THE famous Le Clerc, great in his day as a journalist, observes, that there are four principal things essential to constitute a good Historian: and, without which, nothing considerable from him can be expected. The first is, to be well instructed in what he undertakes to relate. The second, to be able, without any disguises, to say what he thinks to be the truth. The third is, to be capable of relating what he knows. The fourth, to be capable of judging of the events, and of those who occasion them. If we reflect on the ability of the Historian in these four points, we may be enabled to judge if a History is well or ill written.
“HISTORY” (says Dr. King, at the conclusion of his keen reflections on Varillas) is, indeed, a serious matter; not to be written carelessly, like a letter to a friend; nor with passion, like a billet to a mistress; nor with brass, like a declamation for a party at the bar, or the remonstrance of a minister for his prince; nor, in fine, by a man unacquainted with the world, like soliloquies and meditations. It requires a long experience, a sound judgment, a close attention, an unquestionable integrity, and a style without affectation.
History should never be dedicated to kings. Capriata, an esteemed Italian historian, dedicated his work not to princes, but to private men; for he was fearful that an epistle dedicatory to a monarch would have given reason to suppose that he had not written his history with all that moderation and truth which the historical art requires. It was very judicious; for the sincerity of an historian would have composed an awkward panegyric. Few dedicate to kings without the hope of some gratification. Bayle observes—C’est une Coutume de piper aux Souverains a qui l’on adresse un ouvrage. The historian should only dedicate his works to Posterity.