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the supremacy of intellect were never doubted by those who possessed it, that diminution or exhaustion of power which marked the last years of the great French Revolution would never have been experienced. In speaking thus it is far from the author's intention to make any allusion to the present, or to profess himself in the least an alarmist. His object throughout has been to write rather for the learner than for the partisan, for those who still have to form their opinions than for readers of a more mature age whose sentiments have assumed the hardened form of prejudice or passion. His aim has been to instruct, to make truthful representations, to pronounce just decisions, rather than to please the ear with the eloquence of the orator or the poet.
Some critics, indeed, insist peremptorily that a history should be either philosophic, or pictorial, or both. To the advantage or fairness of preaching philosophy under the guise of history, I must demur. To write a history in behalf of Deism, of Catholicism, of Benthamism, or of Socialism, is to take facts for counters and play a skilful game with them. To narrate the world's events after the manner of Bossuet, and see the hand of Providence directing and ordering all, would be to compose a homily. To follow Buckle in regarding man as the slave of clime, soil and circumstances, would lead us to a dead and dull materialism. There is no science so fleeting or ephemeral as the philosophy of history. Each generation forms one for itself, and expounds its theory-to be repudiated by the generation which follows.
The power of producing lifelike pictorial effects is as valuable as it is delightful in the chronicler of
cotemporary life, in the man who designs what he sees, and portrays what he contemplates. But vivid description and dramatic personification, at second-hand, made up of old materials and filled up by modern imagination, constitute romance, not history. Such devices may captivate and impose upon the ignorant and careless reader; but these are the achievements of the dramatist, not of the honest narrator. Scanty as are the records and dry the details of Roman history, for example, we find in the clever modern histories of that celebrated city a lavish elaboration of detail in the narrative of events, with full-length portraits of personages stippled with all the minuteness of Dutch painters. The design is admirable, the colouring just. One quality alone is wanting to its perfection, and that is truth.
I discuss these questions as generalities; myself they can scarcely concern. One of my reviewers, to be sure, is just enough to say that I have not done for France what Macaulay has done for England and Motley is doing for the Netherlands. I admit the truth of the charge. Macaulay devotes a volume to every three years. Motley not much less. A history of France on the same scale, and with the same space for portraiture and description, would require a room to hold and a horse to carry it. To give a clear yet succinct, a well studied and digested history of a great European country in a few volumes is a more useful, although it may be a more humble, task.
PARIS: February 1868.
His Execution after the Attempt of his Followers on the Camp
at Grenelle, September, 1796
French Ambassador at Rome outraged, a Republic established
Outbreaks of) les, Renewal of War, March, 1799
the French Plenipotentaries at Rastadt
Meeting of Napoleon and Alexander at Erfurt -
The French invade Spain