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In the Index, at the end of the present volume, are the names of several eminent and excellent persons, of whom it would have been very satisfactory to the Editor, had he been enabled to insert full biographical notices in the body of the work; but all application for materials to the near connections of those persons proved fruitless. There are, in particular, two lamented individuals, the one of whom was in the church, the other at the bar; both men of great talents, and extensive attainments, of actively virtuous life, and of the highest character in their respective professions; and yet of whom, owing to the cause above-mentioned, little is recorded beyond the mere fact of their decease. On this apparent apathy, regarded in a private point of view, it would be improper in the Editor to make a single comment; but, looking at the subject with reference to the general gratification and interest, he must be permitted to lament, that, at a time when the public mind is unceasingly vitiated by narratives of the profligate adventures of strumpets and swindlers, every opportunity is not anxiously embraced of counteracting the pernicious tendency of those infamous details, by describing the honourable and successful career of persons distinguished for their moral and intellectual qualities; and thereby of, in some degree, continuing to posterity the benefit which the bright example of such persons, while they lived, conferred on their contemporaries.
It is pleasing to pass from these remarks to acknowledgment for the obliging assistance which has been afforded in the preparation of some of the memoirs in the present volume, by individuals, whose names it would not be consistent with delicacy to publish, but whose intimacy with the subjects of those memoirs qualified them, and whose courtesy induced them, to communicate much authentic and acceptable information.
For the kind manner in which the last volume of the Annual Biography and Obituary was spoken of, in several critical publications, the Editor is also grateful. With regard to certain strictures on the same volume in the 6 Gentleman's Magazine,” their tone and language might well justify him in abstaining from all notice of them. But he has too much respect for the opinion of the world, he has too much respect even for the publication in which those strictures appeared, to be wholly silent; although he will endeavour to comprize what he has to say in a very small compass.
In the first place, he frankly avows that he regrets not having, in every instance, distinctly specified, in the only two volumes of the Annual Biography and Obituary, (before the present) for the management of which he is responsible, the authority for the memoirs, or for the component parts of the memoirs, of which those volumes consisted. But, although particular acknowledgment might be wanting, in general acknowledgment he was not deficient. For proof of this allegation, he refers to the statement, in the Preface to the last volume, that its contents had been derived from various sources ; — "principally from contemporary publications of every respectable description, and from private and friendly contributions;" and to the subsequent enumeration of the memoirs which were original, and of those which were not
Me, however, repeats his regret that he contented himself with this general acknowledgment; and the present volume, in which his authorities are particularized with scrupulous accuracy, will at least show that he is not one of those who, when they become aware of an error, hesitate to correct it.
As to the question of the propriety or impropriety of his deriving his materials from the best sources that may present themselves, he begs simply to advert to the conduct of his censor in that respect. For some years past, the “ Gentleman's Magazine,” (a publication rendered venerable by its age, by its merits, and by the recollection of the learned men who, from time to time, have « recreated their travailed
spirits" in contributing to its pages,) no doubt feeling the competition of more youthful periodical miscellanies, has wisely maintained its grave and ancient character, by meeting fiction with fact; and, in the interesting, though usually brief relation of the lives of real human beings, has found a powerful security for its popularity and circulation, against the efforts of rivals who have resorted for the means of public attraction chiefly to the regions of fancy. But has Sylvanus Urban relied, in this department of his magazine, entirely on the communications of his literary friends and correspondents? Far from it. With many original and valuable biographical sketches, from the pens of some of the most able and intelligent writers in the country, he has mingled numerous notices of a similar kind, collected from every accessible quarter; from the daily and weekly papers of the metropolis, from the provincial journals of England, Scotland, and Ireland, from colonial prints, from other monthly publications, from regular biographical works, such as the “ Public Characters,” “ Marshall's Royal Naval Biography,"
" «The Royal Military Calendar, &c.”* Does the Editor of the Annual Biography and Obituary blame this practice? Quite the reverse. To him it appears to be exceedingly laudable.
But he hopes that what is allowed to be praise-worthy in another, may, at least, not be pronounced reprehensible in him.
It is certainly true, that his last volume was indebted to the.“ Gentleman's Magazine” for a considerable and valuable portion of its contents. It is certainly true, that it was indebted to other periodical publications for much useful information. It is certainly true, that the present volume is likewise indebted to the same publications for extensive assist
Were the Annual Biography and Obituary a work, the interests of which clashed with those of any of the respectable publications to which it thus has recourse, in aid of its own resources; the question would wear another aspect, but there can be no collision between them. Their
* Generally, by the by, although not always, unacco ied by any acknowledgment; of which an amusing instance is afforded in the naïveté with which the Editor of the Annual Biography and Obituary is challenged to name the country newspaper from which an account of the late Baron Wood, inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine, was abridged.
and object are entirely different. If a history were to be written of the progress or retrogression of the Catholic cause; and if the historian were to transcribe from the present volume of the Annual Biography and Obituary, the details of the efforts made by the late Lord Donoughmore in favour of that cause, (which it cost some labour to trace and extract from the records of parliament,) would the Editor of this work remonstrate against such a proceeding? On the contrary, he should regard it, not only as justifiable, but as complimentary. One word more.
If there had ever been an attempt to represent the Annual Biography and Obituary as any thing but that which it always has been, and which, owing to its very nature, and to the peculiar circumstances under which it' is prepared and produced, it always must be; namely, a work partly original, but partly compiled, * public reproof ought to fall upon an assumption so unfounded. No such pretension, however, has been advanced. Various occurrences may influence the character of its composition. In some years it may be enabled to boast of a greater amount of original, in others it must be satisfied to avail itself of a greater amount of borrowed matter; but a compound of the two it must always remain ; and the Editor of it would feel that he ill-discharged his duty, if he neglected any fair means of rendering that compound as copious, interesting, and correct as possible.
December 31, 1825.
* In fact, what work is not so?,