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In this enlightened age, when every day brings forth something new on the subject of education and morality, it is matter of considerable surprise, that writings of such intrinsic value as the present should so long have lain dormant. The talents of Seneca were justly estimated by his contemporaries, and long after his decease; and as modern times cannot boast of similar works of superior merit, the proprietors, anxious to restore to society every thing valuable and essential to the interests of the present generation, have been induced to bring forward a New, being the SEVENTEENTH edition, of Seneca's Morals, differing only from the former editions in some arrangements relative to the typographic department, particularly in affixing to the head of each page a new title, which, they trust, will be considered not only as a matter of improvement, but of utility; as the head-lines will, in a great measure, guide the reader in finding out whatever subject he may want. How far they have claim to the encouragement of an impartial, but indulgent public, the success of the present edition can alone determine; but they presume, in bringing forward a work, printed in a size the most convenient to readers in general, and calculated not only to “raise the genius,” but," to mend the heart,” they will contribute much to the entertainment and improvement of the gentleman, the man of letters, and youth in particular. Impressed with this idea, they offer this edition, with some degree of confidence, to the attention of the public.
TO THE READER.
It has been a long time in my thought to turn Seneca into English, but whether as a translation, or an abstract, was the question. A translation I perceive it must not be, at last, for several reasons. First it is a thing already done to my hand, and above sixty years standing ; though with as little credit, perhaps, to the author, as satisfaction to the reader. Secondly, there is a great deal in him that is wholly foreign to my business : as his philosophical Treatises of Meteors, Earthquakes, the Original of Rivers, several frivolous Disputes between the Epicureans and the Stoicks, &c. to say nothing of the frequent repetitions of the same thing again in other words, (wherein he very handsomely excuses himself, by saying—that he does but inculcate over and over the same counsels, to those that over and over commit the same faults). Thirdly, his excellency consists rather in a rhapsody of divine and extraordinary hints and notions than in any regulated method of discourse ; so that to take him as he lies, and so to go through with him, were utterly inconsistent with the order and brevity which I propound ; my principal design being only to digest and common-place his Morals, in such sort, that any man, upon occasion, may know where to find them; and I have kept myself so close to this proposition, that I have reduced all his scattered ethics to their proper heads, without any additions of my own, more than of absolute necessity for the tacking of them together. Some other man in my place would, perchance, make you twenty apologies, for his want of skill and address in governing this affair, but these are formal and pedantic fooleries ; as if any man that first takes himself for a coxcomb in his own heart, would afterwards make himself one in print too. This abstract, such as it is, you are extremely welcome to ; and I am sorry it is no better, both for your sakes, and my own : for if it were written up to the spirit of the original, it would be one of the most valuable presents that ever any private man bestowed upon the public, and this too, even in the judgment of both parties, as well Christian as Heathen : of which in its due place.
Next to my choice of the author, and of the subject, together with the manner of handling it, I have likewise had some regard, in this publication, to the timing of it, and to the preference of this topic of Benefits above all others, for the groundwork of my first Essay. We are fallen into an age of vain philosophy (as the holy apostle calls it), and so desperately over-run with drolls and sceptics, that there is hardly any thing so certain, or so sacred, that is not exposed to question, or contempt. Insomuch, that betwixt the hy. pocrite and the atheist, the very foundations of religion and good manners are shaken, and the two tables of the Decalogue dashed to pieces, the one against the other : the laws of government are subjected to the fancies of the vulgar, public authority to the private passions and opinions of the people, and the supernatural motions of grace confounded with the common dictates of nature. In this state of corruption, who so fit as a good honest Christian Pagan, for a moderator among Pagan Christians ?
To pass now from the general scope of the whole work, to the particular argument of the first part of it, I pitched upon the theme of Benefits, Gratitude, and Ingratitude, to begin withal, as an earnest of the rest, and a lecture expressly calculated for the unthankfulness of these times, the foulest, undoubtedly, and the most execrable of all others, since the very apostasy of the angels : nay, if I durst but suppose a possibility of mercy for those damned spirits, and that they might ever be taken into favour again, my charity would hope even better for them, than we have found from some of our revolters, and that they would so