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Microcosmography or, a Piece of the World Discovered; in Essays and Characters   By: (1601?-1665)

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First Page:

MICROCOSMOGRAPHY;

OR,

A PIECE OF THE WORLD DISCOVERED;

IN

ESSAYS AND CHARACTERS

By JOHN EARLE, D.D.

A Reprint of Dr. Bliss's Edition of 1811.

WITH A PREFACE AND SUPPLEMENTARY APPENDIX By S. T. IRWIN.

Bristol: PUBLISHED BY W. CROFTON HEMMONS. London: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT & CO., LTD.

TO THE MEMORY OF THE REVEREND DAVID WRIGHT, "THE GRAVE DIVINE" OF THESE PAGES, WHOSE NAME WILL LIVE IN BRISTOL AS LONG AS MEN CARE FOR BEAUTY OF CHARACTER, RICHNESS OF THOUGHT, OR DISTINCTION OF SPEECH, THIS BRISTOL REPRINT IS INSCRIBED.

"From the contagion of the world's slow stain He was secure."

PREFACE.

It may be reasonably asked why Dr. Bliss's[A] edition of the Microcosmography should require a preface, and the answer is that it does not require one. It would be difficult to have a more scholarly, more adequate, more self sufficing edition of a favourite book. Almost everything that helps the elucidation of the text, almost everything about Bishop Earle that could heighten our affection for him (there is nothing known to his disparagement) is to be found here.[B] And affection for the editor is conciliated by the way. It is not only his standard of equipment that secures this a standard that might have satisfied Mark Pattison[C] but also the painstaking love revealed in it, which, like every other true love, whether of men or books, will not give of that which costs it nothing. And, as a further title to our regard, Dr. Bliss is amusing at his own expense, and compares himself to Earle's "critic," who swells books into folios with his comments. Not that this humorous self depreciation is to be pressed; for, unlike that critic, he is no "troublesome vexer of the dead."

But though there is no need of a preface, I have two excuses for writing one.

The first is that I was asked to do it by my friend Mr. Frank George, of Bristol, who wished to see the book reprinted; and the second is the old professio pietatis , which seemed to Tacitus a sufficient defence of the Agricola, and may perhaps be allowed to serve humbler people as well. What Earle says of men is no less true of books: "Acquaintance is the first draught of a friend. Men take a degree in our respect till at last they wholly possess us;" and the history of this possession must, in every case, have a sort of interest, as long as it is not carried to the point of demanding from others the superlatives we permit to ourselves. It is sufficiently common for people to like the same book for different reasons; and where an author has a secure place in English literature, his shade, like the deity of Utopia, may be best pleased with a manifold and various worship.[D]

The character of Earle, as drawn by Clarendon, is itself a guarantee for his studies of character; and the fact that Lord Falkland was his chosen friend is evidence of his possessing something of that sweet reasonableness of temper for which his host was so remarkable. "He was very dear" (we are told) "to the Lord Falkland, with whom he spent as much time as he could make his own." Indeed, "Mr. Earles would frequently profess that he had got more useful learning by his conversation at Tew than he had at Oxford." Of Earle's conversation Clarendon says that it was "so pleasant and delightful, so very innocent and so very facetious, that no man's company was more desired and more loved." Walton, too, tells us of his "innocent wisdom and sanctified learning"; and another witness speaks of his "charitable heart," an epithet which is nobly borne out by the correspondence between himself and Baxter printed in this volume.

This is no superfluous citation of testimony. Without it we might, perhaps, have suspected, though not, I think, legitimately, something almost of a cynical spirit in the severity of the punishment which he deals out to the various disguises of vice and imposture, and in the pitiless nakedness in which he leaves them... Continue reading book >>




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