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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
tial 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 perfection 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,
As the utility of a work of this kind greatly depends on the readiness with which the required incident can be found, considerable care has been taken in the construction of the Index. Framed mainly to facilitate a reference to occurrences, it was judged better to classify many of the entries under general headings, than to index exactly with reference to persons and places. At the same time it will be found that the latter system has not been altogether excluded from the scheme ; for while every event in the text has been entered primarily under the letter where it appeared most natural to place it, many occurrences of importance have two, and even three cross-references identifying them with some locality or individual. It was found that exclusive adherence to either system would lessen the usefulness of the Index as a guide to a collection of facts so numerous and varied as almost to defy classification. Wherever the general headings admitted of entries being made with an exclusive regard to proper names, a sub-alphabetical arrangement has been carried out; in others it was thought that the incident sought for would be sooner seized by simply following the order of occurrence. The single exception to this latter rule occurs under the head “ Parliament," where the entries are too varied and unconnected to permit of the chronological system being applicd. With these explanations, the reader may be reminded that an Index at best can only aid the memory, and never supersede it altogether. For an inquirer who has only a vague notion that some occurrence did take place at an indefinite period, but who neither knows where it happened, who took part in it, or any details from which the precise character of the event could be gathered — for such an inquirer no index yet devised can afford much help. The “ Annals ” Index will be found in some respects even fuller than the text, for in the case of such occurrences as the meetings of Learned Societies, and Annual Festivals, which admitted of only brief entries in the text, it was thought best to confine them to the Index altogether, and show the event there year by year.
The main foundation for a work like the “Annals” was, of course, the newspaper of the day ; but these watchful recorders of events required to be themselves watched, and even corrected and modified, wherever the passing current of feeling tended to obscure or twist the facts of an occurrence. The reader will see how frequently this has been done by the references made to personal and official records, consisting for the most part of Memoirs, Diaries, Parliamentary Votes and Debates, Diplomatic Correspondence, the proceedings of Learned Societies, and Law Reports. In addition to these, and tending greatly to facilitate the labour of compilation, the volumes most frequently consulted were the comprehensive Date Books of Haydn and Townsend, the useful series of Annual Registers extending over the period, and the Companion to the Almanac so long issued under the careful supervision of Mr. Charles Knight.
The Table of Administrations is designed to assist the reader in following the various political changes noticed in their chronological order in the “Annals.”