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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.
To say 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 dura
tion, 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 now 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.
A pious and charitable motive may sanctify the foundation of cisterns and caravanseras, which he distributed along a measured road of seven hundred miles; but his train of camels, laden with snow,,could serve only to astonish the natives of Arabia, and to refresh the fruits and liquors of the royal banquet. The courtiers would surely praise the liberality of his grandson Almamon, who gave away four-fifths of the income of a province-a sum of two millions four hundred thousand gold dinars- before he drew his foot from the stirrup. At the nuptials of the same prince, a thousand pearls of the largest size were showered on the head of the bride, and a lottery of lands and houses displayed the capricious bounty of fortune.
The glories of the court were brightened rather than impaired in the decline of the empire, and a Greek ambassador might admire or pity the magnificence of the feeble Moctador. "The caliph's whole army," says the historian Abulfeda, " both horse and foot, was under arms, which together made a body of one hundred and sixty thousand men. His stateofficers, the favourite slaves, stood near him in splendid apparel, their belts glittering with gold and gems. Near them were seven thousand eunuchs, four thousand of them white, the remainder black. The por ters or doorkeepers were in number seven hundred. Barges and boats, with the most superb decorations, were seen swimming upon the Tigris. Nor was the place itself less splendid, in which were hung up thirty-eight thousand pieces of tapestry, twelve thousand five hundred of which were of silk embroidered with gold. The carpets on the floor were twenty-two thousand. A hundred lions were brought out, with a
keeper to each lion. Among the other spectacles of rare and stupendous luxury, was a tree of gold and silver spreading into eighteen large branches, on which, and on the lesser boughs, sat a variety of birds made of the same precious metals, as well as the leaves of the tree. While the machinery affected spontaneous motions, the several birds warbled their natural harmony. Through this scene of magnificence the Greek ambassador was led by the vizier to the foot of the caliph's throne."
In the west, the Ommiades of Spain supported, with equal pomp, the title of commander of the faithful.Three miles from Cordova, in honour of his favourite sultana, the third and greatest of the Abdalrahmans constructed the city, palace, and gardens of Zehra.Twenty-five years, and above three millions sterling, were employed by the founder: his liberal taste invited the artists of Constantinople, the most skilful sculptors and architects of the age; and the buildings were sustained or adorned by twelve hundred columns of Spanish and African, of Greek and Italian marble.-The hall of audience was incrusted with gold and pearls, and a great basin in the centre was surrounded with the curious and costly figures of birds and quadrupeds. In a lofty pavilion of the gardens, one of these basins and fountains, so delightful in a sultry climate, was replenished not with water but with the purest quicksilver. The seraglio of Abdalrahman, his wives, concubines, and black eunuchs, amounted to six thousand three hundred persons; and he was attended to the field by a guard of twelve thousand horse, whose belts and scimitars were studded with gold.