Containing Preliminary Observations
I am very happy in the composition of this work; for though but of a trifling nature as to sentiment; yet, in what I do write, no one can attribute to me the least tincture of satire, or ridicule of individuals or public bodies. --This is what I very much dislike in others, and would be far from indulging in myself. I acknowledge, that in my earlier years, and in the course of my academical studies, I had contracted some taste, and even habit, this way; owing to my reading the dialogues of Lucien, in the original Greek. Had I read them in translation, they might have made less impression. But by means of a difficult language, studying them slowly, the turn of thought became more deeply impressed upon my mind. Moreover, afterwards, when I came to have some acquaintance with the modern wits, such as Cervantes, Le Sage, and especially Swift, I found myself still more inclined to an ironical and ludicrous way of thinking and writing. But finding the bad effects of this, in many respects, leading me into broils with individuals, and rendering me obnoxious to public bodies, I saw the indiscretion, and bad policy of such indulgence; and have for several years past, carefully avoided every thing of this kind. It is indeed acting but a poor part in life, to make a business of laughing at the follies of others. It is injurious to ones self; for there is a great deal more to be gained by soothing and praising what men do, than by finding fault with them. It may be said of satire, what was said of anger by some philosopher. It never pays the service it requires. It is your scratching, rump-tickling people, that get into place and power. I never know any good come of wit and humour yet. They are talents which keep the owner down. For this reason, I have taken care to repress all propensity to this vice; and I believe I can say it with truth, that since I have come to the years of a mans understanding, I have carefully avoided every thing of this nature. Had it not been for this prudence, I should not have been in a fair way, as I am now, to be a member of congress, or a judge on the bench, or governor of a commonwealth, or secretary of state, or any thing that I may have in view. Had I remained an admirer of Rabelais, or Sterne, or other biting, jeering writers, that I at first met with, I might at this day have been considered as a wit only, without the least advancement in state affairs. But I would sooner see your Juniuses, and your Peter Pindars, libelling kings and ministers, at hell, than sacrifice my interest to my passion, or my vanity, by strokes of wit, which is but another name for ill-nature.
In this treatise, which is simply a relation of the adventures of an individual, I have nothing to do with strictures upon particular persons, or the affairs of men in general, and so have no temptation to the folly I have just mentioned. The reader, if any body ever reads it, will find nothing here but philanthropic and benevolent ideas.
Indeed, as it has been known that I was engaged in writing something, persons who either took, or pretended to take, some interest in my affairs, have urged me very much to depart a little from my usual way, and make use of a little irony, by way of seasoning to the composition: for, in this case, it would be received better, and procure more readers; mankind being naturally delighted with ridicule. --But the truth was, I could see nothing to be ironical about; owing, perhaps, to my not being in the habit of looking for the ridiculous, and so having lost the talent of discovering it. But my resolution that I had taken would have fully preserved me from such a lapse, however numerous the objects of ridicule might be, that presented themselves. This will serve as an apology to those who have solicited me on this head, and relieve me from such solicitations for the future.