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HISTORY OF ENGLAND

CHAPTER I.

THE BRITONS.

The curiosity entertained by all civilized nations, of inquir ing into the exploits and adventures of their ancestors, commonly excites a regret that the history of remote ages should always be so much involved in obscurity, uncertainty, and contradiction. Ingenious men, possessed of leisure, are apt to push their researches beyond the period in which literary inonuments are framed or preserved; without reflecting, that the history of past events is immediately lost or disfigured when intrusted to memory and oral tradition, and that the adventures of barbarous nations, even if they were recorded, could afford little or no entertainment to men born in a more cultivated age.

The convulsions of a civilized state usually compose the most instructive and most interesting part of its history; but the sudden, violent, and unprepared revolutions incident to barbarians, are so much guided by caprice, and terminate so often in cruelty, that they disgust us by the uniformity of their appearance; and it is rather fortunate for letters that they are buried in silence and oblivion. The only certain means by which nations can indulge their curiosity in researches concerning their remote origin, is to consider the language, manners, and customs of their ancestors, and to compare them with those of the neighboring nations. The fables, which are commonly employed to supply the place of true. history, ought entirely to be disregarded; or if any exception be admitted to this general rule, it can only be in favor of the ancient Grecian fictions, which are so celebra ted and so agreeable, that they will ever be the objects of the

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VOL. I.

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