NOTHING, in my opinion, gives a more amiable and becoming grace to our studies, as well as our manners, than to temper gravity with gaiety, lest the former should degenerate into austereness, and the latter run up into levity. Upon this maxim it is, that I diversify my more serious works with light and playful effusions. I had chosen a convenient place and season to introduce some of these; and designing to accustom them early to a disengaged audience, and to the dinner table, I invited my friends in July, when the courts of justice are usually shut up, and I placed writingdesks before their dining couches.
But as I happened that morning to be suddenly called on to plead a cause, I took occasion to preface my recital with an apology. I begged my audience not to infer that I slighted the affair in hand, because when on the point of reading my works, though merely to a small circle of friends, I had not kept clear of other friends and of legal business. I added that I observed the same rule, as an author, of giving precedence to the necessary over the entertaining, the preference to the grave over the gay, and of writing for my friends first, myself afterwards.
The poems I read composed a variety of subjects and measures. It is thus that we, who dare not rely upon the single force of our genius, endeavour to avoid giving our readers satiety. In compliance with the unanimous demand of my audience, I read for two days successively. And this although, just as others omit their less shining passages, and make a merit of doing so, I omit nothing, and actually affirm that fact. I read the whole, that I may correct the whole; which it is impossible those who only read select passages should do. True, the latter plan is more modest, perhaps more respectful; but thc former is more artless and affectionate. For to be so confident of your friends' affection that you feel no dread of wearying them, is a sure indication of y our own. Besides, what good do your company do you if they assemble merely with a view to their own entertainment. He who had rather find his friend's performance correct, than make it so, is to be considered as a stranger, or one who is too indolent to give himself any trouble.
Your affection for me leaves me no room to doubt, that you are impatient to read my yet unripened book. You shall do so, when I have corrected it; which was indeed the design of my recital. You are already acquainted with some parts of it; but even those, after they have been polished (or perhaps spoiled, as is sometimes the case by overkeeping) will seem new to you. For when a composition has been extensively altered. it contracts an air of novelty even in those parts which remain untouched. Farewell.