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of beginners is to write in what they think a more elevated fashion. It needs some years of practice before a man fully takes in the truth that, for real strength and above all for real clearness, there is nothing like the old English speech of our fathers.

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All the Essays in this volume, except the first, were written as reviews. When the critical part of the article took the shape of discussion, whether leading to agreement or to difference, of the works of real scholars like Bishop Thirlwall, Mr. Grote, and Dr. Merivale, I have let it stand pretty much as it was first written. But the parts which were given to pointing out the mistakes of inferior writers I have for the most part struck out. On this principle I had to sacrifice nearly the whole of the article headed Herodotus and his Commentators,' in the National Review for October 1862. I have kept only a small part of it as a note to one of the other Essays. I have done this, not because there is a word in that or in any other article of the kind which I now differ from or regret, but because, while the unflinching exposure of errors in the passing literature of the day is the highest duty of the periodical critic, it is out of place in writings which lay any claim to lasting value. I do not think I have sinned against my own rule in reprinting my articles in the Saturday Review on the German works of Mommsen and Curtius. Both are scholars of the highest order, and, as such, I trust that I have dealt with them with the respect that they deserve. But if, as there seems to be some danger, Curtius should displace Grote in the hands of English students, and if Mommsen should be looked up to as an infallible oracle, as Niebuhr was in my own Oxford days, I believe that the result would be full of evil, not only for historical truth, but, in the case of Mommsen, for political morality also.

I have to renew my thanks to the publishers of the Edinburgh Review and to the editors and publishers of the other periodicals in which the Essays appeared, for the leave kindly given to me to reprint them in their present form.


January 7th, 1873.





THE history of the Italian peninsula forms, in many respects, the most important and the most fascinating chapter in the history of the middle ages. Every part indeed of the history of those wonderful times has its own special charm; each has its special attraction for minds of a particular class. Upon the English statesman or jurist the early annals of our own country have a claim above all others. a knowledge of those annals is very imperfect without some knowledge both of the kindred nations of Northern Europe and of the once kindred and then antagonistic powers of Gaul. To minds of another class, who view history with philological or antiquarian rather than with political eyes, the laws, the languages, the monuments of Scandinavia and Northern Germany will be of primary, instead of subsidiary, value. The long struggle between the Christian and the Saracen, the early liberties of Aragon and Castile, clothe the Iberian peninsula with an interest at once political and romantic. Even the obscure annals of the Slavonic nations are not without a charm of their own, and they have a most important bearing upon recent events. But to the scholar, whose love for historical research has been first kindled among the remains of Greek and Roman antiquity, no delight will be so great as that of tracing out every relic of their influence, every event or institution which can be connected with them either by analogy or by direct derivation. The mere student of words, the mere dreamer over


classic lore, is indeed tempted to cast aside the medieval and modern history both of Greece and Italy as a mere profanation of the ancient. But a more enlarged and practical love of antiquity will not so dwell upon the distant past as to neglect more recent scenes which are its natural complement and commentary. And the scenes which thus attract the scholar may challenge also the attention of the political and ecclesiastical inquirer. Our knowledge of the political life of Rome, of the intellectual life of Greece, of the religious life of early Christendom, is imperfect indeed without some knowledge of the long annals of the Eastern Empire. There we may behold the political immortality of one race, the literary immortality of another; there we may learn how a language and a religion can reconstruct a nation; we may trace the force and the weakness of a centralized despotism, and may marvel at the destiny which chose out such a power to be the abiding bulwark of Christianity and civilization. But over the other classic peninsula a higher interest lingers. If both Greece and Rome still lived on in the mingled being of the Byzantine Empire, they rose again to a more brilliant life among the Popes, the Cæsars, and the Republics of medieval Italy. The political power of Rome still survived in theory in the hands of German Emperors, while in very truth the lordly spirit of the Imperial city sprang into new being, and founded a wider empire, under the guidance of Italian Pontiffs. And besides this twofold life of Rome, the life of Hellas lives once more in the rise and fall, the wars and revolutions, of countless independent commonwealths. The theatre was less favourable; the results were less splendid; but the reproduction was as close as such a reproduction can ever be, and the text and the commentary should never be studied apart.

To the general English reader the history of mediæval Italy is commonly very little known. It forms no part of the stereotyped educational course for either sex. Few remain wholly ignorant of Greece and Rome in the old world, of

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