Слике страница
PDF
ePub

the rebellion in Ireland,—and the alarm of an invasion ;-by the dazzling career of Napoleon, his final overthrow at Waterloo, and the capture of Paris ;-by the military achievements of Granby, Wolfe, Eliott, Coote, Albemarle, Clive, Lake, Cornwallis, Abercromby, Wellington, Moore, Anglesea, Hill, and other distinguished commanders ;-by the naval victories obtained by Rodney, St. Vincent, Howe, Hawke, Duncan, Hood, and Nelson ;- by the successful labours of Cook, Anson, Carteret, Bruce, and other voyagers and travellers, and the spirited endeavours made to find a north-west passage ;—by the astonishing advance of science in all its branches ;by the discovery of vaccination ;-by extraordinary improvements in manufacture, — the vast extension of commerce,-the increased spirit of speculation, the fluctuations of public credit,—the South Sea Scheme, and the Bubble Companies of 1825 ;-by controversies of singular interest among the dignitaries of the established church, and the important foundation of Methodism ;-by political contests of almost unprecedented bitterness, many of them marked by the circumstance of the heir-apparent supporting the opposition ;-by the close imprisonment of one Queen Consort, and the introduction of a bill of pains and penalties against another ;-by the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts,-the emancipation of the Catholics, and the strenuous exertions made to obtain a change in the representation of the people ;—by the number of masterly productions in literature and the arts, and by the rapid advancement of general knowledge.

The present Work includes memoirs of the most eminent persons in every influential class of life, who have flourished within this important period; and these are properly classified, and chronologically arranged in their respective divisions, so as to display a sketch of the progress of National Events and Public Affairs, Theology and Jurisprudence, Naval and Military Operations, Philosophy and Science, Political and Rural Economy, Inland and Maritime Discovery, Literature, Music, Fine Arts, and the Drama, not only during the whole of the Georgian Era, but for a considerable period previous to its commencement,-a retrospective view being necessarily taken of the career of those who were living at the accession of the Brunswick family to the throne of Great Britain,—to which event many of them were conspicuous accessories,—while the memoirs of eminent characters, still in existence, or recently deceased, are, of course, brought down only to the termination of the Era,-namely, the demise of George the Fourth.

By any other system, than that which has been pursued in these volumes, it would be impossible, perhaps, to deal justly with such a vast number of lives in so comparatively limited a space. In a more extensive work,-a biographical dictionary, for example,—the memoirs of cotemporaries, of fellow-countrymen, of associates in arms, in enterprise, or in policy, are, on account of the alphabetical arrangement, posited far apart; the compiler is, therefore, necessarily compelled to repeat at length the narrative of those public transactions, in which they individually bore a share: while, in these volumes, the lives being classified, general circumstances, after having been stated fully, in the memoir of that individual who has contributed chiefly to their consummation, are noticed briefly, whenever it becomes necessary to allude to them again.

A few memoirs of eminent persons, accidentally omitted in the body of the work, are located in Appendices to the respective classes, at the end of each volume, among summary sketches of those who have been mere satellites to their more illustrious cotemporaries.

All the lives have been originally compiled, and entirely rewritten; and many of the memoirs, particularly those of recent worthies, are, in the strictest sense of the term, original; so that, however brief they may appear, they compose all that can be gathered, worthy of record, relative to the individuals of whom they treat.

Every possible exertion has been made, both on the part of the Editor and his assistants to elucidate doubtful points, to reconcile conflicting authorities, and to rectify the errors of preceding writers. No public event, or private anecdote, of interest or importance, has been either negligently omitted, or wilfully concealed; so that, it is hoped, the volumes may be said to form at once a work of entertainment and reference. Reliance has never been placed on any single biography; various authorities have invariably been consulted, and existing memoirs of cotemporary characters have been corrected by careful comparison with each other. A judicious use has also been made of the valuable diaries, autobiographies, and original letters of eminent persons, which have recently been brought to light. Wherever information was suspected to lurk, there it has been diligently sought : in addition to the more grave and obvious sources, anecdotal, miscellaneous, and periodical works,-even fugitive pieces, and foreign literature,—have been adventurously explored. In many cases,

reference has been made, with material advantage, to the existing relatives of departed worthies; and, in some, an inspection of important family papers has been obtained.

The Editor fearlessly asserts an unimpeachable claim to strict impartiality; in summing up the characters, he has acted under no influence but that of his own judgment. Not only has he spurned any truckling to party feeling, but that lamentable transmission of error, as well with regard to opinion as matter of fact, from generation to generation, which arises from the ready faith reposed in the statements of distinguished authors, he has, in numerous cases, successfully checked. Laurels, originally awarded by private friendship, bigoted admiration, or political partisanship, are, in the present Work, torn from the brows of the undeserving, and transferred to those of such meritorious individuals as have been visited with obloquy, either through ignorance of their merits, personal pique, public clamour, or party bitterness. Many persons of great abilities have met with no literary advocates; while others, of doubtful claims, have had their “ nothings monstered” by adulatory biographers, although treated with apathetic indifference by those who were most competent to judge of their qualities : :-an attempt has been made to remedy such evils in these volumes; the judgment pronounced on each individual, being, it is sincerely hoped, commensurate with his merits, however it may differ from his standard reputation.

London,

January, 18:32.

CONTENTS.

« ПретходнаНастави »