Davila, Henry Catherine

, a celebrated historian, was the son of Anthony Davila, who was constable of the kingdom of Cyprus when it was under the power of the Venetians; but having lost his situation by the conquest made by the Turks in 1570, retired to Venice, and being possessed of some property at Sacco in the territory of Padua, determined to settle there. His son was born in this place in 1576, and named Henry Catherine, in honour of Henry III. and Catherine de Medicis, who had shown marks of great respect and kindness for the constable, when he was in France a little before the war of Cyprus. When young Davila had attained his seventh year, his father sent him to France, where he was placed under the care of the marechal D‘Hemery, who had married his father’s sister. D’Hemery, who resided at Villars in Normandy, gave his nephew an excellent education, and at a suitable age introduced him at court as one of the pages to the queen mother. At the age of eighteen, he served in the war against the League, and distinguished himself by an ardour which frequently endangered his life. In 1599, the war being concluded by the peace of Vervins, Davila was recalled by his father and by the Venetians, and returned to Italy. The republic of Venice entrusted him with various employments, both military and civil, such as the government of Candy, and of Dalmatia, and what pleased him most, the title of constable was confirmed to him, and in the senate and on all public occasions he took precedence after the doge. The last office to which he was appointed, but which he never enjoyed, was that of commander of Crema. On his way to this place, the different towns and villages, through which he was to pass, were ordered to furnish him with a change of horses and carriages; but when he arrived at a place near Verona, and requested the usual supplies, they were denied; and on his remonstrating, a brutal fellow shot him dead with a pistol. The assassin was immediately killed by one of Davila’s sons, who happened to be with him. This misfortune happened in 1631, exactly a year after he had published, in Italian, his history of the civil wars of France, under the title “Istoria delle Guerre civili di Francia,Venice, 4to, reprinted in 1634, 1638, and often since. The finest editions are tnose of Paris, 1644, 2 vols. folio, and of Venice, 1733, 2 vols. folio. We have two old translations into English, 1647, by Aylesbury, and 1678. | by dottrel, folio; but the best is that by Farneworth, 1755, 2 vols. 4to. The French have likewise translations by Baudouin, 1642, and by Grosley and the abbe Mallet, 1757, 3 vols. 4to, and there is a Latin translation by Cornazano, Rome, 1743, 3 vols. 4to.

This history is divided into fifteen books, and contains every thing worth notice that passed, from the death of Henry II. 1559, to the peace of Vervins 1598. Lord Bolingbroke calls it a noble history, and says, that he “should not scruple to confess it in many respects equal to that of Livy.Davila has indeed been accused of too much refinement and subtlety, in developing the secret motives of actions, in laying the causes of events too deep, and deducing them often through a series of progression too complicated, and too artfully wrought. But yet, as the noble lord goes on in his “Letters on the Study of History,” 1. v. “the suspicious person, who should reject this historian upon such general inducements as these, would have no grace to oppose his suspicions to the authority of the first duke of Epernon, who had been an actor, and a principal actor too, in many of the scenes that Davila recites. Girard, secretary to this duke, and no contemptible biographer, relates, that this history came down to the place where the old man resided in Gascony, a little before his death; that he read it to him; that the duke confirmed the truth of the narrations in it; and seemed only surprised, by what means the author could be so well informed of the most secret councils and measures of those times.

Davila is unquestionably one of the best of the French historians, but is liable to the objections made to other historians, of relying too much on his own invention, all the speeches and harangues in his narrative being of his own composition, and adapted to his own sentiments of the persons and events concerned. Want of variety, it has also been observed, is sensibly felt in his history: the events indeed are important and various; but the reader languishes by a tiresome monotony of character, every person engaged being figured a consummate politician, governed by interest only. His partiality to Catherine of Medicis may perhaps be forgiven, as she was not only his great benefactress, but communicated many particulars to his history. It may be added that the early editions of | this history are more incorrect in geography and names than those which are of more recent date. 1


Tiraboschi.Moreri.—Le Long’s Bibl. Hisiorique.—Niceron, vol. XXXIX.