« PreviousContinue »
Though the author quotes frequently from cotemporary authors, as Buchan, Motherby, &c. we will not even suspect that he has taken very liberally from them. Tocy undoubt. edly fometimes err; but our prefent licentiate is only fometimes in the right. They have frequently a meaning; but The M. L. under consideration only blunders about it.
The History of Great Britain, froin the firft invafion of it by the
Romans uider Julius Cæfar. By Robert llenry, D.D. Vol. V. 470.
Cadell. a period of several years, historical compositions have formed a principal part of Britih literature : and amidst there, the history of our own country has been treated with a degree of excelence, more likely to preclude than excite competition for several fucceeding years. Dr. Henry undoubtedly began the present work under circumstances far more advantageous to those prospects which stimulate the exertion of a writer ; though, by means of a comprehensive plan, calculated to attord variety of information, he has been able to render a new History of Great Britain not only acceptable, but in a certain degree interesting, to the public. To prevent such a work from becoming too voluminous, to which it had a natural tendency, the author, in the narrative of civil and military transactions, is eften obliged to substitute brevity for minuteness of detail; but whilit fidelity is scrupulouily preserved, few readers will regret that conciseness which affords room for the admission of collateral subjects, both gratifying to curiosity, and particu. larly illuftrative of the genius and manners of former times.
The period of history, comprised in the present volume, abounds with extraordinary events; and to develope them in a satisfactory manner, from the imperfect or contradictory accounts which have been transmitted by different writers, requires all the penetration of a historian. Dr. Henry approves himself sufficiently industrious in his researches ; nor can we forbear from acknowledging, that he discovers an equal degree of judgment in weighing the evidence, and either admitting, rejecting, or leaving doubtful, alleged facts, upon the principle of hisorical probability.
This volume comprehends the civil and military history of England, from the acceflion of Henry IV. in 1339, to the accession of Henry VII. in 1485. We mall lay before our Teaders the author's character of Henry the Fifth, as a prince, whose extraordinary qualities give a luftre to this part of the English history,
** Thus died, 'in the prime of life, and in the full career of glory, Henry V. one of the best, bravest, and molt fortunate princes that ever wore the diadem of England. His person is thus described by one who had often seen him. “ In itature, he was a little above the middle size; his countenance was beau:iful, his neck long, his body flender, and his limbs most elegantly formed. He was very Itrong, and so swift, that, with two companions, without either dogs or misfive weapons, he catched a doe, one of the fleeteit animals. He was a lover of music, and excelled in all 'martial and manly exercises." Some of our contemporary historians have heaped upon this prince, with a liberal but injudicious hand, all the praises they could collect, expressed in the most extravagant and boinbaltic language. It may, however, be affirmed, without the least exaggeration, that he possessed an excellent understanding, which enabled him to form his designs with judgment, and to chuse the most effeétual means, and favourable seasons for carrying them into execution. His heart was as warın as his head was cool, and his courage equal to his wisdom, which embold. ened him to encounter the greatest dangers, and surmount the greatest difficulties. His virtues were not inferior to his abi. lities, being a dutiful fon, a fond husband, an affectionate brother, a fieady and generous friend, and an indulgent malter. His youthful excelles proceeded rather from redundancy of fpirit, than depravity of heart. His intolerance and severity to those who diffented from the ettablished system of religion, was the vice of the age rather than of the man. The injustice of his attempi to obtain the crown of France cannot be denied ; but the probability of its success, from the distracted late of that kingdom, was too great a temptation to be refiited by a young, warlıke, and ambitious prince. In a word, Henry V. though not without his failings, merits the character of an aniable and accomplimed man, a great and good king.'
The fluctuations of the English government, subsequent to the death of this prince, are such as lead a historian into the depths of political intrigue, and surprise him, in every step of his progress, with unexpected revolutions of fortune. Henry iteers his course through this turbulent period by the belt authorities of historical information; and relates, with due impartiality, the contention between the houses of Lancaster and York. His faithful regard to truth is evident from the following character of Richard the Third.
• Richard III. if we may believe many of our historians, was a kind of monfter, both in mind and body. “ The tyrant king Richard (says John Rous of Warwick, his contemporary) was born at Fotheringay in Northampton thire. Having reinained two years in fuis mother's womb, he came into the world with, teeth, and long hair down to his shoulders.” What he adds, is probably more agreeable to trach" He was of a low itature,
lay before our ch, as a princes his part of the
having a short face, with his right shoulder a little higher than his left;" a picture which was wrought up in absolute deformity by subsequent historians, but contradicted by the telti. mony of an eye witness of undoubted credit. That he possefied personal courage in a very high degree, his enemies could not deny, though they confesed it with reluctance. “If I may venture to say any thing to his honour, though he was a little man, he was a noble and valiant soldier.” He was much admired for his eloquence and powers of persuasion, which were almost irresistible, efpecially when they were aided by his bounty, which, on some occasions, was excessive. His understanding was certainly good; but he was rather a cunning than a wise man, impenetrably secret, and a perfect maiter of all the arts of dissimulation. Ambition was his ruling pasion. It was this that prompted him to supplant his helpless nephew, in order to seize his crown; and when he had formed that design, he seems to have stuck at nothing to secure its fuccess. That he was guilty of the cool deliberate murder of the earl Rivers, the lords Grey and Hastings, because he apprehended they would oppose his attempt upon the throne, cannot be denied. That he murdered also his two nephews, Edward V. and the duke of York, or one of them, I do not affirm, because I cannot prove it; and all the accounts that are given of the circumftances of the death of these two princes, I confess, are liable to great objections. But though all these accounts may be false in some particulars, the principal fact may be true; and it is certainly not improbable.'
Next follows the civil and military history of Scotland, from the year 1339, to the accession of James IV. in 1488. This is also one of the most distracted periods in the Scottish history, but particularly distinguished by the virtues and the vigorous adminiftration of the unfortunate James the Firft, respecting whom, the sensibility of the historian has often occasion to be excited. The following anecdote, in the reign of James the Third, we lay before our readers, as not being generally related by historians.
• King James, having raised an army to oppose this formidable invasion, directed his march towards the borders; and about the end of June, encamped at the town of Lauder. At that place cruel and unexpected tragedy was acted, which threatened the ruin of the king and kingdom. Archibald Douglas, earl of Angus, was at this time the most powerful nobleman in Scotland, having obtained from the crown many of the eltates of the exiled earl of Douglas. He was married to a daughter of the late regent Robert lord Boyde; and though he was not involved in the rain of the Boydes, he se. cretly resented the severity with which they had been treated, and was deeply engaged in the treasonable schemes of the duke of Albany. This potent earl had a private meeting in the night
le higher than absolute defor. ! by the teltiThat he posenemies could ance. "If I sugh he was a He was much 1, which were by his bouns understandining than a er of all the Tion, It was hew, in oro that defign, cess. That Carl Rivers, inded they be denied. T. and the use I canle circum
are liable y be false and it is
with the noblemen and gentlemen of his party, in the church of Lauder, to consult about the destruction of the royal favou. rites, as the most effectual means of distressing the king, and defeating the present expedition. At this meeting one of the members repeated the following fable. “ The mice (said he) held a meeting, to consult about the best means of preserving themselves from the cats. One mouse proposed to hang a bell about the cat's neck, that, by its ringing when the cat moved, they might have warning of their danger. But when it was aked, who will bell the cat? none of them had so mnch courage.” The earl of Angus, taking the hint, cried out I will bell the cat; which procured him the nickname of Archibald bell the cat ever after. Having formed their plan, they left the church; and, attended by a body of armed men, entered the royal tent early in the morning, and there seized fix of the king's most favoured confidents, viz. Robert Cochran an architečt, master of the works, fir William Rogers a musician, Thomas Preston, James Hommel, William Torfefan, and one Leonard. John Ramsay of Balmain, a young gentleman of a good family, was saved, by clasping the king in his arms. After upbraiding the king in very severe terms, for spending his time in such unworthy company, they carried off the fix unhappy victims, and hanged them over the bridge of Lauder. The king, ftruck with confternation at this cruel outrage, retired, with his uncle the earl of Athol, and some other noblemen, to the cattle of Edinburgh, or (as fome hittorians report) was carried thither, and guarded as a prisoner.'
The circumstances attending the death of this prince, af. forded our author an opportunity of introducing another anecdote ; but he has contented himself with mentioning only thac the king was slain by some of the pursuers. In draving the character of the same prince, the historian, we likewiie observe, has with-held from exhibiting his reputed attachment to the ocult sciences.
The Second Chapter contains the history of religion in Great Britain, during the period of the civil and military history comprised in the volume; and this chapter, like the preceding, is generally of such a nature as can afford little pleasure to the historian. It opens with an account of the burning of fir William Sawtre; which, being the first initance of martyrdom in England, we shall relate in the author's words,
• The archbishop, impatient to put this cruel law in execution, even during the feflion of parliament that made it, brought fir William Sawere, rector of St. Oswyth, London, to his trial for heresy, before the convocation of the province of Canterbury, at St. Paul's. The chief heresies of which he was accuted were these two, that he refused to worship the cross, and
This history, igorous pecting n to be zes the lly re
At hich bald erful iny ied and
led, se 20 3
that he denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. The unhappy man, in order to avoid the painful death with which he was threatened, endeavoured to explain away his heresies as much as possible. He consented to pay an inferior vicarious kind of worship to the cross, on account of him who died upon it. But that gave no satisfaction. He acknowledged the real presence of Christ in the sacrament; and that, after the words of consecration were pronounced, the bread became the true spiritual bread of life. He underwent an examination no less than three hours on that subject, February 19, A.D. 1401; but when the arch bishop urged him to profess his belief.-" That after confecration the subitance of the bread and wine no longer semained, but was converted into the subitance of the body and blood of Christ, which were as really and truly in their proper substance and nature in the sacrament, as they were in the womb of the Virgin Mary, as they hung upon the cross, as they lay in the grave, and as they now relided in heaven;" he stood aghaft, and, after fome hesitation, declared, " That, whatever might be the consequence, he could neither under. ffand nor believe that doctrine.” On this the archbishop pronounced him an obftinate heretic, degraded him from all the clerical orders with which he had been invested, and delivered him to the mayor and theriffs of London, with this hypocritical requeit, that they would use him kindly; though he well knew, that all the kindness they dared to shew him was to burn him to ashes. He was accordingly burnt in Smithfield, and had the honour to be the first person in England who suffered this painful kind of death, for maintaining those doctrines which are now maintained by all the Protestant churches.'
About the same time, the primate published a decree in all the churches of his province, forbidding the barber-surgeons to keep their thops open on the Lord's day, which, by a strange mistake, our author observes, he described in this manner: “ The Lord's day, viz. the seventh day of the week, which the Lord blessed and made holy, and on which, after his six days works, he refted from all his labour."
The reign of Edward IV. was sullied by an exertion of the prerogative, in a manner the most unwarrantable and pernicious.
• Edward IV. soon after his accefíion, being earnelly defirous of the support of the clergy, made a most unwarrantable tretch of his prerogative in their favour, by granting them a charter, which rendered them almost entirely independent of the civil government, and left them at liberty to do what they pleased., By that charter, he took upon him to dispense with the famous statute of premunire, which no intreaty could ever persuade the parliament to repeal; and he discharged all civil judges, and magistrates to take any notice of any creasons, murders, rapes, robberies, thefts, or any other crimes committed by archbishops,