Obrázky na stránke

countrymen, that two editions sufficed for more than a century. The first was faithfully published from the original manuscript, in 1716, by Dr. John Jeffery, Archdeacon of Norwich; the second in 1756, by Dr. Samuel Johnson; who enriched it with a life of the author and some short explanatory notes. For the next we were indebted to Mr. Wilkin in 1835.*

Athough the greater part of this work is preceptive, yet in some of its later sections the meek and venerable man doffs the teacher's gown, and gives us again glimpses of that sweet character which he had in part unveiled before, and whose entire disclosure makes this piece of mental biography one of the most curious and interesting books in our language. The twenty-second section (the longest in CHRISTIAN MORALS) is irresistibly touching when viewed in this personal light; and it will be difficult to see it in any other, if with the opening words “In seventy or eighty years a man may have a deep

* It is printed in the fourth volume of his edition of Sir Thomas Browne's Works. RELIGIO MEDICI appears in the second.


gust of the world,' we combine the recollection that

he who wrote them was then between seventy and eighty years of age.

There is another passage among the outpourings of this more stately Montaigne which I can never read without applying the close of it to himself, although he whom the compellation of little flock did deject on account of his own unworthiness, may have thought of no one less than of himself when it dropt from his pen:— Though human souls are said to be equal, yet is there no small inequality in their operations; some maintain the allowable station of men, many are far below it; AND SOME





In lieu of the accompaniments withheld from the present edition of RELIGIO MEDICI others are substituted whose utility it is hoped may not be questioned. Neither that work nor its sequel CHRISTIAN MORALS is severely methodical: it is the more desirable therefore that the substance of the several divisions of each should be indicated, that the reader might be put in possession of a brief abstract of the volume by which he may be enabled to recur to particular portions of it with facility. The editor has adhered in these tables to the language of his author; but it was often found difficult (and sometimes impossible) to express in a line or two the contents of sections so laden with thought as those of Sir Thomas

* See pp. 223, 230.


They are likewise studded with forcible and remarkable words, which may perhaps be advantageously pointed out by an Index. That which has been prepared is not confined to peculiar and uncommon terms, but embraces familiar ones whenever they are employed in a peculiar sense or in some unwonted construction. One of the chief advantages of a dictionary may be said to lie in the examples it affords of the sense in which words have been used by the best writers. As this adjunct of the present edition will lead to a great number of striking passages in these Contemplations which have not been adduced either by Dr. Johnson or Mr. Richardson, it may be found to serve as an exemplary supplement to our two principal lexicographers. Probably none who have felt the comfort of a full index, or the misery of a lank one, will be inclined to murmur at the somewhat unusual copiousness of that which is here offered

to their acceptance.

Like most writers of his time Sir Thomas Browne

was capricious or careless in regard to orthography. That of the two lexicographers just mentioned has therefore been followed, whose agreement upon this point seems to offer at length a convenient and desirable standard whereby to regulate what was once so tormentingly precarious. Few men with


in their hand are more innocently employed than he who is engaged in reediting a good old book. It may save him perchance from adding a new and needless one to the swarms already existing that serve only to distract weaker judgments, and to maintain the trade and


mystery of typographers.'* The pleasant task which I have just accomplished has brought its own reward by making me better acquainted with this volume of up-raising ethicks. If I should be instrumental in causing it to be more generally read than heretofore that circumstance will bring with it fresh matter of grateful remembrance.



New Year's Day, 1844.

* REL. Med. p. 46. Or it may be a safe way of adopting, without arrogancy, the counsel of Lord Bacon :-“ For the opinion of plenty is among the causes of want, and the great quantity of books maketh a show rather of superfluity than lack; which surcharge, nevertheless, is not to be remedied by making no more books, but by making more good books, which as the serpent of Moses might devour the serpents of the enchanters.”—Advancement of Learning. book ii.

« PredošláPokračovať »