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with the world, should know so much both of the better and worse part, as is here exemplified: but, in reality, a very little knowledge of the world will afford an observer, moderately accurate, sufficient instances of evil; and a short communication with her own heart, will leave the author of this book very little to seek abroad of all the good which is to be found in human nature.
THE PBINCIPAL CHARACTERS IN DAVID SIMPLE, AND
The taste of the public, with regard to epistolary writing, having been much vitiated by some modern authors, it may not be amiss to premise some short matter concerning it in this place, that the reader may not expect another kind of entertainment than he will meet with in the following papers, nor impute the author's designed deviation from the common road to any mistake or error.
Those writings which are called letters may be divided into four classes. Under the first class may be ranged those letters, as well ancient as modern, which have been written by men, who have filled up the principal characters on the stage of life, upon great and memorable occasions. These have been always esteemed as the most valuable parts of history, as they are not only the most authentic memorials of facts, but as they serve greatly to illustrate the true character of the writer, and do in a manner introduce the person himself to our acquaintance.
A second kind owe their merit not to truth, but to invention: such are the letters which contain ingenious novels, or shorter tales, either pathetic or humorous; these bear the same relation to the former as romance doth to true history; and as the former may be called short histories, so may these be styled short romances.
In the next branch may be ranked those letters which have passed between men of eminence in the republic of literature. Many of these are in high estimation in the learned world, in which they are considered as having equal authority to that which the political world allows to those of the first class.
Besides these three kinds of letters, which have all their several merits, there are two more, with which the moderns have very plentifully supplied the world, though I shall not be very profuse in my encomiums on either: these are, love letters and letters of conversation; in which last are contained the private affairs of persons of no consequence to the public, either in a political or learned consideration, or indeed in any consideration whatever.
With these two kinds of letters the French language in particular so vastly abounds, that it would employ most of the leisure hours of life to read them all; nay, I believe indeed they are the principal study of many of our fine gentlemen and ladies who learn that language.
And hence such readers have learnt the critical phrases of a familiar easy style, a concise epistolary style, &c., and these they apply to all letters whatever.
Now, from some polite modern performances, written, I suppose, by this rule, I much doubt whether these French readers have any just and adequate notion of this epistolary style, with which they are so enamoured. To say the truth, I question whether they do not place it entirely in short, abrupt, and unconnected periods; a style so easy that any man may write it, and which, one would imagine, it must be very difficult to procure any person to read.
To such critics, therefore, I would recommend Ovid, who was perhaps the ablest writer of les lettres galantes that ever lived. In his Arte Amandi, they will find the following rule:
, prcesens ut videare loqui.
,viz. that these letters should preserve the style of conversation; and in his Epistles they will see this excellently illustrated by example. But if we are to form our idea of the conversation of some modern writers from their letters, we shall have, I am afraid, a very indifferent opinion of both.
But, in reality, this style of conversation is only proper, at least only necessary, to these, which I have called letters of conversation; and is not at all requisite, either to letters of business, which in after-ages make a part of history, or to those on the subject of literature and criticism.
Much less is it adapted to the novel or story writer; for what difference is there, whether a tale is related this or any other way? And sure no one will contend, that the epistolary style is in general the most proper to a novelist, or that it hath been used by the best writers of this kind.
It is not my purpose here to write a large dissertation on style in general, nor to assign what is proper to the historian, what to the romance, and what to the novel writer, nor to observe in what manner all these differ from each other; it is sufficient to have obviated an objection, which I foresaw might be made to these little volumes by some, who are in truth as incapable of knowing any of the faults, as of reaping any of the beauties of an author; and I assure them, there is no branch of criticism in which learning, as well as good sense, is more required than to the forming an accurate judgment of style, though there is none, I believe, in which every trifling reader is more ready to give his decision.
Instead of laying down any rules for the use of such tyros in the critical art, I shall recommend them to one who is master of style, as of every other excellence. This gentleman, in his Persian Letters, many of which are written on the most important subjects in ethics, politics, and philosophy, hath condescended to introduce two or three novels: in these they will find that inimitable writer very judiciously changing the style which he uses on other occasions, where the subjects of his letters require the air and style of conversation; to preserve which, in relating stories that run to any length, would be faulty in the writer and tiresome to the reader.
To conclude this point, I know not of any essential difference between this and any other way of writing novels, save only, that by making use of letters the writer is freed from the regular beginnings and conclusions of stories, with some other formalities, in which the reader of taste finds no less ease and advantage than the author himself.
As to the matter contained in the following volumes, I am not perhaps at liberty to declare my opinion: relation and friendship to the writer may draw upon me the censure of partiality, if I should be as warm as I am inclined to be in their commendation.
The reader will however excuse me, if I advise him not to run them over with too much haste and indifference; such readers will, I promise them, find little to admire in this book, whose beauties (if it have any) require the same attention to discover them with which the author herself hath considered that book of Nature whence they are taken. In books, as well as pictures, where the excellence lies in the expression or colouring only, the first glance of the