BLTC Press Titles

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The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

by Hester Lynch Piozzi



I HAVE somewhere heard or read, that the Preface before a book, Hke the portico before a house, fliould be contrived, so as to catch, but not detain the attention of those who desire admission to the family within, or leave to look over the collection of pictures made by one whose opportunities of obtaining them we know to .haye been not unfreuuent. I wish not to keep my readers long from such intimacy, with the ^manners of Dr. Johnson, or such knowledge of his sentiments as these pae;es can cnn^ vey. To urge my distance from EngJand as an excuse for the book's being ill written, .would be ridiculous.; \t might indeed serve as a just reason for my having written it at all; because, though others may print the ,.same aphorisms and ftctries, I cannot here be sure that they have done so. As the Duke fays however to the Weaver, jn A Midsummer Night's Dream, " Never excuse; if your play be a bad orfe, keep at least the excuses to yourself."

I am aware that many will say, I have not spoken highly enough of Dr. Johnson; but it will be difficult for those who say so, to speak more highly, If I have described his manners as they were, I have been careful to shew his superiority to the common forms of common life. It is surely no dispraise to an oak that it does not bear jessamine ; and he who should plant honeysuckle round Trajan's column, would not. be thought to adorn, but to disgrace It.

"When 1 have said, that he was more a man of genius than of learning, I mean not to take from the one part of his character that which I willingly give to the other. The erudition of Mr. Johnson proved his genius ; for he had not acquired it by long or profound study: nor can I think those characters the greatest which have most learning driven into their heads, any more than I can persuade myself to consider the river Jenisca as superior to the Nile, because the first receives near seventy tributary streams in the course of its unmarked progress to the sea, while the great parent of African plenty, flowing from an almost invisible source, and unenriched by any extras neous waters, except eleven nameless rivers, pours his majestic torrent into the ocean by seven celebrated mouths.

But I must conclude my Preface, and begin my book, the first I eves presented before the Public; from whose awful appearance in some mea* sure to defend and conceal myself, I have thought fit to retire behind the Telamoniah shield, and shew as littlfc of myself as possible; well aware of the exceeding difference there is, between fencing in the school and fight* ing in the field.—.—Studious however to avoid offending, arid careless of that offence which can be taken without a cause, I here riot unwillingly submit my flight performance to the decision of that glorious country, which I have the daily delight to hear applauded in others, as eminently just, generous, arid humane.




TOO much intelligence is often as pernicious to Biography as too little; the mind remains perplexed by contradiction of probabilities, and finds difficulty in separating report from truth. If Johnson then lamented that so little had ever been said about Butler, I might B

with more reason be led to complain that so much has been said about himself ; for numberless informers but distract or' cloud information, as glasses which multiply wjll for the most part be found also to obscure. Of a life too, which for the last twenty years was passed in the very front of.liierature^, every leader of a literary company, whether officer or subaltern, naturally becomes either author or qritic,, so. ,tha.t, little less than the recollection that It was' (mce the request of the deceased, and twice the desire of those whose will I ever delighted to comply with, should have engaged me to add my little book to the number of those already written on the subject. I vised to urge another reason for forbearance, and-say* that all the readers would, oiv'this singular'occasion, be the writers of his lifett likie the first representation,' of the Masque of Gomus, whichi byi changing- their characters from spectators tb. performers, was acled by the!

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