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Preface To The Literary Magazine, 1756
by [?]


There are some practices which custom and prejudice have so unhappily influenced, that to observe or neglect them is equally censurable. The promises made by the undertakers of any new design, every man thinks himself at liberty to deride, and yet every man expects, and expects with reason, that he who solicits the publick attention, should give some account of his pretensions.

We are about to exhibit to our countrymen a new monthly collection, to which the well-deserved popularity of the first undertaking of this kind, has now made it almost necessary to prefix the name of Magazine. There are, already, many such periodical compilations, of which we do not envy the reception, nor shall dispute the excellence. If the nature of things would allow us to indulge our wishes, we should desire to advance our own interest, without lessening that of any other; and to excite the curiosity of the vacant, rather than withdraw that which other writers have already engaged.

Our design is to give the history, political and literary, of every month; and our pamphlets must consist, like other collections, of many articles unconnected and independent on each other.

The chief political object of an Englishman’s attention must be the great council of the nation, and we shall, therefore, register all publick proceedings with particular care. We shall not attempt to give any regular series of debates, or to amuse our readers with senatorial rhetorick. The speeches inserted in other papers have been long-known to be fictitious, and produced sometimes by men who never heard the debate, nor had any authentick information. We have no design to impose thus grossly on our readers, and shall, therefore, give the naked arguments used in the discussion of every question, and add, when they can be obtained, the names of the speakers.

As the proceedings in parliament are unintelligible, without a knowledge of the facts to which they relate, and of the state of the nations to which they extend their influence, we shall exhibit monthly a view, though contracted, yet distinct, of foreign affairs, and lay open the designs and interests of those nations which are considered by the English either as friends or enemies.

Of transactions in our own country, curiosity will demand a more particular account, and we shall record every remarkable event, extraordinary casualty, uncommon performance, or striking novelty, and shall apply our care to the discovery of truth, with very little reliance on the daily historians.

The lists of births, marriages, deaths and burials, will be so drawn up that, we hope, very few omissions or mistakes will be found, though some must be expected to happen in so great a variety, where there is neither leisure nor opportunity for minute information.

It is intended that lists shall be given of all the officers and persons in publick employment; and that all the alterations shall be noted, as they happen, by which our list will be a kind of court-register, always complete.

The literary history necessarily contains an account of the labours of the learned, in which, whether we shall show much judgment or sagacity, must be left to our readers to determine; we can promise only justness and candour. It is not to be expected, that we can insert extensive extracts or critical examinations of all the writings, which this age of writers may offer to our notice. A few only will deserve the distinction of criticism, and a few only will obtain it. We shall try to select the best and most important pieces, and are not without hope, that we may sometimes influence the publick voice, and hasten the popularity of a valuable work.

Our regard will not be confined to books; it will extend to all the productions of science. Any new calculation, a commodious instrument, the discovery of any property in nature, or any new method of bringing known properties into use or view, shall be diligently treasured up, wherever found.

In a paper designed for general perusal, it will be necessary to dwell most upon things of general entertainment. The elegant trifles of literature, the wild strains of fancy, the pleasing amusements of harmless wit, shall, therefore, be considered as necessary to our collection. Nor shall we omit researches into antiquity, explanation of coins or inscriptions, disquisitions on controverted history, conjectures on doubtful geography, or any other of those petty works upon which learned ingenuity is sometimes employed.

To these accounts of temporary transactions and fugitive performances, we shall add some dissertations on things more permanent and stable; some inquiries into the history of nature, which has hitherto been treated, as if mankind were afraid of exhausting it. There are, in our own country, many things and places worthy of note that are yet little known, and every day gives opportunities of new observations which are made and forgotten. We hope to find means of extending and perpetuating physiological discoveries; and with regard to this article, and all others, entreat the assistance of curious and candid correspondents.

We shall labour to attain as much exactness as can be expected in such variety, and shall give as much variety as can consist with reasonable exactness; for this purpose, a selection has been made of men qualified for the different parts of the work, and each has the employment assigned him, which he is supposed most able to discharge.