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less vexatious are other and more purely mechanical difficulties. Collections of books once arranged and kept together for the special purpose get disarranged and dispersed; MSS. dive under in the peculiar fiendish way of such things; it is impossible to trespass on the long-suffering of friends by retaining their loans on not much short of life-rent; and the curse of moving house puts the finishing touch. When a man thus circumstanced begins again his perforce-interrupted work it is with a dismal sense of “loose ends," as different from the zest of the commencement as it is from the quieter but more confident satisfaction of the conclusion of an unbroken piece of work.
I make these remarks by no means with the intention of warding off any just strictures on whatever shortcomings this book may show, but merely to vindicate myself from the appearance of an indolent and discourteous neglect. On the proposal of its resumption some time ago, I had before me three possible courses. The first was to throw it up and allow my publishers to look for some other editor; the second was to stipulate for a considerable time during which, as the discharge of other already undertaken tasks and the labour of journalism admitted, I might carry it out in the old way; the third was to finish it as quickly as I could, and as well as was consistent with speed. Of these courses, the first seemed not only ungracious, but very likely to result in the book remaining permanently unfinished, to the special disgust of those who had bought its earlier volumes. The second was impracticable, and might have had the same result. Therefore, the third alone remained.
Fortunately my original undertaking had been of a modest character, and I think that subscribers will find it to have been fairly performed. The chief alteration, rather in my own intentions than in a distinct promise to my readers is, that the Appendices in the present volume are less elaborate than I hoped to make them. I must make default, for the present at any rate, in the bibliography and in some minor matters. But the promised Appendix will not be wholly to seek, and the examples which it contains of Dryden's printed contributions to hymnology will, I think, be welcome ; while the Additions and Corrections represent not merely the siftings of reviews and private criticisms of the volumes as issued, but a recent and continuous re-reading of the whole with all the care I could give. If in nearly ten thousand pages I have still left some oversights, I must ask for pardon ; but I think that these additions contain some interesting things. There will, for instance, be found in them the whole of the lyrics from The Prophetess; a letter to the Duke of Ormond, for the authenticity of which I do not know full evidence; and other things, such as the completest indications yet, I think, given of the numerous occasions on which Dryden employs the fourteener, so ridiculous to Tom Brown. I would also invite especial attention to the errata of one kind and another here noted; for the number of which I should offer a very humble apology, if the circumstances of the work, its great bulk, and the delays which have taken place in it, against my will, did not perhaps provide not wholly insufficient excuse. I have spent a good deal of time and trouble on the Index. It was in Scott's original very full but rather capriciously arranged; and perhaps a considerable number of the entries might have been removed without loss. I have, however, made a point of omitting nothing except such things (e.g. the separate references to notes which Scott put at the end of the poems but which are footnotes here) as are not applicable to this edition ; and an exceedingly small number of items which were unverifiable owing to some clerical or printer's error. The rest I have“ transpaged” multa gemens, but I trust not inaccurately; and I have corrected divers confusions to which the
ordinary index-maker is liable. For which reason it is desirable that, disgusting as the work is, every author or editor should do it himself.
For the rest, I hope that the main object which I proposed to myself—the removal of a few chance blemishes and the supply of some necessary additions, so as to perfect Scott's admirable work-has been fairly performed. During the progress of the book I learnt, to my great diversion, that some lovers of Scott and Dryden had conceived the idea that I was in some way belittling Scott. Now this was a little hard, for if there be one Englishman who regards Sir Walter with respect and affection, not much this side idolatry, I may fairly claim to be that Englishman. But I had not to learn that there is a certain sort of amiable, if not over-wise, folk who think that admiration and criticism are incompatible.
The text was what required the chief attention, and I think it will be admitted that something has been done in this respect. I have not attempted a complete apparatus criticus, which would be a very extensive and in most cases not a very particularly useful task. But in at least some cases I have been able to set right errors which directly affected the meaning. If, as I fear, there may be shortcomings still, I need, to those who understand these things, only say that much of the collation had to be done by deputy, and that I was not always able to check my deputy's work at first hand.
There can be little need to say more. I received, before the interruption of the work, much valuable help from correspondents, known and unknown to me. I have sometimes thanked them specially in notes, and I here repeat my thanks to all. And so I may conclude with a paraphrase of the well-known words of the apocryphal writer (quoted as it happens before me by Simon Wilkin, with a reference to whom I began this book), to the effect, that if I have done well it is that which I purposed, and if I have done not so well it was that which I could perform.
READING, June 2, 1893.