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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

VII. Historical and Political Writers

§ 9. Beginnings of Memoirs; and various Political Pamphlets

A Review of the Reflections on the Prince’s Declaration (1688), printed in the course of the march upon London, cut Burnet loose for ever from the cause of James II and the prince whom he persisted in treating as supposititious. Other pamphlets accompanied the successive steps in the consummation of the revolution which established William and Mary on the throne and Burnet as bishop of Salisbury; but, with a few exceptions, of which we proceed to mention only the more important, and, above all, with the exception of his Memoirs, the pulpit now absorbed the indefatigable activity of his pen.

Besides part III of The History of the Reformation and a work which may be regarded as supplementary to it, the celebrated Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles (1699), in which the historical element is at least of as great value as the theological, Burnet produced, in the concluding period of his career, An Essay on the Memory of the late Queen (Mary II) (1695), which should find a place among the éloges of which the age was peculiarly prolific, rather than among critical disquisitions. There cannot be any doubt either that it was the result of profound grief, or that this feeling was warranted alike by the pure and noble character of Mary, and by Burnet’s personal loss in the death of a princess whose trust in him was among the most cherished experiences of his life. With her sister, he was not on similar terms of intimacy; nor was it at all to Anne’s liking that (in 1698) he was appointed preceptor to her son the duke of Gloucester, afterwards heir-apparent. He was, however, on good terms with the duke and duchess of Marlborough, his relations with queen Anne herself improved, and it was only in her last years that he found himself in steady opposition to her government. What he had most at heart, as a politician, was the succession of the house of Hanover, for which he had laboured hard in the critical season of the Act of Settlement (1701). For some time previously, he had been in correspondence with the electress Sophia and with her trusted counsellor Leibniz, between whom and Burnet there was much sympathy on religious, as well as on political, subjects, though, as in the case of the problem of a reunion of the protestant churches, these aspects could not be kept asunder.