A Journey from This World to the Next
Whether the ensuing pages were really the dream or vision of some verypious and holy person; or whether they were really written in the otherworld, and sent back to this, which is the opinion of many (though Ithink too much inclining to superstition); or lastly, whether, asinfinitely the greatest part imagine, they were really the production ofsome choice inhabitant of New Bethlehem, is not necessary nor easy todetermine. It will be abundantly sufficient if I give the reader anaccount by what means they came into my possession. Mr. Robert Powney,stationer, who dwells opposite to Catherine-street in the Strand, a veryhonest man and of great gravity of countenance; who, among otherexcellent stationery commodities, is particularly eminent for his pens,which I am abundantly bound to acknowledge, as I owe to their peculiargoodness that my manuscripts have by any means been legible: thisgentleman, I say, furnished me some time since with a bundle of thosepens, wrapped up with great care and caution, in a very large sheet ofpaper full of characters, written as it seemed in a very bad hand. Now,I have a surprising curiosity to read everything which is almostillegible; partly perhaps from the sweet remembrance of the dearScrawls, Skrawls, or Skrales (for the word is variously spelled), whichI have in my youth received from that lovely part of the creation forwhich I have the tenderest regard; and partly from that temper of mindwhich makes men set an immense value on old manuscripts so effaced,bustoes so maimed, and pictures so black that no one can tell what tomake of them. I therefore perused this sheet with wonderful application,and in about a day&#146;s time discovered that I could not understandit. I immediately repaired to Mr. Powney, and inquired very eagerlywhether he had not more of the same manuscript? He produced about onehundred pages, acquainting me that he had saved no more; but that thebook was originally a huge folio, had been left in his garret by agentleman who lodged there, and who had left him no other satisfactionfor nine months&#146; lodging. He proceeded to inform me that themanuscript had been hawked about (as he phrased it) among all thebooksellers, who refused to meddle; some alleged that they could notread, others that they could not understand it. Some would haze it to bean atheistical book, and some that it was a libel on the government; forone or other of which reasons they all refused to print it. That it hadbeen likewise shown to the R&#8212;l Society, but they shook theirheads, saying, there was nothing in it wonderful enough for them. That,hearing the gentleman was gone to the West-Indies, and believing it tobe good for nothing else, he had used it as waste paper. He said I waswelcome to what remained, and he was heartily sorry for what wasmissing, as I seemed to set some value on it.
- Electronic book text
- 12 Dec 2002
- Pdm Classics