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Diretionary of the
spect for literature, and his desire to promote useful knowledge.
Having related the more personal and private circumstances of Dr. Birch's history, we proceed to his various publications. The first great work he engaged in, was ** The General Dictionary, historical and critical ;” wherein a new translation of that of the celebrated Mr. Bayle was included; and which was interspersed with several thousand lives never before published. It was on the 29th of April, 1734, that Dr. Birch, in conjunction with the rev. Mr. John Peter Bernard, and Mr. John Lockman, agreed with the booksellers to carry on this important undertaking; and Mr. George Sale was employed to draw up the articles relating to oriental history. The whole design was completed in ten volumes, folio; the first of which appeared in 1734, and the last in 1741. It is universally allowed, that this work contains a very extensive and useful body of biographical knowledge. We are not told what were the particular articles written by Dr. Birch; but there is no doubt of his having executed a great part of the dictionary: neither is it, we suppose, any disparagement to his coadjutors, to say, that he was superior to them in abilities and reputation, with the exception of Mr. George Sale, who was, without controversy, eminently qualified for the department he had undertaken. The next great design in which Dr. Birch engaged, was the publication of “Thurloe's State Papers.” This collection, which comprised seven volumes in folio, came out in 1742. It is dedicated to the late lord chancellor Hardwicke, and there is prefixed to it a life of Thurloe; but whether it was written or not by our author, does not appear. The same life had been separately published not long before. The letters and papers in this collection throw the greatest light on the period to which they relate, and are accompanied with proper references, and a complete index to each volume, yet was a work by which the proprietors were great losers. In 1744, Dr. Birch published, in octavo, a “ Life of the honourable Robert Boyle, esq;" which hath since been prefixed to the quarto edition of the works of that philosopher. In the same year, our author began his assistance to Houbraken and Vertue, in their design of publishing, in folio, the “ Heads of illustrious persons of Great Britain," engraved by those two artists, but chiefly by Mr. Houbraken. To each head was annexed, by Dr. Birch, the life and character of the person represented. The first volume of this work, which came out in numbers, was completed in 1747, and the second in 1752. Our author's concern in this undertaking did not hinder his prosecuting, at the same time, other historical disquisi. tions: for, in 1747, appeared, in octavo, “ His inquiry into the share which king Charles the First had in the transactions of the earl of Glamorgan." A second edition of the Inquiry was published in 1756, and it was a work that excited no small degree of attention. In 1751, Dr. Birch was editor of the “ Miscellaneous works of sir Walter Raleigh ;'' 'to which was prefixed the life of that unfortunate and injured man. Previously to this, Dr. Birch published “ An historical view of the negociations between the courts of England, France, and Brussels, from 1592 to 1617; extracted chiefly from the MS State Papers of sir Thomas Edmondes, knight, embassador in France, and at Brussels, and treasurer of the household to the kings James I. and Charles I. and of Anthony Bacon, esq. brother to the lord chancellor Bacon. To which is added, a relation of the state of France, with the character of Henry IV. and the principal persons of that court, drawn up by sir George Carew, upon his return from his embassy there in 1609, and addressed to king James I. never before printed.” This work, which consists of one volume, in octavo, appeared in 1749; and, in an introductory discourse to the honourable Philip Yorke, esq. (the late earl of Hardwicke), Dr. Birch makes some reflections on the uti. Jity of deducing history from its only true and unerring sources, the original letters and papers of those eminent men, who were the principal actors in the administration of affairs; after which he gives some account of the lives of sir Thomas Edmondes, sir George Carew, and Mr. Anthony Bacon. The “ Historical View" is undoubtedly a valuable performance, and hath brought to light a variety of particulars relative to the subjects and the period treated of, which before were either not at all, or not so fully known. In 1751, was published by our author, an edition, in two volunies, Svo, of the " Theological, moral, dramatic, and poetical works of Mrs. Catherine Cockburn;" with an account of her life. In the next year came out his “ Life of the most reverend Dr. John Tillotson, lord archbishop of Canterbury. Compiled chiefly from his original papers and letters:" A second edition, corrected
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and enlarged, appeared in 1753. This work, which was dedicated to archbishop Herring, is one of the most pleasing and popular of Dr. Birch's performances; and he has done great justice to Dr. Tillotson's memory, character, and virtues. Our biographer hath likewise intermixed with his narrative of the good prelate's transactions, short accounts of the persons occasionally mentioned; a method which he has pursued in some of his other publications. In 1753, he revised the quarto edition, in two volumes, of Milton's prose works, and added a new life of that great poet and writer. Dr. Birch gave to the world, in the following year, his “ Memoirs of the reign of queen Elizabeth, from the year 1581, till her death. In which the secret intrigues of her court, and the conduct of her favourite, Robert earl of Essex, both at home and abroad, are particularly illustrated. From the original papers of his intimate friend, Anthony Bacon, esq. and other manuscripts never before published.” These memoirs, which are inscribed to the earl of Hardwicke, give a minute account of the letters and materials from which they are taken: and the whole work undoubtedly forms a very valuable collection; in which our author has shewn himself (as in his other writings) to be a faithful and accurate compiler; and in which, besides a full display of the temper and actions of the earl of Essex, much light is thrown on the characters of the Cecils, Bacons, and many eminent persons of that period. The book is now becoming scarce, and, as it may not speedily be republished, is rising in its value. This is the case, likewise, with regard to the edition of sir Walter Raleigh's miscellaneous works. Dr. Birch's next publication was “ The history of the Royal Society of London, for improving of natural knowledge, from its first rise. In which the most considerable of those papers, communicated to the society, which have hitherto not been published, are inserted in their proper order, as a supplement to the Philosophical Transactions." The two first volumes of this performance, which was dedicated to his late majesty, appeared in 1756, and the two other volumes in 1757. The history is carried on to the end of the year 1687; and if the work had been continued, and. had been conducted with the same extent and minuteness, it would have been a very voluminous undertaking. But, though it may, perhaps, be justly blamed in this respect, it certainly contains many curious and entertaining anec
dotes concerning the manner of the society's proceedings at their first establishment. It is enriched, likewise, with a number of personal circumstances relative to the members, and with biographical accounts of such of the more considerable of them as died in the course of each year. In 1760, came out, in one volume, 8vo, our author's “Life of Henry prince of Wales, eldest son of king James I. Compiled chiefly from his own papers, and other manuscripts, never before published.” It is dedicated to his present majesty, then prince of Wales. Some have objected to this work, that it abounds too much with trilling details, and that Dr. Birch has not given sufficient scope to such reflections and disquisitions as arose from his subject. It must, nevertheless, be acknowledged, that it affords a more exact and copious account than had hitherto appeared of a prince whose memory has always been remarkably popular; and that various facts, respecting several other eminent characters, are occasionally introduced. Another of his publications was, “Letters, speeches, charges, advices, &c. of Francis Bacon, lord viscount St. Alban, lord chancellor of England." This collection, which is comprised in one volume, Svo, and is dedicated to the honourable Charles Yorke, esq. appeared in 1763. It is taken from some papers which had been originally in the possession of Dr. Rawley, lord Bacon's chaplain, whose executor, Mr. John Rawley, having put them into the bands of Dr. Tenison, they were, at length, deposited in the manuscript library at Lambeth. Dr. Birch, speaking of these papers of lord Bacon, says, that it can scarcely be imagined, but that the bringing to light, from obscurity and oblivion, the remains of so eminent a person, will be thought an acquisition not inferior to the discovery (if the ruins of Herculaneum should afford such a treasure) of a · new set of the epistles of Cicero, whom our immortal countryman most remarkably resembled as an orator, a philosopher, a writer, a lawyer, and a statesman. Though this, perhaps, is speaking too highly of a collection, which contains many things in it seemingly not very material, it must, at the same time, be allowed, that nothing can be totally uninteresting which relates to so illustrious a man, or tends, in any degree, to give a farther insight into his character. To this catalogue we have still to add " Professor Greaves's miscellaneous works," 1737, in two vols. 8v0. Dr. Cudworth’s “ Intellectual System,” (improved
betwesto, with pienser's “Faigs, 1743, i
from the Latin edition of Mosheim ;) his discourse on the true notion of the Lord's Supper, and two sermons, with an account of his life and writings, 1743, in two vols. 4to. An edition of Spenser's “ Fairy Queen,” 1751, in three vols. 4to, with prints from designs by Kent. “ Letters between col. Robert Hammond, governor of the Isle of Wight, and the committee of lords and commons at Derbyhouse, general Fairfax, lieut.-general Cromwell, commissary general Ireton, &c. relating to king Charles I. while he was confined in Carisbrooke-castle in that island. Now first published. To which is prefixed a letter from John Ashburnham, esq. to a friend, concerning his deportment towards the king, in his attendance on his majesty at Hampton-court, and in the Isle of Wight,” 1764, 8vo. Dr. Birch's last essay, “ The life of Dr. Ward," which was finished but a week before his death, was published by Dr. Maty, in 1766.
Mr. Ayscough has extracted, from a small pocket-book belonging to Dr. Birch, the following memoranda of some pieces written by him, of which he was not before known to be the author. 1726, “A Latin translation of Hughes's Ode to the Creator.” 1727, “ Verses on the General history of Printing ;" published in the General history of Printing. Collections for Smedley's View. 1728, “ Abelard to Philotas.” 1732, Began the General History. 1739, “Account of Alga,” published in the Works of the Learned for July. “ Account of Milton," published in the Works of the Learned. 1741, Wrote the letter of Cleander to Smerdis, in the Athenian Letters. 1742, Wrote an account of Orr's sermon, in the Works of the Learned. 1743, Wrote the preface to Boyle's works. 1760, By a letter from Dr. Stonhouse, it appears that Dr. Birch was the author of the Life of the rev. Mr. James Hervey, which is prefixed to that gentleman's writings. He was employed, likewise, in correcting a great number of publications, and among the rest Murden's State Papers. At the time of the doctor's death, he had prepared for the press a collection of letters, to which he had given the title of “ Historical Letters, written in the reigns of James I. and Charles I. containing a detail of the public transactions and events in Great Britain during that period; with a variety of particulars not mentioned by our historians. Now first published from the originals in the British Museum, Paper-office, and private collections." These are all the separate publications, or intended works, of Dr. Birch that
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