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sive, has appeared with less numerous inaccuracies in a first edition.
“ If the same scale of comparison may be allowed, the Publisher would beg permission to suggest, in regard to such Subscribers as have complained of the length of time employed in the progress of the BEAUTIES OF ENGLAND, that it is believed a work so comprehensive, founded on actual and minute survey, was never written, printed, and produced to the Public, in a shorter period, although this has been retarded, in many of its parts, by circumstances peculiarly unpropitious.”
The Subscribers and the Public are entitled to a full explanation of the rise and progress of a work which has received extensive patronage, and has, assuredly, conduced in a memorable degree towards rendering an object of fashionable pursuit that species of research, which, until late years, was considered destitute of interest to all but the dull explorer of pedigrees, and the melancholy and tasteless examiner of ruinous masses of stone, who venerated such fragments only because they were old.-Without undue assumption, it may be asserted, that the BEAUTIES OF ENGLAND AND Wales have performed the laudable task of ameliorating much that was repugnant in the crust of antiquity; have shewn that even the discussion of pedigrees may become a delightful source of
information to the general reader, by extracting, and holding forth to notice, names little known, but connected with interesting passages in the story of past days; and have proved that ponderous masses of monastic or castellated stone, nearly shapeless through age, and overgrown with ivy, are often fraught with tales of touching emphasis.
They have endeavoured to render it familiar with the polite, as well as the erudite, that no expanse of British ground is so steril as to want a claim on the feelings and taste of the investigator, who combines the shades of past scenery with present appearances. It has, indeed, been their aim to prove that the walk of Topographical Literature is not calculated for confinement to the dry indiscriminate antiquary and the genealogist ; but that the description of a particular place may be rendered the inspiriting centre of intelligence at once various, amusing, and instructive; uniting the beauties of natural history, and the progress of science and the arts, with a display of the last noble result of cultivated nature—moral and intellectual excellence.
The rise of this Work; its procedure through the first nine voluines; and its known influence on the topographical literature of the age; are thus explained in a letter from Mr. Britton to the Editor of this Introductory volume.
Letter from J. Britton, Esq. F.S.A. to Mr. J. Norris Brewer.
In compliance with your wishes, I will endeavour to furnish some account of the origin and early progress of the Beauties or ENGLAND AND WALES ;-point out the manner in which that work was originally conducted, and furnish you with the names of most of those gentlemen who afforded myself and Mr. Brayley literary information towards the comple, tion of the first nine Volumes, Volume Eleven, and a portion of the Fifteenth. A statement of this kind appears to be not only due to the patrons of the Work, but an essentially component pa t of it.
I am the more desirous of being particular on these subjects, and of recording certain facts in the Volume you are now printing, as I am well aware, that both myself and my early coadjutor have been implicated in the errors of other persons, with whom we were never directly or indirectly connected. Believe me, my dear Sir, though I am eager to justify myself for what is done,-guard against erroneous conclusions,- and furnish the future Topographer and Biographer with accurate data respecting a large and popular publication, I do not wish to traduce any of its editors, authors, or publishers; or make a statement that is nol strictly applicable to the contents, and execution of the Work. From the experience you have had in collecting and writing the accounts of Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, and Middlesex, you must be well aware of the extreme difficulty of obtaining correct information on many subjects which you may be de. sirous of explaining ; -- of the incompetency of some to afford conimunication ;-of the indolence and apathy of others;-of the reserved pride of certain persons, and contemptuous conduct of others. These are only some of the unpleasantries we have had to encounter :-hence the experienced topographer and acute critic should exercise much lenity in estimating the contents of a work like the present, which embraces such a vast variety of subjects,-of places, persons, and things;-many of wbich, from the limits which we originally prescribed to ourselves, could only be briefly noticed, not illustrated in detail. At the commencement of this publication, we were certainly much too concise,-indeed on mary subjects wholly silent. As the work advanced we acquired not only more knowledge of general chorography and antiquities, but also learnt what was required by the topographical reader; and what was essential towards the completion of the publication. Anxious to satisfy the one, and effect the other, we extended our views, eagerly sought for original information,- visited nearly every town and principal place in each county,—obtained original communications from many distinguished persons, as will be shewn in a subsequent list,-analized and compared every topographical work that had been published, - and indeed zealously endeavoured to render the work, not only satisfactory and creditable to ourselves, but to the critical reader, and to the country. As conducive to this end, we sought a new style of embellishment; in which accuracy of representation should be combined with picturesque effect: in which the young draftsman and engraver, should have an opportunity of displaying their respective talents, and vie with each other in the career of faine.- A new era in topographical literature, as you will readily adınit, has been created since the commencement of this centuryfor, before the BEAUTIES OF ENGLAND appeared, the generality of county histories, and antiquarian works were rather disfigured than adorned by their embellishments. A few of the old draftsmen and engravers are, however, entitled to respect and praise. Hollar, Loggan, and Burghers, have bequeathed us wany interesting views of buildings, monuments, stained glass, &c. : but many of the works, even of these artists, are very inaccurate; and from the obvious reason, that the engravers were not sufficiently remunerated for their skill and time. The old bird's-eye views, by Kip, Knyff, &c. and the Views, by S. and N. Buck, are highly useful and interesting; but this class of embellishment is at present “out of fashion.” The" cuts,” as they are sometimes called, contained in Grose’s “ Antiquities,” and those copied from them, are only tolerable in the very infancy of literature and art, and may be re'garded as approaching to caricatures in topography. Gilpin's views in his various “ Tours,” havea certain degree of prettiness and picturesque effect: but they have no one quality of accuracy, nor do they deserve to be classed with topographical embellishments. They may amuse the young masters aud misses of drawing schools, but unfortunately they lead to slightness and a neglect of fidelity. In Pennant's works, and Cordiner's ' Antiquities of Scotland, there are some respectable prints. Dr. STUKELEY, in bis volumes ou' Stonehenge,' and 'Abury,' and in his ' Itinerarium Curiosum,' was the first topographical antiquary that furnished plans and sections of buildings, &c; and these are now becoine eminently interesting and valuable. But for his prints of Avebury, or Abury, as he calls it, we should not have known the magnitude and arrangement of that vast druidical or aboriginal monument. By these and his descriptions, we are enabled to ascertain the immense extent, and unique arrangement, of that mighty work; which the Goths, of modern times, have alınost destroyed.* To my respected, but visionary countryman, John AUBREY, we are also indebted for much curious information on the state of many antiquities, before Stukeley's time. The topographical works of Dug. dale, Plot, Carew, Lambard, Burton, and Thoroton, are truly valuable and curious. The first engravings, however, of interest, in our times, were Hearne and Byrne's 'Antiquities of Great Britain;' and these have since been succeeded by a list of works too numerous to be particularised here ; but the greater part of which have ori. ginated from the BeautiES OF ENGLAND: some in opposition to it; some from emulation ; and others from a spirit of enquiry, and love of the subject, which grew up with the progress of that work. Among other topographical publications, which have thus courted public patronage, and some of which have conferred ho
illustrated views nour
* A view of this village is given in the account of Wiltshire, Vol. XV. merely to shew a few of the upright stones : but to attain an accurate knowledge of the whole temple, in its pristine and perfect state, it is necessary to display it by ground-plans, and different geometrical views. This I propose to do is my third Volume of the “ Beauties of Wiltshire,” which is ready for the press, and will speedily be produced.