Page images
PDF
EPUB

private business. In these, one would expect nothing but what was common, and customary; but a subject so simple, and vulgar in itself, changes, as it were, its very nature, when managed by Mr. Locke; and becomes something considerable and of moment, by the turn and manner in which he expresses the sentiments of affection and gratitude he hath for his friend. And indeed, though true friendship be founded upon esteem ; yet we may say, if friendship goes no farther, there is something in it austere, not to say dry, and rustic. But there is a certain agreeable and complaisant way of showing this esteem, wherein consists the greatest charm of friendship; as it is what supports it, and adds force and vigour to it. Now this is Mr. Locke's peculiar talent; and it is impossible that a person of your nice taste should not be sensibly touched with the respectful, endearing, and affectionate manner in which he writes here to his friend; and which he still repeats with new graces. It is a pattern of urbanity, politeness, and gaiety. For our old philosopher hath nothing morose nor uneasy. Whenever he speaks of his infirmities, it is by way of pleasantry, or that he may have an opportunity of saying some obliging thing to his friend.

The last piece in this collection contains the Rules of a Society, which met once a week for their Improvement in useful Knowledge, and the promoting of Truth and Christian Charity. Mr. Locke took a delight in forming such societies, wherever he made any stay. He had established one at Amsterdam in 1687, of which Mr. Limborch and Mr. Le Clerc were members. He settled this club at London, soon after the Revolution; and drew up the rules you will find here. But his design in doing this, was not only to pass away time in an agreeable conversation of two or three hours; he had views far more · solid and sublime. As there is nothing that more obstructs the advancement of truth, and the progress of real Christianity, than a certain narrow spirit, which leads men to cantonise themselves, if I may so speak, and to break into small bodies, which at last grow into so many factions; Mr. Locke, zealous for the general good of

mankind, would have gladly inspired them with sentiments of a higher and more extensive nature, and united those whom the spirit of prejudice or party had kept asunder. This is what continually employed his thoughts. He never loses sight of it throughout his works. Nay, it is the principal subject of them. But he did not confine himself to bare speculation; and he formed the society above-mentioned with a design to render, as much as lay in his power, such a desirable union practicable. This appears from the disposition of mind he requires in those, who were to be members of it; and especially by the declaration they were obliged to subscribe, that, “ by their becoming of that society, they proposed to themselves an improvement in useful knowledge, and the promoting of truth and Christian charity.”

But you will find, sir, the same mind, the same genius, not only in this small piece, but in all others in this collection. Mr. Locke every where discovers a sincere love of truth, and an invincible aversion to whatever may do it the least wrong. To the quality of a great philosopher, he every where joins that of a true Christian. You see him full of love, respect, and admiration, for the Christian religion. And thereby he furnishes us with the strongest presumption that can be imagined, for the truth as well as excellency of that holy institution. For this is not the approbation of a vulgar mind, who is still fettered by the prejudices of infancy; it is the suffrage of a wit, a superior genius, who has laboured all his life to guard against error; who, in several important points, departed from the common opinion; and made Christianity his study, without taking it upon trust. It is, doubtless, a great advantage, not to say an honour, for a doctrine to be embraced and countenanced by such a man. But let us return to our collection.

. To make it more useful, I have added notes to il. lustrate certain passages, which suppose the knowledge of some facts, that may be unknown to the reader, or which would not readily occur to his memory; and therefore these notes are merely historical.' I pretend neither to apprové nor disapprove the particulars they contain. I only act the part of an historian. There is but one of them that can be looked upon as critical; and even that is only intended to settle a matter of fact, misrepresented by a late historian. These notes are not very numerous : and I do not know but the fear of swelling them too much may have made me suppress some which would not have been wholly useless.

As for what concerns the impression itself, in order to make it more beautiful, I have been obliged to recede, in several respects, from our usual way of printing ; which, if I am allowed to speak freely, is extremely vicious. It is matter of wonder, that in such a country as this, where there is so much encouragement for printing, there should prevail a sort of Gothic taste, which deforms our English impressions, and makes them not a little ridiculous. For can any thing be more absurd, than so many capital letters, that are not only prefixed to all noun substantives, but also often to adjectives, pronouns, particles, and even to verbs ? And what shall we say of that odd mixture of Italic, which, instead of helping the reader to distinguish matters the more clearly, does only perplex him; and breeds a confusion shocking to the eye? But you are not to be informed, sir, you, who every day enrich your library with books of the finest editions, that none of these faults were ever committed by the printers who have been eminent in their art. Surely, if the authors on the one hand, and the readers on the other, would oppose this barbarism, it would be no difficult matter to restore a just taste, and a beautiful way of printing.

To the pieces already mentioned, I have prefixed the character of Mr. Locke, at the request of some of his friends; as you will see by the letter before it, which was sent to me together with that character.

These, sir, are all the pieces, which make up this volume. Why may I not, at the same time that I offer it to you, unfold to the view of the public so many perfections, which a too severe and scrupulous modesty conceals from it! Why may I not make known the rare endowments of your mind, as well as the noble and generous sentiments of your heart! But I fear I have already too much presumed upon your goodness, by prefixing your name to this discourse. And after having been so bold, as not to consult you, upon a thing which you would never have permitted; I ought to account myself very fortunate, if, on consideration of my passing over your excellent qualities in profound silence, you are pleased to forgive the freedom I have taken ; and will give me leave to declare to you and all the world how sensible I am of the friendship you honour me with, and to assure you that I shall always be, with the greatest respect,

Sir,
Your most obedient and most humble servant,

DES MAIZEAUX. March 23, 1719.

TABLE

OF THE

PIECES CONTAINED IN THIS COLLECTION.

The character of Mr. Locke, by Mr. Peter Coste.
The fundamental constitutions of Carolina.
A letter from a person of quality to his friend in the

country; giving an account of the debates and resolutions of the House of Lords, in April and May 1675, concerning a bill, entitled, “ An Act to prevent the Dangers which may arise from Persons

disaffected to the Government.” Remarks upon some of Mr. Norris's books, wherein

he asserts F. Malebranche's opinion of “ our seeing

all things in God.” * Elements of natural philosophy. * Some thoughts concerning reading and study for

a gentleman. A letter to Mr. Oldenburgh, secretary to the Royal

Society. Letters to Anthony Collins, esq. A letter to the Rev. Mr. Richard King. A letter to * * * on Dr. Pococke. Letters to the Rev. Mr. Richard King. Rules of a society, which met once a week, for their

improvement in useful knowledge, and for the promoting of truth and Christian charity.

* It has been deemed expedient, in the present edition, to transfer these two articles to the third volume.

« PreviousContinue »