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HE curiosity entertained by all civilized nations, of inquiring into the exploits and adventures of their ancestors, commonly excites a regret that the history of remote ages should always be so much involved in obscurity, uncertainty, and contradiction. Ingenious men, possessed of leisure, are apt to push their researches beyond the period in which literary monuments are framed or preserved; without reflecting, that the history of past events is immediately lost or disfigured when intrusted to memory and oral tradition, and that the adventures of barbarous nations, even if they were recorded, could afford little or no entertainment to men born in a more cultivated age. The convulsions of a civilized state usually compose the most instructive and most interesting part of its history; but the sudden, violent, and unprepared revolutions incident to barbarians, are so much guided by caprice, and terminate so often in cruelty, that they disgust us by the uniformity of their appearance; and it is rather fortunate for letters that they are buried in silence and oblivion. The only certain means by which nations can indulge their curiosity in researches concerning their remote origin, is to consider the language, manners, and customs of their ancestors, and to compare them with those of the neighbouring nations. The fables which are


a Cæsar, lib. iv.

commonly employed to supply the place of true history,
ought entirely to be disregarded; or if any exception be
admitted to this general rule, it can only be in favour of
the ancient Grecian fictions, which are so celebrated and
so agreeable, that they will ever be the objects of the at-
tention of mankind. Neglecting, therefore, all traditions,
or rather tales, concerning the more early history of Bri-
tain, we shall only consider the state of the inhabitants as
it appeared to the Romans on their invasion of this coun-
try: we shall briefly run over the events which attended
the conquest made by that empire, as belonging more to
Roman than British story: we shall hasten through the
obscure and uninteresting period of Saxon annals: and
shall reserve a more full narration for those times, when
the truth is both so well ascertained, and so complete, as
to promise entertainment and instruction to the reader.

All ancient writers agree in representing the first inhabitants of Britain as a tribe of the Gauls or Celta, who peopled that island from the neighbouring continent. Their language was the same, their manners, their government, their superstition; varied only by those small differences which time or a communication with the bordering nations must necessarily introduce. The inhabitants of Gaul, especially in those parts which lie contiguous to Italy, had acquired, from a commerce with their southern neighbours, some refinement in the arts, which gradually diffused themselves northwards, and spread but a very faint light over this island. The Greek and Roman navigators or merchants (for there were scarcely any other travellers in those ages) brought back the most shocking accounts of the ferocity of the people, which they magnified, as usual, in order to excite the admiration of their countrymen. The south-east parts, however, of Britain, had already, before the age of Cæsar, made the first and most requisite step towards a civil settlement; and the Britons, by tillage and agriculture, had there increased to a great multitudea. The other inhabitants of the island still maintained themselves by pasture: they were clothed with skins of beasts: they dwelt in huts, which they reared in the forests and marshes,

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