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lighted on such a theme as Paradise Lost. Cervantes tells that he held that Don Quixote was born for him, and he for Don Quixote ; and all can see, that no matter ever more completely matched the mind that produced it. As the blossoms of some plants effuse the very smell of the root, so does every page of that unrivalled production savor of the character of its author's mind. But every one sees that Pope was not at home in translating Homer-it was a forced marriage between discordant parties. Trace the whole circle of literature, and you will find, that those books which are pure honey—which touch the very centre of delight and profit in our bosoms—are formed, when some peculiar mind lights on some congenial theme. In such cases, invention riots in her task, and accomplishes her work with the least labor, and the greatest success.
The history of England, from the days of Henry VIII. down to the passing the reform bill, is very peculiar, and calls for an author of peculiar powers to represent it. It presents the grandest spectacle ever witnessed on our globe. Greater battles may have been fought; broader kingdoms may have been established, or melted into air ; more conquerors may have appeared, and rolled to richer thrones on more splendid cars; but I take it, as no tragedy is estimated by the size of the stage on which it is acted, or the splendor of the scenery, but wholly by the excellence of the dialogue, so it is the conflict of mind with mind, which gives the sublimest interests to the records of time. This is the very character of the period to which I have alluded. I know not how better to designate it, than by using the language of Scripture in the visions of the prophet : The four winds of heaven strove on the great sea. It is a conflict of principle—it is a debate, in which the great interests of mankind are at stake. Every thing to be sure, is thrown into commotion ; the old foundations of society are torn up from their bottom, and cast about in every direction. The mind seems to wake from the slumber of ages; to catch new ideal images ; to gaze on a new sun; to breathe a new air ; and to form the bright conception of a higher and holier.state. It is true, the path to the prize lies through suffering, and every furlong of the journey is dyed with blood. It is not a measurement of corporeal strength; it is not a conflict which may be settled by powder and ball-but the invisible nature of man steps forth on the scene, religion combines with politics, and
liberty asserts her long forgotten and disregarded claims. On the one side, there is a set of tyrants, who have established their thrones on the ignorance of mankind ; and suck their nourishment from the secondary vices which their own primary ones have helped to foster. On the other hand, there springs up a little band of Christian patriots, determined to be free. The press begins to be unshackled, the Bible is translated, and the conflict commences.
Truth blows her trumpet, and flashes her torch over the caves and palaces where the giants of superstition have long enjoyed their repose. They start; they rise; they roar; they attempt to open the bottomless pit, and fill the whole atmosphere with the locusts, and the smoke. In the language of the old Gnostics, we may say it is a conflict between light and darkness; between the demon of matter and the god of light. The heart is kept in constant agitation, by the long and doubtful struggle of the balanced powers. Now the sun of truth seems breaking from the clouds; now the darkness returns, and the storm redoubles its violence; wind meets wind; wave crosses wave; and the whole surface ferments, and foams, and heaves, with the dreadful agitation. The cause of Protestantism seems to make some incipient struggles in the days of Henry VIII. It seems to be fully established in the days of Edward VI. The blackest night of popery and persecution returns with Queen Mary. A doubtful struggle is maintained in the days of Queen Elizabeth. Then arose the puritans-noble minds—men who knew how to act and suffer, as well as to write and preach. A systematic attempt is made to oppress the liberties of the nation and the rights of conscience, under the Stuarts. Then the human mind puts on all its armor, and bursts forth in all its grandeur and importance. Never was there a greater age. The stage almost seems peopled with a different order of beings from common men. It was an age of delusion, to be sure, and of enthusiasm ; but it was an age of greatness. Even the torpid feelings of Hume, who can see martyred liberty and religion led to the stake without a tear, and speculate on their tombs—even he seems to kindle for
moment at the thrilling sight. “ Now was the time when genius and capacity, of all kinds, freed from the restraint of authority, and nourished by unbounded hopes and projects, began to exert themselves, and be distinguished by the public. Then was celebrated
the sagacity of Pym, more fitted for use than ornament; matured, not chilled, by his advanced age and long experi
Then was displayed the mighty ambition of Hampden, taught disguise, not moderation, from former constraint; supported by courage, conducted by prudence, embellished by modesty ; but whether founded in love of power, or zeal for liberty, is still, from his untimely end, lest doubtful and uncertain. Then, too, were known the dark, ardent and dangerous character of St. John; the impetuous spirit of Hollis, violent and sincere, open and entire, in his enmities and in his friendships; the enthusiastic genius of young Vane, extravagant in the ends which he pursued, sagacious and profound in the means which he employed, incited by the appearances of religion, negligent of the duties of morality."*
It is impossible to write the history of this period with fidelity, without an extensive acquaintance with the books and pamphlets of that day. In these, we trace the causes of the movements which shook the throne, and emancipated for a time the nation. It is true, there was much rubbish; much enthusiasm ; much unintelligible nonsense.
But there was also the deepest wisdom, the fruit and the evidence of the deepest feeling. I hardly ever opened an author of that period, without tracing the effect of the excitement of that day, in the amazing fertility and eloquence of the animated page. Pope, Swift, Addison, write well; but they are at their ease; their faculties are tranquillized by the repose of an elbow-chair. Not so, Milton, Harrington, Taylor, South, &c. It is doubtful whether a mariner can bring forth all his faculties, until the storm comes. So it is with respect to the dormant powers of the human mind. “Behold,” says Milton, “ this vast city ; a city of refuge; the mansion house of liberty ; encompassed and surrounded with his protection ; the shops of war hath not more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas, wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching reformation ; others are fast reading, trying all things, apparently, to the force of reason and convincement. What can a man require more from a nation, so pliant, and so prone to seek after know
* Hist. of Great Britain, Charles I. ch. v.
eyes to lift
ledge? What wants there to such a towardly and pregnant soil, but wise and faithful laborers, to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies? We reckon more than five months yet to harvest; there need not be five weeks, had we but
the fields are white already."*
It is true, the waves of darkness rolled back, and seemed, to a superficial eye, to cover the land. But liberty, after all, liberty of thought, is the very genius of our ancestors. It flows in the blood of English and Americans. As Webster says, it is imbedded in our soil; and it is a sober liberty, because it has always walked hand in hand with religion. After many trepidations, and ebbings and flowings of the public tide of oppression and independence, we may consider liberty as established in the reign of King William.
Now I say there never was a time when such an interesting conflict was exhibited. The history of most ancient nations is the history of oppression. Mind is sunk—there is nothing like principle—the internal nature of man is subjected to outward force. Even the liberty of Greece and Rome, so often vaunted, was a very partial and defective liberty. It was combined with no high moral principle ; it was the ambition of a selected corps against one, while, at the same time, both parties should combine to crush the many.
crush the many. When Christianity woke the world from the slumbers of paganism, it seemed for a while as if great scenes were to be exhibited, and great principles were to be discussed ; and, true enough, the Christian religion did for a while struggle with the torporific tendency of the age; it kept alive whatever was great and good in the character of the times. But Christianity, instead of inspiring the world, sunk under its corruptions. It burst on mankind healthful and fresh, like a mountain stream, rolling down the rock, scattering coolness and freshness in its path ; but, as that same stream, however fresh and pure at its origin, may roll into the level plain, and, amidst its saline and bituminous sands, become calm, polluted and sluggish, so did Christianity linger and languish in our world, until the days of Luther.' Then she started from her sleep; and England has been the spot of her most genuine operations. Religion and LIBERTY! these are the greatest names that ever arrested the attention of man
kind; and such are the themes of our history, since the days of Henry the VIII. Say, then, was there ever a subject more worthy of an eloquent pen—the organ of a just and glowing heart!
All this requires a historian to relate it, who should be, whatever David Hume was not. Sometimes I have felt a transient wish that Milton had completed his design, and given us a full body of English history. He had all the glow of soul, all the high conception of the sublime and beautiful in morals, which was necessary. But Milton was born for a poet, and not for a historian. His prose is poetry ; and his diction is too ponderous and encumbered for common readers. He might have given a good narrative for those who would have studied it out; but that number would have been small. Besides, Milton, though having a strong intuitive insight into truth, yet was no reasoner ; his deductions are perfect, but his premises are often laid in the imagination. He was not the man to balance probabilities, to sum up the argument, and to lead the reader's mind through a narrow path, to retiring truth. The same subject was attempted by Burke. His vast capacity and his unbounded eloquence would no doubt have left us an English history of great value. No man knew, better than be, how to seize hold of a leading fact, or principle, which should shed light on all the complex entanglements of annexed events. Thus, in his speech on American affairs, he has thrown out a thought, which goes farther to explain why Britain could not conquer America, than all the narratives and speculations which may be found in the professed historians. He just asks the ministry to state to themselves, what it would be to conquer America? Taking a town, was not conquering America ; marching through the country, was not ; surveying it, was not; and as for occupying a space of so many millions of square miles, it was out of the question. There was not one vital spot, at which they could strike, and say that the provincials would be subdued. Now this was the true secret, notwithstanding all the flattering unctions addressed to our vanity, on the fourth of July, about our invincible arms—this is the true secret why we were not conquered. The wide surface of our country, and
, the intelligent yeomanry spread over it, was, under God, our salvation. No man, therefore, had more of some of the most splendid requisites of a historian, than the bright