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HISTORIES of countries from first to last are, I fear, no longer popular. Few readers like to embark on so long a voyage, uninteresting at its commencement from barrenness, at its close from brevity. The narrator is preferred who undertakes to paint a single epoch, which he reproduces on a large canvas, so as to give life-like size and reality to every personage. But the merits and attractions of such works, however great, cannot dispense with the necessity of more continued and concise narratives of historical events. In these alone can be traced the great chain of causes and effects, and the circumstances pointed out which give a decisive tone and distinguishing colour to the fortunes and character of a nation.
This, no doubt, is history aiming at instruction rather than amusement, and appealing to the judgment, rather than the imagination. It pre-supposes, too, that things are more powerful than men, and circumstances than individuals; that the age in its progress throws out the mind and the agent which work and complete its purpose, rather than that the genius of the statesman or legislator can seize the helm and guide the bark to the goal indicated by his own prescience. Were this the case, portraiture would be history. I question the omnipotence attributed to the human intellect, and the importance assigned to individual idiosyncrasy. Time is an ocean, on which we float with much power over our course, but with little over the elements by and amongst which we are borne along
The aggregate will, creed, and purpose of the minds of a nation form no doubt the paramount cause. But analysis could not dissolve them into a myriad of individual wills, much less concentrate them into one. The great events and achievements which mark the progress of a nation proceed from the first, whilst it were idolatry to look for them in the latter. Yet in these two great countries the belief in individualism prevails. Mignet declares broadly that the Reformation succeeded where it had a king to abet it, and failed where there was a sovereign to oppose it. French history does not corroborate this assertion. The Reformed tenets overran France and became masters of it under the Catholic Valois; whilst they were driven back and reduced to insignificance under the Huguenot Bourbon. In England, methinks, we inalign ourselves and depreciate the national grandeur, when we attribute the success of the Reformation to the Tudors, or that of the democratic principle to Cromwell. The great peculiarity of English history, on the contrary, seems to be the activity and influence at all times of