« VorigeDoorgaan »
JAMES BINDLEY, Esa. M. A. F.S. A.
SENIOR COMMISSIONER OF THE STAMP-OFFICE,
NOW ALMOST THE ONLY SURVIVOR
OF THE CONTRIBUTORS TO THE FORMER EDITION,
THESE LITERARY ANECDOTES
OF MANY OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES,
ENRICHED BY HIS VALUABLE COMMUNICATIONS,
BOTH IN THE ORIGINAL AND THE PRESENT EDITION,
ARE, WITH THE TRUEST RESPECT, INSCRIBED,
BY HIS VERY FAITHFUL FRIEND
AND MUCH-OBLIGED SERVANT,
TO THE FIRST EDITION *, IN 1782.
"To preserve the memory of those who have been in any way
serviceable to mankind, hath been always looked upon as discharging a debt which we owe to our benefactors ; and it is but reasonable that they who contribute so much to the immortality of others, should have some share in it themselves."
THOUGH it would be improper to begin with an ill-timed excuse for the manner in which this Work has been executed, it is necessary to observe, that the volume has been more than four years in the press of; and during that period many new and unexpected informations have swelled it to the present size, and far beyond what was originally intended.
“To adjust the minute events of literary history is tedious and troublesome; it requires indeed, no great force of understanding, but often depends upon enquiries which there is no opportunity of making *." The researches which have produced
* That Edition was thus inscribed: “To the Presidents, VicePresidents, and Fellows, of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies of London; these Anecdotes of Mr. Bowyer, a Printer of uncommon eminence, whose talents were long and laudably exerted in their service, are, with true respect and gratitude, inscribed, by their most dutiful servant, J. Nichols."
† In 1778 a few copies of a slight sketch of it were printed in a small pamphlet, of 52 octavo pages, and given to the intimate Friends of Mr. Bowyer. See vol. III. p. 294. Dr. Johnson, in the Life of Dryden.
these Anecdotes have abundantly verified this remark. Though I have applied to the most authentic sources, and in general have been favoured with the most liberal communications, some subsequent discoveries have often rendered it necessary to compile a second article, sometimes a third or fourth, concerning the same Writer*. In such cases, it becomes necessary to request the Reader's indulgence, and to refer him to the Index. There are other instances, where, after every possible enquiry, it has hardly been practicable to collect a single circumstance of private persons, though of eminence in letters, except the date of their death. “The incidents which give excellence to biography are of a volatile and evanescent kind, such as soon escape the memory, and are rarely transmitted by tradition ;” and “Lives can only be written from personal knowledge, which is growing every day less, and in a short time is lost for ever. What is known, can seldom be immediately told; and when it might be told, it is no longer known."
I had once an intention to give an alphabetical list of all the friends who have kindly assisted me with information : but they are now so numerous, that to name them would certainly be considered as ostentation; and to some of them (to Sir John
* “A man who has a deep and extensive acquaintance with a subject, often sees a connexion and importance in some smaller circumstances, which may not immediately be discerned by others; and, on that account, may have reasons for inserting them, that will escape the notice of artincial minds." Kippis, t Rambler, No. 60. Dr. Johuson, in the Life of Addison.