Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
Three English Statesmen
Goldwin Smith (1823–1910)
Three English Statesmen, by Goldwin Smith (1867), is a course of lectures delivered during his professorship of history at Oxford University, on Pym, Cromwell, and Pitt. The clear and brilliant style of the book, vigorous and simple, at once enchains the attention and wins from the reader an absorbed interest in the author’s theories of politics and politicians. He has the rare faculty of condensing whole chapters of history into a few words, and of presenting in one vivid picture the complicated state of nations. In his essay on Pym, he is able in a few pages to detail the problems and grievances that had beset the English people, and indeed the Continental nations, ever since the first outbreaks against the absolute power of the Church. He recognizes that the Reformation in England was by no means accomplished when Henry VIII. chose for his own ends to defy the pope; that this upheaval was precisely the old struggle of the people against tyranny whether of the Church or State. When, after eleven years of royal government without a Parliament, Charles I. was forced to call one, Pym became its leader. It was he who brought to book the great Duke of Buckingham, he who dared to impeach Strafford and Laud. The lampooners spoke a true word in jest when they called him “King Pym.” Pym died early in the great fight; and the soldier, Cromwell, came to the front as the leader of republican England. Mr. Smith admires Cromwell as a genius and a high-minded man; yet he deprecates Carlyle’s essay upon him as crass, undiscriminating worship. The soberer writer sees Cromwell’s faults and deplores them. He does not excuse the execution of the King, or the massacres in Ireland; but he holds that Cromwell, to maintain his control over the thousands of reckless fanatics who had made him their leader, was forced to deeds of iron. As Protector, he was one of the strongest and wisest rulers England ever had. The last and longest paper is that on Pitt, the great statesman of the eighteenth century, who was prime minister at twenty-four, and the champion of free trade, a reformed currency, religious toleration, colonial emancipation, abolition of the slave-trade and of slavery. Pitt’s espousal of the cause of the colonies in Parliament especially commends this study of him to American readers.  1

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