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Preface to ‘Volume the Second’

In this Second Volume of CURIOSITIES of LITERATURE, I have pursued a similar arrangement as in the preceding. I have been but little anxious of presenting certain heavy erudits with novelties; but have been solicitous to unite what merits to be repeated, and to collect what appears to be forgotten. I would produce coin for general use, rather than strike medals for the mere virtuoso; yet the Volume will not, I hope, be found destitute of matter interesting to the curious.

Perhaps this Work offers a more copious fund of Literary Anecdotes than any similar one. To collect Anecdote depends only on industrious research; a task in the reach of the meanest member of the Republic of Letters. Should any merit be discovered in this production, it will be found in the little art by which particles of information are made to coalesce into one body. My reflections arise too naturally from their subjects to deserve distinction. They are not indeed threads of gold; but are however of great utility in binding the scattered flowers together.

I have carefully rejected those isolated Anecdotes, which it is not difficult for a meagre writer to translate, or to transcribe, without taste, without literature, and, what is worse, without common sense. Has it become necessary to inform some, that there are two kinds of Compilers; the one who take for their model the admirable Bayle, while the other always appears inferior to the task which he has assigned to himself? Of the latter it cannot be said, tetigit et ornavit: unlike his brother Midas, whatever he touches does not become gold, but brass. But this by way of general criticism, and not for particular application.

Perhaps men of letters may accept this Volume as an additional attempt to enrich to stores of literary amusement. The less learned, though frequently not the less ingenious part of mankind, will be insensibly led into new routes of information; and taste of waters whose springs had otherwise for ever been concealed from their observation.

As the performance of a young writer, these Volumes have certain claims to indulgence. Those, of whose suffrages I feel myself ambitious, will be the most ready to detect the errors, and the most ready to forgive them; but as it is the duty of an author to prefer the interests of his Readers to his own, I must solicit correction, rather than pardon.

1st MAY, 1793.


Editor’s Notes

This is printed in the first and second editions (both 1793) of ‘volume the second’.