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ANONYMOUS AND PSEUDONYMOUS
LITERATURE OF GREAT BRITAIN.
INCLUDING THE WORKS OF FOREIGNERS WRITTEN IN,
OR TRANSLATED INTO THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
BY THE LATE SAMUEL HALKETT,
KEEPER OF THE ADVOCATES' LIBRARY, EDINBURGH;
THE LATE REV. JOHN LAING, M.A.
LIBRARIAN OF THE NEW COLLEGE LIBRARY, EDINBURGH.
EDINBURGH: WILLIAM PATERSON.
1 88 2.
THE want of a comprehensive Dictionary of our rich and important
1 anonymous and pseudonymous Literature has long been a reproach to English Bibliography. The admirable works of this class, of which France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, and even Belgium, are able to boast, have been continually held up as examples, and pointed to as models of what should be done for English Literature. An eminent French bibliographer, M. Philarète Chasles, in tracing out, in the Révue des deux Mondes, an exhaustive plan for English Literature
similar to that which other civilised nations already possess,' begins his article thus :—'In the whole history of literature there is not a more fantastical group of whimsicalities than that of the English pseudonyms which abound between 1688 and 1800; nor is there any subject so new and unexplored, and yet so little explained. During that time some hundreds of writers, among whom I shall only take certain notabilities, deliberately renounced the lustre of their own names, and sacrificed their vanity to their interest or passion. If they concealed their names and disguised their hand, it was to carry out their work better. One wishes to destroy an ancient reputation which is in his way; another wants to popularise sentiments which he considers useful; others to glorify the national vanity; the greater part to make their fortunes. There are the innocent and honest, as Defoe; the violent and imprudent, like Chatterton; the foolish like Ireland ; the unskilful and the calumniators, like Landor; and lastly, the expert, like the Scotchman Macpherson, who deceived an entire generation of Europe and America.'*
In our own literary journals appeared continual appeals for the supply of this great want,—one daily felt by all librarians, book collectors, and literary men, until, specially incited by a correspondence on the subject in Notes and Queries, the late learned Keeper of the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh, Mr Halkett, undertook the important task, and wrote to that periodical in 1856 as follows :—'The frequent communications that have appeared on the subject of a Dictionary of anonymous English writers similar to the Dictionnaire des Ouvrages
* Révue des deux Mondes, vol. vi., p. 757. 1844.