« AnteriorContinuar »
“ Difficile est proprie communia dicere."
Hor. Epist. ad Pison.
BY A CLERGYMAN.
PRINTED BY AND FOR HODGSON & CO.
10, NEWGATE STREET.
FOR any one besides the author to write a suitable Preface to one of the most extraordinary books in the world, is, to say the least of it, a somewhat extraordinary undertaking. But the bookseller commands, and must be obeyed. It is now some five or six years ago, since I was called upon to write a “ Life of Lord Byron," to be prefixed to an edition of certain minor poems of his Lordship. “ Bless your heart! sir,” I exclaimed, to the expectant bookseller, “ I know nothivg of Lord Byron's life: I know there has been a great deal of talk about him of late ; and where there is a good deal of talk, there is usually a great deal of scandal and falsehood, which I dare say is the case in this instance; but as to Lord Byron's Life, I know no more than the man in the moon!” “Nonsense!” replied my bookseller ; “ you must write it for all that.” “ If I must, -I must:" so, recollecting the title of one of the chapters in Tom Jones, that “ an author would write all the better for understanding his subject,” I immediately set about to inquire ; and soon, what with a little chit-chat, and a great deal of Sir Egerton Bridges' Collins, I made up the Memoir.
But to this Preface :—What can be said ? A preface, though usually written last, comes first, and is supposed to explain the author's own views and motives in publish
ing his book; and in which he sometimes takes occasion to clear up some points in the text which may not appear quite clear, or be otherwise capable of misapprehension. Now, when a preface comes to be written by another hand, though the writer, or editor, ought not to be charged with approving of every thing in the work so prefaced, he may fairly be supposed to give his sanction to the work generally.
This work, entitled Don JUAN, seems, I know not why, å sort of common property amongst the booksellers : for we have had editions of all sorts and sizes ; from the original superb quarto, to the shabby - two-penny trash," or weekly instalment of about twenty-four duodecimo, badly printed, pages. In short, it has been, and still is, one of the most popular poems of the present day :-and what is the reason of this? To this question there have been various answers given. “ The book," says one, “ is so very licentious, that it suits the corrupt taste of the age.". Now this I deny. In the first place, “ Don Juan,” as a book, is not licentious. Let those fastidious censors read from line 1010 to 1045-to say nothing of many other parts of Milton's Paradise Lost, and then, if they can consistently, accuse Lord Byron's Muse of licentiousness." To the pure, all things are pure ;' to the puritanical, all things are impure; with the exception of their own luscious and prurient hymns, many of which abound with expressions of no very chaste tendency. Besides; if it be true, as these pseudo-saints would have us believe, that the licentiousness of “ Don Juan" accounts for its popularity, what is all this noise of Missionary, and Bible, and School Societies and Evangelism and Gospel-light about ?-and, if we may believe their quarterly and annual