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My sex, my age, have not given me many opportunities of mingling in the world ; there may be in it many a species of absurdity which I have never seen, and among them such vanity as pleases itself with false praise bestowed on another, and such superstition as worship idols, without supposing them to be gods.
But the truth is, that a very small part of the reputation of this mighty genius depends upon the naked plot or story of his plays. He lived in an age when the books of chivalry were yet popular, and when therefore the minds of his auditors were not accustomed to balance probabilities, or to examine nicely the proportion between causes and effects. It was sufficient to recommend a story, that it was far removed from common life, that its changes were frequent, and its close pa. thetic.
This disposition of the age concurred so happily with the imagination of Shakspeare, that he had no desire to reform it; and indeed to this he was indebted for the licentious variety, by which he made his plays more entertaining than those of any other author.
He had looked with great attention on the scenes of nature ; but his chief skill was in human actions, passions and habits ; he was therefore delighted with such tales as afforded numerous incidents, and exhibited many characters in many changes of situation. The characters are so copiously diversified, and some of them so justly pursued, that his works may be considered as a map of life, a faithful miniature of human transactions ; and he that has read Shakspeare with attention will perhaps find little new in the crowded world.
Among his other excellences it ought to be remark. ed, because it has hitherto been unnoticed, that his heroes are men, that the love and hatred, the hopes and fears of his chief personages are such as are common to other human beings, and not like those which later times have exhibited, peculiar to phantoms that strut upon the stage.
It is not perhaps very necessary to inquire whether the vehicle of so much delight and instruction be a story probable or unlikely, native or foreign. Shakspeare's excellence is not the fiction of a tale, but the representation of life ; and his reputation is therefore safe, till human nature shall be changed. Nor can he, who has so many just claims to praise, suffer by losing that which ignorant admiration has unreasonably given him. To calumniate the dead is baseness, and to flatter them is surely folly.
From flattery, my lord, either of the dead or the living, I wish to be clear, and have therefore solicited the countenance of a patron, whom, if I knew how to praise him, I could praise with truth, and have the world on my side ; whose candour and humanity are universally acknowledged, and whose judgment perhaps was then first to be doubted, when he condescended to admit this address from,
Payne's Introduction to the GAME of DRAUGHTS.
TO THE RIGHT HON. WILLIAM HENRY, EARL OF ROCHFORD, &c.
MY LORD, WHEN I take the liberty of addressing to your lordship, A Treatise on the Game of Draughts, I easily foresee that I shall be in danger of suffering ridicule on one part, while I am gaining honour on the other, and that many who may envy me the distinction of approaching you, will deride the present I presume to offer.
Had I considered this little volume as having no purpose beyond that of teaching a game, I should indeed have left it to take its fate without a patron. Triflers may find or make any thing a trifle ; but since it is the great characteristic of a wise man to see events in their causes, to obviate consequences, and ascertain contingences, your lordship will think nothing a trifle by which the mind is inured to caution, foresight, and circumspection. The same skill, and often the same degree of skill, is exerted in great and little things, and your lordship may sometimes exercise, on a harmless game, those abilities which have been so happily employed in the service of your country.
Jam, my lord,
The EVANGELICAL HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST: harno
nized, explained, and illustrated. 2 vols. 8vo. 1758.
TO THE LORDS SPIRITUAL AND TEMPORAL, AND COMMONS IN
That we are fallen upon an age in which corruption is barely not universal, is universally confessed. Venality sculks no longer in the dark, but snatches the bribe in public ; and prostitution issues forth without shame, glittering with the ornaments of successful wickedness. Rapine preys on the public without opposition, and perjury betrays it without inquiry. Irreligion is not only avowed but boasted; and the pestilence that used to walk in darkness, is now destroying at noon day.
Shall this be the state of the English nation, and shall her lawgivers behold it without regard ? Must the torrent continue to roll on till it shall sweep us into the gulf of perdition ? Surely there will come a time when the careless shall be frighted, and the sluggish shall be roused; when every passion shall be put upon the guard by the dread of general depravity ; when he who laughs at wickedness in his companion, shall start from it in his child; when the man who fears not for his soul, shall tremble for his possessions ; when it shall be discovered that religion only can secure the rich from robbery, and the poor from oppression ; can defend the state from treachery, and the throne from assassination.
If this time be ever to come, let it come quickly ; a few years longer, and perhaps all endeavours will be vain. We may be swallowed by an earthquake, we may be delivered to our enemies, or abandoned to that discord
which must inevitably prevail among men that have lost all sense of divine superintendence, and have no higher motive of action or forbearance, than present opinion of present interest.
It is the duty of private men to supplicate and propose ; it is yours to hear and to do right. Let religion be once more restored, and the nation shall once more be great and happy. This consequence is not far distant ; that nation must always be powerful where every man performs his duty; and every man will perform his duty that considers himself as a being whose condition is to be settled to all eternity by the laws of Christ.
The only doctrine by which man can be made wise unto salvation, is the will of God, revealed in the books of the old and the new Testament.
To study the scriptures, therefore, according to his abilities and attainments, is every man's duty, and to facilitate that study to those whom nature hath made weak, or education has left ignorant, or indispensable cares detain from regular processes of inquiry, is the business of those who have been blessed with abilities and learning, and are appointed the instructors of the lower classes of men, by that common father, who distributes to all created beings their qualifications and employments ; who has allotted some to the labour of the hand, and some to the exercise of the mind; has commanded some to teach, and others to learn ; has prescribed to some the patience of instruction, and to others the meekness of obedience.
By what methods the unenlightened and ignorant may be made proper readers of the word of God, has been