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Of A History Of Events Which Have Not Happened
by [?]

The elegant pen of Mr. Roscoe has lately afforded me another curious sketch of a history of events which have not happened.

M. de Sismondi imagines, against the opinion of every historian, that the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici was a matter of indifference to the prosperity of Italy; as “he could not have prevented the different projects which had been matured in the French cabinet for the invasion and conquest of Italy; and therefore he concludes that all historians are mistaken who bestow on Lorenzo the honour of having preserved the peace of Italy, because the great invasion that overthrew it did not take place till two years after his death.” Mr. Roscoe has philosophically vindicated the honour which his hero has justly received, by employing the principle which in this article has been developed. “Though Lorenzo de’ Medici could not perhaps have prevented the important events that took place in other nations of Europe, it by no means follows that the life or death of Lorenzo was equally indifferent to the affairs of Italy, or that circumstances would have been the same in case he had lived, as in the event of his death.” Mr. Roscoe then proceeds to show how Lorenzo’s “prudent measures and proper representations might probably have prevented the French expedition, which Charles the Eighth was frequently on the point of abandoning. Lorenzo would not certainly have taken the precipitate measures of his son Piero, in surrendering the Florentine fortresses. His family would not in consequence have been expelled the city; a powerful mind might have influenced the discordant politics of the Italian princes in one common defence; a slight opposition to the fugitive army of France, at the pass of Faro, might have given the French sovereigns a wholesome lesson, and prevented those bloody contests that were soon afterwards renewed in Italy. As a single remove at chess varies the whole game, so the death of an individual of such importance in the affairs of Europe as Lorenzo de’ Medici could not fail of producing such a change in its political relations as must have varied them in an incalculable degree.” Pignotti also describes the state of Italy at this time. Had Lorenzo lived to have seen his son elevated to the papacy, this historian, adopting our present principle, exclaims, “A happy era for Italy and Tuscany HAD THEN OCCURRED! On this head we can, indeed, be only allowed to conjecture; but the fancy, guided by reason, may expatiate at will in this imaginary state, and contemplate Italy re-united by a stronger bond, flourishing under its own institutions and arts, and delivered from all those lamented struggles which occurred within so short a period of time.”

Whitaker, in his “Vindication of Mary Queen of Scots,” has a speculation in the true spirit of this article. When such dependence was made upon Elizabeth’s dying without issue, the Countess of Shrewsbury had her son purposely residing in London, with two good and able horses continually ready to give the earliest intelligence of the sick Elizabeth’s death to the imprisoned Mary. On this the historian observes, “And had this not improbable event actually taken place, what a different complexion would our history have assumed from what it wears at present! Mary would have been carried from a prison to a throne. Her wise conduct in prison would have been applauded by all. From Tutbury, from Sheffield, and from Chatsworth, she would have been said to have touched with a gentle and masterly hand the springs that actuated all the nation, against the death of her tyrannical cousin,” etc. So ductile is history in the hands of man! and so peculiarly does it bend to the force of success, and warp with the warmth of prosperity!

Thus important events have been nearly occurring, which, however, did not take place; and others have happened which may be traced to accident, and to the character of an individual. We shall enlarge our conception of the nature of human events, and gather some useful instruction in our historical reading by pausing at intervals; contemplating, for a moment, on certain events which have not happened!

[Footnote 1: Michelet, in his “Life of Luther,” says the Spanish soldiers mocked and loaded him with insults, on the evening of his last examination before the Diet at Worms, on his leaving the town-hall to return to his hostelry: he ceased to employ arguments after this, and when next day the archbishop of Treves wished to renew them, he replied in the language of Scripture, “If this work be of men, it will come to nought, but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.” ]

[Footnote 2: The miracles of Clovis consisted of a shield, which was picked up after having fallen from the skies; the anointing oil, conveyed from heaven by a white dove in a phial, which, till the reign of Louis XVI. consecrated the kings of France; and the oriflamme, or standard with golden flames, long suspended over the tomb of St. Denis, which the French kings only raised over the tomb when their crown was in imminent peril. No future king of France can be anointed with the sainte ampoule, or oil brought down to earth by a white dove; in 1794 it was broken by some profane hand, and antiquaries have since agreed that it was only an ancient lachrymatory! ]

[Footnote 3: This fact was probably quite unknown to us, till it was given in the “Quarterly Review,” vol. xxix. However, the same event was going on in Italy. ]