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the very crime that I think I am censuring. Bui while justice to my readers compels me to admit thai I write, because I have nothing to do, justice to my self induces me to add, that I will cease to write the moment I have nothing to say. Discretion has been termed the better part of valour, and it is more certain that diffidence is the beter part of knowledge. Where I am ignorant, and know that I am so, I am silent. That Grecian gave a better reason for his taciturnity, than most authors for their loquacity, who observed, 'What was to the purpose I could not say; and what was not to the purpose I would not say. And yet Shakspeare has hinted, that even silence is not always commendable: since it may be foolish, if we are wise, but wise if we are foolish. The Grecian's maxim would indeed be a sweeping clause in litera. ture; it would reduce many a giant to a pigmy; many a speech to a sentence; and many a folio io a primer. As the fault of our orators is, that they get up to make a speech, rather than to speak; so the great error of our authors 13, that they sit down to make a book rather than to write. To combine profundity with perspicuity, wit with judgment, solidity with vivacity, truth with novelty, and all of them with liberalitywho is sufficient for these things ? a very serious question; but it is one which authors had much better propose lo themselves before publication, than have proposed to them by their editors after it.
I have thrown together in this work, that which is the result of some reading and reflection; if it be but little, I have taken care that the volume which contains it, shall not be large. I plead the privilege which a preface allows to an author for saying thus much of myself; since if a writer be inclined to egotism, a preface is the most proper place for him to be delivered of it; for prefaces are not always read, and ded. ications seldom; books, says my lord Bacon, should have no patrons but truth and reason. Even thie al. tractive prose of Dryden, could not dignify dedications; and perhaps they oughi nerer to be resorteri in
being as derogatory to the writer, as dull to the read. er, and when not prejudicial, at least superfluous. If a book really wants the patronage of a great name, it is a bad book, and if it be a good book, it wants it not. Swist dedicated a volume to Prince Posterity, and there was a manliness in the act. Posterity will prove a patron of the soundest judgment, as unwilling to give, as unlikely to receive, adulation. But Posterity is not a very accessible personage; he knows the high value of that which he gives, he therefore is extremely particular as to what he receives. Very few of the presents that are directed to him, reach their destination. Some are too light, others too heavy, since, it is as difficult to throw a straw any distance, as a ton. I have addressed this volume to those who think, and some may accuse me of an ostentatious independence, in presuming to inscribe a book to so small a minority. But a volume addressed to those who think, is in fact addressed to all the world; for although the proportion of those who do think be extremely small, yet every individual flatters himself that he is one of the number. In the present rage for all that is marvellous and interesting, when writers of undoubted talent consider only what will sell, and readers only what will please, it is perhaps a bold experiment to send a volunse into the world, whose very faults, (manifold as I fear they are,) will cost more pains to detect, than sciolists would feel inclined to bestow, even if they were sure of discovering nothing but beauties. Some also of my conclusions will no doubt be condemned by those who will not take the trouble of looking into the postulata ; for the soundest argument will produce no more conviction in an empty nead, than the most superficial declamation; as a feather and a guinea fall with equal velocity in a vacuum.
The following pages, such as they are, have cost me some thought to write, and they may possibly cost others some to read them. Like Demosthenes, who talked Greek to the waves, I have continued my task, with the hope of instructing others with the certainty
of improving myself. ‘Labor ipse roluplas.'* It is much safer to think what we say, than to say what we wink; I have attempted both. This is a work of no party, and my sole wish is, that truth may prevail in ihe church, and integrity in the state, and that in both, The old adage may be verified, that the men of principle may be the principal men. Knowledge is indeed as necessary as light, and in this coming age most fairly promises to be as common as water, and as free as air. But as it has been wisely ordained that light should have no colour, water no taste, and air no odour, so knowledge also should be equally pure, and without admixture. If it comes to us through the medium of prejudice, it will be discoloured; through the channels of custom, it will be adulterated ; through the gothic walls of the college, or of the cloister, it will smell of the lamp.
He that studies books alone, will know how things ought to be; and he that studies men, will know how things are ; and it would have been impossible to have written these pages, without mixing somewhat more freely with the world, than inclination might prompt, or judgment approve. For observation, made in the cloister, or n. the desert, will generally be as obscure as the one, and as barren as the other: but he that would paint with his pencil, must study originals, and not be over fearful of a litile dust. In fact, every author is a far better judge of the pains that his efforts have cost him, than any reader can possibly be; but to what purpose he has taken those pains, this is a question on which his readers will not allow the author a voice, nor even an opinion: from the tribunal of the public there is no appeal, and it is fit that it should be so, otherwise we should not only have rivers of ink expended in bad writing, but oceans more in defending it; for he that writes in a bad style is sure to retort in a worse. I have availed myself of examples both ancient and
* Labour is itself a pleasure.--PUB.
modern, wnerever they appeared likely w illustrate, or strengthen my positions; but I am not - an unbe as to expect that all will draw the same conclusions ruin the same premises. I have not forgotten the observation, of him who said, that in the sume meulue, the ox seeks the herbage; the dog, the hare; und the stork, the lizard.' Times also of profound peace and tranquillity are most propitiou- tvevery literary pro su... 'Satur est, cum dicit Horatius pugni*
Hie know that Malherbe, on hearing a prowork of great merit extolled, dryly asked if it wouid reduces the price of bread! neither was his appreciation purity much higher, when he observed, tirat a quot pol Max of no inore service to the church or the stale, liiala good player at ninepins!!
The apeedotes that are interspersed in these pagan, have seldom been cited for their own sake, bu bay for their application, nor can I see why the Mola.ist should be denied those examples su uselui iu tut His torian. The lover of variety will be ta-tidious, l' ip finds nothing here to his taste: but list will man wrote a book sde omnibus rebut", et quivunum aliis,'t I may perhaps be accused of ivunime mu every thing, but of seeing ivio nothing.
There are two things, cheap and commul enough when separated, but as costly in value, a mes, siis Power,
wben combined truth eud wrtliy, lustro union is like that of steam and of lur. Hur mag can overcome. Truth and poveit, wiatu Uutine.wun overcome the whole superineum ben seuks.ritur and of prejudice, whatever be in the Shwe Perim will be proportionate to the resize bu teps earthquake, unlike the natura , bove. Ji was nations, reforms them in
ratluat vis which is
te beri te sur
lutely false. It is a melancholy consideration for au thors, that there is very little «Terra Incognitu' in literature, and there now remain to us moderns, only two roads to success; discovery and conquest. If indeed we can advance any propositions that are both true and new, these are indispuiably our own, by right of discovery; and if we can repeat what is old, more briefly and brightly than others, this also becomes our own by right of conquest. The pointed propriety of Pope, was to all his readers originality, and even the lawful possessors could not always recognise their own property in his hands. Few have borrowed more freely th Gray and Milton, but with a princely proCigality, they have repaid the obscure thoughts of Ohers, with far brighter of their own; like the ocean which drinks up the muddy water of the rivers, from me Hood, but replenishes them with the clearest from the shower. These reflections, however they may tend to show the difficulties all must encounter who aim at originality, will, nevertheless in nowise tend to diminish the number of those who will attempt to surmount them, since 'fools rush in, where angels fear to tread. In good truth, we should have a glo-rious conflagration, if all who cannot put fire into their works, would only consent to put their works into the fire. But this is an age of economy, as well as of ilumination, and a considerate author will not rasnly condemn his volumes to that devouring element, 'flammis emendatioribus, '* who reflects that the pastry-cook and the confectioner are sure to put good things into his pages, if he fail to do it himself.
With respect to the style I have adopted in the following sheets, I have attempted to make it vary with the subject; avoiding all pomp of words, where there was no corresponding elevation of ideas; for such turgidity, although it may be as aspiring as that of a balCoon, is also as useless. I have neither spare time for superfluous writing, nor spare money for superfluous
* The amending flames.-Pub.