the work now offered to the public was suggested by the Committee
of the British
and Foreign Unitarian Association, and is brought forward under their sanction.
It appeared to them very desirable to place before the public in general, and more especially before the Unitarians of our own time, a series of memoirs of the most distinguished worthies who have adorned our churches, and whose learning and zealous labours have mainly contributed to promote the cause of rational Christianity.
It was also conceived that the practical efficacy of Unitarian
principles might be well illustrated, when displayed in its influence on the lives and character of its most eminent professors.
It seems important that we should know, not merely what our opinions are, but who and what our fathers were, in whose writings we find them most successfully maintained, and by whom were most ably asserted the genuine Protestant principles of free inquiry and private judgment, which, when followed out fearlessly and consistently, have led to these conclusions.
That the Committee
were right in thinking such an undertaking desirable will be readily admitted; how far they have adopted the best mode of carrying it into effect, is for the public to decide.
The Compiler of the following Memoirs
has to crave from his readers the usual allowance to the biographer of literary men, whose retired habits and uniform mode of life commonly afford but few of the incidents best fitted to impart the kind of interest chiefly sought for in works of this class.
The biography of a man, the greater part of whose life was spent in his study, must consist in a great measure of an account of what he did in his study;—of those writings, namely, by which he has often exercised a powerful influence not only over his contemporaries but over successive generations, and earned for himself a name which deserves, and is likely, to be remembered by distant ages.
It is hoped that those, for example, who take an interest in the researches which occupied the days and nights of such a man as Lardner
, and who can duly estimate the value of the services rendered by him to the Christian world, will not think the narrative of his labours flat and insipid, because it exhibits no extraordinary events or varieties of situation.
In some instances it is unfortunately no longer possible to procure the necessary information of various particulars relative to the personal condition and history of eminent persons deservedly honoured for their valuable writings and other results of their labours; and hence the accounts which can now be given of several individuals of distinguished merit are but meagre and imperfect.
This deficiency will be particularly observable with respect to some of those who are remembered chiefly for their services in the conduct of Academical Institutions, but whose important labours in other ways prevented their appearing much before the public through the medium of the press.—To the other honoured names commemorated under this title, it was the writer's intention to add that of Merivale;
but on learning that there was, at length, a prospect of the speedy appearance of an auto-biography of that excellent person, he abandoned the attempt to put together the few slight notices which are to be found scattered here and there in various publications.
In preparing the Memoirs of Academical Tutors, it will be perceived that very free use has been made of a valuable series of biographical papers inserted many years ago in the Monthly Repository
, under the then well-known and familiar signature of V. F. Those who are aware to whom they were indebted for the papers referred to, will join in the regret of the present writer, that their venerable author could not be prevailed on to contribute to this work in a more substantial form than by his occasional opinion and advice.