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1. A Proposition for the Advancement of Experimental Philosophy.
2. A Discourse, by way of Vision, concerning the Government of Oliver Cromwell.
Several Discourses, by way of Essays, in Verse and Prose.
1. Of Liberty.
8. The Dangers of an Honest Man in much Company
9. The Shortness of Life, and Uncertainty of Riches.
10. The Danger of Procrastination. A Leta ter to Mr. S. L.
11. Of Myself. The last is by far the most interesting; it is very simply and beautifully written.
Of Myself. It is a hard and nice subject for a man to write of himself; it grates his own heart to say any thing of disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any thing of praise from him. There is no danger from me of offending him in this kind; neither my mind, nor my body, nor my fortune, allow me any materials for that vanity. It is sufficient, for my own
, contentment, that they have preserved me from being scandalous, or remarkable on the defective side. But, besides that, I shall here speak of myself only in relation to the subject of these precedent discourses, and shall be likelier thereby to fall into the contempt, than rise up to the estimation of most people. As far as my memory can return back into my past life, before I knew, or was capable of guessing, what the world, or glories, or business of it were, the natural affections of
soul gave a secret bent of aversion from them, as some plants are said to turn away from others, by an antipathy imperceptible to themselves, and inscrutable to man's understanding. Even when I was a very young boy at school, instead of running about on holidays, and playing with my fellows, I was wont to steal from them, and walk into the fields, either alone with a book, or with some one companion, if I could find any of the same temper. I was then, too, so much an enemy to constraint, that my masters could never prevail on me, by any persuasions or encouragements, to learn, without book, the common rules of grammar, in which they dispensed with me alone, because they found I made a shift to do the usual exercise out of my own reading and observation. That I was then of the same mind as I am now, (which I confess I wonder at myself) may appear at the latter end of an ode, which I made when I was but thirteen years old, and which was then printed, with many other verses. The beginning of it is boyish; but of this part which I here set down (if a very little were corrected), I should hardly now be much ashamed,
This only grant me, that my means may
lie Too low for envy, for contempt too high,
Some honour I would have, Not from great deeds, but good alone; Th' unknown are better than ill known.
Rumour can ope' the grave: Acquaintance I would have; but when't depends Not on the number, but the choice of friends.
Books should, not business, entertain the light,
My house a cottage, more
My garden painted o'er With Nature's hand, not Art's; and pleasures yield, Horace might envy in his Sabine field.
Thus would I double my life's fading space,
And in this true delight,
But boldly say each night,
You may see by it I was even then acquainted with the poets (for the conclusion is taken out of Horace); and perhaps it was the immature and immoderate love of them, which stamped first, or rather engraved, the characters in me. They were like letters cut ia the bark of a young tree, which, with the tree, still grow proportionably. But, how this love came to be produced in me so early, is a hard question: I believe I can tell the particular little chance that filled my head first with such chimes of verse, as have never since left ringing there: for I remember when I began to read, and take some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my mother's parlour, (I know not by what accident, for she herself never in her life read any book but of devotion;) but there was wort to lie Spencer's Works; this I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delighted with the stories of the knights, and giants, and monsters, and brave houses,
which I found every where there : (though my tderstanding had little to do with all this) and by degrees, with the tinkling of the rhyme, and dance of the numbers, so that I think I had read him all over before I was twelve years old, and was thus made a poet as immediately as a child is made an eunuch. With these affections of mind, and my heart wholly set upon letters, I went to the university; but was soon torn from thence by that public violent storm, which would suffer nothing to stand where it did, but rooted up every plant, even from the princely cedars, to me, the hyssop. Yet I had as good fortune as could have befallen me in such a tempest; for I was cast by it into the family of one of the best persons, and into the court of one of the best princesses in the world. Now, though I was here engaged in ways most contrary to the original design of my life; that is, into much company, and no small business, and into a daily sight of greatness, both militant and triumphant, (for that was the state then of the English and the French courts; yet all this was so far from altering my opinion, that it only added the confirmation of reason to that which was before but natural inclination. I saw plainly all the paint of that kind of life, the nearer I came to it; and that beauty which I did not fall in love with, when, for aught I knew, it was real, was not like to bewitch, or intice me, when I saw it was adulterate. I met with several great