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relation has not the lifeless air of having been recovered from imperfect memoranda, which with difficulty awakened his slumbering memory, but is fresh and vigorous, preserving all the animation and originality which belong to works written while the events, of which they treat, are yet recent, and the swell of the passions not yet subsided. Besides, even those parts which are the most barren of interest, are still diversified with unpremeditated but striking touches of character,—whimsical ebullitions of spleen, and round and unequivocal expressions of indignation, and sometimes with amusing exhibitions of the author's sense of his own personal dignity and importance. This foible of the reverend historian has laid his character open to ridicule, and here accordingly has the adversary aimed his shafts with most success. But what is ludicrous in itself, requires less wit in another to set it off to advantage, and we probably smile more irresistibly at the good bishop's unintentional exposure of himself, than at the exaggerated representations of those, who have endeavoured to enhance the ridicule. His consequence in the world, at least his own opinion of it, seems early to have been considerable ; for, we find that, at the advanced age of nineteen, he was let into the secret of all affairs by the then administration; “ for they had such an imagination of some service I might do them, that they treated me with a very particular freedom and confidence. But I had drunk in the principles of moderation so early, that though I was entirely Episcopal, yet I would not engage with a body of men, that seemed to have the principles and tempers of inquisitors in them, and to have no regard to religion in any of their proceedings.”—- Two years afterwards, “ it was thought,” he says, “ that Lord Lauderdale was preparing me, as one who was known to have been always Episcopal, to be set up against Sharp (the Archbishop), and his set of men, who were much hated by one side, and not loved nor trusted by the other.” In 1672, he represents himself as out of measure weary of his atendance at Court, but was pressed to continue it." Many found I did good offices. I got some to be considered and advanced, that had no other way of access. But that which made it more necessary was, that I saw Sharp and his creatures were making their court with the most abject flattery. Leighton went seldom to them, though he was always treated by them with great indulgence. So it was necessary for me to be about them, and keep them right : otherwise all our designs were lost without recovery."-We give but one specimen more, where his vanity soars to a yet higher pitch, and he dilates in a still greater degree of imaginary consequence:
“ While I was at the court (of France) which was only for four or five days, one of the king's coaches was sent to wait on me, and the king ordered me to be well treated by all about him, which, upon that, was done with a great profusion of extraordinary respects : at which all people stood amazed. Some thought, it was to encourage the side against the court by this treatment of one then in disgrace. Others
had a mind to engage me to write on his side. I was told a pension would be offered me. But I made no steps towards it, for, though I was offered an audience of the king, I excused it. After a few months' stay, I returned, and found both the king and the duke were highly offended with the reception I had met with in France. They did not know what to make of it, and fancied there was something bid under it.”
Whether naturally led by his searching and inquisitive temper to pry into the thoughts and dispositions of public men, or from a consideration that the knowledge of these might afford a key to all that was strange or anomalous in the manage
observing the characters of men, than the nature of things, and desirous to know what they were, rather than what they did. The choicest and most valuable portions of his history are those parts of it, which he has devoted to the delineation of characters, a task for which he was eminently qualified, as well by his power of close and acute observation, as by his active temper, which, by leading him to mix much with the world, gave him frequent opportunities of exercising them with advantage. Accordingly, he has left us a collection of portraits, of all lengths, both of friends and foes, executed with more or less fidelity and success, but doubtless conveying each the most prominent features of the original. In these he has seldom descended to the mention of those characteristic peculiarities of temper and personal appearance, which, when happily hit off, enable us to embody the description, and place the whole man before our eyes. Considering the characters of public men, with an especial view to the effect they were likely to produce on the administration of affairs, he has been at less pains to describe their persons, manners, or habits, than to measure their understandings, and fathom the depths of their minds. The only attempt at a personal description, which we recollect, is of Duke Lauderdale, who is depicted in the following manner." He made a very ill appearance : he was very big: his hair red, hanging oddly about him: his tongue was too big for his mouth, which made him bedew all that he talked to: and his whole manner was rough and boisterous, and very unfit for a man.". This sketch may remind our readers of the nobleman, who presided in that sitting of the privy council, painted by the hand of a great master, which inflicted the torture on Macbriar, and who is there described, as “ lolling a tongue, which was always too big for his mouth, and accommodating his coarse features to a sneer, to which they seemed familiar."-An enumeration of the chief faculties for which each person was distinguished, and the extent in which they were enjoyed, together with a summary of virtues and vices, constitute the bulk of the greater part of Burnet's descriptions : but in these rough, though striking sketches, there are occasionally more delicate strokes; and, without entering into metaphysical distinctions, he has often happily discriminated the finer shades of character, and the more secret qualities of the mind. But these representations, though correct in the main, are probably the parts of his history, which are most deeply tinged by the prejudices and feelings of the writer. Facts are such stubborn things, that it is difficult, without gross partiality, or dishonest views, to misrepresent or distort them: but in the delineation of character, there is so much room for the play of fancy and the operation of prejudice, that the judgement is constantly in danger of being led astray, however carefully it be guarded. Burnet, a man of ardent temperament, strong feelings, and lively fancy, was as likely as any one to go off on a wrong scent-pursue fancied errors, and exterminate imaginary crimes,—and cheat himself and the world by drawing from some phantom conjured up by the enthusiasm of party zeal.
'If we were to distinguish between the characters he has left us of those who were his friends and adversaries in political life, we should be disposed to say, that the former are drawn with the most impartiality, and the latter with most effect. His attachment never seems to have blinded him to the faults of the first, which indeed, his devotion to their common cause made him only the more quick to discern and lament; but with regard to the latter, his candour has often enough been unable to keep pace with his resentment, and seeing their faults through the exaggerating medium of party politics, if he has not sometimes caricatured, he, at least, may be said to have, occasionally, distorted their features. In giving the character of Sancroft, for instance, the worthy author's prejudices have fairly mastered his candour; and in no part of his history, does he ever mention that blameless prelate with the justice we conceive to be due to his unblemished life, and primitive manners. The mild solemnity of his looks and deportment is construed into a sullen gravity--his pure and abstemious mode of life-abstracted from the world, and detached from its noise and tumultis called a monastic strictness-in short,“ he was a dry, cold man, reserved and peevish, so that none loved, and few esteemed
f high loyalet but unda little
him.” Fixed in the old maxims of high loyalty, and attaching a superstitious value to little things, his quiet but undaunted opposition to the encroachments of the king gain him little credit ; and his martyr-like resignation of wealth, name, and station, for conscience-sake, is absolutely pitiful in the eyes of the more active prelate of the revolution. Sir William Temple is another illustrious character to which the prejudices of the historian have done violence; nor do we, in the following description, recognize a fair likeness of the man, whose life has been pronounced, by a better judge than Burnet, to be “ a refutation of the vulgar notion that philosophy and practical good sense are things incompatible in a statesman.”
“He was a vain man, much blown up in his own conceit, which he shewed too indecently on all occasions. He had a true judgment in affairs, and very good principles with relation to government, but in nothing else. He seemed to think that things were as they are from all eternity : at least, he thought religion was fit only for the mob. He was a great admirer of the sect of Confucius in China, who were atheists themselves, but left religion to the rabble. He was a corrupter of all that came near him, and he delivered himself up wholly to study ease and pleasure.
Among those who have not met with fair quarter from the pen of Burnet, it is rather singular we should have to mention the king himself, in whose character, it might have been supposed, there existed defects numerous enough to have satisfied even the historian's desire of vengeance by the recital; without laying him under the necessity of finding a parallel between that monarch and the sullen Tiberius. Yet so prepossessed was he with the exactness and truth of this parallel, which is about as complete as Fluellen's notable one between Monmouth and Macedon, that he did not wonder much to observe the resemblance of their face and person. At Rome he saw one of the last statues made for Tiberius, after he had lost his teeth. But, “bating the alteration which that made, it was so like King Charles, that Prince Borghese, and Signior Dominico to whom it belonged, did agree with him in thinking that it looked like a statue made for him.” In justice, however to Burnet, we ought to remember the country from which he came. In England, the king's condescension and affability, his good humoured wit and popular graces, might buy golden opinions of all men, and leave them little inclination for the ungrateful task of scrutinizing his defects; but, upon Scotland, he had looked with another face, his smiles were converted into frowns,—and holding communication with his subjects there, only through the medium of severe and arbitrary proclamations, is it to be wondered at, if, instead of the gay and airy monarch, they drew in their imagina
tion, a gloomy, unrelenting tyrant? Feeling, therefore, too much in sad and sober earnest, to view the gay scenes at Whitehall with aught but disgust, and retaining too lively a recollection of that execrable system of tyranny which had made the government odious to all who did not in some shape or other profit by it, to suffer himself to be captivated by kind words and gracious looks, Burnet seems alone to have been insensible to a fascination, which charmed all the world besides, and has drawn a characteras much too severe, as those of other contemporary writers are too partial. But if hard measure is dealt out to the king, a yet severer sentence awaits his poet-laureate; and we cannot but think it extremely unjust, that in a history of the reign of Charles II. the great master of English poesy should be characterized only " as a monster of immodesty and impurity of all sorts.” Yet, here again, Burnet has a good excuse; and it is possible he might have been induced to overlook the licentiousness of Dryden's verse, had not the recollection of the unlucky bard's description of king Buzzard intervened and cut off all hopes of pardon.
“ A portly prince, and goodly to the sight,
The instances we have mentioned here, are not the only ones which might be adduced to show the unmerciful treatment which the characters of men have occasionally met with at his hands : but having cited so many, it would be unfair not to give the very candid apology, which Burnet has himself offered in the preface to his history.
"I find, [says he,] that the long experience I have had of the baseness, the malice, and the falsehood of mankind has inclined me to be apt to think generally the worst, both of men, and parties : and indeed the peevishness, the ill nature, and the ambition of many clergymen has sharpened my spirits too much against them : so I warn my reader to take all that I say on these heads with some grains of allowance, though I have watched over myself and my pen so carefully that I hope there is no great occasion for this apology."
Not less remarkable than the force with which Burnet has drawn his characters, is the great facility with which they appear to have been produced. There are no marks of labour or afterthought, and no attempts to shade or soften down the rough lines of the original description; it is probable we have them just as they came from his pen, without alteration, or amendment. No other writer, with whom we are acquainted, has ex