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gard to the elegance and harmony of the period. Stuffed with Latin sentences and quotations, it likewise imitated those inversions which, however forcible and graceful in the ancient languages, are entirely contrary to the idiom of the English. I shall indeed venture to affirm, that whatever uncouth phrases and expressions occur in old books, they were chiefly owing to the unformed taste of the author; and that the language spoken in the courts of Elizabeth and James was very little different from that which we meet with at present in good company. Of this opinion the little scraps of speeches which are found in the parliamentary journals, and which carry an air so opposite to the laboured orations, seem to be a sufficient proof; and there want not productions of that age which, being written by men who were not authors by profession, retain a very natural manner, and may give us some idea of the language which prevailed among men of the world. I shall particularly mention sir John Davis's discovery, Throgmorton's, Essex's, and Nevil's letters. In a more early period, Cavendish's Life of Cardinal Wolsey, the pieces that remain of bishop Gardiner, and Anne Boleyn's letter to the king, differ little or nothing from the language of our time.
The great glory of literature in this island during the reign of James, was lord Bacon. Most of his performances were composed in Latin; though he possessed neither the elegance of that nor of his native tongue. If we consider the variety of talents displayed by this man; as a public speaker, a man of business, a wit, a courtier, a companion, an author, a philosopher; he is justly the object of great admiration. If we consider him merely as an author and philosopher, the light in which we view him at present, though very estimable, he was yet inferior to his contemporary Galileo, perhaps even to Kepler. Bacon pointed out at a distance the road to true philosophy: Galileo both pointed it out to others, and made himself considerable advances in it. The Englishman was ignorant of geometry: the Florentine revived that science, excelled in it, and was the first that applied it, together with experiment, to natural philosophy. The former rejected, with the most positive disdain, the system of Copernicus: the latter fortified it with new proofs, derived both from reason and the senses. Bacon's style is stiff and rigid : his wit, though often brilliant, is also often unnatural and far-fetched; and he seems to be the original of those pointed similes and long spun allegories which so much distinguish the English authors: Galileo is a lively and agreeable, though somewhat a prolix writer. But Italy, not united in any single government, and perhaps satiated with that literary glory which it has possessed both in ancient and modern times, has too much neglected the renown which it has acquired by giving birth to so great a man. That national spirit which prevails among the English, and which forms their great happiness, is the cause why they bestow on all their eminent writers, and on Bacon among the rest, such praises and acclamations as may often appear partial and excessive. He died in 1626, in the sixty-sixth year of
If the reader of Raleigh's history can have the patience to wade through the Jewish and rabbinical learning which compose the half of the volume, he will find, when he comes to the Greek and Roman story, that his pains are not unrewarded. Raleigh is the best model of that ancient style which some writers would affect to revive at present. He was beheaded in 1618, aged sixty
Camden's history of queen Elizabeth may be esteemed good composition, both for style and matter. It is written with simplicity of expression very rare in that age, and with a regard to truth. It would not perhaps be too much to affirm, that it is among the best histo
rical productions which have yet been composed by any Englishman. It is well known that the English have not much excelled in that kind of literature. He died in 1623, aged seventy-three years.
We shall mention the king himself at the end of these English writers; because that is his place, when considered as an author. It may safely be affirmed, that the mediocrity of James's talents in literature, joined to the great change in national taste, is one cause of that contempt under which his memory labours, and which is often carried by party-writers to a great extreme. It is remarkable how different from ours were the sentiments of the ancients with regard to learning. Of the first twenty Roman emperors, counting from Cæsar to Severus, above the half were authors; and though few of them seem to have been eminent in that profession, it is always remarked to their praise, that by their example they encouraged literature. Not to mention Germanicus and his daughter Agrippina, persons so nearly allied to the throne, the greater part of the classic writers whose works remain, were men of the highest quality. As
every human advantage is attended with inconveniences, the change of men’s ideas in this particular may probably be ascribed to the invention of printing; which has rendered books so common, that even men of slender fortunes can have access to them.
That James was but a middling writer may be allowed: that he was a contemptible one, can by no means be admitted. Whoever will read his Basilicon Doron, particularly the two last books, the true law of free monarchies, his answer to cardinal Perron, and almost all his speeches and messages to parliament, will confess him to have possessed no mean genius. If he wrote concerning witches and apparitions; who in that age did not admit the reality of these fictitious beings? If he has composed a commentary on the Revelations, and proved the pope to be antichrist; may not a similar reproach be extended to the famous Napier; and even to Newton, at a time when learning was much more advanced than during the reign of James? From the grossness of its superstitions, we may infer the ignorance of an age; but never should pronounce concerning the folly of an individual, from his admitting popular errors, consecrated by the appearance of religion.
Such a superiority do the pursuits of literature possess above every other occupation, that even he who attains but a mediocrity in them, merits the pre-eminence above those that excel the most in the common and vulgar professions. The speaker of the house of commons is usually an eminent lawyer; yet the harangue of his majesty will always be found' much superior to that of the speaker in every parliament during this reign.
Every science, as well as polite literature, must be considered as being yet in its infancy. Scholastic learning and polemical divinity retarded the growth of all true knowledge. Sir Henry Saville, in the preamble of that deed by which he annexed a salary to the mathematical and astronomical professor in Oxford, says, that geometry was almost totally abandoned and unknown in England. The best learning of that age was the study of the ancients. Casaubon, eminent for this species of knowledge, was invited over from France by James, and encouraged by a pension of 300l. a year, as well as by church preferments. The famous Antonio di Dominis, archbishop of Spalatro, no despicable philosopher, came likewise into England, and afforded great triumph to the nation, by their gaining so considerable a proselyte from the Papists. But the mortification followed soon after: the archbishop, though advanced to some ecclesiastical preferments," received not encouragement sufficient to satisfy his ambition: he made his escape into Italy, where he died in confinement.
1 Rymer, tom. 17. p: 217.
m Ibid. p. 709.
ment at Westminster.
A parliament at Westminster-At Oxford-Naval expedition
against Spain--Second parliament—Impeachment of Buckingham-Violent measures of the court-War with France-Expe
dition to the isle of Rhé. A parlia- No sooner had Charles taken into his hands the
reins of government (March 27), than he shewed
an impatience to assemble the great council of the nation; and he would gladly, for the sake of dispatch, have called together the same parliament which had sitten under his father, and which lay at that time under prorogation. But being told that this measure would
appear unusual, he issued writs for summoning a new parliament on the 7th of May; and it was not without regret that the arrival of the princess Henrietta, whom he had espoused by proxy, obliged him to delay, by repeated prorogations, their meeting till the 18th of June, when they assembled at Westminster for the dispatch of business. The young prince, unexperienced and impolitic, regarded as sincere all the praises and caresses with which he had been loaded, while active in procuring the rupture with the house of Austria And besides that he laboured under great necessities, he hastened with alacrity to a period when he might receive the most undoubted testimony of the dutiful attachment of his subjects. His discourse to the parliament was full of simplicity and cordiality. He lightly mentioned the occasion which he had for supply." He employed no intrigue to influence the suffrages of the members. He would not even allow the officers of the crown who had seats in the house to mention any particular sum which might be expected by him. Secure of the affections of the commons, he
n Rushworth, vol. 1. p. 171. Parl. Hist. vol. 6. p. 346. Franklyn, p. 108.