« VorigeDoorgaan »
give much more opportunity than was enjoyed by the ancient world, for the comparison of facts, and the construction of system in the history of mankind; while, at the same time, the literary intercourse of those different kingdoms gives to such researches at once the force of union and the spur of emulation.
In short, the opposite situation and circumstances, of the present age have bestowed on history its most signal improvement, and have given it a form before unknown. The many and various revolutions which an experience of more than three thousand years has exhibited to mankind, and the contemplation of the rise, progress, and decline, of successive empires, have led to the discovery, that all human events are guided and directed by certain general causes which must be everywhere the same. It has come to be perceived that nations, like individuals, have their infancy, maturity, decline, and extinction ; and that in their gradual establishment and various revolutions, immediate causes springing from the actions and characters of individuals, and even all the wisdom and foresight of man, have had but a very slender share, in comparison of the influence of general and unavoidable circumstances.
These reflections, which the experience of many ages could alone suggest, and to which the great improvements of the present age in reasoning and philosophy have much contributed, have led men to view the history of nations in a new light. To investigate the general causes and the true sources of the advancement, the prosperity, and the fall of empires, has become the useful and important object of the historian. While he relates the memorable transactions of each different period, and describes the conduct and characters of the persons principally engaged in them, he at the same time unfolds the remote as well as immediate causes of events, and imparts the most valuable knowledge and information. He marks the advancement of mankind in society, the rise and progress of arts and sciences, the successive improvements of law and government, and the gradual refinement of manners; all of them not only curious objects of contemplation, but intimately connected with a narration of civil transactions, and without which the events of no particular period can be fully accounted for.
The few who have treated history in this manner form the second of the two classes into which I have divided historians; and it is to the present age we owe this union of Philosophy with History, and the production of a new and more perfect species of historical composition. President Montesquieu was perhaps the first who attempted to show how much the history of mankind may be explained from great and general causes. M. de Voltaire's · Essay on General History,' with all its imperfections, is a work of uncommon merit ; with the usual vivacity of its author, it unites great and enlarged views on the general progress of civilization and advancement of society. The same track has been pursued by other writers of reputation, particularly by the late Mr. Hume, who, in his History of England,' has gone further in investigating general causes, and in marking the progress of laws, government, arts, and manners, than any of his predecessors. Much, however, yet remains to be done; for it is a field but just begun to be cultivated ; and if it be true, as the last-mentioned historian has observed, that the world is still too young to fix many general truths in politics, we have to fear that it is reserved for some still distant age to see Philosophical History attain its highest perfection.
No. 6. SATURDAY, MARCH 12, 1785.
A Few mornings ago I was agreeably surprised with a very early call from my newly-acquired friend Colonel Caustic. “ 'Tis on a foolish piece of business,' said he, I give you the trouble of this visit. You must know I had an appointment with your friend S-to go to the play this evening, which a particular affair that has come across him
will prevent his keeping; and as a man, after making such an arrangement, feels it irksome to be disappointed, at least it is so with an old methodical fellow like me, I have taken the liberty of calling, to ask if you will supply his place: I might have had one or two other conductors; but it is only with certain people I choose to go to such places. Seeing a play, or indeed any thing else, won't do at my time of life, either alone, or in company not quite to one's mind. 'Tis like drinking a bottle of claret; the liquor is something; but nine-tenths of the bargain is in the companion with whom one drinks it.' As he spoke this, he gave me his hand with such an air of core diality-methought we had been acquainted these forty years ;-I took it with equal warmth, and assured him truly it would give me infinite pleasure to attend him.
When we went to the theatre in the evening, and while I was reading the box list, to determine where we should endeavour to find a place, a lady of the Colonel's acquaintance happening to come in, begged our acceptance of places in her box. We entered. accordingly; and I placed my old friend in a situation where I thought he could most conveniently
command a view both of the company and of the stage. He had never been in our present house before, and allowed, that in size and convenience it exceeded the old one, though he would not grant so much as the lady and I demanded on that score. 'I know,' said he, you are in the right; but one don't easily get rid of first impressions; I can't make you conceive what a play was to me some fifty years ago, with what feelings I heard the last music begin, nor how my heart beat when it ceased.'—Why, it is very true, Colonel,' says the lady, one can't retain those feelings always.'-. It is something, said 1, to have had them once.'- - Why, if I may judge from the little I have seen,' replied the Colonel, ‘ your young folks have no time for them now. a-days; their pleasures begin so early, and come so thick.'— 'Tis the way to make the most of their time.'-- Pardon me, Madam,' said he, • I don't think so: 'tis like the difference between
hothouse asparagus and my garden ones; the last have their green and their white; but the first is tasteless from the very top.' The lady had not time to study the allusion; for her company began to came into the box, and continued coming in during all the first act of the comedy. On one side of Colonel Caustic sat a lady with a Lunardi hat; before hini was placed one with a feathered head-dress. Lunardi and the feathers talked and nodded to one another about an appointment at a milliner's next morning. I sat quite behind, as is my custom, and betook myself to meditation. The Colonel was not quite so patient: he tried to see the stage, and got a flying vizzy now and then; but in the last attempt, he got such a whisk from Miss Feathers on one cheek, and such a poke from the wires of Miss Lunardi on tother, that he was fain to give up the matter of seeing ;-as to hearing, it was out of the question.
*I hope, Colonel, you have been well entertained, said the mistress of the box, at the end of the act.
Wonderfully well,' said the Colonel. That La Marsh is a monstrous comical fellow !'.—Oh! as to that, Madam, I know nothing of the matter: in your ladyship's box one is quite independent of the players.'-He made a sign to me: I opened the boxdoor, and stood waiting for his coming with me.• Where you are going, Colonel ?' said
the lady, as he stepped over the last bench. To the play, Madam,' said he, bowing, and shutting the door.
For that purpose we went to the pit, where though it was pretty much crowded, we got ourselves seated in a very centrical place. There is something in Colonel Caustic's look and appearance, not so much of the form only, but the sentiment of good breeding, that it is not easy to resist showing him any civility in one's power.
While we stood near the door, a party in the middle of one of the rows beckoned to us, and let us know that we might find room by them; and the Colonel, not without many scruples of complaisance, at last accepted the invitation.
We had not long been in possession of our place before the second act began.
We had now an opportunity of hearing the play, as, though the conversation in the box we had left, which by this time was reinforced by several new performers, was about as loud as that of the players, we were nearer to the talkers in front than to those behind us. When the act was over, I repeated Lady ----'s interrogatory as to the Colonel's entertainment. . I begin,' said he putting his snuff-box to his nose, to find the inattention of my former box-fellows not quite so unreasonable.'- Our company of this season,' said a brother-officer, who sat near us, to Colonel Caustic, is a very numerous one; they can get up any