1796 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Roscoe

Richard Hurd, "William Roscoe" 1796 ca.; Commonplace Book in Kilvert, Memoir of the Life and Writings of Richard Hurd (1860) 291.



The Life of Lorenzo de' Medici is said to be by William Roscoe, an attorney at Liverpool. Be that as it may, he is ingenious and learned; at least he appears well versed in the literature of Italy in the 15th century, with the splendour of which (or of the accomplishments of his favourite, Lorenzo the Magnificent,) he is so much dazzled as to be almost blind to its faults, though of the first magnitude and malignancy, — faction, revenge, cruelty, and a total want, or contempt rather, of moral and religious principles.

He writes in an easier style (though not without affectation) and is more decent in his narrative than Gibbon; still he is of that school, and appears to have taken him for his model, so fine a thing it seems to our present compilers of history to have, and to profess to have, no religion. As to politics, he outruns his original, and is for liberty in its wildest range, or what the French call Jacobinical. But, what then? The abundant crop of orators, statesmen, and heroes, that spring up in a (mob) government, such as that of Florence and of Athens, the study of fine arts, and a paganised or atheistic philosophy, are to make amends for all other defects, to put us out of conceit with order, plain sense, and christianity.

ON SOME LATE HISTORIANS.
Teach me, Historic Muse, to mix
Impiety with politics,
So shall I write, "nil aliud posco,"
Like my lov'd Gibbon, Hume, and Roscoe.