Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

they have been hours of recreation and instruction, and if they can afford either the one or the other to those for whose benefit they were employed, he will, in his humble commentating line, feel that satisfaction which the approbation of the public must always impart.

Partial to the merits of his favourite poet, the Editor flatters himself that his present attempt may contribute to restore to Churchill's name some of that popularity and celebrity which it once possessed. It is needless to remark that, at the period of their first publication, his works required no comments, he, in imitation of Dryden, so accurately depicted the objects of his indignation, as to render any key unnecessary, until time and death had thrown a shade over their actions and their

names.

The Editor was encouraged to prosecute his undertaking by meeting with the following observation in Dr. Kippis's Life of Churchill, in the Biographia Britannica : “ Perhaps nothing will revive the memory of our author's poems, so as to cause them again to be generally read, excepting a new edition with notes fully explaining the satirical and historical allusions: this was what Mr. Churchill himself, before his decease, wished to be done. In his Will is the following passage :

:desire my dear friend, John Wilkes, Esq. to collect and publish my works, with the remarks and explanations he has prepared, and any others he thinks proper to make.”

On application, in consequence of this request, to the Executors of the late Mr. Wilkes, it was found that he left no such manuscript behind him, though, on the publication of each of Churchill's poems, he had a copy bound and interleaved with writing paper, in which, for reasons best known to himself, he never wrote a single line.

Dr. Kippis thus proceeds :“Whether Mr. Wilkes will ever have leisure to comply with this request we are not able to say. Perhaps the time is not yet arrived for taking away the veil from certain objects; and perhaps it may never be desirable to revive party matters, which, though not sunk into oblivion, have happily ceased to inflame the passions of the mind.”

At this distance of time the Editor sees no reason for apprehending that the revival of the poet's fame can in any way tend to excite a renewal of political differences, the causers and causes of which no longer exist; other and more important subjects of discussion have arisen in the intervening period of forty years, and the Editor trusts that his notes will be found free from that leaven of party malevolence with which the text is too often tinctured.

It has been his anxious wish to elucidate only the particulars in the public conduct of the persons censured by the satirist, and to abstain from all notice of their private vices or follies, except in some instances too notorious to escape direct animadversion. Should he appear to have been misinformed as to the character of any particular individual, he will only have to lament his credulity: for to wilful misrepresentation or undue partiality, he can, without hesitation, declare himself to be an utter stranger.

His authorities the Editor has not often given ; they are generally of a nature not calculated intrinsically to convey an impression of authenticity. In gleaning from the magazines, pamphlets, and newspapers of the day, the Editor could only be

induced, from concurrent testimonies, to select such anecdotes as seemed best entitled to credit, and to submit them to the judgment of the public.

Long before the press teemed with new editions of inferior poets, the present Editor undertook the illustration of Churchill; his materials had lain by for some years when the publication of his work was accelerated by the obliging kindness of Mr. Flexney, the original publisher of the Poet's Works, and who being in possession of several MSS. relating to the Life and writings of the Satirist, in the handwriting of the Rev. William Churchill, his brother,* communicated them to the Editor. The spirit of party had not subsided at tủe time they were written, and they were unfortunately too strongly imbued with that spirit to render them of much utility. Some novel and interesting particulars, however, have been extracted from them, and the Editor flatters himself that he has not been deficient in an assiduous endeavour to procure every possible information respecting his author.

Having detailed his sources of information, and his motives for publication, the Editor submits his work to the indulgence of the public. His name, unknown in the world of letters, could give no sanction to his work, and he sees no reason for incurring the risk of censure, where excellence could

* The Rev. W. Churchill was brought up with his brother at Westminster School, where he was class-fellow with Chrisiopher Smart, and Bonnel Thornton. He was an amiable man, of very reserved and unobtrusive manners, and would proba bly never have emerged from the humble sphere of a country curate, but that late in life, his uncle, the Bishop of St. Asaph, presented him to the rectory of Orton on the Hill, in the county of Leicester, where he died in June, 1804, in the seventyVecond year of his age.

not confer fame; he therefore does not obtrude his name upon the public, though he by no means wishes to be considered as screening himself from responsibility, while he only seeks a shield against the attacks of petulance or malignity.

W. T. Gray's Inn, January, 1804.

PREFACE

TO THE SECOND EDITION.

1844.

The former Edition of Churchill, although published anonymously, and with other unfavorable circumstances, having long since become scarce and out of print, the Editor, emboldened by the encouragement he then experienced from an indulgent public, has been induced to revise it, in the hope of rendering it more worthy of that public, and of the great Poet, once its distinguished favourite.

The interval of nearly half a century, which has elapsed since the former edition, has had the effect of converting what then wore the semblance of contemporary anecdote, to the more sober complexion of history. In 1804, several of the persons mentioned by the Satirist, or their immediate relatives, were living, and consequently many allusions were, from motives of delicacy, left in obscurity.

At this period, not one of the individuals named or alluded to by the Poet, remains alive. The mellowing hand of time has passed over the memories of all: a new era has commenced; and the petty interests and factions of the early part of the reign of George the Third having subsided, a temperate retrospection of those events, and of the prime movers in them, cannot now, it is hoped, excite any feeling of party or personal resentment against the impartial narrator: while, among other presumed advantages, the Editor ventures to place some reliance on the improvement in his own views and means of information, which has been effected by forty years of added experience.

« AnteriorContinuar »