It is with a view to give every possible information to my reader, that in this introduction I lay before him the motives upon which these travels were undertaken, the order and manner in which they were executed, and some account of the work itself, as well of the matter as the distribution of it.
Every one will remember that period, so glorious to Britain, the latter end of the ministry of the late Earl of Chatham. I was then returned from a tour through the greatest part of Europe, particularly through the whole of Spain and Portugal, between whom there then was an appearance of approaching war. I was about to retire to a small patrimony I had received from my ancestors, in order to embrace a life of study and reflection, nothing more active appearing then within my power, when chance threw me unexpectedly into a very short and very desultory conversation with Lord Chatham.
It was a few days after this that Mr Wood, then undersecretary of state, my very zealous and sincere friend, informed me that Lord Chatham intended to employ me upon a particular service; that, however, I might go down for a few weeks to my own country to settle my affairs, but by all means to be ready upon a call. Nothing could be more flattering to me than such an offer; when so young, to be thought worthy by Lord Chatham of any employment, was doubly a preferment. No time was lost on my side; but, just after my receiving orders to return to London, his Lordship had gone to Bath, and resigned his office.