Page images


It is remarkable that the most celebrated writer of his day, during the brilliant Augustan epoch of English literature, flourished under the reign of a queen, and that in the reign of a queen his works, after the lapse of a century, again appear in a cheap and popular form. To the system of publication which prevailed in his own times Swift was mainly indebted for the wide-spread reputation he acquired, by the diffusion of his writings through the greatest variety of channels, till by means of cheap and multiplied editions his masterly productions became as familiar to the readers of humble station as of high, and to those of other countries as of his own.

It was the great author's uniform object--alike agreeable to his literary ambition and to his high and liberal spirit-to give his works to the public upon as low terms as by mechanic art they could be prepared; and with this view he declined to make them a source of profit, to employ means to protect them as copyright, and more particularly to embody them in large and high-priced editions, accessible indeed to the few, but a book sealed and a fountain of knowledge shut up from the rest of mankind. The repeated restrictions placed upon the cheap knowledge system, after the accession of the Whigs to power in Swift's own times, were denounced by him with the spirit of a sage and a patriot, as inconsistent with civil freedom and the instruction of mankind. Other circumstances favoured the change; fashion, capital, taste, and art, all combined to create a monopoly of expensive and select editions, and in proportion as the immortal productions of the celebrated dean were withdrawn from the masses and the great public of the world to circulate among the polite, the fashionable, and the refined, his celebrity was unfairly restricted. He was judged by partial rules; and the author of "The Drapier's Letters" and "Gulliver's Travels," who had written for mankind, was made the hero of a clique, amenable to the opinions of a caste, subjected to every wind of doctrine and party caprice, now extravagantly exalted by one faction, and then as unjustly reviled by another. The sense of mankind was no longer taken upon his merits as at the period when he lived, when the wide world of politics and letters was his arbitrator, when the twopenny tracts and the old penny broadsides diffused the knowledge of his inimitable writings into the remotest corners of the United Empire.

If, in proportion as Swift's productions were extensively spread abroad, his fame and popularity stood on a wider and a firmer basis, it forms a strong argument of their superior merit, of their ability and usefulness, and of the genuine wit and entertainment as well as the instruction which they contained. Swift wrote with no object but that of honest ambition to serve the cause which he conscientiously approved, and without even the common motives to stand foremost in literary fame, of which it is evident, from the little care he bestowed upon the publication or re-editions of his works, he was far less studious than of the purpose for which he


It was with a view of replacing the eccentric dean of St. Patrick's, his character and his writings, in

the fair and full light of the public eye under which they formerly appeared by the same means of multiplied cheap editions, and of appealing from the merely select and patrician order, for which he never wrote, to the general and unbiassed judgment of the millions and of their posterity, that the following edition of his entire works was undertaken, and that a new life of the author was prepared, with scrupulous love of truth and fidelity, from the mass of voluminous materials placed at the disposal of the editor.

Having thus briefly alluded to the motives which actuated him in venturing to undertake so very onerous and responsible a task, it is the editor's next duty to describe the means he adopted to facilitate his object, and the new claims which he has to advance in looking for the countenance and support of the masses, as distinguished from the possessors of the large and expensive editions, now become, we believe, very nearly and happily exhausted ;—another proof of the witty dean's fame, were any wanting, among the select few who have engrossed them.

One of the first objects to which the present editor directed his attention in the outset was to the glaring inaccuracies and discrepancies which, upon close inspection, were found to deface the existing texts of the different editions, from the period of the first spurious one of the "Miscellanies," and from Hawkesworth and Sheridan, to the splendid eight guinea edition brought out by sir Walter Scott. It is well known that Swift frequently revised the first impressions of his works; in particular his "Gulliver's Travels," and his satirical poems, much more than his political tracts and other pieces of a more temporary interest; and that this circumstance in great part rendered the original copy of little value for the purpose of being collated with subsequent editions, after those of Hawkesworth and Nichols made their appearance. Any one who compares the spurious edition of the "Miscellanies" of Pope and Swift with that subsequently prepared by these great writers, will perceive the extent of the dean's care in this respect; and the appearance of a copy of the "Gulliver's Travels" in the hands of a London booksellera a short time ago, by its numerous interlineations and erasures, bore ample proofs of the author's desire to correct and improve his first essay's to the utmost of his power.

"To write with fervour and correct with phlegm," was a maxim of his friend Pope, of which, with due leisure, Swift knew how to make an admirable use; and to this habit, founded upon a wise love of enduring reputation and profound respect for public opinion, we are indebted for the general correctness and clearness from ambiguities of thought and expression, which distinguish all the works of Swift published with his knowledge during his lifetime. To the same circumstance, favourable alike to Swift's reputation and the labours of his editor, the purity and genuineness of the early texts taken from his own corrected editions, consisting of the "Gulliver's

This curious and valuable specimen of the dean's reverence for the judgment of posterity was seen not a great while ago at the shop of-we believe -a Mr Booth; but is no longer to be met with.

Travels," "Political Tracts," "Miscellanies," and "Poems," by Hawkesworth and Sheridan, with the additions of Nichols, are to be attributed; and in so far as these have been departed from in the hope of farther emendations and improvements, in so much will the genuine text of Swift be found to be defaced and corrupted. It is a curious fact that, although these series of editions have indubitably been taken one from the other, and not from collating the most recent with the earliest edition and with the original copies in different institutions, there should yet occur variations and discrepancies so great as to render it matter of doubt and difficulty to decide upon the original reading. Many of Swift's separately printed works differed from the same given in the editions, and all these editions likewise varied from each other; without excepting that genuine and most valuable work of all, the "Journal to Stella," of which a fair copy, as well as of the "General Correspondence," enriches the national collection in the British Museum.

It is in these posthumous publications, which never, like the printed copies, received the revision of the dean's own hand, that many variations and discrepancies are more peculiarly observable; and for an obvious reason. Never having been written nor designed for publication-thrown off in all the confidence of friendship-very often hastily composed in the hurry of business and on the impulse of warm feelings-it is almost impossible they should not abound with errors such as we still see, and be open to different interpretations and various readings in proportion to the differences of opinion in his editors. This portion of Swift's writings, a sort of public property (for in regard to his whole literary estate he may be said to have died intestate), which never received either his sanction or revision for publication, is exactly that which is most faulty in regard to the text, and calls for the greatest lenity from public opinion upon every other account.

Accordingly upon this portion of the text the editor has bestowed special care, by engaging adequate assistance to collate and compare not only the editions with each other, but each edition with the original MSS., wheresoever they were to be met with, at considerable labour and expense. Laborious as it was, many circumstances favoured this undertaking to form as far as possible, from different texts compared with original copy, a new corrected text, adhering as closely as was practicable to the reading of the first prints and the original documents. By thus recurring to first authorities the editor conceives he has been guided by a safe rule-by a principle that must insure the preservation of correctness, and genuineness, and purity, if not superior elegance and study of expression and language, in accordance with changes in orthography and the use of particles since the days of Swift.

It being the editor's especial object to give Swift's text as he wrote and as he corrected it, where found, he formed the basis of the following one upon these original documents; and having ascertained that Sheridan, with Nichols, approached the nearest to the genuine copy, he adopted it after it had been compared also with the first printed works, with Hawkesworth, and the edition of sir Walter Scott.

lated greatly to deform and deface a text which called for particular care and attention to keep it free from the gradual corruptions which invariably creep in with the lapse of time. The editor is at the same time fully aware that faults so completely condemnatory of a modern edition of the works of Swift, at a period when every opportunity for attaining to correctness at least is afforded, formed no part of the literary character and labours, and are not attributable to the immortal author of 66 Waverley," either as an editor or a biographer. They lay in the system pursued by the proprietors of great editions in bringing out so vast and expensive a publication, as a regiment is brought out on a field-day, en masse, to make a grand show of war, and whose evolutions may be performed with far greater facility, though with less execution, than in a battle. Sir Walter Scott's would indeed have been a noble edition, had it equalled in point of a correct and genuine text its show and magnificence, its pleasing and able biography, and interesting notices.

Secondly, with reference to the editor's arrangement of subjects, the same plan has been pursued as in the preceding editions of Fielding and Smollett, the order of precedence being regulated not by the dates of their production, but by their relative importance and the celebrity they have acquired. This plan would be open to serious objections were they not obviated by the chronological order preserved in the "Life" and the analysis of the author's works, where the dates will be found in the order and sequence of their publication; whereas, by adopting the chronological series, both the least interesting and most unconnected and trivial parts of the writer's works would be obtruded upon the reader's attention. Swift's fame chiefly rests upon his ingenious and masterly political allegories in the form of prose fictions, which must endure as long as the language; and accordingly the "Gulliver's Travels," the "Tale of a Tub," and Swift's other prose works, will in this edition take the lead. The "Journal to Stella," the other Correspondence, the "Political Tracts," and the "Satirical and Occasional Poems," will be found arranged in pursuance of the same principle of relative excellence, as far as the public voice-seldom erroneous-has afforded a criterion of their merit. The arrangement adopted by sir Walter Scott was a great improvement upon preceding editions, but was still arbitrary and open to innumerable objections, from want of pursuing the simple plan now adhered to, in deference no less to the author's surpassing genius than to the reputation awarded him by the public voice. The best points in the arrangement of all former editions the editor has here introduced with fresh improvements.

It will be observed, with reference to the large body of annotations which had accrued from time to time in successive editions of the author's works, till they swelled to a height almost equal to the bulk of the text, only such portions have in this edition been retained as were found necessary to the clear understanding of the text.

The editor has next to return his thanks to several eminent individuals for their communications, and the new and valuable documents with which they have supplied him. It is more particularly his duty Without the slightest wish to utter a word in dis- to record his obligations and those of the public to paragement of the great and valuable labours not sir William Betham, knight and Ulster king of less than the immortal productions of the last cele- arms; to J. C. Croker, esq., of the admiralty; and brated writer, the editor is bound to state, in justice to the Rev. C. Otway, of St. Patrick's cathedral, to the previous efforts of Swift's annotators, that in Dublin;-as well known by their writings as by no other edition is to be found so many errors, so many their learning and research, their extensive collecglaring inaccuracies, so large a portion of little in- tions and knowledge of the dean's published or unterpolations and numerous strange omissions, calcu-published works. The new documents for which

he has been indebted to these gentlemen will be found in the APPENDIX, under their respective heads. Nor is he less bound to express his grateful sense of the valuable assistance and kind attentions of distinguished members of the families of Brabazon and Hamilton in Ireland; of sir Frederick Madden and of A. Panizzi, esq., the learned conservators of the treasures contained in the British Museum. It will be seen that to the excellent system pursued by them in regard to order and precision in the arrangement, the public is indebted for the editor's discovery of several new pieces never before published in any edition of the celebrated dean's works.

While, owing to these and other favourable circumstances, the editor has been enabled to enrich the present collection with new and well-authenticated additions, he devoted his earnest attention to detect the want of genuine character in some productions attributed to Swift in previous editions. Many poetical and other pieces contained in sir Walter Scott's edition, and of which that distinguished writer and critic himself expressed strong doubts, the editor, after mature investigation, decided to omit, as well on the ground of their very inferior character as the intrinsic and collateral evidence of their being written by other hands.

Originally printed in Ten Volumes, and sold at £4. 10s., but now in one very handsome Medium 8vo.

Volume, double columns,




There is one remaining point upon which the editor has ventured to exercise his discretion. It is well known that the dean of St. Patrick's was in the habit of commenting upon the books which he read, especially on history, and those works in which he felt more peculiar interest. This he sometimes did in sallies of impatience and passion of the moment, not worthy his great mind, nor possessing either reflection or wit. Never intended for the public eye, mere ebullitions of disappointment and political rage, showing his prejudice in low and scurrilous terms against a noble people ;-the editor trusts that he will be thought justified in having excluded from a popular edition of Swift's Works those violent expressions written on the margins of Addison's "Freeholder" and Clarendon's "History of the Rebellion."




In conclusion, the editor is rejoiced to have it in his power to state that the views which he has taken of the dean of St. Patrick's character as an honest and conscientious man, have been strongly corroborated by the additional evidence it has been his good fortune to obtain from the archives of St. Patrick's, by the kindness of the Rev. C. Otway; as will be seen from the autograph letter, and the curious and interesting matter in the Appendix.


[blocks in formation]

with his usual diligence, skill, and good taste. No library can be considered complete without this amusing author. Every reader should possess this valuable edition of one of the very best novelists of his time.


The successors of Charles V. may disdain their

That indefatigable and intelligent pioneer of literature, Mr. Thomas Roscoe, has rendered a very important service to the public by his complete edi-brethren of England, but the romance of Tom Jones, tion of the works of Fielding, in one beautiful that exquisite picture of human manners, will outlive volume, and at a charge altogether unprecedented, the palace of the Escurial and the imperial eagle illustrated by a striking portrait of the author, and of Austria. GIBBON. a fac-simile of his autograph. The work comprises 1116 closely printed pages of the largest 8vo. size.


The whole of his works make a portly volume; Fielding's abundant dramatic and political efforts being comprised in it. The gems, of course, are the novels; they are, indeed, "the leaven which leaveneth" this mass.


We recommend the works of Fielding, thus brought together, to readers of every class. If they read with discretion, they may profit greatly thereby: if they read with discrimination, they may gather much insight into humanity therefrom and if they read anyhow, they must be exceedingly entertained with the delectable pages-novels, essays, dramas, and many-featured miscellanies-which are here presented to them.


An acceptable service to the reading public has been rendered by the republication, in the collected and economical form of one handsome volume, of the works of Fielding. Attempts have latterly been made to depreciate the merit by impeaching the moral tendencies of Fielding's works, in order to reduce them to the level of those of Bulwer and

Ainsworth, or rather to exalt these in the scale by pleading for their publications moral equality, if not equality of talent, with those of Fielding. The comparison will not hold for a moment.


On the works of Fielding it is unnecessary to offer

any remarks, their merits being so universally ac knowledged, and their popularity so firmly established. The present edition is distinguished by some peculiarities, being complete in one volume, containing 1116 pages, well printed upon excellent paper, and sold at the extremely moderate price of 16s.

The cultivated genius of Fielding entitles him to a high rank among the classics. His works exhibit a series of pictures drawn with all the descriptive fidelity of a Hogarth. They are highly entertaining, and will always be read with pleasure. D. V. KNOX's Essays.


Cervantes, Le Sage, Fielding, Smollet, began one and all of them with the drama, and after failing in that betook themselves to the efforts by which they have earned their immortality.


[ocr errors]

Of all the works of imagination to which English genius has given origin, the writings of Henry Fielding are, perhaps, most decidedly and exclusively her own. SCOTT.-Biographical Notices.

Johnson read Fielding's Amelia through without stopping. BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.

Johnson appears to have been particularly pleased with the character of the heroine of this novel, and said Fielding's Amelia was the most pleasing heroine of all the romances. MALONE.

Thus lived and thus died, at a period of life when

the world might have expected continued delight from his matured powers, the celebrated Henry Fielding, father of the English novel; and in his powers of strong national humour, and forcible, yet natural exhibition of character, unapproached as yet, even by his most successful followers.

SIR W. SCOTT.-Biog. Memoirs.

PRICE SIXTEEN SHILLINGS, in One handsome Medium Octavo Volume,

Originally printed in Six Volumes, and Sold at 37. 3s.;



Smollett and Fielding were so eminently successful as Novelists, that no other English author of that class has a right to be mentioned in the same breath. We readily grant to Smollett an equal rank with his great rival Fielding-while we place both far above any of their successors in the same line of fictitious composition: perhaps no books ever written excited such peals of inextinguishable laughter as those of Smollett.

SIR WALTER SCOTT's Biographical Notices. We should be glad that we had more of Smollett's Novels just as they are.

CAMPBELL's Specimens of the British Poets.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »