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HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL EXTRACTS.
1.–OUR NATURAL FONDNESS FOR HISTORY, AND ITS TRUE USE. The love of history seems inseparable from human nature, because it seems inseparable from self-love. The same principle in this instance carries us forward and backward, to future and to past ages. We imagine that the things which affect us must affect posterity; this sentiment runs through mankind, from Cæsar down to the parish-clerk in Pope's Miscellany. We are fond of preserving, as far as it is in our frail power, the memory of our own adventures, of those of our own time, and of those that preceded it. Rude heaps of stones have been raised, and ruder hymns have been composed, for this purpose, by nations who had not yet the use of arts and letters. To go no farther back, the triumphs of Odin were celebrated in Runic songs, and the feats of our British ancestors were recorded in those of their bards. The savages of America have the same custom at this day: and long historical ballads of their hunting and wars are sung at all their funerals. There is no need of saying how this passion grows among all civilized nations, in proportion to the means of gratifying it: but let us observe, that the same principle of nature directs us as strongly, and more generally, as well as more early, to indulge our own curiosity, instead of preparing to gratify that of others. The child hearkens with delight to the tales of his nurse; he learns to read, and he devours with eagerness fabulous legends and novels. In riper years he applies to history, or to that which he takes for history, to authorized romance: and even in age, the desire of knowing what has happened to other men, yields to the desire alone of relating what has happened to ourselves. Thus history, true or false, speaks to our passions always. What pity is it, that even the best should speak to our understandings so seldom! That it does so, we have none to blame but ourselves. Nature has done her part. She has opened this study to every man who can read and think; and what she has made the most agreeable, reason can make the most useful application of our minds.
Nature gave us curiosity to excite the industry of our minds ; but she never intended it to be made the principal, much less the sole object of their application. The true and proper object of this application, is a constant improvement in private and in public virtue. An application to any study, that tends neither directly nor indirectly to make us better men, and better citizens, is at best but a specious and ingenious sort of idleness, to use an expression of Tillotson : and the knowledge we acquire is a creditable kind of ignorance, nothing more. This creditable kind of ignorance is, in my opinion, the whole benefit which the generality of men, even of the most learned, reap from the study of history: and yet the study of history seems to me, of all other, the most proper to train us up to private and public virtue.
2.- CHARACTER OF FRANCIS THE FIRST AND OF CHARLES
DURING twenty-eight years an avowed rivalship subsisted between Francis the First and the Emperor Charles the Fifth, which involved not only their own dominions, but the greatest part of Europe in wars, which were prosecuted with more violent animosity and drawn out to a greater length than had been known in any former period. Many circumstances contributed to this. Their animosity was founded on opposition of interest, heightened by personal emulation, and exasperated not only by mutual injuries, but by reciprocal insults. At the same time, whatever advantage one seemed to possess towards gaining the ascendant, was wonderfully balanced by some favourable circumstance peculiar to the other. The emperor's dominions were of greater extent; the French king's lay more compact. Francis governed his kingdom with absolute power; that of Charles was limited, but he supplied the want of authority by address. The troops of the former were more impetuous and enterprising; those of the latter better disciplined, and more patient of fatigue. The talents and abilities of the two monarchs were as different as the advantages which they possessed, and contributed no less to prolong the contest between them. Francis took his resolutions suddenly, prosecuted them at first with warmth, and pushed them into execution with a most adventurous courage; but being destitute of the perseverance necessary to surmount difficulties, he often abandoned his designs, or relaxed the vigour of pursuit from impatience, and sometimes from levity. Charles deliberated long, and determined with coolness, but having once fixed his plan, he adhered to it with inflexible obstinacy, and neither danger nor discouragement could turn him aside from the execution of it. The success of their enterprises was suitable to the diversity of their characters, and was uniformly influenced by it. Francis, by his impetuous activity, often disconcerted the emperor's best laid schemes; Charles, by a more calm but steady prosecution of his designs, checked the rapidity of his rival's career, and bafiled or repulsed his most vigorous efforts. The former, at the opening of a war or of a campaign, broke in upon the enemy with the violence of a torrent, and carried all before him; the latter, waiting till he saw the force of his rival beginning to abate, recovered in the end not only all that he had lost, but made new acquisitions. Few of the French monarch's attempts towards conquest, whatever promising aspect they might wear at first, were conducted to a happy issue; many of the emperor's enterprises, even after they appeared desperate and impracticable, terminated in the most prosperous manner.
3.-CHARACTER OF WILLIAM THE THIRD. WILLIAM HENRY, Prince of Orange Nassau, on his accession to the English throne, was in his thirty-seventh year. But both in body and mind he was older than other men of the same age. Indeed it might be said that he had never been young. His external appearance is almost as well known to us as to his own captains and councillors. Sculptors, painters, and medallists
exerted their utmost skill in the work of transmitting his features to posterity; and his features were such as no artist could fail to seize, and such as once seen could never be forgotten. His name at once calls up before us a slender and feeble frame, a lofty and ample forehead, a nose curved like the beak of an eagle, an eye rivalling that of an eagle in brightness and keenness, a thoughtful and somewhat sullen brow, a firm and somewhat peevish mouth, a cheek pale, thin, and deeply furrowed by sickness and by care. That pensive, severe, and solemn aspect could scarcely have belonged to a happy or a good-humoured man. But it indicates in a manner not to be mistaken, capacity equal to the most arduous enterprises, and fortitude not to be shaken by reverses or dangers.
Nature had largely endowed William with the qualities of a great ruler, and education had developed those qualities in no common degree. With strong natural sense and rare force of will, he found himself, when first his mind began to open, a fatherless and motherless child, the chief of a great but depressed and disheartened party, and the heir to vast and indefinite pretensions, which excited the dread and aversion of the oligarchy, then supreme in the United Provinces. The commom people, fondly attached during a century to his house, indicated whenever they saw him, in a manner not to be mistaken, that they regarded him as their rightful head. The able and experienced ministers of the republic, mortal enemies of his name, came every day to pay their feigned civilities to him, and to observe the progress of his mind. The first movements of his ambition were carefully watched; every unguarded word uttered by him was noted down, nor had he near him any adviser on whose judgment reliance could be placed. He was scarcely fifteen years old when all the domestics who were attached to his interest, or who enjoyed any share of his confidence, were removed from under his roof by the jealous government. He remonstrated with energy beyond his years, but in vain. Vigilant observers saw the tears more than once rise in the eyes of the young state prisoner. His health, naturally delicate, sank for a time under the emotions which his desolate situation had produced. Such situations bewilder and unnerve
the weak, but call forth all the strength of the strong. Surrounded by snares in which an ordinary youth would have perished, William learned to tread at once warily and firmly. Long before he reached manhood he knew how to keep secrets, how to baffle curiosity by dry and guarded answers, how to conceal all passions under the same show of grave tranquillity. Meanwhile he made little proficiency in fashionable or literary accomplishments. The manners of the Dutch nobility of that age wanted the grace, which was found in the highest perfection among the gentlemen of France, and which in an inferior degree embellished the court of England, and his manners were altogether Dutch. Even his countrymen thought him blunt. To foreigners he often seemed churlish. In his intercourse with the world in general, he appeared ignorant or negligent of those arts which double the value of a favour and take away the sting of a refusal. He was little interested in letters or science. The discoveries of Newton and Leibnitz, the poems of Dryden and Boileau, were unknown to him. Dramatic performances tired him, and he was glad to turn away from the stage, and to talk about public affairs, while Orestes was raving, or while Tartuffe was pressing Elvira's hand. He had indeed some talent for sarcasm, and not seldom employed, quite unconsciously, a natural rhetoric, quaint indeed but vigorous and original. He did not however in the least affect the character of a wit or of an orator. His attention had been confined to those studies which form strenuous and sagacious men of business. From a child he listened with interest when high questions of alliance, finance, and war, were discussed. Of geometry he learned as much as was necessary for the construction of a ravelin or a hornwork. Of languages, by the help of a memory singularly powerful, he learned as much as was necessary to enable him to comprehend and answer without assistance everything that was said to him, and every letter which he received. The Dutch was his own tongue. He understood Latin, Italian, and Spanish. He spoke and wrote French, English, and German, inelegantly it is true and inexactly, but fluently and intelligibly. No qualification could be more important to a man whose life was to be passed in organ