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ROBERTSON'S HISTORICAL STYLE.
great central epoch of European history, have, since the day he wrote, been tested, and sifted, and rearranged, with all the valuable additions that time has brought. And while his great History still remains a standard work, valuable supplements stand beside it in our libraries, from which a new light shines on many portions of the character and reign of Charles the Fifth. The researches of Prescott the American historian, and Stirling of Keir, the latter of whom wrote "The Cloister Life of Charles V.," give us another notion of the man Charles than we get from the purple and gold of Robertson's portraiture.
The fault of this great historian was one common to the chief writers of his time. Filled with an exaggerated idea of the dignity of history, he trembles at the thought of descending to so mean a thing as daily life. The Emperor moves before us in all his grandeur, the rich velvet of his train sweeping in stately waves upon the marble that he treads. We know many of the laws he made, the wars he waged, the great public assemblies and pa geants of which he was the brilliant central figure; but we know little of the man who dwelt within the gorgeous wrappings, for we see him as if on a lofty terrace, where he plays his magnificent part, while we stand far away at the foot of the stairs, humble spectators of the imperial drama. Of the many-hued life the people lived, we hear next to nothing. Such a treatment of history may be termed the statuesque, as contrasted with the picturesque pages of a writer like Macaulay. Stateliness and elegance are the characteristic features of Robertson's style; but, inseparable from these, we find a cold sameness and want of colour. He walks a minuet with the historic Muse; who, according to his notion of her, is a lady used only to the very best society, dressed in the perfection of the mode, her complexion heightened with the faintest brush of rouge, and withal too stately and precise in her manners and her gait to be charged with such crimes as naturalness or ease.
Eight years passed before his third great work—The History of America-appeared. The story of Columbus fascinated his pen; and nowhere, perhaps, bave we a finer specimen of stately narra
DEATH OF ROBERTSON.
tive than we possess in his description of the great first voyage of the Italian sailor, and his landing on the new-found western soil.
A year or two before his death, which occurred in 1793, at the Grange House, near Edinburgh, he published an Essay on the Earlier History of India; which, however, was founded on sources not always reliable or safe. This, indeed, is a fault more or less pervading all his works. Like Hume, he often adopted secondhand statements, without looking carefully into the evidence on which they rested; and even the grand march of a stately style can sometimes scarcely reconcile us to accept as history a narrative, of whose facts we are not sure, and whose descriptive passages may probably be, for aught we know, coloured with brighter than the natural tints, for the mere sake of rhetorical effect.
THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA.
About two hours before midnight, Columbus, standing on the forecastle, observed a light at a distance, and privately pointed it out to Pedro Guttierez, a page of the queen's wardrobe. Guttierez perceived it, and calling to Salcedo, comptroller of the fleet, all three saw it in motion, as if it were carried from place to place. A little after midnight, the joyful sound of "Land! land!" was heard from the Pinta, which kept always ahead of the other ships. But having been so often deceived by fallacious appearances, every man was now become slow of belief, and waited in all the anguish of uncertainty and impatience for the return of day. As soon as morning dawned, all doubts and fears were dispelled. From every ship an island was seen about two leagues to the north, whose flat and verdant fields, well stored with wood, and watered with many rivulets, presented the aspect of a delightful country. The crew of the Pinta instantly began the Te Deum, as a hymn of thanksgiving to God, and were joined by those of the other ships with tears of joy and transports of congratulation. This office of gratitude to Heaven was followed by an act of justice to their commander. They threw themselves at the feet of Columbus, with feelings of self-condemnation, mingled with reverence. They implored him to pardon their ignorance, incredulity, and insolence, which had created him so much unnecessary disquiet, and had so often obstructed the prosecution of his well-concerted plan; and passing, in the warmth of their admiration, from one extreme to another, they now pronounced the man whom they had so lately reviled and threatened, to be a person inspired by Heaven with sagacity and fortitude more than human, in order to accomplish a design so far beyond the ideas and conception of former ages.
As soon as the sun arose, all their boats were manned and armed. They rowed
SPECIMEN OF ROBERTSON'S PROSE.
333 towards the island with their colours displayed, with warlike music, and other martial pomp. As they approached the coast, they saw it covered with a multitude of people, whom the novelty of the spectacle had drawn together, whose attitudes and gestures expressed wonder and astonishment at the strange objects which presented themselves to their view. Columbus was the first European who set foot on the New World which he had discovered. He landed in a rich dress, and with a naked sword in his hand. His men followed, and, kneeling down, they all kissed the ground which they had so long desired to see. They next erected a crucifix, and prostrating themselves before it, returned thanks to God for conducting their voyage to such a happy issue. They then took solemn possession of the country for the crown of Castile and Leon, with all the formalities which the Portuguese were accustomed to observe in acts of this kind in their new discoveries.
BUFFON'S well-known saying, "Le style est l'homme,” is by no man better illustrated than by Oliver Goldsmith. A guileless goodnature, a kind and tender love for all his human brotherhood, a gay, unthinking hopefulness, shine clearly out from every page he wrote. The latter half of his short life of forty-five years was spent in a continuous struggle for daily bread; his earlier years were full of change and hardship. Yet sneers and buffets, drudgery and debt, had no power to curdle the milk of human kindness in this gentle heart.
Charles Goldsmith, a Protestant clergyman, was trying to live on £40 a year at the little village of Pallas or Pallasmore, in the county of Longford, when in 1728 his famous son Oliver was born. Before the child was two years old, the living of Kilkenny West, worth nearly £200 a year, rewarded this good parson for his virtues and his toils; and the family in consequence removed to a commodious house at Lissoy, in the county of Westmeath. Here little Oliver grew up, went to the village school, and had a severe attack of smallpox, which left deep pits in his poor face. When he went to higher schools, at Elphin, Athlone, and Edgeworthstown, the thick, awkward, pale, and pock-marked boy was knocked about and made fun of by his cruel seniors, until the butt began to retort sharp arrowy wit upon those who sneered at his ugly face or uncouth movements.
In 1745 he passed the sizarship examination at Trinity Col
lege, Dublin, being placed last on the list of the eight successful candidates. The sizar of those days, marked by a coarse black sleeveless gown and a red cap, had to do much servile work— sweeping the courts, carrying the dishes up from the college kitchen, and waiting upon the Fellows as they dined. The kindness of his uncle Contarine, who had paid most of his school bills, followed him to college too; but even with this aid, when the Reverend Charles Goldsmith died in 1747, his son Oliver was left not far from starvation in the top room of No. 35. Here we detect his first literary performances. Writing street-ballads for five shillings apiece, he used to steal out at night to hear them sung and watch their ready sale in the dimly lighted streets. Here, too, we see the early symptoms of that benevolence, which was almost a mental disease, for it was seldom that the five shillings came home with the hungry student,—some of the hard-earned money had gone to the beggars he had met upon the way. Hated and discouraged by his tutor, he grew idler than ever, took his full share in the ducking of a bailiff,-tried for a scholarship, and failed, was knocked down by his tutor, ran away,--was brought back to college by his brother,—took a very low 1749 B.A. in 1749,-and then went home to his mother's little cottage at Ballymahon for two years.
We cannot trace minutely his attempts to be a tutor, a clergyman, a lawyer, a physician. During his stay in Edinburgh, whither he went in 1752 to study medicine, his name was better known among his fellow-students as a good story-teller, and one who sang a capital Irish song, than for any distinctions he won in the class-rooms of the professors. His two winters in the Scottish capital were followed by a winter at Leyden, where he lived chiefly by teaching English. One day, after spending nearly all the money he had just borrowed from a friend, in buying a parcel of rare tulip-roots for his uncle Contarine, he left Leyden "with a guinea in his pocket, but one shirt to his back, and a flute in his hand," to make the grand tour of Europe, and seek for his medical degree.
Between February 1755 and February 1756 he travelled