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rors excepteil.-" Take Nature for your guide," lays the critic; « follow her and you can't “ go wrong.” True, most fagacious critic, I reply ; but what is so difficult ? Does the tragic poet always find her out ? Does the comic writer never miss her haunts? Yet they profess to paint from nature, and no doubt they do their best : the outline may be true, but the least Nip in filling it up mars the portrait; it demands a steady hand, a faithful eye, a watchful judgment, to make the likeness perfect; and grant it perfect, the author's work will gain no praise, unless it be pleasing also; for who opens a novel but in the expectation of being amused by it ? . « Let it be merry,” says one, “ for I love to laugh.”-“ Let it be pathetic,” says a second, “ for I have no objection to the melancholy tale that makes me weep;"_" Let your characters be strongly marked,” cries a third, “your fable well imagined, and work it up with a variety of new and striking incidents, for I like to have my attention kept alive.”- These and a hundred more are the demands, which one poor brain is to satisfy in a work of fancy; wit, humour, character, invention, genius, are to be fet to work together, fiction is to be combined with pro
bability, novelty with nature, ridicule with good-humour, passion with morality, and pain with pleasure ; every thing is to be natural, yet nothing common; animating, but not infiammatory; interesting, but not incredible ; in short, there must be every thing that judgment can plan and genius execute, to make the composition perfect: no man has done all this, and he, who has done most towards it, has still fallen very short of the whole.
With all this conscioufness about me, I yet do not despair, but that the candid reader will find something in this fable to overbalance its miscarriages. I shall proceed as one, who knows his danger, but is not discouraged from his duty. These children of my fancy, whom I have brought into existence, I shall treat as they deserve, dealing out their portions of honour and dishonour as their conduct seems to call for it; and though some amongst them will probably persist in acting an evil part to the last, yet collectively they will leave no evil leffon behind them.
As to our hero, if he has been so fortunate as to gain an interest in the good opinion of the reader in this period of his history, I am bold to hope he will not forfeit it in the suc
ceeding ceeding occurrences of his life, but that he Thall preserve a consistent character to the end; that so, when his part is finished, be it happy or unhappy, he may earn a plaudit as the curtain drops.
I do not aim to draw a perfect character, for after a pretty long acquaintance with man- . kind I have never met with any one example of the fort: how then shall I describe what I have not seen? On the contrary, if I wish to form a character, like this of Henry, in which virtue predominates, or like that of Blachford, where the opposite qualities prevail, I have nature before me in both cases : but if in the former instance I will not suffer a single shade to fall upon my canvas, and in the latter do not let one tint of light appear, what do I present to the spectator, but a confused and shapeless mass, here too glaring, and there too opaque, to preserve any outline that can give to view the form and fashion of a man? --The brightest side of human nature is not without a spot, the darkest side is not without a spark.
For my own part, as I am not apt to be amused with stories told to the discredit of mankind, I should be sorry if this of mine appeared to any of my readers to have thąt
tendency in the general. A contrast of character there will be in all histories, true or feigned; but when an author is the biographer of men and women of his own making, he has it in his power, without losing sight of nature, to let the prevailing impression of his fable be favourable or unfavourable, and indulge his own propensities to a certain degree which ever way they point. Now I know not why we should studioudly put forward nonc but the worst features of the time we live in; yet I think this has been done by some novelists of great celebrity, in whom there reigns a spirit of satire, that in my opinion neither adds to their merit nor our amusement. A pedant, who fecludes himself from fociety, may nourish a cynical humour; but a writer, who gives the living manners of the age, is supposed to live amongst men, and write from the crowd rather than the closet; now if such a man runs about from place to place with no cleanlier purpose than to search for filth and ordure, I conceive his office to be that of a scavenger racher than a scholar. An honest man, as I take it, will always find honesty enough, and a friendly man meet friendship enough in his contemporaries, to keep him in
good-humour with them. Something indeed may be found to reprehend in all times; as the manners and the morals fluctuate, the mirror that reflects them faithfully will give to objects as they pass their proper form and feature. In the time I am now writing, the national character shews itself in so bright a point of view, that the author must be harsh in the extreme, who holds up fictions of depravity as exemplars of the æra in which he lives.
I think I may promise myself, therefore, that the general spirit of my history will not be thought morose. I have, indeed, taken occasion, in the character of Jemima Cawdle, to make free with enthusiasm; but I have at the same time exhibited it in contact with a virtu'ous principle, under the auspices of my wortly friend Ezekiel Daw: I have described a domestic tyrant in the person of Lord Crowbery; but I did not give him a title because I. thought that pride was attached to a peerage, or that the cruel and overbearing part which my fable assigns to him, was characteristic of nobility, the very contrary of which I hold for doctrine ; neither did I locate Blachford in Jamaica, as favouring an invective against our countrymen in the West Indies; no man, I