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REFLECTIONS

U PON

HISTORY
O

F all ingenious Compositions and La-
bours of the Mind, there is none more

noble, and more worthy of a Gentleman, than History; not only because he that would succeed in this way, ought to be ignorant of nothing; but because an Historian, of all Authors, spreads out the most ample Theatre, and erects the greatest Tribunal in the World. For 'tis his Office to fit fupreme Judge of all that passes in the World, to pronounce the Deftiny of all the great Ones of the Earth, and to fix their Character with Posterity; to give Lessons to all People and Nations, and direct the Conduct of Ages. What Strength of Ge- Pulcrum nius can be sufficient for so important an En- imprimis terprize? Let us endeavour, therefore, to form videtur, a right Apprehension of its Excellence, and of occidere the Rules by which it is successfully to be per- quibus cform’d. And what can we conceive more fair ternitas and lovely than that Kind of Writing, which debeatur.

Plin. Er knows how to do Justice to Vertue and Worth, in bestowing Eternity upon good Actions The following, Remarks will, perhaps, contribute something to the carrying History to that Perfection which sets it above all other

Writings; if the Love of good Sense, which every Day seems to advance amongst us, may be able to keep its Ground, in spight of all the new Tastes which Caprice and Vanity are ever striving to introduce by the false Colours, and the misconceiy'd Idea's of Wit.

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Nothing can be more difficult, than to say precisely what is the best Manner of writing i History. A Man ought to follow that which he finds to be most in vogue with the Age, kao and most agreeable to the Taste of those for whom he writes. But is this enough to secure the good Liking of Posterity ? Let us see by what means we may deserve the Suffrage of a Judge, which is so nice and delicate, fo fevere and incorrupt, and which never honours with its Approbation any Thing but true Merit. If then, a Man writes nobly, sensibly, with Purity, and with Simplicity, in any Language, he must for ever please. These are universal Principles, which alone can stand the Test of all People and Times, there being no other general Rules in the World, besides those of Reason and good Sense. By this means, Thucydides, Xenophon, Saluft, Cafar, Livy, Buchanan, Mariana, and Authors of the like Character, have heen always entertain'd with Favour, though they wrote in Ages and Countries of so very different a Genius; and therefore we may expect the fame Favour, if we are able to write in the same Manner. What Grandour, what Judgment, whát Politeness

; but above all, what Simplicity, do we find and admire in the Labours of these great Men?

11.

exornatores rerum,

He then, that shall engage in writing Hi- Genus hoc story, must consider how he may write nobly. scribendi For when a Man speaks to the whole World, incitatum and to all Ages, he is invested with such a atque ela.

tumele de Character, as gives him Authority to lift up bere, quis his Voice, because he Addresses himself to ignorat : Kings and Princes, and to the great Men of Cic. all Countries and Times, and because he is, in fome Sort, the common Master and InstruEtor of Mankind. Nor is there any Thing Addidit more essential to History, than the Giving of biftoriæ this rais'a Turn to the whole Discourse. An fonum vo. Historian, therefore, must reject all that is cis Antilow, or vulgar in Stile ; so as to make the pater, cæDignity of his Expression, comport

with the teri non Dignity of his Subject: He must accustom himself, to form a great and worthy Concep- fed tantion of every Thing thạt passes through his tummodd Mind; he must, by the exact choice of Words, narratores endeavour to give Weight to his Thoughts, Idem. and Force to his Language, carefully seeking out every Thing that may enrich or exalt it; if he would imprint a Character of Greatness on all that he says. The Standards in this Kind, are Thucydides among the Greeks, and Livy among the Romans. They are almost the only Two, that have been able to sustain this Grandour of Stile, with the same Spirit and Tone, without falling into the low, or even the moderate Character. Herodotus, by too servile an imitation of Homer, when Things require Sublimity, sometimes flies into Enthusiasm ; as Longinus has observ'd. Tacitus, who is seldom great upon any Score, but because he is concise, cannot be a good Pattern; his greatness

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having

having nothing of Nature in it. In General, great Care must be applied to distinguish true Greatness from false. Cesar perfectly understood this Secret; who in the Narrative of his Affairs in Egypt, of which he scarce omitted any Particular, yet says not a Word of his Intrigue with Cleopatra, though very much at his Heart; well knowing that he could not mention it with that serious Air which the noble Spirit of History demands, and that he could say nothing well upon. fo light and impertinent a Subject. 'Tis, in Virtue of his Office and Dignity of an Historian, that he treats that Princess with the last Indifference; his Passion cannot force him to deliver any Thing contrary to his Judgment, and to that wise and just Character of Writing which he so happily pursued. It is not in swelling Words, in soaring Expressions, in the Pride or Flourish of Discourse, that the noble Stile of

History should be suppos'd to consist: Which Magna, was the Thing that mis-led Ammianus Marcelnonyimia; linus, Lampridius, and most of the other Histofublimis, rians in the Decline of the Roman Empire

, ta; forrige But, 'tis in a Loftiness, and yet a Modesty of non teme- Expreslion, in a Way of Speech able to sustain Taria ; se- the strongest, and to elevate the weakest Subvera, non ject ; 'tis in that well-temper’s Greatness

, triftisgra- which Quintilian ascribes to true Eloquence

. tarda; la- 'Tis not enough to have a bright Wit, but a

Man 'must have a lofty Genius, to write in luxuriofa ; this Manner, and to raise every Thing that he plena, non says by the Choice of Words, and the Largeturgida. Quint.

ness of Thoughts. This Talent is so very rare, that if we except out of the Number of Historians all those who have not been Masters of it, there will remain very few to share the Prize. But still, the Desire of writing nobly,

84, non

can

cannot excuse a Man from writing naturally: He must be noble without soaring too high; and he must be natural without linking too low.

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To write sensibly, is to go directly to the Point, without wandering or amusing our selves by the Way ; 'tis to represent Things with an Air of Prudence and Reserve, not giving a Loose to the Heat of Imagination, or the Vivacity of Wit; 'tis to know how to suppress discreetly whatever would be too much in a Sentence, as those Adverbs and Epithets, which diminish Things under an Intention of enlarging them; to leave nothing that shall seem idle, languid, or unprofitable; generously to retrench that which ought not to be said, how fine foever it may look; constantly to prefer that which is solíd to that which is glittering; never to discover Heat and Flame, when the Subject requires a Coldness of Affe&ion, and a Seriousness of Temper; to exa. Dele&us mine every Thought, and to weigh every verborum Word, with fo just and exquisite a Sense, as to babendus, let nothing escape, but what is accurately ju- ponder dicious. It is, to have Strength enough to rum exaresist the Temptation we are naturallò under minanda. of Shewing our Parts, like that impertinent Quinc. Historian, who in the Defeat of the Parthians

Luciande by the Emperor Severus, was not contented

Conscriba that Osroes Mould save himself in any other Hiftor. Place, but in a delightful Grotto, faded with Laurels and Myrtles, and thus made himself ridiculous by attempting to be agreeable, which is the most slippery Step that an Author can take. It is, to leave it free for the Reader to

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