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of all thefe, with feveral others, which have now flid out of my memory, are loft 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 paffed between us from the title-page to this, not to proceed fo far as to injure their healths for an accident paft 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 caufe of abortion as effectual, though not fo frequent, as going too fhort; and holds true, especially in the labours of the brain. Well fare the heart of that noble Jefuit* who firft adventured to confefs in print, that books must be fuited to their several seasons, like drefs, 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, fhall be neglected, as the moon by day, or like mackarel a week after the feafon. No man hath more nicely obferved our climate, than the bookfeller who bought the copy of this work. He knows
* Pere d'Orleans.
to a tittle, what fubjects will beft go off in a dry year, and which it is proper to expofe foremost, when the weather-glafs is fallen to much rain. When he had feen this treatise, and confulted his almanack upon it, he gave me to understand, that - he had manifeftly confidered the two principal things, which were the bulk and the fubject; and found, it would never take, but after a long vacation; and then only, in cafe it should happen to be a hard year for turnips. Upon which I defired to know, confidering my urgent neceffities, what he thought might be acceptable this month. He looked westward, and faid, I doubt we shall bave a fit of bad weather; however, if you could prepare fome pretty little banter, (but not in verfe), or a small treatife upon the — it would run like wild-fire. But if it hold up, I have already hired an author to write fomething against Dr Bentley, which, I am fure, 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 laft play fhould be in course, I had as lieve he may be the perfon as Congreve. This I mention, because I am wonVOL. I. Kk derfully
* When Dr Prideaux brought the copy of his connection of the Old and New Testament to the bookfeller, he told him, it was a dry fubject, and the printing could rot fafely be ventured, unless he could enliven it with a little humour. Hawkef.
derfully well acquainted with the present relifh of courteous readers; and have often obferved, 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.
I have one word to fay upon the fubject of profound writers, who are grown very numerous of late; and, I know very well, the judicious world is refolved to lift me in that number. I conceive therefore, as to the bufinefs of being profound, that it is with writers, as with wells: A perfon with good eyes may fee to the bottom of the deepeft, provided any water be there; and often when there is nothing in the world at the bottom, befides drynefs and dirt, though it be but a yard and a half under ground, it fhall 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 fubject is utterly exhaufted, to let the ftill move on; by fome called, the ghoft of wit, delighting to walk after the death of its body. And to fay the truth, there feems 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; fo that I have fometimes known it to be in writing, as in vifiting, where the ceremony of taking leave has employed
ployed more time than the whole converfation before. The conclufion of a treatise resembles the conclufion of human life, which hath fometimes been compared to the end of a feast; where few are fatisfied to depart, ut plenus vitæ conviva : For men will fit down after the fulleft meal, though it be only to dofe, or to fleep out the reft 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 fo turbulent and unquiet as thefe *. Neither do I think fuch an employment fo very alien from the office of a wit, as fome would fuppofe. For among a very polite nation in Greece, there were the fame temples built and confecrated to Sleep and the Mufes, between which two deities they believed the ftrictest friendship was established †.
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 difcourfe; but give some allowance to the author's fpleen, and fhort fits or intervals of dulnefs, as well as his own; and lay it feriously to his confcience, whether, if he were walking the ftreets in dirty weather, or a rainy day, he would allow it fair dealing in folks, at their eafe from a K k 2 window,
* This was written before the peace of Ryfwick, which was figned in September 1697.
Trezenii, Paufan. 1. 2.
window, to criticife his gait, and ridicule his dress at fuch a juncture.
In my difpofure 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 caufe of this diftribution was, from obferving it my peculiar cafe to be often under a temptation of being witty upon occafions, where I could be neither wife nor found, nor any thing to the matter in hand. And I am too much a fervant of the modern way, to neglect any fuch opportunities, whatever pains or improprieties I may be at to introduce them. For I have obferved, that from a laborious collection of feven hundred thirty-eight flowers, and Shining 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 converfation, any more than a dozen. Of which dozen, the one moiety failed of fuccefs, by being dropped among unfuitable company; and the other coft me fo many ftrains, and traps, and ambages to introduce, that I at length refolved to give it over. Now, this difappointment, (to difcover a fecret), I must own, gave me the first hint of fetting up for an author; and I have fince found among fome particular friends, that it is become a very general complaint, and has produced the fame effects upon many others. For I have remarked many a towardly word to be wholly neglected or defpifed