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long. Suard will be embarrassed with them, as the modish French style runs into the other extreme.'
Another letter of Mr. Hume's (dated 28th March, 1769) relates to the same subject. “I find then that
you are not contented without a particular detail of your own praises, and that the very short but pithy letter I wrote you gives you no satisfaction. But what can I say more? The success has answered my expectations: and I, who converse with the great, the fair, and the learned, have scarcely heard an opposite voice, or even whisper, to the general sentiment. Only I have heard that the sanhedrim at Mrs. Macaulay's condemns you as little less a friend to government and monarchy than myself.” .
Mr. Walpole's congratulations on this occasion were no less warm than Mr. Hume's; but as they are expressed in more general terms, they do not supply materials equally interesting for a quotation. The only letter, besides, from Mr. Walpole relative to Charles V. that has come into my hands, was written before he had proceeded farther in the perusal than the first volume. What the impressions were which that part of the work had left upon his mind, may be judged of from the following paragraph:
“ Give me leave, sir, without flattery, to observe to yourself, what is very natural to say to others. You are almost the single, certainly the greatest instance, that sound parts and judgment can attain every perfection of a writer, though it be buried in the privacy of retired life and deep study. You have neither the prejudices of a recluse, nor want any of the taste of a man of the world. Nor is this polished ease confined to your works, which parts and imitation might possibly seize. In the few hours I passed with you last summer, I was struck with your familiar acquaintance
Considering the critical attention which Mr. Hume appears to have given to the minutie of style, it is somewhat surprising that he should himself fail so frequently both in purity and grammatical correctness. In these respects, his historical compositions will not bear a comparison with those of Dr. Robertson ; although they abound, in every page, with what Mr. Gibbon calls “ careless, inimitable beauties." In his familiar letters the inaccuracies are more numerous than might have been expected from one accustomed so much to write with a view to publication : nor are these negligences always compensated by that happy lightness and ease which he seems to have been studious to attain.
with men, and with every topic of conversation. Of your Scottish History I have often said, that it seemed to me to have been written by an able ambassador, who had seen much of affairs. I do not expect to find less of that penetration in your Charles. Why should I not say thus much to you? Why should the language of flattery forbid truth to speak its mind, merely because flattery has stolen truth's expressions? Why should you be deprived of the satisfaction of hearing the impression your merit has made ? You have sense enough to be conscious that you deserve what I have said; and though modesty will forbid you to subscribe to it, justice to me and to my character, which was never that of a flatterer, will oblige you silently to feel, that I can have no motive but that of paying homage to superior abilities.”
Lord Lyttleton was another correspondent with whom Dr. Robertson had occasional communications. The first of his letters was an acknowledgment to him for a present of Charles V.; and is valuable on account of its coincidence with a letter of Mr. Hume's formerly quoted, in which he recommended to Dr. Robertson to write lives in the manner of Plutarch.
“I don't wonder that your sense of the public expectation gives you some apprehensions : but I know that the historian of Mary, queen of Scots, cannot fail to do justice to any great subject; and no greater can be found in the records of mankind than this
have now chosen. Go on, dear sir, to enrich the English language with more tracts of modern history. We have nothing good in that way, except what relates to the island of Great Britain. You have talents and youth enough to undertake the agreeable and useful task of giving us all the lives of the most illustrious princes who have flourished since the age of Charles V. in every part of the world, and comparing them together, as Plutarch has done the most celebrated heroes of Greece and Rome. This will diffuse your glory as a writer, farther than any other work. All nations will have an equal interest in it; and feel a gratitude to the stranger who takes pains to immortalize the virtues of those to whom he is only related by the general sympathy of sentiment and esteem. Plutarch was a Greek, which made him less impartial between his countrymen and the Romans in weighing their comparative merit, than you would be in contrasting a Frenchman with a German, or an Italian with a Spaniard, or a Dutchman with a Swede. Select, therefore, those great men out of different countries, whose characters and actions may be best compared together, and present them to our view, without that disguise which the partiality of their countrymen, or the malice of their enemies, may have thrown upon them. If I can animate you to this, posterity will owe me a very great obligation.'
I shall close these extracts with a short letter from Voltaire, dated 26th February, 1778, from the Château de Ferney.
« Il y a quatre jours que j'ai reçu le beau présent dont vous m'avez honoré. Je le lis malgré les fluxions horribles qui me font craindre de perdre entiérement les yeux. Il me fait oublier tous mes maux. C'est à vous et à M. Hume qu'il appartient d'ecrire l'histoire. Vous êtes éloquent, savant, et impartial. “Je me joins à l'Europe pour vous estimer."
WHILE Dr. Robertson's fame was thus rapidly extending wherever the language in which he wrote was understood and cultivated, he had the singular good fortune to find in M. Suard, a writer fully capable of transfusing into a language still more universal, all the spirit and elegance of the original. It appears from a letter preserved among Dr. Robertson's papers, that M, Suard was selected for this undertaking, by the well known Baron d’Holbach. He has since made ample additions to his fame by his own productions; but, if I am not mistaken, it was his translation of Charles V. which first established his reputation, and procured him a seat in the French academy.'
* FROM BARON D'HOLBACH TO DR. ROBERTSON.
Paris, the 30th of May, 1768. “ I received but a few days ago the favor of your letter, sent to me by Mr. Andrew
The high rank which this second publication of Dr. Robertson has long maintained in the list of our English classics, is sufficient to justify the warm encomiums I have already transcribed from the letters of his friends. To the general expressions of praise, however, which they have bestowed on it, I shall take the liberty of adding a few remarks on some of those specific excellencies by which it appears to me to be more peculiarly distinguished.
Among these excellencies, a most important one arises from the address displayed by the author in surmounting a difficulty, which has embarrassed, more or less, all the historians who have attempted to record the transactions of the two last centuries. In consequence of those relations which connect together the different countries of modern Europe as parts of one great system, a general knowledge of the contemporary situation of other nations becomes indispensable to those who would fully comprehend the political transactions of any one state at a particular period. In writing the history of a great nation, accordingly, it is necessary to connect with the narrative, occasional episodes with respect to such foreign affairs as had an influence on the policy of the government, or on the fortunes of the peoplé. To accomplish this with success, by bestowing on these digressions perspicuity and interest, without entering into that minuteness of detail which might mislead the attention of the reader from the principal subject, is unquestionably one of the most difficult tasks of an historian; and in executing this task, Dr. Robertson's
Stuart; I am very proud of being instrumental in contributing to the translation the valuable work you are going to publish. The excellert work you have published already is a sure sign of the reception your History of Charles V. will meet with in the continent; such an interesting subject deserves undoubtedly the attention of all Europe. You are very much in the right of being afraid of the hackney translators of Holland and Paris; accordingly I thought it my duty to find out an able hand capable of answering your desire. M. Suard, a gentleman well known for his style in French, and his knowledge in the English language, has, at my request, undertaken the translation of your valuable book; I know nobody in this country capable of performing better such a grand design. Consequently the best way will be for your bookseller, as soon as he publishes one sheet to send it immediately à Monsieur M. Suard, Directeur de la Gazette de France, rue St. Roche à Paris. By means of this the sheets of your book will be translated as soon as they come from the press, provided the bookseller of London is very strict in not showing the same favor to any other man upon the continent.
I have the honor to be with great consideration,” &c.
judgment and skill will not suffer by a comparison with those displayed by the most illustrious of his rivals.
In the work, however, now under our consideration, he has aimed at something more; for while he has recorded, with admirable distinctness, the transactions of a particular reign (preserving his episodes in so just a subordination to his main design, that they seldom produce any inconvenient distraction of attention or of interest) he has contrived, by happy transitions, to interweave so many of the remarkable events which happened about the same time in other parts of Europe, as to render his History of Charles V. the most instructive introduction that has yet appeared to the general history of that age. The advantage of making the transactions of a particular nation, and still more the reign of a particular sovereign, a ground work for such comprehensive views of human affairs, is sufficiently obvious. By carrying on a connected series of important events, and indicating their relations to the contemporary history of mankind, a meridian is traced (if I may use the expression) through the vast and crowded map of time; and a line of reference is exhibited to the mind, for marking the bearings of those subordinate occurrences, in the multiplicity of which its powers would have been lost.
In undertaking a work on a plan so philosophical in the design, but so difficult in the execution, no period, perhaps, in the history of the world, could have been more happily chosen than that which commences with the sixteenth century; in the course of which (as he
mself observes) “ the several powers of Europe were formed into one great political system, in which each took a station, wherein it has since remained with less alteration than could have been expected, after the shocks occasioned by so many internal revolutions and so many foreign wars.”
Mr. Hume, in a letter which I had occasion already to quote, objects to him that “his hero is not very interesting;” and it must undoubtedly be acknowledged, that the characteristical qualities of his mind were less those of an amiable man than of a great prince. His