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PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
THE reception accorded to the First Edition of these “Annals” was of a character sufficient to show that the book filled up in an acceptable way a vacant space in that department of literature concerned in the production of works combining the specialities of ready reference for the student with useful details for the general reader. The entire edition was exhausted within a few months from publication, while the approval given by the Press was so marked and universal as to excite a belief that it had reference rather to the general design of the volume than to the manner in which that design had been completed in all its minute features. This became more apparent to the writer as the task of revision was carried on. With every desire to set forth occurrences accurately and fully, he found painstaking labour had not been able to exclude errors, and that even some events of national interest were omitted altogether. This was the case particularly in the first half of the book, and arose from the difficulty of fixing at the commencement of so considerable an undertaking the precise scale necessary to be applied to the Annals of each year. In the present edition all this has been put right. The entire period embraced in the book has been gone over a second time day by day; name by name and date by date have been verified or corrected, and additions made to an extent best explained by contrasting certain details in the two issues. In the First Edition the period between 1837 and 1847 was embraced within 127 pages ; in the present it is extended to 230 : another addition of 50 pages has been made between 1848 and 1860. Nor does even this indicate all the changes, for the careful condensation of some of the larger articles has permitted scores of pages of altogether new matter to be introduced without adding inconveniently to the bulk of the volume, or lessening in any way its usefulness as a complete handbook of modern history. The Obituary notices alone have been extended from 425 in the First Edition to above 1,000 in the present. The cycle of History has been further completed by the addition of Annals of the last two years, as many as 46 pages being occupied by an impartial exhibition of the wonderful series of events marking the latter half of 1870. The War is made to tell its own story as it occurred, without reference to any special theory explanatory of its injustice on one side or necessity on the other. Proclamations and addresses, sieges and engagements, speak fully for themselves. The Table of Administrations during her Majesty's reign has been corrected down to the present time, and its usefulness increased by a record of divisions showing majorities determining the fate of each Ministry.
One other fact may be mentioned. The last edition of the “ Annals” extended to 734 pages; the present contains 1,034 pages.
With the Index renewed care has been taken. It has not only been extended, as was necessary by the introduction of additional matter into the text, but the plan has been so far improved upon as to permit it to be readily used for ordinary historical and biographical purposes—for the events making up the history of nations, and the chief facts in the lives of eminent men. Even a slight examination of this portion of the book will satisfy those working in the byways of literature that many occurrences are noticed which could hardly fill a place in a general history of the period, however special and comprehensive. In particular, readers will find abundant reference to the intellectual activity of the age so far as this could be illustrated by personal, political, and ecclesiastical controversy, while it is hoped they will not think the text unduly burdened in setting forth legislative movements regarding the great Schools of the country, and for increasing the usefulness of our national Universities.
On the whole, and apart from some minute errors (unknown, but still to be anticipated), the “ Annals” are now submitted in as complete a state as the writer can ever expect to present them, and worthy, he trusts, of being continued in future years as a faithful record of these inquiring and eventful times. It is some recompense for the labour bestowed to believe that readers may experience surprise as to how their knowledge of a continuous narrative of events nearly concerning them could be kept readily available for exact use without such a reference-book as is now placed in their hands. By avoiding disquisition, it will be seen that it is possible to present the material points of history within a limited space, while the rigid exclusion of comments or mere discursive matter goes far to make apologies for even unconscious injustice to individuals or parties unnecessary.
The many correspondents and friends who have assisted the Author will find their best thanks in observing that in nearly every case their corrections or suggestions have been adopted, and that they have all helped to complete a work deserving, as they thought, of being improved and extended.
For the utility and general design of the “ Annals,” the reader is referred to the accompanying Preface to the First Edition.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
WHILE the title-page in some measure explains the design of this book, it may assist the reader still further to mention that he is entitled to look within its pages for a notice of every event which has in any way excited or moulded our national life during the last thirty years. Regarding the more important of these events, an endeavour has been made to exhibit them with such fulness as will, in ordinary cases, supersede a reference to any other authority. Brevity, of course, required to be studied in every instance; and for the purpose of bringing the kernel of the occurrence before the reader in the shortest space, it has been sought as often as possible to get the more important incidents narrated in the precise way they appeared to those who actually saw or took part in them. Any tendency that witnesses might have to exaggerate or misreport has been checked, as occasion required, by referring to other sources of unquestionable authority.
The main idea of the Annalist was to bring before the reader all the noteworthy occurrences which have taken place in our time, and to furnish him with such details regarding them as would enable him to comprehend the events in an intelligent manner. Every occurrence—metropolitan or provincial—which gave rise to public excitement or discussion, or became the starting-point for new trains of thought affecting our social life, has been judged proper matter for this volume. The measure throughout of the importance of an event has invariably been the extent to which it influenced our habits or recollections, not the apparent importance at the time it happened. This may be particularly noticed under the head of Accidents of certain classes—fires, shipwrecks, and colliery explosions, where, however calamitous in themselves, the details are in general so uniform, that little more than the mere facts of the occurrence were necessary to be recorded. When an incident was found to possess the requisite conditions for record, another object constantly present to the Compiler was, to let the reader see not only how important were the events of his own time, but the precise order in which the little occurrences making up the life or body of an event unrolled themselves in the great historic scroll.
In the proceedings of Parliament, an endeavour has been made to notice all those Debates which were either remarkable as affecting the fate of Parties, or led to important changes in our relations with Foreign Powers. A note has also been made of the progress of all important Bills through Parliament, and the majorities by which they were carried or rejected.
Foreign occurrences, so far as they affected the interests of this country, or even gave rise to public discussion here, have been recorded, it is hoped, with circumstantial accuracy. The widest possible interpretation has always been given to any event in Foreign Countries which could be considered even remotely to affect the interests of this kingdom.
A few incidents have been recorded mainly remarkable for their curiosity ; but it was not thought likely to add to the usefulness of this compilation by making these a prominent feature of the book. Again, though a complete Obituary was no part of the plan, it was considered to be in perfect harmony with the main design of the volume, to present brief notices of the death of such persons as were prominently mixed up with the public events of the time, or were widely known for their connexion with Literature, Science, or Art.
Dealing with a great variety of occurrences which could only be included or set aside from an individual opinion of their importance, it is not to be expected that the “ Annals” can reach any other standard of acknowledged excellence than one of degree corresponding to the utility with which each reader finds it facilitate his researches, and illustrate or enlarge his knowledge. Mere word-books, or books written with reference to a single branch of inquiry, may through time attain that kind of perfection which includes all it is possible to exhibit for the reader's information. Here there can at best be only such an approximation to completeness as is consonant with the exercise of judgment and discretion-judgment as to what it was essential to record, and discretion as to the manner of recording. Any plan so detailed and minute as to include all events, would have reduced the “ Annals ” to a mere Index, entering thereby on fields already well occupied, and destroying at the same time that special feature in the book of describing occurrences at a length proportionate to their apparent interest.
To correct omissions from want of judgment as well as errors from ignorance, the writer looks for such help as Criticism fairly applied can always furnish to the first issue of a work dealing so frequently with names and dates. A few matters omitted by accident have been added at the end.
Though the events are set down day by day in their order of occurrence, the book is, in its own way, the history of an important and well-defined historic cycle, framed in a manner likely to inform only less exactly than those higher classed treatises where events are generalized and commented upon with reference to some theory or party. In these “Annals" the ordinary reader may make himself acquainted with the history of his own time in a way that has at least the merit of simplicity and readiness; the more cultivated student will doubtless be thankful for the opportunity given him of passing down the historic stream, undisturbed by any other theoretical or party feeling than what he himself has at hand to explain the philosophy of our national story.
Some trouble has been taken to verify the dates of the more important occurrences, a labour not always easily accomplished, owing to the vague manner in which the precise day was originally indicated. Phrases like “recently," " last week," or "a few days back," give much trouble to the careful annalist. Without pretending that perfectior has been attained in even such a simple matter as this, it is hoped that no error has been committed likely to mislead to any serious extent either the general reader or special student.