Page images

results better worthy the perusal of his readers, I have kept my crude remarks for many years in an uncertain expectation that their publication might be rendered useless by the appearance of some better efforts, or that I might myself have an opportunity of substantially improving them. Neither contingency has happened. I could do no more than alter some occasional passages, where the experience of practical life had corrected the views of a collegiate recluse. I have now neither the wish nor the leisure to return to studies which were never to me anything but a part of education ; for I am of the number of those who sympathise not with a recluse entombed by one life-long solitary task, and consider speculative employments prosecuted so exclusively as to debar their devotee from a life of action to be unworthy of a manly citizen ; while the pursuits which I have now embraced require the whole and undivided energy of those who would succeed in them, and compel me to relinquish for ever every other form of occupation.

Let the reader then be assured that if a name were affixed he would know no more about the authorship of what he reads than he does when I tell him that the book was written by one who was then fitting himself to be, what he now is, a practising member of the English bar.

Completion and perfection seem the less necessary the more one regards the nature of the subject. In no field of labour may an English author hope for more assistance from his readers, more participation as it were in the toils and labour of discussion, than in any one that borders upon politics. For while the man of science converses as a fellow-worker but to a very small audience, and to the people at large harangues as a professor ; while


the poet sings to those who listen to his singing without thought of joining in it; while the historian of a particular country explains for general knowledge what he by greater research knows better than his readers; and the metaphysician publishes his deep discussions to select circles who think they have done much if they merely understand them; it is far otherwise with a subject such as this. In our country every gentleman is more or less of a politician, and a student of general history; and whoever writes upon matters which elsewhere are the exclusive business of emperors, statesmen, and professors, must be prepared here to find in the bulk of his readers men who have as much knowledge of his subject and have thought as deeply upon it as he who aspires to communicate his thoughts in the shape of a book.



December, 1860.






«Γιγνόμενα μεν και αεί εσόμενα, έως αν η αυτή φύσις ανθρώπων ή, μάλλον δε και ήσυχαίτερα και τους είδεσι διηλλαγμένα, ώς αν έκασται αι μεταβολαι των ξυντυχιών PLOTWVTAL.”—THUCYD. iii. 82.*

What are we to consider history - a string of striking episodes, with no other connection but that of time, or the manifestation of a unity of purpose, worked out by a necessary and defined progression ? Can we draw out a tree of history, and trace the connection of its parts ?

There are probably few thoughtful persons who, when they have closed a book of history, have not asked themselves this question, and have not traced in the leading features of the story which they have been reading a marked resemblance to the biographies, if we may so speak, of other nations. But whether appalled by the vastness of the subject, whether repulsed by a false notion of its inutility, whether influenced by the natural ten

* Events which have happened, and always will happen so long as the nature of mankind remains the same, albeit varying in form and in degree according to the difference of circumstances in which they are clothed.


« PreviousContinue »