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Many of my acquaintances have frequently expressed a desire of obtaining from myself such particulars as they could rely on, of my passage through life.
I have even been repeatedly threatened, by some particular friends, that, if I declined drawing up a narrative, they were determined to do it for me. One of the first mentioned gentlemen prevailed on me (as the most likely mode to bring it to a period) to devote now and then a spare hour in minuting down some of the most material occurrences of my life, and to send them to him in an epistolary form, intending to digest the whole into a regular narrative for publi. cation; that gentleman however on perusal was of opinion that it would be additionally acceptable to the curious part of the public, if exhibited to them in the plain and simple manner in which these letters were written, as thus tending to display such traits and features of a somewhat original character, and give a more perfect idea of “I, great I, the little hero of each tale,” than any other mode that could have been adopted, especially as many intelligent persons were confident I could not write at all, while others kindly attributed to me what I never wrote.
" Then think That he who thus is forc'd to speak,
Unless commanded, would have died in silence." If among the multitude of memoirs under which the press has groaned, and with which it still continues to be tortured, the following sheets should afford some degree of entertainment, as a relaxation from more grave and solid studies, to an inquisitive and candid
reader (those of an opposite description are not to be pleased with the ablest performance,) and he should deem it not the worst nor the most expensive among the numerous tribe, I shall esteem myself amply rewarded; had I however been disposed to be more attentive to entertainment and less to veracity, I might to many have rendered it much more agree
able, though less satisfactory to myself; as I believe the observation long since made to be just, that few books are so ill written but that something may be gleaned from their perusal.
Should the insignificance of my Life induce any person better qualified to present the world with his, big with interesting events, my disposing of several large editions of that performance will afford me more solid satisfaction as a bookseller than any success or emolument which can possibly arise from this my first and most probably last essay as an author.
If unfortunately any of my kind readers should find the book so horrid dull and stupid that they cannot get through it, or if they do, and wish not to travel the same road again, I here declare my perfect readiness to supply them with abundance of books, much more witty, much more whatever they please. They never shall want books while L. is able to assist them; and whether they prefer one of his writing, or that of any other author, he protests he will not be in the smallest degree offended: let every author make the same declaration if he can.
Should my Memoirs be attended with no other benefit to society, they will at least tend to show what may be effected by a persevering habit of industry, and an upright conscientious demeanour in trade towards the public, and probably inspire some one, of perhaps superior abilities, with a laudable ambition to emerge from obscurity by a proper application of those talents with which providence has favoured him, to his own credit and emolument, as well as the benefit of the community. To such a one I ever have and ever shall wish every possible success, as it has uniformly been my opinion, that whatever is thus acquired is more honourable to the parties than the possession of wealth obtained without any intrinsic merit or exertion, and which is too frequently consumed with rapidity in the pursuit of vice and dissipation.
One word to my old friends the booksellers under number three of my dedication. This publication it is to be expected will tend to excite some degree of mirth in them. Conscious that I have often been the cause (however unintentional on my part) of exciting less pleasing sensations in them, I will readily allow them full scope; however, according to the well known adage, “ let them laugh who win," I hope they will indulge me in the same propensity of laughing, if not at them, at least with them.
As a proof of my friendly disposition, I shall here add a piece of advice, which I do not hesitate to pronounce will, if attended to, entitle them to promotion in my first class of booksellers, and eventually prove more beneficial than a constant perseverance in the mode of conduct they have hitherto pursued, and those who have children will, I hope, see the propriety of inculcating the same doctrine to them for their future benefit; and as I flatter myself my advice will prove equally productive of benefit to great numbers of the community at large as to booksellers. It is this :
If they observe any person by industry and application endeavouring to obtain an honest livelihood in that line for which his talents or disposition have qualified him, never to attempt, by dark inuendoes, sly hints, and false aspersions, to injure him; as, if he happens to be a man of becoming spirit, such conduct will only tend to increase his exertions and render him still more cautious to obtain a good character. In so doing their weapons will recoil on themselves, and they will have the mortification to see him flourish whilst they become objects of contempt in the eyes of the public, and will of course be avoided by them.
But I forget myself, from debating whether a preface was really necessary or not. If I proceed thus, I shall produce one as long as my book, as indeed some of my seniors in authorship have done before me, though not altogether consistent with propriety.
I will therefore conclude with a wish, that my readers may enjoy the feast with the same good humour with which I have prepared it. They will meet with some solid though not much coarse food, and the major part, I hope light and easy of digestion; those with keen appetites will partake of each dish while others, more delicate, may select such dishes as are more light and better adapted to their palates; they are all genuine British fare; but, lest they should be at a loss to know what the entertainment consists of, I beg leave to inform them that it contains fortyseven dishes of various sizes, which (if they calculate the expense of their admission tickets) they will find does not amount to two-pence per dish ; and what I hope they will consider as immensely valuable in compliance with the precedent set by Mr Farley, a gentleman eminent in the culinary science,) a striking likeness of their Cook into the bargain.
I have also prepared a bill of fare at the end of the volume. Ladies and gentlemen, pray be seated; you are heartily welcome, and much good may it do you.