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In the following Lectures, the reader will hardly fail to observe a certain want of harmony between the different parts; and I know not how I can better apologise for it, than by briefly stating the manner and occasion of their composition. They were first drawn up for private instruction, and read by me in the English College at Rome, over which I have the happiness of presiding; being intended for an introductory course to the study of theology. At the request of several friends, I was induced to deliver them to a public audience; and during the Lent of 1835, they were read to a large and select attendance in the apartments of His Eminence Cardinal Weld.
It will easily be understood, how many modifications were requisite for the second delivery ; particularly as I pledged myself in my prospectus to simplify my subjects, so far as to make them intelligible to persons who had no previous acquaintance with them. Accordingly many topics were but lightly touched, which, in the original draught, had been more fully developed, while others were extended to a length unnecessary for an academical audience possessed of preliminary scientific knowledge. In fact, the greater part of the Lectures were written over again for the occasion.
Among my audience I counted men, whose reputation, in their respective departments of literature and science, might have made me shrink from my complicated task; yet I found them assiduous in their attendance, and encouraging in their judgment. They joined in a wish repeatedly expressed by most of my hearers, that these Lectures should be communicated to the public: and I came over to England, chiefly to carry this desire into execution. But then a further change appeared necessary,
In the first place, many of the parts which had been suppressed in the second delivery, have been restored; while several elementary details, which were then introduced, have not been withdrawn. I wished to make the work interesting to different classes of readers; and hoped that the intermixture of some few topics, more exclusively addressed to the learned, would not detract from the interest which the general plan might possess for the ordinary reader. Still, a certain incongruity must thence resuit; as some passages will appear addressed to a different audience from the greater part of the course.
The second cause of change is, perhaps, more satisfactory. My long residence abroad had debarred me from the consultation of several modern works, treating on the subjects of these Lectures, so that in regard to English books, I might say with the poet,
Quod si scriptorum non magna est copia apud me
Now the perusal of these caused occasional modifications in the opinions which I had previously adopted. But even when a work has appeared since the delivery of the Lectures, I have thought it advisable to introduce the mention of it into the text, rather than omit it to avoid an anachronism. On the whole, I am sensible that I have had neither leisure nor opportunity to improve them as might be expected, and that many more works might have been perused or consulted by me to great advantage.
The form, therefore, in which my humble lucubrations
appear before the public, is that of a third modification; and if the observation be true, that second thoughts are not the best, but third thoughts, which correct the second, and bring them back in part to the more vivid and natural impressions exhibited in the first, * I may appear to present this little narrative of what I have done, rather in the form of a recommendation, than of an apology.
* Catullus ad Manlium, 33,
But, from my heart, I can say,
that no reader's eye, however keen, will be more sensible than mine is, to the imperfections of my work. The subjects of which it treats are varied, and have rather formed a relaxation from severer pursuits, than objects of professed research. That its numerous faults will be observed, and perhaps severely criticised, I must naturally expect. Still I shall always feel, that the cause which I plead, may well throw some of its protection over its least worthy advocates, and conciliate the benevolence of all that revere and love it.
« Guesses at Truth."