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WILLIAM PITT, EARL OF CHATHAM,
BY JOHN TIMBS, F.S.A.
AUTHOR OF "CURIOSITIES OF LONDON," "THINGS NOT GENRALLY KNOWN," ETC.
Few persons will be disposed to gainsay the fitness of the every-day remark upon the rapid multiplication of Books beyond that at any previous period of their history. To keep pace with this extraordinary increase of Books and Readers, selection and condensation are more essential than ever for such as seek to husband that most valuable of all economics—the economy of time.
The preparation of the present volume is an attempt made in this direction in that attractive and valuable branch of “life writing,” in which history and biography are alike combined.
Coleridge has remarked that “the most effectual mode of attaining the chief objects of historical knowledge will be to present History in the form of Biography chronologically arranged.” This has been attempted in the following pages; the Author having selected the lives of two of the most distinguished men of modern times, “ who are themselves great landmarks in the map of human nature.” Their actions and fortunes have prominently contributed to the greatness of the country, and are characteristically English; and their lives exhibit the popular attractions if not the most important lessons of history.
Of the great War-Minister, LORD CHATHAM, the History, by the Rev. Francis Thackeray, extends to 1300 quarto pages; and his Correspondence to nearly half that extent. Of Chatham's great contemporary, the “Scientific Statesman," EDMUND BURKE, the Works and Correspondence fill nine large octavo volumes; and besides the minute biography of Burke by Mr. (now Sir James) Prior, and that by Mr. Macknight, there are several memoirs of less extent. By travelling through these works, side by side with the personal histories and diaries of contemporaries grouped around these two great actors in our history, and by carefully weighing and condensing the salient points, events, and incidents of their career, and presenting these, by way of anecdote, in chronological order, the Author hopes to have accomplished an acceptable work for a large class of Readers, who but for the facile means of obtaining within a moderately sized volume, the quintessence of two long lives, might be disposed to leave quarto and large octavo volumes upon the library-shelf.
Throughout the present Work, impartiality has been kept in view; and the piquancy and highly-seasoned anecdotes of Walpole have not been spared for the sake of the more genial warmth of the fond biographer. Mr. Croker, in his Preface to Walpole's Collections, refers to anecdotes and chit-chat as their principal topics, politics being only introduced as they happened to be the news of the day; and in the present volume it has been attempted to combine in a like proportion, the leading features of the lives of Chatham and Burke; with a success which the Author leaves the indulgent appreciation of the reading public to determine.
LONDON, March, 1860.