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or reflection, or anecdotes of other persons, or illustrations of the time, were a wholesale abstraction from the Life by Mr. Prior. My answer (to describe it as briefly) was, that the charge so brought against me was in all its particulars unfounded and false; that I had mentioned Mr. Prior's name in connection with everything of which he could in any sense be regarded as the discoverer; that so far from my book being slavishly copied from his, I had largely supplied his deficiencies, and silently corrected his errors; and that, in availing myself with scrupulous acknowledgment of the facts first put forth by him, as well as of the far more important facts related in other books without which he never could have written his, I had contributed to them many new anecdotes and some original letters, had subjected them to an entirely new examination and arrangement, and had done my best to transform an indiscriminate and dead collection of details about a man, into a living picture of the man himself surrounded by the life of his time.
The reader wili observe that the accusation which thus un. expectedly placed me on my defence, implied neither more nor less on the part of the person who made it, than a claim to absolute property in certain facts. It was not pretended that my book contained a line of Mr. Prior's writing. Not even the monomania which suggested so extraordinary a charge could extend it into an imputation that a single word of original comment or criticism, literary or personal, had been appropriated by me; or that I had adopted a thought, an expression, a view of character, a construction of any particular circumstances, or a decision on any doubtful point, which Mr. Prior had before suggested or made. The specific and sole offence was the use in my narrative of matter which a previous biographer had used, which he assumed to have discovered, and the repetition of which he would prohibit to all who came after him. The question broadly raised was, whether any man who may have published a biography, contributing to it certain facts as the result of his own research, can from that instant lay claim to the entire beneficial interest in those facts, nay, can appropriate to himself the subject of the biography, and warn off every other person as a trespasser from the ground so seized.
Now, upon the reason or common sense of such a proposition, I should be ashamed to waste a word. Taking for granted the claim of discovery to the full extent asserted, the claim to any exclusive use of such discovery is sheer folly. No man can hold a patent in biography or in history except by a mastery of execution unapproached by competitors. He only may hope to have possessed bimself of a subject, who has exhausted it; or to have established his originality in dealing with facts, who has so happily disposed and applied them as to preclude the chances of more successful treatment by any subsequent writer. But between me and my accuser in this particular case, a really practical question was raised under cover of the extravagant and impossible one. The substance of Mr. Prior's pretensions as a discoverer in connection with Goldsmith came in issue; and the answer could only be, that these had been enormously exaggerated. It became necessary to point out that to even a small fraction of the matter assumed to have been first set forth by him, his title as its discoverer could as little be proved, as his right to any exclusive property or ownership in it. I found myself obliged to assert, that the most important particulars of Goldsmith's life, except as to bibliography, where the books themselves furnished easy hints for the supply of every defect, had been published long before by Cooke, Glover, Percy, Davies, Hawkins, Boswell, and their contemporaries or commentators; and that were each fact again expressly assigned to its original authority, what Mr. Prior might claim for his would be found ridiculously small compared with the bulk of his volumes.
In support of that assertion I now place before the public the present book. Not only are very numerous corrections to every former publication on the subject here made, and a great many new facts brought forward, but each fact, whether new or old, is given from its first authority, and no quotation has been made at second hand.
The gravest defect in my first edition is thus remedied. I no longer, from a strained sense of the courtesy due to a living writer, and an immediate predecessor on this ground, confine my acknowledgments chiefly to him. The reader is enabled to see exactly the extent of my obligations to Mr. Prior, and also, for the first time, the extent of his obligations to books which he has largely copied, and never remembered or cared to name. For, nothing is so noteworthy in this stickler for a property in facts originally derived, as the perpetual false assumption of an original air, by quoting as from the communication of individuals, information derived from printed sources. His footprints were in each case so carefully obliterated, that he doubtless thought it perfectly safe to do this, and relied on all trace being lost of his having simply been where others had been before him. No one reading his book would expect to find already printed in a magazine of the last century not a few of its most characteristic“ original" anecdotes. To the highly curious and valuable series of published recollections of Goldsmith, written by one of his intimate companions, William Cooke of the Temple, before even Percy's edition of the Miscellaneous Works, Mr. Prior never once refers. He preserves almost as close a silence in respect to the Percy Memoir itself, which, though remaining still by far the fullest and most authentic repository of “original” information about Goldsmith, he sedulously avoids to name in connection with any of the interesting matter he abstracts unscrupulously from it. When, in the course of repelling his attack, I had occasion to repeat my obligations to what I regard as the most valuable details in his book, namely, Goldsmith's accounts and agreements with his publisher Newbery, and the bills of his landlady Mrs. Fleming, it never occurred to me to doubt that those papers were Mr. Prior's, and remained in his possession. The truth, however, is that they were placed at his disposal by Mr. Murray, of Albemarle-street, whose son and successor has most kindly placed them at mine ; and though I have quoted them throughout my volumes as originally published by Mr. Prior, it will be found that I have corrected several mistakes in his transcription of them, and printed some part of their contents for the first time. Even to the entertaining tailor's bills which in his book first illustrated Goldsmith's boyish love of dress, I have been enabled to add some curious details derived from a discovery of yet earlier date, connecting with his very outset in life as a medical student his indulgence in those innocent foibles.
The reader will do nie the justice to remember that any apparent depreciation of the labours of a predecessor in the same field with myself has been forced upon me.
I had no thought towards this gentleman but of gratitude in connection with the pursuit which had occupied us in common, until he repelled the expression of that feeling. Of course I did not think bis book a good one, or I would not have written mine ; but I liked his liking for the subject, had profited not a little by his exertions in connection with it, valued the new facts he had contributed to its illustration, and was content, without the mention of any adverse opinion as to the mode in which he had used those materials, to let the reader silently infer the reason which had induced my own attempt. For why should I now conceal that the very extent of my sympathy with the purpose of his biography had unhappily convinced me of its utter failure in his hands : and that for this reason, with no dislike of him, but much love for Goldsmith, the present biography was undertaken ? It seemed no unworthy task to rescue one of the most fascinating writers in the language from one of its dullest books, from a posthumous admiration more harassing than any spite that vexed poor Goldsmith while he lived, from a clumsy and incessant exaltation far worse than Hawkins's absurd contempt or the amusing slights of Boswell. In the course of this attempt it became necessary to correct many errors, to supply many omissions, and to restore point to many anecdotes mistold or misunderstood; but while all this was done silently, Mr. Prior's name was introduced into the text of my narrative not less than fifteen times, and a brief advertisement at its close was devoted to the eulogistic statement (for which I can only now implore the pardon of my readers) that the “ diligent labour, enthu“siasm, and ability displayed in his edition and elaborate “memoir twelve years ago, had placed every subsequent writer “under weighty obligations to him."
If any one then had warned me of the impending wrath of Mr. Prior, it would have appeared to me simply ridiculous. With some reason, perhaps, any new biographer may demand a brief interval for public judgment before a successor shall occupy his ground, but even this in courtesy only; and it never occurred to me to question Mr. Washington Irving's perfect right to avail himself to the uttermost of the present work, though he did so within as many weeks as I had waited years before encroaching on Mr. Prior's. But if any one had gravely assured me that the author of a book published twelve years, and which, with no encouragement for a second edition, had for more than half that time been transferred to the shelves of the cheap bookstalls, would think himself entitled coarsely to assail me for opening his subject anew, I should have laughed at a suggestion so incredible; and if, in support of the statement, details of the proposed attack had been given as based chiefly on the imputation of borrowing without acknowledgment, I should have convinced my informant, by the series of examples I am now about to submit to the reader,