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REPUTED PENANCE OF HENRIETTA MARIA, QUEEN OF CHARLES I., AT TYBURN.
From a German print in the Crowle Pennant,
in the British Museum.
TO THE READER.
The Art of Writing History has, of late years, received many aids and accessions from the most accredited sources of truth, which, as Horace Walpole has remarked, is “the essence of History.” The value of these gains has, however, been variously estimated. “ We think,” says a popular writer, “the existing generation is not favourable to the production of durable impartial history.
Ours is an age of discovery ; we do not now mean scientific discovery. For a century or so the habit had prevailed of receiving implicitly the traditions and records of past times, assuming them to have been substantiated at the date of their publication. This style of constructing history consisted merely in breaking up and rearranging stereotype blocks. Recently, the worthlessness of such a mode of proceeding has become apparent, and now the opposite error has come strongly into vogue—that of leaping back to contemporaneous neglected documents, and, on their evidence, reversing the settled deliberate verdict of past centuries. Thus, Cromwell and Mary of Scotland, and George of England (we don't mean him of the Dragon) get new characters ;—nay, to such an extent is this carried, that, following the example of a learned prelate, we have a worthy man presenting us with historic doubts' relative to the existence of Shakspeare—a writer of plays; and this style of thing is creeping into science.'
It is not proposed in the present volume to treat of these historic studies in all their bearings ; our object in quoting the above passage being to show the extent and variety which they have assumed.
In France and Germany these inquiries have long occupied public attention very largely, and have had a corresponding influence upon historical works published contemporaneously in England A vigorous offshoot of this widely-extended object we have now had in this country for nineteen years, in the valuable Notes and Queries, a “ Medium of Intercommunication” which has much of the historic element in its pages.
Within the present year has appeared a volume, displaying much learning and research, by Dr. Octave Delepierre, entitled Historical Difficulties and Contested Events, in the introduction to which, the author points out a great many so-called historical facts, which are perfectly familiar even to the ignorant, and yet which never happened.” The