Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

PREFACE

TO

THE THIRD VOLUME

OF

SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE'S LETTERS, 1703.*

The following papers are the last of this, or indeed of any kind, about which the author ever gave me his particular commands. They were corrected by himself, and fairly transcribed in his lifetime. I have in all things followed his directions as strictly as I could ; but accidents unforeseen having since intervened, I have thought convenient to lessen the bulk of this volume. To which end, I have omitted several letters addressed to persons with whom this author corresponded without any particular confidence, farther than upon account of their posts: because great numbers of such letters, procured out of the office, or by other means, (how justifi. able I shall not examine,) have been already printed : but, running wholly upon long dry subjects of business, have met no other reception than merely what the reputation of the author would give them. If I could have foreseen an end of this trade, I should, upon some considerations, have longer forborn sending these into the world. But I daily hear, that new discoveries of original letters are hasting to the press : to stop the current of which, I am forced to an earlier publication than I designed. And therefore I take this occasion to inform the reader, that these letters, ending with the author's revocation from his employments abroad, (which in less than two years was followed by his retirement from all public business,) are the last he ever intended for the press; having been selected by himself from great numbers yet lying among

* This was a separate publication, intended to complete the series of Temple's political correspondence.

his

papers. If I could have been prevailed with by the rhetoric of booksellers, or any other little regards, I might easily, instead of retrenching, have made very considerable additions: and by that means have perhaps taken the surest course to prevent the interloping of others. But, if the press must needs be loaded, I would rather it should not be by my means. And therefore I may hope to be allowed one word in the style of a publisher, (an office liable to much censure without the least pretensions to merit or to praise,) that if I have not been much deceived in others and myself, the reader will hardly find one Letter in this collection unworthy of the author, or which does not contain something either of entertainment or of use.

PREFACE'

TO

THE THIRD PART

OF

SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE'S MEMOIRS ;*

FROM THE PEACE CONCLUDED 1679 TO THE TIME OF THE AU

THOR'S RETIREMENT FROM PUBLIC BUSINESS.

[FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1709.]

Et ille quidem plenus annis obiit, plenus honoribus, illis etiam quos recusavit.-PLIN. EPIST. ii. 1.

It was perfectly in compliance to some persons for whose opinion I have great deference, that I so long withheld the publication of the following papers. They seemed to think, that the freedom of some passages in these Memoirs might give offence to several who were still alive; and whose part in those affairs which are here related, could not be transmitted to posterity with any advantage to their reputation. But whether this objection be in 'itself of much weight, may perhaps be disputed ; at least it should have little with me, who am under no restraint in that particular ; since I am not of an age to remember those transactions, nor had any acquaintance with those persons whose counsels or proceedings are condemned, and who are all of them now dead.

* The Third Part of Sir William Temple's Memoirs, he himself declared to be “ written for the satisfaction of my friends hereafter, upon the grounds of my retirement, and resolution never to meddle again with any public affairs, from this present February, 1680-1." As they embraced the latter part of the reign of Charles II., they contained many particulars affecting the character of the statesmen who occupied the stage during that bustling and intriguing period. Several of Sir William Temple's friends, and in particular his sister Lady Gifford, judged the Memoirs on this account unfit for publication. But, although Swift deferred his intention at their request, he afterwards resumed it, and printed the work with the following preface ; at which Lady Gifford was so much incensed, as to publish an advertisement against him ; nor does there at any time afterwards

appear to have been a reconciliation. The price received by Swift for the Memoirs, appears from a document published by Mr Nichols, to have been forty pounds.

But, as this author is very free in exposing the weakness and corruptions of ill ministers, so he is as ready to commend the abilities and virtue of others, as may be observed from several passages of these Memoirs ; particularly of the late Earl of Sunderland, with whom the author continued in the most intimate friendship to his death; and who was father of that most learned and excellent lord, now secretary of state: as likewise, of the present Earl of Rochester ; and the Earl of Godolphin, now lord treasurer, represented by this impartial author as a person at that time deservedly entrusted with so great a part in the prime ministry; an office he now executes again with such universal applause, so much to the Queen's honour and his own, and to the advantage of his country, as well as of the whole confederacy.

There are two objections I have sometimes heard to have been offered against those Memoirs that were printed in the author's life-time, and which these now published may perhaps be equally liable to. First, to the matter; that the author speaks too much of himself: next, as to the style; that he affects the use of French words, as well as some turns of expression peculiar to that language.

I believe, those who make the former criticism do not well consider the nature of memoirs : it is to the French (if I mistake not) we chiefly owe that manner of writing: and Sir William Temple is not only the first, but I think the only Englishman, (at least of any consequence,) who ever attempted it. The best French memoirs are writ by such persons as were the principal actors in those transactions they pretend to relate, whether of wars or negotiations. Those of Sir William Temple are of the same nature; and therefore, in my judgment, the publisher* (who sent them into the world without the author's privity) gave them a wrong title, when he called them “ Memoirs of what passed in Christendom,” &c. whereas it should rather have been

Memoirs of the Treaty at Nimeguen,” which was plainly the sense of the author, who in the epistle tells his son, that “ in compliance with his desire, he will leave him some memoirs of what passed in his public employments abroad ;” and in the book itself, when he deduces an account of the state of war in Christendom, he says, it is only to prepare the reader for a relation of that famous treaty; where he and Sir Lionel Jenkins were the only mediators that continued any considerable time; and as the author was first in commission, so in point of abilities or credit, either abroad or at home, there was

[ocr errors]

They were first published in 1689, by R. Chiswell, whose advertisement is preserved in Temple’s Works, vol. II. p. 242.

« PredošláPokračovať »