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TO THE RIGHT REVEREND FATHER IN GOD,
RICHARD, LORD BISHOP OF LANDAFF.
THE noble frankness with which your Lordship grants a favour, encourages me to hope, that you will pardon the liberty I now take, in prefixing your name to an Essay upon the Mythology and Rites of the Heathen Britons.
It is with diffidence I lay this subject before a man of your Lordship's distinguished character; whether in reference to private worth, to reputation in the world of letters, to rank in society, or to that zeal and ability which you have so successfully displayed in the defence of our holy religion.
But whatever the merits of this Work may be, I eagerly embrace the opportunity which it affords me, of acknowledging a debt of gratitude, in the audience of the Public.
When Mr. HARDINGE, amongst his other acts of generosity, which it is impossible for me to enumerate or to forget, pointed me out to your Lordship's notice, under the character of his friend, it was your good
pleasure to place me in a respectable station in the Church, and thus confer upon me the comfort of independence.
Your Lordship's manner of bestowing a benefit, is a great addition to its value; and whilst I am offering my humble tribute of thanks, it emboldens me to aspire to the preservation of your good opinion.
I have the honour to remain,
The first section of the ensuing Essay, effects the principal objects of a Preface; yet the Author has not the confidence to intrude upon his Reader, without premising a few pages, to bespeak his attention, and conciliate his esteem — without offering some apology for the nature of his subject, and the manner in which it has been treated.
To some persons, the utility of such a work may not be obvious. It may be asked—What interest has the present age, in a view of the errors and prejudices of the Pagan Britons
To obviate this, and similar inquiries, I would suggest the reflection, that the history of mankind is, in a great measure, the history of errors and prejudices--that the superstition we have now to contemplate, however absurd in itself, affected the general tone of thinking in several districts of Britain that its influence continued to recent times, and has scarcely vanished at the present day. To an age of general inquiry, an investigation of the form and principles of this superstition, must surely be a subject of interest.
In our times, a spirit of research, which few are so unjust as to impute to idle curiosity, embraces all the regions of the known world: and is our own country the only spot that must be deemed unworthy of our attention?
Ancient and authentic documents, of the opinions and customs of the old Britons, have been preserved, though long concealed by the shades of a difficult and obsolete language. And can a dispassionate examination of their contents, which are totally unknown to the Public, be deemed a subject of no interest or utility i
These documents are found, upon investigation, to develope a system of religion, which, for many ages, influenced the affairs of the human race, not only in these islands, but also in the adjacent regions of Europe: and are we not to inquire in what this religion consisted, and what hold it took of the mind of man? Or is it an useless task, to expose the origin of some absurd customs and prejudices, which are still cherished in certain corners of our land? But it will be said—The state of society amongst the ancient Britons was rude and unpolished; and their very religion opposed the progress of science and of letters.
Be this admitted: yet the Britons, with all their barbarism and absurdities, constituted a link in the great chain of history. In addition to this, their affairs derive some importance from their rank amongst our own progenitors, their connection with our native country, and the remains of their monuments, which still appear in our fields. A prospect of the few advantages which they enjoyed, may furnish no unpleasant subject of comparison with our own times. A candid exposure of that mass of error under wbich they groaned, may inspire us with more lively gratitude for the knowledge of the true religion, and, perhaps, suggest a seasonable caution against the indulgence of vain speculation upon sacred subjects—a weakness to which the human mind is prone in every age.
Upon the whole, then, I humbly conceive, that an examination of our national reliques has been hitherto a desideratum in British literature; that the individual who has now attempted to draw them out of obscurity, is entitled to the candid attention of the Public; and that the time of the Reader, who