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degree of civilization and learning, potwithstauding the facility
In the few remarks which follow under the title of Conclusion,
« In advancing through this long series of time, it would have been easy, as the documents lay before me, to have accumulated extracts, and thus to have formed a more ponderous volume: but should I by this means have conveyed more valuable information? I omitted nothing, which I thought, that a reasonable curiosity, would wish to know. To compress, where matter is abundant, and yet still to leave the subject sufficiently full, and to be instructive, is the duty of a compiler, and one of the necessary arts of compilation. How far I have succeeded in this point, I must leave it to others to determine." P..511.
“ But much has doubtless escaped me. I was, however, not seldom apprehensive my mind being full of the subject--that I might dwell on points which were more interesting to myself than to the reader. The prolixity of authors is generally ascribable to
It is more advisable to say too little, than too much. Hence if we sometimes fail of gratifying curiosity, we may at least avoid the production of disgust." P. 512.
We do not wish to deal hard with Mr. Berington upon what he feels himself to be the case ; and glad we are to find that, though late, he has now taken the opportunity of owning that the Crusades produced at least one benefit, and that was the progress of the science of geography. We have already expressed our sentiments on the subject, and hope in a future edition to see in the test, and in the body of the work the confession which now appears under such an objectionable shape.
The last two paragraphs deserve to be noticed.
“ In Germany, another spirit brooded in the public mind, indicating discontent, impatience of grievances, and an anxious, but undefined wish of change. Their complaints had often been heard; but no redress had been obtained. With the rest of Europe they complained, that the power, exercised by the Roman bishops, was exorbitant and oppressive; that their legates and other agents were rapacious and arrogant; that the manners of the higher and lower clergy and of the monks were disorderly and dissolute; and they loudly demanded, as their fathers had done, a reformation of the church in its head and in its members. It would have been well, had these complaints been patiently heard and wisely redressed. This unfortunately was not the case; and not many years
later, that revolution followed, which, in the christian world, pro duced a series of events, which were to many the source of manifold evils, and to some of partial good. The cause of literature was, eventually, benefited. But could it have been thus benefited by this alone? Or was the character of the northern nations really become so torpid, that nothing short of a general combustion blown up by the breath of a Saxon friar could have roused their minds into action?
I believe, that the effect might not have been so rapid: but when I look to the state of Italy, as it then was, and to the state of France, as it soon would be I can say with confidence, that genuine literature and the polite arts must shortly have revisited all tlve European kingdoms, even though no such revolution, as has been called the Reformation, had intervened, to infiame and convulse the moral state of Christendom. In that case, it is pleasing to recollect that--without civil or religious strife, and without those seeds of animosity being engendered, which no time is likely to eradicate we should have seen abuses corrected; ignorance dispelled; rights maintained ; learning restored; the arts keeping possession of our temples; and, in our own country, those noble edifices, the monuments of the generous piety of our ancestors, preserved from destruction, and made the asylums not of monkish intolence, but of studious ease, modest worth, and christian phiFosophy." P. 516.
We cannot say that this sentiment does any credit to the judgnient or the discernment of Mr. Berington. We can hardly think, un though no such revolutiou, as bas been called the REFORMATION, had intervened, that literature and polite arts must have revisited all the European kingdoms;" and we still farther doubt, #bether they would have corrected the abuses arising from the exorbitant power of the Popes; and which, for the most part, EVEN ON the eve of that revolution, received the seal of a general council. At any rate, though we may lament the fate of our forefathers for the dreadful alternative in which they were placed, we find ourselves so comfortably situated with the present order of things arising from that revolution, that we are by ma means inclined to grudge the hardships, which they were obliged to undergo. Indeed it is a melancholy thought, but at alie same time a necessary one, that great reforms cannot happen without great struggles, and the cook who should weep over the chichens that she should spoil by breaking the eggs, would never serve an omelette on her master's table.
Tbus does Mr. Berington end the History of the Middle Ages, but not the volume. A full quarter is there left still, and taken up by two appendices; one on the literature of the Greeks, and the second on the learning of the Saracens. Our remarks 012 both will be but few.
To the appendix on the Greeks we have very lit:le to say; it as, generally speaking, taken from the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; here and there, indeed, Mr. Berington seems to hold an opinion of his own; but the points on which he departs, and the little which he differs, from the author of the Decline and Fall, are so very few and so very trifling, that they hardly deserve to be noticed. However, in the hurry of the narrative, and the quantity of the materials, Mr. Berington is not always happy in the choice of the circumstances he relates, and sometimes he leaves out those, the omission of which may cause a considerable alteration in the mind of his reader.
The following may serve as a specimen.
“ The reign of Palæologus contains little, which is worthy of record, in this view of Grecian letters. provoked the censures of his own church, by the cruel treatment of John Lascaris ;
and incurred the displeasure of that church, by insincere attempts to effect an union with the church of Rome. He was justly apprec kensive of an attack from the West, particularly from Charles of Anjou, the powerful king of the Sicilies; and in order to avert it, policy dictated, that the friendship of the Roman bishop, who was Row the sovereign lord of the western world, should be conciliated, by submission to the terms of his communion." P. 614.
Now the real cause which actually averted the impending storm, was the assistance which Palæologus gave to Peter, King of Arragon, to claim the island of Sicily, of the right of his wife, bequeathed her by Corradin her brother, when Charles sent him to the scaffold. Persuaded by Procida, that the King of Sicily, having the war in his own kingdom, could not have the power of assaulting Constantinople, Michael sent a confidential agent to the Pope, who being already displeased with Charles, cagerly embraced the opportunity of revenging himself. The Sicilian vespers were the result of this assistance; by them Charles lost the kingdom of Sicily, and eight thousand of liis best troops; and a war of twenty years could not restore to the house of Angioù the crown which by this revolution liad been placed on the head of Peter of Arragon.
In the second appendix upon the Arabian learning, Mr. Berington has such sure guides, that the task we have left is simply that of applause. Indeed, Sir W. Jones, Scales, Gibbon, Cassiri, and Andres have so much exhausted the subject, that a writer who follows their steps is sure to be, if not profound, at Jeast correct. But the quantity of matter which Mr. Berington has had to compress within a small compass, occasionally produces a chasm in this appendix, which is not very easy to le filled. We shall subjoin a specimen.
It is notorious that long before and long after Mahomet, the Arabians were illiterate and ignorant. A few uncouth verses, transmitted by tradition, contained the whole of their erudition ; and it was but few years before the Hegyra, that Moramera, a citizen of Ambara, invented the Arabic characters. Indeed, Mahomet was so fully convinced of the incompatibility of philosophy and religion, that he decreed the punishment of death to those who should cultivate liberal arts. The Koran had al. ready been established for more than a century, he himself had long been no more, and some of his followers, animated by the same spirit which had inflamed their prophet, threatened to im, pale every person who should follow the detested example of the Caliph Almanon, who had begun to recal sciences and learning into his dominions. That is indisputable. Now, if such was the intolerance and the tenets of the Moslems at that time, the reader must be rather surprised at seeing the Arabs all at once laying aside this important point of their creed, and submit to the will of their Caliphs in cultivating arts aud sciences.
Mr. Berington is totally silent on the matter, and in, a production like his we consider the subject to be of the utmost importance ; indeed, lie has been generally very careful in the whole history to account for any decay or improvement in literature, so that we have always considered this to have been his forte; and we are at a loss, in the present instance, to imagine the reason of this departure from a plan, which he lias so reasonably adopted and in general so faithfully followed.
We shall fill up the omission as briefly as possible ; and among the many causes which might be assigned to explain the șingularity of this phenomenon, we shall mention a hat to us apa pears the principal one. A great part of the inhabitants of Arabia were Christians; and they either followed the pursuits of commerce, which rendered them important by making them sich, or exercised the healing art of medicine, equally useful to the Prince and to the Priest, to his heretic as well as his orthodox subjects, and consequently by the necessary superiority wbich at all times knowledge will have over ignorance, the SaTacens could not help feeling for them esteem and veneration. This importance and this veneration must have been increased still more, when they saw their Caliphs learn from these objects of their esteem, those very arts and qualifications which they had already begun to look upon with respect; and thus tlie hatred of the Moslems becoming by degrees less violent, reconciled them at last to see a public school raised by the side of a mosque.
page 691, where Mr. Berington refers to the Arabians the invention of gunpowder and paper, we are somewhat surprised that he has not also mentioned the mariner's compass and the application of the pendulum to ineasure time. The first is re. ported by Tiraboschi and by Andres, and proved by a criticism on the works of Albertus Magnus, besides some Arabian MSS.:de arte nautica, reported by Cassiri in Bibli. Arabico-hispana. The second originates from a letter of Dr. Barnard of Oxford * to the Rev. Dr. Huntington, Master of Trinity College, in the same University: This letter was afterwards inserted in the number 158 of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Academy, and vindicated by Fabricius Biblioth. Græc. li. Ill. There is also something on the same subject published by Bayer dissert. : but we have not been able to consult the work."
Such is the character of the book which now lies before us; and from what has been said, and the extracts which have been given, the reader may be able to form a proper judgment of its merits and faults. The former, indeed, are by far the most abund. ant, whether we consider the manliness of style, the elegance of lan. guage, or the prmciples of sound philosophy. His viesus also upon the subject of religion are as mild and tolerant as could reasonably have been expected. As to the faults--for the productions of men must have faults--we have already remarked those we thought the most important; and in regard to the rest, they are 'such that may be easily forgiven. But that which has disa pleased us the most, is the want of connexion through the whole book, by which the reader if left to himself to join together the different links of this long and comprehensive chain. First of áll, sometimes Mr. Berington hardly touches upon that which is necessary to be known, and in the second place, he says it in such a way,
few of his readers will be able to find out the connexion. Well persuaded of the truth of his theory, he thinks that as the connexiou is obvious to himself, it must be apparent to the reader. For this reason he is rather too fond of giving an abstract result of his meditations or of his labours, and in endeavouring to be short and concise, he is sometimes abscure, at other times superficial, and often he leaves a blank
* The object of Barnard in this letter was to give a proper idea of the progress of the abstract sciences amongst the Arabians, with whose language and literature he was most particularly acquainted. After having spoken of their knowledge in astronomy, of the elegance and accuracy of the instruments they employed, and of the method with which they made their observations, he adds !!.. Imo, mirabere, (tempus) fili penduli vibrationibus jam pridem distinterent et mensurarint, &c. &e.