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make that kind of knowledge which is most indispensable to common life, familiar to the unlearned, and acceptable to the young; that I have labored 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 more or less reference to these objects. Considering this world as a scene of much action, and of little comparative knowledge; 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 transacted; 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 chiefly), those truths, which, if obvious and familiar, are yet practical, and of general application ; things 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 demands skill, and insures renown, but
That which before us lies in daily life.
If I have been favored with a measure of success which has as much exceeded my expectation 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 favorable 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, have 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 I 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 human mind—I speak not of the scholar or the philosopher, but of the multitude—the human mind, 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 perusc 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 Providence 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 aliment. It is not, perhaps, that the work in actual circulation is com narable to many works which are neglected; but it is new.
in let the fortunate author militant, of moderate abilities, who is wanqueting on his transient, and perhaps accidental popularity, use that popularity wisely; and, bearing 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 devote his ephemeral impor
ce conscientiously, to throw into the common stock his quota : armless pleasure, or of moral profit. Let him unaffectedly rate nis humble, but not unuseful labors, at their just price, nor despondingly conclude that he has written altogether in vain, though he do not see a public revolution of manners succeed, as he had perhaps too fondly flattered himself, to the publication of his book. Let him not despair, if, though he have had many readers, he has had but few converts. Nor let him, on the other hand, be elated by a celebrity which he may owe more to his novelty than to his genius; more to a happy combination in the circumstances of the times, than to his own skill or care ;—and, most of all, to his having diligently observed, that
There is a lide in the affairs of men; and to his having, accordingly, launched his bark at the favorable flow.
The well-intentioned and well-principled author, who has uniformly thrown all his weight, though that weight he but small, into the right scale, may have contributed his fair proportion to that great work of reformation, which will, I trust,-unless a total subversion of manners 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 season and degree, the accepted agent of that Providence who works by many and different instruments, by various and successive means; in the same manner as, in the manual labor 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 labor, many hands of moderate strength and ability may, by coöperation, 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 neutral; 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 though, as was above observed, the whole may produce no general effect, proportionate to the hopes of the author; yet some truth may be picked out from among many that are negloured; 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 mos. superb and lasting monument that was ever consecrated to beauty, was that to which every lover carried a tribute;" then, among the accumulated productions of successive volumes, those which, though they convey no new information, yet illustrate, on the whole, some old truth; those which, though they add nothing 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 the willing hand of affectionate indigence into the treasury of Christian morals.
The great father of Roman eloquence has asserted, that though every man should propose to himself the highest degrees in the scale of excellence, yet he may stop with honor at the second 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 lofty 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 concert 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 of the reader. Between him who writes, and him who reads, there must be a kind of coalition of interests, something of a partnership (however unequal the capital) in mental property ; a sort of joint-stock of tastes and ideas. The student must have been initiated into the same intellectual commerce with him whom he studies; for large bills are only negotiable among the mutually opulent.
There are, perhaps, other reasons, why popularity is no infallible test of excellence. Many readers, even of good faculties, if those faculties have been kept inert by a disuse of exertion, feel, often, most sympathy with writers of a middle class; and find more repose in a mediocrity which lulls and amuses the mind, than with a loftiness and extent which exalts and expands it. To enjoy works of superlative ability, as was before suggested, the reader must have been accustomed to drink at the same spring from which the writer draws; he must be at the expense of furnishing part of his own entertainment, by bringing with him a share of the science or of the spirit with which the author writes.
These are some of the considerations, which, while my gratitude has been excited by the favorable reception of my various attempts, have helped to correct that vanity which is so easily kindled, where merit and success are evidently disproportionate.
For fair criticism I have ever been truly thankful. For candid correction, from whatever quarter it came, I have always exhibited the most unquestionable proof of my regard, by adopting it. Nor can I call to mind any instance of improvement which has been suggested to me, by which I have neglected to profit. * I am not
* If it be objected, that this has not been the case with respect to one single passage, which has excited some controversy, it has arisen not from any war
insensible to human estimation. To the approbation of the wise and good, I have been perhaps but too sensible. But I check mybelf in the indulgence of this dangerous pleasure, by recollecting that the hour is fast approaching to all,—to me it is very fast approaching, —when no human verdict, of whatever authority in itself, and however favorable to its object, will avail any thing, but inasmuch as it is crowned with the acquittal of that Judge whose favor is eternal life. Every emotion of vanity dies away, every swelling of ambition subsides, before the consideration of this solemn responsibility. And though I have just avowed my deference for the opinion of private critics, and of public censors, yet my anxiety with respect to the sentence of both is considerably diminished by the reflection, that not the writings, but the writer, will very soon be called to another tribunal, to be judged on far other grounds than those on which the decisions of literary statutes are framed; a tribunal at which the sentence passed will depend on far other causes than the observation or neglect of the rules of composition; than the violation of any precepts, or the adherence to any decrees of critic legislation.
With abundant cause to be humbled at the mixed motives of even my least exceptionable writings, I am willing to hope that in those of later date, at least, vanity has not been the governing principle. And if, in sending abroad the present collection, some sparks of this inextinguishable fire should struggle to break out, let it be at once quenched by the reflection, that of those persons whose kindness stimulated, and whose partiality rewarded, my early efforts—of those who would have dwelt on these pages with most pleasure—the eyes of the greater part are closed, to open no more in this world. Even while the pen is in my hand framing this remark, more than one affecting corroboration of its truth occurs. May this reflection, at once painful and salutary, be ever at hand, to curb the insolence of success, or to countervail the mortification of defeat! May it serve to purify the motives of action, while it inspires resignation to its event! And may it effect both, without diminishing the energies of duty-without abating the activity of labor!
of openness to conviction in me, but from my conceiving myself to have been misunderstood, and, for that reason only, misrepresented.