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the project was laid, came to the and whether there is any remedy conclusion that it would be enough for it? whether, for instance, they in the mean time to deal with our have a self-acting compensation, own country in a work of so com- in that tax-gatherers, keepers of prehensive and exhaustive a char- jury-rolls, and persons of that class, acter, and announced his 'Biogra- break down before reaching them, phia Britannica.' Even about this as well as the biographical dictionhe seems to be hesitating; but let ary men ? us hope that the project has not There is another deficiency in been abandoned.
biographical dictionaries, and other And, in the mean time, with all works of reference, as to which we due humiliation and shame at our plead only from the reader's sideown vaulting ambition, let us accept not by any means as advocating the in good part what the French have rights of neglected virtue and emidone. Deficient as their two large nence. One wants sometimes to biographical dictionaries are, they know about very great scoundrels are far above any that we have com- and criminals, and unless these have pleted. Of the more recent one, been illustrious for something bethe 'Biographie Générale,' the forty- sides scoundrelism or criminalitysecond volume is on our desk. It as kings, or conquerors, or great brings us down to Saint André. geniuses--there is no getting satisThe names in T and the remaining factory information about them. letters are not yet, therefore, free of Dick Turpin, Duval, Tom King, risk; and, by the way, theirs is a Harry Abershaw, Maclean, Thurcase which really has not received tell, Burke, and Hare, are persons sufficient sympathy from the world. one might want to know about someAs we have already remarked in times, perhaps for some very virtuother departments, you may round ous purpose, such as a sermon, or off the articles in the earlier and an essay on the abolition of the happier letters of the alphabet so punishment of death ; but how can as to include the unfortunate resi- one get at them, as he can at Isaac duaries. For instance, Zygophyl- Watts and Hannah More, through lacæ can be considered as included the biographical dictionaries ? Such in the Gynobasic group of Polype- men influenced the times in which talous Exogens, and may have had they lived to an enormous extent, a chance of getting in under letter and to-day our no- knowledge of E or G or P. Zoophytes have had them leaves our notions of these some chance under Clavularia, Pen- times indistinct. Cartouche, the natularia, and Sarcoidea. But it celebrated robber, held his ground is all up with Zucharelli, Zuinglius, within France so powerfully, that and Zantippe, if the pen drop from at one time there was a dread of the compiler's hand before he has his besieging Paris - but what reached the end of the alphabet. French historian deigns to mention Now that contemporary biography his name? has become fashionable, the inequal- In a small shelf, high up, where ity becomes serious. The position the obscure duodecimos are stowed of the X Y Z's towards the À B C's away, stand four volumes, which is a contrast painful to contem- might appear to supply the want plate. They have not only the al- we have just proclaimed. There is most certainty of getting much less a very long and rather incoherent notice, but of being totally omitted, title-page, but the spirit of it is either because the table is already that the book is a biographical dicfull, or the door is closed. Has any tionary of eminent criminals. Lest one considered what the effects on one should doubt this on account of society may be of this alphabetical the circumlocutious way in which it inequality in the temple of fame, is explained, there is a list of the
kind of persons who come under bulk of their encyclopædias; and the scope of the book, beginning there is no better reason for it “Murderers, Traitors, Pirates, Muti- than that the Germans are such neers,” and so on through a long list readers. However, we are gainto the humble class who are called ing on them, and may in the
Extortioners." This book has by end beat them. When we had no means a scholarly look, and we nothing to show in that shape but never happen to have seen a copy Chambers’s ‘ Dictionary of Arts and of it in such condition as would Sciences '—the earlier editions in tempt a collector with very mode- two, the later in three folio volrate notions to permit it to range
these Germans had the with his respectable volumes. The Universal Lexicon,' published by writer of these remarks confesses to Zedler in more than seventy folios; have got a deal of very curious, and, and now Ersch and Gruber, when according to his own notion, valu- finished, will come to some three able information out of this book. hundred volumes. It is a fine exAnd what can be got from it makes emplification of the leisurely nature it the more to be regretted that of the German mind. It was begun such information is not more acces- in 1818, and is now going on with sible than it is. This biographical vigour. We have referred elsedictionary of criminals notices very where to its peculiarity as beginfew who were not British, and opens ning at three parts of the alphabet. up the idea how vast a world of por- A few volumes tumble out every tentous phenomena the conditions year; and the last we have seen of crime in different ages and shows that, instead of becoming exdifferent countries present, and hausted, as long works are apt to how little we know of it all. We be, it becomes richer and fuller as must admit that there is a diffi- it goes on. These last volumes are culty here. Crime gets already cele- three in number -- all given to brity enough. If a man has led a Greece ; and they are close on the humble, stupid, clay-cloddish sort point where the first division, endof life without the faintest chance ing with letter G, meets the second of being noticed beyond his village, beginning with letter H. One is are we to make him an illustrious inclined to ask whether science inmate of the house of the immor- will be compelled to stand still in tals—to make him a historical per- Germany so as to preserve the losonage—because the devil has some gical symmetry of this work, and day entered into his brutal heart preclude the concluding volumes, and made him commit a flagrant issued somewhere about 1868, from murder ? But we haven't time to contradicting those of 1818? sift all the views of this matter. Of our English encylopædicalliter
We have seen that the French ature the history is brief. But little have got the better of us in bio- as there is to say about it, we are graphical dictionaries, and so also not aware that that little has ever have they in complete encyclo- been told. The earliest work of pædias. Even the now old-fash- the kind published in Britain, so ioned ‘Encyclopédie Methodique' far as we are aware, is the ‘Dictionis three or four times the size of arium Historicum Geographicum our largest specimens-Rees's and Poeticum,' a folio volume published the Metropolitana. This is in ac- in 1660 by Nicholas Lloyd, who cordance with the experience that professes merely to enlarge on the in the production of majestic costly work of a Carolus Stephanus. It books France ever excels us, boast is a very useful guide to the names as we will of our riches. It is of places and persons in old Latin more surprising to find that the books treating on the history or Germans greatly excel us in the topography of the middle ages.
This is a field in which every little page includes “the principal terms help is valuable. It has not been of arts and sciences.” The first thoroughly cultivated, like the clas- English book to bring the natusical nomenclature, which surely is ral and exact sciences under alnow completed after Dr William phabetical discipline, along with Smith and his force of assistants history, geography, law, and divinhave added so much to what Lem- ity, was the Dictionary of Arts prière and others had done. The and Sciences,' by Ephraim Chamsearcher after the individuality of bers. The publication of the first
. some place or person encountered edition in 1729 must be counted in the Chronicle of Marianus or a sort of epoch in this department Froissart, knows what it is franti- of literature. It may be questioned cally to turn the pages of all the if the idea of the encyclopædia—the standard historical dictionaries - whole circle of human knowledge Bayle, Moreri, Hoffman, Zedler, and in alphabetical order, with a due the rest-in vain ; and if he find adjustment of space to importance, it at last in the humble corner oc- and a reference of the several parts cupied by Lloyd, as he sometimes to each other-has ever been more may, he cannot but be grateful. fully realised than by the editor of
The next English book of the this work, who set the example to kind in chronological succession is foreigners as well as to his countryJeremy Collier's Dictionary. The men. The encyclopædia of Dr Rees, first edition—at least the earliest which swelled to forty volumes, which the present writer is ac- was avowedly the dictionary of quainted with-was printed in a Chambers come to full growth. very portentous folio in 1694, three The 'Encyclopædia Britannica' was years before the appearance of a child of the same literary parentBayle. It was published anony- age. Respectable as is its bulk mously, and is not so well known when appearing for the eighth as the edition of 1701, which had time, it was at first a smaller book the advantage of Bayle's labours. ' than the 'Dictionary of Arts and From its title-page, which is a Sciences,' being coerced into the curious specimen of prolixity, the limits of three quarto volumes. In book, 'notwithstanding the enor- the second edition it allowed itself mous deal it has to say for itself, toswell into ten, with the aid of a writappears to merge into an abridged er who was in his day very decidedly translation of Moreri. But there the kind of person whom we familiaris a great deal of curious and ly call“a character.” It is, we rather valuable matter in it not to be think, a common belief that all found there. It does, indeed, for literary compilers are persons of a British history and the British great staid and sedate walk in life, alien families, th same service that Mo- the roystering habits to which reri performed for France. Collier, certain distinguished men of genius as most people know, was conspi- have been addicted. Their work cuous in history as a nonjuring is very systematic and compact, bishop; and when contemporary each part fitting exactly to its place history and biography passed and filling it, but going no farther. through the hands of such a man, Hence people suppose that the dothe method in which he discoursed mestic life of the compiler is someof them would of necessity be of thing precise and symmetrical, like more significance than the compila- his work. It is the counterpart to the tions of the ordinary compiler. feeling one has in a well-executed re
In th works, science, as we view of troops, that each individual now understand the term, can who dresses so perfectly in line is scarcely be said to have been re- nothing but a red-and-white pattern presented. Thus Collier's title- on the field, and has no more in
dividuality of feeling, passion, and work. He took at one time to interest in the affairs of the world ballooning, and induced the greater than a square in a carpet. The part of Edinburgh to assemble, to soldier, however, if we ask about witness his ascent in an aerial locoit, has his personal character and motive of his own manufacture. history, and, it may be, a strange That something amusing would ocenough one when brought out; so cur, seems to have been an assurof the compiler for an alphabetical ance quite sufficient to bring to-he has to “dress” to the order gether a large wd ; but there of the alphabet when he appears in was so little reliance on his success public for service, but his private in anything, that although his place life may be a wild and wayward of residence at that time was the
And it would be difficult to Abbey of Holyroodhouse-a sancfind one more strange than that of tuary for persecuted debtors—his James Tytler, who has the reputa- creditors were quite tranquil on the tion of having been the maker of matter of his chances of escape. the second edition of the ‘Ency. He did rise high enough to get a clopædia Britannica.' He is not good tumble; but it was fortunfor one moment to be confounded ately into a corner containing mawith the Fraser Tytlers—an emi- terials for enriching a garden, the nently respectable race of writers, softness of which was ample comwho never appear except in unex- pensation for its uncleanness. He ceptionable full-dress, and have the earned by this feat the nickname art of communicatingits stiffness and of Balloon Tytler, which seems to formality to everything they touch have fitted his flighty and unsteady -even that swearing indecorous character. madcap Lord Kames is toned down There is a common prejudice to absolute demureness in the two which should be dispersed, that quartos in which they arrayed him. only new works of reference are James Tytler, on the other hand, valuable. One of the advantages probably never put on a nt of access to the old is, that being coat in his life. It was lucky for made, as well as their makers him that he lived in Scotland, could, to correspond to the wants otherwise he might have often of their own time, they suit also been amenable to that law protest- the wants of the historian or other ed against by De Quincey as so inquirer who wishes as far as barbarous, which subjects a man he can to live into that time. It to punishment for sleeping in the is in science, of course, that the open air. So far as he might be latest edition claims the highest said to have a regular settlement, amount of superiority over all its he existed in the village of Dud- predecessors. The person who goes dingston near Edinburgh, renow ed straight to his dictionary for his as the abode of washerwomen, with scientific knowledge, and wants one of whom he lodged, finding the none but the newest and most inverted tub a very convenient desk fashionable, goes, of course, to the to write his articles upon. Like last edition of the most esteemed certain primitive hermits, the chief work of reference. But it may bapsource of his nutriment was grain; pen that even in science something but he required that it should be is wanted which can be best supsubjected to the process of distilla- plied from the old fountains. If tion before it became sufficiently we would put ourselves as nearly as purified to suit his refined stomach. possible in the position of those He tried both his head and his beheld the science in any hand at almost everything-science, special stage of its growth, it is history, metaphysics, poetry, basket- there only that we can do so. making, printing, and blacksmith Modern accounts of it are taken
from the position of the adept of arises from the variations which the existing school, who thinks it the names of places have underperfect, and who paints that of our gone in the revolutions of the huignorant and credulous ancestors man race from the beginning of from his own point of view, totally the world. Some of these, indeed, unconscious that some hundred create difficulties so deep that one years
hence his great-grandchildren has no right to expect their immein science are to treat his own diate settlement by the turning-up school after the same fashion. of a word in a gazetteer. Works of
In history and geography it is of reference can, after all, only deal eminent advantage to have at hand with ascertained science; and there works of reference of the period are matters so far from being ascerabout which we are reading. It is tained that people of different opinot only that they enter into speci- nions concerning them write dealties with more freshness, and that bating books against each other they cannot possibly confuse the about them from time to time. existing state of matters of their But without going so deep as any own time with those of subsequent of the great topographical problems, ages, but they are a vast relief to there are matters often terribly perthe student in the matter of nomen- plexing in the reconciliation of the clature and spelling. There is a totally distinct names that apply source of vexation, and consequently to the same place. The differences of profane swearing, which especi- that we are familiar with, in referally adheres to geography and topo- ence to places of eminence, will graphy. Science sweeps past it by give one à notion how difficult it the Greek nomenclature, which al- may be to identify obscure places ways enables one to find his way by their ancient names.
When we sooner or later to the thing meant. know that London was known as Law also affords etymological helps Augusta, Paris as Lutetia, and Aix-lain hunting down the meaning of a Chapelle as Aquarum Grana, we can
ord; and in biography, as a man easily believe that, like revolutions does not live on century after cen- in the nomenclature of small towns tury, so he is not liable to per- and provinces, these trip up the petual shifting of names like reader, and involve him in difficulcountries and cities. There is a ties from which he cannot extricate kind of torment to which searchers himself by a brief interview with are subject both in biography and the latest gazetteer, as he will find topography, theknowing the sound the street and number of bis friend's of the name, but not exactly letter residence in the new directory. by letter how it is spelt. This causes It is in such cases of distress great floundering about, and deteri- that the dingy folios of Hoffman, oration of temper, especially when Lloyd, Lamartinière, and Moreri the dubieties are in the initial let- often afford the relief not to be ters, and deal with any two or more obtained from their spruce and conthat happen to be far apart—for ceited representatives of the present instance, I and Y. And the irrit day. But there is another source of able race of authors are not the satisfaction sometimes to be found only people who flinch under this in preferring the old works of retorment; for commercial gentlemen, ference to the new. The amount of in their researches through direc- mere compiling in this kind of littories, almanacs, and shipping-lists, erature is almost inconceivable. By are quite as likely to be perplexed, compiling is meant the putting into and not at all more retentive of new words or the abridging of what their temper when they are so. another person has said, without
But the perplexity special to knowing whether it is accurate or topography is beyond this, and not. This is a sort of work that is