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Coelebs In Search of a Wife   By: (1745-1833)

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"Among unequals what society Can sort, what harmony or true delight? Of fellowship, I speak, fit to participate All rational enjoyment."


When I quitted home, on a little excursion in the spring of this present year 1808, a thought struck me, which I began to put into immediate execution. I determined to commit to paper any little circumstances that might arise, and any conversations in which I might be engaged, when the subject was at all important, though there might be nothing particularly new or interesting in the discussion itself.

I fulfilled my intention as occasions arose to furnish me with materials; and on my return to the North, in the autumn of this same year, it was my amusement on my journey to look over and arrange these papers.

As soon as I arrived at my native place, I lent my manuscript to a confidential friend, as the shortest way of imparting to him whatever had occurred to me during our separation, together with my reflections on those occurrences. I took care to keep his expectations low, by apprizing him, that in a tour from my house in Westmoreland to the house of a friend in Hampshire, he must not look for adventures, but content himself with the every day details of common life, diversified only by the different habits and tempers of the persons with whom I had conversed.

He brought back my manuscript in a few days, with an earnest wish that I would consent to its publication, assuring me that he was of opinion that it might not be altogether useless, not only to young men engaged in the same pursuit with myself, but to the general reader. He obviated all my objections arising from my want of leisure, during my present interesting engagements, by offering to undertake the whole business himself, and to release me from any further trouble, as he was just setting out for London, where he proposed passing more time than the printing would require.

Thus I am driven to the stale apology for publishing what perhaps it would have been more prudent to have withheld the importunity of friends ; an apology so commonly unfounded, and so repeatedly alleged, from the days of John Faustus to the publication of C[oe]lebs.

But whether my friend, or my vanity, had the largest share of influence, I am willing to indulge the hope that a better motive than either friendship or vanity was an operating ingredient in my consent. Be that as it may I sent him my copy " with all its imperfections on its head ." It was accompanied by a letter of which the following extract shall conclude these short prefatory remarks:

"I here send you my manuscript, with permission to make what use of it you please. By publishing it I fear you will draw on me the particular censure of two classes of critics. The novel reader will reject it as dull. The religious may throw it aside as frivolous. The one will accuse it of excessive strictness; the other of censurable levity. Readers of the former description must be satisfied with the following brief and general answer:

"Had it been my leading object to have indulged in details that have amusement only for their end, it might not have been difficult to have produced a work more acceptable to the tastes accustomed to be gratified with such compositions. But to entertain that description of readers makes no part of my design.

"The persons with whom I have associated in my excursion were principally, though not exclusively, the family of a country gentleman, and a few of his friends a narrow field, and unproductive of much variety! The generality of these characters move in the quiet and regular course of domestic life... Continue reading book >>

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