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[In 1765, Goldsmith, willing to avail himself of the current of approbation
which, since the appearance of the “ Traveller,” was running in his favor, was induced to make a selection of the papers which had appeared anonymously in several of the periodicals of the day, and published them in a duodecimo volume. It was printed for Newberry and Griffin, and appeared on the 3d of June, under the title of “Essays BY MR. GOLDSMITH," and with the motto, Collecta revirescunt. The Essays not admitted by the Poet into this volume, are now, for the first time, introduced into his collected works of their authenticity no doubt can be ascertained. Several were pointed out by Mr. Thomas Wright, who originally printed some of them from the manuscript of the author; others were known to the industri. ons and accurate Isaac Reed; others again to Bishop Percy and Mr. Malone, particularly those on the study of the Belles-Lettres, printed in 1761-3 ; and which were included by the former in the edition of the works published in 1801. The collection of 1765 had the following Preface.)
The following Essays have already appeared at different times, and in different publications. The pamphlets in which they were inserted being generally unsuccessful, these shared the common fate, without assisting the bookseller's aims or extending the writer's reputation. The public were too strenuously employed with their own follies, to be assiduous in estimating mine ; so that many of my best attempts in this way have fallen victims to the transient topics of the times, the Ghost in Cock Lane, or the siege of Ticonderoga.
But though they have past pretty silently into the world, I can by no means complain of their circulation. The magazines and papers of the day have indeed been liberal enough in this respect. Most of these essays have been regularly reprinted twice or thrice a year, and conveyed to the public through the kennel of some engaging compilation. If there be a pride in multiplied editions, I have seen some of my labors sixteen times reprinted, and claimed by different parents as their own. I have seen them flourished at the beginning with praise, and signed at the end with the names of Philautos, Philalethes, Phileleutheros, and Philanthropos. These gentlemen have kindly stood sponsors to my productions, and to flatter me more, have always passed them as their own.*
It is time, however, at last to vindicate my claims; and as these entertainers of the public, as they call themselves, have partly lived upon me for some years, let me now try if I cannot live a little upon myself. I would desire in this case, to imitate that fat man whom I have somewhere heard of in a shipwreck, who, when the sailors pressed by famine were taking slices from his posteriors, to satisfy their hunger, insisted with great justice on having the first cut for himself.
| Yet after all, I cannot be angry with any who have taken it into their heads, to think that whatever I write is worth reprint'ng ; particularly when I consider how great a majority will think
(Goldsmith has put nearly the same words into the mouth of the Vicar of Wakefield's son—“ The public were more importantly employed, than to observe the easy simplicity of my style, or the harmony of my periods. Sheet after sheet was thrown off to oblivion. My essays were buried among the essays upon liberty, eastern tales, and cures for the bite of a mad dog; while Philautos, Philalethes, Phileleutheros, and Philanthropos all wrote better, be. cause they wrote faster than I.”—Ch. xx. See also Life, ch. ix.!
it scarcely worth reading. Trifling and superficial are terms of reproach that are easily objected, and that carry an air of penetration in the observer. These faults have been objected to the following essays; and it must be owned, in some measure, that the charge is true. However, I could have made them more metaphysical had I thought fit; but I would ask whether, in a short essay, it is not necessary to be superficial ? Before we have prepared to enter into the depths of a subject in the usual forms, we bave arrived at the bottom of our scanty page, and thus lose the honors of a victory, by too tedious a preparation for the combat.
There is another fault in this collection of trifles, which I fear will not be so easily pardoned. It will be alleged that the humor of them—if any be found—is stale and hackneyed. This may be true enough as matters now stand; but I may with great truth, assert, that the humor was new when I wrote it. Since that time, indeed, many of the topics, which were first started here, have been hunted down, and many of the thoughts blown upon. In fact, these Essays were considered as quietly laid in the grave of oblivion; and our modern compilers, like sextons and executioners, think it their undoubted right to pillage the dead.
However, whatever right I have to complain of the public, they can as yet have no just reason to complain of me. If I have written dull essays, they have hitherto treated them as dull essays. Thus far we are at least upon par; and until they think fit to make me their humble debtor by praise, I am resolved not to lose an inch of my self-importance. Instead, therefore, of attempting to establish a credit amongst them, it will perhaps be wiser to apply to some more distant correspondent, and as my drafts are in some danger of being protested at home, it may not be imprudent upon this occasion to draw my bills upon posterity. ---- Mr. Posterity. Sir, nine hundred and ninety-nine years after sight hereof, pay the bearer or order, a thousand pounds'