Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/339


STRICTURE THE FIRST «Life — says mr. Steevens, in a preface to some of Shakespeare

  • s plaj’s — does not often receive good unmixed with evil.

The benefits of the art of printing are depraved by the facility with which scandal may be diffused, and secf^ts revealed; and by the temptation by which traffìc solicits avance to betray the weaknesses of passion or the confìdence of friendship. I cannot forbear to think these posthumous pubHcations injurious to society-. A man conscious of literary reputation will grow in time afraid to write with tenderness to his sister, or with fondness to his child; or to remit on the slightest occasions, or most pressing exigence, the rigour of criticai choice and grammatica! severity. That esteem which preserves his letters, will at last produce his disgrace, when that which he wrote to his friend or his daughter shall be laid open to the public». When mr. Steevens made this observation, little did -he imagine that it would soon be exemplifìed to the prejudice of his fellow-commentator, and that the treacherous trick would be played to doctor Johnson by the ver>- person whom he, in the simplicity of his heart, had honoured above any other of his acquaintance with a most sincere attachment during a long, long interval of time. Yet so it has shockingly happened, that the frontless female, who goes now by the mean appellation ofPiozzi, actuated by no other incentive but that of mere avance, has dared to publish a large number of letters, written to her by the doctor during the long course of their friendship, though she must be convinced, and certainly is, that never