« ПретходнаНастави »
attempted to supply. Whatever reception the present age or posterity may give this work, we rest satisfied with our own endeavours to deserve a kind one. The completion of our design has for some years taken up all the time we could spare from other occupations, of less importance indeed to the public, but probably more advantageous to ourselves. We are unwilling therefore to dismiss this subject without observing, that the labour of so great a part of life should at least be examined with candour, and not carelessly confounded in that multiplicity of daily publications which are conceived without effort, are produced without praise, and sink with
P R E F A C E.
THERE are some subjects on which a writer must decline all attempts to acquire fame, satisfied with being obscurely useful. After such a number of Roman histories, in almost all languages, ancient and modern, it would be but imposture to pretend new discoveries, or to expect to offer any thing in a work of this kind, which has not been often anticipated by others. The facts which it relates have been an hundred times repeated, and every occurrence has been so variously considered, that learning can scarcely find a new anecdote, or genius give novelty to the old. I hope, therefore, for the reader's indui. gence, if in the following attempt, it shall appear, that my only aim was to supply a concise, plain, and unaffected narrative of the Rise and Decline of a well-known empire. I was contented to make such a book as could not fail of being serviceable, though of all others the most unlikely to promote the repu. tation of the writer. Instead, therefore, of pressing forward among the ambitious, I only claim the merit of knowing my own strength, and falling back among thehindmost ranks, with conscious inferiority.
I am not ignorant, however, that it would be no difficult task to pursue the same art by which many dull men, every
men, every day, acquire a reputation in History; such might easily be attained, by fixing on some obscure period to write upon, where much seeming erudition might be displayed, almost unknown, because not worth remembering; and many maxims in politics might be advanced entirely new, because altogether false. But I have pursued a contrary method, choosing the most noted period in History, and offering no remarks but such as I thought strictly true.
The reasons of my choice were, that we had no history of this splendid period in our language, but what was either too voluminous for common use, or too meanly written to please. Catrou and Rouille's history in six volumes folio, translated into our language by Bundy, is entirely unsuited to the time and expence mankind usually choose to bestow upon this subject: Rollin and his continuator Crevier, making nearly thirty volumes octavo, seem to labour under the same imputation; as likewise Hooke, who has spent three quartos upon the Republic alone, the rest of his undertaking remaining unfinished*. There only, therefore, remained the history by Echard, in five volumes octavo, whose plan and mine seemed to coincide ; and had his execution been equal to his design, it had precluded the present undertaking.. But the truth is, it is so poorly written, the facts so crowded, the narration so spiritless, and the characters so indistinctly marked, that the most ardent curiosity must cool in the perusal ; and the noblest transactions that ever warmed the human heart, as described by him, must cease to interest.
I have endeavoured, therefore, in the present work, or rather compilation, to obviate the inconveniences arising from the exuberance of the former, as well as from the unpleasantness of the latter. It was supposed, that two volumes might be made to comprize all that was requisite to be known, or pleasing to be read, by such as only examine History, to prepare them for more important studies. Too much time
may be given even to laudable pursuits, and * Mr. Hooke's three quartos above-mentioned reach only to the end of the Gallic war. A fourth volume to the end of the Republic, was afterwards published in 1771. Dr. Goldsmith's preface was written in 1769. Mr. Hooke's quarto editian has been republislied in eleven volumes octavo.