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of life. It is not sufficient to inform us what great men have performed on the theatre of the world, but how they conversed, and what was their deportment in the circle of domestick society. Such a representation of them requires the relation of minute circumstances connected with the ordinary occurrences of human life: and the opening to the reader their correspondence and conversation, their familiar habits and most retired privacies. It is thus only that Biography can be of practical use, for the great end of moral and intellectual improvement.
This has been the principal aim in the compilation of the present volume: in which the delineation of literary character is but an oụtline sketch, while the main endeavour. has been to give a correct picture of the mind and the manner, the disposition and the habits of the man.
From a variety of sources, the best and most authentick anecdotes have been carefully selected, and so disposed, as to exhibit the genuine characters of persons of the greatest literary eminence of our nation during the three preceding, centuries. Subordinately, and in the notes, are scattered many circumstances of other distinguished persons, which will, it is hoped, serve the purpose of entertainment, if not of illustration.
The compiler, for to u higher title he has no pretension, is aware that he has only gleaned a small part of a very extensive, and a very fruitful field. Should, however, his present attempt to make Biography more faithful and amusing, meet with publick approbation, it may encourage him to farther exertions.
LONDON, DECEMBER 1, 1807.