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Synopsis

In revising this volume for the second edition I have occupied myself mainly with two sources of information—the unpublished Records of the English Foreign Office, and the published works which have during recent years resulted from the investigation of the Archives of Vienna. The English Records from 1792 to 1814, for access to which I have to express my thanks to Lord Granville, form a body of firsthand authority of extraordinary richness, compass, and interest. They include the whole correspondence between the representatives of Great Britain at Foreign Courts and the English Foreign Office; a certain number of private communications between Ministers and these representatives; a quantity of reports from consuls, agents, and “informants” of every description; and in addition to these the military reports, often admirably vivid and full of matter, sent by the British officers attached to the head-quarters of our Allies in most of the campaigns from 1792 to 1814. It is impossible that any one person should go through the whole of this material, which it took the Diplomatic Service a quarter of a century to write. I have endeavoured to master the correspondence from each quarter of Europe which, for the time being, had a preponderance in political or military interest, leaving it when its importance became obviously subordinate to that of others; and although I have no doubt left untouched much that would repay investigation, I trust that the narrative has gained in accuracy from a labour which was not a light one, and that the few short extracts which space has permitted me to throw into the notes may serve to bring the reader nearer to events. At some future time I hope to publish a selection from the most important documents of this period. It is strange that our learned Societies, so appreciative of every distant and trivial chronicle of the Middle Ages, should ignore the records of a time of such surpassing interest, and one in which England played so great a part. No just conception can be formed of the difference between English statesmanship and that of the Continental Courts in integrity, truthfulness, and public spirit, until the mass of diplomatic correspondence preserved at London has been studied; nor, until this has been done, can anything like an adequate biography of Pitt be written. The second and less important group of authorities with which I have busied myself during the work of revision comprises the works of Hueffer, Vivenot, Beer, Helfert, and others, based on Austrian documents, along with the Austrian documents and letters that have been published by Vivenot. The last-named writer is himself a partizan, but the material which he has given to the world is most valuable. The mystery in which the Austrian Government until lately enveloped all its actions caused some of these to be described as worse than they really were; and I believe that in the First Edition I under-estimated the bias of Prussian and North-German writers. Where I have seen reasons to alter any statements, I have done so without reserve, as it appears to me childish for any one who attempts to write history to cling to an opinion after the balance of evidence seems to be against it. The publication of the second volume of this work has been delayed by the revision of the first; but I hope that it will appear before many months more. I must express my obligations to Mr. Oscar Browning, a fellow-labourer in the same field, who not only furnished me with various corrections, but placed his own lectures at my disposal; and to Mr. Alfred Kingston, whose unfailing kindness and courtesy make so great a difference to those whose work lies in the department of the Record Office which is under his care. London, 1883

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