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This reminds him of what a Jesuit at Venice had told him, when they were talking on this subject : “ he said, that being in Rome during Altieri's pontificate, who lived some years in a perfect dotage, he confessed it required a very strong faith to believe him infallible: but, he added pleasantly, the harder it was to believe it, the act of faith was the more meritorious." With still greater freedom does Queen Christina treat the characters of those holy fathers of the church : she said to Burnet, “it was certain, that the church was governed by the immediate care and providence of God: for none of the four popes, that she had known since she came to Rome, had common sense. She added, they were the first and last of men.” Upon the whole, Burnet appears to have been on such good terms with the cardinals and others at Rome, as to draw down upon him the following reflection of honest Samuel Johnson, who complains, that " while a certain traveller was making his court to cardinals, he got such an almanack in his bones, as to incapacitate him from learning this Scotch trick of a gude memory." This last expression was designed to ridicule the Bishop's Scottish dialect, and refers to a conciliatory speech of his after the Revolution, when, with that moderation which distinguished him through life, he exhorted all to forgetfulness of injuries, and forgiveness of wrongs. “ Pray you have gude memories, gude memories ; do not remember bad things, but keep your memories for gude things, have gude memories.” The magnanimity and generous forbearance evinced in this singular speech, amply atone for the badness of the dialect and the homeliness of the sentence.
No change has been more frequently and, in some degree, it must be allowed, more justly urged against the character of Burnet, than that of excessive credulity: some, indeed, have not hesitated to say, he had a disposition to believe every thing he had an interest in believing. It is very certain, that the Bishop has given credence to many strange stories, and it unfortunately happens, that some of them are most injurious to the party whom he most disliked and opposed. Without going the length of affirming, that he was in the habit of believing what he wished, it must be confessed, he has often believed what was more plausible than true; and has probably sometimes been led, by the heat and animosities of party, to credit what his judgement, if he could have freely exercised it, would have induced him to reject. The materials for his history were collected, partly from his own observation, and partly from what he learnt from others : what he delivers, as seen by himself, may be relied upon with confidence; and what, as reported by others, we have no doubt he himself believed, notwithstanding subsequent inquiries may have shewn it, in some respects, to be
erroneous. On one subject, he escaped the delusion, which prevailed so very generally throughout the nation, and particularly the party to which he was attached. He has the honour of having been one among the very few, who denied the existence of the Popish plot; and at a time, when it was dangerous to express any doubts of its reality, he had the courage to attempt to save one of its victims, and to expose the falsehood of the evidence. His narrative of English affairs he owns to be imperfect, and, in some parts, out of order; but he thinks, that, considering the sources from which he derived it, he could not be misled-especially when he made allowance for the different accounts, which diversity of parties lead men to give-too easily believing some things, and as easily rejecting others.
The concluding sentence of the reign of Charles II., in which he speaks with a becoming confidence, contains a solemn asseveration of the truth and fairness of his history :-“How ungrateful soever this labour has proved to myself, and how unacceptable soever it may be to some, who, by the engagement of parties and interests are under other biases, yet I have gone through all that I knew relating to his life and reign, with that regard to truth, which became an impartial writer of history, and one who believes that he must give an account to God of what he writes, as well as of what he says and does.”
END OF VOL. 6.
Maurice, Printer, Fenchurch-strect.
INDEX TO VOL. V.
Adelbert's Curse, 126.
d'Amours reviewed, 70–86.
Time reviewed, 349-367.
Canterbury, William, Archbishop of, 265.
Campeggio, Cardinal, 18. 22.
Dalziel, General, 245. 364.
Davies, SIR Joux, his Poems reviewed,
Apostacy, &c. 87.
men of England, 87.
Characters and Epigrams reviewed,
Harsnett's Discovery of the fraudulent
practices of John Darrel, &c. 87. 131.
Gage, Sir John, 44.
James the First's Demonologie, 87.