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HERE is nothing new in this book, kind reader,
for, if Solomon proved to his satisfaction that there is “nothing new under the sun,” presumptuous indeed would it be in me to think to have succeeded in that wherein the wisest of men has failed.
M. Bautain, in his admirable treatise,' speaks of two methods of conceiving a subject : the one direct by means of illumination, the other indirect and within the reach of ordinary minds. He says it is difficult to be original upon subjects already treated of; but a second sort of originality consists in giving forth ideas that have become incorporated in one's own, and have been quickened with the life of one's own mind, which is called “taking possession in the finder's name."
This latter process, he continues, consists in acting as does the bee, which extracts from the flowers the aromatic and oleaginous particles, that serve to form the honey and the wax. “ Be it well observed,” he says,
“ that the bee first nourishes itself with these substances by the process of absorption and assimilation.”
Therefore, kind reader, if in perusing this imperfect work you should find that which is familiar to you, remember it is not solely with the intention of giving 1 Bautain on “ Extempore Speaking."
you the new that it is written.
“ Non nova, sed nove," says Vincent of Lerins — not new, but in a new form. I claim no originality in the treatment of my subject; my efforts have been directed rather to presenting in the best light the character and times of the subject of our biography, than to the endeavor to appear original. When this end could be the better attained by making use of the words of others, I have done so; as most of the information they have received has emanated from the same sources as my own; namely, the relatives of the subject of this work, and likewise of the author.
An author' has deplored the fact that there are hundreds of names of men who have rendered the most important services to their country, that have been suffered to sink to the grave “unwept, unhonored, and unsung,” and in a great measure it has been this thought that has prompted me to do what lies in my power to keep alive the memory of one who, born almost a century and a half ago, had an influence in the colonies during their struggle for independence that is said to have been very great.
I speak of Philip Morin Freneau, the “ Poet of the Revolution.”
Although in Freneau's case we may not hold strictly true the words of the author above quoted, inasmuch as from time to time able and interesting articles upon his life and writings have appeared, still from paucity of data these have been fragmentary and somewhat erroneous, owing in part to the disastrous fire
that consumed Mont Pleasant, the poet's homestead, in which were consumed, along with much of his unpublished poetry, many valuable letters and manuscripts that would have given abundant matter for a most interesting work.
Since undertaking the task of giving to the public the Life of Freneau, some unexpected data in the form of notebooks and marginal notes have thrown light upon some hitherto unaccounted-for years in the poet's life, and have served to link together the portions already given to the public, as well as to correct many misstatements.
Appreciating the fact that the life of a man is in reality a history of the times in which he has lived, and that the value of history' depends as much on its veracity as upon the matter, I have endeavored to gain an accurate insight into the times, as well as the life of the man. I am enabled, consequently, to say that what I have stated as facts are in accordance with history, whereas such things as have not been proved are given as probabilities.
As one can judge of the works of a person being great or small only by comparing them with those of others, as well as by their effect upon posterity, I leave all judgment to my readers, contented with merely supplying the facts.
As no less than fifteen authors, possibly more, have written upon this subject, most of them being authors of repute, I have drawn entirely upon them for the matter contained in the chapter devoted to Freneau's poetry and prose compositions, bestowing all eulogy in
their words, as praise comes not well from interested parties, and criticism is not pleasant to one to whom the object is endeared by association with loved ones. With Mr. Julian Verplanck, his friend and reviewer, one would rather
“ With full applause in honour to his age,
Dismiss the veteran poet from the stage ;