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FROM the favourable reception given, to my Abridgment of Roman History, published some time since, several friends, and others, whose business leads them to consult the wants of the public, have been induced to suppose, that an English history written on the same plan would be acceptable. It was their opinion that we still wanted a work of this kind, where the narrative, though very concise, is not totally without interest, and the facts, though crowded, are yet distinctly seen.
The business of abridging the works of others has hitherto fallen to the lot of verv dull men; and the art of blotting, which an eminent critic calls the most difficult of all others, has been usually practised by those who found themselves unable to write. Hence, our abridgments are generally more tedious than the works from which they pretend to relieve us, and they have effec
tually embarrassed that road which they laboured to shorten.
As the present compiler starts with such humble competitors, it will scarcely be thought vanity in him if he boasts himself their superior. Of the many abridgments of our own history hitherto published, none seems possessed of any share of merit or reputation; some have been written in dialogue, or merely in the stiffness of an index, and some to answer the purposes of a party. A very small share of taste, therefore, was sufficient to keep the compiler from the defects of the one, and a very small share of philosophy from the misrepresentations of the other.
It is not easy, however, to satisfy the different expectations of mankind in a work of this kind, calculated for every apprehension, and on which all are consequently capable of forming some judgment. Some may say that it is too long to pass under the denomination of an abridgment, and others that it is too dry to be admitted as an history: it may be objected that reflection is almost entirely banished to make room for facts, and yet that many facts are wholly omitted, which might be necessary to be known.
It must be confessed that all the objections are partly true; for it is impossible in the same work, at once, to attain contrary advantages. The compiler who is stinted' in room, must often sacrifice interest to brevity; and on the other hand, while he endeavours to amuse, must frequently transgress the limits to which his plau should confine him. Thus all such as de-sire only amusement may be disgusted with his brevity, and such as seek for information may object to his displacing facts for empty description.
To attain the greatest number of advantages with the fewest inconveniencies, is all that can be attained in an abridgment, the very name of which implies imperfection. It will be sufficient, therefore, to satisfy the writer's wishes, if the present work be found a plain unaffected narrative of facts, with just ornament enough to keep attention awake, and with reflection barely sufficient to set the reader upon thinking. Very moderate abilities were equal to such an undertaking; and it is hoped the performance will satisfy such as take up books to be informed or amused, without much considering who the writer is, or envying him any success he may have had in a former compilation.
As the present publication is designed for the benefit of those who intend to lay a