Page images
PDF
EPUB

These, My Lord, are some of the Advantages, which Men of elevated Character and refined Genius, communicate to him who is honoured with their Intimacy, and whose Mind is susceptible of the Impressions. They raise him, as it were, above himself, giving him to enjoy some Share of their Spirit, and darting a Light into his Breast,

from that Fire which enflames their own

-: Quoji lumen de lumine fuo accendunt,'

If, under the Inciiement of these' animating Influences, he should try to display the Eeauties of Delicacy; the Greatness of the Encouragement may, in some measure, justify the Boldness of the Attempt; though it will be far from excusing the unsuccessful Execution. And should he happen not to fail he can claim no other Merit, but that of a faithful Relator; since his Pretensions go no farther, than to give them back the Images of their own Minds.

With this View the following Essay was undertaken; which is here, with a warm Sense of Gratitude, addressed to Your Lordship; whose Indulgence lifted me up to that Experience of Life, and Observation on Taste and Manners, -which gave Birth to this Design, supplied me with Materials, and was the only Foundation, on which I could build any slopes of Success.

Iam, My Lord, with the utmost Deference and Respect, . i. ..; ,

Tour Lordship's Most Obedient and most obliged Humble Servant, il 1 - r .

',':".i - !! Nath Anael Lancaster.

M 3 The AMIDST the Variety of Compositions, with which the Learned of this Nation have eni:ched the Republic of Letters, we still want a Treatise upon that Quality, which gives the finishing Touches to the Culture of the Understanding, and disfuses the sinest Delights through the Commerce of Human Life.

Though in the celebrated Performances of our most elegant Writers, we meet with many masterly Strokes, and beautiful Observations upon it; yet lying widely scattered in various intermitted Speculations, they have not that Efficacy, which results from a regular Plan and connected System. . • . " \

Eut if aH that occurs were brought into one entire View, and Tanged in the best Order; many Things would still be wanting to complete the Work, and give us that Fulness of Satisfaction, which we should have received, had they entered professedly upon the Subject. Therefore, as it is impossible not to admire what they have done; it is natural to wish they had done more, and anticipated the Necessity of any farther Enquiries.

Thi-; Omission, it has been faid, was owing to an Opinion, for some Time too successfully propagated—That He only, who had attained the high Accomplishment, was equal to the Task; and that to undertake the Subject, carried with it an Air of arrogating the Character. This was an Obstruction not to be surmounted by the cautious Candidate for literary Fame; since the very

Attempt Attempt to obtain, must unavoidably frustrate his Hopes of public Approbation.

If the Author of the following Es? Ay had been persuaded, either that this Opini6n had any Foundation in Truth, or was still generally received; the fame restraining Considerations would have kept him in the fame Bounds. But since he finds it has now no longer the Countenance of Numbers, and is fatisfied it never had the Authority of Reason, he hopes he may endeavour to explain the Nature, and illustrate the Eeauties of DeliCacy, without the Imputation of assuming to himself the Glory of the Attainment.

A Man may certainly be qualified to describe a Character in his Closet, though he cannot act up to i t in Life 1 As we often find Men well versed in the Theory of an Art, and able to point out its several Excellencies, who want either Faculties or Attention to reach the Practice. The Talents are founded upon different Principles; and the one may subsist without the other, in the highest Perfection. ■

If this be not allowed; the Poet as well as the Historian, must be possessed of every great Quality, which he paints with Accuracy, or traces with Discernment. And when we- find him Juccessful in describing the Exploits of an Hero, we: must conclude, that he is himself no less expert in the military Art, and endued with equal Magnanimity. But it cannot be denied that there has been many a Writer capable of drawing up anArmy, and fighting a Battle in. all. the Propriety M 4. and> and Vigour of Language, who had confessedly as little Address to conduct the one^ as Courage to attempt the other in the Field of Action.-^

lingup mdior, fed frigida belh

Dextera

And why should the Possession of the Quality be thought more requisite in the Display of DeLicacy? This is so far from appearing evident, that it seems rather to be, in some Respects, a kind of disqualifying Circumstance. It is hot improbable, that the fine Senfations in the Soul of him, who has attained to this high Refinement, might prevent him from doing full Justice to his own Accomplishments; for Delicacy is always found to withdraw itself from "every thing that has the least Appearance of Vanity. But if this Obstruction could be got over i yet when it is known to be his own Picture, which he exhibits to View, it may be looked upon as the Representation of Features and Lineaments, heightened by Self-regard and the Bias of a partial Judgm^^

But though the Attainment of the QualityTg *" not requisite in the Writer; yet it is essentially necessary that he should be intimately acquainted with those, in whom it is found to exist.

This is the Source from whence he must draw not only the Materials for his Work, but the Ability of carrying it into Execution. For it is only by frequent Intercourses with Men of Rank, and polite Acquirements, that he can wear himself into that Cast of Sentiment and Expression, which the Dignity of his Subject indispenfably demands.

It has been the Author's Fortune, to be admitted mitted into those high Scenes of Improvement, and to have long been honoured with the Acquaintance of Persons, not less distinguished by the Refinement of their Abilities, than the Eminence of their Station.

On this Foundation he builds his Hopes. Oil the Encouragement of such Advantages he rests his Apology for the Undertaking; neither vainly assuring himself, that he has been able to make a right Use of the Opportunities, nor meanly courting the Reader's Favour, by professing a very low Opinion of his Performance. He chooses rather freely to confess, he has here exerted his best Endeavours, and entirely submits himself to the Decision of the Public.

If he should be judged unequal to the Task; yet (he is inclined to think) the De/ign may not be altogether useless. Though the Plant did not thrive where it first sprung; yet being removed to a better Soil, it may gain new Vigour, and advance to Maturity.

But whatever be the Event; it will be_ attended with this agreeable Reflexion; that he has not spent his Hours in trifling Amusements, but in Disquisitions of a serious Nature and real Concernment to Mankind Certainly we were intended for some farthee Satisfactions, than the Attainment of such Things only, as are barely necessary to the Support of our Being. We have Faculties adapted to the Enjoyment of refined Delight J: Those Delights must therefore be relative to Human Life; which would prove a very insipid Possession, without this heightening Relish of ExisM 5 twee;

« PreviousContinue »