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The Biographia Britannica, is indeed much more an historical work than Bayle's, but is written upon a much less extensive plan ; it contains the Lives of those eminent persons only who were born in Great Britain and Ireland, and of these the chief alone are selected, though many others have a degree of eminence fufficient to render them objects of general curiosity.
The Athenæ Oxonienses is written upon a plan still more contracted, for it contains an account of such authors only, as received their academic education at the University of Oxford.
Mr. Collier's Great Historical, Geographical, Genealogical, Poetical Dictionary may possibly seem, by the pretended universality of its plan, to have answered every purpose, which can be proposed from any new work: but this Dictionary is, as its title shews, filled with Geographical and Poetical descriptions, which are no part of our design, and with tedious uninteresting Genealogies which have neither use nor entertainment in them. It is exceedingly defective both as to the number of the lives, and the fullness of the accounts: that is, its accounts of men are too general, too superficial, and indeed too short to give fatisfaction. We would not have the reader to conclude from this, that it is any part of our intention to be more than ordinarily nice and critical : on the contrary, we have for the most part purposely avoided mere criticism, minute enquiries and discussions, and all those trifling points, which constitute the dry part of Biography; but then we have endeavoured to be at least so particular and so accurate in our accounts, as to convey a sufficient knowledge of the persons we have recorded; which certainly can by no means be said of Mr. Collier. So that upon the whole, neither
nor all of these performances, however voluminous and expenfives contain what ought to be found in an Universal Biographical Dictionary; and such is the work which we now offer to the publick.
This contains some account of every life that has been sufficiently distinguished to be recorded; not indeed a list of all the Names that are to be found in chronological and regal tables, for of many nominal rulers both of the Church and State it can only be said that they lived and died; but a judicious narrative of the actions or writings, the honours and disgraces of all those whose Virtues, Parts, Learning, or even Vices, have preserved them from oblivion in any records, of whatever age, and in whatever language.
This work will therefore naturally include a history of the most remarkable and interesting transactions, an historical account of the pro'grefs of learning, and an abstract of all opinions and principles by which the world has been influenced in all its extent and duration. We have been particularly careful to do justice to the learned and ingenious of our own country, whose works are justly held in the highest esteem; and we have also been attentive to the instruction and 'amusement of the ladies, not oniy by decorating our work with the Names of those who have done honour to the fex, but by making our account of others fufficiently particular to excite and gratify curiofity; and, where the subject would admit, to interest the passions, without wearying attention, by minute prolixity or idle speculations.
In the execution of this plan we have not had recourse merely to dictionaries, nor contented ourfelves with supplying the defects of one dictionary from another, and cutting off the redundancies of all, but we have collected from every performance in every language that had any relation to our Design. For the lives of authors, we have had recourse to their works ; and for the lives of others, to the best memoirs that are extant concerning them. We shall, however, notwithstanding the extent of our undertaking, and the labour and expence necessary to the execution of it, comprize this work within Twelve volumes in octavo, and sell them for Six shillings a volume; so that the price of the whole will be no more than Three pounds twelve shillings when bound.
In a work so various, the materials of which are so numerous, diffused and dissimilar, we have endeavoured to select in every instance, what was in itself most eligible; we hope therefore that when our Readers consider what we have done, they will not withhold their approbation, upon a mere supposition that we might have done more.
Those who are acquainted with the pains and attention requisite for the compiling of great works, will readily excuse any small defects that may have escaped us. The authors hope for success from the candid and judicious only, whose recommendation of this, it is their utmost ambition to obtain, as it has been their earnest endeavours to merit.
Universal, Historical and Literary
ARON, high priest of the Jews, and brother to
Moses, was by the father's side great grandson,
command, he met Moses at the foot of Mount Horeb, and they went together into Egypt to deliver the children of Ifrael : he had a great share in all that Mofes did for their deliverance; the scripture calls him the prophet of Mofes, and he acted in that capacity after the Israelites had passed over the Red Sea. He ascended Mount Sinai with two of his sons, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of the people ; but neither he nor they went higher than half way, from whence they saw the glory of God; only Moses and Joshua went to the top, where they stay'd forty days. During their absence, Aaron, overcome by the people's eager entreaties, set up the golden calf, which the Israelites worshipped by his consent. This calf has given rise to various fictions and conjectures. Rabbi Solomon imagines that it became a Corn à Lapie living animal, and that Aaron, having seen it walk and eat de in Exod. like other calves, was struck with astonishment, and erected an altar in its honour. Some Rabbies maintain that he did not make the golden calf, but only threw the gold into the fire, to get rid of the importunities of the people, and that certain magicians, who mingled with the Israelites at their departure from Egypt, cast this gold into the figure of a calf. Others are of opinion, that Aaron did not make a whole VOL.I.