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degrees ought to instruct themselves in those affairs, wherein they may be actors themselves, or judges of those who act, or controllers of those who judge:’ and from some one or other of these classes, no subject of Great-Britain is wholly excluded.”
Another great advantage arising from the study of history, is, its tending to free the mind from many foolish prejudices, and consequently to enlarge the understanding and rectify the judgment. This he illustrates by examples of extravagant patriotism. He also sanctions the observations of Hume “that the fair sex may learn in history this important truth, that love is neither the only, moralways the governing principle in the hearts of men; which, from the reading of novels, frequenting the theatre, and even the general turn of polite conversation, they might otherwise imagine.”
But the most important use of history, on which our philosopher dwells with particular emphasis, is, its tendency to strengthen the sentiments of virtue. On this subject he reasoms with great force and eloquence, demonstrating the usefulness of a true representation of vicious, as well as virtuous characters.
“The only reason,” as he observes, “why a young person cannot be safely trusted with viewing the vices, as well as the virtues that are in the world, is that, if left to himself in real life, vice may be so circumstanced, as to be put too inviting to his unexperienced mind. But, in history, vice never appears tempting.”
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* So consistent is the orderof Divine Providence, that, if the scheme be fairly and completely represented, we may depend upon it that nothing will be exhibited from which it may be justly concluded, that vice is eligible upon the whole. Contrary, therefore, to what may be apprehended from a promiscous acquaintance with the world, through the glass of history, vices may be viewed as safely as virtues. Nay, they both equally teach wisdom and good morals. It is even impossible to say, which of them inculcate the moral lesson with more force. The excesses of Nero, and the goodness of Marcus Aurelius, have the same good effect in. history,”
For the truth of this observation we have only to appeal to our own hearts; and we shall
find, that not only historic narrative, but poetie fiction, have exercised all the most generous emotions of our nature. How often have our bosoms glowed with patriotism, while reading the story of Leonidas and his Spartan's; or that of St. Pierre, and the other Citizens of Calais, who offered themselves as voluntary victims to save the city. While we admire the stern heroic virtue, and nice sense of honour, which compelled Virginius to kill his beloved daughter, to preserve her chastity, our indignation is exerted against the detestable Appius, and the mind is established in the principles of justice and virtue.
But the excellent effects of history, in correcting the prejudices, rectifying the judgment, and improving the morals of the student, are best explained in the Doctor's own illustrations and reflections. Accordingly, a considerable portion of the first volume is occupied with striking passages from Universal History, in which our philosopher has, at once, demonstrated the vast extent of his reading, and his judgment in selection.
Few works will impart more useful precepts to the youthful mind, and the man of reflection
may also find a fund of entertainment and information in these lectures, expressed in a style perspicuous, pure, and emergetic.
Having given a comprehensive view of the general uses of history, the author proceeds to point out its sources; the most advantageous method of studying it; and the several objects which particularly demand the attention of the student. Having described the series in which Ancient History should be read, he, by a natural transition, directs the attention of the reader to the study of English History.
In the second volume, our author takes an extensive philosophic survey of the most important objects which ought to engage the attention of the reader of history. This subject is discussed in its various branches, with much ingenuity and sound reflection, in a series of thirty-six lectures, comprising an interesting view of mankind, and a treasure of useful facts, which cannot fail to instruct the reader.
The study of biography is strongly recommended by the Doctor, who observes that, “If a person read history for real use, and the direction of his conduct in his own profession, biography will answer his purpose better than
general history. Lives have been published of particular persons of every station and profession, princes, generals, statesmen, divines, phi
sophers, and even artists of every kind, which
are of excellent use to inspire a spirit of emula
tion in persons of the same station and profession.”
That select biography is highly entertaining and instructive we all know by pleasing experience. It has been defined to be, history teaching by example; but several biographical publications which have recently issued from the press, are extremely injurious to the morals of
The lives of kept mistresses, actresses, profligate swindlers, and military coxcombs, have been published with unblushing effrontery, by unprincipled men, for the sake of emolument. Nay, what is still worse, that egotist, Kotzebue, during the moment of popular phrenzy, which conferred applause instead of execration, very modestly obliged the world, as it is politely termed, with an account of his studies, intrigues, &c. A still greater abuse of biographical composition, is the attempt sometimes made to adorn licenti