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there is none more apt than this, to allure the ftu-" dent from the neceffary branches of learning, and, if I may fo express it, entirely to engrofs his industry. What is here offered, therefore, may be fufficient for all, except fuch who make hiftory the peculiar business of their lives; to fuch the moft tedious narrative will feem but an abridgement, as they meafure the merits of a work, rather by the quantity than the quality of its contents: others, however, who think more foberly, will agree, that in fo extenfive a field as that of the tranfactions of Rome, more judgment may be fhewn, by felecting what is important than by adding what is obfcure.
The hiftory of this empire has been extended to fix volumes folio; and I aver, that with very little learning, it might be increased to fixteen more, but what would this be, but to load the fubject with unimportant facts, and fo to weaken the narration, that, like the empire defcribed, it must neceffarily fink beneath the weight of its own acquifitions.
But while I thus endeavoured to avoid prolixity, it was found no eafy matter to prevent crowding the facts, and to give every narrative its proper play. In reality, no art can contrive to avoid oppofite defects; he, who indulges in minute particularities, will be often languid; and he who ftudies concifenefs, will as frequently be dry and unentertaining. As it was my aim to comprize as much as poffible in the fmalleft compafs, it is feared the work will often be fubject to the latter imputation, but it was impoffible to furnish the public with a cheap Roman History in two volumes octavo, and at the fame time to give all that warmth to the narrative, all those colourings to the defcription, which works of twenty times the bulk have room to exhibit. I fhall. be fully fatisfied, therefore, if it furnishes an intereft fufficient to allure the reader to the end; and this
this is a claim to which few abridgements can juftly make pretenfions.
To thefe objections there are fome who may add, that I have rejected many of the modern improvements in Roman Hiftory, and that every character is left in full poffeffion of that fame or infamy which it obtained from its contemporaries, or those who wrote immediately after.
I acknowledge the charge, for it appears now too late to rejudge the virtues or the vices of those men, who were but very incompletely known even to their own hiftorians. The Romans, perhaps, upon many occafions formed wrong ideas of virtue; but they were by no means fo ignorant or abandoned in general, as not to give to their brighteft characters the greatest fhare of their applaufe; and I do not know whether it be fair to try Pagan actions by the ftandard of Chriftian morality.
But whatever may be my execution of this work, I have very little doubt about the fuccefs of the undertaking; the fubject is the nobleft that ever employed human attention; and inftead of requiring a writer's aid, will even fupport him with its fplendour. The Empire of the World, rifing from the meaneft origin, and growing great by a ftrict veneration for religion, and an implicit confidence in its commanders; continually changing the mode, but feldom the spirit of its government; being a conftitution, in which the military power, whether under the name of citizens or foldiers, almost always prevailed; adopting all the improvements of other nations with the moft indefatigable induftry, and fubmitting to be taught by thofe whom it afterwards fubdued this is a picture that must affect us, however it be difpofed; thefe materials must have their value, under the hand of the meaneft workman.
FROM the favourable reception given to my Abridgement of Roman Hiftory published fome time fince, feveral friends and others, whofe business leads them to confult the wants of the public, have been induced to fuppofe that an English hiftory written on the fame plan, would be acceptable...
It was their opinion that we still wanted a work of this kind, where the narrative, though very concife, is not totally without intereft, and the facts, though crowded, are yet diftinctly feen.
The business of abridging the works of others has hitherto fallen to the lot of very dull men; and the art of blotting, which an eminent critic calls the moft difficult of all others, has been usually practifed by those who found themselves unable to write. Hence our abridgements are generally more tedious than the works from which they pretend to relieve us; and they have effectually embarrassed that road which they laboured to shorten.
As the prefent compiler ftarts with fuch humble competitors, it will fcarcely be thought vanity in him if he boafts himself their fuperior. Of the many abridgements of our own hiftory hitherto publifhed, none feems poffeffed of any share of merit or reputation; fome have been written in dialogue, or merely in the stiffness of an index, and fome to answer the purposes of a party. A very small share of tafte, therefore, was fufficient to keep the compiler from the defects of the one, and a very fmall Thare of philofophy from the mifreprefentations of the other.