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The Works of Samuel Johnson in Nine Volumes by Samuel Johnson

Part 5 out of 9

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slaves, set sail for Lisbon.

The Canaries are supposed to have been known, however imperfectly, to
the ancients; but, in the confusion of the subsequent ages, they were
lost and forgotten, till, about the year 1340, the Biscayners found
Lucarot, and invading it, (for to find a new country, and invade it has
always been the same,) brought away seventy captives, and some
commodities of the place. Louis de la Cerda, count of Clermont, of the
blood royal both of France and Spain, nephew of John de la Cerda, who
called himself the Prince of Fortune, had once a mind to settle in those
islands, and applying himself first to the king of Arragon, and then to
Clement the sixth, was by the pope crowned at Avignon, king of the
Canaries, on condition that he should reduce them to the true religion;
but the prince altered his mind, and went into France to serve against
the English. The kings both of Castile and Portugal, though they did not
oppose the papal grant, yet complained of it, as made without their
knowledge, and in contravention of their rights.

The first settlement in the Canaries was made by John de Betancour, a
French gentleman, for whom his kinsman Robin de Braquement, admiral of
France, begged them, with the title of king, from Henry the magnificent
of Castile, to whom he had done eminent services. John made himself
master of some of the isles, but could never conquer the grand Canary;
and having spent all that he had, went back to Europe, leaving his
nephew, Massiot de Betancour, to take care of his new dominion. Massiot
had a quarrel with the vicar-general, and was, likewise, disgusted by
the long absence of his uncle, whom the French king detained in his
service, and being able to keep his ground no longer, he transferred his
rights to Don Henry, in exchange for some districts in the Madera, where
he settled his family.

Don Henry, when he had purchased those islands, sent thither, in 1424,
two thousand five hundred foot, and a hundred and twenty horse; but the
army was too numerous to be maintained by the country. The king of
Castile afterwards claimed them, as conquered by his subjects under
Betancour, and held under the crown of Castile by fealty and homage: his
claim was allowed, and the Canaries were resigned.

It was the constant practice of Henry's navigators, when they stopped at
a desert island, to land cattle upon it, and leave them to breed, where,
neither wanting room nor food, they multiplied very fast, and furnished
a very commodious supply to those who came afterwards to the same place.
This was imitated, in some degree, by Anson, at the isle of Juan

The island of Madera he not only filled with inhabitants, assisted by
artificers of every kind, but procured such plants as seemed likely to
flourish in that climate, and introduced the sugar-canes and vines which
afterwards produced a very large revenue.

The trade of Africa now began to be profitable, but a great part of the
gain arose from the sale of slaves, who were annually brought into
Portugal, by hundreds, as Lafitau relates, and without any appearance of
indignation or compassion; they, likewise, imported gold dust in such
quantities, that Alphonso the fifth coined it into a new species of
money called Crusades, which is still continued in Portugal.

In time they made their way along the south coast of Africa, eastward to
the country of the negroes, whom they found living in tents, without any
political institutions, supporting life, with very little labour, by the
milk of their kine, and millet, to which those who inhabited the coast
added fish dried in the sun. Having never seen the natives, or heard of
the arts of Europe, they gazed with astonishment on the ships, when they
approached their coasts, sometimes thinking them birds, and sometimes
fishes, according as their sails were spread or lowered; and sometimes
conceiving them to be only phantoms, which played to and fro in the
ocean. Such is the account given by the historian, perhaps, with too
much prejudice against a negro's understanding, who, though he might
well wonder at the bulk and swiftness of the first ship, would scarcely
conceive it to be either a bird or a fish, but having seen many bodies
floating in the water, would think it, what it really is, a large boat;
and, if he had no knowledge of any means by which separate pieces of
timber may be joined together, would form very wild notions concerning
its construction, or, perhaps, suppose it to be a hollow trunk of a
tree, from some country where trees grow to a much greater height and
thickness than in his own.

When the Portuguese came to land, they increased the astonishment of the
poor inhabitants, who saw men clad in iron, with thunder and lightning
in their hands. They did not understand each other, and signs are a very
imperfect mode of communication, even to men of more knowledge than the
negroes, so that they could not easily negotiate or traffick: at last
the Portuguese laid hands on some of them, to carry them home for a
sample; and their dread and amazement was raised, says Lafitau, to the
highest pitch, when the Europeans fired their cannons and muskets among
them, and they saw their companions fall dead at their feet, without any
enemy at hand, or any visible cause of their destruction.

On what occasion, or for what purpose, cannons and muskets were
discharged among a people harmless and secure, by strangers who, without
any right, visited their coast, it is not thought necessary to inform
us. The Portuguese could fear nothing from them, and had, therefore, no
adequate provocation; nor is there any reason to believe but that they
murdered the negroes in wanton merriment, perhaps, only to try how many
a volley would destroy, or what would be the consternation of those that
should escape. We are openly told, that they had the less scruple
concerning their treatment of the savage people, because they scarcely
considered them as distinct from beasts; and, indeed, the practice of
all the European nations, and among others, of the English barbarians
that cultivate the southern islands of America, proves, that this
opinion, however absurd and foolish, however wicked and injurious, still
continues to prevail. Interest and pride harden the heart, and it is in
vain to dispute against avarice and power.

By these practices the first discoverers alienated the natives from
them; and whenever a ship appeared, every one that could fly betook
himself to the mountains and the woods, so that nothing was to be got
more than they could steal: they sometimes surprised a few fishers, and
made them slaves, and did what they could to offend the negroes, and
enrich themselves. This practice of robbery continued till some of the
negroes, who had been enslaved, learned the language of Portugal, so as
to be able to interpret for their countrymen, and one John Fernandez
applied himself to the negro tongue.

From this time began something like a regular traffick, such as can
subsist between nations where all the power is on one side; and a
factory was settled in the isle of Arguin, under the protection of a
fort. The profit of this new trade was assigned, for a certain term, to
Ferdinando Gomez; which seems to be the common method of establishing a
trade, that is yet too small to engage the care of a nation, and can
only be enlarged by that attention which is bestowed by private men upon
private advantage. Gomez continued the discoveries to cape Catharine,
two degrees and a half beyond the line.

In the latter part of the reign of Alphonso the fifth, the ardour of
discovery was somewhat intermitted, and all commercial enterprises were
interrupted by the wars in which he was engaged with various success.
But John the second, who succeeded, being fully convinced both of the
honour and advantage of extending his dominions in countries hitherto
unknown, prosecuted the designs of prince Henry with the utmost vigour,
and in a short time added to his other titles, that of king of Guinea
and of the coast of Africa.

In 1463, in the third year of the reign of John the second, died prince
Henry, the first encourager of remote navigation, by whose incitement,
patronage and example, distant nations have been made acquainted with
each other, unknown countries have been brought into general view, and
the power of Europe has been extended to the remotest parts of the
world. What mankind has lost and gained by the genius and designs of
this prince, it would be long to compare, and very difficult to
estimate. Much knowledge has been acquired, and much cruelty been
committed; the belief of religion has been very little propagated, and
its laws have been outrageously and enormously violated. The Europeans
have scarcely visited any coast, but to gratify avarice, and extend
corruption; to arrogate dominion without right, and practise cruelty
without incentive. Happy had it, then, been for the oppressed, if the
designs of Henry had slept in his bosom, and surely more happy for the
oppressors. But there is reason to hope that out of so much evil, good
may sometimes be produced; and that the light of the gospel will at last
illuminate the sands of Africa, and the deserts of America, though its
progress cannot but be slow, when it is so much obstructed by the lives
of Christians.

The death of Henry did not interrupt the progress of king John, who was
very strict in his injunctions, not only to make discoveries, but to
secure possession of the countries that were found. The practice of the
first navigators was only to raise a cross upon the coast, and to carve
upon trees the device of Don Henry, the name which they thought it
proper to give to the new coast, and any other information, for those
that might happen to follow them; but now they began to erect piles of
stone with a cross on the top, and engraved on the stone the arms of
Portugal, the name of the king, and of the commander of the ship, with
the day and year of the discovery. This was accounted sufficient to
prove their claim to the new lands; which might be pleaded, with justice
enough, against any other Europeans, and the rights of the original
inhabitants were never taken into notice. Of these stone records, nine
more were erected in the reign of king John, along the coast of Africa,
as far as the cape of Good Hope.

The fortress in the isle of Arguin was finished, and it was found
necessary to build another at S. Georgio de la Mina, a few degrees north
of the line, to secure the trade of gold dust, which was chiefly carried
on at that place. For this purpose a fleet was fitted out, of ten large
and three smaller vessels, freighted with materials for building the
fort, and with provisions and ammunition for six hundred men, of whom
one hundred were workmen and labourers. Father Lafitau relates, in very
particular terms, that these ships carried hewn stones, bricks, and
timber, for the fort, so that nothing remained but barely to erect it.
He does not seem to consider how small a fort could be made out of the
lading often ships.

The command of this fleet was given to Don Diego d'Azambue, who set sail
December 11, 1481, and reaching La Mina January 19, 1482, gave immediate
notice of his arrival to Caramansa, a petty prince of that part of the
country, whom he very earnestly invited to an immediate conference.

Having received a message of civility from the negro chief, he landed,
and chose a rising ground, proper for his intended fortress, on which he
planted a banner with the arms of Portugal, and took possession in the
name of his master. He then raised an altar at the foot of a great tree,
on which mass was celebrated, the whole assembly, says Lafitau, breaking
out into tears of devotion at the prospect of inviting these barbarous
nations to the profession of the true faith. Being secure of the
goodness of the end, they had no scruple about the means, nor ever
considered how differently from the primitive martyrs and apostles they
were attempting to make proselytes. The first propagators of
Christianity recommended their doctrines by their sufferings and
virtues; they entered no defenceless territories with swords in their
hands; they built no forts upon ground to which they had no right, nor
polluted the purity of religion with the avarice of trade, or insolence
of power.

What may still raise higher the indignation of a Christian mind, this
purpose of propagating truth appears never to have been seriously
pursued by any European nation; no means, whether lawful or unlawful,
have been practised with diligence and perseverance for the conversion
of savages. When a fort is built, and a factory established, there
remains no other care than to grow rich. It is soon found that ignorance
is most easily kept in subjection, and that by enlightening the mind
with truth, fraud and usurpation would be made less practicable and less

In a few days an interview was appointed between Caramansa and Azambue.
The Portuguese uttered, by his interpreter, a pompous speech, in which
he made the negro prince large offers of his master's friendship,
exhorting him to embrace the religion of his new ally; and told him,
that, as they came to form a league of friendship with him, it was
necessary that they should build a fort, which might serve as a retreat
from their common enemies, and in which the Portuguese might be always
at hand to lend him assistance.

The negro, who seemed very well to understand what the admiral intended,
after a short pause, returned an answer full of respect to the king of
Portugal, but appeared a little doubtful what to determine with relation
to the fort. The commander saw his diffidence, and used all his art of
persuasion to overcome it. Caramansa, either induced by hope, or
constrained by fear, either desirous to make them friends, or not daring
to make them enemies, consented, with a show of joy, to that which it
was not in his power to refuse; and the new comers began the next day to
break the ground for the foundation of a fort.

Within the limit of their intended fortification were some spots
appropriated to superstitious practices; which the negroes no sooner
perceived in danger of violation by the spade and pickaxe, than they ran
to arms, and began to interrupt the work. The Portuguese persisted in
their purpose, and there had soon been tumult and bloodshed, had not the
admiral, who was at a distance to superintend the unlading the materials
for the edifice, been informed of the danger. He was told, at the same
time, that the support of their superstition was only a pretence, and
that all their rage might be appeased by the presents which the prince
expected, the delay of which had greatly offended him.

The Portuguese admiral immediately ran to his men, prohibited all
violence, and stopped the commotion; he then brought out the presents,
and spread them with great pomp before the prince; if they were of no
great value, they were rare, for the negroes had never seen such wonders
before; they were, therefore, received with ecstacy, and, perhaps, the
Portuguese derided them for their fondness of trifles, without
considering how many things derive their value only from their scarcity,
and that gold and rubies would be trifles, if nature had scattered them
with less frugality.

The work was now peaceably continued, and such was the diligence with
which the strangers hastened to secure the possession of the country,
that in twenty days they had sufficiently fortified themselves against
the hostility of the negroes. They then proceeded to complete their

A church was built in the place where the first altar had been raised,
on which a mass was established to be celebrated for ever once a day,
for the repose of the soul of Henry, the first mover of these

In this fort the admiral remained with sixty soldiers, and sent back the
rest in the ships, with gold, slaves, and other commodities. It may be
observed that slaves were never forgotten, and that, wherever they went,
they gratified their pride, if not their avarice, and brought some of
the natives, when it happened that they brought nothing else.

The Portuguese endeavoured to extend their dominions still farther. They
had gained some knowledge of the Jaloffs, a nation inhabiting the coast
of Guinea, between the Gambia and Senegal. The king of the Jaloffs being
vicious and luxurious, committed the care of the government to Bemoin,
his brother by the mother's side, in preference to two other brothers by
his father. Bemoin, who wanted neither bravery nor prudence, knew that
his station was invidious and dangerous, and, therefore, made an
alliance with the Portuguese, and retained them in his defence by
liberality and kindness. At last the king was killed by the contrivance
of his brothers, and Bemoin was to lose his power, or maintain it by

He had recourse, in this exigence, to his great ally the king of
Portugal, who promised to support him, on condition that he should
become a Christian, and sent an ambassador, accompanied with
missionaries. Bemoin promised all that was required, objecting only,
that the time of a civil war was not a proper season for a change of
religion, which would alienate his adherents; but said, that when he was
once peaceably established, he would not only embrace the true religion
himself, but would endeavour the conversion of the kingdom.

This excuse was admitted, and Bemoin delayed his conversion for a year,
renewing his promise from time to time. But the war was unsuccessful,
trade was at a stand, and Bemoin was not able to pay the money which he
had borrowed of the Portuguese merchants, who sent intelligence to
Lisbon of his delays, and received an order from the king, commanding
them, under severe penalties, to return home.

Bemoin here saw his ruin approaching, and, hoping that money would
pacify all resentment, borrowed of his friends a sum sufficient to
discharge his debts; and finding that even this enticement would not
delay the departure of the Portuguese, he embarked his nephew in their
ships with a hundred slaves, whom he presented to the king of Portugal,
to solicit his assistance. The effect of this embassy he could not stay
to know; for being soon after deposed, he sought shelter in the fortress
of Arguin, whence he took shipping for Portugal, with twenty-five of his
principal followers.

The king of Portugal pleased his own vanity and that of his subjects, by
receiving him with great state and magnificence, as a mighty monarch who
had fled to an ally for succour in misfortune. All the lords and ladies
of the court were assembled, and Bemoin was conducted with a splendid
attendance into the hall of audience, where the king rose from his
throne to welcome him. Bemoin then made a speech with great ease and
dignity, representing his unhappy state, and imploring the favour of his
powerful ally. The king was touched with his affliction, and struck by
his wisdom.

The conversion of Bemoin was much desired by the king; and it was,
therefore, immediately, proposed to him that he should become a
Christian. Ecclesiasticks were sent to instruct him; and having now no
more obstacles from interest, he was easily persuaded to declare himself
whatever would please those on whom he now depended. He was baptized on
the third day of December, 1489, in the palace of the queen, with great
magnificence, and named John, after the king.

Some time was spent in feasts and sports on this great occasion, and the
negroes signalized themselves by many feats of agility, far surpassing
the power of Europeans, who, having more helps of art, are less diligent
to cultivate the qualities of nature. In the mean time twenty large
ships were fitted out, well manned, stored with ammunition, and laden
with materials necessary for the erection of a fort. With this powerful
armament were sent a great number of missionaries under the direction of
Alvarez the king's confessor. The command of this force, which filled
the coast of Africa with terrour, was given to Pedro Vaz d'Acugna,
surnamed Bisagu; who, soon after they had landed, not being well pleased
with his expedition, put an end to its inconveniencies, by stabbing
Bemoin suddenly to the heart. The king heard of this outrage with great
sorrow, but did not attempt to punish the murderer.

The king's concern for the restoration of Bemoin was not the mere effect
of kindness, he hoped by his help to facilitate greater designs. He now
began to form hopes of finding a way to the East Indies, and of
enriching his country by that gainful commerce: this he was encouraged
to believe practicable, by a map which the Moors had given to prince
Henry, and which subsequent discoveries have shown to be sufficiently
near to exactness, where a passage round the south-east part of Africa
was evidently described.

The king had another scheme, yet more likely to engage curiosity, and
not irreconcilable with his interest. The world had, for some time, been
filled with the report of a powerful Christian prince, called Prester
John, whose country was unknown, and whom some, after Paulus Venetus,
supposed to reign in the midst of Asia, and others in the depth of
Ethiopia, between the ocean and Red sea. The account of the African
Christians was confirmed by some Abyssinians who had travelled into
Spain, and by some friars that had visited the Holy Land; and the king
was extremely desirous of their correspondence and alliance.

Some obscure intelligence had been obtained, which made it seem probable
that a way might be found from the countries lately discovered, to those
of this far-famed monarch. In 1486, an ambassador came from the king of
Bemin, to desire that preachers might be sent to instruct him and his
subjects in the true religion. He related that, in the inland country,
three hundred and fifty leagues eastward from Bemin, was a mighty
monarch, called Ogane, who had jurisdiction, both spiritual and
temporal, over other kings; that the king of Bemin and his neighbours,
at their accession, sent ambassadors to him with rich presents, and
received from him the investiture of their dominions, and the marks of
sovereignty, which were a kind of sceptre, a helmet, and a latten cross,
without which they could not be considered as lawful kings; that this
great prince was never seen but on the day of audience, and then held
out one of his feet to the ambassador, who kissed it with great
reverence, and who, at his departure, had a cross of latten hung on his
neck, which ennobled him thenceforward, and exempted him from all
servile offices.

Bemoin had, likewise, told the king, that to the east of the kingdom of
Tombut, there was, among other princes, one that was neither Mahometan
nor idolater, but who seemed to profess a religion nearly resembling the
Christian. These informations, compared with each other, and with the
current accounts of Prester John, induced the king to an opinion, which,
though formed somewhat at hazard, is still believed to be right, that by
passing up the river Senegal his dominions would be found. It was,
therefore, ordered that, when the fortress was finished, an attempt
should be made to pass upward to the source of the river. The design
failed then, and has never yet succeeded.

Other ways, likewise, were tried of penetrating to the kingdom of
Prester John; for the king resolved to leave neither sea nor land
unsearched, till he should be found. The two messengers who were sent
first on this design, went to Jerusalem, and then returned, being
persuaded that, for want of understanding the language of the country,
it would be vain or impossible to travel farther. Two more were then
despatched, one of whom was Pedro de Covillan, the other, Alphonso de
Pavia; they passed from Naples to Alexandria, and then travelled to
Cairo, from whence they went to Aden, a town of Arabia, on the Red sea,
near its mouth. From Aden, Pavia set sail for Ethiopia, and Covillan for
the Indies. Covillan visited Canavar, Calicut, and Goa in the Indies,
and Sosula in the eastern Africa, thence he returned to Aden, and then
to Cairo, where he had agreed to meet Pavia. At Cairo he was informed
that Pavia was dead, but he met with two Portuguese Jews, one of whom
had given the king an account of the situation and trade of Ormus: they
brought orders to Covillan, that he should send one of them home with
the journal of his travels, and go to Ormus with the other.

Covillan obeyed the orders, sending an exact account of his adventures
to Lisbon, and proceeding with the other messenger to Ormus; where,
having made sufficient inquiry, he sent his companion homewards, with
the caravans that were going to Aleppo, and embarking once more on the
Red sea, arrived in time at Abyssinia, and found the prince whom he had
sought so long, and with such danger.

Two ships were sent out upon the same search, of which Bartholomew Diaz
had the chief command; they were attended by a smaller vessel laden with
provisions, that they might not return, upon pretence of want either
felt or feared.

Navigation was now brought nearer to perfection. The Portuguese claim
the honour of many inventions by which the sailor is assisted, and which
enable him to leave sight of land, and commit himself to the boundless
ocean. Diaz had orders to proceed beyond the river Zaire, where Diego
Can had stopped, to build monuments of his discoveries, and to leave
upon the coasts negro men and women well instructed, who might inquire
after Prester John, and fill the natives with reverence for the

Diaz, with much opposition from his crew, whose mutinies he repressed,
partly by softness, and partly by steadiness, sailed on till he reached
the utmost point of Africa, which from the bad weather that he met
there, he called cabo Tormentoso, or the cape of Storms. He would have
gone forward, but his crew forced him to return. In his way back he met
the victualler, from which he had been parted nine months before; of the
nine men, which were in it at the separation, six had been killed by the
negroes, and of the three remaining, one died for joy at the sight of
his friends. Diaz returned to Lisbon in December, 1487, and gave an
account of his voyage to the king, who ordered the cape of Storms to be
called thenceforward cabo de Buena Esperanza, or the cape of Good Hope.

Some time before the expedition of Diaz, the river Zaire and the kingdom
of Congo had been discovered by Diego Can, who found a nation of negroes
who spoke a language which those that were in his ships could not
understand. He landed, and the natives, whom he expected to fly, like
the other inhabitants of the coast, met them with confidence, and
treated them with kindness; but Diego, finding that they could not
understand each other, seized some of their chiefs, and carried them to
Portugal, leaving some of his own people in their room to learn the
language of Congo.

The negroes were soon pacified, and the Portuguese left to their mercy
were well treated; and, as they by degrees grew able to make themselves
understood, recommended themselves, their nation, and their religion.
The king of Portugal sent Diego back in a very short time with the
negroes whom he had forced away; and when they were set safe on shore,
the king of Congo conceived so much esteem for Diego, that he sent one
of those, who had returned, back again in the ship to Lisbon, with two
young men despatched as ambassadors, to desire instructors to be sent
for the conversion of his kingdom.

The ambassadors were honourably received, and baptized with great pomp,
and a fleet was immediately fitted out for Congo, under the command of
Gonsalvo Sorza, who dying in his passage, was succeeded in authority by
his nephew Roderigo.

When they came to land, the king's uncle, who commanded the province,
immediately requested to be solemnly initiated into the Christian
religion, which was granted to him and his young son, on Easter day,
1491. The father was named Manuel, and the son Antonio. Soon afterwards
the king, queen, and eldest prince, received at the font the names of
John, Eleanor, and Alphonso; and a war breaking out, the whole army was
admitted to the rites of Christianity, and then sent against the enemy.
They returned victorious, but soon forgot their faith, and formed a
conspiracy to restore paganism; a powerful opposition was raised by
infidels and apostates, headed by one of the king's younger sons; and
the missionaries had been destroyed, had not Alphonso pleaded for them
and for Christianity.

The enemies of religion now became the enemies of Alphonso, whom they
accused to his father of disloyalty. His mother, queen Eleanor, gained
time by one artifice after another, till the king was calmed; he then
heard the cause again, declared his son innocent, and punished his
accusers with death.

The king died soon after, and the throne was disputed by Alphonso,
supported by the Christians, and Aquitimo his brother, followed by the
infidels. A battle was fought, Aquitimo was taken and put to death, and
Christianity was for a time established in Congo; but the nation has
relapsed into its former follies.

Such was the state of the Portuguese navigation, when, in 1492, Columbus
made the daring and prosperous voyage, which gave a new world to
European curiosity and European cruelty. He had offered his proposal,
and declared his expectations to king John of Portugal, who had slighted
him as a fanciful and rash projector, that promised what he had not
reasonable hopes to perform. Columbus had solicited other princes, and
had been repulsed with the same indignity; at last, Isabella of Arragon
furnished him with ships, and having found America, he entered the mouth
of the Tagus in his return, and showed the natives of the new country.
When he was admitted to the king's presence, he acted and talked with so
much haughtiness, and reflected on the neglect which he had undergone
with so much acrimony, that the courtiers, who saw their prince
insulted, offered to destroy him; but the king, who knew that he
deserved the reproaches that had been used, and who now sincerely
regretted his incredulity, would suffer no violence to be offered him,
but dismissed him with presents and with honours.

The Portuguese and Spaniards became now jealous of each other's claim to
countries which neither had yet seen; and the pope, to whom they
appealed, divided the new world between them by a line drawn from north
to south, a hundred leagues westward from cape Verd and the Azores,
giving all that lies west from that line to the Spaniards, and all that
lies east to the Portuguese. This was no satisfactory division, for the
east and west must meet at last, but that time was then at a great

According to this grant, the Portuguese continued their discoveries
eastward, and became masters of much of the coast both of Africa and the
Indies; but they seized much more than they could occupy, and while they
were under the dominion of Spain, lost the greater part of their Indian


[1] A collection of Voyages and Travels, selected from the writers of
all nations, in twenty small pocket volumes, and published by
Newbery; to oblige whom, it is conjectured that Johnson drew up this
curious and learned paper, which appeared in the first volume,

[2] Read Mickle's very excellent introduction to his translation of
Camoens' Lusiad.--Ed.


The importance of education is a point so generally understood and
confessed, that it would be of little use to attempt any new proof or
illustration of its necessity and advantages.

At a time, when so many schemes of education have been projected, so
many proposals offered to the publick, so many schools opened for
general knowledge, and so many lectures in particular sciences attended;
at a time when mankind seems intent rather upon familiarizing than
enlarging the several arts; and every age, sex, and profession, is
invited to an acquaintance with those studies, which were formerly
supposed accessible only to such as had devoted themselves to literary
leisure, and dedicated their powers to philosophical inquiries; it seems
rather requisite that an apology should be made for any further attempt
to smooth a path so frequently beaten, or to recommend attainments so
ardently pursued, and so officiously directed.

That this general desire may not be frustrated, our schools seem yet to
want some book, which may excite curiosity by its variety, encourage
diligence by its facility, and reward application by its usefulness. In
examining the treatises, hitherto offered to the youth of this nation,
there appeared none that did not fail in one or other of these essential
qualities; none that were not either unpleasing, or abstruse, or crowded
with learning very rarely applicable to the purposes of common life.

Every man, who has been engaged in teaching, knows with how much
difficulty youthful minds are confined to close application, and how
readily they deviate to any thing, rather than attend to that which is
imposed as a task. That this disposition, when it becomes inconsistent
with the forms of education, is to be checked, will readily be granted;
but since, though it may be in some degree obviated, it cannot wholly be
suppressed, it is surely rational to turn it to advantage, by taking
care that the mind shall never want objects on which its faculties may
be usefully employed. It is not impossible, that this restless desire of
novelty, which gives so much trouble to the teacher, may be often the
struggle of the understanding starting from that to which it is not by
nature adapted, and travelling in search of something on which it may
fix with greater satisfaction. For, without supposing each man
particularly marked out by his genius for particular performances, it
may be easily conceived, that when a numerous class of boys is confined
indiscriminately to the same forms of composition, the repetition of the
same words, or the explication of the same sentiments, the employment
must, either by nature or accident, be less suitable to some than
others; that the ideas to be contemplated may be too difficult for the
apprehension of one, and too obvious for that of another: they may be
such as some understandings cannot reach, though others look down upon
them, as below their regard. Every mind, in its progress through the
different stages of scholastick learning, must be often in one of these
conditions; must either flag with the labour, or grow wanton with the
facility of the work assigned; and in either state it naturally turns
aside from the track before it. Weariness looks out for relief, and
leisure for employment, and, surely, it is rational to indulge the
wanderings of both. For the faculties which are too lightly burdened
with the business of the day, may, with great propriety, add to it some
other inquiry; and he that finds himself overwearied by a task, which,
perhaps, with all his efforts, he is not able to perform, is undoubtedly
to be justified in addicting himself rather to easier studies, and
endeavouring to quit that which is above his attainment, for that which
nature has not made him incapable of pursuing with advantage.

That, therefore, this roving curiosity may not be unsatisfied, it seems
necessary to scatter in its way such allurements as may withhold it from
an useless and unbounded dissipation; such as may regulate it without
violence, and direct it without restraint; such as may suit every
inclination, and fit every capacity; may employ the stronger genius, by
operations of reason, and engage the less active or forcible mind, by
supplying it with easy knowledge, and obviating that despondence, which
quickly prevails, when nothing appeals but a succession of difficulties,
and one labour only ceases that another may be imposed.

A book, intended thus to correspond with all dispositions, and afford
entertainment for minds of different powers, is necessarily to contain
treatises on different subjects. As it is designed for schools, though
for the higher classes, it is confined wholly to such parts of knowledge
as young minds may comprehend; and, as it is drawn up for readers yet
unexperienced in life, and unable to distinguish the useful from the
ostentatious or unnecessary parts of science, it is requisite that a
very nice distinction should be made, that nothing unprofitable should
be admitted for the sake of pleasure, nor any arts of attraction
neglected, that might fix the attention upon more important studies.

These considerations produced the book which is here offered to the
publick, as better adapted to the great design of pleasing by
instruction, than any which has hitherto been admitted into our
seminaries of literature. There are not indeed wanting in the world
compendiums of science, but many were written at a time when philosophy
was imperfect, as that of G. Valla; many contain only naked schemes, or
synoptical tables, as that of Stierius; and others are too large and
voluminous, as that of Alstedius; and, what is not to be considered as
the least objection, they are generally in a language, which, to boys,
is more difficult than the subject; and it is too hard a task to be
condemned to learn a new science in an unknown tongue. As in life, so in
study, it is dangerous to do more things than one at a time; and the
mind is not to be harassed with unnecessary obstructions, in a way, of
which the natural and unavoidable asperity is such as too frequently
produces despair.

If the language, however, had been the only objection to any of the
volumes already extant, the schools might have been supplied at a small
expense by a translation; but none could be found that was not so
defective, redundant, or erroneous, as to be of more danger than use. It
was necessary then to examine, whether upon every single science there
was not some treatise written for the use of scholars, which might be
adapted to this design, so that a collection might be made from
different authors, without the necessity of writing new systems. This
search was not wholly without success; for two authors were found, whose
performances might be admitted with little alteration. But so widely
does this plan differ from all others, so much has the state of many
kinds of learning been changed, or so unfortunately have they hitherto
been cultivated, that none of the other subjects were explained in such
a manner as was now required; and, therefore, neither care nor expense
has been spared to obtain new lights, and procure to this book the merit
of an original.

With what judgment the design has been formed, and with what skill it
has been executed, the learned world is now to determine. But before
sentence shall pass, it is proper to explain more fully what has been
intended, that censure may not be incurred by the omission of that which
the original plan did not comprehend; to declare more particularly who
they are to whose instructions these treatises pretend, that a charge of
arrogance and presumption may be obviated; to lay down the reasons which
directed the choice of the several subjects; and to explain more
minutely the manner in which each particular part of these volumes is to
be used.

The title has already declared, that these volumes are particularly
intended for the use of schools, and, therefore, it has been the care of
the authors to explain the several sciences, of which they have treated,
in the most familiar manner; for the mind, used only to common
expressions, and inaccurate ideas, does not suddenly conform itself to
scholastick modes of reasoning, or conceive the nice distinctions of a
subtile philosophy, and may be properly initiated in speculative studies
by an introduction like this, in which the grossness of vulgar
conception is avoided, without the observation of metaphysical
exactness. It is observed, that in the course of the natural world no
change is instantaneous, but all its vicissitudes are gradual and slow;
the motions of intellect proceed in the like imperceptible progression,
and proper degrees of transition from one study to another are,
therefore, necessary; but let it not be charged upon the writers of this
book, that they intended to exhibit more than the dawn of knowledge, or
pretended to raise in the mind any nobler product than the blossoms of
science, which more powerful institutions may ripen into fruit.

For this reason it must not be expected, that in the following pages
should be found a complete circle of the sciences; or that any authors,
now deservedly esteemed, should be rejected to make way for what is here
offered. It was intended by the means of these precepts, not to deck the
mind with ornaments, but to protect it from nakedness; not to enrich it
with affluence, but to supply it with necessaries. The inquiry,
therefore, was not what degrees of knowledge are desirable, but what are
in most stations of life indispensably required; and the choice was
determined, not by the splendour of any part of literature, but by the
extent of its use, and the inconvenience which its neglect was likely to

1. The prevalence of this consideration appears in the first part, which
is appropriated to the humble purposes of teaching to read, and speak,
and write letters; an attempt of little magnificence, but in which no
man needs to blush for having employed his time, if honour be estimated
by use. For precepts of this kind, however neglected, extend their
importance as far as men are found who communicate their thoughts one to
another; they are equally useful to the highest and the lowest; they may
often contribute to make ignorance less inelegant; and may it not be
observed, that they are frequently wanted for the embellishment even of

In order to show the proper use of this part, which consists of various
exemplifications of such differences of style as require correspondent
diversities of pronunciation, it will be proper to inform the scholar,
that there are, in general, three forms of style, each of which demands
its particular mode of elocution: the familiar, the solemn, and the
pathetick. That in the familiar, he that reads is only to talk with a
paper in his hand, and to indulge himself in all the lighter liberties
of voice, as when he reads the common articles of a newspaper, or a
cursory letter of intelligence or business. That the solemn style, such
as that of a serious narrative, exacts an uniform steadiness of speech,
equal, clear, and calm. That for the pathetick, such as an animated
oration, it is necessary the voice be regulated by the sense, varying
and rising with the passions. These rules, which are the most general,
admit a great number of subordinate observations, which must be
particularly adapted to every scholar; for it is observable, that though
very few read well, yet every man errs in a different way. But let one
remark never be omitted: inculcate strongly to every scholar the danger
of copying the voice of another; an attempt which, though it has been
often repeated, is always unsuccessful.

The importance of writing letters with propriety, justly claims to be
considered with care, since, next to the power of pleasing with his
presence, every man would wish to be able to give delight at a distance.
This great art should be diligently taught, the rather, because of those
letters which are most useful, and by which the general business of life
is transacted, there are no examples easily to be found. It seems the
general fault of those who undertake this part of education, that they
propose for the exercise of their scholars, occasions which rarely
happen; such as congratulations and condolences, and neglect those
without which life cannot proceed. It is possible to pass many years
without the necessity of writing panegyricks or epithalamiums; but every
man has frequent occasion to state a contract, or demand a debt, or make
a narrative of some minute incidents of common life. On these subjects,
therefore, young persons should be taught to think justly, and write
clearly, neatly, and succinctly, lest they come from school into the
world without any acquaintance with common affairs, and stand idle
spectators of mankind, in expectation that some great event will give
them an opportunity to exert their rhetorick.

2. The second place is assigned to geometry; on the usefulness of which
it is unnecessary to expatiate in an age when mathematical studies have
so much engaged the attention of all classes of men. This treatise is
one of those which have been borrowed, being a translation from the work
of Mr. Le Clerc; and is not intended as more than the first initiation.
In delivering the fundamental principles of geometry, it is necessary to
proceed by slow steps, that each proposition may be fully understood
before another is attempted. For which purpose it is not sufficient,
that when a question is asked in the words of the book, the scholar,
likewise, can in the words of the book return the proper answer; for
this may be only an act of memory, not of understanding: it is always
proper to vary the words of the question, to place the proposition in
different points of view, and to require of the learner an explanation
in his own terms, informing him, however, when they are improper. By
this method the scholar will become cautious and attentive, and the
master will know with certainty the degree of his proficiency. Yet,
though this rule is generally right, I cannot but recommend a precept of
Pardie's[2], that when the student cannot be made to comprehend some
particular part, it should be, for that time, laid aside, till new light
shall arise from subsequent observation.

When this compendium is completely understood, the scholar may proceed
to the perusal of Tacquet, afterwards of Euclid himself, and then of the
modern improvers of geometry, such as Barrow, Keil, and Sir Isaac

3. The necessity of some acquaintance with geography and astronomy will
not be disputed. If the pupil is born to the ease of a large fortune, no
part of learning is more necessary to him than the knowledge of the
situation of nations, on which their interests generally depend; if he
is dedicated to any of the learned professions, it is scarcely possible
that he will not be obliged to apply himself, in some part of his life,
to these studies, as no other branch of literature can be fully
comprehended without them; if he is designed for the arts of commerce or
agriculture, some general acquaintance with these sciences will be found
extremely useful to him; in a word, no studies afford more extensive,
more wonderful, or more pleasing scenes; and, therefore, there can be no
ideas impressed upon the soul, which can more conduce to its future

In the pursuit of these sciences, it will be proper to proceed with the
same gradation and caution as in geometry. And it is always of use to
decorate the nakedness of science, by interspersing such observations
and narratives as may amuse the mind, and excite curiosity. Thus, in
explaining the state of the polar regions, it might be fit to read the
narrative of the Englishmen that wintered in Greenland, which will make
young minds sufficiently curious after the cause of such a length of
night, and intenseness of cold; and many stratagems of the same kind
might be practised to interest them in all parts of their studies, and
call in their passions to animate their inquiries. When they have read
this treatise, it will be proper to recommend to them Varenius's
Geography, and Ferguson's Astronomy.

4. The study of chronology and history seems to be one of the most
natural delights of the human mind. It is not easy to live, without
inquiring by what means every thing was brought into the state in which
we now behold it, or without finding in the mind some desire of being
informed, concerning the generations of mankind that have been in
possession of the world before us, whether they were better or worse
than ourselves; or what good or evil has been derived to us from their
schemes, practices, and institutions. These are inquiries which history
alone can satisfy; and history can only be made intelligible by some
knowledge of chronology, the science by which events are ranged in their
order, and the periods of computation are settled; and which, therefore,
assists the memory by method, and enlightens the judgment by showing the
dependence of one transaction on another. Accordingly it should be
diligently inculcated to the scholar, that, unless he fixes in his mind
some idea of the time in which each man of eminence lived, and each
action was performed, with some part of the contemporary history of the
rest of the world, he will consume his life in useless reading, and
darken his mind with a crowd of unconnected events; his memory will be
perplexed with distant transactions resembling one another, and his
reflections be like a dream in a fever, busy and turbulent, but confused
and indistinct.

The technical part of chronology, or the art of computing and adjusting
time, as it is very difficult, so it is not of absolute necessity, but
should, however, be taught, so far as it can be learned without the loss
of those hours which are required for attainments of nearer concern. The
student may join with this treatise Le Clerc's Compendium of History;
and afterwards may, for the historical part of chronology, procure
Helvicus's and Isaacson's Tables; and, if he is desirous of attaining
the technical part, may first peruse Holder's Account of Time, Hearne's
Ductor Historicus, Strauchius, the first part of Petavius's Rationarium
Temporum; and, at length, Scaliger de Emendatiene Temporum. And, for
instruction in the method of his historical studies, he may consult
Hearne's Ductor Historicus, Wheare's Lectures, Rawlinson's Directions
for the Study of History; and, for ecclesiastical history, Cave and
Dupin, Baronius and Fleury.

5. Rhetorick and poetry supply life with its highest intellectual
pleasures; and, in the hands of virtue, are of great use for the
impression of just sentiments, and recommendation of illustrious
examples. In the practice of these great arts, so much more is the
effect of nature than the effect of education, that nothing is attempted
here but to teach the mind some general heads of observation, to which
the beautiful passages of the best writers may commonly be reduced. In
the use of this, it is not proper that the teacher should confine
himself to the examples before him; for, by that method, he will never
enable his pupils to make just application of the rules; but, having
inculcated the true meaning of each figure, he should require them to
exemplify it by their own observations, pointing to them the poem, or,
in longer works, the book or canto in which an example may be found, and
leaving them to discover the particular passage, by the light of the
rules which they have lately learned.

For a farther progress in these studies, they may consult Quintilian,
and Vossius's Rhetorick; the art of poetry will be best learned from
Bossu and Bohours in French, together with Dryden's Essays and Prefaces,
the critical Papers of Addison, Spence on Pope's Odyssey, and Trapp's
Praelectiones Poeticae: but a more accurate and philosophical account is
expected from a commentary upon Aristotle's Art of Poetry, with which
the literature of this nation will be, in a short time, augmented.

6. With regard to the practice of drawing, it is not necessary to give
any directions, the use of the treatise being only to teach the proper
method of imitating the figures which are annexed. It will be proper to
incite the scholars to industry, by showing in other books the use of
the art, and informing them how much it assists the apprehension, and
relieves the memory; and if they are obliged sometimes to write
descriptions of engines, utensils, or any complex pieces of workmanship,
they will more fully apprehend the necessity of an expedient which so
happily supplies the defects of language, and enables the eye to
conceive what cannot be conveyed to the mind any other way. When they
have read this treatise, and practised upon these figures, their theory
may be improved by the Jesuit's Perspective, and their manual operations
by other figures which may be easily procured.

7. Logick, or the art of arranging and connecting ideas, of forming and
examining arguments, is universally allowed to be an attainment, in the
utmost degree, worthy the ambition of that being whose highest honour is
to be endued with reason; but it is doubted whether that ambition has
yet been gratified, and whether the powers of ratiocination have been
much improved by any systems of art, or methodical institutions. The
logick, which for so many ages kept possession of the schools, has at
last been condemned as a mere art of wrangling, of very little use in
the pursuit of truth; and later writers have contented themselves with
giving an account of the operations of the mind, marking the various
stages of her progress, and giving some general rules for the regulation
of her conduct. The method of these writers is here followed; but
without a servile adherence to any, and with endeavours to make
improvements upon all. This work, however laborious, has yet been
fruitless, if there be truth in an observation very frequently made,
that logicians out of the school do not reason better than men
unassisted by those lights which their science is supposed to bestow. It
is not to be doubted but that logicians may be sometimes overborne by
their passions, or blinded by their prejudices; and that a man may
reason ill, as he may act ill, not because he does not know what is
right, but because he does not regard it; yet it is no more the fault of
his art that it does not direct him, when his attention is withdrawn
from it, than it is the defect of his sight that he misses his way, when
he shuts his eyes. Against this cause of errour there is no provision to
be made, otherwise than by inculcating the value of truth, and the
necessity of conquering the passions. But logick may, likewise, fail to
produce its effects upon common occasions, for want of being frequently
and familiarly applied, till its precepts may direct the mind
imperceptibly, as the fingers of a musician are regulated by his
knowledge of the tune. This readiness of recollection is only to be
procured by frequent impression; and, therefore, it will be proper, when
logick has been once learned, the teacher take frequent occasion, in the
most easy and familiar conversation, to observe when its rules are
preserved, and when they are broken; and that afterwards he read no
authors, without exacting of his pupil an account of every remarkable
exemplification or breach of the laws of reasoning.

When this system has been digested, if it be thought necessary to
proceed farther in the study of method, it will be proper to recommend
Crousaz, Watts, Le Clerc, Wolfius, and Locke's Essay on Human
Understanding; and if there be imagined any necessity of adding the
peripatetick logick, which has been, perhaps, condemned without a candid
trial, it will be convenient to proceed to Sanderson, Wallis,
Crackanthorp, and Aristotle.

8. To excite a curiosity after the works of God, is the chief design of
the small specimen of natural history inserted in this collection;
which, however, may be sufficient to put the mind in motion, and in some
measure to direct its steps; but its effects may easily be improved by a
philosophick master, who will every day find a thousand opportunities of
turning the attention of his scholars to the contemplation of the
objects that surround them, of laying open the wonderful art with which
every part of the universe is formed, and the providence which governs
the vegetable and animal creation. He may lay before them the Religious
Philosopher, Ray, Derham's Physico-Theology, together with the Spectacle
de la Nature; and in time recommend to their perusal Rondoletius,
Aldrovandus, and Linnaeus.

9. But how much soever the reason may be strengthened by logick, or the
conceptions of the mind enlarged by the study of nature, it is necessary
the man be not suffered to dwell upon them so long as to neglect the
study of himself, the knowledge of his own station in the ranks of
being, and his various relations to the innumerable multitudes which
surround him, and with which his Maker has ordained him to be united for
the reception and communication of happiness. To consider these aright
is of the greatest importance, since from these arise duties which he
cannot neglect. Ethicks, or morality, therefore, is one of the studies
which ought to begin with the first glimpse of reason, and only end with
life itself. Other acquisitions are merely temporary benefits, except as
they contribute to illustrate the knowledge, and confirm the practice of
morality and piety, which extend their influence beyond the grave, and
increase our happiness through endless duration.

This great science, therefore, must be inculcated with care and
assiduity, such as its importance ought to incite in reasonable minds;
and for the prosecution of this design, fit opportunities are always at
hand. As the importance of logick is to be shown by detecting false
arguments, the excellence of morality is to be displayed by proving the
deformity, the reproach, and the misery of all deviations from it. Yet
it is to be remembered, that the laws of mere morality are of no
coercive power; and, however they may, by conviction, of their fitness
please the reasoner in the shade, when the passions stagnate without
impulse, and the appetites are secluded from their objects, they will be
of little force against the ardour of desire, or the vehemence of rage,
amidst the pleasures and tumults of the world. To counteract the power
of temptations, hope must be excited by the prospect of rewards, and
fear by the expectation of punishment; and virtue may owe her
panegyricks to morality, but must derive her authority from religion.

When, therefore, the obligations of morality are taught, let the
sanctions of Christianity never be forgotten; by which it will be shown
that they give strength and lustre to each other; religion will appear
to be the voice of reason, and morality the will of God. Under this
article must be recommended Tully's Offices, Grotius, Puffendorf,
Cumberland's Laws of Nature, and the excellent Mr. Addison's Moral and
Religious Essays.

10. Thus far the work is composed for the use of scholars, merely as
they are men. But it was thought necessary to introduce something that
might be particularly adapted to that country for which it is designed;
and, therefore, a discourse has been added upon trade and commerce, of
which it becomes every man of this nation to understand, at least, the
general principles, as it is impossible that any should be high or low
enough not to be, in some degree, affected by their declension or
prosperity. It is, therefore, necessary that it should be universally
known among us, what changes of property are advantageous, or when the
balance of trade is on our side; what are the products or manufactures
of other countries; and how far one nation may in any species of
traffick obtain or preserve superiority over another. The theory of
trade is yet but little understood, and, therefore, the practice is
often without real advantage to the publick; but it might be carried on
with more general success, if its principles were better considered; and
to excite that attention is our chief design. To the perusal of this
part of our work may succeed that of Mun upon Foreign Trade, Sir Josiah
Child, Locke upon Coin, Davenant's Treatises, the British Merchant,
Dictionnaire de Commerce, and, for an abstract or compendium, Gee, and
an improvement that may, hereafter, be made upon his plan.

11. The principles of laws and government come next to be considered; by
which men are taught to whom obedience is due, for what it is paid, and
in what degree it may be justly required. This knowledge, by peculiar
necessity, constitutes a part of the education of an Englishman, who
professes to obey his prince, according to the law, and who is himself a
secondary legislator, as he gives his consent, by his representative, to
all the laws by which he is bound, and has a right to petition the great
council of the nation, whenever he thinks they are deliberating upon an
act detrimental to the interest of the community. This is, therefore, a
subject to which the thoughts of a young man ought to be directed; and,
that he may obtain such knowledge as may qualify him to act and judge as
one of a free people, let him be directed to add to this introduction
Fortescue's Treatises, N. Bacon's Historical Discourse on the Laws and
Government of England, Blackstone's Commentaries, Temple's Introduction,
Locke on Government, Zouch's Elementa Juris Civilis, Plato Redivivus,
Gurdon's History of Parliaments, and Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity.

12. Having thus supplied the young student with knowledge, it remains
now that he learn its application; and that thus qualified to act his
part, he be at last taught to choose it. For this purpose a section is
added upon human life and manners; in which he is cautioned against the
danger of indulging his passions, of vitiating his habits, and depraving
his sentiments. He is instructed in these points by three fables, two of
which were of the highest authority in the ancient pagan world. But at
this he is not to rest; for, if he expects to be wise and happy, he must
diligently study the Scriptures of God.

Such is the book now proposed, as the first initiation into the
knowledge of things, which has been thought by many to be too long
delayed in the present forms of education. Whether the complaints be not
often ill-grounded, may, perhaps, be disputed; but it is at least
reasonable to believe, that greater proficiency might sometimes be made;
that real knowledge might be more early communicated; and that children
might be allowed, without injury to health, to spend many of those hours
upon useful employments, which are generally lost in idleness and play;
therefore the publick will surely encourage an experiment, by which, if
it fails, nobody is hurt; and, if it succeeds, all the future ages of
the world may find advantage; which may eradicate or prevent vice, by
turning to a better use those moments in which it is learned or
indulged; and in some sense lengthen life, by teaching posterity to
enjoy those years which have hitherto been lost. The success, and even
the trial of this experiment, will depend upon those to whom the care of
our youth is committed; and a due sense of the importance of their trust
will easily prevail upon them to encourage a work which pursues the
design of improving education. If any part of the following performance
shall, upon trial, be found capable of amendment; if any thing can be
added or altered, so as to render the attainment of knowledge more easy;
the editor will be extremely obliged to any gentleman, particularly
those who are engaged in the business of teaching, for such hints or
observations as may tend towards the improvement, and will spare neither
expense nor trouble in making the best use of their information.


[1] In this year, 1748, Mr. Dodsley brought out his Preceptor, one of
the most valuable books for the improvement of young minds, that has
appeared in any language; and to this meritorious work Johnson
furnished the preface. Boswell's Life of Johnson, i.

[2] "And albeit the reader shall not at any one day (do what he can)
reach to the meaning of our author, or of our commentaries, yet let
him not discourage himself, but proceed; for, on some other day, in
some other place, that doubt will be cleared." This is the advice of
Lord Coke to the student bewildered in the mazes of legal
investigation. Preface to the first Institute.


No expectation is more fallacious than that which authors form of the
reception which their labours will find among mankind. Scarcely any man
publishes a book, whatever it be, without believing that he has caught
the moment when the publick attention is vacant to his call, and the
world is disposed, in a particular manner, to learn the art which he
undertakes to teach.

The writers of this volume are not so far exempt from epidemical
prejudices, but that they, likewise, please themselves with imagining
that they have reserved their labours to a propitious conjuncture, and
that this is the proper time for the publication of a dictionary of

The predictions of an author are very far from infallibility; but, in
justification of some degree of confidence, it may be properly observed,
that there was never, from the earliest ages, a time in which trade so
much engaged the attention of mankind, or commercial gain was sought
with such general emulation. Nations which have hitherto cultivated no
art but that of war, nor conceived any means of increasing riches but by
plunder, are awakened to more inoffensive industry. Those whom the
possession of subterraneous treasures have long disposed to accommodate
themselves by foreign industry, are at last convinced that idleness
never will be rich. The merchant is now invited to every port;
manufactures are established in all cities; and princes, who just can
view the sea from some single corner of their dominions, are enlarging
harbours, erecting mercantile companies, and preparing to traffick in
the remotest countries.

Nor is the form of this work less popular than the subject. It has
lately been the practice of the learned to range knowledge by the
alphabet, and publish dictionaries of every kind of literature. This
practice has, perhaps, been carried too far by the force of fashion.
Sciences, in themselves systematical and coherent, are not very properly
broken into such fortuitous distributions. A dictionary of arithmetick
or geometry can serve only to confound; but commerce, considered in its
whole extent, seems to refuse any other method of arrangement, as it
comprises innumerable particulars unconnected with each other, among
which there is no reason why any should be first or last, better than is
furnished by the letters that compose their names.

We cannot, indeed, boast ourselves the inventors of a scheme so
commodious and comprehensive. The French, among innumerable projects for
the promotion of traffick, have taken care to supply their merchants
with a Dictionnaire de Commerce, collected with great industry and
exactness, but too large for common use, and adapted to their own trade.
This book, as well as others, has been carefully consulted, that our
merchants may not be ignorant of any thing known by their enemies or

Such, indeed, is the extent of our undertaking, that it was necessary to
solicit every information, to consult the living and the dead. The great
qualification of him that attempts a work thus general is diligence of
inquiry. No man has opportunity or ability to acquaint himself with all
the subjects of a commercial dictionary, so as to describe from his own
knowledge, or assert on his own experience. He must, therefore, often
depend upon the veracity of others, as every man depends in common life,
and have no other skill to boast than that of selecting judiciously, and
arranging properly.

But to him who considers the extent of our subject, limited only by the
bounds of nature and of art, the task of selection and method will
appear sufficient to overburden industry and distract attention. Many
branches of commerce are subdivided into smaller and smaller parts,
till, at last, they become so minute, as not easily to be noted by
observation. Many interests are so woven among each other, as not to be
disentangled without long inquiry; many arts are industriously kept
secret, and many practices, necessary to be known, are carried on in
parts too remote for intelligence.

But the knowledge of trade is of so much importance to a maritime
nation, that no labour can be thought great by which information may be
obtained; and, therefore, we hope the reader will not have reason to
complain, that, of what he might justly expect to find, any thing is

To give a detail or analysis of our work is very difficult; a volume
intended to contain whatever is requisite to be known by every trader,
necessarily becomes so miscellaneous and unconnected, as not to be
easily reducible to heads; yet, since we pretend in some measure to
treat of traffick as a science, and to make that regular and
systematical which has hitherto been, to a great degree, fortuitous and
conjectural, and has often succeeded by chance rather than by conduct,
it will be proper to show that a distribution of parts has been
attempted, which, though rude and inadequate, will, at least, preserve
some order, and enable the mind to take a methodical and successive view
of this design.

In the dictionary which we here offer to the publick, we propose to
exhibit the materials, the places, and the means of traffick.

The materials or subjects of traffick are whatever is bought and sold,
and include, therefore, every manufacture of art, and almost every
production of nature.

In giving an account of the commodities of nature, whether those which
are to be used in their original state, as drugs and spices, or those
which become useful when they receive a new form from human art, as
flax, cotton, and metals, we shall show the places of their production,
the manner in which they grow, the art of cultivating or collecting
them, their discriminations and varieties, by which the best sorts are
known from the worse, and genuine from fictitious, the arts by which
they are counterfeited, the casualties by which they are impaired, and
the practices by which the damage is palliated or concealed. We shall,
likewise, show their virtues and uses, and trace them through all the
changes which they undergo.

The history of manufactures is, likewise, delivered. Of every artificial
commodity the manner in which it is made is, in some measure, described,
though it must be remembered, that manual operations are scarce to be
conveyed by any words to him that has not seen them. Some general
notions may, however, be afforded: it is easy to comprehend, that plates
of iron are formed by the pressure of rollers, and bars by the strokes
of a hammer; that a cannon is cast, and that an anvil is forged. But, as
it is to most traders of more use to know when their goods are well
wrought, than by what means, care has been taken to name the places
where every manufacture has been carried furthest, and the marks by
which its excellency may be ascertained.

By the places of trade, are understood all ports, cities, or towns,
where staples are established, manufactures are wrought, or any
commodities are bought and sold advantageously. This part of our work
includes an enumeration of almost all the remarkable places in the
world, with such an account of their situation, customs, and products,
as the merchant would require, who, being to begin a new trade in any
foreign country, was yet ignorant of the commodities of the place, and
the manners of the inhabitants.

But the chief attention of the merchant, and, consequently, of the
author who writes for merchants, ought to be employed upon the means of
trade, which include all the knowledge and practice necessary to the
skilful and successful conduct of commerce.

The first of the means of trade is proper education, which may confer a
competent skill in numbers; to be afterwards completed in the
counting-house, by observation of the manner of stating accounts, and
regulating books, which is one of the few arts which, having been studied
in proportion to its importance, is carried as far as use can require. The
counting-house of an accomplished merchant is a school of method, where
the great science may be learned of ranging particulars under generals,
of bringing the different parts of a transaction together, and of
showing, at one view, a long series of dealing and exchange. Let no man
venture into large business while he is ignorant of the method of
regulating books; never let him imagine that any degree of natural
abilities will enable him to supply this deficiency, or preserve
multiplicity of affairs from inextricable confusion.

This is the study, without which all other studies will be of little
avail; but this alone is not sufficient. It will be necessary to learn
many other things, which, however, may be easily included in the
preparatory institutions, such as an exact knowledge of the weights and
measures of different countries, and some skill in geography and
navigation, with which this book may, perhaps, sufficiently supply him.

In navigation, considered as part of the skill of a merchant, is
included not so much the art of steering a ship, as the knowledge of the
seacoast, and of the different parts to which his cargoes are sent; the
customs to be paid; the passes, permissions, or certificates to be
procured; the hazards of every voyage, and the true rate of insurance.
To this must be added, an acquaintance with the policies and arts of
other nations, as well those to whom the commodities are sold, as of
those who carry goods of the same kind to the same market; and who are,
therefore, to be watched as rivals endeavouring to take advantage of
every errour, miscarriage, or debate.

The chief of the means of trade is money, of which our late refinements
in traffick have made the knowledge extremely difficult. The merchant
must not only inform himself of the various denominations and value of
foreign coins, together with their method of counting and reducing; such
as the milleries of Portugal, and the livres of France; but he must
learn what is of more difficult attainment; the discount of exchanges,
the nature of current paper, the principles upon which the several banks
of Europe are established, the real value of funds, the true credit of
trading companies, with all the sources of profit, and possibilities of

All this he must learn, merely as a private dealer, attentive only to
his own advantage; but, as every man ought to consider himself as part
of the community to which he belongs, and while he prosecutes his own
interest to promote, likewise, that of his country, it is necessary for
the trader to look abroad upon mankind, and study many questions which
are, perhaps, more properly political than mercantile.

He ought, therefore, to consider very accurately the balance of trade,
or the proportion between things exported and imported; to examine what
kinds of commerce are unlawful, either as being expressly prohibited,
because detrimental to the manufactures or other interest of his
country, as the exportation of silver to the East-Indies, and the
introduction of French commodities; or unlawful in itself, as the
traffick for negroes. He ought to be able to state with accuracy the
benefits and mischiefs of monopolies, and exclusive companies; to
inquire into the arts which have been practised by them to make
themselves necessary, or by their opponents to make them odious. He
should inform himself what trades are declining, and what are
improvable; when the advantage is on our side, and when on that of our

The state of our colonies is always to be diligently surveyed, that no
advantage may be lost which they can afford, and that every opportunity
may be improved of increasing their wealth and power, or of making them
useful to their mother country.

There is no knowledge of more frequent use than that, of duties and
impost, whether customs paid at the ports, or excises levied upon the
manufacturer. Much of the prosperity of a trading nation depends upon
duties properly apportioned; so that what is necessary may continue
cheap, and what is of use only to luxury may, in some measure, atone to
the publick for the mischief done to individuals. Duties may often be so
regulated as to become useful even to those that pay them; and they may
be, likewise, so unequally imposed as to discourage honesty, and depress
industry, and give temptation to fraud and unlawful practices.

To teach all this is the design of the Commercial Dictionary; which,
though immediately and primarily written for the merchants, will be of
use to every man of business or curiosity. There is no man who is not,
in some degree, a merchant, who has not something to buy and something
to sell, and who does not, therefore, want such instructions as may
teach him the true value of possessions or commodities.

The descriptions of the productions of the earth and water, which this
volume will contain, may be equally pleasing and useful to the
speculatist with any other natural history; and the accounts of various
manufactures will constitute no contemptible body of experimental
philosophy. The descriptions of ports and cities may instruct the
geographer, as well as if they were found in books appropriated only to
his own science; and the doctrines of funds, insurances, currency,
monopolies, exchanges, and duties, is so necessary to the politician,
that without it he can be of no use either in the council or the senate,
nor can speak or think justly either on war or trade.

We, therefore, hope that we shall not repent the labour of compiling
this work; nor flatter ourselves unreasonably, in predicting a
favourable reception to a book which no condition of life can render
useless, which may contribute to the advantage of all that make or
receive laws, of all that buy or sell, of all that wish to keep or
improve their possessions, of all that desire to be rich, and all that
desire to be wise[2].


[1] A new Dictionary of Trade and Commerce, compiled from the
information of the most eminent merchants, and from the works of the
best writers on commercial subjects in all languages, by Mr. Rolt.
Folio, 1757.

[2] Of this preface, Mr. Boswell informs us that Dr. Johnson said he
never saw Rolt, and never read the book. "The booksellers wanted a
preface to a dictionary of trade and commerce. I knew very well what
such a dictionary should be, and I wrote a preface accordingly."
This may be believed; but the book is a most wretched farrago of
articles plundered without acknowledgment, or judgment, which,
indeed, was the case with most of Rolt's compilations.


The following relation is so curious and entertaining, and the
dissertations that accompany it so judicious and instructive, that the
translator is confident his attempt stands in need of no apology,
whatever censures may fall on the performance.

The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general vein of his
countrymen, has amused his reader with no romantick absurdities or
incredible fictions: whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at
least probable; and he who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of
probability, has a right to demand that they should believe him who
cannot contradict him.

He appears, by his modest and unaffected narration, to have described
things as he saw them, to have copied nature from the life, and to have
consulted his senses, not his imagination. He meets with no basilisks
that destroy with their eyes; his crocodiles devour their prey without
tears; and his cataracts fall from the rock without deafening the
neighbouring inhabitants.

The reader will here find no regions cursed with irremediable
barrenness, or blest with spontaneous fecundity; no perpetual gloom or
unceasing sunshine; nor are the nations here described either devoid of
all sense of humanity, or consummate in all private and social virtues:
here are no Hottentots without religion, polity, or articulate language;
no Chinese perfectly polite, and completely skilled in all sciences: he
will discover what will always be discovered by a diligent and impartial
inquirer, that wherever human nature is to be found, there is a mixture
of vice and virtue, a contest of passion and reason; and that the
Creator doth not appear partial in his distributions, but has balanced
in most countries their particular inconveniencies by particular

In his account of the mission, where his veracity is most to be
suspected, he neither exaggerates overmuch the merits of the Jesuits, if
we consider the partial regard paid by the Portuguese to their
countrymen, by the Jesuits to their society, and by the papists to their
church; nor aggravates the vices of the Abyssinians; but if the reader
will not be satisfied with a popish account of a popish mission, he may
have recourse to the history of the church of Abyssinia, written by Dr.
Geddes, in which he will find the actions and sufferings of the
missionaries placed in a different light, though the same in which Mr.
LeGrand, with all his zeal for the Roman church, appears to have seen

This learned dissertator, however valuable for his industry and
erudition, is yet more to be esteemed for having dared so freely, in the
midst of France, to declare his disapprobation of the patriarch Oviedo's
sanguinary zeal, who was continually importuning the Portuguese to beat
up their drums for missionaries who might preach the gospel with swords
in their hands, and propagate, by desolation and slaughter, the true
worship of the God of peace.

It is not easy to forbear reflecting with how little reason these men
profess themselves the followers of JESUS, who left this great
characteristick to his disciples, that they should be known by loving
one another, by universal and unbounded charity and benevolence.

Let us suppose an inhabitant of some remote and superiour region, yet
unskilled in the ways of men, having read and considered the precepts of
the gospel, and the example of our Saviour, to come down in search of
the true church. If he would not inquire after it among the cruel, the
insolent, and the oppressive; among those who are continually grasping
at dominion over souls as well as bodies; among those who are employed
in procuring to themselves impunity for the most enormous villanies, and
studying methods of destroying their fellow-creatures, not for their
crimes, but their errours; if he would not expect to meet benevolence
engage in massacres, or to find mercy in a court of inquisition,--he
would not look for the true church in the church of Rome.

Mr. LeGrand has given, in one dissertation, an example of great
moderation, in deviating from the temper of his religion; but, in the
others, has left proofs, that learning and honesty are often too weak to
oppose prejudice. He has made no scruple of preferring the testimony of
father Du Bernat to the writings of all the Portuguese jesuits, to whom
he allows great zeal, but little learning, without giving any other
reason than that his favourite was a Frenchman. This is writing only to
Frenchmen and to papists: a protestant would be desirous to know, why he
must imagine that father Du Bernat had a cooler head or more knowledge,
and why one man, whose account is singular, is not more likely to be
mistaken than many agreeing in the same account.

If the Portuguese were biassed by any particular views, another bias
equally powerful may have deflected the Frenchman from the truth; for
they evidently write with contrary designs: the Portuguese, to make
their mission seem more necessary, endeavoured to place, in the
strongest light, the differences between the Abyssinian and Roman
church; but the great Ludolfus, laying hold on the advantage, reduced
these later writers to prove their conformity.

Upon the whole, the controversy seems of no great importance to those
who believe the holy Scriptures sufficient to teach the way of
salvation; but, of whatever moment it may be thought, there are no
proofs sufficient to decide it.

His discourses on indifferent subjects will divert, as well as instruct;
and if either in these, or in the relation of father Lobo, any argument
shall appear unconvincing, or description obscure, they are defects
incident to all mankind, which, however, are not rashly to be imputed to
the authors, being sometimes, perhaps, more justly chargeable on the

In this translation (if it may be so called) great liberties have been
taken, which, whether justifiable or not, shall be fairly confessed, and
let the judicious part of mankind pardon or condemn them.

In the first part, the greatest freedom has been used, in reducing the
narration into a narrow compass; so that it is by no means a
translation, but an epitome, in which, whether every thing either useful
or entertaining be comprised, the compiler is least qualified to

In the account of Abyssinia, and the continuation, the authors have been
followed with more exactness; and as few passages appeared either
insignificant or tedious, few have been either shortened or omitted.

The dissertations are the only part in which an exact translation has
been attempted; and even in those, abstracts are sometimes given,
instead of literal quotations, particularly in the first; and sometimes
other parts have been contracted.

Several memorials and letters, which are printed at the end of the
dissertations to secure the credit of the foregoing narrative, are
entirely left out.

It is hoped that, after this confession, whoever shall compare this
attempt with the original, if he shall find no proofs of fraud or
partiality, will candidly overlook any failure of judgment.


[1] This translation was Johnson's first literary production, and was
published in 1735, with London on the title page, though, according
to Boswell, it was printed at Birmingham. In the preface and
dedication, the elegant structure of the sentences, and the harmony
of their cadence, are such as characterize his maturer works. Here
we may adopt the words of Mr. Murphy, and affirm that "we see the
infant Hercules." In the merely translated parts, no vestige of the
translator's own style appears. For Burke's opinion on the work, see
Boswell's Life of Johnson, i.; and for Johnson's own, see Boswell,
iii. In Murphy's Essay on the Life and Genius of Dr. Johnson, there
is a compendious account of the benevolent travels of the Portuguese
missionary, who may fairly be called the precursor of Bruce.
Independent of its intrinsic merits, this translation is interesting
as illustrative of Johnson's early fondness for voyages and travels;
the perusal of which, refreshed Gray when weary of heavier labours,
and were pronounced by Warburton to constitute an important part of
a philosopher's library.

[1] From the Gentleman's Magazine.

Though criticism has been cultivated in every age of learning, by men of
great abilities and extensive knowledge, till the rules of writing are
become rather burdensome than instructive to the mind; though almost
every species of composition has been the subject of particular
treatises and given birth to definitions, distinctions, precepts and
illustrations; yet no critick of note, that has fallen within my
observation, has hitherto thought sepulchral inscriptions worthy of a
minute examination, or pointed out, with proper accuracy, their beauties
and defects.

The reasons of this neglect it is useless to inquire, and, perhaps,
impossible to discover; it might be justly expected that this kind of
writing would have been the favourite topick of criticism, and that
self-love might have produced some regard for it, in those authors that
have crowded libraries with elaborate dissertations upon Homer; since to
afford a subject for heroick poems is the privilege of very few, but
every man may expect to be recorded in an epitaph, and, therefore, finds
some interest in providing that his memory may not suffer by an
unskilful panegyrick.

If our prejudices in favour of antiquity deserve to have any part in the
regulation of our studies, epitaphs seem entitled to more than common
regard, as they are, probably, of the same age with the art of writing.
The most ancient structures in the world, the pyramids, are supposed to
be sepulchral monuments, which either pride or gratitude erected; and
the same passions which incited men to such laborious and expensive
methods of preserving their own memory, or that of their benefactors,
would, doubtless, incline them not to neglect any easier means by which
the same ends might be obtained. Nature and reason have dictated to
every nation, that to preserve good actions from oblivion, is both the
interest and duty of mankind: and, therefore, we find no people
acquainted with the use of letters, that omitted to grace the tombs of
their heroes and wise men with panegyrical inscriptions.

To examine, therefore, in what the perfection of epitaphs consists, and
what rules are to be observed in composing them, will be, at least, of
as much use as other critical inquiries; and for assigning a few hours
to such disquisitions, great examples, at least, if not strong reasons,
may be pleaded.

An epitaph, as the word itself implies, is an inscription on a tomb,
and, in its most extensive import, may admit, indiscriminately, satire
or praise. But as malice has seldom produced monuments of defamation,
and the tombs, hitherto raised, have been the work of friendship and
benevolence, custom has contracted the original latitude of the word, so
that it signifies, in the general acceptation, an inscription engraven
on a tomb in honour of the person deceased.

As honours are paid to the dead, in order to incite others to the
imitation of their excellencies, the principal intention of epitaphs is
to perpetuate the examples of virtue, that the tomb of a good man may
supply the want of his presence, and veneration for his memory produce
the same effect as the observation of his life. Those epitaphs are,
therefore, the most perfect, which set virtue in the strongest light,
and are best adapted to exalt the readers ideas, and rouse his

To this end it is not always necessary to recount the actions of a hero,
or enumerate the writings of a philosopher; to imagine such informations
necessary, is to detract from their characters, or to suppose their
works mortal, or their achievements in danger of being forgotten. The
bare name of such men answers every purpose of a long inscription.

Had only the name of Sir Isaac Newton been subjoined to the design upon
his monument, instead of a long detail of his discoveries, which no
philosopher can want, and which none but a philosopher can understand,
those, by whose direction it was raised, had done more honour both to
him and to themselves.

This, indeed, is a commendation which it requires no genius to bestow,
but which can never become vulgar or contemptible, if bestowed with
judgment; because no single age produces many men of merit superiour to
panegyrick. None but the first names can stand unassisted against the
attacks of time; and if men raised to reputation by accident or caprice,
have nothing but their names engraved on their tombs, there is danger
lest, in a few years, the inscription require an interpreter. Thus have
their expectations been disappointed who honoured Picus of Mirandola
with this pompous epitaph:

Hic situs est PICUS MIRANDOLA, caetera norunt
Et Tagus et Ganges, forsan et Antipodes.

His name, then celebrated in the remotest corners of the earth, is now
almost forgotten; and his works, then studied, admired, and applauded,
are now mouldering in obscurity.

Next in dignity to the bare name is a short character simple and
unadorned, without exaggeration, superlatives, or rhetorick. Such were
the inscriptions in use among the Romans, in which the victories gained
by their emperours were commemorated by a single epithet; as Caesar
Germanicus, Caesar Dacicus, Germanicus, Illyricus. Such would be this
epitaph, ISAACUS NEWTONUS, naturae legibus investigatis, hic quiescit.

But to far the greatest part of mankind a longer encomium is necessary
for the publication of their virtues, and the preservation of their
memories; and, in the composition of these it is, that art is
principally required, and precepts, therefore, may be useful.

In writing epitaphs, one circumstance is to be considered, which affects
no other composition; the place in which they are now commonly found
restrains them to a particular air of solemnity, and debars them from
the admission of all lighter or gayer ornaments. In this, it is that,
the style of an epitaph necessarily differs from that of an elegy. The
customs of burying our dead, either in or near our churches, perhaps,
originally founded on a rational design of fitting the mind for
religious exercises, by laying before it the most affecting proofs of
the uncertainty of life, makes it proper to exclude from our epitaphs
all such allusions as are contrary to the doctrines, for the propagation
of which the churches are erected, and to the end for which those who
peruse the monuments must be supposed to come thither. Nothing is,
therefore, more ridiculous than to copy the Roman inscriptions, which
were engraven on stones by the highway, and composed by those who
generally reflected on mortality only to excite in themselves and others
a quicker relish of pleasure, and a more luxurious enjoyment of life,
and whose regard for the dead extended no farther than a wish that "the
earth might be light upon them."

All allusions to the heathen mythology are, therefore, absurd, and all
regard for the senseless remains of a dead man impertinent and
superstitious. One of the first distinctions of the primitive
Christians, was their neglect of bestowing garlands on the dead, in
which they are very rationally defended by their apologist in Manutius
Felix. "We lavish no flowers nor odours on the dead," says he, "because
they have no sense of fragrance or of beauty." We profess to reverence
the dead, not for their sake, but for our own. It is, therefore, always
with indignation or contempt that I read the epitaph on Cowley, a man
whose learning and poetry were his lowest merits.

Aurea dum late volitant tua scripta per orbem,
Et fama eternum vivis, divine poeta,
Hic placida jaceas requie, custodiat urnam
Cana fides, vigilenique perenni lampade muse!
Sit sacer ille locus, nec quis temerarius ausit
Sacrilega turbare manu venerabile bustum.
Intacti maneant, maneant per saecula dulces
COWLEII cineres, serventque immobile saxum.

To pray that the ashes of a friend may lie undisturbed, and that the
divinities that favoured him in his life may watch for ever round him,
to preserve his tomb from violation, and drive sacrilege away, is only
rational in him who believes the soul interested in the repose of the
body, and the powers which he invokes for its protection able to
preserve it. To censure such expressions, as contrary to religion, or as
remains of heathen superstition, would be too great a degree of
severity. I condemn them only as uninstructive and unaffecting, as too
ludicrous for reverence or grief, for Christianity and a temple.

That the designs and decorations of monuments ought, likewise, to be
formed with the same regard to the solemnity of the place, cannot be
denied; it is an established principle, that all ornaments owe their
beauty to their propriety. The same glitter of dress, that adds graces
to gaiety and youth, would make age and dignity contemptible. Charon
with his boat is far from heightening the awful grandeur of the
universal judgment, though drawn by Angelo himself; nor is it easy to
imagine a greater absurdity than that of gracing the walls of a
Christian temple, with the figure of Mars leading a hero to battle, or
Cupids sporting round a virgin. The pope who defaced the statues of the
deities at the tomb of Sannazarius is, in my opinion, more easily to be
defended, than he that erected them.

It is, for the same reason, improper to address the epitaph to the
passenger, a custom which an injudicious veneration for antiquity
introduced again at the revival of letters, and which, among many
others, Passeratius suffered to mislead him in his epitaph upon the
heart of Henry, king of France, who was stabbed by Clement the monk,
which yet deserves to be inserted, for the sake of showing how beautiful
even improprieties may become in the hands of a good writer.

Adsta, viator, et dole regum vices.
Cor regis isto conditur sub marmore,
Qui jura Gallis, jura Sarmatis dedit;
Tectus cucullo hunc sustulit sicarius.
Abi, viator, et dole regum vices.

In the monkish ages, however ignorant and unpolished, the epitaphs were
drawn up with far greater propriety than can be shown in those which
more enlightened times have produced.

Orate pro anima miserrimi peccatoris,

was an address, to the last degree, striking and solemn, as it flowed
naturally from the religion then believed, and awakened in the reader
sentiments of benevolence for the deceased, and of concern for his own
happiness. There was nothing trifling or ludicrous, nothing that did not
tend to the noblest end, the propagation of piety, and the increase of

It may seem very superfluous to lay it down as the first rule for
writing epitaphs, that the name of the deceased is not to be omitted;
nor should I have thought such a precept necessary, had not the practice
of the greatest writers shown, that it has not been sufficiently
regarded. In most of the poetical epitaphs, the names for whom they were
composed, may be sought to no purpose, being only prefixed on the
monument. To expose the absurdity of this omission, it is only necessary
to ask how the epitaphs, which have outlived the stones on which they
were inscribed, would have contributed to the information of posterity,
had they wanted the names of those whom they celebrated.

In drawing the character of the deceased, there are no rules to be
observed which do not equally relate to other compositions. The praise
ought not to be general, because the mind is lost in the extent of any
indefinite idea, and cannot be affected with what it cannot comprehend.
When we hear only of a good or great man, we know not in what class to
place him, nor have any notion of his character, distinct from that of a
thousand others; his example can have no effect upon our conduct, as we
have nothing remarkable or eminent to propose to our imitation. The
epitaph composed by Ennius for his own tomb, has both the faults last

Nemo me decoret lacrumis, nec funera fletu
Faxit. Cur?--Volito vivu' per ora virum.

The reader of this epitaph receives scarce any idea from it; he neither
conceives any veneration for the man to whom it belongs, nor is
instructed by what methods this boasted reputation is to be obtained.

Though a sepulchral inscription is professedly a panegyrick, and,
therefore, not confined to historical impartiality, yet it ought always
to be written with regard to truth. No man ought to be commended for
virtues which he never possessed, but whoever is curious to know his
faults must inquire after them in other places; the monuments of the
dead are not intended to perpetuate the memory of crimes, but to exhibit
patterns of virtue. On the tomb of Maecenas his luxury is not to be
mentioned with his munificence, nor is the proscription to find a place
on the monument of Augustus.

The best subject for epitaphs is private virtue; virtue exerted in the
same circumstances in which the bulk of mankind are placed, and which,
therefore, may admit of many imitators. He that has delivered his
country from oppression, or freed the world from ignorance and errour,
can excite the emulation of a very small number; but he that has
repelled the temptations of poverty, and disdained to free himself from
distress, at the expense of his virtue, may animate multitudes, by his
example, to the same firmness of heart and steadiness of resolution.

Of this kind I cannot forbear the mention of two Greek inscriptions; one
upon a man whose writings are well known, the other upon a person whose
memory is preserved only in her epitaph, who both lived in slavery, the
most calamitous estate in human life:

[Greek: Zosimae ae prin eousa mono to somati doulae
Kai to somati nun euren eleutheriaen.]

"Zosima, quae solo fuit olim corpore serva,
Corpore nunc etiam libera facta fuit."

"Zosima, who, in her life, could only have her body enslaved, now
finds her body, likewise, set at liberty."

It is impossible to read this epitaph without being animated to bear the
evils of life with constancy, and to support the dignity of human nature
under the most pressing afflictions, both, by the example of the
heroine, whose grave we behold, and the prospect of that state in which,
to use the language of the inspired writers, "The poor cease from their
labours, and the weary be at rest."--

The other is upon Epictetus, the Stoick philosopher:

[Greek: Doulos Epiktaetos genomaen, kai som anapaeros,
Kai peniaen Iros, kai philos Athanatois.]

"Servus Epictetus, mutilatus corpore, vixi
Pauperieque Irus, curaque prima deum."

"Epictetus, who lies here, was a slave and a cripple, poor as the
beggar in the proverb, and the favourite of heaven."

In this distich is comprised the noblest panegyrick, and the most
important instruction. We may learn from it, that virtue is
impracticable in no condition, since Epictetus could recommend himself
to the regard of heaven, amidst the temptations of poverty and slavery;
slavery, which has always been found so destructive to virtue, that in
many languages a slave and a thief are expressed by the same word. And
we may be, likewise, admonished by it, not to lay any stress on a man's
outward circumstances, in making an estimate of his real value, since
Epictetus the beggar, the cripple, and the slave, was the favourite of



It is now more than half a century since the Paradise Lost, having broke
through the clouds with which the unpopularity of the author, for a
time, obscured it, has attracted the general admiration of mankind; who
have endeavoured to compensate the errour of their first neglect, by
lavish praises and boundless veneration. There seems to have arisen a
contest, among men of genius and literature, who should most advance its
honour, or best distinguish its beauties. Some have revised editions,
others have published commentaries, and all have endeavoured to make
their particular studies, in some degree, subservient to this general

Among the inquiries, to which this ardour of criticism has naturally
given occasion, none is more obscure in itself, or more worthy of
rational curiosity, than a retrospection of the progress of this mighty
genius, in the construction of his work; a view of the fabrick gradually
rising, perhaps, from small beginnings, till its foundation rests in the
centre, and its turrets sparkle in the skies; to trace back the
structure, through all its varieties, to the simplicity of its first
plan; to find what was first projected, whence the scheme was taken, how
it was improved, by what assistance it was executed, and from what
stores the materials were collected, whether its founder dug them from
the quarries of nature, or demolished other buildings to embellish his

This inquiry has been, indeed, not wholly neglected, nor, perhaps,
prosecuted with the care and diligence that it deserves. Several
criticks have offered their conjectures; but none have much endeavoured
to enforce or ascertain them. Mr. Voltaire[2] tells us, without proof,
that the first hint of Paradise Lost was taken from a farce called
Adamo, written by a player; Dr. Pearce[3], that it was derived from an
Italian tragedy, called Il Paradiso Perso; and Mr. Peck[4], that it was
borrowed from a wild romance. Any of these conjectures may possibly be
true, but, as they stand without sufficient proof, it must be granted,
likewise, that they may all possibly be false; at least they cannot
preclude any other opinion, which, without argument, has the same claim
to credit, and may, perhaps, be shown, by resistless evidence, to be
better founded.

It is related, by steady and uncontroverted tradition, that the Paradise
Lost was at first a tragedy, and, therefore, amongst tragedies the first
hint is properly to be sought. In a manuscript, published from Milton's
own hand, among a great number of subjects for tragedy, is Adam
unparadised, or Adam in exile; and this, therefore, may be justly
supposed the embryo of this great poem. As it is observable, that all
these subjects had been treated by others, the manuscript can be
supposed nothing more, than a memorial or catalogue of plays, which, for
some reason, the writer thought worthy of his attention. When,
therefore, I had observed, that Adam in exile was named amongst them, I
doubted not but, in finding the original of that tragedy, I should
disclose the genuine source of Paradise Lost. Nor was my expectation
disappointed; for, having procured the Adamus exul of Grotius, I found,
or imagined myself to find, the first draught, the prima stamina of this
wonderful poem.

Having thus traced the original of this work, I was naturally induced to
continue my search to the collateral relations, which it might be
supposed to have contracted, in its progress to maturity: and having, at
least, persuaded my own judgment that the search has not been entirely
ineffectual, I now lay the result of my labours before the publick; with
full conviction that, in questions of this kind, the world cannot be
mistaken, at least, cannot long continue in errour.

I cannot avoid acknowledging the candour of the author of that excellent
monthly book, the Gentleman's Magazine, in giving admission to the
specimens in favour of this argument; and his impartiality in as freely
inserting the several answers. I shall here subjoin some extracts from
the seventeenth volume of this work, which I think suitable to my
purpose. To which I have added, in order to obviate every pretence for
cavil, a list of the authors quoted in the following essay, with their
respective dates, in comparison with the date of Paradise Lost.


When this Essay was almost finished, the splendid edition of Paradise
Lost, so long promised by the reverend Dr. Newton, fell into my hands;
of which I had, however, so little use, that, as it would be injustice
to censure, it would be flattery to commend it: and I should have
totally forborne the mention of a book that I have not read, had not one
passage at the conclusion of the life of Milton, excited in me too much
pity and indignation to be suppressed in silence.

"Deborah, Milton's youngest daughter," says the editor, "was married to
Mr. Abraham Clarke, a weaver, in Spitalfields, and died in August, 1727,
in the 76th year of her age. She had ten children. Elizabeth, the
youngest, was married to Mr. Thomas Foster, a weaver, in Spitalfields,
and had seven children, who are all dead; and she, herself, is aged
about sixty, and weak and infirm. She seemeth to be a good, plain,
sensible woman, and has confirmed several particulars related above, and
informed me of some others, which she had often heard from her mother."
These the doctor enumerates, and then adds, "In all probability,
Milton's whole family will be extinct with her, and he can live only in
his writings. And such is the caprice of fortune, this granddaughter of
a man, who will be an everlasting glory to the nation, has now for some
years, with her husband, kept a little chandler's or grocer's shop, for
their subsistence, lately at the lower Holloway, in the road between
Highgate and London, and, at present, in Cocklane, not far from

That this relation is true cannot be questioned: but, surely, the honour
of letters, the dignity of sacred poetry, the spirit of the English
nation, and the glory of human nature, require--that it should be true
no longer. In an age, in which statues are erected to the honour of this
great writer, in which his effigy has been diffused on medals, and his
work propagated by translations, and illustrated by commentaries; in an
age, which amidst all its vices, and all its follies, has not become
infamous for want of charity: it may be, surely, allowed to hope, that
the living remains of Milton will be no longer suffered to languish in
distress. It is yet in the power of a great people, to reward the poet
whose name they boast, and from their alliance to whose genius, they
claim some kind of superiority to every other nation of the earth; that
poet, whose works may possibly be read when every other monument of
British greatness shall be obliterated; to reward him--not with
pictures, or with medals, which, if he sees, he sees with contempt, but
--with tokens of gratitude, which he, perhaps, may even now consider as
not unworthy the regard of an immortal spirit. And, surely, to those,
who refuse their names to no other scheme of expense, it will not be
unwelcome, that a subscription is proposed, for relieving, in the
languor of age, the pains of disease, and the contempt of poverty, the
granddaughter of the author of Paradise Lost. Nor can it be questioned,
that if I, who have been marked out as the Zoilus of Milton, think this
regard due to his posterity, the design will be warmly seconded by
those, whose lives have been employed, in discovering his excellencies,
and extending his reputation.

Subscriptions for the relief of Mrs. ELIZABETH FOSTER, granddaughter to
JOHN MILTON, are taken in by Mr. Dodsley, in Pall-Mall; Messrs. Cox and
Collings, under the Royal Exchange; Mr. Cave, at St. John's Gate,
Clerkenwell; and Messrs. Payne and Bouquet, in Paternoster-Row.


[1] The history of Lauder's imposition is now almost forgotten, and is,
certainly, not worth revival. It is fully detailed in Dr. Drake's
Literary Life of Johnson, and in Boswell's Life, i. The conflicting
inferences drawn from Johnson's connexion with Lauder, by Hayley,
Dr. Symonds and Boswell, may easily be settled by those who have
leisure for, or take interest in, such inquiries. In the very heat
of the controversy, Johnson was never accused of intentional
deception. Dr. Douglas, in the year 1750, published a letter to the
earl of Bath, entitled, Milton vindicated from the charge of
plagiarism brought against him by Mr. Lauder. In this masterly
letter, after exposing the gross impositions and forgeries of
Lauder, he thus adverts to the author of the preface and postscript.
"It is to be hoped, nay, it is _expected_, that the elegant and
nervous writer, whose judicious sentiments, and inimitable style,
point out the author of Lauder's preface and postscript, will no
longer allow one to plume himself with his feathers, who appears so
little to have deserved his assistance; an assistance which, I am
persuaded, would never have been communicated, had there been the
least suspicion of those facts, which I have been the instrument of
conveying to the world in these sheets." p. 77. 8vo. 1751.

In Boswell's Life, i. 209, ed. 1816, Mr. Boswell thus writes, in a
note: "His lordship (Dr. Douglas, then bishop of Salisbury) has been
pleased now to authorise me to say, in the strongest manner, that
there is no ground whatever for any unfavourable reflection against
Dr. Johnson, who expressed the strongest indignation against

[2] Essay upon the civil wars of France, and also upon the epick poetry
of the European nations, from Homer down to Milton, 8vo. 1727,
p. 103.

[3] Preface to a review of the text of the twelve books of Milton's
Paradise Lost, in which the chief of Dr. Bentley's emendations are
considered, 8vo. 1733.

[4] New memoirs of Mr. John Milton, by Francis Peck. 4to. 1740. p. 52.


To which are subjoined several curious original letters from the authors
of the Universal History, Mr. Ainsworth, Mr. Mac-Laurin, &c.


_Quem paenitet peccasse pene est innocens._ SENECA.
_Corpora magnanimo satis est prostrasse Leoni:
Pugna suum finem, quum jacet hostis, habet._ OVID.
--_Praetuli clementiam
Juris rigori_.-- GROTII Adamus Exul.



Dr. Johnson no sooner discovered the iniquitous conduct and designs of
Lauder, than he compelled him to confess and recant, in the following
letter to the reverend Mr. Douglas, which he drew up for him: but
scarcely had Lauder exhibited this sign of contrition, when he addressed
an apology to the archbishop of Canterbury, soliciting his patronage for
an edition of the very poets whose works he had so misapplied, and
concluding his address in the following spirit: "As for the
interpolations for which I am so highly blamed, when passion is
subsided, and the minds of men can patiently attend to truth, I promise
amply to replace them with passages equivalent in value, that are
genuine, that the public may be convinced that it was rather passion and
resentment, than a penury of evidence, the twentieth part of which has
not yet been produced, that obliged me to make use of them." This did
not satiate his malice: in 1752, he published the first volume of the
proposed edition of the Latin poets, and in 1753, a second, accompanied
with notes, both Latin and English, in a style of acrimonious
scurrility, indicative almost of insanity. In 1754, he brought forward a
pamphlet, entitled, King Charles vindicated from the charge of
plagiarism, brought against him by Milton, and Milton himself convicted
of forgery and gross imposition on the public. 8vo. In this work he
exhausts every epithet of abuse, and utterly disclaims every statement
made in his apology. It was reviewed, probably by Johnson, in the Gent.
Mag. 1754, p. 97.--Ed.



Candour and tenderness are, in any relation, and on all occasions,
eminently amiable; but when they are found in an adversary, and found so
prevalent as to overpower that zeal which his cause excites, and that
heat which naturally increases in the prosecution of argument, and which
may be, in a great measure, justified by the love of truth, they
certainly appear with particular advantages; and it is impossible not to
envy those who possess the friendship of him, whom it is, even, some
degree of good fortune to have known as an enemy.

I will not so far dissemble my weakness, or my fault, as not to confess
that my wish was to have passed undetected; but, since it has been my
fortune to fail in my original design, to have the supposititious
passages, which I have inserted in my quotations, made known to the
world, and the shade which began to gather on the splendour of Milton
totally dispersed, I cannot but count it an alleviation of my pain, that

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