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between the present and even a comparatively recent past. Year by year, not only of persons but of things

and the events which were once known to every one, become ere long confused and uncertain, and unless perpetuated in writing, inevitably fade into a shadowy fiction. Year by year lessenst the number of surviving witnesses; even those that linger on lose the remembrance, under the wear of age and the constant pressure of new objects on the attention. We cannot stop the current of life, but are inevitably borne on to new associations and circumstances, which gradually obliterate and falsify our re


There is a deeply real sketch in Dickens's "Old Curiosity Shop," of Kit's taking his children in after years to see the house where little Nell had lived with her grandfather; "but

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"The memory fades From off the circle of the hills;"*

new improvements had altered it so much, it was not like the same. The old house had been long pulled down, and a fine broad road was in its place. At first he would draw 'with his stick a square upon the ground to show them where it used to stand. But he soon became uncertain of the spot, and could only say it was thereabouts, he thought, and that ‹ these alterations were confusing.

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Years bring the same confusion to the memories of us all; and if the interlacing of generations renders history possible, by thus preserving witnesses of past events and representatives of a vanished age, it is contemporary narrative only, which can really make that history authentic.

In fact, what is all history at bottom, but an attempt to solve an impossible problem, which yet admits of an indefinite approximation to the truth? We can never wholly recall a byegone age, or re-produce it in all its colours and lineaments; but its representation may vary between almost infinite limits,between the barren lists of the dynasties of Magadha, and a Gibbon's Decline, or Grote's Greece. Sir Robert Walpole's celebrated saying, " don't read me history, for that must be false," is thus far literally true; but it involves a practical fallacy. We can never express the exact area of a circle, because we can never exactly express the ratio between the radius and the circumference; but we can indefinitely approach it for every practical purpose; and thus, though we can never exactly attain to the full historic truth, there are no limits to our progress in its pursuit.

* Tennyson's In memoriam.

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But still, as we said, the exact attainment is beyond our reach, because the age is past. No efforts of the reason imagination can recall the age of Queen Elizabeth in all its circumstances, because we can never bridge over the innavigable sea of three centuries, "which washes with silent waves between us.", We cannot call up from the dead any witness to clear our doubts, we are left entirely to silent monuments, which tell us their written message, but are dumb, if we question them farther. We have nought but the memorials which the age itself may have left us,—we are entirely dependent on the faithfulness and capacity of their authors for all that we can ever know. One hour's converse with Pericles or Augustus might clear up a thousand difficulties in Greek or Roman History, but that hour is a hopeless wish; we must be content to grope our way amid conjectures and doubts, where any contemporary could solve our difficulty in a moment. An Athenian cobbler could settle at once the disputes of scholars about the ecclesia, and the legislation of Solon and Cleisthenes; but alas! the witness has absconded, and our court's subpoena has no power to produce him. The carelessness or inaccuracy of contemporaries entails an endless task on their successors, and hence history is so filled with conjectures that can never be proved or disproved, and chasms that no erudition can fill up.

Let us look for a moment at India, and her early history before the Mohammedan conquest.

Every early glimpse of India reveals to us a teeming and busy population, separated into numerous small kingdoms, which are of course in constantly changing attitudes of friendship or hostility to each other. Civilization was highly advanced, and knowledge and literature were extensively cultivated, as is amply witnessed by the mass of ancient writings which we still possess. The chain of writings, in fact, runs up in an almost unbroken series, age beyond age, to the earliest times; but throughout that long series there is no such thing as history. The stream of thought flows on, but it never receives any image from the scenes through which it passes; the interests of the present are absorbed in gigantic dreams of the far distant past and future. Hence pre-Mohammedan India has no history; its annals are a lost chapter in the story of mankind. For the facts of history, unlike the facts of science, never repeat themselves; if the contemporary observer do not record them, no after age can recover them. Över that busy world of human life, between the era of the Vedas and Mahmud's invasions,-with all its triumphs and failures, its vices and heroisms,-there hangs an impenetrable veil. We can see that there was plenty to tell, but there was no one who cared to tell it. The establishment of the Brah

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manical tribes; the rise of the laws of Manu; the disputes between the hierarchy and the warrior caste, whose records we can dimly trace in the legends of Jamadagnya and Viswamitra; the rise of Buddhism and its subsequent overthrow, these are subjects as deeply interesting as any in ancient history, but they are now enigmas which we can never solve. European erudition may pore over the epic legends, until it fancies it can decypher some older writing under the palimpsest; by the aid of coins. and inscriptions we can settle a few dates and names of dynasties; but these at their best are but a barren substitute for the living story of human interest, which, but for contemporary apathy, we might have possessed.

Happily, however, all countries are not like India; other civilised nations have been proud to commemorate the deeds of their ancestors and contemporaries; and with them the muse of history has taken her place, a daughter of memory, with the sister eight. The earliest note of European history opens on this string. "This is the publication of the researches of 'Herodotus of Halicarnassus, that past actions may not vanish 'from among men by time, nor the great and marvellous achieve'ments, displayed by Greeks and Barbarians, lose their meed of

praise." Every other civilised people, except India, have had some form of chronicle amidst their other literature, which preserved, however imperfectly, some features of the vanished generations, some remembrance of their deeds and sufferings, to interest posterity. Even in the thickest darkness of the middle ages, there were hands found, which could write, however dully, some record of the events transpiring around them, little as the writers may have detected the nature of the general movement, or realised the goal to which it was tending. The voluminous collections, which comprise the successive annals and chronicles of medieval England and France, attest the existence, however faint, of some historical impulse even in the dark ages. Men were not even then content to perish forgotten; they too wished in their way that their present, however rude and barbarous, might still "not vanish from among men by time."

These early chronicles are of course always uncritical; the writer puts down as he hears, and thinks only of preserving his details without further sifting or examination. The whole race of chroniclers are but the heapers of facts,-they are valuable, simply because they rescue from oblivion those countless traits and details, which, unless preserved by a contemporary, are for ever lost, and which in the historian's hands are invaluable as materials. It remains for the historian, properly so called, to use these materials for his work, to change the rude and undigested mass into order and regularity, and to shew the true


meaning and connection of those events which to his predecessor were bare and isolated incidents. And with the historian arises a new need,-historical criticism.* It is not enough that a fact be stated, he must examine the proofs of its authenticity. He must endeavour to trace the various stories to their original source, to unravel the threads of fiction which successive repetitions have woven into the original tissue, and to strip off all those later additions which form no part of the genuine narrative.

With the Greeks, among whom history sprang almost like Minerva, in full maturity, in the work of Herodotus, there was something like criticism from the very first; even in Herodotus, there is some weighing of evidence, and a definite expression of opinion. But we see it in its full in Thucydides.

The difference in years between Herodotus and Thucydides was less than one generation, but in tone of thought they are separated by ages. The one belongs to the ancient world, with its child-like wonder and trust, moving among the powers of nature with an unreasoning eye which

Has sight of Neptune rising from the sea,
Or hears old Triton blow his wreathed horn,

While in Thucydides, we find ourselves transported abruptly into a modern world of thought and feeling. Thucydides is the only modern ancient; much of his history may be cast in an antique mould, much of it may seem rude and unskilful, but the tone of thought is essentially modern. If we only compare the way in which the two speak of the oracles and the prodigies which to the common belief foretold the coming struggles, when we pass from the one to the other, it is as though centuries intervened. No ancient historian writes with the severe criticism of Thucydides, and hence the difference strikes us so strongly. If we pass from Herodotus to Livy, there is no such shock, we can at once realise and understand both.

But that which in the rapid development of the Greek mind came out in the next generation, in the ordinary routine of the human mind takes centuries; it is only through a long line of tedious chroniclers that we reach at last a genuine historian. Thus in French history we must wade through a long series of monkish annals, from Gregory of Tours, for more than nine

Whether the historian treat of past or contemporary events, really makes no difference, as in either case he must depend on the testimony of others; for even in contemporary events, he cannot have been personally present at onetenth of what he relates. In the following pages, we have considered the historian of the past, who compiles from contemporary writers; but the same rules apply for all.

centuries, before we come to Philippe de Comines,-the first writer who has something of the historian, with whom to write history was to think and to weigh, as well as to recollect and


For our present purpose all history may be divided into four classes, characterised by a greater or less amount of evidence; and it is by examining these that the rules of historical criticism may be determined.

I. Where there is abundance of contemporary evidence, writers of all parties and opinions, and evidence of all kinds, as letters, speeches, &c., besides proper histories. This is only found in modern times, as for instance in our Parliamentary struggle with Charles I.

II. Where there is contemporary evidence, but all on one side; thus in Roman history, we have no story from the Carthaginian side. The best Mohammedan history never rises above this class.

III. Where there remain no contemporary writers, but only later compilers from popular traditions, backed however by contemporary monuments; as the history of the Roman republic to the age of Pyrrhus, and pre-Mohammedan India from the fourth century before our era.

IV. Beyond this lies the mythic period, where there is no basis of historical proof at all, but only unsupported legends, as in the regal period at Rome, and the heroic age of Greece and India.

Let us examine each of these in an inverse order; for it is by an induction from these that the rules of historic evidence are to be framed, and to each of them are the rules to be applied, if our history is to be worthy of the name.

With the last mentioned, or mythic period, that cloud-land of heroic fable, which lies at the dawn of history, stretching back as far as the national memory or imagination may have ventured to explore, historical criticism has nothing to do. The vexed questions of the siege of Troy, or the wanderings of Æneas, or the Mahábhárata war, lie beyond her province,her instrument has no power to analyse them. There doubtless is some portion of truth contained in all these ancient heroic poems; the national enthusiasm of those simple times craved some basis of reality on which to ground its lawless inventions; but in which part of the poem that truth is to be found, we have no power to determine,we cannot resolve the nebula. Poetic fiction has thrown her glamour-light over all alike, and we must be content to resign it all to her. There is no substratum of fact apart from the poems, by which to test and reject the overgrowth of fiction; we have no contemporary records

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