24 APRIL 1880, Page 15


THE REIGN OF QUEEN ANNE.* THE reign of Queen Anne has occupied the attention of several recent historians. Ten years ago, Earl Stanhope published his solid and carefully written work, which has passed through several editions. The author is never brilliant, but lie is always trustworthy ; he understands how to arrange his facts, and how to distinguish between what is of chief importance and what possesses a subordinate value ; he is never crochetty, his judg- ment is sound, and his narrative is throughout clear and inter- esting. About five years later appeared Mr. Wyon's history, a work which, in spite of sonic perverse judgments and a bad style, has a value of its own, and deserves to be consulted on many points which are less thoroughly treated by Earl Stan- hope. In 1877, Mr. Edward E. Morris published a small volume, called, Me Age of Anne, which is, in sonic respects—in its biographical details, for example—a very attractive book. Occasionally, however, this manual, which is intended for school service, is marred by prejudice, and the opinions expressed are not always borne out by the facts. Mr. Morris's estimate of the literature of the age is necessarily slight, but the volume, brief though it, be, is far from superficial, and the writer is, perhaps, too modest when he says that "those whe before kuew the history of the period will find here no new light." Mr. Lecky's treatment of the time, in his masterly History of Eng-

* A Ilioory of the Reign of Queen APPRO. By John Bill Burton. D.C.L.. grapher Royal for Scotland. it vols. London : 1t71llnm Blacka•o. d and Sons.

land in the Eighteenth Century, is the most recent and, from one point of view, perhaps the truest estimate of a period which is one of the most interesting in our annals.

Dr. Burton enters the same field of study with advantages unpossessed by preceding historians. Some of these advantages are personal to himself. His researches as the historian of Scotland have compelled him to gain an intimate knowledge of the reign in which Scotland ceased to have an independent life. He is familiar, as no other living writer is familiar, with the history of the Union. He has paid frequent visits to Marlborough's battle-fields, and throughout the work, which has been twelve years in preparation, he shows an acquaint- ance with details which is probably unsurpassed. Dr. Burton, there can be no doubt, thoroughly .understands his subject, but we venture to think that his method of treatment is unsatis- factory. An historian, indeed, is not bound to write so as to entertain the public. We have no right to expect picturesque descriptions or rhetorical artifices in a work which is not in- tended to win temporary applause, but to prove of lasting value. Dr. Burton's history is not designed for the circulating library, but for the thoughtful reader, who takes up a book like this with an honest desire to understand the subject. How far will such a reader gain satisfaction from a perusal of these three handsome-looking volumes ? He will learn much, no doubt. Intercourse with an original mind, and a mina stored with knowledge, cannot fail to prove stimulating. Familiar facts will be seen from a fresh standing-point, and new facts brought to light by the researches of the historian will enlarge the reader's range of vision. The book is one to be thankful for, but it may be questioned whether it will super- sede earlier histories. A glance at the work will discover some of its deficiencies. Dr. Burton seems to have a dislike of dates. Not only does he fail to insert them at the head of the pages, but in his narrative the reader is carried backward and forward with a disregard for chronology which is not a little perplexing ; and when dates are given in the body of the work, they are frequently inaccurate, not surely from ignorance, but from carelessness. Errors of this kind can be corrected in future editions, but the defects in the plan of the work are less easily remedied. Often matters of subordinate interest are placed in the front of the narrative, and occasionally large space is given to topics which are almost wholly irrelevant. Sometimes allu- sions are made which readers who are not well acquainted with the age will fail to understand, and sometimes the sentences are so involved, or the author expresses himself so awkwardly, that it is necessary to read and read again before the meaning becomes clear. These are blemishes in a work which, there was ample reason to hope, would take, as the author's History of Scotland has taken, an honoured place in our historical litera- ture. They are blemishes which we notice with all the more regret, because every chapter of the book bears witness to the research and erudition of the writer, to his varied knowledge and scrupulous impartiality.

It has been the lot of " Good Queen Anne " to take a place in history which is assuredly not due to any personal qualities. She was an ordinary woman, with a strong vein of obstinacy, but she lived in an extraordinary age, and it was her lot to be served by men several of whom occupy a foremost rank in the history of our country. The few years during which Anne reigned are crowded with great events, as well as with events which, like the trial of Sacheverell, appeared of the utmost importance at the time, but seem infinitely small now. That trial, however, proves what might not otherwise have been so clear, that the adherents of the Revolution, who formed the bulk of the people, did not feel themselves so secure of their position as they after- wards proved to be. It was the sense of insecurity on the part of the Whigs, and not Godolphin's irritation at being alluded to as Volpone, which prompted the public trial of a clergyman whose character and position were alike unworthy of such notice. Sacheverell loved notoriety, and no man ever gained more of what he loved. He became the idol of the mob, and for a season the most popular man in London. The mob, in this instance, unlike mobs generally, was the supporter of the Church and in favour of submission to authority, and if the drift of Sacheverell's argument were accepted fully, was opposed to toleration. So strong was the feeling displayed in favour of this truculent and worthless priest, that he who did not throw up his cap for Sacheverell was in danger of Jedburgh justice. Members of both Houses were openly attacked in the streets, Dissenters' places of worship were burnt to the ground, and, ac- cording to Burnet, "the word upon which all shouted was,' The, Church and Sacheverell,' and such as joined not in the shout were- insulted and knocked down. Before my own door, one with a

spade cleft the skull of another who would not shout as they did." How strange it all seems to us, but this remarkable trial in Westminster Hall, which in 1710 stirred the heart of all England, formed a sort of battle-ground upon which the Whig principles of the Revolution were opposd to the servile doctrine of non-resistance advocated by the Jacobites. The trial, there- fore, was not carried on for the sake of punishing a man so much as for the sake of maintaining a cause, and this alone has preserved it from being utterly contemptible. Indeed, the- historian avers that he who reads the 500 columns of the State Trials "which contain, in a condensed shape, "The Trial of Henry Sacheverell, D.D., upon an Impeachment before the House of Lords for High Crimes and Misdemeanours," will, if he be a student of constitutional history, have reaped for him- self a rich harvest of constitutional and historical lore ; and he notes, as significant of the times, that throughout the whole of this trial the thought that was uppermost in men's minds. was one that could not be fully and openly expressed:-

" Whatever suspicion there might have been about the entire loyalty to the Queen and the Hanover succession of Sacheverell and his friends, it found no voice. It was among things not to get utterance,—as, for instance, when, in a highway robbery, some one thought he had traced a known face behind the pistol at the carriage window, masked as that face was. Such things were too terrible for gossip—the utmost acknowledgment of suspicion would be the. shrug of the shoulders or the shake of the head. It was somewhat the same with any suspicion that the Tory and High Churchman was also a Jacobite ; it meant the gallows to the humble man, the Tower and the block to the man of rank."

Jacobitism, no doubt, had considerable vital force throughout the reign of Anne. The possibility of the return of the exiled family was constantly in men's minds, and affected, sometimes materially, the conduct of statesmen ; but the subject was not a.

safe one to be talked about in public, and the principal friends of the Pretender affected to be, like Atterbury, the loyal ser- vants of Queen Anne. Mr. Lecky, by the way, considers that.

the Bishop took a leading part in composing the speech made by Sacheverell in his defence ; but Dr. Burton sees no reason for supposing it not to be his own composition.

The " Church in danger " was a familiar cry in Anne's reign, and it was her love for the Church which made her so popular a Queen. It was an age of religious as well as of political con- troversy, and pamphlets filled the space now occupied by news- papers. He who could hit his opponent hardest was the most successful combatant, and the popular controversialist was generally far from scrupulous. A bitter party spirit was in- imical to manliness and honesty, and men of the highest mark in the country were content to debase themselves by vilifying their opponents. It is only by reading the memoirs and correspondence of the age that we can thoroughly realise its social degradation ; but occasionally a great national act dis- plays the low standard of public morality. The Peace of Utrecht is one of the most conspicuous events in the reign of Queen Anne. It is still a question for discussion whether the. terms of that peace were at all commensurate with the losses Great Britain had incurred in opposing the insatiate ambition of the French King. We should have gained more than we gained in 1713, if the war had closed in 1706; but there was one article in the Treaty of Utrecht which made it more welcome to• Englishmen than any of the terms previously offered. The Assiento contract, which gave this country the privilege of importing negro slaves into America,"was regarded in those days as a splendid advantage to a great trading nation, and no thought of the iniquity of such a traffic seems to have crossed' the mind of priest or statesman "Looking back " writes Dr. Burton, "with the light of the pre- valent opinions of the present day, it is surely instructive in social progress to find lofty, pensive St. John,' who was to " arise,"—

And leave all meaner things, To low ambition and the pride of kings, arranging work of this kind, along with that fellow-statesman who gained renown as a munificent and zealous promoter of high art and solid learning. It was not, however, for hunting and selling negroes- that, by the most illustrious English clergymen of the age, they were both denounced before God as "a couple of scoundrels," but for lack of discrimination in the selection of a bishop."

This stain on the morality of the age was not destined to pass away in the last century, and the reader will remember how, at a much later period, the pions Whitefield bought slaves and upheld slavery. There were other ways in which the reign of

" Good Queen Anne," not worse, possibly, in some respects, than that of the Georges, contrasts unfavourably with our own. Hard drinking was the vice of the age, not only among the common people, but among aristocrats and cabinet ministers ; and immoralities of another kind were practised not less openly. So slight was the regard for human life, that men were hanged for offences which are now expiated by a slight imprisonment. Despite the severity of the law, highwaymen flourished within a few miles of the metropolis. The streets of London were far from secure, and Mrs. Charke, the wayward daughter of Colley Cibber, tells many a strange story of the perils she incurred on returning to her lodgings after dark. Of the social condition of the age, Dr. Burton has little to say, and if he is less reticent with regard to the literature of the period, his brief chapter entitled " Intellectual Progress " is far from satisfactory. There never was a time in which literature and politics were more closely intermingled, in which statesmen and men of letters worked together so heartily for a common cause. The State took cognisance of literary ability in a way which it never did before, and, happily for the profession of literature, never could do afterwards. Access to office was gained through the medium of the pen ; poets and versemen became politicians, accepted office, and rose to high positions in the Government. It is a pretty story to read of the way in which the wits and witlings of the age gained place and pension,—how one became a Secretary of State, another an Under-Secretary, a third a Minister Plenipo- tentiary, a fourth a Court Chaplain, and a fifth, thanks also to his verses, Secretary to the Commissions of the Peace. Dr.

Burton is either not attracted by the literary history of the period, or he does not deem its connection with the political history so intimate as it appears to us. He gives, indeed, a

reason for touching the subject lightly, which, it is to be feared, is far from valid :—" The writings of Pope, Addison, Arbuthnot,

and Steele, with a large portion of the multitudinous works, small and great, contributed by Defoe, are among the living literature of the present age, and it would be a discourtesy to suppose that any reader requires to be informed about them." Oddly enough, while passing over many well known authors with a word or a line, the historian allots nine or ten pages to Tom Brown, a writer who merits the obscurity he has attained. But we do not forget that Dr. Burton is a book-hunter, and is fond of disinterring literature concealed under the dust of years.

To the most eminent name in the annals of Queen Anne, Dr. Burton does ample justice. The faults of Marlborough are scarcely alluded to here, but his genius as a diplomatist and military commander is largely illustrated. The work he did in the last century, was done by Wellington in our own, and it would be hard to say which was the most consummate General, or on which occasion the peril of England was greater. We incline to think that the ambition of Louis XIV. was less dangerous than that of Napoleon, and it may afford some help to a decision on this matter to remember that in the earlier war England had allies, while in fighting Bonaparte she had at one time to defend freedom almost single-handed, and was placed, as Robert Hall finely says, in the Thermopylae of the Universe. In describing Marlborough's campaigns, Dr. Burton has the advantage of knowing the ground, and his personal observations are turned to admirable account. But the History is, unfor- tunately, without maps or plans, and the reader who would understand the details of the battle-fields must consult other authorities. But the readers who wish to master the tactics of the English General, and of his colleague Prince Eugene, are few, in comparison to the number of readers who wish to under- stand the objects of the war, and how far those objects were attained. On these points Dr. Burton is not altogether a satis- factory authority. He understands his subject so well, that he apparently presumes his readers are acquainted with it also, and in his narrative the links are sometimes wanting which would make the meaning of events clear to persons who read the his- tory for the first time in these pages. It was an evil day for the French monarch when he undertook the cause of the Pre- tender. It roused against him all the strongest feelings of the English people, feelings of pride, of indignation, and such a measure of fear, for Louis was deemed well-nigh irre- sistible, as inspired indomitable courage :—" It was diffi- cult indeed," says Dr. Barton, " to understand the awfully critical nature of the game for England. It seemed a Quix- otic war for an abstract principle, such as the balance of power. It was, in reality, a struggle for free national life, with the Stewarts restored by the bayonets of Louis as the for-

feiture." Elsewhere he observes that though our soldiers fight- ing under Marlborough " were not in the critical position of those who have to defend the borders of their native land from an invading enemy, yet they knew that the salvation of their land from such peril depended on their smiting the great French monarch so thoroughly as to make an invasion to place James III. on the throne of England, and restore arbitrary power, a hopeless vision." This was a practical purpose, which every soldier and civilian could understand, however difficult they might find it to appreciate the political significance of the Spanish succession, or the value of that somewhat intangible entity, the balance of power. It might seem, indeed, as if by the Peace of Utrecht England had given up the very point for which she had been fighting, but during the long years of the war the position of affairs had changed, and it was enough that we had effectually broken the power of France, and pre- vented Louis from supporting the claims of the Pretender. It is not to be denied, however, that the Tories were by no means firm enough in their demands ; or that, although wel- come to the country, the peace was not one to be proud of. In some respects, indeed, as in our conduct to the Catalans, we acted a shameless part. Perhaps the most significant gain which remains to tell us of the struggle in Queen Anne's days is the rock of Gibraltar ; but at the time, the possession of that invulnerable stronghold was regarded with com- parative indifference. It is curious, by the way, to note how the Whigs, whose principles are supposed to be in favour of peace, of toleration, and of progress, acted in Queen Anne's day as if they were the enemies of all three. In Mr. Lecky's judgment, it was the party interest of the Whig Ministers which was the main cause of the failure of the negotiations in 1706, and again in 1709. It was the Whigs, and not the Tories, who, in Queen Anne's reign, opposed Free-trade, and it was the Whigs who originated the worst penal laws against the Roman Catholics. It may be observed, too, in passing, that while the Whigs, in the beginning of the last century, were to a man in favour of resisting the ambition of Louis, the Whigs in the early years of this century, if we may judge from their organ, the Edinburgh Review, deemed it unwise to oppose the power of Napoleon. The reader who studies history with the absolute impartiality which is, perhaps, impossible, when events are recent and affect the policy of the day, will find not a little food for thought in anomalies such as these.

The reign of Queen Anne, brief though it was, abounds with events and characters which attract the attention of the his- torical student. The union with Scotland, the ecclesiastical 'differences of the time, which found expression in the Occasional Conformity Bill, the Court squabbles in which the Duchess of Marlborough figured so conspicuously, and the social condition of an age in many respects very unlike our own,— all demand attention, and repay it. And then, what a number of great men, or of men who by circumstances became conspicuous, lived in that stirring period ! The Queen herself was not remarkable for intellectual power, but she knew how to gather around her men of the highest mark as poli- ticians and ecclesiastics. There was Godolphin, who is termed by Dr. Burton "the greatest master of finance that ever held nile in Britain ;" there was Marlborough, great alike in the arts of peace and war ; there was Peterborough, brilliant, but erratic, full of restless daring, and fertile in resources,—who, by the bye, is termed an "inspired lunatic" upon one page of the _History, and a " great commander " on another; there was St. John, whose brilliant genius was only to be matched by his utter lack of consistency and conscience ; there was Lord High Treasurer Harley, whose mastery of Parliamentary form and precedent was probably unrivalled, an astute leader, if not a wise statesman, who ruled the kingdom, and was ruled by Swift.

And the name of the great Dean of St. Patrick's reminds us of the illustrious Churchmen who, for good or evil, played their parts in that age of clerical controversy,—of Hoadley, who, though himself amiable and gentle, stirred as no other man did the waters of controversy, "like some magician who, pro- tecting himself in quiet safety within his own magic circle, can raise outside its circumference mighty elements of wrath, strife, and danger ;" of Burnet, the famous Whig Bishop and his- torian, whose faults and foibles were the butt of the Tory pam- phleteers, and supplied food for the rich humour of Arbuthnot; and of Atterbury, the friend of Pope, the most powerful of the Jacobite clergy, and the most eloquent of the Queen Anne divines, for is it not recorded how, when Prince George died, the Queen's favourite chaplain presented " his unassuming virtues in such high relief, that his widow could not help feeling her irreparable loss ?" We owe much to Dr. Burton for bring- ing us once more into contact with the brilliant spirits of a brilliant age, and if we close the work with some sense of dis- appointment, we must, at the same time, do justice to the laborious research and independent judgment which give a character to this History.