Page:Thoreau the Poet-naturalist.djvu/15

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PREFACE.

DR. JOHNSON says that in the dedication to Harris's Hermes, of fourteen lines, there are six grammatical faults. This is as much as we could expect in an English pedant whose work treats of grammar: we trust our prologue will prove more drop-ripe, even if the whole prove dull,—dull as the last new comedy.

In a biographic thesis there can hardly occur very much to amuse, if of one who was reflective and not passionate, and who might have entered like Anthony Wood in his journal, "This day old Joan began to make my bed,"—an entry not fine enough for Walpole. At the same time the account of a writer's stock in trade may be set off like the catalogues of George Robins, auctioneer, with illustrations even in Latin or—

"The learned Greek, rich in fit epithets,
Blest in the lovely marriage of pure words."

Byron's bath at Newstead Abbey is described as a dark and cellar-like hole. The halos about the brows of authors tarnish with time. Iteration, too, must be respected,—that law of Nature. Authors carry their robes of state not on their backs, but, like the Indians seen