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The following Biographical and Critical Sketches—for they claim no more important name were written for the
of serving as prefaces to a Collection called Ballantyne's Novelist's Library ;' a work undertaken by the late Mr John BALLANTYNE, bookseller in Edinburgh, a person whom no one knew without being desirous to oblige him. It was carried on after his death by Messrs HURST and ROBINSON of London, for the benefit, some measure, of Mrs BALLANTYNE, but is for the present suspended. It has since been thought advisable to publish the Preliminary Notices in the present connected form. It may be necessary to observe, that the Lives do not lay claim to the merit of much research, being taken from the most accessible materials; and that the Critical Opinions are such as have
*[Published in 10 volumes, royal 8vo. London, 1821, &c.]
occurred without much or profound study to one, too much of whose time has been spent in that “delightful lande of faerie," the seducing mazes of fictitious narrative.
Abbotsford, 1st Sept. 1825.
[“ A few years ago there appeared at Edinburgh ten volumes in succession of a collection entitled Ballantyne's Novelist's Library, to which Sir Walter Scott supplied prefatory memoirs of the various authors whose works the publication included. The book had the additional recommendations of handsome type and paper, and careful printing, yet it does not seem to have met with success, at least we are at a loss to account otherwise for its sudden suspension, in a state of obvious incompleteness. In the meantime, Mr Galignani has taken the liberty to detach Sir Walter's Memoirs from the bulky tomes in which they lay buried ; and we hope our notice of his publication may induce those of whose property he has availed himself to imitate the shrewdness of his example. These essays are among the most agreeable specimens of biographical composition we are acquainted with: they contain a large assemblage of manly and sagacious remarks on human life and manners, and much ingenious criticism besides; and, thus presented in a compact form, must be considered as throwing a new and strong light upon a department of English literature, perhaps the most peculiar, certainly the most popular, and yet we cannot help thinking, among the least studied of all that we possess." - Quarterly Review, September, 1826, p. 349.]
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICES, &c.
The Life of this excellent man, and ingenious author, has been written, with equal spirit and candour, by Mrs Barbauld, a name long dear to elegant literature, and is prefixed to her publication of the Author's Correspondence, published by Philips, in six volumes, in 1804. The leading circumstances of these simple annals are necessarily extracted from that performance, to which the present Editor has no means of adding any thing of consequence.
SAMUEL RICHARDSON was born in Derbyshire, in the year 1689. His father, a joiner by profession, was one of many sons, sprung from a family of middling note, which had been so far reduced, that the children were brought up to mechanical trades. His mother was also decently descended, but an orphan, left such in infancy by the death of both her parents, cut off within half an hour of each other by the great pestilence in 1663. Her name is not mentioned. Old Richardson was connected by employment with the unhappy Duke of Monmouth, after whose execution he retired to Shrewsbury, apprehensive, perhaps, of a fate similar to that of College, his brother-in-trade, well known in those times by the title of the Protestant Joiner, who was executed for high treason in the reign of Charles II.
Having sustained severe losses in trade, the elder "Richardson was unable to give his son Samuel more than a very ordinary education ; and our author, who was to rise so high in one department of literature, was left unacquainted with any language excepting his own. Under all these disadvantages, and perhaps in some degree owing to their existence, young Richardson very early followed, with a singular bias, the course which was most likely to render his name immortal. We give his own words, for they cannot be amended :
“ I recollect, that I was early noted for having invention. I was not fond of play, as other boys: my school-fellows used to call me Serious and Gravity; and five of them particularly delighted to single me out, either for a walk, or at their fathers' houses, or at mine, to tell them stories, as they phrased it. Some I told them, from my reading, as true ; others from my head, as mere invention ; of which they would be most fond, and often were affected by them. One of them particularly, I remember, was for putting me to write a history, as he called it, on the model of Tommy Pots ;' I now forget what it was, only that it was of a servantman preferred by a fine young lady (for his good
i Tommy Potts is the name of an old ballad published in Ritson's Ancient Songs.