« AnteriorContinuar »
Mr. Murphy of a hearer of Mr. Burke's first speech in Par-
Of the various studies which occupy the attention of man, the wise esteem those the most important which unfold human nature, “educe moral duty, and inculcate virtuous con
duct. Hence history, which shews the connection between principle and action, action and consequence, derives its chief utility. Not real history only, but its imitator, poetry, though pleasing from a variety of causes, is useful and interesting in proportion to its exhibition of moral nature, and those parts of physical by which the happiness of mankind is affected.
In history, whether real or imitative, we are more instructed by the developement of particular characters than of general mea
sures; more interested in individual enjoyment and suffering, than in the prosperity or adversity of nations. Of history, therefore, the most instructing and most interesting kind is Biography. «No species of history (says the sage Author of the RAMBLER) seems more worthy of cultivation than biography; since none can be more delightful or more useful, none can more certainly enchain the heart by irresistible interest, or more widely diffuse instruction to every diversity of condition. Hence Johnson infers, that there has rarely passed a life, of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful.
The facts which constitute the excellence of biography are of an evanescent kind, and rarely transmitted by tradition: they are often lost, unless carefully collected during the life, either of the subject or of his cotemporaries. It is of great importance, therefore, to procure the materials of biography while entire, and not impaired by time.
From the inattention of cotemporaries to the lives of some of our most eminent poets, the first biographer of modern times found only scanty materials. The public may regret that his knowledge of the life of Butler was not equal to that of the life of Savage. After a lapse of ages, such knowledge, however, was not attainable concerning those who had not found faithful and judicious biographers whilst the subject was recent and well known.
Lord Bacon observes, that history is either narrative or inductive: narrative, when recording facts; inductive, when recording facts to establish general principles. Narrative history is the foundation of inductive. We must know particular facts before we can deduce from them general conclusions.
This division holds respecting biography and every other species of history.
To collect useful facts, requires only in dustry, observation, and common judgment.