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On these accounts it is not to be expected that the same accurate order should be observed, either in the whole book, or in the particular chapters thereof, which is necessary in the system of any science, whose scheme is projected at once. A book which has been twenty years a-writing may be indulged in some variety of style and manner, though I hope there will not be found any great difference of sentiment ; for wherein / had improved in later years beyond what I had first written, a few dashes and alterations have corrected the mistakes : and if the candour of the reader will but allow what is defective in one place, to be supplied by additions from another, I hope there will be found a sufficient reconciliation of what might seem at first to be scarcely consistent.
The language and dress of these sentiments is such as the present temper of mind dictated, whether it were grave or pleasant, severe or smiling. If there has been any thing expressed with too much severity, I suspect it will be found to fall upon those sneering or daring writers of the age against religion, and against the Christian scheme, who seemed to bave left reason, or decency, or both, behind them in some of their writings.
The same apology of the length of years in composing this book, may serve also to excuse a repetition of the same sentiments which may happen to be found in different places without the author's design ; but in other pages it was intended, so that those rules for the conduct of the understanding which are most necessary should be set in several lights, that they might with more frequency and more force impress the soul. I shall be sufficiently satisfied with the good humour and lenity of my readers, if they will please to regard these papers as par. cels of imperfect sketches, which are designed by a sudden pencil, and in a thousand leisure moments, to be one day collected into landscapes of some little prospects in the regions of learning, and in the world of common life, pointing out the fairest and most fruitful spots, as well as the rocks and wila dernesses, and faithless morasses of the country. But I feel age advancing upon me, aad my health is insufficient to per,
fect what I had designed, to increase and amplify these ree marks, to confirm and improve these rules, and to illuminate the several pages with a richer and more beautiful variety of examples. The subject is almost endless, and new writers in the present, and in following ages, may still find sufficient fola lies, weaknesses, and dangers among mankind, to be represented in such a manner as to guard youth against them.
These hints, such as they are, I hope may be rendered some way useful to persons in younger years, who will favour them with a perusal, and who would seek the cultivation of their own understandings in the early days of life. Perhaps they may find something here which may awake a latent genius, and direct the studies of a willing mind. Perhaps it may point out to a student now and then what may employ the most useful labour's of his thoughts, and accelerate bis diligence in the most momentous inquiries. Perhaps a sprightly youth may here meet with something to guard or warn him against mistakes, and with bold him at other times from those pursuits which are like to be fruitless and disappointing.
Let it be observed also, that in our age several of the ladies pursue science with success ; and others of them are desirous of improving their reason, even in common affairs of life, as well as the men: yet the characters, which are here drawn occasionally, are almost universally applied to one sex ; but if any of the other skall find a character which suits them, they may, by a small change of the termination, apply and assume it to themselves, and accept the instruction, the admonition, or the applause which is designed in it.
There is yet another thing which it is necessary my reader should be informed of; but whether he will call it fortunate or unhappy, I know not. It is sufficiently evident that the book consists of two parts: the first lays down remarks and rules how we may attain useful knowledge ourselves; and the second how we may best communicate it to others. These were both designed to be printed in this volume : but a manuscript, which bath been near twenty years in band, may be easily supposed to allow of such difference in the hand-writing,
so many lines altered, so many things interlined, and so many paragraphs and pages here and there inserted, that it was not easy to compute the number of sbects that it would make in print: and it now appears, that the remarks and rules about the communication of knowledge being excluded here, they must be left to another volume wherein will be contained various observations relating to methods of instruction, the style and manner of it, the way of convincing other persons, of guarding youth against prejudices, of treating and managing the prejudices of men, of the use and abuse of authority, of education, and of the various things in which children and youth should be instructed, of their proper business and diversions, and of the degrees of liberty and restraint therein, &c. Of all which I had once designed a more complete treatise ; but my years advancing, I now despair of being able to finish it.
The essays or chapters on these subjects being already written, if I am favoured with a tolerable degree of health, will be put to the press, when the favourable acceptance of this First Part shall give sufficient encouragement to proceed,
IMPROVEMENT OF THE MIND.
A VARIETY OF REMARKS AND RULES
THE ATTAINMENT AND COMMUNICATION OF USEFUL KNOWLEDGE
IN RELIGION, IN THE SCIENCES, AND IN COMMON LITE.