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has been found a poor substitute for a Grimaldi, a most inapt medicine for an occasional propensity to yawn! For, as hath been decided, to fill up pleasantly the brief intervals of fashionable pleasures, and above all to charm away the dusky gnome of ennui, is the chief and appropriate business of the poet and the novelist! This duty unfulfilled, Apollo will have lavished his best gifts in vain ; and Urania henceforth must be content to inspire astronomers alone, and leave the sons of verse to more amusing patronesses. And yet—and yet—but it will be time to be serious, when my visitors have sat down.
- ESSAY II.
Sic oportet ad librum, presertim miscellanei generis, legendum accedere lectorem, ut solet ad convivium conviva civilis. Convivator annititur omnibus satisfacere : et tamen si quid apponitur, quod hujus aut illius palato non respondeat, et hic et ille urbane dissimulant, et alia fercula probant, ne quid contristent convivatorem. Quis enim eum convivam ferat, qui tantum hoc animo veniat ad mensam, ut carpens quce apponunter, nec vescatur ipse, nec alios vesci sinat ? Et tamen his quoque reperias inciviliores, qui palam, qui sine fine damnent ac lacerent opus, quod nunquam legerint. Ast hoc plusquam sycophanticum est damnare quod nescias.
A reader should sit down to a book, especially of the miscellaneous kind, as a well-behaved yisitor does to a banquet. The master of the feast exerts himself to satisfy all his guests; but if after all his care and pains there should still be something or other put on the table that does not suit this or that person's taste, they politely pass it over without noticing the circumstance, and commend other dishes, that they may not distress their kind host, or throw any damp on his spirits. For who could tolerate a guest that accepted an invitation to your table with no other purpose but that of finding fault with every thing put before him, neither eating himself, nor suffering others to eat in comfort. And yet you may fall in with a still worse set than even these, with churls that in all companies and without stop or stay, will condemn and pull to pieces a work which they have never read. But this sinks below the baseness of an informer, yea, though he were a false witness to boot! The man, who abuses a thing of which he is utterly ignorant, unites the infamy of both—and in addition to this, makes himself the pander and sycophant of his own and other men's envy and malignity.
The musician may tune his instrument in private, ere his audience have yet assembled ; the architect conceals the foundation of his building beneath the superstructure.' But an author's harp must be tuned in the hearing of those, who are to understand its after-harmonies; the foundation stones of his edifice must lie open to common view, or his friends will hesitate to trust themselves beneath the roof.
From periodical literature the general reader deems himself VOL. II.
entitled to expect amusement, and some degree of information, and if the writer can convey any instruction at the same time, and without demanding any additional thought (as the Irishman, in the hackneyed jest, is said to have passed off a light guinea between two good halfpence), this supererogatory merit will not perhaps be taken amiss. Now amusement in and for itself may be afforded by the gratification either of the curiosity ‘or of the passions. I use the former word as distinguished from the love of knowledge, and the latter in distinction from those emotions which arise in well-ordered minds, from the perception of truth or falsehood, virtue or vice :-emotions, which are always preceded by thought, and linked with improvement. Again, all information pursued without any wish of becoming wiser or better thereby, I class among the gratifications of mere curiosity, whether it be sought for in a light novel or a grave history. We may therefore omit the word information, as included either in amusement or instruction.
The present work is an experiment; not whether a writer may honestly overlook the one, or successfully omit the other, of the two elements themselves, which serious readers at least persuade themselves that they pursue ; but whether a change might not be hazarded of the usual order, in which periodical writers have in general attempted to convey them. Having myself experienced that no delight either in kind or degree is equal to that which accompanies the distinct perception of a fundamental truth, relative to our moral being; having, long after the completion of what is ordinarily called a learned education, discovered a new world of intellectual profit opening on me—not from any new opinions, but lying, as it were, at the roots of those which I had been taught in childhood in my catechism and spelling-book; there arose a soothing hope in my mind that a lesser public might be found, composed of persons susceptible of the same delight, and desirous of attaining it by the same prorcess. I heard a whisper too from within, (I trust that it pro
ceeded from conscience, not vanity) that a duty was performed in the endeavor to render it as much easier to them, than it had been to me, as could be effected by the united efforts of my understanding and imagination.
Actuated by this impulse, the writer wishes, in the following essays, to convey not instruction merely, but fundamental instruction; not so much to show the reader this or that fact, as to kindle his own torch for him, and leave it to himself to choose the particular objects, which he might wish to examine by its light. . The Friend does not indeed exclude from his plan occasional interludes, and vacations of innocent entertainment and promiscuous information, but still in the main he proposes to himself the communication of such delight as rewards the march of truth, rather than to collect the flowers which diversify its track, in order to present them apart from the homely, yet foodful or medicinal herbs, among which they had grown. To refer men's opinions to their absolute principles, and thence their feelings to the appropriate objects, and in their due degrees; and finally, to apply the principles thus ascertained, to the formation of steadfast convictions concerning the most important questions of politics, morality, and religion—these are to be the objects and the contents of his work.
Themes like these not even the genius of a Plato or a Bacon could render intelligible, without demanding from the reader thought sometimes, and attention generally. By thought I here mean the voluntary production in our own minds of those states of consciousness, to which, as to his fundamental facts, the writer has referred us : while attention has for its object the order and connection of thoughts and images, each of which is in itself already and familiarly known. Thus the elements of geometry require attention only; but the analysis of our primary faculties, and the investigation of all the absolute grounds of religion and morals, are impossible without energies of thought in addition to the effort of attention. The Friend will not attempt to disguise from his readers that both attention and thought are efforts, and the latter a most difficult and laborious effort; nor from himself, that to require it often or for any continuance of time, is incompatible with the nature of the present publication, even were it less incongruous than it unfortunately is with the present habits and pursuits of Englishmen. Accordingly I shall be on my guard to make the essays as few as possible, which would require from a well-educated reader any energy of thought and voluntary abstraction.
But attention, I confess, will be requisite throughout, except in the excursive and miscellaneous essays that will be found interposed between each of the three main divisions of the work. On whatever subject the mind feels a lively interest, attention, though always an effort, becomes a delightful effort. I should be quite at ease, could I secure for the whole work as much of it, as a card party of earnest whist-players often expend in a single evening, or a lady in the making-up of a fashionable dress. But where no interest previously exists, attention (as every schoolmaster knows) can be procured only by terror : which is the true reason why the majority of mankind learn nothing systematically, except as school-boys or apprentices. .
Happy shall I be, from other motives besides those of self-interest, if no fault or deficiency on my part shall prevent the work from furnishing a presumptive proof, that there are still to be found among us a respectable number of readers who are desirous to derive pleasure from the consciousness of being instructed or meliorated : and who feel a sufficient interest as to the foundations of their own opinions in literature, politics, morals, and religion, to afford that degree of attention, without which, however men may deceive themselves, no actual progress ever was or ever can be made in that knowledge, which supplies at once both strength and nourishment.