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THEN I quitted home, on a little excursion in the spring of
this present year, 1808, a thought struck me, which I began to put into immediate execution. I determined to commit to paper any little circumstances that might arise, and any conversations in which I might be engaged, when the subject was at all important, though there might be nothing particularly new or interesting in the discussion itself.
I fulfilled my intention as occasions arose to furnish me with materials, md on my return to the north, in the autumn of this same year, it was my amusement on my journey to look over and arrange
As soon as I arrived at my native place; I lent my manuscript to a confidential friend, as the shortest way of imparting to him whatever had occurred to me during our separation, together with my reflections on those occurrences. I took care to keep his expectations low, by apprising him, that in a tour from my own house in Westmoreland, to the house of a friend in Hampshire, he must not look for adventures, but content himself with the every day details of common life, diversified only by the different habits and tempers of the persons with whom I had conversed.
He brought back my manuscript in a few days, with an earnest wish that I would consent to its publication ; assuring me that he Was of opinion it might not be altogether useless, not only to young men engaged in the same pursuit with myself, but to the general reader. He obviated all objections arising from my want of leisure, during my present interesting engagements, by offering to undertake the whole business himself, and to release me from any fur. ther trouble, as he was just setting out for London, where he pro. posed passing more time than the printing would require.
Thus I am driven to the stale apology for publishing what perhaps it would have been more prudent to have withheld--the imfortunity of friends ; an apology so commonly unfounded, and so repeatedly alledged, from the days of John Faustus to the publication of Celebs.
But whether my friend or my vanity had the largest sliare of in- . fuence, I am willing to indulge the hope that a better motive than either friendship or vanity was an operating ingredient in my con. sent. Be that as it may, I sent him my copy, “ with all its impera fcctions on its head.” It was accompanied by a letter, of which the following extract shall conclude these short prefatory remarks:
“I here send you my manuscript, with permission to make what use of it you please. By publishing it I fear you will draw on me the particular censure of two classes of critics. The novel reader will reject it as dull. The religious may throw it aside as frivolous. The one will accuse it of excessive strictness; the other of censurable levity. Readers of the former description must be satisfied with thc following brief and general answer
“ Had it been my leading object to have indulged in details that have annusement only for their end, it might not have been difficult olare produced a work more acceptable to the tastes accustomed to be griti ied with such compositions. But to entertain that description of readers makes no part of my design.
" The persons with whom I have associated in my excursion, were, principally, though not exclusively, the family of a country gentleman, and a few of his friends---a narrow field, and unproducuve of much variety! The generality of these characters move in tic quiet and regular course of domestic life. I found them placed in no difficult situations. It was a scene rather favourable to reflec. Led than description. Social intercourse, and not striking events, litusked the daily progress of my visit. I had little of pathetic scenes 01 trying circumstances to work on my own feelings, or, by the relation of them, to work on the feelings of others. My friend's house resembled the reign of some pacific sovereigns. It was the pleasantest to live in, but its annals were not the most splendid to record. The periods which make life happy do not always render history brilliant.
“ Great passions, therefore, and great trials growing out of them as I did not witness, I have not attempted to delineale. Love it. self appears in these pages, not as an ungovernable impulse, but as a sentiment arising out of qualities calculated to inspire attachment in persons under the dominion of reason and religion, brought ingether by the ordinary course of occurrences, in a private family party.
The familiar conversations of this little society comprehend a considerable portion of this slender work. The texture of the narrative is so slight, that it barely serves for a ground into which to weave the sentiments and observations which it was designed to introduce,
“ It may not be unnecessary to anticipate an objection to which these conversations may sometimes be thought liable. In a few instances, the specches may be charged with a degree of stifiness, and with a length not altogether, consistent with familiar dialogue. I must apologize for this by olserving, that when the subjects were serious, the dialogue would not, in every instance, bend to such facilities, nor break into such small parcels, as may easily be effected in the discussion of topics of gayer intercourse.
“But it is time to meet the objections of the more pious reader, if any such should condescend 10 peruse this little performance. IE it be objected, that religious characters have been too industriously brought forward, and their faults somewhat too severely treated, lct it be remembered, that while it is one of the principal objects of the work to animadvert on those very faults, it has never been done with the insidious design of depreciating the religion, but with tho view, by exposing the fault, to correct the practice. Grossly vici. ous characters have seldom come in niy way, but I had frequent ,
occasion to observe the different shapes and shades of error in vaį rious descriptions of society, not only in those worldly persons who
do not quite leave religion out of their scheme, but on the mistake3 and inconsistencies of better characters, and even on the errors of some who would be astonished not to find themselvcs reckoned altogether religious. I have not so much animadverted on the unavoidable faults and frailties inseparable from humanity, even in the best characters, and which the best characters most sensibly feel, and most feelingly deplore, as on those errors which are often tolerated, justifierl, and in some instances systematized.
“ If I have been altogether deceived in the ambitious hope that these pages may not be entirely useless; if I have failed in my endeavours to show how religion may be brought to mix with the concerns of ordinary life, without impairing its activity, lessening its cheerfulness, or diminishing its usefulness; if I have erred in fancying that material defects exist in fashionable education; if I have been wrong in supposing that females of the higher class may combine more domestic knowledge with more intellectual acquirement, that they may be at the same time more knowing and more useful, than has always been thought necessary or compatible; in short, if I shall be found to have totally disappointed you, my friend, in your too sanguine opinion that some little benefit might arise from. the publication, I shall rest satisfied with a low and negative merit. I must be contented with the humble hope that no part of these von lumes will be found injurious to the important interests, which it was rather in my wish than in my ability to advance: that where I failed in effecting good, little evil has been done : that if my book, has answered no valuable purpose, it has, at least, not added to the number of those publications, which, by impairing the virtue, have diminished the happiness of mankind: that if I possesşed not talents to promote the cause of Christian morals, I possessed an abhorrence of those principles which lead to their contamination.