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CIIORUS OF SHEPHERDS, ETC.
So long does the Most High,
Prepare to break the bonds that sin has wrought. Is such the costly ransom to be paid,
Ere man's immortal freedom can be bought, His guilty race from thraldom to deliver ?
Thus in its councils wills the Eternal Mind. Oh let us lose the purchased blessings never,
Of his dear care, who hath so loved mankind!
“Come like shadows; so depart."- Macbeth.
The critic's first and last injunction to the author and the artist is, to “ copy nature.” For my own part, I never more than half believed in this standing stock rule of common-place criticism. Nature, and beautiful nature too, may be 80 very natural, that if too accurately copied, it will seem unnatural. This assertion has a most paradoxical sound, I confess, and is quite worthy of a Kantian metaphysician. Still it is the fact. That which is true is not always probable. Who has not observed, in natural scenery, a brilliancy of colour, or some singular effect of form or light, which, if faithfully transferred to the canyass, would be pronounced at once, by ninety-nine out of an hundred, to be an extravagant and fantastical cappricio of the art. So too, in real life-occurrences happen every day before our eyes, which
if related in a novel, or interwoven in a drama, would be branded by the whole critical brotherhood as too far out of probability to be tolerated, even in professed fiction.
For myself, though I have been bandied a good deal about the globe, I have encountered no marvellous vicissitudes of fortune. Yet, if I were to tell nakedly, and without explanation, many of the incidents of my life, they would hardly gain credence. For instance, I have at different periods dined familiarly with five European kings, played chess with an empress, given alms to an archbishop, and had my soup cooked by a duke. This is very astounding, and the reader is doubtless already either penetrated with respect for my high rank, or else sets me down in his heart for an impudent liar. Yet upon a little consideration, he may satisfy himself that within the last thirty years, a plain American citizen might, without any marvel, have relieved the wants or received the services of a French temporal or spiritual peer, have dined at tables d'hôte and on board steam-boats, with Lewis of Holland, Joseph of Spain, Jerome of Westphalia, and Gustavus of Sweden; and have been beaten, at Washington, at the royal game of chess, by a Mexican ex-empress. The fifth, in my catalogue of royal acquaintance, is his present majesty of
the Netherlands, who, when a poor prince of Germany, was a very conversible pleasant Dutch
I might add, that I have received lessons in mathematics from another prince, who though not exactly the next in succession, now looks proudly towards the first throne on the European continent.
There is one extraordinary chain of incidents in my life, which I have often been tempted (when seized with a fit of authorship,) to make the foundation of a Gil Blas or Anastasius novel. But I have always been deterred from executing it, by the conviction, that though I should task my fancy solely for the minor incidents, and add no decorations but the necessary colouring of sentiment, character and description, the very skeleton and ground-work of the whole, though strictly true, would still be so outrageously improbable, as to shock even the easy credulity of the novel-reader.
My readers may perhaps anticipate that after this deprecatory prologue, I am about to unfold a tale of love and arms, or else of wild adventure, of which I am myself to be the Prince Arthur, the Amadis or the Rinaldo-or at least the Gil Blas or Tom Jones. No, I am not the hero of it. Right gladly would I transform myself into a hero, at the expense of any danger or
hardships, (so that all were now well over,) if I could thus be enabled to make bright eyes weep over my sorrows, and lovely forms bend entranced
page that speaks of me. Such, alas! is not my good fortune. But to my story, which, I begin to fear, will scarcely equal the expectations this introduction may raise.
It was longer ago than I commonly care to tell without special necessity, that, having finished my professional studies, I spent my first fashionable winter in New-York. The gay and polite society of the city, which every day's necessity is now dividing up into smaller and more independent circles, was then one very large one, wherein whoever was introduced, circulated freely throughout the whole. I of course went every where; and every where did I meet with MAJOR EGERTON. He was a young British officer, of high connexions. Not one of your Lord Mortimers or Marquises de Crillon, who have so often taken in our title-loving republicans of fashion; but a real officer of the regiment, a major at the age of twenty-six, and the nephew of a distinguished English general; in proof of which he had brought the best letters to the “ best good men,” in our chief cities. He was quite the fashion, and he deserved to be so.