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The plan and contents of the following work are so fully detailed in the Preliminary Dissertation, that it only remains to explain the circumstances under which it is offered to the public. The Editor, having been for many years a reader and an admirer of the Edinburgh Review, has frequently regretted that no selection had been made of its most valuable articles on Literature, Philosophy, and Politics. The idea suggested itself, that these, if properly chosen, and separated from all extraneous matter, would form a publication of considerable interest and utility to those persons, especially, who have not the good fortune to possess a copy of the original.
That a judicious selection from a work of so voluminous a nature, and embracing so great a diversity of subjects, could not be made without considerable labour, may be easily conceived. The Editor was oppressed by the abundance of materials; and the difficulty of selection was increased by the general excellence of the articles among which he had to choose. He excluded from his plan those which referred to temporary topics; but, even after this was done, he was frequently at a loss what to insert, and what to leave out. His object was to embody in these Selections the best papers in the Review, particularly those of permanent interest, or likely to attract the greatest number of readers. Whether he has succeeded the public will decide. Those best acquainted with the diversified contents of the original work, will probably be the least disposed to censure his defects.
As the articles comprise discussions on a variety of important questions, they are distributed under appropriate heads, without regard to the time of their publication in the Review. The number of the volume and page from which each disquisition has been taken is stated in notes. References are also occasionally made to articles which could not bereprinted for want of space. To the reader these will afford facilities in referring to the original work, the value of which cannot be depreciated by any abridgment of its contents, however ample. In addition to a Table of Contents, there is an Analytical Index, at the end of of the Sixth Volume, which will be found both copious and accurate.
The Editor confidently expects that these volumes will meet with a favourable reception. The celebrity of the authors, the variety of the style, and the attraction of the subjects, can hardly fail to procure for them abundance of readers.
THE PROGRESS OF PERIODICAL LITERATURE;
THE HISTORY, PRINCIPLES, AND TENDENCY
THE EDINBURGH REVIEW.
The publication of the Edinburgh Review has been justly regarded as forming an important epoch in the history of periodical literature. No critical and political journal ever obtained so brilliant a celebrity, or gave so powerful an impulse to public opinion. That its merits may be properly appreciated, it will be necessary, before making any observations on its history and principles, to give a brief sketch of the most distinguished works of the kind by which it was preceded, and to advert to those circumstances, in the intellectual and political condition of society, previously to its appearance, that contributed to its success.
The origin of reviewing has been traced to Photius. His Bibliotheca" resembled, in some degree, the early English Reviews, which aspired to no higher merit than that of giving extracts from new books. It consisted exclusively of abridged notices of the works he had read during his embassy in Persia, and was not designed to perform the office of a critical journal. France has the honour of giving birth to this species of publication. Denis de Sallo, a counsellor in the parliament of Paris, and a man of eminent literary attainments, established, in 1655, a Review,-the
Journal des Sçavans,”—on the plan of those which exist al present. It was a weekly publication, and contained reviews of the most popular and distinguished productions in every department of literature. The style of criticism was bold and sarcastic, and exposed the editor to the resentment of the authors he held up to ridicule. To shield himself from the personal attacks to which the severity of his criticisms made him liable, De Sallo published his Journal in the name of Sieur de Hédouville, his foot
Fora considerable time, he conducted it without any assistance from his literary friends; but, as he proceeded in his labours, he found it necessary to seek for contributions from others, and selected, as his coadjutors, some of the most learned men in France. The originality and
critical acumen displayed in the work attracted general admiration. Its circulation extended to several countries of Europe ; it was translated into various languages, and imitated by the literati.
Notwithstanding the unprecedented popularity which Sallo acquired as a reviewer, the asperity of his articles provoked a fierce opposition. Those who most admired the graces of his style and playfulness of his wit, were loudest in their complaints of the despotical power he assumed. D'Israeli, in his " Curiosities of Literature," observes, that " after having published only the third volume of his journal, the editor felt the irritated wasps of literature thronging so thick about him, that he very gladly abandoned the throne of criticism." There are good grounds, however, for believing that the discontinuance of this excellent publication was occasioned by the intrigues of a party, who had sufficient influence at court to procure a decree ordering it to be relinquished,
The impression which it made on the public mind was not speedily effaced, and it was resumed by the Abbé Gallois. He wielded the critical sceptre with greater moderation than his predecessor. To secure popularity by gentleness and impartiality, in the discharge of his important functions, was laudable in a writer who wished to guide the taste of the community; but, having been accustomed to the raillery and pungent sarcasms of an abler master of the art, they were dissatisfied with a dry analysis of works, and a collection of extracts. In consequence, the “ Journal des Sçavans, under its new conductor, did not produce the same effect as when superintended by its founder.
In 1674 the Abbé de la Roque succeeded his friend Gallois, and carried on the Review for nine years, when it passed into the hands of M. Cousin. He conducted it with considerable ability till 1702 ; it then became the property of a society established by the Abbé Bignon, under whose management it assumed a new form, and maintained, for a number of years, a high reputation as a valuable depository of scientific and literary knowledge.*
Bayle commenced, in March, 1084, the “ Nouvelles de la République des Lettres," a monthly journal formed on the model of the " Journal des Sçavans.” It affords a favourable specimen of the versatile talents of its conductor. His unrivalled learning, brilliant wit, and easy style, eminently qualified him to impart an agreeable variety and interest to a publication of this description. He possessed many advantages to which most of his predecessors and contemporaries had no claim. His fame as an author was permanently established. With many, indeed, his principles were not popular; but all admired the erudition and talent displayed in their advocacy. His “ News from the Republic of Letters” was warmly supported by the public, and may still be resorted to as a rich source of amusement and instruction. His labours as a critic terminated in consequence of indisposition brought on by incessant mental exertion, in 1687. The Review was continued by his friends Bernard and M. de la Roque, but not with the same éclat. At a subsequent period, its management was given to Basnage, who acted as editor for several years. He changed its name to “ Hisloire des Ouvrages des Sçavans." Under his superintendence it was peculiarly successful, and extended to thirteen volumes. Its subsequent history is doubtful. The probability is, that it was incorporated with some other literary journal.
* An interesting account of the Journal des Sçavans will befound in the Rev. Henry Stebbing's “Lectures on Periodical Literature," published in the Athenæum for 1828. (See Nos. 18. 20.22. 24. 26. 28., which contain the whole of that gentleman's contribntions on the subject.) His enquiries into the progress and tendency of periodical composition, from its first rude commencement to its present state, evince accurate and extensive research. His remarks on the character of our most popular literary journals are conspicuous for discrimination and candour; nor is he less deserving of praise for his correct estimate of the value of Reviews, and his exposition of the principles upon which they should be conducted. D’Israeli, in his “ Curiosities of Literature,” has given a few additional particulars respecting the project of De Sallo, and the progress or literary journals in France.
The example of Sallo gave an impulse to periodical literature on the Continent. In a few years the leading capitals of Europe were supplied with Reviews, to which the first scholars of the age sent contributions of these an enumeration might be given; but it is intended, as being more compatible with the design of the present Essay, to limit this sketch of the origin and progress of reviewing to a short notice of those publications which owe their existence to British enterprise and talent.
It would have been singular, had England, with her unlimited command of able writers in every department of science and literature, not assisted in the establishment of a class of works the influence of which has been so extensively beneficial. She soon entered with eagerness into this newly opened field of speculation. It appears, however, that her first attempts at periodical criticism were exceedingly imperfect. The early English Reviews did not embrace so wide a range as their precursors in France and Germany. They were little more than advertisements of new works, with a series of extracts clumsily put together,-a sort of catalogue raisonne' to which book collectors might refer before adding to their libraries. Mr. Nichols, the industrious compiler of the “ Literary Anecdotes," has mentioned the first publication of this description that appeared in London. It was called “ Weekly Memorials, or an Account of Books lately set forth," and commenced in January, 1688. It is not stated at what period it was discontinued, or whether it possessed any merit. The journals which speedily followed can scarcely be classed amongst regular Reviews. As records of the progress of literature they are of some value but are destitute of the interest arising from original disquisitions on the works noticed. The following is a list of the most important :-" The Censura Temporum," established in 1708, and the “ Bibliotheca Curiosa," about the same time, gave notices of a few remarkable publications, and selections from foreign journals. They were followed by the “Memoirs of Literature," 8 vols. octavo, 1722; “ New Memoirs of Literature, by Michael de la Roche,” begun in January, 1725, and ended December, 1727, 6 vols. ; “ Present State of the Republic of Letters, by Andrew Reid,” commenced in January, 1728, ended December, 1736, 18 vols.; “ Historia Literaria, by Archibald Bower," begun in 1730, ended 1732, A vols. ; “ Literary Journal,” printed at Dublin, begun 1714, and ended June, 1749, 5 vols.
The system of criticism now so popular was first adopted in the "Monthly Review." This old and respectable journal was established in 1749 by Ralph Griffith, Esq.,-a gentleman universally esteemed for his literary attainments, liberal opinions, and moral worth. He discharged the duties of editor for upwards of half a century. Those acquainted with the work, whilst under his judicious management, will acknowledge the literary talent and political honesty by which it was distinguished. In 1803,