« VorigeDoorgaan »
Between the COURTS of
England, France, and Brussels,
From the Year 1592 to 1617.
Extracted chiefly from the MS. State-Papers of
To which is added,
A Relation of the STATE of France, with the CHA-
BY THOMAS BIRCH, M. A. F. R. S.
Printed for A. MILLAR, oppofite to Katha-
To the HONOURABLE
N the courfe of that friendship, which you have for feveral years honoured me with, our converfation has frequently turned upon the fubject of antient and modern History, which you are mafter of to a degree of accuracy, unusual in an age fo 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 found judgment and right conduct, is more fuitable than this to the higher ftations of life? It has at once the particular advantage of being the best qualification for public bufinefs, and the more general one of opening A 2 and
and enlarging the mind by a thorough knowledge of mankind in all their fituations, mazes, and receffes, fuperior to the imaginary theories of mere philofophers, and exempt from the inconveniencies, which accompany real practice, and perfonal experience.
But, useful and important as History is, we find our researches into it equally laborious, when truth, the foul of it, and the only foundation of folid instruction, is, as it ought ever to be, the main object of our purfuit. Ignorance, preju dice, envy, flattery, a falfe eloquence, and a falfe 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 modeft and wellgoverned scepticism, and a firm spirit of candour and impartiality. Genius and abilities in the hiftorian are absolutely neceffary to the perfection of his work; but the indifpenfable requifite is the choice of proper materials, without which the greatest art cannot raise a superstructure of real ufe and duration. This is the grand article, in which the generality of this clafs of writers are abfolutely deficient; the lower fort contenting themselves with a fervile tranfcript of fuperficial 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 perfons, from whom they are at too great a distance of fituation or time, to be able to form any juft notions of either.
The French nation boafts a fpecies of history under the title of Memoirs, of which we have few examples in our language: and fome of their greatest men have either drawn up themfelves, or furnished materials for accounts of af fairs, which have paffed within their own knowledge. But thefe, though highly useful in many refpects, are in others too juftly liable to the fufpicion of a biafs, which the writers may be fuppo fed to have lain under, in favour of themselves, their friends, and their party. And we still want fome better foundation for our judgments of
events and characters.
These confiderations led you, as well as myfelf, very early to fearch into the only true and unerring fources of hiftory, the original letters and papers of thofe eminent men, who were the principal actors in the administration of affairs. In these facts are reprefented 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, are opened to view. The illuftrious Lord Bacon, in the nobleft of his performances (a), ftiles them ad biftoriam pretiofiffima fupellex. And his fucceffor Bishop Williams obferves (b), with great force and (b) Letter
(a) De augmentis Scientiar. L. II c. 12. to Lord Bacon, 31 December 1625. Lord Bacon's Works, Vol. IV. p. 738. edit. Lond. 1741. fol.