Comparing great things with small, we have written this book in the manner of certain of the ancients; that is, with a dramatic cast. The book of Job, is amongst the earliest of all compositions, and after an introduction containing a history of his misfortunes, and malady, introduces the speakers in three different characters, and names, each sustaining his opinion; and giving the author an opportunity to canvass the subject he had in view, the ways of Providence, and to give lessons of humility and resignation to man.
The Socratic schools, have distinguished themselves, and amongst these chiefly, Plato and his dialogues, and Zenophon, in his Symposium, or Banquet.
It has been followed by the Romans; of whom Cicero in his book treating of the qualifications of an orator, or, as we commonly style it, de oratore, is the happiest instance.
Sir Thomas More introduces his Utopia, in this manner. But the most complete model of such structure of writing, is a posthumous work of David Hume, his Religion of Nature.
The vehicle which I have chosen of supposed travels, and conversations, affords great scope, and much freedom, and furnishes an opportunity to enliven with incident. Doubtless it is of the same nature, with many things in the novel way, written by philosophic men, who chose that form of writing, for the purpose merely of conveying sentiments, which in a didactic work, under the head of tract or dissertation, could not so easily gain attention, or procure readers.
But the characters which we have introduced, are many of them low. That gives the greater relief to the mind.
Shakespeare has his Bardolph, Nymn, and Pistol, and the dialogue of these is a relief to the drama of the principal personages. It is so in nature; and why should it not be so represented in the images of her works? We have the sage and the fool, interspersed in society, and the fool gives occasion for the wise man to make his reflections. So in our book.
In the beginning of the work, will be seen Entered according to act of Congress. How far this might legally exclude extracts from the work, it is not necessary to consider, as the author gives permission to all Journalists to extract what they think proper; and even essayists who write a book, are at liberty to copy with all freedom if they should find themselves at their shifts, or, as we say, a dead lift, for something to diversify their lucubrations. In this case, if the book itself should leave home but little, it will be known abroad by the quotations: and the chances will be multiplied of coming down to posterity, at least as to the title, and perhaps something of the manner, and the execution.
Criticisms, if the bagatelle should seem to deserve it, favourable, or otherwise, will be well taken, with exception only to that style and manner, which we call scurrilous, not so much for our own sake, as for the sake of those who have a propensity that way, and whom we would not wish to encourage, by an express invitation. If they indulge it, it is not amiss for them to know that it is not to our taste or acceptation. Such as have no other talent, must be indulged; but it is as we indulge the frailties of mortals in other cases. It is a pleasure to have it known that one lives; yet there is no man who would not rather be unknown than much hurt. But though, what is undervaluing must hurt, yet men of the quill, as erst those of the sword, would rather bear a gentle prick than not have the rare pleasure of playing with a master of the noble science of defence. There is no knowing how our guards may be beaten down; or how the adversary may prick in an unguarded part; but it will be a hard case if our diversions should prove a serious matter, and through the imperfection of language, or our awkwardness, occasion misconception and ill will. Deprecating this, we consign the volume to the public. We do not say the world; for it has got a bad name. We have heard since ever we recollect, the terms, an ungenerous world; a wicked world; a persecuting world. But the word public carries with it a more favourable impression. Public spirit is spoken of as a virtue, and most men profess themselves disposed to serve the public. Taking this distinction, therefore, we hope we are safe in giving this thing publicity, and under this impression, to use a pun, we commit the impression to the booksellers in the first instance, and from them it may go into libraries, or the hands of hawkers, as may happen. Time and chance happeneth to all men, and must to things.
End of Volume 1.