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PAGE 2

Abridgers
by [?]

It is an uncommon circumstance to quote the Scriptures on subjects of modern literature! but on the present topic the elegant writer of the books of the Maccabees has delivered, in a kind of preface to that history, very pleasing and useful instructions to an Abridger. I shall transcribe the passages, being concise, from Book ii. Chap. ii. v. 23, that the reader may have them at hand:–

“All these things, I say, being declared by Jason of Cyrene, in five books, we will assay to abridge in one volume. We will be careful that they that will read may have delight, and that they that are desirous to commit to memory might have ease, and that all into whose hands it comes might have profit.” How concise and Horatian! He then describes his literary labours with no insensibility:–“To us that have taken upon us this painful labour of abridging, it was not easy, but a matter of sweat and watching.”–And the writer employs an elegant illustration: “Even as it is no ease unto him that prepareth a banquet, and seeketh the benefit of others; yet for the pleasuring of many, we will undertake gladly this great pain; leaving to the author the exact handling of every particular, and labouring to follow the rules of an abridgment.” He now embellishes his critical account with a sublime metaphor to distinguish the original from the copier:–“For as the master builder of a new house must care for the whole building; but he that undertaketh to set it out, and paint it, must seek out fit things for the adorning thereof; even so I think it is with us. To stand upon every point, and go over things at large, and to be curious in particulars, belonging to the first author of the story; but to use brevity, and avoid much labouring of the work, is to be granted to him that will make an Abridgment.”

Quintilian has not a passage more elegantly composed, nor more judiciously conceived.