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OF MEN OF
Learning and Genius,
GREAT - BRITAIN AND IRELAND,
DURING THE THREE LAST CENTURIES.
INDICATIVE OF THEIR
MANNERS, OPINIONS, FIABITS, AND PECULIARITIES,
INTERSPERSED WITH REFLECTIONS,
Historical and Literary Illustrations.
BY JOHN WATKINS, LL. D.
Albion Press :
PRINTED FOR JAMES CUNDEE, IVY LANE,
History Blackwell -24-66 523946-10
BIOGRAPHY, since the days of Plutarch, has assumed a great variety of forms. It has frequently been expanded by metaphysical and political disquisition :-sometimes it has swelled out beyond its proper limits into general History ;---ınd too often, especially in our own times, has it been made an apology for errors, and the vehicle of immorality and licentiousness, as well in principle as in practice.
But one of the worst, and yet one of the most common faults in Biographers, has been the misrepresentation of the real characters of the persons whose memoirs they have given, arising from a high admiration of their perform
Hence it is, that Biography, in general, is little better than panegyrick, and while we are endeavouring to become acquainted with “ men like ourselves,” in regard to their moral qualities, we are presented with beings of a superiour degree, if not indeed, of a preternatural order.
One intent, therefore, of this species of writing, and that the most essential to the interests of truth and virtue, has been lost, thut of setting before posterity beacons to warn, or examples to imitate.
When the French ambassador visited the illustrious Bacon in his last illness, and found him in bed, with the curtains drawn, he addressed this fulsome compliment to him: “ You are like the angels, of whom we hear and read much, but have not the pleasure of seeing them."--The reply was the sentiment of a philosopher, and the language of a Christian---“ If the complaisance of others compares me to an angel, my infirmities tell me I am a man."
Thus Biography, to be useful, must be a faithful representation of infirmities as well as of excellencies; it must particularize not only the efforts of genius, but the actions