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at home and abroad. On the receipt of the first quarter, a large share of my allowance was appropriated to my literary wants. I cannot forget the joy with which I exchanged a bank-note of twenty pounds for the twenty volumes of the Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions ; nor would it have been easy, by any other expenditure of the same sum, to have procured so large and lasting a fund of rational amusement. At a time when I most assiduously frequented this school of ancient literature, I thus expressed my opinion of a learned and various collection, which since the year 1759 has been doubled in magni. tude, though not in merit-“ Une de ces societés qui ont mieux immortalisé Louis XIV, qu’une ambition souvent pernicieuse aux hommes, commençoit déjà ces recherches qui réunissent la justesse de l'esprit, l'aménité, et l'érudition: où l'on voit tant de découvertes, et quelquefois, ce qui ne cède qu'à peine aux découvertes, une ignorance modeste et savante.” The review of my library must be reserved for the period of its maturity; but in this place I may allow myself to observe, that I am not conscious of having ever bought a book from a motive of ostentation; that every volume, before it was deposited on the shelf, was either read or sufficiently examined ; and that I soon adopted the tolerating maxim of the elder Pliny, “ nullum esse librum tam malum ut non ex aliqua parte prodesset.” I could not yet find leisure or courage to renew the pursuit of the Greek language, excepting by reading the lessons of the Old and New Testament every Sunday, when I attended the family
to church. The series of my Latin authors was less · strenuously completed; but the acquisition, by inhe
ritance or purchase, of the best editions of Cicero, Quintilian, Livy, Tacitus, Ovid, &c. afforded a fair prospect, which I seldom neglected. I persevered in the useful method of abstracts and observations; and a single example may suffice, of a note which had almost swelled into a work. The solution of a passage of Livy (xxxviii. 38) involved me in the dry and dark treatises of Greaves, Arbuthnot, Hooper, Bernard, Eisenschmidt, Gronovius, La Barré, Freret, &c.; and in my French essay (chap. 20) I ridiculously send the reader to my own manuscript remarks on the weights, coins, and measures of the ancients, which were abruptly terminated by the militia drum.
As I am now entering on a more ample field of society and study, I can only hope to avoid a vain and prolix garrulity, by overlooking the vulgar crowd of my acquaintance, and confining myself to such intimate friends among books and men, as are best entitled to my notice by their own merit and reputation, or by the deep impression which they have left on my mind. Yet I will embrace this occasion of recommending to the young student a practice which about this time I myself adopted. After glancing my eye over the design and order of a new book, I suspended the perusal till I had finished the task of selfexamination, till I had revolved, in a solitary walk, all that I knew or believed, or had thought, on the subject of the whole work, or of some particular chapter: I was then qualified to discern how much the author added to my original stock ; and if I was sometimes satisfied by the agreement, I was sometimes alarmed by the opposition, of our ideas. The favourite companions of my leisure were our English writers since the Revolution : they breathe the spirit of reason and liberty; and they most seasonably contributed to restore the purity of my own language, which had been corrupted by the long use of a foreign idiom. By the judicious advice of Mr Mallet I was directed to the writings of Swift and Addison ; wit and simplicity are their common attributes : but the style of Swift is supported by manly original vigour; that of Addison is adorned by the female graces of elegance and mildness. The old reproach, that no British altars had been raised to the muse of history, was recently disproved by the first performances of Robertson and Hume, the histories of Scotland and of the Stuarts. I will assume the presumption of say ing, that I was not unworthy to read them : nor will I disguise my different feelings in the repeated perusals. The perfect composition, the nervous language, the well-turned periods of Dr Robertson, inflamed me to the ambitious hope that I might one day tread in his footsteps ; the calm philosophy, the careless inimitable beauties of his friend and rival, often forced me to close the volume with a mixed sensation of delight and despair.
The design of my first work, the Essay on the Study of Literature, was suggested by a refinement of vanity, the desire of justifying and praising the object of a favourite pursuit. In France, to which my ideas were confined, the learning and language of Greece and Rome were neglected by a philosophic age. The guardian of those studies, the Academy of Inscriptions, was degraded to the lowest rank among the three royal societies of Paris : the new appellation of Erudits was contemptuously applied to the successors of Lipsius and Casaubon; and I was provoked to hear (see M. d'Alembert, ‘Discours préliminaire à l'Encyclopédie ') that the exercise of the memory, their sole merit, had been superseded by the nobler faculties of the imagination and the judgment. I was ambitious of proving by my own example, as well as by my precepts, that all the faculties of the mind may be exercised and displayed by the study of ancient literature; I began to select and adorn the various proofs and illustrations which had offered themselves in reading the ciassics; and the first pages or chapters of my Essay were composed before my departure from Lausanne. The hurry of the journey, and of the first weeks of my English life, suspended all thoughts of serious application : but my object was ever before my eyes; and no more than ten days, from the first to the eleventh of July, were suffered to elapse after my summer establishment at Buriton. My Essay was finished in about six weeks; and as soon as a fair copy had been transcribed by one of the French prisoners at Petersfield, I looked round for a critic and judge of my first performance. A writer can seldom he content with the doubtful recompense of solitary approbation ; but a youth ignorant of the world, and of himself, must desire to weigh his talents in some scales less partial than his own: my conduct was natural, my motive laudable, my choice of Dr Maty judicious and fortunate. By descent and education Dr Maty, though born in Holland, might be considered as a Frenchman; but he was fixed in London by the practice of physic, and an office in the British Museum. His reputation was justly founded on the eighteen volumes of the 'Journal Brittannique,' which he had supported, almost alone, with perseverance and success. This humble though useful labour, which had once been dignified by the genius of Bayle and the learning of Le Clerc, was not disgraced by the taste, the knowledge, and the judgment, of Maty: he exhibits a candid and pleasing view of the state of literature in England during a period of six years (January 1750—December 1755 ;) and, far different from his angry son, he handles the rod of criticism with the tenderness and reluctance of a parent. The author of the Journal Brittannique' sometimes aspires to the character of a poet and philosopher : his style is pure and elegant; and in his virtues, or even in his defects, he may be ranked as one of the last disciples of the school of Fontenelle. His answer to my first letter was prompt and polite : after a careful examination he returned my manuscript, with some animadversion and much applause; and when I visited London in the ensuing winter, we discussed the design and execution in several free and familiar conversations. In a short excursion to Buriton I reviewed my Essay, according to his friendly advice; and after suppressing a third, adding a third, and altering a third, I consummated my first labour by a short preface, which is dated February 3d, 1759. Yet I still shrunk from the press with the terrors of virgin modesty: the manuscript was safely deposited in my desk ; and as my attention was engaged by new objects, the delay might have been prolonged till I had fulfilled the precept of Horace, “nonumque prematur in annum." Father Sirmond, a learned Jesuit, was still more rigid, since he advised a young friend to expect the mature age of fifty, before he gave himself or his writings to the public. (Olivet, Histoire de l'Académie Françoise, tom. ii. p. 143.) The counsel was singular ; but it is still more singular that it should have been approved by the example of the author. Sirmond was himself fifty-five years of age when he published (in 1614) his first work, an edition of Sidonius Apollinaris, with many valuable annotations : (see his Life, before the great edition of his works in five volumes folio, Paris, 1696, é Typographia Regia).
Two years elapsed in silence : but in the spring of 176) I yielded to the authority of a parent, and complied, like a pious son, with the wish of my own heart.* My private resolves were influenced by the
* Journal, March 8th, 1758.]—I began my Essai sur l'Etude de la Littérature, and wrote the 23 first chapters (excepting the following ones, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22) before I left Switzerland.
July 11th. I again took in hand my Essay; and in about six weeks finished it, from C. 23—55. (excepting 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, and note to C. 38) besides a number of chapters from C. 55 to the end, which are now struck out.
Feb. Ilth, 1759. I wrote the chesters of my Essay, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, the note to C. 38, and the first part of the preface.
April 23d, 1761. Being at length, by my father's advice, determined to publish my Essay, I revised it with great care, made many alterations, struck out a considerable part, and wrote the chapters from 57–78, which I was obliged myself to copy out fair.