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An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding


TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THOMAS, EARL OF PEMBROKE AND MONTGOMERY,
BARON
HERBERT OF CARDIFF LORD ROSS, OF KENDAL, PAR, FITZHUGH, MARMION, ST.
QUINTIN, AND SHURLAND;
LORD PRESIDENT OF HIS MAJESTY'S MOST HONOURABLE PRIVY COUNCIL; AND
LORD
LIEUTENANT OF THE COUNTY OF WILTS, AND OF SOUTH WALES.
MY LORD,
This Treatise, which is grown up under your lordship's eye, and has
ventured into the world by your order, does now, by a natural kind of
right, come to your lordship for that protection which you several years
since promised it. It is not that I think any name, how great soever,
set at the beginning of a book, will be able to cover the faults that
are to be found in it. Things in print must stand and fall by their own
worth, or the reader's fancy. But there being nothing more to be desired
for truth than a fair unprejudiced hearing, nobody is more likely to
procure me that than your lordship, who are allowed to have got so
intimate an acquaintance with her, in her more retired recesses. Your
lordship is known to have so far advanced your speculations in the most
abstract and general knowledge of things, beyond the ordinary reach or
common methods, that your allowance and approbation of the design of
this Treatise will at least preserve it from being condemned without
reading, and will prevail to have those parts a little weighed, which
might otherwise perhaps be thought to deserve no consideration, for
being somewhat out of the common road. The imputation of Novelty is a
terrible charge amongst those who judge of men's heads, as they do of
their perukes, by the fashion, and can allow none to be right but the
received doctrines. Truth scarce ever yet carried it by vote anywhere
at its first appearance: new opinions are always suspected, and usually
opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already
common. But truth, like gold, is not the less so for being newly brought
out of the mine. It is trial and examination must give it price, and
not any antique fashion; and though it be not yet current by the public
stamp, yet it may, for all that, be as old as nature, and is certainly
not the less genuine. Your lordship can give great and convincing
instances of this, whenever you please to oblige the public with some
of those large and comprehensive discoveries you have made of truths
hitherto unknown, unless to some few, from whom your lordship has been
pleased not wholly to conceal them. This alone were a sufficient reason,
were there no other, why I should dedicate this Essay to your lordship;
and its having some little correspondence with some parts of that nobler
and vast system of the sciences your lordship has made so new, exact,
and instructive a draught of, I think it glory enough, if your lordship
permit me to boast, that here and there I have fallen into some thoughts
not wholly different from yours. If your lordship think fit that, by
your encouragement, this should appear in the world, I hope it may be a
reason, some time or other, to lead your lordship further; and you will
allow me to say, that you here give the world an earnest of something
that, if they can bear with this, will be truly worth their expectation.
This, my lord, shows what a present I here make to your lordship; just
such as the poor man does to his rich and great neighbour, by whom the
basket of flowers or fruit is not ill taken, though he has more plenty
of his own growth, and in much greater perfection. Worthless things
receive a value when they are made the offerings of respect, esteem, and
gratitude: these you have given me so mighty and peculiar reasons to
have, in the highest degree, for your lordship, that if they can add a
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