On this principle it has been still my study to obtain from a humane and generous Public that shelter their protection best affords from the poisoned arrows of private malignity; for though it is not difficult to despise the attempts of petty malice, I will not say with the Philosopher, that I mean to build a monument to my fame with the stones thrown at me to break my bones; nor yet pretend to the art of Swift’s German Wonder-doer, who promised to make them fall about his head like so many pillows. Ink, as it resembles Styx in its colour, should resemble it a little in its operation too; whoever has been once dipt should become invulnerable: But it is not so; the irritability of authors has long been enrolled among the comforts of ill-nature, and the triumphs of stupidity; such let it long remain! Let me at least take care in the worst storms that may arise in public or in private life, to say with Lear,
More sinn’d against, than sinning.
For the book—I have not thrown my thoughts into the form of private letters; because a work of which truth is the best recommendation, should not above all others begin with a lie. My old acquaintance rather chose to amuse themselves with conjectures, than to flatter me with tender inquiries during my absence; our correspondence then would not have been any amusement to the Public, whose treatment of me deserves every possible acknowledgment; and more than those acknowledgments will I not add—to a work, which, such as it is, I submit to their candour, resolving to think as little of the event as I can help; for the labours of the press resemble those of the toilette, both should be attended to, and finished with care; but once complete, should take up no more of our attention; unless we are disposed at evening to destroy all effect of our morning’s study.
OBSERVATIONS AND REFLECTIONS
MADE IN A JOURNEY THROUGH
France, Italy, and Germany.
* * * * *
September 7, 1784.