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While thus, in moralizing strain,
And hoped (thy every trial past)
A light elastic step of late
With pallid cheek and wasted form,
The hazel eye no more was bright,
I sought the garden for relief,
Its little hands upraised in prayer,
Oh, never was that holy name
Of grief and sin—to point the way
I've held the child in fond embrace, I've looked upon its mother's face, Where health's returning tints are seen And all is happiness serene.
'Twas thus my tale of love and youth,
Where is she? Eye hath never seen
A crown upon her brow shall rest,
A few short seasons numbered o'er,
THOUGHTS ON PREFACES.
All things must have a beginning, and the beginning is sometimes the best of all things. Morning is the beginning of day—youth of life; spring of the year; and the honeymoon is the commencement of matrimony. Many things, however, have something even before the beginning which is oftentimes better still : a play, even a dull one, may have a witty prologue : a temple has its portico; dinner has a grace before it; a book has its preface; and it is of prefaces to books that we were just now thinking.
The world—that is, the world of readers, forming a tolerably large proportion nowadays of the world at large,-may he divided into two classes : those who never read the preface to a book, and those who never read beyond it.
We well remember in our younger days leaping from the title-page to the first page of the first chapter, clean over the heads of all dedicatory, prefatory, and introductory matter whatever, as so many bars and binderances to the wisdom or the wit that awaited us within the body of the work. We do not so now; for we have often found that what we missed was better than what we gained ; and that as ladies are said to reserve the point of their epistles for the postscripts, so an author sometimes puts his best wit into the preface. Besides, we like the preface-we like to have the first salutation of an author-we discover his address and manners in it, and as they, like those of other friends, do not invariably improve upon acquaintance, we are glad not to lose his first bow—the smile at meeting with his gentle and courteous reader—the becoming diffidence with which he presents himself to your notice, before familiarity has made him pert, and practice tempted him to be prolix.
We propose then, as we have observed before, to say a few words upon prefaces: the legitimate prelude to all books in modern days whether good, bad, or indifferent. We repeat expressly in modern days, for however essential they may be considered now, it is certain that the ancients were ignorant of the good or the evil, the use or the abuse of such customary mode of making their advances to the public in order to bespeak their favour or avert their censure. If they dedicated, as they sometimes did, to a patron or a friend, a work of science or of literature, the dedication was inwoven with the book itself, and became merely the first part and parcel thereof; and figured not, as we are fated to see it, in the form of a long adulatory detached invocation. Thus, for instance, Tully might address his Orator to Brutus, or Plutarch his Lives to Senecio.
Their prefaces, too, were in like manner rather incorporated with the work itself than appended to it; even when the matter contained in them formed no necessary part of the subject, but was so completely distinct and disjointed, that however beautiful they appear as pieces of disquisition, we are at a loss to discover how they found their way to the place they are in. Of this species of preface we have indeed two beautiful examples in the Catalinarian and Jugurthine wars of Sallust.
May.-VOL. LXII. NO. ccxlv.
" The things we know to be both rich and rare,
But wonder how the devil they got there." Polybius opens the first book of his History with an introductory discourse on the value and use of that study; but it is a mere exordium of the work, and certainly contains nothing of what is usually found in the thing we call a preface.
Lord Shaftesbury, who was an enthusiastic admirer and follower of the ancients, has expressed the highest contempt for this kind of composition, and considers it as the resource only of weakness and cowardice.
"To judge of the circumstances of a modern author," says that elegant and accomplished nobleman, “by the pattern of his prefaces, dedications, and introductions, one would think that at the moment when a piece of his was in hand, some conjuration was forming against him-some diabolical powers drawing together to blast his work, and cross his generous design. He therefore rouses his indignation, hardens his forehead and with many furious defiances and avaunt Satan !s, enters on his business."*
It would require more time and more learning than we are masters of at present, to go deep into the present question, and investigate the causes which have produced so considerable a difference in the practice of ancient and modern authors.
As there are some prefaces which may be the best things to be found in the books to which they are prefixed, so there are some of the best books without prefaces. Prefaces vary in their title. Dryden called his celebrated preface to Juvenal a “Dedication to Lord Dorset”— and indeed he made it so; Locke entitled his to the “ Essay on Human Understanding," an “ Epistle to the Reader;” Milton disdained to court his reader in a preface to the “ Paradise Lost,” and proudly prefixed only a few words touching “ The Verse;" Hume has no preface to his “ History,” nor Smith to the “ Wealth of Nations.” And yet we incline to think that some of the finest compositions in the English language are prefaces; we could name many in evidence of this. Dryden's prefaces to his Juvenal, which we have just alluded to, and his “ Fables ;" Pope's prefaces to his translation of " Homer," and his edition of “Shakspeare;” Dr. Johnson to his “ Dictionary,” and his edition of “Shakspeare;” Parr's dedication of the “Warburtonian Tracts” to Hurd.
The first and greatest master of Dedication was Dryden, a writer whose prose has been considered by no incompetent critics - Mr. Fox we believe was one of them as the standard of English style. Now nearly all the compositions which we have of that great poet, meaning his compositions in prose, are either dedications or prefaces, or both. Prefaces in the form of dedications; disquisitions of the most varied elegance of the most acute and ingenious criticism in the form of prefaces. There is indeed a variety and an exuberance in the language of Dryden that is almost unequalled.
In the famous dedication of “ Juvenal” to the Duke of Dorset, we have an example of the two blended—the form and the flattery being expressly those of dedication, the matter for the greater part turned into a discourse, profuse in learning, lively,
* Charact., vol. i. Soliloq.; or, Advice to an Author.