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Some PASSAGES in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters
OF THE History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
I ERHAPS it may be necessary to inform the Public, that not long since an Examination of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published by Mr. Davis. He styles himself a Bachelor of Arts, and a Member of Baliol College in the university of Oxford. His title-page is a declaration of war; and in the prosecution of his religious crusade, he assumes a privilege of disregarding the ordinary laws which are respected in the most hostile transactions between civilized men or civilized nations. Some of the harshest epithets in the English language are repeatedly applied to the historian, a part of whose work Mr. Davis has chosen for the object of his criticism. To this author Mr. Davis imputes the crime of betraying the confidence and seducing the faith of those read. ers, who may heedlessly stray in the flowery paths of his diction, without perceiving the poisonous snake that lurks concealed in the grass - Latet anguis in herbâ. The Examiner has assumed the province of reminding them of" the unfair proceedings of such
“ an inlidious friend, who offers the deadly draughe “ in a golden cup, that they may be less sensible of " the danger'. In order to which Mr. Davis has “ selected several of the more notorious instances of “ his misrepresentations and errors; reducing them “ to their respective heads, and subjoining a long list “ of almost incredible inaccuracies: and such strik“ ing proofs of servile plagiarism, as the world will " be surprised to meet with in an author who puts " in so bold a claim to originality and extensive “ reading ?” Mr. Davis prosecutes this attack through an octavo volume of not less than two hun. dred and eighty-four pages with the same implacable fpirit; perpetually charges his adversary with per. verting the ancients, and transcribing the moderns; and, inconsistently enough, imputes to him the opposite crimes of art and carelessness, of gross ignorance and of wilful fallhood. The Examiner closes his works with a fevere reproof of those feeble critics who have allowed any share of knowledge to an odious antagonist. He presumes to pity and to condemn the first historian of the present age, for the generous approbation which he had bestowcd on a writer, who is content that Mr. Davis should be his enemy, whilst he has a right to name Dr. Robertson for his friend.
When I delivered to the world the First Volume of an important History, in which I had been obliged to connect the progress of Christianity with the civil state and revolutions of the Roman Empire, I could not be ignorant that the result of my inquiries might offend the interest of some and the opinions of others. If the whole work was favorably received by the Public, I had the more reason to expect that this obnoxious part would provoke the zeal of those who consider themselves as the Watchmen of the Holy City. These expectations were not disappointed; and a fruitful crop of Answers, Apologies, Remarks, Examinations, &c. fprung up with all convenient speed. As soon as I saw the advertisement, I generally sent for them ; for I have never affected, indeed I have never understood, the stoical apathy, the proud contempt of criticism, which some authors have publicly professed. Fame is the motive, it is the reward, of our labors ; nor can I easily comprehend how it is posible that we should remain cold and in different with regard to the attempts which are made to deprive us of the most valuable object of our poffef. fions, or at least of our hopes. Besides this strong and natural impulse of curiosity, I was prompted by the more laudable desire of applying to my own, , and the public benefit, the well.grounded censures of a learned adversary; and of correcting those faults which the indulgence of vanity and friendship had suffered to escape without observation. I read with attention several criticisms which were published against the two last chapters of my History, and unless I much deceived myself, I weighed them in my own mind without prejudice and without resent. ment. After I was clearly satisfied that their prin. cipal objections were founded on misrepresentation or mistake, I declined with sincere and disinterested reluctance the odious task of controversy, and almost formed a tacit resolution of committing ny intentions,