Most of this Books was written five years since, and was locked up in a Trunk, as if it had been buried in a Grave; but when I came back from England, I gave it a Resurrection: After a view I judged it not so well done, but that a little more care might have placed the words so, that the Language might have run smoother, which would have given the Sense a greater luster; but I being of a lazy dispositions, did choose to let it go into the World with its Defects, rather than take the pains to refine it: Besides, to me it seemed as if I had built a House, and not liking the form after it was built, must be forced to take it in pieces, and rebuilt it again, to make it of the fashion I would have it, or be contented with it as it was: which considering with myself, I found it would be as great a charge of Time and Pains, as if I should build a new one on another Ground; and there is certainly more Pleasure and Delight in making than in mending: I verily believe, that my Neighbours, which are my Readers, would have found fault with it, though I had done it as well as I could; and they can but dispraise it as it is: But I am so well armed with carelessness, that their Censures can never enter to vex me with Wounds of Discontent. Howsoever, I have my delight in writing Books, and having them printed; and if any take a delight to read them, I will not thank them for it: for if anything please them, they are to thank me for the pleasure; and if it be naught, I had rather they had left it unread. But I pray those that do not like my Book, his is my House, to pass it by; since I have not any entertainment fit for their Palates.
I desire those that will read this Book, to read every Chapter clearly, without long stops and stays: for it is with Writers as it is with men, whose ill-affected Fashion or Garb, takes away the natural and graceful form of the Person. To read lamely or crookedly, and not evenly, smoothly, and thoroughly, entangles the sense. Nay, the very sound of the Voice will seem to alter the sense of the Theme; and though the sense will be there in despite of the ill Voice, or ill Reading; yet it will be concealed, or discovered to its disadvantage: As an ill Musician (or indeed one that cannot play at all), instead of playing, puts the Fiddle out of tune, and causeth a discord; which if well played upon, would sound harmoniously: or if he can play but one Tune, he plays it on all sorts of Instruments: So some will read with one Tone or Sound of Voice, though the Passions and Numbers are different: and some again, in reading, wind up their Voices to such a passionate scrue that they whine or squeal, rather than speak or read: others fold up their Voice with such distinctions, that they make that triangular, which is four-square; and that narrow, which should be broad; and that high, which should be low; and low, that should be high: and some again read so soft, that the Sense is lost in the Race. So that Writings sound good or bad, as the Readers, and not as their Authors are: and indeed, such advantage a good or ill Reader hath, that those that read well, shall give a grave to a foolish Author; and those that read ill, do disgrace a wise and a witty one. But there are two sorts of Readers; the one that reads to himself, and for his own benefit; the other to benefit another by hearing it In the first, there is required good Judgment, and a ready Understanding; in the other a good Voice, and a graceful Delivery: so that a Writer must have a double desire; the one, that he may write well; the other, that he may be read well; of which my desire is the more earnest, because I know my Writings are not strong enough to bear an ill Reader: Wherefore I entreat so much favour, as to give it its own Countenance; wherein you will oblige the Writer to be.
The man's attitude towards a book of poetry which is tough to him, is to drop it, even as the gods would have him do; the woman's is to smother it in a sauce of spurious explanation, and gulp it down.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.