It is now six years since these papers came first to my hand, which seems to have been about a twelvemonth after they were written; for the author tells us in his preface to the first treatise, that he has calculated it for the year 1697, and in several passages of that discourse, as well as the second, it appears they were written about that time.
As to the author, I can give no manner of satisfaction; however, I am credibly informed that this publication is without his knowledge; for he concludes the copy is lost, having lent it to a person since dead, and being never in possession of it after: so that, whether the work received his last hand, or whether he intended to fill up the defective places, is likely to remain a secret.
If I should go about to tell the reader by what accident I became master of these papers, it would, in this unbelieving age, pass for little more than the cant or jargon of the trade. I therefore gladly spare both him and myself so unnecessary trouble. There yet remains a difficult question: why I published them no sooner. I forbore upon two accounts: first, because I thought I had better work upon my hands; and secondly, because I was not without some hope of hearing from the author, and receiving his directions. But I have been lately alarmed with intelligence of a surreptitious copy, which a certain great wit had new polished and refined, or, as our present writers express themselves, fitted to the humour of the age: as they have already done, with great felicity, to Don Quixote, Boccalini, La Bruyère and other authors.28 However, I thought it fairer dealing to offer the whole work in its naturals. If any gentleman will please to furnish me with a key, in order to explain the more difficult parts, I shall very gratefully acknowledge the favour, and print it by itself.