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I have neither spare time for superfluous writing, nor spare money for superfluous printing, and shall be satisfied, if I have not missed of brightness, in pursuit of brevity. It has cost me more time and pains to abridge these pages, than to write them. Perhaps that is nearly the perfection of good writing, which is original, but whose truth alone prevents the reader from suspecting that it is so: and which effects that for knowledge, which the lens effects for the sun-beam, when it condenses its brightness, in order to increase its force. How far the following efforts will stand the test of this criterion, is not for me to determine : to know is one thing, to do is another, and it may be observed of good writing, as of good blood, that it is much easier to say what it is composed of, than to compose it.

Most of the maxims and positions advanced in the present volume, are founded on two simple truisms, that men are the same; and that the passions are the powerful and disturbing forces, the greater or the less prevalence of which gives individuality to character. But we must not only express clearly but think deeply, nor can we concede to Buffon that style alone is that quality that will immortalize an author. The essays of Montaigne, and the Analogy of Butler, will live for ever, in spite of their style. Style is indeed the valet of genius, and an able one too ; but as the true gentleman will appear, even in rags, so true genius will shine, even through the coarsest style.

But above all, I do most earnestly hope, that none will accuse me of usurping, on this occasion, the chair of the moralist, or of presuming to deliver any thing here advanced, as oracular, magisterial, dictatorial, or “ex cathedra.” I have no opinions that I would not most willingly exchange for truth ; I may be sometimes wrong, I may be sometimes right; at all events discussion may be provoked, and as this cannot be done without thought, even that is a good. I despise dogmatism in others, too much to indulge it in myself: I have not been led to these opinions by the authority of great names; for I have always considered rather what is said, than who says it; and the consequence of the argument, rather than the consequence of him who delivers it. It is sufficiently humiliating to our nature, to reflect that our knowledge is but as the rivulet, our ignorance as the sea. On points of the highest interest, the moment we quit the light of revelation, we shall find that Platonism itself is intimately connected with Pyrronism, and the deepest inquiry with the darkest doubt.

In an age remarkable for good reasoning and bad conduct, for sound rules and corrupt manners, when virtue fills our heads, but vice our hearts ;when those who would fain persuade us that they are quite sure of heaven, appear to be in no greater hurry to go there than other folks, but put on the livery of the best master only to serve the worst ; -in an age when modesty herself is more ashamed of detection than of delinquency; when independ

ence of principle, consists in having no principle on which to depend; and free-thinking, not in thinking freely, but in being free from thinking;in an age when patriots will hold any thing, except their tongues ; keep any thing, except their word; and lose nothing patiently, except their character; to improve such an age, must be difficult, to instruct it dangerous; and he stands no chance of amending it, who cannot at the same time amuse it.

That author, however, who has thought more than he has read, read more than he has written, and written more than he has published, if he does not command success, has at least deserved it. In the article of rejection and abridgment, we must be severe to ourselves, if we wish for mercy from others; since for one great genius who has written a little book, we have a thousand little geniuses, who have written great books. A volume, therefore, that contains more words than ideas, like a tree that has more foliage than fruit, may suit those to resort to, who want not to feast, but to dream and to slumber ;-but the misfortune is, that in this particular instance, nothing can equal the ingratitude of the Public; who were never yet known to have the slightest compassion for those authors who have deprived themselves of sleep, in order to procure it for their readers.

With books, as with companions, it is of more consequence to know which to avoid, than which to chuse; for good books are as scarce as good companions, and in both instances, all that we can learn from bad ones, is, that so much time has been worse than thrown away That writer does the most, who gives his reader the most knowledge, and takes from him the least time. That short period of a short existence, which is rationally employed, is that which alone deserves the name of life ; and that portion of our life is most rationally employed, which is occupied in enlarging our stock of truth, and of wisdom. I do not pretend to have attained this, I have only attempted it. One thing I may affirm, that I have first considered whether it be worth while to say a thing at all, before I have taken any trouble to say it well ; knowing that words are but air, and that both are capable of much condensation. Words indeed are bụt the signs and counters of knowledge, and their currency should be strictly regulated by the capital which they represent.

I have said that the maxims in the following pages are written upon this principlethat men are the same; upon this alone it is that the sacred maxim which forms the golden hinge of our religion, rests and revolves, “ Do unto thy neighbour as thou wouldest that he should do unto thee.The proverbs of Solomon suit all places and all times, because Solomon knew mankind, and mankind are ever the same. No revolu tion has taken place in the body, nor in the mind. Four thousand years ago, men shivered with frost, and panted with heat, were cold in their gratitude, and ardent in their revenge.—Should my readers think some of my conclusions too severe, they will in justice recollect, that my object is truth, that

my subject is man, and that a handsome picture cannot represent deformity.

The political principles contained in the following pages, are such, that whoever avows them, will be considered a Tory by the Whigs and a Whig by the Tories ; for truth, no less than virtue, not unfrequently forms the middle point between two extremes. Where one party demands too much, and the other is inclined to concede too little, an arbitrator will please neither, by recommending such measures, as would eventually serve both. I have however, neither the hope nor the fear, that my opinions on politics, or any other subject, will attract much attention. The approbation of a few discerning friends, is all the reward I wish for my labours ; and the four lines which form the commencement of my Poem of “Hypocrisy," shall make the conclusion of this Preface, since the sentiments they contain, are as applicable to prose, as to verse. Two things there are, confound the Poet's lays, The Scholar'scensure--and the Blockhead's praise; " That glowing page with double lustre shines, When Pope approves, and Dennis damns the lines.

LONDON, January, 1st, 1820.

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