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alliances, which mark the successive stages of alternating advance and retreat in the progress of the French schemes, necessarily call for exposition and comment. The height of the narrative seems to be reached in the negotiations which preceded, without being able to avert, the War of the Spanish Succession, or rather - inasmuch as these

, negotiations proved the unwillingness of Louis XIV to provoke the united resistance of Western and Central Europe against him — in his

ultimate decision to accept the opportunity offered him by the last will of Charles II of Spain. The "balance of Europe" was now in actual danger of being unsettled — in other words, the preponderance of the power of France would have become irresistible had her King's final challenge been left without a response. The Grand Alliance brought about by William III proved victorious; and though later events, and more especially the death of the Emperor and the accession to the Imperial throne of the Austrian claimant of the Spanish inheritance, once more modified the situation, the principle of a re-established "balance" underlay all the negotiations which resulted in the Peace of Utrecht. Thus, at the close of the period treated in this volume, the political ascendancy of France in Europe was a thing of the past; though her ascendancy continued in literature, and in much besides.

The second of the causes determining the course of European history in this age has to be traced in the long, and seemingly remote, history of the Ottoman Power in Europe from the middle of the seventeenth century to the Peace of Carlowitz. Its significance for the Empire, Hungary, Poland, and the Venetian dominions continued till nearly the end of the period treated in this volume. The policy of Louis XIV drew no small advantage from the Eastern question, and viewed its temporary settlement as, in its turn, a menace to the balance of power in Europe; but for a large part of Europe it was to the close of the seventeenth century a question of life and death.

Finally, in this volume a large division of the canvas is filled by the great Swedish or“Northern" War. A new Thirty Years' War, absorbing all the conflicts of Europe, might have resulted, had the military genius of Charles XII been united to a political genius of the same order. But none of the high-spirited successors of Gustavus Adolphus, whose exploits are narrated in this volume, had inherited the comprehensiveness of his statesmanship. Thus the result of the Northern War –

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while incidentally proving the impotence of Poland and leaving the now important military Power, Prussia, to play a "waiting game” – was to transfer the dominion maris Baltici to the young Russian Power, and thus to prepare a new chapter in the history of Europe.

It seemed to us that an adequate historical survey of the latter half of the seventeenth and the early years of the eighteenth century was impossible without due regard to the moral and intellectual interests which this period inherited from its predecessors or bequeathed to ensuing ages. From the Reformation to the times of the Thirty Years' War the discussion and settlement of religious dogma had absorbed a wholly disproportionate share of the intellectual activity of Western Europe, where the toleration of religious opinion was even as a conception almost unknown. Yet, as is shown in this volume, the spiritual forces of religion were revived as men ceased to be chiefly concerned in the fixing of its doctrines and the enforcement of their acceptance; and the principle of toleration, while it became a factor in the prosperity of States, gained and imparted strength from its association with new developments of religious life and thought. At the same time literature adapted itself to the courtly order of things, except where, as in the later works of Milton, the issues for which a mightier age contended still dominated the poet's mind, or the universal sympathies of a great dramatist such as Molière claimed a European audience. And yet another influence was beginning in a more gradual and less widely perceptible fashion to permeate the life of Europe. To Science - as our usage limits the term - kings and peoples had almost forgotten to lend an attentive ear, when, in the period of which this volume treats, it once more asserted its position among the moving forces of the world's history, and entered upon a new stage in its progress of which the continuity has since then been unbroken. The chapter in this volume on French Literature under Louis XIV and its European Influence was to have been written by the illustrious French critic, M. Ferdinand Brunetière; but, on his lamented death, only a few notes referring to his projected contribution were found among his papers. We were fortunate enough to be enabled to secure the consent of M. Émile Faguet that he should take the place of his confrère - a place which no other critic of literature could have filled so suitably and so well. The bibliography to his chapter has been kindly supplied, at very short notice,

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