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THE BOOKSELLER TO THE READER.
It is now six years since these papers came first to my hand, which seems to have been about a twelvemonth after they were written: for the author tells us in his preface to the first treatise, that he has calculated it for the year 1697, and in several passages of that discourse, as well as the second, it appears they were written about that time,
As to the author, I can give no manner of satisfaction; however, I am credibly informed, that this publication is without his knowledge ; for he concludes the copy is lost, having lent it to a person, since dead, and being never in possession of it after: so that, whether the work received his last hand, or, whether he intended to fill up the defective places, is likely to remain a secret.
If I should go about to tell the reader, by what accident I became master of these papers, it would, in this unbelieving age, pass for little more than the cant or jargon of the trade. I therefore gladly spare both him and myself
so unnecessary à trouble. There yet remains a difficult question, why I published them no sooner. I forbore upon two accounts; first, because I thought I had better work upon my own hands; and secondly, because I was not without some hope of hearing from the author, and receiving his directions. But I have been lately alarmed with intelligeuce of a surreptitious copy, which a certain great wit had new polished and refined, or, as our present writers express themselves, fitted to the hu. mour of the age; as they have already done, with great felicity, to Don Quixote, Boccalini, la Bruyere, and other authors. However, I thought it fairer dealing to offer the whole work in its naturals. If any gentleman will please to furnish ine with a key, in order to explain the more difficult parts, I shall very gratefully acknowledge the favour, and print it by itself.
THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY,
TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS
SIR, I HERE present your highness with the fruits of a very few leisure hours, stolen from the short intervals of a world of business, and of an employment quite alien from such amusements as this the poor production of that refuse of time, which has lain heavy upon my hands, during a long prorogation of parliament, a great dearth of foreign news, and a tedious fit of rainy weather: for which, and other reasons, it cannot choose extremely to deserve such a patronage as that of your highness, whose numberless virtues, in so few years, make the world look upon you as the future example to all princes : for although your
The citation out of Irenæus in the title-page, which seems to be all gibberish, is a form of initiation used anciently by the Marcosian heretics. W. Worron.
It is the usual style of decried writers to appeal to Posterity, who is here represented as a prince in his nonage, and Time as his governor; and the author begins in a way very frequent with him, by personating other writers, who sometimes offer such reasons and excuses for publishing their works, as they ought chiefly to conceal and be ashamed of.
highness is hardly got clear of infancy, yet has the universal learned world already resolved upon appealing to your future dictates, with the lowest and most resigned submission; fate having decreed you sole arbiter of the productions of human wit, in this polite and most accomplished age. Methinks, the number of appellants were enough to shock and startle any judge, of a genius less unlimited than yours : but, in order to prevent such glorious trials, the
seems, to whose care the education of your highness is committed, * has resolved (as I am told) to keep you in almost a universal ignorance of our studies, which it is your inherent birth-right to inspect.
It is amazing to me, that this person should have the assurance, in the face of the sun, to go about persuading your highness, that our age is almost wholly illiterate, and has hardly produced one writer upon any subject. I know very well, that when your highness shall come to riper years, and have gone through the learning of antiquity, you will be too curious, to neglect inquiring into the authors of the very age before you : and to think that this insolent, in the account he is
preparing for your view, designs to reduce them to a number so insignificant as I am ashamed to mention; it moves my zeal and my spleen for the honour and interest of our vast flourishing body, as well as of myself, for whom, I know by long experience, he has professed, and still continues, à peculiar malice.
It is not unlikely, that, when your highness will one day peruse what I am now writing, you may be ready to expostulate with your governor, upon
* Time allegorically described as the tutor of Posterity.
the credit of what I here affirm, and command him to show you some of our productions. To which he will answer, (for I am well informed of his designs) by asking your highness, where they are? and what is become of them? and pretend it a demonstration that there never were any, because they are not then to be found. Not to be found! who has mislaid them? are they sunk in the abyss of things? it is certain, that in their own nature, they were light enough to swim upon the surface for all eternity. Therefore the fault is in him, who tied weights so heavy to their heels, as to depress them to the centre. Is their very essence destroyed? who has annihilated them? were they drowned by purges, or martyred by pipes? who administered them to the posteriors of
--- ? But, that it may no longer be a doubt with your highness, who is to be the author of this universal ruin, I beseech you to observe that large and terrible scythe which your governor affects to bear continually about him. Be pleased to remark the length and strength, the sharpness and hardness of his nails and teeth ; consider his baneful, abominable breath, enemy to life and matter, infectious and corrupting : and then reflect, whether it be possible, for any mortal ink and paper of this generation, to make a suitable resistance. O! that your highness would one day resolve to disarm this usurping maitre du palais* of his furious engines, and bring your empire hors de page.
* Comptroller. The kingdom of France had a race of kings, which they call les roys fuineans (from their doing nothing) who lived lazily in their apartments, while the kingdom was administered by the mayor de palais, till Charles Martell, the last mayor, put his master to death, and took the kingdom into his own hand.
+ Out of guardianship.