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NOTHING can be more interesting than this little book, containing a lively picture of the opinions and conversation of one of the most eminent scholars and most distinguished patriots England has produced, living at a period the most eventful of our history: there are few volumes of its size $0 pregnant with sense, combined with the most profound learning : it is impossible to open it, without finding some important fact or discussion, something practically useful and applicable to the business of life: it may be said of it, as of that exquisite little manual, lord Bacon's Essays, " after the twentieth perusal one seldom fails to remark in it something overlooked before.”
Dr, Wilkins, the editor of Selden's works, has attempted to discredit the authenticity of the • Table Talk,' upon the ground of its containing many things unworthy of a man of Selden's erudition, and at variance with his principles and practice : but this objection is far from conclusive, and the compilation has such a complete and unaffected air of genuineness, that we have no hesitation in giving credit to the assertion of Richard Milward, Selden's amanuensis, who says that it was faithfully committed to writing, from time to time, during the long period of twenty years, in which he enjoyed the opportunity of daily hearing his discourse, and of recording the excellent things that usually fell from him: he appeals to the executors and friends of Selden, that such was the usual manner of his patron's conversation; and this dedicatory appeal to them is no slight testimonial of the veracity of his assertion.
It is true, that the familiar, and sometimes coarse manner in which many of the subjects discussed are illustrated, is not such as might have been expected from a profound scholar; but Selden, with all his learning, was a man of the world, familiar with the ordinary scenes of common life, and knew how to bring abstruse subjects home to the business and bosoms of men of ordinary capacity, in a manner at once perspicuous and agreeable.
It is remarkable, that the style of Selden, in those English compositions published during his life, appears harsh and obscure; but lord Clarendon, who knew him well, tells us, “ that he was a clear discourser, and possessed the faculty of making difficult things easy, and presenting them clearly to the understanding." This faculty is every where apparent in the following pages, which are replete with the fruits of his varied and extensive erudition, illustrated in the most plain, and sometimes in the happiest manner, by familiar parallels, without pedantry, and without pretension. In preparing the present edition for the press, the text of the first edition, printed in 4to. London, 1989, under the care of Richard Milward, has been scrupulously followed, the orthography alone having been reformed.
Selden was born at Salvington, an obscure village on the coast of Sussex, near Terring, and not far from Worthing, on the 16th of December, 158+: his father was a substantial yeoman, and had very much bettered his condition by marriage with the only daughter of Thomas Baker, of Rushington, descended from an ancient and knightly family of that name: it was his skill in music which obtained him his wife, who was mother to this “great dictator of learning, and glory of the English nation.” Selden received the rudiments of education at the free school of Chichester, and was from thence, at the age of sixteen, sent to the university of Oxford, and entered of Hart Hall, under the tuition of Anthony Barker, a relation of his master at Chichester school. His progress at college was more than usually rapid; and he left it with a high reputation in about four years, to pursue the study of the law in the Inner Temple, where he was admitted in May, 1604. He became so sedulous a student, and his proficiency so .well known, that he was soon in very extensive practice as a chamber counsel; but he does not seem to have appeared frequently at the bar. His devotion to his profession did not prevent him