I have not been distinguished by the dis- tributors of literary honours, I have seldom descended to the arts by which favour is obtained. I have seen the meteors of fashion rise and fall, without any attempt to add a moment to their duration. I have never com- plied with temporary curiosity, nor enabled my readers to discuss the topic of the day ; I have rarely exemplified my assertions by living characters : in my papers, no man could look for censures of his enemies, or praises of him- self; and they only were expected to peruse them, whose passions left them leisure for ab- stracted truth, and whom virtue could please by its naked dignity. . . .
I am willing to flatter myself with hopes, that, by collecting these papers, I am not pre- paring, for my future life, either shame or repentance. That all are happily imagined, or accurately polished, that the same sentiments have not sometimes recurred, or the same expressions been too frequently repeated, I have not confidence in my abilities sufficient to warrant. He that condemns himself to compose on a stated day, will often bring to his task an attention dissipated, a memory embarrassed, an imagination overwhelmed, a mind distracted with anxieties, a body languish- ing with disease : he will labour on a barren