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THE following essays were written weekly, and published in the Boston Spectator, during the period, or a part of the period of the late war. In those times of political distress, there was scarcely a subject which did not mix more or less with politics. These papers were an attempt at perfect neutrality, and an endeavor to beguile and quiet the mind, almost continually harrassed by party spirit and party dissentions.
Why they are now collected together, and obtruded upon the public again, the Author has no very good reason to offer-It will perhaps, be said, that it is with the foolish desire of making a book-To this then he will plead guilty, and throw himself upon the mercy of the court; only observing in excuse, that if he has added nothing to the stores of wit or learning, he has at least endeavored to discountenance vice, and to promote the cause of virtue and religion.
No. I....SATURDAY, MAY 14, 1814.
WE have often been told by authors, and particularly by writers of periodical essays, that at their first setting out, they were at a loss to determine upon a proper or significant title to give to their lucubrations. I have had no difficulty upon this subject-but without hesitating at all in the matter, readily fixed upon that which is here placed at the head of my first number. And as I propose coming abroad, in the character of a writer, I shall begin my present literary enterprize by giving some account of myself, and presenting my readers with a few touches of my own biography.
I am an odd sort of a fellow, and have many whims; but my most obstinate propensity is a desire for writing. If there is really such a disease in the catalogue of human infirmities, as the cacoethes scribendi, I certainly am afflicted with it to an incurable degree. If I were to say it was born with me, all the disciples of the venerable LOCKE would be about my ears, and prove, by dint of logic, that as there are no innate ideas, there could be, in the mind of an infant, no predispositions. That the mind of a new born child, if, by the way, they would allow him any mind at all, was a mere blank, with no more impression than a sheet of white paper-&c. As I am a peaceable man, and have no powers nor inclination for disputing, I shall pass these gentlemen, with lowly reverence, and give some account of myself from my birth, or, as my friend Tristram Shandy has done, a little before it,
and let them settle the matter of predisposition, or original bias from nature, among themselves.
A few weeks before I was born, my mother, (I have been told) to her great mortification and disappointment, dreamed, that instead of presenting her husband at the time expected, with a fine boy, she was delivered of a feather. The dream was told as usual, and the gossips of the day immediately began to look for interpretations-Some said the child would be a soldier, and wear a feather in his cap-some thought I should be an upholsterer; and some, who, however, out of tenderness to my parents, said but little about it, secretly believed that the dream foretold, as plainly as a dream could do, that I should be a light and trifling character. Notwithstanding the wisdom and deep research denoted in these several interpretations, they were all wrong; and I have ever myself believed, that the feather in my mama's dream, was from a goose's wing; that in fact it was nothing less than a quill, and that it obviously foretold my future character, as a writer. When I first hit upon this interpretation, I was so impressed with the truth of it, and so proud of my own ingenuity in discovering it, that I flew to a learned friend and laid the whole matter before him, with a full and flattering expectation that he would give me as much credit for my ingenuity, as I had given to myself. But upon my mentioning the goose's wing, he turned all my pride to mortification, by saying he believed the dream meant I was to be a goose, and my coming to him upon such an errand was full completion of the prophesy. Although this unexpected reproof was sufficient to induce me to keep my opinion, in future, to myself, it did not alter it; and the circumstances I am about to relate, will, I think, bring many of my readers over to the same faith.
My ruling passion is writing, and it was manifested even in my earliest infancy-I was never known to tare a piece of white paper, (although I have destroyed so much since) but whenever it came in my way, would trace my little fingers over it, with the strangest imi