Page images

his acquaintance with the languages of Spain and Portugal; but even if his labours had not been diminished in value by the poetical rather than historical view which he gave of the motives of the Spanish insurgents, they would have been superseded by a work on the same subject (1828–31), by COLONEL W. F. P. NAPIER, who combines, with masterly skill in the narration of events, the inestimable advantage of having himself witnessed, and acted a conspicuous part in, the greater number of those actions which he details. Among other distinguished historical works of the age, the History of India, by JAMES Mill, in six volumes octavo; the History of Persia and Political Sketch of India, by Sir JOHN Malcolm; the Memoirs of Spain during the reigns of Philip IV. and Charles II. (1834), by Mr. JOHN Dunlop, and The History of the French Revolution by Mr. ARCHIBALD ALLISON, are peculiarly entitled to respect.

In the United States, many historical works have been composed during this period, some of which are excellent specimens of that class of writings. WILLIAM GORDON, who died in 1807, wrote a history of the American Revolution, in a plain, unadorned style, but with commendable fidelity, as to a narrative of facts. DAVID RAMSAY (1749–1815), is the author of a more elaborate work on the American Revolution, published in 1790. It is characterised by vigorous thought, a neat style, and scrupulous fidelity. He was well qualified for the execution of such a work, in view both of the attributes of his mind, and the situation which he held as a public man,-in the army, in the legislature of his adopted State, and in the Congress of the United States. This work was followed by a Life of Washington in 1801, and a History of South Carolina in 1808. A Univer. sal History, and a History of the United States extending to the year 1808, have been published since his de

ABIEL HOLMES has composed the Annals of America from 1492 to 1826, in two large volumes. It is a work of great value, and is surpassed by no American history, in accuracy of dates and description of events. Hence the work is excellent for reference, and is a storehouse of facts to compilers of history. A faith




[ocr errors]

TRUMBULL.BANCROFT. -PITKIN.SPARKS. 265 ful History of the United States was written by BENJAMIN TRUMBULL (1735–1820), in one volume. He had prepared two or three other volumes in the history of his country, but they were never published. Dr. Trumbull's style is not elegant or finished, yet he is an interesting writer. He shows a sound judgment and extensive knowledge, and deserves commendation for accuracy of research and fidelity of narration. A History of the United States from the Discovery of the American Continent to the Present Time, written by GEORGE BANCROFT, one volume of which was published in 1834, is a work of a superior order. It is elegant and classical in its style, and evidently the product of a candid temper, a sound judgment, and a rich vein of illustrative learning and philosophy. A Political and Civil History of the United States from the year 1763 to 1798, has been published by TIMOTHY PITKIN, a gentleman personally well acquainted with the legislation, finances, and constitution of his country. He has illustrated that part of American history, in a highly satisfactory and able man

Lyman's History of the Diplomacy of the United States, a work of labour and research, supplies the student and general reader with a valuable account of that branch of American affairs. The Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution, edited by JARED SPARKS, and published in 1829–1830, in twelve volumes, is essential to a minute and specific acquaintance with that portion of the history of the United States. HANNAH Adams has written a History of New England, with a candour and accuracy worthy of the subject.*

Several States of the Union have had their histories ably written within the present period. JAMES SULLIVAN (1744–1808), wrote a History of the District (now the State) of Maine. He made a good use of the few materials which came into his possession. The History of the State of Maine, has lately been written by WILLIAM D. WILLIAMSON, in two volumes octavo. It is a work of much research and industry, arranged with judgment, and written in a neat, perspicuous style. It will long be regarded as a standard history. GEORGE R.

*AX, ED.


MINOT (1758–1802) was the author of a History of Massachusetts in two volumes. This work is a continuation of Hutchinson's excellent account of the same State, and is a favourable specimen of historical eloquence. ALDEN BRADFORD has published a History of Massachusetts from 1620 to 1820, which is an authentic and valuable work. The civil and religious affairs of Connecticut have been narrated in a correct manner by Dr. Benjamin Trumbull

, who has already been spoken of. The History of Vermont was written in 1794 by Prof. SAMUEL WILLIAMS (1761-1817), and was afterwards continued. It was considered the ablest historical work which the country 'had produced at that time, and was admired in Europe as well as in America. Among the more modern historians of the State of New York, are MESSRS. Yates and Moulton. Their account of the State taken with William Smith's History of the Province of New York, of a former age, will afford a valuable amount of instruction to the student of American history. ROBERT Proud in 1797 published an unadorned, but faithful History of Pennsylvania. Hugh WILLIAMSON (1735–1819) gave to the public a History of North Carolina in two volumes, 1812. He was also the author of an Essay on the Climate of the United States: both are important works. The History of Georgia has been written with ability, though without the ample materials which the great increase of the State has since supplied, by Hugh M'Call, who died in 1824. This work, while the style is perspicuous and clear, is particularly valuable for the view which the author has given of the original constitution of Georgia, and the subject of proprietary grants to the first settlers. Amos STODDARD published in 1812 a sensible work, though under

some disadvantages as to literary execution, entitled Sketches, historical and descriptive, of Louisiana. H. MARSHALL favored the public with a history of Kentucky in 1824. Several other States of the Union, if not all of them, have had their history written more or less fully; and the history and geography of the Western States generally, have been given to the public by TIMOTHY FLINT. This writer has bestowed great and deserved attention upon that portion of the American republic. *

*AX En.




Biography is a department of literature which British writers have at no time done much to cultivate; and those who have written books of that kind during the present era, are in general the authors of more important compositions in other departments. It will not, therefore, be necessary to do much more than advert to the principal biographical works which have appeared during the last fifty years.

The The Life of Robert Burns, published in 1800, in connexion with the works of the poet, by JAMES CurRIE, is remarkable for the union of taste and good feeling with which it treats a very difficult subject, and for much information respecting the character and habits of the Scottish peasantry during the eighteenth century. In 1803, MR. William HAYLEY (1745–1820), who enjoyed a temporary fame as a poet, gave the first example, in his Life of Cowper, of a species of biographical composition which seems to be now acknowledged as in some respects the best. In the Life of Cowper, the subject of the memoir was caused to display his own character, and to commemorate many biographical incidents, by his letters—the biographer supplying only such a slender thread of narrative, as was sufficient to connect the whole, and to render it intelligible. The Life of Dr. Beattie, by Sir WILLIAM FORBES, published in 1806, though too voluminous for the importance of the subject, was a pleasing example of the same kind of biography. In the same year, LORD HOLLAND gave to the world an Account of the Life and Writings of Lope Felix de Vega, the celebrated Spanish dramatist ; a work displaying some of the unskilfulness of one not accustomed to write with a view to publication, but at the same time distinguished by much liveliness, and by a pleasing liberality of sentiment.

In 1812, Dr. Thomas M‘CRIE, a dissenting presbyterian minister, settled in Edinburgh, published The Life of John Knox, which might, in other words, be described as a history of the Reformation in Scotland, and of the progress of literature in that country during a great

[ocr errors]


part of the sixteenth century. The high approbation bestowed upon this work encouraged the author to write The Life of Andrew Melville, which was published in 1819, and might be described as a continuation of the history of religion and literature from the period where it was dropped in the Life of Knox. Histories of the Progress and Suppression of the Reformation in Spain and Italy were subsequently published by Dr. M Crie, who may be characterised as an industrious inquirer, and an accurate, vigourous, and animated writer. The Life of Nelson, published in 1813, by Mr. Southey, with the unambitious purpose of affording to common sailors a view of the transactions of that hero, is now generally acknowledged to be the best biographical production of the age. It is brief and simple; but while apparently free from effort or design, is in reality a masterpiece of literary art. Mr. Southey afterwards wrote The Life of Wesley, and contributed to Dr. Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopedia Lives of the British Admirals. His pure language, and graceful manner of composition, seem peculiarly adapted for biography.

The Life of the Admirable Crichton (1819), and The Life of Sir Thomas Craig (1823), by Mr. PATRICK FRASER TYTLER, already mentioned as the author of the History of Scotland, are chiefly valuable for the light they throw on the ancient state of learning and literature in Scotland. The same author has since written a series of Lives of Scottish Worthies and a Life of Sir Walter Raleigh. His patient habits of research, and the pure, graceful, and mellifluous flow of his language, qualify him in a high degree to shine in biographical composition. Mr. Thomas MOORE, whose poetical talents have obtained for him so high a celebrity, is the author of a Life of Sheridan (1825), Memoirs of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and Notices of the Life of Lord Byron (1830). In 1825, a Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, on the same scale with Southey's Life of Nelson, was undertaken by Sir WALTER Scott, but eventually swelled out to nine bulky volumes, and bore in other respects little resemblance to its model. The subject was one to which the sympathies of the author could not easily be reconciled ; his information, and his sense of

« EelmineJätka »