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(iv) merits, by enrolling you in the catalogue of departed British Worthies; and that you may long enjoy the applause of an enlightened nation which you have studied to serve, and the far better congratulations of a mind conscious of worth, is the fervent prayer of
Tue propriety of a judicious biographical mapual for the use of Schools is so obvious, that the author of the following pages is confident most persons will be struck with the existing deficiency as soon as it is named, and wonder that no attempt has hitherto been made to supply it. Such was the impression produced on his mind when he contemplated the various aids to education which modern times have produced ; and yet found no work on the subject of Biography that could be recommended to youth without reserve, or indeed appeared to be intended for their exclusive use. Example is universally allowed to be more powerful than precept; but so contracted is the sphere of action, so limited the field of observation, in our early years, that unless the memoirs of eminent persons open sources of knowledge, or offer objects forimitation, howare we to avoid the danger of irregular conduct or vicious habits ? how are we to catch the flame of emulation, or aspire to the laurels of desert ?
It is one great advantage of classical studies, to those who are fortunate enough to enjoy them, that in acquiring the languages of Greece and Rome,we insensibly contract an acquaintance with some of the mostillustriouscharacters of antiquity, and are partially admitted into their venerable society. We learn to accompany a Solon and a LYCURGUS in their legislative labours; we hear a PLATO and a SOCRATES philosophize, a HOMER and a VIRGIE sing. From a TULLY we are early warmed by the glow of eloquence, with the love of our coun
try; from a PLINY we imbibe sentiments that heighten the social and domestic affections, and endear man to man. At the contemplation of such monsters as the classic page sometimes pourtrays, the ingenious mind revolts: a Tiberius, a NERO, or a SEJANUS, rouses the indignant feelings of the soul; and we learn to appreciate and execrate the sanguinary tyrant and the worthless minion, amidst the splendour of usurped power, and the flattery of grovelling sycophants.
But the characters of those who acted on a distant theatre, and have long since retired from the scene, are much less calculated to make an impression than such as have risen nearer our own times, and are connected with us by the ties of country, religion, and manners.
The ancient models, however excellent, are not capable of being uniformly copied, nor do they strike with the same force as the modern. Their virtues and their vices are to be estimated according to a different standard; they had neither the same views, nor the same incitements to action or forbearance. The spirit of valour, the sense of justice, and the fervid love of their country, were eminently conspicuousin some Greek and Roman characters which posterity will ever regardwith admiration ; while others reached such heights of lettered fame by the vigor of their genius, as al. most to check the competition of succeeding ages. Reason however bids us confess, that the heroism of the best wasfrequently sullied by barbarity; that their inflexible justice savoured of cruelty, and their partial attachments were unfriendly to a geperous philanthropy; while their learning and
manners were tinctured by the gross maxims and the cruel or superstitious practices of pagan theology.
In a certain degree the virtues of the ancients ought toinspire emulation, and are worthy of being precedents to all posterity; but that soft charm which a pure religion and more liberal notions diffuse over Christian manners, that animating prospect which is now held out to encourage laudable endeavours, and those terrors wbich are denounced against nefarious actions, could not operate on classical ages, because they were unknown.
Hence when we wish to stimulate or to warn, we ought to have recourse to such examples as will more immediately allure by their practicability, or deter by their consequences. We ought to single out those who have been born under the samegovernment, who have enjoyed the same privileges, and who have been actuated by the same motives both presentand future. A coincidence of original situation, however remote the end ; a conviction that what has been the passport to honour or fame may still serve to conduct to the same result; will infallibly incite the youthful breast to pant for similar rewards, by pursuing the same line of conduct. He who emulates, will thus find in the object of his emulation an incentive to hope, or an antidote against despair; a guide in all difficulties, and a silent monitor that cannot wound his pride.-But BIOGRAPHY is not valuable only as an example to imitate, but as a beacon to warn. The impartial distribution of posthumous fame or censure must have some effect on the most callous and unprincipled. The thought of being handed down to pos. terity in colours ofinfamy, must frequently repress the vicious machination, and forbid the atrocious deed. The love of reputation was implanted in our natures for the wisest and noblest end.. Few possess that unenviable magnanimity, which can render them indifferent to public opinion ; or are so supk in the apathy of vice, as to feel no melody in the sound of deserved applause.
Topraise desert can scarcely fail to be a stimulus to virtuous actions. Those who have benefited or enlightened mankind, should receive commendation with no niggardly hand. The flowers strewed on the grave of merit, are the most grateful incense to living worth. How often has the sight of the monuments in Westminster-abbey inspired the martial enthusiasm, the flame of patriotism, or the emulation of genius, in the youthful breast! There are generous passions in the soul of man which frequently lie dormant till some exciting cause serves to wake their susceptibility, and gives impulse to their native direction. Even a well-written amiable Life has tempted many to live well.
Impressed with the truth of those remarks, the author has studied to lay before the public a selection of the lives of those Britons who have rendered themselves illustrious by their virtues or their talents in various spheres of action; compiled in such a manner as to sketch the prominent features of conduct, character and situation, rather than record the detail of ordinary events*. To catch
The “Lives of Distinguished Persons' by CORNELIUS NEPOS, a book constantly read in classical schools, as it first suggested the idea and title of this, volume, also served as a kind of model in its execution,