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John LOTHROP MOTLEY was born, April 15, 1814, at Dorchester, Massachusetts. Harvard, of American colleges, claims the honor of having graduated him. This was in 1831. The knowledge here imbibed, however, served only as an appetizer for still more extensive and profound acquisitions, in search of which he betook himself, like his illustrious predecessor, Bancroft, to the universities of Göttingen and Berlin, remaining about a year at each. Subsequently, a journey through Southern Europe, particularly Italy, was undertaken, adding, as it were, an aesthetic finish to his generous culture.
On his return home, Motley studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1837. But he did not relish the dull routine and drudgery of this profession, and soon abandoned it. Two years later he appeared before the public as an author. His work was entitled Morton's Hope ; and this was followed, at a brief interval, by Merry Mount. In the latter our author has worked up into a picturesque romance the history of a company of jovial adventurers who, in early times, established themselves, for a brief space, at Mount Wollaston, Mass., under the leadership of one Thomas Morton.
“ Both of these fictions are written with spirit; the descriptions, which are frequent, are carefully elaborated; and the narrative is enlivened with frequent flashes of humor." Nevertheless, both have died.
A long interval elapsed before Motley again appeared as author of a distinct work. The time, however, was busily and nobly employer, and in quite a different field of thought and labor from the one he first cultivated, among
* Duyçkinek's Cyclopælia of American Literature.
Dutch, Flemish, French, Italian, Spanish, and German chroniclers and historians; among State papers, letters and pamphlets, and manuscript histories and unpublished documents in the royal archives of the Hague, Brussels, and Dresden. The product of this toil was The Rise of the Dutch Republic, published in three volumes, in 1856. /
Of this work a brother historian * has remarked : Far from making his book a mere register of events, he has penetrated deep below the surface and explored the causes of these events. He has carefully studied the physiognomy of the times, and given finished portraits of the great men who conducted the march of the revolution. Every page is instinct with the love of freedom and with that personal knowledge of the working of free institutions which could alone enable him to do justice to his subject. We congratulate ourselves that it was reserved for one of our countrymen to tell the story-better than it had yet been told-of this memorable revolution, which in so many of its features bears a striking resemblance to our own.”
This work secured Motley immediate admission, at the hands of eminent foreign reviewers, to the circle of distinguished historians; and honorary degrees from Harvard, Oxford, and the Institute of France, were speedily conferred upon him. Besides enjoying a deserved popularity at home and in England, it has been rendered into the Dutch, German, and French, in which languages it hils achieved a wide renown.
The above work took up the history of the Dutch republic at its foundation, and traced it to the middle of the sixteenth century. To complete the record, Motley has followed up his first successful effort, and given us, in instalments from 1860 to 1867, four new volumes, entitled The History of the United Netherlands. The unwearying spirit of investigation, of thorough digestion, and vivid representation which marked the former work, equally distinguishes the latter, both of which have been styled, by a
* Wm. H. Prescotton
discriminating critic,* “works of elaborate research and artistic finish, written with an earnest sympathy in the struggles of those who laid the foundations of civil and religious freedom, and with a force and grace of style both appropriate and attractive.”
All the essentials of a great writer Mr. Motley eminently possesses. His mind is broad, his industry unwearied. In power of dramatic description no modern historian, except perhaps Mr. Carlyle, surpasses him: and in analysis of character he is elaborate and distinct. ... The style is excellent, clear, vivid, eloquent.”+
As illustrative of our author's power in graceful and graphic description, both of places and persons, we excerpt the following passage from Volume I. of The Rise of the Dutch Republic:
Abdication of Charles resolved upon—Brussels in the sixteenth century
-Hall of the palace described—Portraits of prominent individuals present at the ceremony.
Ox the twenty-fifth day of October, 1555, the estates of the Netherlands were assembled in the great hall of the palace at Brussels. They had been summoned to be the witnesses and the guarantees of the abdication which Charles V. had long before resolved upon, and which he was that day to execute. The em. peror, like many potentates before and since, was fond of great political spectacles. He knew their influence upon the masses of mankind. Although plain, even to shabbiness, in his own costume, and usually attired in black, no one ever understood better than he how to arrange such exhibitions in a striking and artistic style. .
The closing scene of his long and energetic reign he had now arranged with profound study, and with an accurate knowledge of the manner in which the requisite effects were to be produced. The termination of his own career, the opening of his beloved Philip's, were to be dramatized in a manner worthy the august character of the actors, and the importance of the great stage where they played their parts. The eyes of the whole world * H. T. Tuckerman.
† North British Review.
were directed upon that day towards Brussels; for an imperia abdication was an event which had not, in the sixteenth century been staled by custom.
The gay capital of Brabant-of that province which rejoiced in the liberal constitution known by the cheerful title of the “joyful entrance"—was worthy to be the scene of the imposing show. Brussels had been a city for more than five centuries, and, at that (lay, numbered about one hundred thousand inhabitants. Its walls, six miles in circumference, were already two hundred years old. Unlike most Netherland cities, lying usually upon extensive plains, it was built along the sides of an abrupt promontory. A wide expanse of living verdure, cultivated gardens, shady groves, fertile corn-fields, flowed round it like a sea. The foot of the town was washed by the little river Seune, while the irregular but picturesque streets rose up the steep sides of the hill like the semicircle and stairways of an amphitheatre.
Nearly in the heart of the place rose the audacious and exquisitely embroidered tower of the town-house, three hundred and sixty-six feet in height, a miracle of needlework in stone. rivaling in its intricate carving the cobweb tracery of that lace which has for centuries been synonymous with the city, and rearing itself above a facade of profusely decorated and brocaded architecture. The crest of the elevation was crowned by the towers of the old ducal palace of Brabant, with its extensive and thickly-wooded park on the left, and by the stately mansions of Orange, Egmont, Aremberg, Culemburg, and other Flemish grandees, on the right. The great forest of Soignies, dotted with monasteries and convents, swarming with every variety of game, whither the citizens made their summer pilgrimages, and where the nobles chased the wild boar and the stag, extended to within à quarter of a mile of the city walls.
The population, as thrifty, as intelligent, as prosperous as that of any city in Europe, was divided into fifty-two guilds of artisans, among which the most important were the armorers, whose suits of mail would turn a musket-ball; the gardeners, upon whose gentler creations incredible sums were annually lavished; and the tapestry-workers, whose gorgeous fabrics were the wonder of the world.
Seven principal churches, of which the most striking was that of St. Gudule, with its twin towers, its charming façade, and its magnificently painted windows, adorned the upper part of the city. The number seven was a magic number in Brussels, and was supposed at that epoch, during which astronomy was in its infancy and astrology in its prime, to denote the seven planets which governed all things terrestrial by their aspects and influences. Seven noble families, springing from seven ancient castles, supplied the stock from which the seven senators were silected who composed the upper council of the city. There were seven great squares, seven city gates, and, upon the occasion of the present ceremony, it was observed by the lovers of wonderful coincidences, that seven crowned heads would be con. gregated under a single roof in the liberty-loving city.
The palace where the states-general were upon this occasion convened, had been the residence of the Dukes of Brabant since the days of John the Second, who had built it about the year 1300. It was a spacious and convenient building, but not distinguished for the beauty of its architecture. In front was a large open square, enclosed by an iron railing, in the rear an extensive and beautiful park, filled with forest trees, and containing gardens and labyrinths, fish-ponds and game preserves, fountains and promenades, race-courses and archery grounds.
The main entrance to this edifice opened upon a spacious hall, connected with a beautiful and symmetrical chapel. The hall was celebrated for its size, harmonious proportions, and the richness of its decorations. It was the place where the chapters of the famous order of the Golden Fleece were held. Its walls were hung with a magnificent tapestry of Arras, representing the life and achievements of Gideon the Midianite, and giving particular prominence to the miracle of the “fleece if wool” vouchsafed to that renowned champion, the great patron of the Knights of the Fleece. On the present occasion there were various additional embellishments of flowers and votive garlands.
At the western end a spacious platform or stage, with six or seven steps, had been constructed, below which was a range of benches for the deputies of the seventeen provinces. Upon ile stage itself there were rows of seats, covered with tapestry, upo 2 the right hand and upon the left. These were respectively to accommodate the knights of the order and the guests of high distinction. In the rear of these were other benches, for the members of the three great councils. In the centre of the stage was a splendid canopy, decorated with the arms of Burgundy, beneath which were placed three gilded arm-chairs. All the