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motives might have then existed for such delay, whether tenderness to living characters, or more prudential reasons, a period of forty years must totally have removed them. The rage of party is subsided; and we may be allowed to contemplate the reign of Anne as impartially as that of Elizabeth.
At length this history was committed to the press in the year 1758*; under the censure, it may be said, of its own editor ; in justice to whom, however we may differ in opinion concerning Dr. Swift's candour, the editor's Advertisement is preserved entire. In the same year also it met. with some severe strictures from another writert. These we shall give tov in his own words; and then fairly submit" The History of the Four Last Years of the Queen” to the judgment of the publick:
“These characters, and the history from whence they have been extracted, may serve as a striking example of the melancholy effects of prejudice and party zeal; a zeal, which, whilst it corrupts the heart, vitiates the understanding itself; and could mislead a writer of so penetrating a genius as Dr. Swift, to imagine that posterity would accept satire in the place of history, and would read with satisfaction a performance, in which the courage and military skill of the duke of Marlborough are called in question. The real character of these great men was not what the low idolatry of the one faction, or the malignity
* Printed for A. Millar; and, in 1767, it was first inserted by Mr. Tonson in an edition of the Dean's Works. N. + Mr. Burke, in the Annual Register, 1758. N.
of the other, would represent it. They were men, who, with great virtues and great talents, mixed with some human infirmities, did their country much service and honour. Their talents were a publick benefit, their failings such as only affected their private character. The display of this mixture had been a very proper task for an impartial historian; and had proved equally agreeable and instructive to the reader in such hands. But these characters before us have all the signs of being written, as Tacitus calls it, recentibus odiis. In all other respects, the piece seems to be a work not unworthy of its author : a clear and strong, though not an elevated style; an entire freedom from every sort of affected ornament; a peculiar happiness of putting those he would satirize in the most odious and contemptible light, without seeming directly to intend it. These are the characteristicks of all Swift's works; and they appear as strongly in this as in any of them. If there be any thing different in this performance, from the manner of his works published in his lifetime, it is, that the style is in this thrown something more backwards, and has a more antique cast. This probably he did designedly, as he might think it gave a greater dignity to the work. He had a strong prejudice in favour of the language, as it was in queen Elizabeth's reign; and he rated the style of the authors of that time a little above its real value. Their style was in. deed sufficiently bold and nervous, but deficient in grace and elegance.”
Thus, the long-wished for History of the Four Last Years of the Queen's Reign is at length brought to light, in spite of all attempts to sup
As this publication is not made under the sanction of the name, or names, which the author and the world had a right to expect; it is fit some account of the work's appearing in this manner should be here given.
Long before the Dean's apparent decline, some of his intimate friends, with concern, foresaw the impending fate of his fortune and his works. To this it is owing, that these sheets, which the world now despaired of ever seeing, are rescued from obscurity, perhaps from destruction.
For this, the publick is indebted to a gentleman, now in Ireland, of the greatest probity and worth, with whom the Dean long lived in perfect intimacy. To this gentleman's hands the Dean intrusted a copy of his history, desiring him to peruse and give his judgment of it, with the last, corrections and amendments the author had giveu it, in his own hand.
His friend read, admired, and approved. And, froin a dread of so valuable and so interesting a work's being by any accident lost or effaced, as was probable by its not being intended to be pub
lished in the author's life time; he resolved to keep this copy till the author should press him for it; but with a determined purpose, it should never see the light, while there were any hopes of the author's own copy being published, or even preserved.
This resolution he inviolably kept, till he and the world had full assurance, that the Dean's executors, or those into whose hands the original copy fell, were so far from intending to publish it, that it was actually suppressed, perhaps destroyed.
Then he thought himself not only at liberty, but judged it his duty to his departed friend, and to the publick, to let this copy, which he had now kept many years most secretly, see the light.
Thus it has at length fallen into the hands of a person, who publishes it for the satisfaction of the publick, abstracted from all private regards; which are never to be permitted to come into competition with the common good.
Every judicious eye will see, that the author of these sheets wrote with strong passions, but with stronger prepossessions and prejudices in favour of a party: These, it may be imagined, the editor, in some measure, may have adopted ; and published this work, as a kind of support of that party, or some surviving remnant thereof.
It is but just to undeceive the reader, and inform him from what kind of hand he has received this work. A man may regard a good piece of painting, "while he despises the subject: if the subject be ever so despicable, the masterly strokes of the painter may demand our admiration; while
he, in other respects, is intitled to no portion of our regard. 1;
- In poetry, we carry our admiration still farther; and like the poet while we actually contemn the.
Historians share the like fate; hence some, who have no regard to propriety or truth, are yet admired for dietion, style, manner, and the like.
The editor considers this work in another light: he long knew the author; and was no stranger to his politicks, connexions, tendencies, passions, and the whole economy of his life. He has long been hardily singular in condemning this great man's conduct amid the admiring multitude; nor ever could have thought of making an interest in a man, whose principles and manners he could by no rule of reason or honour approve, however he might have admired his wit and parts.
Such was judged the disposition of the man, whose history of the most interesting period of time in the annals of Britain is now, herein, offered to the reader. He may well ask from what motives? The answer is easily, simply given.
The causes assigned for delaying the publication of this history were principally these: That the manuscript fell into the hands of men, who, whatever they might have been by the generality deemed, were by the Dean believed to be of his party ; though they did not, after his death, judge it prudent to avow his principles, . more than to deny them in his lifetime. These men, having got their beavers, tobacco boxes, and other trifling remembrances of former friendship, by the Dean's will, did not choose publickly to avow principles that had marred their friend's promotion, and