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secrated what Victory has achieved and Commerce extended; and thus it is that the intellectual energy of the National Character reflects lustre upon the GOVERNMENT from whose liberality it derives strength, and from whose wisdom it acquires continual opportunities of calling into active employment individual merit for the general good.
That your Royal Highness may have the satisfaction of seeing your firmness in the public councils productive of a lasting peace; and the effects of your attention to the interests of Literature and the Arts spreading universally for the glory of these realms and the happiness of mankind, is the earnest prayer of
Your Royal Highness's
and devoted Servants,
No person who has had any acquaintance with books can be insensible to the difficulties which obstruct the inquirer in his search after information concerning the lives and productions of those who have enlarged the sphere of science, or who have contributed to the stock of rational amusement. Even of such as have attained the highest degree of reputation, we have frequently to lament the want of correct and minute intelligence, the knowledge of which would increase our admiration and improvement, by enabling us to form a more exact estimate of their moral and literary character than can be drawn from the meagre memorials which have been handed down to us by their contemporaries. Few are the names recorded in the history of literature, of whom it can be said that biography is exhausted; for of numbers whose works yield instruction and entertainment, not the least record can be found. Modern industry indeed has been usefully employed in rescuing forgotten merit from total oblivion, and in restoring to their proper owners valuable pieces, which either ignorance or want of taste had cast aside amidst the lumber of the schools and the extravagancies of fanaticism. Still much remains to stimulate the diligent to fresh exertions; for such has been the carelessness of the two preceding centuries, with respect to their brightest ornaments, that no one who shall devote a portion of his time to the task of illustrating their personal history, or of ascertaining the number and description of their writings, will labor in vain. But at least the negligence of which we complain affords a lesson of caution with regard to existing genius, that those who come after us may not have reason to bring against us a similar accusation.
The advanced state of knowledge, with the consequent multiplication of books on all subjects, and the facility that is given to every species of inquiry, may truly be said to constitute the triumph of literature; but, like every other honorable triumph, it brings in its train as many duties as trophies, that what has been laboriously acquired may become permanently beneficial. In proportion, therefore, as science is extended and the love of it increases, it is necessary to provide helps for those who want immediate information on the pursuits and merits of the numerous candidates for literary fame. With
this view was formed the project of publishing a yearly report exclusively devoted to the actual state of Literature and the Arts; comprehending a separate Dictionary of Authors, another of the Professors of Painting, Engraving, Sculpture, &c.; and one of Musical Composers. It was also intended to have followed these leading departments with a statistical account of learned establishments and scientific institutions, in various parts of the British empire; notices of inventions and discoveries; and in short to have concentrated, in a moderate compass, an exact register of all matters connected with the progress of human knowledge. But however useful such a design appeared, and much as something of the kind is wanting, it was at length found that the compass proposed would not admit of satisfactory detail; and therefore it became expedient to make some alteration in the plan by detaching the Biographical divisions, and forming them into separate publications. The Dictionary of Living Authors is accordingly now offered to the Literary World, in a much more substantial form than it could have possibly been if confined to the limits it was originally intended to occupy. It will occur to the intelligent reader that the idea of such a work is not new, for there have been at least three attempts made towards a collection of this description in our own country, and within our remembrance ; but what is singular and worthy of observation, the scheme approximating the nearest to that which now waits the public approbation, was one projected by an enlightened foreigner, and published at Berlin in 1791, with this title: "Das Gelehrte England oder Lexicon der Jeztlebenden Schriftsteller in Grosbritannien, Irland, und Nord-Amerika nebst einem Verzeichenis ihrer Schriffen, V. Jahr 1770 bis 1790. Von Jeremias David Reuss, ordintlichen Professor der Philosophie und Unter Bibliothekar bey der Universitæts-Bibliothek zu Gottingen. 2 vols. 8vo." This "Alphabetical Register of all the Authors living in Great Britain, &c. with a catalogue of their publications;" met with so favorable a reception as to induce Professor Reuss, in 1804, to publish a Supplement to it in two volumes. It is surely not a little extraordinary that the plan of so useful a catalogue as this should never have occurred to any of our enterprizing countrymen; but it is still more unaccountable that the biographical lists of Living Authors which have appeared among us should fall far short of the German work in extent and accuracy of information. The last, it is true, consists of a mere index of names, and a register of publications without memoir or observation; but the best of the English compilations passes over without notice many writers of the first order, and gives a very slender and imperfect account of others. The essential articles of dates, anecdotes, professions and pursuits, are slighted for splenetic remarks and idle criticism. Forgetful that a Dictionary of this class is principally valuable as a book of reference, and that as such it cannot be too copious in its facts, and simple in the narration; these compilers have related nothing where the subject required detail, while they have been prolix where they ought to have been silent.
With such errors and deficiencies in the collections of those who have preceded them in this course, the editors of the present volume have been careful to give as complete a catalogue of existing authors, accompanied by brief but accurate sketches of their memoirs, and a correct list of their publications, as could be obtained. It must be evident, upon the most hasty and superficial observation, that such a body of information could not possibly be collected and systematized without great labour and assistance.
of what was necessary to be concentrated lay scattered in various directions; and it frequently happened that after a long and fatiguing search the object of inquiry was numbered with the dead.
Perfection is not in the pursuits of literature, any more than in the practice of morals; and it would be preposterous to look for an unerring guide in what depends upon human testimony. The Editors are aware that after all their efforts and caution, inquiry and diligence, many omissions may be detected; and that several mistakes have been committed, which they rely upon the liberal to excuse and the intelligent to rectify. In the pro
gress of the work through the press, some lapses have been discovered, the correction of which has occasioned a Supplementary Alphabet, where many important additions will be found concerning living authors, and brief notices of others who have no longer a title to that distinction. But as it is of importance to the general reader that the register of existing writers should be accompanied by one of departed genius, it is intended to publish, at no distant day, A DICTIONARY OF DECEASED AUTHORS OF GREAT BRITAIN, corresponding in plan and arrangement with the present.
It may also be proper here to observe that the proposed "Dictionary of Living Artists, as Painters, Engravers, Sculptors and Architects," which was to have occupied a leading department in the Literary Calendar, will, for the same reasons as those which have led to an expansion of this volume, be published in a separate state. The materials for that work have already accumulated beyond what could have been well expected, and as no delay will retard the appearance of the volume beyond what may be requisite to render it accurate and complete, timely communications for that purpose are respectfully solicited on the behalf of our publisher.
There yet remains another division of the original plan which it is expedient to mention in this place, for the gratification of those persons who have been pleased to indulge an expectation of a variety of information respecting persons celebrated for their genius and talents. It was certainly intended to have given in alphabetical order Memoirs of the Musical Composers of the present day, with an arranged account of their published performances; but the necessity of such a work as that in the form of a Dictionary has been wholly superseded by the appearance of two volumes under the appropriate title of " Musical Biography;" upon which the approbation of the scientific world and the public at large has been already stamped, in the demand for a second edition.
Thus the deviation from the original plan leaves ample room for the execution of a periodical work, devoted to the sole object of Literary Information, while at the same time it provides distinct books of reference by which even the utility of such a Miscellany will be considerably increased.
But to return to the immediate object of the Register which is now submitted to the friends of literature. Independent of the general advantages resulting from the intelligence conveyed with respect to those persons who have eminently distinguished themselves in the world of letters; and which cannot but be serviceable to future biographers; it will be seen that the very list of publications given under each article, arranged according to the order of time in which they appeared, and the editions they have gone through, must be of incalculable benefit to AUTHORS, BOOKSELLERS, and the PUBLIC. The literary industry of the former is here exhibited in a conspicuous point of view,
and many of those pieces which perhaps are regarded by the writer with parental affection as among his best efforts, but which by some means or other have been neglected, will stand a chance of attracting the attention of those who are best qualified to appreciate their merit. This of course must be in the same degree beneficial to publishers by bringing to light and promoting the sale of performances which, notwithstanding their intrinsic value, are now fast sinking to, or are absolutely buried in oblivion. To the studious and inquisitive also these separate catalogues will be peculiarly acceptable by enabling him to discover without any difficulty what has been printed on particular subjects by persons of whose talents as writers he has formed a high opinion.
It remains only to observe by way of explanation, that a few foreign names have obtained admission into this Dictionary on the ground that, as some of their works originally appeared in this country, or have been republished here, which is particularly the case with American productions, they may be considered as legally naturalized.
While thus the Editors submit their labours to the favourable judgment of the friends of Literature, with a confidence that the volume will be of some use as a Directory in giving ready information to those persons who wish for some intelligence concerning the present race of Authors and their works, they beg leave to solicit indulgence for unavoidable errors, and the communication of corrections and additions directed, free of expense, to their publisher.
December 1, 1815.