Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

May know where to have recourse for fuller information. As in the early part of history a want of real facts hath induced many to spin out the little that was own with conjecture, so in the modern part the suPerfluity of trifling anecdotes was equally apt to introduce confusion. In one case history has been rendered tedious from our want of knowing the truth; in the other from knowing too much of the truth not worth our notice. Every year that is added to the age of the world, serves to lenghten the thread of its history; so that to give this branch of learning a just length in the circle of human pursuits, it is necessary to abridge several of the least important facts. It is true, we often at present see the annals of a single reign, or even the transactions of a single year, occupying folios: but can the writers of such tedious journals ever hope to reach posterity, or do they think that our descendants, whose attention will naturally be turned to their own concerns, can exhaust so much time in the examination of ours ? A plan of general history rendered too extensive, deters us from a study that is perhaps of all others the most useful, by rendering it too labotious; and instead of alluring our curiosity, excites our despair. Writers are unpardonable who convert our amusement into labor, and divest knowledge of one of its most pleasing allurements. The ancients have represented History under the figure of a woman, easy, graceful, and inviting ; but we have seen er in our days converted, like the virgin of Wabis, into an instrument of torture. How far we have retrenched these excesses, and steered between the opposites of exuberance and abridgement, the judicious are left to determine. We here offer the public an History of Mankind from the earliest accounts of time to the presentage, in twelve volumes, which, upon mature deliberation, appeared to us the proper mean. It has been our endeavor to give every fact its full scope; but at the same time to retrench all disgusting superfluity, to give every object the due proportion it ought to maintain in the general picture of mankind, without crowding the canwas. We hope therefore that the reader will here see the revolutions of empires without confusion, and trace arts and laws from one kingdom to another, without losing his interestin the narrative of their other transactions. To attain these ends with greater certainty of success, we have taken care in some measure to banish that late, and we may add gothic practice of using a multiplicity of notes; a thing as much unknown to the ancient historians as it is disgusting in the moderns. Balzac somewhere calls vain erudition the baggage of antiquity; might we in turn be permitted to make an apophthegm, we would call notes the baggage of a bad writer. It certainly argues a | defect of method, or a want of perspicuity, when an author is thus obliged to write notes upon his own

[graphic]

works; and it may assuredly be said, that whoever un

dertakes to write a comment upon himself, will for ever

remain, without a rival, his own commentator. We have therefore lopped off such excrescencies, though not to any degree of affectation; as sometimes an aco knowledged blemish may be admitted into works of skill, either to cover a greater defect, or to take a nearer course to beauty. Having mentioned the danger of affectation, it may be proper to observe, that as this of all defects is most apt to insinuate itself into such a work, we have therefore been upon our guard against it. Innovation in a performance of this nature should by no means be attempted: those names and spellings which have been used in our language from time immemorial, ought to continue unaltered; for:

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

like states, they acquire a sort of jus diuturne fossessionis, as the civilians express it, however unjust their

original claims might have been. With respect to chronology and geography, the one of which fixes actions to time, while the other assigns them to place, we have followed the most approved methods among the moderns. All that was requisite in this, was to preserve one system of each invariably, and permit such as chose to adopt the plans of others, to rectify our deviations to their own standard. If actions and things are made to preserve their due distances of time and place mutually with respect to each other, it matters little as to the duration of them all with respect to eternity, or their situa

tion with regard to the universe. Thus much we have thought proper to premise concerning a work which, however executed, has cost much labor and great expence. Had we for our judges the unbiassed and the judicious alone, few words would have served, or even silence would have been our best address; but when it is considered that we have labored for the public, that miscellaneous being, at variance within itself, from the differing influence of pride, prejudice, or incapacity; a public already sated with attempts of this nature, and in a manner unwilling to find out merit till forced upon its notice; we hope to be pardoned for thus endeavoring to shew where it is presumed we have had a superiority. An History of the World to the present time, at once satisfactory and succinct, calculated rather for use than curiosity, to be read rather than consulted, seeking applause from the reader's feelings, not from his ignorance of learning, or affectation of being thought learned; an History that may be purchased at an easy expence, yet that omits nothing material, delivered in a style correct, yet familiar, was wanting in our lan

[graphic][graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

guage; and though sensible of our own insufficiency, this defect we have attempted to supply. Whatever reception the present age or posterity may give this work, we rest satisfied with our own endeavors to deserve a kind one. The completion of our design has for some years taken up all the time we could spare from other occupations, of less importance indeed to the public, but probably more advantageous to ourselves. We are unwilling therefore to dismiss this subject without observing, that the labor of so great a part of life should at least be examined with candor, and not carelessly confounded in that multiplicity of daily publications which are conceived without effort, are produced without praise, and sink without censure.

[graphic]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic]
« ZurückWeiter »