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

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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 24 of 44)
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general estimation. On the appearance of that portion of his
work which he first submitted to the public inspection, viz. the
history of the House of Stuart, Mr. Hume was assailed, as
he himself informs us " by an universal cry of reproach and

The leaders of the public opinion, were at that time
strenuous supporters of the Whig principles, which justified the
claim f King William HI. and consequently of the Hanover
family, to the throne of these realms, and they received witb.
indignation references to ancient authorities and coloured state-

i284 . . filSTORY.

ments of facts, which tended to controvert many of their
favourite maxims. At the same time Mr. Hume's sceptical
notions on the subject of rehgion, were well known to the
literary public ; and his reputation was attacked by an union of
orthodox zeal and political enthusiasm. His constitutional
apathy, however, prevented him from being discouraged; and
he proceeded by degrees to enlarge his plan, till his History
was completed in its present form, embracing the period from
the Invasion of Julius Caesar, to the Revolution in lOSS. In
process of time, this history has been generally acknowledged
to be a standard work ; and its merits are certainly very con-
siderable. In his selection of topics, its author is judicious
in his investigation of facts, he is in the main accurate and
precise in his delineations of character, he evinces a deep
insight into human nature. Calm and dispassionate con-
sideration and impartial enquiry have, it has been observed,
tended to confirm rather than to controvert those views of
tlie progress of the British constitution, which for ^ time
rendered him so unpopular as an historian. It is now generally
agreed that the liberties of Englishmen are not to be staked
4jpon precedent we may therefore read with patience even
an industriously ample record of the despotic maxims which
regulated the conduct of certain of our ancient monarchs;
and while improvements in our civil polity can be peaceably
effected by the regular fonns prescribed by the constitution,
we may listen without vexation to the minutest detail of the
tyranny of the Tudors. The chief defect of Mr. Hume is
however a want of that feeling of sympathy with the general
body of the community, which fosters in the mind of man the
generous principles of freedom. He views with little or no
indignation, the violence and cruelty of despotism ; and records
with frigid apathy the glorious struggles of the assertors of
liberty. He can bestow a sigh upon the sufferings of men
exalted in rank and endued with power ; but for plebeian sor-i
rows he has no pity.


The continuations of Hume's history by SmoUet and Bel-
>ham, are rather the essence of gazettes and party pamphlets
than specimens of genuine historical composition.

If any tory poison lurk in that portion of Hume's History,
which treats of the dynasty of the house of Stuart, the antidote
is to be found, in " The History of England, from the accession
of James I. to the elevation of the House of Hanover, by
Catherine Macaulay." This work exhibits the view in which
the most interesting period of English history is contemplated
by the stern spirit of a female republican. Mrs. Macaulay
had studied with fixed attention the voluminous writings in
which the principles of civil and religious polity were freely
discussed by the industrious scholars, who dignified the annals
of English literature during the reign of James, and of the
first and second Charles. From these writers, she has imbibed
those maxims, which, in the course of her history, she has
steadily maintained as the standard of political excellence
An inspection of her references, and an examination of the
curious and interesting notes, which she has appended to her
narrative, will afford ample proof, that in the investigation of
facts, she has had recourse to the most genuine sources of in-
formation. ^

When the student has, by the perusal of the works of
Rapin and Hume, obtained a clear notion of the general
course of events in the English History, he may read with ad-
vantage Henry's History, originally published in six volumes,
quarto. In this work, the several topics of historical informa-
tion, at certain defined periods, are discussed in separate chap-
ters. By this novel plan, the course of historical narrative is
necessarily interrupted ; but in the work in question, this fault
is compensated by the exhibition of a mass of minute and par-
ticular information, collected with great research, and which
throws a much clearer light upon the literature, arts, and man-
ners of the several periods bf our history, than is to be ob-
tained from the perusal of works, composed with the usual


The History of Great Britain, connected witK the Chrono-
logy of Europe, by James Petit Andrews, F.A.S., is also a
publication singular in its design, but of no inconsiderable uti-
lity. Of the plan of this work, the following account is given
in the preface. " The history of England is meant to be con-
cisely told, yet not so briefly as to have any material circum-
stances omitted. The corresponding page of general chrono-
logy, is extended on the same system to comprehend the an-
nals of every European state, and only wanders into the other
quarters of the globe, when tempted by circumstances closely
connected with the interests of Europe. The notes are in-
tended to contain events of an inferior class which although
not foreign to the text, are yet not necessary to be intruded on
diose, who read only for solid information. To each book
are added two Appendixes. The one tells such incidents as
could not properly be thrown into the notes ; relates the life
of every distinguished British writer ; includes a specimen of
his works, if poetical ; and thus becomes a chronicle of British
literature. The other presents an analysis of the times and
their manners, under the respective heads of Religion, Go-
vernment," &c.

In the two volumes, which he lived to publish, Mr. An-
drews executed with diligence and success what he thus
undertook to perform ; and it is to be lamented that his labours
were diverted to other objects, and at length prematurely
closed by his death, when he had arrived at the period of the
accession of Edward VI.

The early history of Scotland, like that of most other na-
tions, is obscured by fables, which are detailed with every
grace of style, in the History of Buchanan. But whoever
wishes to become acquainted with the more important periods
of the Scottish Annals, will do well to peruse with attention,
Robertson's History of Scotland, during the reigns of Queen
Mary, and King James VI. till his accession to the crown of
Ei^land ; smd Laing's History of Scotland, from the Union of
the Crowns, on the accession of James VI, to the throne o*"


England, to the Union of the Kingdoms, under the reign of
Queen Anne. These are standard works, and are executed
in so able a manner, as at once to instruct the inquisitive mind,
and to gratify refined taste.

No work has hitherto superseded Leland's fjistory of Ire-
land, which traces in a masterly manner, the transaction^
which took place in that country, from the Invasion of Henry
II, to die treaty of Limerick, in this reign of William 11.

In the History of Wales, by the Rev. Wm. Warrington, the
reader will find collected all the facts, which can throw light
upon the government, manners, and final subjugation of a
people, still strongly marked by distinctive characteristics and
peculiar customs.

It seems to be the consequence of the operation of a great
law of our nature, that the stream of History should become
more mixed and polluted^ in proportion as it Rows farther
from its source. Secondary historians are apt to view facts
through peculiar media ; and from various motives, to give an
erroneous representation of their nature and bearings. To
which it may be added, that events and circumstances, which
to one man appear of little or no moment, are regarded bj
another as extremely important. Hence the student of En-
ghsh history who has leisure, industry, and opportunity to en-
counter the laborious undertaking, will ascend to the original
writers of our annals, and diligently peruse the statements
which they have handed down to posterity. Of these writers,
a catalogue, accompanied with copious critical remarks, is
given in Nicholson's English historical Library, of which the
following abridgment, may at least serve to evince what co-
pious materials serve to throw light, on almost every period
of our annals.

The earliest document of English history, now known to be
extant, is Gildas's Epistola de Excidio Britanniae, or account
of the devastation of Britain, by the Caledonians and the

Next in order, occurs the Venerable Bede's Historiae Ec-


clesiasticse gentis Anglorum Libri tres, which, though profes-
sedly a history of the church, throws some Hght on the civil
affairs of the period of which it treats.

Nennius, a monk whq flourished in the year 830, composed
several works, of which the only one remaining, is his Histo-
ria Britonum.

The laws of Ilowel Dha, will convey to the philosophical
reader many suggestions, as" to the state of society and manners
in the tenth century, at which period thej were promulgated.

The romances of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and the unimpor-
tant annals of Caradocus, the monk of Lancarvan, will scarce-
ly repay the trouble of a perusal but the reader will derive
some interesting information, from the Saxon chronicle, and
the Life of Alfred, commenced by Asserius Menevensis, and
completed by some of his learned contemporaries.

Etbelward Patricius lived in the year IO90, and compiled a
chronicle of the Saxon kings to the time of Edgar.

Verstegan's Restitution of decayed Intelligence in Antiqui-
ties, though by no means devoid of error, treats somewhat at
large on the language, religion, manners, and government of
the Anglo-Saxons.

It is not less true than surprising, that light is thrown upon
the remote periods of English historj', from the twilight of
Iceland. Aras Erode in his history of that island, gives an
account of the affairs of Denmark, Norway, and England.
The Norwegian histories of Theodoric, and of Snorro Sturle-
sonius, are also said to touch upon the exploits of our Danish

Saxo Grammaticus, Sweno Agonis, and Olaus Wormius in
their respective works, take cursory notice of the History and
Antiquities of England.

After the Conquest, Ingulphus, Abbot of Croyland, wrote a
history of his convent, in which he incidentally narrates the
general occurrences, which took took place in Bngland, during
the period of which he treats, which commences A. D. 66,
and terminates A. D. 1089.


Marianus Scotus, a monk of Mentz, wrote a general
history of Europe, in which he traces tjie English History to
the year 1083.

Of the history of Marianus, much use was made by
Fiorentius Bravoniu;?, a monk of Worcester, who, how-
ever made considerable additions to his narrative of events.
The work of Fiorentius, which is carried to the year
1119, was continued fifty years faither by one of his brother
monks. '

Eadmerus, a monk of Canterbur}', wrote the history of Wil-
ham I. and 1[. and of Henry I. with great judgment and im-

High encomiums have been justly bestowed on the work
of Wiljiam of Malmesbury, De Gestis Anglorum, which con-
tains a view of the English history, from the first arrival of
the Saxons in this country, to the end of the reign of King

The historical works of Simeon Dunelmensis, of Ealred,
Abbot of Rievaulx, and of Henry, Archdeacon of Hunting-
don, though they throw some light on the annals of the
twelfth century, are but of minor importance.

Gervase, a monk of Canterbury, wrote much at large upon
the British History ; but the only portion of his work which
has survived to modern times, commences with the year 1112,
and ends with the death of Richard I. ^

Roger de Hoveden, a contemporary with the two former
historians, has traced our history to the fourth year of the
reign of King John.

Ralph de Diceto, Dean of London, who is much praised
by the illustrious Selden, wrote two historical treatises, the lat-
ter of which terminates with the early years of the reign of

Matthew Paris, a monk of St, Albans, was endued with a
degree of intellect and integrity, far superior to what might
have been expected from the age in which he lived, and the
VOL. I, u


profession to which he was devoted. His Historia Major,
as continued by Risclianger, contains the history of our kiugs,
from the beginning of the reign of William I. to the conclu-
sion of that of Henry HI. Though the Chronicle of the
same author purports to be merely an abridgment of the
above-mentioned work, it in point of fact contains several par-
ticulars, which are not therein mentioned.

The chronicle of Melross, which is brought down to the
year 1270, though it was compiled in Scotland, treats princi-
pally of the affairs of England.

The history of Thomas Wikes, canon regular of Osney,
near Oxford, begins at the conquest, and ends at the deati) of
Henry I.

The Polychronicon Temporum of Roger Ce|trieus,
traces our history from tlie time of the Romans to the year

From the chronicles of John Brompton, Walter Hem-
mingford, and Ralph Higden, some useful information may
be gleaned.

Matthew of Westminster, a monk of the Benedictine order,
compiled a history which ends at the year 1307, and was con-
tinued by Adam Merimuth to the year 1380.

The chronicle of Henry Knighton touches slightly on the
Saxon period of our history, but treats more at large of the
posterior events to the year 1395.

The most interesting, and at the same time the most accu-
rate account of the wars of Edward IH. and of the disorderly
reign of his successor, Richard H. is to be found in the chro-
nicles of Sir John Froissart.

Thomas Walsingham, a Benedictine monk of St. Albans,
took up the thread of our history where it was dropped by
Matthew Paris, and continued it to the reign of Henry V.

Of the disasters which befel the English in France, at the
commencement of the reign of Henry VI. a particular ac-
count is given in ths chronicles of Monstrelet.


William Caxton, who was a menial servant to Margaret,
Duchess of Burgundy, sister to Edward IV. wrote a history
entitled Fructus Temporum, in the latter portion of which he
narrates interesting transactions, the truth of which, from the
situation that he held in the family of the Duchess, he had
good means of ascertaining.

In the sixteenth century, Robert Fabian, a merchant of
London, wrote his Historiarum ConcordantitE, which is held
in particular esteem, on account of the minuteness with which
he gives the local history of the Metropolis.

Polydore Virgil's history supplies a chasm of almost
seventy years in our annals, including particularly the lives of
Edward IV. and Edward V. His work also contains the
view ta^en by a zealous Catholic of the transactions of the

The history of the wars of the houses of York and Lan-
caster, was written by Edward Hall, whose work is, however,
chiefly valued by such of our antiquaries as are curious con-
cerning the changes of costume, which took place in England,
in the times of which he treats.

The chronicle of Ralph Holinshed^ continued to the year
1586 by John Hooper, alias Vowel, is a work deservedly held
in high estimation.

John Stowe, who died A. D. l605, left behind him a
historical work, the fruit of forty years' research ; in the revising
and continuing of which, Edward Hows was employed for
thirty years more. The result of this industry is an excellent
arrangement of a. great variety of valuable materials.

' In the opinion of Mr. Nicholson, the author of the English
Historical Library, the Chronicle of John Speed is the best
work of the kind now extant. It commences with the earliest
period of our history, and is continued to the union of the
two kingdoms under James I.

The chronicle of Richard Baker contains the history
of our kings, from the time of the Romans to the end of the
reign of James I. It was brought down to the Restoration

u 2


by Edward Philip. This work is not, however, regarded
as by any means equal, in interest and authority, with that
of Speed.*

From the period of the union of the crowns of England and
Scotland, original records of our history are to be found iu
abundance in the proceedings of parliament and of our courts
of law ; in royal proclamations, manifestoes, and charters ;
in voluminous collections of state-papers made by Rushworth,
Thurloe, Clarendon, Whitelocke, Dalrymple, and others,
which it does not fall within the province of this Essay to
enumerate. To this stock of documents, the curiosity of
inquirers and the liberality of our nobility and gentry,
are almost annually making important additions, so that
with regard to the later annals of the British history, the
student is rather in danger of being bewildered by the va-
riety, than of being left in the dark by the want of historical

Though nothing can be further renwved from a spirit of
strife and discord than the spirit of true religion, and those
principles of gerraine Christianity, the aim of which is to in-
culcate, above all things, the virtues of justice, benevolence,
and mutual forbearance, it has unfortunately happened that,
by the intermixture of human interests with matters purely
spiritual, our holy faith has been perverted into an occasion
of animosity ; and religious disputes have even influenced the
destiny of states and kingdoms. The struggles of the first
Christians against the power of paganism ; the rise and pro-

Most of our ancient historians will be fonnd in Sir Henry Saville's
Qoinqne Scriptores AnjjHaj Histurisp, printed in 1652 ; in tie Rerum Angli-
cananim Scriptores, published at Oxford in 1 684, and in two vols, of Dr. Gale,
the first containing five, and the second, fifteen historical writers. There
are separate editions of Marianus, of Florentins, of Eadmenis, of Matthew
Paris, of Trivet, of Matthew of Westminster, of Froissart, ofT. Walsing*
hatn, and of William Caxton. Of Froissart and of Monstrelet, Thomas
Johnes, Esq. of Hufod, in the county of Cardigan, lias favoured the pnblic
wiili tianslations, which will long snrvive as memorials of his industry, and
of bis ability.


gress of theological sects and opinions ; the gradual usurpa-
tions of the Bishops of Rome and the rapid decline of iheir
authority, at the period when the human mind was roused
from the long sleep of ignorance the various modifications of
religious establishments-^ the oppression exercised, in different
countries, by the professors of the dominant belief, and the
resistance made against that oppression by sectaries these
are topics which cannot be neglected by him who would fully
reap the best fruit of historical inquiries an acquaintance
with the progress of the human intellect. These topics, in-
deed, are so prominent in importance, that they conthiually
present themselves to view in the details of the civil history of
the world. But they well merit being considered as objects
of primary consideration ; and being thus considered, they
constitute the subject of Ecclesiastical History- This thorny
maze of inquhy has been explored by a multitude of writers,
with various degrees of industry and discretion. But the
views of the student of general history, will be most com-
pletely answered by the perusal of the work of Mosheim,
whose learning and whose patience in investigation, are only
to be equalled by his candour as a critic, and by his fidelity as
a narrator of facts.

The general history of our native country, will give abun-
dant proof of the good sense and vigour, from time to time
evinced by our Roman Catholic ancestors, in resisting the, ex-
travagant claims and pretensions of the pontifical court. But
the series of the events and transactions which finally liberated
the subjects of these realms from the yoke of popery, are
recorded witli due particularity and minuteness by Bishop
Burnet, in his History of the Reformation, In point of com-
position this work is not a model of elegance ; but its matter
i^ excellent, and the information which it contains is founded
on the most authentic documents.

Whosoever wishes to trace the ramifications of Sectarianism'
in England, may be referred to Neale's History of the Puri-
tans, a work of considerable merit, which, commencing at


the rise of Non-conformity in the days of Elizabeth, traces
the varying circumstances of tlie English Protestant Dis-
senters, to the triumph of the principles of equity in the passing
of the Toleration Act, in the first year of the reign of William
and Mary.

A spirited account of the rise and early progress of the
Reformation in Scotland, is to be found in Pr. M'Crie's
Life of John Knox ; the favourable reception of which work
is a happy indication of the encouragement at this day afforded,
by the suffrage of the public, to industrious research, an honest
representation of facts, and a rational attachment to the prin-
ciples of religious liberty.

The subsequent annals of Scottish ecclesiastical affairs are
given in sufficient detail in the latter part of the fifth, and in
the sixth and seventh books of Spottiswood's History of the
Church of Scotland and it may be observed, that the
struggles against the introduction of Episcopacy, 'which, from
time to time, disturbed the tranquillity of Scotland, till by the
Act of Union, the Presbyterian form of Church Government
was firmly established in that country, are in no publication so
ably narrated as in Mr. Lalng's History, which has before
been mentioned with due applause.

To the books which have been recommended as worthy
of perusal in the foregoing course of History, it were an easy
task to make considerable additions. But in a sketch of this
nature, designed for the guidance of the young Academic,
selection is obviously more desirable than variety compact-
ness, than diffusion. Though, therefore, many works of in-
disputable merit are omitted in the foregoing list, it is hoped
that the series of v/hich it is composed, will be found tolerably
well connected, sufficiently complete, and, above all, selected
with impartiality. In the perusal of these, as indeed of anj
historical works, the student must not neglect the requisite
geographical investigations ; nor must he turn with disgust
from the dry arrangements of Chronology. It will, of course,
then be expedient that he should provide himself with the


best maps, both ancient and modern, and with 4he most
copious and accurate historical and chronological tables,
by frequent reference to which, his memory will be aided,
and a more vivid representation of past transactions will be im-
pressed upon his mind. But above all for the precept can-
not be too frequently or too anxiously inculcated let him make
historical facts the subjects of serious meditation. Let him
consider them as exhibiting a picture of human life, and as
tending to refine the moral sense, nd to correct the evil pas-
sions of men, by exhibiting, in striking points of view, the
dignity of virtue, and the deformity of vice.




The importance of Geography to history Divisions of Geography An-
cient Geography The Gnomon Tbales Meton First geograpliical
observation Excellent Roman custom Roman Empire delineated
Ptolemy Dionysius Knowledge of the globe by the ancients Middle
ages Iceland, discovery of Columbus ^Discovery of America Vasco
de Gama Circamnavigatioiis of the globe Discoveries.

Geography, is, as its name imports, a description of
the terrestrial globe, and particularly of the known and habitable
part thereof, and hence we infer its great importance in con-
nexion with the study of history. Without a competent know-
ledge of the situation and relative magnitudes of the several
countries of the earth, no student of history can have clear and
distinct ideas of what he reads. As history is divided into
ancient and modem, so also must the science of geography be
considered. Those who have been more particular in their
descriptions, have considered history, and geography also, as
naturally admitting of three divisions. (1) The ancient or
classical) which describes the state of the earth, so far as it

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 24 of 44)