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the project was laid, came to the conclusion that it would be enough in the mean time to deal with our own country in a work of so comprehensive and exhaustive a character, and announced his 'Biographia Britannica.' Even about this he seems to be hesitating; but let us hope that the project has not been abandoned.
And, in the mean time, with all due humiliation and shame at our own vaulting ambition, let us accept in good part what the French have done. Deficient as their two large biographical dictionaries are, they are far above any that we have completed. Of the more recent one, the 'Biographie Générale,' the fortysecond volume is on our desk. It brings us down to Saint André. The names in T and the remaining letters are not yet, therefore, free of risk; and, by the way, theirs is a case which really has not received sufficient sympathy from the world. As we have already remarked in other departments, you may round off the articles in the earlier and happier letters of the alphabet so as to include the unfortunate residuaries. For instance, Zygophyllacæ can be considered as included in the Gynobasic group of Polypetalous Exogens, and may have had a chance of getting in under letter E or G or P. Zoophytes have had some chance under Clavularia, Pennatularia, and Sarcoidea. But it is all up with Zucharelli, Zuinglius, and Zantippe, if the pen drop from the compiler's hand before he has reached the end of the alphabet. Now that contemporary biography has become fashionable, the inequality becomes serious. The position of the X Y Z's towards the A B C's is a contrast painful to contemplate. They have not only the almost certainty of getting much less notice, but of being totally omitted, either because the table is already full, or the door is closed. Has any one considered what the effects on society may be of this alphabetical inequality in the temple of fame,
and whether there is any remedy for it? whether, for instance, they have a self-acting compensation, in that tax-gatherers, keepers of jury-rolls, and persons of that class, break down before reaching them, as well as the biographical dictionary men?
There is another deficiency in biographical dictionaries, and other works of reference, as to which we plead only from the reader's sidenot by any means as advocating the rights of neglected virtue and eminence. One wants sometimes to know about very great scoundrels and criminals, and unless these have been illustrious for something besides scoundrelism or criminality— as kings, or conquerors, or great geniuses-there is no getting satisfactory information about them. Dick Turpin, Duval, Tom King, Harry Abershaw, Maclean, Thurtell, Burke, and Hare, are persons one might want to know about sometimes, perhaps for some very virtuous purpose, such as a sermon, or an essay on the abolition of the punishment of death; but how can one get at them, as he can at Isaac Watts and Hannah More, through the biographical dictionaries? Such men influenced the times in which they lived to an enormous extent, and to-day our no-knowledge of them leaves our notions of these times indistinct. Cartouche, the celebrated robber, held his ground within France so powerfully, that at one time there was a dread of his besieging Paris - but what French historian deigns to mention his name?
In a small shelf, high up, where the obscure duodecimos are stowed away, stand four volumes, which might appear to supply the want we have just proclaimed. There is a very long and rather incoherent title-page, but the spirit of it is that the book is a biographical dictionary of eminent criminals. Lest one should doubt this on account of the circumlocutious way in which it is explained, there is a list of the
kind of persons who come under the scope of the book, beginning "Murderers, Traitors, Pirates, Mutineers," and so on through a long list to the humble class who are called "Extortioners." This book has by no means a scholarly look, and we never happen to have seen a copy of it in such condition as would tempt a collector with very moderate notions to permit it to range with his respectable volumes. The writer of these remarks confesses to have got a deal of very curious, and, according to his own notion, valuable information out of this book. And what can be got from it makes it the more to be regretted that such information is not more accessible than it is. This biographical dictionary of criminals notices very few who were not British, and opens up the idea how vast a world of portentous phenomena the conditions of crime in different ages and different countries present, and how little we know of it all. We must admit that there is a difficulty here. Crime gets already celebrity enough. If a man has led a humble, stupid, clay-cloddish sort of life without the faintest chance of being noticed beyond his village, are we to make him an illustrious inmate of the house of the immortals-to make him a historical personage—because the devil has some day entered into his brutal heart and made him commit a flagrant murder? But we haven't time to sift all the views of this matter.
We have seen that the French have got the better of us in biographical dictionaries; and so also have they in complete encyclopædias. Even the now old-fashioned 'Encyclopédie Methodique' is three or four times the size of our largest specimens-Rees's and the Metropolitana. This is in accordance with the experience that in the production of majestic costly books France ever excels us, boast as we will of our riches. It is more surprising to find that the Germans greatly excel us in the
bulk of their encyclopædias; and there is no better reason for it than that the Germans are such readers. However, we are gaining on them, and may in the end beat them. When we had nothing to show in that shape but Chambers's 'Dictionary of Arts and Sciences'-the earlier editions in two, the later in three folio volumes these Germans had the Universal Lexicon,' published by Zedler in more than seventy folios; and now Ersch and Gruber, when finished, will come to some three hundred volumes. It is a fine exemplification of the leisurely nature of the German mind. It was begun in 1818, and is now going on with vigour. We have referred elsewhere to its peculiarity as beginning at three parts of the alphabet. A few volumes tumble out every year; and the last we have seen shows that, instead of becoming exhausted, as long works are apt to be, it becomes richer and fuller as it goes on. These last volumes are three in number. all given to Greece; and they are close on the point where the first division, ending with letter G, meets the second beginning with letter H. One is inclined to ask whether science will be compelled to stand still in Germany so as to preserve the logical symmetry of this work, and preclude the concluding volumes, issued somewhere about 1868, from contradicting those of 1818?
Of our English encylopædical literature the history is brief. But little as there is to say about it, we are not aware that that little has ever been told. The earliest work of the kind published in Britain, so far as we are aware, is the 'Dictionarium Historicum Geographicum Poeticum,' a folio volume published in 1660 by Nicholas Lloyd, who professes merely to enlarge on the work of a Carolus Stephanus. It is a very useful guide to the names of places and persons in old Latin books treating on the history or topography of the middle ages.
This is a field in which every little help is valuable. It has not been thoroughly cultivated, like the classical nomenclature, which surely is now completed after Dr William Smith and his force of assistants have added so much to what Lemprière and others had done. The searcher after the individuality of some place or person encountered in the Chronicle of Marianus or Froissart, knows what it is frantically to turn the pages of all the standard historical dictionaries Bayle, Moreri, Hoffman, Zedler, and the rest-in vain; and if he find it at last in the humble corner occupied by Lloyd, as he sometimes may, he cannot but be grateful.
The next English book of the kind in chronological succession is Jeremy Collier's Dictionary. The first edition-at least the earliest which the present writer is acquainted with-was printed in a very portentous folio in 1694, three years before the appearance of Bayle. It was published anonymously, and is not so well known as the edition of 1701, which had the advantage of Bayle's labours. From its title-page, which is a curious specimen of prolixity, the book, notwithstanding the enormous deal it has to say for itself, appears to merge into an abridged translation of Moreri. But there is a great deal of curious and valuable matter in it not to be found there. It does, indeed, for British history and the British great families, the same service that Moreri performed for France. Collier, as most people know, was conspicuous in history as a nonjuring bishop; and when contemporary history and biography biography passed through the hands of such a man, the method in which he discoursed of them would of necessity be of more significance than the compilations of the ordinary compiler.
In these works, science, as we now understand the term, can scarcely be said to have been represented. Thus Collier's title
page includes "the principal terms of arts and sciences." The first English book to bring the natural and exact sciences under alphabetical discipline, along with history, geography, law, and divinity, was the Dictionary of Arts and Sciences,' by Ephraim Chambers. The publication of the first edition in 1729 must be counted a sort of epoch in this department of literature. It may be questioned if the idea of the encyclopædia-the whole circle of human knowledge in alphabetical order, with a due adjustment of space to importance, and a reference of the several parts to each other-has ever been more fully realised than by the editor of this work, who set the example to foreigners as well as to his countrymen. The encyclopædia of Dr Rees, which swelled to forty volumes, was avowedly the dictionary of Chambers come to full growth. The 'Encyclopædia Britannica' was a child of the same literary parentage. Respectable as is its bulk when appearing for the eighth time, it was at first a smaller book than the 'Dictionary of Arts and Sciences,' being coerced into the limits of three quarto volumes. In the second edition it allowed itself to swell into ten, with the aid of a writer who was in his day very decidedly the kind of person whom we familiarly call "a character." It is, we rather think, a common belief that all literary compilers are persons of a staid and sedate walk in life, alien to the roystering habits to which certain distinguished men of genius have been addicted. Their work is very systematic and compact, each part fitting exactly to its place and filling it, but going no farther. Hence people suppose that the domestic life of the compiler is something precise and symmetrical, like his work. It is the counterpart to the feeling one has in a well-executed review of troops, that each individual who dresses so perfectly in line is nothing but a red-and-white pattern on the field, and has no more in
dividuality of feeling, passion, and interest in the affairs of the world than a square in a carpet. The soldier, however, if we ask about it, has his personal character and history, and, it may be, a strange enough one when brought out; so of the compiler for an alphabetical -he has to "dress" to the order of the alphabet when he appears in public for service, but his private life may be a wild and wayward one. And it would be difficult to find one more strange than that of James Tytler, who has the reputation of having been the maker of the second edition of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica.' He is not for one moment to be confounded with the Fraser Tytlers-an eminently respectable race of writers, who never appear except in unexceptionable full-dress, and have the art of communicating its stiffness and formality to everything they touch -even that swearing indecorous madcap Lord Kames is toned down to absolute demureness in the two quartos in which they arrayed him. James Tytler, on the other hand, probably never put on a decent coat in his life. It was lucky for him that he lived in Scotland, otherwise he might have often been amenable to that law protested against by De Quincey as so barbarous, which subjects a man to punishment for sleeping in the open air. So far as he might be said to have a regular settlement, he existed in the village of Duddingston near Edinburgh, renowned as the abode of washerwomen, with one of whom he lodged, finding the inverted tub a very convenient desk to write his articles upon. Like certain primitive hermits, the chief source of his nutriment was grain; but he required that it should be subjected to the process of distillation before it became sufficiently purified to suit his refined stomach. He tried both his head and his hand at almost everything-science, history, metaphysics, poetry, basketmaking, printing, and blacksmith
work. He took at one time to ballooning, and induced the greater part of Edinburgh to assemble, to witness his ascent in an aerial locomotive of his own manufacture. That something amusing would occur, seems to have been an assurance quite sufficient to bring together a large crowd; but there was so little reliance on his success in anything, that although his place of residence at that time was the Abbey of Holyroodhouse-a sanctuary for persecuted debtors-his creditors were quite tranquil on the matter of his chances of escape. He did rise high enough to get a good tumble; but it was fortunately into a corner containing materials for enriching a garden, the softness of which was ample compensation for its uncleanness. He earned by this feat the nickname of Balloon Tytler, which seems to have fitted his flighty and unsteady character.
There is a common prejudice which should be dispersed, that only new works of reference are valuable. One of the advantages of access to the old is, that being made, as well as their makers could, to correspond to the wants of their own time, they suit also the wants of the historian or other inquirer who wishes as far as he can to live into that time. is in science, of course, that the latest edition claims the highest amount of superiority over all its predecessors. The person who goes straight to his dictionary for his scientific knowledge, and wants none but the newest and most fashionable, goes, of course, to the last edition of the most esteemed work of reference. But it may happen that even in science something is wanted which can be best supplied from the old fountains. Îf we would put ourselves as nearly as possible in the position of those who beheld the science in any special stage of its growth, it is there only that we can do so. Modern accounts of it are taken
from the position of the adept of the existing school, who thinks it perfect, and who paints that of our ignorant and credulous ancestors from his own point of view, totally unconscious that some hundred years hence his great-grandchildren in science are to treat his own school after the same fashion.
In history and geography it is of eminent advantage to have at hand works of reference of the period about which we are reading. It is not only that they enter into specialties with more freshness, and that they cannot possibly confuse the existing state of matters of their own time with those of subsequent ages, but they are a vast relief to the student in the matter of nomenclature and spelling. There is a source of vexation, and consequently of profane swearing, which especially adheres to geography and topography. Science sweeps past it by the Greek nomenclature, which always enables one to find his way sooner or later to the thing meant. Law also affords etymological helps in hunting down the meaning of a word; and in biography, as a man does not live on century after century, so he is not liable to perpetual shifting of names like countries and cities. There is a kind of torment to which searchers are subject both in biography and topography-the knowing the sound of the name, but not exactly letter by letter how it is spelt. This causes great floundering about, and deterioration of temper, especially when the dubieties are in the initial letters, and deal with any two or more that happen to be far apart-for instance, I and Y. And the irritable race of authors are not the only people who flinch under this torment; for commercial gentlemen, in their researches through directories, almanacs, and shipping-lists, are quite as likely to be perplexed, and not at all more retentive of their temper when they are so.
But the perplexity special to topography is beyond this, and
arises from the variations which the names of places have undergone in the revolutions of the human race from the beginning of the world. Some of these, indeed, create difficulties so deep that one has no right to expect their immediate settlement by the turning-up of a word in a gazetteer. Works of reference can, after all, only deal with ascertained science; and there are matters so far from being ascertained that people of different opinions concerning them write debating books against each other about them from time to time. But without going so deep as any of the great topographical problems, there are matters often terribly perplexing in the reconciliation of the totally distinct names that apply to the same place. The differences that we are familiar with, in reference to places of eminence, will give one a notion how difficult it may be to identify obscure places by their ancient names. know that London was known as Augusta, Paris as Lutetia, and Aix-laChapelle as Aquarum Grana, we can easily believe that, like revolutions in the nomenclature of small towns and provinces, these trip up the reader, and involve him in difficulties from which he cannot extricate himself by a brief interview with the latest gazetteer, as he will find the street and number of his friend's residence in the new directory.
It is in such cases of distress that the dingy folios of Hoffman, Lloyd, Lamartinière, and Moreri often afford the relief not to be obtained from their spruce and conceited representatives of the present day. But there is another source of satisfaction sometimes to be found in preferring the old works of reference to the new. The amount of mere compiling in this kind of literature is almost inconceivable. By compiling is meant the putting into new words or the abridging of what another person has said, without knowing whether it is accurate or not. This is a sort of work that is