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Having dwelt so much at length on the relation of poetry to the moral nature, we have but little space left for other branches of literature. It was our intention to have noticed briefly the extensive and important department of Fiction, and to have devoted a page or two to that of Criticism ; instead of which we shall bring our article to a close with a few observations on Historical writing, as connected with moral culture.
Among literary studies none stands higher in dignity and influence than History. Through it time sounds aloud its many-toned voice; the songs that were sung in the beginning are heard now; Adam and Moses, the Pharaohs and the Cæsars live in our sight; solemn lessons from generation to generation are spoken; and the whole Past with its manifold expression — its thought, and its action marches in silence and grandeur, like the orderly movement of an army, before the penetrating gaze of the whole Present. We say, then, that history stands first of all studies in dignity and influence. Lord Bacon calls it “the base of the pyramid of knowledge.” Its office is to unfold the causes, the principles, the actions, the Divine interpositions, that have formed the character and swayed the destiny of the community, the people, or the age it commemorates. It is therefore not so much “philosophy teaching by experience,” as it is experience furnishing materials for philosophy. According to ancient mythology the Muse of History was the daughter of Memory. And this imputed origin is more than a poetic fancy; it has a foundation in reality. It indicates, with equal beauty and distinctness, the true nature of history: which is but facts, the knowledge of which has been preserved by the memory and its various auxiliaries, brought out, analysed, arranged, and translated into an understood language.
But our inquiry relates more particularly to the qualifications of the historian. And what are these ? Are intellectual gifts alone sufficient? Is it enough for him, that he sees and knows and is able to describe ? Certainly not. Impartiality, fidelity, love of truth, self-control, sterling moral qualities, – are equally indispensable. We insist upon this point. It is time it were well understood. The world has suffered incalculably, in consequence of its being overlooked, from historians without the requisite
moral attainments. Neglect of moral culture, practical contempt of the law of God, false-heartedness, is, and ought to be, fatal to the success of an author in this department of study and literature. “In them who engage in this work,” it was well remarked by a wise man of a former age, “ who shall rightly and well relate the occurrences of states and kingdoms, there is required much more than makes up an ordinary man. They ought to be superlatively intelligent, diligently industrious, and uncorruptedly sincere.” In this enumeration of qualities the last, namely,
sincerity', — honesty, impartiality, singleness of heart, is, by no means, least in importance. Quite as necessary is it as veracious speech in the intercourse of men. For without it what confidence can be placed in the historian's statements, what respect can be entertained for his opinions? It was said by Cicero, “every one knows that the first law in writing history is not to dare to say any thing that is false, and the next, not to be afraid to speak the truth; that there may be no suspicion of partiality on the one hand nor of prejudice on the other.” † This canon is just. It is not enough, that the historian be a keen observer; he must be also a lover of truth. We repeat and insist
upon this as of the first moment; for we know that society has a more than a temporary and superficial interest in it. Nor are these the only qualifications. Accuracy of observation, love of truth, honesty in relating, are indispensable, but are not the whole. He should be capable, moreover, of deep and tender emotions, of pure and active sympathies, of a comprehensive and disinterested philanthropy. No extent of knowledge, no acuteness or vigor of thought, no brilliancy of wit or fancy, can compensate for the want : of these essential qualities. In short, he must have moral sensibility, without which it is impossible to appreciate the highest virtue — the heroism of the poor, the persecuted, the afflicted, the forsaken — in the examples he brings to view; or to portray in suitable colors the foulest iniquity
-the profligacy and cruelty of the mighty and illustrious
which it is his duty to expose. Especially in the biographer are these qualities essential, though we must confess they are but rarely found. The great vice of most
* Owen Felltham's Resolves
“ Of History.” † De Orat. lib. 2, cap. 15.
biographies, even the best, is exaggeration. They are not true. They give a one-sided view of their subjects. As Dr. Johnson says,
they shew their favorite decorated and magnified like the ancient actors in their tragic dress, and endeavor to hide the man that they may produce a hero.” This is one of the fruits of that opinion which we are combatting, that the best success in study and literature may be reached without moral culture, without rigid principles of self-government, without reverence for conscience, without devotion to truth and justice,-a notion as dangerous and pernicious as it is false.
Few histories, whether general or particular, civil or personal, have yet been written by men “rightly and well” qualified. The splendid work of Gibbon, for example, though the fruit of transcendant talents and great learning, is vitiated by its loose principles, its gross indecencies, its malicious sneers at Christianity, so that it cannot safely be put into the hands of a youth of unformed character without a solemn caution. And is that a successful work which is justly subject to such censure ? We might cite other examples to the same purpose, but refrain from doing it, our object being rather to vindicate a principle than to submit a criticism. We rejoice, however, in the full faith of better things to come in this field of literary labor. Our own age, we believe, is ready to disown all historians of this description and will not give them a name to live. It will have men whom it can trust to do this great work for posterity. It will not consent that coming generations shall be imposed upon by distorted representations of facts, or by a fraudulent development and exposition of principles. It will demand that the writers of history whose works it shall transmit with its seal upon them be men of strictest integrity, of unsuspected purity, who feel the obligations of morality and religion, who have hearts as well as heads — eyes as well as spectacles. Let him who is conscious of deficiency in these respects betake himself to some other vocation. He cannot succeed in this. He will assuredly fail; and all the more signally, as his intellectual endowments and literary culture are eminent and remarkable. It is gratifying to remark the union of these qualities in some of our own countrymen, whose labors in the department of History have been attended with great and deserved success.
We have not room to pursue these remarks on a subject to us of great importance. We say of great importance; for to us it has an importance not measurable by any scale of degrees employed in the common matters of life, but one which ranges on a level with the immortal interests of man. “It is of the greatest concernment in the Church and Commonwealth,” as Milton says, “to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves; for books are not dead things, but contain a progeny of life in them, to be as active as the soul was whose progeny they are.” It is of the greatest concernment to the present and the future, that our authors be held to a rigid accountability. It ought to be the universal voice of Christian civilization, that without a love of truth and respect for the principles of virtue they not only cannot succeed by reason of their own deficiencies, but shall not by reason of the public will. They should understand, that they are to be tried now and hereafter not only by the educated mind, but also by the educated conscience and purified heart of the sons of God; and that if they fail of sustaining themselves at the latter tribunal, no verdict from the former can save them alive. There are still authors fattening upon the mischief they do; in whose productions sin is made to appear interesting and attractive, and modest virtue so tame and stupid as to excite only contempt; who put into the hands of the arch-enemy polished and beautiful weapons, and make him obtain, with the dexterity and grace of a knight-errant, an easy victory over his less active and vigilant rival. For the sake of a temporary, groundling popularity and a rapid sale, they seem willing to unsettle and overturn the moral principles of society, and to instal the fiercest passions and the lowest in their place. Upon such authors let “sharpest justice” be done. Let them be branded with the moral censure of the whole Christian community. They are worse than thieves and robbers, and deserve a worse fate. Let them die and not live, and let their names perish with their works.
J. W. T.
It may at first seem strange that the Unitarians of England should feel a lively interest iu the condition of the Established Church, or in the course which theological opinion may take within its walls. Not only shut out from all participation in its privileges, but made the objects of its most bitter scorn, receiving from every true Churchman a double measure of condemnation as Dissenters and as Unitarians, they might be expected to care little for the affairs of a body to which they hold such relations. But, besides the attention which every intelligent observer must be disposed to give to the history of religious opinion as it passes under his eye, there are two reasons why Liberal Dissenters in England must regard with eager curiosity the present tendencies of the Establishment.
Keenly feeling the injustice of the position in which they are placed by the legalized institutions of the land, they cannot but watch every movement which offers the least promise of a change in the character of those institutions. And this interest must both be sharpened, and be raised into a nobler feeling than that of selfish anxiety, by the nature of the developments which have of late startled the whole Christian world. The questions that now agitate the English Church are of the deepest importance. They go to the foundations of liberty and responsibleness. They are not questions of discipline or faith, so much as questions that lie back of these, - questions respecting the rights of the soul. The principles so adroitly pushed into notice by the “ Tractarian" writers, under cover of reverence for antiquity and a desire to give the religious sentiment greater force, are directly opposed to the principles of Protestantism, of Dissent, and of Unitarianism, — the contrariety becoming more manifest at each step in this enumeration. If "Puseyism” be true, free inquiry is a sin, individual judgment a fatal delusion. Whether its disciples will return into the bosom of the Romish Church, is of comparatively little moment; they have set forth the worst, because
* Lectures on Certain High-Church Principles commonly designated by the term Puseyism. By Thomas MadGE. London. 1844. 8vo.