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PRINTED FOR JAMEs c UN DEE, IVY-LAN E,
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:---and 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 performances. Hence it is, that Biography, in general, is little better than panegyrick, and while we are endeavouring to become acquainted nith “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, that of setting before posterity beacons to warn, or eramples to imitate.
When the French ambassador visited the illustrious BAco N 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 compire me to an angel, my infirmities tell me I am a onan,
Thus Biography, to be useful, must be a faithful representation of infirmities as well as of ercellencies; it must
particularize not only the efforts of genius, but the actious
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 or
dinary 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 | 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 y literary character is but an outline sketch, while the main endeavour has been to give a correct picture of the mind and the manner, the disposition and is. habits of the man.
From a variety of sources, the best and most authentick anecdotes have been carefully selected, and so disposed, as to eahibit the genuine characters of persons of the greatest literary eminence of our nation during the three precedin centuries. Subordinately, and in the notes, are scattere many circumstances of other distinguished persons, which will, it is hoped, serve the purpose of entertainment, if not of illustration.
The compiler, for to a 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.
LoN Don, Dece M BER 1, 1807.
* T. * Qo o men, in all respects, in equal r which has been denominated, with that o o the Age of the Reformation, and that of the revival of Letters, was Sir Thomas
More, the fiend of Erasmus, and the victim of
d o tyrant's caprice and cruelty
and was born in Milk-street, London, in 1480
*. i . he was admitted into the house of
sons of noblemen and gentlemen of the first r