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Oh for a quill plucked from a Seraph's wing !
So the Poet exclaimed; and his exclamation may be quoted as one example more of the vanity of human wishes; for in order to get a Seraph's quill it would be necessary, according to Mrs. Glasse's excellent item in her directions for roasting a hare, to begin by catching a Seraph. A quill from a Seraph's wing is, I confess, above my ambition ; but one from a Peacock's
1 tail was within my reach; and be it known unto all people, nations and languages, that with a Peacock's quill this Preface hath been penned - literally—truly, and bona-fidely speaking. And this is to write, as the learned old Pasquier says, pavonesquement, which in latin minted for the nonce may be rendered pavonice and in English peacockically or peacockishly, whichever the reader may like best. That such a pen has verily and indeed been used upon this occasion I affirm. I affirm it upon the word of a true man; and here is a Captain of his Majesty's Navy at my elbow, who himself made the pen, and who, if evidence were required to the fact, would attest it by as round an oath as ever rolled over a right English tongue. Norwill the time easily escape his remembrance, the bells being at this moment ringing, June 4, 1814, to celebrate the King's birthday, and the public notification that peace has been concluded with France.
I have oftentimes had the happiness of seeing due commendation bestowed by gentle critics, unknown admirers and partial friends upon my pen, which has been married to all amiable epithets:-classical, fine, powerful, tender, touching, pathetic, strong, fanciful, daring, elegant, sublime, beautiful. I have read these epithets with that proper satisfaction which when thus applied they could not fail to impart, and sometimes qualified the pride which they inspired by looking at the faithful old tool of the Muses beside me, worn to the stump in their service; the one end mended up to the quick in that spirit
of economy which becomes a son of the Lackland family, and shortened at the other by the gradual and alternate processes of burning and biting, till a scant inch only is left above the finger place. Philemon Holland was but a type of me in this respect. Indeed I may be allowed to say that I have improved upon his practice, or at least that I get more out of a pen than he did, for in the engraved title-page to his Cyrupædia, where there appears the Portrait of the Interpres marked by a great D inclosing the Greek letter Ø (which I presume designates Doctor Philemon) ætatis suæ 80. Ao. 1632, it may be plainly seen that he used his
pen only at one end. Peradventure he delighted not, as I do, in the mitigated ammoniac odour.
But thou, O gentle reader, who in the exercise of thy sound judgment and natural benignity wilt praise this Preface, thou mayest with perfect propriety bestow the richest epithets upon the pen wherewith its immortal words were first clothed in material forms. Beautiful, elegant, fine, splendid, fanciful, will be to the very letter of truth : versatile it is
as the wildest wit; flexible as the most monkey-like talent; and shouldst thou call it tender, I will whisper in thine ear—that it is only too soft. Yet softness may be suitable; for of my numerous readers one half will probably be soft by sex, and of the other half a very considerable proportion soft by nature. Soft therefore be the Pen and soft the strain.
I have drawn up the window blinds (though sunshine at this time acts like snuff upon the mucous membrane of my nose) in order that the light may fall upon this excellent Poet's wand as I wave it to and fro, making cuts five and six of the broad-sword exercise. Every feather of its fringe is now lit up by the sun; the hues of green and gold and amethyst are all brought forth ; and that predominant lustre which can only be likened to some rich metallic oxyd; and that spotof deepest purple, the pupil of an eye for whose glorious hue neither metals nor flowers nor precious stones afford a resemblance: its likeness is only to be found in animated life, in birds and insects whom nature seems to have formed when she was most pro
digal of beauty: I have seen it indeed upon the sea, but it has been in some quiet bay when the reflection of the land combined with the sky and the ocean to produce it.
And what can be more emblematicof the work which I am beginning than the splendid instrument wherewith the Preface is traced ? What could more happily typify the combination of parts each perfect in itself when separately considered, yet all connected into one harmonious whole; the story running through like the stem or back-bone, which the episodes and digressions fringe like so many featherlets, leading up to that catastrophe, the gem or eye-star, for which the whole was formed, and in which all terminate. They who are versed in the doctrine of
sympathies and the arcana of correspondences as revealed to the Swedish Emanuel, will doubtless admire the instinct or inspiration which directed my choice to the pavonian Pen. The example should be followed by all consumers of ink and quill. Then would the lover borrow a feather from the turtle dove. The lawyer