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VOLUME the FIRST,
Printed for C. BATHURST, J. BEECROFT, W. STRAHAN, J. and F.RIVINGTON, J. Hinton, L. Davis, Hawes, CLARKE and COLLINS, R. HORSFIELD, W. JOHNSTON, W. Owen, T. CASLON, E. Johnson, S. Crowder, B. White, T. LONGMAN, B. LAW, E. and C. DILLY, C. CORBETT, W. Griffin, T. Cadell, W. WOODPALL, G. Keith, T. Lowndes, T. Davies, J. ROBSON, T. Becker, F. NewBERY, G. Robinson, T. PAYNE, J. WILLIAMS, M. HINGESTON, and J. Ridley.
P R E F A CE.
HAT praises are without reason lavished on the dead, and that the honours due only to
excellence are paid to antiquity, is a complaint likely to be always continued by those, who, being able to add nothing to truth, hope for eminence from the heresies of paradox; or those, who, being forced by disappointment upon consolatory expedients, are willing to hope from pofterity what the present age refuses, and flatter themselves that the regard, which is yet denied by envy, will be at last bestowed
Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly votaries that reverence it, not from reason, but from prejudice. Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long preserved, without considering that time has sometimes co-operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun through artificial opacity. The great contention of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an author is yet living, we estimate his powers by his worst performance; and when he is dead, we rate them by his best, Vol. I.
To works, however, of which the excellence is not absolute and definite, but gradual and comparative ; to works not raised upon principles demonstrative and scientifick, but appealing wholly to observation and experience, no other test can be applied than length of duration and continuance of esteem. What mankind have long poffeffed they have often exainined and compared, and if they perfift to value the poffeffion, it is because frequent comparisons have confirmed opinion in its favour. As among the works of nature no man can properly call a river deep, or a mountain high, without the knowledge of many mountains, and many rivers ; fo. in the productions of genius, nothing can be ftiled excellent till it has been compared with other works of the, fame kind. Demonftration immediately displays its power, and has nothing to hope or fear from the Aux of years s but works tentative and experimental must be estimated by their proportion to the general and collective ability of man, as it is discovered in a long succession of endeavours. Of the first building that was raised, it might be with certainty determined that it was round or square; but whether it was fpacious or lofty must have been referred to time. The Pythagorean fcale of numbers was at once discovered to be perfect; but the poems of Homer we yet know not to tranfcend the common limits of human intelligence, but by remarking, that nation after nation, and century after century, has been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments.