Preface to the Fifth Edition
Some apology may perhaps be deemed necessary, for the numerous alterations and additions, made in the present, Fifth, Edition of this work. Since its first publication several works of a similar nature have appeared; and more than one, have been so well received, that in justice to the active spirit of my publisher, I have performed the painful duty of revising, rescinding, and substituting new articles. It had been an easier task to add a new volume; but I did not wish to increase the size of the work, so much as to make it answer its intended purpose.
This miscellany, was first formed, many years ago, when two of my friends, were occupies in those anecdotical labours, which have proved so entertaining to themselves, and their readers.* I conceived that a collection of a different complexion, though much less amusing, might prove, somewhat more instructive; and that, literary history, afforded an almost unexplored source, of interesting facts. The work itself, has been well enough received by the public, to justify its design.
Every class of readers, requires a book adapted to itself; and that book, which interests, and perhaps brings much new information, to a multitude of readers, is not to be contemned, even by the learned. More, might be alledged in favour of works like the present, than can be urged against them. They are of a class which was well known to the Ancients. The Greeks were not without them, and the Romans loved them under the title of Varia Eruditio; and the Orientalists more than either, were passionately fond of these agreeable collections. The fanciful titles, with which they decorated their variegated miscellanies, sufficiently expresses their delight.
The design of these arrangements, is to stimulate the literary curiosity of those, who, with a taste for its tranquil pursuits, are impeded in their acquirement. The characters, the events, and the singularities of modern literature, are not always familiar, even to those who excel in classical studies. But a more numerous part of mankind, by their occupations, or their indolence (both unfavourable causes to literary improvement) require to obtain the materials for thinking, by the easiest and readiest means, To such, it is presumed, this work, has proved useful, and the honour which some writers have done this compilement, by referring to it, has exhilarated the zealous labour which the present improved Edition, has necessarily brought with it.
* The late William Seward, Esq. and James Petit Andrews, Esq.
The 5th edition was published in 2 volumes in 1807. Not only were the ‘alterations and additions’ numerous, but so were the deletions, which I have documented as ‘lost articles’ on this site. This preface was preserved largely intact for the 7th edition of 1823, but with the following text appearing in the closing paragraph:
This work has proved useful: it has been translated; and the honour which many writers at home have conferred on it, by referring to it, has exhilarated the zealous labour which seven editions have necessarily exacted.