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from a large bundle such a selection as I thought would be generally interesting, and best serve the reputation of the writer, consulting the present taste of the agethe taste, in truth, of all ages—by choosing such as are of a light and entertaining nature in preference to the grave and didactic.
With some powers of thought and considerable knowledge, acquired by multifarious and desultory reading, my friend had an indolence of disposition, which could indeed be roused into a state of exertion, but could not be long maintained there; and to this may be ascribed the general brevity of his reflections and the variety of his subjects. I have arranged the letters pretty nearly in the order in which they were written ; and if the reader discover rather more gravity of matter and
style in the latter part of the volume than in the former, he will easily account for it when he considers the effect of increasing years on the feelings of the happiest and the views of the wisest of mankind.
It may perhaps throw some light on the letters to state, that my friend was a man of independent, although not of extensive, property. He had married in early youth, and married happily, but his domestic felicity had been prematurely destroyed by the loss of his wife and her infant son in less than three years from the wedding-day. To dissipate the sorrow and mental restlessness produced by these melancholy events, he travelled over a great part of Europe and America ; and, yielding his spirit to the impressions which the wonderful and magnificent scenes through which he passed were
adapted to make, he gradually recovered a healthy tone of mind. On his return, he settled down in a beautiful retreat in the county of ---, out of which he occasionally emerged, to spend a few weeks in town. From his sensibility to the grace and softness of the female character, I fully expected to hear of his soon marrying again; but either he met with no one congenial to his taste, or he too fondly cherished the memory of his youthful love, to yield to the fascination which it appears he did not altogether escape; for he died as he had long lived, single and solitary.
His pursuits latterly were chiefly of an intellectual and literary nature. He was, on the whole, a kind-hearted and happy being, fond of contemplation, and not disliking society; independent in fortune, temperate in habits, upright in thought and conduct ; but somewhat indolent, from a want of strong motives to be otherwise. Thus much I have deemed it well to communicate of my friend's history and character, to enable the reader to enter more fully into the spirit of his writings.
The qualities of his mind, however, will be best gathered from the Letters themselves, from which I will no longer detain those whose curiosity may have been excited by the few particulars here introduced.