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A Prefatory Remark.
Laudatus abundè, si fastiditus non ero.
Ir may not, perhaps, be an injudicious step, in order to prevent disappointment, or anticipate objection, if I apprise the reader of what he has to expect in the following sheets; that he may close the volume, as soon as he has read this little premonition, should he see reason to believe, that its contents would not gratify his curiosity and taste; or, that his criticism may be softened down, if not altogether obviated, should he be well pleased to travel through all its pages, from the beginning to the finis.
I would remark, then, that the earlier portion of the work consists of "recollections" of what I would call my own literary life; and of incidents, connected with the suggestion or publication of my various printed productions. With these are mingled "biographical sketches," more or less comprehensive, of those deceased learned, ingenious, or remarkable persons with whom I had formed an acquaintance, or enjoyed an in
timacy, during a part of their respective lives; together with traits of singular characters, now no more, whom I have encountered, at various times and places, in private society, within the last half century. An apology for the heterogeneous nature of the work follows the "recol"lections and sketches;" and the whole is concluded by an Appendix, consisting of not incurious papers, and of interesting unpublished correspondence.
With respect to the eccentric or peculiar characters to which I have occasionally afforded a place among my sheets, it may be observed that, though they filled no large space in society, and were little known beyond the contracted orbits in which it was their lot to move; yet, the curious habits or singular incidents of their lives appeared to me to promise a chance of entertainment to the reader, sufficient to form an excuse for their introduction. The exhibition of contrasted characters, indeed, is always amusing, and, not unfrequently, improving. Laudable curiosity delights in the contemplation of moral opposites; and lessons of the soundest wisdom, and most valuable experience, may ofttimes be deduced from biographical notices of those who had passed their days in the shades of retirement, or amid the humble intercourse of middle life.
Before I throw aside my pen, I would express
my thanks generally to those who have obligingly furnished me with several original papers for my Appendix and offer my particular acknowledgments to my honoured friend, the present Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, for his kind communication of some curious letters, written by the justly celebrated Dr. Hartley, Laurence Sterne, Dr. Jortin, and Andrew Baxter, the metaphysician.
As my work was intended to be devoted exclusively to the mention of departed friends, and by-gone events, the laudatory notice of living characters would appear to be what lawyers emphatically call " travelling out of the "record," or, in common language, deviating from its purposed plan: I should not, therefore, have here introduced the following quotation from the Berkshire Chronicle, written I know not when, nor by whom, had I not considered it in the light of a tribute (rather than an eulogy) due, in the strictest justice, to the judicious zeal, well-directed energy, and extensive usefulness, of a distinguished prelate; who, after having conferred many public and private blessings on a distant diocese, has, for the last five years, been pursuing the same pious, discreet, and exemplary conduct in that of Bath and Wells.