RAUMER'S POLITICAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
THE work, of which the two volumes before us are the commence- ment, forms one branch only of the author's yet unfinished His- tory of Europe since the End of the Fifteenth Century ; the account of France and the North of Europe terminating the whole period, though each part is complete in itself or may easily made so by the addition of notes. As the part already fini,hed occupies the space originally fixed upon as necessary for the com- pletion of the work, the idea of translating the whole was aban- doned, and it was decidtd to give that part only to the English public which related to England,—a decision, as it appears to us, not the most judicious; for we have many Histories of England adapted to every kind of taste, and displaying almost every kind of ability: whereas we have but one work, and that not of the highest kind, which treats of Continental affairs in a just me-
dium between the meagreness of a school-book and the diffuse- ness of a particular history.
As regards the positive merit of the Political History of Eng- land, it is not very easy to decide ; for we are not quite certain of the degree of knowledge which the Continental public have of the
subject,or what existing means of information may be in their power. Its English value may be readily told. In its notes, and here and there in its text, the work contains some characteristic de- tails from original authorities, not generally accessible. It also exhibits the calm unbiassed opinion of a learned and sensible foreigner on English history ; although the mind of the historian is not of a very lofty or philosophical kind, and is moreover some- what antiquated in its spirit.
The history commences with the reign of HENRY the Seventh, and closes with the Restoration of CHARLES the Second. In a
mental aspect, the grand subjects with which the author has to
deal are the Reformation, and the growth and development of the political opinions that disturbed the reign of JAMES the First and ended in the death of his Son. So closely connected with
these as scarcely to admit of separation in a definition, are the causes and changes of national opinion,; which, after tacitly
submitting to the political and religious despotism of HENRY the Eighth and his successors of the TUDOR race, suddenly veered round under the two first STUARTS to doctrines embracing the
most absolute assertions of freedom in the people and of responsi-
bility in the rulers. Besides the Monarchs, the leading characters embrace WOLSEY, BURLEIGH, RALEIGH, BACON, STRAFFORD, CROMWELL, and in short the galaxy of poets, scholars, statesmen, soldiers, and orators, the greatest perhaps that England has pro- duced, who flourished in the century and a quarter from 1528101660..
The great warlike incidents are thedestruction of the Armada and
the Civil War between CHARLES and the Parliament. The whole Period is fertile with civil events, from the dramatic scene where IlEsray appeared with CATHERINE before WOLSEY and CAM- PEGGIO, HI the case of his divorce, to the Senatorial struggles of the Long Parliament.
To the historical genius who had thoroughly mastered the ex- tant materials relative to one of the most important periods in the annals of mankind, one of two courses was open for its treat- rnent. He might have looked at the whole as a story, which might vividly be presented to the reader's mind, and in which the philosophy should only be insinuated like the moral of a poem, whilst the persons and events were prominently displayed. Or, looking at these as mere symptoms of a constitution of things which nature and circumstances rendered inevitable, he should consider the social changes in opinion and manners as his action, and in- cidents and characters as merely subordinate parts. It is possible
that RAUMER may have had some intention of this sort in his mind ; for, according to his translator, he holds nothing worthy of being recorded in general history, that "dies not indicate the progress of human improvement, the predominance of ideas, and the distinguishing characteristics of eminent men:' From a natural deficiency in comprehensiveness and vivacity of genius,—
or from not distinctly conceiving his own purposes,—or from both
causes combined, he has failed in producing either a narrative or a philosophical history. In RAUMER'S account of HENRY the
Eighth, he tells us nothing that HUME has not previously told; he omits much which is found in that historian ; and in point of grace and spirit in the telling, no comparison can be instituted between them. The omissions apply to the succeeding reigns of
the TUDORS, and to that of JAMES ; which are all we have read consecutively, in consequence of the late arrival of the work.
Speaking from impressions, he has added nothing which may not
be found in other popular writers—for instance, in ROBERTSON. Yet, owing to a want of power in his composition, brevity is not
the result of his loppings off. His narrative, although clear enough in its parts, displays no particular study in its arrange- ment, and somethms shows the reverse. We are led from per- sons to events, and from the history of one kingdom to that of another, without any gradual declination, if not with actual ab- ruptness.
In the case of ELIZABETH, the judgment is liable to be bribed by the subject; but it appears to us, that RAUMER'S favourable estimate of the Virgin Queen is at once sensible and philosophi- cal. Upon other matters, opinions will differ with dispositions. Good easy men, who deem the middle course the safest, will think him a minor oracle. Persons of inquiring, penetrating, and re- solved minds, will perhaps conceive that his mode of judgment is taken from GOLDSMITH'S infallible rule for forming a con- noisseur,—which consisted in declaring " that the picture would have been better if the painter had taken more pains." If one side, according to our author, bad not been so obstinate and the other so violent, both would have had a better cause ; and if parties had not acted as they did, why then we should have had a different conclusion.
Among the notes, as we have said already, are found some pleasant historical gossip, apparently taken from the archives of France during the author's visits to Paris. Of this kind is the following account of EDWARD the Sixth, the etiquette of his court, and the manners of his age.
" Many other ceremonies are observed when one of the King's sisters eats with him. For she is not allowed to sit either under the canopy or in an arm- chair (cadrega), but on a bench, which is provided with a cushion, and so far from the head of the table and from the King, that the canopy does not hang over her. But the ceremonies which are observed before they sit down to tab!e are truly ridiculous; thus I have seen the Princess Elizabeth kneel before
her brother five tinies before she sat down. The eame takes place before any one speaks to the King ; and if the Lortla about the Court are less strict in the observance of this custom, it iu because they feel themselves secute in couse- rence of the King's youth ; and they would not have ventured on such en omis- sion towards his father, whom nobody addressed otherwise than kneeling." Cd yinocchio in terra.
" Edward the Sixth is fond of dressing in red, white, awl violet (pavonazzo); and this hitter colour is so much is own, that nobody would venture to wear a hat of that colour. Ili s livery is green and white. As the English generally dress well and expensively, Edward, though be by no means comes up to his father in this respect, has all his clothes embroidered with gold, silver, and pearls. He has a good demeanour, a dignified deportment, much gracethlness and pro. priety in all be does, and is very affable and courteous to the people." " *
" The English, in general, spend the whole of their income. They eat fre- quently ; and sit two, three, or even four hours at table ; not so much for the sake of eating, as for that of agreeable conversation with the ladies—without whose company no banquet is ever given. They are averse to exertion, and low so little corn that the produce is scarcely sufficient ffir their subsistence. Accordingly, they eat but little bread, but so much the more meat, which they have of every kind and of the best qualities. 13tultlinga and cheese are every- where met with ; for numberless flocks feed day and night in the most fruitettl pastures. There are no wolves, but vast numbers of decr, wild boars, and other game. They are fond of the dram, and are very hospitable. " The women are by no means inferior in beauty, grace, rheas, and manners, to the Siennese, or the most admired ladies of Italy. The lords have a very numerous retinue; a servant generally receives two suits, of little value, in a year, eight crowns, and his board, or, instead of the latter, sixpence a day. The people are in general rather tall, but most of the nobles short, which comes from the custom of marrying rich damsels under age. The men and women are fair; but to preserve or improve their natural complexion, they are bled two or three times in a year, instead of painting themselves, like the Italian ladies. " The men are naturally obstinate ; so that if any person is obliged to contradict them, he must take care not to offend them at the ontaet,—Non bisogna al pri- ma urtadi,—but produce his arguments by degrees ; which, from their natural talents, they readily appreciate. Itlany who were not aware of this peculiarity in the English character, have found it difficult to negotiate with such suspi-
cious people. • •
"The noble ladies may be easily distinguished from those who are not noble; the former wearing a hat (ciapperone) in the French fashion, and the latter a cap (acconciatura) of fur or white cloth, aceording to their rank and the English custom. Their marriage ceremonies are not different from those of other couirtries ; but they marry early, and even for a second or third time ; nay, married people sometimes contract an engagement with another man or woman, in ease their present partner should die."
This character of JAMES the First is from the text.
The splendour and decorum which prevailed at the Court of Elizabeth vanished but too soon, with every thing that oas noble, without James's under- standing how to make himself beloved in any other way. Instead of being accessible, like Elizabeth, to all his subjects. the King was angry with every one that approached him ; wherefore a person hung a remon- strance round the neck of one of his hounds, with the following petition- " Dear Clem-, we beg you to speak with the King on our affair, for he hears you every day, but us never."
Beaumont, the French Ambassador, wrote to his Court—" I discover so many seeds of disease in England, so much is brooding in silence, and so many events seem inevitable, that I am inclined to affirm, that fur a century from this time this kingdom will hardly abuse its prosperity, except to its own ruin. I can assure your Majesty, that you have more reason to reflect on King James's absurd conduct and pity his subjects, than to dread his power. The courage of the English is buried in the tomb of Elizabeth. What must be the situation of a state and of a prince whom the clergy publicly abuse in the pulpit, whom the actors represent upon the stage, whose wife goes to these representations in order to laugh at him, who is defied and despised by his Parliament, and uni- versally hated by his whole people. His vices debilitate his mind : when he thinks to speak like a king, he proceeds like a tyrant ; arid when he condescends, be becomes vulgar. Ile endeavours to cover, under specious titles, disgraeful actions; and as the power to indulge in them abandons him, be feasts his eyes, when he can no longer gratify his other vices. In general, he concludes by re- sorting to drinking. Nothing is done here in a regular and reasonable manner, but according to the pleasure of Buckingham, an ignorant young man, blinded by Court favour, and carried away by passion. 'rho most important and urgent business cannot induce this King to devote a day or even an hour to it, or to interrupt his pleasures. Ile does not care what people think of him or what is to become of the kingdom after his death. I believe that the breaking of a bottle of wine or any such trifle, affects him more than the ruin of his son-in-law and the misery of his grandchildren."
In the narrative of the suppression of the monasteries by HENRY, some curious particulars will be found—new, perhaps, to the general reader. Here is an account of the means by which the surrender of the larger abbies was procured.
TITLE-DEEDS OF THE INALIENABLE PROPERTY OF THE ESTABLISHMENT.
It was desired, in the first place, to preserve appearances, as if the surrender bad everywhere been voluntary. But as promises as well as threatenings were for the most part unavailing, the Abbots were frequently imprisoned; and a few who persisted in maintaining that the King was not justified in taking these measures, were hanged. Intimidated by such acts of violence, the rest signed a deed of surrender which was laid before them, and in which they accused themselves of the most scandalous transgressions, and were obliged to declare that it was the greatest good fortune for their soul and body that they had been deprived of their abode, mode of life, and propetty ; arid with all this, the ex- pelled Monks were prohibited, with equal Inconsistency and cruelty, from mar- rying or availing themselves of any former hereditary right.
As it was obtained, so it is preserved ; except that the Irish Establishment shoots as well as hangs, starves, and expels from .oae's abode, for the "good of soul and body."
The translation of the work has been undertaken by Mr. LLOYD, who, if our memory serves us, was Mr. AUSTIN'S co- adjutor in rendering RAUMER'S England ; and, with some occa- sional obscurities, he has ably discharged his task.