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graphs I have also silently followed the manuscript; without noticing the places where the printed copy gives a different one, unless there be a doubt which is right. The spelling is modernised throughout: and I have used my own judgment as to the punctuation ; - observing always the spirit and intention of the punctuation in the manuscript.
This manuscript may be seen in the British Museum; Additional MSS. vol. 7084. It is a fair transcript in a very clear hand. Bacon's own pen may be recognised here and there throughout, sometimes in the alteration of a stop, sometimes in the insertion of a parenthesis, sometimes in the correction of a letter, sometimes in the interlineation of two or three words. A few leaves are wanting, which are noticed in the places.
The printed copy is a tall quarto of 248 pages, with the following title, The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh, written by the Right Honourable Francis Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban. London. Printed by W. Stansby for Matthew Lownes and William Barret, 1622. A portrait of Henry, with sceptre and ball, is prefixed; harshly engraved by John Payne; with the inscription cor regis inscrutabile. The face,—thoughtful, anxious, lean, and furrowed, -seems to be the original of the comely, grave, well-fed gentleman with whom we are familiar in Vertue's engraving. The book was printed and ready for publication on the 20th of March 1621-2; and “ the printer's fingers itched to be selling."| Some delay seems to have been caused by a scruple of the Bishop of London ; but it was published soon after.?
2. In order to detect inaccuracies, I have endeavoured (besides consulting the more recent histories) to determine, wherever I could do so from authentic sources, the exact dates of the transactions related; and where I have found them inconsistent with the narrative, or have otherwise detected or seen reason to suspect any error, I have noticed the fact; not confining myself to cases in which the error seems to be of consequence; but correcting positive misstatements of every kind; for it is impossible to say of any fact that it is of no consequence, unless you could know how it may be combined with other facts and what inferences it may be made to support.
See a letter from Meautys, which appears to have been written on that day. . It was out on the 6th of April. See a letter from Rev, Joseph Mead to Sir Martin Stuteville. - Court and Times of James I., vol. ii. p. 303.
3. With regard to the supply of omissions, on the contrary, I have taken pains to distinguish the important from the unimportant. Clearness of narrative depends upon nothing more than upon the rejection of what is immaterial; and innumerable particulars were no doubt omitted by Bacon on purpose. Nevertheless many facts have come to light since Bacon's time which he would have introduced into his narrative if he had been aware of them; and whatever has seemed to me to be of this nature, I have not hesitated to introduce in the notes. So that I hope this history may now be recommended not only as the richest, clearest, and liveliest narrative, and in general effect the most faithful portraiture, of the time (which with all its defects it always was); but also as the most complete in details and the most accurate in information.
4. Lastly, with regard to the Latin translation. This edition being intended especially for English readers, it has not been thought desirable to increase its size and cost by reprinting translations which were intended only for foreigners; and which, being for the most part mere translations, no English reader would prefer to the original. It was to be remembered however that they were made either by Bacon himself or under his eye and direction ("Historiam Henrici Septimi, quam etiam in Latinum verti,” is his own expression in the dedication prefixed to the Sermones Fideles); and therefore that where they differ in meaning or effect more than the different idiom of the language seems to require, the Latin must pass for the later and better authority. I have therefore compared the two sentence by sentence, and wherever I have found that the Latin version contains any meaning that is not fully or exactly represented by the English,—that it explains an obscure, decides a doubtful, or corrects an inaccurate expression,—I have quoted the Latin words.
This I think is all I need say in explanation of my own part in the revision and elucidation of this work. A few words as to the character of the work itself. For it will be seen that, while admitting and accounting for its imperfections, I have ascribed to it a substantial excellence far higher than it has credit for; and I may be expected to give a reason for dissenting from the popular judgment, supported as it is by some eminent authorities.
In so far as the difference is a matter of taste, I can only say that since the proper object of history is to reproduce such an image of the past that the actors shall seem to live and the events to pass before our eyes, that style of historical composition should be the best in which this is most completely accomplished; and that I have met with no history of the reign of Henry the Seventh, nor indeed of any other English king, in which such an effect is produced in a degree at all comparable to this. Indeed if the question could be made to turn upon that point, I almost think that such would be the general opinion. But it is true that during the last century popular taste in this kind of composition ran another way; forsaking the model of Thucydides, in whose pages the events of the Peloponnesian war still live as fresh as those which we follow day by day in the newspapers ; and declining to that of the Annual Register, where the events of 1848, so strange, so interesting, so agitating, as we read of them while they were passing, may be seen laid up in 1849 as dead and dry as mummies. In so far as it is a question of taste, Bacon's history, tried by such a standard, must of course fail.
It is not however to a difference of taste merely, that the low place which it holds in popular estimation must be attributed. It is connected no doubt with a very prevalent, though a very erroneous, impression, that it is not a true portraiture of the time; that it was written with other objects than those of a faithful historian ; written not to reproduce a true image of Henry the Seventh, but to flatter the humour of James the First by drawing such a picture of his ancestor as should indirectly reflect honour on himself. I do not know into whose imagination this idea first entered, but it lies at the bottom of most modern criticisms, and is set forth at large by Sir James Mackintosh in a note appended to the second volume of his History of England, in Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopædia. The question being too serious to be passed over, and the authority too respectable to be overruled without showing reasons, I shall quote his note at length.
“Lord Bacon was the man of highest intellect among the writers of history; but he was not the greatest historian. History ought to be without passion; but if it be without feeling, it loses the interest which bestows on it the power of being useful. The narrative of human actions would be thrown aside as a mere catalogue of names and dates, if it did not maintain its sway by inspiring the reader with pity for the sufferer, with anger against the oppressor, and with earnest desires for the triumph of right over might. The defects of Bacon's nature conspired with the faults of his conception of history to taint his work with lukewarm censure of falsehood and extortion, with a cool display of the expedients of cunning, and with too systematic a representation of the policy of a monarch in whose history he chose to convey a theory of king-craft and the likeness of its ideal model. A writer who has been successful in unravelling an intricate character often becomes indulgent to the man whose seeming inconsistencies he has explained, and may at length regard the workings of his own ingenuity with a complacency which prevails over his indignation. Aristotle, who first attempted a theory of usurpation, has escaped the appearance of this fault, partly because sensibility is not expected, and would displease in a treatise on government. Machiavel was unhappily too successful in silencing his abhorrence of crimes; but this fault is chiefly to be found in “The Prince,” which is a treatise on the art of winning and keeping tyrannical power; which was destined by the writer neither to instruct tyrants nor to warn nations against their arts, but simply to add the theory of these arts to the stock of human knowledge; as a. philosophical treatise on poisons might be intended only to explain their nature and effects, though the information contained in it might be abused by the dealer in poison, or usefully employed for cure or relief by the physician.
Lord Bacon displayed a much smaller degree of this vice, but he displayed it in history, where it is far more unpardonable. In the singular passage where he lays down the theory of the advancement of fortune (which he knew so well and practised so ill), he states the maxim which induced the Grecian and Italian philosophers to compose their dissertations, “that there be not anything in being or action which should not be drawn into contemplation or doctrine.” He almost avows an intention of embodying in the person of his hero (if that be the proper term) too much of the ideal conception of a wary, watchful, unbending ruler, who considers men and affairs merely as they affect him and his kingdom; who has no good quality higher than prudence; who is taught by policy not to be cruel when he is secure, but who treats pity and affection like malice and hatred, as passions which disturb hi thoughts and bias his judgment. So systematic a purpose cannot fail to distort character and events, and to divest both of their power over feeling. It would have been impossible for Lord Bacon, if he had not been betrayed by his chilling scheme, to prefer Louis XI. to Louis XII., and to declare that Louis XI., Ferdinand the Catholic, and Henry VII., were the three magi among the kings of the age;" though it be true that Henry was the least odious of the three royal sages.
“It is due in the strictest justice to Lord Bacon not to omit, that the history was written to gratify James I., to whom he was then suing for bitter bread, who revised it, and whom he addressed in the following words :-“I have therefore chosen to write the reign of Henry VII., who was in a sort your forerunner; and whose spirit as well as his blood is doubled upon your majesty.” Bacon had just been delivered from prison: he had passed his sixtieth year, and was galled by unhonoured poverty. What wonder if in these circumstances even his genius sunk under such a patron and such a theme !” 1
Now setting aside for the present the general question as to the spirit in which history ought to be written, and the particular question as to the spirit in which this history is written, upon both which points I shall have a word to say presently, let us first consider the more positive and definite imputations contained in the foregoing passage. That Bacon wrote the book to gratify James; that in order to gratify James he represented Henry as a model of king-craft; and that the systematic purpose of so representing Henry as a model of king-craft“ distorted character and events;” — this is what the charge amounts to. And it is important to know how far it is true. For if it were so, to set about detecting and rectifying historical inaccuracies would be a mere waste of time and a mistaking of the proper duty of an editor. In that case the book as a history would be merely worthless. It would be curious only as a record of Bacon's idea — or rather of what he supposed to be James's idea -- of a model king, and should be treated accordingly.
It seems to me however that the hypothesis is not only uncalled for, but utterly untenable.
That he “ wrote the book to gratify James I.” is indeed in one sense true enough. He wanted to do some service which James would appreciate, and he knew that a good history of so important a reign was one of the best services he could perform, and one the most certain to be appreciated. But it is plain that Sir J. Mackintosh meant something more than this; and if he meant, as I presume he did, that Bacon chose the subject because it gave him an opportunity for flattering James,
" Lardner's Cyclopædia, Hist. of England, vol. ii. p. 362.