« AnteriorContinuar »
To that part of the numerous body of BOOK.
SELLERS of Great Britain and Ireland, whose conduct JUSTLY claims the additional title of RESPECTABLE ;
Whose candour and liberality he has in numerous instances experienced, and feels a sensible pleasure in thus publicly acknowledging :
'To those fordid and malevolent BOOKSELLERS,
whether they resplendent dwell in stately manfions, or in wretched kůts of dark and groveling obscurity ;:..
I'll give every one a smart lath in my way."
To whose affiduous and unwearied labours to injure his reputation with their brethren and the Public, he is in a confiderable degree indebted for the confidence repored in him, and the success he has been honoured with, productive of his pres sent prosperity.
are, with all dus discrimination of the respective merits of each,
To print or not to print this is the question ?
For who would bear the impatient thirft of fame,
To groan and sweat under a load of wit ?
JAGO. it'has been repeatedly
observed by many of my worthy (and some perhaps wreathy. pradeceffors in authorship, has rendered a pie façe almost indispensably necellary; while others agam have astrequently re marked, thật" custom is the law of fools. Those considerations induced me to helitate whether I should usher my performance into the world with a preface, and thus hazard being claffed with the adherents to that law, or by omitting it, escape the opprobrium; for
Who shall decide when doctors disagree? POMFRET. Now, though I would not take upon me to decide in every point in which doctors disagree, yet, after giving the present subject that mature confideration which so important a concern required, I thought inyself fully competent to decide, if not to general fatisfaction, at least so as fully to satisfy one particular person, for whom I profess, to have a very great regard, though perhaps few are to be found who would be equally condescending to him : who that person is I do not wish publicly to declare, as (being a very modest man) it might offend him. I îhall only say, the more you read the Memoirs contained in the following pages, the better you will become acquainted with him. I ground my decifion
on these arguments : I concluded, as most of my brethren of the quill do of their labours, that my per. formance possessed so much intrinsic merit, as would occasion it to be universally admired by all good judges, as a prodigious effort of human genius ; and. that this approbation must naturally excite the envy of some authors, who had not met with that high applause they deemed themselves entitled to, and incline them to search for imperfections in my work ; and though I was persuaded of the impossibility of their finding any, yet being thus foiled, they might catch at the want of a preface, and construe that into an omission ; so that, in order to disarm them, I refolved to have one, especially as those who deem prefaces unnecessary may, if they chuse, decline reading it; whilst those on the other side of the question, if there was none, might be disappointed, and have cause for complaint. But to be serious (if I can :)
Almost every author, on producing the effufions of his pen (and his brain, if he has any), thinks it pru
dent to introduce himself by a kind of Prologue, as it may be called, stating his reasons, with due precifion,
for intruding himself on his readers (whether true or otherwise, is not always material to enquire) bespeaking their candour towards his weakneffes and imperfections fwhich, by the bye, few are fo sensible of as their readers) and not unfrequently endeavouring to sooth those GOLIAHS in literature, ycleped Critics, (with whom not many little Davids are hardy enough to contend) hoping thus to coax them into good humour; or, perhaps, if his vanity preponderates, he throws the gauntlet of defiance, with a view of terrifying them either to hold their peace, or to do justice to those mighty abilities he is .confident he possesses in a degree eminently superior to most of his brethren.
Among true Parnaffian bullies” De Scudery, stands one of the foremost; he concludes his preface to the works of his friend Theophile, with these remarkable words : " I do not helitate to declare, that amongst all the dead and all the living, there is no.
person who has any thing to thew, that approaches the force of this vigorous genius; but if amongst the - latter, any one were so extravagant as to confider that I detract from his imaginary glory, to shew him that I fear as little as I esteem him, this is to inform him that my name is DE SCUDERY.” We have another remarkable instance in Claude Terllon, a poetical soldier, who begins his poeins, by informing the critics, that, “ if any one attempts to cen. fure him, he will only condescend to answer him sword in hand.”
For my own part, I disclaim thefe modes : convinced, that in the first case, every reader, whatever the author may plead, will judge for himself. To profeffed critics I will repeat the following lines:
Think, at your bar, no old offender stands,
" To write by your's, or Aristotle's rules.-
“ Critics, forgive this first efsay
" Of one whose thoughts are plain,
• To steal your time again."
Many of my acquaintances have frequently exprefied a defire of obtaining from myfelfluch particulars as they could rely on, of my paffage thro* life.
I have even been repeatedly threatened by some particular friends, that if I declined drawing up a narrative, they were determined to do it for me. One of the first mentioned gentlemen prevailed on me (as
the most likely mode to bring it to a period) to devote now and then a spare hour in minuting down some of the most material occurrences of my life, and to send them to him in an epiftolary form, intending to digest the whole into a regular narrative for publication : that gentleman, however, on perusal, was of opinion, that it would be additionally acceptable to the curjous
part of the public, if exhibited to them in the plain and simple manner in which thefe Letters were wriiten, as thus tending to display such traits and features of a somewhat original character, and give a more perfect idea of is I, great I, the little hero of each tale,” than any other mode that could have been adopted; elpecially, as many intelligent persons: were confident I could not write at all, while others, kindly attributed to me what I never wrote.
06 Then think, “ That he who thus is forc'd to speak,
“ Unless commanded, would have died in silence." If, among the multitude of Memoirs under which the press has groaned, and with which it still continues to be tortured, the following theets should afford some degree of entertainment, as a relaxation from more grave and folid 1tudies, to an inquisitive and candid reader (those of an oppofite description are not to be pleafed with the ableit performance) and he should deem it not the worst, nor the most expenfive
among the numerous tribe, I Mall esteem myself amply rewarded. Had I; however, been disposed to be more attentive to entertainment, and less to veracity, I might, to many, have rendered it much more agreeable, though less satisfactory to myself, as I believe the observation long fince made to be just
, that few books are so ill written, but that something may be gleaned from the perusal. Dr. Johnson used to fay, that he preferred Granger's Biographical History of England, because it abounded with such a variety of anecdotes ; I hope that my Life will have fome admirers for the fame reason. Pineda has quotted 5000 authors in his E cicfiaitical History. Burtong, in his Anatomy of Melancholy, is also remarkan gyoting a number of authors; and." **
i If you consider