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ART. VI. Sketches from Venetian History. 2 vols. London: Murray. 1832.

THIS work does not profess to be a full and regular History of Venice, but, as its name implies, to consist only of Sketches of the most prominent and picturesque features that mark her annals. The different transactions, however, are so skilfully connected, that the reader goes on without being sensible of any hiatus in the story; and in the mean time those parts of the history which are chosen for the narrative, are related with so much fulness and particularity, that we seem to be reading the work rather of some cotemporary chronicler, than of a professed systematic historian.

Now we do not wish to see all history written in this way: for it would not always be safe to trust either to the taste or the discretion of the historian for what was to be related and fully described, and what was to be slightly passed over or omitted. But the taste and discretion of the historian being supposed, this plan has many recommendations on the score of pleasure and amusement, at least, if not on that of more solid instruction. Some persons read history with one object in view and some with another. If the reader's object is to learn the causes of events, or to penetrate the abstract principles of human society, or to watch the effect of different laws on the wealth and happiness of communities, the dullest tracts of history, and those least marked by the influence of individual character or extraordinary achievement, will be found most to abound in instruction. But this is not commonly the object for which people in general take up history. The mass of readers and purchasers of books seek from them no other advantage than amusement for their leisure, or refreshment from the fatigue of business :-knowing at the same time that the pleasure derived from books, if they be tolerably chosen, is not a pleasure which ceases with the mere momentary enjoyment they afford, nor a pleasure wholly devoid of more important improvement. To the general reader, then, we think that the plan adopted by our author in these Venetian Sketches has many recommendations. So far as the advantage of the reader himself is concerned, there is no benefit he can receive from history, or indeed from books of any kind, so great as that he may derive by being made to sympathize with the feelings of the historian, (if he be such a person as an historian should be,) while describing those great transactions of past times, in which the passions of mankind, their good and bad qualities, are especially called forth; but, at all events, there can be no question, that a plan which professes only to relate such transactions at

full length, and to pass over rapidly those times and actions which are not distinguished by any peculiar features, is a plan which promises more delight and pleasure, in a short compass, than could be afforded upon the ordinary plan of writing history. However, be this method good or bad, it is the method which has been adopted in the work before us; and we run no risk in saying that, whatever advantages it possesses, the author has very successfully availed himself of them. His object plainly has been to do exactly what the name of his book implies, and which is so often accomplished by painters. It is not an abridgment of Venetian history (though his work has been brought within the compass of an abridgment) that we have before us; the author has transferred to history that which is the principle on which a good picture is composed, where all the inferior agents and circumstances are hinted at in the back ground, and only the principal action, and the two or three leading personages, put prominently forward and distinctly pourtrayed. It is an experiment perfectly new in the extent to which it is here tried; and the success of it, in our author's hands at least, has been so great, that we hope he will be induced to persevere in the attractive path which he has chalked out for himself with so much taste and skill.

Having made these general remarks upon the author, and his method of composition, we now come to the task which remains to us-of conveying to our reader some knowledge of the work itself.

Considering the important place which the Venetian state has occupied in the history of modern Europe, and the frequent allusions made to her city and people in poetry and romance, it is somewhat surprising that the work before us should be the only work in our language, which we are acquainted with, that pretends to be a history of this remarkable republic. The works of Paruka, Torcarini, Sanuti, and Contarini, have been "done into English;" but the translations are very old, and there are few readers of the present day who have probably met with them: both the translations themselves, and the names of the translators, have been forgotten, though one of them was a name of no less importance than that of an Earl of Monmouth. No nation of modern Europe, however, has been more rich in native historians, or affords a greater variety of original documents from which an authentic history may be formed. To say nothing of the abundant store of materials to be found in the collections of Muratorimost of them cotemporary documents, and many of them the productions of persons who were eye-witnesses, and often sharers in the events they relate the conquest of Venice by the French has put the public in possession of information upon many points

NO. XXIV.-OCT. 1832.


which were before very imperfectly known, by opening an access to sources of knowledge, rich in materials, but which had up to that time been scrupulously guarded from the public eye. It is from these sources that Daru, in his valuable history, has drawn so largely, to whose work and Sismondi's the author of these Sketches professes to be largely indebted. But though indebted to these writers for many facts not to be found in Venetian authors, yet still it is from these last that the thread of the narrative is drawn. The documents that have been brought to light from the archives of the ancient Venetian government, relate more to the motives of its rulers, and to the maxims and principles by which they were guided, than to the events themselves with which history is concerned. And it is the peculiar and characteristic merit of these "Sketches," that the writer always endeavours to place his reader in a situation to see and hear what was thought and felt by those who lived at the time, and who witnessed the facts which he describes. Many of the transactions are given in the very words of cotemporary writers; and the reflections, commonly those of the persons who were present at the busy scenes which the historian endeavours to sketch. The effect of this is, that a conviction of truth is created in the mind of the reader beyond that which is produced by almost any history we are acquainted with; and at the same time a dramatic effect is given to the narrative as vivid and delightful as any that could be derived from the most skilful fiction. It is difficult to verify or exemplify the character which we are giving of the style of narration adopted in these volumes, by a selection of extracts. The very merit of the style, and the effect we are speaking of, is produced by the minuteness and completeness of the descriptionby putting the scenes and actors before the reader :-all that was done and said, or believed to have been done and said at the time, so far as there is the authority of cotemporary documents for supposing. Now although this is an admirable method for giving the reader a real and lively conception of the manners and opinions of the time, yet it supposes any quality rather than brevity; but if the reader wishes to understand and appreciate the characteristic merit of these admirable historical sketches, let him turn to the account which is given of the siege of Constantinople by the Crusaders, at the third chapter of the first volume.

We take this passage in preference to many others, because there is in Gibbon a description of the same event, which has been considered, and very justly, to possess extraordinary merit. If the reader will first read that description, and then turn to the same transaction related by our author, he will then better appreciate the skill and peculiar merit of the last.

After describing the election of Dandolo, a blind old man of eighty, to be Doge, the author proceeds to relate the embassy which was sent by the Crusaders of France, with Geoffrey de Villehardouin, the Marshal of Champagne, at their head, to obtain the assistance of Venice towards this sacred attempt for the recovery of the Holy Land:

"The letters of credence with which the envoys had been intrusted required the doge and senate of Venice to place as entire confidence in these representatives, as in the barons themselves by whom they were deputed. Dandolo accordingly received them with distinguished honour, and acknowledging that, with the exception of crowned kings, the princes who had sent them were the most powerful in Christendom, he demanded their object. They answered by requesting an assembly of the council before which it might be declared; and, in an audience granted four days afterwards, they thus expressed themselves: Sir, we are come to thee from the most potent barons of France, who have put on the sign of the cross to avenge the wrongs of Jesus Christ, and to recover Jerusalem, if such be the will of God; and, because they know that no nation has the power of you and your people, they implore you, in God's name, to look with pity upon the Holy Land, and, by supplying them with ships and means for their passage thither, to join with them in avenging the shame of our Redeemer.' 'On what conditions,' demanded the doge?' 'On any conditions,' replied the envoys, which you may think proper to impose, provided they are within our power.' 'Certes,' said the doge,' the request is no slight one, and the enter prize itself is of vast magnitude; we will return you an answer in eight days; and wonder not that we ask so long a time, for a thing of this importance needs much deliberation.'

"At the expiration of the time appointed, the doge announced the conditions on which he would assent to the proposal: prefacing this declaration with a statement which proves that it was not yet considered safe to neglect the body of the people, in the decision of important questions of state. Provided he could obtain the concurrence of the great council and of the commons of the city, he agreed to furnish palanders for the transport of four thousand five hundred horses, and nine thousand esquires; ships for four thousand five hundred knights and twenty thousand serjeants on foot. Nine months' provisions were to be supplied to this armament, at the rate of four marks for every horse, two for every man. The engagements were to continue in force for one whole year, from the day of de, parture from the port of Venice, into whatever realms the service of God and Christendom might lead them; and the sum demanded for this assistance was eighty-five thousand marks. As an allure, ment to the completion of the bargain, Dandolo promised to equip, in addition, fifty galleys for the love of God, and free of expense, but with this important reservation, that so long as the alliance continued,

all conquests made by sea or land should be divided equally between the contracting parties.

"The ambassadors demanded a single night for the consideration of this truly mercantile offer; and on the morrow they assented to it. The proposition was then submitted to the different bodies whose consent was deemed necessary. In the end, the general assembly was convoked; and, in the presence of more than ten thousand citizens, the Mass of the Holy Ghost was celebrated in the cathedral of St. Mark, where God was implored to inspire them to do his pleasure in respect of the demands of the ambassadors. When the Mass was over, the doge sent to the ambassadors, desiring that they would humbly move the people to the conclusion of the treaty. The ambassadors accordingly repaired to the church, and were eagerly regarded by those who had not yet beheld them; while Villehardouin spoke by consent for the rest, and said- Signiors, the most high and powerful barons of France have sent us to Venice to implore you to look with pity on the Holy City which is in bondage to the Infidels, and for God's sake to join with them in av avenging the wrongs of Jesus Christ. They turn to you because they know none others so powerful on the seas, and they have enjoined us to kneel at your feet until you have granted their prayers, and have compassion upon the land over the sea.' The six ambassadors then fell upon their knees, with many tears, and the doge and the people waved their hands and cried aloud with one voice, We consent, we consent.' The acclamations and tumult were so great that it seemed the earth shook; and when that great heart-moving cry, which exceeded all human experience, had subsided, the doge mounted the pulpit and spoke to the people as follows: Behold, signiors, the honour which the Lord has shown you, in disposing the bravest warriors upon earth to seek your alliance, in preference to that of all other nations, in so high an enterprize as the rescue of the tomb of our Lord.”—vol. i. pp. 86-89.


We shall pass over the intermediate events, the capture of Zara, the dispute and affray among the Crusaders, the schism created among the leaders by the opposition of the Pope to the enterprize against Zara, as well as to that against Constantinople, and pass on to the embarkation at Corfu, when the whole fleet set sail from the Adriatic to the Dardanelles :


"This compact having been ratified and sworn to, they re-embarked, and quitted Corfu on the eve of Pentecost. The martial spirit of Villehardouin is kindled afresh upon the renewal of activity. The day,' he says, was bright and cheerful, and the winds were soft and favourable, as they spread their sails before them. And I, Geoffrey, the Marshal of Champagne, who have dictated this recital, having been present at the matters therein related, and conscious that it contains nothing but truth, bear witness that so glorious a sight had never been beheld before. Far as our view could extend, the sea was covered with the sails of ship and galley; our hearts were lifted

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