Page images

tion: and that if he gets but a very humble portion of what the world can give, he has a continual fruition of unwearying enjoyment, of which it has not power to deprive him.

Long as I have detained the reader, I take leave to add a few words on the subject of imitation, or, more plainly speaking, borrowing. In the course of a long Poem, and more especially of two long ones, it is very difficult to avoid a recurrence of the same thoughts, and of similar expressions; and, however careful I have been myself in detecting and removing these kinds of repetitions, my readers, I question not, would, if disposed to seek them, find many remaining. For these I can only plead that common excuse-they are the offences of a bad memory, and not of voluntary inattention; to which I must add the difficulty (I have already mentioned) of avoiding the error: this kind of plagiarism will therefore, I conceive, be treated with lenity and of the more criminal kind, borrowing from others, I plead, with much confidence, "not guilty." But while I claim exemption from guilt, I do not affirm that much of sentiment and much of expression may not be detected in the vast collection of English poetry: it is sufficient for an author, that he uses not the words or ideas of another without acknowledgment, and this, and no more than this, I mean, by disclaiming debts of the kind; yet resemblances are sometimes so very striking, that it requires faith in a reader to admit they were undesigned. A line in the second Letter,

"And monuments themselves memorials need,"

was written long before the Author, in an accidental recourse to Juvenal, read—

"Quandoquidem data sunt ipsis quoque fata sepulchris."

Sat. x. 1. 146.

and for this I believe the reader will readily give me credit. But there is another apparent imitation in the ·life of Blaney (Letter xiv), a simile of so particular a kind, that its occurrence to two writers at the same time must appear as an extraordinary event; for this reason I once determined to exclude it from the relation; but, as it was truly unborrowed, and suited the place in which it stood, this seemed, on after-consideration, to be an act of cowardice, and the lines are therefore printed as they were written about two months before the very same thought (prosaically drest) appeared in a periodical work of the last summer. It is highly probable, in these cases, that both may derive the idea from a forgotten but common source; and in this way I must entreat the reader to do me justice, by accounting for other such resemblances, should any be detected.

I know not whether to some readers the placing two or three Latin quotations to a Letter may not appear pedantic and ostentatious, while both they and the English ones may be thought unnecessary. For the necessity I have not much to advance; but if they be allowable, (and certainly the best writers have adopted them,) then, where two or three different subjects occur, so many of these mottoes seem to be required: nor will a charge of pedantry remain, when it is considered that these things are generally taken from some books familiar to the school-boy, and the selecting them is facilitated by the use of a book of commonplace, yet, with this help, the task of motto-hunting has been so unpleasant to me, that I have in various instances given up the quotation I was in pursuit of, and substituted such English verse or prose as I could find or invent for my purpose.


SHOULD the corrections made in the present Edition appear to be few, and the amendments trifling, while many inaccuracies and other blemishes remain unnoticed; the Author entreats that a very unsettled state of health may be an apology for all that seems like want of care: he has not, as in other times, been favoured with communications from his Friends, with exception of those from a Reverend Gentleman in his own neighbourhood, who will find his observations (unfortunately for the Poem, begun too late to extend to many Letters) all carefully noticed as they are thankfully acknowledged; and should another opportunity ever arrive, he hopes to become more acquainted with the errors of the work, and to be better provided with corrections for them. Objections of other kind, the Author has read, and is much disposed to do honour to the Critics who made them; but as they respect the very nature and substance of his book, he fears they must ever remain with it, the radical evil for which there is no redress. That the Borough is the Village enlarged; that it has little interest as a Borough; that its subjects are unconnected, and its persons without a common tie; all this is readily acknowledged, nor can the Author attempt to make an apology for what he foresaw and voluntarily admitted. If by objecting a want of con nection and harmony of parts, it is meant that they

might have been preserved with his materials, this was found to be impossible; but if it implies that other materials are wanted, he can only answer, that they were not at his disposal.

[ocr errors]

Another objection is made to the levity with which the subject of Religion is said to be treated: this the Author cannot admit; it is not religion, but what hurts religion, what is injurious to all true devotion, and at enmity with all sober sense, which is thus unceremoniously treated; false and bigoted zeal, weak and obstinate enthusiasm, ignorance that presumes to teach, and intolerant pride that boasts of humility: these alone are objects of his attack. In the note to page 249, he has proved that his description of the doctrine he censured was founded in reality, and in fact it is no easy matter to write up to the folly and ignorance of these men. An author has not the less reverence for Religion, because, in warring with Fanaticism, he uses the only weapon by which it is said to be vulnerable; and he doubts not but he shall be excused (nay approved, so far as respects his intention,) by the public in general, and more especially by that part of it (and that by no means a small part), who think the persons so described, while they are themselves safe," from the Bar, the Pulpit, and the Throne," are the very people, from whom, did their power correspond with their wishes, neither the Pulpit nor the Throne (if the Bar should escape) would remain in safety.

It has been observed also, that the story of the Parish-Clerk has a bad moral, as it insinuates that there are certain temptations under which we cannot fail to yield, and, in fact, that we are puppets of an over-powering destiny. The Author is sorry that any

such inferences should be drawn from this relation, or from any other part of his book: what he meant to exhibit was rather the fall of a conceited and ostentatious man, who, when tempted, had not recourse to proper means of resistance, and an illustration of that Scripture-precept, "Let him who thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

Neither did the Author, on this or any other occasion, mean to deny the doctrine of seducing spirits, or one who is the chief of them; what he presumed to censure was the enthusiasm and conceit of those who take every absurd or perverse suggestion of their own spirits for the unquestionable temptation of the evilone, and every denial of a soliciting appetite, for a conquest over that enemy of souls; thus perpetually administering fresh food for enthusiastic delight, and new triumph for spiritual pride.

« PreviousContinue »