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of all these, with several others, which have now flid out of my memory, are lost beyond all hopes of recovery. For which misfortune, leaving my readers to condole with each other, as far as they shall find it to agree with their several constitutions; but conjuring them, by all the friendship that hath passed between us from the title-page to this, not to proceed so far as to injure their healths for an accident past remedy: I now go on to the ceremonial part of an accomplished writer ; and therefore, by a courtly modern, least of all others to be omitted.
OING too long, is a cause of abortion as ef
fectual, though not so frequent, as going too short; and holds true, especially in the labours of the brain. Well fare the heart of that noble Jesuit * who first adventured to confess in print, that books must be suited to their several seasons, like dress, and diet, and diverfions: And better fare our noble nation, for refining upon this, among
other French modes. I am living fast to fee the time, when a book that miffes its tide, shall be neglected, as the moon by day, or like mackarel a week after the season. No man hath more nicely observed our climate, than the bookseller who bought the copy of this work. He knows
* Pere d'Orleans.
to a tittle, what fubjects will best go off in a dry year, and which it is proper to expose foremost, when the weather-glass is fallen to much rain. When he had seen this treatise, and consulted his almanack upon it, he gave me to understand, that he had nianifestly considered the two principal things, which were the bulk and the subject; and found, it would never take, but after a long vacation; and then only, in case it should happen to be a hard year for turnips. Upon which I defired to know, considering my urgent necessities, what he thought might be acceptable this month. He looked westward, and said, I doubt we fall bave a fit of bad weather; however, if you could prepare fome pretty little banter, (but not in verse), or a small treatise upon the
it would runz like wild-fire. But if it hold up, I have already hired an author to write something against Dr Bentley, which, I am sure, will turn to account *.
At length we agreed upon the expedient, That when a customer comes for one of these, and defires in confidence to know the author ; he will tell him very privately, as a friend, naming which ever of the wits shall happen to be that week in vogue ; and if Durfey's last play. should be in course, I had as lieve he may be the person as Congreve. This I mention, because I am wonVOL.I.
derfully derfully well acquainted with the present relish of courteous readers; and have often observed, with fingular pleasure, that a fly driven from a honey-pot, will immediately, with very good appetite, alight, and finish his meal on an excrement.
* When Dr Prideaux brought the copy of his connection of the Old and New Testament to the bookseller, he told him, it was a dry fribjeti, ard the printing could rot safely he ventured, unless he could enliven it with a little bunur. Hawkes.
I have one word to say upon the subject of profound writers, who are grown very numerous of late ; and, I know very well, the judicious world is resolved to list me in that number. I conceive therefore, as to the business of being profound, that it is with writers, as with wells : A person with good eyes may fee to the bottom of the deepest, provided any water be there; and often when there is nothing in the world at the bottom, besides dryness and dirt, though it be but a yard and a half under ground, it shall pass however for wondrous deep, upon no wiser a reafon, than because it is wondrous dark.
I am now trying an experiment very frequent among modern authors; which is, to write upon nothing : When the subject is utterly exhausted, to let the pen still move on ; by some called, the ghost of wit, delighting to walk after the death of its body. And to say the truth, there seems to be no part of knowledge in fewer hands, than that of difcerning when to have done. By the time that an author hath written out a book, he and his readers are become old acquaintance, and
grow very loth to part; so that I have fometimes known it to be in writing, as in visiting, where the ceremony of taking leave has em
ployed more time than the whole conversation before. The conclusion of a treatise resembles the conclusion of human life, which hath fometimes been compared to the end of a feast; where few are satisfied to depart, ut plenus vitæ conviva :
For men will fit down after the fullest meal, I though it be only to dose, or to seep out the rest
of the day. But, in this latter, I differ extremely from other writers ; and shall be too proud, if, by all my labours, I can have any ways contributed to the repose of mankind, in times so turbulent and unquiet as these *. Neither do I think such an employment so very alien from the office of a wit, as fome would suppose. For among'a very polite nation in Greece, there were the same temples built and confecrated to Sleep and the Muses, between which two deities they believed the strictest friendship was established t.
I have one concluding favour to request of my reader, That he will not expect to be equally diverted and informed by every line, or every page of this discourse; but give fome allowance to the author's spleen, and thort fits or intervals of dulness, as well as his own; and lay it seriously to his conscience, whether, if he were walking the streets in dirty weather, or a rainy day, he would allow it fair dealing in folks, at their ease from a K k 2
* This was written before the peace of Ryswick, which was signed in September 1697.
ť Trezenii, Paufan. I. 2.
window, to criticise his gait, and ridicule his dress at such a juncture.
In my disposure of employments of the brain, I have thought fit to make invention the mafler, and to give method and reason the office of his lacqueys. The cause of this distribution was, from observing it my peculiar case to be often under a temptation of being witty upon occafions, where I could be neither wise nor found, nor any thing to the matter in hand. And I am too much a fervant of the modern way, to neglect any such opportunities, whatever pains or improprieties I may be at to introduce them. For I have observed, that from a laborious collection of foven hundred thirty-eight flowers, and foining hints of the best modern authors, digested with great reading into my book of commonplaces; I have not been able, after five years, to draw, hook, or force into common conversation, any more than a dozen.
Of which dozen, the one moiety failed of success, by being dropped anong unsuitable company; and the other cost me so many strains, and traps, and ambages to introduce, that I at length resolved to give it over. Now, this disappointment, (to discover a secret), I must own, gave me the first hint of setting up for an author; and I have since found among fone particular friends, that it is become a very general complaint, and has produced the same effects upon many others. For I have remarked many a towardly word to be wholly neglected or