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a time when liberty and the wish for a constitutional form of government began to dawn in France and Germany; and a French translation of “ Alfred,” which appeared almost simultaneously with the original, may, like many a writing of that time, have contributed to hasten the catastrophe which, in spite of its awfulness, has proved fortunate in its consequences to the world.
The learned Haller became, in the last years of his life, almost disgusted at all the branches of science,* for which he had done so much during
* Albert von Haller was a great physician, natural historian, and author, in several branches; and one of the most learned men of his time. His works are very numerous, and his biography, written by Zimmerman, and brought to the year 1755, fornis a considerable volume. If Haller was a celebrated lyrical poet, he was also a great statesman, and as such very useful to his country.
His character was the purest, and he was as excellent a citizen as a father. Although a free thinker he was very religious, and an opponent of Voltaire, with whom he was in constant strife. The renowned Cassanova, having once wished to visit the sage of Ferney, Haller observed to him, that Voltaire“ presented an effect in direct opposition to the laws of physics, being greater when seen from a distance than when seen closely." Upon the “Heloïse” of Rousseau, he said “that it was the
his laborious career, and embraced politics; a proof that the human heart and head do not always feel inclined to give up, even in the most advanced age, all the illusions of life; but still endeavour to contribute, by intellectual power, towards the general weal. The translator-who has not the least ambition of comparing himself to Haller -although not living in Switzerland, nor having, like Haller, preserved the serene views of life, but finding himself bending under hypochondria, and beneath a cloudy sky, he has had the same tendency in translating this work that Haller had in writing it.
worst of all romances, because it was the most eloquent.” He despised Rousseau's eloquence, as anti-thesical and paradoxical, and to his opinion, that fictions were admitted into romances, opposed Petrarch, whose love for Laura was real. He had the courage to say, in a letter to Frederick II., who would entirely suppress the Latin language, “that in the event of a monarch succeeding in banishing the language of a Cicero and of a Horace from the republic of sages, he would set an eternal monument to the memory of his ignorance," upon which the great monarch renounced his project. Haller's biography and works will be found in almost every Encyclopædia, but the above observations are not so generally known.
Haller's purpose was to picture, in one work, absolute monarchy, which he did in his historical romance, entitled “ Usong;" then, moderate monarchy in “ Alfred;” and, finally, moderate republic in a third work, entitled, “Fabius and Cato;" but he scorned to occupy himself with democracy, having witnessed the mischief which it caused, almost under his own eyes, in some Swiss cantons.
In each of these works he has endeavoured to develop the principles of the three several forms of government in their highest degree of perfection; and in choosing the British constitution as a model of moderate monarchy, the only one which he could, in fact, choose for that purpose, he found that Alfred was the only monarch who combined such virtue, wisdom, and heroism, as rendered him worthy of being acknowledged the founder of that constitution, although historians may not attribute that noble work to him.
On the occasion of the author's writing his work, “ The Ship, its Origin and Progress,” he had to make some researches concerning Alfred's ships and history, and found in his library Haller's “ Alfred." His youthful reminiscences of that work were immediately revived; and on once more reading it through, he found therein what he did not seek, namely, the fourth book, (in this work the fifth book,*) containing the principles of the British constitution in so simple and popular a form, that this part, which in his youth he had not the patience to read, and much less to study, made in his advanced age more impression upon him than Alfred's deeds had done in his youth.
He then resolved upon attempting this transJation, for which he thought the present epoch the most appropriate, and on searching for the modern histories of Alfred, found his deeds more or less
* The Sixth Book of Haller's “Alfred" contained Alfred's love, which, although we do not consider it as worthy of its author, we have given in the Second Book. The Introduction and the Conclusion are not by Haller, but extracted from the works of John von Müller, another Swiss historical author, almost as celebrated as himself.
described by British historians, but nothing so complete and so brief as Haller's work.
In his researches into Alfred's life, he at first studied the sources whence Haller had derived his knowledge, namely: Asser, John Spelman, Hume, and Littleton; and also used Lappenberg, King, Turner, &c.; but while the present translation was penning, two works appeared almost simultaneously, namely, “Six Old English Chronicles," and “Life and Times of Alfred the Great," which vastly contributed to facilitate his historical researches; and he cannot do less than to publicly thank the learned Dr. Giles, who worked out both the above works, which he owns to have made great use of in the historical notes, and which proved to him that most of what Haller related of Alfred was authentic. Notwithstanding the great credit which the translator gives these works, he trusts that this little book will not be considered as superfluous, as, in spite of the Germanisms, which could not altogether be avoided, it presents a brief, pleasant, and romantic history of the life