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by which he can determine between them. This consideration has induced me to investigate the opinions of my predecessors whenever I happened to differ with them ; but I have not done so wantonly, or in matters of minor import; nor have I at any time digressed from my subject, to reply to opinions with which it was not essentially connected. It will, therefore, be found, that whenever I have combated the opinions of other writers to substantiate my own, I have been elucidating the subject in which I was engaged; and whether I have been successful or not, I have led my reader into that line of inquiry which will enable him, in most cases, to determine between

Had I been guided by a certain false delicacy, I should, perhaps, have been more cautious; but I have always considered this effeminate delicacy the most effectual barrier to the progress of the arts and sciences. He who fears to expose the errors of another when he is acquainted with them, cannot surely possess that independence of mind, without which the most transcendent talents can effect but little in the cause of truth. I am aware that he who attacks the opinions of other writers, even when he demonstrates them to be erroneous, is frequently supposed to do so through the affectation of superior knowledge, or at least through motives less honourable than the disinterested love of truth; but he who fears to pursue that course which his own judgment points out to him, lest he incur suspicions of which he knows himself to be innocent, will eternally hesitate. He only is qualified to write for posterity, who lifts himself above the influence of all personal considerations, whose sole aim is the discovery of truth, and who wishes to see his own opinions disproved, if it be possible to disprove them. But if he will not excuse an error in himself, neither will he connive at it in another, and therefore he unmasks it wherever he detects it. He appreciates as he ought the counsel of Pope, when he says:


“ Be niggards of advice on no pretence;

For the worst avarice is that of sense.
With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust;
Nor be so civil as to prove unjust:
Fear not the anger of the wise to raise :

He best can bear reproof who merits praise." What has a writer to apprehend from speaking as he thinks? Does he fear that the popularity of other writers will prepossess the public mind against such of his opinions as stand opposed to theirs; and that neither perspicuity of diction, ardour of eloquence, nor even the luminous evidence of demonstration itself, can triumph over the prejudices which guard the dominion of established authority? He who is capable of forming such a judgment, is, in every respect, incapable of instructing or improving mankind; and it matters little whether he writes as he thinks, or as others think for him. The judgment, philosophy, and experience of an author, who imagines the public can become a party to any writer, and therefore incapable of appreciating his merits, must eternally range within the empalement of a contracted intellect, beyond the twilight precincts of which, truth and nature are equally concealed from his view; and whatever motives induced him to become a writer, his memory is destined to glide into peaceful oblivion and undisturbed repose. He who has truth on his side, and ability to support it, will force his readers to believe in him whether they will or will not, however powerfully they may be warped by antecedent prejudices or favourite systems. No man has free will over his own understanding, when the object of its contemplation is demonstrated and proved; and, therefore, no man can refuse his assent to truth when it is exposed to him in its original and unmasked simplicity, neither involved amid the undistinguishing distinctions of a misguided but ingenious dialectick, nor enveloped in the stillstand gloom of laborious dulness.

When I sent this work to press, it was my intention to publish my Inquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful along with it, as the greater part of the work was then prepared; but having subsequently

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reflected on the difficulties which a writer, unknown to the literary world, must necessarily encounter in his first appearance before the public, I thought it more prudent to publish my “ Dissertation on Taste” by itself. This, perhaps, may have, in a few instances, (though I am not now aware of any) determined the mode of expression which I have used in the early part of this work; but if any allusions should be made in it to a second or third volume, the reader will attribute them to this circumstance alone.

I am aware that the learned and critical reader will peruse the first production of a writer with more than ordinary scrutiny, particularly when he finds him commencing his literary career with a Dissertation on the most elegant, and the most undefined of subjects: he will call forth that analyzing acumen which has so frequently enabled him to detect the errors, and, if his sympathy has kept pace with his mental acquirements, to lament the wanderings of fancied genius. But whether he assume the haughty attitude of the censorious, or the milder benignity of the impartial critic, I feel equally tranquil as to the final result. I claim no indulgence for error,-on the contrary I shall feel indebted to any person who sets me right, and I will acknowledge with pleasure the justice of his remarks. As I admit no writer to be infallible, I cannot be vain enough to claim that privilege to myself which I deny to others. But while I am thus willing to acknowledge and recant whatever erroneous opinions I may have adopted in the present work, whether they be pointed out to me publicly or privately, yet neither public nor private motives will ever induce me to acknowledge myself in error, till I am first convinced of it, and I will always hold myself in readiness “ to give an account of the faith that is in me." There is one merit which I may be allowed to claim—that of rendering my meaning, and the opinions which I have laboured to establish, clearly understood. That I have been right at all times is more than I can presume to assert; but, right or wrong, I apprehend my readers will be at no loss to discover the spirit and tenor of my arguments, as I have never sought to throw an importance over them, by that studied ambiguity of expression which affects to dignify style by perplexing the understanding; and which always looks most profoundly wise when it is most perfectly unintelligible.

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