William Shepherd.

Systematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) online

. (page 22 of 44)
Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdSystematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 44)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ralize ideas, which is too often mistaken for genuine philoso-
phy. He must carefully guard himself against this error,
which causes so many investigators of past transactions, to
overlook circumstances which controvert their respective theo-
ries, and induce them to undervalue and suppress such facts,
as appear to be in any point of apprehended importance in-
consistent with their preconceived conceptions. He must
eradicate from his mind those visionary notions, which have
led some writers to behold in the midst of that historical dark-
ness when nothing is distinctly visible, the perfect form of a
free constitution.-^- Nor will he be actuated by the views
which have induced others to dwell with satisfaction upoa
those incidents alone, in the annals of their forefathers which

* ^< Quis nescit pritnam esse historise legem, ne quid falsi dicere audeat^
ne quid veri noii aiideat, oe qua suspicio gratiae sit jii scribendo, ne qua
simultatis." Cicero de Oratore, Lib. II. C. 13.

f " Disciple jnsqu'alors de Testimable auteur des Observations sur
I'Histoire de France, j'etois persuade que la Nation, libre sous la premier
race et sous les premiers successeurs de Pepiu, n'^toit tomb^e dans la
servitude que par la foibless&des derniers descendans de Charlemagne. Je
me representois un peuple heureux, ne dependant sous un monarque que
des loix qu'il se donnoit hiini^me, et que le souverain confirmait. Je
savois que le vertueux abb6 de.Mably 6toit incapable de vouloir troniper sea
lecteurs, et je ne soup(;onnois pas qn'il eilt it^ tromp6 lui-mfeme par le
d^sir de voir la liberty dans des temps ou les t^nebres de I'liistoire per-
mettent a peine de rien voir distiuctement. J'etois seulement 6tonn6 de ne
pouvoir compreudre comment, en moins d'un demi-siecle, un peuple libre
et 16gislateur 6toit tomb6 dans les fers, sans que I'liistoire, a cette ^poque,
nous ait conserve le souvenir d'aucune revolution violente. J'entrepris de
jire nos yicilles formules et nosancicns capitulaires, non poury chercber dea
armes contre I'opinion de I'abb^ de Mably, qui ^toit devenue la mienne,
mais pour trouver de nouveaux appuis & cette opinion. Quelle f6t ma
surprise de ne voir dans ces siecles ou il a plac6 le trdne de la libert6 qu'un
peuple serf comme celui de la Russie, de la Livonie, de la Pologne ; ua
peuple qu'on vendoit avec la terre qu'il rendoit feconde; ^le ne voir
d'hommes libres que la foible population des conqu^rans et un petit nombre
de Gaulois admis a I'hommage du Souverain," &c. See the Preface to
M. Levesque's Histoire de France sous les Cinq Preoiiers Valois.


afford the plausible plea of precedent for the exercise of arbi-
trary power.*

The foregoing enumeration of the qualities of an Historian,
may serve as a guide to those who enter upon historical inqui-
ries, without a view of submitting the result of their investiga-
tions to the scrutiny of the public eye. In every department
of knowledge, and in every circumstance of life, truth should
be the object of the inquirer and truth is to be found only
by diligent research, and by an unprejudiced exercise of the
reasoning powers which have been communicated to man, by
his all-wise Creator. The author and the reader of History,
ought to be directed by similar rules, in the same manner
as an enlightened spectator judges of the merit of a specimen
of art, by the principles which guide the hand of the skilful

In a regular course of historical studies, our attention is in
the first place directed to Ancient History. Though the im-
portance of this Branch of enquiry was, perhaps, in the age of
pedantry too much magnified, it has of late, by some authors
of no mean repute, been too much decried. The destiny of
mighty states and empires, is surely in itself a legitimate sub-
ject of attentive examination. At whatever period of the
world these states and empires may have existed, the tracing
of the causes of their rise and of their decline, cannot fail to
impart lessons of wholesome instruction ; and as the natural
constitution of man is the same in all ages, a due considera-
tion of the events and characters of elder times, will tend to
correct false estimates of things, and to establish moral and
political principles, upon the solid basis of experience. The
minute inquirer into the events of Ancient History will find,
that they have a much more direct analogy to the transactions
of modern times, than is generally imagined. To this, it may
be added, that classical literature is so strictly connected with
historical investigation, that whilst the original writers of

* This fault is, ia some degree, chargeable to Haine's History of Englajid.


Greece and Rome, retain the degree of importance which
they at present hold in the education of an English gentle-
man, Ancient History will claim, and will usefully occupy, a
reasonable portion of his time and attention.

As it is supposed, that the student of History enters upon
this enquiry at an early period of life, it follows as a necessary
consequence, that he ought to be directed to the perusal of
such authors as are easy of comprehension, and at once clear
and succinct in their style, and in the disposition and arrange-
ment of their matter. In pursuing his historical studies, he
will find it expedient to trace back the course which has been
delineated, of the progress of historical composition. In this
course general histories and compendiums, are the last in or-
der. But these are the first books, to which the historical
student will be referred ; and in proportion as his knowledge
increases and his judgment ripens, be will be encouraged to
apply himself to the examination of the older chronicles and
original documents, and to the discussion of disputed points in
History. It has been well observed by Dr. Priestley, in his
Lectures on History, that this method of beginning by com-
pendiums, " is like sketching an entire outline, before any
part of a picture is finished ; and learning the grand divisions
of the earth, before the geography of particular countries."
The advantages of this method are indeed sufficiently obvious.
It at once directs the attention of the youthful mind to those
grand and striking events in the annals of states and empires;
which have produced the most important effects in their re-
spective destinies. It distinctly shows the bearing upon each
other, of transactions which took place in successive epochs ;
and points out the reciprocal influence of the conduct of diffe-
rent countries upon their mutual welfare. For a judicious
compendium follows the " summa Jastigia rerum." It dwells
upon circumstances pf primary importance, the conspicuous
results of a multiplicity of minute operations. It avoids debat-
able points, or states in a short compass the decision which
is the result of laborious investigation ; and thus bringing to


View nothing but what is in a manner palpable and plain, it
is well calculated to arrest the attention^ and to impress the
memory of the youthful student.

A variety of general epitomes, embracing of course an
abridgment of Ancient History, have betii written in the La-
tin tongue. Of these the most celebrated are Tursellin's and
L-e Clerc's. The former was long made use of, as a text
book in foreign universities. The custom, now almost univer-
sally adopted, of giving lectures in the vernacular tongue of
the respective countries of Europe, lias diminished the popu-
larity of these Latin compends. Nevertheless, the two orks
above mentioned, together with Sleidan's " Intiodiictio ad
Historiam" or a brief account of the Babylonian, the Per-
sian, the Macedonian, and the Roman Monarchies, are by no
means undeserving of perusal.

Bossuet's Discours sur I'Histoire Universelle, which, as it
was brought down only to the time of Charlemagne, may be
considered, as in the main, an epitome of Ancient History ; at
its first appearance it attained a reputation, hardly warranted by
its merits. It is indeed a very elegant, and even an eloquent
performance. But the miud of its author was, unfortunately,
not a little tainted with bigotry. Hence he too frequently re-
strains the excursions of inquiry, and is at the same tmie, un-
charitable and credulous. To which may be added, that in
presenting a chronological series of events, without their de-
tails, he frequently becomes dry and uninteresting.

The most complete, and at the same time, the most inte-
resting compendium of Ancient History is that of Kollin.
This work is compiled with scrupulous fidelity, from the best
Greek and Latin historical writers. In style it is fluent and.
elegant ; and it evinces in its narrative and in its reflections,
the pious and upright views of its author. In consequence of
the judicious interposition of detailed anecdotes of llie princi-
pal characters of antiquity, it produces a kind of dramatic ef-
fect, which is well calculated to awaken curiosity, and to im-
plant good pruiciples in the juvenile mind. M. Rollin has


not perhaps been sufFiciently attentive to discriminate between
the marvellous and the probable, in hi.s recital of events but
as a genuine and entertaining abstract of the representations,
made by the original historians of antiquity, his work has not
hitherto been excelled.

The ancient History of the Abb6 Millot, which constitutes
the first part of his Histoire Gcrierale, is more brief than that
of Mons. RoUin. It is also composed with a more acute
spirit of criticism. Its arrangement is judicious, and its dic-
tion is compact and terse. In pursuance of the principles
laid down in his preface, the learned author seizes those to-
pics of historic^ developement, which present the- greatest
portion of utility. He gives a bold, but faithful sketch of
events and characters, and enriches his pag^s with such an ad-
mixture of philosophical observations, as may, without disgust-
ing the reader, who is eager in the pursuit of incident, con-
duce to the formation of an early habit of reflection.

The historical works, both of Rotlin and of Millot, may be
read by the youthful student with improvement and pleasure.

If leisure is wanting, for so extended a course of the ele-
ments of Ancient History, the latter is, upon the whole, to be
preferred to the former.

Wiih regard to Greek history, we have in the English lan-
guage, two works of considerable merit the Histories of
Gillies and of Mitford. These works stand paralleled nearly
in the same manner, as those of Rollin and Millot. The for-
mer is the more popular, the latter the more learned. The
former is fluent in style, the latter abrupt. By the perusal of
the one, the reader is more amused than instructed by the
study of the other, he is more instructed than amused.

Our language is also enriched by two works, which com-
prehend the general history of the Roman state, from the pe-
riod of its foundation to that of its extinction. Hooke's Ro-
man history, from its earliest periods to the settlement of the
empire under Octavius, is comprised in four volumes, quarto,
Hooke was a gentleman of considerable erudition, and was in-


timately acquainted with the original historians, from whom
he derived the materials of his own narrative. In the detail
of facts, he is copious, accurate, and precise ; and in stating
the balance of evidence, he generally displays considerable criti-
cal acumen. His prejudices against Dr. Middleton, who had
offended his feelings as a Roman Catholic, by his celebrated
Letter from Rome, have perhaps induced him to give a cer-
tain colouring to facts, relative to the conduct of Cicero,* but
on the whole, he is candid and impartial. If his style is not
remarkable for its brilliancy, it is even in its tenor, clear and
perspicuous. In consequence of its prolixity, his work is not
known in proportion to its merits. But it may be safely re-
commended, as containing a rich repository of facts, collected
with industry, and arranged with judgment.

A most important series of events, supplying the principal
links of the chain which connects ancient and modern history,
is presented to the view of the student in Gibbon's history of
the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The merits
of this celebrated work, it is difficult to appreciate. It re-
quires no common degree of scholarship, to be duly aware of
the immense mass of materials, which, in the course of its
composition, its author was obliged to study and to arrange.
The minuteness of his references, is a circumstance deserving
high commendation. His patience and the sagacity of his
judgment in the investigation of facts, insure him immortal
honour. His language is elevated and dignified ; but his
desire to vary his phrases, and to say common things in an
uncommon way, frequently betrays him into affectation. The
unremitting pomp of his periods becomes fatiguing to the
ear ; and in the midst of luxuriancy of diction his reader
often sighs for the simplicity of Addison.f These remarks on

On this account the student will do well to check, as it were, this por-
tion of Mr. Hooke's narrative by the perusal of Middleton's Life of Cicero,
a work of great labour, and, though the accuracy of some of Dr. M.'s occa-
sional translations from Cicero's writings, has been questioned by the criti-
cal delicacy of Uie late Mr. Fox a work of high authority.

t For a brief, but masterly criticism, on Mr. Gibbon's style, the reader may


the style of Gibbon are, it is presumed, properly] introduced
into a sketch of a course of study designed for the guidance of
youth. " Dicipit exemplar vitris imitahile" and the gor-
geous apparatus of ambitious ornament, is too apt to dazzle
and mislead the juvenile scholar. At a very early period of
his life, Gibbon gave indications of an active and inquisitive
mind. He had scarcely assumed the toga virilis, when he
began to study polemic divinity ; and was soon bewildered in
the mazes of the controversy between the Roman catholic and
the Protestant churches. In consequence of his abjuring the
Protestant faith, he was sent by his father to Switzerland,
where he pursued his studies under the direction of a clergy-
man of Lausanne. Extremes often meet ; and by a transition
by no means unprecedented, he soon bounded over the limits
that separate Popery and Infidelity. Nor were his new
principles inactive. In his history of the ** Decline and Fall,**
whilst he professes the utmost plenitude of belief, he aims
an artful thrust at the system of Christianity, by attempting to
account for its progress merely from the influence of natural
causes, independently of its truth and divine original ; and by
covertly endeavouring to discredit the evidence of the miracu-
lous powers delegated to the apostles. By the disingenuous
manner in which he has insinuated his animadversions upon the
Christian religion, he has deservedly incurred a serious impeach-
ment of his character.* Had he openly attacked the evidence of
the Christian faith, the great body of his readers would have been

be referred to the Preftice to the late Professor Porson's Letters to Arch-
deacon Travis, on the severity of which the historian, in the Memoirs of his
Life, remarks with exemplary good Immonr-^" the sweetness of his praise
is tempered by a reasonable mixture of acid."

The integrity of Mr. Gibbon's principles on the subject of religion,
may be duly appreciated by the perusal of the following extract from his
private Memoirs. " Had I believed that the majority of English readers,
were so fondly attached even to tlie name and shadow of Christianity; had
I foreseen that the pious, the timid and the prudent would feel, or affect to
feel, with such exquisite sensibility, I might perhaps have softened the two
invidious chapters, which would create many enemies and cmcUiate few


aware of the necessity of weighing his arguments, and deciding
on their intrinsic worth. But in his celebrated xvlh and xvith
chapters of the Decline and Fall, he has so skilfully inter-
mixed correct statements of facta with conclusions, or rather
hints of conclusions, which are generally esteemed unwarrant-
able and mischievous, that it will be proper for every one
who peruses his work, to read some of the answers that
have been written to that portion of it, which is most strongly
tinctured with Infidelity. Of these answers the ablest is that
of Bishop Watson. Some very judicious remarks on this sub-
ject will also be found in the first part of the general conclu-
sion of Priestley's " History of the Corruptions of Christianity."

After allowing for every deduction, however, Mr. Gibbon's
History must be acknowledged to be one of the most correct
and elaborate works, which grace the annals of English litera-
ture. It commences with a view of the policy which swayed
the Roman cabinet in the time of Augustus. Rapidly passing
onto theage of the Antonines A. D. 180, it then begins to
assume the form of a history in detail, which is brought down
to the period of the total extinction of the Roman Empire in
the West ; and is afterwards continued to the taking of Con-
stantinople by the Turks, A. D. 1453, and concludes at the
establishment of the Papal power in. the city of Rome and
the adjacent territory.

Whilst the generality of readers are obliged to content them-
selves with Epitomes of Ancient History, or with works
which have been compiled from the most authentic writers of
antiquity, tlie student who is so fortunately circumstanced as
to enjoy a greater portion of leisure, will not limit himself to
these means of information ; but will apply himself to the ori-
ginal depositories of facts. In order to do this with the
greatest prospect of advantage, he will find it expedient to
pursue in his reading the regular order of time ; for which
purpose he may take as his guide, the following sketch of a
course of Ancient History as abridged from Wheare's X<ec-
tures on History published by Bohun.


In this sketch of a course of History, it is taken for granted
that, according to ancient and laudable custom, the pupil is at
an early age initiated in a knowledge of the historical books
of the Old Testament. Independently of their value in a re-
ligitHis point of view, the Jewish Scriptures deservedly claim
the attention of the enquirer into the early state of the world.
It has been well observed by a very competent judge, that
** the truth of the history contained in the Hebrew Scriptures
has never been invalidated by any monument of antiquity, that
can stand the test of sober investigation." #-'

He will then commence with Herodotus, the earliest his-
torian extant next to the authors of the historical books of the
Old Testament, and whose works include the history of the
Lydiaiis, lonians, Lycians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and
Macedonians, from the year 7 1 3, to the year 479 before the birth
of Christ. By way of illustration of various circumstances re-
lated by Herodotus, it will be advisable for him to peruse the
first, second, third and seventh books of Justin, and the seventh
book of Xenophon's Cyropoedia.

In reading Herodotus, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish
truth, from fable. But fable is rejected from the valuable
work of the philosophic Thucydides, whose introductory sum-
mary of the History of Greece, takes up the thread of nar-
ration where it was dropped by Herodotus ; and who continues
the Grecian annals to the twenty-first year of the Peloponne-
sian war. Additional light will be thrown upon this period,
by the perusal of the eleventh and twelfth books of Diodorus
Siculus the fourth and fifth books of Justin, and the first
book of Orosius.

The first and second books of Xenophon's History of ^
Greece, complete the account of the Peloponnesian war,
which was left imperfect by Thucydides. After these the
student will read with no less pleasure than profit Xenophon's
interesting story of the Expedition of Cyrus, and the retreat
of the ten thousand. He will then resume the same elegant
author's History of Greece, which brings down the annals of


the Greeks and Persians to the battle of Mantinea, B. C. 3G3.
The fourth and fiftli books of Justin treat of the same events;
as also the fourteenth and part of the fifteenth books of Diodorus
Siculus, the continuation of whose work contains the history of
Greece and Persia down to tlie commencement of the reign of
Alexander the Great.

The history of Alexander has been written by Arrian,
Quintus Curtius and Plutarch. After these authors may be
read the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth books of Diodorus
Siculus, which, together with the thirteenth, fourteenth and fif-
teenth books of Justin, contain the History of Greece from
the year 323 before Christ to the year 30 1 .

At this period, the course of historical narration may be
traced from the sixteenth to the thirtieth books of Justin, and
all that follow, till the two last, which complete the history of
Greece till it mingles with that of Rome.

The early annals of Rome, ar illustrated by Dionysius of
Halicarnassus, the fragment of whose history which has been
saved from the wreck of time, extends to the dissolution of
the Decemvirate in the year 341 before Christ.

To this period also extend the three first books of Livy,
whose tenth book brings the history of Rome to the year
292 before the Christian aera.

The work of Livy has unfortunately come to the hands of
the modems in a very mutilated and imperfect state. A
chasm occurs between the tenth and twentieth books which
may, however be, in some measure, filled up by the perusal of
the first and second books of Polybius the SEventeentli, eigh-
teenth, twenty-second and twenty-third books of Justin, and
fourteen chapters of the fourth book of Orosius the second
tome of the annals of Zonaras, and Appian's Punic and
Illyrian Wars. After Appian, may be read the remainder of
Livy, from the twenty-first book to the end, which brings
the Roman history to the year before Christ I66, and the
Epitome of Floras, which carries it down nearly to the ter-
mination of the reign of Augustus.


The war of Jugurtha, and the conspiracy of Catiline, which
happened respectively, 100, and 62, years before Christ,
have been narrated with energetic conciseness by Sallust.

Many of the varied transactions, in which Julius Csesar was
engaged, are best illustrated by his celebrated commentaries,
and the supplement to that work, compiled by Hirtius and
others. The secret history of this important period will
be most clearly understood, from the perusal of Cicero's
Epistles ; and great light will be thrown upon the whole of
this extensive course of ancient history, by occasional references
to the lives of illustrious Greeks and Romans, as recorded
by Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos. The fragments of the
history of Dio Cassius, which have survived the wreck of
time, contain a detail, but not a very interesting one, of the
events that took place between the period when Lucullus
flourished, and the death of the Emperor Claudius. In com-
bination with Dio Cassius, may be read with advantage the
elegant Compendium of Velleius Paterculus.

The lives of the twelve Caesars, written by Suetonius, will
prepare the way for the study of the works of Tacitus, who
may justly be denominated the chief of philosophical histo-^
rians. On the times of servility, which succeeded the period
in which he lived, a dim light is shed by the works of Aure-
lius Victor, Herodian, the six compilers, who are commonly
known by the name of the Scriptores Romani, Eutropius,
Zosimus, Zonarus, Jomandes, Ammianus Marcellinus, Pro-
copius, Aguthias, Nicetas Acomiatus, Nicephorus Gregorus,
and Joannes Cantacuzenus, which may be read in the order
in which they are here detailed.

Procopius, Zonarus, &c. are distinguished by the appella-
tion of the Byzantine historians ; and their works relate the his-
tory of the Greek, or Eastern Empire, to the period of its de-
struction by the Turks. A collection of these writers, was,
at various intervals of time, published in thirty-six magnificent
volumes in folio, from the Louvre press. They were like-
wise reprinted at Venice, in the year 1729.



Modern History Voltaire's Essai sar les Moenrs, &c. Hist. Modeme par
Millet Russell's Modem Earope Gibbon Gaillard's Histoire de Charle-
magne Berington's Lives of Abeillard, &c. Abb^ Sad^'s M^moires de

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdSystematic education: or Elementary instruction in the various departments of literature and science; with practical rules for studying each branch of useful knowledge (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 44)