|To The Right Honourable The Earl Of Chesterfield
7th February, 1755.
I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of The World, that two papers, in
which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your
lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour which, being very little
accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in
what terms to acknowledge.
When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was
overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and
could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur
de la terre;-that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world
contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride
nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your
Lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and
uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well
pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.
Seven years, my lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward rooms, or
was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work
through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it,
at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word
of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for
I never had a patron before.
The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native
of the rocks.
Is not a patron my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for
life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help?
The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been
early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot
enjoy it: till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not
want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where
no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should
consider me as owing that to a patron, which providence has enabled me to do
Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of
learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be
possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in
which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,
Your lordship's most humble,
most obedient servant,