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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
JOHN LORD SOMMERS,
BARON OF EVESHAM.
SHOULD not act the Part of an impartial Spectator, if I Dedicated the following Papers to one who is not of the most consummate and most acknowledged Merit. None but a person of a finished Character can be the proper Patron of a Work, which endeavours to Cultivate and Polish Human Life, by promoting Virtue and Know ledge, and by recommending whatsoever may be either Useful or Ornamental to Society,
I know that the Homage I now pay You, is offering a kind of Violence to one who is as solicitous to shun Applause, as he is assiduous to deserve it. But, my Lord, this is perhaps the only Particular in which your Prudence will be always disappointed.
While Justice, Candor, Equanimity, a Zeal for the Good! of your Country, and the most persuasive Eloquence in bringing over others to it, are valuable Distinctions, You are not to expect that the Publick will so far comply with your Inclinations, as to forbear celebrating such extraordinary Qualities. It is in vain that You have endeavoured to conceal your Share of Merit, in the many National Services which You have effected. Do what You will, the present Age will be talking of your Virtues, tho' Posterity alone will do them Justice.
Other Men pass through Oppositions and contending Interests in the Ways of Ambition, but Your Great Abilities have been invited to Power, and importuned to accept of Advancement. Nor is it strange that this should happen to your Lordship, who could bring into the Service of Your Sovereign the Arts and Policies of Ancient Greece and Rome; as well as the most exact Knowledge of our own Constitution in particular, and of
the interests of Europe in general; to which I must also add, a certain Dignity in Yourself, that (to say the least of it) has been always equal to those great Honours which have been conferred upon You.
It is very well known how much the Church owed to You in the most dangerous Day it ever saw, that of the Arraignment of its Prelates; and how far the Civil Power, in the Late and present Reign, has been indebted to your Counsels and Wisdom.
But to enumerate the great Advantages which the publick has received from your Administration, would be a more proper Work for an History, than for an Address of this Nature.
Your Lordship appears as great in your Private Life, as in the most Important Offices which You have born. I would therefore rather chuse to speak of the Pleasure You afford all who are admitted into your Conversation, of Your Elegant Taste in all the Polite Parts of Learning, of Your great Humanity and Complacency of Manners, and of the surprising Influence which is peculiar to You in making every one who Converses with your Lordship prefer You to himself, without thinking the less meanly of his own Talents. But if I should take notice of all that might be observed in your Lordship, I should have nothing new to say upon any other Character of Distinction,
Thursday, March 1, 1710 No. 1.
Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem
I HAVE observed that a Reader seldom peruses a Book
with Pleasure, 'till he knows whether the Writer of it be a black or a fair Man, of a mild or cholerick Disposi tion, Married or a Batchelor, with other Particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right under standing of an Author. To gratifie this Curiosity, which is so natural to a Reader, I design this Paper, and my next, as Prefatory Discourses to my following Writings, and shall give some Account in them of the several Persons that are engaged in this Work. As the chief Trouble of Compiling, Digesting, and Correcting will fall to my Share, I must do myself the Justice to open the Work with my own History.
I was born to a small Hereditary Estate, which, accord ing to the Tradition of the Village where it lies, was bounded by the same Hedges and Ditches in William the Conqueror's Time that it is at present, and has been delivered down from Father to Son whole and entire, without the Loss or Acquisition of a single Field or Meadow, during the Space of six hundred Years. There runs a Story in the Family, that when my Mother was gone with Child of me about three Months, she dreamt that she was brought to Bed of a Judge: Whether this might proceed from a Law-Suit which was then depend ing in the Family, or my Father's being a Justice of the Peace, I cannot determine; for I am not so vain as to think it presaged any Dignity that I should arrive at
No. 1. in my future Life, though that was the_Interpretation Thursday, which the Neighbourhood put upon it. The Gravity of my Behaviour at my very first Appearance in the World, and all the Time that I sucked, seemed to favour my Mother's Dream: For, as she has often told me, I threw away my Rattle before I was two Months old, and would not make use of my Coral 'till they had taken away the Bells from it.
As for the rest of my Infancy, there being nothing in it remarkable, I shall pass it over in Silence, I find, that, during my Nonage, I had the Reputation of a very sullen Youth, but was always a Favourite of my School-master, who used to say, that my Parts were solid and would wear well. I had not been long at the University, before I distinguished my self by a most profound Silence: For during the Space of eight Years, excepting in the publick Exercises of the College, I scarce uttered the Quantity of an hundred Words; and indeed do not remember that I ever spoke three Sentences together in my whole Life, Whilst I was in this Learned Body I applied myself with so much Diligence to my Studies, that there are very few celebrated Books, either in the Learned or the Modern Tongues, which I am not acquainted with.
Upon the Death of my Father I was resolved to travel into Foreign Countries, and therefore left the University, with the Character of an odd unaccountable Fellow, that had a great deal of Learning, if I would but show it. An insatiable Thirst after Knowledge carried me into all the Countries of Europe, in which there was any thing new or strange to be seen; nay, to such a Degree was my Curiosity raised, that having read the Controversies of some great Men concerning the Antiquities of Egypt, I made a Voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the Measure of a Pyramid; and as soon as I had set my self right in that Particular, returned to my Native Country with great Satisfaction
I have passed my latter Years in this City, where I am frequently seen in most publick Places, tho' there are not above half a dozen of my select Friends that know me; of whom my next Paper shall give a more particular Account. There is no place of general Resort,