« 이전계속 »
miscellaneous being, at variance within itself, from the differing influence of pride, prejudice, or incapacity-a public already sated with attempts of this nature, and in a manner unwilling to find out merit till forced upon its notice,— we hope to be pardoned for thus endeavouring to shew where it is presumed we have had a superiority. A History of the World to the present time, at once satisfactory and succinct, calculated rather for use than curiosity, to be read rather than consulted, seeking applause from the reader's feelings, not from his ignorance of learning, or affectation of being thought learned a history that may be purchased at an easy expense, yet that omits nothing material, delivered in a style correct, yet familiar, was wanting in our language; and, though sensible of our own insufficiency, this defect we have attempted to supply. Whatever reception the present age or posterity may give this work, we rest satisfied with our own endeavours to deserve a kind one. The completion of our design has for some years taken up all the time we could spare from other occupations, of less importance indeed to the public, but probably more advantageous to ourselves. We are unwilling, therefore, to dismiss this subject without observing, that the labour of so great a part of life should, at least, be examined with candour, and not carelessly confounded in that multiplicity of daily publications, which are conceived without effort, are produced without praise, and sink without censure.
FIRST PRINTED IN MDCCLXIX.
THERE are some subjects on which a writer must decline all attempts to acquire fame, satisfied with being obscurely useful. After such a number of Roman Histories, in almost all languages, ancient and modern, it would be but imposture to pretend new discoveries, or to expect to offer any thing in a work of this kind, which has not been often anticipated by others. The facts which it relates have been a hundred times repeated, and every occurrence has been so variously considered, that learning can scarcely find a new anecdote, or genius give novelty to the old. I hope, therefore, for the reader's indulgence, if, in the following attempt, it shall appear, that my only aim was to supply a concise, plain, and unaffected narrative of the rise and decline of a well known empire. I was contented to make such a book as could not fail of being serviceable, though of all others the most unlikely to promote the reputation of the writer. Instead, therefore, of pressing forward among the ambitious, I only claim the merit of knowing my own strength, and falling back among the hindmost ranks, with conscious inferiority.
I am not ignorant, however, that it would be no difficult task to pursue the same art by which many dull men, every day, acquire a reputation in history: such might easily be attained, by fixing on some obscure period to write upon, where much seeming erudition might be displayed, almost unknown, because not worth remembering; and many
maxims in politics might be advanced, entirely new, because altogether false. But I have pursued a contrary method, choosing the most noted period in history, and offering no remarks, but such as I thought strictly true.
The reasons of my choice were, that we had no history of this splendid period in our language, but what was either too voluminous for common use, or too meanly written to please. Catrou and Rouille's history, in six volumes folio, translated into our language by Bundy, is entirely unsuited to the time and expense mankind usually choose to bestow upon this subject. Rollin and his continuator Crevier, making nearly thirty volumes octavo, seem to labour under the same imputation; as likewise Hooke, who has spent three quartos upon the Republic alone, the rest of his undertaking remaining unfinished.* There only, therefore, remained the history by Echard, in five volumes octavo, whose plan and mine seemed to coincide; and had his execution been equal to his design, it had precluded the present undertaking. But the truth is, it is so poorly written, the facts so crowded, the narration so spiritless, and the characters so indistinctly marked, that the most ardent curiosity must cool in the perusal; and the noblest transactions that ever warmed the human heart, as described by him, must cease to interest.
I have endeavoured, therefore, in the present work, or rather compilation, to obviate the inconveniences arising from the exuberance of the former, as well as from the unpleasantness of the latter. It was supposed, that two volumes might be made to comprise all that was requisite to be known, or pleasing to be read, by such as only examined history, to prepare them for more important studies. Too much time may be given even to laudable pursuits, and there is none more apt than this to allure the student from the necessary branches of learning, and, if I may so express it, entirely to engross his industry. What is here offered, therefore, may be sufficient for all, except such who make history the peculiar business of their lives : To such, the most tedious narrative will seem but an abridgment, as they measure the merits of the work rather
Mr Hooke's three quartos above mentioned reach only to the end of the Gallic war. A fourth volume, to the end of the Republic, was afterwards published in 1771. Dr Goldsmith's preface was written in 1769. Mr Hooke's quarto edition has been republished in eleven volumes octavo.
by the quantity than the quality of its contents: others, however, who think more soberly, will agree, that in so extensive a field as that of the transactions of Rome, more judgment may be shewn by selecting what is important, than by adding what is obscure.
The history of this empire has been extended to six volumes of folio; and I aver, that with very little learning, it might be increased to sixteen more; but what would this be, but to load the subject with unimportant facts, and so to weaken the narration, that, like the empire described, it must necessarily sink beneath the weight of its own acquisitions ?
But while I thus endeavoured to avoid prolixity, it was found no easy matter to prevent crowding the facts, and to give every narrative its proper play. In reality, no art can contrive to avoid opposite defects: he who indulges in minute particularities, will be often languid; and he who studies conciseness, will as frequently be dry and unentertaining. As it was my aim to comprise as much as possible in the smallest compass, it is feared the work will often be subject to the latter imputation; but it was impossible to furnish the public with cheap Roman History in two volumes octavo, and at the same time to give all that warmth to the narrative, all those colourings to the description, which works of twenty times the bulk have room to exhibit. I shall be fully satisfied, therefore, if it furnishes an interest sufficient to allure the reader to the end ; and this is a claim to which few abridgments can justly make pretensions.
To these objections there are some who may add, that I have rejected many of the modern improvements in Roman History, and that every character is left in full possession of that fame or infamy which it obtained from its contemporaries, or those who wrote immediately after.
I acknowledge the charge, for it appears now too late to rejudge the virtues or the vices of those men, who were but very incompletely known even to their own historians. The Romans, perhaps, upon many occasions, formed wrong ideas of virtue; but they were by no means so ignorant or abandoned in general, as not to give to their brightest characters the greatest share of their applause; and I do not know whether it be fair to try Pagan actions by the standard of Christian morality.
But whatever may be my execution of this work, I have very little doubt about the success of the undertaking the subject is the noblest that ever employed human attention; and, instead of requiring a writer's aid, will even support him with its splendour. The Empire of the World, rising from the meanest origin, and growing great by a strict veneration for religion, and an implicit confidence in its commanders; continually changing the mode, but seldom the spirit, of its government; being a constitution, in which the military power, whether under the name of citizens or soldiers, almost always prevailed; adopting all the improvements of other nations with the most indefatigable industry, and submitting to be taught by those whom it afterwards subdued. This is a picture that must affect us, however it be disposed; these materials must have their value, under the hand of the meanest workman.