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Robertson and Hume, the histories of Scotland and of the Stuarts. I will assume the presumption of saying, that I was not unworthy to read them: nor will I disguise my different feelings in the repeated perusals. The perfect composition, the nervous language, the well-turned periods of Dr Robertson, inflamed me to the ambitious hope that I might one day tread in his footsteps; the calm philosophy, the careless inimitable beauties of his friend and rival, often forced me to close the volume with a mixed sensation of delight and despair.
The design of my first work, the Essay on the Study of Literature, was suggested by a refinement of vanity, the desire of justifying and praising the object of a favourite pursuit. In France, to which my ideas were confined, the learning and language of Greece and Rome were neglected by a philosophic age. The guardian of those studies, the Academy of Inscriptions, was degraded to the lowest rank among the three royal societies of Paris: the new appellation of Erudits was contemptuously applied to the successors of Lipsius and Casaubon; and I was provoked to hear (see M. d'Alembert, Discours préliminaire à l'Encyclopédie') that the exercise of the memory, their sole merit, had been superseded by the nobler faculties of the imagination and the judgment. I was ambitious of proving by my own example, as well as by my precepts, that all the faculties of the mind may be exercised and displayed by the study of ancient literature; I began to select and adorn the various proofs and illustrations which had offered themselves in reading the classics; and the first pages or chapters of my Essay were composed before my departure from Lausanne. The hurry of the journey, and of the first weeks of my English life, suspended all thoughts of serious application: but my object was ever before my eyes; and no more than ten days, from the first to the eleventh of July, were suffered to elapse after my summer establishment at Buriton.
My Essay was finished in about six weeks; and as soon as a fair copy had been transcribed by one of the French prisoners at Petersfield, I looked round for a critic and judge of my first performance. A writer can seldom be content with the doubtful recompense of solitary approbation; but a youth ignorant of the world, and of himself, must desire to weigh his talents in some scales less partial than his own: my conduct was natural, my motive laudable, my choice of Dr Maty judicious and fortunate. By descent and education Dr Maty, though born in Holland, might be considered as a Frenchman; but he was fixed in London by the practice of physic, and an office in the British Museum. His reputation was justly founded on the eighteen volumes of the 'Journal Brittannique,' which he had supported, almost alone, with perseverance and success. This humble though useful labour, which had once been dignified by the genius of Bayle and the learning of Le Clerc, was not disgraced by the taste, the knowledge, and the judgment, of Maty: he exhibits a candid and pleasing view of the state of literature in England during a period of six years (January 1750-December 1755;) and, far different from his angry son, he handles the rod of criticism with the tenderness and reluctance of a parent. The author of the Journal Brittannique' sometimes aspires to the character of a poet and philosopher: his style is pure and elegant; and in his virtues, or even in his defects, he may be ranked as one of the last disciples of the school of Fontenelle. His answer to my first letter was prompt and polite : after a careful examination he returned my manuscript, with some animadversion and much applause; and when I visited London in the ensuing winter, we discussed the design and execution in several free and familiar conversations. In a short excursion to Buriton I reviewed my Essay, according to his friendly advice; and after suppressing a third, adding a third, and altering a third, I consummated my first labour
by a short preface, which is dated February 3d, 1759. Yet I still shrunk from the press with the terrors of virgin modesty: the manuscript was safely deposited in my desk; and as my attention was engaged by new objects, the delay might have been prolonged till I had fulfilled the precept of Horace, " nonumque prematur in annum." Father Sirmond, a learned Jesuit, was still more rigid, since he advised a young friend to expect the mature age of fifty, before he gave himself or his writings to the public. (Olivet, Histoire de l'Académie Françoise, tom. ii. p. 143.) The counsel was singular; but it is still more singular that it should have been approved by the example of the author. Sirmond was himself fifty-five years of age when he published (in 1614) his first work, an edition of Sidonius Apollinaris, with many valuable annotations (see his Life, before the great edition of his works in five volumes folio, Paris, 1696, é Typographiâ Regiâ).
Two years elapsed in silence: but in the spring of 1761 I yielded to the authority of a parent, and complied, like a pious son, with the wish of my own heart. My private resolves were influenced by the
*JOURNAL, March 8th, 1758.]-I began my Essai sur l'Etude de la Littérature, and wrote the 23 first chapters (excepting the following ones, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22) before I left Switzerland.
July 11th. I again took in hand my Essay; and in about six weeks finished it, from C. 23-55. (excepting 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, and note to C. 38) besides a number of chapters from C. 55 to the end, which are now struck out.
Feb. 11th, 1759. I wrote the cherters of my Essay, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, the note to C. 38, and the first part of the preface.
April 23d, 1761. Being at 'length, by my father's advice, determined to publish my Essay, I revised it with great care, made many alterations, struck out a considerable part, and wrote the chapters from 57-78, which I was obliged myself to copy out fair.
state of Europe. About this time the belligerent powers had made and accepted overtures of peace; our English plenipotentiaries were named to assist at the congress of Augsburg, which never met: I wished to attend them as a gentleman or a secretary; and my father fondly believed that the proof of some literary talents might introduce me to public notice, and second the recommendations of my friends. After a last revisal, I consulted with Mr Mallet and Dr Maty, who approved the design and promoted the execution. Mr Mallet, after hearing me read my manuscript, received it from my hands, and delivered it into those of Becket, with whom he made an agreement in my name-an easy agreement: I required only a certain number of copies; and, without transferring my property, I devolved on the bookseller the charges and profits of the edition. Dr Maty undertook, in my absence, to correct the sheets: he inserted, without my knowledge, an elegant and flattering epistle to the author, which is composed however with so much art, that, in case of a defeat, his favourable report might have been ascribed to the indulgence of a friend for the rash attempt of a young English gentleman. The work was printed and published, under the title of "Essai sur l'Etude de la Littérature, à Londres, chez T. Becket et P. A. de Hondt, 1761," in a small volume in duodecimo: my dedication to my father, a proper and pious address, was com
June 10th, 1761. Finding the printing of my book proceeded but slowly, I went up to town, where I found the whole was finished. I gave Becket orders for the presents: 20 for Lausanne; copies for the duke of Richmond, marquis of Carnarvon, lords Waldegrave, Litchfield, Bath, Granville, Bute, Shelbourn, Chesterfield, Hardwicke, lady Hervey, sir Joseph Yorke, sir Matthew Featherstone, MM. Mallet, Maty, Scott, Wray, lord Egremont, M. de Bussy, mademoiselle la duchesse d'Aiguillon, and M. le comte de Caylus-great part of these were only my father's or Malet's acquaintance.
posed the twenty-eighth of May: Dr Maty's letter is dated the 16th of June; and I received the first copy (June 23d) at Alresford, two days before I marched with the Hampshire militia. Some weeks afterwards, on the same ground, I presented my book to the late duke of York, who breakfasted in colonel Pitt's tent. By my father's direction, and Mallet's advice, many literary gifts were distributed to several eminent characters in England and France; two books were sent to the count de Caylus, and the duchesse d'Aiguillon, at Paris: I had reserved twenty copies for my friends at Lausanne, as the first fruits of my education, and a grateful token of my remembrance: and on all these persons I levied an unavoidable tax of civility and compliment. It is not surprising that a work, of which the style and sentiments were so totally foreign, should have been more successful abroad than at home. I was delighted by the copious extracts, the warm commendations, and the flattering predictions, of the journals of France and Holland: and the next year (1762) a new edition (I believe at Geneva) extended the fame, or at least the circulation, of the work. In England it was received with cold indiffe rence, little read, and speedily forgotten: a small impression was slowly dispersed; the bookseller murmured, and the author (had his feelings been more exquisite) might have wept over the blunders and baldness of the English translation. The publication of my History fifteen years afterwards revived the memory of my first performance, and the Essay was eagerly sought in the shops. But I refused the permission which Becket solicited of reprinting it: the public curiosity was imperfectly satisfied by a pirated copy of the booksellers of Dublin; and when a copy of the original edition has been discovered in a sale, the primitive value of half-a-crown has risen to the fanciful price of a guinea or thirty shillings.
I have expatiated on the petty circumstances and period of my first publication, a memorable era in