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This book, from its very nature, is sure to receive justice : by its degree of merit and utility it will stand or fall. It was a feeling of the want of such a book which suggested the attempt to compile it; and I am now only anxious that its purpose should be clearly understood; that nothing more should be expected from it than just that which it assumes to be—a compendious register of the works of art existing in our public and private galleries, affording easy reference to names, dates, and subjects, with just so much of explanation, illustration, and criticism, as might stimulate the curiosity and direct the taste of the reader, without exactly assuming to gratify the first or dictate to the last.
These were humble pretensions; yet the task has so extended itself under my hand as to fill double the space at first assigned to it, while the labour required and the responsibility incurred have both
proved infinitely greater than I anticipated, and I am painfully aware of many deficiencies, many errors which in breaking new ground I found unavoidable : the utmost I dare to hope is, that this will lead to something of the same kind, better and more complete than what I have been able to perform; fuller in point of critical detail than would be at present either palatable or profitable.
That this volume should fulfil its purpose as a companion, three things were to be particularly considered: First, that it should not exceed a certain bulk, that it should be portable and pleasant in the hand; therefore it was necessary to repress the inclination for critical gossip-to coil up the thread of my discourse now and then, and leave the reader to unravel it in his own fancy; for if in a diary, or a book of travels, it be very pretty and pleasant to launch out into discussions, and enlarge on individual impressions and predilections, it appeared to me that everything of the kind was here out of place, and mere gratuitous impertinence. Secondly, it was necessary that the matter should be so printed and arranged as not to fatigue the eye while the reader was moving or standing in varying lights: therefore, the names of the painters and the titles of the pictures are each printed in a bold, large, and uniform type; the description in a different, but still large and clear letter; and the criticism and illustrative notes, which might be read at any time, or not at all, ad libitum, in a smaller letter. This arrangement has answered the double purpose of saving space and allowing the different topics to be distinguished at the first glance.
A third desideratum was the facility of reference; therefore, for the sake of reference on the spot, the pictures, &c. are arranged in the different Catalogues just in the order they hang, * while for the sake of general reference each Catalogue is numbered, and there is a copious general Index comprising facts, dates, and names.
To every picture the name of the engraver is appended, where I have known or have been able to discover it ; but this part of the work is, I regret to say, very defective. A competent knowledge of engravings is the attainment of half a life; but
* This mode of arrangement cannot, for obvious reasons, be carried into the private galleries, which are subject to continual changes by the will of the possessor; and another has been adopted.
some information seemed better than none, and may perhaps lead the inquiring mind to seek for
Something I have ventured to say of the disgraceful state of the Royal Galleries at Windsor and Hampton Court, but not a hundredth part of what I felt and thought, and have heard expressed by others. I had no wish to give offence: in fact, I know not where the blame rests-probably with no one in particular; it seems rather the result of a system. One official stands in another's way, and there is a sort of terror of all interference or suggestion which I do not understand. Perhaps the little I have ventured to say may excite the attention of those who have the power, as I believe they have the will, to amend a state of things worthy only of the most Gothic ignorance and barbarism. I could not, unhappily, carry order into the midst of this chaos: that this book might be useful as a companion on the spot, it was absolutely necessary to arrange the pictures as they are now hung; but in order to give a comprehensive view of the treasures now scattered through the State Rooms at Windsor and Hampton Court, “in most ad