Page images

to the discerning eye of the publick ; since in every language there are certain peculiarities of idiom, and nice shades of meaning, which a foreigner can never learn to perfection; but the work, how arduous and unpleasing foever, was completed in a year; not without repeated hints from the Secretary's office, that it was expected with great impatience by the Court of Denmark. The translation of the History of NADER SHAH was published in the fummer of the year seventeen hundred and seventy *, at the expence of the translator ; and forty copies upon large paper were sent to Copenhagen, one of them, bound with uncommon elegance, for the King himself, and the others as presents to his Courtiers.

What marks of distinction I have since received, and what fruits I have reaped for my labour, it would ill become me to mention at the head of a work, in which I profess to be the Historian of others, and not of myself; but since an advertisement has appeared on this subject in the publick papers, which is notoriously false in every article, and casts a moft unjust reflection upon an

* Under the title of Histoire de Nader Chah, traduite dit Perfan par ordre de la Majesté le Roi de Dannemark 4to. Chez P. Elmsley dans le Strand.

amiable monarch, it seems a duty imposed upon me by the laws of justice and gratitude, to print at the beginning of this Volume the honourable testimony of regard, which his Majesty Christian VII. fent publickly to London, a few months after He had received my work, together with my letter of thanks for fo signal a token of His favour ; and I cannot, certainly, be charged with want of respext to the great and illustrious Personage, to whom that royal Epistle is addressed, since it was not fent in a private manner, but openly and in the eyes of the world ; and a copy of it was even delivered to me, after having passed through several hands. Nothing more remains to be said on this fubject, but that the worthy and excellent man, who was my sole guide and adviser in this affair, and to whom I opened my thoughts in my familiar letters with the utmost frankness, having retired from the office which he then held, I am left at perfect liberty to relate the whole transaction, without a possibility of giving offence to any one living; especially since I have not suffered his name to be made cheap, by mentioning it in any part

of the narrative. This was the circumstance, which induced me, against my inclination, to describe the Life of a Conqueror, and to appear in publick as an Author, before a maturity of judgement had made me see the dangers of the step, which I was inconsiderately taking; for, I believe, if I had reflected on the little folid glory which a man reaps from acquiring a name in literature, on the jealousy and envy which attend such an acquisition, on the distant reserve which a writer is sure to meet with from the generality of mankind, and on the obstruction which a contemplative habit gives to our hopes of being distinguished in active life ; if all, or any, of these reflections had occurred to me, I should not have been tempted by any consideration to enter upon so in- . vidious and fo thankless a career : but, as Tully fays, I should have considered, before I embarked, the nature and extent of my voyage; now, since the sails are spread, the vessel must take its course * It

may perhaps be expected, that some account should here be given of the Persian Hiftory, which I was thus appointed to send abroad in an European dress, with some remarks on the veracity and merit of its Eastern Author; but, before we descend to these minute particulars, it will not be foreign from

* Sed ingredientibus confiderandum fuit, quid ageremus; nunc quidem jam, quocunque feremur, danda nimirum vela funt. Cic. Orator ad Brut.

the subject of the present publication, to enquire into the general nature of Historical composition, and to offer the idea, rather of what is required from a perfect Historian, than of what hitherto seems to have been executed in

any age or nation.

CICERO, who was meditating an History of Rome, had established a set of rules for the conduct of his work, which he puts into the mouth of Antonius in his treatise on the accomplished Orator ; where he declares “the “ basis and ground-work of all History to

depend upon these primary Laws, that the “ writer should not dare to set down a False

hood, nor be deterred by fear from divulg

ing an interesting Truth; and that he should so avoid any just suspicion of partiality or re“ sentment: the edifice, he adds, which must “ be raised on this foundation, consists of two

parts, the relation of things, and the words “ in which they are related; in the first, the “ Historian should adhere to the order of

time, and diversify his narrative with the “ description of countries'; and since, in all “ memorable transactions, first the counsels " are explained, then the acts, and, lastly, the

events, he should pronounce his own judge

ment on the merit of the counsels ; should “ show what acts ensued, and in what manner

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

“ they were performed ; and unfold the causes

of all great events, whether he imputes them “ to chance, or wisdom, or rashness: he should “ also describe, not only the actions, but the lives and characters, of all the persons, who " are eminently distinguilhed in his piece ; “ and, as to the words, should be master of a

copious and expanded style, flowing along “ with ease and delicacy, without the rough$6 ness of pleadings at the Bar, or the affecta“ tion of pointed sentences *."

If we form our idea of a complete Historian from these rules, we shall presently perceive

Quis nescit primam esse Historiæ legem, ne quid falli dicere audeat ; deinde, ne quid veri non audeat; ne qua suspicio gratiæ fit in fcribendo, ne qua fimultatis? Hæc scilicet fundamenta nota sunt omnibus : ipfa autem exædificatio pofita eft in rebus et verbis. Rerum ratio ordinem temporum defiderat, regionum descriptionem : vult etiam, quoniam in rebus magnis memoriâque dignis confilia primùm, deinde acta, pofteà eventús expectantur; et de confiliis fignificari quid scriptor probet, et in rebus gestis declarari non folùm quid actum aut dictum sit, sed etiam quo modo; et, cùm de eventu dicatur, ut caufæ explicentur omnes vel calûs, vel sapientiæ, vel temeritatis : hominumque ipforum non folùm res geftæ, sed etiam, qui famâ ac nomine excellant, de cujufque vitâ atque naturâ. Verborum autem ratio, et genus orationis fufum atque tractum, et cum lenitate quadam æquabili profluens, sine hac judiciali afperitate, et fine sententiarum forenfium aculeis, persequendum est. De Orat. Lib. II. 15.

« PreviousContinue »