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"He commenced his public life very reputably, as a solicitor and conveyancer; but for several years before his death had confined the practical part of his business to the last-mentioned branch of his profession. Placed in a situation which above all others is frequently the road to riches and honour, Mr. Reed's principal ambition was to acquire a fundamental knowledge of the jurispru dence of his country; and thus far he was eminently successful. But the law, however alluring its prospects, had not charms sufficient to engage his whole attention; he loved, he venerated, that admirable system, which from the days of Alfred and Canute, from the bold usurping Norman to the present reign, has been regularly ameliorating; but he detested the chicanery of which he was al most daily a witness in many of its professors. If ever there was a mind devoid of guile, it was Isaac Reed's; and an attempt to make " the worse appear the better cause," would have been with him a breach of moral obligation. Hence an extensive line of business was necessarily precluded; but he had the satisfaction of numbering among his clients many highly valued friends; and other avenues to fame, if not to fortune, were open to his capacious mind. His intimate knowledge of antient English literature was unbounded. His own publications, though not very numerous, were all valuable; and he was more satisfied with being
a faithful editor, than ambitious of being an original composer.
"In the year 1768, he collected into one volume, 12mo. "The Poetical Works of the Hon. Lady M[ar]y W[ortele]y M[ontagu]e.” His other publications were, Middleton's" Witch, a TragiCoomodie," a few copies only for his friends, 1778; the sixth volume of Dr. Young's Works, 1778, 12mo. "Biographia Dramatica," 2 volumes, 8vo. 1782, founded upon "Baker's Companion to the Playhouse:" the biographical department of this work is the result of diligent enquiry, and his strictures on the productions of the English drama display sound judgment and correct taste; an improved edition of Dodsley's old Plays, with Notes, 12 vols. 8vo. 1780; Dodsley's Collection of Poems, with Biographical Notes, 6 vols. 8vo. 1782; " The Repository; a select Collection of Fugitive Pieces of Wit and Humour, in Prose and Verse, by the most eminent Writers," 4 vols. 8vo. 1777-1783; Pearch's Collection of Poems, with Biographical Notes, 4 vols. 8vo. 1783, (which some have ascribed to the late George Keate, esq.); "A Complete Collection of the Cambridge Prize Poems, from their first Institution, in 1750, to the present Time," 8vo. 1773; an edition of Johnson and Steevens's Shakspeare, 10 vol. 8vo. 1785, which he undertook at the request of Dr. Farmer and
Mr. Steevens, the latter of whom resigning, for this time, the office of Editor; some short Lives of those English Poets who were added to Dr. Johnson's Collection, in 1790; the Fifth Edition of Shakspeare, in 21 vols. 8vo. 1803, with his name prefixed; an effort which he with some difficulty was persuaded to make. So extremely averse indeed was he to appearing before the publick, that, when he was asked, as a matter of course, to add only his initials at the end of the prefatory advertisement of Dr. Young, his answer was nearly in these words: "I solemnly declare, that I have such a thorough dread of putting my name to any publication whatever, that, if I were placed in the alternative either of so doing or of standing in the pillory, I believe I should prefer the latter." He was a valuable contributor to the Westminster Magazine, from 1773-4 to about the year 1780. The biographical articles in that Miscellany are from his pen. He became also very early one of the proprietors of the European Magazine, and was a constant contributor to it for many years, particularly in the biographical and critical departments. He was also an occasional volunteer in the pages of Sylvanus Urban. So ample indeed was his collection of literary curiosities, so ready was he in turning to them, and so thoroughly able to communicate information, that no man of character ever applied to him in vain. Even the la
bours of Dr. Johnson were benefited by his accuracy; and for the last thirty years, there has scarcely appeared any literary work in this country, of the least consequence, that required minute and extensive research, which had not the advantage of his liberal assistance, as the grateful prefaces of a variety of writers have abundantly testified. Among the earliest of these was the edition of Dr. King's Works, 1776, and the Supplement to Swift, in the same year. In both these works Mr. Nichols was most materially indebted to the judicious remarks of Mr. Reed, whose friendly assistance also in many instances contributed to render his " Anecdotes of Mr. Bowyer," in 1782, completer than they otherwise could possibly have been. He contributed also many useful notes to the later editions of Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets. To enumerate the thanks of the authors whom he had assisted by his advice would be endless.
"With the late Dr. Farmer, the worthy master of. Emanuel College, Cambridge, he was long and intimately acquainted, and regularly for many years spent an autumnal month with him at that pleasant seat of learning. At that period the theatricals of Stirbitch Fair had powerful patronage in the Combination-room of Emanuel, where the routine of performance was regularly settled, and
where the charms of the bottle were early deserted for the pleasures of the sock and buskin. In the boxes of this little theatre Dr. Farmer was the Arbiter Elegantiarum, and presided with as much dignity and unaffected ease as within the walls of his own College. He was regularly surrounded by a large party of congenial friends and able criticks; among whom Mr. Reed and Mr. Steevens were constantly to be found. The last-mentioned gentleman, it may not here improperly be noticed, had so inviolable an attachment to Mr. Reed, that notwithstanding a capriciousness of temper which often led him to differ from his dearest friends, and occasionally to lampoon them, there were three persons with whom through life he scarcely seemed to have a shade of difference of opinion; but those three were gentlemen with whom it was not possible for the most captious person to have differed-Dr. Farmer, Mr. Tyrwhitt, and Isaac Reed.
"To follow Mr. Reed into the more retired scenes of private and domestic life: he was an early riser; and, whenever the avocations of busi ness permitted leisure, applied, in general, several hours in the morning, either in study or in the arrangement of his numerous scarce Tracts. His collection of books, which were chiefly English, was perhaps one of the most extensive in that kind