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TO WALTER WILSON, ESQ., OF BATH.
London, September, 1940.
MY DEAR SIR,
There is no one to whom I can more fitly inscribe this volume than the author of "Memoirs of the Life and Times of Daniel De Foe,' who has so well succeeded in doing justice to the fair fame of that great and excellent man, and in recovering the memory of those public services which entitle him to be enrolled amongst the patriots and benefactors of his country.
Up to the publication of your work, though De Foe had slept with his fathers for nearly a century, no satisfactory attempt had been made to do homage to his worth, and, in fact, there was no English author of equal merit of whom so little was popularly known. The narrative of Mr Chalmers, though valuable in some respects, was far too scanty to satisfy the admirers of De Foe, or to assist them in attaining a just knowledge of his character as a man and as a writer, while the introduction to Mr Cadell's edition of "Robinson Crusoe' is rather a criticism than a memoir. As you well remark :“Those who are acquainted with the narratives of De Foe, must be satisfied that no one could be so competent to become his own biographer as the author of Robinson Crusoe.' His accurate painting from nature, his skill in the delineation of character, and the interest which he contrives to throw over the commonest incidents, all combine to enchant the reader, and to inspire a wish that so masterly a pen had been employed in telling his own story to posterity. This was in a measure demanded by the eventful nature of his life, and the misrepresentations which he suffered from his political opponents; nor is the regret diminished when we consider the multiplicity of als writings, which being mostly anonymous, are now in some measure difficult to be identified. In the absence of his own pen, a biography of De Foe from the hands of a contemporary, conversant with his history, and competent to appreciate his character, would have been a rich addition to our literature. But he probably out-lived all his friends, and neglected to preserve the requisite materials for such a work.”
To supply the deficiency, there required a person thoroughly conversant with the history of the period in which De Foe flourished, and master of his various works, in connection with all that has been said of him by his friends and his enemies; and the result has shown, that no one could have been found more qualified for the task than yourself.
Independently of this claim upon my marked respect, the rare liberality which has afforded me the free use of your valuable library, and which has alone enabled me to proceed with my important undertaking, of furnishing the reading world with the first and only complete collection of the writings of Daniel De Foe, amply entitles you to this public acknowledgment of my gratitude.
Believe me, dear Sir,
Your most obliged and faithful Servant,
MR CHALMERS, in his · Life of De Foe,'justly remarks, that “it is one of the chief reproaches of our press, that no uniform collected edition of the works of this eminently national writer has ever appeared.” Hitherto the possession of anything like a collection of De Foe's writings has amounted to an enviable monopoly, the result of infinite expense and infinite research; and thus it is that productions which ought to be in the hands of every reader, high or low, are encased as rare jewels within the library doors of a few wealthy literati. The present edition will furnish the world with an entire collection of these works, at a price which will render them accessible to the humblest classes, and in a form which will not disgrace the book-case of the highest.
De Poe was a giant in literature: there is no English author who has written so variously, and few who have written so well. It is difficult to imagine a subject which has not been illustrated by his graceful and powerful pen. There is no class of readers to whom he does not successfully address himself. Though known, until of very late years, almost entirely as a writer of fiction, which will probably constitute the basis of his fame in succeeding times, it was for politics chiefly that he acquired distinction with his contemporaries, who bore witness to the influence of his writings. In the conflict of parties from the reign of Charles II to the accession of George I, few persons took a more active share; and in the number of his publications, he probably outstripped all the other writers of his time. During ten of his busiest years, and those the most factious in English history, he was the sole writer of a periodical paper which appeared three times a week, and contained many elaborate essays upon the most important subjects in trade and politics. These, and his other labours, constitute a min
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