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ration—the true secret for managing religious factions -she preserved her people, by her superior prudence, from those confusions in which theological controversy had involved all the neighbouring nations: and though her enemies were the most powerful princes of Europe, the most active, the most enterprising, the least scrupulous, she was able by her vigour to make deep impressions on their states; her own greatness meanwhile remained untouched and unimpaired.
The wise ministers and brave warriors who flourished under her reign, share the praise of her success; but instead of lessening the applause due to her, they make great addition to it. They owed, all of them, their advancement to her choice; they were supported by her constancy, and with all their abilities, they were never able to acquire any undue ascendant over her. In her family, in her court, in her kingdom, she remained equally mistress: the force of the tender passions was great over her, but the force of her mind was still superior; and the combat which her victory visibly cost her, serves only to display the firmness of her resolution, and the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments.
The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted the prejudices both of faction and bigotry, yet lies still exposed to another prejudice, which is more durable because more natural, and which, according to the different views in which we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure, or diminishing the lustre of her character. This prejudice is founded on the consideration of her sex. When we contemplate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with the highest admiration of her great qualities and extensive capacity: but we are also apt to require some more softness of disposition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the true method of estimating her merit is to lay aside all these considerations, and consider her merely as a rational being placed in authority, and intrusted with the government of mankind. We may find it difficult, to reconcile our fancy to her as a wife or a mistress; but her qualities as a sovereign, though with some considerable exceptions, are the object of undisputed applause and approbation.
[DR. WILLIAM ROBERTSON published three historical works, every one of them classical performances. These were, the History of Scotland, the History of America, and the History of Charles V.]
Character of Mary Queen of Scots. To all the charms of beauty and the utmost elegance of external form, she added those accomplishments which render their impression irresistible. Polite, affable, insinuating, sprightly, and capable of speaking and of writing with equal ease and dignity ; sudden, however, and violent in all her attachments, because her heart was warm and unsuspicious ; impatient of contradiction, because she had been accustomed from her infancy to be treated as a queen; no stranger, on
some occasions, to dissimulation, which, in that perfidious court where she received her education, was reckoned among the necessary arts of government; not insensible of flattery, or unconscious of that pleasure with which almost every woman beholds the influence of her own beauty; formed with the qualities which we love, not with the talents that we admire, she was an agreeable woman rather than an illustrious queen. The vivacity of her spirit, not sufficiently tempered with sound judgment, and the warmth of her heart, which was not at all times under the restraint of discretion, betrayed her both into errors and into crimes.
that she was always unfortunate will not account for that long and almost uninterrupted succession of calamities which befell her; we must likewise add that she was often imprudent. Her passion for Darnley was rash, youthful, and excessive. And though the sudden transition to the opposite extreme was the natural effect of her ill-requited love, and of his ingratitude, insolence, and brutality, yet neither these nor Bothwell's artful address and important services can justify her attachment to that nobleman. Even the manners of the age, licentious as they were, are no apology for this unhappy passion ; nor can they induce us to look on that tragical and infamous scene which followed upon it with less abhorrence. Humanity will draw a veil over this part of her character which it cannot approve, and may, perhaps, prompt some to impute her actions to her situation more than to her dispositions, and to lament the unhappiness of the former rather than accuse the perverseness of the latter. Mary's sufferings exceed, both in degree and in duration, those tragical distresses which fancy has feigned to excite sorrow and commiseration : and while we survey them, we are apt altogether to forget her frailties; we think of her faults with less indignation, and approve of our tears as if they were shed for a person who had attained much nearer to pure virtue.
With regard to the queen's person, a circumstance not to be omitted in writing the history of a female reign, all contemporary authors agree in ascribing to Mary the utmost beauty of countenance and elegance of shape of which the human form is capable. Her hair was black, though, according to the fashion of that age, she frequently wore borrowed locks, and of different colours. Her eyes were a dark gray,
her complexion was exquisitely fine, and her hands and arms remarkably delicate, both as to shape and colour. Her stature was of a height that rose to the majestic. She danced, she walked, and rode with equal grace. Her taste for music was just, and she both sung and played upon the lute with uncommon skill. Towards the end of her life she began to grow fat, and her long confinement and the coldness of the houses in which she had been imprisoned, brought on a rheumatism, which deprived her of the use of her limbs. • No man,” says Brantome, ever beheld her person without admiration and love, or will read her history without sorrow.”
[ONE of the most polished writers in the English language, and one of the most elaborate historians, is EDWARD GIBBON, author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon published some other performances, but this is his great work. A single extract from it is given.]
The City of Bagdad— Magnificence of the Caliphs.
Almansor, the brother and successor of Saffah, laid the foundations of Bagdad (A. D. 762), the imperial seat of his posterity during a reign of five hundred years. The chosen spot is on the eastern bank of the Tigris, about fifteen miles above the ruins of Modain : the double wall was of a circular form; and such was the rapid increase of a capital pow dwindled to a provincial town, that the funeral of a popular saint might be attended by eight hundred thousand men and sixty thousand women of Bagdad and the adjacent villages.
In this city of peace, amidst the riches of the east, the Abbassides soon disdained the abstinence and frugality of the first caliphs, and aspired to emulate the magnificence of the Persian kings. After his wars and buildings, Almansor left behind him in gold and silver about thirty millions sterling; and this treasure was exhausted in a few years by the vices or virtues of his children. His son Mahadi, in a single pilgrimage to Mecca, expended six millions of dinars of gold.