« ZurückWeiter »
establishment now existing in the country. These are questions, it is true, quite distinct from the conduct of the church, or any of its distinguished members, as political agents in the transactions of a history. Viewed in this light, their operations, their influence, their virtues, or their vices, are just as fair subjects of observation as those of the eminent dissenters, or any other of the agents, involved in our national history. But it is not quite certain that we can exercise our right to this undoubted extent without giving considerable offence. Even at this liberal period, when religious churchmen and dissenters regard each other much more as brethren, and much less as even rivals, there are some whom it would be hard to avoid offending, and in whose opinions we should scarcely seem to preserve our pledged neutrality, while condemning the violent and fatal intolerance of the church during the reigns of the Jameses and the Charleses, though it be evidently impossible to discuss the merits, or even narrate the events, of those reigns without it."*
It was, however, ultimately found impracticable to continue the compromise involved in the original constitution of the journal, and the Eclectic Review therefore became the avowed advocate of those principles of ecclesiastical polity which are held by the Congregationalists of this country.
Mr. Foster's connexion with the Review commenced in 1806, his first paper being published in the November of that year. From this period to the close of 1818, he was a stated and frequent contributor, after which he remitted greatly his labours in this direction, furnishing
* Vol. I., p. 252.
only thirteen papers from 1819 to 1828 inclusive. On the journal passing into the hands of the present editor in January, 1837, he made application to Mr. Foster for literary assistance, and was authorized to announce him as one of the stated contributors to his work. The impaired condition of his health did not however permit him to do much. An occasional article was all which could be looked for, the fastidiousness of his taste concurring with the cause just named, to indispose him to frequent composition. His last contribution appeared in October, 1839, when, however, the prospect was still held out of further aid.
This prospect unhappily was not realized, though the conditional promise was renewed from time to time. Writing to the Editor January 28th, 1841, Mr. Foster says, “With my almost total want of memory,
and miserable slowness in any sort of composition, I am very many degrees below the mark for any thing of material account,—any thing requiring much reading, or laborious consideration. As to long reading, my eyes have their veto, and if I had read any considerable book, I should, when I closed it, be just in the plight of Nebuchadnezzar with his dream—minus the resource of having any one to call in as substitute for Daniel.”
The whole number of his papers, many of them extending to two, and some to three, numbers, was one hundred and eighty-five, of which only fifty-nine are reprinted in the present selection.
The Editor is desirous of distinctly notifying that he has taking no liberty with his author save in the way of omission. He would have felt it to be a species of sacrilege to do otherwise,-an act immoral in its
character, and incompatible with the reverence due to departed genius. Had these papers been reprinted during the life of their author, innumerable minor alterations would unquestionably have been made, and some few passages might possibly have been re-written. The loss of such revision may be matter of regret, but we should condemn, as the height of presumption—the very impersonation of vanity—any attempt on the part of another to supply its place. The productions of such a mind bear too distinctly the marks of their parentage to require, or admit of, the corrections of other men.
The case is different with simple omissions. Many of Mr. Foster's papers include large quotations from the works reviewed, the greater part of which has been excluded from the present reprint, together with such connecting remarks as the extracts required. It has been the object of the Editor to select what was intrinsically valuable, and at the same time, illustrative of the intellectual character of the author; and he has greatly erred in his judgment, if the contents of these volumes will not be deemed a valuable contribution to our sterling and permanent literature.
As compared with the republished papers of some eminent living reviewers, they may be wanting in that finish which their personal superintendence has secured to their productions ; but in all the higher and more permanent qualities of intellect, in their largeness of view, penetrating subtlety of thought, deep insight into human nature, and sympathy with the nobler and more lofty forms of spiritual existence, they will be found eminently worthy of the genius of their author, and subservient to his permanent repute.