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s is plain, that comparing him with Plautus and Terence, or the « beautiful fragments of Publius Syrus, he did not write the lan“ guage of good conversation. Cicero is much nearer to it. Taci“ tus, and the writers of his time, have fallen into that vice, by aim“ ing at a poetical style. It is true, that eloquence in both modes “ of rhetorick is fundamentally the same; but the manner of hand“ ling it is totally different, even where words and phrases may be “ transferred from the one of these departments of writing to the 6 other."
For this encomium on Dr Robertson's style, when considered in contrast with that of Mr Gibbon, (to whom it is presumable that Mr Burke's strictures more particularly refer,) there is unquestionably a very solid foundation ; but in estimating the merits of the former as an English Writer, I must acknowledge that I should never have thought of singling out, among his characteristical excellencies, an approach to the language of good conversation. It is indeed surprising, when we attend to the elevation of that tone which he uniformly sustains, how very seldom his turn of expression can be censured as unnatural or affected. The graces of his composition, however, although great and various, are by no means those which are appropriate to our language; and, in fact
, he knew too well the extent and the limits of his own powers to attempt them. According. ly he has aimed at perfections of a still higher order, the effect of which is scarcely diminished, when we contemplate them through the medium of a foreign translation.
Lord Chesterfield's judgment with respect to Dr Robertson, while it is equally flattering with that of Mr Burke, appears to me more precise and just. “ There is a History lately come out, of the reign
“ of Mary Queen of Scots and her son King James, written by one “ Robertson a Scotchman, which, for clearness, purity, and dignity, “ I will not scruple to compare with the best Historians extant, not
excepting Davila, Guicciardini, and perhaps Livy."
May I be permitted to remark, that in the opposite extreme to that fault which Mr Burke has here so justly censured, there is another, originating in too close an adherence to what he recommends as the model of good writing, the ease and familiarity of colloquial discourse? In the productions of his more advanced years, he has occasionally fallen into it himself, and has sanctioned it by his example, in the numerous herd of his imitators, who are incapable of atoning for it, by copying the exquisite and inimitable beauties which abound in his compositions. For my own part, I can much more zasily reconcile myself, in a grave and dignified argument, to the dulcia vitia of Tacitus and of Gibbon, than to that affectation of cant words and allusions which so often debases Mr Burke's ela quence, and which was long ago stigmatized by Swift as the most ruinous of all the corruptions of a language.”
NOTE (I), P. 271.
It might be considered by some as a blameable omission, if I were to pass over in silence the marks of regard which Dr Robertson received from different literary Academies on the Continent. I have already taken notice of the honour conferred on him by the Royal Academy of History at Madrid; but it remains for me to mention, that, in 1781, he was elected one of the Foreign Members of the Academy of Sciences at Padua ; and in 1783, one of the Foreign Members of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St Petersburgh.
From the last of these cities, he was honoured with another very flattering distinction ; the intelligence of which was conveyed to him by his friend Dr Rogerson, in a letter from which the following passage
is transcribed : “ Your History of America was received and perused by her Im“ perial Majesty with singular marks of approbation. All your “ historical productions have been ever favourite parts of her “ reading. Not long ago, doing me the honour to converse with “ me upon historical composition, she mentioned you with particu“ lar distinction, and with much admiration of that sagacity and dis“ cernment displayed by you in painting the human mind and cha“ racter, as diversified by the various causes that operated upon it, “ in those æras and states of society of which your subject led you “ to treat. She assigned you the place of first model in that species “ of composition. As to the History of Charles V. she was pleased " to add, c'est le compagnon constant de tous mes voyages ; je ne me “ lasse jamais d le lire, et particulièrement le premier volume.”
“ She then presented a very handsome gold enamelled snuff-box,
richly set with diamonds, ordering me to transmit it to you, and to “ desire your acceptance of it as a mark of her esteem, observing, “ at the same time, most graciously, that a person, whose labours “ had afforded her so much satisfaction, merited some attention ** from her."
NOTE (K), P. 274.
“ The mixture of Ecclesiastical and Lay-members in the Church « Courts is attended with the happiest effects. It corrects that esprit “ de corps which is apt to prevail in all assemblies of professional
It affords the principal Nobility and Gentry of Scotland an opportunity of obtaining a seat in the General Assembly when
any interesting objects calls for their attendance ; and although " in the factious and troublesome times which our ancestors saw, “ the General Assembly, by means of this mixture, became a scene “ of political debate, this accidental evil is counterbalanced by per“ manent good: for the presence of those lay-members of high rank, * whose names are usually found upon the Roll of the Assembly, " has a powerful influence in maintaining that connection between « Church and State, which is necessary for the peace, security, and ? welfare of both®."
NOTE (K *), P. 281.
The paper referred to in the Text is entitled “ Reasons of Dissent " from the Judgment and Resolution of the Commission, March 11, “ 1752, resolving to inflict no Censure on the Presbytery of Dun* fermline for their Disobedience in relation to the Settlement of “ Invekeithing.” It is subscribed by Dr Robertson, Dr Blair, Mr
* MS. of Dr Hill.
John Home, and a few of their friends. I shall subjoin the two first Articles.
1. « Because we conceive this sentence of the Commission to be “ inconsistent with the nature and first principles of society. When
men are considered as individuals, we acknowledge that they have
no guide but their own understanding, and no judge but their own • conscience. But we hold it for an undeniable principle, that, as “ members of society, they are bound in many instances to follow " the judgment of the society. By joining together in society, we “ enjoy many advantages, which we could neither purchase nor se
cure in a disunited state. In consideration of these we consent s that regulations for public order shall be established; not by the “ private fancy of every individual, but by the judgment of the ma
jority, or of those with whom the society has consented to entrust “ the legislative power. Their judgment must necessarily be ab“ solute and final, and their decisions received as the voice and in“ struction of the whole. In a numerous society it seldom happens “ that all the members think uniformly concerning the wisdom and “ expedience of any public regulation ; but no sooner is that regu“ lation enacted, than private judgment is so far superseded, that “ even they who disapprove it, are notwithstanding bound to obey ". it, and to put it in execution if required : unless in a case of such
gross iniquity and manifest violation of the original design of the “ society as justifies resistance to the supreme power, and makes “ it better to have the society dissolved than to submit to establish“ ed iniquity. Such extraordinary cases we can easily conceive · “ there may be, as will give any man a just title to seek the disso“ lution of the society to which he belongs, or at least will fully.