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ART. III.-Harper's Family Library, No. XXI. Life of Mary Queen of Scots. By HENRY GLASSFORD BELL, Esq. In 2 vols. 12mo. New-York. 1831.

Of history it has been remarked by a celebrated writer, in treating of its uses and the great purposes to which it may be applied, that it prepares us for experience and guides us in it— a well turned compliment, no doubt, but one which, as we shall have occasion to shew, is very far from being warranted by the real and intrinsic merits of that philosophy which is thus supposed to have the advantage of teaching by example.* Henry the IV. appears to have entertained a proper idea of the true dignity of history, as well as of biography, when he observed to Mathieu (whom he had selected as his historian, and who, one morning reading to Henry a portion of the work, spoke of the king's partiality for women) "What necessity can there be, to make known my weaknesses.” A sense of the importance of history, however-of the obligation of adhering to the truth in historical' matters-seems so little to have impressed the minds of our modern annalists, that we should almost be tempted to take part with Bolingbroke in that severe and sweeping denunciation which he has levelled against all history, without exception, from beginning to end, from first to last-did we not think, nay, were we not satisfied that an honourable exemption from this charge of deliberate and systematic lying-so amply made out and well sustained against the whole host of our modern mere fabricators of historymight fairly and justly be claimed, in general, in behalf of the historical writers of antiquity. The ground on which this exemption in favour of the ancients will be found to rest, is no other, we apprehend, than that high undeviating moral sense which seems to have entered into all their views upon great questions-all their feelings as pledged to the promotion of the public good-all their hopes and anticipations as connected with that posthumous renown to which the fine minds of Greece and Rome so steadily and studiously directed their efforts. This virtue it is which imparts a charm and gives value to the historical portraits of Plutarch. We peruse them with unmingled satisfaction because we are satisfied of their fidelity. We perceive clearly that the spirit of the rebus natus agendis has lent to them no false colouring; but that, on the contrary, the prejudices of time, and of the time, have been merged in those high and more sacred claims, a due regard for which * Letters on the study of History, Letter ii. p. 25. VOL. VIII.-No. 16. 44

posterity requires at the hands of all who would secure a permanent and honourable place in its remembrance, Unfortunately for the credit of succeeding ages, the very reverse of this picture is presented for the contemplation of the inquirer into historical truth; and that constant reproduction of works on history which has been going on for the last three or four hundred years, which has won for modern times a distinction by no means honourable or to be envied, which strikes with dismay the mind of the student, and of which there is no prospect of termination or decrease-may justly be ascribed, as we think, to that spirit of party which, if it be not wholly modern in its growth, has, at least, acquired a character and conduced to results in modern times as novel as they have proved pernicious. The ancient world-the republics of Greece and Rome-were not without their passions and their politics-these raged in the forum and the senate-house-but the moment those master minds withdrew from the tumults and distractions of business, or debate, for the high and sacred purpose of preparing those illustrious records, whether of literary or political history, which they designed to transmit and which they well knew were destined to descend to posterity, they were studious to divest themselves of all undue bias; and with clear heads and right hearts they approached the great task of collecting and exhibiting for the instruction and admiration of future ages their own unrivalled annals--impressed with a grave and solemn sense of the responsibility in which they stood to the nation; and as solicitous to hand down to posterity unimpaired and unspotted the fair fame, as they were careful, always, to consult at home the good of the republic. It may safely be affirmed that the historical writers of antiquity exhibit nothing of that partizan spirit which has stamped itself upon nearly the whole body of the political records of modern times, which are thus fairly made to challenge the censure and the doubt conveyed by Sir Walter Raleigh, in the well-known anecdote connected with his historical labours in the Tower of London.* This circum

The uncertainty of the law is proverbial, yet is history much more to be relied upon? Speaking of the question as to whether heretics should be tolerated, which was debated before the Queen (Mary of England) by Cardinal Pole and Gardiner, Hume observes (vol. iv. p. 406.) "We shall relate in a few words the topics by which each side supported, or might have supported their favourite scheme of policy." Of this dubiousness of history we have a signal instance in our own times. After enjoying for twenty years the renown of having slain with his own hand the famous Indian Warrior Tecumseh, it has recently been discovered that not Col. Johnson, but a Col. Weatly is entitled to the honour of this distinguished feat! It is admitted by all," says a Kentucky paper, “that Col. Johnson killed an Indian"-a highly satisfactory piece of information, certainly! The question is, who killed Tecumseh-but how shall we ever learn the truth, when Col. Johnson himself professes an entire ignorance upon the subject?

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stance it is which distinguishes the severe genius of antiquity from that facile and false spirit which may be said, without exaggeration, to have blurred and debased, even up to this hour, the character and credit of that Christian era which might surely have claimed an honourable exemption from the worst vices-the fanaticism-the exterminating hatred-the York and Lancaster feuds of a semi-barbarous age.

In political history, in the science of government, many of the views entertained by the ancients have been long since exploded; in certain branches of philosophy, new facts developed in the course of ages, and new lights furnished by the improved social and intellectual condition of the civilized world, have in some important respects given a new cast and superior elevation to the minds of the great aggregate mass of men in modern times-but in moral grandeur, in all those ennobling sentiments which dignify and adorn the character of man-a stern sense of justice, a strict regard for truth, and a devoted patriotism, an exalted and uncompromising love of country-it may fairly be questioned whether we have attained or are at all likely to attain to that high and costly standard to which as to a test the great men of ancient times were invariably subjected; and by which they were willing because prepared always to abide. Nor, in the instance of the Romans, were these exalted virtues divested of the grace of that mental and social refinement which is supposed by many to be the distinguishing feature-the exclusive birthright of modern society. The domestic manners of the Romans were in point of true polish and genuine politeness, infinitely superior to those of one half the people of modern times. The very maxim of one of their own incomparable writers,

Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes

Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros;

shews in a few words what were the precious effects of letters and of mental cultivation upon the manners no less than the morals of the truly great men of antiquity.

We scruple not to say that these reflections have been forcibly suggested to us by the perusal of the work whose title stands at the head of this article; nor do we kuow of any more signal illustration of the remark with which we set out-touching the cause, or causes, which have conduced, in modern times, to that redundancy of works on history, so much to be deplored, so deterring to the student, and absolutely offensive to the polite scholar and reader of taste-than is afforded in the volumes of Mr. Bell. He has himself adverted to the fact, without,

however, attempting or venturing to account for it. No less than twenty different champions-to say nothing of the great George Buchanan, Hume, Robertson and Gilbert Stewarthave, from time to time, in various armour, essayed to break a lance in the "Marian Controversy"-the greater part armed with the fierce and exterminating mace of religious intolerance, and a deadly uncompromising political animosity, and marshalled under banners hostile to an innocent, unoffending, and, to the last, unprotected female-a few, and but a few only, interposing the shield of truth and honour in behalf of the injured, the beautiful and unfortunate daughter of James the V. It is by no means calculated to raise our estimate of human nature, to reflect that, among this host of writers-priests and politicians, secretaries and librarians-hardly an instance of entire disinterestedness, of pure and conscientious conviction, or of honest and loyal devotion to the illustrious subject of this most unworthy controversy, could have been pointed out, or fairly insisted upon, until the appearance of Mr. Bell's two volumes. The ablest and most distinguished literary character of that age, in Scotland, clothed too in the garb of a religion which inculcates charity and love to all men, scrupled not to raise his voice-and he well knew its power and influenceagainst the sacred cause of truth and the best interests of humanity-meanly and shamelessly slandered his queen-one of the gentlest and best, as she was the most unhappy of womenand this, not, as was the case in one or two solitary instances— not from a thorough, however, erroneous persuasion that he was performing an indispensable though painful duty—not that he believed Mary to be culpable, either as a soverign or a wife; nor because he regarded her as the enemy of what he considered the true faith-these motives, or any one of them, had furnished him with a just pretext, or excuse, for waging a religious and political warfare against his royal mistress-but to none of these honourable incentives can we ascribe that rigid and unsparing course which Buchanan, in conjunction with Knox, and others, pursued towards the almost unconscious, because unsuspecting Mary-a course eminently calculated to impair, if not to endanger that throne from which she was ultimately hurled; and to destroy that life which as it had begun in sorrow, was closed in ignominy. No. A groveling selfinterest-a shameless compromise between his honour and his views of paltry personal aggrandizement-this, and this, alone, it was, that led to Buchanan's infamous crusade against his queen; and never, certainly, did worse motives conduce to, or were means less equivocal employed in the prosecution of a

criminal end. When the celebrity and consequent influence which Buchanan had won and enjoyed in his day, are called to mind, we shall hardly be taxed with laying undue stress upon his opposition and enmity to Mary—more particularly as these seem to have known no bounds. The still remaining doubts which, in spite of his crafty zeal, this formidable adversary of the queen had left unresolved in the minds of a large majority of the people of Scotland, were completely dissipated by the kindred and congenial labours of his successor in the same honourable field-the far famed and redoubtable champion of the reformed church, John Knox. With a gallant determination to confront, and with a desperate hope of defeating these "mailed champions," appeared Lesley, Bishop of Ross. Unfortunately for the good cause he had espoused, he used no care to conceal the fact of his being at once the partizan and zealous servant of the queen; and thus, though he had spoken as never man spake before, it was easy to foresee that his voice was not destined to be heard, or, if heard, listened to.

It is, indeed, to be lamented, that truth, while it is sure, in intellectual, as well as moral matters, to prevail in the end over bigotry and error, should but too often hold itself, as it were, aloof from the good name and fair fame even of those who have most sedulously vindicated its interests and advanced its cause, in a world where "the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." The reason for this, however, is too obvious to be insisted upon; while it is infinitely humiliating. Where the selfish and dishonest purposes and low wants of man conflict not with his judgment, or sense of justice, his assent to truths, no matter of what character or description, is almost as involuntary as it is unqualified. Put death, however, in one hand and dishonour in the other-where this dishonour, as is too frequently the case, happens to be coupled with his 'usances'-and like the patriot Roman, though with his immortal sentiment reversed, he will "look on death indifferently." We know of no period of history, whether ancient or modern, to which this remark applies with greater force or relevancy, than to the memorable and mournful reign of Mary Queen of Scots. In common cases-in the personal and political vicissitudes of emperors and kings-with regard to men, we may, perhaps, feel ourselves at liberty to shrug the shoulder and leave them to fight their battles as they may; but we put it to the hearts of those in whom manhood and humanity are not alike extinct, whether it be possible, even at this distant dayafter a lapse of nearly three hundred years-to advert to the social and political fortunes of the illustrious but ill-fated Mary,

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