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I have been enabled, in many instances, to correct the inaccuracies of former historians, to avoid their mistakes, and to detect their misrepresentations.
But many important papers have escaped the notice of those industrious Collectors; and, after all they have produced to light, much still remained in darkness, unobserved or unpublished. It was my duty to search for these; and I found this unpleasant task attended with considerable utility.
The Library of the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh contains not only a large collection of original papers relating to the affairs of Scotland, but copies of others no less curious, which have been preserved by Sir Robert Cotton, or are extant in the Public Offices in England. Of all these the Curators of that Library were pleased to allow me the perusal.
Though the British Museum be not yet open to the public, Dr. Birch, whose obliging disposition is well known, procured me access to that noble collection, which is worthy the magnificence of a great and polished nation.
That vast and curious collection of papers relating to the reign of Elizabeth, which was niade by Dr. Forbes, and of which he published only two volumes, having been purchased since his death by the Lord Viscount Royston, His Lordship was so good as to allow me the use of fourteen volumes in quarto, containing that part of them which is connected with my subject.
Sir Alexander Dick communicated to me a very valuable collection of original papers, in two large volumes. They relate chiefly to the reign of James. Many of them are marked with Archbishop Spotiswood's hand; and it appears from several
from several passages in his history, that he had perused them with great attention.
Mr. Calderwood, an eminent Presbyterian Clergyman of the last century, compiled an History of Scotland from the beginning of the reign of James V. to the death of James VI. in six large volumes; wherein he has inserted many papers of consequence, which are no where else to be found. This History has not been published; but a copy of it, which still remains in manuscript, in the possession of the church of Scotland, was put into my hands by my worthy friend the Reverend Dr. George Wishart, principal Clerk of the Church.
Sir David Dalrymple not only communicated to me the papers which he has collected relating to Gowrie's conspiracy; but, by explaining to me his sentiments with regard to that problematical passage in the Scottish history, has enabled me to place that transaction in a light which dispels much of the darkness and confusion in which it has been hitherto involved.
Mr. Goodall, though he knew my sentiments with regard to the conduct and character of Queen Mary to be extremely different from his own, communicated to me a volume of manuscripts in his possession, which contains a great number of valuable papers copied from the originals in the Cottonian Library and Paper Office, by the late Reverend Mr. Crawford, Regius Professor of Church History in the University of Edinburgh. I likewise received from him the original Register of letters kept by the Regent Lennox during his administration.
I have consulted all these papers, as far as I thought they could be of any use towards illustrating that period of which I wrote the history. With what success I have employed them to confirm what was already known, to ascertain what was dubious, or to determine what was controverted, the Public must judge.
I might easily have drawn, from the different repositories to which I had access, as many papers as would have rendered my Appendix equal in size to the most bulky collection of my predecessors. But I have satisfied myself with publishing a few of the most curious among them, to which I found it necessary to appeal as vouchers for my own veracity. None of these, as far as I can recollect, ever appeared in any former collection.
I have added a Critical Dissertation concerning the murder of King Henry, and the genuineness of the Queen's letters to Bothwell. The facts and observations which relate to Mary's letters, I owe to my friend Mr. John Davidson, one of the Clerks of the Signet, who hath examined this point with his usual acuteness and industry.
THE ELEVENTH EDITION.
IT is now twenty-eight years since I published
the History of Scotland. During that time I have been favoured by my friends with several remarks upon it; and various strictures have been made by persons, who entertained sentiments different from mine, with respect to the transactions in the reign of Queen Mary. From whatever quarter information came, in whatever mode it has been communicated, I have considered it calmly and with attention. Wherever I perceived that I had erred, either in relating events or in delineating characters, I have, without hesitation, corrected those er
Wherever I am satisfied that my original ideas were just and well-founded, I adhere to them; and, resting upon their conformity to evidence already produced, I enter into no discussion or controversy in order to support them. Wherever the opportunity of consulting original papers either in print or in manuscript, to which I had not formerly access, has enabled me to throw new light upon any part of the History, I have made alterations and additions, which I flatter myself will be found to be of some importance.
COLLEGE OF EDINBURGH,
March 5th, 1787.