Gambar halaman

After the Restoration, the same differences, in religious opinions, are well known to have subsisted, and the same political struggles to have been frequently renewed; and, therefore, a great number of pens were employed, on different occasions, till, at length, all other disputes were absorbed in the popish controversy.

From the pamphlets which these different periods of time produced, it is proposed, that this miscellany shall be compiled; for which it cannot be supposed that materials will be wanting; and, therefore, the only difficulty will be in what manner to dispose them.

Those who have gone before us, in undertakings of this kind, have ranged the pamphlets, which chance threw into their hands, without any regard either to the subject on which they treated, or the time in which they were written; a practice in no wise to be imitated by us, who want for no materials; of which we shall choose those we think best for the particular circumstances of times and things, and most instructing and entertaining to the reader.

Of the different methods which present themselves, upon the first view of the great heaps of pamphlets which the Harleian library exhibits, the two which merit most attention are, to distribute the treatises according to their subjects, or their dates; but neither of these ways can be conveniently followed. By ranging our collection in order of time, we must necessarily publish those pieces first, which least engage the curiosity of the bulk of mankind; and our design must fall to the ground, for want of encouragement, before it can be so far advanced as to obtain general regard:

by confining ourselves for any long time to any single subject, we shall reduce our readers to one class; and, as we shall lose all the grace of variety, shall disgust all those who read chiefly to be diverted. There is likewise one objection of equal force, against both these methods, that we shall preclude ourselves from the advantage of any future discoveries; and we cannot hope to assemble at once all the pamphlets which have been written in any age, or on any subject.

It may be added, in vindication of our intended practice, that it is the same with that of Photius, whose collections are no less miscellaneous than ours; and who declares, that he leaves it to his reader, to reduce his extracts under their proper heads.

Most of the pieces which shall be offered in this collection to the public, will be introduced by short prefaces, in which will be given some account of the reasons for which they are inserted; notes will be sometimes adjoined, for the explanation of obscure passages, or obsolete expressions; and care will be taken to mingle use and pleasure through the whole collection. Notwithstanding every subject may not be relished by every reader; yet the buyer may be assured that each number will repay his generous subscription.






THE original of this celebrated performance lay in manuscript above a century and a half. Though it was read with the greatest pleasure by the learned of Italy, no man was hardy enough, during so long a period, to introduce to the world a book in which the successors of St. Peter were handled so roughly: a narrative, where artists and sovereign princes, cardinals and courtesans, ministers of state and mechanics, are treated with equal impartiality.

At length, in the year 1730, an enterprising Neapolitan, encouraged by Dr. Antonio Cocchi, one of the politest scholars in Europe, published this so-much desired work in one volume quarto. The Doctor gave the editor an excellent preface, which with very slight alteration, is judiciously preserved by the translator, Dr. Nugent: the book is, notwithstanding, very scarce in Italy: the clergy of Naples are very powerful; and

though the editor very prudently put Colonia instead of Neapoli in the title-page, the sale of Cellini was prohibited; the court of Rome has actually made it an article in their Index Expurgatorius, and prevented the importation of the book into any country where the power of the Holy See prevails.

The life of Benvenuto Cellini is certainly a phenomenon in biography, whether we consider it with re spect to the artist himself, or the great variety of historical facts which relate to others: it is indeed a very good supplement to the history of Europe, during the greatest part of the sixteenth century, more especially in what relates to painting, sculpture, and architecture, and the most eminent masters in those elegant arts, whose works Cellini praises or censures with peculiar freedom and energy.

As to the man himself, there is not perhaps a more singular character among the race of Adam: the admired Lord Herbert of Cherbury scarce equals Cellini in the number of peculiar qualities which separate him from the rest of the human species.

He is at once a man of pleasure, and a slave to superstition; a despiser of vulgar notions, and a believer in magical incantations; a fighter of duels, and a composer of divine sonnets; an ardent lover of truth, and a retailer of visionary fancies; an admirer of papal power, and a hater of popes; an offender against the laws, with a strong reliance on divine providence. If I may be allowed the expression, Cellini is one striking feature added to the human form-a prodigy to be wondered at, not an example to be imitated.

Though Cellini was so blind to his own imperfections as to commit the most unjustifiable actions, with a full persuasion of the goodness of his cause and the rectitude of his intention, yet no man was a keener and more accurate observer of the blemishes of others; hence his book abounds with sarcastic wit and satirical expression. Yet though his portraits are sometimes grotesque and over-charged, from misinformation, from melancholy, from infrmity, and from peculiarity of humour; in general it must be allowed that they are drawn from the life, and conformable to the idea given by cotemporary writers. His characters of pope Clement the seventh, Paul the third, and his bastard son Pier Luigi; Francis the first, and his favourite mistress madam d'Estampes; Cosmo duke of Florence, and his duchess, with many others, are touched by the hand of a master.

General history cannot descend to minute details of the domestic life and private transactions, the passions and foibles of great personages; but these give truer representations of their characters than all the elegant and laboured compositions of poets and historians.

To some a register of the actions of a statuary may seem a heap of uninteresting occurrences; but the discerning will not disdain the efforts of a powerful mind, because the writer is not ennobled by birth, or dignified by station.

The man who raises himself by consummate merit in his profession to the notice of princes, who converses with them in a language dictated by honest freedom, who scruples not to tell them those truths

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »