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ART. I.-History of the Church of England. By the late Rev.
J. B. S. CARWITHEN, B.D. A new Edition by the Rev. W. R.
BROWELL, M. A. Rector of Beaumont, Essex. We hold it impossible to overrate the importance of that influence which the historian will exercise over his own and succeeding generations, should he be so fortunate as to win, in the first place, and afterwards to retain, the ear of the public.' If, as we are told, the formation of opinions and principles is in the hands of poets, historians, and divines, can we lay too much stress and insist too rigidly upon the orthodoxy, the truthfulness, and moral character of these high-priests of literature! On this obvious ground, without further apology, and because of the conflicting claims advanced from time to time by men of every shade of sentiment and variety of creed, we deem it to be within our province to remark, and even our duty to keep a watchful eye, upon the productions of our own age in any of these the principal departments of learning; accordingly we would now turn the attention of the reading part of our community to a reprint of the excellent work standing at the head of this article ; and we must first of all lay down what qualifications are, in our judgment, essentially necessary for an ecclesiastical historian to possess; that we may be justified in the commendation we shall venture to bestow, and in the exceptions to an entire approval we shall find it necessary to make.
In attempting to define the duties of an historian, if we begin with a foundation of elementary and well known matter, we solicit our readers patience until they can determine for themselves whether our remarks would have been complete without them. We commence then by opening a school-book, Cicero de Orat. lib. ii.; nor could so much as the following passage contains be easily comprehended in fewer words :
'Quis nescit primam esse historiæ legem ne quid falsi dicere audeat, deinde ne quid veri non audeat, ne qua suspicio gratiæ sit in scribendo, ne NO. LXIX.-N.S.
qua simultatis ? Hæc scilicet fundamenta nota sunt omnibus : ipsa autem exædificatio posita est in rebus et verbis, Rerum ratio ordinem temporum desiderat, regionum descriptionem : vult etiam quoniam in rebus magnis, memoriâque dignis consilia primum, deinde acta, posteà eventus exspectantur, et de consiliis significari quid scriptor probet, et in rebus gestis declarari non solum quid actum aut dictum sit, sed etiam quo modo, et cum de eventu dicatur, ut causæ explicentur omnes vel casûs vel sapientiæ vel temeritatis ; hominumque ipsorum non solum res gestæ, sed etiam qui famâ ac nomine excellant, de cujusque vitâ atque naturâ. Verborum autem ratio et genus orationis fusum atque tractum et cum levitate quâdam æquabili profluens sine bac judiciali asperitate et sine sententiarum forensium aculeis, persequendum est.'
The powers and habits of mind demanded for the execution of this office are evidently extremely numerous and of a very high stamp: we are almost afraid to attempt their enumeration. Take however the following; honesty, sagacity, discrimination, sound judgment, diligence, and order; add to them taste and elegance, and even then we shall have by no means exhausted all those excellent qualities which ought to meet in a writer of history. Every one must, we think, be struck with the fact that moral habits of the mind, and not those of an intellectual kind, prevail in our list of desiderata. The truth is, that we must regard historians more or less in the light of witnesses; we demand to know their names and character (for where shall we find an anonymous history that has carried any authority with it?) They must appear in the court of public opinion, and may be cross-examined on every thing to which they depose: it is a question of credibility, and therefore the moral worth of the historian is necessarily made prominent. We shall not of course be misunderstood so far as to be thought to insist on the testimony of eye-witnesses alone, or to confine our confidence to contemporary historians ;-such an overstrained and rigid law could never be enforced, and would not secure more of truth, while it would mutilate and embarrass the course of narrative insufferably. Our meaning is, that every thing placed on record by a writer receives such a stamp and value as his judgment awards ;-he is, in a secondary sense, a witness of transactions which occurred ages ago, for he believes them or rejects them; such is the accumulative testimony of the Church of successive generations. On this point, however, we shall have cccasion to dwell when we come to the consideration of what the Christian historian should possess, over and above those endowments of the mind that make up the accomplishments of a civil historian. We propose to restrict ourselves at first, guided in some measure by the definition of the great orator, to those qualifications which all who would succeed in this noble employment, whatever be its subject, must possess in common. For when we