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ART. 1.-History of the Revolution in England in 1688. Comprising a view of the Reign of James the Second, from his Accession, to the Enterprise of the Prince of Orange, by the late Right Honourable Sir JAMES MACKINTOSH ; and completed to the Settlement of the Crown, by the Editor. To which is prefixed, a Notice of the Life, Writings, and Speeches of Sir James Mackintosh. 4to. London: 1834.
IT is with unfeigned diffidence that we venture to give our opi
nion of Sir James Mackintosh. have in vain tried to perform what ought to be to a critic an easy and habitual act. We have in vain tried to separate the book from the writer, and to judge of it as if it bore some unknown name. But it is to no purpose. All the lines of that venerable countenance are before us. All the little peculiar cadences of that voice from which scholars and statesmen loved to receive the lessons of a serene and benevolent wisdom are in our ears. We will attempt to preserve strict impartiality. But we are not ashamed to own that we approach this relic of a virtuous and most accomplished man with feelings of respect and gratitude which may possibly pervert our judgment.
It is hardly possible to avoid instituting a comparison between this work and another celebrated Fragment. Our readers will easily guess that we allude to Mr Fox's history of James II. The two books are written on the same subject. Both were posthumously published. Neither had received the last corrections. The authors belonged to the same political party, and held the same opinions concerning the merits and defects of the English constitution, and concerning most of the prominent characters and events in English history. They had thought much on the principles of
VOL. LXI. NO. CXXIV.
government; but they were not mere speculators. They had ransacked the archives of rival kingdoms, and pored on folios which had mouldered for ages in deserted libraries; but they were not mere antiquarians. They had one eminent qualification for writing history-they had spoken history, acted history, lived history. The turns of political fortune, the ebb and flow of popular feeling, the hidden mechanism by which parties are moved, all these things were the subjects of their constant thought and of their most familiar conversation. Gibbon has remarked, that his
History is much the better for his having been an officer in the militia and a member of the House of Commons. The remark is most just. We have not the smallest doubt that his campaign, though he never saw an enemy, and his Parliamentary attendance, though he never made a speech, were of far more use to him than years of retirement and study would have been. If the time that he spent on parade and at mess in Hampshire, or on the Treasurybench and at Brooke's during the storms which overthrew Lord North and Lord Shelburne had been passed in the Bodleian Library, he might have avoided some inaccuracies ;—he might have enriched his notes with a greater number of references; but he would never have produced so lively a picture of the court, the camp, and the senate-house. In this respect Mr Fox and Sir James Mackintosh had great advantages over almost every lish historian who has written since the time of Burnet. Lord Lyttleton had indeed the same advantages; but he was incapable of using them. Pedantry was so Pedantry was so deeply fixed in his nature that the Hustings, the Treasury, the Exchequer, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, left him the same dreaming schoolboy that they found him.
When we compare the two interesting works of which we have been speaking, we have little difficulty in awarding the superiority to that of Sir James Mackintosh. Indeed the superiority Mr Fox to Sir James as an orator is hardly more clear than the superiority of Sir James to Mr Fox as a historian. Mr Fox with a pen in his hand, and Sir James on his legs in the House of Commons, were, we think, each out of his proper element. They were men, it is true, of far too much judgment and ability to fail scandalously in any undertaking to which they brought the whole power of their minds. The History of James II. will always keep its place in our libraries as a valuable book; and Sir James Mackintosh succeeded in winning and maintaining a high place among the Parliamentary speakers of his time. Yet we could never read a page of Mr Fox's writing, we could never listen for a quarter of an hour to the speaking of Sir James, without feeling that there was a constant effort, a tug up hill. Nature, or habit which had