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BIOGRAPHERS have occasionally, though perhaps unconsciously, glided into two opposite extremes: they have either depreciated the character of their subjects, or over-rated their excellencies. To the former extreme they have been led in various ways; and in none, among the less offensive, more than in writing far and near for character; and after securing their object, arranging the different materials in their works, like witnesses in a court of justice, to speak for the person in question. This, to say the least, is putting the subject on his trial. It is in this way that the Life of that excellent man, the late Rev. William Bramwell, has been doomed to suffer, and permitted to be swelled to an useless extent, by the publication of opinions, which were never given with a view to appear in print; and which, if even given for that purpose, would have the same weight with the public that the Names of Little Note, recorded in the Biographia Britannica," had with Cowper, especially in support of the character of such a MAN; a man who required no such adventitious aid, but who, after all the prunings and parings of those who least admired him, and with only a tithe of his wisdom, looked upon him as a weak enthusiast, would have stood a lovely tree in the vineyard of the lord, refreshing many with his ver
dure, protecting them with his shade, and enriching them with the weight and luxuriance of his fruit.* When an author is reduced to the necessity of going abroad in quest of character for his subject, it is but too evident that the subject has not been sufficiently at home with himself to be known; or, that, in addition to a paucity of material, there is either incapacity for the work, or doubts of the propriety of its execution. In the present case, either the writer has not humility to spare for such condescension, or he wishes not to degrade his subject. Having no internal misgivings, no suspicion, he considers his hero not as on his trial, but one against whom no charge is preferred, and therefore deems the witnessbox unnecessary. Let him not, however, be misunderstood; for though he has gone in quest of materials, he has not gone in search of character. He has procured materials, in order to form an opinion of his own; materials which rose out of a character already formed—a character embodied in a "living epistle" before the public, “seen and read of all;" and but for which character, such materials would not have existed.
The other extreme into which biographers have fallen, has had its rise in an overweening anxiety and partiality, inducing them on the one hand to render the character as perfect as possible, in order to secure on the other an ample share of the good opinion of the reader. Here the writer has again to plead disinclination. He has taken up the character of Samuel Hick as it was, not as he wished it, nor as it ought to be; and has left the man as he found him-in the rough, and unadorned; somewhat resembling the block of marble upon which
*It is with pleasure that the writer learns, that a new Life of the late Rev. William Bramwell is forth-coming, from the pen of J. Bramwell, Esq., of Durham.
the first efforts of the artist have been employed, where the human form has been brought out of the unfinished mass, in whose core are to be found all those hidden qualities which give beauty to the surface, only waiting the masterly hand of a Phidias, for the purpose of imparting grace, and polish, and finish.
The circumstances under which the following pages commenced, were carried on, and completed, are these: The good man whose life and character they profess to portray, deposited with the writer, about three years prior to the period of his dissolution, some papers, with a solemn injunction to prepare them for publication. These papers were found to comprise broken materials of personal history, such as he himself alone was capable of throwing together, and such as it would fall to the lot of but few, without previous and personal acquaintance, to be able to separate and decipher. The pledge of preparation was given, without the specification of time, on either side, for its fulfilment. Such was the heterogeneal character of the papers, and such the complexion of many of the facts and incidents, that some of the former were totally useless, and some of the latter unfit to meet the public eye; the whole requiring another language, and bare allusion being sufficient in many instances where amplification had been indulged. Some time previous to the decease of the subject, a degree of impatience was expressed for the completion of the Memoir: but as no time had been originally specified, and as it was known that the good man was imprudently pushed on to request its publication during life, by injudicious friendship, the work, in mercy to himself, and for the still higher honour of the religion he professed, nor less richly enjoyed, was purposely delayed; and delayed the longer, from an impression that nothing