« AnteriorContinua »
anonymous and pseudonymous Literature has long been a reproach to English Bibliography. The admirable works of this class, of which France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, and even Belgium, are able to boast, have been continually held up as examples, and pointed to as models of what should be done for English Literature. An eminent French bibliographer, M. Philarète Chasles, in tracing out, in the Révue des deux Mondes, an exhaustive plan for English Literature • similar to that which other civilised nations already possess,' begins his article thus :- In the whole history of literature there is not a more fantastical group of whimsicalities than that of the English pseudonyms which abound between 1688 and 1800 ; nor is there any subject so new and unexplored, and yet so little explained. During that time some hundreds of writers, among whom I shall only take certain notabilities, deliberately renounced the lustre of their own names, and sacrificed their vanity to their interest or passion. If they concealed their names and disguised their hand, it was to carry out their work better. One wishes to destroy an ancient reputation which is in his way; another wants to popularise sentiments which he considers useful; others to glorify the national vanity; the greater part to make their fortunes. There are the innocent and honest, as Defoe; the violent and imprudent, like Chatterton; the foolish like Ireland; the unskilful and the calumniators, like Landor; and lastly, the expert, like the Scotchman Macpherson, who deceived an entire generation of Europe and America.'
In our own literary journals appeared continual appeals for the supply of this great want,—one daily felt by all librarians, book collectors, and literary men, until, specially incited by a correspondence on the subject in Notes and Queries, the late learned Keeper of the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh, Mr Halkett, undertook the important task, and wrote to that periodical in 1856 as follows :—*The frequent communications that have appeared on the subject of a Dictionary of anonymous English writers similar to the Dictionnaire des Ouvrages
Révue des deux Mondes, vol. vi., p. 757. 1844.
anonymes et pseudonymes of Barbier, lead me to believe that such a work would be regarded as a valuable contribution to the bibliographical literature of the country. I have myself felt the want of it greatly, and for my own purposes have long been in the habit of noting down every piece of information that came in my way. During the last three or four years I have been engaged in preparing a new catalogue of the Advocates' Library, and, in the course of the inquiries which it has been my duty to make, I have largely increased the stock of materials which I had previously collected. In these circumstances, should no one better qualified than myself undertake the task, I feel strongly disposed to continue the researches in which I have been engaged, and to arrange the results with a view to publication.'*
The result of further correspondence confirmed Mr Halkett in the resolution to prosecute his researches, and various eminent bibliographers kindly offered their co-operation and assistance. Prominent among these may be mentioned Mr Henry B. Wheatley, F.S.A., who abandoned his own intention of preparing a work of the kind, and confided to Mr Halkett's care a large mass of materials, the result of several years' labour.
Mr Halkett's collections represent the results of nearly twenty years' diligent, experienced, and well-aided research, and since his death in 1871, the Rev. John Laing, Librarian of the New College, Edinburgh, one of the most capable, persevering, and accurate of bibliographers, continued the research till his death in 1880.
It is necessary to add a few words with regard to the plan of the work. The arrangement followed is strictly alphabetical, taking the first word of the title, exclusive of the definite and indefinite articles and the prepositions of and on. The author's name is printed in small capitals, and the authority in italics, both within brackets. In many instances, a work is ascribed by various authorities to two, three, and occasionally even four authors, in such cases the editors have given the name which they considered best supported by evidence, and the others have been placed below, with their authorities attached.
The asterisk denotes that a copy of the work has been critically examined by Mr Halkett or Mr Laing, and that it is strictly anonymous,-i. e. the author's real name does not appear on the title page, or anywhere throughout the work.
* Notes and Queries, Second Series, vol. i., p. 129.
As accounting for the delay, it may be mentioned that in revising the MSS. for the press there were found a number of entries containing only an extract from the title, the author's name, and a reference to an authority. By verifying these references such titles have been completed, and when cases of doubtful spelling or punctuation occurred, the MS. has been compared with the printed title when possible. Occasionally, however, access to the book could not be obtained, in which case no alteration has been made in the editors' MSS., both gentlemen being remarkable for their minute accuracy.
It only remains to the Publisher to record his regret that Mr Halkett and Mr Laing should have been cut off before their great work had seen the light, and also to record special thanks to the heads of the public libraries and numerous bibliographers for the valuable assistance which they so readily granted to the compilers and since their death.