صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

hatham ni mitt The Hist hashi 1r PREFACÉta, Nay. 17. 1846

A WHOLE TREATISE is really no more than the developřent of one idea; and a process, somewhat similar to the composition of a volume, is performed by the mind at every suggestion of a leading thought-at every demon. stration of an important truth.

Reading, is to proceed by analysis to the investigation of this first thought, and its discovery is often the last part of the process; but in thinking it out, the mind works synthetically, and the subject, in all its combinations, as a perfect whole, is the result.

To him who has leisure and opportunity, the former course is by far the more agreeable; but he who would make a practical use of all he has the means of learning, should deny himself the luxury of reading, and use it only as a stimulus to the powers of thought.

It is for the use of this latter description of persons that the present work has been prepared:-upon the principle of extracting the leading thought from each volume, and placing it so before the mind that after perusal it may invite and attract, and even compel the powers of reason and judgment to congenial and profitable exercise.

There is sometimes as much in the way in which a truth is stated as in the truth itself. In this volume the best writers of all ages and nations are made to utter their best thoughts in their own words. He who carefully reads the Pocket Lacon takes a view from a favourable point of the wide field of classic and philosophic literature.

The compiler has not rejected a nervous passage, strong in its meaning and powerful in its language, merely because the sentiment it may imbody is controvertible; but in such cases he has generally endeavoured to give both sides of the argument, from advocates of equal ability. He has high authority for this part of his arrangement, for, says Milton in his Areopagitica, “ though all the winds of doctrine were let loose upon the earth, so truth be but in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood

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Rims ** grapple? who ever knew her put to the worse in a free and - - open encounter?”

In apology for such extracts as have been taken from books now little read, the compiler can only say with Dr. Johnson, He that recalls the attention of mankind to any part of learning which time has left behind it, may be truly said to advance the literature of his own age.”

The same admirable writer supplies the best excuse, if any excuse be needed, for thus collecting and re-setting the scattered gems of genius, when he says:-“Particles of science are often very widely scattered, and writers of extensive comprehension have incidental remarks upon topics very remote from the principal subject, which are often more valuable than formal treatises, and which are not known because not promised in the title. He that collects these is very laudably employed, as he facilitates the progress of others, and by making that easy of attainment which is already written, may give some adventurous mind leisure for new thoughts and original designs."

Is farther authority required? Voltaire asserts the absolute necessity of works like this:-" The multiplicity of facts and writings,” he observes, " is become so great, that every thing must soon be reduced to extracts.”

And what is the pretension of the compiler? His object is not so much to teach men things of which they are ignorant, as to remind them of what they know; not so much to make men read (to borrow MONTESQUIEU's expression) as to make them think.

And what is the subject of this work? The mind of man,-investigated, not by disquisition, but by the voluntary exhibition of its several faculties, set forth in active exercise. It is an anatomy of the mental powers, selfdemonstrated, in the vigour of life and action, free and unrestrained. It will teach men how to think, and suggest materials of thought without the pedantry of learning and at a small expense of time or money. Such has been the aim of the compiler; how far he has succeeded is a question which the public only can decide.

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On the Analogy between Things Material and Intellectual. -As all things, both material and intellectual, are derived from the same Omnipotent Author, we shall find, on an accurate examination, that there is a certain analogy which runs through them all, well worthy of our attention and admiration; that is, that there are in the elements of the world, and in the passions and actions of mankind, powers and propensities of a similar nature, which operate in a similar manner throughout every part of the material, moral, and political system. But this theory, rather abstruse, is difficult to be explained, and will be best elucia dated by examples, which every day fall within our observation,

In the material world, for instance, we see all disorders cured by their own excesses. A sultry calm fails not to produce a storm, which dissipates the noxious vapours and restores a purer air—the fiercest tempest, exhausted by its own violence, at length subsides, and an intense sunshine, whilst it parches up the thirsty earth, exhales clouds, which quickly water it with refreshing showers. Just so in the moral world, all our passions and vices, by their excesses, defeat themselves; excessive rage renders men impotent to execute the mischiefs which they threaten; repeated treacheries make them unable to de

ceive, because none will trust them; and extreme profligacy, by the diseases which it occasions, destroys their appetites and works an unwilling reformation.

As in the natural world, the elements are restrained in their most destructive effects, by their mutual opposition, so in the moral, are the vices of mankind prevented from being totally subversive of society, by their continually counteracting each other: profusion restores to the public the wealth which avarice has detained from it for a time; envy clips the towering wings of ambition; and even revenge, by its terrors, prevents many injuries and oppressions; the treachery of the thief discovers his accomplices; the perfidy of the prostitute brings the highwayman to justice; and the villany of an assassin puts an end to the cruelty of a tyrant.

In the material world, the middle climates farthest removed from the extremes of heat and cold, are the most salubrious, and most pleasant; so in life, the middle ranks are ever most favourable to virtue and to happiness; which dwell not in the extremes of poverty or riches.

As throughout the various regions of the earth, advantages and inconveniences are distributed with a more im. partial hand than we, on a transitory view, are apt to imagine; so are they to the various conditions of human lífe: if the more southern climates are gilded with a brighter sunshine, perfumed with more fragrant gales, and decorated with a greater profusion of plants and flowers, they are at the same time perpetually exposed to pestilential heats, infested with noxious animals, torn by hurricanes, and rocked by earthquakes, unknown to the rougher regions of the north. In like manner, if the rich enjoy luxuries, from which the poor are debarred, they suffer many diseases and disquietudes, from which those are fortunately exempted.

We behold with admiration the vivid azure of the vaulted sky, and variegated colours of the distant clouds; but, if we approach them on the summit of some lofty mountain, we discover that the beauteous scene is all illusion, and find ourselves involved only in a dreary fog or a tempestuous whirlwind: just so, in youth, we look up with pleasing expectation to the pleasures and honours, which we fondly imagine will attend maturer age; at which, if we arrive, the brilliant prospect vanishes in disappointment, and we meet with nothing more than a dull inactivity, or turbulent contentions.

The properties of the various seasons of the year, the gaieties of the spring, the vigour of summer, the serenity of autumn, and the gloom of winter, have been so often assimilated to the corresponding periods of human life; the dangers and disquietudes of grandeur, so often compared to the tempestuous situations of lofty mountains; and the quiet safety of inferior stations, to the calm security of the humble vale, that a repetition of them here would be impertinent and useless; yet they all contribute to point out that analogy which uniformly pervades every part of the creation with which we are acquainted.

Between the material and political world this analogy is still more conspicuous: in the former, every particle of matter, of which the vast machine is composed, is actuated by that wonderful principle of attraction, which restrains, impels, and directs its progress to the destined end: in the latter, every individual of which the great political body is formed, is actuated by self-interest, a principle exactly similar, which, by a constant endeavour to draw all things to itself, restrains, impels, and directs his passions, designs, and actions, to the important ends of government and society. As the first operates with force

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