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To the frequent and friendly enquiries for a fourth volume,
I know not if the following edition will be considered as a satisfactory answer. To have continued the work in its original form and series, would have been more profitable and more pleasant; but respect to an indulgent public, entailed on me the duty of correcting error, combining scattered articles, giving substance to the meagre, and suppressing those which have been thought uninteresting. In aiming at improvement, materials accumulated, and, in defiance of indolence or felfdenial, nearly one-fourth part of the present publication may be considered as additional matter.
A short statement of the design of this compilation seems necesfary, for those readers who have not seen my first preface. The title, though it could not shelter me from censure, the title was chosen, that disappointment might not be produced by exciting expectation; deep observation, critical acumen, and extensive information, cannot be confiftently required in a work, whose very name is synonimous, in the vocabulary of fashion, for trilling and superficial. To catch, ere it perish, the trifle of the minute; to give hasty sketches of men and things, which, though beneath the dignity of a biographia, deserve to be recorded ; to select from the scene before me whatever appeared curious, amusing, or applicable to the purposes of human life ; to make a book which might be perused without injury to morals or taste, is attempted in the following pages.
This collection is by no means professedly biographical; I have caught names only to identify fact, to impress sentiment, to give fathion and form to idea. I have endeavoured to unite the useful and the pleafant; for, in the present day, a book merely useful and instructive incurs the risque of being never perused, and a publication solely entertaining, without any view to improve the understanding or amend the heart, no one ought to write. Though not entirely a compiler, my pretensions to originality are slender. I offer the Common-place Book as an easy tooth-pick companion, for idle, dissipated, forgetful men, (and such, my friendly critic, there ever will be, in spite of wisdom and grey hairs) who pass their mornings in Hyde-park, the fruit-shop, *****'s, or St. James's-street; and yet, at the club, or after dinner, with not to appear wholly ignorant of what has been said or sung on any casual subject of private converse, or public discussion. If, under the guise of literary bagatelle, I have occasionally called the attention of these gentlemen to important truth, or tried to rouze them by illustrious example, I assume the merit of sometimes usefully occupying a class more numerous than is generally imagined, who would start at a serious vo. lume, yawn at a moral essay, and slumber over a sermon.
To select and lay before common readers, who, not fastidiously scrupulous or delicately nice, steal a few hours from business or pleasure, ftriking facts and interesting circumstances, which come home to the bofoms of us all; to point out a path, equally distant from vicious diffipation and unsocial seclusion; to cry down alike unwarrantable scepticisin and debafing superstition; to find the happy mid-way between unconditional fubmiffion, and the mad licentiousness of anarchy; to point out, occasionally, the necessity of a timely reform, that fure method of preventing revolutions, always hazardous, too frequently fatal and ineffectual; to glean in spots which have been fometimes neglected, and sometimes forgotten ; were motives which first seduced, and, encouraged by public favour, still invite, to encounter the teazing delays and irritating minutiæ of the press.
THAT IN A NEW FORM, AND FREE FROM MANY OF ITS ERRORS,
IT MAY PROVE NOT WHOLLY UNWORTHY OF HIS PERUSAL, IS THE
OBLIGED AND OBEDIENT,