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HISTORICAL VIE W
Between the COURTS of
From the Year 1592 to 1617.
Sir Thomas Edmondes, Knt. Embassador in
To which is added,
A Relation of the STATE of France, with the CHA-
RACTERS of Henry IV.and the principal Persons of
By THOMAS BIRCH, M. A. F.R.S.
Pattens and St. Gabriel-Fenchurcb.
L O N D ON:
rine-Street, in the Strand.
To the HONOURABLE
PHILIP YORK E.
N the course of that friendship,
which you have for several years I
honoured me with, our conversa
tion has frequently turned upon the subject of antient and modern History, which you are master of to a degree of accuracy, unusual in an age so little advanced, and in a rank and fortune attended with so many temptations and avocations. And indeed what study, next to that of the great and unalterable principles of Morality and Religion, the basis of all sound judgment and right conduct, is more suitable than this to the higher ftations of life? It has at once the particular advantage of being the best qualification for public bufiness, and the more general one of opening A 2
and enlarging the mind by a thorough knowledge of mankind in all their situations, mazes, and receffes, superior to the imaginary theories of mere philosophers,' and exempt from the incon. veniencies, which accompany real practice, and personal experience.
But, useful and important as History is, we find our researches into it equally laborious, when truth, the soul of it, and the only foundation of solid instruction, is, as it ought ever to be, the main object of our pursuit. Ignorance, preju. dice, envy, flattery, a false eloquence, and a false love of the marvellous, have at all times concurred in the misrepresentation of facts; the re-adjustment of which demands the united efforts of industry, fagacity, a modest and wellgoverned scepticism, and a firm spirit of candour and impartiality. Genius and abilities in the historian are absolutely necessary to the perfection of his work; but the indispensable requisite is the choice of proper materials, without which the greatest art cannot raise a superstructure of real use and duration. This is the grand article, in which the generality of this class of writers are absolutely deficient ; the lower sort contenting themselves with a servile transcript of superficial and uninteresting chronicles, mingled with the current libels and panegyrics of the times ; while those of greater vivacity, or petulance, hazard their groundless conjectures and opinions of the views and characters of persons, from whom they are at too great a distance of situation or time, to be able to form any just notions of either.
The French nation boasts a species of history under the title of Memoirs, of which we have few examples in our language : and some of their greatest men have either drawn up themfelves, or furnished materials for accounts of affairs, which have passed within their own knows ledge. But these, though highly useful in many respects, are in others too juftly liable to the suspicion of a bials, which the writers may be supposed to have lain under, in favour of themselves, their friends, and their party. And we still want some better foundation for our judgments of events and characters.
These considerations led you, as well as myfelf, very early to search into the only true and unerring fources of history, the original letters and papers of those eminent men, who were the principal actors in the administration of affairs. In these facts are represented in the moft artless and undisguised manner, and in the order, in which they happened ; and the secret springs, causes, and motives, which produced them, arę opened to view. The illustrious Lord Bacon, in the noblest of his performances (a), ftiles them ad biftoriam pretiofifima supellex. And his successor Bishop Williams observes(6), with great force and
(a) De augmentis Scientiar. L. II c. 12. (1) Letter to Lord Bacon, 31 December 1625. Lord Bacox's Works, Vol. IV. p.738. edit. Lond. 1741. fol.