Imatges de pÓgina
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A Girl at her Devotions

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The Jvy

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GEORGE CRABBE.

TALES OF THE HA L L.

PREFACE.

Ir I did not fear that it would appear to may again be elevated or depressed by the my readers like arrogancy, or if it did not suggestions of vanity and diffidence, and seem to myself indecorous to send two vo- may be again subject to the cold and hot lames of considerable magnitude from the fit of aguish expectation; but he is no press without preface or apology, without more a stranger to the press, nor has the one petition for the reader's attention, or motives or privileges of one who is. With one plea for the writer's defects, I would respect to myself, it is certain they belong most willingly spare myself an address of not to me. Many years have elapsed since this kind, and more especially for these I became a candidate for indulgence as an reasons: first, because a preface is a part inexperienced writer; and to assume the of a book seldom honoured by a reader's language of such a writer now, and to plead perusal; secondly, because it is both diffi- for his indulgences, would be proof of my cult and distressing to write that which ignorance of the place assigned to me, and we think will be disregarded; and thirdly, the degree of favour which I have expebecause I do not conceive that I am called rienced; but of that place I am not uninupon for such introductory matter by any formed, and with that degree of favour I of the motives which usually influence an have no reason to be dissatisfied. author when he composes his prefatory address.

When a writer, whether of poetry or prose, first addresses the public, he has generally something to offer which relates to himself or to his work, and which he considers as a necessary prelude to the work itself, to prepare his readers for the entertainment or the instruction they may expect to receive; for one of these every man who publishes must suppose he affords-this the act itself implies; and in proportion to his conviction of this fact must be his feeling of the difficulty in which he has placed himself: the difficulty consists in reconciling the implied presumption of the undertaking, whether to please or to instruct mankind, with the diffidence and modesty of an untried candidate for fame or favour. Hence originate the many reasons an author assigns for his appearance in that character, whether they actually exist, or are merely offered to hide the motives which cannot be openly avowed; namely, the want or the vanity of the man, as his wishes for profit or reputation may most prevail with him.

Now, reasons of this kind, whatever they may be, cannot be availing beyond their first appearance. An author, it is true, may again feel his former apprehensions,

It was the remark of the pious, but on some occasions the querulous author of the Night Thoughts, that he had “been so long remembered, he was forgotten;" an expression in which there is more appearance of discontent than of submission: if he had patience, it was not the patience that smiles at grief. It is not therefore entirely in the sense of the good Doctor that I apply these words to myself, or to my more early publications. So many years indeed have passed since their first appearance, that I have no reason to complain, on that account, if they be now slumbering with other poems of decent reputation in their day-not dead indeed, nor entirely forgotten, but certainly not the subjects of discussion or conversation as when first introduced to the notice of the public, by those whom the public will not forget, whose protection was credit to their author, and whose approbation was fame to them. Still these early publications had so long preceded any other, that, if not altogether unknown, I was, when I came again before the public, in a situation which excused, and perhaps rendered necessary some explanation; but this also has passed away, and none of my readers will now take the trouble of making any inquiries respecting my motives for writing

or for publishing these Tales or verses of| If there be any combination of circumany description: known to each other as stances which may be supposed to affect readers and authors are known, they will the mind of a reader, and in some degree require no preface to bespeak their good to influence his judgment, the junction of will, nor shall I be under the necessity of youth, beauty, and merit in a female writer soliciting the kindness which experience has may be allowed to do this; and yet one of taught me, endeavouring to merit, I shall the most forbidding of titles is Poems by not fail to receive. a very young Lady,' and this although There is one motive-and it is a power-beauty and merit were largely insinuated. ful one-which sometimes induces an au- Ladies, it is true, have of late little need thor, and more particularly a poet, to ask of any indulgence as authors, and names the attention of his readers to his prefa- may readily be found which rather excite tory address. This is when he has some the envy of man than plead for his lenity. favourite and peculiar style or manner Our estimation of title also in a writer has which he would explain and defend, and materially varied from that of our predechiefly if he should have adopted a mode cessors: Poems by a Nobleman' would of versification of which an uninitiated create a very different sensation in our reader was not likely to perceive either the merit or the beauty. In such case it is natural, and surely pardonable, to assert and to prove, as far as reason will bear us on, that such method of writing has both; to show in what the beauty consists, and what peculiar difficulty there is, which, when conquered, creates the merit. How far any particular poet has or has not succeeded in such attempt is not my business nor my purpose to inquire. I have no peculiar notion to defend, no poetical heterodoxy to support, nor theory of any kind to vindicate or oppose-that which I have used is probably the most common measure in our language; and therefore, whatever be its advantages or defects, they are too well known to require from me a description of the one, or an apology for the other.

minds from that which was formerly excited when they were so announced. A noble author had then no pretensions to a seat so secure on the sacred hill,' that authors not noble, and critics not gentle, dared not attack; and they delighted to take revenge by their contempt and derision of the poet, for the pain which their submission and respect to the man had cost them. But in our times we find that a nobleman writes, not merely as well, but better than other men; insomuch_that_readers in general begin to fancy that the Muses have relinquished their old partiality for rags and a garret, and are become altogether aristocratical in their choice A conceit so well supported by fact would be readily admitted, did it not appear at the same time, that there were in the higher ranks of society men, who could write as tamely, or Perhaps still more frequent than any ex-as absurdly, as they had ever been accused planation of the work is an account of the of doing. We may, therefore, regard author himself, the situation in which he the works of any noble author as extrais placed, or some circumstances of pecu- ordinary productions, but must not found liar kind in his life, education, or employ-any theory upon them, and, notwithstandment. How often has youth been pleaded ing their appearance, must look on genius for deficiencies or redundancies, for the and talent as we are wont to do on time existence of which youth may be an ex- and chance, that happen indifferently to cuse, and yet be none for their exposure. all mankind.

before parted without any feelings of disgust on the one side, or of mortification on the other.

Age too has been pleaded for the errors But whatever influence any peculiar siand failings in a work which the octoge-tuation of a writer might have, it cannot narian had the discernment to perceive, be a benefit to me, who have no such peand yet had not the fortitude to suppress. culiarity. I must rely upon the willingMany other circumstances are made apolo- | ness of my readers to be pleased with that gies for a writer's infirmities; his much which was designed to give them pleasure, employment and many avocations, adver- and upon the cordiality which naturally sity, necessity, and the good of mankind. springs from a remembrance of our having These, or any of them, however availing in themselves, avail not me. I am neither so young nor so old, so much engaged by one pursuit, or by many,-I am not so urged by want, or so stimulated by a desire of public benefit,—that I can borrow one apology from the many which I have named. How far they prevail with our readers, or with our judges, I cannot tell; and it is unnecessary for me to inquire into the validity of arguments which I have not to produce.

With this hope I would conclude the present subject; but I am called upon by duty to acknowledge my obligations, and more especially for two of the following Tales: The Story of Lady Barbara, in Book XVI. and that of Ellen in Book XVIII. The first of these I owe to the kindness of a fair friend, who will, I hope, accept the thanks which I very gratefully pay,

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