elegant, purposes of life. But the activity of the human mind, is always on the wing. The spirit of improvement is ever pushing forward. And there is a degree of improvement beyond this, which may shed a greater warmth of colouring over the piece, give it a deeper interest with the affections of the surveyor, and so reach the full point of historical perfection. But alas ! man can easily imagine, what he can never execute. The fancy can see a perfection, and the judgment can recommend it ; but the hand cannot attain to it. Whether this be the case with the present idea of historical perfection, I know nots but it is certain, I think, that it has never been attained hitherto. History, indeed, having once advanced to the third stage of improvement, cannot but strain to reach the fourth and last. Then it lays itself out in a splendour of imagery, a frequency of reflections, and a refinement of language; and thus makes the narrative more striking, by its additional vivacity and vigour. But it is melancholy to observe, that in proporticn as we thus advance in the ornamental parts of historical writing, we are receding from the solid and the necessary; we lose in veracity what we gain in embellishments; and the authenticity of the narration fades and sinks away, in the lustre of the philosophy sur


B 2

rounding it. The mind of the writer, bent upon the

beautiful and sublime in history, does not conde· scend to perform the task of accuracy, and to stoop to the drudgery of faithfulness. The mirror is finely polished and elegantly decorated; but it no longer reflects the real features of the times. The sun shines out, indeed, with a striking effulgence; but it is an effulgence of glare, and not a radiation of usefulnefs. Such historians as these, we may venture to pronounce, are Tacitus among the ancients, most of our best historians in the present generation, and Mr. Gibbon at the head of them. And these present us with the skeleton of history, not merely clothed with muscles, animated with life, and bearing the bloom of health upon its cheek; but, instead of carrying a higher Aush of health upon its cheek, and shewing a brighter beam of life in its eyes, rubbed with Spanish wool, painted with French fard, and exhibiting the fire of falsehood and wantonness in its eyes.

That we should thus rank Tacitus, may surprise those who have lately been so much in the habit, of admiring and applauding him as the first of all human historians; and who may fuppofe he stands, like the other historians of the ancients, invested with oracular consequence for facts, and incapable of being convicted of unfaithfulness from any cotemporary records. That he has been lately rated beyond his merit, taken out of the real line in which he ought to stand, and transferred from the rank of affected and fantastical historians to that of the judicious and manly, has been long my per


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