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1. The proper business of a Preface is twofold; first, to tell the reader why the work is written and published; and, second, to describe to him the manner in which it is done, and to apprize him of other circumstances the want of a previous knowledge of which might produce inconvenience to himsel
2. With regard to the first, the why is, that we may have, at once, a record of the acts and character of the king in question, while these are all fresh in our minds, while a great part of the actors are still alive, while official and other documents are within our reach, while the field is fairly open for controversy on the matters stated, and, above all, that the History may
be of use; that it may afford us an example of what we ought to follow, or warn us against what we ought to shun. Of what use to us of this day is the history of the tyrant, Henry VIII., or that of his racking and ripping-up daughter, Elizabeth, compared to what it would have been to our fathers, if written at the close of their savage reigns ? And, of what use would the history of the transactions of the late regency and reign be to our great grandchildren, compared to the use that it must naturally be to us? In short, history, like all other writing, is valuable in the proportion in which it is calculated to produce good effects; in proportion as it is calculated to stimulate men to useful exertion, or to make them shun that which is mischievous; in proportion as it is calculated to have a practical effect in the affairs and on the condition of men. To have these effects it
must come, not only before the nation have forgotten the transactions and characters to which it relates, but before it has ceased to feel the effects of those transactions. 'Ancient history may, with a few learned and deepthinking persons, be of real use; but, to the mass of mankind, it can be but little other than romance,
3. It may be said, that the writer, having lived during the period, or part of it, of which he is the historian, may possibly have been engaged in the transactions of it himself, and cannot, therefore, be expected to be so impartial as he ought to be. But, what is the great business of history? It is to record facts'; and, if the facts be true, of what consequence are the feelings of the historian ? He may, indeed, when delineating motives and consequences and characters, give way to his bias ; but, then, as in the case of the facts, he exposes himself to contradiction, and the matter is set right; dis. cussion takes place; and out of discussion comes the establishment of truth.
4. There is, however, one disadvantage to set against the advantages of history written immediately at the end of a reign; and that is, that, in dealing with character, the historian, in this country and under our present laws, must take great care as to what he says. The writer, at Brighton, who was burnt in effigy, the other
day, for hinting that the present king was not a strong-minded man, and the two brothers, who were shut up in different gaols, and heavily fined, for comparing the late king to SARDANAPALUS, afford instances that it is not very safe to deal with living characters; and the prosecution of the latter for a libel on George the Third, years after he was dead, shows clearly, that the nearness of the historian to the period, the transactions of which he records, must be, as far as relates to delineation of character, a great disadvantage. He must (and, upon the whole, this is, perhaps, a good) confine himself to facts, leaving the reader to draw inferences :
the less he dabbles in the dirt of debaucheries the better. His business is to show his readers what has been done, and what are, or were, the effects of it: what were the measures of the reign of which he is the historian, and in what way, and to what extent, they produced happiness or misery, renown or dishonour.
5. So much for the motive of publishing this history at this time : and now, as to the manner. It is published in small Numbers, because that mode gives more time to the reader; engages his attention better; and presses on his purse by degrees. The paragraphs are numbered ; because by that means the matter is more easily referred to. And it is written in the FIRST PERSON, because I have been an actor in public matters, during the whole of the period to which the history will relate.
6. For the better understanding of the transactions of the regency and reign of George the Fourth, it will be necessary to prefix a sketch of