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written since can bear a comparison with this. The facts he was obliged, for the reasons above stated, to take and leave almost as he found them; but the effect of his treatment of them was like that of bringing a light into a dark room : the objects are there as they
a were before, but now you can distinguish them.
In superintending a new edition of this history I nave aimed chiefly at four things. 1st, to obtain a correct text. 2nd, to ascertain as far as possible whether the statements in the text are accurate; and to point out in foot-notes all inaccuracies, however trivial. 3rd, to supply omissions, where they seemed important. And lastly, to notice all passages in which the Latin translation (which was prepared under Bacon's own eye some years after) varies in meaning from the original English.
1. For the text, there are only two authorities of any value : the original manuscript, which was submitted to the king in the autumn of 1621, and is preserved (all but a few leaves) in the British Museum; and the original edition, which was printed in the following March. Which of these two is the best authority, it is not easy to decide. The print, as being the later, may be supposed to have the last corrections. But the manuscript, as having certainly been looked over and corrected by Bacon himself (which it is not certain that the proof-sheets were), may be supposed to have the fewest errors. I do not know how far it was usual in those days for the author to meddle with his work after it was in the printer's hands; but in this case, from a careful comparison of the two, I am in clined to think that where the print varies from the manuscript, it is generally by mistake. It is from the
manuscript therefore that I have printed the text. The various readings of the printed copy I have quoted in the notes : neglecting however all varieties of mere form, such as the introduction of capital setters, of italics, and of inverted commas; which, as there is no direction for them in the manuscript, I ascribe to the printer's fancy and the typographical fashion of the day. In the division of the paragraphs I have also silently followed the manuscript; without noticing the places where the printed copy gives a different one, unless there be a doubt which is right. The spelling is modernised throughout: and I have used my own judgment as to the punctuation ;-observing always the spirit and intention of the punctuation in the manuscript.
This manuscript may be seen in the British Museum ; Additional MSS. vol. 7084. It is a fair transcript in a very clear hand. Bacon's own pen may be recognised here and there throughout, sometimes in the alteration of a stop, sometimes in the insertion of a parenthesis, sometimes in the correction of a letter, sometimes in the interlineation of two or three words. A few leaves are wanting, which are noticed in the places.
The printed copy is a tall quarto of 248 pages, with the following title, The Historie of the Raigne of King Henry the Seventh, written by the Right Honourable Francis Lord Verulam, Viscount St. Alban. London. Printed by W. Stansby for Matthew Lownes and William Barret, 1622. A portrait of Henry, with sceptre and ball, is prefixed; harshly engraved by John Payne ; with the inscription cor regis inscrutabile. The face, thoughtful, anxious, lean, and furrowed, — seems to be
the original of the coinely, grave, well-fed gentleman with whom we are familiar in Vertue's engraving. The book was printed and ready for publication on the 20th of March 1621–2; and “ the printer's fingers itched to be selling.”Some delay seems to have been caused by a scruple of the Bishop of London ; but it was published soon after.2
2. In order to detect inaccuracies, I have endeavoured (besides consulting the more recent histories) to determine, wherever I could do so from authentic sources, the exact dates of the transactions related; and where I have found them inconsistent with the narrative, or have otherwise detected or seen reason to suspect any error, I have noticed the fact; not confining myself to cases in which the error seems to be of consequence; but correcting positive misstatements of every kind; for it is impossible to say of any fact that it is of no consequence, unless you could know how it may be combined with other facts and what inferences it may be made to support.
3. With regard to the supply of omissions, on the contrary, I have taken pains to distinguish the important from the unimportant. Clearness of narrative depends upon nothing more than upon the rejection of what is immaterial; and innumerable particulars were no doubt omitted by Bacon on purpose. Nevertheless many facts have come to light since Bacon's time which he would have introduced into his narrative if he had been aware of them; and whatever has seemed to ine to be of this nature, I have not hesitated to introduce in the notes. So that I hope this history may now be recommended not only as the richest, clearest, and liveliest narrative, and in general effect the most faithful portraiture, of the time (which with all its defects it always was); but also as the most complete in details and the most accurate in information.
1 See a letter from Meautys, which appears to have been written on that day.
2 It was out on the 6th of April. See a letter from Rev. Joseph Mead to Sir Martin Stuteville. Court and Times of James I., vol. ii. p. 303.
4. Lastly, with regard to the Latin translation. This edition being intended especially for English readers, it has not been thought desirable to increase its size and cost by reprinting translations which were intended only for foreigners; and which, being for the most part mere translations, no English reader would prefer to the original. It was to be remembered however that they were made either by Bacon himself or under his eye and direction (“Historiam Henrici Septimi, quam etiam in Latinum verti,” is his own expression in the dedication prefixed to the Sermones Fideles); and therefore that where they differ in meaning or effect more than the different idiom of the language seems to require, the Latin must pass for the later and better authority. I have therefore compared the two sentence by sentence, and wherever I have found that the Latin version contains any meaning that is not fully or exactly represented by the English, – that it explains an obscure, decides a doubtful, or corrects an inaccurate expression, - I have quoted the Latin words.
This I think is all I need say in explanation of my own part in the revision and elucidation of this work. A few words as to the character of the work itself. For it will be seen that, while admitting and accounting for its imperfections, I have ascribed to it a substantial excellence far higher than it has credit for; and I may be expected to give a reason for dissenting from the popular judgment, supported as it is by some eminent authorities.
In so far as the difference is a matter of taste, I can only say that since the proper object of history is to reproduce such an image of the past that the actors shall seem to live and the events to pass before our eyes, that style of historical composition should be the best in which this is most completely accomplished ; and that I have met with no history of the reign of Henry the Seventh, nor indeed of any other English king, in which such an effect is produced in a degree at all comparable to this. Indeed if the question could be made to turn upon that point, I almost think that such would be the general opinion. But it is true that during the last century popular taste in this kind of composition ran another way; forsaking the model of Thucydides, in whose pages the events of the Peloponnesian war still live as fresh as those which we follow day by day in the newspapers; and declining to that of the Annual Register, where the events of 1848, so strange, so interesting, so agitating, as we read of them while they were passing, may be seen laid up in 1849 as dead and dry as mummies. In so far as it is a question of taste, Bacon's history, tried by such a standard, must of course fail.
It is not however to a difference of taste merely, that the low place which it holds in popular estimation must be attributed. It is connected no doubt with a very prevalent, though a very erroneous, impression, that it is not a true portraiture of the time; that it was written