Page images

THE first Twenty-eight Sheets of this Work were

originally Published as the successive Numbers of a Weekly Paper; which was discontinued from the incon

veniences and difficulties of the place, and the mode of Publication.

The Friend;








No. 1. THURSDAY, JUNE 1, 1809.

Crede mihi, non est parvæ fiducia, polliceri opem decertantibus, consilium dubiis, lumen cæcis, spem dejectis, refrigerium fessis. Magna quidem hæc sunt, si fiant; parva, si promittantur. Verum ego non tam aliis legem ponam, quam legem vobis meæ propriæ mentis exponam: quam qui probaverit, teneat; cui non placuerit, abjiciat. Optarem, fateor, talis esse, qui prodesse possem quam plurimis. PETRARCH: "De vita solitaria."

Believe me, it requires no little Confidence, to promise Help to the Struggling, Counsel to the Doubtful, Light to the Blind, Hope to the Despondent, Refreshment to the Weary. These are indeed great Things, if they be accomplished; trifles if they exist but in a Promise. I however aim not so much to prescribe a Law for others, as to set forth the Law of my own Mind; which let the man, whe shall have approved of it, abide by; and let him, to whom it shall appear not reasonable, reject it. It is my earnest wish, I confess, to employ my understanding and acquirements in that mode and direction, in which I may be enabled to benefit the largest number possible of my fellow-creatures.

Ir it be usual with writers in general to find the first paragraph of their works that which has given them the most trouble with the least satisfaction, the Author of THE FRIEND may be allowed to feel the difficulties and anxiety of a first introduction in a more than ordinary degree. He is embarrassed by the very circumstances, that discriminate the plan and purposes of the present weekly paper from those of its' periodical brethren, as well as from its' more dignified literary relations, which come forth at once and in full growth from their parents. If it had been his ambition to copy its' whole scheme and fashion from the great founders of the race, THE TATLER AND SPECTATOR, he would indeed have exposed his Essays to a greater hazard of unkind comparison. An imperfect imitation is often felt as a contrast. On the other hand, however, the very names and descriptions of the fictitious characters, which he had proposed to assume in the course of his work, would have put him at once in possession of the stage; and his first act have opened with a succession of masks. Again, if the Author had

proposed to himself one unbroken work on one given subject, the same acquaintance with its' grounds and bearings, which had authorized him to publish his opinions, would with its principles or fundamental facts have supplied him with his best and most appropriate commence


More easy still would my task have been, had I planned THE FRIEND chiefly as a vehicle for a weekly descant on public characters and political parties. Perfect freedom from all warping influences; the distance which permitted a distinct view of the game, yet secured the Looker-on from its' passions; the LIBERTY OF THE PRESS; and its' especial importance at the present period from-whatever event or topic might happen to form the great interest of the day;-this would have been my recipe! it was ready to my hand! and it was framed so skilfully and has been practised with such constant effect, that it would have been affectation to have deviated from it. Excuse me therefore, gentle reader! if borrowing from my title a right of anticipation, I avail myself of the privileges of a friend before I have earned them; and waiving the ceremony of a formal introduction, permit me to proceed at once to a Principle, trite indeed and familiar as the first lessons of childhood; which yet must be the foundation of my future Superstructure with all its ornaments, the hidden Root of the Tree, I am attempting to rear, with all its Branches and Boughs. But if from this principle I have deduced my strongest moral motives for the present undertaking, it has at the same time been applied in suggesting the most formidable obstacle to my success-as far, I mean, as my Plan alone is concerned, and not the Talents necessary for its' Completion.

Conclusions drawn from facts which subsist in perpetual flux, without definite place or fixed quantity, must always be liable to plausible objections, nay, often to unanswerable difficulties; and yet having their foundation in uncorrupted feeling are assented to by mankind at large, and in all ages, as undoubted truths. Such are all those facts, the knowledge of which is not received from the senses, but must be acquired by reflection; and the existence of which we can prove to others, only as far as we can prevail on them to go into themselves and make their own minds the Object of their stedfast attention. As our notions concerning them are almost equally obscure, so

are our convictions almost equally vivid, with those of our life and individuality. Regarded with awe, as guiding principles by the founders of law and religion, they are the favourite objects of attack with mock philosophers, and the demagogues in church, state, and literature; and the denial of them has in all times, though at various intervals, formed heresies and systems, which, after their day of wonder, are regularly exploded, and again as regularly revived, when they have re-acquired novelty by courtesy of oblivion.

Among these universal persuasions we must place the sense of a self-contradicting principle in our nature, or a disharmony in the different impulses that constitute it -the sense of a something which essentially distinguishes man both from all other animals, that are known to exist, and from the idea of his own nature, from his own conception of the original man. In health and youth we may indeed connect the glow and buoyance of our bodily sensations with the words of a theory, and imagine that we hold it with a firm belief. The pleasurable heat which the Blood or the Breathing generates, the sense of external reality which comes with the strong Grasp of the hand or the vigorous Tread of the foot, may indifferently become associated with the rich eloquence of a Shaftesbury, imposing on us man's possible perfections for his existing nature; or with the cheerless and hardier impieties of a Hobbes, while cutting the gordian knot he denies the reality of either vice or virtue, and explains away the mind's self-reproach into a distempered ignorance, an epidemic affection of the human nerves and their habits of motion. "Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy!" I shall hereafter endeavour to prove, how distinct and different the sensation of positiveness is from the sense of certainty, the turbulent heat of temporary fermentation from the mild warmth of essential life. Suffice it for the present to affirm, (to declare it at least, as my own creed) that whatever humbles the heart and forces the mind inward, whether it be sickness, or grief, or remorse, or the deep yearnings of love (and there have been children of affliction, for whom all these have met and made up one complex suffering) in proportion as it acquaints us with "the thing, we are," renders us docile to the concurrent testimony of our fellow-men in all ages and in all nations. From PASCAL in his closet, resting the arm, which sup

« PreviousContinue »