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THE PRESENT EDITION.
IF Mr. Malone had himself brought to a final completion the work upon which he had been for so many years assiduously employed, the name of that distinguished critick would have been a sufficient recommendation ; and I should not have thought it necessary to attract the publick attention by any prefatory observations. But as this unfortunately was not the case, the reader may expect to be told, under what circumstances, and with what
pretensions, the present editor appears before him, and what are the advantages which are supposed to be derived from the work he has undertaken to superintend. I will, as briefly as I can, supply this explanation.
The long and intimate friendship which subsisted between my father and Mr. Malone, introduced me to his acquaintance at a very early period of life; and in every succeeding portion of it I am bound to retain the most affectionate and grateful recollection of his uniform and uninterrupted kindness. When more advanced years had rendered me less unworthy of his society, I was permitted to enjoy it in the most unreserved and confidential manner, and was made a partaker of his literary views and
sentiments. It may well be imagined that in such an intercourse, the works of our immortal poet would be a topick of pretty frequent occurrence; and when he was finally preparing the result of his researches on that subject for the press, he availed himself of my assistance in the collection and arrangement of his scattered materials, which the gradual failure of his eyesight made every day more irksome and difficult to himself. From being in this way connected with his labours, he was accustomed sometimes, in a half-jocular tone, to say, that if any thing should pre
, vent him from bringing them to a conclusion, that task must devolve upon me; but in his last illness he made this request to me in such terms, that I must have felt ashamed of myself for ever after, if I had hesitated for a moment in promising to execute his wishes to the utmost of my power. I am by no means disposed to deny that there are many who might have been more fitly selected for such a trust, from more extensive knowledge of the topicks which such a work must embrace, and a longer experience in antiquarian research ; but in some respects I had opportunities which did not fall to any other person's share. From constant communication with him on the
. subject of his opinions, I was better able to ascertain his final judgment on many contested points which occur in the illustration of our author's text, which, without that guidance, might have been frequently doubtful. As truth was the only object which he ever had in view, he was accustomed to note down every passage which he met with in his reading, whether it tended to fortify his own opinion, or add strength to that of his opponents, reserving them for future selection. To have given them all, would have swelled these volumes to an immeasurable size; and to have drawn my own conclusion, would have been “making one man write by the judgment of another:" a liberty which Dr. Johnson has observed no pretence can justify. I
may add, that it is not every one that could have deciphered his notes. When he was not hurried he wrote a