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Art. I.—Examen; or, an Inquiry into the Credit and Veracity of a pretended Complete History; .shewing the perverse and wicked Design of it, and the many Falsities and Abuses of Truth contained in it. Together with some Memoirs occasionally inserted. All tending to vindicate the Honour of the late King Charles II., and his happy Reign, from the intended Aspersions of that foul Pen. By the Hon. Roger North. London, Printed for Fletcher Gyles, against Grey's-Inn Gate in Holbom. 1740.
In the last article of a preceding number, we endeavoured— with 'what success it is not for ourselves to pronounce—to select into one view such characteristic notices from contemporary writers, as, whilst they served to illustrate the subject we had undertaken to discuss, might also, in some degree, indirectly promote the great and more immediate object of our publication. To revive the recollection of works, whose sterling merits have been somewhat obscured by time and neglect, and to quicken the reader's appetite for the original and invaluable fountains of historical information, is a part of our duty, which, we conceive, cannot be more effectually discharged than by dispensing such portions from the living well itself, as may tend to stimulate rather than allay his thirst after a longer and deeper draught. The character of the royal personage under review is one of that stamp, which can hardly
VOL. VIII. PART I. B
be thought to merit the trouble of much investigation; and we confess, we should have been extremely reluctant to waste our own time and the reader's patience in so unprofitable a labour as that of defining exactly the shades of his moral and political turpitude, had we not been tempted to proceed by the inexhaustible fund of amusement which is supplied by the anecdotic history of his life and reign. It originally formed part of our purpose to attempt to make the inquiry into his character and actions a vehicle of instruction as well as of amusement, but all more serious designs were soon lost sight of in the utter unsuitableness or" the subject we had chosen for profound or sober disquisition. A saunterer among the gay and the frivolous, whom each successive morning called forth, like butterflies, to expand their painted wings in the sun-shine of the Mall—presiding with more grace and eclat over the business of a lady's toilette than the affairs of the nation, which heaven, in its wrath, had cursed with his government—living but to laugh, and laughing at every thing sanctified by the reason or prejudices of mankind, it were paying too much consideration to the memory of a worthless monarch to hope to derive any more serious advantage from the study of his character, than the amusement of a very idle hour. In this low estimate, we, of course, mean only to include the personal history of Charles—the public annals of his reign are fraught, God knows, with but too many subjects of deep and painful interest. By dwelling on this disgusting period of our history, we may discern, as in a putrid and offensive corpse, the latent seeds of those disorders which are incident to our mixed constitution and national character; and thence derive such wise precautions, as may enable us to guard against the occurrence of future maladies, and such salutary prescriptions as may tend to the preservation of the general weal. But to unravel the complicated web into which the politics of that reign are woven, and, without clue to guide us, to find our way through the dire confusion of intrigues and conspiracies—plots and counterplots—requires more patience than we possess, more discernment than we boast, and much more space than our narrow limits can possibly afford. In pursuing, therefore, the present inquiry, we neither seek to enlighten what is obscure, nor to fix what is uncertain, but merely to divert into our pages some portion of that anecdotic wealth, which runs in so rich a vein through the works of contemporary writers. To this object, we confess, the consideration of Charles's merits and demerits is entirely subordinate; though we doubt not that our few pages will be found, in conclusion, to furnish a juster and more impartial view of his character and conduct than can be extracted from the pon