Page images

ing trials in Scotland, especially during the reigns of Charles 11. and James II., which had escaped the attention of all forner editors, and yet were calculated to throw great light upon one of the most interesting periods of both Scottish and English history, the struggles for civil and religious liberty which preceded the glorious Revolution of 1688. Since the date of the former edition, too, a memorable period of political history had elapsed; and the State Trials, to which it had given rise, were among the most interesting in themselves, and the most important in their consequences, of any in the juridical annals of the country. Lastly, as, in former cases, the extreme interest of any proceeding, and the importance of the legal questions to which it gave rise, had been held a sufficient reason for classing it among the State Trials, although it bore no reference to public affairs: so, there were many causes which had occurred in later times deserving of a similar station, from their tendency to excite men's feelings, or to display the talents of advocates, or to raise nice legal discussions, or indirectly and remotely to affect political interests. It seemed as if all these circumstances required a new and more full and elaborate edition of this great work at the present time; and happily the qualifications requi site in an editor were found united to an extraordinary degree in the gentleman whose work is now before us.

Mr Howell was a man of independent fortune, who had been bred to the profession of the law; but from taste, as well as from circumstances, had addicted himself more to the study than the practice of jurisprudence. He possessed extraordinary diligence and powers of research; and took great delight in everything relating to the study of legal antiquity. Though by no means a man of regular habits, yet such was his fondness for these inquiries, that it may be doubted whether any common drudge could in the same time have mastered as great a mass of materials as he did, by constantly keeping the subject in his mind more or less, and, at intervals, laboring with uncommon assiduity and zeal. Even when working the least upon it, he never lost sight of his great purpose; and was constantly adding, either to the book itself as it proceeded, or to his materials for enlarging and enriching it. His opinions on political subjects gave the inquiries in which the progress of the book engaged him, a double relish, and communicated an additional importance to his researches; for he was the warm and steady advocate of constitutional liberty, which he prized highly in proportion as he had deeply studied its foundations and the progress of its structure. This felicity and this praise he shares with all the former editors except Salmon, whose concern in the origi

nal work was little more than mechanical, although he laid claim to a somewhat higher title by his subsequent commendable abridgement. His principles were of the worst and narrowest description; and all his remarks are deeply tinged with them. He was a prejudiced Tory of the school hostile to the Revolution; and had none of the liberal views with which many advocates of the old system have, since its overthrow, tempered the violence and bigotry of their original opinions. No men can be imagined more opposite to him, and better calculated, from the accidental circumstances of their political creed, as well as from their intrinsic qualities, to do the work justice, than the three who have since undertaken it, and the last of whom seems to have carried it as near perfection as posssible-Emlyn, Hargrave, and Howell.

The name of Mr Cobbett was originally affixed to this work; but, in the Advertisement which he published, he appears to admit that his name only was used; nor is there any reason for suspecting that he ever contributed more than the advertisement itself. Mr Howell very soon came to be known as the real editor, and for many years no other person has been named in the title-pages. The work was brought down by him to 1781 before his death, when it consisted of twenty-one volumes; to which eight or ten more are now to be added under the superintendence of his son, who, beside other assistance, enjoys, of course, the benefit of all his father's collections.

Of the manner in which Mr Howell has executed his task, and the value of his work, it would be difficult to speak in terms of too high praise. The reduction of size alone from folio to octavo, must be admitted to form an important improvement, whether we consider cheapness or convenience. But Mr Howell was successful as well as indefatigable in his researches for new matter. To the improved and enlarged edition of Mr Hargrave, he was enabled to add above two hundred articles, consisting of trials and proceedings never before brought to gether in any such collection. The defect which Mr Hargrave acknowledged he had left in his edition, by omitting above seventy Parliamentary proceedings, connected with the criminal judicature of that high tribunal, has been abundantly supplied by Mr Howell, who appears to have ransacked all the records, as well as all contemporary publications, for whatever could throw light upon this important and interesting subject. The learned editor's temporary residence in Scotland also enabled him to enrich his collection with a considerable number of Scotch trials, during the period between the Restoration and Revolution. By these and the other additions, this work has been augmented

very materially. It may give the reader some idea of Mr Howell's diligence and success, if we state that the first volume, which comes down to the end of Elizabeth's reign from Beckett's trial in Henry II.'s time, and contains comparatively fewer notes, comprises no less than forty-seven new articles in seventy-three, that is, about 700 out of 1452 pages.

But, perhaps, the principal value of Mr Howell's labours is in the notes. These contain all the legal learning and historical illustration which the student can desire; and they furnish him both with references to the authorities or sources of information which he may wish to consult, and with such parts of other works, chiefly contemporary, as throw any light upon the matter in hand. Thus it becomes not only easy and agreeable to study the trials themselves; but any one is enabled to study the different points of discussion which are presented to him, if he is disposed further to pursue the subjects.

We shall convey a better idea of the notes, if we select an example. In Vol. II. p. 1049, we find the case of Mary Smith, executed for Witchcraft in the 13 Jac. I. It is now, for the first time, printed in any collection; and is taken from an old tract printed in 1616, by a divine of that day, who appears to have most entirely believed in the offence. The proceedings are not given, but only the substance of the charges and of her own confession. The notes contain, first, an account of the rare pamphlet from which the case is taken; next the passage relating to witchcraft, in Blackstone, wherein he deduces the history of the offence to the tardy abolition in 1736, and gives a strangely doubting opinion upon the subject; then follows a passage from Selden, expressing no belief in the thing, but unaccountably vindicating a law which should make the pretending to it capital. A reference is afterwards made to the Obi, or Negro witchcraft, and the place in Edwards where it is described; and the remarks of Daines Barrington on the 20 Henry are abridged. A variety of opinions, anecdotes and references, are then given, from great writers of all ages, tending to elucidate the history of this subject; so that, beside having sufficient lights to study the case to which all these notes belong, the attentive reader may amuse or instruct himself by pursuing it further to almost all the sources from whence the learning of it is to be derived. The conciseness of this, as well as of all the other notes, which consist not of extracts, but are Mr Howell's own composition, merits the highest commendation. Each sentence contains matter, and is full of learned references. The author never deviates into dissertation; but, remembering that he is a commentator, hastens to lend the reader his aid, and to give it in the speediest and most effectual manner.

This publication manifestly deserves the amplest patronage which the public can bestow. Although conducted and completed by individuals, it may truly be called a national work. Both lawyers and statesmen have a peculiar interest in it; but the public at large are intimately concerned in having so perfect a record of all the proceedings which throw light upon the origin and progress of government and of judicial administration. Nor is there any work to which those who merely read to amuse themselves, may be more safely referred for rational and agreeable relaxation. We have long owed this testimony to the singular merits of Mr Howell, and are happy in thus having an opportunity of expressing the gratitude which we feel in common, we should hope, with the rest of the community. It is still, we trust, in time to prevail on his son not to abandon, upon any account, the useful task which he has undertaken, of continuing the work to the present times.

ART. XII. The Bible, not the Bible Society; being an Attempt; to point out that Mode of Disseminating the Scriptures, which, would most effectually conduce to the Security of the Establish ed Church. By the Rev. WILLIAM PHELAW, Fellow of Trinity College. pp. 185. Dublin. 1817.

[ocr errors]


HIS pamphlet has not been selected for the purpose of discussing the subject of which it immediately treats; but because it affords us an opportunity of saying a few words on the actual condition of the Catholics, and of the Catholic religion in Ireland. The reverend author gives us some new and important views on this subject; and furnishes, indeed, so much. detailed information concerning the present state of the Irish Catholics, as to entitle his work to attention from a different class of readers than that for which it was apparently intended.

Mr Phelaw is a clergyman, inveterately hostile to the circulation of Bibles without Church Catechisms,-a Fellow of the very Protestant University of Dublin,-and zealous, above all things, for the Protestant establishment in that country. He has also had the best opportunities of studying, on the spot, the character of the Irish Catholics, in all their relations whether religious or political; and should therefore be an authority above all suspicion with those whose general principles coincide with his. Now, it is to persons of this description that we would particularly recommend the perusal of his book; and especially to those among them who are hostile to the emancipation of the Catholics, from a supposition that Popery flourishes among

them in all its ancient power and splendour; who think that all who outwardly profess it are irrevocably attached to it; or who have brought themselves to believe, that they are the only Dissenters from whom the Established religion is in danger. The statements of Mr Phelaw, we think, should go far to disabuse them of these prejudices-his opinion being, in a word, that Popery is verging fast to decay in that kingdom; and that the only real hazard is, that they will be converted by Protestant sectaries, and not by the orthodox champions of the Church.

I have been the more anxious,' says he, to familiarize my readers to the novel contemplation of the "conversion of the Romanists," because I am deeply impressed with the conviction, that on the depends the fate of the Church in this country. The signs of the times prognosticate a great religious revolution amongst the Roman Catholics of Ireland; and the Establishment will stand or fall, according as they unite themselves with Churchmen or Dissenters. If they should become Calvinists, or Socinians, Baptists, Methodists or Independents, what will they have gained in real Christian edification, or the United Church in strength or security? On the contrary, is it not evident, as to this latter point, that the present peril of the Establishment will be fearfully increased, if, sanguine by nature as they are, and heated by fanaticism as they then would be, the great mass of our lower classes should ever be drawn into the ranks of the Sectaries?'

Here, then, is the evidence of a zealous advocate of the HighChurch party, announcing, with all the authority that belongs to his learning, station, and local knowledge, this most important fact, that the Catholic religion in Ireland, so far from being in a condition to be dreaded for its power, is actually tottering before the influence of Sectarian zeal, and the general improvement of the human mind. This general statement he afterwards proceeds to support, by mentioning, in detail, the several societies which are constantly at work in promoting the revolution which he has foretold, and by explaining how much the indolence of the Established Clergy, and the political hostility of the Government, contribute to lead the Catholics who are disposed to change their religion, to prefer the Sectaries.

It appears, that the English Baptists have a Society for promoting the Gospel in Ireland ;-that they have itinerant preach

readers and expounders of the Irish scriptures; evening schools; sabbath schools and day schools;-and that they are preparing others on the circulating plan, so successful in Scotland, for teaching Irish. Their Reports are crowded with accounts of Catholics declaring, that they will read the Scriptures in spite of Pope, Bishop, or Priest;' and many are mentioned as having altogether renounced Popery, and de-


« PreviousContinue »