CONSIDERING the circumstances by which Mr. Adams was surrounded, his early papers are much the most remarkable of his life. Since this volume was completed, a copy of the following letter taken at the time has been received from the hands of the Honorable Josiah Quincy, the nephew of the person to whom it was addressed.
22 April, 1761.
DEAR SIR, -- Since you claim a promise, I will perform as well as I can. The letter so long talked of, is but a mouse, though the offspring of a pregnant mountain. However, if amidst the cares of business, the gay diversions of the town, the sweet refreshments of private study, and the joyful expectations of approaching wedlock, you can steal a moment to read a letter from an old country friend, I shall cheerfully transcribe it, such as it is, without the least alteration, or the least labor to connect this preamble to the subsequent purview.
The review of an old letter from you upon original composition and original genius has raised a war in my mind. "Scraps of verse, sayings of philosophers," the received opinion of the world, and my own reflections upon all, have thrown my imagination into a turmoil like the reign of rumor in Milton, or the jarring elements in Ovid, where
nulli sua forma manebat.
Obstabatque aliis aliud,
a picture of which I am determined to draw.
Most writers have represented genius as a rare phenomenon, a Phœnix. Bolingbroke says: "God mingles sometimes, among the societies of men, a few and but a few of those on whom he is graciously pleased to bestow a larger portion of the ethereal spirit than in the ordinary course of his providence he bestows on the sons of men." Mr. Pope will tell you that this "vivida vis animi is to be found in very few, and that the utmost stretch of study, learning, and industry can never attain to this." Dr. Cheyne shall distinguish between his quick-thinkers and slow-thinkers, and insinuate that the former are extremely scarce.
We have a becoming reverence for the authority of these writers, and of many others of the same opinion; but we may be allowed to fear that the vanity of the human heart had too great a share in determining these writers to that opinion.