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Where thou hast been - What thou hast heard –
If there be aught of good herein, make a record thereof for a future occasion.- Hints inscribed in his Note-book,
To F. J. Post.
It would, doubtless, be a blessing to mankind, if all which has hitherto been written, but not worthy of remembrance, could, by any possibility, be entirely blotted out and forgotten. On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to imagine, that the world might have been profited, if every thing, thought or uttered in past generations, and deserving of being known, had been left upon record. There is something in the life of every person, however obscure, from
which instruction might be gleaned ; --it may be an idea, an expression, or incident, which, if preserved, would be worthy of attention in a future day.
How many wordless thoughts !- how many unuttered emotions !-have arisen in the mind of the wayfaring man, and were felt and enjoyed at the time, but, like “the flower which is born to blush unseen,” have passed away into the nothingness of forgotten feelings. Who has not sometimes felt a wish, that more of those Divine sayings and doings had been preserved than have been, out of the unwritten mass of materials which the sacred historian has adverted to in his Gospel ?-(John, xx. 30; xxi. 25.)
Lord Bacon has somewhere said, “A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket, and [discreetly] write down the thoughts of the moment; those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable, and should be secured, because they seldom return.”
This sentiment is corroborated by an elegant author of the present day, who says, “When the
heart is earnestly engaged, the first thoughts, in the first words, are usually the best; for it is thoughts, not words, that are to be communicated; yet are they so delicate and evanescent, that, unless caught in their first forms, they soon lose their character and distinctness; they will not stay to be questioned, they must be taken at their word, or instantly dismissed ; they are like odours from a bank of violets, a breath and away.
And it is probable, that, to the practice related of Pope, in having always the means, even at his bedside, for penning down his passing thoughts, we are indebted for the preservation of some of the sweetest sentiments in British poetry.
In transcribing a portion- and it is only a portion of the manuscript remains of the lamented youth, whose brief history is sketched out in the following short memoir, the candid reader will not be disappointed, in the Diary of a child, to meet with some childish things ;
1 J. Montgomery
neither will he expect to find, in a portraiture, designed to represent the natural flow of thought and action, all the lovely tints and traits exhibited, without perceiving some of the shades which go to complete the faithful likeness. It is not intended to imply that these youthful memoranda possess much originality of conception, or perfection of style; or that every abstract sentiment will be found, by the experienced reader, altogether free from exception; they are what they profess to be, and no more, the sentiments and feelings of a child, written for his own improvement and private enjoyment.
It is, however, hoped, that his juvenile friends and contemporaries will find in these unpretending pages, not only much to interest, but also somewhat to instruct them. Had his life been spared to riper age, the manuscripts, no doubt, would have progressed with his years, and also have undergone the scrupulous revision and correction of the writer, as his judgment and experience advanced to maturity. Such as they are, spontaneous and unvarnished as they flowed from his pen, they are now offered to his inquiring and interested friends, to gratify their wishes herein, and to shew them the transcript and progression of his mind; the mind of a mere youth, ardent in the pursuit after knowledge, and diligent in the cultivation of a natural understanding of no ordinary standard, yet withal, and above all, breathing throughout a spirit of piety, and a desire for the attainment of heavenly wisdom, with a fixedness of purpose, not usually found or expected in one of his limited years.
Many causes have contributed to delay the publication thus long. At first we questioned the propriety of extending the miscellany beyond a few written extracts. These having been submitted to several of our friends, who expressed an anxious wish to possess a copy, we were encouraged to hope there might perhaps be a service, in enlarging the view which we at first entertained. Besides, being unaccustomed to such an avocation - which, out of a tender regard to some injunctions previously