Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

circumstance that a larger and differently constructed Appendix seems to have been originally designed by Mr. Burke, which, however, he afterwards abridged and altered, while the speech and the notes upon it remained as they were. The text and the documents that support it have throughout been accommodated to each other.

The orthography has been in many cases altered, and an attempt made to reduce it to some certain standard. The rule laid down for the discharge of this task was, that whenever Mr. Burke could be perceived to have been uniform in his mode of spelling, that was considered as decisive ; but, where he varied, and as he was in the habit of writing by dictation, and leaving to others the superintendance of the press, he was peculiarly liable to variations of this sort) the best received authorities were directed to be followed. The reader, it is trusted, will find this object, too much disregarded in modern books, has here been kept in view throughout. The quotations which are interspersed through the works of Mr. Burke, and which were frequently made by him from memory, have been generally compared with the original authors. Several mistakes in printing, of one word for another, by which the sense was either perverted or obscured, are now rectified. Two or three small insertions have also been made from a quarto copy corrected by Mr. Burke himself. From the same source something more has been drawn in the shape of notes, to which are subscribed his initials. Of this number is the explanation of that celebrated phrase, “ the swinish multitude :” an explanation which was uniformly given by him to his friends, in conversation on the subject. But another note will probably interest the reader still more, as being strongly expressive of that parental affection which formed so amiable a feature in the character of Mr. Burke. It is in « Reflections on the Revolution in France,” Vol. III.where he points out a considerable passage as having been supplied by his “ lost son.” Several other parts, possibly amounting all together to a page or thereabout, were indicated in the same manner ; but, as they in general consist of single sentences, and as the meaning of the mark by which they were distinguished was not actually expressed, it has not been thought necessary to notice them particularly.

[blocks in formation]

PREFACE.

BEFORE the philosophical works of Lord BOLINGBROKE had appeared, great things were expected from the leisure of a man, who from the splendid scene of action, in which his talents had enabled him to make so conspicuous a figure, had retired to employ those talents in the investigation of truth. Philosophy began to congratulate herself upon such a proselyte from the world of business, and hoped to have extended her power under the auspices of such a leader. In the midst of these pleasing expectations, the works themselves at last appeared in full body, and with great pomp. Those who searched in them for new discoveries in the mysteries of nature ; those who expected something which might explain or direct the operations of the mind ; those who hoped to see morality illustrated and enforced ; those who looked for new helps to society and government ; those who desired to see the characters and passions of mankind delineated ; in short, all who consider such things as philosophy, and require some of them at least, in every philosophical work, all these were certainly disappointed ; they found the landmarks of science precisely in their former places : and they thought they received but a poor recompense for this disappointment, in seeing every mode of religion attacked in a lively manner, and the foundation of every virtue, and of all government, sapped with great art and much ingenuity. What advantage do we derive from such writings ? What delight can a man find in employing a capacity which might be usefully exerted for the noblest purposes, in a sort of sullen labour, in which, if the author could succeed, he is obliged to own, that nothing could be more fatal to mankind than his success ?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I cannot conceive how this sort of writers propose to compass the designs they pretend to have in view, by the instruments which they employ. Do they pretend to exalt the mind of man, by proving him no better than a beast ? Do they think to enforce the practice of virtue, by denying that vice and virtue are distinguished by good or ill fortune here, or by happiness or misery hereafter ? Do they imagine they shall increase our piety, and our reliance on God, by exploding his providence, and insisting that he is neither just nor good ? Such are the doctrines which, sometimes concealed, sometimes openly and fully avowed, are found to prevail throughout the writings of Lord BOLINGBROKE; and such are the reasonings which this noble writer and several others have been pleased to dignify with the name of philosophy. If these are delivered in a specious manner, and in a style above the common, they cannot want a number of admirers of as much docility as can be wished for in disciples. To these the editor of the following little piece has addressed it: there is no reason to conceal the design of it any longer.

The design was, to shew that, without the exertion of any considerable forces, the same engines which were employed for the destruction of religion, might be employed with equal success for the subversion of government ; and that specious arguments might be used against those things which they, who doubt of every thing else, will never permit to be questioned. It is an observation which I think Isocrates makes in one of his orations against the sophists, that it is far more easy to maintain a wrong cause, and to support paradoxical opinions to the satisfaction of a common auditory, than to establish a doubtful truth by solid and conclusive arguments. When men find that something can be said in favour of what, on the very proposal, they have thought utterly indefensible, they grow doubtful of their own reason ; they are thrown into a sort of pleasing surprize ; they run along with the speaker, charmed and captivated to find such a plentiful harvest of reasoning, where all seemed barren and unpromising. This is the fairy land of philosophy. And it very frequently happens, that those pleasing impressions on the imagination, subsist and produce their effect, even after the

« AnteriorContinuar »