THOUGHTS ON MAN, HIS NATURE,
PRODUCTIONS AND DISCOVERIES
INTERSPERSED WITH SOME PARTICULARS
RESPECTING THE AUTHOR
Oh, the blood more stirs
To rouse a lion, than to start a hare!
LONDON: EFFINGHAM WILSON,
ROYAL EXCHANGE. 1831.
In the ensuing volume I have attempted to give a defined
and permanent form to a variety of thoughts, which have occurred to my
mind in the course of thirty-four years, it being so long since I published
a volume, entitled, the Enquirer,--thoughts, which, if they have presented
themselves to other men, have, at least so far as I am aware, never been
given to the public through the medium of the press. During a part of this
period I had remained to a considerable degree unoccupied in my character
of an author, and had delivered little to the press that bore my name.--And
I beg the reader to believe, that, since I entered in 1791 upon that which
may be considered as my vocation in life, I have scarcely in any instance
contributed a page to any periodical miscellany.
My mind has been constitutionally meditative, and I should
not have felt satisfied, if I had not set in order for publication these
special fruits of my meditations. I had entered upon a certain career;
and I held it for my duty not to abandon it.
One thing further I feel prompted to say. I have always
regarded it as my office to address myself to plain men, and in clear and
unambiguous terms. It has been my lot to have occasional intercourse with
some of those who consider themselves as profound, who deliver their oracles
in obscure phraseology, and who make it their boast that few men can understand
them, and those few only through a process of abstract reflection, and
by means of unwearied application.
To this class of the oracular I certainly did not belong.
I felt that I had nothing to say, that it should be very difficult to understand.
I resolved, if I could help it, not to "darken counsel by words without
knowledge." This was my principle in the Enquiry concerning Political
Justice. And I had my reward. I had a numerous audience of all classes,
of every age, and of either sex. The young and the fair did not feel deterred
from consulting my pages.
It may be that that book was published in a propitious
season. I am told that nothing coming from the press will now be welcomed,
unless it presents itself in the express form of amusement. He who shall
propose to himself for his principal end, to draw aside in one particular
or another the veil from the majesty of intellectual or moral truth, must
lay his account in being received with little attention.
I have not been willing to believe this: and I publish
my speculations accordingly. I have aimed at a popular, and (if I could
reach it) an interesting style; and, if I am thrust aside and disregarded,
I shall console myself with believing that I have not neglected what it
was in my power to achieve.
One characteristic of the present publication will not
fail to offer itself to the most superficial reader. I know many men who
are misanthropes, and profess to look down with disdain on their species.
My creed is of an opposite character. All that we observe that is best
and most excellent in the intellectual world, is man: and it is easy to
perceive in many cases, that the believer in mysteries does little more,
than dress up his deity in the choicest of human attributes and qualifications.
I have lived among, and I feel an ardent interest in and love for, my brethren
of mankind. This sentiment, which I regard with complacency in my own breast,
I would gladly cherish in others. In such a cause I am well pleased to
enroll myself a missionary.
February 15, 1831.
The particulars respecting the author, referred to in
the title-page, will be found principally in Essays VII, IX, XIV, and XVIII.