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Mid manly pleasure—manly joy,
Our boyhood's sports are dear; Recall delights without alloy,
A sorrow, or a tear.
A FRIEND OF MANKIND.
WAS born about the year 1450, either at Mentz,
Haarlem, or Strasbourg, but the place of my nativity has been as much disputed as that of Homer, for the honor of whose birth seven cities contended.
Although my birth was likely to influence the wellbeing of many states, nay even to rule over them, no ceremony took place on my entrance into the world. I was not more attended than those persons were, who, by their own merits, or some extraordinary turn of fortune, rather than their birth, have attained great celebrity, such as Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Woodville, Peter the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, &c.
You will acknowledge I was a very precocious genius, when I inform you that, in 1457, I presented to the world a translation of the Bible in German, and
being devoted in early life to sacred literature, my next work was a version of the Psalms. In 1474 my first profane work appeared, and a “ History of Troy” was then given to the wondering world.
In a short time I occasioned a very remarkable revolution, and one would have supposed that the applause, and admiration of my countrymen, and the gratitude of foreign nations would have been bestowed upon me; but alas ! such was not the case. What great benefactor to the human race has not met with disappointment and ingratitude? I was suspected of witchcraft, and some one who sold my works publicly was thrown into prison; no uncommon case with those who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of their country. I was accused of dealing in the black art, and said to be the offspring of Sin. The former charge I could not altogether refute, but nevertheless when you know more of me, you will acknowledge I was, and ever shall be, a real friend to mankind.
I ought, however, very candidly to acknowledge, that by a hazardous and extravagant use of my powers, many men have been justly thrown into
prison; but more have been unjustly brought to trial by tyrants, and acquitted by their countrymen.
The frailty of human nature is such that the best privileges may be abused. More valuable books have been given to the world by me than by any author who could be named; and a richer fund of knowledge has been circulated by my means than by any philosopher ancient or modern. My literary and scientific compositions are beyond calculation—no subject was ever found beyond my capacity, none ever beneath my attention. Sir William Jones nor the Abbate Mezzofante ever understood, nor Dr. Bowring ever translated from so many languages as I have published in. I have composed in all the known languages, only excepting such as the Japanese, Esquimaux, &c., that have no literature to boast of.
To continue my history in a more regular form. In 1474 I first visited England, and resided in the Almonry in Westminster, and then gave to the public “ The Mirror of the World,” and “The Game of Chess.”
It would be impossible to enumerate the succession of works I have brought into public notice. Philoso
phy, science, politics, religion, poetry, sentiment, and frivolity (I am compelled to add), have by turns been promulgated by me.
It has been said of authors whose works seem too labored, that their productions “smell of the lamp” -“the midnight oil.” This applies with peculiar force to all mine. I acknowledge they too often “smell of the lamp.” In course of time I travelled into Italy, France, and Spain; but strange to say, I never enjoyed my entire liberty in either of those countries. I was always restrained or shackled in some way or other. In England, and in England alone, am I free and independent, like the
Negro, who no sooner sets foot on English soil than he is free, and so long as he keeps the law no human power can enslave him.
The French nation have ever been jealous of my power, and that of my family; but I have every reason to believe that had they granted me my liberty, and a more liberal circulation of my works, those terrible revolutions which have disturbed the peace of the country would never have taken place.
With all my merits I have never been the subject of a poet's pen