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Should we admit all that glitters in the preceding paragraph, as solid, sterling truth, to which, however, we do not find ourselves wholly inclined,-yet-it will not fuffice to determine the question, with respect to the claim of biography to the preference of mankind; since, as even the same writer acknow.. ledges, in the same paper, "He who writes the life of another*, is either his friend or his enemy, and wilhes either to exalt his praise, or aggravate his infamy; many temptations to falsehood will occur in the disguise of paffions, too specious to fear much resistance. Love of virtue will animate panegyric, and hatred of wickedness embitter censure. The zeal of gratitude, the ardor of patriotilin, fondness for an opinion, or fidelity to a party, may easily overpower the vigilance of a mind habitually well-disposed, and prevail over unaffifted and unfriended veracity.'
As to the man who writes of himself, what deviations from the direct line of truth will not the love of self, and love of fame, lead him into! What impartiality of decifion can we expect from him who fits in judgment on his own caufe ! What excuses will he not find to palliate his misconduct, and how speciously will he explain away every adverse fact, in apologizing for his errors !
But leaving this point of precedency to be settled by those who may think it of importance enough to merit their attention, let us proceed to the publication which hath given rise to the foregoing cursory observations.
In the 28th volume of our Review, in giving an account of the • New and General Biographical Dictionary,' we recommended the chronological method to the compilers of biographical systems, and enumerated the many advantages which would give it a manifest superiority over the alphabetical form, if properly executed. The Author of the work before us hath so far pursued our plan, as to prefer this method to that of a dictionary ; juftly observing that the lives of persons who were cotemporaries with each other, are beft read together, as one frequently throws light on another ;'-and with regard to the advantage claimed by the alphabetical order, from the facility of turning, at pleasure, to any particular life, that circumftance is easily supplied, as it is in the British Biography, by proper indexes.
As our Author's design is confined to the celebration of those illustrious persons whose names do honour to this country, or
* Which is the case with the greater number of biographical writers; for, comparatively few are they who calmly and voluntarily fut down to review their own lives, for the admonition of pofterity.
to our fifter-island, he is particulary folicitous to set forth the advantages of his plan. .*: It is perhaps, fays he, no national partiality to assert, that no country has produced a greater number of men, diftinguished by elevated genius, or exalted virtue, than Great Britain and Ireland. A perusal, therefore, of the lives of such excellent and illustrious men, must have a natural tendency to excite in us a generous emulation, and to animate us to the most worthy and laudable pursuits. The statesman may be excited to aspire after a greater degree of political knowledge, and to investigate the means of promoting in the best manner the interests of the state, over which he is appointed to preside, by the examples of a WALSINGHAM and a BURLEIGH. The divine, the lawyer, and the physician, may all be excited to aim at excellence in their several professions by the examples of a BARROW and a TILLOTSON a Coke, a Hale, and a HOLT ; a HARVEY, a SYDENHAM, and a Mead. The seaman and the soldier may be animated to the pursuit of military honours, by the heroic actions of a BLAKE and a MARLBOROUGH; and the disinterested patriot, who feels for the honour and the interest of his country, and who is a zealous advocate for liberty, and the common rights of mankind, may be animated by the noble examples of a HAMPDEN, a Russel, a MARVEL, and a SydNEY. And the man of letters and philosophical inquiry may be incited to aspire after literary and scientific eminence, by the immortal labours of a Milton, a BACON, a BOYLE, a Newton, and a Locke, i
! But it is not eminence in arms, in arts, or in science only, that we may be taught to aspire after, in the perusal of the lives of the most eminent of our countrymen. It
also stimulate us to aim at the acquisition of what is of ftill more value and importance, and at the same time universally attainable, Moral Excellence. It is not in the power of every man to be a great Gatesman, general, or philosopher ; but every man may cultivate and practise temperance, integrity, benevolence, and humanity. : He who cannot enter into any competition with those who have distinguished themselves by their wit, their eloquence, or their learning, may at least learn to imitate their virtues. And even the lives of bad men, such whose eminence of station or abilities have rendered their actions sufficiently important to be properly introduced in a work of this kind, may be read with confiderable advantage. The deformity of vice, as well as the beauty of virtue, is best exhibited in real characters; a juft representation of which must have a natural tendency to excite in us a love and esteem for the one, and an hatred and contempt of the other. We cannot read the lives of BONNER, of GARDINER, or of JEFFE
Ries, without feeling a juft deteftation of bigotry, religious persecution, injustice, and cruelty.'
The materials for a work of this kind are obvious and ample: the General Diktionary, in ten volumes, folio ; the Biographia Britannica, in seven folios; the New General Biographical Dictionary, in twelve vols. 8vo. Beside which, the Author af sures us, that he hath had recourse to ! fome bundred volumes of single lives, and historical and biographical collections ; beside occasionally making use of manuscripts, particularly those in the British Museum, when he could meet with any that were adapted to his purpose.'
From the similarity of this design with that of former biographical collections, those who are acquainted with the arts of authorship, particularly in the compilation-branch, and in the mode of periodical * publication, may be apt to suspect that the lives in this work are little more than a mere abridgment of those in the Biographia Britannica; but, so far as we could spare time for comparison, this does not seem to be the case. Our Author has, in general, exercised his natural right of thinking and speaking for himself; in consequence of which, where the materials used in common, both by him and by his predea ceflors, are drawn from the fame source, we frequently find the accounts to be circumstantially different ; facts are exhibited in different lights; and many mistakes of former writers are correded. There is, moreover, one merit assumed by the Author, as peculiar to çhis work, and which we are, indeed, convinced, that none of our more voluminous productions in the same branch of literature can boast, viz. that being wholly compiled by one perfon, it will therefore probably be found to have an uniformity of sentiment, with regard to persons and things, the want of which hath been complained of, in some preceding works of the kind'
The point of time at which this performance commences, is the age in which the celebrated Wickliffe. happily paved the way for the Protestant reformation : the life of this great founder of our religious liberties ftands first in the collection. We are, however, somewhat surprized that the Author did not ftep a liccle-farther back, and begin with that, illustrious ornament of Britain, Friar ROGER BACON ; who is juftly to be re..
• The prefent work has been published in monthly numbers, as well as in distinct volumes. It is several years fince the first volume appeared; the fecond was printed in 1766, and the third in 1767. It is now advanced as far as the fixth ; and we are given to understand that the undertaking will be compleated in two more ;considered as the work of one person only, great labour, as well as time, must have been employed in this compilement.
garded as the father of science in this country; and whole genius was scarce equalled, even by that of bis great' namesake the Lord Verulam. He might have availed himself of a very judi. cious compendium of the life of this wonderful man, in a work entitled, The Library, written by a society of learned and ingenious men, whose labours were too good for the age in which they appeared *
A very short extra&t from this work may fuffice for a specia men of the Author's manner, and mode of thinking; viz. bis character of Archbisoop Laud.
"He was, undoubtedly, a man of considerable learn. ing + and abilities; but was, notwithstanding, in many respects, extremely weak and superstitious I. He was also of a very
• This work was published, monthly, in the years 1761 and 1762 ; and was discontinued for want of sale, at a time when many thousands of the most worthless magazines were, like Coryat's Crudities, eagerly gobbled up by the tasteless public.
+ The very ingenious Author of the Rambler, in his poem, entitled, “ The Vanity of Human Wishes," has the following lines :
“ Nor deem, when learning her last prize bestows
But hear his death, ye blockheads, hear and sleep." • We have the highest esteem for the talents, the writings, and the character of Dr. Johnson. But we are notwithstanding of opinion, that in these lines he has not imputed the death of Laud to the real causes. It is on the contrary very evident, as we apprehend, that it was the adivity of that Prelate in promoting arbitrary measures of government, his absurd zeal for triðing ceremonies, his violent and unjuft proceedings in the star chamber, and high commillion courts, and other particulars of this kind, which brought him to the block; and that it is not by any means his genius or his learning, to which his untimely end can with propriety be attributed.'
• 1 Of this his Diary affords very pregnant inftances, some of which we fhall felect for the entertainment of the reader. He was particularly attentive to his dreams, many of which he hath recorded with great care and exactness. The following paffages are taken from the edition of his Diary, published by Hen. Wharton, in 1695,
“ 1623. Dec. 14. Sunday night, I did dream that the Lord Keeper was dead; that I passed by one of his men, that was about a monument for him : that I heard him fay, his lower lip was infinitely
warm, hasty, and passionate temper, and of a disposition somewhat vindiétive; but, in other respects, his private life appears
swelled and fallen, and he rotten already. This dream did trouble me.
" 1625. July 3. Sunday, in my sleep his Majesty King James appeared to me. I saw him only passing by-swiftly. He was of a pleasant and serene countenance. In passing he saw me, beckoned to me, smiled, and was immediately withdrawn from my sight.
“ Aug. 21. That night, in my sleep, it seemed to me, that the Duke of Buckingham came into bed to me; where he behaved him. self with great kindness towards me, after that rest, wherewith wearied perfons are wont to solace themselves. Many also seemed to me to enter the chamber, who faw this.
“ Not long before, I dreamed that I saw the Dutchefs of Buckingham, that excellent Lady, at first very much perplexed about her husband, but afterwards cheerful, and rejoicing, that she was freed from the fear of abortion, so that in due time the might be again a mother.
“ Sept. 4. Sunday. The night following I was very much troubled in my dreams. My imagination ran altogether upon the Duke of Buckingham, his servants, and family. All seemed to be out of order : that the Dutchess was ill, called for her maids, and took her bed. God grant better things.
“ Sept. 26. Sunday. That night I dreamed of the marriage of I know not whom at Oxford. All that were present, were cloathed with flourishing green garments. I knew none of them but Thomas Flaxnye. Immediately after, without any intermiffion of sleep (that I know of) I thought I saw the Bishop of Worcester, his head and shoulders covered with linen. He advised and invited me kindly, to dwell with them, marking out a place, where the Court of the Marches of Wales was then held. But not staying for my answer, he subjoined, that he knew I could not live lo meanly, &c.
“ 1626. Aug. 25. Friday. Two Robin-red-breats flew together through the door into my study, as if one pursued the other. That fudden motion almost startled me. I was then preparing a fermon on Ephef. iv. 30, and studying.
" Jan. 5. Epiphany Eve, and Friday: In the night I dreamed, that my mother, long since dead, food by my bed, and drawing aside the clothes a little, looked pleasantly upon me; and that I was glad to see her with so merry an aspect. She then thewed to me a certain old man, long since decealed; whom, while alive, I both knew and loved. He seemed to lie upon the ground ; merry enough, but with a wrinkled countenance. His name was Grove." While I prepared to falute him, I awoke.
1639: Feb. 12. Tuesday night. I dreamed that K. C. was to be married to a Minister's widow ; and that I was called upon to do it. No service-book could be found ; and in my own book, which I had, I could not find the order for marriage.