Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

upon History. 257 dinary Standard. For he that seeks for Simplicity, must, above all, be industrious in avoiding Meannefs. But in what then does this admirable Simplicity consist, which is the fovereign Perfection of great Designs; and what is it to write according to such a Chara&er? It is to make Use of those words that are the most familiar, and the most proper, and always the fullest of Sense ; such as thofe of Menelaus in Homer, whom the Poet has made fo Homerus, exact a Pattern of concise, agreeable, natural, brevem and never redundant Eloquence. It is to think quâdam and speak our native Thoughts and Words; jucundiwithout giving either too much Vivacity to tate, proour Expression, as Strada; or too much Bright- priam, ceness to our Imagination, as Grotius has done, rentem fuin the Story of the Wars of the Low Countries per fluis EIt is, to form such Ideas as are great, and yet am, Mene

loquentiThall' appear very common, without interpo- lao dedit; fing so much of Argument, and Reflection qua sunt as Davila has made Úse of in his History of Virtutes the Civil Wars of France : For when a Man primi. whose Business hould be to report Fact, is Quint, thus bent upon Reasoning, 'tis no longer Nature that speaks, but 'tis Art and Study; and these labour'd Discourses have a Twang of De. clamation, and of the School.' It is, to interniix no other Ornaments with a Narration, than what the Modefty of Truth can bear. It is to express that graceful Sweetness of Xe• Exponere mophon, which no Affectation can ever reach. SimpliciLaftly, It is to have that wonderful Skill at fer fine ulpruning off the Luxuriancy of Speech, which tione. Cic. Phocion postess'd in so eminent a Degree; of Non dicere whom Demosthenes, tho' himself a very great ornatius, Master of Simplicity, said, when he saw quam fim.

plex ratio him standing up in Court to reply to an

veritatis Oration of his, There is the Sword which will cut ferat.

off Idem,

monem

Xenophon- off all that was superfluous in my Discourse. To tis illam confirm this Character, which besides a large sem inaffe. Stock of widom and good Sense, requires datam, much Exercise, and long Meditation;

; we quam nul. ought to avoid all Commerce with Authors, la affe&a- of too fruitful an Invention, so as to keep clear tio confe- from that Profuseness of falfe Conceits, and zit ipse fer- ftrain’d Expressions, and from all those Foppe.

ries that pretend to Sense; into, which Men are Bratiæ fin- easily betray'd, if they have not a true Discernxille vide bantur.

ment and a just Apprehension. The Models Ruint.

that we ought to fer before us, for this Way of Writing are only the Antients; and amongst them only the most easie and familiar. Herinogenes proposes Theocritus and Anacreon, as the great Masters of Simplicity: and indeed they have no Superiors in that £xcellence. According to Longinus's Censure, Herodotus is too bold and adventurous. Dionysius Halicarnaffeus complains, that Thucydides, tho' an Author of great Simplicity, yet has clog'd some of his Narrations with too many Fads. Xenophon and Polybius are too much for Philofophizing, and often: break the Thread of their Story, to give Way to their moral Refle&tions. But what Caution and Reserve, what true. Sobriety of Discourse appears in Cafar's Account of the Battle of Phara falia, in which his Rival was entirely defeated? What natural Simplicity shines thro' the whole Narration? Who would conceive, that the Historian had any Manner of Share in the Action, or the Vi&ory! Plutarch may pass for another great Original in this Character of Simplicity, which discovers it self through all his Works. Nor does Livy, in my Judg. ment appear more admirable for all his other good Qualities, than for this one Perfection., The Course of his History may be resembled

to

to a great River, running with compos’d Majesty, and stately Smoothness': As that of Tacitus is like a rich and fruitful Stream, too apt to overflow its Banks. For the latter is scarce ever exactly just in his Conceptions, and very often overstrain'd in his Expression, only because he wants the Gift of simplicity. Diodorus Siculus has too great a Shew of Learning in all he writes. Mariana is one of the most accomplish'd of modern Historians, because he is one of the most simple. For Simplicity of Stile in great Subjects, must necessarily be it felf attended with Nobleness and Grandour. These are the Qualities, which make the Ground-work of History, and which we may call the first Élements of its Beauty: Which must still shine more in the Genius and Character of an Historian, than in his Stile or Discourse. Other Strokes are necessary to finish the Piece

; which I shall but lightly Touch over, in such Order and Method as they occur to my Thoughts. I begin with the Matter and the Form, that is, with the most essential Parts of History

VI.

'Tis a wide Field of Matter that, which exercises an Historian: For it spreads itself through the whole Course of humane Actions, through Peace and War, Councils and Negoțiations, Embassies and Intrigues, and through all the various Affairs and Adventures of Life. In rebre Cicero requires two Conditions, in the Mat- magnis ter of History; that it consist of Things great memorixin themselves, and worthy of publick Memory historia and Fame. No Man has better explain’d the

verfatur.

Art Cico

per negoti.

REFLECTIONS Vol. II. Hiftoriam Art of choofing a Subject for History, than afluctam. Dionysius in the Preface to his own; as also discurrere

in his Judgment of Thucydides, to whose Choice orum eelli, he prefers that of Herodotus, and alledges the tudines, Reasons of his Preference. But since, in Himon bumi- story especially, Falshood so often wears the tids indas Dress of Truth, there is need of deep Penegare caufa. tration, and exact Discernment, rightly to serum Am. parate the true Motives of important Actions Marc. from their Colours and Appearances, and so

to make a wise Choice of the Matter, which can alone be refind and beautified by the ranging of Circumstances, and by that just

Order to which we are to bring every Thing Equidem that is too loose, that we may enclose it within non affir.. its proper Limits, and natural Extent. When mare fufti- the Materials are thus reduc'd ; the Historian neo de qui. must gain a perfect Dominion over them, by a nec fubdu profound Meditation on his Subject, which

he should throughly be acquainted with, and accepi. should fully comprehend. "But then he mult Q. Curt. be so religiously strict as never to abuse the

publick Faith, by delivering either ConjeEtures as Truths, or Certainties as bare Proba. bilities. He must search the Records and Instructions, with which he is furnish'd, and if possible, to their very Fountain, in order to the making a just Estimate of their weight. He must advance nothing upon common Fame, and the Discourse of the Town, which is always of uncertain Authority. He must ensure nothing, but upon undoubted Memoirs, and faithful Relations. He must not too credulously give up his Aflent to the Historians that went before him ; left he should lose his Way by following bad Guides. He must make a wide Distinction between Reports manifestly Partial, or suspected of Interest and

Prejus i

cere quæ

[ocr errors]

lin. in vit.

Prejudice, and thofe which lie under no such Imputation. He must always be upon his Guard against the Biass and Affection of those that supply him with Matter : For Preposseffion is the great and universal Source of false History. Herodotus whom Cicero represents as Apud Heso very fabulous, made use of very evil and de-rodotum ceitful Memoirs, as Josephus informs us. Thu- funt innucydides resolving to profit by his Fault, has con- fabule. find himself to the History of his own Time, so Cic. de as to avoid all Jealousy and Suspicion, of wri- Leg. ting what he had not either seen in Person, Marcelor receiv'd from credible Witnesses, and from

Thucyd. those Instruments, which he had procur'd with so much Expence, not only on the Athenian Side, but on the Lacedemonian; that he might be rightly appriz’d of all that pass'd between them. Xenophon, Polybius and Procopius, took much the same Method. Dion Caffius declares at the Entrance of his History, that he spent ten Years in preparing Materials. Petrarch re- Salustics ports, that Salust made a Voyage into Africa, maria, to observe the situation of the Places that he tranfgrefshould have occasion to mention, in the Story ut oculis

fus dicitur of Jugurtha's War, not daring to trust any suis credeThing but his own Eyes. For the great and ret de conimportant Point with an Historian, is to know ditionibus and be satisfied that he writes upon good Grounds. Lucian exposes an Author of his Time, who writ a Narrative of a certain War, meerly upon Town-talk; having never so much as seen any Man, that had been in the Country where the decisive Battle was fought. And Vo- Vopisc.in piscus would not engage in the History of the Præfat. Reign of Aurelian, but upon the Assurance given him by Funius Tiberianus, the great Minister of State, that he should be furnish'd with the best Papers and Records. Nor is it enough

for

locorum.

« PoprzedniaDalej »