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ART. VI.-ALISON AND HISTORY.

History of Europe from the Fall of Napoleon in 1815, to the

Accession of Louis Napoleon in 1852. By Sir Archibald Alison, Bart. D.C.L. Author of the History of Europe from the commencement of the French Revolution in 1789, to the Battle of Waterloo,&c., fc. Vol. IV. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1855.

Notwithstanding our loyalty to imperial interests, there is a something provincial, whether in our position or ourselves, that occasionally collects the vagabond fervours of our patriotism into a focus; and thus it is that amidst the grandeur of a book that purports to be the History of Europe, we confess to the littleness of being attracted most strongly to what concerns Ireland.- flere, as in many other instances, we are indebted to our fellow subjects in North Britain, for an application to Irish questions, suflicient in degree and remarkable in kind. For kidnapping our saints, or larceny of our music, for wriggling into our places, or taking away our character, the northern genius is without a rival, and it is beautiful to see the national capacity dilate or contract to the exact requirements of the national greed

What the de’il mon, a pasty, re-echoed the Scot,

Tho’splittin' I'll still keep a corner for thot. And a tolerably spacious corner Sir Archibald Alison has kept for Ireland, in the portion of his history before us, wliich covers the eventful years from 18:25 to 1332. Indeed if we take Ireland to represent the venison (she is admittedly game of some sort or other), not only the haunch, but the entire animal, borns included, would seem to have been worked up into Sir Archibald's pasty.

Underneath its prodigious crust lie mashed and macerated the politics small and great of the island we live in, be policied amongst all the islands of articulately-speaking weu; and we have a final disposal of the Irish question, that question whose difficulties we once thought might abash the self-conceit of the inost self-sufficient Scot alive, and which still continues to be the heart-break of every government, that will or will not deal with its complicativus-Sir

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Archibald, however, thinks otherwise--differences of views, penal laws, agitation in general, emancipation, tithe riots, whiteboyism, orangeism, romanism, anglicanism, repeal and rebellion are bolted without any straining or unusual play of muscle that we can discern. Contrary to the babits of the python family, Sir Archibald does not condescend to lubricate his victim, nor is there a solitary application of the blarney that so commonly precedes the severe things it is fashionable to say of Ireland .

To the extent of this last feature in the History, we have reason to be grateful to Sir Archibald Alison for not conforming to the vulgar notion of what is due to Ireland, a notion the Irish themselves have fatally encouraged. A tag of green, a sprig of shamrock and a mouthful of sentiment, have hitherto wrought like a spell upon the confidence of Ireland, as if a mean heart became more generous for being overlaid with clover, though perhaps "it lurked beneath a star," way though the owner were a king or a viceroy, or what is more to our purpose a book-seller or a book-seller's man. Sir Archibald Alison, whatever be his faults, is honorably distinguished from that class of people, a nuisance everywhere, but more than usually noxious here. You meet them rancid with the oil of smoothness, and oozing the milk of kindness in a way to be detected by the naked eye; you give them credit for fairness and friendliness on their asking; and you are rewarded with a few trashy and malevolent sheets, juggled into the dimensions of a book, such as Head or Trollope only can produce, emblazoned with the national emblems, and bound according to invariable precedent in cloth of the national colour, a graceful tribute to the verdure of the Island, but severely allusive to the like quality in the inhabitants.

Once down we may suppose the meal, substantial as it is, to sit lightly upon the stomach of so mighty a feaster. Its angularities are quickly triturated by the action of that organ, the angry and hostile anomalies that bristled on its surface and all pointed in different directions, assume a symmetry and homogeneity difficult to conceive, and under the same process which converted Grattan into the sternest supporter of the union, Martin Luther ought to becone the champion of the papacy against the assaults of Ignatius of Loyola.

Sir Archibald Alison is, for aught we know, a perfectly well-meaning writer, his simplicity is an argument of his ear

nestaess, and the strongest evidence that he has no wish to impose upon the reader, is the positive certainty that he has been iinposed upon himself. The fallacies whether of fact or of opinion with which the works of Alison abound, are some of them so extravagant and we may add, so unmeaning, as to repel at once any presumption of culpability on the part of the author. It is their merit to reduce him from the bad eminence of a falsifier to the obscure, but safe level of a simpleton ; to change at a touch his guide into innocence, and while withdrawing him from the class of those that are supposed to have more especial need of good memory, to confound him with those when memory is notoriously not good, or if good, ill furnished, though perhaps overstocked. Nor are the peculiarities of his style of the precise kind to create or strengthen impressions unfavourable to his candour. He has unquestionably a certain amplitude of manner, a stately roll of phrase, a full and regulated cadence, and above all a quiet self-possession that might be used and with effect to disarm suspicion. He certaiuly does disguise the base metal of his logio in an endless coil of glittering sentence, but we do not say that concealment is his object,—dishonest writers have a rather different style of tactics. They usually attempt a skilful adjustment of difficulties, some historical sleight of hand, and a little delicate dressing of facts. A few verial infirmities of memory, and a few ornamental touches of invention, are always a resource. Their manner is elaborately negligent and cautiously off hand, their opinions bold and direct, but of a composed assurance.

They play off at the right moment, the various little artifices that go to make up the sharp practice of rhetoric. Sometimes they affect the style coupé," and pull up their paradoxes so sharply, as alınost to throw them on their haunches; their paragraphs bristle with epigram, antithesis nods to antithesis, dogmatisin and sophistry kiss ; at other times their progress is slow and circumspect, they try no dangerous experiments with facts or dates, but rely upon the effected of an undistributed middle, a suppressed premise or an“ignoratio elenchi” slipped in with the most unwitting simplicity. Sir Archibald Alison, we must do him the justice to say, is the reverse of all this. He has written as many crudities in his own particular province, as perhaps any man living; but with vigorous and unquestioning faith in his facts and theories such as we have rarely witnessed. Flis pictures are often ani

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mated and life like, but we can never affirm they represent a real occurrence; his events are well told, and his inferences are cleverly deduced, but we are painfully conscious that we have to do with the tattle of clubs, with the round numbers and loose facts that float upon old port, when old fellows discuss it in easy chairs indicative of light labours, with none to enlighten because there are none to contradict.

It will be found quite impossible to relieve Sir Archibald Alison from all imputation on the score of honesty, uitbout some prejudice to his character for judgment, information or capacity-----perhaps it would be more correct to say, that all three are compromised, and that from the peculiar mould of his ideas, they never could shape a judgment according to the very right of the subject; while even were his capability unquestioned, his industry or his indolence, take it as you please, have left him without materials for the formatiou of an opinion. For some facts, no doubt, he produces a formidable, not to sy a bewildering array of authorities, but we cannot belp thinking lie has devolved a good deal of his reading upon assistants and compiled from their notes with less discretion than simplicity. It would otherwise be difficult to account for the quantity of unanthentic small-talk, he has had the gravity to adopt and circulate as facts-His errors are not casual lapses, still less are they studied misrepresentation to make up for, as well as to disguise which, we might have a studied accuracy elsewhere ; they are blunders of the broadest description, indicating a desultory habit of study, and slovenly course of enquiry, such as a designing writer cannot afford, and few lionest writers will allow themselves-Sir Archibald Alison certuny has a charm of style which it would be equally unfair and hopekss to deny him, and we are far from saying that all bis facts are fictions, or at best distortions. We cannot withhold from him the praise of some noble, and in our humble judg. ment, far-seeing conclusions. He carries our sympathies with him more than once, but we are too modest to claim that for him as a merit anywhere outside our private jurisdiction ; espe. cially when in the eyes of many, it would constitute his peculiar perhaps his sole defect : and it certainly is to our regret, as it must be to that of many more, that a writer so well qualified to please, should have so ill qualified bimself to instruct

. You cannot read history with any degree of satisfaction, unless you can venture to put faith in the industry, sagacity and accuracy of the historian, without of course

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exacting or expecting that faithfulness in every minute particular that would make him absolutely infallible. Alison's History of Europe” is a field pleasant to look upon, and soft to tread; carpeted with young green, and overarched with smiling blue; fenced in by sheltry hedgerows, gay with spring flowers, and glittering with dew,--but what if beset with man-traps and spring-guns? You have an abiding sense of insecurity in reading this work of Sir Archibald, that very much diminishes your pleasure, and altogether destroys your faith. You can afford nothing better than a provisional credit to what. ever you do not know already, you are obliged to question every authority and ascertain every fact from independent sources, you must take your soundings from minute to minute--else if you escape the Grattan sands, you are sure to be cauglit in the O'Connell breakers, or impinge on the “infames scopuli” of Reform. A troublesome navigation certainly until the first explorers shall have drawn the chart, and the rocks and shoals get catalogued.

After all, in respect of Ireland at least, the fault lies more in the quantity then in the quality of the blunderingIgnorance of Irish history and Irish politics, would expose Sir Archibald Alison to no particular censure : in fact it is rather questionable, whether à more intimate acquaintance with these matters, than he exhibits, would be in good taste, or shew anything like thorough breeding in a British statesman or historian. But why knowing so little lias he said so much ?-It is conceivable that Ireland, obscure, provincial, out of the way, anomalous, enigmatical, rayged, famine-stricken, should be little known or studied, but Sir Archibald by devoting so large a space to the discussion of Irish history, rightly or wrongly afiirined the importance of its bearing upon the history of the Empire, and thus placed his own ignorance in a point of view entirely of his own choosing. The mis-statements and contradictions to which we shall require to refer, have like every other Irish question, a religious as well as a political aspect, and of course we shall find it difficult to escape the inputation of a leaning one way or the other; but it certainly is our wish to take position upon neutral ground, and, divesting ourselves so far as possible of our opinions which are of average strength, and our prejudices from which it may be supposed We are not exempt, to examine the dry question of fact with becoming dryness ; and if a theory, however painfully or ingeniously contrived, fail, as it often must by the withdrawal

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