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I pretend no other part than the care that Mr Downton's book should be correctly transcribed, and the letters placed in the order they were writ. I have also made some literal amendments, especially in the Latin, French, and Spanish ; these I took care should be translated and printed in another column, for the use of such readers as may be unacquainted with the originals. Whatever fault there may be in the translation, I doubt I must answer for the greater part, and must leave the rest to those friends who were pleased to assist me. I speak only of the French and Latin ; for the few Spanish translations I believe need no apology.
It is generally believed that this author has advanced our English tongue to as great a perfection as it can well bear; and yet how great a master he was of it, as I think, never appeared so much as it will in the following letters, wherein the style appears so very different, according to the difference of the persons to whom they were addressed ; either men of business or idle, of pleasure or serious, of great or of less parts or abilities, in their several stations ; so that one may discover the characters of most of those persons he writes to, from the style of his letters.
At the end of each volume, is added a collection, copied by the same hand, of several letters to this ambassador, from the chief persons employed, either at home or abroad, in these transactions, and during six years' course of his negotiations ; among which are many from the pensionary John de Witt, and all the writings of this kind that I know of, which remain of that minister, so renowned in his time.
It has been justly complained of as a defect among us, that the English tongue has produced no letters of any
value ; to supply which it has been the vein of late years, to translate several out of other languages, though I think with little success ; yet among many advantages, which might recommend this sort of writing, it is certain that nothing is so capable of giving a true account of stories, as letters are ; which describe actions while they are breathing, whereas all other relations are of actions past and dead ; so as it has been observed, that the 'epistles of Cicero to Atticus give a better account of those times, than is to be found in any other writer.
In the following letters the reader will everywhere discover the force and spirit of this author ; but that which will most value them to the public, both at home and abroad, is, first, that the matters contained in them were the ground and foundation, whereon all the wars and invasions, as well as all the negotiations and treaties of peace in Christendom, have since been raised. And next, that they are written by a person who had so great a share in all those transactions and negotiations.
By residing in his family, I know the author has had frequent instances from several great persons, both at home and abroad, to publish some memoirs of those affairs and transactions, which are the subject of the following papers ; and particularly of the treaties of the triple alliance, and those of Aix-la-Chapelle ; but his usual answer was, that whatever memoirs he had written of those times and negotiations were burnt ; however, that perhaps after his death some papers might come out, wherein there would be some account of them. By which, as he often told me, he meant these letters.
I had begun to fit them for the press during the author's life, but never could prevail for leave to publish them; though he was pleased to be at the pains of reviewing, and to give me his directions for digesting them in order. It has since pleased God to take this great and good person to himself; and he having done me the honour to leave and recommend to me the care of his writings, I thought I could not at present do a greater service to my country, or to the author's memory, than by making these papers public.
By way of introduction, I need only take notice, that after the peace of the Pyrenees, and his Majesty's happy restoration in 1660, there was a general peace in Christendom, (except only the remainder of a war between Spain and Portugal,) until the year 1665; when that between England and Holland began, which produced a treaty between his Majesty and the Bishop of Munster. And this commences the following letters.
THE THIRD PART
SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE'S MISCELLANEA,
The two following essays, “ Of Popular Discontents," and “Of Health and Long Life,” were written many years before the author's death. They were revised and corrected by himself; and were designed to have been part of a Third Miscellanea, to which some others were to have been added, if the latter part of his life had been attended with any sufficient degree of health.
For the third paper, relating to the controversy about “ Ancient and Modern Learning,” I cannot well inform the reader upon what occasion it was writ, having been at that time in another kingdom; but it appears never to have been finished by the author.
* These Miscellanies form an additional volume to two of the same description, which Sir William Temple had published during his own life.
+ It seems very improbable that Dr Swift should be altogether ignorant of the famous dispute about“ Ancient and Modern Learning.” VOL. IX.
The two next papers contain the heads of two essays intended to have been written upon the “ Different Conditions of Life and Fortune,” and upon “ Conversation.” I have directed they should be printed among the rest, because I believe there are few who will not be content to see even the first draught of anything from the author's hand.
At the end I have added a few translations from Virgil, Horace, and Tibullus, or rather imitations, done by the author above thirty years ago ; whereof the first was printed among other Eclogues of Virgil, in the year 1679, but without any mention of the author. They were indeed not intended to have been made public, till I was informed of several copies that were got abroad, and those very imperfect and corrupt. Therefore the reader finds them here, only to prevent him from finding them in other places very faulty, and perhaps accompanied with many spurious additions.
If he had not made his public declaration, he would highly, and with justice, have resented the being taxed by any other with being ignorant of
a passage which made so great a noise in the commonwealth of learning. At this time, however, the doctor, (being generally suspected of being the author of “The Tale of a Tub,” which came abroad some time before, and which he did not think fit to own,) might fancy, that by his disclaiming the knowledge of the occasion on which Sir William wrote the above Essay, he should weaken the suspicion of his having written “ The Tale of a Tub," which last is a subsidiary defence of Sir William Temple. D. S.