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For MAY, 1786.
Art. I. The History of Wales, in nine Bocks: with an Appendix. By the
Reverend William Warrington, Chaplain to the Right Honourable the
Earl of Befborough. il. 15. boards. 4to. Johnson, 1786. London. THE “HE spirit of historical composition, which fo generally pre
vails in the present age throughout Europe, but especially in our island, has produced, and still continues to produce, many histories, which fcarcely aim at novelty of information, and whose only object it is either to excel other compofitioris in fine writing, to defend some controverted opinion, or to give a colouring to the transactions and events which form the body of our history, agreeable to the maxims and partial views of those men, who, for the time, preside at the helm of government. And, as it is the nature of princes and men in power to grasp all authority in their own hands, the greater part of our most celebrated historians give an air and aspect to their works inimical to civil liberty and the rights of human nature.
These strictures are not applicable to the history before usa The subject which the author has chosen stood in need of illuse? tration; he has brought forward many facts, either not at all, or but little known: Known facts in his hands assume a new formi by a judicious and important arrangement: and it is not his object to flatter the great, but to record and do justice to the long and gallant resistance of Wales, against the invasions of a nie tion Superior to itself in resources, in policy, and the art of war, These glorious efforts, this long lingering Spirit of liberty forms the principal bond of connection by which the great vaEng. Rev. Vol. VI, May 1786.
riety of matter, which the history under confideration embraces, are brought into one point of view. This is the uniting principle of the separated facts which it records : And although many of these facts can only interest the people, and in some instances the descendants of the families to which they relate, our author has intermixed with them many scenes which give relief to the reader, and carry him at least with patience through long and rugged paths.
We shall lay before our readers the motives and views of our author, in the publication before us, as delineated by himfelf.
• It is therefore a juft occasion of regret, as well as of surprise, that the history of Wales is no where to be found, to this day, but in the chronicle of the monk Carodoc of Llancarvan ; in which nothing further is given, than a fimple detail of facts. In this interesting field of history, no attempt has
yet been made to investigate the motives of policy, to trace back effects to their causes, to delineate with just discrimination personal or national characters, and to digest the materials of the narration into that perspicuous order which is essential to the utility of historical writing.
• This deficiency the author has attempted to supply, in the work now offered to the world. The design will be allowed to be laudable; with what success it has been executed, it remains for the public to determine. If he has opened no new sources of information, he has been careful to examine the old ; and has not servilely transcribed, or implicitly followed the modern historians. What he has done neither precludes, nor is intended to preclude, the future labours of other writers who are deeply read in the Welsh language and manuscripts. The field is still open to a more able historian, and to the profound researches of the learned antiquary:'
Mr. WARRINGTON has dedicated his work to the Duke of Devonshire, in a manner confiftent with propriety, with modefty and with truth. He has prefixed to his narrative some necessary directions to the reader who is a stranger to the Welsh language ; shewing the right pronunciation of all the letters that differ from the English orthography, and this work is divided into nine books:
His first book contains a review of the British history before the retreat of the Romans out of Britain. This review is judicious; but contains nothing that is not generally known to men of letters.
In the second and third books we have a review of the British history from the final retreat of the Romans to that period when the ancient Britons were driven into Wales, Cornwall, and Armorica; and an account of the wars between the Saxons. and Welsh to the death of Roderic, on whom it seems the admiration of his people bestowed the title of GREAT in 877.
This is that period which Mr. Hume fays të abounds in names, but is extremely barren of events; or that the events are related so much without circumstances and causes, that the most profound or most eloquent writer must despair of rendering them either instructive or entertaining to the reader. Even the great learning and vigorous imagination of Milton funk under the weight; and this author scruples not to declare, that the skirmishes of kites or crows were as much deserving a patticular narrative as the confused transactions and battles of the Saxon Heptarchy." Mr. Hume, by exciting the hopes of a pleasing profpect, after he has conducted his reader through the bleak mountains that intervéne, and the masterly powers of his own genius, traverses the Heptarchy without throwing his reader into any deep languor. Mr. Warrington, without the transcendant abilities of Mr. Hume, without so wide a field, and so fair a prospect," has contrived to render this barren period, barren certainly of great and splendid events, not a littl interesting, by means directly opposite to those employed by the great English historian. He dwells upon the principal facts and characters, such as they are. By minute inquiry into para ticulars, not known, or much noticed by other historians, he bestows an interest on them, which, mentioned in a summary manner, they would not poffess. Of this the following extract will serve as an example.
• Induced by the flattering description which Hengist had given of Britain, a large body of Saxons came over ; and among these was the daughter of that prince, the beautiful Rowenna. The arrival of these troops was seen with a jealous eye by many of the Britons, who were juftly alarmed at the consequences of introducing into the country fo great a number of foreigners. But Vortigern, the presiding demon in the fate of Britain, whose secret machinations, it is probable, intro-, duced this reinforcement, either despised the remonftrance of his subjects, or had the address to silence their fears; and to persuade them of the necessity of such a measure, on the plausible pretext that the first body of Saxons from their late losses would be insufficient to protect them from their enemies.
• The intercourle fubfisting between Hengist and the British king had given him the opportunity of observing the conftitutional character of that monarch; and on this bafis he hoped to form an alliance that should serve as a cément to their common interests, and give folidity to his own future designs. Having frequently acknowledged his obli. gations to Vortigern, he requested the honour of his company, to a feast, at the caltle he had lately erected, that by every entertaininent in his power he might express his reifect and gratitude. Vortigern accepted the invitation to a jupper, and the carouial was highly magnificent. In the height of their festivity, when the wine had circulated, X ?
and the mind was open to no other impression than pleasure, the fair Rowenna appeared in the hall, magnificently drest, holding a gold cup in her hand which was full of wine; and, having gracefully prefented herself upon one knee before the king, thus addressed him in her own language. “ Waes heal hlaford Cyning, or, Be of health lord king.” Agreeably surprised with the sudden appearance of a beautiful lady kneeling before him, the king demanded of his chamberlain, who was the interpreter, the nature of her suit. He was informed that the princess Rowenna accosted him after the manner of her country, where it was usual at carousals for any one who shall drink to another to cry wefheil; the person to whom he thus speaks shall answer, drynkbeil; then he who first cried washeil drinks, and presents him with the cup. While the interpreter was explaining to Vortigern the na:ure of this gothic feftivity, that prince (miled upon Rowenna, and said to her in the Saxon language drynk heil,” or drink the health ; upon this the princess drank a little out of the cup, and presented it gracefully to the king, who then, agreeably to the custom, gave her a falute. She immediately retired, with the profoundeft respect, out of the king's pelence. The uncommon beauty of the princess, the gracefulnels of her manners, and the touching fingularity of the action, imprelied on him when he was heated with wine, entirely fascinated the foul of Vortigern, and left no traces of any other sentiments in his mind than those love and desire. To increase still more this amorous frenzy, many impediments were artfully thrown by Hengist in the way of his passion. But the infatuated monarch, inflamed with desire, disregarded every obstacle which the dičtates of prudence, religion, and honour, had opposed to his wishes. He immediately removed the chief impediment, by divorcing his wife, who had born him three sons ; and having married the Saxon princess, he invested Hengif with the sovereignty of Kent, violently wresting that territory from its original proprietor; he likewise put him in poffeffion of the three counties of Eflex, Suffolk, and Middlesex.'
Mr. Warrington, after a recital, which he modestly calls tedious, of inroads and battles, opens to the view of his readers the modes of life and private manners of the Welsh. In this detail the author has given little more than a simple tranfcript of Giraldus, a learned monk, who lived in the reign of Henry the second, and was a native of South Wales; being of lopinion that such delineations, by the pencil of a cotemporary, would appear more pleafing in their original colours and native fimplicity.
• The Welsh (according to Giraldus Cambrensis, who was himself a native of the country, and wrote in a period when their native manners were pure and unadulterated by foreign intercourse) were a nation light and nimble, and more fierce than strong; from the lowest to the higheft of the people they were devoted to arms, which the plowman
as well as the courtier was prepared to seize on the first summons. Their chief employment in works of husbandry was, that for oats they opened the soil, once only in March and April ; and for wheat or rye they turned it up twice in the summer, and a third time in winter, about the season of thrashing.
• The chief fuftenance of this people, in respect of their food, was cattle and oats, besides milk, cheese, and butter ; though they usually eat more plentifully of flesh meat than of bread.
• As they were not engaged in the occupations of traffic, either by sea or land, their time was entirely employed in military affairs. They were fo anxious for the preservation of their country and its liberties, that they esteemed it delightful not only to fight for them, but even to facrifice their lives: and, agreeably to this spirit, they entertained an idea, that it was a disgrace to die in their beds, but an honour to fall in the field. Such was their eager courage, that, although unarmed, they often dared to engage with men entirely covered with armour ; and in such engagements, by their activity and valour, they usually came off conquerors. That their activity might not be impeded by any unnecessary incumbrance, they made use of light armour ; such as smaller coats of mail, shields, and sometimes of iron greaves; their offensive weapons were arrows and long spears. Their bows were usually made of flight twigs joined or twisted together, and, though rude in their form, they discharged an arrow with great force. The people of North Wales were remarkable for spears, so long and well pointed, that they could pierce through an iron coat of mail
; the men of South Wales were accounted the most expert archers. The chieftains, when they went to war, were mounted on swift horses, bred in the country; the lower sorts of people, on account of the marshes, as well as the inequalities of the ground, marched on foot to battle ; though, whenever the occasion or the place rendered it necessary for the pure poses either of fighting or flying, the horsemen themselves dismounted and served on foot.
• The Wellh either went with their feet entirely bare, or they used boots of raw leather, instead of shoes, sewed together with raw skin.
• In the time of peace, the young men accustomed themselves to penetrate the woods and thickets, and to run over the tops of mountains ; and, by continuing this exercise through the day and night, they prepared themselves for the fatigues and employments of war.
• These people were not given to excefs either in eating or drinking. They had no set time appointed for their meals, nor any expensive richness in their clothes. Their whole attention was occupied in the fplendid appearance of their horses and arms, in the defence of their country, and in the care of their plunder. Accustomed to fast from morning to night, their minds were wholly employed on business; they gave up the day entirely to prudent deliberations, and in the evening they partook of a sober supper. But if, at any time, it happened, that they were not able to procure any, or only a very sparing repast, they patiently waited till the next morning ; and in this situation, pre