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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 forın 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 minute
ness 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.
Only a portion of the spacious field of inquiry comprehended in our titlepage could be brought within the limits of this little work; and for the same reason many of the notices must inevitably be slight and cursory, where the writer could have wished to render them more general and enlarged. From the inviting subject of the ancient tilts and tournaments he was compelled to abstain, because these pastimes, belonging to the province of Chivalry, have already been considered in the twentieth volume of this Library. How far the following selections have been made with judgment, and presented in an eligible form, must be left to the indulgence of the reader.