« Preface to the Fifth Edition | Etc. | Preface to the Ninth Edition »

Preface to the First Edition of the Second Series

It may be useful to state the design of the present volumes, which differ in their character from the preceding Series.

The form of essay-writing, were it now moulded even by the hand of the Raphael of Essayists, would fail in the attraction of novelty; Morality would now in vain repeat its counsels in a fugitive page, and Manners now offer but little variety to supply one. The progress of the human mind has been marked by an enlargement of our knowledge; and essay-writing seems to have closed with the century which charmed and enlightened.

I have often thought that an occasional recurrence to speculations on human affairs, as they appear in private and in public history, and other curious inquiries in literature and philosophy, would form some substitute for this mode of writing. These Researches, therefore, offer authentic knowledge for evanescent topics; they attempt to demonstrate some general principle, by induction from a variety of particulars—to develop these imperfect truths which float obscurely in the mind—and to suggest subjects, which, by their singularity, are new to inquiry, and which may lead to new trains of ideas. Such Researches will often form supplements to our previous knowledge.

In accustoming ourselves to discoveries of this nature, every research seems to yield the agreeable feeling of invention—it is a pleasure peculiar to itself—something which we ourselves have found out—and which, whenever it imparts novelty or interest to another, communicates to him the delight of the first discoverer.


Editor’s Notes

‘A Second Series of Curiosities of Literatre consisting of Researches in Literary, Biographical, and Political History; of Critical and Philosophical Inquiries; and of Secret History,’ was published in 1823.