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so much as named, though he has mentioned others of whom nothing is known, but that they were the occasion or the subject of some useless controversy, the very terms of which few understand, and the merits of which a small part even of thofe few are disposed to examine. Bayle's Lives are indeed nothing more than a vehicle for his criticism, and his work seems to have been chiefly the transcript of a voluminous common-place book, in which he had inserted his own remarks on the various author's he had read, and gratified his peculiar turn of mind by discussing their opinions and correcting their mistakes; it is therefore rather a miscellany of critical and metaphysical speculations, than a system of Biography.
The General Dictionary, as it includes Bayle, is so far liable to the same objections: it is indeed augmented with other articles, but they also are written in Bayle's manner, and for that reason the work upon the whole is not much better adapted to general use. There are many redundancies, and yet there are many defects; and there is besides an objection of more weight though of another kind, the work consisting of no less than ten volumes in folio, for which the purchaser must pay
much more than so many pounds.
The Biographia Britannica, is indeed much more an historical work than Bayle's, but is written upon a much less extensive plan; it contains the Lives of those eminent persons only who were born in Great Britain and Ireland, and of these the chief alone are selected, though many others have a degree of eminence sufficient to render them' objects of general curiosity.
The Athena Oxonienses is written upon a plan still more contracted, for it contains an account of such authors only, as received their academic education at the University of Oxford.
Mr. Collier's Great Historical, Geographical, Genealogical, Poetical Dictionary may possibly seem, by the pretended universality of its plan, to have answered every purpose, which can be proposed from any new work: but this Dictionary is, as its title shews, filled with Geographical and Poetical descriptions, which are no part of our design, and with tedious uninteresting Genealogies which have neither use nor entertainment in them. It is exceedingly defective both as to the number of the lives, and the fullness of the accounts: that is, its accounts of men are too general, too superficial, and indeed too short to give satisfaction. We would not have the reader to conclude from this, that it is any part of our
intention to be more than ordinarily nice and critical : on the contrary, we have for the most part purposely avoided mere criticism, minute enquiries and discussions, and all those trifling points, which constitute the dry part of Biography; but then we have endeavoured to be at least so particular and so accurate in our accounts, as to convey a sufficient knowledge of the persons we have recorded; which certainly can by no means be said of Mr. Collier. So that upon
the whole, neither any nor all of these performances, however voluminous and expensives contain what ought to be found in an Universal Biographical Dictionary; and such is the work which we now offer to the publick.
This contains fome account of every life that has been sufficiently distinguished to be recorded; not indeed a list of all the Names that are to be found in chronological and regal tables, for of many nominal rulers both of the Church and State it can only be said that they lived and died; but a judicious narrative of the actions or writings, the honours and disgraces of all those whose Virtues, Parts, Learning, or even Vices, have preserved them from oblivion in any records, of whatever age, and in whatever language.
This work will therefore naturally include a. history of the most remarkable and interesting transactions, an historical account of the progress of learning, and an abstract of all opinions and principles by which the world has been influenced in all its extent and duration. We have been particularly careful to do justice to the learned and ingenious of our own country, whose works are justly held in the highest esteem; and we have also been attentive to the instruction and amusement of the ladies, not only by decorating our work with the Names of those who have done honour to the fex, but by making our account of others sufficiently particular to excite and gratify curiosity; and, where the subject would admit, to interest the passions, without wearying attention, by minute prolixity or idle speculations.
In the execution of this plan we have not had recourse merely to dictionaries, nor contented ourselves with supplying the defects of one dictionary from another, and cutting off the redundancies of all, but we have collected from every performance in every language that had any relation to our Design. For the lives of authors, we have had recourse to their works and for the lives of others, to the best memoirs that are extant concerning them. We shall, how
ever, notwithstanding the extent of our under-
In a work so various, the materials of which are so numerous, diffused and dissimilar, we have endeavoured to select in every instance, what was in itself most eligible; we hope therefore that when our Readers consider what we have done, they will not withhold their approbation, upon a mere supposition that we might have done more. Those who are acquainted with the pains and attention requisite for the compiling of great works, will readily excuse any small defects that may have escaped us. The authors hope for success from the candid and judicious only, whose recommendation of this, it is their utmost ambition to obtain, as it has been their earnest endeavours to merit.