BOOK IX. CONTAINING TWELVE HOURS.
1. Chapter i. Of those who lawfully may...
Of those who lawfully may, and of those who may not, write such
histories as this.
Among other good uses for which I have thought proper to institute
these several introductory chapters, I have considered them as a kind
of mark or stamp, which may hereafter enable a very indifferent reader
to distinguish what is true and genuine in this historic kind of
writing, from what is false and counterfeit. Indeed, it seems likely
that some such mark may shortly become necessary, since the favourable
reception which two or three authors have lately procured for their
works of this nature from the public, will probably serve as an
encouragement to many others to undertake the like. Thus a swarm of
foolish novels and monstrous romances will be produced, either to the
great impoverishing of booksellers, or to the great loss of time and
depravation of morals in the reader; nay, often to the spreading of
scandal and calumny, and to the prejudice of the characters of many
worthy and honest people.
I question not but the ingenious author of the Spectator was
principally induced to prefix Greek and Latin mottos to every paper,
from the same consideration of guarding against the pursuit of those
scribblers, who having no talents of a writer but what is taught by
the writing-master, are yet nowise afraid nor ashamed to assume the
same titles with the greatest genius, than their good brother in the
fable was of braying in the lion's skin.
By the device therefore of his motto, it became impracticable for any
man to presume to imitate the Spectators, without understanding at
least one sentence in the learned languages. In the same manner I have
now secured myself from the imitation of those who are utterly
incapable of any degree of reflection, and whose learning is not equal
to an essay.
I would not be here understood to insinuate, that the greatest merit
of such historical productions can ever lie in these introductory
chapters; but, in fact, those parts which contain mere narrative only,
afford much more encouragement to the pen of an imitator, than those
which are composed of observation and reflection. Here I mean such
imitators as Rowe was of Shakespear, or as Horace hints some of the
Romans were of Cato, by bare feet and sour faces.