Curiosities of Literature, by Isaac Disraeli

True Sources of Secret History.

This is a subject which has been hitherto but imperfectly comprehended even by some historians themselves; and has too often incurred the satire, and even the contempt, of those volatile spirits who play about the superficies of truth, wanting the industry to view it on more than one side, and those superficial readers who imagine that every tale is told when it is written.

Secret history is the supplement of history itself, and is its great corrector; and the combination of secret with public history has in itself a perfection, which each taken separately has not. The popular historian composes a plausible rather than an accurate tale; researches too fully detailed would injure the just proportions, or crowd the bold design, of the elegant narrative; and facts, presented as they occurred, would not adapt themselves to those theoretical writers of history who arrange events not in a natural, but in a systematic order. But in secret history we are more busied in observing what passes than in being told of it. We are transformed into the contemporaries of the writers, while we are standing on the “vantage ground” of their posterity; and thus what to them appeared ambiguous, to us has become unquestionable; what was secret to them has been confided to us. They mark the beginnings, and we the ends. From the fulness of their accounts we recover much which had been lost to us in the general views of history, and it is by this more intimate acquaintance with persons and circumstances that we are enabled to correct the less distinct, and sometimes the fallacious appearances in the page of the popular historian. He who only views things in masses will have no distinct notion of any one particular; he may be a fanciful or a passionate historian, but he is not the historian who will enlighten while he charms.

But as secret history appears to deal in minute things, its connexion with great results is not usually suspected. The circumstantiality of its story, the changeable shadows of its characters, the redundance of its conversations, and the many careless superfluities which egotism or vanity may throw out, seem usually confounded with that small-talk familiarly termed gossiping. But the gossiping of a profound politician or a vivacious observer, in one of their letters, or in their memoirs, often, by a spontaneous stroke, reveals the individual, or by a simple incident unriddles a mysterious event. We may discover the value of these pictures of human nature, with which secret history abounds, by an observation which occurred between two statesmen in office. Lord Raby, our ambassador, apologised to Lord Bolingbroke, then secretary of state, for troubling him with the minuter circumstances which occurred in his conferences; in reply, the minister requests the ambassador to continue the same manner of writing, and alleges an excellent reason: “Those minute circumstances give very great light to the general scope and design of the persons negotiated with. And I own that nothing pleases me more in that valuable collection of the Cardinal D’Ossat’s letters, than the naïve descriptions which he gives of the looks, gestures, and even tones of voice, of the persons he conferred with.” I regret to have to record the opinions of another noble author, who recently has thrown out some degrading notions of secret history, and particularly of the historians. I would have silently passed by a vulgar writer, superficial, prejudiced, and uninformed, but as so many are yet deficient in correct notions of secret history, it is but justice that their representative should be heard before they are condemned.

His lordship says, that “Of late the appetite for Remains of all kinds has surprisingly increased. A story repeated by the Duchess of Portsmouth’s waiting-woman to Lord Rochester’s valet forms the subject of investigation for a philosophical historian; and you may hear of an assembly of scholars and authors discussing the validity of a piece of scandal invented by a maid of honour more than two centuries ago, and repeated to an obscure writer by Queen Elizabeth’s housekeeper. It is a matter of the greatest interest to see the letters of every busy trifler. Yet who does not laugh at such men?” This is the attack! but as if some half truths, like light through the cranny in a dark room, had just darted in a stream of atoms over this scoffer at secret history, he suddenly views his object with a very different appearance — for his lordship justly concludes that “It must be confessed, however, that knowledge of this kind is very entertaining; and here and there among the rubbish we find hints that may give the philosopher a clue to important facts, and afford to the moralist a better analysis of the human mind than a whole library of metaphysics!” The philosopher may well abhor all intercourse with wits! because the faculty of judgment is usually quiescent with them; and in their orgasm they furiously decry what in their sober senses they as eagerly laud! Let me inform his lordship, that “the waiting-woman and the valet” of eminent persons are sometimes no unimportant personages in history. By the Mémoires de Mons. de la Porte, premier valet-de-chambre de Louis XIV., we learn what before “the valet” wrote had not been known — the shameful arts which Mazarin allowed to be practised, to give a bad education to the prince, and to manage him by depraving his tastes. Madame de Motteville, in her Memoirs, “the waiting lady” of our Henrietta, has preserved for our own English history some facts which have been found so essential to the narrative, that they are referred to by our historians. In Gui Joly, the humble dependant of Cardinal de Retz, we discover an unconscious but a useful commentator on the memoirs of his master; and the most affecting personal anecdotes of Charles the First have been preserved by Thomas Herbert, his gentleman in waiting; Cléry, the valet of Louis the Sixteenth, with pathetic faithfulness, has shown us the man in the monarch whom he served!

Of secret history there are obviously two species; it is positive, or it is relative. It is positive, when the facts are first given to the world; a sort of knowledge which can only be drawn from our own personal experience, or from contemporary documents preserved in their manuscript state in public or in private collections; or it is relative, in proportion to the knowledge of those to whom it is communicated, and will be more or less valued according to the acquisitions of the reader; and this inferior species of secret history is drawn from rare and obscure books and other published authorities, often as scarce as manuscripts.

Some experience I have had in those literary researches, where cusiosity, ever wakeful and vigilant, discovers among contemporary manuscripts new facts; illustrations of old ones; and sometimes detects, not merely by conjecture, the concealed causes of many events; often opens a scene in which some well-known personage is exhibited in a new character; and thus penetrates beyond those generalising representations which satisfy the superficial, and often cover the page of history with delusion and fiction.

It is only since the latter institution of national libraries that these immense collections of manuscripts have been formed; with us they are an undescribable variety, usually classed under the vague title of “state-papers.”1 The instructions of ambassadors, but more particularly their own dispatches; charters and chronicles brown with antiquity, which preserve a world which had been else lost for us, like the one before the deluge; series upon series of private correspondence, among which we discover the most confidential communications, designed by the writers to have been destroyed by the hand which received them; memoirs of individuals by themselves or by their friends, such as are now published by the pomp of vanity, or the faithlessness of their possessors; and the miscellaneous collections formed by all kinds of persons, characteristic of all countries and of all eras, materials for the history of man! — records of the force or of the feebleness of the human understanding, and still the monuments of their passions.

The original collectors of these dispersed manuscripts were a race of ingenious men, silent benefactors of mankind, to whom justice has not yet been fully awarded; but in their fervour of accumulation, everything in a manuscript state bore its spell; acquisition was the sole point aimed at by our early collectors, and to this these searching spirits sacrificed their fortunes, their ease, and their days; but life would have been too short to have decided on the intrinsic value of the manuscripts flowing in a stream to the collectors; and suppression, even of the disjointed reveries of madmen, or the sensible madness of projectors, might have been indulging a capricious taste, or what has proved more injurious to historical pursuits, that party-feeling which has frequently annihilated the memorials of their adversaries.2

These manuscript collections now assume a formidable appearance. A toilsome march over these “Alps rising over Alps!” a voyage in “a sea without a shore!” has turned away most historians from their severer duties; those who have grasped at early celebrity have been satisfied to have given a new form to, rather than contributed to the new matter of history. The very sight of these masses of history has terrified some modern historians. When Père Daniel undertook a history of France, the learned Boivin, the king’s librarian, opened for his inspection an immense treasure of charters, and another of royal autograph letters, and another of private correspondence; treasures reposing in fourteen hundred folios! The modern historian passed two hours impatiently looking over them, but frightened at another plunge into the gulf, this Curtius of history would not immolate himself for his country! He wrote a civil letter to the librarian for his “supernumerary kindness,” but insinuated that he could write a very readable history without any further aid of such paperasses or “paper-rubbish.” Père Daniel, therefore, “quietly sat down to his history,” copying others — a compliment which was never returned by any one: but there was this striking novelty in his “readable history,” that according to the accurate computation of Count Boulainvilliers, Père Daniel’s history of France contains ten thousand blunders! The same circumstance has been told me by a living historian of the late Gilbert Stuart; who, on some manuscript volumes of letters being pointed out to him when composing his history of Scotland, confessed that “what was already printed was more than he was able to read!” and thus much for his theoretical history, written to run counter to another theoretical history, being Stuart versus Robertson! They equally depend on the simplicity of their readers, and the charms of style! Another historian, Anquetil, the author of L’Esprit de la Ligue, has described his embarrassment at an inspection of the contemporary manuscripts of that period. After thirteen years of researches to glean whatever secret history printed books afforded, the author, residing in the country, resolved to visit the royal library at Paris. Monsieur Melot receiving him with that kindness which is one of the official duties of the public librarian towards the studious, opened the cabinets in which were deposited the treasures of French history. —“This is what you require! come here at all times, and you shall be attended!” said the librarian to the young historian, who stood by with a sort of shudder, while he opened cabinet after cabinet. The intrepid investigator repeated his visits, looking over the mass as chance directed, attacking one side, and then flying to another. The historian, who had felt no weariness during thirteen years among printed books, discovered that he was now engaged in a task apparently always beginning, and never ending! The “Esprit de la Ligue” was however enriched by labours which at the moment appeared so barren.

The study of these paperasses is not perhaps so disgusting as the impatient Père Daniel imagined; there is a literary fascination in looking over the same papers which the great characters of history once held and wrote on; catching from themselves their secret sentiments; and often detecting so many of their unrecorded actions! By habit the toil becomes light; and with a keen inquisitive spirit even delightful! For what is more delightful to the curious than to make fresh discoveries every day? Addison has a true and pleasing observation on such pursuits. “Our employments are converted into amusements, so that even in those objects which were indifferent, or even displeasing to us, the mind not only gradually loses its aversion, but conceives a certain fondness and affection for them.” Addison illustrates this case by one of the greatest geniuses of the age, who by habit took incredible pleasure in searching into rolls and records, till he preferred them to Virgil and Cicero! The faculty of curiosity is as fervid, and even as refined in its search after truth, as that of taste in the objects of imagination; and the more it is indulged, the more exquisitely it is enjoyed!

The popular historians of England and of France have, in truth, made little use of manuscript researches. Life is very short for long histories; and those who rage with an avidity of fame or profit will gladly taste the fruit which they cannot mature. Researches too remotely sought after, or too slowly acquired, or too fully detailed, would be so many obstructions in the smooth texture of a narrative. Our theoretical historians write from some particular and preconceived result; unlike Livy, and De Thou, and Machiavel, who describe events in their natural order, these cluster them together by the fanciful threads of some political or moral theory, by which facts are distorted, displaced, and sometimes altogether omitted! One single original document has sometimes shaken into dust their Palladian edifice of history. At the moment Hume was sending some sheets of his history to press, Murdin’s State Papers appeared. And we are highly amused and instructed by a letter of our historian to his rival, Robertson, who probably found himself often in the same forlorn situation. Our historian discovered in that collection what compelled him to retract his preconceived system — he hurries to stop the press, and paints his confusion and his anxiety with all the ingenuous simplicity of his nature. “We are all in the wrong!” he exclaims. Of Hume I have heard that certain manuscripts at the State Paper Office had been prepared for his inspection during a fortnight, but he never could muster courage to pay his promised visit. Satisfied with the common accounts, and the most obvious sources of history, when librarian at the Advocates’ Library, where yet may be examined the books he used, marked by his hand, he spread the volumes about the sofa, from which he rarely rose to pursue obscure inquiries, or delay by fresh difficulties the page which every day was growing under his charming pen. A striking proof of his careless happiness I discovered in his never referring to the perfect edition of “Whitelocke’s Memorials” of 1732, but to the old truncated and faithless one of 1682.

Dr. Birch was a writer with no genius for composition, but one to whom British history stands more indebted than to any superior author; his incredible love of labour, in transcribing with his own hand a large library of manuscripts from originals dispersed in public and in private repositories, has enriched the British Museum by thousands of the most authentic documents of genuine secret history. He once projected a collection of original historical letters, for which he had prepared a preface, where I find the following passage:—“It is a more important service to the public to contribute something not before known to the general fund of history, than to give new form and colour to what we are already possessed of, by superadding refinement and ornament, which too often tend to disguise the real state of the facts; a fault not to be atoned for by the pomp of style, or even the fine eloquence of the historian.” This was an oblique stroke aimed at Robertson, to whom Birch had generously opened the stores of history, for the Scotch historian had needed all his charity; but Robertson’s attractive inventions and highly-finished composition seduce the public taste; and we may forgive the latent spark of envy in the honest feelings of the man, who was profoundly skilled in delving in the native beds of ore, but not in fashioning it; and whose own neglected historical works, constructed on the true principles of secret history, we may often turn over to correct the erroneous, the prejudiced, and the artful accounts of those who have covered their faults by “the pomp of style, and the eloquence of the historian.”

The large manuscript collections of original documents, from whence may be drawn what I have called positive secret history, are, as I observed, comparatively of modern existence. Formerly they were widely dispersed in private hands; and the nature of such sources of historic discovery but rarely occurred to our writers. Even had they sought them, their access must have been partial and accidental. Lord Hardwicke has observed, that there are still many untouched manuscript collections within these kingdoms, which, through the ignorance or inattention of their owners, are condemned to dust and obscurity; but how valuable and essential they may be to the interests of authentic history and of sacred truth, cannot be more strikingly demonstrated than in the recent publications of the Marlborough and the Shrewsbury Papers by Archdeacon Coxe.3 The editor was fully authorised to observe, “It is singular that those transactions should either have been passed over in silence, or imperfectly represented by most of our national historians.” Our modern history would have been a mere political romance, without the astonishing picture of William and his ministers, exhibited in those unquestionable documents. Burnet was among the first of our modern historians who showed the world the preciousness of such materials, in his “History of the Reformation,” which he largely drew from the Cottonian collection. Our early historians only repeated a tale ten times told. Milton, who wanted not for literary diligence, had no fresh stores to open for his “History of England;” while Hume despatches, comparatively in a few pages, a subject which has afforded to the fervent diligence of my learned friend Sharon Turner volumes precious to the antiquary, the lawyer, and the philosopher.

To illustrate my idea of the usefulness and of the absolute necessity of secret history, I fix first on a public event, and secondly on a public character; both remarkable in our own modern history, and both serving to expose the fallacious appearances of popular history by authorities indisputably genuine. The event is the Restoration of Charles the Second; and the character is that of Mary, the queen of William the Third.

In history the Restoration of Charles appears in all its splendour — the king is joyfully received at Dover, and the shore is covered by his subjects on their knees — crowds of the great hurry to Canterbury — the army is drawn up, in number and with a splendour that had never been equalled — his enthusiastic reception is on his birthday, for that was the lucky day fixed on for his entrance into the metropolis — in a word, all that is told in history describes a monarch the most powerful and the most happy. One of the tracts of the day, entitled “England’s Triumph,” in the mean quaintness of the style of the times, tells us that “The soldiery, who had hitherto made clubs trump, resolve now to enthrone the king of hearts.” Turn to the faithful memorialist, who so well knew the secrets of the king’s heart, and who was himself an actor behind the curtain; turn to Clarendon, in his own Life, and we shall find that the power of the king was then as dubious as when he was an exile; and his feelings were so much racked, that he had nearly resolved on a last flight.

Clarendon, in noticing the temper and spirit of that time, observes, “Whoever reflects upon all this composition of contradictory wishes and expectations, must confess that the king was not yet the master of the kingdom, nor his authority and security such as the general noise and acclamation, the bells and the bonfires, proclaimed it to be.”—“The first mortification the king met with as soon as he arrived at Canterbury, within three hours after he landed at Dover.” Clarendon then relates how many the king found there, who, while they waited with joy to kiss his hand, also came with importunate solicitations for themselves; forced him to give them present audience, in which they reckoned up the insupportable losses undergone by themselves or their fathers; demanding some grant, or promise of such or such offices; some even for more! “pressing for two or three with such confidence and importunity, and with such tedious discourses, that the king was extremely nauseated with their suits, though his modesty knew not how to break from them; that he no sooner got into his chamber, which for some hours he was not able to do, than he lamented the condition to which he found he must be subject; and did, in truth, from that minute, contract such a prejudice against some of those persons.” But a greater mortification was to follow, and one which had nearly thrown the king into despair.

General Monk had from the beginning to this instant acted very mysteriously, never corresponding with nor answering a letter of the king’s, so that his majesty was frequently doubtful whether the general designed to act for himself or for the king: an ambiguous conduct which I attribute to the power his wife had over him, who was in the opposite interest. The general, in his rough way, presented him a large paper, with about seventy names for his privy council, of which not more than two were acceptable. “The king,” says Clarendon, “was in more than ordinary confusion, for he knew not well what to think of the general, in whose absolute power he was — so that at this moment his majesty was almost alarmed at the demand and appearance of things.” The general afterwards undid this unfavourable appearance, by acknowledging that the list was drawn up by his wife, who had made him promise to present it; but he permitted his majesty to act as he thought proper. At that moment General Monk was more king than Charles.

We have not yet concluded. When Charles met the army at Blackheath, 50,000 strong, “he knew well the ill constitution of the army, the distemper and murmuring that was in it, and how many diseases and convulsions their infant loyalty was subject to; that how united soever their inclinations and acclamations seemed to be at Blackheath, their affections were not the same — and the very countenances there of many officers, as well as soldiers, did sufficiently manifest that they were drawn thither to a service they were not delighted in. The old soldiers had little regard for their new officers; and it quickly appeared, by the select and affected mixtures of sullen and melancholic parties of officers and soldiers.”— And then the chancellor of human nature adds, “And in this melancholic and perplexed condition the king and all his hopes stood, when he appeared most gay and exalted, and wore a pleasantness in his face that became him, and looked like as full an assurance of his security as was possible to put on.” It is imagined that Louis the Eighteenth would be the ablest commentator on this piece of secret history, and add another twin to Pierre de Saint Julien’s “Gemelles ou Pareiles,” an old French treatise of histories which resemble one another: a volume so scarce, that I have never met with it.

Burnet informs us, that when Queen Mary held the administration of government during the absence of William, it was imagined by some, that as “every woman of sense loved to be meddling, they concluded that she had but a small portion of it, because she lived so abstracted from all affairs.” He praises her exemplary behaviour; “regular in her devotions, much in her closet, read a great deal, was often busy at work, and seemed to employ her time and thoughts in anything rather than matters of state. Her conversation was lively and obliging; everything in her was easy and natural. The king told the Earl of Shrewsbury, that though he could not hit on the right way of pleasing England, he was confident she would, and that we should all be very happy under her.” Such is the miniature of the queen which Burnet offers; we see nothing but her tranquillity, her simplicity, and her carelessness, amidst the important transactions passing under her eye; but I lift the curtain from a larger picture. The distracted state amidst which the queen lived, the vexations, the secret sorrows, the agonies and the despair of Mary in the absence of William, nowhere appear in history! and as we see, escaped the ken of the Scotch bishop! They were reserved for the curiosity and instruction of posterity; and were found by Dalrymple, in the letters of Mary to her husband, in King William’s cabinet. It will be well to place under the eye of the reader the suppressed cries of this afflicted queen at the time when “everything in her was so easy and natural, employing her time and thoughts in anything rather than matters of state — often busy at work!”

I shall not dwell on the pangs of the queen for the fate of William — or her deadly suspicions that many were unfaithful about her; a battle lost might have been fatal; a conspiracy might have undone what even a victory had obtained; the continual terrors she endured were such, that we might be at a loss to determine who suffered most, those who had been expelled from, or those who had ascended the throne.

So far was the queen from not “employing her thoughts” on “matters of state,” that every letter, usually written towards evening, chronicles the conflicts of the day; she records not only events, but even dialogues and personal characteristics; hints her suspicions, and multiplies her fears; her attention was incessant —“I never write but what I think others do not;” and her terrors were as ceaseless — “I pray God send you back quickly, for I see all breaking out into flames.” The queen’s difficulties were not eased by a single confidential intercourse. On one occasion she observes, “As I do not know what I ought to speak, and when not, I am as silent as can be.” “I ever fear not doing well, and trust to what nobody says but you. It seems to me that every one is afraid of themselves. — I am very uneasy in one thing, which is want of somebody to speak my mind freely to, for it’s a great constraint to think and be silent; and there is so much matter, that I am one of Solomon’s fools, who am ready to burst. I must tell you again how Lord Monmouth endeavours to frighten me, and indeed things have but a melancholy prospect.” She had indeed reasons to fear Lord Monmouth, who, it appears, divulged all the secrets of the royal councils to Major Wildman, who was one of our old republicans; and, to spread alarm in the privy council, conveyed in lemon-juice all their secrets to France, often on the very day they had passed in council! They discovered the fact, and every one suspected the other as the traitor! Lord Lincoln even once assured her, that “the Lord President and all in general, who are in trust, were rogues.” Her council was composed of factions, and the queen’s suspicions were rather general than particular: for she observes on them, “Till now I thought you had given me wrong characters of men; but now I see they answer my expectation of being as little of a mind as of a body.”— For a final extract, take this full picture of royal misery —“I must see company on my set days; I must play twice a week; nay, I must laugh and talk, though never so much against my will: I believe I dissemble very ill to those who know me; at least, it is a great constraint to myself, yet I must endure it. All my motions are so watched, and all I do so observed, that if I eat less, or speak less, or look more grave, all is lost in the opinion of the world; so that I have this misery added to that of your absence, that I must grin when my heart is ready to break, and talk when my heart is so oppressed that I can scarce breathe. I go to Kensington as often as I can for air; but then I never can be quite alone, neither can I complain — that would be some ease; but I have nobody whose humour and circumstances agree with mine enough to speak my mind freely to. Besides, I must hear of business, which being a thing I am so new in, and so unfit for, does but break my brains the more, and not ease my heart.”

Thus different from the representation of Burnet was the actual state of Queen Mary: and I suspect that our warm and vehement bishop had but little personal knowledge of her majesty, notwithstanding the elaborate character of the queen which he has given in her funeral eulogium. He must have known that she did not always sympathise with his party-feelings: for the queen writes, “The Bishop of Salisbury has made a long thundering sermon this morning, which he has been with me to desire to print; which I could not refuse, though I should not have ordered it, for reasons which I told him.” Burnet (whom I am very far from calling what an inveterate Tory, Edward Earl of Oxford, does in one of his manuscript notes, “that lying Scot”) unquestionably has told many truths in his garrulous page; but the cause in which he stood so deeply engaged, coupled to his warm sanguine temper, may have sometimes dimmed his sagacity, so as to have caused him to have mistaken, as in the present case, a mask for a face, particularly at a time when almost every individual appears to have worn one!

Both these cases of Charles the Second and Queen Mary show the absolute necessity of researches into secret history, to correct the appearances and the fallacies which so often deceive us in public history.

“The appetite for Remains,” as the noble author whom I have already alluded to calls it, may then be a very wholesome one, if it provide the only materials by which our popular histories can be corrected, and since it often infuses a freshness into a story which, after having been copied from book to book, inspires another to tell it for the tenth time! Thus are the sources of secret history unsuspected by the idler and the superficial, among those masses of untouched manuscripts — that subterraneous history! — which indeed may terrify the indolent, bewilder the inexperienced, and confound the injudicious, if they have not acquired the knowledge which not only decides on facts and opinions, but on the authorities which have furnished them. Popular historians have written to their readers; each with different views, but all alike form the open documents of history; like feed advocates, they declaim, or like special pleaders, they keep only on one side of their case: they are seldom zealous to push on their cross-examination; for they come to gain their cause, and not to hazard it!

Time will make the present age as obsolete as the last, for our sons will cast a new light over the ambiguous scenes which distract their fathers; they will know how some things happened for which we cannot account; they will bear witness to how many characters we have mistaken; they will be told many of those secrets which our contemporaries hide from us; they will pause at the ends of our beginnings; they will read the perfect story of man, which can never be told while it is proceeding. All this is the possession of posterity, because they will judge without our passions; and all this we ourselves have been enabled to possess by the secret history of the last two ages!4

1 The large mass of important documents in the National State-paper Office has recently been made available to the use of the historic student, with the best results, and cannot fail to have important influence on the future historic literature of the country.

2 See what I have said of “Suppressors and Dilapidators of Manuscripts,” vol. ii. p. 443.

3 The “Conway Papers” remain unpublished. From what I have already been favoured with the sight of, I may venture to predict that our history may receive from them some important accession. The reader may find a lively summary of the contents of these Papers in Horace Walpole’s account of his visit to Ragley, in his letter to George Montague, 20th August, 1758. The Right Hon. John Wilson Croker, with whom the Marquis of Hertford had placed the disposal of the Conway Papers, is also in possession of the Throckmorton Papers, of which the reader may likewise observe a particular notice in Sir Henry Wotton’s will, in Izaak Walton’s Lives. Unsunned treasures lie in the State-paper office.

4 Since this article has been sent to press I rise from reading one in the Edinburgh Review on Lord Orford’s and Lord Waldegrave’s Memoirs. This is one of the very rare articles which could only come from the hand of a master long exercised in the studies he criticises. The critic, or rather the historian, observes, that “of a period remarkable for the establishment of our present system of government, no authentic materials had yet appeared. Events of public notoriety are to be found, though often inaccurately told, in our common histories; but the secret springs of action, the private views and motives of individuals, &c., are as little known to us as if the events to which they relate had taken place in China or Japan.” The clear, connected, dispassionate, and circumstantial narrative, with which he has enriched the stores of English history, is drawn from the sources of secret history; from published memoirs and contemporary correspondence.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/disraeli/isaac/curiosities/chapter263.html

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