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Altar of St. Ignatius ; all painted with the utmost Accuracy, in their proper Colours.
As the value of this great Collection may be conceived from this Account, however imperfect, as the Variety of Subjects must engage the Curiosity of Men of different Studies, Inclinations, and Employments, it may be thought of very little Use to mention any flighter Advantages, or to dwell on the Decorations and Embellishments which the Generosity of the Proprietors has bestowed upon it; yet, since the Compiler of the Thuanian Catalogue thought not even that Species of Elegance below his Obfervation, it may not be improper to observe, that the Harleian Library, perhaps, excels all others, not more in the Number and Excellence, than in the Splendor of its Volumes.
We may now surely be allowed to hope, that our Catalogue will not be thought unworthy of the pub. lic Curiosity; that it will be purchased as a Record of this great Collection, and preserved as one of the Memorials of Learning.
The Patrons of Literature will forgive the Purchaser of this Library, if he presumes to affert fome Claim to their Protection and Encouragement, as he may have been instrumental in continuing to this Nation the Advantage of it. The Sale of Voffius's Collection into a foreign Country, is, to this Day, regretted by Men of Letters; and if this Effort for the Prevention of another Loss of the same Kind should be disadvantageous to him, no Man will hereafter willingly risqué his Fortune in the Cause of Learning
A DISSERTATION ON AUTHORS.
Scire velim quare toties mihi, Nævole, triftis Occuris fronte obductâ, ceu Marsya victus. Juv.
HERE is no Gift of Nature, or Effect of
Art, however beneficial to Mankind, which, either by casual Deviations, or foolish Perversions, is not sometimes mischievous. Whatever may be the Cause of Happiness, may be made likewise the Cause of Misery. The Medicine, which rightly applied, has Power to cure, has, when Rashness or Ignorance prescribes it, the fame Power to destroy.
I have computed, at fome Hours of Leisure, the Loss and Gain of Literature, and set the Pain which it produces against the Pleasure. Such Calculations are indeed at a great Distance from mathematical Exactness, as they arise from the Induction of a few Particulars, and from Observations made rather according to the Temper of the Computist, than the Nature of Things. But such a narrow Survey as can be taken, will easily shew that Letters cause many Blessings, and inflict many Calamities; that there is scarcely an Individual who may not consider them as immediately or mediately influencing his Life, as they are chief Instruments of conveying Knowledge, and transmitting Sentiments; and almost every Man learns, by their Means, all that is right or wrong in his Sentiments and Conduct.
If Letters were considered only as Means of Pleasure, it might well be doubted in what Degree of Estimation they should be held; but when they are referred to Neceflity, the Controversy is at an End: It soon appears, that though they may sometimes in.
commode us ; yet human Lise would scarcely rise, without them, above the common Existence of animal Nature: We might indeed breathe and eat in universal Ignorance; but must want all that gives Pleasure or Security, all the Embellishments and Delights, and most of the Conveniencies and Comforts of our present Condition.
Literature is a kind of intellectual Light, which, like the Light of the Sun, may sometimes enable us to see what we do not like ; but who would wish to escape unpleasing Objects, by condemning himself to perpetual Darkness?
Since, therefore, Letters are thus indispensably necessary, since we cannot persuade ourselves to lose their Benefits for the Sake of escaping their Mischiefs, it is worth our serious Enquiry, how their Benefits may be increased, and their Mischiefs leffened; by what Means the Harvest of our Studies may afford us more Corn, and less Chaff; and how the Roses of the Gardens of Science may gratify is more with their Fragrance, and prick us lels with their Thorns.
I shall not, at present, mention the more formidable Evils which the Mifapplication of Literature produces; nor speak of Churches infected with Heresy, States inflamed with Sedition, or Schools infatuated with hypothetical Fictions. These are Evils which Mankind have always lamented; and which, till Mankind grow wise and modest, they must, I am afraid, continue to lament, without Hope of Remedy. I shall now touch only on some lighter and less extensive Evils, yet such as are sufficiently heavy to. those that feel them; and are of late so widely diffusęd, as to deserve, though perhaps not the Notice of the Legislature, yet the Confideration of those whose Benevolence inclines them to a voluntary Care of public Happiness.
It was long ago observed by Virgil, and I suppose by many before him, that Bees do not make Honey for
their own Use: The Sweets which they collect in their laborious Excursions, and store up in their Hives with so much Skill, are seized by those who have contributed neither Toil nor Art to the Collection ; and the poor Animals are either destroyed by the Invader, or left to shift without a Supply.' The Condition is nearly the same of the Gatherer of Honey and the Gatherer of Knowledge. The Bee and the Author work alike for others, and often lose the Profit of their Labour. The Çase, therefore, of Authors, however hitherto neglected, may claim Regard. Every Body of Men is important according to the joint Proportion of their Usefulness and their Number. Individuals, however they may excel, cannot hope to be considered Gingly as of great Weight in the political Balance; and Multitudes, though they may, merely by their Bulk, demami Some Notice, are yet not of much Value, unless they contribute to ease the Burthen of Society, by -Co-operating to its Profperity.
Of the Men, whose Condition we are now examining, the Usefulness never was disputed: They are known to be the great Disseminators of Knowledge, and Guardians of the Commonwealth ; and of late their Numbers have been so much increased, that they are become a very confpicuous Part of the Nation. It is not now, as in former Times, when Men studied long, and pafled through the Severities of Discipline, and the Probation of public Trials, before they presumed to think themselves qualified for Instructors of their Countrymen : There is found a nearer Way to Fame and Erudition, and the inclosures of Literature are thrown open to every Man whom Idlenels disposes to loiter, or whom Pride inclines to set himself to View. The Sailor publishes his Journal; the Farmer writes the Process of his annual Labour : He that succeeds in his Trade thinks his Wealth a Proof of his Understanding, and
boldly tutors the Public: He that fails, considers hie Miscarriage as the Consequence of a Capacity too great for the Business of a Shop, and amuses himself in the Fleet with Writing or Translating. The last Century imagined, that a Man composing in his Chariot was a new Object of Curiosity; but how much would the Wonder have been increased, by a Footman studying behind it? There is now no Class of Men without its Authors, from the Peer to the Thresher ; nor can the Sons of Literature be confined any longer to Grubstreet or Moor fields; they are spread over all the Town and all the Country, and fill every Stage of Habitation from the Cellar to the Garret.
It is well known, that the Price of Commodities must always fall as the Quantity is increased, and that no Trade can allow its Professors to be multiplied beyond a certain Number. The great Misery of Writers proceeds from their Multitude. We eafily perceive that in a Nation of Clothiers no Man could have any Cloth to make but for his own Back; that in a Community of Bakers every Man must use his own Bread; and what can be the Case of a Na. tion of Authors, but that every Man must be content to read his Book to himself? For surely it is in vain to hope, that of Men labouring at the same Oc. cupation, any will prefer the work of his Neighbour to his own ; yet this Expectation, wild as it is, seems to be indulged by many of the Writing Race; and therefore it can be no Wonder that, like all other Men who suffer their Minds to form inconfiderate Hopes, they are harrassed and dejected with frequent Disappointments.
If I were to form an Adage of Misery, or fix the lowest Point to which Humanity could fall, I fhould be tempted to name the Life of an Author. Many universal Comparisons there are by which Misery is expressed. We talked of a Man teazed like a Bear at