DIRECTOR   Malte Osmond Wolff


The subjects considered in this volume have been so thoroughly sifted by professed antiquaries, that when they were submitted to the present writer, he at once perceived the impossibility of illustrating them by any new facts, while he felt the difficulty of compressing within the narrow limits assigned to him the vast quantity of materials that had been accumulated by his predecessors. Compilation and selection were the principal tasks left to him;—by these means he has endeavoured to condense into one little volume the information that he found dispersed in many; and to present in as popular and pleasing a form as possible, what has been too often encumbered, in more erudite disquisitions, with learned lore and antiquarian pedantry. It is hoped that in thus pruning away the useless leaves, in order to render the fruit more evident and attractive, little has been sacrificed which, for general purposes, it would have been desirable to retain. In works of this nature, which profess to be little more than summaries and abridgments, it is difficult to hit the happy medium between meager analysis and the fulness of original inquiry. Some readers, in their anxiety for knowledge, will require facts rather than comments; others, who are in search of amusement rather than of information, will prefer deductions and illustrations to minuteness and detail. To satisfy each of these classes is scarcely practicable; but it has been endeavoured to conciliate both, as far as possible, by varying the treatment of the different subjects, in order to adapt them, at least in some degree, to this diversity of tastes. Instead of attempting to appropriate to himself the information of others, by translating it into his own phraseology, the present writer has frequently adopted the identical language of the original, freely using the privilege of omission, or condensation, interspersing such observations of his own as suggested themselves in his progress, and invariably stating at the end of each chapter, where his obligations are not acknowledged by previous foot-notes, the authorities whence his materials have been derived.