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difquifitions, to which finite intellects are utterly unequal. The poet trufts to his invention, and is not only in danger of thofe inconfiftencies, to which every one is expofed by departure from truth; but may be cenfured as well for deficiencies of matter, as for irregularity of difpofition, or impropriety of ornament. But the happy historian has no other labour than of gathering what tradition pours down before him, or records treafure for his use. He has only the actions and defigns of men like himself to conceive and to relate; he is not to form, but copy characters, and therefore is not blamed for the inconfiftency of statesmen, the injuftice of tyrants, or the cowardice of commanders. The difficulty of making variety confiftent, or uniting probability with furprise, needs not to disturb him; the manners and actions of his perfonages are already fixed; his materials are provided and put into his hands, and he is at leisure to employ all his powers in arranging and displaying them.

Yet, even with thefe advantages, very few in any age have been able to raise themselves to reputation by writing histories; and among the innumerable authors, who fill every nation with accounts of their ancestors, or undertake to tranfmit to futurity the events of their own time, the greater part, when fashion and novelty have ceased to recommend them, are of no other use than chronological memorials, which neceffity may fometimes require to be confulted, but which fright away curiofity, and difguft delicacy.

It is obferved, that our nation, which has produced fo many authors eminent for almost every other fpecies of literary excellence, has been hitherto remarkably barren of hiftorical genius; and, fo far has this defect raised prejudices against us, that fome have doubted whether an Englishman can ftop at that mediocrity of style, or confine his mind to that even tenour of imagination, which narrative requires.

They who can believe that nature has fo capricioufly diftributed understanding, have furely no claim to the honour of ferious confutation. The inhabitants of the fame country have oppofite characters in different ages; the prevalence or neglect of any par ticular study can proceed only from the accidental influence of fome temporary cause; and if we have failed in history, we can have failed only because history has not hitherto been diligently cultivated.

But how is it evident, that we have not historians among us, whom we may venture to place in comparison with any that the neighbouring nations can produce? The attempt of Raleigh is deservedly ce. lebrated for the labour of his researches, and the elegance of his ftyle; but he has endeavoured to exert his judgment more than his genius, to felect facts, rather than adorn them; and has produced an historical differtation, but feldom rifen to the majesty of history.

The works of Clarendon deserve more regard. His diction is indeed neither exact in itself, nor fuited to the purpose of history. It is the effufion of a mind crowded with ideas, and defirous of imparting them; and therefore always accumulating words, and involving

volving one clause and sentence in another. But there is in his negligence a rude, inartificial majesty, which, without the nicety of laboured elegance, fwells the mind by its plenitude and diffufion. His narration is not perhaps fufficiently rapid, being stopped too frequently by particularities, which, though they might ftrike the author who was prefent at the tranfactions, will not equally detain the attention of pofterity. But his ignorance or careleffness of the art of writing is amply compensated by his knowledge of nature and of policy; the wif dom of his maxims, the juftnefs of his reafonings, and the variety, diftinctness, and strength of his characters.

But none of our writers can, in my opinion, justly contest the fuperiority of Knolles, who, in his history of the Turks, has difplayed all the excellencies that narration can admit. His ftyle, though fomewhat obfcured by time, and fometimes vitiated by falfe wit, is pure, nervous, elevated, and clear. A wonderful multiplicity of events is fo artfully arranged, and fo diftinctly explained, that each facilitates the knowledge of the next. Whenever a new perfonage is introduced, the reader is prepared by his character for his actions; when a nation is first attacked, or city befieged, he is made acquainted with its history, or fituation; fo that a great part of the world is brought into view. The defcriptions of this author are without minutenefs, and the digreffions without oftentation. Collateral events are fo artfully woven into the contexture of his principal ftory, that they cannot be disjoined without leaving it lacerated and broken. There is nothing turgid

in his dignity, nor fuperfluous in his copioufness. His orations only, which he feigns, like the ancient historians, to have been pronounced on remarkable occafions, are tedious and languid; and fince they are merely the voluntary sports of imagination, prove how much the most judicious and fkilful may be miftaken, in the estimate of their own powers.

Nothing could have funk this author in obfcurity, but the remoteness and barbarity of the people whose ftory he relates. It feldom happens, that all cir cumstances concur to happiness or fame. The na tion which produced this great hiftorian, has the grief of feeing his genius employed upon a foreign and uninteresting fubject; and that writer who might have fecured perpetuity to his name, by a history of his own country, has expofed himself to the danger of oblivion, by recounting enterprifes and revolutions, of which none defire to be informed,

SIR,

NUMB. 123. TUESDAY, May 21, 1751.

Quo femel eft imbuta recens, fervabit odorem
Tefta diu.

What feafon'd firft the veffel, keeps the taste.

To the RAMBLER.

HOR.

CREECH.

ΤΗ

HOUGH I have fo long found myself deluded by projects of honour and distinction, that I often resolve to admit them no more into my heart; yet, how determinately foever excluded, they always recover their dominion by force or ftratagem; and whenever, after the shortest relaxation of vigilance, reafon and caution return to their charge, they find hope again in poffeffion, with all her train of pleasures dancing about her.

Even while I am preparing to write a history of disappointed expectations, I cannot forbear to flatter myself, that you and your readers are impatient for my performance; and that the fons of learning have laid down feveral of your late papers with discontent, when they found that Myfocapelus had delayed to continue his narrative.

But the defire of gratifying the expectations that I have raised, is not the only motive of this relation, which, having once promifed it, I think myself no longer at liberty to forbear. For, however I may have wished to clear myself from every other adhe

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