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INTRODUCTORY AND CRITICAL PREFACE
Of all the works that have been written in the English language, the series of Essays under the title of THE SPECTATOR has undoubtedly had the greatest influence in reforming the manners, and correcting the vices of the English people. Great as is the intrinsic merit of these delightful compositions, their merit as compositions is nothing to their merit as agents in a great moral reformation to which we owe all the blessings of the present century. All Englishmen are deeply indebted to those who have purified the public mind from that dreadful taint of immorality which infected it at the time when the first of the SPECTATORS appeared. These papers still charm us by their quiet humour, delicate satire, and genuine English spirit, but to appreciate them justly, we must remember the times in which they were written.
The Puritans believed that they could make everybody as stern and rigid as themselves. By attempting to make all men religious through legislation, they succeeded in making a nation of hypocrites, who on the day when Charles the Second was restored, threw off the mask, and became a nation of scoffers. Then was seen such a spectacle of vice and infamy as never before was beheld in our beloved English land. Decency was disregarded, piety was ridiculed, virtue became a jest, honesty was folly. The philosophy of Hobbes began to prevail universally; for philosophers, like other people, adapt their philosophy to the fashion. In any other age, Hobbes would have been boldly confuted and silenced ; his errors would have been pointed out, and the good that may be culled VOL. I.