Containing an Historical View of the Times in which he lived, and of the many eminent and illustrious Persons with whom he was connected; with Extracts from his Private and Official Correspondence and other Papers, now first published from the Originals. Nares has filled us with astonishment similar to that which Captain Lemuel Gulliver felt when first he landed in Brobdingnag, and saw corn as high as the oaks in the New Forest, thimbles as large as buckets, and wrens of the bulk of turkeys.
The whole book, and every component part of it, is on a gigantic scale.
He was by nature and habit one of those who follow, not one of those who lead.
Nothing that is recorded, either of his words or of his actions, indicates intellectual or moral elevation.
The title is as long as an ordinary preface: the prefatory matter would furnish out an ordinary book; and the book contains as much reading as an ordinary library.
We cannot sum up the merits of the stupendous mass of paper which lies before us better than by saying that it consists of about two thousand closely printed quarto pages, that it occupies fifteen hundred inches cubic measure, and that it weighs sixty pounds avoirdupois.
There was, it is said, a criminal in Italy, who was suffered to make his choice between Guicciardini and the galleys. His book is swelled to its vast dimensions by endless repetitions, by episodes which have nothing to do with the main action, by quotations from books which are in every circulating library, and by reflections which, when they happen to be just, are so obvious that they must necessarily occur to the mind of every reader.
He employs more words in expounding and defending a truism than any other writer would employ in supporting a paradox.
But as the philosopher tells us, that, though the planets be whirled about daily from east to west, by the motion of the yet have they also a contrary proper motion of their own from west to east, which they slowly, though surely, move at their leisure; so Cecil had secret counter-endeavours against the strain of the court herein, and privately advanced his rightful intentions against the foresaid duke’s ambition.” This was undoubtedly the most perilous conjuncture of Cecil’s life. If he acted on either side, if he refused to act at all, he ran a fearful risk. He sent his money and plate out of London, made over his estates to his son, and carried arms about his person.
His best arms, however, were his sagacity and his self-command.