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STEPHEN WOOLRICHE, ESQ.
MY DEAR WOOLRICHE,
It is now about seven years since I promised (and I grieve to think it is almost as long since we met) to dedicate to you the very first Book, of whatever size or kind, I should publish. Who could have thought that so many years would elapse, without my giving the least signs of life upon the subject of this important promise ? Who could have imagined that a volume of doggerel, after all, would be the first offering that Gratitude would lay upon the shrine of Friendship?
If you continue, however, to be as much interested about me and my pursuits as formerly, you will be happy to hear that doggerel is not my only occupation ; but that I am preparing to throw my name to the Swans of the Temple of Immortality,* leaving it, of course, to the said Swans to determine, whether
* Ariosto, canto 35.
they ever will take the trouble of picking it from the stream.
In the mean time, my dear Woolriche, like an orthodox Lutheran, you must judge of me rather by my faith than my works ; and, however trifling the tribute which I here offer, never doubt the fidelity with which I am, and always shall be,
Your sincere and
THE AUTHOR. March 4, 1813.
The Bag, from which the following Letters are selected, was dropped by a Twopenny Postman about two months since, and picked up by an emissary of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, who, supposing it might materially assist the private researches of that Institution, immediately took it to his employers, and was rewarded handsomely for his trouble. Such a treasury of secrets was worth a whole host of informers; and, accordingly, like the Cupids of the poet (if I may use so profane a simile) who “fell at odds about the sweet-bag of a bee,” * those venerable Suppressors almost fought with each other for the honour and delight of first ransacking the Post-Bag. Unluckily, however, it turned out, upon examination, that the discoveries of profligacy which it enabled them to make, lay chiefly in those upper regions of society, which their well-bred regulations forbid them to molest or meddle with. — In consequence, they gained but very few victims by their prize, and, after lying for a week or two under Mr. Hatchard's counter, the Bag, with its violated contents, was sold for a trifle to a friend of mine.