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TO THIS EDITION.
The History of his Own Time by bishop Burnet lays claim to our regard as an original work containing a relation of public transactions, in which either the author or his connexions were engaged. It will therefore never lose its importance; but will continue to furnish materials for other historians, and to be read by those, who wish to derive their knowledge of facts from the first sources of information.
The accuracy indeed of the author's narrative has been attacked with vehemence, and often, it must be confessed, with success; but not so often, as to overthrow the general credit of his work. On the contrary, it has in many instances been satisfactorily defended, and time has already evinced the truth of certain accounts, which rested on this single authority. It has also had the rare fortune of being illustrated by the notes of three persons of high rank, possessing in consequence of their situations means of information open to few others. That their observations on this history are now at length submitted to the public eye, is owing to the following fortunate incident.
I. A resolution having been taken by the delegates of the Clarendon press to reprint the work, the present lord bishop of Oxford expressed his readiness to communicate to them a copy of it, in which his lordship had transcribed the marginal notes written by his ancestor the first earl of Dartmouth. The offer was gratefully accepted, and the notes ordered to be printed with the text.
Soon after, on an application to the earl of Onslow, made through the late James Boswell, esquire, of the Inner Temple, his lordship was pleased to confide to the delegates speaker Onslow's copy of Burnet's history; in which are contained the speaker's observations on this work, written in his own hand. Besides these remarks, there appear in the Onslow copy, in consequence of the permission of the second earl of Hardwicke, not only this nobleman's notes on the second folio volume, but also the numerous passages, which were omitted in the first volume by the original editors. The notes likewise of dean Swift are there transcribed, taken from his own copy of the history, which had come into the possession of the first marquis of Lansdowne, and afterwards into that of Henry James Brooke, esquire, F.R. S. It has since perished by fire. We shall now lay before the reader, for his greater satisfaction, a note prefixed to the Onslow copy by George late earl of Onslow, the son of the speaker.
"The notes in these two volumes marked "H. were the notes in the present earl of "Hardwicke's copy of this work written by "himself, and which he permitted me to "copy into this. The earl is the son and "heir of that great man the chancellor. The "others in the same hand-writing I had also "from him, and they are what are left "out in the printed history, but are in the "manuscript. All the rest of the notes are "my father's own. Geo. Onslow, \77&- There "are many errors of the copyist. The notes "in red ink are by dean Swift, and are "copied (from an edition of this work in "the marquiss of Lansdown's library, in the "margin of which they are written in the "dean's own hand) by his lordship's order "for myself. O. 1788."
With respect to the notes written by the earl of Dartmouth, it appears from sir John Dalrymple's Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland, and from Mr. Rose's Observations on Fox's History of the early part of the reign of James II. that both these writers had been favoured with the sight as well of these notes, as of a collection of letters sent by king James, when duke of York, and residing in Scotland, to the first lord Dartmouth, the earl's father, and from which extracts are frequently made by the earl in his notes. Seven or eight only of the notes have been communicated to the public by the abovementioned authors, and are pointed out as they occur in the following pages. All of them are now printed, with the exception of three, which contained reflections on the private character of as many individuals irrelevant to their public conduct. They have been omitted, with the approbation of the descendants of the noble writer.
As the earl of Dartmouth often treats his author with great severity, it should be remembered, that he was of a party in the state opposed to that which bishop Burnet uniformly espoused. He appears also to have entertained a great personal dislike to the bishop. At the same time this nobleman, who was secretary of state, and afterwards lord privy seal in the latter end of queen Anne's reign, never embraced, as may