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THE first edition of a work of this kind is almost necessarily imperfect; since the editor is commonly dependent for a great deal of the required information upon sources the very existence of which is unknown to him till reminiscences are revived, and communications invited, by the announcement or publication of the book. Some valuable contributions reached me too late to be properly placed or effectively worked up; some, too late to be included at all. The arrangement in this edition will therefore, I trust, be found less faulty than in the first, whilst the additions are large and valuable. They principally consist of fresh extracts from Mrs. Piozzi's private diary ("Thraliana"), amounting to more than fifty pages; of additional marginal notes
on books, and of copious extracts from letters hitherto
Amongst the effects of her friend Conway, the actor, after his untimely death by drowning in North America, were a copy of Mrs. Piozzi's "Travel Book” and a copy of Johnson's "Lives of the Poets," each enriched by marginal notes in her handwriting. Such of those in the "Travel Book" as were thought worth printing appeared in "The Atlantic Monthly" for June last, from which I have taken the liberty of copying the best. The "Lives of the Poets" is now the property of Mr. William Alexander Smith, of New York, who was so kind as to open a communication with me on the subject, and to have the whole of the marginal notes transcribed for my use at his expense.
Animated by the same liberal wish to promote a literary undertaking, Mr. J. E. Gray, son of the Rev. Dr. Robert Gray, late Bishop of Bristol, has placed at my disposal a series of letters from Mrs. Piozzi to his father, extending over nearly twenty-five years (from 1797 to the year of her death) and exceeding a hundred in number. These have been of the greatest service in enabling me to complete and verify the summary of that period of her life.
So much light is thrown by the new matter, es
pecially by the extracts from "Thraliana," on the alleged rupture between Johnson and Mrs. Piozzi, that I have re-cast or re-written the part of the Introduction relating to it, thinking that no pains should be spared to get at the merits of a controversy which now involves, not only the moral and social qualities of the great lexicographer, but the degree of confidence to be placed in the most brilliant and popular of modern critics, biographers and historians. It is no impeachment of his integrity, no detraction from the durable elements of his fame, to offer proof that his splendid imagination ran away with him, or that reliance on his wonderful memory made him careless of verifying his original impressions before recording them in the most gorgeous and memorable language.
No one likes to have foolish or erroneous notions imputed to him, and I have pointed out some of the misapprehensions into which an able writer in the "Edinburgh Review" (No. 231) has been hurried by his eagerness to vindicate Lord Macaulay. Moreover, this struck me to be as good a form as any for re-examining the subject in all its bearings; and now that it has become common to reprint articles in a collected shape, the comments of a first-rate review can no longer be regarded as transitory.
I gladly seize the present opportunity to offer my best acknowledgments for kind and valuable aid in various shapes, to the Marquis of Lansdowne, His Excellency M. Sylvain Van de Weyer (the Belgian Minister), the Viscountess Combermere, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Monckton Milnes, the Hon. Mrs. Rowley, Miss Angharad Lloyd, and the Rev. W. H. Owen, Vicar of St. Asaph and Dymerchion.
8, St. James's Street:
Oct. 18th, 1861.