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A few words of explanation are requisite in reference to the nature and object of the present work, following so speedily as it does the publication of an elaborate Life of EDWARD, second MARQUIS OF WORCESTER.
The author found, on the completion of his memoir, that he not only possessed materials he could not use in the composition of that work, but also materials in the use of which he could not always be so profuse as he desired; and again yet other materials not immediately affecting the principal subject, although connected with the family history. These considerations mainly led him to reflect on the best mode of preserving such facts as he had casually obtained, and at the same time producing a work which might be a useful guide to compilers in general, in reference to future notices of the INVENTOR OF THE STEAM ENGINE, or his family connexions, to prevent as far as possible repetitions of the gross errors hitherto promulgated.
It was obvious that unless fully warned future writers might take up Walpole, Hume, Partington, Muirhead, and other presumed authorities, without ever suspecting their validity. But if the works of these and other
authors treating of the Marquis of Worcester were specially noticed, and the character of their information pointed out, making their errors manifest, that then a correct biographical narrative might possibly be established. To have discussed' these several matters in “The Life,” &c. itself, would have rendered that work essentially controversial, confused, and complicated.
No contemporary writer notices the scientific character of the Marquis of Worcester; and no contemporary alludes to him either as a courtier or a statesman with other than respectful language. His first intemperate critic was Walpole, who, in censuring the “Century” and pretending to criticise its author's mathematical and mechanical labours, simply proved his own utter incapacity for the task he had unwisely undertaken.
That Walpole should have been followed in opinion by Hume is not remarkable, because the wit was no contemptible authority, as then considered ; his smartness savouring of logical deduction, while at the same time, on a merely superficial perusal of the “Century,” confutation appeared impossible.
The present publication would not have been required had the life of the Marquis of Worcester hitherto been generally treated with common candour; but, strange to say, a singular spirit of praise and censure characterises most of the biographical notices in the present collection; and the better the authorities promise to be---as Walpole, Hume, Partington, Lodge, Stuart, Muirhead—the more striking are the inconsistencies they mingle and endeavour to reconcile as a faithful portraiture of the greatest inventive genius of his age; and of the man who, with princely powers delegated to him by Charles the First, never committed one act to which his severest political opponents can point as being ever so remotely extravagant, overstrained, or disloyal.
Having been favoured with a communication from Charles Baker, Esq., respecting the assumption made in “The Life,” &c., Chapter VIII., that the Marquis of Worcester made a second visit to Ireland, it will interest the reader to be informed of his view of the case; he writes—“The civil year commenced on the 25th of March, and not on the 1st of January; the letters, therefore, which are dated in January, February, and March (anterior to the 25th of that month, 1644), should be read as 1644-5, and adopting this plan everything harmonizes as to the Marquis's visit to Ireland in that year—1645. The chronological order of the letters (he states) as follows :Page 70. 1st April, 1644. Grant.
78. 27th Dec. 1644. Letter.