THESE "Outlines" are a compendium of a larger work, "The History of the British Kymry from the earliest to the present period," which will be in due course committed to the press.
The history of the great Gomeric or Kimbric race constitutes the grandest drama of old or modern times. It is the primo-genital family of mankind; and as such we find its various divisions established under the same or very slightly modified names in different countries in the earliest dawn of tradition and letters. Around the shores of the Black Sea, they were known as Cimmerioi; in Caucasus, Armenia, and Bactria, as Gomarai; in the Baltic, Chersonese, and Scandinavia, as Cimbri; in Italy, as Chumbri or Umbri; in Britain, as the Kymry. From them have sprung the nations which have led and still lead the destinies of civilization—the Persian and Parthian in ancient Asia —the Roman in Italy—the Norman of the mediaeval—the Briton of the present era. Of this family, the Keltic race of France, Spain, and Ireland, are the junior branches. "The Kelts are acknowledged," states Diodorus Siculus, "to be a very ancient people—they are nevertheless but the children of the Kimbri." To write the annals of the whole Gomeric family of nations, would far exceed the powers of one life. Touching only when the subject imperatively demanded it on the history of the other branches, this little volume gives merely the leading incidents in that of the oldest—the Kymry of our island.
Each era has been examined, and an estimate of its character formed by the light of its own facts, independent of the opinions, pro or con, of any preceding historian. The result is what may be termed a British view of British history. Due weight has been allowed to all sober-minded objections of the sceptic school, with reference to the more remote periods ; but common sense points out that in writing history, no stricter evidence than each several era and its circumstances supply can be summoned, or indeed admitted, into court. The application of one indiscriminating standard of evidence to times and states of widely different conditions is an absurdity which can only end in destroying all history whatever—sacred no less than profane; a process worthy of a savage or a Goth, but to which every lover of truth and civilization must oppose a front of indignant resistance. Differences in petty details are often the most unimpeachable of all evidences ; each author, as in the case of the evangelists, describing his impressions of the main fact from his own point of observation. The captious and cavilling system of the sceptic school would, on the contrary, leave every nation without a history, or only such as on the face of it carried proof of collusion and dishonest agreement in its composition.
Of the historical views expressed in these pages, most are as old as the eras to which they refer, others are perhaps set in a new light and framing—some are original. From a period long anterior to the Roman invasion, a pure indigenous British literature has been perpetuated among the Kymry. Cambria, bounded on three sides by the sea, on the fourth, by a deep, impetuous river, forms with its mountain masses—its defiles and gorges—its innumerable springs and rivulets—its hanging forests—its abundant pasturage, the most picturesque as the most impregnable natural, fortress in Europe. Every hill, every glen, is a military position. Within its bounds—a camp in war, a Bardic hall in peace—the harp has never been silent—the spirit of the poet has never been quenched—the heart of the nation has never ceased to pour forth its emotions in the same tongue the Kymry of Asia first brought from the Crimea and the Caucasus. Every successive foreign invader of Britain has given his own version of conquest or defeat. The philosophic student may well exclaim, " Here in the most beautiful part of the island are the original race of Britain, whom all these invasions have failed to dispossess of their patrimony, or deprive of their language—what is their version of these transactions, of British history in general ?" It is given in these " Outlines," leaving the reader whenever such version comes into collision with the hostile or foreign one—as British and Continental accounts of the same action always have and always will conflict—to decide between them.
The notion so sedulously inculcated, first by Pagan, then by Papal Rome, that all nations except the two occupying the little Peninsulas of Greece and Italy were barbarians, may be now classed amongst the obsolete impositions on mediaeval credulity. Modern literature in resenting it appears inclined to rush into the opposite extreme, and to deny early Greece or Rome any authentic annals at all. We may ridicule the old Greek and Roman vanity, as we do that of the Chinese, for classing the formidable Briton amongst "the outer barbarians," and for ignoring all other civilization but their own deeply corrupt and immoral one. It must at the same time be conceded, that the Roman polity did not commence with the first Latin authors, whose date is barely a century before Julius Cesar, and that the refinement of the pre-historic age, which could produce an Iliad, was something very wide indeed from a myth. The nineteenth century might congratulate itself if it could turn out a "myth" of the same immortal stamp.
The Trojan descent of the Britons has been assigned the place to which it is substantially entitled in this history. It solves the numerous and very peculiar agreements in the social and military systems of pre-historic Britain and Asia which would otherwise remain inexplicable. It has always been consistently maintained by native authorities, and by extending the circle of researches, it is found to receive ample and unexpected confirmations from the earliest documents of Italy, Gaul, Bretagne, Spain, and even Iceland.
On equally solid grounds of evidence, the social state of Britain has been described as from its first settlement by Hu the Mighty, that of a civilized and polished community. Had no other monument of Kymric antiquity but the Code of British Laws of Molmutius (B.C. 600), which still forms the basis of our common or unwritten law, descended to us, we could not doubt that we were handling the index of civilization of a very high order. In such a code we possess not only the most splendid relic of pre-Roman Europe, but the key to all our British, as contra-distinguished from Continental institutions. After perusing it, we stand amazed at the blindness which wanders groping for the origin of British rights and liberties in the swamps of the mother-land of feudal serfdom—Germany. We need not go so far as to affirm, with a learned author, that "barbarism and slavish institutions first entered Britain with the German Saxon;" but we may safely contend that no part of the Continent could supply Britain with what it never possessed itself. British spirit and freedom are wholly of native British origin, and out of Britain they are imitations or fallacies, not realities. The Continent is an aggregate of nations ruled on the despotic principle. The Anglo-Saxon of America returns out of Britain to just what the Anglo-Saxon of Germany and England was—a seller and driver of slaves.
A similar examination of the literary remains of the court of Arthur—of the vast vestiges of his palaces—of the narrative of his foreign campaigns which encounter us in the records of the conquered countries themselves—the groups of churches founded by and retaining the names of his knights, afford proofs above suspicion that the traditional European view of this monarch as the great Christian conqueror of the Pagan hordes who overthrew the Roman empire and not a petty heroic prince, the Achilles of his age, is also the true historical one. So far have the Norman minstrels been from exaggerating the glories of his career, that the author is convinced, from the evidences he has collected, they have fallen short of them. They have dwelt too much on the martial—too little on the moral splendor of his reign. No king has received so much justice at the hands of the people and of nations, and so much injustice at the hands of closet historians as this truly British sovereign—no visionary ideal of that union of heroism, gentleness, and religion, which is conveyed by the word chivalry.
The Roman Catholic Church has no pretensions to being the primitive or apostolic church of Britain. It came in so late as a century and a half after the Saxon, and four centuries after the national establishment of the native British church. The historical data connected with the foundation and progress of the latter will be found in the respective eras.
The author cannot flatter himself with the expectation that all his readers will approve of the views submitted to them; but, with whatever eye the history of the Kymry of Britain is read, there must be much in it to rivet the attention of the statesman, the philosopher, and the poet. There must be something worth studying in the constitution and spirit of a race whom forty centuries have failed to destroy or demoralize—who have seen empires and literatures pass away like summer clouds— who have fought for ages foot to foot, not with feeble Asiatics, but with the most warlike nations of Europe and the North—Roman, Saxon, Dane, and Norman—whose Principality is the dust of patriots—whose exhaustless vitality still supplies Pictons, Combermeres, Notts, to support the honor of Britain—amongst whom the Bardic gatherings are still popular institutions, and whose peasantry are now as distinguished for their freedom from crime, as they were in past ages for their unbought patriotism and valor.
August 7th, 1857 R. W. M.
We have also transcribed a sample chapter from this book: The Druidic Religion of Britain