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CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE.

HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY, AND TRAVELS. History of the French Recolution. By HEINRICH Vox SYBEL,

Professor of History in the University of Bonn. Translated from the Third Edition of the original German Work By WALTER C. PERRY, Esq. In Four Volumes. Vols.

I. and II. London: John Murray. Innumerable as have been the books written about the French Revolution, it is scarcely too much to say that Herr Von Sy bel's book is the first and only real history of it we have had. Passionate panegyrics and equally passionate maledictions, magnificent pictures and eloquent moralísings, elaborate critiques and polemical arguments, apocalyptie parallels and rhetorical parratives, abound; but for the first time Von Sybel has seriously and conscientiously attempted to present to us, in the judicial dignity of philosophical history, the causes and character of this great explosion which shook and changed the world. He has traced its causes in the inner life, and long accumulating elements of the past ; he has attempted an estimate of its phenomena, neither with the effer. vescent feeling of national vanity, nor with the prejudiced feeling of foreign hate, but with the conscientious carefulness and calmness of a judge, upon whom has devolved the solemn responsibility of a final historical verdict; and he has intimated its consequences so far as philosophy and the lapse of nearly eighty years may enable. Perhaps a true history of this great convulsion could not have been written earlier. Strong passions excited by it have scarcely subsided even yet; at any rate, they were very powerful when the opinions of men not much past middle life now were formed. Von Sybel is the first bistorian of the revolution who produces the impression of having so far divested himself of passion as to write with tolerable impartiality. We feel that the causes and relations of events have been thoroughly investigated, and philosophically estimated. The result is, that the inner life of the French people, in its relations to other nations, is thoroughly traced and laid bare to us. The remoter profligacy and despotism and uncalculating selfishness of Louis XIV., and the more immediate folly of Necker and the vanity of Lafayette, are alike estimated in their causative influence. The social, agricultural, commercial, and financial condition of the French nation is patiently examined. The weak king, and the foolish queen, Mirabeau,the one great statesman of the revolution, Dumouriez, Danton, Vergniaud, Robespierre, and other leaders of parties, together with the different parties themselves, are judged and estimated, if not always truly, yet with solicitous impartiality. The relations of France to other European powers, especially to Prussia, Austria, and Russia, are patiently traced, and the atiitude of these powers during the three or four years immediately preceding 1793 is indicated. It is given to no man to judge all things infallibly, and Von Sy bel has pot, we think, always put things in a true light. As Englishmen, we are the best judges of the representations given of our own policy. We have no reason to complain of Herr Von

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Sy bel's feeling towards England, which is most generous and appreciative, but in some things he has, we think, misapprehended both the feeling and the policy of our statesmen. This, however, is almost inevitable in judgments by other nations. One great fact Professor Von Sybel has conclusively proved, viz., that the responsibility of the European war to which the revolution gave birth, rests entirely with the French themselves. Neither their nation nor their revolutionary government were in any peril of assault from foreign powers. The justification of the war which the French have so persistently urged, is conclusively disproved by the most patient examination of facts. War was a necessity for the revolutionary Government, and therefore it provoked it. Herr Von Sybel never dogmatises, he never indulges in paradox or rhapsody. Whether we accept his judgments or not, he always gives us his reasons for them. His book, therefore, although full of vigour and warmth, is a very careful and elaborate study, demanding serious and thoughtful reading, which, however, it amply repays.

The strong philosophical tendency of Herr Von Sybel sometimes leads him to an undue subordination of the narrative to disquisition and to defective portraiture, and renders necessary either previous acquaintance with the history or a reference to other writers. His chief excellence consists in his political estimates of men and things, and his chief contribution to our knowledge is his use of archives, hitherto inaccessible to the historian, by which the secret history of European diplomacy is revealed to us. We know the judgments and feelings with which the astounding events of 1793 were regarded by the Govern. ments of Europe. It is with somewhat of shame that we learn that Herr Von Sybel met with greater difficulties in obtaining access to political papers in England, than in either France or Prussia. He has been permitted freely to search the French Dépôt de la Guerre, and the Archives des Affaires Etrangères, the Staats-Archiv of Berlin, and the papers of the Austrian government in Belgium in the Archives of Brussels. After long and patient efforts he gained access to an important correspondence of the Duke of Brunswick and other Prussian generals and statesmen ; and, after a far greater number of tedious and time* consuming forms than at Berlin,' he did get to the desired docu'ments' in the State Paper Office in London. The result is not merely a history of the French Revolution, but a careful panoramic view of the contemporary state of Europe, and a history of the revolution in its relations thereto. Especially is new and valuable light thrown upon the great crime of the last century—the partition of Poland. Herr Von Sybel unravels this dark intrigue with great zest and fulness, and for the first time makes known the secret motives of the various parties to it, especially those of the Czarina Catherine, and of Prussia.

We dare not in this notice venture upon any analysis or criticism of the separate parts of Von Sy bel's history, such as his judgment of the feudalism that the revolution destroyed, or of the communism which it established; his account of the States General, and of the events which led to the massacre of September, 1792 ; also of the way in which the unhappy king drifted away from the constitutional party, and sacrificed himself by his weakness and folly. Her Von Sybel has no great love for France. His sympathies are strongly monarchical, and he has manifest partialities and prejudices ; although he fully recognises the necessity and value of the great movement which liberated Europe by transferring the destiny of nations from the hands of kings to those of the peoples themselves. He is defective in the dramatic power of a great historical artist; he

never rises to passion,

nor makes the pulse beat quicker, but he is learned and conscientious. He writes with lucidity and strength, and with admirable common sense. He has a keen historical sagacity and con. siderable philosophical power, and his work is on the whole the most valuable contribution yet made to the literature of the revolution. The Massacre of St. Bartholomero, preceded by a History of the

Religious Wars in the Reign of Charles IX. By HENRY

White. London: John Murray. It is somewhat remarkable that the history of French Protestantism in the sixteenth century, culminating in the horrible massacre of August, 1572,-the greatest crime and the greatest blunder that any church ever committed-should simultaneously have engaged the pens of two or three historians. Mr. Froude and Mr. Motley have both passed it in review. In our last number we reviewed Mr. Smiles' account of the Huguenots, and now Mr. White comes before us with a careful and elaborate history of the state of religion in France during the three quarters of a century that preceded the massacre of St. Bartholomew. He has rightly judged that the massacre itself is the closing act of a great drama, and that it cannot be understood without a careful study of the religious parties and currents that led to it. •The nature of that struggle (which devastated • France in the latter half of the sixteenth century] cannot be fairly • understood unless the condition of the Protestants under Francis I. and • his two immediate successors be taken into consideration. In those ' fiery times of trial the Huguenot character was formed, and the nation gradually separated into two parties, so fanatically hostile that the

extermination of the weaker seemed the only possible means of re• establishing the unity of France. He has accordingly traversed with much research and great care the religious history of the reigns of Francis I. and Henry II.

He would, we think, have done his work more completely had he devoted a concluding chapter to a summary of the results that followed the great crime, so as to have pointed more fully and emphatically the moral •that persecution is a mistake, and that the final victory is not with 'the successful persecutor,'—a moral that even yet dominant churches are slow to learn. Mr. White very justly observes that “Spain and Italy • have never recovered from the self-inflicted wounds of the sixteenth century; and if France has suffered in a less degree it is because persecution did not so completely succeed in destroying freedom of thought and liberty of conscience.'

The received theory of the tragedy of 1572 is that it was the execution of a premeditated purpose and plot; a theory maintained by almost all the older historians. Ranke and other modern writers have contended that it was much more spasmodic and accidental than has been supposed, and Mr. White thinks that this view is confirmed by the researches which have recently been made among the archives of Europe, especially the Simancas archives, from which Mr. Froude has drawn such valuable materials for history, and from the letters of Catherine de Medicis. Strange to say, no account of the massacre is to be found in Walsingham's correspondence; the letters which almost certainly relate to it not having been yet discovered. It were, of course, presumptuous for any one to speak dogmatically who has not equalled Yr. White in documentary research; but we may say that we are not convinced by either his evidence or his arguments. De Thou, the Roman Catholic

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historian, admits that it was a premeditated deed, so does the Italian, Davila, in his ‘History of the Civil Wars of France;' and the entire history of the policy and doings of the Romish church forbid us to deem this improbable. This, moreover, is the natural conclusion to which Mr. White's own history leads us. Mr. White goes so far as to say that, on the part of Charles and Catherine, it was a deed of revenge, and spite, and plunder, and that 'the plea of religion was not once put forward. We do not demur to the somewhat more favourable, or rather, less execrable light in which Mr. White presents Catherine. She is more of a woman, less of a fiend, and is probably therefore more truly portrayed. One instructive lesson may be learned from Mr. White's history of the causes of the Huguenot catastrophe, and of the virtual extermination of their 2,000 churches, when they numbered nearly half the nation, viz., the essential weakness of a church when adulterated by secular principles and polity. In such a case immediate success must be with the most determined and unscrupulous. Mr. White has no great historical genius. He is somewhat dull and plodding; but he is laborious and careful, and has discovered new material of great value to the student of those troubled times.

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Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, 1552–1618. By JAMES AUGUSTUS

St. John. 2 Vols. London: Chapman & Hall. 1868. Mr. St. John has spent seven years in preparing his work, and has used original documents from Paris, Venice, our own State Paper and Record Offices, and the archives of Madrid and Simancas. He enu. merates in his preface fifteen principal topics, on which he claims to have thrown new light by his researches. This collection and assortment of new material is not, however, the only object he has set before him. He remarks, that it seems needful for nations to review from time to * time the achievements and characters of their great men, that they may 'be made to appear in the light in which they ought to be regarded in a ' civilised age ; and he adds in another place, 'I trust it will be allowed ' that I have spared neither pains nor expense in the endeavour to do

justice to the memory of Raleigh, whose conduct, motives, and misfor. • tunes I have sought to describe and explain with truth and impartiality.'

Mr. St. John is entitled to commendation and thanks for his labourg. The cause is worthy of them, for few biographies are better worth writing than Raleigh's; and numerous as have been the lives of him, they con. stitute no reason for refraining from the production of another when fresh materials are discovered. We may often feel disposed to wish that our investigators, instead of at once writing for us new histories and biographies, would simply print, with such explanatory comments as may be needed, the new evidence they find; that they would confine themselves to the effectual prosecution of that which seems to be pecu. liarly the work of our time, namely, the discovery, examination, and sorting of materials ; and that they would leave to a future day-probably to another generation-the use of these materials in reconstructing the old stories of persons and nations in times past. Both works would be better done, and we are inclined to think both sets of workers would profit more from their efforts. But how can we hope for such self. abnegation?

The general character of Raleigh and the ordinary estimate of his life does not appear to be much affected by the new evidence brought forward

by Mr. St. John, but some important matters which were formerly believed on insufficient grounds, are now proved by the best of evidence. A principal instance is the urgency of Philip III. and his minister Gondomar for Raleigh's destruction. The Simancas documents show that in the proceedings against Raleigh, which ended in his execution, James was simply acting as Philip's tool, and demeaned himself and his high office to become the executioner of his greatest subject, to please his country's greatest foe.

The narrative is a readable and in some places an eloquent one. The description of the attack on Cadiz, is perhaps one of the finest passages ; but on the whole the story is not very clearly given. The parts are not bubordinated according to their respective importance. Some capital topics are scantily treated, and some small and slightly relevant details are related at undue length. Of Virginia, Guiana, and Raleigh's plantations there, though they were the objects of his life-long thought, and the most considerable of his works, scarcely anything is told us. The Mermaid Club which he founded, is not, we believe, mentioned, and his relations with the wits and literary men of his day are very slightly dilated on. The author also seems to us to fail in that review of his hero's achievements and character,' which he proposes as one chief end of his work. Some of the most critical points in Raleigh's life are also the most obscure. Take for instance his conduct to Elizabeth Throg. morton, afterwards his wife. Mr. St. John, on very insufficient evidence as it seems to us, arrives at the conclusion that his connection with • Elizabeth Throgmorton was a seduction and a desertion. The facts are ugly, and the case may have been as thus stated, but the evidence is not enough to prove it to have been so. The culprit is entitled to the benefit of some doubt. Notwithstanding these defects, Mr. St. John's book is valuable, and not only for the purposes which he mentions in his preface, but also for the further reason that many will read a life of Raleigh named in Mr. Mudie's list of new books, who would never read an old one.

A History of the Free Churches of England from A.D. 1688–A.D.

1851. By HERBERT S. SKEATS. London: Arthur Miall. The history of English Nonconformity is one of which we may well be proud. Since the first days of Christianity, when the apostolic churches found themselves in numerical insignificance, bore the utmost test of obloquy and persecution, and grew to a numerical magnitude and social strength which commanded the recognition and homage of Constantine, there has been no such history of simple principle and conscientious conviction, bravely maintained and carried to its triumph against all the odds that organized power commands. Nay, the triumph is the more signal, inasmuch as it has been not the cause of Christianitya pure and noble religion against Paganism, a corrupt and debased one-but the cause of only a true and

free embodiment of Christianity against a false and authoritative one. The established church as well as the free churches has had the strength and sanctity of Christian doctrine and morality; and men are less urgent when fundamental doctrine and morality are common, than when they are on one side only. It took nearly three centuries of obloquy, opposition, and persecution to achieve the triumph of Christianity. It has taken nearly three centuries of almost equal disadvantage to achieve the triumph of free religious life and equal social status which apparently is just at hand.

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