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After an anxious and unceasing labour of more than eighteen months, the Editors of the collected Works of JEREMY Taylor have completed their engagement with the public. It only remains, that they should express their gratitude to the many distinguished individuals, whose patronage has enabled them to bring their undertaking to a close; that they should shortly state the considerations, by which their plan has been regulated; and request indulgence for those defects of plan or execution, to which every undertaking of a similar magnitude is liable.
To comprise in a uniform shape, and within a reasonable compass, those productions of Taylor's genius, of which some were hardly to be obtained at all, and the rest at high prices and in volumes of
many different types and dimensions, - was an object, the importance of which has been fully and generally recognised. The want of such an edition as the present was felt, both in this country and in America, not by the theological student alone, but by all the cultivators of ancient English lite
rature ; all who hold in reverence the great principles of Christian piety and religious freedom; who love our language in its purest and richest melody; and value that essential spirit of eloquence and poetry, which would alone suffice to render a language immortal.
Nor had this want been, in any competent degree, supplied by the selections from his writings which have, from time to time, enjoyed no inconsiderable share of public favour. Those republications were confined to his Sermons, his Holy Living and Dying, and some others of his devotional tracts. His Liberty of Prophesying, the first public defence of the principles of religious toleration; his Ductor Dubitantium, on which he himself expected his renown in after ages to be founded; his Life of Christ, the earliest, and, in its day, the most popular of his practical works; and his polemical writings, which display, in addition to their other excellencies, a terseness of argument and poignancy of satire, from which he was, in other instances, precluded, remained in detached tracts or scarce and unwieldy folios. And it may be said with truth, that a great proportion of his admirers had the means of becoming acquainted with a very small part only of the peculiar merits of their favourite.
It was under these circumstances, and with the reasonable hope that such an undertaking would receive its dųe share of national encouragement, that the writer of the following Memoirs was applied
to by the proprietors to superintend their meditated edition of TAYLOR's Works. His distance, however, from the metropolis, rendered it impossible for him to discharge many of the essential duties of an editor; and, as the expense of such a measure rendered the addition of notes impossible, little more remained in his power than to exercise bis judgment in the arrangement of the different pieces, and in the admission or exclusion of those, of which the genuineness has been questioned.
The correction of the press, the verification of the numerous quotations and references, and, in some instances, the rectification of the previous readings, was fortunately undertaken by the Reverend J. R. Pitman, the alternate preacher of the Foundling and Magdalen Hospitals; who, by his classical learning, his knowledge of English literature, and a deep admiration of his author's merits, was eminently qualified for such a task; and who has afforded a fresh proof, if proof were wanting, of the compatibility of distinguished talent and eloquence with unwearied patience, and minute and laborious accuracy.
On the arrangement, which has been adopted, a few observations may, perhaps, be necessary. The natural, and what would have been, in some respects, the most desirable order, was that of the date, at which each tract was originally published. Yet, as there are several of TAYLOR's compositions, which, at different periods of his life, received
successive additions and improvements, it was not very easy to determine, whether such should be referred to the year, in which the first and less perfect sketch appeared, or that in which it received the latest polish of the author's taste and judgment: and it was desirable for the publishers, in an undertaking of so great extent and hazard, that their volumes should be so arranged as to enable them to sell some of the more popular treatises separately. For such a classification there was, indeed, a sanction in the author's own practice, in the instance of the Eupborov conoyixov, and there appeared a certain degree of fitness in printing those tracts in consecutive order, which relate to the same duties, or are opposed to similar errors. The works have been accordingly divided under the several heads of Practical, Polemical, Casuistic, and Devotional ; — but, subject to this division, they have been arranged, as nearly as possible, according to the dates of their respective publication.
The task of separating the genuine from the spurious compositions involved a greater responsibility, and was not to be attempted without considerable self-distrust and anxiety. Of the two posthumous treatises,—both extremely rare, and the former of which it was necessary to transcribe, for the printer's use, from the single copy extant in the Bodleian Library, - the sentiments and piety appear in perfect unison with Bishop Taylor's known opinions; the style partakes of his characteristic merits and defects, and the weight of external evidence is
such as can leave no reasonable doubt on the propriety of admitting them into the present collection.
It is otherwise with the Dialogue on Artificial Handsomeness. The reasons which, after much patient and unprejudiced inquiry, at length conducted to its exclusion, will be found at some length in the following Life and Notes; and the writer of those animadversions will here only observe, that his opinion, adopted in the first instance with diffidence and reluctance, has acquired additional strength from every repeated comparison of that Essay with the Bishop's undoubted compositions.
The Life of TAYLOR had been long only known through the meagre accounts of Wood and Sir James Ware, and the few particulars recorded by Bishop Rust in his Funeral Eulogium. As connected with the most interesting period of English history, and with the genius and writings of one whom English literature ranks among its noblest ornaments, several eminent scholars and divines of the latter part of the last century appear to have contemplated the publication of memoirs on a larger scale, and one more worthy of their subject. Bishop Horne and Archdeacon Zouch are said to have cherished this design; and a few documents preparatory to such a work were collected by the reverend and learned Mr. Nicholson, perpetual curate of St. James's, Liverpool, and rector of Dudcote, Berkshire. But the two former appear to have made no progress whatever in their under