« EelmineJätka »
N the progress towards perfection, every strenuous effort, though 'far from attaining the ultimate point in view, is attended with pleasure and advantage. Among the fubjects leaft capable of being exhausted by fuch efforts, is that of general Biography. So minute: a history, extending to all and all countries, cannot eafily be completed. The abundance of materials proceeding from fome quarters, and the difficulty of procuring any from many others, at once perplex and baffle the compiler. Even while his pen is on the paper, he hears of recent deaths among those who have a claim to fuch a monument; and the information which can be gained of a perfon very lately dead, is feldom either accurate or important. The biographical works composed in various countries, even thofe which profefs to be general, are ufually overloaded with names of men belonging to thofe nations, where the books refpectively appear; but who neither have, nor
ought to have, much fame beyond the limits of
As far as thefe and other obftacles would
who will hardly be thought deferving of a place in a work of general Biography. But conceiving this to be the natural tendency of fuch works, and thinking it very allowable for authors in every nation to write more particularly for their countrymen than for any others, we have not been greatly folicitous to avoid it. At the fame time, we have not omitted to confider, that if every person who attains a certain rank in the learned or active profeffions, were admitted to claim a place in fuch a repository, its extent would become too enormous to be useful.
Besides adding the names which were deficient, attention has been employed throughout to improve the style, and correct the prominent errors of the former work. That these various ends might be attained within a moderate time, the proprietors divided the care of the undertaking between three literary men. For the first five volumes one gentleman is entirely responsible; the remaining ten were configned to two writers, who, for no very important reafon, chofe to take them alternately. Though the work is apparently extended only by the addition of three volumes, the actual augmentation is much greater; the volumes being not only, in general, thicker than before, but fo printed, as to contain in each page four or five lines more, than a page of the preceding edition. On the whole, the work is prefented
prefented to the public with fome confidence; from the knowledge that if every thing has not been done, which a very rigorous examiner might expect, much more has been performed than is ufually attempted in reprinting any approved work; and much more than, without fuch a divifion of the labour as we have juft now ftated, could have been completed within the time employed upon it.