« FöregåendeFortsätt »
trines, I must of necessity require the attention of my reader to become my
fellow-laborer. The primary facts essential to the intelligibility of my principles I can prove to others only as far as I can prevail on them to retire into themselves and make their own minds the objects of their steadfast attention. But, on the other hand, I feel too deeply the importance of the convictions, which first impelled me to the present undertaking, to leave unattempted any honorable means of recon
ommending them to as wide a circle as possible.
Hitherto I have been employed in laying the foundation of my work. But the proper merit of a foundation is its massiven
veness and solidity. The conveniences and ornaments, the gilding and stucco work, the sunshine and sunny prospects, will come with the superstructure. Yet I dare not flatter myself, that any endeavors of mine, compatible with the duty I owe to truth and the hope of permanent utility, will render The Friend agreeable to the majority of what is called the reading public. I never expected it. How indeed could I, when I was to borrow so little from the influence of passing events, and when I had absolutely excluded from my plan all appeals to personal curiosity and personal interests ? Yet even this is not my greatest impediment. No real information can be conveyed, no important errors rectified, no widely injurious prejudices rooted up, without requiring some effort of thought on the part of the reader. But the obstinate (and toward a contemporary writer, the contemptuous) aversion to intellectual effort is the mother evil of all which I had proposed to war against, the queen bee in the hive of our errors and misfortunes, both private and national. To solicit the attention of those, on whom these debilitating causes have acted to their full extent, would be no less absurd than to recommend exercise with the dumb-bells, as the only mode of cure, to a patient paralytic in both arms.
You well know, that my expectations were more modest as well as more rational. I hoped, that my readers in general would be aware of the impracticability of suiting every essay to every taste in any period of the work; and that they would not attribute wholly to the author, but in part to the necessity of his plan, the austerity and absence of the lighter graces in the first fifteen or twenty numbers. In my cheerful moods I sometimes flattered myself, that a few even among those, who foresaw that my lucubrations would at all
times require more attention than from the nature of their own employments they could afford them, might yet find a pleasure in supporting The Friend during its infancy, so as to give it a chance of attracting the notice of others, to whom its style and subjects might be better adapted. But my main anchor was the hope, that when circunstances gradually enabled me to adopt the ordinary means of making the publication generally known, there might be found throughout the kingdom a sufficient number of meditative minds, who, entertaining similar convictions with myself, and gratified by the prospect of. seeing them reduced to form and system, would take a warm interest in the work from the very circumstance, that it wanted those allurements of transitory interests, which render particular patronage superfluous, and for the brief season of their blow and fragrance attract the eye of thousands, who would pass unregarded
In these three introductory essays, the Friend has endeavored to realize his promise of giving an honest bill of fare, both as to the objects and the style of the work. With reference to both I conclude with a prophecy of Simon Grynæus, from his premonition to the candid reader, prefixed to Ficinus's translation of Plato, published at Leyden, 1557. How far it has been gradually fulfilled in this country since the Revolution in 1688, I leave to my candid and intelligent readers to determine :
Ac dolet mihi quidem deliciis literarum inescatos subito jam homines adeo esse, præsertim qui Christianos se profitentur, ut legere nisi quod ad presentem gustum facit, sustineant nihil: unde et disciplina et philosophia ipsa jam fere prorsus etiam a doctis negliguntur. Quod quidem propositum studiorum nisi mature corrigetur, tam magnum rebus incommodum dabit, quam dedit barbaries olim. Pertinax res barbaries est, fateor ; sed minus potest tamen, quam illa persuasa prudentia literarum si ratione caret, sapientiæ virtutisque specie misere lectores circumducens.
Succedet igitur, ut arbitror, haud ita multo post, pro rusti
cana sæculi nostri ruditate, captatrix illa blandiloquentia, robur animi virilis omne, omnem virtutem masculam, profligatura, nisi cavetur.*
In very truth, it grieveth me that men, those especially who profess themselves to be Christians, should be so taken with the sweet baits of literature that they can endure to read nothing but what gives them immediate gratification, no matter how low or sensual it may be. Consequently, the more austere and disciplinary branches of philosophy itself are almost wholly neglected, even by the learned.—A course of study (if such reading, with such a purpose
in view, could deserve that name) which, if not corrected in time, will occasion worse consequences than even barbarism did in the times of our forefathers. Barbarism is, I own, a wilful headstrong thing; but with all its blind obstinacy it has less power of doing harm than this self-sufficient, self-satisfied plain good common sense sort of writing, this prudent saleable popular style of composition, if it be deserted by reason and scientific insight pitiably decoying the minds of men by an imposing show of amiableness, and practical wisdom, so that the delighted reader knowing nothing knows all about almost every thing. There will succeed, therefore, in my opinion, and that too within no long time, to the rudeness and rusticity of our age, that ensnaring meretricious popularness in literature, with all the tricksy humilities of the ambitious candidates for the favorable suffrages of the judicious public, which if we do not take good care will break up and scatter before it all robustness and manly vigor of intellect, all masculine fortitude of virtue.
* In the original of this passage, the words gulam and mortales stand respectively for præsentem gustum and lectores.-Ed.
Si modo quce natura et ratione concessa sint, assumpserimus, præsump: tionis suspicio a nobis quam longissime abesse debet. Multa antiquitati, nobismet nihil, arrogamus. Nihilne vos ? Nihil mehercule, nisi quod omnia omni animo veritati arrogamus et sanctimonice.
ULR. Rinov. De Controversiis.
If we assume only what nature and reason have granted, with no shadow of right can we be suspected of presumption. To antiquity we arrognte many things, to ourselves nothing. Nothing? Aye, nothing: unless indeed it be, that with all our strength we arrogate all things to truth and moral purity.
It has been remarked by the celebrated Haller, that we are deaf while we are yawning. The same act of drowsiness that stretches open our mouths, closes our ears. It is much the same in acts of the understanding. A lazy half-attention amounts to a mental yawn. Where then a subject, that demands thought, has been thoughtfully treated, and with an exact and patient derivation from its principles, we must be willing to exert a portion of the same effort, and to think with the author, or the author will have thought in vain for us. It makes little difference for the time being, whether there be an hiatus oscitans in the reader's attention, or an hiatus lacrymabilis in the author's manuscript. When this occurs during the perusal of a work of known authority and established fame, we honestly lay the fault on our own deficiency, or on the unfitness of our present rnood ; but when it is a contemporary production, over which we have been nodding, it is far more pleasant to pronounce it insufferably dull and obscure. Indeed, as charity begins at home, it would be unreasonable to expeot that a reader should charge himself with lack of intellect, when the effect may be equally well accounted for by declaring the author unintelligible ; or that he should accuse his own inattention, when by half a dozen phrases of abuse, as "heavy stuff, metaphysical jargon," &c., he can at once excuse his laziness, and gratify his pride, scorn, and envy. To similar impulses we must attribute the praises of a true modern reader, when he meets with a work in the true modern taste : namely, either in skipping, unconnected, short-winded, asthmatic sentences, as easy to be understood as impossible to be remembered, in which the merest common-place acquires a momentary poignancy, a petty titillating sting, from a flected point and wilful antithesis ; or else in strutting and rounded periods, in which the emptiest truisms are blown up into illustrious bubbles by help of film and inflation. · Aye!” (quoth the delighted reader) " this is sense, this is genius! this I understand and admire! I have thought the very same a hundred times myself !” In other words, this man has reminded me of my own cleverness, and therefore I admire him. Oh for one piece of egotism that presents itself under its own honest bare face of I myself I, there are fifty that steal out in the mask of tu-isms and ille-isms!
It has ever been my opinion, that an excessive solicitude to avoid the use of our first personal pronoun, more often has its source in conscious selfishness than in true self-oblivion. A quiet observer of human follies may often amuse or sadden his thoughts by detecting a perpetual feeling of purest egotism through a long masquerade of disguises, the half of which, had old Proteus been master of as many, would have wearied out the patience of Menelaus. I say, the patience only : for it would ask more than the simplicity of Polypheme, with his one eye extinguished, to be deceived by so poor a repetition of Nobody. Yet I can with strictest truth assure my readers that with a pleasure combined with a sense of weariness, I see the nigh approach of that point of my labors, in which I can convey my opinions and the workings of my heart, without reminding the reader obtrusively of myself. But the frequency with which I have spoken in my own person, recalls my apprehensions to the second danger, which it was my hope to guard against ; the probable charge of arrogance, or presumption, both for daring to dissent from the opinions of great authorities, and, in my following numbers perhaps, from the general opinion concerning the true value of certain authorities deemed great. The word presurnption, I appropriate to the internal feeling, and arrogance to the way and manner of outwardly expressing ourselves.