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the object both of the Life of D'Alembert, and of the Analytical View of the Principia.*
The course of this work kept me for the most part, at a distance from questions touching political affairs, or the constitution and progress of society, but not always. The reader will find that no opportunity has been left unimproved, as far as I was capable of seizing it with any effect, for inculcating or illustrating the great doctrines of peace, freedom, and religious liberty. The observations on historical composition in the Life of Robertson, I especially consider as pointing to an improvement in that department of letters, highly important to the best interests of mankind, as well as to the character of historians.
But although I had no political animosities to encounter, I feared
commentaries on some lives, as those of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Hume, might find enemies among the two great parties whose principles came in question. The Free-thinkers might object to the blame which I ventured to pronounce upon
their favourite authors; the friends of the Church might take exception to the praises occasionally bestowed. It may, however, be expected from the justice of both these conflicting bodies, that they will read with attention and with calmness before they condemn. From the former class I could expect no favour beyond what every one has a
* The Analytical View, first published in 1839, omitted the Second and part of the Third Book. The whole is now nearly completed. The object was to enable persons having little mathematical knowledge, beyond elementary geometry and algebra, to follow the demonstrations of the fundamental propositions, and to understand by what kind of reasoning the others are proved. That it was successful in this respect, there were undoubted proofs ; but the discussions with which the investigations were interspersed had also a very material effect.
right to claim from avowed adversaries; a fair hearing was all I desired. To the latter a few words might be addressed in the spirit of respectful kindness, as to those with whom I generally agree.
Whoever feels disposed to treat as impious any writer that has the misfortune not to be among the great body of believers, like the celebrated men above named, should bear in mind that the author of these pages, while he does justice to their great literary merits, has himself published, whether anonymously or under his own name, nearly as much in defence of religion as they did against it; and if, with powers so infinitely below theirs, he may hope to have obtained some little success, and done some small service to the cause of truth, he can only ascribe this fortune to the intrinsic merits of that cause which he has ever supported.* He ventures thus to hope that no one will suspect him of being the less a friend to religion, merely because he has not permitted his sincere belief to make him blind regarding the literary merit of men whose opinions are opposed to his own. His censures of all indecorous, all unfair, all ribald or declamatory attacks, however set off by wit or graced by eloquence, he has never, on any occasion, been slow to pronounce.
BROUGHAM, 3d January, 1855.
* It has given me a most heartfelt satisfaction to receive many communications from persons both at home and abroad, which intimated their having been converted from irreligious opinions by the Commentaries and Illustrations of Paley,' published in 1835 and 1838.—It must be noted that the passage of the present work in which Dr. Lardner is mentioned as an orthodox writer, refers to the great question between Christians and Infidels. He was an Unitarian, undoubtedly; but his defence of Revelation forms really the groundwork of Dr. Paley's "Evidences.'
ONE VOLUME of the original publication was dedicated to the late
MR. JUSTICE WILLIAMS, as a small memorial of ancient friendship ;” the other to PRINCE ALBERT, "in token of respect for his encouragement of letters and the arts.” The French translation of the Lives of Voltaire and Rousseau, was inscribed to LORD HOWDEN, as a feeble testimony of old and constant friendship.”