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is splendid and sublime, yet with a degree of intellec-
From the labours of Robertson, and a few other French and English philosophers, we are enabled to contemplate the transactions of kingdoms with more enlarged views, and upon more fixed principles. Nations have now afsigned them their motives for action, as well as human nature. Battles, and revolutions in kingdoms, are no longer considered on their own account, as splendid fcenes; their political consequences are now nicely traced; an all-prevailing theory conducts
them to some great design, and sees them teeming with important effects upon succeeding ages.
Upon these rational and enlightened principles is the history of Charles v. conducted; a work perhaps the most comprehensive, original, and masterly of its kind. With it we may be satisfied to begin our enquiries into modern history; at least if we were to be satisfied with useful information. It has given stability to the theory of European politics, laid open the secrets of its government, and may be considered as the best model for all succeeding compositions of this kind.
The history of Philip 11. his immediate successor, by Watson, upon the same plan, may be considered as a continuation of the above †. A work of very singular merit, and which possesses the principal qualities of historical composition in an eminent degree; but not being adorned with the glitter of what is called fine writing, and that ambitious elevation of sentiment which is now so prevalent, it has not been so much celebrated as it deserves. We fhall attempt to give a particular character of this history.
And in the first place we may observe that it is extremely happy in the subject. The successful struggles of liberty against despotic power; the increasing importance of the scene of action; the republic of Holland rising into high political consequence, by the persevering valour, and commercial activity of its in
† This history is further continued by the same author, in a posthumous work, containing the reign of Philip Ir1. and is of the same character with the work under review. The two last books are written by another hand.
habitants; the great afsemblage of eminent statesmen, and warriors who come under review, and who exert the highest abilities in opposition to one another; the numerous difficulties which they encounter ; the many unparalelled examples of heroism, and disinterested virtue which the ydisplay, and the various stratagems which they employ, all form the noblest, and most instructive subjects for the pen of history, to execute it with becoming dignity, is also one of the most difficult tasks: the views of the actors must be often various, intricate, and remote; the fcenes of action, new, complicated, and diversified.
The subject, however, of itself, confers no pofsitive merit on the historian. His praise consists in the view which he has taken of it, in its plan and execution.→→ Unity ought to be the first study of every writer, but especially of an historian; though one would imagine that as what he relates is not at his disposal, it would be impofsible to give a uniform tendency, or one great design, to a series of actions which seem really to pofsefs none but there is scarcely a period which has not some relation among its parts, however slight, and of which a fkilful historian will take advantage; from the want of it also, in some otherwise well-written histories, the subject of which afforded a link to unite the succefsion of facts, and a point to which they might have been all made to lead, we must suppose that very much in this respect is in the power of the historian. The antients, in general, have failed in regard to unity of design, they are content, for the most part, with giving a clear and elegant narration of particular events, as they occur, seldom viewing them
collectively, as terminating upon some important object, and illustrating a general and comprehensive theory. It wonderfully afsists and delights the imagination to have some great and leading principle always in view, especially when it is of such a nature as to be perpetually improving, and rising to greater perfection. The progrefs of civilization, and the gradual advancement of the arts and sciences in modern times, is one great and general idea which connects the most remote with the latest periods of the history of the kingdoms of Europe. This consideration animates usto proceed in tracing the first efforts to emerge from barbarism; the light of fcience begins gradually to dawn, our views enlarge, and we are at last cheered with prospects of boundless effulgence.
But though this be the grand centre of the history of national events, and human transactions, it admits of many subdivisions, without, at the same time, making us lose sight of the great tendency of the whole. The particular views of one reign, or a series of reigns, in promoting, or abolishing a certain form of government, the consequences of civil and religious revolutions, and other momentuous incidents which give rise to a train of similar circumstances, The history of Philip II. is remarkably happy in this respect. We have displayed before us one great and important reign; the monarch is influenced throughout the whole of it by the ambition of extending his conquests, deprefsing the protestant religion, and rendering his power absolute. These principles give birth to all the events of the history. To these we refer them, as to a common centre, and as a bond of union to all its scattered parts.
One cannot enough admire the great and comprehensive idea which Watson has formed of this period.From the simple view which, at setting out, he gives of Philip's arbitrary proceedings, the subsequent series of events flow with a uniform tendency; they rise one above another in a natural succefsion, and in a gradual progrefs, to still more important and interesting fcenes.
But though the reign and character of Philip be the great idea by which we may be said to grasp, or embody the numerous facts of this history, it does not exclude many subordinate unities, which, if the writer possess sufficient art and ability, will be so conducted as to give us a distinct and separate prospect, without confusion, or driving out of view the predominating features of the work. To arrange seemingly unconnected transactions under one great plan, and assign to each its proper place, and due proportion of attention is, without doubt, the most trying test of an historian's fkill. In this our author greatly excels; and in the execution of it, in the present work, he hath given proof of uncommon talents. No epick poet has preserved the unity of his plot better. The great fcenę of action is in the Netherlands, where our attention is long detained, and our feelings deeply engaged by a protracted and pleasing solicitude for the infant exertions of liberty. From this noble theme, however, we are frequently led, and made to contemplate other important events, in the management of which the historian has fhewn so much addrefs, that we always follow him without reluctance. They are all so happily introduced as never to embarass the great outlines of