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The life of a Scholar is, for the most part, less varied with incident than that of others, whose actings in the drama of life claim for them or entitle them to a distinct and separate record. And there can be no doubt that we follow with deeper interest accounts of the struggles of party, of the aspirings of ambition, nay, even of the windings and shiftings to which the mean and the unworthy must have recourse, than we do the uneventful and unimpassioned history of those who have persevered through life in an even course of silent and unostentatious virtue. The causes for this predilection lie deeply rooted in the perversity of our nature, which, while it professes to admire the good, takes an unhealthy pleasure in witnessing the bad. It usually happens too, that those who have filled more prominent stations, and have continued uniformly upright, seeking (as it may be) their country's good in singleness of heart, have
their best deeds misrepresented, and motives attributed to them which their purer minds would have disdained to own. Whence it comes to pass that men's virtues are, by the malignity of party, distorted into vices.
Some, who differ strongly in opinion from others whose lives have been passed without blemish, will, unknown perhaps to themselves, seek for or fancy they discover faults, even vices, that have no existence whatever, save in their own perverse imaginations, which know not how to tolerate any deviation from a class of principles which they have adopted as vital and irrefragable truths. It is possible that the subject of this Memoir may meet with a similar fortune. It was his happy disposition to seek for the virtues and the beauties in the lives and writings of his fellow-men, and to regard even their obvious failings and defects with gentleness and forbearance, at the same time that he was to himself a severe moralist and a rigid critic.
But while I think that the spirit which breathes throughout these volumes, so far as they consist of my father's own writings, is such as must take the edge off the weapons which criticism too frequently brandishes; yet I would by no means bespeak or
claim an equal indulgence for my own share in the work. It is a painful thing to expose to public comment the actions of one whose memory we regard with the deepest love and reverence: at the same time that, as the writer or compiler of the following pages, I am myself willing to take the full blame of my own ignorance or indiscretion :
“ —adsum qui feci, in me convertite ferrum."
Mr. Cary has hitherto been known to the public only as an accomplished scholar, and to his friends as one adorned, more than most men, with the purest and most gentle virtues. In these respects his Literary Journal and his Letters will severally throw much additional light on his character both public and private. In making selections from his Letters, many persons will probably think that I have inserted some that are too trivial and familiar. But surely a man's character should be estimated according as it shows itself in his daily intercourse with those whose present happiness depends very much on his ordinary and every-day deportment. It were no hard matter, one would think, to find some virtues in those who have been represented as the most abandoned of men; but then we have the truth, though not the
whole truth. Under this impression, could I have followed my own wishes without giving umbrage to others, the private Letters would have been very much increased in number; and I think that those who have read Cowper's familiar Letters and who remember the impressions that they cannot have failed to produce, would have held me excused for my temerity. It is to be regretted that those written to such men as Coleridge and Lamb have been all lost or destroyed : still it is hoped that enough remains to elucidate the character of Mr. Cary.
In connecting together the different papers which form the bulk of these volumes, I have been as brief as possible. My object has been rather to record the little incidents that may serve to give a faithful picture of my father's simple and quiet life, than to write a panegyric on one whose praises, as they represent themselves to me, are more suited to lonely and reverential reflection, than public and wordy description.
Oxford, January 21, 1847.