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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850, by

BAKER AND SCRIBNER,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern

District of New York.

Printed by
C. W. BENEDICT,

201 William street,

INTRODUCTORY.

MESSRS. PUBLISHERS,

You request me to give you, as “an introductory acquaintance to these incoherent writings, so much of the history of this strange being as I may have been able to collect.” Although I consider his writings the best history, as every man's productions are of himself,—and there is but little information concerning him in my possession, yet I cannot refuse to afford you the brief of what transpired between the old man, his last companion, and himself, as it was detailed to me by him. I will tell you also, in a rapid manner, w I have heard of him in his native city.

He is represented, by those who knew him as a youth, to have been as gay and joyous as any of his companions; but that, at times, a seriousness would take hold upon him, which would last for days together, during which time he was indifferent to any act of those around him, and seemed to desire no communion of feeling on the part of his fellows. He was not a regularly hard student, but his studies, which he went at by fits and starts, were pursued with the greatest earnestness and devotion, forgetful, indeed, of dress, wealth, society, or aught else. He was fond of books—too fond,—but he seemed to fancy most,

occupations of a monotonous character, since they afforded him the best opportunity for indulging in constant, uninterrupted thought.

After a time, he seems to have gone into society, but evidently without a taste for its insipid formalities and forced courtesies. He, like others, formed friendships amongst men.

But a few, false to their trust, seemed to have disgusted him with mankind. Therefore he spurned all who indicated any desire to become his friends, or he reluctantly yielded them his ordinary approbation.

That he was ambitious—you will discover almost from the outset. That he loved-read his own account. He was careless of gain. He was heedless of fate. He never forgot a kindness, or forgave an injury. When he left society, he was forgotten by it, and persons knew him afterwards only as the eccentric man; hence the title most appropriate for these writings was,—“ Desultoria : the Recovered MSS. of an Eccentric.

The means by which I came in possession of this manuscript is, to me, very interesting; and thinking it may interest others, I will relate the circumstances. Having rowed my boat some distance down the river, to what seemed to have once been a wharf, I rested awhile in the shade of the trees. In endeavoring to push off again from the sand, I broke my oar. I must mend it; therefore looked around for the means of doing so, and presently espied a habitation. Thither I went to search for some instrument to repair the damage my oar had sustained. On rising the hill I observed an old man sitting at the door; he saw immediately what was the matter, persuaded me to sit, entered the cottage, and presently brought out with him a

hammer and nails. He insisted on mending it himself, for he said it reminded him of old times, when a dear young man used to be on the river, and afterwards became his constant companion. He told me of the wanderings and unhappy life of this young man -his metaphysical conversations, and thoughts, and feelings, which he himself describes. As he perceived by my attention that I became interested, he showed me all the little articles the young man had possessed—the trunk of manuscript, and a variety of small matters. I cast my eyes over this manuscript, which was like the rest, rather illegible, (and, in fact, for a portion of it, I had to substitute my own language,) I saw a regular poem and some loose scraps, and much that was incomplete. There lay in the dust a much-used autobiography of Alfieri, and a well-marked Byron, which the old man said had been dipped in the river and recovered by him. On the table ay a work more cared for than the rest, save two leaves, which were completely blackened, since they had remained exposed there ever since his death. The old man considered the fact of his having left the book open one of the greatest interest, and he would not have allowed me to close it for the world. The work was Bacon, and was open at the essay on Death. On the face of this book I afterwards found the last piece of his manuscript, written just previous to his commission of suicide.

The old man says that on the morning of his suicide, he came and conversed with him on death, he then, with a vacant stare, and afterwards with a kind look, bade him farewell, saying that he should never look on his kind old face again. The old man said he was used to hearing him speak thus, but never dreamed that the day of evil had arrived, although he had always felt sure that he would commit suicide.

From the account of this person, he seems to have gone as usual to his boat, and with the unfaltering resolution to decide his fate; for he saw him, with perfect calmness, step into the boat, and then shove off from the shore as usual. From the appearance of the body and the boat, the old man conjectured that he must have seated himself on the side of the boat, then opened both femoral arteries, and presently, through faintness, fallen over into the stream, and was after left on the shore by the tide and not far from where the boat had floated.

The old man dug him a grave in the sand on the shore, and thinking the world cared not to hear the melancholy tale, kept it to himself. He walked with me down to the shore, that he might point out the grave of the unfortunate young man, marked by a stone. I would have left him in silence, and in his sacred thought, but he turned and pressed me to return sometimes and see him.

I did return and the old man was ill-and I remained with, him many hours ;-and night came on, and the moon was up and shone through upon his pallid face—and death was about to take him away. When he discovered it, he lifted his heavy eyelids to the moon and said, “ Happy moon! how often have you been called happy by my dear boy who lies on the shore.” Then he turned to me and said, Stranger! I feel that your are a friend, certainly not an enemy; a few more sands, and all will be out of the glass. I have two requests to make of you, and hope you may not think them too much.” He looked around the room at the trunk, the open book, and the scattered articles, and said, " These, promise me, you will keep till death, and though I have nothing to give of high value in return, I promise that you shall be exalted. The other request is selfish ;

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