An Eighteenth Century Miscellany: The Classics of the Eighteenth Century Which Typify and Reveal An Era: Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, the Earl of Chesterfield, Laurence Sterne, Horace Walpole, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Edward Gibbon, William Blake

By Louis Kronenberger | Go to book overview

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

THE following work was found in the library of an ancient Catholic family in the north of England. It was printed at Naples, in the black letter, in the year 1529. How much sooner it was written does not ap- pear. The principal incidents are such as were believed in the darkest ages of Christianity; but the language and conduct have nothing that savours of barbarism. The style is of the purest Italian. If the story was written near the time when it is supposed to have happened, it must have been between 1095, the era of the first crusade, and 1243, the date of the last, or not long afterwards. There is no other circumstance in the work that can lead us to guess at the period in which the scene is laid; the names of the actors are evidently fictitious, and probably dis- guised on purpose; yet the Spanish names of 'the domestics seem to indicate, that this work was not composed until the establishment of the Arragonian kings in Naples had made Spanish appellations familiar in that country. The beauty of the diction, and the zeal of the author (moderated, however, by singular judgment), concur to make me think that the date of the composition was little antecedent to that of the impression. Letters were then in the most flourishing state in Italy, and contributed to dispel the empire of superstition, at that time so forcibly attacked by the reformers. It is not unlikely that an artful priest might endeavour to turn their own arms on the innovators; and might avail himself of his abilities as an author to confirm the populace in their ancient errors and superstitions. If this was his view, he has cer- tainly acted with signal address. Such a work as the following would enslave a hundred vulgar minds beyond half the books of controversy that have been written from the days of Luther to the present hour.

This solution of the author's motives is, however, offered as a mere conjecture. Whatever his views were, or whatever effects the execution of them might have, his work can only be laid before the public at present as a matter of entertainment. Even as such some apology for it is necessary. Miracles, visions, necromancies, dreams, and other pre- ternatural events, are exploded now even from romances. That was not the case when our author wrote; much less when the story itself is sup- posed to have happened. Belief in every kind of prodigy was so established in those dark ages, that an author would not be faithful to the manners of the times who should omit all mention of them. He is not bound to believe them himself, but he must represent his actors as believing them.

If this air of the miraculous is excused, the reader will find nothing else unworthy of his perusal. Allow the possibility of the facts, and all

-309-

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An Eighteenth Century Miscellany: The Classics of the Eighteenth Century Which Typify and Reveal An Era: Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, the Earl of Chesterfield, Laurence Sterne, Horace Walpole, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Edward Gibbon, William Blake
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction 1
  • The Drapier's Letters to the People of Ireland - Against Receiving WOOD'S HALFPENCE 19
  • The Dunciad 103
  • The Beggar's Opera 145
  • Introduction 147
  • Letters to His Son 195
  • A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy 229
  • The Castle of Otranto a Gothic Story 307
  • PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION 309
  • PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION 312
  • The School for Scandal 383
  • PROLOGUE 388
  • EPILOGUE 449
  • Memoires of My Life and Writings 451
  • Songs of Innocence and Experience 551
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