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A TRANSLATION of “THE MEMOIRs of A PROTESTANT, CON DEMNED TO THE GALLEYS OF FRANCE FOR HIS RELIGION: writt EN BY HIMSELF."(1)
The praise by which a translator attempts to advance the reputation of his original is usually considered as an indirect claim to applause on his own account. Though he may not stand in the full lustre of his own panegyric, yet such are his connections with his author, that he receives it by reflection, and tacitly compliments himself at least for judgment in his choice. Assurances on his part, however, seldom influence the approbation of the public, but frequently incur its contempt; for if he be so unfortunate as to fail in his promises, falsehood is added to swell the number of his other imperfections.
Sensible of this truth, it is not expected to exhance the excellencies or palliate the faults of the succeeding Memoir. The public will scarcely be influenced in their judgment by an obscure prefacer; and perhaps the work might rather suffer by his misplaced admiration. To confess a truth, he hardly knows how to introduce it to the public attention, and even to procure it a reading, among the multiplicity of modern publications.
Perhaps what he thinks its excellencies, may be considered as defects: what he hopes may give it popularity,
(1) [This translation came out early in the year 1758. See Life, ch. vii.)
will contribute to assign it to neglect. Thus, for instance, it cannot be recommended as a grateful entertainment to the numerous readers of reigning romance, as it is strictly true. No events are here to astonish; no unexpected incidents to surprise; no such high-finished pictures, as captivate the imagination and have made fiction fashionable. Our reader must be content with the simple exhibition of truth, and consequently of nature; he must be satisfied to see vice triumphant and virtue in distress; to see men punished or rewarded, not as his wishes, but as Providence has thought proper to direct; for all here wears the face of sincerity. His keeping himself concealed may probably to some appear suspicious; yet let it be considered, that were this the work of fiction, nothing could have been easier than to invent fictitious names also ; a practice almost universally adopted by those who are indebted to invention alone for their materials: but such the author chose to imitate in nothing; and his conduct in the present case is a proof of the authenticity of his performance. As there are little hopes of pleasing those who delight in improbabilities, so there is another class of readers whom it is as little expected to satisfy. Those who upon hearing that the author suffered persecution with constancy, may expect also to find him talk upon all occasions like our enthusiasts; who attach formal phrase and disgusting ejaculation to their ideas of religion; and imagine that every part of history which serves to amuse, is certainly an infringement on piety. Such he cannot expect to have for his admirers; so that, between the lovers of an idle tale and the partizans of cant and formality, the translator almost trembles for his author's reception. As he has expressed his fears, permit him to express his hopes also: and if there be any reader who can for a moment lay aside romance for history; who can prefer a picture taken from nature to the more glaring colourings of fancy: if there be any who can be pleased with a narrative inspired by truth, and perhaps executed with modesty; and if we cannot deserve the approbation of such readers, we shall contentedly acquiesce in their censure. The present Memoir commences where the historians of those times discontinue their accounts. It carries on the relation of a national persecution, almost too shocking for belief, though too well attested not to be a lasting monument of disgrace to humanity. Louis XIV. of France, induced by some pretended conversions, and incited by those who took care of the Royal conscience, revoked the Edict of Nantes. This charter was settled by Henry IV., and was the great bulwark of Protestant security against ecclesiastical persecution. The revocation of this edict gave Popery a full power to tyrannize; and its unpitying tribunals were erected over all the kingdom. The miseries of that period are pathetically described, even by their own historians. Protestants were dragged from their families; exposed to all the insults of unguided zeal; emaciated in dungeons; denied the consolation of friendship; brought to the rack; turning their eyes to take a last farewell of their children, but only meeting an odious priest; the executioner, bathed in the blood of their expiring friends, chiding their delay; their carcasses blackening in the sun, or exposed to rot on dunghills' Such was a part of the accumulated miseries of the times; while Louis, surnamed the great, was feasting at Versailles, fed with the incense of flattery, or sunk in the lewd embraces of a prostitute Can an Englishman hear this, and not burn with indignation against those foes to religion, to liberty, and his country And should not every attempt to promote this generous indignation meet at least indulgence, though it should not deserve applause. Could the present VOL. I. 2 H
performance teach one individual to value his religion, by contrasting it with the furious spirit of Popery; could it contribute to make him enamoured with liberty, by shewing their unhappy situation, whose possessions are held by so precarious a tenure as tyrannical caprice; could it promote his zeal in the cause of humanity, or give him a wish to imitate the virtues of the sufferer, or redress the injuries of oppression; then, indeed, the author will not have wrote in vain. A convert of this kind is worth a thousand admirers; and to attain these ends was probably his design; and not to gratify idle curiosity, or erect himself into the minute hero of his own Memoir.
PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION
THE HIstory of THE SEVEN YEARs' wa R.
1THE following pieces, now for the first time included in Goldsmith's Works, form the Preface and Introduction to a detail of the events of the War commencing in 1757, down to the period at which they were written; which, from the internal evidence, would seem to be 1761. Whether they were ever published is uncertain; the book which they were intended to introduce not having been discovered. The MS., still extant, belonged to Mr. Isaac Reed, who has written on a blank leaf-" This MS. is one of the productions of, and in the hand-writing of, Dr. Goldsmith. It was given to me by Mr. Steevens, who received it from Hamilton, the printer.” On the sale of Mr. Reed's collection, it passed into the hands of the late Mr. Heber; who, with his usual liberality, gave it unsolicited for the present edition. See Life, ch. viii.]
In whatever light we regard the present war which has disturbed all Europe, we shall find it the most important of any recorded in modern history. Whether we consider the power of the nations at variance, the number of the