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The utility of historical abridgments is generally acknowledged.. when judiciously executed, they comprehend in a small space all that is necessary to be remembered, or is essentially useful. For: the generality of readers, who think a moderate share of history sufficient for the purposes of life, and for young persons engaged in laying a foundation for future study, the series of the Scottish histories is too voluminous.
Of the few abridgments of our history that have hitherto ap.. peared, it might be considered invidious to remark, that they possess little merit or reputation: But candour will admit, that they are either mere epitomes of larger works, or that they consist of incidents injudiciously selected, unskilfully arranged, and, in many instances, of doubtful authenticity. These considerations have suggested the compilation of the work now submitted to the public.
So far as the limits of his, abridgment would admit, the compiler has endeavoured to exhibit a brief and comprehensive outline of the history of Scotland, with an accurate and consecutive view of its leading events. He has aimed at no higher excellence than perspicuity and accuracy.
The author deems it unnecessary to apologize for the freedom with which he has availed himself of the works of others, or for the verbal alterations which were indispensably necessary to suit the connexion and to adapt the materials to the purposes for which they were selected. The authors to whom he is chiefly ine debted are, Chalmers, Lord Hailes, Pinkerton, Robertson, Hume, M'Crie, Cook. The supplementary articles have been compiled. from Smollett's England, the Chevalier de Johnstone's and Home's histories of the Rebellion in 1745 and 1746, the “Edinburgh Rea. view.” Irving's “ Lives of the Scottish Poets," the “ Edinburgh Encyclopædia," and Macpherson's “ Annals of Commerce.”
Agreeably to the wishes of those teachers who are partial to a prescribed form of interrogatories, the compiler has prepared a semn ries of Questions, as exercises; which may be bound up with the History, or stitched separately in a cover. English and Commercial Seminary, Meadowside,
Dundee, August 1821.
THE earliest period of the history of Scotland is involved in obscurity, The authentic information which we possess is derived from the Roman writers, who recorded the achievements of their countrymen in their hostile operations against the untutored but brave Caledonians.
The first historical chronicles were compiled by the monks, chiefly from oral tradition. It is probable that these chroniclers derived a considerable portion of their information from an order of poetical historians that were maintained by the Scottish monarchs and chieftains of distinction; and that recited, upon public occasions, the genealogy of their lieges, and recounted the exploits of their ancestors.
Bede, an English monk of very superior learning, wrote, about the beginning of the eighth century, an ecclesiastical history of Britain. In that work, the transactions of the Scots and Picts are incidentally noticed. The records of the Scottish kings, and probably the existing historical fragments, were deposited in the monastery of Icolmkill, till the reign of Malcolm Canmore.
At a subsequent period, the ecclesiastics of Melrose, Paisley, St An. drew's, and of other religious establishments, compiled and multiplied. histories of their country.
The oldest history of Scotland extant, is of a comparatively recent date: It is the production of John Fordun, a canon of Aberdeen; who flourished about the end of the fourteenth century. The first five books and twenty-three chapters of the sixth book of the “Scotichronicon," are the composition of this simple but venerable writer. The remainder of this work, which extends to sixteen books, was composed by Walter Bower, abbot of St Colm, in the beginning of the fifteenth century: He transcribed the work of Fordun, but inserted large interpolations. The Scotichronicon extends to the death of James the First. It is inferior to the original histories of several other countries of modern Europe ; the Latin is scholastic and barbarous; and, in the essential qualities of ge.. nuine history, the work is very deficient. .
Andrew Winton, prior of Lochleven, composed his metrical “Cronykil of Scotland” about the same time that Bower wrote. His work indicates a competent share of credulity and superstition ; yet he is a more judicious writer than Fordun or Bower.
John Mair, a celebrated doctor of the Sorbonne, after having studied: at Cambridge, Oxford, and Paris, was appointed principal of St Sal.
vator's College, St Andrew's. His six books “De Gestis Scotorum” were published at Paris in 1521. Mair has been particularly characterized as a historian more studious of truth than of eloquence.
About the same time, Hector Boece, a man of genius and an accom. plished scholar, published his history at Paris. Though one of the most elegant Latinists his country can boast, his work abounds with fiction. Several of the authors on whom he professes to rely have been demonstrated to be supposititious.
Dr John Lesly, the celebrated bishop of Ross, an accomplished scholar and a man of enlarged experience, published his history of Scotland, at Rome, in 1578. His work is esteemed both useful and elegant. Though, in writing the earlier part of our annals, he has been chiefly guided by the narrative of Boece, his materials for the later part are aythentic and valuable.
Buchanan's history was published at Edinburgh in 1582. No modern ever made a nearer approach to the genuine spirit of the ancients than this writer has done. The composition of his work reflects the highest honour on the literature of his country; but the accuracy of his statements is in many instances questionable.
John Spottiswoode, archbishop of St Andrew's and chancellor of Scotland, wrote the history of the church of Scotland, in the beginning of the seventeenth century. To eminent candour he united a considerable portion of critical sagacity. His work is deemed equal to any historical composition that had hitherto appeared in the English language.
About the same time, Drummond of Hawthornden wrote a history of the first five Jameses; "a work,” says Campbell, “ abounding with false eloquence and slavish principles."
An Herculean work remained to be performed to separate from the authentic history the mass of fiction with which it was blended, and which had been accumulating for ages. That labour has been very suc. cessfully performed. Father Innes, of the Sorbonne, in his “ Critical Essay on the Ancient Inhabitants of Scotland," a work of learning and importance, explored the antiquities of his native country with a more rational spirit of criticism than any of his predecessors.
The indefatigable and laborious researches of Chalmers, and the di. ligence and discrimination of Lord Hailes, who have carried into the obscurity of Scottish antiquities the torch of severe but judicious cri. ticism, have dispelled the darkness which so long overhung the early period of Scottish history. It is to be regretted that the learned judge abandoned the design of writing a continuation of the “ Annals of Scotland.” A history of the first five Jameses, executed with ability and taste, seems to be a desideratum in Scottish literature.
Peace with England. Insurrection of Wimund. David's cha-
of Roberts......................................................................... ......