THE LIFE OF ADAM CLARKE: PREFACE
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There are some circumstances respecting the succeeding Memoirs which require explanation, and others which need statement. “If these Memoirs were written by the late Dr. Clarke, how happens it that they speak in the third person, and appear as though composed by an intimate friend?” — The third person was assumed in order to obviate an unpleasant appearance of egotism which Autobiography must always assume, more or less offensive, according to the skill of the Narrator. In this, Dr. Clarke did but follow the example of other great names, and availed himself of a disguise, previously made known to the Readers, that the mere Individual might not be perpetually obtruding himself upon their notice: the attention being fixed upon the passing events and described feelings, the Author temporarily forgotten, the judgment may be thus formed, not from the bias of Dr. Clarke’s felt presence, but from the facts as recorded in the Narrative: — a mask which gives courage but conceals no feature.
Various members of his family, as well as some of his most intimate friends, frequently and urgently pressed Dr. Clarke to publish, or prepare for publication, a Memoir of himself; stating that this would be the only effectual mode of preventing false or weak productions being palmed upon the world as faithful Memoirs. To all representations, however, he remained deaf, till one day a friend came and told him, “he had received sure information of a Life of him being even then in preparation; that all his Conversations had been taken down, all his Letters treasured up, all his observations noted, with the view of being embodied when the anticipated event should take place to call them into public being; that little discretion would be used in selecting; since, the object being gain, all would be published which would sell; and that even were some conscience shown, still there was no judgment to direct; but indiscreet zeal, or the hope of ‘ungodly gains’ would slay his fame in the house of his friend.” * Dr. Clarke felt the force of such observations, and the next morning when he came down to breakfast, he said to his friend, “I have been up long before day, and have written several quarto sheets of my very close and small writing as a commencement of the history of my early life.” This he continued, at various short intervals, till be brought it down to a period beyond which no inducement or solicitation could persuade him to proceed, “My early life” [much in this manner he would speak] “no one can know; nor can any one describe my feelings and God’s dealings with my soul, some of which are the most important circumstances in my life, and are of most consequence to the religious world: — these I have now secured, and placed in their proper light: — what therefore others could neither have known nor described so truly as I, are here prevented from being lost: — my public life many have known, and it is before the world; if it be of importance, there will be found some who will transmit its events to posterity; and being passed before the eyes of all men, should there be misrepresentations, there will necessarily be plenty who can correct them: at any rate, I have done what I feel to be the most important part; for the rest, there are ample materials; and, as the living will, in all probability, write of the dead, let my survivors do their part. — Nothing shall ever induce me to write the history of that portion of my life when I began to acquire fame, and great and learned men saw fit to dignify with their acquaintance, and to bestow honors and distinctions on, a Methodist Preacher. In this resolution he never for a moment wavered, and hence there was no more of his Life written by himself than what is contained in the present volume.
When Dr. Clarke was told of the above intention to publish after his death all that he had either written or spoken in the confidence of private friendship, or in the familiar intercourse of occasional conversations, he was very indignant, expressing his abhorrence of such “premeditated treachery” as a man’s coming into a family to act the part of a spy, — to record mutilated opinions, hand down disjointed conversations, and to proclaim as the result of deliberate judgment what might have been either a hasty expression of feeling, or a merely casual or unimportant remark: — “In conversation or correspondence I never either spoke or wrote for the public; friendly intercourse was my sole object in the one case, and in the other relaxation from severe thought; after I have been writing and studying from five in the morning till half-past seven at night, it is hardly likely that I should come into the parlor with a disposition or preparation to shine. I write because it is necessary, and I talk because I am cheerful and happy.” The strong feeling of Dr. Clarke on this point is thus recorded, that the Public may not hereafter be deluded upon the subject, as if he had authorized any to take down any of his conversation on any occasion: — he had too much respect for the good sense and regard of mankind ever to come before them with in consideration; and was the last man in the world ever to be himself a party consenting to the wounding of his hard-earned fame by the publication of unprepared documents. Such conduct he always considered as treacherous in a friend, disgraceful to a man, and shameful to a Christian. His opinion of the publishing Letters, because they were written by a certain individual, he has himself expressed in the following pages. (See page 200.)
The Editor of this volume has had very little trouble in the performance of his office; for the Manuscript was left in so complete a state by Dr. Clarke, that few things needed any alteration. No addition of any kind. has been made, not even the insertion of any thing which the Author himself had formerly written, but had not himself introduced: this was judged necessary, that Dr. Clarke might not be rendered accountable for what another had chosen to insert: for this reason some Letters are referred to the end which might otherwise have been included and wrought into the body of the Work, It may be expedient to add a few words concerning the remaining portion of this Work, which has been written by “A Member of the Family. “ For this part Dr. Clarke supplied all the materials; he gave up his Journals, his Common-place Book, his private papers, and wrote many of the accounts contained in it with his own hand; and after the whole was digested into a Narrative, up to the year 1830, he looked over it and placed his signature to each sheet as a testimony that the alleged facts were true, leaving the Author of course accountable for the manner of their expression, as well as for the mode of their combination. Any farther particulars which may be necessary will be mentioned in the Preface to the succeeding volume.
It is highly probable that many, on the perusal of this Work, may be inclined to exclaim, “We have heard strange things today;” and others may be excited to purer faith and greater diligence in the ways of godliness. To the latter, may the Author of all good grant an assurance to their faith, and strength and continuance to their working; while to the former, may their hesitancy be overcome, that they may walk in a like path, and the “strange things” be converted into the experienced feelings of their own hearts, and the enjoyed blessings in their own souls.