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HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL

PREFACE

TO

THE SPECTATOR.

IF

F we are allowed to consider the popular Essay as a new species of composition, we may without hesitation affirm, that it arrived nearly at perfection in the hands of the first inventors. İn real value as well as in estimation with the public, no work has ever exceeded that of which we are now to trace the history. The irregularities, whether of plan or execution, which may be discovered in the Tatler, are excluded from its immediate successor, which, although not altogether faultless, is more uniform in all the valuable purposes of instruction, and all the excellencies of style and invention. STEELE and ADDISON appear to have used the TATLER as a kind of exercise, a trial of skill, to determine what they could produce, and what the public expected, " quid ferreant humeri, quid recusant," and having made suitable preparations, they entered conjointly on that structure which should bear the name of THE

VOL. VI.

HISTORICAL AND

MONUMENT*," a work on which praise has been exhausted, and which we shall find it difficult to characterise without the repetition of acknowledged truths. Succeeding EssAYISTS bave presented to the world labours of a similar kind both in purpose and accomplishment, which have justly entitled them to distinguished fame, but none of them have provoked or wished to provoke, any comparison with the general merit of the SPECTATOR.

It has subsisted in the plenitude of its original popularity for nearly a century, and no composition merely human, has been so frequently printed and read. It has been so universally the delight of every youth of taste or curiosity, that perhaps our fondness for this work might be ranked among the prejudices of education, had it not stood the test of maturer years and fastidious criticism.

When STEELE had once secured the services of ADDISON, when he saw not only what they had produced, but what they might produce, he could not but review the imperfections and inequalities of the TATLER with a wish that his potent auxiliary had been called in sooner, and that instead of improving an indigested plan, he had been invited to take a share in one concerted with more regularity. It cannot be rash to conjecture that such reflections might pass in STEELE's mind, when he determined to conclude the TATLER, a measure which Swift ignorantly attributes to scantiness of materials, or want of public encouragement. It appears from

* Preface to the TATLER, Life of STEELE.

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