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attending a posthumous publication, if not necessary
for the satisfaction of the reader, is due to the memory and reputation of the author himself. Some notion of what he projected, seems requisite towards forming an estimate of what he performed; and in this instance, the rumours formerly circulated concerning the nature of his undertaking, and the materials which he had collected, render indispensable, a short statement of his intentions, and of the manner in which he prosecuted his researches. It will be yet more necessary to explain the state in which the manuscript was found, and the course which had been pursued in printing a work, respecting which no positive injunctions were ever received from the author.
The precise period at which Mr. Fox first formed the design of writing a history, cannot be ascertained. In the year 1797, he announced publickly his intention of devoting a greater
portion of his time to his private pursuits :' He was even on the point of relinquishing his seat in Parliament, and retiring altogether from
* Vide Parliamentary Debates, May 26, 1797.
publick life, a plan which he had formed many years before, and to the execution of which he always looked forward with the greatest delight. The remonstrances, however, of those friends, for whose judgment he had the greatest deference, ultimately prevailed. He consequently confined his scheme of retreat to a more uninterrupted residence in the country, than he had hitherto permitted himself to enjoy. During his retirement, that love of literature, and fondness for poetry, which neither pleasure nor business had ever extinguished, revived with an ardour, such as few in the eagerness of youth, or in pursuit of fame or advantage, are capable of feeling. For some time, however, his studies were not directed to any particular object. Such was the happy disposition of his mind, that bis own reflections, whether supplied by conversation, desultory reading, or the common occur. rences of a life in the country, were always sufficient to call forth the vigour and exertion of his faculties. Intercourse with the world had so little deadened in him the sense of the simplest enjoyments, that even in the hours of apparent
leisure and inactivity, he retained that keen relish of existence, which, after the first impressions of life, is so rarely excited but by great interests and strong passions. Hence it was, that in the interval between his active attendance in Parliament, and the undertaking of his History, he never felt the tedium of a vacant day. A verse in Cowper, which he frequently repeated,
How various his employments whom the world
was an accurate description of the life he was then leading; and I am persuaded, that if he had consulted his own gratifications only, it would have continued to be so. The circumstances which led him once more to take an active part in publick discussions, are foreign to the purposes
of this Preface. It is sufficient to remark, that they could not be foreseen, and that his notion of engaging in some literary undertaking was adopted during his retirement, and with the prospect of long and uninterrupted leisure before him. When he had determined upon employing some part of it in writing, he was, no doubt, actuated by a variety of considerations, in the choice of the task he should undertake. His philosophy had never rendered him insensible to the gratification which the hope of posthumous fame so often produces in great minds; and, though criticism might be more congenial to the habits and amusements of his retreat, an historical work seemed more of a piece with the tenour of his former life, and might prove of greater benefit to the publick, and to posterity. These motives, together with his intimate knowledge of the English Constitution, naturally led him to prefer the history of his own country, and to select a period favourable to the illustration of the great general principles of freedom, on which it is founded; for his attachment to those principles, the result of practical observation, as well as philosophical reflection, far from having abated, had acquired new force and fresh vigour in his retirement.
With these views, it was almost impossible that he should not fix on the Revolution of 1688. The event was cheering and animating. It was the most signal triumph of that cause to which his publick life had been devoted ; and in a review of its progress, he could not fail to recognize those principles which had regulated his own political conduct. But the choice of that period was recommended by yet higher considerations; the desire of rescuing from misrepresentation, the most glorious transaction of our history; the opportunity of instructing his countrymen in the real nature of their Constitution ; and the hope of impressing on mankind those lessons applicable to all times, which are to be drawn from that memorable occurrence.
The manner in which the most popular historians, and other writers of eminence, had treated the subject, was likely to stimulate him more strongly to such an undertaking. It could not escape
the observation of Mr. Fox, that some, from the bias of their individual opinions, had given a false colour to the whole transaction; that others had wilfully distorted the facts to serve some temporary purpose; and that Bolingbroke, in particular, had confounded the distinct and even opposite views of the two leading