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OLIVER CROMWELL'S

LETTERS AND SPEECHES.

VOL. I.

2

INTRODUCTION.

CHAPTER I.

ANTI-DRY ASDUST.

What and how great are the interests which connect themselves with the hope that England may yet attain to some practical belief and understanding of its History during the Seventeenth Century, need not be insisted on at present; such hope being still very distant, very uncertain. We have wandered far away from the ideas which guided us in that Century, and indeed which had guided us in all preceding Centuries, but of which that Century was the ultimate manifestation : we have wandered very far; and must endeavor to return, and connect ourselves therewith again! It is with other feelings than those of poor peddling Dilettantism, other aims than the writing of successful or unsuccessful Publications, that an earnest man occupies himself in those dreary provinces of the dead and buried. The last glimpse of the Godlike vanishing from this England; conviction and veracity giving place to hollow cant and formulism,—antique

Reign of God, which all true men in their several dialects and modes have always striven for, giving place to modern Reign of the No-God, whom men name Devil: this, in its multitudinous meanings and results, is a sight to create reflections in the earnest man! One wishes there were a History of English Puritanism, the last of all our Heroisms; but sees small prospect of such a thing at present.

• Few nobler Heroisms,' says a well-known Writer long occupied on this subject, ' at bottom perhaps no nobler Heroism ever transacted itself on this Earth ; and it lies as good as lost to us;

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overwhelmed under such an avalanche of Human Stupidities as no Heroism before ever did. Intrinsically and extrinsically it may be considered inaccessible to these generations. Intrinsically, the spiritual purport of it has become inconceivable, incredible to the modern mind. Extrinsically, the documents and records of it, scattered waste as a shoreless chaos, are not legible. They lie there, printed, written, to the extent of tons and square miles, as shot-rubbish ; unedited, unsorted, not so much as indexed ; full of every conceivable confusion ;-yielding light to very few; yielding darkness, in several sorts, to very many. Dull Pedantry, conceited idle Dilettantism,-prurient Stupidity in what shape soever,-is darkness and not light! There are from Thirty to Fifty Thousand unread Pamphlets of the Civil War in the British Museum alone : huge piles of mouldering wreck, wherein, at the rate of perhaps one pennyweight per ton, lie things memorable. They lie preserved there, waiting happier days; under present conditions they cannot, except for idle purposes, for dilettante excerpts and such like, be got examined. The Rushworths, Whitlockes, Nalsons, Thurloes; enormous folios, these and many others, they have been printed, and some of them again printed, but never yet edited-edited as you edit wagonloads of broken bricks and dry mortar, simply by tumbling up the wagon! Not one of these monstrous old volumes has so much as an available Index. It is the general rule of editing on this matter. If your

editor correct the press, it is an honorable distinction to him. Those dreary old records were compiled at first by Human Insight, in part; and in great part, by Human Stupidity withal ;-but then it was by Stupidity in a laudable diligent state, and doing its best; which was something :-and, alas, they have been successively elaborated by Human Stupidity in the idle state, falling idler and idler, and only pretending to be diligent; whereby now, for us, in these late days, they have grown very dim indeed! To Dryasdust Printing Societies, and such like, they afford a sorrowful kind of pabulum; but for all serious purposes, they are as if non-extant ; might as well, if matters are to rest as they are, not have been written or printed at all.

The sound of them is not a voice, conveying knowledge or memorial of any earthly or hea. venly thing; it is a wide-spread inarticulate slumberous mumble

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