15 APRIL 1876, Page 24


A Sketch of the History of Taxes in England, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. By Stephen Dowell. Vol. I. To the Civil War, 1642. (Longmans.)—It is doubtful bow far a subject like this, so inter- woven with the political and social history of the country, of which, indeed, it is an integral part, can be with profit treated separately. Mr. Dowell, however, has undertaken it, and we have here the first in- stalment of his labours. In the preface we find a modest apology for the style being "lighter than that usually adopted in treating a fiscal subject." We should hardly have discovered this characteristic of our author, unless, indeed, a subject is lightened by the introduction of a most remarkable army of quotations, from all sorts and conditions of previous writers. In the midst of a precise description of taxes on the nobles, we stumble over a quotation from "Lothair," and the formidable array of authorities named in the foot-notes includes the names of Froissart, Professor Stubbs, Matthew Paris, Guizot, Mr. H. Mayhew, the Times newspaper, and a host of others. When the work is complete, we may return to the subject at greater length, in the meantime, we entreat Mr. Dowell, if possible, to mend his style somewhat. We do not mind its "lightness," but there is hardly a page where some long and intricate sentence does not require breaking up into two or three

smaller ones, and a far more liberal use of " stops." His subject is not necessarily as dull as Mr. Dowell seems to think, but at present we have found the chapters more interesting, from the historical scraps (if we may so say) that they plentifully contain, than as forming a connected narrative. As this volume is dedicated to Sir William Stephenson, and dates from Somerset House, we presume that Mr. Dowell is himself engaged in the department of Inland Revenue.