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ROM the favourable reception given to my Abridgement of Roman Hiftory, published fome time fince, feveral friends, and others, whose bufinefs leads them to confult the wants of the public, have been induced to fuppofe, that an English history written on the fame plan would be acceptable. It was their opinion that we still wanted a work of this kind, where the narrative, though very concife, is not totally without intereft, and the facts, though crowded, are yet distinctly feen.
The business of abridging the works of others has hitherto fallen to the lot of very dull men ; and the art of blotting, which an eminent critic calls the moft difficult of all others, has been VOL. I. A
ufually practised by thofe who found themselves unable to write. Hence, our. abridgements are generally more tedious than the works from which they pretend to relieve us, and they have effectually embarraffed that road which they laboured to fhorten.
As the prefent compiler ftarts with fuch humble competitors, it will scarcely be thought vanity in him if he boasts himself their fuperior. Of the many abridgements of our own history hitherto published, none feems poffeffed of any fhare of merit or reputation; fome have been written in dialogue, or merely in the stiffness of an index, and fome to anfwer the purposes of a party. A very fmall fhare of tafte, therefore, was fufficient to keep the compiler from the defects of the one, and a very small fhare of philofophy from the misreprefentations of the other.
It is not eafy, however, to fatisfy the different expectations of mankind in a work of this kind, calculated for every apprehenfion, 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 abridgement, and others that it is too dry to be admitted as an hiftory; 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 neceffary to be known.
It must be confeffed that all these objections are partly true; for it is impoffible in the fame work, at once, to attain contrary advantages. The compiler who is ftinted in room, must often facrifice intereft to brevity; and on the other hand, while he endeavours to amuse, muft frequently transgress the limits to which his plan fhould confine him. Thus all fuch as defire only aA 2 mufe
mufement may be difgufted with his brevity, and fuch as feek for information may object to his difplacing facts for empty description.
To attain the greatest number of advantages with the feweft inconveniencies, is all that can be attained in an abridgement, the very name of which împlies imperfection. It will be fufficient, therefore, to fatisfy the writer's withes, if the present work be found a plain unaffected narrative of facts, with juft ornament enough to keep attention. awake, and with reflection barely fufficient to fet the reader upon thinking. Very moderate abilities were equal to fuch an undertaking; and it is hoped the performance will fatisfy fuch as take up books to be informed or amufed, without much confidering who the writer is, or envying him any fuccefs he may have had in a former compilation.