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CONTENTS OF VOLUME I.
BALLADS AND TALES.
Girl; with some Account of Mrs. Sponge, the
Hymn of Praise for the abundant Harvest after the Chap. IV-Oiher symptoms of the decline of Cbris-
King Dyonysius, and Squire Damocles,
Chap. VII-View of those who acknowledge Chris-
tjanity as a perfect system of morals, but deny its
Divine authority-Morality not the whole of Re-
Chap: III-External Improvement-Children's
423 Chap. XV-On the Propriety of iutroducing Reli-
ty, &c. with a sketch of the Christian character, 450 Chap. XXI- The Temper and Conduct of Chris-
WHATEVER objections may be urged against the literary character of the present day, it mast kowever be allowed to exhibit an evident improvement in some material points. It is, for instance, no new observation, that vanity and Hattery are now less generally ostensible even in the most indifferent authors than they were formerly in some of the best. The most self-sofficient writer is at length driven, by the prevailing sense of propriety, to be contented with thinking himself the prime genius of the age; but he seldom ventures to tell you that he thinks so. Vanity is compelled to acquire or to assume a better taste.
That spirit of independence also, which has in many respects impressed so mischievous a slamp on the public character, has perhaps helped to correct the style of prefaces and dedications. Literary patronage is so much shorn of its beams, that it can no longer enlighten bodies which are in themselves opake; so much abridged of its power that it cannot force into Detice a work which is not able to recommend itself. The favour of an individual no longer boasts that buoyant quality which enables that to swim which by its own nature is disposed to sink. The influence of an Augustus, or a Louis Quatorze, of a Mæcenas, a Dorset, or a Halifax, could not now procure readers, much less could it compel admirers for the panegyrist, if the panegyrist, himself, could command admiration on no better ground than the authority of the patron. The once dilated preface is shrunk into plain apology or simple exposition. The long and lofty dedication (generally speaking) dwindled into a sober expression of respect for public virtue, a concise tribute of affection to private friendship, or an acknowledgment for personal obligation. It is no longer necessary for the dependant to be profone in order to be grateful. No more are all the divine attributes snatched from their rightful possessor, and impiously appropriated by the needy writer to the opulent patron. He still makes indeed the eulogium of his protector, but not his apotheosis. The vainest poet of our days dare not venture, like him who has however so gloriously accomplished his own prediction, to say, in so many words, that his own work is more sublime than the royal heights of pyramids. Nor whatever secret compact he may make for his duration, does he openly undertake to promise for his verse, that it shall flow coequal with the rivers, and survive the es. tablished forms of the religion of his country. The most penal poetic parasite no longer assures his protector, with. unhappy Dryden, that mankind can no more subsist without his poetry (the earl of Middlesex's poetry!) than the world can subsist without the daily course of Divine Providence. And it is but justice to the more sober spirit of living literature to observe, that our modesty would revolt (pulting our sense and our religion out of the question) were a modern poet to offer even an imperial patron to pick and chuse his lodging among the Constellations; or, as some author has expressed it on a similar occasion, 'to ask what apart. ment of the zodiac he would be pleased to occupy.'
So far at least our taste is reformed. And may we not venture to hope, from the affinity which should subsist belween correct judgment and unadulterated principle, that our ideas of truth and manly integrity are improved also ?
But it is time that I confine myself to the more immediate objects of the present address, in which, in avoiding the exploded evil I have been reprobating, I would not affectedly run into the opposite, and perhaps prevailing extreme. It may not, it is presumed, be thought
necessary to apologize for the publication of this collection, by enumerating all the reasons which produced it. • Desire of friends,' is now be. come a proverbial satire; the poet is driven from that once creditable refuge, behind which an unfounded eagerness to appear in print used to shelter itself; and is obliged to abandon the untenable forts and fastnesses of this last citadel of affectation. Dr. Johnson's sarcasmi upon one plea will apply to all, and put to flight the whole hackneyed train of false excuses -If the book were not written to be printed, I presume it was printed to be read.'
These scattered pieces, besides that they had been suffered to pass through successive editions, with little or no correction, were in their original appearance, of all shapes and sizes, and utterly unreducible to any companionable form, Several new pieces are here added, and most of the old ones considerably altered and enlarged. The second volume is preceded by its own apology. The • Essays,' are omitted, as being a very juvenile production, and because the subjeets of a few of them were analogous to some which have been taken up on higher ground, and treated more in detail in the Strictures on Female Education.' If it should be questioned whether the tales which occupy the third volume ought to have made a part of this collection, I can only answer, that though in their original appearance it was found expecient to adopt a more than usually familiar inanner, and colloquial style ; yet in all that relates to sentiment and principle, and the ends of general utility, I am not conscious of having, on any occasion, taken more pains. They are here given in an enlarged and improved fam. VOL, I.
I should blush to produce so many slight productions of my early youth, did I not find roason to be still more ashamed, that after a period of so many years the progress will be found to have been so inconsiderable, and the difference so little apparent.
If I should presume to suggest as an apology for having still persisted to publish, that of the latter productions, usefulness has been more invariably the object; whereas in many of the earlier, amusement was more obviously proposed; if I were inclined to palliate my presumption by pleading
That not in Fancy's maze I wander'd long; it might be retorted that the implied plea, in favour of the latter publications, exhibits no surer proof of humility in this instance than in the other. That, if in the first it was no cvidence of the modesty of the writer to fancy she could amuse, in the last it furnishes little proof of the modesty of the woman to fancy that she can instruct. Now to amuse, or to instruct, or both, is so undeniably the intention of all who obtrude their works on the public, that no preliminary apology, no prefatory humiliation can quite do away the charge of a certain consciousness of talents which is implied in the very undertaking The author professes his inability but he produces his book; and by the publication itself controverts his own avowal of alleged incapacity. It is to little purpose that the words are disparaging while the deed is assuming. Nor will ihat profession of self-abasement be much regarded, which is contradicted by an act that supposes self-confidence.
If however there is too seldom found in the writer of the book, all the humility which the preface announces, he may be allowed to plead on humility, which is at least comparative. On this ground may I be permitted to declare, that at no period of my life did I ever feel such unfeigned diflidence at the individual appearance of even the slightest pamphlet (the slenderness of whose dimensions might carry some excuse for the emall proportion of profit or pleasure it conveyed) as I now feel at sending this, perhaps, too voluminous, collection into the world. This self-distrust may naturally be accounted for, by reflecting that this publication is deliberately made, not only at a time of life when I ought best to know my own faults, and the faults of my writings; but is made also at such a distance from the moment in which the beveral pieces were first struck out, that the mind has had time to cool from the hurry and heat of con position ; the judginent has had leisure to operate, and it is the effect of that ope. ration to rectify false notions and to correct rash conclusions. The critic, even of his own works, grows honest, if not acute, at the end of twenty years. The image, which he had fancied glowed so brightly when it came fresh from the furnace, time has quenched; the spirits which he thoughi fixed and essential, have evaporated; many of the ideas which he imposed not only on his reader, but on himsell, for originals, more reading and more observation compel him to restore to their owners. And having detected, from the perusal of abler works, either plagiarisms in his own, of which he was not aware, or coincidences which will pass for plagiarisms; and blending with the new judgment of the critic, the old indignation of the poei, who of us in this case is not angry with those who have said our good things before us? We not only discover that what we thought we had invented we have only remembered; but we find also that what we had believed to be perfect is full of defects; in that which we had conceived to be pure goid, we discover much tinsel. For the revision, as was observed above, is made at a period when the eye is brought by a due remoteness into that just position which gives a clear and distinct view of things; a remoteness which disperses the illusions of vibion,' scatters the mists of vanity, reduces objects to their natural sizo, restores them to their exact shape, makes them appear to the sight, such as they are in themselves, and such as perhaps they have long appeared to all except the author.
That I have added to the mass of general knowledge by one original idea, or to the stock of virtue by one original sentiment, I do not presume to hope. But that I have laboured assiduously to make that kind of knowledge which is most indispensable to common life, familiar to the unlearned, and acceptable to the young; that I have laboured to inculcate into both, the love and practice of that virtue of which they had before derived the principles from higher sources, I will not deny to have attempted.
To what is called learning I have never had any pretension. Life and manners have been the objects of my unwearied observation, and every kind of study and habit has more or less recommended itself to my mind, as it has had inore or less reference to these objects. Considering this world as a scene of much action, and of little comparative knowledure; not as a stage for exhibition, or a retreat for speculation, but as a field on which the business which is to determine the concerns of eternity is to be transacled; as a place of low regard as an end; but of unspeakable importance as a means; a scene of short experiment, but lasting responsibility ; I have been contented to pursue myself, and to present to others (to my own sex chiedy, those truths, wbich, if obvious and familiar, are jei practical, and of general application: ihings which if of little show, are yet of some use ; and which, if their separate value be not great, yet their aggregate importance is not inconsiderable.. I have pursued, not that which deinands skill, and ensures renown, but
That which before us lies in daily life. If I have been favoured with a measure of success, which has as much exceeded iny exfiectation as my desert, I ascribe it partly to a disposition in the public mind to encourage, in these days of alarm, attack, and agitation, any productions of which the tendency is favourable to good order and Christian morals, even though the merit of the execution by no means keeps pace with that of the principle. In some instances I trust I have written seasonably when I have not been able to write well. Several pieces perhaps of small value in themselves bave helped to supply in some inferior degree the exigence of the moment; and have had the advantage, not of superseding the necessity, or the appearance, of abler writings, but of exciting abler writers; who, seeing how little l had been able to say on topics upon which much might be said, have more than supplied my deficiencies by filling up what I had only superficially sketched out. On that which had only a temporary use, I do not aspire to build a lasting reputation.
In the progress of ages, and after the gradual accumulation of literary productions, the huDao mind-I speak not of the scholar, or the philosopher, but of the multitude-the human pind, Athenian in this one propensity, the desire to hear and to tell some new thing, will reject, or overlook, or grow weary even of the standard works of the most established authors ; while it will peruse with interest the current volume or popular pamphlet of the day. This hunger after novelty, by the way, is an instrument of inconceivable importance placed by Frovidence in the hands of every writer; and should strike him forcibly with the duty of turning this sharp appetite to good account, by appeasing it with sound and wholesome ali. ment. It is not perhaps that the work in actual circulation is comparable to many works which are neglected ; but it is nero. And let the fortunate author militant, of moderate abilities, who is banquetting on bis transient, and perhaps accidental popularity, use that popolarity wisely ; and, bedring in mind that he himself must expect to be neglected in his turn, let him thankfully seize his little season of fugitive renown; let him devotc his epbe. Deral importance, conscientiously to throw into the common stock his quota of harmless pleasure or of moral profit. Let him unaffectedly rate his humble, but not unuseful labours, at their just price, nor despondingly conclude that he has written altogether in vain, though be do not see a public revolution of manners siicceed, as he had perhaps too fondly flattered kimself, to the publication of his book. Let him not despair, if, though he have had many readers, he has had but sew converts. Nor let hiin on the other hand be elated by a celebrity which he may owe more to his novelty than to his genius, more to an happy coinbination in the eircumstances of the times, than to his own skill or care ;--and most of all, to his having diligently observed, that
There is a tide in the affairs of men ; and to his having, accordingly, launched his bark at the favourable flow.
The well intentioned and well principled author, who has uniformly thrown all his weight, though that weight be but small, into the right scale, may have contributed his fair proportion te that great work of reformation, which will, I trust, unless a total subversion of man. ners should take place, be always carrying on in the world ; but which the joint concurrence of the wisdom of ages will find it hard to accomplish. Such an author may have been in his eason and degree, the accepted agent of that Providence who works by many and different instruments, by various and successive means; in tho same manner as in the manual labour of the mechanic, it is not by a few ponderous strokes that great operations are effected, but by a patient and incessant following up of the blow--by reiterated and unwearied returns to the same object; in the same manner as in the division of labour, many hands of moderale strength and ability may, by co-operation, do that which a very powerful individual might have failed to accomplish. It is the privilege of few authors to contribute largely to the general good, but almost every one may contribute something. No book perhaps is perfectly Deutral; nor are the effects of any altogether indifferent. From all our reading there will be a bias on the actings of the mind, though with a greater or less degree of inclination, according to the degree of impression made, by the nature of the subject, the ability of the writer, and the disposition of the reader. And ihough, as was above observed, the whole may prodace no general effeet, proportionate to the hopes of the author ; yet some truth may be picked out from among many that are neglected; some single sentiment may be seized on for present use ; some detached principle may be treasured up for future practice.
if in the records of classic story we are told, that'the most superb and lasting monument that was ever consecrated to beauty, was that to which every lover carried a tribute;' then among the accumulated production of successive volumes, those which though they convey to new information, yet illustrate on the whole some old truth; those which though they add sothing to the stores of genius or of science, yet if they help to establish and enforce a single principle of virtue, they may be accepted as an additional mite cast by ele willing hand of afectionate indigence into the treasury of Christian morals.
The great father of Roman eloquence has aszerted, that though every inan should propose to himself the highest degrees in the scale of excellence; yet he may stop with honour at the scoad or the third. Indeed the utility of some books to some persons would be defeated by their very superiority. The writer may be above the reach of his reader; he may be too lotty to be pursued; he may be too profound to be fathomed; he may be too abstruse to be investigated; for to produce delight there must be intelligence; there must be something of toacert and congruity. There must be not merely that intelligibility which arises from the perspicuousness of the author : but that also which depends on the capacity and perception