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the life of a student, when he ventures to reveal the measure of his mind: his hopes and fears are multiplied by the idea of self-importance, and he believes for awhile that the eyes of mankind are fixed on his person and performance. Whatever may be my present reputation, it no longer rests on the merit of this first essay; and at the end of twenty-eight years I may appreciate my juvenile work with the impartiality, and almost with the indifference, of a stranger. In his answer to lady Hervey, the count de Caylus admires, or affects to admire," les livres sans nombre que Mr Gibbon a lus et très bien lus." But, alas! my stock of erudition at that time was scanty and superficial; and if I allow myself the liberty of naming the Greek masters, my genuine and personal acquaintance was confined to the Latin classics. The most serious defect of my Essay is a kind of obscurity and abruptness which always fatigues, and may often elude, the attention of the reader. Instead of a precise and proper definition of the title itself, the sense of the word Littérature is loosely and variously applied a number of remarks and examples, historical, critical, philosophical, are heaped on each other without method or connection; and if we except some introductory pages, all the remaining chapters night indifferently be reversed or transposed. The obscurity of many passages is often affected, " brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio;" the desire of expressing perhaps a common idea with sententious and oracular brevity. Alas! how fatal has been the imitation of Montesquieu! But this obscurity sometimes proceeds from a mixture of light and darkness in the author's mind; from a partial ray which strikes upon an angle, instead of spreading itself over the surface of an object. After this fair confession, I shall presume to say, that the Essay does credit to a young writer of two and twenty years of age, who had read with taste, who thinks with freedom, and who writes in a foreign language with spirit and elegance. The
defence of the early History of Rome and the new Chronology of sir Isaac Newton form a specious argument. The patriotic and political design of the Georgics is happily conceived; and any probable conjecture, which tends to raise the dignity of the poet and the poem, deserves to be adopted without a rigid scrutiny. Some dawnings of a philosophic spirit enlighten the general remarks on the study of history and of man. I am not displeased with the inquiry into the origin and nature of the gods of polytheism, which might deserve the illustration of a riper judgment. Upon the whole, I may apply to the first labour of my pen the speech of a far superior artist, when he surveyed the first productions of his pencil. After viewing some portraits which he had painted in his youth, my friend sir Joshua Reynolds acknowledged to me, that he was rather humbled than flattered by the comparison with his present works; and that, after so much time and study, he had conceived his improvement to be much greater than he found it to have been.
At Lausanne I composed the first chapters of my Essay in French, the familiar language of my conversation and studies, in which it was easier for me to write than in my mother-tongue. After my return to England I continued the same practice, without any affectation, or design, of repudiating (as Dr Bentley would say) my vernacular idiom.. But I should have escaped some anti-gallican clamour, had I been content with the more natural character of an English author. I should have been more consistent, had I rejected Mallet's advice of prefixing an English dedication to a French book; a confusion of tongues that seemed to accuse the ignorance of my patron. The use of a foreign dialect might be excused by the hope of being employed as a negociator, by the desire of being generally understood on the continent; but my true motive was doubtless the ambition of new and singular fame-an Englishman claiming a place among
the writers of France. The Latin tongue had been consecrated by the service of the church; it was refined by the imitation of the ancients; and in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the scholars of Europe enjoyed the advantage, which they have gradually resigned, of conversing and writing in a common and learned idiom. As that idiom was no longer in any country the vulgar speech, they all stood on a level with each other; yet a citizen of old Rome might have smiled at the best Latinity of the Germans and Britons; and we may learn from the Ciceronianus' of Erasmus, how difficult it was found to steer a middle course between pedantry and barbarism. The Romans themselves had sometimes attempted the more perilous task of writing in a living language, and appealing to the taste and judgment of the natives. The vanity of Tully was doubly interested in the Greek memoirs of his own consulship; and if he modestly supposes that some Latinisms might be detected in his style, he is confident of his own skill in the art of Isocrates and Aristotle; and he requests his friend Atticus to disperse the copies of his work at Athens, and in the other cities of Greece (ad Atticum, i. 19. ii. 1.) But it must not be forgotten, that from infancy to manhood Cicero and his contemporaries had read, and declaimed, and composed, with equal diligence in both languages; and that he was not allowed to frequent a Latin school till he had imbibed the lessons of the Greek grammarians and rhetoricians. In modern times the language of France has been diffused by the merit of her writers, the social manners of the natives, the influence of the monarchy, and the exile of the Protestants. Several foreigners have seized the opportunity of speaking to Europe in this common dialect; and Germany may plead the authority of Leibnitz and Frederic, of the first of her philosophers. and the greatest of her kings. The just pride and laudabie prejudice of England has restrained this communication of idioms; and of all the nations on this
side of the Alps, my countrymen are the least practised and least perfect in the exercise of the French tongue. By sir William Temple and lord Chesterfield it was only used on occasions of civility and business, and their printed letters will not be quoted as models of composition. Lord Bolingbroke may have published in French a sketch of his 'Reflections on Exile:' but his reputation now reposes on the address of Voltaire, "Docte sermonis utriusque linguæ:" and by his English dedication to queen Caroline, and his
Essay on Epic Poetry,' it should seem that Voltaire himself wished to deserve a return of the same compliment. The exception of count Hamilton cannot fairly be urged; though an Irishman by birth, he was educated in France from his childhood. Yet I am surprised that a long residence in England, and the habits of domestic conversation, did not affect the ease and purity of his inimitable style; and I regret the omission of his English verses, which might have afforded an amusing object of comparison. I might therefore assume the "primus ego in patriam," &c. but with what success I have explored this untrodden path must be left to the decision of my French readers. Dr Maty, who might himself be questioned as a foreigner, has secured his retreat at my expense. ne crois pas que vous vous piquiez d'être moins facile à reconnoître pour un Anglois que Lucullus pour un Romain." My friends at Paris have been more indulgent; they received me as a countryman, or at least as a provincial; but they were friends and Parisians.* The defects which Maty insinuates, "Ces traits saillans, ces figures hardies, ce sacrifice de la règle au sentiment, et de la cadence à la force," are the faults
*The copious extracts which were given in the 'Journal Etranger' by Mr Suard, a judicious critic, must satisfy both the author and the public. I may here observe, that I have never seen in any literary review a tolerable account of my History. The manufacture of journals, at least on the continent, is miserably debased.
of the youth rather than of the stranger: and after the long and laborious exercise of my own language, I am conscious that my French style has been ripened and improved.
I have already hinted that the publication of my Essay was delayed till I had embraced the military profession. I shall now amuse myself with the recollection of an active scene, which bears no affinity to any other period of my studious and social life.
In the outset of a glorious war the English people had been defended by the aid of German mercenaries. A national militia has been the cry of every patriot since the Revolution; and this measure, both in parJiament and in the field, was supported by the country gentlemen, or Tories, who insensibly transferred their loyalty to the house of Hanover: in the language of Mr Burke, they have changed the idol, but they have preserved the idolatry. In the act of offering our names, and receiving our commissions, as major and captain in the Hampshire regiment, (June 12th, 1759,) we had not supposed that we should be dragged away, my father from his farm, myself from my books, and condemned during two years and a half (May 10, 1760 December 23, 1762,) to a wandering life of military servitude. But a weekly or monthly exercise of thirty thousand provincials would have left them useless and ridiculous; and after the pretence of an invasion had vanished, the popularity of Mr Pitt gave a sanction to the illegal step of keeping them till the end of the war under arms, in constant pay and duty, and at a distance from their respective homes. When the king's order for our embodying came down, it was too late to retreat, and too soon to repent. The south battalion of the Hampshire militia was a small independent corps of four hundred and seventy-six, officers and men, commanded by lieutenant-colonel sir Thomas Worsley, who, after a prolix and passionate contest, delivered us from the tyranny of the lord lieutenant, the duke of Bolton. My proper station,