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ALISON'S HISTORY OF EUROPE has attracted universal attention. It comprises a most eventful period in the current of human affairs, and passes in review before us the most prominent actors in the momentous scenes then displayed on the theatre of life. It is most ludicrously erroneous, however, in its statements in respect to the government and religion of the United States, and indi
cates a want of information on these subjects truly surprising; or else a wilful misrepresentation, which we can scarcely attribute even to so virulent a bater of republicanism.
The subsequent article, however, is not a 'running review of the author's volumes, abounding in extracts of tedious length, but is devoted principally to a bold exposure of Mr. Alison's Toryism, and an able defence of the democracy of England and of democracy in general. But by democracy is meant, not the rule of the masses in popular as semblies, but that of any government, in which the numerical majority has the influential, controlling
We think the writer, who is evidently an English Whig of note, has made out an admirable defence of the propriety and safety of our own republican constitution of government. His hope, however, like our own, relies on the general diffusion of proper education; and he cannot see why, with such a basis, a superstructure cannot be raised that will be both beautiful and permanent.
He believes in the improvability, but not in the perfectibility of human nature; and notwithstanding the tumultuous passions that tossed themselves, like angry waves, on the sea of the French Revolution, he thinks the ultimate results of it will be beneficial to the world.
Our own opinion is not dissimilar. That revolution may be looked upon as the eruption of a moral volcano, disastrous, of course, in its direct
effects on those more immediately subjected to the at the same time, as a safety valve, and letting off overflowings of its burning lava, but operating, inflammable gases, which had else grumbled beneath the surface until they had heaved up the earth with terrific earthquakes.-ED.
From the Edinburgh Review.
History of Europe, from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789, to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815. By ARCHIBALD ALISON, Esq., F. R. S. E., Advocate. 10 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh and London: 1839-1842.
THERE is much in Mr. Alison's History of the French Revolution against which we intend to record our decided protest; and there are some parts of it which we shall feel compelled to notice with strong disapprobation. We therefore hasten to preface our less favorable remarks by freely acknowledging that the present work_is, upon the whole, a valuable addition to European literature, that it is evidently compiled with the utmost care, and that its narration, so far as we can judge, is not perverted by the slightest partiality.
A complete history, by an English author, of all the great events which took place in Europe from 1789 to 1815, has long been a desideratum; and whatever may be the imperfections of Mr. Alison's work, we cannot say that it does not supply the vacancy. Its defects, or what we deem such, are matter partly of taste, and partly of politi
cal opinion. Some readers may consider for the histories of the Peninsular war by them as beauties-many will overlook Napier, Foy, and others, without feeling them; and even the most fastidious must satisfied of the care and judgment which acknowledge that they are not such as ma- Mr. Alison has shown in constantly selectterially to interfere with the great plan of ing, where authorities differ, the most the work. Its merits are minuteness and probable and most authoritative statements. honesty qualities which may well excuse We have already hinted our opinion, that a faulty style, gross political prejudices, Mr. Alison's general style is not attracand a fondness for exaggerated and frothy tive. It is not, however, at least in the narrative part of his work, either feeble or We cannot better illustrate the fulness displeasing. Its principal defect is the and authenticity of Mr. Alison's history, cumbrous and unwieldy construction of its than by quoting his own statement of the sentences, which frequently cause them to admirable plan on which he has selected appear slovenly and obscure, and sometimes and applied his authorities. His invariable render their precise meaning doubtful. We rule, we are informed by his Preface, has quote, almost at random, a single passage been 'to give, on every occasion, the au-by way of specimen :-Mortier, following thorities by volume and page from which the statement in the text was taken. Not only are the authorities for every paragraph invariably given, but in many instances also those for every sentence have been accumulated in the margin.
the orders which he had received to keep nearly abreast of, though a little behind the columns on the right bank, and intent only upon inflicting loss upon the Russian troops which he knew had passed the river, and conceived to be flying across his line of Care has been taken to quote a preponder- march from the Danube towards Moravia, ance of authority, in every instance where was eagerly emerging from the defiles of it was possible, from writers on the oppo- Diernstein, beneath the Danube, and the site side to that which an English historian rocky hills beneath the towers of the casmay be supposed to adopt ; and the reader tle where Richard Cœur de Lion was once will find almost every fact in the internal immured, when he came upon the Russian history of the Revolution, supported by two rearguard, under Milaradowitch, posted in Republican and one Royalist authority; front of Stein, on heights commanding the and every event in the military narrative only road by which he could advance, and drawn from at least two writers on the part supported by a powerful artillery.'-(v. of the French, and one on that of their op- 444.) We have purposely selected a senponents.' We feel convinced that Mr. Ali- tence obscure merely by its length and inson has acted up to the spirit of this candid volution, and not disfigured by any tangible and judicious system throughout his whole solecism; and we believe we speak within work. We cannot, of course, pretend to compass when we say, that it would be difhave verified his statements by constant ficult to select half a dozen consecutive reference to the writers from whom he has pages, from any part of Mr. Alison's work, drawn his information. The events which in which one or more passages of at least he records are of such recent occurrence, equally faulty construction might not be and such deep interest, that the enormous found. But there are not wanting offences mass of details published respecting them of a still less excusable nature. Whenever may well defy the curiosity of an ordi- the historian warms with his subject, he is nary reader. But we are bound to remark, constantly hurried into the most singular that whenever we have been led to com- verbal blunders-some puzzling, some lupare the conflicting accounts of any impor- dicrous-but all of a kind which a careful tant event in Mr. Alison's history, we have reperusal could scarcely have failed to disalmost invariably found that his narrative cover. We quote three or four instances, steers judiciously between them, and com- not for the sake of ridiculing a few slight bines the most probable and consistent par- oversights in a long and laborious work, ticulars contained in each. We apply this but in order to draw Mr. Alison's attention remark more especially to his narration of to a defect which, comparatively trivial as the intestine commotions of the French it is, might give great and unjust advantage Revolution, and of the military conflicts of to critics less disposed than we are to treat the Empire-particularly those which occurred in Spain. No one, we think, can read the various accounts of the troubles which led to the Reign of Terror, as collected in the able work of Professor Smyth,
him kindly. Thus he speaks of the vast and varied inhabitants' of the French empire-a phrase which can scarcely be actually misunderstood, but which sounds ludicrously inapplicable, considering that the