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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1840,
By S. G. GOODRICH,
STEREOTYPED AT THE
The following collection of Lives, Memoirs, and Characteristic Anecdotes of illustrious persons, has been made in the course of an extensive reading of biography and history, and is now presented to the public, with the belief that in an age when fiction claims so much, truth may be allowed some attention. The materials, it will be observed, have been drawn from various authentic sources; and where the field was so wide, it was found much more difficult to select than to accumulate. In making the selection, it has been a principal object to take such memoirs and sketches only as would be likely to interest the reader, either from the celebrity of the character, the nobleness of the traits, or the graphic fidelity of delineation. Pictures have been sought which should present either bold sketching, or elegant finishing, which should strike by their spirit and vigour, or captivate by their masterly execution. We have not attempted a portrait gallery, but merely a “Cabinet," in which the paintings are not numerous or large; but it is to be hoped that they will be found both striking and pleasing.
We cannot close this preface without quoting some happy remarks of a contemporary on the species of composition, of which the following extracts furnish specimens:
“We know of no species of composition so delightful as that which presents us with personal anecdotes of eminent men; and if its greatest charm be in the gratification of our curiosity, it is a curiosity, at least, that has its origin in enthusiasm. We are anxious to know all that is possible to be known of those who have an honoured place in public opinion. It is not merelv that every circumstance derives a value from the person to whom it relates; but an apparently insignificant anecdote often throws an entirely new light on the history of the most admired works: the most noble actions, intellectual discoveries, or brila liant deeds, though they shed a broad and lasting lustre round those who have achieved them, occupy but a small portion of the life of an individual; and we are not unwilling to penetrate the dazzling glory, and to see how the remaining intervals are filled up, to look into the minor details, to detect incidental foibles, and to be satisfied what qualities they have in common with ourselves, as well as distinct from us, entitled to our pity, or raised above our imitation. The heads of great men, in short, are not all we want to get a sight of; we wish to add the limbs, the drapery, the back-ground. It is thus, that, in the intimacy of retirement, we enjoy with them 'calm contemplation and poetic ease;' we see the careless smile play upon their expressive features; we hear the dictates of unstudied wisdom, or the sallies of sportive wit, fall without disguise from their lips; we see, in fine, how poets, and philosophers, and scholars, live, converse, and behave."