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am therefore desirous to obviate, before it has too long prevailed. I hear that I am accused of rating my books at too higli a price, at a price which no other person would demand. To answer this accusation, it is necessary to enquire what those who urge it mean by a high price. The price of things valuable for their rarity is entirely arbitrary, and depends upon the variable taste of mankind, and the casual fluctuation of the fashion, and can never be ascertained like that of things only estimable according to their

If, therefore, I have set a high value upon books : if I have vainly imagined literature to be more fashionable than it really is,' or idly hoped to revive a taste well nigh extinguished, I know not why I should be persecuted with clamour and invective, since I only shall suffer by my mistake, and be obliged to keep those books which I was in hopes of selling.

If those who charge me with asking an high price, will explain their meaning, it may be possible to give them an answer less general. If they measure the price at which the books are now offered, by that at which they were bought by the late possessor, they will find it diminished at least three parts in four: If they would compare

it with the demands of other booksellers, they must find the same books in their hands, and they will be, perhaps, at last reduced to confess, that they mean, by a high price, only a price higher than they are inclined to give.

I have, at least, a right to hope, that no gentleman will receive an account of the price from the booksellers, of whom it may easily be imagined that they will be willing, since they cannot depreciate the books, to exaggerate the price: and I will boldly promise those who have been influenced by malevolent reports, that, if they will be pleased, at the day of sale, to examine the prices with their own eyes, they will find them lower than they have been represented.

AN ESSAY

ON THE

ORIGIN AND IMPORTANCE OF SMALL

TRACTS AND FUGITIVE PIECES.
WRITTEN FOR THE INTRODUOTION TO THE

HARLEIAN MISCELLANY. Though the scheme of the following Miscellany is so obvious, that the title alone is sufficient to explain it; and though several collections have been formerly attempted upon plans, as to the method very little, but, as to the capacity and execution, very different from ours; we being possessed of the greatest variety for such a work, hope for a more general reception than those confined schemes had the fortune to meet with; and, therefore, think it not wholly unnecessary to explain our intentions, to display the treasure of materials out of which this Miscellany is to be compiled, and to exhibit a general idea of the pieces which we intend to insert in it.

There is, perhaps, no nation in which it is so necessary, as in our own, to assemble, from time to time, the small tracts and fugitive pieces

which are occasionally published; for, besides the general subjects of enquiry, which are cultivated by us, in common with every other learned nation, our constitution in church and state naturally gives birth to a multitude of performances which would either not have been written, or could not have been made publick in any other place.

The form of our government which gives every man, that has leisure, or curiosity, or vanity, the right of enquiring into the propriety of publick measures, and by consequence, obliges those who are intrusted with the administration of national affairs, to give an account of their conduct to almost every man who demands it, may be reasonably imagined to have occasioned innumerable pamphlets, which would never have appeared under arbitrary governments, where every man lulls himself in indolence under calamities, of which he cannot promote the redress, or thinks it prudent to conceal the uneasiness, of which he cannot complain without danger.

The multiplicity of religious sects tolerated among us, of which every one has found opponents and vindicators, is another source of unexhaustible publication, almost peculiar to ourselves; for controversies cannot be long continued, nor frequently revived, where an inquisitor has a right to shut up the disputants in dungeons; or where silence can be imposed on either party by the refusal of a licence.

Not that it should be inferred from hence, that political or religious controversies are the only products of the liberty of the British

the

press;

mind once let loose to enquiry, and suffered to operate without restraint, necessarily deviates into peculiar opinions, and wanders in new tracts, where she is indeed sometimes lost in a labyrinth, from which though she cannot return, and scarce knows how to proceed; yet, sometimes makes useful discoveries, or finds out nearer paths to knowledge.

The boundless liberty with which every man may write his own thoughts, and the opportunity of conveying new sentiments to the publick, without danger of suffering either ridicule or censure, which every man may enjoy, whose vanity does not incite him too hastily to own bis performances, naturally invites those

who employ themselves in speculation, to try how their notions will be received by a nation, which exa empts caution from fear, and modesty from shame; and it is no wonder, that where reputation may be gained, but needs not be lost, multitudes are willing to try their fortune, and thrust their opinions into the light; sometimes with unsuccessful haste, and sometimes with happy temerity.

It is observed, that, among the natives of England, is to be found a greater variety of humour, than in any other country; and doubtless, where every man has a full liberty to propagate his conceptions, variety of humour must produce variety of writers; and, where the number of authors is so great, there cannot but be some worthy of distinction.

All these, and many other causes, too tedious to be enumerated, have contributed to make pamphlets and small tracts a very important part of an English library; nor are there any pieces, upon which those, who aspire to the reputation of judicious collectors of books, bestow more attention, or greater expence; because many advantages may be expected from the perusal of these small productions, which are scarcely to be found in that of larger works.

If we regard history, it is well known that most political treatises have for a long time appeared in this form, and that the first relations of transactions, while they are yet the subject of conversation, divide the opinions, and employ the conjectures of mankind, are delivered by these petty writers, who have opportunities of collecting the different sentiments of disputants, of enquiring the truth from living witnesses, and of copying their representations

from the life ; and, therefore, they preserve a multitude of particular incidents, which are forgotten in a short time, or omitted in formal relations, and which are yet to be considered as sparks of truth, which, when united, may afford light in some of the darkest scenes of state, as, we doubt not, will be sufficiently proved in the course of this Miscellany; and which it is, therefore, the interest of the publick to preserve unextinguished.

The same observation may be extended to subjects of yet more importance. In controversies that relate to the truths of religion, the first essays of reformation are generally timorous; and those who have opinions to offer, which they expect to be opposed, produce their sentiments by degrees, and, for the most part, in small tracts : by degrees, that they may not shock their readers with too many novelties

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