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THERE was a certain Pisander whose name has been preserved in one of the proverbial sayings of the Greeks, because he lived in continual fear of seeing his own ghost. How often have I seen mine while arranging these volumes for publication, and carrying them through the press!
Twenty years have elapsed since the intention of composing them was conceived, and the composition commenced, in what manner and in what mood the reader will presently be made acquainted. The vicissitudes which in the course of those years have befallen every country in Europe are known to every one; and the changes, which, during such an interval, must have occurred in a private family, there are few who may not, from their own sad experience, readily apprehend.
Circumstances which when they were touched
upon in these volumes were of present importance, and excited a lively interest, belong now to the history of the past. They who were then the great performers upon the theatre of public life have fretted their hour and disappeared from the stage. Many who were living and flourishing when their names were here sportively or severely introduced, are gone to their account. The domestic circle which the introduction describes has in the ordinary course of things been broken up; some of its members are widely separated from others, and some have been laid to rest. The reader may well believe that certain passages which were written with most joyousness of heart, have been rendered purely painful to the writer by time and change: and that some of his sweetest thoughts come to him in chewing the cud, like wormwood and gall.—But it is a wholesome bitterness.
He has neither expunged nor altered any thing on any of these accounts. It would be weakness to do this on the score of his own remembrances, and in the case of allusions to
public affairs and to public men it would be folly. The Almanack of the current year will be an old one as soon as next year begins.
It is the writer's determination to remain unknown; and they who may suppose that
By certain signs here set in sundry place,
they have discovered him, will deceive themselves. A Welsh Triad says that the three unconcealable traits of a person by which he shall be known, are the glance of his eye, the pronunciation of his speech, and the mode of his self-motion;-in briefer English, his look, his voice, and his gait. There are no such characteristics by which an author can be identified. He must be a desperate mannerist who can be detected by his style, and a poor proficient in his art if he cannot at any time so vary it, as to put the critic upon a false scent. Indeed every day's experience shews that they who assume credit to themselves, and demand it from others for their discrimination in such things, are continually and ridiculously mistaken.
On that side the author is safe; he has a
sure reliance upon the honour as well as the discretion of the very few to whom he is naturally or necessarily known; and if the various authors to whom the Book will be ascribed by report, should derive any gratification from the perusal, he requests of them in return that they will favour his purpose by allowing such reports to pass uncontradicted.