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its own unity; a beginning, a middle, and an end to the system of affairs; while, at the same time, we are taught to discern how that system of affairs rose from the preceding, and how it is inserted into what follows We should be able to trace all the secret links of the chain, which binds together remote, and seemingly unconnected events. In some kingdoms of Europe, it was the plan of many succeeding princes to reduce the power of their nobles; and during several reigns, most of the leading actions had a reference to this end. In other states, the rising power of the commons, influenced for a tract of time the course and connexion of public affairs. Among the Romans, the leading principle was a gradual extension of conquest, and the attainment of universal empire. The continual increase of their power, advancing towards this end from small beginnings, and by a sort of regular progressive plan, furnished to Livy a happy subject for historical unity, in the midst of a great variety of transactions.

Of all the ancient general historians, the one who had the most exact idea of this quality of historical composition, though, in other respects, not an elegant writer, is Polybius. This appears from the account he gives of his own plan in the beginning of his third book; observing that the subject of which he had undertaken to write, is, throughout the whole of it, one action, one great spectacle; how, and by what causes, all the parts of the habitable world became subject to the Roman Empire. "This action," says he, " is distinct in its beginning, determined in its duration, and clear in its final accomplishment; therefore, I think it of use, to give a general view beforehand, of the chief constituent parts which makes up this whole." In another place, he congratulates himself on his good fortune, in having a subject for history, which allowed such variety of parts to be united under one view; remarking, that before this period, the affairs of the world were scat tered, and without connexion; whereas, in the times of which he writes, all the great transactions of the world tended and verged to one point, and were capable of being considered as parts of one system. Whereupon he adds several very judicious observations, concerning the usefulness of writing history VOL. II.


upon such a comprehensive, and connected plan; comparing the imperfect degree of knowledge, which is afforded by particular facts without general views, to the imperfect idea which one would entertain of an animal, who had beheld its separate parts only, without having ever seen its entire form and structure.*

Such as write the history of some particular great transaction, as confine themselves to one æra, or one portion of the history of a nation, have so great advantages for preserving historical unity, that they are inexcusable if they fail in it. Sallust's Histories of the Catilinarian and Jugurthine wars, Xenophon's Cyropedia, and his Retreat of the Ten Thousand, are instances of particular histories, where the unity of historical object is perfectly well maintained. Thucydides, otherwise a writer of great strength and dignity, has failed much, in this article, in his history of the Peloponnesian war. No one great object is properly pursued, and kept in view; but his narration is cut down into small pieces; his history is divided by summers and winters; and we are every now and then leaving transactions unfinished, and are hurried from place to place, from Athens to Sicily, from thence to Peloponnesus, to Corcyra, to Mitylene, that we may be told of what is going on in all these places. We have a great many disjointed parts and scattered limbs, which with difficulty we collect into one body; and through this faulty distribution and management of his subject, that judicious historian becomes more tiresome, and less agreeable than he would otherwise be. For these reasons

* Καθολε μὲν γαρ ἔμοιγε δοκουσιν οι πεπεισμένοι διὰ της κατα μέρος ιςοριάς μετρίως συνοψέσθαι τὰ ὁλὰ, παραπλήσιον· τι πάσχειν, ὃς ἂν ἔι τινοῦ ἐμψυχου και καλοῦ σώματος γεγονοτος διερρέμενα του μερη θεώμενοι, νομίζοιεν ἱκανῶς ἀντοπται γίνεσθαι της ενεργείας αυτοῦ του ζώου και καλλονης. ἐι γάρ τις αυτίκα μαλα συνθείς και τέλειον αυθις ἀπεργασαμενος τον ζῶον, τῷ τε ἔδει δε τῆ τῆς ψυχης ευπρέπεια κάπειτα παλιν ἐπδεινύει τοῖς ἀυτοίς ἐκείνοις, ταχέως ἂν οἶμαι πάντας αυτούς ὁμολογήσειν διό τι καί λίαν πολύτις τῆς ἀληθείας ἀπελείποντο προσθέν καὶ παραπλήσιον τοῖς ὀνειρώττουσιν ἥσαν. ἔννοιαν μὲν γὰρ λαβειν απο μερους τῶν ὅλων δυνατον. ἐπιςήμην δὲ καὶ γνώμην ἀτρεκῆ ἔχειν ἀδύνατον. διο παντελῶς βραχύλι νομιςεον συμβάλλεσθαν τὴν κατὰ μέρος ιςορίαν· προς τήν τῶν ὅλων ἐμπειρίαν και πίςιν. ἐκ μέν τοιγε της απαντων προς άλληλα συμπλοκῆς και παραθέσεως. επιδ' όμοιοτητος και διαφορᾶς μονως ἅ τις ἐφίκοιτο δε δυνηθείν κατοπτευσας, ἅμα καὶ τὸν χρήσιμον καί τον τερπνόν, εκ της εφορίας λαβεῖν. POLYB. Histor. Prim,

he is severely censured by one of the best critics of antiquity, Dionysius of Halicarnassus.*

The historian must not indeed neglect chronological order, with a view to render his narration agreeable. He must give a distinct account of the dates, and of the coincidence of facts. But he is not under the necessity of breaking off always in the middle of transactions, in order to inform us of what was happening elsewhere at the same time. He discovers no art, if he cannot form some connexion among the affairs which he relates, so as to introduce them in a proper train. He will soon tire the reader, if he goes on recording, in strict chronological order, a multitude of separate transactions, connected by nothing else, but their happening at the same time.

Though the history of Herodotus be of greater compass than that of Thucydides, and comprehend a much greater variety of dissimilar parts, he has been more fortunate in joining them together; and digesting them into order. Hence he is a more

* The censure which Dionysius passes upon Thucydides, is, in several articles, carried too far. He blames him for the choice of his subject, as not sufficiently splendid and agreeable, and as abounding too much in crimes and melancholy events, on which he observes that Thucydides loves to dwell. He is partial to Herodotus, whom, both for the choice and the conduct of his subject, he prefers to the other Historian. It is true, that the subject of Thucydides wants the gaiety and splendour of that of Herodotus; but it is not deficient in dignity. The Peloponnesian war was the contest between two great rival powers, the Athenian and Lacedemonian states, for the empire of Greece. Herodotus loves to dwell on prosperous incidents, and retains somewhat of the amusing manner of the ancient poetical historians, but Herodotus wrote to the imagination. Thucydides writes to the understanding. He was a grave reflecting man, well acquainted with human life; and the melancholy events and catastrophes which he records, are often both the most interesting parts of history, and the most improving to the heart.

The critic's observations on the faulty distribution which Thucydides makes of his subject are better founded, and his preference of Herodotus, in this respect, is not unjust.—Θουκυδίδης μεν τοις χρόνοις ἀκολουθων, Ηρόδοτος δε ταις περιόδαις των πραγμάτων, γιγνεται Θουκυδίδης ασαφης και δυσπαρακολουθητος. πολλων γαρ κατα το αυτο θέρος και χειμωνα. γιγνομένων εν διάφοραις τόποις, ημιτελείς τας προταςπράξεις κατα λίπων, ετέρων απτεται των κατα το αυτοθερος και χειμωνα γιγνομε των πλανώμεθα δη καθαπερ είκος, και δύσκολως τοις δηλουμένους παρακολουθούμεν. Συμβεβηκε Θουκυδίδη μιαν υπόθεσιν λαβοντα πολλα ποιησαι μέρη το εν σωμα. Ηροδότω δε τας πολλας και ουδέν εισκυίας ὑποθεσια προειλομένως συμφωνον εν σωμα πεποιηκεναι. With regard to style, Dionysius gives Thucydides the just praise of energy and brevity; but censures him, on many occasions, not without reason, for harsh and obscure expression, deficient in smoothness and case.

pleasing writer, and gives a stronger impression of his subject; though in judgment and accuracy, much inferior to Thucydides. With digressions and episodes he abounds; but when these have any connexion with the main subject, and are inserted professedly as episodes, the unity of the whole is less violated by them, than by a broken and scattered narration of the principal story. Among the moderns, the President Thuanus has, by attempting to make the history of his own times too comprehensive fallen into the same error, of loading the reader with a great variety of unconnected facts, going on together in different parts of the world: an historian otherwise of great probity, candour, and excellent understanding; but through this want of unity, more tedious, and less interesting than he would otherwise have been.




AFTER making some observations on the controver

which has been often carried on concerning the comparasy tive merit of the ancients and the moderns, I entered, in the last Lecture, on the consideration of historical writing. The general idea of history is, a record of truth for the instruction of mankind. Hence arise the primary qualities required in a good historian, impartiality, fidelity, gravity, and dignity. What I principally considered, was the unity which belongs to this sort of composition; the nature of which I have endeavoured to explain.

I proceed next to observe, that in order to fulfil the end of history, the Author must study to trace to their springs the actions and events which he records. Two things are especially necessary for his doing this successfully; a thorough acquaintance with human nature, and political knowledge, or acquaintance with government. The former is necessary to account for the conduct of individuals, and to give just views of their character; the latter, to account for the revolutions of government, and the operation of political causes on public affairs. Both must concur, in order to form a compleat instructive historian.

With regard the latter article, political knowledge, the ancient writers wanted some advantages which the moderns en joy; from whom, upon that account, we have a title to expect more accurate and precise information. The world, as I formerly hinted, was more shut up in ancient times, than it is now; there was then less communication among neighbouring states, and by consequence, less knowledge of one another's affairs; no intercourse by established posts, or by ambassadors resident

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