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by an evening fire, with a young lady of respectable talents, and fond of books, who was reading the Spectator. She broke out into an expression of astonishmentWhat a silly book the Spectator is ! “ Let me see," said I. “ What is the passage which appears so foolish ?” She was reading the 475th number; a pretended letter from a young lady to the author, of this import. “Now, Sir, the thing is this : Mr. Shapely is the prettiest gentleman about town. He is very tall, but not too tall, neither. He dances like an angel. His mouth is made, I don't know how, but it is the prettiest mouth I ever saw in my life. He is always laughing, for he has an infinite deal of wit. If you did but see how he rolls his stockings !” &c. This was the folly. I asked the lady if it was not an admirable imitation of just the manner in which such a character would write. The question seemed to open a new world to her thoughts ; and she was obliged to confess that what she had censured as folly, was one of the most exquisite efforts of genius.
What I have done in these pages I pretend not to say ; I only know what I have endeavored. Go, little book, and if thou art found innocently amusing, or sometimes instructive–live; but if critics condemn, and the world ratifies their sentence, DIE; and thy humbled sire will drop no tear on thy grave, though for thee there should be no resurrection.
CONTENTS TO VOLUME I.
Appellation of Puritan-New England Manners not yet
- The Puritan's Hopes,
Weakened, when seen in a Foreign Dress,
IV. Religion-Puzzling-irons and Chandeliers,
V. Law, a coarse conception, derived from material objects,
of spirit with spirit,
IX. The Art of Doubting,
X. The Art of Solving,
XV. Education—The Folly of Minute Theories,
XVIII. A Jack of All Trades, or Yankee Life,
XXVII. The Answer,
So when a smooth expanse receives imprest,
I SUPPOSE that all my readers have seen that love, liest object in creation, described in my motto. If ever they have been out to Jamaica Plain, or taken a ride to Fresh Pond, in calm weather, they must have remarked the quivering landscape of the nether world, which poets have so often pictured, and from which moralists and philosophers have so often derived their descriptions and images. There is found a fairer world, adorned with milder colors, and tinged with a softer light. No night obscures or storms disturb it. It seems built for the imagination;
and I have heard of a disappointed lover, who chose such a scene to drown himself in, as the most agreeable mode of committing suicide. The hills, the vallies, the trees, the earth, and the sky, seem to float in fairy vision before the inspection of the delighted spectator ; and yet like all other earthly objects, eminently fair, its beauty is founded partly on delusion. This pictured world is always tranquil, because a storm can never disturb without completely destroying it.
Although this beautiful image has long been hackneyed by poets and other pilfering writers, yet there is one use I do not remember to have seen made of it. We shall find, if we examine, that a smooth expanse of waters always represents the scenery actually around it, so that it is a lively instance of reflection, borrowing her beauties from local nature. A loch in Scotland can never represent the banks of a pond in America, any more than it can roll the waves of our Lake Superior. The waters of all countries are at least original; whether they return from their bosoms the peaks of some barren mount, the arid wastes of Palestine, the steppes of central Asia, or, frozen by a northern winter, the stars of a polar night. Such are the Lakes; and such should be the poets and moral writers of every tongue and people. Such must be the character of all those pages, which are destined to last, because they are felt to profit and to please. It is the writer, who