« PreviousContinue »
OLD ENGLISH BOOKS,
ESPECIALLY THOSE WHICH ARE SCARCE.
MEMOIRS OF DECEASED AUTHORS j
ORIGINAL, MORAL, AND CRITICAL ESSAYS, WITH
By SAMUEL EGERTON BRYDGES, Esq.
BEING THE FIRST OF THE NEW SERIES.
MINTED BY T. BENSLEY, BOLT-COURT, FLEET STREET,
FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, AND ORME, PATERNOSTER-BOW,
AND J. WHITE, FLEET-STREET.
1807. ,. ••
At the Commencement of a new series of this work it may be proper to say something in explanation of the purposes which I have endeavoured to effect by the enlargement of my plan.
The habitual demands of literary curiosity seem to require a monthly, rather than a less frequent, publication: to this stated time, they who indulge themselves in periodical productions of the press, are accustomed to look; and a longer delay therefore forms a material impediment to their circulation. With this conviction I resolved, at the opening of the present year, regardless of my own labour, even amid a variety of other occupations, to produce a Number every month; and I did it the more willingly, because it would give me an opportunity of intermixing and contrasting, with the Black-letter materials which had hitherto almost engrossed my pages, a due proportion of modern literature.
On this scheme I have, after candid allowances for the imperfectness by which we too generally fall short in the execution of what we may have vigorously planned, brought this volume to a close. It is, no doubt, but a faint copy of what I had hoped to have done; and perhaps no one of its readers will be more sensible of its various defects than the author himself. For these, illness, perplexities of mind, and private business, will furnish no just apology, because they only A 3 remove remove the blame to the rashness of the attempt. I would rather throw myself on the mercy of those enlarged minds which know the difficulties of such undertakings; and for the rest, I am prepared to endure with silent fortitude the pert or acrimonious censures of the half-witted or malignant.
The subjects to which I have most wished to give the new space, are Sketches of Literary Biography. These, if executed with spirit and judgment, appear to me at once highly amusing, and highly instructive. If it be true, that
"The proper study of mankind is man," Surely the account of those men, who most excel in. intellect, the quality which principally lifts human beings above other terrestrial animals, is of the most important interest. We are anxious to know the opinions, and moral and mental habits, of those who have been distinguished for the powers of the head, and the sensibilities of the heart. We delight to bask in the rays of light they throw around them; and we feel a pleasing pity, and perhaps a strange mixture of selfconsolation, in contemplating their eccentricities, and even their occasional weaknesses and foibles. A generous admiration of merit, a breast glowing with liberal sentiments, and fired with sympathy for the romantic effusions of the poet, are necessary qualifications for him, who would enter on the arduous task of sketching the characters of Genius. For this purpose, a new apparatus of common-place and uninteresting facts is not necessary: many daily occupations, many familiar events, the most original and eccentric .bardmust experience in common with the vulgar herd of mankind. Wc look to the peculiar traits of mind,, to