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where I have been entirely left without his assistance ? As I would affect neither modesty nor confidence, it will be sufficient to say, that my reading upon this part of the subject has been very extenfive ; and that I have taxed my scanty circumstances in procuring books which are on this subject of all others the most expensive. In confequence of this industry, I here offer a work to the public, of a kind, which has never been attempted in ours, or any other modern language, that I know of. The antients, indeed, and Pliny in particular, have anticipated me, in the present manner of treating Natural History. Like those historians who described the events of a campaign, they have not condescended to give the private particulars of every individual that formed the army; they were content with characterising the generals, and describing their operations, while they left it to meaner hands to carry the muster roll. I have followed their manner, rejecting the numerous fables which they adopted, and adding the improvements of the moderns, which are so numerous that they actually make up the bulk of Natural History.
The delight which I found in reading Pliny, first inspired me with the idea of a work of this nature. Having a taste rather claffical than scientific, and having but little employed myself in turning over the dry labours of modern system-makers, my earlieft intention was to translate this agreeable writer, and by the help of a commentary to make my work as amusing as I could. Let us dignify Natural Hiftory never so much with the grave appellation of a useful science, yet still we must confess that it is the occupation of the idle and the speculative, more tian of the ambitious part of mankind. My intention was to treat what I then conceived to be an idle subject, in an idle manner; and not to hedge round
plain and fimple narratives with hard words, accumulated distinctions, oftentatious learning, and disquisitions that produced no conviction. Upon the appearance, however, of Mr. Buffon's work, I dropped my former plan and adopted the present, being convinced by his manner, that the best imitation of the antients was to write from our own feelings, and to imitate Nature.
It will be my chief pride, therefore, if this work may be found an innocent amusement for those who have nothing else to employ them, or who require a relaxation from labour. Professed Naturalists will, no doubt, find it superficial ; and yet I should hope that even these will discover hints, and remarks, gleaned from various reading, not wholly trite or clementary; I would wish for their approbation. But my chief ambition is to drag up the obfcure and gloomy learning of the cell to open inspection; to strip it from its garb of austerity, and to shew the beauties of that form, which only the industrious and the inquisitive have been hitherto permitted to approach.
Y Bookseller having informed me that there was no collection of English Poetry among us, of any estimation, I thought a few hours spent in making a proper selection would not be ill bestowed.
Compilations of this kind are chiefly designed for such as either want leisure, skill, or fortune, to choose for themselves; for persons whose professions turn them to different pursuits, or who, not yet arrived at sufficient maturity, require a guide to direct their application. To our youth, particularly, a publication of this sort may be useful; since, if compiled with any share of judgment, it may at once unite precept and example, Thew them what is beautiful, and inform them why it is so: I therefore offer this, to the best of my judgment, as the best collection that has as yet appeared ; though,
as tastes are various, numbers will be of a very different opinion. Many, perhaps, may wish to see in it the
poems of their favourite authors, others may wish that I had selected from works less generally read, and others still may wish that I had selected from their own. But my design was to give a useful, unaffected compilation ; one that might tend to advance the reader's taste, and not impress him with exalted ideas of mine. Nothing is so common, and yet so absurd, as affectation in criticism. The desire of being thought to have a more discerning taste than others, has often led writers to labour after error, and to be foremost in promoting deformity.