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 23 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 23 of 44)
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Petrarque Shepherd's Life of Poggio L' Enfant Roscoc's Lorenzo
and Leo X. RoTiertson's Charles V. and History of America Watson's
Pliilip II. and IIL Harte's Life of Gustavos Adolplins Schiller's His-
tory of the thirty years' war Voltaire's Louis XIV. Sketch of Eng-
lish History ; Rapin Hume Macaulay Henry Andrews Robert-
sonWarrington Original writers General History of England
Bishop Burnet's History of the Reformation Neal's History of the Pu-
ritans M'Crie's Life of Knox.

A GOOD general epitome of Modem History, adapted to
the use of young students, was a work long wanting to the
republic of letters. The Modern Universal History is too vo-
luminous, and its various portions are executed with very un-
equal degrees of merit. Voltaire's Essai sur les Maurs et
VEsprit (les Nations, is, as indeed its title imports, rather a
commentary upon facts, the knowledge of which is pre-sup-
posed, than a detail of the facts themselves. The Histoire Mo-
deme of the Abbe Millot is judicious as far as it goes ; but
though it is sufficiently accurate and impartial; it is too much


compressed for the extent and importance of the topics %vhich
it embraces. A more valuable compendium will be found in
Russell's History of Modern Europe. This publication has,
indeed, a high claim to notice. It is divided into two parts,
the first embracing the period frofn the rise of modern king-
doms, to the peace of Westphalia in 1648 ; and the second
comprehending the events which influenced the fate of Europe,
from the peace of Westphalia to the peace of Paris in 1763,
Tliis is the grand outline of Mr. Russell's work. The subdi-
vision is ingeniously effected by a series of letters, in which,
with great labour and considerable sagacity, the principal
transactions of the leading European States are concatenated
with as rigid an adherence to chronological order, as was con-
sistent with the mixed and fluctuating interests of these States.
A third part, bringing the history down from the peace of
Paris to the treaty of Amiens, in 1802, has been supplied by
Dr. Coote, who has strictly adhered to the plan, and in a
great degree imbibed the liberal spirit of his accomplished

As a repository of facts, methodically arranged, and dili-
gently authenticated, Mr. Russell's history is a work of consU
derabie utility ; but to recommend it merely as the work of a
faithful, or even of an elegant compiler, would be to deprive
its author of the praise to which he is eminently entitled, for
the admirable manner in which he has executed the higher
offices of the historian. The settlement and changes, as well
as the connexion and dependance of the different nations of
Europe, are traced and illustrated by him, in a way which
must make them familiar to almost the humblest capacity,
and this very interesting part of the work has been mainly ex-
ecuted, not only by the limitation of the history to admitted
facts ; but from the additional light thrown back upon these
facts, by the clear exposition which Mr. Russell has given of
the consequences which resulted from them. By an adherence
to this connexion, the true light and harmony of history are
preserved. But such advantages, however striking; are not

VOL, I. r


the only ones which serve to recommend this admired work.
It occurred to tlie penetrating mind of Mr. Russell, that many
events derived an air of importance merely from the period at
which they occurred, or the personages, who happened to be
engaged in them. Such events he has wisely passed over, in
order to make room for those of a more permanent interest ;
and thus, without any real sacrifice, the labours of the student
have been materially abridged, and what is of still more im-
portance, his progress towards a thorough knowledge of his-
tory has been freed from those frequent interruptions, which
usually embarrass the efforts of an ordinary mind.

This work is also enriched and illustrated by the substance of
those various treaties, by which the destinies of the different nations
of Europe have been so powerfully influenced. The progress of
society, from the rise of modern kingdoms down to the present
time, exhibiting the manners of the people in their rudest
state and in their highest polish, is given at stated intervals, and
with much ability and research. The advances made in taste
and science, and the influence of religion in the usurpations of
the ecclesiastical, at the expense of the civil power, are all
developed in the period to which they belong, and as connect*
ed with the progress of war, politics, and legislation, exhibit
in clear and prominent characters the intellectual and moral
improvement, or rather the moral and intellectual changes of

The style of this work is at once familiar and elegant, and
the reflections with which it abounds, are invariably nmde
subservient to the sacred principle of public and private jus-
tice. The moral pre-eminence, and the political superiority
of England, are strictly connected with the pure administration
of her laws, and the correct exertion of her power ; and it b
no small recommendation of this History of Modem Europe,
that it is evidently the chief object of its autlior, to inspire his
youthful reader with a constitutional dependance upon the
laws and institutions of his country, and upon them alone.

Modem History opens to the philosopher and the politician


a spacious field of inquiry. It is a most copious subject of
study, the full and minute investigation of which, would oc-
cupy the whole of that time, which those who are the most
fortunately circumstanced, are enabled to dedicate to learned
leisure. It is, therefore, obviously impossible, in the narrow
limits necessarily assigned to this essay, to enumerate even the
principal works on this subject, which demand the attention
of the historical student. It is hoped, however, that the fol-
lowing series of modern historical reading will be found amply
to reward the diligence of those who may be disposed to
enter upon the prosecution of it. ,

It being presumed that the great outlines of the events of
modem history are distinctly impressed upon the mind by the
diligent perusal of Russell's, or of some other compendium, it
may be observed that the origin of the barbarous tribes, whose
chiefs, at different periods making themselves masters of the
various subdivisions of the Roman Empire, laid the founda-
tions of the modern kingdoms of Europe, is minutely traced
by Gibbon in the latter volumes of his Decline and Fall, and
that so extensive is the range of this work, that it furnishes
almost a complete history of Europe and Asia, to the com-
mencement of the sixteenth century.

Much valuable information, relative to one of the most im-
portant of the early periods of modern history, is to be derived
from the elegant Histoire de Charlemagne^ published by
Mons. Gaillard, in the year 1782, in four volumes, 12mo.

The general state of Europe in the eleventh century, is de-
scribed in an animated manner by Berington, in the second edi-
tion of his History of the Lives of Abeillard and Heloisa. This
book is, indeed, highly creditable to its author. It is com-
posed from authentic materials, and conveys a very accurate
idea of the characters of which it treats. Though Mr. Bering-
ton may be deemed too partial in ascribing the ambitious
aims of Pope Gregory, to his ardent desire to effect a reform-
ation in the manners of the age in which he lived, the remarks

T 2

276 HrSTORY.

which he makes in other parts of his volume on the futility of
the temporal claims of the pontifical see, evince, that, with
whatever partiality he may regard the proceedings of that pon-
tiff, it is a partiality to the man rather than to 1ms digni^.
His passing insinuations against the Protestants may be for-
given as a sacrifice necessary to deprecate the wrath likely to
be excited in the bigoltedly orthodox among the Roman
Catholics, by the general strain of liberality which pervades
this work.

The Abbe Sadc's Memoir e& sur la Vie da Francois Pe-
trargue, in three vols. 4to., is a work of extraordinary re-
search ; and the very circumstance which constitutes its chief
fault as a biographical composition, renders it the more in-
teresting and useful to the student of general history. Its au-
thor frequently, and indeed systematically, indulges himself iu
details of circumstances, with which his hero has little or no
connexion ; and has thus contrived to interweave into the me-
moirs of an anchoret, a minute and elaborate account of the
events which took place in Italy, in France, and other parts
of Europe, during the greater part of the fourteenth century.
The style of the Abbe Sade, is too frequently flippant and
affected, and the loves of Petrarch are almost miiformly dull
and tiresome. But the rich fund of general information which
is contained in these volumes, will make ample amends for
the occasional tediousness which is apt to weary the patience
of their reader.

A succhict narration of general history is also to be found
in Shepherd's Life of Poggio Bracciolini, which work, in re-
lating the origin of that famous ecclesiastical feud, the schism
of the west, almost touches the period of Petrarch, and traces
the course of the principal occurrences which took place in
Italy and Europe in general, to somewhat beyond the middle
of the fifteenth century.

An impartial and elaborate accoimt of live progress, and
termination of the above-mentioned schism, and of the dis-


putes which took place between Pope Eugenius IV. and the
representatives of the church, and which for some years dis-
turbed the peace of Christendom, may be found in L'Enfaiit's
Histories of the Councils of Constance and of Basil.

During the decline, and after the fall of the Roman em-
pire, Europe was for a considerable period involved in the
gloom of ignorance and superstition. This gloom first began
to be dispelled in the time of Petrarch, by the study of the
ancient classic writers. In proportion as an acquaintance with
the works of these writers was disseminated, the human intel-
kct was expanded. Considerable advances were made in
knowledge at the commencement of the fifteenth century, be-
fore the termination of which, literature and the arts displayed
a blaze of glory, under the auspices of a Tuscan merchant,
Lorenzo de Medici, who became the founder of a family, the
rami^c^ions of which have, in process of time, been extendr
ed to the principal sovereignties of Europe.

The life of this illustrious patron of literature, by Mr,
Roscoe, was published in two volumes, 4to. in 1795. Few
works of modern times have acquired greater reputation than
this elegant piece of biography. Introducing his subjects by
a slight sketch of the life and character of Cosmo de Medici,
who was born A. D. 1389, Mr. Roscoe proceeds to narrate
the progress of Lorenzo's education, and traces his history
through the various vicissitudes of fortune, to the period of
his death, which toak place A. D. 1492. As Lorenzo's po-
litical connexions were very extensive, his history embraces
the principal occurrences which happened in the more civilized
portions of Europe during his life. 3ut Mi*. Roscoe is parti'^
cularly happy in the delineation of his hero, in the character
of an encourager of literature and the arts. The intimate
friendship which subsisted between Lorenzo and the most
eminent scholars of his time, gives occasion to the introduc-
tion of masterly criticisms on the labours of a variety of scho>#(
lars and artists of illustrious name. The purity of Mr. Ros-
COje's tjiste is evinced by the elegant sinaplicity of his style ;



and his occasional translations of the poetical pieces Nvith
which his work is interspersed, may be quoted as specimens
of highly finished versification.

The succeeding penod of general History is ably illustrated
by the same author in his Life of Leo X. When the subject
of a biographical memoir has acted a conspicuous part in
public life, his private history is so intermixed with the general
course of historical events, that a reference to the one is ab-
solutely necessary to the developement and explanation of the
other. Hence Mr. Roscoe was not only authorized, but in a
manner compelled, in the work in question, to enter at large
into the state of Italy and of Europe, which had so much
influence upon the fortune of Leo, and which was also in no
small degree modified by the actions of that pontiff. Even
when the power of the papal see had begun to decline, the
personal character of an individual pope had considerable
weight in political transactions ; and it is well known that
Leo X. in particular constantly interposed, and frequently with
decisive effect, in the contests which took place during his
pontificate, between the European powers. The causes and
the progress of these contests therefoie it was the duty of his
biographer to investigate; and this task Mr. Roscoe has
executed with a degree of diligence and impartiality which
entitles him to high encomium. In the life of Leo, as in the
life of his father Lorenzo, Mr. Roscoe has given a copious his-
tory of the progress of literature and the fine arts.

So extensive were the territories which feil by inheritance
to Charles V. of Spain, and to the dominion of which he was
called, by his election to the dignity of Emperor of Germany,
that his history occupies a vast space, in the general history of
Europe. In this subject the late Dr. Robertson found ample
scope for the display of his talents. His History of the Life
of the Emperor Charles V. is extended through four volumes ;
and comprehends a vast . variety of interesting transactions.
The first volume contains a view of the progress of society in
Europe, from the subversion of the Roman Empire, to the


beginning of the sixteenth century, embracing the several
heads of Government, Laws, and Manners Military esta-
blishments, and the political constitution of the principal states
in Europe, at the commencement of the sixteenth century.
By many critics this dissertation is regarded as the most valu-
able certainly it is the most elaborate part of Dr. Robertson's
work. It is illustrated and enriched by various notes, and by
numerous references to authentic documents. The history of
Charles V. comprehends the eventful period, which occur-
red between the years 1500 and 1559; and his biographer is
naturally led to relate the revolution by which the free con-
stitution of Spain was overturned the rivalship between
Charles and Francis I. king of France, on the subject of the
imperial crown the long and bloody wars which took place
between those monarchs, and which for a lengthened period
desolated the finest provinces of Italy and, lastly, the rise and
progress of the Reformation in Germany. A single glance at
these topics, will convince the historical student of the great
importance of this work, which is highly commendable as
evincing the candour of its author, his patience in research,
the luminousness of his arrangement, and the neatness and
perspicuity of his style.

Ih-. Robertson has also conferred a signal obligation on
those, who are interested in tracing the changes which take
place in human society and manners, by the account of the
grand revolution, which took place in the system of European
commerce, in consequence of the discoveries of Columbus,
de Gama, and other navigators, which is contained in his His-
tory of America. *

When Dr. Robertson dropped the thread of history, it was
taken up by Dr. Watson, Though it cannot be said that the
latter uthor follows his learned predecessor " passibus (BquiSf'\
yet he has performed his task with no common ability; and-
his history of the Reign of Philip II. King of Spain, occupies,
a distinguished rank in the extensive collections of English
literature. It has been observed that those portions of time


which have been adorned by virtues, present not any interestii^
materials for the htbours of the historian. l( the converse of
this proposition be true if history most strongly arrests the
attention when it is the register of enormous crimes, Dr.
Watson has been fortunate in the period which he has chosen
for the subject of historic iUustration. It is truly " atrox
prccliis, opimum casibusJ" A large portion of the globe de-
pended for its happiness or misery upon the character and
conduct of Philip II. His connexion with this country, in
consequence of his marriage with Mary, will interest the
[English reader in his destiny. His unrelenting bigotry against
the Protestants, breaking out into acts of cruelty and oippres->
sion, intermixes with his personal history that of the reformed
religion. The struggles of the inhabitants of the Netherlands
and the United Provinces, to throw off his detested yoke,
present a most awful and important crisis, and the reader is
gratified by the narrative of the rise of the Dutch republic,
whose constitution was cemented by the blood of its founders.

The History of Philip H. brings- the course of events dowq
to the year 1598.

The Life of Philip IH. begun by Dr. Watson, and after
his death finished by bis executor. Dr. Thompson, presents
us with an account of the fruitless efforts of the Spanish
monarch, to subdue the Northern Netherlands, now known
by the name of the United Provinces, and the establishment
of the independence of the Batavian republic. The ex-
pulsion of the Moors from Spain, and the account of their
manners and custom^, form an interesting subject of historic
narrative. It may be observed in general, that the political
alliances and the wars of Philip II. and Philip HI. involve
the interests of so many states, that their history displays the
general topics of the history of Europe, during ihe period of
the lives of those mouarchs, the latter of whom died in the
year 16-21.

Soon aftenthis period, the royal authority was established
m Fraoce,. on the ruios of the aristocracy, and of the party of


the Huguenots^ by the transcendent abilities of Cardinal Riche-
lieu. Jn consequence of this consolidation of domestic power,
the French monarchy attained to a very considerable degree of
influence in the transactions of Europe, and of course its
history begins to occupy a large portion of the attention of the
student. This history is narrated with his usual brilliancy and
spirit, by Voltaire in the 1 7^th and subsequent chapter of his
'' ssai snr les Moeurs et 1' Esprit des Nations" which may be
read with considerable profit, as well as with much amusement.

The origin and progress of the religious troubles which at
this epoch laid waste the provinces of Germany, are related
with more fidelity than elegance by Harte in his Life of
Gustavus Adolphus, A more popular narrative of these interes-
ting events is to be found in Schiller's history of the thirty
years' war.

Voltaire's Life of Louis XIV. will conduct the reader to
the period when, in consequence of the alliances formed by
the English nation, with various continental powers, the history
of the wt>rld is strictly connected with that of our native

It is indeed advisable' that during the whole course ofre^ding
as referring to Modern History, a steady eye should be directed
to the History of England. To this, as to a central point,
the historical enquiries of an English gentleman should habU
tually tend. " Nature" as Mr. Gibbon justly observes " has
implanted in our breasts a lively impulse to extend the narrow
span of our existence, by the knowledge of the events that
have happened on the soil which we inhabit, of the characters

In the foregoing detailed course of Modern History, such works have
been industriously selected, as may serve to exhibit besides the ordinary
transactions of states and chieftains, the progress of the human mind in
literature and the arts. Tliese topics are too often neglected by general
historians. TLey however claim tlie attention of him who would wish to
become well acquainted with our common fortune and the reader of
well discipline^ feelings will undoubtedly be pleased occasionally to retire
from the spectacle of fields of carnage, to the contemplation of the calm
^nd tranquil pursuits of the poet or the philosopher.


and actions of those men, from whom our descent as individual!
or as a people is probably derived.* The same laudable emu-
lation will prompt us to review and to enrich our common trea-
sure of national glory : and those who are best entitled to the
esteem of posterity are the most inclined to celebrate the
merits of their ancestors." It would be presumptuous to
endeavour to give any additional weight to the suffrage of a
writer so eminently well quaKfied to appreciate the rela-
tive value of the different departments of historical study. The
following sketch of a course of English History, is therefore
introduced without any farther preliminary remarks.

It is somewhat singular that the most elaborate, and
perhaps the most faithful general History of England should
have been composed by a foreigner, Rapin de Thoyras, a
French refugee, who was obliged to quit his native country, in
consequence of the revocation of the edict of Nantz. His
voluminous work is of great authority on account of his per-

If it be true, as has been frequently remarked, that nature is uniform
in beroperations, tlie foregoing observation of Mr. Gibbon is more oratorical
than strictly correct. According to the testimony of the Missionary Pro-
yart, there has existed at least one nation, Uie inhabitants of which enter'
tained no will to " extend the narrow span of their exiatence" by a re-
ference to tiie transactions. Speaking of the natives of Loango, the good
fkther says, " They arc endowed Avith a bappy memory-.' The missionaries
saw some, who, within a month, have repeatedGod's commandments, which
tliey had heard only once recited in a public place. Tliey make no use,
however, of this faculty, for transmitting to future ages what passes
among them that is memorable, assuming as a principle, that they should
coii6ne themselves to what is strictly necessary, as well for knowledge as
for the wants of life ; they all live, with regard to historyj in that indif-
ference which characterizes the inhabitants of our country places, who
know no more of what passed in France under Lewis the Great, than
under Julius Casar. If you ask them why tJicy do not preserve the remem-
brance of what has been done by Uieir fathers, they answer, that it sig-
nifies little to know how Uie dead have lived ; the main point is, that the
living sboald be honest people. According to tlie same principle, they
keep DO accouat of their age : it wouM be, say they, loading one s memory
with an useless reckoning, since it does not hinder us from dying, and gives
OS no insig^ into the term of one's lift." Proywrt's UUt. ^ Loarg^
Chap, viii.


petual references to original documents, and the ample quo-
tations which he frequently makes from important state-papers,
confer upon it additional value. He has so copiously detailed
the matters which were agitated in the turbulent, but prudent
parliaments of Charles I. as to give a clear view of the rise of
those parties which to this day divide the people of England.
On the dark and horrible transactions of the reign of Charles
II. he perhaps throws as much light as it is now possible to
obtain. In reference to this important period, he has stated
historical difficulties with candour, and in discussing the merits
and demerits of parties, he has weighed evidence with laudable
scrupulosity. It may however be discerned that the bias
of his affections inclines to the Whigs. But such is the au-
thenticity of his materials, and so impartial are the general
conduct and results of his investigations, that his history to this -
day deservedly maintains a considerable degree of popularity.

The continuation of Rapin's history, which bears the name
of Tindal, his translator, but which it is now understood was
in reality written by Dr. Birch, is copious to prolixity ; but it
gives a clear view of the intrigues of party, and of the par-
liamentary manoeuvres which have in modern times taken place,
of the violent and mortal contests of the barons of old.

Hume's History of England affords a singular instance of a
literary production at first unjustly depreciated, and afterwards
gradually winning its way to a station of high eminence m

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 23 of 44)