There is an especial charm in following, century after century, the history of the English nation, in considering the antagonism of the elements out of which it is composed, and its share in the fortunes and enterprises of that great community of western nations to which it belongs; but it will be readily granted that no other period can be compared in general importance with the epoch of those religious and political wars which fill the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
h is free from all interested motives, and sometimes to observe their general course in close communication with the leading men. We could not compose a history from the reports they give, but combined with the documentary matter these reports form a very welcome supplement to our knowledge.
Ambassadors who have to manage matters of all kinds, great and small, at the courts to which they are accredited, fill their letters with accounts of affairs which often contain little instruction for posterity, and they judge of a man according to the support which he gives to their interests. This is the case with the French as well as with other ambassadors in England. Nevertheless their correspondence becomes gradually of the greatest value for my work. Their importance grows with the importance of affairs. The two courts entered into the most intimate relations: French politicians ceaselessly endeavoured to gain influence over England, and sometimes with success. The ambassadors' letters at such times refer to